Samuel F.B. Morse Letter – 1830

Samuel Finley Breese (F.B.) Morse (1791-1872) was an artist and inventor. He is known for inventing Morse Code and for his work on the telegraph. Samuel F.B. Morse sent the first telegraph between cities in 1844 — the text of Numbers 23:23, “What Hath God Wrought.”

Below is a letter that Morse wrote on September 14, 1830 to a friend. The transcript includes the author’s original spelling and grammar.



New York    Sept. 14th 1830.

My dear friend Mary,

I comply with my promise and send you the lines which I wrote a few years ago for an Album in the possession of a young lady on the north river. If you remember I was struck with the train of thought in Mr. Adams piece in Mrs. Tayloe’s Album and told you that I had embodied the same thought, or one nearly resembling it. I had it not in my memory, but this morning in searching my desk I found them and transcribe them for you.

What’s our Life but an Album fair
Outwardly deck’d with gilding rare
With many leaves of white within
Where virtue writes, but oft’ner Sin.
With many leaves all written o’er
While every day turns one leaf more?
This breathes the hopes of younger years
That tells of sorrows and of fears.
Black leaves between Where nought has been
But blots perchance of Folly’s pen.
And some remain, (at most but few,)
Where Sin will write: Shall virtue too?
Yield than thy pen to God to draw
On the next leaf his perfect law
So when thy book of life is done
Cleans’d by the blood of God’s own Son.
From Sin’s dark blots, and Folly’s stain
A purer volume shall remain
And rest, (to Grace a splendid prize,)
In Heaven’s alcoves in the skies.

The moral is better than the Poetry, you may destroy if you will the later, but cherish the former.

I don’t know whether I am better for my last visit to Troy. My pleasure at your house was in excess, and like all excess is producing a compensating depression. Your lovely sister is a most destructive enemy of one’s peace, and the worst of it is that she is so innocently cruel. She wounds, yet knows it not. Well, Happiness, happiness to her, and to you all. Tell Catherine I am expecting my [phillipina]. I am wishing time away until the 1st of October.

I send by this opportunity some “sketches” which were popular when they were published, I don’t know whether they were copied into the Troy papers. You will find in them, when you have an idly hour, some of the incidents more in detail, which I told you verbally.

Remember I hold you all engaged for the Commencement of the University, in the first week in Octo.

With sincere regard,

Affectionately yr friend & servt.

Saml: F:B: Morse

I have just met with another trifle, which since I am in the mood of transcribing I send for Cahterine’s Album. It was written at the request of a young lady, who asked me to write something for her. I consented if she would give me a subject. She gave me the word “Farewell.”

Farewell! Farewell? No ‘tis a word of earth
A fraud seen there, ‘tis not of heavenly birth.
It wishes joy, yet instant clouds the ray
And gives the pang, it feigns to take away.
Let not so false a word, thy tongue e’re tell
If well thou wish thy friends, say not farewell.

* Originally posted: May 19, 2017

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By | 2017-10-11T15:44:54+00:00 September 20th, 2017|Categories: Historical Writings, Library|Tags: , |0 Comments