Joseph Hopkinson, Puerile Essays  1787-1789
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This volume, titled "Puerile Essays addressed to the Philomathian Society," contains 11 essays (93 pages) composed by Joseph Hopkinson for the Philomathian Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and for other debating societies between March 17, 1787, and October 1789. He discussed a variety of topics related to contemporary American social customs, such as dancing, happiness, the desirability of luxury, family relationships and astronomy.

Joseph Hopkinson joined the Philomathian Society on March 14, 1787, and left in June 1788, shortly after the Philomathians joined with the Commercial Society to form the Literary and Commercial Society. The essays, each between 5 and 12 pages long, record Hopkinson's views on a diverse array of topics, many of which reflect contemporary social customs and concerns. Hopkinson defended dancing as a method to develop gracefulness and good health, denounced the development of national prejudices, and discussed development of customs as individual habits and as societal norms. He reflected on the idea of universal happiness, suggesting that it is tied to wealth, and supported the pursuit of luxury as a desirable moral aim. Two essays pertain to relationships between parents and their children, and one briefly relates the history of astronomy. Though Hopkinson left the literary society in 1788, he continued to compose essays until October 1789. In one piece, addressed to the Belles Lettres Society, Hopkinson gave his negative opinion of juvenile debating societies, arguing that they foster disagreement rather than promote original thought. In another, he countered an argument about the desirability of periodical publications, originally presented by a man named Wilkins.

The volume has Randolph G. Adams's bookplate. An obituary for Major Charles Biddle Hopkinson, Joseph Hopkinson's grandson, is pasted in the inside front cover.

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