George Washington Papers

From George Washington to George Washington Parke Custis, 19 December 1796

Philadelphia 19th Decr 1796

Dear Washington

I am not certain whether I have written to you since my receipt of your letter of the first instant; for as my private letters are generally dispatched in a hurry, & copies not often taken, I have nothing to resort to, to refresh my memory: be this however as it may, we are always glad to hear from you, though we do not wish that letter writing should interfere with your more useful and profitable occupations.

The pleasure of hearing you were well, in good spirits, & progressing as we could wish, in your studies, was communicated by your letter of the 14th instant to your grand Mamma; but what gave me particular satisfaction, was to find that you were going to commence, or had commenced, a course of reading with Doctr Smith, of such Books as he had chosen for the purpose. the first is very desirable, the other indispensable; for besides the duty enjoined upon you, to be governed by the instructions of your preceptors, whilst your own judgment is locked up in immaturity; you now have a peculiar advantage in the attentions of Doctr Smith to you; who, being a man of learning & taste himself will select such Authors, & Subjects, as will lay the foundation of useful knowledge: let me impress it upon you therefore, again & again, not only to yield implicit obedience to his choice, & instructions in this respect, but to the course of studies also; and that you would pursue both with zeal & steadiness. Light reading (by this I mean books of little importance) may amuse for the moment, but leaves nothing solid behind. The same consequences would follow from inconstancy, or want of steadiness, for ’tis to close application, & perseverence, men of letters & science are indebted for their knowledge & usefulness; and you are now at that period of life (as I have observed to you in a former letter) when these are to be acquired, or lost forever: but as you are not acquainted with my sentimts on this subject, & know how anxious all your friends are to see you enter upon the grand theatre of life with the advantages of a finished education; a highly cultivated mind; and a proper sense of your duties to God & Man, I shall only add one sentiment more before I close this letter (Which, as I have others to write, will hardly be in time for the Mail)—and that is to pay due respect and obedience to your tutors, & affectionate reverence to the President of the College; whose character merits your highest regards. Let no bad example (for such is to be met with in all Siminaries) have an improper influence upon your conduct. Let this be such, & let it be your pride, to demean yourself in such a manner as to obtain the good will of your superiors, & the love of your fellow students. Adieu—I sincerely wish you well, being your attached and affectionate friend,

G. Washington.

ViHi: Custis Papers.

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