Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Letters of Nicholas Loney (2)

Letter No. 2


To Nanny:

“Above all there is little physical suffering where there are neither hot summers nor cold winters,” etc., etc., and further on – “In New Zealand little expense is incurred for clothing, and literally none for the Doctor, the only result being that the number of rosy-cheeked urchins increases with astounding rapidity, but where potatoes are almost a weed, and pork is 2d. a pound, who can complain of the number of brats, particularly as they begin to earn a livelihood almost as soon as they can walk. In the towns a labouring man can earn from 3/6 to 7/6 a day, which is enormous when the cheapness of provisions and the few necessary expenses are taken into consideration. While the husband is so well employed, the wife need not be idle, as in the smaller settlements, or at the outskirts of the larger ones, there is always abundant pasturage for cows, so that she may add butter, cheese and milk to her stores.”

Don’t you see yourself up to yer elbows in butter, cheese and milk, pounding, churning, moulding, forming with creative power, a quantity of things eatable, drinkable, saleable and useable? If you don’t, then you’re lost to every proper and Christian feeling, and no ray of enthusiastic ardour lights up your callous heart – look at this and burst into a ipp-ipp-ipp-ooray.

All English vegetables and fruits grow exceedingly well, and require but little looking after as there are no frosts, blight, or snails of any kynde. You’ve ip-ip-ipped, haven’t you, and likewise hurrayed? Blow it y’know, where tatters is almost a weed, and pork is 2d. things must be roaringly jolly, Hay? Look at here – at times the prospect of my speedy emancipation puts me into a tearing state of spirits which gets a tearinger and a tearinger as the time comes swiftly on. It may be said in a summary way that here’s an individual commonly known as N. Loney. Him, after a long series spent, under protest, mostly on tops of elevated stools, we find beginning of a sudden, with much muttering and intelligible growling, to put his hitherto silent protests into palpable, though strangely incoherent and ill-chosen words – indications you might have previously gathered from him that he had all along felt within him, germs of a revolutionary nature. Nay, from sundry half-stifled exclamations uttered at distant intervals, an intelligent observer might have seen that he had long since ceased to be satisfied, indeed had become far otherwise than satisfied with the state of things with which he found himself mixed up and carried along…

I suppose by this time Mary has become Mrs. May, and hope that both she and M. will be as happy as the prince and princess at the conclusion of a fairy tale.

There are many things in your letter requiring special notice and remark. But that notice, and those remarks I am not now in a position to enunciate. I am much interested in the wood-engraving tendencies of Henry and yourself, and must beg of you to let me know how they get on and succeed. On the subject of writing a small paper anent Manila, I shall address you at future periods. Please tell Mother that the answer to her letter which I have so inexcusably and unaccountably neglected, is coming on, and has not yet made its appearance because it is to be a model one, and will require much deliberation. I feel it to be a sort of bounden duty to finish this page, but sleepiness is potent and I feel myself hurried swiftly bedwards. The shrine of Terpsichore is deserted now and dark, and I hear the shuffling feet of votaries hasting homeward. Even the little lamps in the street which I see through the open window have one by one gone sputteringly out. My own lamp sends a mellow radiance across the way – would there were some mental ray to illuminate the life of this here gent. But there ain’t. No doubt the returning revelers wonder who that youth whose noble head is probably thrown into strong relief can possibly be. I hear a voice exclaim, “Dolores, vamos, que es tiempo de retirarnos.”[i] I too exclaim, “Si tiempo es de retirarnos”[ii] and rapidly dive into bed. With the image of a cove rising up with a sigh, extinguishing a lamp suspended from the ceiling, I leave you, and with love to Mother, Lizzie, Molly and all at home and friends who may be desirous of a quantity of affection from distant lands, I remain, my dear Nanny

Your very affectionate brother,


[i] “Let’s go, Dolores, it’s time to go home.”

[ii] “Yes, it’s time to go home.”

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