The letters were written to Dr. George Willing Clymer (1804-1881) — an Army Surgeon on a two-year tour-of-duty aboard the U.S.S. St. Lawrence. They were written by members of his family; his mother, Mary (Willing) Clymer (1769-1852), his sister, Mary Willing Clymer (1808-1893), and Thomas Willing Clymer (1802-1872).
Dr. Clymer was married to Mary Shubrick (1819-1902), the daughter of Rear Admiral William Branford Shubrick and Harriet Cordelia Wethered. The child referred to as “my little namesake” by Dr. Clymer’s mother was George and Mary’s firstborn, Mary Willing Clymer, born 20 May 1848. Clymer eventually became the Medical Director of the U.S. Navy and rose to the rank of Commodore.
Addressed to Dr. George Clymer, Surgeon U. S. Ship St. Lawrence, Messrs. Baring Bros. & Co., London
My dear brothers letter to Mother came on the 27th March from New York. I have acknowledged all your previous ones and have written you three since the letter you acknowledge of the 22nd January, viz: on the 19th February and 19th March — the last directed care of Consul Crosby by way of change & experiment. Mother seems better of her cough since the rum & milk have been used but whether is a good thing for her to cough less is another matter. The absence of so much coughing is a great relief but how it will affect her health remains to be seen. The Peters will break up in a fortnight or less. They will be comfortably fixed near Germantown in a rented house & John must ride in to his business. If course, E. will be much alone…
The South Trenton [Episcopal] Church (St. Paul’s) was opened about 3 weeks ago. It is to be consecrated on the 9th April. The Rev. Benjamin Franklin is about 30 years old. He does not read very well but gives a good sermon & seems to be very devout. The congregation is to be “dug out” and he must work to accomplish it. The church is a nice one & they will have an organ as soon as they can. Wm. purchased one of two large pews & the Pearson’s may take another . The other pews are for 4 & 5 persons and at various prices. They are to be rented in a few days. Annie Clarke & I selected one this morning for us. I hope Mr. Franklin will succeed but his hearers are very slim. Mrs. C. was well cared for, & the little Edward weighed 9¼ lbs. She never forgets love to you, nor does Louci who is coming up for the Easter holidays. Bishop [William Croswell] Doane has failed for a large ___.
…not altogether miss of her acquaintance. As to myself, I am not only intimate with him, but have partaken freely of his hospitality. I am moreover a patient of Dr. Hamilton’s so far as to have received a prescription from him, of which I have postponed the experiment, only because I am in the hands of another Homeopathic practitioner of Philadelphia was was originally from Berlin. These causes in regard to Mr. Maurey make it desirable that he should not know of your continued stay in London & further desirable on an opportunity occurring again that it may not be lost. Mr. Maurey said Lord Brougham lived opposite to his family. Dr. Purey married his first cousin. I know you have little inclination to make acquaintance where you can get along without it. I suppose, however, you may have gone so far as to renew an acquaintance with your former secretary & the present minister, Mr. [George] Bancroft, though you might not care to aim so high as to recall yourself to Mr. Pakenham. As he forgot the promised autograph, he might not know you in a strange land & hedged in with aristocracy; though republicanism now a days seems at a greater premium of the two, even in Europe.
Talking of this reminds me that I read last evening in the New York Herald an infamous manifesto put forth by an association of Germans in Philadelphia offering bounties for the assassination of certain of crowned heads in Europe. Whether such a thing could not be made cause of complain by the ministers of those courts _____ in this country and perhaps of punishment, or whether it would be work which to notice the miscreants, I know know. I have been reminded also of autographs. If you can come across any that are really worth having, do not pass them by, though I have taken no pains myself to add to my collection for a long time. One of Humboldt, for instance, would be worth having, if not already secured, or too late.
You noticed the trial for a divorce between Butler & his wife.¹ She is now making a stir by her Shakespeare readings. The houses are said to be so crowded as to exclude many every night. The readings were begun in Boston & are now going on in New York. Every other intellectual entertainment, it is said, is considered secondary. I am glad it is so for several reasons.
My own reading lately has been a hasty perusal of [Thomas Babington] Macaulay’s History. I say hasty because other people were waiting for the work, though it belongs to me. If you have not seen it, it is so far as published in two large octavo volumes of six hundred & odd pages, & has excited some attention, over and above what is due to the subject & the manner in which it has been treated by the manner in which it has been got out in this country. The Harpers of New York are the publishers. They agreed with Macaulay to give him four hundred pounds for the two volumes on being allowed to get it out here before it appeared in England, but they have so devoted the orthography by conforming to ______, when Macaulay himself did not, as to call down almost the whole of the newspaper press & to offend the great majority, it is supposed, of reason. They have also called forth a serial publication with the common orthography & at a cheaper rate. The publishing price of this copy is two dollars a volume & there is no fault to be found with the execution except in regard to the spelling theatre & _____ & _____, for example…… — traveler, counsellor, …. malcontent….[examples of English spellings] — all offensive to me & tendency to produce confusion by making me at a loss hereafter. So much has been said that the Publishers, after trying in vain to defend them, have referred the matter, it is said, to Macaulay himself. His style you are acquainted with. It is good with one exception — that it is frequently parenthetical by his not bring together into juxtaposition those members of a sentence which have the nearest relation to each other, when it could be done in all cases to so much more advantage. As the cause, however, in him is not long suspended, the injury is less & would not strike the common reader. If I had the book here, I could give you a sample. Most everybody comments the same mistake, though frequently to a less extent than this popular writer. In this History, he deals the last on all sides, & may not give satisfaction to ultras on any party in politics or religion. The Puritans, Presbyterians, Church man & Catholic, as well as Whig & Tory, all fare roughly. When there is thought to be acc_____, so with individuals, not excepting famed William Penn, who has stood so fair, & here especially in his own commonwealth, Macaulay shows that he did much of James the Second’s dirty work; so much as to make it desirable that there ____ be some mistake, or over coloring.
March 14. Morning.
I f I were at the house, Eliza would probably have a ____, as she wished the other day to know when I was writing; but you must take her salutation for granted. On raising my eyes from the paper, I find it morning, after a day, proceeding it almost like spring — the first that we have had after a severe winter, though not otherwise inclement. What clear skies. I do not so much object to cold & much of this has been the last winter’s climate. As you know, Chief Justice [John Bannister] Gibson, mentioned this morning that he was so ill as to make his recovery doubtful at Carlisle where he lives. As I shall send this to Morristown with a letter to accompany it & yet to write before the mail which is ….
Your attached sister, — Mary Willing Clymer
March 13, 1849
Mother has forwarded to me from Morrisville your letter to me from Lisbon. In some play which I have seen represented one of the characters makes great point of his foreign correspondence. I am so pleased with mine as to set about an acknowledgement without delay., though writing from a place with which never having been here you have nothing in common after you have been told of the welfare of myself and Eliza’s family.
In regard to both, we have not only no reason to complain, but as the world goes, many causes to be thankful. To use your own expression, Mary has probably kept you so well posted up in everything as to forestall me even in this. I will not therefore enter into particulars, and scarcely mention so important an occurrence as the withdrawal of Henry from the family circle to seek his fortune lately in California. Less, however, in the way of gold digging than in the employment permanently as a clerk. He sailed on the 8th by the way of the Isthmus [of Darien]. I have been glad to learn that your cruise has been pleasant; the early part of it especially, & I hope it may continue agreeable to you throughout. I should have been glad to continue to speak of it to Mr. Maurey who looks in upon me everyday & sometimes oftener than once, but the disappointment in London has put an estoppel to any voluntary allusion to the subject. It will be sufficient for me if I can baffle his inquiries induced by himself should anything occur to produce them. He is proud of the intelligence of his sister & wishes very much you should see her & still hopes that you may.
Sunday, April 1st 1849
My Dear George,
Your letter was received too late for the last steamer by which Mary wrote. I hope indeed that this will find you perfectly well and enjoying yourself as well as your absence from those you love will submit of. Your last letter per Liverpool Steamer was sent to your good wife in such a hurry as to escape notice of its date. Mary thinks it was February 15th Cadiz. I am truly grateful for your attention and have only to regret that I could not share in the heavy postage you are obliged to pay.
Perhaps you may remember Mrs. Israel Pemberton Hutchinson ² whose husband was Consul at Lisbon & who in consequence of your connection with her was attentive & civil. I observe by the paper her death mentioned of this day week. She has left several children. Her loss is a severe one to her family.
George, did you know I was a great grandmother? The event that made me so happened on the 24th of this month. Mother & child are both well, so write Mr. Marfarlane. Tis a son as they both wished & is called Edward. Eugenia Hargous who was several weeks in Washington says your good wife looked remarkably well. She also says my little namesake is quite an interesting child. She tries to say papa & mama. She thinks her more of a Clymer than a Shubrick. I have been trying for several mornings a teacup of new milk with a table spoonful of Jamaica rum — which is made of rice, recommended by Mr. Meylert.
William is still in town. He walks as much as he can till he is quite fatigued — sometimes 6 to 10 squares. His cure is to be effected by exercise. I cannot stoop over my paper & must close. With love, — Mary (Willing) Clymer
¹ This is a reference to Fanny Kemble who was one of the most famous readers of Shakespeare in 1849. Fanny’s husband, Pierce Butler, a native of Philadelphia who owned the second-largest slave-owning plantation in Georgia, sued Fanny for divorce on the grounds that she had deserted him and their two daughters. She was described by Herman Melville as “unfemininely masculine” yet she attracted the elite of Boston and New York and sold out houses in both places during 1849-50, the most successful season of her career.
² Israel Pemberton Hutchinson’s wife was Margaretta (Hare) Hutchinson (1810-1849). She died on 25 March 1849 leaving eight children.