M. S. Griswold
My Dear Old Friend,
My first impulse was to make my address to you somewhat more formal, putting perhaps an "Esq." or "L.L.D." after your name, but have concluded finally on plain "John Muir" just as Hawitt and I always speak of you. I noticed and of course read with the utmost pleasure, I assure you, your Article in the Atlantic Monthly of this month, recounting some of the experiences of your earlier years, and among those sundry incidents of your life at University, where I became acquainted with you, and I may add also with that dear old [clock?] and its ingenious mechanisms, and with some of the varied functions you would [illegible] it to perform. I have often spoken to my friends about that wonderful [clock?] and the manner in which you brought it into play in kindling the fires at the School House the winter you taught, as that was almost the first thing you told me about, when in the Spring following we both got back to our Studies from our respective Schools. Concerning your observations in the Article referred to, and also suggested in your letter to me of some four years ago, that you took your first lessons in Botany from me, that lesson comes to my mind quite vividly.
I had been out, I think on a Saturday, on a Botanical ramble around M[uil?] Lake, gathering some new specimens of plants for my herbarium. The next morning I r[ested?] myself on the steps of our Dormitory to analyze them and put them into the Press, and while so engaged you came along and looked on with considerable interest, and finally said you didn't see how I so readily [illegible] the species and names of the plants I had. I picked up a new specimen and said, 'sit down a few minutes, Muir, and I will take this plant and explain it to you.' Then I began, calling attention to the leading features of the plant and flower, and referring to the tables and gradually tracing the plant from one subdivision to another until I had fixed the Order, and then turning to the Order from the table there [illegible] getting the genus and species. When I had thus traced the plant to its name, you exclaimed,'That's wonderful, perfectly wonderful, Griswold; I must get me a Botany right off!' And you did get one, almost immediately, and after that we had many a cheery Botanical ramble together often tramping about the wooded shores of the Lakes.
I think that for the time being, I never took more intense interest in any one study than I did those days in Botany. Every plant, even the humblest, seemed to me a thing of life and wonder. I was at the same time gretly interested in my Latin and Greek, catching as to those something of the enthusiasm of Prof. Butler who was my instructor in [illegible], and may I say that my interest in the ancient classics has never abated, but has of late [years?] grown upon me so that my hours in my home library with [illegible], Plato, H[illegible] or Livy, and also with the leading German, French and Italian authors are my recreation. The modern languages suggested above I have taken up and made myself [conversant?] with simply by application of my leisure hours since I settled here forty years ago. In my first years at the University I thought I might possibly someday become myself a teacher, either of the classics, or in some field of natural science. But that was not to be. The last year of my college life brought a change and I turned eventually to Law, and as it happens [thus?] I am here in my Law Office, after twenty years of service as a County Judge. While I was Judge I had civil jurisdiction and the legal problems that would often arise [illegible] gave me real pleasure in their investigation.
As a student myself in common with our other fellow students thought you would probably become distinguished as an [illegible], such seemed to us to be the bent of your genius. But your field has proven rather to be [illegible] of science and one in which you have one an honored name Many are the Articles from you pen I have read from time to time, describing with vivid glow and [illegible] the scenes amid which you have wandered. I can always look back to your enthusiasm when, in our walks, you would [call?] some new flower, and can easily appreciate how every fresh feature of nature seems to speak to you as with a living voice Dearly indeed would I enjoy with you an ramble among the wonders of your adopted State, but having now passed the [year?] of [these?] [illegible] [time?] in my life, I shall probably never have that privilege. I had last summer a glorious visit with our old [illegible] friend Rattan, also in company with J. N. Stewart whom you must remember Stewart by the way is this winter at Madison, as represtative of the city of Appleton in the lower house of our legislature. With many pleasant recollections of our former days together -
M. S. Griswold
Original letter dimensions: 28 x 21.5 cm.
Griswold, M S., "Letter from M. S. Griswold to John Muir, [ca. 1900]." (1900). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 4365.
Reel 11, Image 0525
Copyright status unknown