James J. Wright, Santiago de Cuba to Martha Wright



Permission to publish from the Historical Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Dublin


University of Galway





Number of pages



Historical Library of the Religious Society of Friends in Dublin


James Jenkinson Wright


Portfolio 35X_L18






James Jenkinson


James J. Wright, Santiago de Cuba to Martha Wright


Kerby A. Miller, Patricia Miller


James J. Wright, Santiago de Cuba to Martha Wright


Santiago de Cuba, May 6, 1841
My very dear Aunt Martha,
I received in due course of Packet your two very acceptable letters bearing dates September 8th and December 29th of the past year, and really they would both have been replied to long since, had business alone occupied me, but one of my Partners whose wife was sick brought her from the United States to pass the winter here, on account of the supposed advantages of a warm climate for her disease, which was inflammation and swelling of the knee joints, with emaciation of the limb above and below the articulation, and variable general health, she is 24 years of age, very handsome, well educated, of a good mind, accustomed to the most fashionable society at home and notwithstanding her illness of light bouyant spirits, not able to walk a step but had to be carried or rolled whenever she moved about the House, imagine such a woman with a strong desire of admiration and attention in a land of strangers, and living with her young son of 3 years old called Henry Wright Shelton in my house, and determined that I should occupy myself about her, and you will yourself admit that I had not much chance of being able to snatch an hour or two when not attending to business, for private letter writing, but she has sailed for home, improved in health, and I hope acknowledging that old bachelors are a class, not altogether
unworthy, one day as I was reading a novel to her, seated by her as she lay in bed, she said to me
“do you know Mr. Wright any person would"
"take it for granted that you were born of and educated by, a very good"
"well ordered family or you would never have the feelings and manners"
"towards women that you possess, living as you have done a quarter"
"of a century with so little intercourse with them”
this I say to you in order to satisfy you that I am not devoid of all the "humanities", and now to make you smile at another view of my servitude, observing that I had acquired considerable sleight in bandaging from my forced practice on the Estate, there we were, two physicians and myself in her bedroom with a negress nurse who was employed applying ointment to the limb by friction, there says one of the Doctors “I think it is rubbed enough let us put on the bandage” she raised her head, looked around, blushed the slightest tint, and remarked to me “Mr. Wright put on the bandage for me,” I decline, modestly observing “dear me, Doctor Eigenbrodt will do it much better” she replied instantly “ I said I wished you to put it on and not Doctor Eigenbrodt,” “Oh yes, I know you did” says I “but then if the Doctor put it on I shall gain a wrinkle in observing him,” to “gain a wrinkle” is a cant term equivalent to acquiring knowledge of something new, she coloured with vexation and said angrily,
“you needn’t wish to acquire any more"
"wrinkles for certainly you have more than enough of them already" at which I bowed, seated myself on a low stool at her feet, took her foot in my hand, and commenced applying to the bare limb of course the tight spiral bandage from the toes to halfway up the thigh
the Doctors having retired a little apart to consult together for a moment, she touches me with the toes of the sound leg, calls my attention by "hist!" and then catching my eye says,
“forgive me, I’m sorry that I"
"said anything about wrinkles to you, but how could you be so
"very obstinate, when you must have seen that, it required a determination not easily come to, to fix my courage to the point of calling for your services in preference to the Doctors.” “say no more about it Helen” I reply, “but really you showed less tact in
"that observation than I have ever known you to do before, why a
"great many men of my age would never forgive you for it.”
the Doctors now drew near, the scene closed by my applying my undivided attention to the just application of the bandage. I really smile to myself when I consider how curious you will think then 2 1/2 pages of incidents, about a woman of whom you know nothing and who you will probably consider a pure flirt, but such relations may give you a more particular view of some phases of my mind and character.
I note your trip to Belfast, what a great advantage and comfort Steamers are to travellers. I regret that I shall not be able to realize my anticipations of a visit to my dear native land this year, for although I have got clear of the duties of the British Consulate (though even this I take up again on the 10th Inst. for a month or so during the absence of the Consul on a trip to Havana) as well as the direction of the Commercial Establishment, nevertheless there are many matter of business that imperatively demand my attention, and my desire also is, in accordance with your opinion to leave all matters behind
me so regulated as not to make my return to the Island necessary, in case I desire not to do so, and this much to be wished for position I think I shall be able to attain, so as to have the happiness of seeing you next year, and I have the pleasure of informing you that the Royal West India Mail Steam Packets of which we have been appointed Agents for this Port, will commence running to & from England and to and from New York, this place being included in their route, the passages to and from the former to this 19 days, and to & from the latter 8 days to the place also, and they are to run twice each month to & from each of the named quarters, on the 1st of October of the present year, thus presenting from that date great facility for those who wish to visit the Fatherland, even via the United States passage both together for the run home would not average more than 22 days, how wonderful!
I have not heard from Ohio for some months, but I presume all is going on without any mishap or I presume news would have reach’d me, for you recollect the old adage “bad news travels fast,” I write Nehemiah this morning, although I have not a line of his unreplied to, and I suppose I am at least as busy a man as he is, and you say because you know I am busy, that you are grateful for my writing you, that, is the only word My Dear Aunt that I have observed in any of your letters, that would have been better left unsaid, it ought not to be used by either of us, but if it shall, it would be more appropriate and in order coming from me than you, because I am the obliged in the correspondence.
I enclose you a letter for Cousin Jonathan because I am not exactly certain of his address, which you will have the kindness to hand to him, when I was writing him, I was full of some conservative statements that I had just been reading that enlarged much upon the turbulence and riots of Ireland, very different indeed from the impressions that you convey when, you advise leaving your house without moving scarcely anything, and without any person whatsoever in charge, all the time of your visit to Belfast this is as it should be and speaks volumes in favor of the good order of the City.
I am very much pleased that the Butterflies got safe to hand, and that you were pleased with them.
It would really be a consoling sorrow to visit with you my dear Aunt Rachel’s grave, of a verity, she had a trying time in this world, but I feel assured that her well spent life now has its reward.
I may say to you that the two years of [18]39 & [18]40, during which I had the active directorship of the House, have resulted the best two years business that we have ever done, so that my purse as well as self love has benefitted. I say self love because I had been so long devoted to agriculture that my talents for the other branch might have been in doubt.
I am trying to break myself of the vice of chewing Segars [cigars], which bad practice I have abandoned myself to for many years, having unwillingly fallen into it, while endeavouring to break myself of smoking, but I flatter myself that I shall now rid myself of it, although it is somewhat difficult to accomplish being felt really as a deprivation.
I have been called away three times since I began this letter, so this is my second day at it, as I cannot write comfortably in the afternoon on account of heat & perspiration. I say to Jonathan that, we have no females about the House, and I talk gingerly to you about the knee patient, to reconcile this seeming inconsistency let it be perfectly understood that Mrs Shelton’s sojourn with us was an exception to the rule. I shall not leave this Island with a view of doing business elsewhere, when I go hence, I must be satisfied with what I may have, you would think perhaps more than enough,
and as for passing my time, I love to read and I am therefore quite a dome stickman, when I say I love to read, do not take it for granted that I am full of Knowledge unfortunately for that, I have for a great many years read solely for amusement, it is a shame to say so, but it is better to speak thruth [sic] at once than to lead you to imagine that I know more than I do.
I hope that our correspondence may not be permitted to drop. Believe me
Dear Aunt always dear
Yr. Affecte. Nephew
James J. Wright



List of contributors

Kerby A. Miller
Patricia Miller
Giselle Gonzalez Garcia
Margaret Brohony
Cristian Sanchez


James Jenkinson Wright
Martha Wright
Jonathan Wright


Sophie Estate, Santiago de Cuba
New York City, United States
Dublin, Ireland

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