Authors of Their Lives: The Personal Correspondence of British Immigrants to North America in the Nineteenth Century

By David A. Gerber | Go to book overview

Notes

NOTES TO THE INTRODUCTION

1. My interest in this book is in immigrant letters to family and friends in the homeland. The reader should be aware, however, that, though discussed in this book only occasionally, immigrants wrote business letters and other types of personal letters, principally to other immigrants, coethnics, and non-coethnic, native-born settlers in the host societies. Whether because of the vagaries of the processes of saving and collection, or the fact that fewer of these were written, they appear to be much fewer in number. See H. Arnold Barton, “Neglected Types of Correspondence as Sources for Swedish-American History,” Swedish-American Historical Quarterly 33 n. 2 (1982): 76–8.

On the psychological and material purposes of personal correspondence for the ordinary letter-writing immigrant in the historical past, see Eric Richards, “A Voice from Below: Benjamin Boyce in South Australia, 1839–1846,” Labour History (Australia) 27 (November 1974): 65; Charlotte Erickson, Invisible Immigrants: The Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century America (Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1972), 5–7; H. Arnold Barton, “Two Versions of the Immigrant Experience,” Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly 30 n. 3 (1979): 159–61; Niels Peter Stilling, “The Significance of the Private Letter in Immigration History,” The Bridge 15 n. 1 (1992): 35–50.

2. The special qualities of handwritten, personal letters were made clear to the Pak- istani immigrant cabdriver, Hamid Ali, when he took advantage of the availability of a video teleconferencing facility in Brooklyn, at $5 a minute, to call-see his family in his homeland. For four minutes his sister “harangued him for not writing. He protested that he phoned weekly; his sister told him letters were better; they could be fingered and re-read and kept under pillows.” Deborah Sontag and Celia W. Duggar, “The New Im- migrant Tide: A Shuttle between Worlds,” New York Times (July 19, 1998). Also see Sarah J. Mahler, “Theoretical and Empirical Contributions toward a Research Agenda for Transnationalism,” Transnationalism from Below, Michael Peter Smith and Luis Eduardo Guarnico, Comparative Urban and Community Research, v . 6 (New Brunswick: Transac- tion Publishers, 1998), 76–81.

3. A. Langton, Early Days in Upper Canada: Letters of John Langton from the Back- woods of Upper Canada and the Audit Office of the Province of Canada (Toronto: Macmillan, 1926); John Langton to father, Fenelon, Upper Canada, February 28, 1834, NAC; George Flower, Diary, v. II [1816–], Chicago Historical Society; George Flower Letterbook, 1816–1817, George Flower Letters, ISHS.

4. Thomas Mallon, A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1984); Janet Gurkin Altman, Epistolarity: Approaches to a Form (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1982); William Merrill Decker, Epistolary Practices: Letter Writing in America before Telecommunications (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); Bruce Redford, The Converse of the Pen: Acts of Intimacy in the

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