Read CHAPTER XI of Ups and Downs in the Life of a Distressed Gentleman , free online book, by William L. Stone, on


“For now sits Expectation in the air.” Shakspeare.

“A man, to be the governor of an island, should know something of grammar. ‘Grammar?’ replied Sancho, ‘who the d l is he?’” Don Quixotte.

The mellifluous bard of Twickenham was egregiously mistaken when he pronounced “a little learning” to be “a dangerous thing.” Had it not been for the modicum of letters, small as it was, acquired by Mr. Wheelwright, at the school of which I had occasion to speak early in the present history, to say nothing, as seems most meet, of the university, his family would now have been rather short of bread and butter. They had great possessions, of the which they were not yet possessed. But these were a great way off; and, most unfortunately, somebody else had obtained the occupancy, and held the titles. Nor, from the existing state of Mr. Wheelwright’s finances, according to the report of his counsel, was there any immediate prospect of his soon becoming master of what was now in the right of his wife unquestionably his own. The consolation, however, was, that in the end, when those in the unjust possession of the property should be ejected, they would be compelled to disgorge the accumulating revenues from the rental, and other sources of income. Meanwhile it was necessary that Mr. Wheelwright should set about doing something “to make the pot boil.” Accordingly, after casting round for an occupation which promised to produce the greatest income for the least bodily or mental exertion and the smallest capital, it was determined by himself and lady to establish a classical school for the instruction of young ladies and gentlemen, in one of the most flourishing villages adjacent to the city of New-York.

Mr. Wheelwright was too well acquainted with the way in which most public objects for private advantage are managed now-a-days, not to secure the countenance, and, if possible, the editorial assistance of the conductor of a “happy folio of four pages,” which once a week poured forth its treasures of knowledge for the enlightenment of the good people in the village, and the region round about, even to New-Utrecht and Flatlands. He therefore, and that wisely, sought the acquaintance of the gentleman of paste and scissors, with an advertisement ready prepared of somewhat formidable dimensions and for the composition of which he was indebted to a retired schoolmaster, who had cheerfully rendered this little service for the occasion. Like most of the conductors of the latter-day luminaries which dispense that sound political wisdom and universal knowledge which render the people of this nation “the most intelligent on earth,” the editor was very accessible and gracious. Indeed, he was truly desirous of testifying the satisfaction he felt, on the accession to his village of an institution which promised so many advantages, particularly to the gentler sex of the rising generation; and which would offer another inducement for people to do their eating, and sleeping, and tax-paying on Long Island, and their business in New-York. His next publication, therefore, contained the following article:

From the Longa Insula Astra, De, 1822.

“We take great pleasure in calling the attention of those of our citizens who are parents to the article which will be found immediately below. It was indeed handed in as an advertisement; but we feel so deeply interested in the object proposed, to say nothing of the classical and poetical beauty of the article itself, that we could not forbear awarding to it a greater conspicuity. Indeed we scarcely know when we have published an article with more heart-felt pleasure. The gentleman and lady, we understand, have been reduced by a succession of misfortunes, from a state of affluence to that of much humbler circumstances. But with that noble spirit of independence which, we are proud to say, is so peculiarly the indweller of American bosoms, they have determined to rise superior to their misfortunes, and win for themselves that patronage which they have heretofore had it in their power to dispense. We have had the pleasure of a personal interview with the gentleman who is to have the charge of the proposed institution. He appears to be well educated, modest, and unassuming a master of the ancient languages, as his lady is of the modern; and from what we have heard, we doubt not their ample qualifications for the undertaking. Mrs. W. has enjoyed the advantages of foreign travel, which will enable her to form the manners of her pupils after the best models of the salons of Paris, Vienna, and London; and we believe that by her judicious counsel she has been of great service to the most celebrated female seminaries in New-York, as also to the distinguished seminary in Troy all of which, we trust, will soon be rivalled by that of our own village. It is the design of Mr. and Mrs. Wheelwright to extend their institute as rapidly as will be consistent with their means, and in the course of a year or two to obtain a charter for a college, with power to confer degrees upon their female as well as their male pupils. And why not? The intellectual equality of females with males has been fully established by the Edgeworths, and Hannah Mores, and Lady Morgans of Europe, and by females equally illustrious among our own fair countrywomen, only they do not occur to us just at this moment. Why, then, should not female proficients be entitled to degrees of merit, as well as nine-tenths of the blunder-heads who go through college, and come out no wiser than they went in? For our parts we shall stand up for female rights, for, as the poet says:

“The world was sad, the garden was a wild,
And man, the hermit, sighed, till woman smiled.

“We therefore hope the college will go on, and when we obtain the South Ferry, we will look about to see what is to be done next. But we have not room to extend our remarks of which, however, there is no occasion, since the eloquent article below will speak for itself.


“’Tis education shows the way,
Each latent beauty to display;
Each happy genius brings to light,
Conceal’d before in shades of night;
So diamonds from the gloomy mine,
Taught by the workman’s hand to shine,
On Chloe’s ivory bosom blaze,
Or grace the crown with brilliant rays.


“Mr. and Mrs. Wheelwright beg leave to announce to parents and guardians in this village and its vicinity, that on the 1st of January now ensuing, they will open a literary and classical institution for the instruction of the rising generation both of young gentlemen and ladies. The rising glories of this western hemisphere have scarcely yet begun to be developed; and as Mr. and Mrs. Wheelwright have been deeply impressed with the importance, in a young and rising republic, of having the youth of the land, of both sexes, reared in the paths of virtue and the intellectual flower-garden of knowledge, they have determined to devote their best faculties to the sacred cause of education, fully believing, from the inexpressible interest they feel upon the subject, that they shall be enabled to exclaim with the immortal poet

“’Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
And teach the young idea how to shoot!’

“From long and profound reflection upon the never-sufficiently- enough-to-be-estimated subject of education, Mr. and Mrs. Wheelwright have become entirely and unchangeably persuaded that all existing systems of instruction are essentially, and radically, as they may say, if not from the root, erroneous, and consequently defective as it were; and they trust that they shall be enabled to introduce such improvements and innovations in the science of teaching, as essentially to assist the spirit of a generous emulation in its efforts for noble rivalry; to aid the aspirations of a well-regulated ambition; and to encourage, in all possible and practicable ways, the desire of young genius to wing his eagle flight, as it were, on the pinions of intellectual corruscations. Every branch of human learning, either useful or ornamental, or of the least utility, will be taught at the Philomathian Institute, for which Mr. and Mrs. Wheelwright feel the utmost confidence in their own capacities and qualifications; since, in addition to being a graduate of one of the first universities of the age in which we live, Mr. W. has studied a learned profession, and Mrs. W. is possessed of the superior advantage of having been reared and educated in several of the leading European capitals. The utmost regard will be had to the morals and manners of such young aspirants as may be entrusted to their charge. To invigorate the constitutions of the pupils, a gymnasium will be provided for the boys of the male sex, and one hour per day will be devoted to callisthenics in the female department, to be occupied by the girls. In this department, the higher branches of instruction, both useful and ornamental, will be prosecuted under the immediate superintendence of Mrs. Wheelwright, who will spare no pains in the inoculation of the soundest lessons of virtue, while yet their young and youthful minds can be bent like the twig, and inclined like the tree, as the poet says. Those who desire it will receive instruction in the elements of moral philosophy, for which purpose they must be provided with Newtown’s Principles, and other works of the kind. Mrs. Wheelwright has paid much attention to this sublime and beautiful study, which so enraptured the immortal Milton:

“’How charming is divine Philosophy!
Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
But musical as Apollo’s lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectar’d sweets,
Where no rude surfeit reigns.’

“It is to such a feast that the young ladies of this village will
soon be invited. Great pains will moreover be taken to cultivate
the domestic habits and affections, as the poet says:

“’Man may for wealth and glory roam,
But woman must be bless’d at home;
To this should all her studies tend,
This her great object, and her end.’

“At the same time no efforts will be spared to keep their young
budding minds from vicious associations, and to render them as
sweet as innocent, as innocent as gay, as gay as happy:

“’Vice is a monster of such frightful mien,
As to be hated, needs but to be seen;
But seen too oft, familiar with his face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.’

“Knowing this to be true from experience, the principal and vice-principal of the Philomathian Institute will do all in their power to keep their pupils in the paths of wisdom, and pleasantness, and peace, as Shakspeare, the sweet swan of Avon, says. In one word, it will be the object and aim of Mr. and Mrs. Wheelwright to qualify the young gentlemen to act nobly their part in this republican monarchy, and the young ladies whose education has been so long neglected whose minds have so long been evolved in Siberian darkness and as it were wasting their sweetness on the desert air for the wives and mothers of freedom.”

Added to this eloquent and promising proclamation, introduced as we have already seen, by the editor, were the names of sundry presidents of colleges, reverend doctors, editors, especially of the religious papers, various public officers, among whom were the governor of the state, the mayor and recorder, several classical teachers, and other gentlemen, as references most of whom when applied to, declared that they had never heard of the concern before; others admitted that they had allowed reference to be made to their names, because they knew nothing against it; while a few assented to the high qualifications of the teachers without scruple.

As to the morality of such an unauthorized use of great names, on the one part, and the authorized use of them on the other, merely to avoid the utterance of a monosyllable of two letters, when the effect is a deception upon the public, it is not a subject for present discussion. Both practices are abuses of the times, which have been carried to such an extent that nothing can be more unmeaning than references of this kind in regard as well to schools, and “institutes,” and “seminaries,” as to the publication of books by subscription, and the superior merits of patent blacking and razor-straps; as to which, by the way, it has always been a subject of speculation to the writer, why a reverend divine or an eminent physician should be supposed better qualified to give an opinion than a boot-black or a barber. Here, therefore, “let us breathe,” as Shakspeare says, “and happily introduce a course of learning and ingenious studies,” in the next chapter.