This letter was written by Jane Dale (Owen) Fauntleroy (1806-1861) — a native of Scotland, and one of five children of social reformer Robert Owen (1771-1858).
Jane moved to New Harmony in 1833 not long after her mother and sister had died in Scotland. In 1835, she married Robert Henry Fauntleroy (1806-1849), a civil engineer from Virginia who partnered with David Dale Owen, and then Robert Dale Owen, in a castor-bean enterprise in New Harmony. Fauntleroy became more lastingly known, however, as an officer in the U. S. Coast Survey. His death in 1849 was a loss from which his wife never fully recovered.
Jane and Robert Fauntleroy had four children: Constance Owen Fauntleroy (1836-1911), Eleanor Fauntleroy (1838-1907), Edward Owen Fauntleroy (1841-1869), and Arthur Fauntleroy (1843-1884).
Not long after this letter was written in 1842, Jane Fauntleroy opened a seminary, or home-school, for young ladies in her home in New Harmony. Scientific instruction was given by her brother, Dr. David Dale Owen.
The recipient of this letter was Anna Maria Goldsmid (1805-1889), benefactor, communal worker, and translator, and was the eldest child of Isaac Lyon Goldsmid and sister of Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid.
“Privately educated, Anna was an expert linguist, studying Italian with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She also learnt French, German and Hebrew, studying the latter with Hyman Hurwitz. Her English literary tutor was Thomas Campbell. Devoted to her father, she helped him in his work, notably the establishment of University College, London and the West London Synagogue.
Born an Orthodox Jewess, she remained throughout her life very observant. However, she resented the powerlessness of women in Orthodox synagogues, and supported the West London Synagogue in the hope that it would give women a more active role in Jewish religious life. Anna Maria Goldsmid devoted much time to educational matters, in which she developed a nationally recognized expertise. She founded the Jews’ infants’ school, London (1841), and re-established the Jews’ Deaf and Dumb Home (1863). She was a patroness of University College Hospital and the Homoeopathic Hospital, both in London.” [Source: Wikipedia]
Note: This letter was donated by Bob Clendennen to Historic New Harmony/University of Southern Indiana. Their acknowledgement of the donation identifies the letter as an “exceptional manuscript [providing] a fascinating glimpse into the Fauntleroy and Owen families’ lives in the post-communal period.” In authorizing the publication of the letter on this blogsite, Bob Clendennen wrote:
My initial interest in the content of this 1842 letter was the comparison by Jane Dale Owen Fauntleroy (writing from New Harmony Indiana to Anna Goldschmid) of her sister-in law Mary’s role in education at New Harmony to Gertrude Rapp’s in the Harmony Society located in the town of Economy in Pennsylvania. The transcription of this letter exposes details of operation and a description of the physical layout of the classroom located in the Fauntleroy House as well as the support of the Science curriculum by the Owen brothers.
My sincere thanks goes out to Mr. Griffing for applying his understanding of the writing style of the time to transcribe this intricately composed letter into a readable document unlocking the story of this early education system located deep in the western frontier.
— Bob Clendennen, Research Scholar of Harmony Society Material Cultural
Addressed to Miss Goldsmid, St. John’s Lodge, Regent’s Park, London
New Harmony, Indiana
January 10, 1842
My esteemed friend,
If your love & faith can outlive all my apparent negligence, I may know at what to rate them for well am I convinced that an ordinary affection & interest would be wearied to death by my long pauses on our correspondence — pauses which any but a long suffering friend would be sure to set down to the score of indifference. But you judge me more truly & I believe thoroughly forgive these silences towards yourself by referring to their true cause — devotion to my daily duties. To complain the minutiae would be in vain, but in truth I nearly every day exhaust my energies so much on my business proper, that by night when I might obtain an hour, I am not equal to the extra labor of writing until my children are a little older. I am satisfied to make this sacrifice of myself to them for what worthier object can I have than to administer to the wants — bodily & mental — of my family circle, but in a year or two I look forward to being more at liberty & then I shall gladly do many things which now are incompatible with the faithful discharge of paramount obligations.
It is now nearly eight years, dear Anna, since I began my practical career in this work-a-day hemisphere & although full of many little toughnesses & what, by the indolent & luxurious might be counted hardships, yet I look on it with almost entire satisfaction. I glory in the power of personal independence & in the insight I have obtained as to the true relative value of many pursuits & qualifications. For the ten years before I had labored principally mentally, had been occupied in hearing, seeing, & reflecting. Now I have been called to act & high time it was I should for to dream away a life-time in theorizing can never be desirable, however incumbent it may be to settle ones mind by the thinking process as to first principles. I feel now — or fancy myself at least — much better prepared to guide my children in a path of usefulness & impart to them habits of wholesome exertion & therefore altho’ often & often I have rebelled in spirit against some monotonous detail which had to be executed & yet could excite no momentary interest, yet I cannot but rejoice in the effect total which has certainly been that to improve in calculably my power of steady application & perseverance — a power which is indispensable to the successful exertion of our highest abilities. Such a probation too as I describe must be gone through in order to arrive at the knowledge which I believe to be the most important of all others — viz, how to develop equally the physical & mental energies & by my own person. I have likewise reaped a benefit by acquiring a health & strength which does not belong as a general rule to indolent ease. And yet that you may not overrate my activity, I must confess that I am far behind many of my neighbors in good deeds resulting from this mighty power. All that I claim for myself is a small progress in well-doing & a partial victory over early habits.
The months that have passed since I wrote to you have been eventful as well as busy. We have established a regular school for our little band of cousins, with Robert Dale’s invaluable little wife for teacher & have tested the experiment sufficiently to promise ourselves — without flattery — the most agreeable results. I had always been convinced that if we could but hit upon the right method of appealing to the human feelings & faculties, we must succeed in attaining delightfully & certainly to the end in view & that all the struggling which usually takes place between the teacher & pupils is as unnecessary as it is revolting. To be sure, it is a very little knot of young beings, yet much experience may be gained from a well-grounded attempt even upon such as these.
The character of my epistle will singularly corroborate to you my plea of excessive business. Only think of the weeks that have passed since I wrote the first page & have not had breathing time since except to take the repose necessary to fit me for further exertion. During them, I have been subject to all the vicissitudes of an American domestic atmosphere & been called upon by various untoward accidents for more than even ordinary application to business. Now I feel more settled & comfortable as we have effected a removal back again into our newly modelled dwelling after a six months absence for the sake of thorough repair. Constance’s first idea in taking possession of our improved apartments was that Constance Mocatta must now certainly come to enjoy them with her & fixed on the nook & corner where she was to sleep. On seeing me sit down to write this evening this first idea came strong again upon her & she requested to enforce the invitation by saying, “please to come.” She wished to know too how old your Constance is exactly & to tell you that she is 6 years & 2 months old.
Aunt Mary, the Gertrude of our infant’s assembly, gives a most pleasing account of her labors. She says she never was so satisfied & happy because she experiences every day in the conduct on the children the useful effect of her influence & she feels conscious of performing for at least 7 human beings (her own children among the number) an indispensable service which no other hire & few anywhere could render them. My domestic cares & the nursing of my great baby boy prevent me at present from participating in the work farther than being always ready with my sympathy (which goes a great way to smooth a laborious undertaking) & to be willing to converse for ever on the great principles of education. We are particularly anxious to give a good boas to the elder girls not only for their own sakes but for the sake of the boys who are succeeding to them the great difficulty as it appears to me lying in the management of this turbulent sex. If their good impression be not made upon them in very early youth, then the maternal influence is vain & the embryo man is left in the dangerous position of being a prey to his own unregulated passions & suggestions. We have, too, to contend against & counteract by forestalling the local habit of this region which goes to establish a notion of independence in both boys & girls long before their experience can warrant them to judge for themselves of what is right & what’s wrong.
“Aunt Mary” reports that her success is beyond all her expectations both as to the moral influence she exerts over the children & the intellectual energy which without any other than gentle and delightful means she calls forth. A contention during school hours is rarely or ever heard & most of them in the short period of six months have acquired a power of mental application which even surprises ourselves. Constance & Florence have learned to read well enough to relish many of the little volumes you bestowed on them & the sight of the pleasures they derive from them acquirement is proof enough if we wanted any. How sweet it is to leave the mind unappealed to & would I believe reward you for the kind share you have had in procuring them the enjoyment. Little Willie is a great favorite & many a portion has been [ ] over as a voluntary labor when it really would have been wiser to be at active play. But of course this to any extent I would not suffer, being particularly desirous that the sound mind should reside in the sound body & being fully aware of the evil of early mental stimulus beyond a very moderate degree. Several of the tales in the Parent’s Cabinet I read to them occasionally by way of treat. Ruth — the American Girl — which they could understand better than many others by living so near the region in which the story places its heroine, brought the tears down Constance’s cheek & roused an admiration for her juvenile strength of mind. The difficulty which could not fail to be useful & which you may be sure is loved to see have a place in my child’s mind.
Then to vary the monotony of school exercises, our good Aunt carries her pupils in all suitable weather into the great school house of nature & prompts them by example to examine & admire the beautiful works that are spread around them. When other engagements permit, I accompany them with my baby in a little wicker carriage drawn by some of the older children & thus you may imagine us strolling along the road or (as we did last Sunday) mounting the hills & now stopping to gather & wonder at some pretty spring flower & now to pick up some fossil or mineral for Uncle Dale. Many are the specimens of course worthless to the scientific man that he is called upon to pronounce upon, but all useful to the children by giving them the habit of observation & enquiry & filling up hours of relaxation which would not otherwise be half so interesting. In fact, at seasons such as these when we the parents tranquilly look on our children sporting around us healthy & happy & by every gambol & good humored Sally rightfully contributions to the development of their being, I feel that we practically experience throughout the whole party a feeling of what must be true religion for it is far from being merely [ ] enjoyment; the moral & mental have their full share & the satisfaction & benefit the combined feeling procures for us the soundness of its nature. That you, “the good Aunt” of your host of nephews & nieces can understand by experience the justice of what I say, I doubt not & long may we be able to congratulate each other on such legitimate sources of pleasure for we may satisfy ourselves that so long as we do so, we live not in vain, however we may be disposed at less favorable moments (for they will occur) to quarrel with our doings & surroundings.
My brothers, in furtherance of our general views, are now completing an addition to their house which includes a study, playroom, & open gallery for amusement in hot or wet weather. Close by is a green enclosure with trees devoted to the childrens’ use. Richard, my youngest brother & the father of Nora & Eugene (for you must learn to know us all by name) employs his leisure moments in painting specimens in natural history to embellish the schoolhouse. He is a great enthusiast on the subject of national education & has drawn up a detailed plan suitable for this country & presented it to a debating society assembling in this town at present under the name of a Moot Legislature — a body setting out to discuss & lay down the law after the fashion of a legitimate parliament on all subjects of national & local interest. Richard’s plan, so far as I have had time to examine & my intelligence goes, is admirable & I have little doubt will one day or other form a part at least of some general framework for the purpose to be established by the state. At this moment, all new undertakings are impossible from the commercial embarrassment which prevails over the United States affecting not only national & local, but individual interests. We are not exempt from it in our own families rendering a rigidness of economy necessary which we have not known before. My greatest objection to it is that it demands a great consumption of time which if we could saved the necessity might be spent to better purpose. But when the necessity comes as it has done, then the nature of the duty changes & we must act accordingly. It is no longer proper to save time at the expense of money but money at the expense of time.
In spite of my strong wish that you would receive a letter from me, this sheet has taken a journal form & been detained 3 months since I commenced it, but no matter. It will only serve to shew you my good intention & to convince you that you have dwelt in my thoughts. Your rich gift of books reached me in due course of packet ship & railroad & if you only knew how useful many of them have already been, you would judge how much we — great & small — have to thank you for. Mr. Combes’ admirable work in Infancy gave me some valuable hints as to weaning which I had occasion immediately to set upon & believe the child benefitted considerably from my increase of knowledge gathered from his pages. My little fellow is now the most engaging & mischievous rogue you can imagine with a very fine-looking, large, intellectual head. His father, to gratify his love of mathematical lore, often jocularly terms him Sir Isaac Newton. I feel very anxious at this distance of time to learn all that has been happening in your family circle — what news there is of your absent sister & her baby & the whole history of your little Constance. If I can steal ten minutes I must talk to her myself on a little sheet of paper all for her own use. With what pleasure you must dwell on thoughts of Rachel, if all is with her as when you wrote. Perhaps even she has visited you & her lips have declared even far more agreeable words than her pen could ever write & you understand more fully than ever her happy position. I congratulate her heartily on it for I think the labors to deserve it & in this case she both enjoys it the more & it is more likely to be permanent. Greatly do I appreciate her conscientious management of her child because I know exactly how much it costs to persevere in it. But then her reward! It is unspeakable.
The enlightened religion of your book of sermons has my cordial admiration. To see such valuable words printed under the name is to me a grateful harbinger of the time when all well constituted minds will have but one code of rules of action & sink the distinctive names which now sever them. A good deal of what may be termed the machinery of the book does not seem necessary to me. Sometimes even it appeared rather to weaken the force of the great [ ] it propounds; but then to other minds it might be a great assistance & so I would by no means desire it laid aside for the present. I am much less disposed to pull down than I used to be & more ready to grant that some necessity of nature called forth originally many institutions we see around us, yet so miserably perverted are they that we scarcely recognize this to be true concerning them. It requires a testing & sifting of the whole minutiae which few have skill or patience to perform to arrive at the precise truth.
My letter is called for & I am compelled to forego the pleasure of writing myself to your little Constance which I had set my heart upon. I must content myself, however, with a plain inventory of the contents of a little box which my little girls send to yours. It contains specimens of everyday visitants of outdoors & on the top are 2 ears of Indian corn which will rightfully convey to her an idea of what every year grows all around us. The only desideratum which we tried to procure at this season, but in vain, is a humming bird, that type, as I remember to all young minds of wonderful birds. It is in fact so beautiful that I wished much to send one. During the summer we may entrap one & hereafter convey it to you. One of the small birds sent — the blue bird as it is commonly called — is continually seen from our windows & builds near the houses. The other is an Oriole. The large shell is Uncle Dale’s gift. It is one of the muscle shells of the Wabash. The other is a muscle of another river.
In a little paper enclosure is a mosquito — that little tormentor who presence we by no means court. In one corner is a nest I picked up this morning of the solitary wasp with an egg in each compartment. Of course you understand I do not send these as great wonders, but merely messages from two little girls to another to shew what is to be seen & found here.
Dale sends by the same opportunity to the Geological Society of London an interesting geological section of this western district. It may please, perhaps, your father & brothers to know of it & see it. Good bye. I am forced to close in haste. Your affectionate, — J. D. F.
The wonderful sheet enclosed speaks for itself. The mottoes I thought might be useful in your new school. I had them printed large, pasted on boards & hung around the school room.