Letter from David Berdan to William Henry Seward, March 21, 1824

  • Posted on: 13 December 2017
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Letter from David Berdan to William Henry Seward, March 21, 1824



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Letter from David Berdan to William Henry Seward, March 21, 1824

action: sent

sender: David  Berdan
Birth: 1803  Death: 1827-07-20

location: New York, NY

receiver: William Seward
Birth: 1801-05-16  Death: 1872-10-10

location: Auburn, NY

transcription: emf 

revision: emf 2017-12-04


Page 1

New York March 21st 1824
Sunday evening
Dear Harry,
“My right hand hath almost forgotten its cunning” it is so long
since I have written any thing more intellectual than a polite request for money, a mortgage
or a Spanish Exercise – My pen drags along heavily from the recollection of my past remiss-
ness and I seem to labour under a dullness that neither tea nor sugars nor any such thing
can remove from my mind – This state of feeling certainly does not arise (nor will
you I trust suspect it to arise) from any unwillingness to write arising from a diminution
of friendship – It has become almost constitutional – Yet will I endeavor to shake it
off and (smile not) the future frequency of my letters will prove it to you – Even
now the recollection that at 10 o’clock I must break off seems to deprive me of all
energy and to make me almost unwilling to proceed – I must be regular in order
to awake in time for the duties of the morning and can no longer at my will indulge the
visions of the midnight hour – I had intended from the impulse which I received by
your letter to devote this day to you but I have been but one hour alone since 9 o’clock –
I have talked of plays and women and Europe until I was tired and I am at last
left alone to talk to you of your letter and of my own affairs –
I am sure that I should have written to you last Sunday had it not been from inter-
ruptions similar to those of today – I find that I must calculate upon being broken in
upon by those who visit us upon this day which ought to be sacred to letters and literature
I must plead as an excuse for not have written during the week the execrability
(the term is not yet strong enough) of the weather – Rain, snow and hail accompanied
with tooth-ache and pain in the breast!
I feel determined that our correspondence shall never again languish
through my means – Although I cannot accuse myself of having been wanting in
friendship yet I have been wanting in the proofs, but I will be wanting no longer –
You ask, “why may not our correspondence be valuable from the fact of our pursuing
careers so widely different”? Doubtless it will be more so on this account but it is
not in the light of benefit that we will consider it – Remember that I am not cavilling
at your question – I am only of opinion that I shall regard always your letters
Page 2

as valuable because they will contain a full free and undisguised history of your
feelings – a frank recital of your progress in your pursuits and an outpouring of
your joys and your sorrows – It is this frankness and this freedom which has won
upon me and which will forever make me lay open my own heart to your survey –
I feel there is nothing there that I would be unwilling to communicate and I should
not to your eyes be ashamed of exhibiting it in its nakedness – Your letters have
always been regarded by me as sacred depositaries and I have never either directly or
indirectly exhibited them to any save your brother
Birth: 1793-08-23 Death: 1841-02-24Certainty: Possible
– Even the [ sacreligious ]

Alternate Text

Alternate Text: sacrilegious
hands of
Lawrence Yvonnet
 Death: 1824-09-20
– the great profane of the sacred mysteries of friendship have
not polluted them and they are without wrinkle or spot or blemish curiously hidden
in the repositories of my treasures – You know not what calculation I make on
your correspondence when I shall have crossed the Atlantic – Of you and of my brother
Birth: 1805-07-04 Death: 1884-08-24
only do I think when I imagine myself in Europe

and to you only will
I give a “plain unvarnished tale” of my adventures – my sufferings and perhaps
my humiliation – To all beside I will write in general terms and never
reveal the true state in which I may be placed – I hug myself with the idea that
if I do become dispirited and depressed and feel the bitterness of poverty and servile
toil there will be none here who can rejoice in it or delight themselves with the
reflection of their own superior prudence and discernment – Sooner would I have
the blackness of darkness rest over my fate than that some kind friend on this side
of the water should make me the subject of moving pity and tender compassion –
with this view of the future with regard to yourself it seems to me that my habitual
indolence will from henceforth be overcome and I feel a confidence in my own
strength that will render me a regular correspondent and perhaps cause me
to surpass you in the number of my letters – I feel irritated at myself when
I think that my own weakness often subjects me to much uneasiness in this partic-
ular and that a very little portion of uneasiness ^energy^ might remove from me a load
that is often oppressive – Can you not conceive of a man seated at the fireside
and when an absent friend becomes the subject of his thought determining to write
to him instantly and from sluggishness of soul deferring it ‘till the morrow
which never cometh? Such a man am I – I swear to you that when I
Page 3

received my first quarter at Bancel’s I would have come to you could a week’s
suspension of duty have occurred to allow me the liberty – I sat down by the
fireside with the check in my hand and for a moment I dreamed that it might
be, but the thing was an impossibility and I soon felt it to be so – The vision faded
from my mind and the duties of the morrow were recalled to my mind memory.
How painful I find the obligation attached to the receipt of gain – In the coldest morning
in winter it has given a quickness to my step which I felt did not arise from
lightness of heart or willingness of mind but from the moral necessity and the
strong sense of shame that impelled me forward – I have felt more vexation and
cursed more bitterly on waking up and finding it to be already 6 o’clock than if
I had been slandered by a villain or cheated by a friend – To dress in the
greatest haste – to run stumbling and sometimes falling in the dark streets
for half a mile and when I arrived breathless in school to find my scholars
already assembled and although exhausted be obliged to commence with the lesson
are things not particularly calculated to give pleasure to a man who does not
feel any attachment to money – Yet I have felt compelled to go through this
drudgery and I often console myself with the recollection of the books I have
purchased and the duns I have avoided by the means this toil has afforded me –
You say that you are sensible of the high and escalated pleasures of the
imagination but that you are also convinced there is much solid comfort
in the course you have adopted – I am equally convinced of it and you will
think I mean what I say when I express my firm conviction that you will
enjoy infinitely more happiness than I can ever hope to possess – It is this
same solid comfort into which you are entering that I value as highly as you
do, but I feel a sad certainty that I am not destined for its enjoyment.
You have gone through the labour of obtaining it and you have now before you
almost as favorable prospects as you could desire – You have not only put
yourself in a condition to marry but you have met with a woman
Birth: 1805-09-24 Death: 1865-06-21
with whom
you are willing to unite your destiny and on whom you have a rational and
sure foundation for future happiness – I should have both to toil for
and it appears to me that if I could by manful exertion gain sufficient to
Page 4

support a wife, there would yet remain a greater obstacle to be overcome – that of meeting with an
object on which I could repose all my affections and in whose bosom I might excite that interest
which would make her willing nay eager (for unless she were so I would not connect her with
myself) to tread with me the path of life – at present I would not be fettered even with
the most glittering chains that love could forge – I feel a continual and often a morbid delight
in the consciousness that I shall soon be able to break the bonds that now confine me and take
my flights to those regions where Taste and Genius have consecrated even the dust of the earth
and left the impress of immortality upon all that they have performed – I can now wrap myself
up in the cloak of imagination and feel not its thinness but I cannot but anticipate the
period when Time will have impaired its texture and its raggedness no longer shelter the
wearer from the bleak winds of the desert – I cannot however entirely resolve to love
always as if nature had for me in vain fashioned her fairest workmanship – I will still
believe it possible that I may return and enjoy the happiness of being possessed of the
dearest affections of some fair object who has slumbered like the pearl in the ocean until
the diver has brought it from its bed – with her will I go to some beautiful island of the West,
and hide “the pearl of great price” from the eyes of all who might covet its possession –
office – I finished hastily last evening and I have now an opportunity to send
this to the office – while writing a mortgage Yvonnet entered and by the blessing of
divine providence did not spy this sheet which accidentally was concealed by the
mortgage! I trembled lest he should spy his name – I will write to you
very soon and give you an account of my dealings with the Executors &c – DB –
William H. Seward Esq.
Auburn –
New York


Type: postmark

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Hand Shiftx

William Seward

Birth: 1801-05-16 Death: 1872-10-10
D. Berdan
March 21.