John Pickering an Wilhelm von Humboldt, 18.02.1822

|17r| Sir,[a]

I did myself the honour, on the of August last, to address a letter to you in answer to yours of the of February preceding; and I forwarded to you at the same time a small packet containing some books and some short extracts of MSS. relative to our Indian Languages. The letter & packet were send by a vessel bound to Amsterdam, and were directed to the care of His Prussian Majesty’s Consul[b] in that place. I hope they have arrived safely, and that you may have received some little gratification from them. If they should possess no intrinsick |sic| worth in the estimation of a person, who is so rich in philological treasures as you are, still I hope they will have the adventitious value of mere curiosities from a distant country. I sincerely wish it had been |17v| in my power to send you something which would have been more worthy of your acceptance.

In my former letter I mentioned that our Massachusetts Historical Society was about to reprint, under my direction, Eliot’s Grammar of the Massachusetts Indian Language, which was originally published by that distinguished missionary in the year 1666. The work is just completed; and I have had a few copies printed separately (from the Society’s volume) for distribution among my friends; and I beg you, Sir, to accept one of them. I hope, so far as I am myself answerable for any part of this publication, you will find nothing to censure, if there is nothing to commend. You will see that I have taken the liberty (a liberty which I trust you will pardon) to introduce your name into my Observations prefixed to the Grammar. I was impelled to do this, both from the desire of expressing my own feelings, and also from a wish to hold up to the view of my countrymen, such an example of genius & learning as could not fail to stimulate them to the |18r| prosecution of these Researches. I have also put into the packet a copy of a little Review (just published in the North American Review for January) of the Honourable F. Adelung’s Uebersicht etc. These publications will, I trust, have a tendency to excite the attention of my countrymen to these subjects; and I hope we shall be able before a long time to make our just contributions to the common cause of learning. I can already discover an increasing desire to investigate the languages of this Continent; and, with the hope of keeping up that interest, I am procuring correspondents in different parts of the United States. By this means I hope I shall be able to collect some facts, that may be useful; and, after we have collected such facts, we shall cheerfully submit them to the consideration of our brethren in Europe, whose extensive learning & acquaintance with other Languages will enable them to give us, in return, just theories of human Speech in general.

I cannot close this Letter without mentioning, that I have just had the pleasure of seeing, for a moment, your late work on |18v| the Basque Language; but I was under the necessity of returning it to the possessor, before I had an opportunity of studying it as I wished to do. It will, however, be at my service again in a short time, and I shall then read it with the attention, which so profoundly learned a work deserves.

I have the honour to be
with the highest consideration,
your most obedient
& most humble
Salem, near Boston, in Massachusetts,
Feb. 1822.


    1. a |Editor| Oben rechts WvH in Bleistift: "Pickering." In Tinte: "Nr. 2."
    2. b |Editor| Im Handbuch für den Königlich Preußischen Hof und Staat (Berlin: Decker) für das Jahr 1821 (S. 140) und 1824 (S. 115) wird als preußischer Consul in Amsterdam genannt: "van Beck-Vollenhoven, Geheimer Commerzienrath". Im Niederländischen Nationaal Archief findet sich ein entsprechender Eintrag zu "Jacob van Beeck Vollenhoven 1780–1834 … 'Kommerzienrat' en consul van het Koninkrijk Pruissen te Amsterdam". [FZ]