This is a partial letter written by my 3x great-grandmother Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks to her cousin Mary Martha Fairbanks Twining. In the letter, presumably written in the Summer of 1855, Jane discusses sewing and missing home.
To my great surprise and delight, Jane also mentions having “Dr. & Mrs. Forrest” to tea. This would be Dr. Alexander Forrest and his wife Barbara Ross MacKenzie, who were also my 3x great-grandparents. Jane’s daughter Annie would marry their son John Forrest in 1871, but in 1855 the Forrest family was living in Lunenburg along with the Duff family. Fifteen years before they were married, the parents of my great-great-grandparents were friends. It’s just a lovely discovery.
This is another letter where Jane employs the “cross-writing” style (known under many other names) on two pages. Apparently, this style became popular in Britain to save money on postage. Once you get used to it it’s not hugely more difficult to read than the normal style, but sometimes there are places that are still challenging to transcribe.
[Transcription follows. Click on images to enlarge or download. Letters courtesy of Catherine Duff and Family.]
== Page 1
it is loose ‘round the waist for her now as I think she is thinner since the warm weather. Your kind offer of sewing dear Mary I mean to accept, although I am sure notwithstanding your occupations are different from ours that your time must be much taken up. There are so many things occurring where you are to interfere with sewing that I should think you could not get through much particularly during the summer. However I will not refuse such a good offer and am going to ask you to make baby her frocks. She
== Page 2
always wears coloured as she sits too much upon the floor to agree with white clothes. I must ask you to purchase sufficient cambric and materials for us and make them up in any way you like. I was looking for one to send but can find none that fit excepting those she is wearing, but I daresay you could judge or Kate could supply you with something. She was a year old on Saturday and although quite fat is short and small for that age. Get any colour you like for her frocks and if they don’t really fit I can easily alter them. The sewing work is a great boon. I was
== Page 3 [Sideways]
just thinking how I could manage to make them. I will ask Mr Duff to have the parcel-box sent to you when he arrives and if it could be sent to Bauld and Gibson on Thursday coming he would get it in the morning. Whatever extra charge there is for the bonnet and whatever you spend for the other things if you do not see Mr Duff please send the account. How much I would like if it were in my power to see you all this summer. But the more I think about it the greater seems
== Page 4 [Sideways]
the impossibility of leaving home. Your letters give me a good deal of information about our friends that I do not hear from other sources. I am always so glad to get them. I am writing in great haste as I am expecting Dr. & Mrs. Forrest [Dr. Alexander Forrest and his wife Barbara Ross MacKenzie] to tea and they will be here immediately but I know you will sense both under the circumstances. You must give much love to Martha, your mother, and Annie, I am, grieved to hear Isabel [likely Mary’s sister Isabella May Fairbanks] is so poorly.
love dear Mary, your affectionate,
Jane E. Duff