Letters  from the Past

“B Macpherson of Plymouth
to Lt. Col. Macpherson Late of 78th Foot, 1831”.

This is the third of our six Macpherson letters, and is another crossed letter. It is from 26 Portland Square Plymouth dated 12th May 1831, addressed to
Lieut Col D MacPherson,
Late 78th Foot,
Bder General etc
London

The last two lines have been crossed out, but no re-direction put in their place. The charge mark of 11 has also been crossed out and not replaced. The postmarks are two circular date stamps, the first for where it was lodged, Plymouth MA 12 1831 and the second when it was received in London, a morning duty stamp in red ink 14 MY 1831. The letter has been sealed with a red sealing wax blob, not a personalised seal.


I have been unable to find out why the address and charge mark were crossed out and not replaced with something else, but one suggestion is that that letter may have been delivered to Brigade Headquarters, so an address was not needed. This does not explain the charge mark.

Like the first of these Macpherson letters it is crossed on the main two sides of the letter and also on one of the ‘wings’ and it needed careful work to transcribe it. On the first page of the letter is quite hard to read the initial writing, as when the letter was turned to ‘cross’ the lines, the ink on the crossed writing is much darker. It begins with no salutation, and the second line is pretty much illegible. I have put queries in brackets where the words are difficult to decipher. After this it is much easier…

26 Portland Square Plymouth
I have this morning had the pleasing information that you had actually sailed from the land of cakes. The glad tidings cheers my heart and to add to the comfort I have had a long & pleasing letter from James dated in December. This intelligence gives me pleasure & the perusal of the letter still more when we have the happiness of seeing you. The last letter to Ardersier would reach on the day you left which was just too late to inform Sophie and you of the kind and hospitable invitation given by Mrs Mackintosh of Bloomsbury Sq that you should take yourselves to stand in her splendid mansion, an offer which I feel convinced Sophie will not reject. On receipt of this Sophie can let Mrs M know of her being in Town since the horse will be with her of course. You will be her conductor and on passing some day enquire for your amiable friend Miss Maria Tressiger... This is by the bye & you can tell her that Major Douglass is making rolls of money and so big that he will soon be as tall

...End of first page.. The letter continues on the inside left first writing before being crossed later.
tall as she is. In my letter to Ardersier (which they may perhaps forward,) I mentioned that Dr. Cookson thought Mary Anne should accept her grandmothers invitation, and he is also of opinion that the change would restore her to health. If you approve she could get a good body to take charge of her and place her in the house of the hospitable Mrs M who said she would like Sophie to receive her when you could get some friend to escort her to Inverness. Let me know as soon as you can what you think of the matter. I have no wish to send our dear Sophie from me but riding and [walks?] at Ardersier would be of such benefit that I believe it would be best to let her go if you approve. [-----? -----?] invitation to her but unless she had more strength she would not do for such a climate. The [Henrys?][and?]their mothers are very well and so happy at the idea of being the Mother, that the old Mother...

end of that first writing, continues on the inside right page

.../Mother seems to tread on air. Herbert says he will be very happy. Col. McGregor called here today and says I ought not to part from you again, if you had been on the spot you might have had a chance of succeeding the old Barrack Master at Devonport, a forlorn hope that would be, but I do think that if your friend Comdr McDonald had a mind to do you a kindness, he could get some little place for you, do they [he..?] (hole in the paper) my dear husband as he has the power.

The McKays have gone by Liverpool, but the Major & his wife regretted leaving Devonshire. He is much changed since you saw him, however I trust the journey may be of use to him. The Gilliverays leave this tomorrow for Chatham, we shall miss them, even tho we are to have Miss TAYLOR[?]in one of McLeod’s houses. She will not be able to assist Eneas with his Greek which he is poring now by me at this moment. The three young gentlemen and Capt Bremer with his four daughters, Miss McG & the son of Cap Dickinson had tea here, Major has called since, in short you...

(end of that page, the writer then goes back to the first page and crosses what has been written there already..)

...you cannot think how gay we are. On Saturday week Mrs Forsyte[?] comes here for the fair [----?] when I hope you will see her. Mrs McDougal you can see about one of locks at Mr Long’s any day. We have [debts?] of letters from Frances, two days ago, all impatience to see us, so Mrs McGregor says. Dear friend, I wish you could gratify her by a good account of her absent children – I mean to write to you by my friend Mr King on Tuesday and send the two bales...
(The letter is then opened and the writer continues to cross the page of what was already written, but unfortunately I cannot decipher all of the first line, as the ink has faded, and some has come through from the previous page. So the best I can do with the first line is this..)

Ceylon or for new (?) if I hear from you I shall then say more about money. You will see that I had fifty pounds which I drew on receipt of your last most agreeable letter tho it contained a scold for not writing. I only remained silent because no one would pity me by writing what is in the past now and I shall find I [ ..?] no more, I hope and wish.

Mr Falconer hopes you will call at Miss McPhersons & explain to her that it is not thought by her medical attendant that she ever can return to London. I hope you will get her trunks sent down with your...

(End of that page, but this writing continues straight down the rest of the page)

..your own, poor Lassie she continues very retired and so anxious about John tho she does not learn any thing of them . My paper is so bad I cannot go on.

the writing stops there, but continues on the outside of the letter, using the top ‘wing’.


Mr Currie will tell you about the Box from Ceylon which I expected here last Mon. The Pine Tops I wrote Mr Welken about.

I hope you may see Mrs Pierson, Good night with tender love from all
I am yours as ever B. Macpherson.

That is the end of his wife’s letter, but the final paragraph ends crossed over the other writing, has been continued by his daughter, that last sentence is this

You will think me foolish my dear father but I felt a strong temptation to take my mother’s letter out of her hands as she was folding it up be it only to say how rejoiced we were to know that you and Aunt Sophie are on your way to join us and having said that I had better conclude for you do not like [hoping?]
Therefore I will only add my earnest prayers that God may bless you
Your affectionate and dutiful M. McPherson.


The illustrations show the difficulty which arises with these crossed letters in the 21st century. When they received them nearly 200 years ago, it would have been more common, so they would have had more practice in reading the crossed lines.

Some letters are easier than others, but it depends on so many other factors, like the size of the writing, the quality of the paper and the ink, and whether there are a lot of family names included. However, a letter like this shows that the families did keep in touch, and how letter writing was so much more a part of their lives.


For the first letter in this series, 1812 click here

For the second letter 1831 click here

For the fourth letter 1833 click here

For the fifth letter 1834 click here

For the last letter 1835 click here

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