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W2255 TO ISAAC BALDWIN MCQUESTEN From his friend, William Bickford
Jun 28 1869
To: Isaac Baldwin McQuesten [Likely Toronto]
From: 155 Adelaide St., Toronto, Ontario

My dear Ike,

In beginning this reply to yours of the 23rd I'm half inclined to think that I should have adopted [??] measure--"tuneful numbers"--or something more in unison with your present state of mind than dull, heavy prose. Folks in your predicament are apt to view with more than unusual pleasure whatever is replete with the "hifalutin" [sic]--when, were they free from their hallucinations, this sound common sense would rebel against any such imposition. At present I consider you to be labouring under something of a like nature; so let me addrefs [sic] you accordingly:--

O luckless youth! Whose fair and tender knees
Are forced to bend before dread Common Pleas;
Whose tender bum, the pride of many a wench,
Is doomed to splintered torture by the Bench;
Whose aching heart & chafed, imprisoned will
Must look for joy, alas! but to a quill,
Nor Seek for word whilst in Thy chambers den
Three lengthy years the law sees fit to pen
Thy manly form; for Thee O kindred Soul!

May storms of indignation break and roll
About the Legal Satrap's legal head;
May ghosts of clients with reechoing [sic] tread
His trembling ears assail each lonely night;
And when with due "AR" old Sol seems bright
May every "victim" sucking his just dues
Besiege his door, nor turn from thence away
'Till he have learned [that fill??] for fellow [??]
To know what 'tis to blight a budding shoot--
The damned, quill-driving, ink-bespattered lout!
But soft! methinks thy overstrained Soul
Might spring a leak should I still more extol
Thy legal Saint; So let's have done with this
And turn our eyes elsewhere (Stay, I must--

(N.B. Here The Engineer was compelled to stop down below take a look at the boiler guage [sic]. Finding that the government seal was already cracked and everything seeming to predict a terrible explosion, he concluded to let off steam for a while and finish his dove-tailing some other time.)

New paragraph.

A-[("alpha" symbol)] You see dear Ike, what a dreadful thing habit is. After conversing with my Engineer as to the practicability of running the machinery a little longer & finding him inexorable, I have returned to dull prose; and yet not content with that, I must needs fall again into the methodical habit inculcated by the venerable Armstrong Beaver! Alas! with all our good resolutions respecting the leading a better life, how really weak we are! But it's no use to lament--no use to try and amend our college ways; so here goes for another bracket:--

[("beta" symbol)] So you keep that little tablet in your mind's eye, do you? Well, go on old fellow, I'm sure you will prosper if you never suffer a worse obstacle to blind you. I have been on the lookout daily to catch a glimpse of her--well knowing you would like to see her even if 'twere through my eyes. Some how or other I have failed to discover the least sign of her--but that of course was because an evil generation came seeking them. By the bye, I'm in a pretty fix in regard to my "little business." I don't know what to do in fact. Sometimes I grow sort of desperate, and feel as if I should like to decide my fate at once and have done forever with this tiresome shilly-shallying; and then again I begin contrasting my bachelor independence with the devotion incumbent on a poor Benedict and half way conclude that I'll remain just as I am. "Shocking, positively shocking"--isn't it Ike? What under the sun is a fellow to do--or "how fare better or be more affectionate?" Confound it! I am in a sorry a plight as poor Antigone1--worse, in fact, for I lack her woman's ingenuity to extricate myself. "Whatever is, is right" though, and so I hope 'twill prove in my case.

[("gamma" symbol)] I met Archie Mackinnon a little while ago, and our old friend Orville Sills a day or two since. Both were looking as well as usual--Or much better than when I last him. Archie wants me to pay him a visit. If I conclude to do so I shall have a chance to enjoy another with you before we part forever. Hugh John is sweating away at the military school in Kingston. Where the rest of the boys are I don't know--but suppose they are still in the land of the living. If you look back with regret on our confidential chats and friendly smokes, just fancy with how much regret I view them now that I have nothing else to do save mope up & down King St. or my little room, and think of the "days of yore."

I declare, Ike, I grow truly sad when I give free scope to memory; for I cannot help feeling that I have looked upon many of those kind old faces for the last time! Well, well, "sufficient for the day is the evil thereof"--a sound maxim and full of philosophy--if a body only took the trouble to look into it. I shall mail this after dinner & let me hope that it will meet with a speedier answer than the last.

In the meanwhile take good care of yourself, if you are but an attorney's cub--and believe me as ever

Your friend

W.A. Bickford2


1 in ancient Greek mythology and literature, Antigone was one of the daughters of Oedipus who had been produced by Oedipus' ill-fated marriage with his own mother, Jocasta. In the trilogy known as "The Theban Plays," "Antigone" is chronologically the last play.

Antigone's uncle Creon has assumed power in Thebes and has proclaimed that his nephew Polynices, Antigone's brother, shall not be buried as punishment for leading the seven against Thebes military campaign to take control of the city. Antigone defies her uncle and buries Polynices so that his soul may enter the House of Hades. Outraged, Creon sentences Antigone to be walled up in a cave, but later he decides his actions were wrong and goes to free Antigone and finds that she has already hung herself. Creon's son Haemon, who had wished to marry Antigone, kills himself in grief and protest, and Haemon's mother does the same when she hears of her son's death.


2 William Bickford is a close friend of Isaac's from law school at the University of Toronto, see W-MCP5-6.256.




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