Read CHAPTER IX of Maria Mitchell: Life‚ Letters‚ and Journals, free online book, by Maria Mitchell, on



In her life at Vassar College there was a great deal for Miss Mitchell to get accustomed to; if her duties had been merely as director of the observatory, it would have been simply a continuation of her previous work. But she was expected, of course, to teach astronomy; she was by no means sure that she could succeed as a teacher, and with this new work on hand she could not confine herself to original investigationthat which had been her great aim in life.

But she was so much interested in the movement for the higher education of women, an interest which deepened as her work went on, that she gave up, in a great measure, her scientific life, and threw herself heart and soul into this work.

For some years after she went to Vassar, she still continued the work for the Nautical Almanac; but after a while she relinquished that, and confined herself wholly to the work in the college.

“1866. Vassar College brought together a mass of heterogeneous material, out of which it was expected that a harmonious whole would evolvepupils from all parts of the country, of different habits, different training, different views; teachers, mostly from New England, differing also; professors, largely from Massachusetts, yet differing much. And yet, after a year, we can say that there has been no very noisy jarring of the discordant elements; small jostling has been felt, but the president has oiled the rough places, and we have slid over them.

“... Miss is a bigot, but a very sincere one. She is the most conservative person I ever met. I think her a very good woman, a woman of great energy.... She is very kind to me, but had we lived in the colonial days of Massachusetts, and had she been a power, she would have burned me at the stake for heresy!

“Yesterday the rush began. Miss Lyman [the lady principal] had set the twenty teachers all around in different places, and I was put into the parlor to talk to ‘anxious mothers.’

“Miss Lyman had a hoarse cold, but she received about two hundred students, and had all their rooms assigned to them.

“While she had one anxious mamma, I took two or three, and kept them waiting until she could attend to them. Several teachers were with me. I made a rush at the visitors as they entered, and sometimes I was asked if I were lady principal, and sometimes if I were the matron. This morning Miss Lyman’s voice was gone. She must have seen five hundred people yesterday.

“Among others there was one Miss Mitchell, and, of course, that anxious mother put that girl under my special care, and she is very bright. Then there were two who were sent with letters to me, and several others whose mothers took to me because they were frightened by Miss Lyman’s style.

“One lady, who seemed to be a bright woman, got me by the button and held me a long timeshe wanted this, that, and the other impracticable thing for the girl, and told me how honest her daughter was; then with a flood of tears she said, ’But she is not a Christian. I know I put her into good hands when I put her here.’ (Then I was strongly tempted to avow my Unitarianism.) Miss W., who was standing by, said, ’Miss Lyman will be an excellent spiritual adviser,’ and we both looked very serious; when the mother wiped her weeping eyes and said, ’And, Miss Mitchell, will you ask Miss Lyman to insist that my daughter shall curl her hair? She looks very graceful when her hair is curled, and I want it insisted upon,’ I made a note of it with my pencil, and as I happened to glance at Miss W. the corners of her mouth were twitching, upon which I broke down and laughed. The mother bore it very good-naturedly, but went on. She wanted to know who would work some buttonholes in her daughter’s dress that was not quite finished, etc., and it all ended in her inviting me to make her a visit.

“Oc, 1866. Our faculty meetings always try me in this respect: we do things that other colleges have done before. We wait and ask for precedent. If the earth had waited for a precedent, it never would have turned on its axis!

“Sep, 1868. I have written to-day to give up the Nautical Almanac work. I do not feel sure that it will be for the best, but I am sure that I could not hold the almanac and the college, and father is happy here.

“I tell Miss Lyman that my father is so much pleased with everything here that I am afraid he will be immersed!” Only those who knew Vassar College in its earlier days can tell of the life that the father and daughter led there for four years.

Mr. Mitchell died in 1869.

“Ja, 1868. Meeting Dr. Hill at a private party, I asked him if Harvard College would admit girls in fifty years. He said one of the most conservative members of the faculty had said, within sixteen days, that it would come about in twenty years. I asked him if I could go into one of Professor Peirce’s recitations. He said there was nothing to keep me out, and that he would let me know when they came.

“At eleven A.M., the next Friday, I stood at Professor Peirce’s door. As the professor came in I went towards him, and asked him if I might attend his lecture. He said ‘Yes.’ I said ’Can you not say “I shall be happy to have you"?’ and he said ‘I shall be happy to have you,’ but he didn’t look happy!

“It was with some little embarrassment that Mrs. K. and I seated ourselves. Sixteen young men came into the room; after the first glance at us there was not another look, and the lecture went on. Professor Peirce had filled the blackboard with formulae, and went on developing them. He walked backwards and forwards all the time, thinking it out as he went. The students at first all took notes, but gradually they dropped off until perhaps only half continued. When he made simple mistakes they received it in silence; only one, that one his son (a tutor in college), remarked that he was wrong. The steps of his lesson were all easy, but of course it was impossible to tell whence he came or whither he was going....

“The recitation-room was very common-lookingwe could not tolerate such at Vassar. The forms and benches of the recitation-room were better for taking notes than ours are.

“The professor was polite enough to ask us into the senior class, but I had an engagement. I asked him if a young lady presented herself at the door he could keep her out, and he said ‘No, and I shouldn’t.’ I told him I would send some of my girls.

“Oc, 1868. Resolved, in case of my outliving father and being in good health, to give my efforts to the intellectual culture of women, without regard to salary; if possible, connect myself with liberal Christian institutions, believing, as I do, that happiness and growth in this life are best promoted by them, and that what is good in this life is good in any life.”

In August, 1869, Miss Mitchell, with several of her Vassar students, went to Burlington, Ia., to observe the total eclipse of the sun. She wrote a popular account of her observations, which was printed in “Hours at Home” for September, 1869. Her records were published in Professor Coffin’s report, as she was a member of his party.

“Sep, 1871. My classes came in to-day for the first time; twenty-five studentsmore than ever before; fine, splendid-looking girls. I felt almost frightened at the responsibility which came into my handsof the possible twist which I might give them.

“1871. I never look upon the mass of girls going into our dining-room or chapel without feeling their nobility, the sovereignty of their pure spirit.”

The following letter from Miss Mitchell, though written at a later date, gives an idea of the practical observing done by her classes:

MY DEAR MISS : I reply to your questions concerning the observatory which you propose to establish. And, first, let me congratulate you that you begin small. A large telescope is a great luxury, but it is an enormous expense, and not at all necessary for teaching.... My beginning class uses only a small portable equatorial. It stands out-doors from 7 A.M. to 9 P.M. The girls are encouraged to use it: they are expected to determine the rotation of the sun on its axis by watching the spotsthe same for the planet Jupiter; they determine the revolution of Titan by watching its motions, the retrograde and direct motion of the planets among the stars, the position of the sun with reference to its setting in winter and summer, the phases of Venus. All their book learning in astronomy should be mathematical. The astronomy which is not mathematical is what is so ludicrously called “Geography of the Heavens”is not astronomy at all.

My senior class, generally small, say six, is received as a class, but in practical astronomy each girl is taught separately. I believe in small classes. I instruct them separately, first in the use of the meridian instrument, and next in that of the equatorial. They obtain the time for the college by meridian passage of stars; they use the equatorial just as far as they can do with very insufficient mechanism. We work wholly on planets, and they are taught to find a planet at any hour of the day, to make drawings of what they see, and to determine positions of planets and satellites. With the clock and chronograph they determine difference of right ascension of objects by the electric mode of recording. They make, sometimes, very accurate drawings, and they learn to know the satellites of Saturn (Titan, Rhea, etc.) by their different physiognomy, as they would persons. They have sometimes measured diameters.

If you add to your observatory a meridian instrument, I should advise a small one. Size is not so important as people generally suppose. Nicety and accuracy are what is needed in all scientific work; startling effects by large telescopes and high powers are too suggestive of sensational advertisement.

The relation between herself and her pupils was quite remarkableit was very cordial and intimate; she spoke of them always as her “girls,” but at the same time she required their very best work, and was intolerant of shirking, or of an ambition to do what nature never intended the girl in question to do.

One of her pupils writes thus: “If it were only possible to tell you of what Professor Mitchell did for one of her girls! ‘Her girls!’ It meant so much to come into daily contact with such a woman! There is no need of speaking of her ability; the world knows what that was. But as her class-room was unique, having something of home in its belongings, so its atmosphere differed from that of all others. Anxiety and nervous strain were left outside of the door. Perhaps one clue to her influence may be found in her remark to the senior class in astronomy when ’76 entered upon its last year: ‘We are women studying together.’

“Occasionally it happened that work requiring two hours or more to prepare called for little time in the class. Then would come one of those treats which she bestowed so freely upon her girls, and which seemed to put them in touch with the great outside world. Letters from astronomers in Europe or America, or from members of their families, giving delightful glimpses of home life; stories of her travels and of visits to famous people; accounts of scientific conventions and of large gatherings of women,not so common then as now,gave her listeners a wider outlook and new interests.

“Professor Mitchell was chairman of a standing committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Women,that on women’s work in science,and some of her students did their first work for women’s organizations in gathering statistics and filling out blanks which she distributed among them.

“The benefits derived from my college course were manifold, but time and money would have been well spent had there been no return but that of two years’ intercourse with Maria Mitchell.”

Another pupil, and later her successor at Vassar College, Miss Mary W. Whitney, has said of her method of teaching: “As a teacher, Miss Mitchell’s gift was that of stimulus, not that of drill. She could not drill; she would not drive. But no honest student could escape the pressure of her strong will and earnest intent. The marking system she held in contempt, and wished to have nothing to do with it. ’You cannot mark a human mind,’ she said, ‘because there is no intellectual unit;’ and upon taking up her duties as professor she stipulated that she should not be held responsible for a strict application of the system.”

“July, 1887. My students used to say that my way of teaching was like that of the man who said to his son, ’There are the letters of the English alphabetgo into that corner and learn them.’

“It is not exactly my way, but I do think, as a general rule, that teachers talk too much! A book is a very good institution! To read a book, to think it over, and to write out notes is a useful exercise; a book which will not repay some hard thought is not worth publishing. The fashion of lecturing is becoming a rage; the teacher shows herself off, and she does not try enough to develop her pupils.

“The greatest object in educating is to give a right habit of study....

“... Not too much mechanical apparatuslet the imagination have some play; a cube may be shown by a model, but let the drawing upon the blackboard represent the cube; and if possible let Nature be the blackboard; spread your triangles upon land and sky.

“One of my pupils always threw her triangles on the celestial vault above her head....

“A small apparatus well used will do wonders. A celebrated chemist ordered his servant to bring in the laboratoryon a tray! Newton rolled up the cover of a book; he put a small glass at one end, and a large brain at the otherit was enough.

“When a student asks me, ‘What specialty shall I follow?’ I answer, ‘Adopt some one, if none draws you, and wait.’ I am confident that she will find the specialty engrossing.

“Fe, 1887. When I came to Vassar, I regretted that Mr. Vassar did not give full scholarships. By degrees, I learned to think his plan of giving half scholarships better; and to-day I am ready to say, ’Give no scholarships at all.’

“I find a helping-hand lifts the girl as crutches do; she learns to like the help which is not self-help.

“If a girl has the public school, and wants enough to learn, she will learn. It is hard, but she was born to hardnessshe cannot dodge it. Labor is her inheritance.

“I was born, for instance, incapable of appreciating music. I mourn it. Should I go to a music-school, therefore? No, avoid the music-school; it is a very expensive branch of study. When the public school has taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, the boy or girl has his or her tools; let them use these tools, and get a few hours for study every day.

“... Do not give educational aid to sickly young people. The old idea that the feeble young man must be fitted for the ministry, because the more sickly the more saintly, has gone out. Health of body is not only an accompaniment of health of mind, but is the cause; the converse may be true,that health of mind causes health of body; but we all know that intellectual cheer and vivacity act upon the mind. If the gymnastic exercise helps the mind, the concert or the theatre improves the health of the body.

“Let the unfortunate young woman whose health is delicate take to the culture of the woods and fields, or raise strawberries, and avoid teaching.

“Better give a young girl who is poor a common-school education, a little lift, and tell her to work out her own career. If she have a distaste to the homely routine of life, leave her the opportunity to try any other career, but let her understand that she stands or falls by herself.

“... Not every girl should go to college. The over-burdened mother of a large family has a right to be aided by her daughter’s hands. I would aid the mother and not the daughter.

“I would not put the exceptionally smart girl from a very poor family into college, unless she is a genius; and a genius should wait some years to prove her genius.

“Endow the already established institution with money. Endow the woman who shows genius with time.

“A case at Johns Hopkins University is an excellent one. A young woman goes into the institution who is already a scholar; she shows what she can do, and she takes a scholarship; she is not placed in a happy valley of do nothing,she is put into a workshop, where she can work.

“... We are all apt to say, ’Could we have had the opportunity in life that our neighbor had,’and we leave the unfinished sentence to imply that we should have been geniuses.

“No one ever says, ’If I had not had such golden opportunities thrust upon me, I might have developed by a struggle’! But why look back at all? Why turn your eyes to your shadow, when, by looking upward, you see your rainbow in the same direction?

“But our want of opportunity was our opportunityour privations were our privilegesour needs were stimulants; we are what we are because we had little and wanted much; and it is hard to tell which was the more powerful factor....

“Small aids to individuals, large aid to masses.

“The Russian Czar determined to found an observatory, and the first thing he did was to take a million dollars from the government treasury. He sends to America to order a thirty-five inch telescope from Alvan Clark,not to promote science, but to surpass other nations in the size of his glass. ‘To him that hath shall be given.’ Read it, ’To him that hath should be given.’

“To give wisely is hard. I do not wonder that the millionaire founds a new collegewhy should he not? Millionaires are few, and he is a man by himselfhe must have views, or he could not have earned a million. But let the man or woman of ordinary wealth seek out the best institution already started,the best girl already in college,and give the endowment.

“I knew a rich woman who wished to give aid to some girls’ school, and she travelled in order to find that institution which gave the most solid learning with the least show. She found it where few would expect it,in Tennessee. It was worth while to travel.

“The aid that comes need not be money; let it be a careful consideration of the object, and an evident interest in the cause.

“When you aid a teacher, you improve the education of your children. It is a wonder that teachers work as well as they do. I never look at a group of them without using, mentally, the expression, ’The noble army of martyrs’!

“The chemist should have had a laboratory, and the observatory should have had an astronomer; but we are too apt to bestow money where there is no man, and to find a man where there is no money.

“If every girl who is aided were a very high order of scholar, scholarship would undoubtedly conquer poverty; but a large part of the aided students are ordinary. They lack, at least, executive power, as their ancestors probably did. Poverty is a misfortune; misfortunes are often the result of blamable indiscretion, extravagance, etc.

“It is one of the many blessings of poverty that one is not obliged to ‘give wisely.’”

1866. To her students: “I cannot expect to make astronomers, but I do expect that you will invigorate your minds by the effort at healthy modes of thinking.... When we are chafed and fretted by small cares, a look at the stars will show us the littleness of our own interests.

“... But star-gazing is not science. The entrance to astronomy is through mathematics. You must make up your mind to steady and earnest work. You must be content to get on slowly if you only get on thoroughly....

“The phrase ‘popular science’ has in itself a touch of absurdity. That knowledge which is popular is not scientific.

“The laws which govern the motions of the sun, the earth, planets, and other bodies in the universe, cannot be understood and demonstrated without a solid basis of mathematical learning.

“Every formula which expresses a law of nature is a hymn of praise to God.

“You cannot study anything persistently for years without becoming learned, and although I would not hold reputation up to you as a very high object of ambition, it is a wayside flower which you are sure to have catch at your skirts.

“Whatever apology other women may have for loose, ill-finished work, or work not finished at all, you will have none.

“When you leave Vassar College, you leave it the best educated women in the world. Living a little outside of the college, beyond the reach of the little currents that go up and down the corridors, I think I am a fairer judge of your advantages than you can be yourselves; and when I say you will be the best educated women in the world, I do not mean the education of text-books, and class-rooms, and apparatus, only, but that broader education which you receive unconsciously, that higher teaching which comes to you, all unknown to the givers, from daily association with the noble-souled women who are around you.”

“1871. When astronomers compare observations made by different persons, they cannot neglect the constitutional peculiarities of the individuals, and there enters into these computations a quantity called ’personal equation.’ In common terms, it is that difference between two individuals from which results a difference in the time which they require to receive and note an occurrence. If one sees a star at one instant, and records it, the record of another, of the same thing, is not the same.

“It is true, also, that the same individual is not the same at all times; so that between two individuals there is a mean or middle individual, and each individual has a mean or middle self, which is not the man of to-day, nor the man of yesterday, nor the man of to-morrow; but a middle man among these different selves....

“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.

“There will come with the greater love of science greater love to one another. Living more nearly to Nature is living farther from the world and from its follies, but nearer to the world’s people; it is to be of them, with them, and for them, and especially for their improvement. We cannot see how impartially Nature gives of her riches to all, without loving all, and helping all; and if we cannot learn through Nature’s laws the certainty of spiritual truths, we can at least learn to promote spiritual growth while we are together, and live in a trusting hope of a greater growth in the future.

“... The great gain would be freedom of thought. Women, more than men, are bound by tradition and authority. What the father, the brother, the doctor, and the minister have said has been received undoubtingly. Until women throw off this reverence for authority they will not develop. When they do this, when they come to truth through their investigations, when doubt leads them to discovery, the truth which they get will be theirs, and their minds will work on and on unfettered.

“I am but a woman!

“For women there are, undoubtedly, great difficulties in the path, but so much the more to overcome. First, no woman should say, ’I am but a woman!’ But a woman! What more can you ask to be?

“Born a womanborn with the average brain of humanityborn with more than the average heartif you are mortal, what higher destiny could you have? No matter where you are nor what you are, you are a poweryour influence is incalculable; personal influence is always underrated by the person. We are all centres of sphereswe see the portions of the sphere above us, and we see how little we affect it. We forget the part of the sphere around and before usit extends just as far every way.

“Another common saying, ‘It isn’t the way,’ etc. Who settles the way? Is there any one so forgetful of the sovereignty bestowed on her by God that she accepts a leaderone who shall capture her mind?

“There is this great danger in student life. Now, we rest all upon what Socrates said, or what Copernicus taught; how can we dispute authority which has come down to us, all established, for ages?

“We must at least question it; we cannot accept anything as granted, beyond the first mathematical formulae. Question everything else.

“’The world is round, and like a ball
Seems swinging in the air.’

“No such thing! the world is not round, it does not swing, and it doesn’t seem to swing!

“I know I shall be called heterodox, and that unseen lightning flashes and unheard thunderbolts will be playing around my head, when I say that women will never be profound students in any other department except music while they give four hours a day to the practice of music. I should by all means encourage every woman who is born with musical gifts to study music; but study it as a science and an art, and not as an accomplishment; and to every woman who is not musical, I should say, ‘Don’t study it at all;’ you cannot afford four hours a day, out of some years of your life, just to be agreeable in company upon possible occasions.

“If for four hours a day you studied, year after year, the science of language, for instance, do you suppose you would not be a linguist? Do you put the mere pleasing of some social party, and the reception of a few compliments, against the mental development of four hours a day of study of something for which you were born?

“When I see that girls who are required by their parents to go through with the irksome practising really become respectable performers, I wonder what four hours a day at something which they loved, and for which God designed them, would do for them.

“I should think that to a real scientist in music there would be something mortifying in this rush of all women into music; as there would be to me if I saw every girl learning the constellations, and then thinking she was an astronomer!

“Ja, 1876. At the meeting of graduates at the Deacon House, the speeches that were made were mainly those of Dr. R. and Professor B. I am sorry now that I did not at least say that the college is what it is mainly because the early students pushed up the course to a collegiate standard.

“Ja, 1876. It has become a serious question with me whether it is not my duty to beg money for the observatory, while what I really long for is a quiet life of scientific speculation. I want to sit down and study on the observations made by myself and others.”

During her later years at Vassar, Miss Mitchell interested herself personally in raising a fund to endow the chair of astronomy. In March, 1886, she wrote: “I have been in New York quite lately, and am quite hopeful that Miss will do something for Vassar. Mrs. C., of Newburyport, is to ask Whittier, who is said to be rich, and told me to get anything I could out of her father. But after all I am a poor beggar; my ideas are small!”

Since Miss Mitchell’s death, the fund has been completed by the alumnae, and is known as the Maria Mitchell Endowment Fund. With $10,000 appropriated by the trustees it amounts to $50,000.

“June 18, 1876. I had imagined the Emperor of Brazil to be a dark, swarthy, tall man, of forty-five years; that he would not really have a crown upon his head, but that I should feel it was somewhere around, handy-like, and that I should know I was in royal presence. But he turns out to be a large, old man,say, sixty-five,broad-headed and broad-shouldered, with a big white beard, and a very pleasant, even chatty, manner.

“Once inside of the dome, he seemed to feel at home; to my astonishment he asked if Alvan Clark made the glass of the equatorial. As he stepped into the meridian-room, and saw the instruments, he said, ‘Collimators?’ I said, ‘You have been in observatories before.’ ’Oh, yes, Cambridge and Washington,’ he replied. He seemed much more interested in the observatory than I could possibly expect. I asked him to go on top of the roof, and he said he had not time; yet he stayed long enough to go up several times. I am told that he follows out, remarkably, his own ideas as to his movements.”

In 1878, Miss Mitchell went to Denver, Colorado, to observe the total eclipse of the sun. She was accompanied by several of her former pupils. She prepared an account of this eclipse, which will be found in Chapter XI.

“Au, 1878. Dr. Raymond [President of Vassar College] is dead. I cannot quite take it in. I have never known the college without him, and it will make all things different.

“Personally, I have always been fond of him; he was very enjoyable socially and intellectually. Officially he was, in his relations to the students, perfect. He was cautious to a fault, and has probably been very wise in his administration of college affairs. He was broad in his religious views. He was not broad in his ideas of women, and was made to broaden the education of women by the women around him.

“June 18, 1881. The dome party to-day was sixty-two in number. It was breakfast, and we opened the dome; we seated forty in the dome and twenty in the meridian-room.”

This “dome party” requires a few words of explanation, because it was unique among all the Vassar festivities. The week before commencement, Miss Mitchell’s pupils would be informed of the approaching gathering by a notice like the following:


The annual dome party will be held at the observatory on
Saturday, the 19th, at 6 P.M. You are cordially invited to be

M. M.

[As this gathering is highly intellectual, you are invited to
bring poems.]

It was, at first, held in the evening, but during the last years was a breakfast party, its character in other respects remaining the same. Little tables were spread under the dome, around the big telescope; the flowers were roses from Miss Mitchell’s own garden. The “poems” were nonsense rhymes, in the writing of which Miss Mitchell was an adept. Each student would have a few verses of a more or less personal character, written by Miss Mitchell, and there were others written by the girls themselves; some were impromptu; others were set to music, and sung by a selected glee-club.

“June 5, 1881. We have written what we call our dome poetry. Some nice poems have come in to us. I think the Vassar girls, in the main, are magnificent, they are so all-alive....

“May 20, 1882. Vassar is getting pretty. I gathered lilies of the valley this morning. The young robins are out in a tree close by us, and the phoebe has built, as usual, under the front steps.

“I am rushing dome poetry, but so far show no alarming symptoms of brilliancy.”

A former student writes as follows about the dome poetry:

“At the time it was read, though it seemed mere merry nonsense, it really served a more serious purpose in the work of one who did nothing aimlessly. This apparent nonsense served as the vehicle to convey an expression of approbation, affection, criticism, or disapproval in such a merry mode that even the bitterest draught seemed sweet.”

“1881, July 5. We left Vassar, June 24, on the steamer ‘Galatea,’ from New York to Providence. I looked out of my state-room window, and saw a strange-looking body in the northern sky. My heart sank; I knew instantly that it was a comet, and that I must return to the observatory. Calling the young people around me, and pointing it out to them, I had their assurance that it was a comet, and nothing but a comet.

“We went to bed at nine, and I arose at six in the morning. As soon as I could get my nieces started for Providence, I started for Stonington,the most easy of the ways of getting to New York, as I should avoid Point Judith.

“I went to the boat at the Stonington wharf about noon, and remained on board until morningthere were few passengers, it was very quiet, and I slept well.

“Arriving in New York, I took cars at 9 A.M. for Poughkeepsie, and reached the college at dinner-time. I went to work the same evening.

“As I could not tell at what time the comet would pass the meridian, I stationed myself at the telescope in the meridian-room by 10 P.M., and watched for the comet to cross. As it approached the meridian, I saw that it would go behind a scraggy apple-tree. I sent for the watchman, Mr. Crumb, to come with a saw, and cut off the upper limbs. He came back with an axe, and chopped away vigorously; but as one limb after another fell, and I said, ‘I need more, cut away,’ he said, ’I think I must cut down the whole tree.’ I said, ‘Cut it down.’ I felt the barbarism of it, but I felt more that a bird might have a nest in it.

“I found, when I went to breakfast the next morning, that the story had preceded me, and I was called ‘George Washington.’

“But for all this, I got almost no observation; the fog came up, and I had scarcely anything better than an estimation. I saw the comet blaze out, just on the edge of the field, and I could read its declination only.

“On the 28th, 29th, and July 1st, I obtained good meridian passages, and the R.A. must be very good.

“Ja, 1882. There is a strange sentence in the last paragraph of Dr. Jacobi’s article on the study of medicine by women, to the effect that it would be better for the husband always to be superior to the wife. Why? And if so, does not it condemn the ablest women to a single life?

“March 13, 1882, 3 P.M. I start for faculty, and we probably shall elect what are called the ‘honor girls.’ I dread the struggle that is pretty certain to come. Each of us has some favorite whom she wishes to put into the highest class, and whom she honestly believes to be of the highest order of merit. I never have the whole ten to suit me, but I can truly say that at this minute I do not care. I should be sorry not to see S., and W., and P., and E., and G., and K. on the list of the ten, but probably that is more than I ought to expect. The whole system is demoralizing and foolish. Girls study for prizes, and not for learning, when ‘honors’ are at the end. The unscholarly motive is wearing. If they studied for sound learning, the cheer which would come with every day’s gain would be health-preserving.

“... I have seven advanced students, and to-day, when I looked around to see who should be called to help look out for meteors, I could consider only one of them not already overworked, and she was the post-graduate, who took no honors, and never hurried, and has always been an excellent student.

“... We are sending home some girls already [November 14], and is among them. I am somewhat alarmed at the dropping down, but does an enormous amount of work, belongs to every club, and writes for every club and for the ‘Vassar Miscellany,’ etc.; of course she has the headache most of the time.

“Sometimes I am distressed for fear Dr. Clarke is not so far wrong; but I do not think it is the studyit is the morbid conscientiousness of the girls, who think they must work every minute.

“April 26, 1882. Miss Herschel came to the college on the 11th, and stayed three days. She is one of the little girls whom I saw, twenty-three years since, playing on the lawn at Sir John Herschel’s place, Collingwood.

“... Miss Herschel was just perfect as a guest; she fitted in beautifully. The teachers gave a reception for her, gave her his poem, and Henry, the gardener, found out that the man in whose employ he lost a finger was her brother-in-law, in Leeds!

“Ja, 1884. Mr. [Matthew] Arnold has been to the college, and has given his lecture on Emerson. The audience was made up of three hundred students, and three hundred guests from town. Never was a man listened to with so much attention. Whether he is right in his judgment or not, he held his audience by his manly way, his kindly dissection, and his graceful English. Socially, he charmed us all. He chatted with every one, he smiled on all. He said he was sorry to leave the college, and that he felt he must come to America again. We have not had such an awakening for years. It was like a new volume of old English poetry.

“March 16, 1885. In February, 1831, I counted seconds for father, who observed the annular eclipse at Nantucket. I was twelve and a half years old. In 1885, fifty-four years later, I counted seconds for a class of students at Vassar; it was the same eclipse, but the sun was only about half-covered. Both days were perfectly clear and cold.”