1843: Henry Charles Chauncey to Samuel Farmar Jarvis, Jr.

How Henry C. Chauncey might have looked

How Henry Charles Chauncey might have looked

This letter was written by Henry Charles Chauncey (1825-1915), the son of Henry Chauncey (1795-1863) and Lucy W. Alsop (1798-1855). Henry wrote this letter while attending Harvard University, where he graduated in 1844. He married Emily Aspinwall Howland (1832-1897) in November 1853. Henry’s father was a merchant in the firm of Alsop & Chauncey — an occupation that required his residency in Valparaiso, Chile, and Lima, Peru. Henry, Jr. accompanied his father to these South American cities when he was a young boy and then returned to Middletown, Connecticut, where he prepared for college. After graduation from Harvard University, Henry studied law for a short time and then became a merchant in New York City. Ill health, however, cause him to give up his work and travel abroad.

Henry wrote the letter to his Middletown boyhood chum, Samuel F. Jarvis, Jr. (1827-1910), the son of Rev. Dr. Samuel Farmar Jarvis, Sr. and Sarah McCurdy Hart. Rev. Dr. Samuel Farmer Jarvis, son of Bishop Abraham Jarvis (1739-1813), was born in Middletown and graduated at Yale 1805, was elected rector April 11th, 1837, and the Rev. Dr. John Williams, native of Deerfield, Mass., and graduate of Trinity College, assistant rector; but Dr. Williams was afterwards called to the rectorship of the Episcopal church in Schenectady, where he officiated until called in 1849, to the Presidency of Trinity College; which office he still holds, though recently elected and consecrated assistant Bishop of Connecticut. Dr. Jarvis resided in Middletown until his death, March 29th, 1851, aged 64. He was rector of the church in Bloomingdale, near New York city, and of St. Paul’s in Boston, before settling in Middletown, and also a professor in Trinity College. Dr. Williams preached at his funeral, and it is understood, is preparing a memoir of him, which will of course give an account of his writings.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Samuel F. Jarvis, Jr., Student at Washington College, Hartford, Connecticut

Harvard University
May 25, 1843

The Honoration member to his valued friend, J. F. Jarvis, greeting;

Your epistle was duly received on the 17th of this month & the pardon that you ask for your long silence has been graciously given. A thousand thanks, my dear Sam, for your letter, & for the figures that headed it. You can scarcely imagine how powerfully they recalled to my mind the scenes of last summer & though I was just then tremendously hard pushed for time, I could not resist the temptation of thinking over the times that we have had together. For more than an hour must I have been seated while faithful memory was “bringing the light of days around me.” The “main top”, the walks, the rows, the conversations, that we have had together came trooping thick & fast upon my mind, & the recollections of the past were so vivid that for a time I almost believed that I was in Middletown & living them over again. It was with the utmost difficulty that I could tear myself away from such delightful fancies & often since, when I have been most busy, they would come upon me with such strength as almost to make me give up all study & yield myself to their charms. Since then, I have thought more of Middletown than I have during all my residence here. There seems to me scarcely a spot in it that has not been the subject of my day dreams. At times I sit down merely for the purpose of thinking on the dear old place & I assure you that I pass some of my most delightful hours.

Accept, therefore, my dear Sam, my most hearty thanks for your letter & be not astonished at having it answered so soon. Methinks I can see all the old ICH in their room, lolling back in their chairs, each with a “pipe” stuck into his mouth, talking about everything & discussing the merits of the young ladies. I might run on on this subject without ever getting tired, but as I am afraid of wearing you, I will leave it for other topics.

So you have had a vacation of 4 weeks & could not find time to come on here & make me your long promised visit? Out upon you, Sam. Did you suppose that I could not furnish you with a part of my bed for night or could not procure food for you by day? I had been counting upon your visit & seriously, I am quite vexed that you did not come on. I should have had my lessons to be sure, but yet if you had come, I should have found time to have gone around with you. I suppose then that I must wait until next winter before I shall have the pleasure of seeing our face here, & of showing you our “time honored Alma Mater” — unless indeed you determine to come here to enter, in which case I promise you a hearty welcome.

But seeing that you did not come on to see me, I am glad that you have been in New York & that you staid part of the time at my father’s, though I am sorry that you had to put up with a shy parlor, which has indeed been honored with my presence & might therefore prove something of an attraction to you. At any rate, it must have been cool & that is certainly a great object in these warm days.

At last it would seem your sister have made that so long talked of & so often-put-off visit to my mother. I had for some time began to suspect that the said visit was an impossibility & that it would be talked of & talked of but never made. My mother writes me that she has had a most delightful time, but that now, since all have left her, the house seems quite desolate. Often have I thought of you in New York & longed to be with you enjoying myself, but as it is term time & I had no good excuse, I could not ask for leave of absence. I hope that your sisters did not enjoy themselves the less for having so often put off their visit.

I was certainly sorry that I did not see Miss Christene to bid her farewell before she left New York when I was there, & therefore will you have the kindness to do so for me & wish her in my name “toule sorte de prosperites.” If it could be, I should be most happy to see her before she goes, but “celaneci peut pas.” You see I interlaced my letter with French phrases a la Eaton, who by the bye, seems in a very great measure to have recovered from the shock of the death of his sister. As to the meeting of I. C. H. on the 4th of July, which he proposed to me, I am glad that it is going to take place, but I fear that the Hon. member must be absent as the faculty only allows us the day. Another strong reason — & one that you may keep to yourself — is that it is too confoundedly expensive, as it would cost me about $25.00 to go and return. I shall, however, be present with you in spitir & about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, shall think of you all as stretched at ease “sub tegmine fagi,” ¹ & entertaining each other with your adventures for the past year. I think that I shall be in Middletown about the last of August & not before, though, if I can, I will. Pray when you write to Mr. J. Williams, tell him that when I was in Middletown, I was told that on his desk there lay a half finished letter to “my dear Henry” & that if he will only finish that letter, he shall have my most hearty thanks & an answer as soon as is possible.

Truly, my dear Sam, did you say that the good people of Middletown had “got themselves into a pickle” in regard to Mr. [Edson Wilson] Wiltbank.² My father writes me that he has been dismissed. I wonder whom they will have next for their minister. There is a saying, “variety is the spice of life” & they seemed to be determined to prove its truth. I have long expected that there would [be] trouble on Mr. W.’s account from the manner on which he used to act, but never did I suppose that he was intemperate. My heart almost bleeds for his poor wife. You did not let me know how it was discovered that he was addicted to drinking. Let me know in your next, which I shall hope soon, very soon, to receive.

So good bye & that God may bless you, my dear Sam, & guide you & me in the paths wherein we should walk is the fervent prayer of your attached friend, — Henry C. Chauncey

¹ The latin phrase “Sub tegmine fage” means beneath the canopy of the spreading beech (Virgil).

² Rev. Edson Wilson Wiltbank, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, began to officiate at the Episcopal Church in Middletown, Connecticut on 11 April 1842, and was succeeded by Rev. Horace Hills, 11 February 1844. We learn from this letter that he was accused of alcohol abuse and dismissed by the Middletown congregation.


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