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Tyler, Mary Palmer.

Family correspondence.


Tyler Family Archive, Archive of Correspondence of the Tyler Family of Brattleboro,
Vermont, Royall Tyler, Mary Palmer Tyler, his wife, and their children George Palmer
Tyler, Amelia Sophia Tyler, amongst other correspondents, 1800-1884
Manuscript archive of 290 letters, 922 pages of correspondence, plus ephemeral items and other
manuscript materials.
Collection of family correspondence of the Tyler family including letters from Royall Tyler
(1757-1826, author and jurist, America's first playwright, and Mary Palmer Tyler, (1775-
1866) his wife, who wrote one of the earliest childcare manuals published by an American
woman, she was a sister of Elizabeth Palmer (1777?-1853), whose daughters were the "three
Peabody Sisters," Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Mary Tyler Peabody, and Sophia Amelia
Peabody. The collection also includes correspondence from their children, particularly
George Palmer Tyler (1809-1896) (and his fiancé and wife Elizabeth A. Trowbridge); Amelia
Sophia Tyler (1807-1878). The Tyler's cousins included the celebrated Peabody sisters and
George Palmer Putnam, the founder of the publishing firm.
Royall Tyler1 was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Royall Tyler, prominent merchant
and revolutionary patriot, and Mary Steele. Tyler like his father attended Harvard, graduating
with a B. A. degree in 1776. An inheritance was sufficient to prevent any immediate financial
worries, he proceeded to study law with Francis Dana, among others, but also to associate
with the painter John Trumbull's circle, where his wit and his tendency to dissipation were
evident. Following his brief service as a major in General John Sullivan's unsuccessful
campaign to liberate Newport from the British in August 1778, he completed his legal
studies, received an M.A. from Harvard, 1779, and was admitted to the bar in 1780. He began
his legal practice at Falmouth (now Portland) Maine, but in the spring of 1782 he returned to
the Boston area, settling in Braintree.
The next five years brought notable incidents in his life, first was his love affair with Abigail
Adams, niece of his landlord, Richard Cranch, and daughter of John Adams, the future
president. Mr. Adams was against the match, who doubted Tyler's sense of responsibility,
and was no doubt pleased when Abigail jilted Tyler, in mid-1785, in favor of Colonel
William Stephens Smith, his secretary of legation in London.
Adams was probably astute in his judgment of Tyler's character. Tyler dejected after his
rejection began boarding in the home of a friend from his Harvard days, Joseph Pearse
Palmer, and was left alone with his wife and family while Palmer traveled to Maine to lo for
work in the lumber trade during the fall of 1785. Betsey Palmer, his friend's wife was Tyler's
chief comforter during the fall and winter of 1785-1786. He fathered a daughter, Sophia
Palmer, who was born five months after the return of Joseph Palmer in 1786. But that was not
the end of Tyler's involvement with the women of the Palmer family. A modern scholar,
Megan Marshall, writing in her The Peabody Sisters, believes that Tyler laid hands on his
daughters Eliza, then aged nine, and Mary: "Almost certainly, Tyler laid hands on Eliza
herself that winter. Royall Tyler had a fondness for young girls. He had taken up with Nabby
Adams when she was just sixteen. And, unbeknownst to Eliza, he had paid a visit to her ten
year old sister, Mary, in Braintree at the same time that he was romancing their mother,
dropping in on the girl when she was alone in her great-aunt's house… Eliza would not be
taken in by the "polluted wretch," as she called him afterward, "who enters a worthy family
and leaves it not, till some victim falls a prey to his designs." Eliza had seen Tyler seduce her
mother; she could feel only "terror and disgust" when his attentions turned her way. We will
never know whether Eliza managed to ward off Tyler's predations, but the revulsion with
which she writes about him suggests that she did not."
Not long after Sophia Palmer's birth, Royall Tyler left the Palmer boarding house, but would
return later in 1791 and begin a relationship with Mary Palmer, then just turned eighteen, they
were engaged, but Tyler fathered two children with Mary before they were officially married
secretly in the spring of 1794.
In early 1787 Tyler accompanied General Benjamin Lincoln's expedition against the rebel
Daniel Shays and his followers in western Massachusetts, ultimately leading the pursuit of
Shays into Vermont. His capable handling of this affair caused the Massachusetts authorities
to assign him a related mission to New York in March. Tyler had not been there previously
and eagerly to advantage of the city's amusements, including the theater. Within five weeks
of his arrival he had written a comedy, The Contrast, and had seen it performed by the
American Company, starring the famous comedian Thomas Wignell, at the John Street
Theatre on April 16, 1787. Tyler had presumably read British plays of the eighteenth century,
for The Contrast made skillful use of the same conventions; but it adapted them to a native
setting, using a traditional Yankee comic character, and a patriotic theme. The play
handsomely published in 1790, with a list of subscribers headed by George Washington, was
the first American comedy produced professionally and thus remains a landmark in American
theater history.
A month later Tyler's second play, May Day in Town, was produced; although it was less
successful than The Contrast, Tyler evidently became something of a literary celebrity in
New York. Nevertheless, in one of the fits of depression and abrupt moves that characterized
his early adulthood, he returned to his legal work in Boston, began his "courtship" of Mary
Palmer in 1791, and then settled in Guilford, Vermont in 1791 and soon acquired an
extensive practice. He married Mary Hunt Palmer in 1794 and, he his wife, and family settled
in Guilford and later in 1801 in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Tyler became known as an increasingly eminent lawyer who wrote poetry, fiction, drama, and
essays on the side. He became an assistant judge of the Vermont Supreme Court in 1801 and
from 1807 through 1813 served as chief justice, during this time he presided over a number of
important trials, prepared two volumes of Reports of the Vermont Supreme Court, and
become professor of jurisprudence at the University of Vermont. By 1818 Tyler and his wife
Mary had produced eleven children.
Tyler's literary interests did continue, he collaborated beginning in 1794 with Joseph Dennie,
who became Tyler's partner in the "Colon & Spondee" columns, a series of satiric essays and
verses that were published in local newspapers. As "Spondee" Tyler wrote most of the
poetry, and his total output of sprightly patriotic and humorous verse was considerable,
though only about fifty poems can be attributed to him with certainty. During this period
Tyler also returned to playwriting and had some association with the theater of Boston
through his brother John Steele Tyler, a theater manager there, but apparently only one or two
of his plays were performed in Boston (1796-1797), and the text of only one of his plays from
this period is known to survive. Tyler's most widely read work during his lifetime, also dates
from these years, his novel, The Algerine Captive, published in Boston in 1797 and reprinted
in London in 1802, making it one of the earliest American novels to be republished abroad.
Although Tyler continued to write for his own satisfaction, he published only one more
significant work, The Yankey in London (1809), a series of epistolary essays on aspects of
English life and perhaps his most successful effort to define, through "contrast," the
unaffected and forthright character of Americans.
Mary (Hunt) Palmer Tyler2, was raised in Watertown, Massachusetts, she was the eldest
daughter of Elizabeth (Betsey) Hunt and patriot Joseph Pearse Palmer, who had graduated
from Harvard College and fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Both her parents encouraged
Mary to read and helped to develop her intellect. During the Revolutionary War the Palmer's
lost most of their wealth and Mary and her sister Eliza were put to work, Mary was
apprenticed to wealthy friends as a mother's helper, and later to relatives in eastern New
York, in 1793 she briefly taught school. In May 1794 she married Royall Tyler (see above).
They emigrated to Guilford, Vermont in 1796. They purchased a farm in Brattleboro,
Vermont in 1801, and while Tyler traveled the state as a jurist Mary raised eleven children on
her farm. In 1811 Mary Tyler published The Maternal Physician, anonymously through her
husband's publishing contacts. The manual is significant because Tyler outlined an expanded
role in childrearing for mothers beyond the customary practice of colonial women. She
included advice about the best methods to encourage a child's moral character and
intellectual development beyond infancy. Her philosophy was rooted in Lockean beliefs
about the ability of parents to mold their children and in the Republican Mother ideal, which
shifted the responsibility for this important role to mothers. Tyler encouraged her upper-class
readers to breast feed their babies and to insist upon the supremacy of their maternal instincts
over the authority of male physicians for routine care. Her manual supplied advice about the
treatment of disease and a collection of herbal remedies. After her husband lost his position
as a jurist in 1813 and subsequently became ill with cancer, Mary Tyler nursed him until his
death in 1826. With help from her sons, four of whom eventually became ministers, and her
daughter with whom she opened a private school, she managed to survive as a widow. Her
letters touch upon her financial struggles and work she performed including the growing and
spinning of silk. In her later years, Tyler was devoted to her religious faith, became active in
both the Episcopal and Congregational Churches, and participated in benevolent associations
in Brattleboro. In 1834 she helped found the Brattleboro Maternal Association, a religiously
inspired group of mothers who sought to educate their children in piety and Christian values.
Tyler also to a leadership role in the temperance movement as president of the Martha
Washington Society in the 1840's and supported her son in his efforts to promote antislavery.
In old age, Tyler wrote a memoir for her children recalling her patriotic ancestry and
her early married life in Vermont. Published as "Grandmother Tyler's Bo " (1925) by her
great-granddaughter, it features anecdotes about women's domestic work in early Vermont.
Tyler died in Brattleboro in 1866.
Amelia Sophia Tyler (1807-1878) was a teacher, who had the advantages of education in the
school of her Aunt Amelia Curtis at Salem where her cousins, the Peabodys (Elizabeth
Palmer's family) and the Pickmans (the family of Sophia Palmer) made much of her when a
young girl. The school which Amelia started in her father's house in Brattleboro, October 1,
1826, when she was nineteen, was continued through various changes for over fifty years
until her death in 1878 - first a school for girls, then a "home school for boys under ten" and
finally a coeducational school. The school for boys was advertised in Putnam's Magazine for
May, 1868; among Amelia's references are her first cousins, George Palmer Putnam of New
York City, Mrs. Horace Mann (Mary Peabody), of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Mrs.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, (Sophia Peabody) of Concord, Massachusetts. She learned
Kindergarten methods directly from her cousin Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, who introduced
them to America, adding her own adeptness in teaching languages and mathematics.
George Palmer Tyler (1809-1896) left home at about the age of thirteen for a position in the
office of his older brother, John Steele Tyler (1796-1876) in Boston. He was sent to the West
Indies in 1828 for employment and to remove him from the "temptations" of city life, he
returned to find his employers had failed. He then attended Yale and after graduating with
honors studied for the ministry at New York Theological Seminary in 1840. He spent thirteen
years, 1840-1853, as a Presbyterian minister in Lowville, New York. He returned to
Brattleboro as pastor of the Centre Congregational Church, 1853-1869, he then served in
Lansingburg and Troy before retiring. In the letters of Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne (The
Century, November 1884), Sophia Hawthorne she alludes to "George" as her favorite cousin.
The Archive breaks down as follows:
I. Letters to and from Royall Tyler, 1800-1825, 8 letters, 17 pages (plus later copy of 1820
II. Letters to and from Mary Palmer Tyler
A. Letters to Mary Palmer Tyler, 1804-1812, 2 letters, 6 pages
B. Letters to Mary Palmer Tyler, 1820's, (most from George Palmer Tyler and other
children), 7 letters, 18 pages
C. Letters to Mary Palmer Tyler, 1830-1839, (many from George Palmer Tyler), 23 letters,
75 pages
D. Letters to Mary Palmer Tyler from Elizabeth A. Trowbridge, 1830's, 7 letters, 24 pages
E. Letter to Mary Palmer Tyler, 1843, 1 letter, 4 pages
F. Letter to Mary Palmer Tyler, 1859, 1 letter 4 pages
G. Mary Palmer Tyler, letter to George Palmer Tyler, 1820, 1 letter, 1 page
H. Mary Palmer Tyler, letter to Amelia Tyler and Sophia Pickman, 1826, 1 letter, 3 pages
I. Mary Palmer Tyler, letters by 1830's, 21 letters, 71 pages
J. Mary Palmer Tyler letters written by 1840's 52 letters, 183 pages
K. Mary Palmer Tyler letters written by 1850's 18 letters, 55 pages
L. Undated letters by Mary Palmer Tyler, 2 letters, 6 pages
III. Letter from Amelia Palmer Cranch to her mother Elizabeth Palmer, 1810, 1 letter, 3
IV. Letters and other manuscript materials of George Palmer Tyler
A. Letters to George Palmer Tyler, 1834-1888, 32 letters, 93 pages
B. Letters by George Palmer Tyler, primarily to his siblings, 1826-1878, 9 letters, 26 pages
C. Manuscript poetry, essays, et cetera, plus a pencil sketch by George Palmer Tyler, circa
1829-1835, 14 items, 24 pages
D. George Palmer Tyler's diploma from New York Theological Seminary, 1840
V. Letters and other manuscript materials by Elizabeth A. (Trowbridge) Tyler
A. Letters to Elizabeth A. Trowbridge, 1834-1884, 38 letters, 152 pages
B. Letters and other manuscript material written by Elizabeth A. Trowbridge Tyler, 1837-
1870's, 22 items, 82 pages
C. Letter from Elizabeth A. Trowbridge to Elizabeth Palmer and Amelia Tyler, 1837, 1 letter,
3 pages
VI. Miscellaneous Tyler materials
A. Letters to "Cousin Ned", 6 letters, 39 pages
B. Letters to "Cousin Bessie:, 12 letters, 43 pages
C. Miscellaneous, includes letter fragments, ephemeral materials, etc., 20 items
D. Lithographic portrait of Royall Tyler, by Bufford
The collection includes several letters both written by and to Royall Tyler
Westminster, June 4, 1800, Stephen Bradley, to Royall Tyler, (General Bradley was the 1st U.S.
Senator from Vermont)
"Whereas Royal Tyler Esqr some time since endorsed to me a note signed by David Carlisle of
Walpole for about the sum of seven hundred dollars on which I have since commenced a suit
in the courts in New Hampshire and obtained judgment - & whereas said Carlisle is supposed
to be a Bankrupt and unable to pay the demand and whereas the said Tyler has already paid
me two hundred dollars on account of his being endorser I have now agreed and entered into
a contract with said Tyler that if he will pay me on or before the first day of September next
the sum of Four Hundred Dollars in that case I will assign the judgement I thus obtained
against Carlisle & discharge him as endorser on the same and for him to take all benefit of
said judgment against Carlisle but if not paid or secured to my satisfaction by the first day of
September next then to remain the same as tho, this contract had never been made The costs
on the suit against Carlisle to be paid over and above the four hundred dollars"
Brattleboro, March 16, 1813, Royall Tyler to his son John, Boston, Massachusetts
"Dear John,
On the morrow I expect to start for Aunt Sophia - Your mamma sends you some cough drops
which we have found very efficacious in the family - you will take them - two or 3 times in
the 24 hours beginning with 7 drops on a piece of sugar or in a little water and increase the
dose until you take 15 drops at a time unless they make you sick at your stomach in that case
decrease them until your stomach will bear them - Please to send back the bottle it is double
flint and I cannot get any such here and I sometimes carry with me a little medicine on the
circuit & the thin bottles break & spoil my cloaths"
Boston, February 27, 1818, John Steele Tyler to his father Royall Tyler, Brattleboro, Vermont
"Dear Friends,
… The whole family without exception appeared to be very glad to see me safe home. The
weather yesterday was extremely severe but fortunately the wind favored us and we were
able to ride 13 to 15 miles without stopping. I find considerable business accumulated and
several important affairs commenced particularly the voyage for the OCain Mr. W has
determined to send her to Batavia and has partially engaged a Capt who will transact the
business himself & consequently there will be no offer to be expected of supercargoship. I do
not regret this circumstance as Batavia of all places in the Indian Seas is the most unhealthy. I
find myself of some consequence however in the transactions as Mr. W has declined closing
any contracts personally but waited like a dutiful employer until my return that I might
scrutinize the business and make the several agreements one of which is very important as
"tis with a person who is to furnish $ 60,000 = specie for the outfit on half profit in
consequence of Mr. W sailing the ship…"
Boston, March 20, 1818, John Steele Tyler, to his father Royall Tyler, Brattleboro, Vermont
Dear Friend,
… I enclose a letter recd yesterday from Sophia for William it was enclosed in a short note to
myself dated April 15 in which she briefly enquires after friends & particularly whether
William had gone to NY and what are Edwards prospects - she also inquires whether Miss W
went to Vt with me as Elizabeth Peabody said she did -
… I have also a long conciliatory letter from Grandma attributing my dislike to her - to her
dislike of Mary but assuring me that no such dislike ever existed but on the other hand that
she shall be very happy to love her as a granddaughter = Take it for all and all it is a curious
mixture of Resentment - Religion - Conciliation attempts at explanation -contradiction and
abuse. However as a proof that she is unwilling to continue at enmity I shall answer it in a
manner waiving all allusion to past events -.."
Boston, December 14, 1823, John Steele Tyler to father, Royall Tyler, Brattleboro, Vermont
"Dear Friend,
Since we wrote you last Uncle George with his whole family have arrived here for the purpose
of taking charge of the settlement of Mr. Winship's business. Grandma was at our house
yesterday & to George out to walk with her - During the whole walk she to occasion to attack
my character with unsparing vengeance, she called me every thing but Drunkard & murderer
& one of her charges included the former by implication - In short there seems to be a
determination to ruin me one way or another as they have failed to make out a case of fraud
in my dealings with Mr. Winship the new ground is taken & my moral character assailed with
the malignity of daemons. I have written a note to Grandma requiring to know her authority
for what she asserted… We saw Emily at Salem last Sunday…"
Boston, May 22, 1825, John Steele Tyler to his father Royall Tyler, Brattleboro, Vermont
"Dear Friend,
… William remained with us "till Friday afternoon when I carried him to Salem. His strength
seems to be gradually improving & all danger of a relapse may be considered past - He
proposes to remain at Salem 5 or 6 days more, then to return here for a short time and
proceed by way of Brattleboro to New York… I had an account of Edward's visit to N. York
from Aunt S. before your letter came to hand - I also learned from same source Edwards
opinion of your little bo - a raw A. B. is not the best judge of Literature tho he has just served
an apprenticeship to the trade - He is too prone to bring everything to the test of Tristram
Shandy's rules - as to its bringing its value he & we all may well doubt but it will surely sell
for something …Aunt Pickman does not seem disposed to give up the pleasure of visiting you
nothwithstanding the New York jaunt …"
Correspondence of Mary Palmer Tyler, both incoming and outgoing:
Milton, July 20, 1804, Amelia Palmer Cranch to her sister Mary Tyler, Brattleboro
"My dear Sister,
I have this moment recd a long letter of yours to our mother: the particulars you there write of
your family &c I perused with all the interest the warmest of fraternal affections could excite,
but could hardly pardon your severity when you suggest that want of inclination only,
prevented us from visiting you. Alas! My dear Mary, do you not know the imbecility of those
whom Gold has not made strong? In vain is the distance lessened and the barriers removed by
the ardour of their love; in vain is a manly courage inspired in the timid heart of woman;
courage sufficient to face the host of foes a stage-coach may contain; if the barbarous driver
insists upon more "yellow darlings" than she can give him. Had it not been for the difficulty
of sparing this one thing needful, I should long before this, have personally assured my dear
friends how often & tenderly I remember them.
Did I not write to Sophia Palmer last winter? Will she not even acknowledge a reception of my
Sept. 1st I am absolutely ashamed of the difference of dates in this letter, but my dear sister
would pardon me, if she knew all the little obstructions that have hindered my writing this
long while, to any one. The principal instruction of seventeen girls is no small employment of
my circumscribed brain; I am also taking lessons every week upon the Piano Forte, & the
necessity of constant practice obliges me to spend every leisure moment at my music; add to
this certain vexations of spirit, that effectually depopulate the brain & cramp the fingers; this
latter clause in my apology is not inteligable, I know, & lest you should make some essential
false conclusion, I will explain a little; I mean the Boys (as we call certain young gentlemen
of our acquaintance) plague me, & put me out of humour with myself & them, & then I can
neither write nor study, so they are accountable for half my sins… "
Salem, September 15, 1810, Amelia Palmer Cranch to her mother Elizabeth Palmer, Brunswick,
"My dear Mamma,
I can hardly believe that it is a fact that so many months have elapsed since I saw you and yet I
have not written to you. But these months have been crowded with events of importance to
my temporal, perhaps eternal happiness. Maria, dear Girl, since then has gone to her long
abode; has received her everlasting doom! Often since have I sincerely wished I was myself
as safe from the world's vicissitudes as is this patient sufferer. But I knew the impatient
temper was a fault, and I did indeed endeavor to subdue it. Since then too have I br en
asunder engagements that I had long lo ed upon as indissoluble: to this step I was assuredly
constrained by every inducement that should have weight in the female mind. I have had it
repeatedly confirmed since that Major F. denied being thus engaged, & you know how
negligent he was in writing to me. I hear that his health is miserable, but I firmly believe my
discarding him has been a source of satisfaction to him. He had been long so ill as to lose all
interest in any thing except attention to his health, & I do suppose wished himself equally free
in honour as in inclination. I have never written to you on this subject my dear Mother and
therefore wished just to state the matter fairly that from what follows, you need not impute
any improper motives to my conduct towards Mr. F. -
Assured of my dear Mother's partial affection to her children, I write to you with confidence
even tho" it is to tell you that without your concurrence, a son in law is selected for you;
believing that you will approve what all my friends here have approbated. I write this, after
all is determined upon, certain, you see, of an affectionate sanction. Now write me such a
sanction dear Mamma & write it in such a manner that I may show it to Mr. Vinson, and
prove to him that he will find as kind a Mother in you, as in my Salem mother. You first
question would I know be "when are you to be married?" - We have not determined, but do
not at present think of putting it off many months. Mamma has almost almost promised to
live with me, for which Mr. V- is as desirous as I am. I shall be quite happy if she can
reconcile herself to it, that I may always be assured she is tenderly attended to as long as she
lives. In your answer to this I would thank you not to make any mention of my hint as to the
time of our marriage, it is not yet concluded, and I did not wish the Dr. & Eliza to know
anything of it - Adieu my dear Mamma. Tell Catherine & Henry I long to see them both. I
wish C- would not stand upon ceremony about writing to me. When Mr. P was here last he
said, if after all I did not have the best of husbands it would be because the men had no taste -
the complimentary part of this I owe wholly to his partiality, but when he sp e I regretted that
he had never seen V-, for his opinion would have more weight than anyone's except - my
own - … We live in William Street near the Common in half of Deacon Adam's house, & Dr
P lives in Union Street but a short distance from us - At present the school is kept in his
house, but in about 3 weeks, Eliza gives it wholly up, and I shall keep it at home…"
Salem, December 23, 1812, Amelia Palmer Curtis to her sister Mary Tyler, Brattleboro,
My dear Sister,
Your affectionate and very welcome letter with Sophia's postscript was duly received, and I
write immediately to assure you that I know of no inconvenience attending Royal's coming to
Salem… It was but one month from the day, that I received Mr. V - s consent to our
separation and made it known to Mr. Curtis, to that on which we were married. This gave me
no time to discipline my heart to the convictions of my reason. I never passed such a terrible
month: on the one hand dreading to seem ungrateful to so good a friend, and on the other
tortured by the disappointment of prospects that I had cherished so long with a delight that
more than balanced all the evils attending them. You will I hope pardon the existence of that
state of mind even till the hour in which Dr. Worcester pronounced me the wife of Mr. C: for
I can solemnly assure you that the last tear I have shed upon this subject, then fell on the hand
of my husband; - The perfect extinction of hope, with regard to Mr. V- has operated like a
powerful anodyne to my soul, and soothed it into entire tranquility. Can I therefore be
otherwise than happy now, for all my peculiar causes of anxiety are removed. Mr. C has paid
for every farthing which we owed in this town, amounting, as it proved, to about $ 160. We
owe nobody anything on our own account, and have a small sum at interest besides. Our
schools tho" in these hard times, they are small, yet serve to procure a subsistence, - I
innumerate these causes of my peace of mind, for apt as we all are to complain, I know how
prone we are to forget our existing blessings and obligations to our bounteous God for them
… Mr. C's temper is remarkably mild and benevolent, and all his habits correctly moral;
judge then if your sister is not happy. We have been respectfully noticed since our marriage
by the Ladies & Gentleman here - … Tell Sophia to make haste, for tis a long time since we
have had a long night's talk, instead of sleeping …"
Brattleboro, February 26th, 1826, Mary Palmer Tyler to daughter Amelia and, her sister, Sophia
Pickman, Salem, Massachusetts
"My Dear Amelia,
Your dear Brother William has been with us a week to our great comfort and pleasure - … We
have all been sick with the prevailing disease since William has been here and I suspect his
visit has been rather dull for him - but he has done us a vast deal of good - one night he
watched with your Father and let me go to bed and lay all night a thing I have scarcely done
this winter before - and he has read aloud to his Father many hours when I should have found
it very difficult to have done so while laboring under the terrible pain in the eyes that attends
this fashionable malady - Charles being afflicted with it also rendered this seasonable
reinforcement peculiarly fortunate - to say nothing of the pecuniary blessings which your
brothers always bring with them for the supply of our many little wants and wishes - but
above all other considerations I rejoiced to see William on your father's account - his spirits
had sunk very low and he was apt at times to think they did not want to come and see him -
the worst feeling possible to the heart of a sick parent and which his reason would never
sanction, except when overpowered by corporal suffering.
We understand Aunt Putnam has gone on to New York we heartily wish her success and cannot
but flatter ourselves that her establishment there augurs well for another visit for us from the
same party that was her last summer and any others who can come. We should rejoice to see
any of our Cousins Peabody or their dear parents we do not forget Aunt Pickmans half
promise to pass the summer here - I should think she and Mary might come early and the rest
of you come when your business would permit and then all return together…
You desired me my dear Sophia to let you know if your cloth turned out enough for the suit …
Our good boys have paid up our account at Williston's, which you will recollect I told you
we had opened at Edward's suggestion - It had run a year and amounted to 134 dollars but
this included our wood for the past year - all our bread, corn, medicine &c &c and the corn
with which we fatted our Pig so that I think we were as prudent as could well be… I tell you
this because I know you feel interested about us we can now go on again another year …
Give my love to all your little Girls and tell them I acknowledge myself indebted to them for
several very pretty letters but if they knew how dreadful sick their poor uncle is and how my
time is taken up in reading to and tending upon him they would I am sure excuse me for not
writing - tell Sophia Peabody- Mary thanks her for her very pretty letter and if she ever wrote
any letters she would to her - but her hands and heart are full of business having all the care
of the Family. I see by the Papers the Salem folks begin to make a great stir about
manufactories, let us know if it augurs good to you …"
Boston, November 27, 1827, George Palmer Tyler to his mother Mary Palmer Tyler,
Brattleboro, Vermont
"Dr Mother,
… I am glad to relate to you an adventure on Monday eve I went to the House of a a - a - hem
young Lady and found there a number of my acquaintances Ladies & Gents the room was
very warm when we were coming away it fell to my lot to wait upon a very pretty miss home
she had been sick & this was her first visit since her recovery the sudden change from warm
to excessive cold set the whole company coughing and my charge seemed more affected than
the rest - I trusting to my Vermont constitution and yielding to the sudden impulses of
politeness "not at all uncommon to our family" I pulled off my cloak and put it round her and
marched off with her (now doubly valuable) to her house. Next morning when I was about to
call for my breakfast I discovered for the first time that in the very face of my boasted
mountain constitution I had taken such a cold that I could not speak without an effort. To day
my throat is very sore I'll never do a polite thing again as long as I live. …"
Boston, December 27, 1827, George Palmer Tyler to his mother Mary Palmer Tyler,
Brattleboro, Vermont
"Dr Mother,
I recd Winship's letter of the with yr PS this morng enclosed I send you a letter which I wrote to
you some days since which I forgot to send … I recd your letter to John this morng I wished I
was at leisure to accompany Wm to Brattleboro - Cannot Charles make it convenient to come
to Boston with Amelia & Aunt P ? do let him come.
I met Mr H & wife at the Theatre there was a party made to go consisting of Mr Colo Tyler &
Mrs Colo Tyler & Mr Wm C Tyler & Mr John Bradford I believe & Mrs James Houghton &
Mr. James Houghton & Miss Mary Blake & Miss Lucinda B. Tyler & last tho not least
George Palmer Tyler Esq. Wm says Harriet does not lo so well as common and I think so too.
Mr. Houghton told me of Mr. Wells death I should like to have seen him once more at least
before he dies I can see him now in my minds eye setting by our fire sm ing his pipe with Pa
… These intoxicating seens which you warn me of are not so dangerous my mother - mere
pleasure is sought at first with avidity and if young men are forbid it they naturally covet it
whereas those on whom no restraint is put feel soon its folly and seek more solid &
substantial enjoyment.
John says it was so with him & I am sure that it is so with me it is a practice with the grocers to
when they have a new apprentice to let him eat as many raisins, almonds, figs &c &c as he
chooses - he soon feels no desire for them - it is the same in the pursuit of pleasure it is a
bubble which soon bursts tis but the "Ignus fatuus" gleam of happiness much can be learnt in
its pursuit it is the best school to gain a knowledge of human nature. I am yet young in life,
yet I think I know more than many of my elders do of the wiles of men of false friends and of
the sorrows & perplexities that accompany man through life & think I have gain some
experience in knowing how to guard against them …"
Boston, May 27, 1828, George Palmer Tyler to his mother Mary Palmer Tyler, Brattleboro,
"Dear Mother,
On Monday we all went to Andover to be present at Edward's wedding but we arrived one half
hour too late Edward is much engaged now, and wishes me to say for him, that he cannot
visit you at present, as it is necessary that he should be in Middleton to admit certain persons
to his church, and also to express his regret that certain loved ones were to near him on the
joyous occasion. Sister Ann's health is feeble and cannot endure a jaunt to Brattleboro. I
think that she will return to Andover again, which place she left in co with us on Monday
afternoon. She says she is better than she was, and wants to go to Brattleboro to see her new
mother & sister & little Bros if she was my wife I would send her to you immediately I am
confident all she wants is exercise.
Mrs. JST says she thinks they have been making her sick, they cause her to set with her feet on
something warm and to be most of her time in a warm room no fresh air, no society, not the
least excitement, nothing but vegetable food. "Twould make even me sick. She is an excellent
girl but her mother an anxious kind hearted nervous old lady will absolutely kill her with the
view of establishing her health, for a journey to Middletown.
On Monday Wm & Charles will bring you a large cake, which escaped the wedding at least
they have persuaded Mrs ERT to trust them with it you can judge what your chance of getting
it is…."
Boston, September 28, 1828, John Steele Tyler to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler, Brattleboro,
"My Dear Mother,
George will hand you this, I have determined, (if you approve) to send him to Aux Cayes in
Hayti, with our friend Mons. Dupon - The climate is healthy and the prospects of advantage
in business highly flattering provided he is true to himself. A principal inducement to this
course is that it will serve to break the chain of habit which binds him so strongly at this time
to various kinds of genteel dissipation, such as visiting, dancing, dressing fine &c - I have
said much to him on the subject without causing any essential change, and in truth there is so
little of acidity in my temperament that I cannot bring myself to the exercise of the needful
vigour. Mons Dupon is a gentleman of property, talents and consequent respectability as well
as of advanced age & experience - he engages to receive George into his own family and
counting room, and to allow him, or myself as his guardian, one half of the commissions on
his American business. This will give George an opportunity to establish himself as a
commission merchant under very rare advantages, and if he conducts properly must lead to
wealth. The vessel will sail hence in course of 8 or 10 days, therefore George must return by
Thursday's stage. I will only remark further on this subject thin Aux Cayes there is no society
in which dissolution can exist, except that of the coloured population, and if George will
bring his mind to the pursuit of business only he must necessarily attain habits of industry and
St. Domingo, November 1, 1828, George Palmer Tyler to his mother Mary Palmer Tyler,
" … We sailed from Boston on the_ of Oct. Wm, John & Charles bid me good by at the six
miles distance from Boston. Long I stood and watched their little boat till it seemed a speck
upon the waters… as I to a long last lo of American Shores I stood with the captain on deck
as evening closed around and saw him examine his compass by the north star and then he to a
night glass and lo ed for the light house at last he saw it and our course was changed… 27th
we made Porto Rico, all ran to the ships side and gazed long and earnestly upon the land 28th
Acherhe Rock and la Mona Mona was the home of many of the late pirates, also the principal
haunt of the renowned Capt Kidd we then saw Altevela which is an immense pile of rocks
and also the mountainous coast of San Domingo and soon were anchored in this Harbour if it
can be so called - there is now 7 or 8 old wrecks of vessels driven in shore …
I am now in a room that would have been deemed obsolete in the 12th century … from my
windows I can lo toward America, one end of my room is a secretary at the opposite is a table
covered with a white cloth on which a little copper coloured lass puts my coffee at five in the
morning at 6 I go down stairs and have a large bowl with milk… I then walk till 7 for
exercise then return write for Mr. Dupon till 9 then write French till breakfast time 11 o'clk
when they eat as much as they can having meats, beef, pork, fowl &c with banana a long
yellow fruit which they are all very fond of and eat in the place of bread. After breakfast it
grows so oppressively warm that no Americans go out for fear of getting the brain fever … at
9 oclk the drum beats all doors close and if any person is found in the streets when the bell
ceases they are carried to the guard house, there is a guard always in the street, day and night
… this is Haitian liberty.
Nov 8, 1828. I have now come to a more settled state I have a French master twice a day and am
obliged to write the remainder of the time for Mons Dupon - to write is no exertion for me I
can do it all day steady in America, but here in this devilish, mosquito biting, sweating, head
aching, thirsty country I don't get along so easy, it is possible there may be a place as large as
a dollar on me that has not a mosquito bit but it admits of a doubt. I went yesterday to the
grave yard to see, where I shall probably be made crabs of - They have a particularly
favourite dish done up of crabs they go to the grave yards and drive a stake into the grave and
then pull it out which of course makes a hole - they then leave it for some days and then visit
the hole & by some process make the crabs come out of the hole - they take them home and
co them a la mode de Haiti - Every man seems to expect a good banquet from every friend
that dies - I think that I shall make some choice ones…
9th Nov. to day past by our house a procession consisting of first a Priest having on his head a
crown and a robe of black silk coming down as far as his knees over a white one much longer
having a trail which he held in his constituted the remainder of his dress he held a cross in his
right hand immediately behind him were 4 small boys dressed like to him with a cross next
came a number of females dressed in white entirely, with white veils carrying lighted candles
- screaming a song, next came a troop of men bearing something probably a coffin but they
were so thick around it I could not get a peep then came 3 females and a little boy having
black scarf over their necks - then followed a band of music playing a dirge they went to a
church I was too much engaged to follow them …"
New York, September 2, 1830, George Palmer Tyler to his mother Mary Palmer Tyler,
"Dear Friends,
I arrived here about 8 oclk last evg. found cos Alice at home, the rest of the family were "about
in spots" she informed me. I sat and talked a few moments and then at a suggestion went with
her to Aunt Putnams, saw her, Anne & Elisabeth, told them all about Brattleboro &c returned
at 10 found Uncle Geo at home who said that in the morning we must proceed to lo about that
I must watch the papers and answer any advertisements that I should think proper and refer
the people to him. In the morning I went to his store read his paper found no wants, except
one who wished the person to have a knowledge of crockery ware. I then went to where Geo
Putnam keeps read his papers found nothing encouraging went next to Mr. Reed's with Wm's
letter he is now in Europe. There is a number of advertisements in the papers put there by
young men in the same case with myself… I have a little room next Abiel's & were it not for
somethings that bite me I should be quite well situated as for sleeping… the other rout is
much cheaper I shall return that way if I am obliged to return for want of employment. I wish
to know how to proceed in case the worst should happen… now the the thing that is
important for me to know is whether I shall come away as soon as the 50 & 6 cents reduce
my money to a sum sufficient just to defray my expenses home …"
Yale, December 2, 1832, George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler, Brattleboro
"My dear Mother,
… It has always been fashionable to talk against the fare in the Hall. I have found it otherwise.
They give us good things and plenty of them. I have thus far found college life very much
pleasanter than I anticipated… It has always been told me how the students act, but all that I
have heard fall short of the fact as much as Tom Thumb was shorter than Daniel Lambert. I
cannot specify all that is done. However for a sample - pouring the tea upon the table cloth
filling the salt cellar with water or gravy or the tea pot with bread - or the sugar bowl with
milk or their pockets with knives and forks - piling the dishes one upon the other - making
believe that they have something to laugh at - and all go haw haw haw so loud as to disturb
the tutors - All of which offenses, if the blame could be attached to a particular one are
punishable offenses it is a principle with the students never to betray one another - those that
are pious will prevaricate and those who are not will lye - If one is caught informing he is
called a blueskin and kicked out of society. With these explanations you will be able to
understand some more of my good protection here. You will readily perceive that if I should
be brought up before the faculty to testify against anyone of my class mates who sit with me
at table I should be placed in a very bad case - as I must necessarily know all about their
misdemeanor - and if I should be asked directly what I know about the affair I must either
refuse to answer and thereby render myself liable to be rusticated or I must divulge and break
with my whole class, for this would be the case. Well one night I thought I would not go into
the Hall to tea but would go over to Doct Murdock so I went over. When I returned I found
that the fellows at my table had taken off the table cloth … and all were called up before the
tutors - None of these students are pious and consequently did not hesitate to deny any
knowledge of who did it &c &c If I had been there and they had called me up you see in what
a predicament I should have been in …"
New Haven, January 20, 1833, George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler,
"My dear Mother,
December 20th I received P's letter containing an account of the revival &c. It was then near the
end of the term we were much pressed with studies … I have now returned and feel restored
in mind and body. Edward came down with me in a chaise, we left all well. Edward's baby is
a sweet one. It lo s like Pa if it lo s like anyone. It has really a dignified countenance. I think it
will soon go with father & mother to Colebro to settle. The good folk there urge them very
hard to come. The South church have given a call to a Mr. Wm. Beecher, eldest son of the
Doct. I presume he will be their pastor. Last term in college was one of the most wicked ones
that has ever been known. I find on summing up that thirty of our class have left college. One
member of the church is dismissed from college for a year…
Jan 27. I was unable to finish this letter which I had begun so long ago, and this is the first good
opportunity I have had since of recommencing it. It is a time of intense and varied feeling to
me, where I can unwrap my mind from the folds of Greek and mathematics, and gather round
my heart the memory of dear ones away… My chief difficulty in passing my time pleasantly
here, is the total want of refined and intelligent society, wherewith to relax the mind from
severer studies, and refine away the rudeness which is perhaps inseparable from the society in
which the elevating and purifying influence of enlightened females is not enjoyed…"
New Haven, March 11, 1833, George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler,
"My dear Mother,
… I have to thank you for your mention of me at Boston and Salem. It was not long ere I
perceived that you had been acting for me there. I received a letter from Charles stating the
success of your enterprise, and one from Sophia P full of delight at your visit and praises of
the excellence of my mother, which are always sweet to the ears of a son….
…my allotted time on Earth may have past before I shall have finished my studies But my
prayer is that if I may not become a minister I may in life and death glorify Christ. Indeed I
think that we ought to consider never how we shall glorify Christ at a future time, but how
now, that if we should be called away we may say as did Jesus in his prayer I have glorified
thee on the Earth. It will never do in this day to be merely saved. …"
Yale, March 13, 1834, George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler, Brattleboro
"… You ought not to let the opinion of those who are unconnected with college with respect to
me weigh at all with you. They know nothing of my duties when Pres Day or the Tutors write
to you that I am doing wrong it is time for you to be uneasy and not till then. Thomas F. is
ardent, warm hearted, but weak… It is very evident that the class of Society which Tom is to
influence is a very different one from that which I shall do the most good in. In the higher
classes of Society there are suttle and close reasoners. There are literary epicures who will not
listen to truth presented in a homely garbe. There are many men of science well skilled in
lore, whose hearts revolt at the thought of being influenced by one whom they can quickly
discern to be by far their inferior. All these and more are to be met. They must be prepared
for. This must be accomplished by patient study… With respect to college honors I hold them
in the most sovereign contempt I deprecate the whole system. I seek no honors further than
where my own intellectual benefit or my influence is connected with them…
There has been a four days meeting in one of the churches, the effects were not great. Another
was contemplated in another church; but the distress in the money market, and the excitement
consequent upon a severely contested election rendered the state of feeling such that it was
deemed inexpedient to attempt to hold one at present…."
New Haven,[May 10, 1834] George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler,
"My dear Mother,
… When the term ended two weeks since I proceeded to New York to lo after some things
belonging to my class. I staid at Mrs. Curtis's It was near the 1st of May & as Grandma knows
the good folks were all getting ready for a move. Mrs. C was cleaning house, she was well, so
were Eliza & Amelia. I think Amelia Curtis has improved much in manner & character. Elisa
has grown fat. Mrs. C does not lo as well as when in Boston. She seems to me rather care
worn - but I do not know that it is so. … Mrs. Putnam's house was full of folks boarding
scholars etc The girls were well, but they are very inferior in education and ladylike action to
the Curtis" They too say it is not improbable that they shall visit Brattleboro in Aug. George
Put is as hearty lo ing as any fellow ever was. His sickness did him good. Mr. Palmer I did
not see. Saw one of the little girls. They were about going to house keeping I understood, the
rooms they occupied in Tryon row lo ed handsome and comfortable. I always supposed Mr P
had an interest in the store he is in, and had some capital of his own but I learned in New
York that he has only his salary of 1500 a year, which is very little for his great family.
Young George Palmer has returned from sea. He had a fever & ague abroad and a second
attack since his return has not left him yet … He does not seem to have been benefitted in his
moral character, by putting him with the most immoral class of men in the world, as some
hoped, good & wise mothers like you are the greatest blessings & the most important things
in the world. The Curtis" told me that Aunt Pickman had written them and told them not to
have any communication with Wellington Peabody at all, to speak technically to cut his
acquaintance to cast him off. I don't think that any person at his age can have done anything
so bad as to warrant the giving him up to ruin in this way. It is hardly a Christian course to
say the least. E. said that Mary always hated Wellington and now she has her mother's
sanction she treats him as scornfully as possible - my spirit is moved for Aunt Peabody…"
Brattleboro,July 25, 1835, Mary Palmer Tyler to her son, Thomas Pickman Tyler, New Haven
"My dear Son,
I received your charming long letter today - and hasten to answer your queries as to who we
expect here but cannot possibly write a long letter till all our company are gone. … and now
as to who we expect - In the first lace - the Rev. E. Tyler & Lady and two children, then Mrs
Joseph Tyler & Miss A Tyler from Conn. immediately - and when they can be released
Messrs George & Thomas P. Tyler, students - From NY Mrs Curtis & her daughters - Mrs
Putnam & her three children and from Boston Mrs Pickman & her daughter and we hope
Messrs W & R Tyler - perhaps Mrs. Mary & Lucinda but altho" I have written and pressed
their coming very often I have not received the least answer from them or from John - and
this casts a shade over the pleasure I anticipate from the visit…. We have been very much
amused with your description of College life & manners - you must wake up mornings and
not trust to the tutors politeness for the future…."
New Haven, October 25, 1835, George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler,
"My dear friends,
… We have strong hopes of a revival in college, there was one conversion last night - Doct
Fitch is lame so as to unfit him for preaching. Doct. Taylor, Prof. Skinner of Andover & Mr.
Bacon supply this place. When is Edward going to send money for your bo s &c to be
redeemed? Let me hear from you soon- Especially from Amelia - where is Sophia Peabody
New Haven, January 20, 1836, George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler,
"My dear Mother,
… In regard to Mrs. Hunt not the most imperious necessity would be sufficient to induce me to
give my consent to the plan. The New Haven people are, in general, more given to visiting
one another than any people with whom I am acquainted. There are three or perhaps more
correctly two circles owing to the Literati, of whom one is composed. The other, Mrs Hunt's
circle is made up of that sort of folks who are always thinking of how they shall adorn
themselves outwardly to the manifest disregard of all else- save it be the usual concomitants
of such elevated thoughts - scandal. And who never trouble themselves about any puritanical
scheme of benevolence like Sunday schools &c - I from actual observations know all about
them from "top to toe." I bow to a number of them even yet when I encounter them in the St
but never call - If A should come she must associate with these more than she has ever done
with any people and I do not believe she will find one mind that will in the least comprehend
her, or who would be worthy of her acquaintance…
I don't expect to stay in New Haven this term will let you know when I depart. I am anxious to
be doing something, to pay my debt and what is more I want to preach. I can write as good a
sermon as half I hear when in the country I know now… Sometimes I think that all the
advances in piety I have made have been owing to the prayers of my friends and yours
especially - most especially. It seems to me that I have somewhat better views of Christian
duty than I ever had. I hope more love and confidence towards God - I'm vain egotistical aint
I …"
New York, January 23, 1836, George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler,
"Dear Mother,
… I was at Dr. Hawkes" church to witness the ceremony of confirmation. Amelia had for
sometime doubt about the doctrine of the Trinity I had been making notes on the subject and
arguing with a gentleman attached to the Institute who was formerly an orthodox minister,
but is now an Unitarian. I use him to try the strength of my arguments always and I only put
down those in my note bo which he cannot answer. Amelia seems entirely convinced now
and Eliza says she don't see how the Unitarians can believe their doctrine for a moment - E
& A both were confirmed. Aunt Curtis is well and her school as flourishing as it ever has
been and more so I believe. Aunt Putnam is prospering also… There is an extensive plan now
in operation among the churches of the city for calling more particular attention to Religion.
There are thirty different churches or Lecture rooms to be opened each evening this week for
preaching. Doct. Skinner said last Sunday that there was a revival in more than one church
Yale, July 10, 1836, George Palmer Tyler, to his mother, Mary Palmer Tyler, Brattleboro
"My dear Mother,
… examination for degrees is just over and my class dismissed from college until
commencement. I have had a good many trusts to give up on quitting college - And on
leaving the chair of our literary societies a speech is always required which among these wise
acres in learning must be something to tickle the ear if nothing else. This has demanded some
time. Mr. Porter of the Washington Institute has also been here and examined my
qualifications for teacher in that school. Having returned to New York and laid the matter
before those interested he wrote me that they had concluded to give me preference out of a
great many applicants. I am to teach mathematics only. Have my board, which is high in New
York light washing &c &c and 400 pr an … I have engaged a German Jew who teaches
Hebrew with great success and German also, to instruct me - A Knowledge of these
languages is considered a great thing for a young theologian and I doubt not that I shall make
myself master of the difficulties of both languages before I leave New Haven. As I already
have got thro" the worst of the German - This man teaches after the manner of Mr. Seixas

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