[This letter, although not dated at the top, was postmarked 1843. Apparently written in Boston, Sept. 30th, 1843.
It was addressed to Miss Anne Murray
There was no stamp. The letter was folded and sealed with sealing wax. The amount of postage was stamped on the outside but is unreadable.
6 Wilson Street
Per Royal Mail Steamer
As I intend making you my chief correspondent in England, I enclose you the accompanying letters & I hope you will put the one into the post enclosed with this in an envelope & put the other as it is. As I have said pretty much about Boston in Papa's letter I will not repeat it in this but will give you an account of my voyage & the adventures I have gone through since my departure from Suffolk Place.
I assure you your letter was very acceptable to me, indeed I never felt before so much the pleasure of receiving a letter from you nor missed home so much. However, from my first setting foot on board the vessel down to the present moment I have never regretted the step which I have taken, though I have often felt queer when I reckoned up how many weeks' subsistence I had in my pocket & the idea came into my head of not getting employment before that was exhausted. However these are groundless fears. Our feelings are always pulling against our reason, and when I reason with myself calmly on the subject I cannot but come to the conclusion that however long I may be getting a situation in America I should be longer in England & however badly I get on, there in England I should get on much worse. But I expect to date my good fortune from my arrival in America. I have no doubt I shall ultimately do well there. Do not think that I have not yet had the means of judging. As the sailor long before discovering land sees bits of seaweed & logs of wood which convince him he is near shore, so I picked up on the route a great deal of information & since I have been here much more.
Before I begin my travels I will tell you at once to ease your mind that I have not yet obtained a situation but have not yet by any means lost all hope of doing so. I have more than a month's subsistence to back me & I am certain of success in some way before that is out.
You ask me when I first thought of going to America? Long ago - 3 years at least & I would then have gone if I had the money tho' I should have got on I dare say very badly, at first. However I believe even then had I gone I should have been by this time much better off than I am now. I should have learnt some business by this time and that is what I do not now possess. Ever since then I have cherished the idea & every book I have read about America has confirmed me in the belief that I shall get on there or nowhere. Had I saved up my money I should have gone before now I expect. When I left Mr. Speed's you know I had some 25 or 30 pounds due me which I have been receiving ever since, but I have not been able to save any of it. I put some in a savings bank in Farrington St. But I was obliged to take it out again. I had received more than £10 before I left Mr. Spencer's. Just before I left there, I received £8 which, with the £3 Mr Spencer presented, was the capital I began the world with.
I took my passage in the steerage in Barque Velasco, Captn. Choate, from her London docks for which I paid £4, my provisions & bedding & tinware cost £2/10 & £1 was expended in some other things. I wanted carriage porterage etc etc so that I started ultimately with £3/10. I have paid my first week's board (2½ dollars) & have yet more than a month's subsistence to look to, so I am well off.
I told mama I was going to Foster Porter's. Got my two boxes off on board the ship, on Friday, walked about the city the rest of the day. Slept at home for the last time. Walked about again until 4 o'clock when I went on board & went down to my temporary apartment. The BARK was about 350 tons burden & in a very dirty condition. When I had gone into the steerage before that there were no berths up so you may be sure it looked dreary enough. I suppose you know what a barque is. It is a vessel with 3 masts, the two in front square rigged & the one behind with two sails on that are always on one side of the mast. Our vessel had but little cargo in it & stood high out of the water - the bulwarks were just high enough for me to see over. In the front (the bows) is a raised deck called the forecastle deck under which is the forecastle where the sailors are. In the stern was another raised deck higher than my head, about as high again as the forecastle & called the quarter deck. Between this & the deck is the cabin & behind it is the wheel; just before that was the hatchway which led down into the steerage without any covering over the hatchway but a tarpaulin when the weather was very rough. The steerage extended from the foot of the hatchway to the stern of the vessel & from side to side, the only light being admitted down the hatchway and through two little windows in the stern. There was no separation between the steerage and the rest of the space between the deck above and the steerage deck & below that was the hold which had no covering, so that if one made a false step, down you went. We had to creep along every morning along side of the vessel on some boarding to the fore part of the vessel from the steerage to where the water casks were placed to get our allowance of water in a can, which was not very much in rough weather.
Well, to continue my description of my lodgings, come down the hatchway & look straight ahead -- on each side are six sleeping berths, hastily knocked up - made of deal boards, with one put up to prevent you from tumbling out. We did not have one berth above another because it was not high enough for us to stand upright, so we were obliged go on deck if it were only to stretch our legs, but two were obliged to sleep in each berth. I had the first berth on the left side going down the hatchway & was lucky enough to be up nearly all the Voyage instead of down, so that all the water ran off to the other side & the light came down from the hatchway upon my berth, leaving the other side almost in darkness.
My bedfellow was a countryman from Surrey who had seen various ups and downs in the world & had at length a few months ago, when on the point of sailing to Quebec with wife, family & all, found himself instead in White Cross Prison for debt. He let his wife go on without him, promising to meet her at Toronto. When he had got on board this ship after leaving Toronto he found he had not sufficient money for paying his passage so was obliged to make a bargain to work for it and board. He wanted to borrow some of me, but I declined. He was very much afraid his wife was going to cohabit with another man & this worried him so that he could scarcely eat anything all the way.
At the foot of us were a Jew and his wife & their protegée, a young though by no means pretty Jewess. The latter was going to see her sisters at N. York & the former (Mr. Ansell) was going to endeavour to obtain a similar situation to what he had in Liverpool among the Jews -- that sect's [word missing?] to the synogogue & marker of the beasts to be slain. His wife, who we heard used to drink & had separated from him in consequence, used to disgust me with her frequent repetition of the name of God -- "God grant we get there soon" -- "Heaven be praised we shall soon be there" -- "We shall soon get there, thank God". And so on all the voyage - and yet she had no more religion than a horse. Opposite to us were a family of emigrants going to Michigan. One of them who had been there 7 years told me, as I have heard since confirmed, that in AMERICA instead of one's having to support oneself whilst learning a business, it is quite the reverse.
If so what have I to fear -- subsistence is what I want. I can build upon a foundation what superstructure I have a mind to. We had very pleasant weather for a day or two after passing Lands End, so that we were quite well and hearty. It was calm nearly every day. Sometimes the sails were all motionless and the water all around us as smooth as the water in a tub. In the evenings it was so warm that we used to sit up till late at night looking now & then at the light cast by the moon upon the water. I never saw so much of the moon in my life. It made a very splendid appearance. Now it would cast a splendid light all along the waters down to the side of our vessel and then when a cloud passed over it, we would be in darkness & yet see a brilliant circle of light upon the water far from us surrounded by gloom.
However this did not last long for we "awoke one Morning & found ourselves" seasick instead of famous as Byron has it. The ship was rolling about and so was our tinware. I scrambled on deck & endeavoured to keep my last night's supper down, holding my head over the side & looking for the first time at the snowy whiteness of the foamy water as the ship dashed through it, but just as I detected myself in the act of repeating Byron's address to the Ocean, the contents of my stomach declared independence. So I went below & I was glad to turn in for the rest of the day. Since then we were seasick nearly every gale until we had at length got used to it and when the "unkindest cut of all" came & we were tossing about, the water rushing in torrents down the hatchway, our dinners sliding swiftly over to the lee side of the vessel, ourselves sometimes sliding down after them, we were by no means seasick but very sick of the sea. For my own part I would not be a sailor for a trifle. It is very pleasant sometimes and for a short excursion would be delightful. It was very pleasant during a calm to look over the side and see the beautiful seaweed & all kinds of sea-jellies floating by; to draw a bucket of water in the night and see it sparkle in the dark; to see the waves flash fire as they did sometimes when it was dark & the vessel was going ahead. It was exciting too, to hear the cry of the porpoises & to rush on deck, rig out the harpoon & watch them as they glided along around the bows of the vessel & then far off, jumping out of the water sometimes, falling in again, 4 or 5, one after the other, like a cascade of porpoises. The mate struck at a great many of them for we often met with them & once he struck the harpoon through & through. The sailors set to work & pulled the huge fish on deck by main force. It was about 6 feet long and very elegantly formed. Some of the meat was cut out & the liver etc after which it was thrown overboard. The liver fried was as good as a pig's but the flesh was as tough as a board. We saw a great many whales & black fish, a gampus etc.
I had a very pleasant companies in the steerage, the cabin's passengers were very good also. One of the latter was a nice little lad from Ettica [= Attica?], N. YORK -- with him was his cousin, a young doctor & another friend, a young man who had been to London, Liverpool & France -- was acquainted with all the sporting houses & was what we would call a rake or a very gay young man & the Americans would call a "rowdy". The other one was an American Surgeon's servant. He passed himself off for a surgeon and gave himself far too many airs, but none of us could "go it". The sailors (6), tho' but two of them American-born, were all American to the backbone. With the greatest surprise they asked as whether I really hold the absurd doctrine that a black man was as good as a white man. They thought me a sensible young man in other things but that I was mad on that subject. My pointing to two men on board the vessel who altho' black were better men than the whole 6 of the sailors were, even if all their good qualities had been separated from the bad & fused into one lump, had no effect. They seemed to value their colour by its cheapness. It was a cheap kind of pride indeed. Many people have to pay a deal for pride, but these sailors inherited it. I have no more room and will finish in my next. Write as often as possible -- every fortnight and believe me, dear Anne
Ever your affectionate brother
Mr W. Murray
27 Brighton St.
Take care to address no more letters under the name of Thurtell.