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Excerpts from Letters from Elijah to John (1824–27)

I wish you my son to apply yourself to your studies, take necessary exercise and amusement but let them not intrude on your hours of study. . . . It is impossible to apply the mind to study when it is continually intoxicated with the idea of company and those bewitching frolics common to this country. You will not disappoint me I hope of keeping yourself and your desires of company and the pleasures of youth under due restraint. (January 30, 1825)

By a prudent attention to your studies, a just respect to your equals and superiors, trying to derive some useful knowledge from everything you see and hear, that your conduct be with . . . the practice of the cardinal virtues of honesty, justice, temperance and prudence [you] will never fail to give me real pleasure and be one of the greatest sources of worldly consolation in the decline of life. (November 4, 1826)

It will always give me pleasure to hear of your attending . . . church. Give a respectful attention to the religious instructions delivered there [and] avoid all levity on the occasion. You will see much good company and learn the manners and customs of the City. You must indulge no critical ideas or opinions, always ask questions for information and that very respectfully. Enter on no arguments on religious subjects, submit them always to their proper teachers who will be the best gauge of them always reserving to yourself the right of private opinion. (November 14, 1826)

The time of your return is now beginning to draw near. We hope you will continue to improve your time the best you can. Your main object should be knowledge of your intended profession and secondly knowledge of the world which are both indispensably necessary to your becoming useful to yourself and society. You will try to obtain all you can from the lectures of your professors while there on the subject of medicine and its auxiliaries, also see a little of the manner of the city, before another winter comes you will have time and opportunity to read and improve on what you have heard. . . . The field before you is great. Great industry and perseverance is necessary to make your reputation in your profession. This I trust you are sensible of and will not disappoint me in. (February 3, 1827)

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