Lettersheet (WCP338.338)



Jan[uar]y 12th. 18401

Dear George2

As that great event in the history of this part of the world (I mean the Penny Post)3 has at length taken place and will (as the Americans would say) enable us to go the whole Hog in letter writing, I hope I shall have the pleasure of hearing from you, and being informed what state affairs are in, in that portion of the terrestial[sic] globe which you inhabit — I have heard, and suppose it is the fact that you are, as the vulgar express it, alive and kicking or in other words well and hearty — I was sorry to hear that like Othello your "occupations" "gone"4 in consequence of the "Hertford Literary Society"5 being sewed up — I suppose they now have converted the two into one grand concern — you have no doubt heard that I am in this part of the country. This town is in Herefordshire about 2 miles from the boundary of Wales; I have not been much into Wales yet but when I have I will give you a glowing description [2] of the Mountains, Rocks, Cataracts &c. with which this country abounds — I have had one or two days on the hills; it is tremendous work getting along some of them; every now and then, having to cross a deep dingle with a brook at the bottom — One day I got on to a road (which led down to a little valley village in the valley,) which was about 4 or 5 feet wide, as steep as a tolerable house ridge and composed of ledges of rock and large loose stones — enough to kill a Jackass to get down & up again[.] I suppose there is nothing particular going on among the Enlightened and intellectual inhabitants of Hertford. or any thing new in the Town — No doubt you have read all about the Chartist Trials6 at Monmouth and that Frost7 is found Guilty — The Chartists In Birmingham and the North have been holding large meetings &c &c and say they will rescue Frost if he is condemned8 so I suppose we shall have a tremendous row soon[.] How does Mr. Crutwell alias Crut'll9 get on — Has he any more young 'uns yet. Are FitzJohn, Godwins & Holdsworth10 [3] there still — I suppose there are several people dead and others born in their place, and marriages without number — I suppose there are several new people come to Hertford[.] Are there any more pretty girls in the Town now than there used to be — There are a pretty fair lot here — I suppose you will be looking out for a wife soon. Do you ever go over to Hoddesdon — I suppose [MS torn] body to play at chess with and [MS torn] almost [MS torn] it — I have not had a game for some time — You have I suppose given up hockey and taken to the study of learned tomes — I hope your Father11 and Mother12 are quite well — Give my compliments to them and to your sisters13 — Hoping you will not charge me 6s/8d for reading this letter[.]14

I remain | yours truly | A. Wallace [signature]

To Geo[rge] Silk Esq[ui]re Jun[io]r



[4]15 p[ostage]. paid

Mr George Silk Junr

St. Andrews Street



Mrs French’s16

No 294

Oxford Street


This has been opened in error Geo. S17

At the centre of the head of the letter, starting roughly under "K" of "Kington" and running as far as the salutation, there is a pencil sketch made up of various rectangles.
Silk, George Charles (1822-1910). Friend of ARW since childhood; secretary to the Archdeacon of Middlesex.
The introduction on 10 January 1840 of the "Penny post" reduced postage rates from 4d to 1d for a prepaid letter weighing half an ounce and replaced charges on receipt for number of sheets and distance covered (Campbell-Smith, D. 2011. Masters of the Post. London, UK: Allen Lane. [p. 132]).
A quotation from Act 3, scene 3 of Shakespeare's play, Othello, "Othello's occupation's gone", often interpreted as Othello's lament for his lost self-esteem and position, here perhaps used literally by ARW to refer to his friend's loss of the Hertford Literary Society.
The defunct society had perhaps merged with the Hertford Literary and Debating Society which was in existence from 1831 to around the mid-20th century (Turnor, L. 1830. History of the Ancient Town and Borough of Hertford, Hertford, UK: printed and published for the author by Stephen Austin & Sons. [p. 286]; Page, F. M. 1993. History of Hertford, 2nd edition. Hertford, UK: Hertford Town Council. [p. 144]).
The Chartist movement continued to press for Parliamentary reform after the failure of the 1832 Reform Act to widen male suffrage, with discontent leading to a rising in Newport, Monmouthshire, in November 1839. The ensuing trial at Monmouth of the leaders commenced on 10 December 1839, and all these events were very widely reported in the press (Royle, E. 1996. Chartism, 3rd edition. Harlow, UK: Longman. [pp. 17-27]; Jones, D. J. V. 1985. The Last Rising: The Newport Insurrection of 1839. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. [pp. 147-157]).
Frost, John (1784-1877). British Chartist; a leader of the Newport rising of 1839, tried for high treason and found guilty, but reprieved and transported to Tasmania for life, although eventually able to return to England.
Before Frost's reprieve, the Chartists intended to rescue him from prison, also making strenuous efforts to press for his release (Williams, D. 1969. John Frost: A Study in Chartism, 2nd edition. London, UK: Evelyn, Adams & Mackay for Social Documents Ltd. [p. 291]).
Cruttwell, Clement Henry (1792-1860). British headmaster of Hertford Grammar School, 1832-1860, during ARW's schooldays there, nicknamed 'Old Cruttle' or 'Old Clemmy'.
Holdsworth, as yet unidentified, but mentioned with FitzJohn and Godwin, British assistant masters at Hertford Grammar School during ARW's schooldays there.
Silk, George (c. 1787- ). British attorney; father of ARW’s friend George Charles Silk.
Silk (née French), Eleanor Mary ( — ). Wife of George Silk, British attorney, and mother of ARW’s friend, George Charles Silk.
In 1840, George Charles Silk had five sisters and and one brother (Census. 1841. 1841 England census for George Silk, Hertfordshire, St Andrew, District: 12. The National Archives of the UK: HO 107/447/2, f. 33. p. 2. Ancestry. <http://www.ancestry.co.uk>).
ARW is perhaps jokingly referring to the amount of money George Silk, in his capacity as a solicitor, might have charged a client for the reading of a letter.
The recipient’s address (struck through) is written on the reverse of page 3, as the letter was folded for postage. There are two postmarks: "KINGTON JA 13 1840" and "[H]ERTFORD JA 15 1840"; also three stamps: "E PAID 14 JA 14 1840"; [1 letter illeg.] PAID 1[1 number missing] JA 1[1 number illeg.] [18]4[0], and the second showing that postage had been prepaid: "Pd I[?]". There is also a fragment of a seal and the page bears some penstrokes made in ink and a square divided into four drawn in pencil.
The recipient's forwarding address, perhaps that of a relative of George Silk’s mother, has been added later in another hand, perhaps that of George Silk's father.
This part of the document also contains the remains of a note or notes added later in another hand, perhaps that of George Silk's father, heavily struck through in blue and black crayon, therefore largely illegible.

Please cite as “WCP338,” in Beccaloni, G. W. (ed.), Ɛpsilon: The Alfred Russel Wallace Collection accessed on 22 September 2021, https://epsilon.ac.uk/view/wallace/letters/WCP338