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W-MCP5-6.244 TO ISAAC BALDWIN MCQUESTEN from his friend J. Alex Mackenzie
Mar 11 1869
To: Isaac B. McQuesten, Hamilton, Ontario
From: University College, Toronto, Ontario

My dear Isaac,

I was truly rejoiced at receiving your worthy epistle written under date of Feb. 17th, for alas I knew of old that [your?] promises were much as other men's, "deceitful above all things except the heart of him that made them which along with them is desperately wicked," but in answer to the question immediately following the above quotation viz "Who shall know it?" I think I may safely say, with all just confidence, or as great a measure of it as one can have in dealing with such a subject in the words of the fact "I do!!!"

In truth I was glad to hear from you, for and to show my joyfulness I am writing.

Your account of poor "Father Ab's" distress is truly poetical and touching. I have since heard a further account of it & of actions arising out of it, with which no doubt you are well acquainted. Be sure you keep me "well acquainted" with all rows & routings that take place in the "old home" for in them I take a deep interest.

By the way tell me about the Bell! I heard some interesting rumours about its disappearance from its accustomed swing & that old Rex was so disquieted thereby as to have kept on ringing from "rosy morn till dark" in the hope of inducing it to return, but I have received no trustworthy account.

I was very sorry to see by the "Times" that poor Hincky fainted at lecture. I hope the poor old man is not seriously unwell. Was there any prank played on him that could cause it?

You ask me about your friends, naming A.W. Ray & Charlie Briggs. As to your smoking Divan, I know nothing about it. I see Briggs occasionally on the street, but we have merely a nodding acquaintance. His sister I don't see so often, unfortunately, for with her I have a somewhat (tho' slightly) better acquaintance & consequently feel a deeper interest in her welfare.

A. W. Roy, on last Monday evening in Company with Messrs. Marsh, Moore (Ciss), Grier, Dyett & self wended forwards on the Drill Shed, to see the exhibition of "Spiders" alias Velocipedes1 there to take place. After amusing ourselves & an admiring crowd by performing sundry difficult feats on the parallel bars (first by the way forking out 15 cts. per man as entrance fee) we turned our attention to the course, where we observed a queer little man with a mustache & smoking cap a rusty (se) [sic] brown suit of Zouave costume trimmed with gold lace, & an expression of countenance corresponding to his costume, being rusty, with a desperate attempt at sang froid (I.B. this iz fruish [sic]) working his feet as if at a treadmill, looking close to perceive the why, we saw that by this means he turned a couple of cranks sticking out one on each side of the front wheel, and thus kept the said wheel revolving, & by attraction or perhaps by the iron bands joining the two, drawing the hind wheel after, & so gave motion to the Machine. He dashed round at a rate of fully 2 miles an hours hotly pursued by a young member of the Cooper Family (excellent people by the way who build Vel.'s) on a baby Spider which he managed with great skill, not falling more than 17 times in the Circuit of the Shed, P& when he did fall, mounting again with grace indescribable and going at it with dogged perseverance, worthy of great admiration. He in turn was followed by an elder brother, rejoicing in the euphonious appellation of "Bandy" who mounted on a larger animal than the junior, & being moreover of somewhat more robust (to draw it mild) build, found that it was a very easy task to go as far as he could without danger of falling, & then dismount, & offer the services of his steed to some gentleman in the audience. Behold then our Mr. F., Harry Ritchie, astride the beast, manfully striving for its mastery. (He, by the bye, got the use of the V. & the Drill Shed all next day to practice). Then Jack Geddes mounted; then (after Jack got off of course) your humble servant, his mind fired with thoughts of his illustrious namesake who mounted Bucephalus,2 resolved to do or die; & he did, but only what had been long before, viz fall, try again, a yard or two advance, fall again, & then politely inquire if anyone else would like to try. After a while, I did behold a sight, which I will try & make you see.

Behold then Our Mutual friend A.W.R. straddling a Spider his well known & handsome grey great cart ignominiously trailing on the wheel behind, in his mouth a cigar which he puffs vigorously as often as his frantic exertions left him any breath to do and this taut ensemble (F. again) (you better get a Dict.) between two stalwart youths who, seizing him each by an arm, rushed him up & down up & down as if he were under the influence of poison, this life & their own depended on the time they could make across the course. He mildly submitted himself to their tender mercies merely expressing his highly wrought feelings by the dogged expression on his manly countenance, by the persistent puffs at his cigar, & by the revolutions of his feet, which however were rather caused to move by the rapid motion of the treadles, than vice versa. Having been thus treated by the space of a quarter of an hour, he was run against a group of admiring spectators, & thus stopped midway in his wild career, and then for the first time, exercising the power of volition, he dismounted or rather climbed up from off his fallen steed, cast away his half smoked cigar & looking regretfully after it, but deterred from picking it up by surrounding spectators resumed his gauntlets & stick which had been held by a sympathetic friend, buttoned up his coat, and expressing himself highly pleased with the evening's entertainment, left.

Now I think I have written enough nonsense so I must stop. I met A.W. tonight and satisfied myself by ocular demonstration that the youth was "better now."

Robert K. & I had some good fun Snow Shoeing & Toboganing [sic] a couple of weeks ago. We tramped up the Mountain on Snow Shoes & came down on the Tobogan. Coming home we sat on the Tobogan & after it had run as far as it would unaided we paddled it along with our hands, & came home singing choice selections by the way, & thereby so exciting the nerves of a group of highly virtuous unprotected females whom we passed as to provoke from their ruby lips, "Aint we fine now."

[Written across page:] together with numerous other pretty little phrases interlarded with epithets & cursory remarks too numerous & of too highly flavoured a character to be here set down.

And now Goodbye

Bob sends his love

Remember me to all friends, inquiring & otherwise

Don't forget to send me the illustrated edition of the manual

Believe me

Yours Sincerely

J. Alex Mackenzie3


P.S. Have [your?] friends ever read David Copperfield? A lady friend who had lately read it thinks you very like Traddles. I am sure I don't see why for any connection between you & Skeletons must be extremely visionary. JAMc [signature scribble]


1 The velocipede is a vehicle related to the bicycle, powered by the rider's feet (Chambers's Etymological English Dictionary).


2 Bucephalus. ... (Plutarch, Alexander 6.8.). Alexander went on to name his horse Bucephalus, which means Oxhead, as the horse had a rather sizeable head. ... (faq.macedonia.org/history/buke.html)


3 MacKenzie wrote a letter of condolence to Mary Baker McQuesten after Isaac's sudden death on March 7, 1888. It contains a great deal of religious sentiment.(See W4335, April 11, 1888).




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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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