Transcription (WCP1260.1039)


Montpelier1 Georgia

Octr 19th 1844

I write to you my Dearest Mother2 by this mail as well as to Alfred for you will like to know some few particulars which I have not mentioned in his letter. I hope you have seen all my letters as they contained the chief events which have happened to me since I left home[.] I think I never mentioned our escapes at Sea, for which I now feel most thankful, but at the time was so ill that I did not know the danger we were in — while we were in the Channel3 the night was dark and stormy, the Capt[ain].4 was in bed in his room on deck, he heard as he thought the tacking of a vessel quite close to us. He leaped out of his berth and ran to the wheel and without telling the man why took it in his own hands and immediately gave command to tack on which the sailors, always ready, did in an instant, by these means they gave room for the other vessel to pass — it proved to be a very large vessel one[.] She was running down upon us without knowing we were in the way[,] the fog preventing the lights from being seen, in less than 10 minutes we should all have been at the bottom of the sea in our berths as we were, without a wreck, as the President5 was supposed to have been lost and many others. If the other vessel was very large it would not have been aware [of] the damage she had done, only felt a slight shock. The Capt[ain]. told us all this in the morn[in]g[.] [2] This same night as he was walking about after the first escape He smelt fire and opened a closet where he found some cotton smoking and as he let in the air it burst out in a flame, but he soon extinguished it and all was again safe, but only think of a room all wood in fact the whole vessel would have been in a blaze if once the fire had burned the closet down.

When we got further down the Channel we were escaping the rocks near Portland island6 and the winds nearly run us aground upon the French coast; after this we had no dangers till we were near Savannah7 when we were obliged to stand out at Sea all night off Cape Hatteras8 where it is always windy. I forgot to tell you that we passed over the sandbanks of Newfoundland9 and saw plenty of fishing boats, the sailors would have caught some fish but it was not calm enough. Capt[ain]. Hubbard told us in his last voyage they caught 60 before breakfast. The sailors all had a feast of fresh fish. I will now dear Mamma relate you a few particulars of my position in the new world. I have not yet found anything to dislike and I quite long to have Alfred here with me, there is plenty to do but the hours of study are all well regulated so we have plenty of recreation. My hours are from 8 O’clock to 12 at noon [3] in these hours I am enabled to give lessons in music twice a week to 24 Pupils, Arithmetic twice a week & English grammar the same. The evenings are for French[.] There are now five teachers, so I do not yet take the drawing but have the time before next term to get up some patterns as I have to find them for all the Pupils about 40 learn drawing & painting. I give lessons in the Classes these few weeks just to accommodate, it is fortunate for them they happened to have some one who could do it. There are 55 Girls aged from 10 to 17 there are some very pretty and stylish, the Bishop[']s10 daughter and niece are here. our rooms are very comfortable one out of the other, our parlor has a piano in it and Elizabeth Sinclair11 gives her lessons there. I have one of the parlors downstairs, I assure you we have every comfort, the House is well supplied with everything, we have clean bed linen every week also two towels twice a week, we can have a fire lighted at a moment[']s notice if we want one at any time of the day we are glad of it early in the morning. We are called at half past 5 O’clock and the old house servant comes in to light the fire, she thinks it is strange if we refuse it for they feel the cold much more than we do as they have just had a very hot season & the chilly mornings are to them [4] very intentsy intensely cold. The Sun is very hot still in the middle of the day and I love to go out for a walk for an hour before or after dinner, Elizabeth and I wander about, there are pretty good roads trodden through the forest leading to the different farms in the neighbourhood. it is a beautiful walk to "Chase Hall"12 the male Institute[.] I quite look forward to call for Alfred on Saturday's to stroll about with him and gather the wild flowers, I intend to study botany when I get him with me[.] My companion and I took a walk yesterday a long way beyond the fence and did not see a single human being; we saw a Farm at a distance so went towards it and out came a kitten and its mother, soon followed two large dogs who barked at us, there were some fowls also presently a poor lone woman made her appearance[.] With her I had a little chat — She said she was almost always up at the Hall or she would find it very dull indeed — not so gay as they were before Master13 left Savannah[.] Mr Fay14 has about 40 slaves they are placed in his Farms around the estate to take charge of the Poultry & the men work on the plantation, the women come up to the house to Wash & do other things — It appears from what I have gleaned from the people that Mr Fay was converted [5] suddenly and would retire from the gay world and so came here with his negroes to make a settlement, This house was an Hotel built just for the summer to accommodate invalids who came to drink the water — He told his plan to the Bishop of Georgia15 and so between them they have got up the Establishments, They fill well, and if they had more funds and people of National spirit to assist them, They might build more Houses and take three times the number — There was at first a Mr Lamar16 who did a great deal towards it, they began taking the young Ladies for nothing just to make a beginning, then the families round the country came & offered to pay if They would take their children, so at last they got the number of 50 and they have no accommodation for more, until they build. There will be about 6 leave at X’mas and there have been forty applications made — They want education in the South, if we had come out when we settled at Hoddesdon17 with those few pupils we should have made a fortune by this time, but we must not look back we could not have done it as we were then circumstanced & we did not know of it — Now I can see and hear for myself. A Lady who is now returning to England on account of her health has been offered numbers of Pupils if [6] she would only go and settle in some of the Towns in the South they would build her a house and pay handsomely if she and her sister would take their children to educate, I do not indeed wish to begin such a thing again, I will get as much as I can in the way I am in — and when I haved saved enough to take a house and furnish it & set off comfortably then I hope you will come out and we could live splendidly upon your income, and save besides — This I would not do unless the Boys were here as well as myself, for I should not like to take you away from them, I am getting very stout, I have left off wearing bones in my stays no one wears them here, they made me leave them off, but I must put some whalebones in my dresses, we have three meals a day, breakfast at half past 7 dinner at 1 — supper 6 — hot rolls or Pancakes in the morning with delicious tea or coffee — also hot corn bread & molasses with good butter & milk — this is a famous breakfast is it not for the wilds? — for dinner, meat about three times a week but always fowls and ham the former are dressed every way to make a variety, everything is well cooked, with all this the children make com-[7]plaints and poor Mrs. Fay18 is worried out of her life, so you see all children are alike. We expect the Bishop soon[.] Write to all my friends and say everything is better than I expected, that I am made much of & am my own mistress. We have nothing to do with the Girls out of school which is a great comfort[.] I want for nothing (but the company of those I love) believe me dear Mamma | your very affectionate Fanny

PS | I am told there are plenty of sailing vessels to Savannah from Liverpool or London but the "Great Western"19 is the quickest & cheapest to New York.

The Montpelier Institute was a boys and girls school in Montpelier Springs, near Macon, Georgia, USA, founded in 1841 by Bishop Stephen Elliott. ARW's sister Frances ("Fanny") had begun as a teacher there in the fall of 1844 (Wallace, A. R. 1905. My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions. Vol. 1. London: Chapman & Hall, Ltd. [p. 223]).
Wallace (née Greenell), Mary Ann (1792-1868). Mother of ARW.
The English Channel.
[Possibly] Hubbard, Sheldon E. (b. 1796). Captain of the American Union, which travelled between Liverpool and New York.
[President] Not identified.
Isle of Portland, an island in the English Channel, marking the southernmost point of the English county of Dorset.
A coastal city in Georgia, USA.
A broken strand of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, established in 1937 as the USA’s first national seashore.
Sandbanks-banks of sand formed in a sea by the action of tides and currents (OED)-off the coast of Newfoundland caused navigational problems for ships passing through the area.
Elliott, Stephen (1806-1866). American bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Georgia, USA. Founder of the Montpelier Institute.
Sinclair, Elizabeth ( — ). Teacher at the Montpelier Institute, Montpelier Springs, near Macon, Georgia, USA, and friend of ARW's sister.
At the Montpelier Institute, the boys were schooled at Chase Hall while the girls at Lamar Hall.
Bishop Stephen Elliott, founder of the Montpelier Institute, had resided in Savannah, Georgia before moving to Montpelier to manage the school.
Fay, Joseph Story (1812-1897). American industrialist and businessman; first worked in New York then moved to Savannah, Georgia in 1838 for the cotton trade.
See. n. 10.
Lamar, Gazaway Bugg (1798-1874). American businessman, banker and benefactor of charities. Lamar Hall, the girls' section of Montpelier Institute, was named after him.
A town in the English county of Hertfordshire.
Fay (née Bryant), Sarah "Sally" Smith (1812-1887). Wife of Joseph Story Fay.
The SS Great Western, the first steamship built for the purpose of crossing the Atlantic, having its maiden voyage on 8 April 1838.

Please cite as “WCP1260,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 4 December 2023, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP1260