Stonewall Jackson Papers. 1860 February 25

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Date: 1860 February 25
Item: Letter
To: Grace Arnold
From: Thomas J. Jackson
Place: Lexington, Virginia
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February 25, 1860
My dear Niece

I was much pleased to hear from your Mother's letter that her health and your Father's have been so good and to hear that you have so faithful a teacher; and as you can not always have him, I hope that you will do all you can in order to learn as much as possible whilst he is with you. And first of all I want you to learn to spell well; give particular attention to spelling; for I don't care how much you know about other things, if you don't spell well, you will be laughed at by educated people. I desire to see you have a good education, and the first step towards a good education, after learning the alphabet, is to learn to spell well. If a person commences reading before learning to spell well, he will not be apt to ever learn much more about spelling, because reading is more pleasant than spelling.

When I was young I committed the blunder of learning to read before I had learnt to spell well, and though I am now 36 years old, yet still I am mortified by my spelling words wrong; in writing this letter I have had to look in the Dictionary to see how a word was spelt and so I expect it will be all my life because I didn't give enough attention to my spelling when I was young. As your memory is better now than it may ever be, you can learn to spell more easily than when you become larger. When we are young we can recollect much better than when we are grown up.

I desire to see you an educated and accomplished lady, one that your Father and Mother will be justly proud of. After learning to spell very well then I want you to read histories, and travels and biographies, and such other books as will give you valuable information. I also hope that you will learn your Geography very well.

My Father and Mother died when I was very young, and I had to work for my living and education both; but your parents are both living and have given you a kind teacher and I trust that you will show them how thankful you are to them by studying hard. If you ever wish any information which I can give, you must ask me. I haven't written to your Mother for some time as I was afraid that I might send you the small pox, but I don't think that there is any danger now, as all are well here or about so.

I heard a student of Washington College make a beautiful speech on last Wednesday and as he is of the same name and county as your teacher, I expect that they are Relatives.

Give my love to all of the family & write to me soon. Your affectionate Uncle Thomas.

©Virginia Military Institute Archives, Lexington, VA 24450