Caroline Chester - Her Diary - Extracts from her commonplace book
Litchfield Female Seminary in Connecticut
Caroline Chester was born in Hartford, Connecticut, 1801, and died on April 20, 1869 at Troy, New York. She married John Knickerbocker, in 1825, and died at Troy, New York, 1870. She was 15 years old when she attended the school.
Nov. 30, 1815. I left Hartford at eight in the morning and arrived at Litchfield about four, had very pleasant company, Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler of Hartford, and her niece, Mr. Catlin of Litchfield, and several other gentlemen whom I did not know. It rained constantly almost the whole day. West Hartford was the first place we passed through, it is a very pleasant place though a small one. Farmington is much larger, and as we passed through Main street I saw it to the best advantage. Burlington is a small place consisting of a few houses, one store, a blacksmith's shop, a post office and one meeting house. Harwinton the last town (until we reach Litchfield) is much pleasanter than Burlington, here we left four of our passengers. After riding over many a long hill we arrived at Litchfield which agreeably surprised me. Went immediately to Mrs. Sheldon's where for the first time I saw her and Miss Lucy.
Dec. 1st, 1815. Spent the evening at Miss Wood's upon condition that I would not visit again for a week. Saturday was spent as usual in studying, sewing and hearing instruction. Mr. Beecher visited the school. I was very much pleased, his doctrine is plain and easy to understand.
Dec 19th, 1815. It is one of Miss Pierce's rules to have her scholars rise before sunrise and Dr. Swift observes "That he never knew any man come to greatness and eminence who lay in bed of a morning." It is known that in the 14th century in England and France, people rose much earlier than they do now, and I read yesterday that Buffon said that he was indebted to one of his domestics for ten or a dozen of his works, because he had promised him a crown whenever he would wake him at six and he succeeded in his attempts. Czar Peter a famous philosopher used to rise to see the morning break, and used to say that "he wondered how man could be so stupid as not to rise to see the most glorious sight in the universe; that they took delight in looking at a beautiful picture, the trifling work of a mortal, but neglected one painted by the hand of the Deity." Dr. Doddridge says that the difference it would make if a person should rise at five or seven for the space of forty years, supposing him to go to bed at the same hour of night, is nearly equivalent to the addition of ten years.
Dec. 20th, 1815. Called for Hannah Wolcott, and at her mamma's request she took me to her Uncle Wolcott's house. It is elegantly furnished. He has in his sitting room pictures of six old venerable gentlemen, a picture painted by his daughter, and a print. In his library are two large bookcases filled with books, likenesses of his wife, mother, father, daughter and her husband Mr. Gibbs. In his drawing-room are several large prints from Homer's Iliad, the battle of Bunker's Hill and death of General Montgomery, a large print called Marc Antony, three or four landscapes painted by Mrs. Gibbs and many others. Hannah showed me some Chinese curios, two men one holding two small boxes of tea, and the other, a curious looking personage, a Chinese woman, a pair of ladies and men shoes, stone cut in various shapes, Ivory globes made in the most elegant manner, a number of boxes, six or seven figures made of plaster of Paris, some baskets, and a beautiful collection of shells.
Dec. 27, 1815. Miss Mary Hooker, Miss Burr, Miss Reeves and Miss Beecher at tea. In the evening heard a long letter read from Mr. H. Sheldon. He wrote that he had visited the catacombs and asked his guide if Bonaparte had ever been there, he said "No, Bonaparte had never expressed any desire to be with the dead."
Jan. 1, 1816. Went to school with a determination to improve all in my power, recited in History without a mistake, in the afternoon I went to Mr. Bradley's tavern in a sleigh with Hannah Huntington, John and Mr. O. Wolcott, W. T. and Mary. Had a most delightful ride, returned with Hannah to tea, in the evening took a sleigh ride and returned home about nine. Had a great many wishes that I might have a Happy New Year.
Jan. 2, 1816. After school returned home with Louisa Seymour, and drank tea with her and enjoyed myself extremely. Mrs. Seymour is a very fine woman and endeavored to have our time pass agreeably. I almost froze returning home, for the cold was excessive.
Thursday. After school took a walk with Margaret Hopkins of Philadelphia. I am very much pleased with her, she is not only beautiful, but amiable, kind, generous and sweet tempered. Dr. Fowler drank tea at Dr Sheldon's and staid through the night. After studying an hour I went to Mr. Brace's where I spent the evening most agreeably and saw a plenty of butterflies and spklers. I returned home about nine, attended family prayers and retired to my room.
Thursday. I rose as usual early and exercised, knit and mended my school frock, when it was finished, the cow bell announced that I must prepare for school. Mr. Brace commenced school as usual by reading a portion of Scripture, and prayer. After school I called at Mrs. Wolcott's, Mrs. Beeves', and called and gave Mary Deming some of Eliza Royce's wedding cake. In the evening I drank tea at Mrs. Deming's with Miss F. Catlin who is the most beautiful woman in Litchfield, Mary Wells cousin to Mrs. Hudson, she unites to a lovely face all those pleasing qualities which delight and attach and make us love and admire, the two Misses Buel and Mise Landon with several of the students. The afternoon was spent very pleasantly at Mrs. Aaron Smith's with her niece Mary, the Misses Hopkins from Philadelphia, Miss Wadsworth from Montreal, Miss Rockwell from Albany and Miss Lewis who resides in Litchfield. The evening was spent very pleasantly in reading a letter from Mr. Henry Sheldon to his sister Lucy. He wrote that he had seen the ascension of two balloons, and that the French surpassed all other people in sublime trifles, that the first ascended in a very fine evening, covered with lamps, conveying a man named Augustine, who was afterward found at some distance from Paris almost frozen to death. The next, he wrote was much the most interesting as it conveyed a young heroine of 20 or 25. She cut the cords to her frail bark and every heart ached, while she ascended so far in the air that she was hardly perceived. She suffered no injury and was afterward presented to the King. Hannah Wolcott, Helen Peck, Margaret and Adela Hopkins came and staid about an hour.
Monday. Rose at an early hour and took a long but pleasant walk with Mary. At school I recited a lesson in Sacred History and had the pleasure to hear Miss Pierce say I had said a most excellent lesson. In the afternoon I learnt in my Blair that poetry is the language of passion, or of enlivened imagination, formed most commonly into regular numbers. I also learnt that a person who composed a letter must write with ease and familiarity, simplicity, sprightliness and wit. Our lesson was very interesting and I recited without a mistake, but it fully convinced me that I was not born with a genius for letter writing. After school took a delightful walk with Mary and Charlotte Storrs. Went with dear Theodosia Devaux who is from Camden, S, Carolina to see Harriot Kirby. Went with Mary to take tea with Clarissa Seymour. С Marsh, E. Welch, E. Storrs and L. Seymour were there. I spent my time very pleasantly. In the evening we recited anecdotes, one was — A man who kept an ale house by a pound was frequently visited by the students who wrote over the door " Ale by the pound." The Proctor of the university unwilling to have them visit it, complained to the Vice Chancellor who ordered the ale keeper to appear before him. This request was readily complied with, but as soon as he entered the room began spitting and clearing his throat, the Vice Chancellor asked why he did so, he replied — Sir I came here to clear myself. Well how do you do, asked the Vice Chancellor. Very well I thank you. Go! says the Vice Chancellor for an impudent villain. He left him and meeting the Proctor who had complained of him, he told him the Vice Chancellor wished to see him. He went, and the ale keeper spoke and said, Sir you bid me go for an impudent villain and I have brought yon one of the worst I ever knew.
Friday. Mrs. Wolcott called and very politely asked Mrs. Sheldon to permit me to take tea with her and Miss Cook, a niece of hers from Danbury for whom she had made the party (I was at school) Mrs. Sheldon gave her permission and I went. Though Mrs. Wolcott was the only married woman in the room, yet no one would have thought her the oldest for she looked very beautiful. The party was large. Some of the ladies were—both the Misses Catlin, Miss Hooker, Reeves, Kirby, Sanford, Beecher, Devaux, Lord, Landon, Burr and the two Misses Buel. When the clock struck nine, the girl was carrying round the wine, and I too well knew if I was not at home, the family would be displeased. I spoke to the lady who sat next to me and said I must go, and she said it would be extremely improper in her opinion for me who was the youngest in the room to go first, because if I went, all would go. At about half past nine Miss Burr rose to go, and all the company followed her example. It was very cold and as I crossed the green, the wind blew and I thought, what can be keener? but I found when I reached home that a keener blast awaited me, a blast which will never no never be erased from my memory. I opened the door with a trembling hand, no one was in the room, but soon Dr. came. My heart throbbed violently, and he said — why are you home at this late hour? I told my excuse, he interrupted me by saying that it was but a poor excuse, that I might as well have come as not, for it would have been perfectly proper if I had only been five years old. He concluded by saying that if I ever staid out again he certainly would lock the door if it was after nine. I looked round for a candle but there was none. I asked for one and he said if I wished one I might go up stairs and get one. I spoke and said, Sir I can go to bed in the dark, he made no objection. As I went up stairs I wept as a child and wished I was at home with those friends whom I so dearly dearly loved. Mary was asleep and I thought I should have frozen before I undressed myself, and thus did I pay for my whistle. The party was pleasant but the scolding was not, and sincerely did I wish I had not gone.