1843-5: Archibald Inglis to Catherine Swan

How Archibald Inglis might have looked

How Archibald might have looked

These two letters were written by Archibald Inglis (1815-1859), the son of Rev. David Inglis (1777-1842) and Catherine Archibald (1788-1833) of Greenlaw, Scotland. Archibald came to the United States in 1835, arriving aboard the ship Camillus. Passenger records state Archibald’s occupation as “joiner.” Archibald mentions several siblings: Richard Inglis (1821-1874), a physician in Detroit; Margaret Inglis (1810-1847) who we learn from the letter was married 14 January 1845 to Ebenezer Anderson (1793-1874); and Rev. David Inglis (1824-1877), a pastor of the Scotch Presbyterian Church at the northeast corner of Bates and Farmer Streets in Detroit.

Archibald wrote the letter to Catherine Swan, the daughter of William Swan of Queen Anne Street, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Catherine married William Gilchrist from Tecumseh, Michigan, in Dumfermline on 3 February 1846.

A family genealogical record says of Archibald Inglis: “He was the black sheep of the famiy and never stayed in one place too long. He died at age 46 on his way to the Pike’s Peak gold rush in Colorado. Never married.”

Addressed to Miss Catherine Swan, Mr. Wm. Swan, Manufacturer, Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland

Tecumseh, Lenawee County [Michigan]
August 27, 1843

My Dearest Catherine,

After having tired out the good nature of our good-natured Post Man & raised the curiosity of all my curious friends, your letter came at last & I have been luxuriating over it ever since. I return you my very best thanks for the promptitude you answered my last & cannot but blame myself for not writing back to you with the next post but the truth is I have been giving your letter as many readings as ever critic gave Shakespeare or connoisseur Raphael’s Cartoon & for the last two weeks I have been running all over the state & have just got back today to my old man & friend Mr. Wright, so I leave it to your forgiving mind to excuse me.

You have been ill & all my day dreams about you have been false. From the tenor of your letter I think you are worse than you told me for although you tried to write cheerily, I can’t but think that it was a forced attempt to save me a disagreeable pang & although my thinking so only endears you the more to me, yet I beg of you always to tell me the worst. I could bear a great evil a certainty better than the tearing creations of my own mind about anything connected with one so very dear to me. You say it is just a cold. Well then, I know that a cold as severe as yours must be is one of the most dangerous complaints for you say that you was not able to go to Mr. Haxton’s examination just next door & that from weakness. I cannot tell you what phantoms I have conjured up about your illness but I always fondly hope that long ‘ere this, your smile may be as happy & your step as buoyant as they were wont to be.

1836 Engraving of Dunferline

1836 Engraving of Dunfermline, Scotland

You say that Dunfermline is a dull place & that excepting the abby, there is nothing worth looking at. Now excuse me, but I do think it is one of the very nicest towns — just big enough to be a comfortable town & small enough not to be a jammed city. And although I saw in winter, yet I think the situation is splendid. The last time I saw it was from the road that day I walked from Stirling, & I thought I never had seen a situation so pretty. I therefore conclude that you are very unwell & low-spirited. I hope I may have been brought to my conclusions from false premises but I am afraid not. However, I shall live in hope until I hear from you again.

Now, dear Catherine, don’t think that this page is full of scolding; it is far from that. But I have felt so sorry about your illness that I don’t know what to write about it.

I was very sorry to hear of the death of your nephew & the illness of your niece. I hope that she is quite recovered now. Their Father & Mother must have felt very much. I think it is the first death they have had & I suppose parents can only tell the bitterness of the trial to part with their best beloved. Remember me kindly to them. Your Father would feel it much also. You say he is very dull. Well I sometimes think that these causes may tend to keep you in low spirits independent of your illness. I know that your heart is made to feel another woe. It is good for those who can. It helps to loosen our tie on the world, breaks down our selfishness, & makes us better citizens of the world & members of the human family.

I was happy to know that Mrs. Beuge was recovering although I thought that she would have been strong & well long ‘ere that time. I hope the summer months will have completely restored her health & old Mrs. Beuge is gone. What changes a winter will make among some circles. I have seen families that for years & years remained unbroken & prosperous [and] in a few months almost crushed. Did you never wonder that these things occurring so often, we should still act as if these frail bodies were immortal at best. A very few years will see us all in the churchyard & in a few years more, how very seldom will so much as our names ever be spoken. Those very dear friends who will speak of us will do so in sorry & the thought is none of the most pleasant that our best friends will be unhappy. But I think this letter will not be apt to raise your spirits. The fact is, I am rather dull myself on many accounts & I can’t think of anything funny to tell you. But I will fall back to your letter & answer it out.

You say that that my journal gave you pleasure. I am happy at it for I think it must have been a horrid scrawl. I have wrote you three sheets about the Indians & one or two about something else. These you will get by Mr. Birrell who along with my sister & family go to Scotland this fall. I have an old tomahawk that I will send if he will take it although as he & I are never on the very best terms he may refuse. But this betwixt you & I, of course.

You write of my losses & of being captivated & minding your livery. Now tell me dear Catherine, if you did not think when you wrote that that you was jeering or tearing me too much. But I know your kindness & you would not have said so if you had thought of inflicting the least pain. You say that you agree with what I said in my former letter but you say that it is right to cut asunder ties when honor stands in the way, Now I would be very explicit about that. I say that my probable poverty was the only thing that prevented me from suing for your hand. I have not now & never had in my life any engagement with any lady. It is bitter enough to think that a number of the best years of my life had been spent in comparative idleness — or rather carelessness — before knowing that it was worth exerting my mind for anyone, but don’t as you ever loved or esteemed me, tear me upon that subject. But I am sorry to think that I am probably going too far on this subject at present but can’t help it & you will pardon me.

It is time to tell you something of my movements. Well I leave in a week or two for New Orleans. I should have preferred being in Albany next winter but circumstances happened which prevented me going there. I have got all my business here settled up. I would leave at once only I want the yellow fever season to be over before I get there. I had a letter from Mr. Black a few weeks ago. Your friends there were all well. I am very sanguine in my expectations about New Orleans. I like a warm climate & if my health keeps good, I expect soon to lay the foundation of a competence. If the climate does not agree with me, why then I will just leave it for another. I think you will believe me when I say that wherever I am, you will have the chief place in my heart. I don’t intend that my going there will prevent me being in Scotland in two years. You will see me like the wife’s bad bawbee aye turn up. However, I will likely be of the make & color of my good friend Bob Ra___ben. I retu____ you giv___ a thing possible that Miss Westwater went to the barber just where she ought to go. Please tell Mr. A. Ross & Miss that in your Father’s letter I said that I am not yet turned into a raccoon or an wolf but probably I may be a Mississippi Alligator soon. I hope the young lady he visited at twelve o’clock on Saturday night is well but he won’t get me there again. But my dearest Catherine, my jokes are very poor ones tonight so I will drop them.

I feel anxious about many things. I am anxious about your health & anxious to get to my new home, & the next two years will be all anxiety to get to Scotland. But then I hope to be repaid by seeing you, my very dearest and kindest friend. I will write to you after I get to New Orleans. I hope you will answer my letter at once. You say you would like to hear me laugh as hearty as I used to do. Well wait till I get there & I will give you enough of it. I am pleased & proud that you thought so much of the broach. I have got your hair plaited & wear it constantly & as with you, so with me. Many surmises have been broached about the original — more since your letter was seen in the post office with the Dumfernline post mark. But I never mind that now, my dearest Catherine. I know you won’t forget me in my wanderings. I often pray my God for your welfare & I hope He may ever protect you. Believe me, my very dearest Catherine, yours ever ever, — Archibald Inglis

August 28. Mr. Birrell has just got a letter from Mr. Black. No news but all well. Farewell again dearest. — A. Inglis

P. S. I have given you no American news. The papers you will get by Mr. Birrell will inform you of some & probably you will get them wholesale or some queer way from him as he intends making a dash. Remember very kindly to your Father & your good Mother & all the rest of your friends & don’t forget Mr. Sclavan. How I would like to see the sketch. — A. Inglis

Addressed to Miss Catherine Swan, Mr. William Swan, Manufacturer, Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland

Detroit [Michigan]
January 26, 1845

My dearest Catherine,

I received your very kind letter (too kind) just two weeks ago. You will say that I am very careless not to have answered it before now but I was unwilling to do so as I could not muster up courage to say what I knew to be just to say I was in hopes my brother David would write but he has declined doing so on account of the message I wished to send & after all it is better to do so myself. Mrs. Anderson intends writing soon but as she is now another than sister Magg I suppose it ain’t according to rule to ask her to write secret. You are the first & only one that I have ever loved. How well & strongly I have done so & still do. Would be wrong to tell but in bidding you farewell it is best I should do so myself. The task is a hard one to hurt my very soul’s idol from my soul and affections but as it must be done the sooner the better.

After having looked into the business established by Richard very closely both as it is at present & the prospects for the future, I see nothing to warrant the least hope of it being enough to support us both & the business interest being wholly his own, it is only honorable that I should decline all connection with it that he from the goodness of his heart should not suffer from being hampered. I have therefore the world to begin perfectly new. I am not on such good ground as I was ten years ago & I am ten years older with a constitution certainly not improved by that horrid Yellow Fever. These being the circumstances in which I am placed I hold that it would be monstrous ingratitude & injustice to one so good & kind not to tell you of them. Catherine, had you been less good & less kind, I would not have suffered so much tonight but I deserve it all.

I have committed two grand mistakes in my life. The first was in spreading some seven or eight years as if I lived in a world alone. I had no duties devolving upon me to my fellow creatures. I found I had neglected the culture of mind in youth and my pride was hurt when in company I was more ignorant than anyone, so contend with a bare subsistence I applied myself to my books. After I knew you, I committed the second mistake or wrong. I ought to have left your house long before I did & never have spoken to you as I did. That stay & these words are the happiest incidents in my life which augments my sorry that a real happy spot to look back to should only have been caused or at least mixed up with the only willing deceitfulness & ungentlemanliness of my life. I am unable to atone for the baseness of drinking the happy draught & of not revealing to you my poor circumstances.

Had you been one with less good, I might have thought that the sense of the wrong I have done might cause you to forget me easy & at once. I cannot mistake your own words not to know that it will take an effort for you to do so, You will do so by an exercise of your mind & young & beloved & pure as you are I cannot but think that you soon only remember me as an old acquaintance.

You will excuse me speaking very plainly but having been ___ing in frankness at the beginning & not having been too explicit after, I cannot think of closing our correspondence without writing as I think. You say in one of your letters that we may correspond if only as friends. The favor & kindness of the offer I duly appreciate. Had I loved you less, I would have been happy & proud to have acted upon it. As it is, I should find it impossible & although the doing or not doing so makes no difference in my feelings, yet it would be unjust to you. I mean to say that it is from no change of feeling that I refuse to write as far as one can know their own heart & mind. Concerning the future, there can be no change in me. As for your success, happiness, & prosperity through life, I shall always rejoice in & I won’t be so long or far from some of the world as to prevent me hearing of occasionally. May the great fountain of all success & happiness shower down his richest blessings on you.

Now dearest Catherine, think of me only as the same to you as any of the world. You have already sacrificed too much feeling & interest to me. You have a mind strong & well trained. Then, without delay, exercise it. You have the greatest temporal blessing — a pure conscience — & why should you not be happy. It would be ridiculous for me to pretend that this letter won’t pain you after what has passed between us. May I hope that pain will be short lived that it should be at all distresses me the more, but recollect that all your friends are interested in your happiness & none more so than myself.

I have long anxiously hoped that I might see some period not far distant where I could have proposed or written intercourse to have terminated in a far happier manner & have been together where there was no need of writing, but on many accounts now, I can’t form any opinion on the subject. It is therefore right that we should both know this & act accordingly.

I now answer some questions you ask me in your last letter to me but first let me say how much pleased I was to hear of Miss Swan’s marriage with my old friend Mr. Parker. Miss Swan is certainly a superior girl & well deserves a good husband. And Mr. Parker & his family are so interwoven with all my remembrances of youth that although I have not had the good fortune to meet any of them for some years, I readily could not think any ill of them if sworn to on the bible. But I am happy that nothing of the kind could ever be mooted. I have always know of their where & what abouts & have invariably been pleased with the accounts. I don’t wonder at you being pleased with John in the words of [William] Cowper, “he is an honest man, close buttoned to the chin, broadcloth without & warm heart within.” I feel pleased that my old friend is to have a wife every way worthy of him. I should be pleased to have my congratulations offered to both & if I darst ask you thy kind remembrances to Miss Parker & Miss Agnes.

You ask me to tell you what I am about. You will be able to guess what I am doing now. What I will do, I don’t know. Yet I am almost quite recovered & will conclude to do something soon. Margaret was married the 14th of this month. She had been very sick before which delayed the event but she is now quite well. David has got the Scotch Church in this city & is succeeding very well. James is getting on well. David asks me to say that he will write to you soon. Mrs. Birrell had a daughter on the 10th. They are all very well. I see them sometimes. Mrs. Anderson is writing, I believe, to Mrs. Black tonight. I heard her say that she would write to you soon. Richard, David & I stop with her.

It has taken no small effort for me to write this letter. It is so different from my feelings that it must appear wrote in a very different style than ever I have wrote to you but had I not forced myself to say plainly what I had truly to say, I could not have done so at all. I feel the necessity of losing my only beloved one more than I dare tell but above all I feel for any uneasiness this letter may give you. Since I began to write, I have more than once indulged in dreams of coming bliss & happiness with you but the solid truth has urged me on to write what I have written. Pray forgive me for cosign your tracks & darkening your happiness ever for one moment.

Yours as ever, — Archibald Inglis

P. S. It would oblige me very much if you thought it right to remember me most kindly to your Father & Mother & Mr. James & his family.

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