Yesterday was the national holiday, la fête nationale, of the 14th of July, or Quatorze juillet, which English speakers like to call "Bastille Day". It is a summer's day of picnics and parades, the Marseillaise and fireworks. It is also a day of book fairs and flea markets, both of which we are quite fond. It is at these that we have found so many wonderful examples of documents to be able to exhibit for you here. On occasion, we also find letters home from those who have emigrated from France, such as this.
It had no envelope but was folded, addressed and sealed.
It was written on the 16th of July 1827 and postmarked in September, from New Orleans. The writer, a Madame Porter, addresses her cousin, Madame Darius, in Toulouse, whose letter she had just received. It is not an exciting letter, Dear Readers, and it is filled with grammatical and spelling imperfections, but it is intriguing nevertheless.
Madame Porter had made a visit to Paris and writes that she had found her native country to be sad and dull outside of that beautiful city (a comment such as that leads one to suspect she could only have been a Parisian). She tells of how she wept that she had not been able to go to Toulouse to see her cousin. She had travelled to France without her children and she writes of her joyous reunion with them on her return to New Orleans. That return voyage had been becalmed for two weeks in insufferable heat off Saint Domingue, during which time there had been a case or two of yellow fever aboard and a sailor had died. Most accommodatingly, Madame Porter gives the name of her vessel when she mentions the sailor's death, the Nestor, and so, we can find her arrival in the "New Orleans, Passenger List Quarterly Abstracts, 1820-1875", on the 22nd of June 1827, where she is listed as "Madame Widow Porter", aged thirty-nine.
There was only this one letter from Madame Porter in a basket of old papers. Did her cousin, Madame Darius, save many and they were lost or does this one hold some mysterious significance we will never understand? Perhaps one of you, Dear Readers, may be a descendant of either of these ladies and can tell her story.
©2019 Anne Morddel