W2469 TO DR. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his brother Isaac B. McQuesten
Dec 9 1875
To: Dr. Calvin B. McQuesten, [New York, NY]
From: Hamilton, Ontario
My Dear Brother,
I have not heard yet of your getting my letter of 1st inst. with enclosure. But presume you are waiting to hear about what I asked or intended to ask you to get. However, I found in Toronto what will do first-rate, and it seems an unnecessary piece of bother to have a small parcel of that kind sent by express. My main reason for it was that you had told Mary that an intermediate size of stockings could be got in N.Y., as her foot is very long, almost as long as mine, but very narrow & slender.1 Moreover I have taxed your patience often enough already in getting things, & think I had better stop before you flare up in final despair.
We have had almost an entire week of rain, & at last it has again turned cold.
All well at home. But we are all about played out with that youngster's sleeplessness.2 Whoever has her must make up the mind to not more than a couple of hours sleep. So we have to take it turn about. Chlorodyne was effective twice--taken at intervals of about a week--but no longer.3 Paregoric, [cherry or chivas?] whisky &c., are more likely to put her wide awake than asleep, so the only thing is grin & bear it.4 I believe if she could be allowed to end her yelling once of her own accord, it would not require to be repeated. But of course her mother could not hear of such a thing. One thing is clear, she is not in acute pain. For if you will turn up the gas and play with her she's all right. Do not think of anything else.
Father continues to perform his duties as Elder by an occasional dog-fight still, wherein he pulls at his dog's tail & the other man at him.
As ever yours,
[Written upside down at bottom of page:]
Socks for Mary, 9.00
1 Mary's slippers are on view in her bedroom at Whitehern and they are, indeed, long and narrow.
2 This letter establishes that the baby Mary was receiving medications containing Opium for sleeplessness. See also, W5426, W6374, W0410, and search on "Calomel" for use of Mercury in 19th C. medications. The child is the baby Mary "Tiny" born on March 20, 1874, so she is approx. 18 months old. Their second child, Calvin, was born on May 1, 1876, so at the time of this letter, Mrs. Mary McQuesten was pregnant with their second child. They had a total of 7 children in 12 years. One child, Muriel, died in infancy. See W4283 for Mary's comment about the baby's restlessness. The child was possibly demonstrating signs of addiction, see footnotes below for "chlorodyne" and "paregoric."
A similar comment is made by Isaac in 1887 about the sleeplessness of Margaret Edna, the youngest McQuesten child, who suffered all her life with emotional problems and eventually mental illness, see W2511. It is not known what medication was given to Edna. For a larger descriptive footnote about Edna's mental illness, see W5426. For an essay on the treatment of drug addiction see Box 15-007.
3 Chlorodyne, n. 1. (Med.) A patent medicine, containing opium, chloroform, Indian hemp, etc. (Obviously this was in the days when you could buy opium over the counter!)
encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Chlorodyne - 13k
4 Paregoric is Opium. A website quoting a 19th Century doctor, contains a warning of which the McQuestens likely were not aware:
I write on this article to apprise or warn people of the fact that it should not be used as much as it is. It should be used only in extreme cases, such as pain from cramps and neuralgia, wounds, mashed and broken bones, and then should be used in very light doses. It is a deadly poison in large doses, and mothers do a very foolish act when they give their babes Godfrey's Cordial, Bateman's Drops, or Paregoric. Children have been killed by their improper use. All the above preparations are strongly charged with opium, and should only be given by a good physician who understands when they should be used. Opium locks up the bowels, and causes a person to become yellow, or of a bilious, swarthy color, from the fact that the bowels are locked up and the bile thrown off by the liver is reabsorbed into the blood, when it should escape with the discharge of the bowels. If long taken it will produce insanity, and destroy the brain and nervous forces, then when the person goes without it, they will go blind, faint and fall.