John Pickering an Wilhelm von Humboldt, 18.02.1822


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]