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S. F. B. Morse: A Great American Who Invented The Telegraph
by [?]

But evidently he and his teacher were really good friends, for he stayed in her class until he was seven years old. Then he went to a preparatory school in Andover, Mass., and from there to Phillips Academy, also in Andover, where he was prepared for Yale college.

The following is the only letter preserved that was written by him at that early date, from the preparatory school.

“Dear Papa,–I hope you are well and I will thank you if you will send me up some quils. Give my love to mama and

and my little brothers; pleas to kis them for me and send me up some very good paper to write to you.

I have as many blackberries as I want I go and pick them myself.


Finley was never much interested in his studies, but liked better to read books on whatever subject caught his fancy. “Plutarch’s Lives” was one of his favorites, and it gave him the ambition to become famous, although exactly how to achieve his purpose he did not then see. But he kept on reading, and studying and when he was thirteen he wrote a sketch of Demosthenes and sent it to his father, who was so pleased with it that he laid it away among his treasures.

The letters written to him by his father were very different from those written by fathers of today. Here is part of one:

“My dear Son–You do not write to me as often as you ought. In your next you must assign some reason for this neglect. Possibly I have not received all of your letters. Nothing will improve you in epistolary writing as practice. Take great pains with your letters. Avoid vulgar phrases. Study to have your ideas pertinent and correct, and clothe them in easy and grammatical dress. Pay attention to your spelling, pointing, the use of capitals, to your handwriting. After a little practice these things will become natural and you will thus acquire a habit of writing correctly and well. General Washington was a remarkable instance of what I have now recommended to you. His letters are a perfect model for epistolary writers…. I will show you some of his letters when I have the pleasure of seeing you next vacation and when I shall expect to find you much improved.

Your natural disposition, my dear son, renders it proper for me earnestly to recommend you to attend to one thing at a time. It is impossible that you can do two things well at the same time, and I would therefore never have you attempt it. Never undertake to do what ought not to be done, and then whatever you undertake, endeavor to do it in the best manner…. Steady and undissipated attention to one object is a sure mark of genius, as hurry, bustle and agitation are the never failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind. I expect you to read this letter over several times, that you may retain its contents in your memory.”

Whether the ten year old boy appreciated this fine letter is open to doubt, but he certainly acted on its advice, for so good was his record for scholarship that when he was only fourteen years old he was ready to leave the preparatory school and become a college student.

A year later, in the fall of 1805 he left home and took the trip to New Haven, where he entered the freshman class at Yale. An amusing incident of his early college days is given in this letter. He says:

“We had a new affair here a few days ago. The college cooks were arraigned before a tribunal of the students. We found two of the worst of them guilty of several charges, such as being insolent to the students, not exerting themselves to cook clean for us, in
concealing pies

which belonged to the students, having suppers at midnight and inviting all their neighbors and friends to sup with them at the expense of the students, and this not once in a while but every night…. The fault is not so much in the food as in the cooking, for our bill-of-fare has been in the following way: Chocolate, coffee and hashed meat every morning, at noon, various; roast beef twice a week, pudding three times, and turkeys and geese on an average once a fortnight; baked beans occasionally; Christmas and other merry days, turkeys, pie and puddings as many as we wish for…. I ought to have added that in future we are to have beefsteaks and toast twice a week, before this the cooks were too lazy to cook them. I will inform you of the result of the affair as soon as it is completed.”