Colman, Rev. Henry
Autograph Letter Signed, Burlington, Vermont, July 10, 1841 to Henry A.S. Dearborn, Adjutant General’s Office, Boston, Massachusetts

quarto, two pages, plus stamp-less address leaf, old tape repair to blank leaf, not affecting text, else in very good, clean and legible condition.

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      “My dear Sir,

           

             I shall rusticate here a few weeks, occupied in finishing my Reports… I have nearly completed my preparations to publish monthly or two monthly an Agricultural & Horticultural Magazine, embracing Agriculture, Horticulture and all branches of Rural Economy – 60 pages if monthly and at 3 dolls. per year; to be embellished with engravings if the patronage will warrant it. Will you become a regular contributor? No one can render better service. The first year the Magazine will probably have a struggle to live, but afterwards there is a good prospect that it may be successful. As soon as the receipts beyond the actual expenses will warrant it, whether the first year or afterwards, contributors will be paid in as liberal a manner as by any periodical. I am not determined whether it will be presented in Boston or New York but it is designed to make it in its character a national work…”

 

           Better known than the writer of this letter was the recipient – US Congressman Dearborn, son of the Revolutionary War General who was Jefferson’s Secretary of War and senior officer of the US Army during the War of 1812. Apart from being a politician and military officer, the younger Dearborn was first President of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and thus well-known to the Rev. Colman who, when he wrote this letter served as Massachusetts State Commissioner of Agriculture.

 

Colman (1785-1849) had been an ordained Minister in Salem and Massachusetts towns until ill health forced him to retire from the ministry, and instead devote himself to his passionate interest in agriculture. It’s uncertain whether the magazine he proposed to Dearborn ever came to fruition, but he did subsequently publish two books: European Agriculture and Rural Economy, From Personal Observation, (two volumes, 1844-46), followed by the more general European Life and Manners, in familiar letters to friends, (1849). The latter work was unmercifully reviewed by Charles Dickens, who published a scathing, ten-page lampoon of Colman, a “good-natured, kind-hearted private individual, though of a somewhat cumbrous and elephantine jocularity and of a rather startling sentimentality…” –whose writings should be relegated to the “fittest destination” of “the nearest fire.” Colman happened to be in England when Dickens’ words appeared in July 1849. He died in London three weeks later.