Letter - November 1, 1858  

This letter has the feel of a social responsibility and, as William Slater has been living in reading for over a year now, the novelty presumably has worn off and he is updating his brother on the small but illuminating incidents in his domestic life. Speaks with enthusiasm of Reading Dr.LIvingston's book about exploring in Africa.

Readers will find that William Slater wrote with very little attention to using commas or full stops/periods. Here we kept the words and spellings but have often spaced the words to indicate what we believe are really intended to be separate sentences. We also add paragraphs hoping it may speed comprehension. The original form of the letter can of course be seen in its entirety in the scanned copies.

Reading Pennsylvania Nov 1st. 1858

My dear Brother John,

I'm writing to you this time I can't say that I am answering your letter exactly but "never heed" I suppose you've been very busy and they did not want to keep me waiting any longer "better luck next time" I suppose you will squeeze me one in the next and let me in to a thing Johny Craps. Have you read Dr Livingstone's work if you haven't I'm ahead of you for I've nearly got through it, it is very interesting and some places rather witty and droll, In one place he speaks of seeing a Rhinoceros sauntering along and looked as if he meditated taking a mud bath, he says that to talk about the majestic roar of the Lion is mere majestic twaddle he says he can't tell the difference between the Lion's roar and that of the Ostrich only the Ostrich roar by day and the lion by night. The ostrich is generally seen quietly feeding on some spot where no one can approach him without being detected by his wary eye As the wagon moves along far to to windward, he thinks it is intending to circumvent him, so he rushes up a mile or so from the leeward and so near the front of the oxen that one sometimes gets a shot at the silly bird" he says, I have seen this folly taken advantage of when he was quietly feeding in a valley open at both ends, A number of men would commence running, as if to cut of his retreat from the end through which the wind came; and although he had the whole country hundreds of miles before him by going to the other end, as he madly rushed to get past the men, and so was speared. The flesh is white and coarse, though when in good condition, it resembles in some degree that of a tough turkey
"Some of the natives knock out their upper front teeth to improve their personal appearance" you see what pride will make some people suffer to be in fashion I should think it rather hardish cheese while it lasted? In speaking about the women he says the sight of a white man always infuses a tremor into their dark boosoms (i.e. the first time they've seen one) and in every case of the kind they appear immensely relieved when I had fairly passed them without having sprung upon them. In the villages the dogs run away with their tails between their legs as if they had seen a lion. The women peer from behind the walls till he comes near them and then hastily dash into the house

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"When a little child unconscious of danger meets you in the street he sets up a scream at the apparition and conveys the impression that he is not far from going into fits. Among the Bachuanes I have been obliged to reprove the women for making a hobgoblin of the white man and telling their children that they would send for him to bite them. Perhaps you have read it all yourself and won't thank me for my bits so I may as well change the subject by telling you what I've been doing this last day or two,

Yesterday Grainger & I formed off 3 strands an eight & 1/2 Manilla rope the strands were 90 threads each, to day we made it with the help of two more men and two lads, I suppose it would have taken 20 men at the least to have put it together as round as we did there would have been plenty of hurahing and "now your hook" and such like. It took 3 of us to shift them when hard after the top was started one fellow had to pull the bearers out as the jack came in & a lad pull'd bearers out before the top and I put them in after and rode on the top carriage, It has been very wet all day and I had a "moorish walk" as Sam Wood says but when I did get in the supper made up for all, I'll just tell you what I had, some very good orthodox tea with some nice hot stuffed meal bread & butter & pazzaries & cheesecake that's the sort of stuff to put a fellow into a good humor "my harty" I had a letter from John Watson a week or two ago they were all quite well he said Aunt W. was quite well and often talked about her dear sister and all her friends John said he should lie to hear of his friends at Kirkby Woodhouse you might write them if you can't go and tell them that Watsons are all well and that they are anxious to hear from them tell them they must write to you immediately or else they will be a month or two their name is Smith. I was surprised last night to receive another letter and on reading found it to be the one I walked so many miles for in vain, I am glad it came to hand at last. I see by it that Father has been to Kirkby so I can tell John Watson Mr Leighton's is a very nice letter and so are the others Mary said something about one from Anna P and Jim Barton if you have them you can send them when you write again. If this last letter had been a day or two later I should have sent this one off before receiving it but as it is, all is right so now I shall look them over again and try to fill this sheet somehow or other. Next time you write send me word how they are going on at Marlpool wether they got a Minister yet or not. And if any of you write to Mr Leighton tell him I got his letter after it had traveled over 10,000 miles and am very much obliged to him for it and I wish to be kindly remembered to him and Mrs L and family. Union prayer meetings are held in Reading daily in the afternoon one day and in the evening next. It is not very difficult to tell a Methodist from the others. Eli Coates or Harry Turton would be able to hear some of them I heard a person remark that the Methodist prayed now with the spirit than the others and another remarked that they certainly did pray more with their bodies than some others

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I see in your letter dated January 12/58 you ask me if the face of the country is anything like what it is in England to which I reply, no. when you are out either riding or walking you don't see any hedges it is all post and rail fence or else what it is called a worm fence hand i.e. rails laid in the zigzag from one on another at the ends 7 or 8 in height they make a pretty good fence but wane? considerable ground and rig into a pretty considerable quantity of rails, In Pennsylvania most of the farms that I've seen (and I've seen a good many) are fenced with this worm fence it is less trouble & they don't go in for much trouble if they can do without it I should think digging post holes all round a big farm would make the back ache as bad as Father's? when he was "tigging"for the man that was talking underground. John Watson's farm is something like our England farm the fields are all laid out in ridge and furrow and round the orchard and stack yard there is a thorn fence, so if he ever happens to have a horse that will not work well he could get a "tharns" of atheg? and schee if that did him only good. (Dialect?) punctuation and and commencing fresh sentence with a capital I was not altogether ignorant of it although I did not always do it, You will perhaps say it is worse to know it and not doubt, than to doubt and not know it. But as T. Palethorpe says we do what we should not and leave undone what we should and there is no help in us. I wonder wether he thought there was any help in him when he walked to help every body to a belly full of fish instead of beef. I have not spoken to Mr Richards the Presbyterian Minister yet he is a very good preacher I should think the best in town, it is as old Harry Lilley says if you go into a ? you may expect to hear good preaching. It is the same in this country by the Presbiterians. We don't have what is called congregational singing sometimes hardly any body sings but the choir and that I don't like myself neither do I let them have it all to themselves if it's a tune I know anything about. We very often have some to two of Mr Watts psalms in morning and very often the hymns one morning he gave out Great God attend & I was getting myself ready for Milton but it was no go All set to sinfulness they sng the doxology with the last hymn then all rise

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We have had a deal weather here this last day or two if having rain from morning to night and from night to next morning is anything It is what MR Day would call "verywetandslobbery" but I hope it will clear up into the end else it will be a long wet fir.

How do you get along with the Riddings folks. Can you drive anything into ?Crancinus of those under your charge. Is old Harry Evans still in his breaches and has Luke got the hack on as usu and does that fellow yet still continue to call in Mr Colledge begging of him to pay his church rate. When you write again you must enter into particulars and me whether the old pump handle syaill retains the lustrous polish. It strikes me with about the force of a sledge hammer that I have not much more to say having pretty nigh emptied my budget inside out

I suppose jf you were in my place you would often be at the piano. There is beautiful instrument in the parlour and Miss Tilly wishes I would learn to play If Edward was here all the time, I should probably try my hand he is very fond of music when I have been singing with him sometime, I did not exactly hit the note pumb and he would give two or three sharp raps with his finger also I would know.

Wish you all could have an interview with him. I know you would soon become very fond of him. He is invariably in a good humour and very often either singing or whistling, and when he does talk he is pretty clear in his ideas if he is not very quick giving utterance to some words.

I (have) your letter that has crossed the Atlantic three times I see a piece of advice viz that I should take care to have a pair of good boots in wet weather. I have been thinking seriously of buying a pair of good strong ones for winter. It is fashionable here in wet weather to shove the past inside the boots and I think it is a good fashion and one that I shall follow. Almost everybody wears long boot here and when there is snow about in winter they wear indian rubber boots upper the knees They cost about $5 per pair

Next time you send a newspaper direct it for me and let us serif it will come you may as well post me one when you get this letter and then I suppose if alls well I must write again before you write to me but you must not expect such a very extraordinary long letter. When they make you any more shirts tell them to machete possums just as long again and collars look very nice with two rows of backstitching

(This text is cross stitched)
Dr Livingston says Pedestrians may be all very well for those whose obesity requires much exercise. but for one who was becoming as thin as a lath (nailed together) through the constant preparation caused by marching day after day in the hot sun, the only good I saw in it was that it gave an honest sort of man a vivid idea of the bread mill.

(This text is also cross stitched)
I have filled this sheet with one thing or another so I suppose you will not find much fault hoping will find you well will conclude with very best love and I am your affectionate Brother

William Slater


A rather difficult letter to read. Also there is sense that he is writing out of a social expectation rather then he is eager to share news.

P2 The reference to Grainger is the name of the man who Thomas Jackson had taken over from England and was a long faithful employee over many years in Reading

P3 the reference to doxology turns out to be "a liturgical formula of praise to God."

P4 As it happens his ramblings about protective winter clothing may turn out to be historically interesting.

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