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Title: Letter from Abraham Rencher to Elisha Mitchell, March 20, 1823: Electronic Edition.
Author: Rencher, Abraham, 1798-1883
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
Text encoded by Brian Dietz
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 13K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-05-10, Brian Dietz finished TEI/XML encoding
Part of a series:
This transcribed document is part of a digital collection, titled True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students in North Carolina
written by Lindemann, Erika
Title of collection: Elisha Mitchell Papers (#518), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from Abraham Rencher to Elisha Mitchell, March 20, 1823
Author: Abraham Rencher
Description: 3 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 518 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Education/Goals and Purposes
Education/Preparatory Education
Writings by Non-Students
Editorial practices
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 5 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Transcript of the personal correspondence. Originals are in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved.
DocSouth staff created a 600 dpi uncompressed TIFF file for each image. The TIFF images were then saved as JPEG images at 100 dpi for web access.
Page images can be viewed and compared in parallel with the text.
Any hyphens occurring in line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a word has been joined to the preceding line.
Letters, words and passages marked as deleted or added in originals have been encoded accordingly.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as ".
All single right and left quotation marks are encoded as '.
All em dashes are encoded as —.
Indentation in lines has not been preserved.

For more information about transcription and other editorial decisions, see Dr. Erika Lindemann's explanation under the section Editorial Practices.

Document Summary

Rencher, a former student, tells Prof. Mitchell that he is dissatisfied with teaching and wonders if he should engage in the study of law.
Letter from Abraham Rencher to Elisha Mitchell , March 20, 18231
Rencher, Abraham, 1798-1883

Page 1
Petersburg March 20th 1823

My Dear Friend

I have delayed writing to you longer than I had anticipated. I wished to give to my situation a fair decision. This delay has been protracted longer from the dissatisfaction which I felt on my first arrival; but I am happy in being able to inform you that I daily become more reconciled to my pedagogical chair. It is a happy constitution in our nature, that it yields to the circumstances in which fortune may place us. The wretched victim of a horrid dungeon, by long confinement, becomes delighted with the music of his chains which are clanking around him. This must be considered as a fortunate circumstance, when we reflect, that in the corrupted and uncertain currents of this life we know not at what moment we are to be thrown from our fondest hopes, from our most flattering and towering expectations and doomed to seek pleasures even from our dissapointments
Dont infer from these cursory remarks on the power of habit that it can ever render me entirely pleased with the the business of teaching—it can only soften my dislike, indeed I have frequently wondered at the enthusiasm of a favourite poet in calling it

Page 2
"Delightful task! to rear the tender thought"
"And teach the young idea how to shoot"2
It no doubt is true of a mother, fondling the darling of her affections, and instiling into its infantile mind the first principles of knowledge and of vertue; but when applied to a common pedagogue it is one of the severest ironies that ever was written
Notwithstanding my aversion to this employment, my prospects have so much brightened that I am determined to remain here this year at least My shool has increased far beyond my hopes, which of course has increased my wages. I am fully aware that my situation with you would be more prolific of pleasure and improvement I feel avarice creeping gradually upon me as I grow older
From the particular marks of attention which I have been proud to recieve at your hands, you will no doubt wish to know how I spend my time?—very shamefully, for I am doing nothing. While a member of college, ambition, my own partiality, and the persuasion of friends led me to the study of the law, and had I engaged in a profession immediately, I should now have been busy in the analysis of crime; but catching some of the feeling then prevalent in my section of the country and removing to a place where I was entirely cut off from society, those religious feelings had and still have

Page 3
perhaps an undue influence on my life. I concieved such terrifying apprehensions with respect to the moral influence of the study & practice of law and the danger of mingling with men remarkable for their scepticism, that I abandoned the law, or at least deferred it for a season—I have not since resumed it. I know that the sneering infidel would laugh me to scorn for the weakness of my superstition, but if it is an error I believe it will meet with indulgence from you. These scruples must ultimat prove ly happy, or be a never failing source of regret that they shoud have cont destroyed my best exertions to promote the welfare & happiness of my country. I once took up medicine, but fearing I should never attain proficiency in a profession with which I was not pleased, I dr[unrecovered] likewise. In short, my dear Prof. I have been so [unrecovered] halting between the two, tremblingly suspended between hope & fear, that I begin to think that I shall, like the ox between the hay stacks, perish in doubt which to chose. I can not believe that a young man is capable of making his own choice of a prof. and I am sorry that my purpose had not been fixed by some more experienced friend. But I must not dwell any longer on my private griefs and embarrassments. I am anxious to hear from you. I should be happy to render you my service in anything that lies in my power. Give my best respect to Mrs Mitchell and Master Erasmus.3 I am your sincere & devoted friend.

Envelope page


1. Elisha Mitchell Papers, SHC. The letter is addressed "Rev. E. Mitchell / Chapel Hill/ No C—" and is postmarked "PETERSG VA Mar 26." The amount of postage, "18" cents, is handwritten in the upper right corner. Above the fold forming the top of the envelope, Mitchell has written "Mr Rencher /March 20. 1823/ Petersburg."; another hand has written "Gov Rencher " below the fold at the bottom of the envelope.

2. James Thomson, "Spring" (1728).

3. Probably Erasmus Darwin North (d. 1858) . He may have been related to Mrs. Mitchell, whose maiden name was North.