This letter was written by Robert Houston McEwen, Jr. (1831-1873), son of Robert Houston McEwen (b. 1790) and Hetty Montgomery Kennedy (b. 1796). Robert Jr. graduated from Princeton University in 1853, studied law in Nashville, Tennessee 1853-54, passed the Tennessee bar in 1854, and practiced in Nashville from 1854-1873. He served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. He married Lucy Putnam (1837-1906) in October 1855.
Robert Jr. wrote the letter to his older sister Ann Maria McEwen (1827-1866) and her husband, Daniel Flavel Wilkin (1824-1916).
Addressed to D. F. Wilkin, Esq., Middletown, New York
Princeton, New Jersey
August 23, 1852
My dear Brother,
Your very kind and most welcome letter came to hand this morning. It’s Saturday. I snatch this opportunity to answer it. You can not tell how much pleasure it gives me to receive a letter from those who are dear to me. I think if the home folks were aware of this fact, they would write a little oftener. They never write except to tell me of a little sickness in the family. I do not intend to write again until they promise to do better. When you return, I hope, you will do better. They complain of what they have to do and what little time they have to do it in. They never seem to think that they have more time to write me than I have to write them. My time is wholly occupied by my studies, It gives me the greatest pleasure to pursue them and walk among the gilded paths of literature. I make it a rule to do my duty first, and then pass my hours and leisure time in reading instructing and standard works. My only consolation is that there is a prize, which if I gain, will reward me for all my toils. You can not conceive how much pleasure it gives me to think that I may at some day call that beautious object, for who I have toiled night and day, my own. This, and this alone, will compensate me. If I thought that such should not be the case, I would willingly die. You can not imagine how my thoughts return to her, and think if she ever thinks of one far away. She will ever be my beacon light to lead me from vice and immorality. I never hear or see a drunken man but that I think how much pain it might cost her and my other friends to see me in a similar situation. My heart shudders at the drunkard’s grave and gambler’s life. My prayer is that she may ever lead me in the right path, and guard me from unseen dangers. She is my cloud to direct me by day and my pillar of fire by night. These are my commendation of the Angel of earth. If there is such a thing as an angel upon the earth, she is one.
I have pursued my studies thus far with diligence and profit. My mind has received more benefit from the course I have pursued than on any previous course. I have made a resolution to go to every recitation, prayer, and church, whether I am prepared or not. Some of the students laugh at me for being so regular in my attendance upon these duties, but I repulse them at once by saying it is my duty and I intend to perform it. It is nearly time for the mail to close and I wish to send this out to night, I must close. Give my best love to sister and tell her that I would have answered hers but thought it would not reach her. This, I hope, will answer for both. Heard from home in the early part of the week. All well. You must write me a long letter at your earliest convenience and tell me all about your travels. When may I expect you? Write soon and believe me as ever, your brother truly, — R. H. McEwen, Jr.