23rd June 1846
p.50 letter from America. Matthew Dinsdale
to the Editor of The Wensleydale Advertiser.
Remarks on certain statements on American affairs.
I am astonished at some statements my friend has made, and which made their appearance in The Wensleydale Advertiser. He has, I think, been too premature in his communications on some subjects. I am satisfied he is sincere, and believes what he has written to be somewhere about the truth. Had he nevertheless, waited, or sought, for further and better information, he would not, perhaps, have made the statements he has. His letter, upon the whole, I take to be correct. I dissent from him, however, in some particulars. When he says “the Americans” (meaning, the Americans generally, and those born and rooted in that country) “live on extremely poor diet, and are in the regular habit of drinking spirits – that coffee is wretchedly bad, &c &c,” I humbly beg to leave to say, with respect, at least, to the “diet,” he is incorrect. I have been much more among the Americans, and have lived more among them, than he has; and from what I have witnessed and observed, I have formed another opinion. How he could pronounce so confidently upon the whole of America when he had only been a few weeks in one corner of one territory, out of about thirty states and territories, I am unable to divine. Some people appear to forget that only a few years ago, this part was all a wild state, and that many of the necessaries of life have still to come from a distance. From all I have observed, the people even here, (in Wisconsin) when they eat, have more of the extras on their tables than the same class in England. You do not, it is true, generally find large joints of meat cooked at once; bit if the meat is there in sufficient quantity, it matters little, I conceive, whether it is in one large piece, or in smaller pieces. I am no epicure, but I decidedly prefer the American, mode of living. With respect to habitual spirit drinking (a thing, most disagreeable and ruinous, which I hate with a perfect hatred) they are not worse than the English; and as it regards Coffee, &c., the quality, as in England, is accordingly to the price given.
As far as my observations have gone, there is nothing as to those matters, so very novel, strange, or wonderful. I also think his statement that he could clear £500 a year on his farm, is calculated to mislead. In the cultivation of his land, he could not do without hire, so that he would find, I am apprehensive, his profits would scarcely accumulate to that degree. Poetical minds, in their versifications, are allowed some license; but matters of pecuniary profit and loss, as affecting human subsistence, should be spoken of according to some reason and sufficient experience and observation. “Though man liveth not by bread alone,” it is certain he cannot long subsist on air. I take the more notice of these remarks of my friend’s on account of his authority animadverting on what he calls the mistakes of others. It would almost seem as if he thought he could not be mistaken. When he says, “most of the above named things have been shamefully misrepresented,” I cannot but think, so far as my experience instructs me, that the remark partly implicates even himself. He intimates again, that there is perhaps (well, come, a perhaps means something) not one house in all Wisconsin, equal to that of his brother Thomas’s or Richard’s. taking his words literally and not poetically, I am quite at a loss, having gone about with my eyes open, how he could have made this mistake. Did he mean that there is not a house in this territory equal to his brothers, because it does not contain a brother of his? We sometimes say, “such a one keeps a good house, a well-regulated house, &c.” Perhaps – perhaps, I say, he had reference to domestic provision, management, or some such thing, when he made this house-statement. If my eyes have not deceived me, then I must say that, as to scientific building and architectural elegance of appearance in the towns, Wisconsin is far ahead of Wensleydale. Nor have I ever yet found the annoyance he speaks of from bugs, ants, and serpents. In all my wanderings I have seen but to small serpents which were in a great hurry to get out of my way.
I shall now conclude my remarks respecting my poetical friends wonderful statements on American diet, spirit drinking, coffee, money making, houses, bugs, ants, and serpents, with as much true friendship and affection towards him as my heart as ever.
Matthew Dinsdale, America.
N.B. My friend calls himself “a corrector of errors,” I suppose, I am trying to be too. I expect to see him soon, when I shall take the opportunity, in the spirit of friendship, to endeavour to convince him of his mistakes.