Transcription (WCP1258.1037)


New York

Sept[ember] 12th 1844

Dear Brothers all2

I will keep my promise of writing to you from New York though I fear this will not be a very amusing letter as I have little to say more than I have said in one to Mamma written on board the Quebec the day before we landed[.] you will there read the account of the weather and my Sickness, so shall proceed to mention a few particulars omitted in my first letter. We saw plenty of Whales and Sea Monsters the Sea being so clear we could see them following the Ship and spouting up the water. the Sailors caught 3 Porpises [sic] they like the flesh it resembles Beef[.] they [2] harpooned them and dragged them up over the Ships side[.] the poor things made a dreadful struggle when caught[.] You and Alfred would have enjoyed the voyage much. They keep an excellent table, fresh Mutton & pork every day and plenty of Poultry, the generality of the Passengers seem to think of nothing else but eating drinking & smoking[.] they play several games, Chess & drafts [sic] all day & walk & chat in the evening and finish with Whist. A Gentleman from Georgia with his Wife & baby I will now describe[.] He has been in the Navy and is a kind hearted droll sort of fellow, he called me the Wictim[?], he tells such absurd stories about the niggars, singing their songs[.] It seems these poor creatures always sit with their feet into the fire with their Knees up — never wearing shoes their feet become callous — so one day there were several sitting round a fire on the ground when one said "I smell burn, who toe dat? Not my toe, It your toeNo not my toe it your toe Oh dod Mighty it my toe." the poor fellow’s toe was burning and he did not know it till he smelt the burnt flesh or bone burning! — He has dozens of these tales, and he repeats them so ludricously [ludicrously] that it is impossible to help laughing. He speaks highly of the People of the South everyone envied us going to Georgia, one of the Passengers is [3] an Englishman[,] is living at New Orleans and he says he would not exchange his place of abode for any part of America, it is delightful all about the South[.] Georgia & New Orleans he says are altogether the finest climate in the world and produces everything man can wish for, almost at no expense, Land is cheap and yields abundantly, he had been to England to see his friends. two others who live at New York were also returning from their visit to Europe one an Engineer, he tells me they are much encourages[sic] there, a young man who is a clever engineer would soon make his fortune, he has made a type for keeping Pianofortes always in tune, he has got a patent & has been to London Paris & other cities, selling them and making drawings of them[.]he told me, he had made £2000 by the patent beside what he will make in America[.] his name was Stewart[.]3 I believe he is a Scotch[sic] man[.] he is living on Long Island at the entrance of New York a lovely spot. he was one of the most agreeable of our party & we learnt from him a great deal of the American [4] character. then there was a young officer in the Navy just come from Australia, India & China[,] a perfect Englishman said very little at first, but was silently polite & was a perfect character among the chattering Americans. there was a young man from China who had been from home four years and was so impatient to get to America, he used to say if the vessel did not sail quicker he would jump overboard. he is a famous Chess player & has two most splendid sets of men with the most elegant Tables I ever saw. he gave great offense to the Gentlemen for engrossing the ladies to himself listening to his adventures, he had been five months coming from China in a vessel without a single Lady on board so he was so delighted to be in female society again that he would never be with Gentlemen alone[.] We walked out this afternoon, the City has a strange appearance, everything so large & the Gents with large Leghorn Hats & looking like Frenchmen. I seem to be quite astonished to hear them talk English. In passing the reading rooms of Club Houses the first thing which you see at the open [5] window is a row of feet, the Gentlemen sitting with their feet on the window frame reading the papers and smoking, they spit almost every-where when alone, but we find they are rather polite in the company of English Ladies and when in the Cabin with us they did not of course[,] the Capt[ain] would not allow it, but in the deck room they spit about as they pleased. we shall see the American character in its true colours. The vessel sails for Savannah tomorrow and we expect to arrive in about eight or ten days[.] I hope we shall escape the storms which they all say come at this time. I think we shall have more Wind than on our way from England. I cannot fancy myself so many thousand miles away from you all. These letters will go tomorrow the 14th by the Great Western[.]4 She was in before us a long time and is now ready to return again. we shall go and see her tomorrow morning. we have accidentally met with a friend of the Bishop’s5 who is very kind and will go with us anywhere[.] we are going with him to take our berths in the Ship "Exact" which sails on Monday for the South Savannah [6] My kind regards to all who Enquire after me[.] Adieu dear boys you shall have a more interesting letter next time[.] God bless you all and dear Mamma6 also[.]

Farewell from your Fanny7

This letter is a copy, perhaps in the hand of ARW's mother, contained in: ?Wallace, Mary Ann. 1844-1845. Notebook: "Fanny's letters, England and Georgia, Sept 1844 to Jan 1845". Natural History Museum, London: WP1/3/92.
ARW and his brothers William Greenell Wallace (1809-1845), land surveyor and architect; John Wallace (1818-1895), engineer and surveyor, and Herbert Edward ("Edward") Wallace (1829-1851), later assistant to ARW in Brazil.
Perhaps James Stewart (c. 1785-1860), British pianoforte manufacturer, who had worked for some time in the USA and who took out several patents relating to pianos, although these do not appear to specify improvements for keeping pianos in tune.
SS Great Western, the first steamship to be built for voyages across the Atlantic and the first ship of the Great Western Steamship Company of Isambard Brunel and Thomas Guppy and investors in Bristol (Doe. H. 2017. The First Atlantic Liner: Brunel's Great Western Steamship. Stroud, UK: Amberley Publishing. [pp. ]). (No page numbers in online version)
Presumably a friend of the Bishop of Georgia, Stephen Elliott (1806-1866), American bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Georgia; founder of Montpelier Institute, where ARW’s sister was a teacher.
Wallace (née Greenell), Mary Ann (1792-1868). Mother of ARW.
Sims (née Wallace), Frances (Fanny) (1812-1893). Sister of ARW; teacher.

Please cite as “WCP1258,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 21 September 2023, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP1258