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[11] fashion among their descendants to excuse those eminently respectable and often brave and prosperous men and women, because of a belief that their short-comings were in accord with the practice, or lack thereof, of their own day. Byrd's writings, and even more clearly those of the Maryland physician Alexander Hamilton, furnish the best of evidence that illiteracy was ignorance due to a lack of education as truly in 1700 as it is two centuries later.

Dr. Hamilton, who is not known to have been related to the more eminent publicist of the same name, in 1744 followed his own advice and sought to rid himself of a persistent indisposition by a change of climate and companions. Except for this health-seeking incentive, his journey from Annapolis to Portsmouth in New Hampshire was a pleasure trip, probably the earliest recorded in America.

Reading was easily the first of Dr. Hamilton's pleasures. On his journey he picked up from the Philadelphia book stalls the latest English novels, and in New York he bought a new edition of a classical favourite. When his own supply of reading matter gave out, he rummaged through the inn or explored his host's book shelves. The tavern keeper at Kingston in Rhode Island convinced him that it was unlawful, and therefore inexpedient, to travel on the Sabbath, and so he loitered about all day, “having nothing to do and no books to read, except it was a curious History of the Nine Worthies (which we found in Case's library) a book worthy of that worthy author Mr. Burton, the diligent compiler and historian of Grub Street.” The scenery, luckily, furnished a partial compensation for the dearth of literary pastime, for he noted as he approached this hostelry that it brought to his mind “some romantic descriptions of rural scenes in Spenser's Faerie Queene.”

The day following his arrival at Boston being Sunday, he attended meeting, where he heard “solid sense, strong connected reasoning and good language.” For the rest of this day's entry in his journal he records “staid at home this night, reading a little of Homer's First Iliad.” As he does not say, we can only guess whether he took his Homer in the original or through a translation. With Latin we know that he was on intimate terms, even without the evidence of his Scottish medical degree. While at Newport he writes:

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