September 25, 2008


Samuel Chew Jr. (1871-1919) wrote quite a number of letters to his father, primarily from boarding school, but also from locations abroad and during times when Samuel Chew Sr. was traveling. His letters reflect a genuine love and respect for his father and the rest of their family, while also providing an amusing perspective on the mind and occupations of a pre-teen boy of the 1880s. This letter contains one of the best post-scripts I have ever read: "P.S. I have had one misfortune in playing with fire crackers so far and that is setting a tree on fire, trying to make an opossum get out of it's hole." (July 4 [1882])

In a letter from August 23, 1881, Samuel writes very sweetly: "Dearest, I wish you lovely Roses --ect. I do not think they ever get picked ecept when Harry or Mr. Carr picks them--sometimes my eye catches on some roses and then I think how you would pick them or have them picked and then I pick some and wish you were there to help me." He then laments the condition of President Garfield: "I am sorry to say that on Saturday the President was doing quite well and yesterday he went down to gloomy, and today the case is still critticall." His post-script reads "P.S. I hope you will be careful in assending and desending mountains." His father was, at the time, traveling in Europe, and was perhaps taking in some mountain air to improve his health. Samuel Sr. was often on trips to various springs taking the healing waters.

In another letter, Samuel Jr. discusses being scolded at dinner, which caused him to leave the dinner table early. He sends his father love and signs off with the post-script "P.S. Charles shot Tim last night." No further comment.

His sense of humor makes these letters a joy to read. There are many more gems in this series of correspondence.

September 12, 2008

Let them eat cake

A different monarch, a different century, but this letter to Anne Sophia Penn Chew (1805-1892) includes not only an interesting reference to a remarkable cake, but fragments of the cake itself! Anna Maria Rush wrote to Anne on March 13, 1840, including crumbs from Queen Victoria of England's wedding cake. Rush had received some crumbs from another woman, Mrs. Stevenson, who attended the February 10 wedding, and sent on to Anne a few of them, "as a curiosity at least."

(click on images to enlarge them)

The crumbs are encapsulated to prevent them from harming the letters they are filed amongst. The envelope that the encapsulated crumbs are stored in dates from earlier processing of parts of the collection, in the early 1980s.

I am beginning to sort Anne's correspondence this week and my first impression of this Chew is that she was a strong and independently-minded woman. I wonder if her friend Anna's opening comment in this letter provides a clue to a less-than-orthodox range of womanly interests: "I do not know that you will value any thing so trifling as Queen Victoria's wedding cake..."