'I...expect to have a very good time, kissing girls'
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“I am going to a levee tomorrow night and expect to have a very good time, kissing girls...”
GREELY, ADOLPHUS. (1844-1935). American soldier, explorer, scientist, and author. ALS. (“A W Greely”). Written at age sixteen. 4pp. 8vo. Saccarappa (now Westbrook), Maine, December 30, 1860. To his friend, Ralph.
I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am still in the land of the living and have not yet kicked the bucket and am now in this little village of Saccarappa scribbling off a few lines to one of the honorable graduates of the ‘Old Brown High’ who is now a ‘devil’ [apprentice] in the printing office in Newburyport. I have had a pretty good time since I have been here, going a skating, riding, and doing pretty much as I please. Last Wednesday night I attended a party at which the elite of the village was present. I was introduced to several young ladies and had a very good time. I got home at 20 minutes past twelve. There was [sic] 150 at the party. They had a splendid supper. My greatest trouble has been my not having the Southern news every day. If it is convenient for you, I should like to have you send me the Heralds containing the Lyceum Lectures. When you write send me all the news, especially concerning Starrett and J.E. Don’t for the Lord’s sake let anyone see this and don’t let anyone know that I have written concerning them. When you see Jane give my respects to her and say that I should like to play a game of backgammon with her. Also give my respects to Ellen and the rest of the family. I should like to see them all and you, too, my old friend Ralph. Tell William that P should like a game of chess with him one of these long winter evenings. How do you get along in the printing offices and how is secession in the good old city of Newburyport? You get news everyday. I am not so lucky. Give my respects to your pater et mater [father and mother], and tell them that I am enjoying myself very well. There is no telling when I shall come back to Newburyport. I suppose that you had a grand time Christmas. P was sorry that you did not get a ticket to FHS Levee, as I expected to see you there. I did not have a great time after all, didn’t walk around with any girls. Starrett stuck to Jane all the evening. Frank was not there either. I did not see Frank before I came away. Give my respects to all who care to enquire concerning your humble servant. Has the Dutchman gone to teaching school yet, and if he does, how does he get along as a pedagogue? Suppose Bartlett & Starrett are at school. Give them my respect, and also to William H. Pearson Esq. I am going to a levee tomorrow night and expect to have a very good time, kissing girls &c. &c. Give my respects to Reub Goodwin and ask him to write to me and to inform me what chance there is of the jewelry establishment starting up again. Not much I guess. Write me a good long letter as soon as it is convenient for you to do so. I miss the good times that I used to have up in Parson Street and wish that I could be there tonight. Don’t disclose any of the secrets in this letter nor show the letter to anybody. Yours with esteem and friendship.
It was in his native Newburyport that Greely “received his childhood training and developed the rugged constitution and resourcefulness that stood him in such good stead during his long and eventful life” (DAB). In 1861, the year after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the 19th Massachusetts Infantry, later serving at the important battles of Yorktown, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. By the end of the Civil War he had been appointed second lieutenant, and by 1906 had achieved the rank of major-general. It is, however, for his geographical surveys that Greely is most often remembered, chief among them the 1881-84 Lady Franklin Bay Expedition to Ellesmere Island. Its record-setting achievements notwithstanding, the mission ended in tragedy when several relief ships failed to arrive, leaving Greely and his companions stranded without supplies and reduced to eating their leather clothing. Only seven survived. Greely later served as head of the United States Weather Service, supervised the laying of communications lines in Alaska, Asia, and the Caribbean, and was a founder and trustee of the National Geographic Society. Some staining and ink smears, otherwise fine.