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Part I. Nathaniel Hawthorne

Appendix. Extracts From The Life Of John Eliot

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MR. ELIOT had been for some time assiduously employed in learning the Indian language. To accomplish this, he secured the assistance of one of the natives, who could speak English. Eliot, at the close of his Indian Grammar, mentions him as "a pregnant-witted young man, who had been a servant in an English house, who pretty well understood his own language, and had a clear pronunciation." He took this Indian into his family, and by constant intercourse with him soon become sufficiently conversant with the vocabulary and construction of the language to translate the ten commandments, the Lord's prayer, and several passages of Scripture, besides composing exhortations and prayers.

Mr. Eliot must have found his task anything but easy or inviting. He was to learn a dialect, in which he could be assisted by no affinity with the languages he already knew. He was to do this without the help of any written or printed specimens, with nothing in the shape of a grammar or analysis, but merely by oral communication with his Indian instructor, or with other natives, who, however comparatively intelligent, must from the nature of the case have been very imperfect teachers. He applied himself to the work with great patience and sagacity, carefully acting the differences between the Indian and the English modes of constructing words; and, having once got a clew to this, he pursued every noun and verb he could think of through all possible variations. In this way he arrived at analyses and rules, which he could apply for himself in a general manner.

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Neal says that Eliot was able to speak the language intelligibly after conversing with the Indian servant a few months. This, in a limited sense, may be true; but he is said to have been engaged two years in the process of learning, before he went to preached to the Indians. In that time he acquired a somewhat ready facility in the use of that dialect, by means of which he was to carry the instructions of spiritual truth to the men of the forest, though as late as 1649 he still lamented his want of skill in this respect.

Notice having been given of his intention [of instructing the Indians], Mr. Eliot, in company with three others, whose names are not mentioned, having implored the divine blessing on the undertaking, made his first visit to the Indians on the 28th of October, 1646 at a place afterwards called Nonantum; a spot that has the honor of being the first on which a civilized and Christian settlement of Indians was effected within the English colonies of North America. This name was given to the high grounds in the north, east part of Newton, and to the bounds of that town and Watertown. At a short distance from the wigwams, they were met by Waban, a leading man among the Indians at that place, accompanied by others, and were welcomed with "English salutations." Waban, who is described as "the chief minister of justice among them," had before shown a better disposition than any other native to receive the religious instruction of the Christians, and had voluntarily proposed to have his eldest son educated by them. His son had been accordingly placed at school in Dedham, whence he had now come to attend the meeting.

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Grandfather's Chair
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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