Letter from Alfred Stearns to C.Y. Sun, Tientsin, January 10, 1924


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Letter from Alfred Stearns to C.Y. Sun, Tientsin, January 10, 1924


Letter from Alfred Stearns to C.Y. Sun, Tientsin, January 10, 1924


Dear Mr. Sun:

I have your very interesting and friendly letter of December 4th, and beg to thank you for the sentiments contained therein.

The children are all in excellent health, I am glad to say. Arthur was with us for a few hours during the Christmas holidays, but went to New York for a visit at the time that Charles, Tom and Mary went to Washington in response to an invitation from Dr. Sze, your Minister to this country, to visit him at the legation. We celebrated the Christmas holiday itself together at Andover with several other boys as our guests, and then the party broke up for the rest of the vacation period. I am sure that the trip must have been very profitable to the children, though from their own reports I am afraid they did not see quite so ranch of our capitol city as I had hoped they would. The weather was in part to blame.

I allowed Charlie to drop Latin at the beginning of the year, for he found the work extremely difficult and the time and effort given to it were apparently undermining his work in other subjects. It is getting to be a question in my mind whether the boy is perhaps a bit over-conscientious in his studies, as he rather unwittingly admitted to me recently that his head seemed to get tired rather easily. I shall watch the situation carefully this term and see that steps are promptly taken to lighten the load if it proves that he is attempting a bit too much.

Tom has begun work on the banjo and mandolin, which if successful will give him a chance to play in the school orchestra, something that he is very desirous of doing. If he shows sufficient talent he can of course take up later sane other instrument that is likely to be of more permanent and genuine value.

May I take this opportunity to thank you most heartily for your overgenerous Christmas gift. I have been greatly embarrassed by the receipt of anything so elaborate, realizing its value and the fact that it is certainly not deserved. My appreciation, however, of the exceptionally generous and friendly spirit which has prompted the gift is very deep and sincere, and my thanks are from the heart.

In this connection may I make a suggestion, which I trust will not give offence, but will be fully understood by you, and that is that any gifts in the future - if there are such - be limited to trifles. After all it is the spirit which accompanies the gift which sets its chief value, and I have been greatly embarrassed for the past two years by two factors in the situation; first, the large duties I have had to pay on gifts of this kind, and which have amounted in toto to much more than what I have been accustomed with my limited means to invest at Christmas time for all the members of my family circle together; and, secondly, a seeming misconception on the part of the children as to the nature and purpose of the gifts in question. I have been greatly distressed on one or two occasions, as has Miss Clemons, to learn that the children have intimated to some of their friends that some of the gifts in question, at least, were of values far in excess of those recorded on the actual inventories, and that some of these , too, were prompted by actual requests or insinuations on our part. As you doubtless know, on one or two occasions and in response to very definite requests on the part of my good friends in China, to the effect that they would be glad at any time to make small purchases for me there should I desire, we have placed orders, so to speak, but with the definite purpose of settling for the amounts involved by crediting the sums in question to Mary’s account. I am sure that the situation has been fully appreciated by you and others in China, but it very evidently has not been by the children, and since it throws us open to even the possibility of misconception on their part, I am very sure that it will be better for all concerned to have the gifts discontinued entirely. As you of course understand, the arrangements at the house have to be made, from necessity on my part, on a business basis, and I have attempted to the very best of my ability to figure the expenses of each of the children on an exact pro rata basis, so that I should neither gain nor lose materially by their presence in the house. For this reason also it would seem best to discontinue the presents in question.

I hope most sincerely that you will not take offence at anything I have said above. It is my desire to be perfectly frank with you, just as I would wish you to be with me, and it is with no lessening of appreciation of the generous and friendly spirit which has always characterized your dealings with me that I feel prompted to make the above suggestions. I believe that their adoption would perhaps save us the possibility at least of further embarrassment, something which cannot wholly be avoided in view of the seeming inability of the children themselves to appreciate the situation and the exacting duties imposed by our government here on importations of this kind.

I am sending you this week a slight token of my friendship and esteem, which I hope will reach you during the New Year's season and will prove not unwelcome.

With friendliest regards and heartiest good wishes for the New Year, believe me,

Always sincerely yours ,


Alfred Stearns


Phillips Academy


January 10, 1924


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