Autograph Letter Signed ('Geo. S. Hillard') from George Stillman Hillard (later District Attorney for Massachusetts) to the abolitionist Rev. Samuel Joseph May, describing his acquaintance with the first Harvard Professor of German, Charles Follen.

George Stillman Hillard (1808-1879), Massachusetts District Attorney [Rev. Samuel Joseph May (1797-1871), abolitionist; Charles Follen [Karl Follen] (1796-1840), first Professor of German at Harvard]
Publication details: 
Boston; 11 March 1840.
SKU: 11465

4pp., 4to. Bifolium. 89 lines of text. Good, on lightly-aged paper. Addressed, with red circular postmark, on reverse of second leaf, to 'Revd. Samuel J. May | South Scituate'. Hillard describes 'Dr. Follen' as 'an intimate and dear friend to me'. He looks back 'with melancholy pleasure upon the happy hours' he spent in the society of 'so pure and elevated a being'. He has 'never known a better man; I do not know that I may not say, that I have never known so good a man. He was made of pure gold: and the most heroic and the most lovely traits were mingled so happily in him that one knew not whether to admire or love him most'. Hillard explains that he barely knew Follen while a student at Harvard: 'It was not until I had returned to Cambridge, to commence the study of my profession, in 1830, that I began to know him intimately.' For the following two years he observed 'his influence over the students', not all of whom could 'appreciate his admirable traits of mind and character', several being 'somewhat repelled by his want of external graces and by his slowness of speech and deliberate manners'. Hillard praises Follen's influence over the majority, considering his 'profound sympathy with humanity' as his 'great charm'. 'The tones of his voice were always cordial and heart-refreshing and his countenance had an expression which made it positively beatific. Every student who was in a state of struggle or suffering felt drawn to him by an unerring sympathy'. In the last two-thirds of the letter, Hillard discusses the reasons for Follen's leaving Harvard, and his conflict with President Josiah Quincy: 'I think Mr Quincy did not like him. They differed most radically as to the measures taken by the government at the time of the rebellion among the students in the summer of 1832'. He recalls that Follen told him 'that when in 1812 or 1813, the youth of Germany were called upon to take up arms in defence of their fatherland against the modern scourge of God, he and his two brothers (the youngest of whom was only sixteen) enrolled themselves as volunteers without saying anything to their father; and that when they told him, the brave old man said to them that he should have disinherited them if they had done otherwise.' Hillard ends with an assessment of Follen's qualities: 'he was not a man of sparkling and brilliant points', but was 'always making some sacrifice for others, doing some kind deed, performing some high duty and without the least display'. The letter carries a note from May (signed 'J. M.'), presenting it to 'My Dear J. C.' as 'a revocable gift': 'Father may attach a value to it [...] I dare say you now have one of G. S. H. but this is so good that I felt obliged to send it.'