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DEAR MERRILL, There is no business so pressing, and no amusement so entertaining, from which the heart will not sometimes stray away to repose itself in the contemplation of old and undiminished friendship. I sometimes sit down to my books, transport myself to the court-house in London, and listen to wise judges and ingenious lawyers. But ere I am aware, thought wings itself to Hanover, to Charlestown, or the residence of some other friend, and I awake from the pleasant little vision, scarcely knowing where I left off in the lawyer's argument, or his Lordship's charge. A little business, which I shall mention anon, affords me a pretty fair excuse for writing you at this time. I am glad it is so. I am happy in the opportunity of spending, I mean of enjoying, a half hour with Merrill. What is this world worth without the enjoyment of friendship, and the cultivation of the social feelings of the heart ? For a life consumed in money-seeking, fame-seeking, and noise-making, I would not give more than eighteen pence, which is seventeen pence halfpenny, one farthing more than it is worth.
O, Thomas, Thomas ! I wish I could see you. Since I last pressed your hand, my life has abounded in some incidents which I could magnify into matters of mighty little consequence. Poh! poh! What trumpery ! How microscopical is self-love! It makes us think that trifles, light as air, affect our friends because they affect us, or, to speak metaphorically, it swells a little piece of salt not bigger than a chestnut, into an immense mountain forty-five miles long. My heart is now so full of matters and things impatient to be whispered into the ear of a trusty friend, that I think I could pour them into yours till it ran over. But perhaps if we were to meet this hour, I should not be able to make out one sentence of any consequence. I have often been caught so, and have been so much mortified, that all my boasted sources of conversation could hardly be formed into a paragraph long enough for the use of two commas and a semicolon.
I desire most earnestly to hear from you, to hear directly from your heart and your heart's concerns. Pray how do you feel in and about the heart ? And how does it feel about the heart of ? Well, pardon me ; I am apt to put impertinent inquiries ; but they allow you an opportunity of exercising your virtue in forgiving ; a good trade, and which you will never find opportunity to leave off, so long as your acquaintance with me continues. Pray tell me all that may be told.
Now, business. We are informed that a new statute of the corporation of the college has ordained that a student forfeits his connection with college, by an absence of so long a time ; how long a time, and what is the whole account of the business?
These inquiries, as you will guess, are on account of my brother. I wish to know whether it is probable he can be graduated with his class. I believe he wrote the President and asked him that question, but I do not learn that he ever has received an answer. If the President forgets to give himself the trouble to answer him, he will expect me to get him the information some other way. You can if you will, and you will if you can, tell me all I want to know about the college laws in this respect. I should be sorry to have the old fellow trudge all the way from Boston to Commencement for nought.
I look forward to Cambridge Commencement as the time when I shall see you ; perhaps it may come before, and whenever it does come, it will be welcome.
I can think of nobody at Hanover to whom my compliments would be worth six pence. So Merrill must keep the whole ; they will do him little good, but they will cost him nothing.
Very sincerely yours,
- Daniel Webster
- Private Correspondence of Daniel Webster, Edited by Fletcher Webster, Volume I, 1857