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Title: McDonnell, Mary to O'Brien (n. Greeves), Anne, 1823
CollectionThe Transatlantic Letters of an Irish Quaker Family_1818-1877 [B. Jackson]
SenderMcDonnell, Mary
Sender Genderfemale
Sender Occupationunknown
Sender ReligionQuaker
OriginNYC, USA
DestinationLake Erie, NY, USA
RecipientO'Brien (n. Greeves), Anne
Recipient Genderfemale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count1590
Genrenews, illness, finding work as a tutor, travelling, account of Joseph Bonaparte, faimly and friends, fire
TranscriptNew York, 2nd Mo 12th 1823

My Dear Ann
For a long time I have been wishing to write to thee but did not know how to get a letter forwarded, as I laid up
thy letter so carefully that I cannot find it. I applied to Abm Bell & he cou'd not give me thy address, so I had to
remain silent partly from this cause. I have been so unsettled, too, of lace that I cou'd hardly think of sitting down
to compose a letter. John Nicholson being in this City & intending soon to return to the Country, I hope to get
this forwarded by him. I am not acquainted [with] him, never having the pleasure of seeing him. My health is so indifferent char I very seldom get out, & being now in the lower part of
the City I am totally unable to walk so far as Mary Beals near Spring St. I often, very often, dear Ann think of thee, and wish it was in my power to pay thee a visit. Sometimes I think I shall be able to accomplish it, then an attack of palpitation or some other ailment renders me unable to move except from one room to another.
I am a poor weak creature to what I was when thou knew me &
so altered in my habits that thou cou'd hardly recognize the same
person. Aunt Debby cou'd not now blame me for being fond of
visiting, as I seldom go any where, nor feck no inclination to go
out, tho' I have numerous invitations. If I can get, have to sit
quietly by a good fire: 'tis all I want.
Soon after I last wrote to thee my Sister Margt [‘Peggy’] was
offered a situation in a Boarding School at Flushing on Long
Island; as I was then pretty free from pain she went there, & in
winter I followed her & spent 3 or 4 months in a friends family. On
my return to the City, I paid several visits among my friends 'till
after the Yearly Meeting. Margt was then engaged in a friends family
at Flushing to instruct their eldest daughter in painting. I got an
invitation to pay a visit near Hudson: I went & the friend having 4 or 5
children offered me $25 if I would remain 3 months with them & instruct
the Children as far as I [am] capable. This I consented to, by which arrangement we both escaped being in the City when the fever broke out. I now think that either the air did not agree with
me, being near the K[C]atskill Mountains, or the exertion was too much, for I spent a very miserable time during
all the Summer. I had promised myself much pleasure from being in the Country. The family were very agreeable
& kind but my health was so poorly I cou'd seldom enjoy society. While there we made two excursions, one to Albany & Troy, & the other to Lebanon Springs & to see the
Shakers. I was much gratified with both visits. Albany is a much handsomer town or City than I expected: I was
much disappointed at not being able to see the State House - I left our lodging intending to view it but found
myself unable to proceed, so had to return. The Shops looked very splendid, & when I reflected that only a few
years had passed over since this was considered almost in wilderness Country, I cou'd not but marvel at the
appearance of every thing round me: nor only the comforts, but the luxuries of the North, South & East are to
be seen in every street. I was also much pleased with Troy. I think it one of the neatest towns I ever was in & thought
if I had a few friends & acquaintances there, I should like it more than any place I had seen in this Country.
My visit to Lebanon [NY] afforded me an opportunity of seeing Joseph Bounaparte: he was at the Springs
with his family. The Inn, or Hotel at the Springs was so full that we cou'd not be accommodated, so we had to
stop in the Village all night. We went in 7th day Evg - on 1st day morn'g we ascended the side of the Mountain
where the Shaker settlement is, & went to their Meeting; our crowd from the Springs & elsewhere soon fill'd the
house, attracted partly I believe by the appearance of J. Bounaparte who with his daughter, her governess, his
nephew, private Secretary & some others came to the Meeting. I was rather disappointed in the appearance of the
ex-King. His face does not to me exhibit much of the Napoleon intelligence. His figure too has nothing dignified
about it - he is too robust. His Secretary seem'd a more animated personage but his nephew was I thought more
like what I shou'd suppose Napoleon was at his age, than any of the group: rather small of stature, penetrating quick
dark eyes no opportunity of viewing, as the croud was so great that- nose aquiline, & an air of intelligence that indicates genius. At least so he appeared in my eyes from
observation I cou'd make. The females I had no opportunity of viewing, as the croud was so great that
there was no seeing them. Joseph I thought displayed some vanity in standing up, turning round & speaking to
his party as if he wished to show himself. Vanity is I think as predominant in the male part of creation as in us
who are call'd the weaker vessels, tho they will not allow this. I was disappointed in what is call'd the religious worship of the .Shakers: to me it was any thing but worship -
their singing & dancing possessed no solemnity in my eyes — I cou'd nor help viewing them with much compassion
when I saw them as it were play such fantastic tricks before high heaven' - & consider it an acceptable, nay a
necessary, offering to rhe Majesty of the Most High.
On my return to Hudson I was obliged Co take some rest after this exertion, & had I found myself equal
to the undertaking, or any company offered, I shou'd have been tempted to pay the[f] a visit, but I cou'd not
[undertake] the journey alone. Some time ago Cousin Joseph [Uncle Jo Sin ton] wrote to Abm Bell rhar he had
an idea of visiting this City-now if he wou'd put this idea in practice, & that I liked his society-& manners -
if he seem'd likely to prove an agreeable travelling companion - perhaps he might prevail on me to accompany him
back. It is not to every Cousin I wou'd say so much, therefore he must take it as a compliment. Thou can tell him
what a desirable companion on a journey it would be, what a fund of entertainment he might expect - with all
the rest that thou can add-besides as I am the first of his Father's family who has claimed any attention from him,
I mink he ought to gratify me. Seriously, I do want to be acquainted with him.
It is a long time since I heard from Ireland. We are expecting the John Dickinson daily from Belfast, by which
conveyance I expect large packets. I have now filled my paper about self & selfish affairs - I hope thou art nor weary
of me. The worst part of the story is to come. My Sister & self returned here about 2 months ago, we had packed
up & deposited all our furniture & spare clothes at John Wrights - he is partner in a Brewery - & before we
could suit ourselves in lodging, the Brewery took fire & the parr where our property lay was totally consumed. Not
a single article was saved. This to us is a serious loss, indeed providentially our bed & bedstead was in another place.
But here we are without a sheer to change it, a cloth to lay on the table, or a towel to dry out hands. The house
linen seems a great loss, 'tis so expensive an article. Pots, kettles, knives, forks candlesticks, plates, dishes, tea things, trays, glass, books, clothes - all. all consumed in this disasterous fire. Our friends have express'd much sympathy
for us, & some of them presented us with tokens of their sympathy, but the only person here that we cou'd claim
any relation to has never came near us. It will require years of patient industry to replace all we have lost. Had I
my health, I shou'd not perhaps mind it, but to be poor, sick & a stranger are no very easy things to bear. Yet I
trust I am thankful in feeling my spirits supported under this trial beyond what I cou'd expect. I wish thee to
write to me soon & give me an acct of all thy concerns - how you get on & if your situation is more comfortable
than at first.
I do wish I cou'd go to see you - I look forward to returning to my dear native Country & it wou'd be a
gratification to me to see thee, Wm & the bairns before I go. So try & prevail on Cousin Joseph to come for me.
With much love to you all I am
thy affte
Cousin M McDonnell