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Monday, November 3, 2014

Manuscript Monday—Gold Rush correspondence, Part 5: "I some time feel like death being so long from my family and home"

When reading Gold Rush correspondence (and nineteenth-century correspondence in general), I am often struck by the tenderness with which men, battered by hard lives, expressed their most intimate emotions and affections. (Similarly, an easy, unselfconscious physical affection between men is often seen in nineteenth-century portrait photography.) The letter below, written by Thurstin Baxter to his wife and children, is a moving example of this epistolary openheartedness. Scrawled on a pictorial lettersheet, fragile, stained, and folded, the manuscript is a beautiful object in its own right.

Thurstin Baxter letter: El Dorado County, Calif., to his wife and children, 1852 April 11, Vault MS 165, California Historical Society
Clint Thorners and Pool are expecting to start in May but when I shall come home I know not but if we should have the good luck to dispose of our property here to advantage California will not keep us many weeks longer, if otherwise then we shall have to stay longer. I some time feel like death being so long from my family and home and think I will start forthwith to see them, then again I look at my purse and see that that's not big enough to pay up all my debt and so conclude to stay a little longer. It seems to me that if I should come home and still be in debt that I should want to come back again and if I should I should want you and the children to come too and that perhaps would not be for the best, so I shall do the best I can and come home as soon as I can. I hope that you will not lack for anything of the necessary comforts of life, so I close by saying that I am and still shall be while life remains, your affectionate husband.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian

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