Letter No. 12
February 24th, 1857
Per “Nueva Consolacion”
My dear Nanny,
When the present writer was a clerk in the firm Ker and Co. a wily practice obtained in the correspondence department, ingeniously calculated to avoid exciting the ire of long-unwritten-to correspondents. When the correspondent had been duly addressed by the previous mail, attention was boldly directed to the fact that “We had this pleasure on the 15th ult. and now beg to resume our market advices.” But when the miserable constituent had been passed over for some time, and the last epistle to him was only to be discovered in remote pages of the letter-book, after much searching through the index, then all allusion to dates was dropped, and the letter timidly commenced with “Since we last had this pleasure, our market for sugars, etc.” I don’t pretend to think that my occasional epistolary scraps can possess the same interest as those exciting accounts of a rise of the reals in sugars, or an unexpected fall to four and seven pence on bills at Cmss. bit as it strikes me that I haven’t written to you for a period which we will express by the convenient term “an age,” I must beg you to imagine all the overwhelming reasons which I might adduce to account for the fact and allow me to begin as coolly as if I had “had this pleasure on the 15th ult.”
Your last letters are dated Oct. 2nd and Nov. 3rd, the latter giving cover to a highly interesting document from my young friend Annie, with an elegantly cut but slightly fantastic border. Tell the gentlewoman I thank her and shall be happy to reply to her communication as soon as she furnishes me with the true reading of the curious cuneiform characters she has adopted – which up to the present time had baffled all my attempt at interpretation. All your interesting news is duly appreciated, and I note by your last that Henry had gone off to that disagreeable place of exile for a couple of hot, monotonous years, in obedience to the fiat of that insane Admiralty. Why don’t they send him to China where, after heaping laurels and advantages from the present war, his vessel might perhaps have been dispatched on a special mission to Panay?
As for the undersigned, he resigns himself to undergo his years of exile, hoping they will prove to be the identical “years that bring the philosophic mind,” of which latter commodity he has at present, when things don’t go on smoothly with his storehouse project, when most of his goods won’t sell, and when he himself is notably dissatisfied with his own interior man or Ego – some slight need.
When, tulipa mia, I have little to tell you on this occasion for this vessel, this “New Consolation,” leaves tomorrow morning, and today (shall I recklessly say it?) I am in a dull uncommunicative mood, with a slight dash of grimness tempered by a strong propensity to go into a Budhistical state of Nirvana on that hard-bottomed couch. For the afternoon is hot, though a lazy breeze comes in at the windows and blows my straggling papers all about the floor. The cocks crow dreamily all about the drowsy town, most of whose inhabitants are at present plunged in deep siestas. The shadows of long coconut leaves float dreamily along the adjoining roofs, an old woman smokes a beatific ‘baccy at the opposite window; my whole household, including my two dogs, is stretched out in various attitudes in the kitchen, and though animated by the “best intentions” I cannot bit feel the opiate influence of the time. Candidly, I really begin to think that though to receive any amount of letters from home is very proper and delightful, to write any in return must wholly superfluous if not absurd. What do you think of that theory? It seems eminently rational when your Fahrenheit stands appealingly at 89. I am now going to stretch out my corporeity on the sofa for a bit, with a volume of Goethe’s autobiography and travels and will let you know if I change my mind.
Now that little fit of laziness being over, I will proceed with this small note before leaving shortly for Molo, where I am going to find out my blessed probable contractor for the new store house, who was to have gone with me a day or two ago to take a look at my proposed site, but who is at present laid up with sore eyes. I have not been much at Iloilo lately that is to say, within the last ten days. Sometimes the Spanish tertulias don’t possess any attraction for me, in spite of the affability of the Governor and the presence of the amiable Señoritas C. and D. I long to talk English with somebody, and exchange the politeness of the Don for the careless heartiness of the Briton. None of the fellows from Manila have been able to come this way, and I doubt if any of them can afford the time. I am living much in my usual manner “as before,” except that my conveyance gives me much more power of locomotion – though on reflection I think I used to go about much more when I had to avail myself of hired carriages and my own motive powers.
Sometime ago I prodigally subscribed to all manner of papers and periodicals, and now receive the “Spectator,” “Leader,” “Westminster” and “National Reviews” and the “Review des Deux Mondes” – great extravagance, you very properly remark, but a man in this forgotten dot of the universe must have a little mental pabulum of some kind, so as to get a faint inkling of what is going on in the European world. My trip into the country the other day with Don Emilio Carles did not supply any very striking adventures though it was very pleasing – a great event was the losing of Don Emilio’s solar hat overboard in a squall – another, our visiting certain enormous caves full of stalactites and stalagmites, and a murky cavern whence issued dreadful mephitic vapours which put out the lights and put a stop to my enterprising attempts to go in and win.
February 25th. I must put a sudden end to this very paltry note and send it to Iloilo. I think I shall remove to that interesting seaport in a few days – apologize to Mary for me for not answering her note yet, and give her my love. With apologies for such a shabby missive believe me to be, dear Nanny,
Your most affectionate brother,