Thursday, 15 January 2015

AND TO MY SON I BEQUEATH MY WRITINGS, MORE PRECIOUS THAN GOLD. THE LAST WILL OF ROBERT KEAYNE, 1653

Some people said the Boston merchant Robert Keayne got his estate by unjust dealing and wronging of others.  A court fined him for unfair business practices. Whatever. Other people did not think highly of him, but he made up for it by thinking highly of himself.

In his will Keayne left money to build a Town House comprising a market place, court room, gallery, library, granary and armory.

As for the library, he got it off to a good start with some writings of his own: 3 great writing books which are intended as an exposition or interpretation of the whole Bible. Right. We all know that the Bible is the all-time bestseller. Besides, as he said: All these books are written with my own hand. And that’s gotta be worth something.

In fact, one of his manuscripts was so valuable that he couldn’t leave it to the public library. He left it to his son, hoping that he would appreciate its value. It was a commentary on I Corinthians, a little thin pocket book bound in leather, all written with my own hand which I esteem more precious than gold and which I have read over, I think, 100 times.

Then there were the books and manuscripts which he had marked with diverse leaves turned down thick in them. They are only such choice places which I intended to transcribe, but didn’t get around to. I should be glad if some ingenious young scholar that hath a good, legible hand and a ready and willing mind that delights in writing and reading were requested to do this work.

Keayne also planned on leaving money for the purpose of teaching Indians to write and read and to learn the English tongue…and also that some of our scholars or young students might be encouraged to study and learn the Indian tongue (so that they could convert them to Christianity), but alas a certain Mr. Eliot disgruntled him by trying to run things his own way, and so Keayne cancelled that bequest.

There. Let that be a lesson to people like Mr. Eliot, lest by too much stiffness to have their own will and way, they hinder many good works.

(Source: The Apologia of Robert Keayne, ed. B. Bailyn)

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