Monday, December 15, 2008

Bogg, 14 July 1870

[Image: A portrait of Marion Glencross, seated, with her friend Jane Law, standing, c.1870; both women are wearing elaborate hairstyles and white lacy dresses with dark sashes at the waist.]

Marion Brown writes in better health, but she can still "walk none" in the summer of 1870. She's writing to Marion Glencross, who is nearly 18 at the time. Maybe the woman-to-woman dynamic is becoming especially noticeable in this letter, as Marion Brown writes lightly about young men they know, hairstyles in fashion in America and Scotland, gardening, and cheese. I've speculated in other places that Marion Brown's choice of topics with young Marion Glencross is no accident. She knows her younger cousin has no mother or older sister or nearby aunt, and by addressing feminine culture, she may be making a claim to unique usefulness, as a kinswoman and a female mentor.

The image of Tam taking Marion on a ride in a cart is charming, and emphasizes how little she gets out of the house at The Bogg. "I was just like a bird out of a cage every thing was like new to me."

There's a discussion of "waterfalls" in this letter--she means the elaborate (in this case curly) hairpieces some women wore to augment their coiffures. From Betty J. Mills, Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and their Fashions 1830-1910 (Texas Tech UP 1985; on Google Books): "Available by mail were fake curls, buns, and waterfalls that could be pinned in place. Many women kept such hair pieces on hand for the sake of style." (132)

Finally, sixty-pound cheeses? Yup. The 1823 Encyclopedia Brittanica (also on Google Books) entry on Agriculture quotes an agricultural expert as saying "The process of making Cheshire cheese is as follows, viz. on a farm capable of keeping 25 cows, a cheese of about sixty pounds weight may be daily made in the months of May, June, and July." The entry goes on to explain how to get enough milk together to make that much cheese daily... let's just say, Aunt was very busy in the summertime.

"The Bogg" Thursday July 14th 1870

Dear Cousin

You will be thinking by the time this reaches you that I have been very careless in not writting you sooner. I am here at last and I hope this will find you both in good Health as good Health is the greatest blessing we can enjoy in this world. Aunt Nanny has not been so well this summer she had a bad turn with her head and stomach about the middle of May and she has never got the better of it but we ought to be very thankful when she is able to go about for it is a queer house when Aunt has to be in bed I am a great deal better as when I wrote you last I can sit up all day and altho I can walk none I just think I am well when I am able to sit up.

I was very glad to see by your letter that your garden was looking so well and if I was well and able to walk I would take the advantage of your invitation for I should come over and help you to pull your fruit and very likely I would be eating all the time I was pulling. I think you are quite right in wanting your father to get a cow for you will not like to want milk I dont know what your fields are like in America but I have never mind of seeing so much grass as is this year Cousin Tom just got one of Brandley carts and took me out one day and I was greatly delighted for I was just like a bird out of a cage every thing was like new to me. our cows has been very good this year but they have plenty of grass and that helps them to give more milk.

I have to give you Aunt Nannys compliments and say she is making a cheese sixty pounds and some times more every day just now and if you would come over and learn cheese making she thinks she would go home with you when you went away but if all goes well she has sent you a little cheese with a young man that is going to leave Wanlockhead today and if he gets it safe to you, you are to send her word if it is a good one They young mans name is James Weir he used to come and help Aunt at the hay stakings

you speak of John White being a Greenhorn I suppose you will think all the old country folk Greenhorns for they speak so much different from the Yankees but altho the scotch folk is slow they are sure and I hope all that has gone to America will do well there is one John Nicol gone to Pittstown brave young man and is a good fiddler. there was one Robert Watson went with him and we sent a parcle with him to you and I hope by this time you will have got it. you say that David Williamson has given up buisness in Dunmore and I am sure you will miss him very much for he is a fine lad and would be very good company, but you must tell him from me he is not to think the lasses here does not wear waterfalls for some has a waterfall nearly as big as their own head but the hair is worn in a nicer fashion now for it is mostly in curls and I like to see hair in curls

give Mrs. Moffat my kind regards and say saying how soon she will have to make me my tea and give my kind regards to all enquiring friends not forgetting your own self I am your loving Cousin Marion Brown

PS Please write soon and let us know how all goes with you MB