[John Muir]


Mary [Muir]


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[Original letter in possession of Mrs. Mary Muir Hand].Near La Grange, Cal.,May 3d, '69.Dear Mary:Your note of March 18th reached me a few days ago, and in answer to the question it contains, I would say without any hesitation that to sketch residences, etc. for a living is about the most unpractical and unhappy plan you could possibly entertain. A photographer can produce a picture in a few minutes that would cost you the labor of as many weeks and the practical taste of most people now-a-days would cause them to prefer the photograph to the pencil picture.I think that you would find it less difficult to earn $100 by teaching drawing than to earn $1 by selling drawings. In a thousand young persons seeking education perhaps seven or eight hundred would like to learn sketching, but of that seven or eight hundred probably not one would care to buy the sketches of another. If you do not like the work of teaching I would not advise you to teach, but I do not know of any business that would suit you better. I think that after you have practiced music and drawing sufficiently you will find the work of teaching these branches very pleasant and also very remunerative. You certainly have more than ordinary talent in both of these branches of education, and will, I think, eventually find a situation as teacher that will just suit you.Botany is a science that requires a great deal of patient study, and those who can teach it are not very numerous. I think that you would do well to acquire a good knowledge of botany with a view to teach it. Those who study botany, music and drawing are generally old enough and sufficiently engaged with their lessons to behave themselves, and they belong to a more refined and better bred class in society and are more easily taught.You should not judge of the whole profession of teaching from the vexatious experiences of the district school. You will easily escape from the martyrdom of such institutions when you are qualified for a higher place.I think that your going to Madison is just what you require. You will gain a knowledge of teaching there, a knowledge of society and things in general which you cannot easily find in the woods. Write to me before you go, and I will send you a letter of introduction to Prof. Butler's family and they will introduce you to others and you will soon feel at home. If David has any of my money you and Anna can take it and go when you wish or let me know and I will send you some. I mean to travel in South America and perhaps in Europe, but I have more or will soon have more than I will need, unless I should happen to be taken sick.I have been engaged for the last five weeks in shearing sheep but will soon go to work at something else, haying or harvesting, then shearing again and then away on more travels. I work hard, but make money pretty fast and botanize and study when I can at nights and odd times.I had a letter from Anna that I meant to answer to-day, but it will soon be sundown and I have three or four miles to walk over the hills to where I am shearing.Yours with much love,[John Muir][Envelope addressed Mary Muir, care of David G. Muir, Portage City, Wisconsin]00472


Near La Grange, Calif.

Date Original

1869 May 2


Original letter dimensions unknown.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 02, Image 0089

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

John Muir National Historic Site. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date


Page Number

Page 3


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