Saturday, July 21, 2012

With Love from Havana

Letter from Benjamin Howe to N.C. Hudson
August 16, 1856

My draft is now over 1,000 pages, and it's still lacking a title. I've read through it once from beginning to end. It was an eye-opener how well the parts flowed together. Even though I know so much of the content almost by heart, I found myself anxiously waiting to see what would come next. I thought the draft would be a lot spottier than it was, as I have so many more letters from some periods than from others. Fortunately the intervening events were so interesting (to me, anyway) that it seems to be working.

The more I read, the more there is to learn. I am loving this aspect and learning so much. I was surprised to see how many of the letters had been fully transcribed over the past 30 years, so there is less still to do on that score than I had anticipated when I picked up the project again. One letter that was only minimally transcribed until this week is this one from Ben (shown in the photo).

Ben's letter has been my "edit point" for several days, or more likely a whole week. It's taken more time than most letters for a number of reasons: it's six full-size pages long for one thing, and for another, I took a break due to pain from a badly tweaked back and a medical test. The test came out fine, but had me down for awhile also. Pain on pain, and no fun.

I'm now halfway through the final proofing stage of Ben's letter. His are always a joy to read, and this one includes interesting travel notes. He had been living in Ringgold, near Lake Bisteneau, Louisiana, a bit southeast of Shreveport and about halfway between New Orleans and Dallas. In 1856 he decided to take a trip home to Vermont for the first time in six years, and he wrote his old friend Nathaniel about it when he got back. (The envelope under the letter is addressed to Nathaniel in Sioux City.) The journey one way took 17 days. He took a steamship from New Orleans to New York, which was a regular route with a stop in Havana. 

Later or tomorrow some highlights from the letter.

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