A.C. Anderson’s Missing Manuscript


Alexander Caulfield Anderson, fur trader and explorer

This is Alexander Caulfield Anderson, grandson of James Anderson LLD, and Margaret Seton of Mounie.

“What all did A. C. Anderson write?” This question appeared on my blog searches the other day. Apparently someone actually asked this question in a google search, and stumbled on my blog.

Well, I can answer this question. But I am far more interested in telling people about the manuscripts I know he wrote, but which I cannot find. There are four, perhaps — or maybe more. I don’t know where they are and they may no longer exist, but I have clues that might lead others to their location. These manuscripts could be anywhere, though not under his name. They could be in Ottawa, or in an American archives, or in London. Anywhere!

So, this posting is the story of one missing manuscript — his first, written in the years 1832 to 1837 — and revised and sent out many times. It may be one manuscript. It may be four or five. Who knows! I certainly don’t.

This unrecovered manuscript was sent to his uncle Alex Seton in London, and shown to some of the gentlemen Directors of the Hudson’s Bay Company. A London publisher also viewed it, as did Chief Factor John Stuart, now retired and living in Scotland. Anderson’s son, James Robert, has this to say of the manuscript he never saw:

He [Anderson] appears to have written a work which he sent to London to his Uncle Alex Seton with the object of publication. From the tenor of Mr. Seton’s reply… it would appear that the principal objection to its publication came from the [Directors] of the Hudson’s Bay Company and we may therefore infer that the manuscript contained statements which were not considered to be in the best interest of the Company, at any rate, that it was thought better not to put the statement into the possession of the enemies of the Hudson’s Bay Company who about this period began to make themselves very obnoxious. It is a matter of the deepest regret to me that my father never communicated to me the fact that he had written the manuscript in question and I am therefore ignorant of its nature… There seems to be no doubt it was returned and was afterwards sent to the East, probably to my Uncle James Anderson [James Anderson (A), HBC], judging from the frequent allusions to it; with, I imagine, with, I imagine, the idea of its publication in Canada. That it was never published seems evident and in spite of my earnest endeavours to ascertain its whereabouts, I have been unable to discover any trace of it.

In his letter written July 1838, Uncle Alex Seton of Mounie advised his nephew that:

The great fault appears to be the constant calling in of adventitious ornament, poetical allusions, and an inflated departure from plainness and simplicity, which, in narrative, as well as in architecture, furniture.. and almost all other artificial affairs, constitute the main basis of good taste. A fault of this kind is very natural to a person of your age, I am sure that a little more experience and reading will induce you to see it and avoid it. In the present case, it will, if circumstances shall render it worth while, be easy to correct it and to clear your work of those unseemly excrescences, by merely rewriting it, with a strict attention to elegant and perspicuous conciseness of expression.

I am looking at this paragraph, and I think I can give you a sample of his early writing — quite possibly from this actual manuscript:

Bye the bye: what be your notion of a Beaver-lodge? The question seems so simple that one feels almost disposed to apologize while putting it. Judging, however, from my own misconceptions of some years back, and again from the marvelous accounts one sees constantly blazoned to the World in print, it may not be amiss to dwell awhile on the subject. For instance, I very recently saw in a work, professedly for the instruction of youth, a plate, supposed to represent a group of Beaver-lodges. Nice little mud cottages with neatly rounded roofs, and accurately vaulted doors, seated on a pretty eminence and shared by palms and other trees of tropical vegetation. The following revelation accompanies the print. “This vignette represents the Beaver, with several huts of three stories high, built on the edge of a clear stream, supported and shaded (!) by tall trees and brambles. the huts have usually two doors, one to the water, and one to the land.” and to complete the picture a veritable beaver, perhaps intended to represent the “oldest inhabitant,” is gravely promenading in the foreground! What can our old and esteemed friend, the worthy Mr. Wombwell, say after this? — His vocation’s gone, Hal, depend on’t, the philosophers have usurped it.

If you didn’t understand the reference to Wombwell, he was a gentleman who owned a menagerie in London about the time that young Anderson lived in the city.

As I said, John Stuart saw this manuscript, and commented on it — the proof of Anderson’s and Stuart’s short correspondence is in the B.C. Archives. There is something more that I find very interesting, too. In John Stuarts Notes, 1840, E.24/7, HBCA, is a report or part of a letter that John Stuart wrote, perhaps after he read Anderson’s manuscript. I can’t absolutely connect Stuart’s 1840 notes to Anderson’s manuscript, but it is a possibility. The timing is certainly correct!

Anderson’s manuscript was supposed to be returned to him by Mr. Webster, the HBCA secretary. Webster sickened in 1841, and died before the manuscript could be returned. Mrs. Webster found it after his death and sent it off to catch the London ships. There is a little correspondence in the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives which could indicate where this manuscript ended up, presumably after reaching Anderson at Fort Nisqually. The Mr. Hopkins, mentioned below, was Governor Simpson’s secretary, who had come to Fort Vancouver with Simpson. Simpson went on to Russia, but Hopkins returned to Lachine via the York Factory Express that summer. Hence, the manuscript was travelling east to Lachine and, eventually, to Governor Simpson. Therefore, for Anderson to have it in his hands, to give to Mr. Hopkins in spring, 1842, the manuscript must have come into the Columbia district with the incoming express, November 1841. Anderson’s letter is below:

Fort Alexandria, New Caledonia, 21st January 1843, to Sir George Simpson (D.5/8, HBCA)

Dear sir; I did myself the honor of addressing you on my way up the Saskatchewan last year, by the Portage a la Loche boats [which would have been returning to York Factory from Portage la Loche] concerning the manuscript consigned to the care of Mr. Hopkins for delivery to you, and it now affords me much satisfaction to inform you that the remainder of my journey to the Columbia was in every respect fortunate…

But it is also possible that Anderson picked up the manuscript at York Factory in 1842, as he took out the Express that year. So perhaps it did not come in with the 1841 York Factory Express, but was waiting for him at York Factory when he arrived in June/July 1842. As you see, he handed it off to Mr. Hopkins in 1842… I don’t know the answer to that right now. But, the manuscript he handed to Mr. Hopkins, for Governor Simpson, was returned to him in 1843:

Alexandria, 13th February 1844 to Governor Simpson (D.5/10, HBCA)

Dear sir; I had the honor in November last of receiving our kind favour of 18th June from Red River; and at the same time received the parcel containing the MS. For your care and trouble in which matter permit me to render you my thanks. I was partly suspicious, as you may perhaps have inferred from the tenor of my remarks when I forwarded it, that my production, hurriedly executed as it was, was scarcely adapted for the London market, though I would certainly have preferred its appearance there on several accounts, had the booksellers been willing to purchase. But under present circumstances, after giving it a careful revision, which it much required, I forward the MS to Mr. Hale, that he may do what he can in the matter. I have this year received renewed offers of service from that gentleman, in the supposed event of the MS not being published in London…

So who was Hale? I am presuming this was Horatio Hale, who Anderson met at Fort Nisqually in 1841. Hale was a member of the United States Exploring Expedition that arrived at Nisqually under Charles Wilkes, and so we know they knew each other. Horatio Hale’s mother was Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879), author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and an American writer and influential publisher. However I have no evidence that Horatio Hale received the manuscript, and no idea what might have happened to it if he did. I was apparently never returned, and never published — under Anderson’s name, at least. What is worse: in 1843, Horatio Hale embarked for Europe, and did not return until 1853. It is unlikely he ever received the manuscript.

(Also, I note that there was a London publisher called Robert Hale, a publishing house still in existence today, at Clerkenwell House, 45-47 Clerkenwell Green, London.)

The story becomes even more confusing. In 1841, Anderson sent off a manuscript with Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition, according to Anderson’s brother, James Anderson (A) of the HBC.

December 14, 1846, James Anderson (A) to Alexander Anderson: “I think you did perfectly right in withdrawing your mss. from Lieutenant Wilkes hands. I really think my plan of trying to get it published in Chamber’s Journal would be the best. It is said they pay most liberally. I wrote to Uncle James on the subject but have not yet received an answer.”

January 17, 1849, James Anderson (A) to Alexander Anderson: “I have heard nothing yet about your Manuscript in Wilkes’ hands. I am longing to receive your tale. Do not fear that I shall be a partial critic; I will cut deep and spare not.”

In 1851, James Anderson sent off a package of five manuscript tales “descriptive of Indian life, written by my brother Alexander,” to his uncle James Anderson, who lived at Bridgend, Brechin. Unfortunately, the manuscript never reached London. The trusted friend, Archibald Barclay, forgot it, and the manuscript was returned to James Anderson (A) four years later. I have privately wondered if these stories were the beginning of the book called Traits of American Indian Life and Character by a Fur Trader, written (almost certainly) by Peter Skene Ogden. Anderson could easily have been the man who wrote down some of Ogden’s stories in New Caledonia!

The first copy of Traits of American Indian Life was published in London in 1853, by Smith, Elder & Co. It contains a story of a Native suicide, almost identical to a story of a Native suicide that occurred in 1832, as Anderson was entering the Columbia District (but NWC man Donald McKenzie had an almost identical story of a Native suicide, many years earlier). Anderson wrote his story in 1844, and called it “Narrative of 13 years Residence in various parts between Montreal & the Pacific.” This cannot have been the manuscript Lieutenant Wilkes carried away, nor can it be the manuscript that went to Hale — the dates don’t fit!  But court circuit judge Benjamin Tappen read it in April 1846, and copied a piece of it out to send to his son. How did Benjamin Tappan see this article? I cannot even begin to guess!

But here it is. Someone has to know where this came from. This remnant of Anderson’s manuscript is found in the Oregon Historical Society Archives, Mss. 127, Tappan, Benjamin:

The most deliberate instance of suicide I remember to have heard of as occurring in any country took place at Walla Walla near the Columbia River in the year 1832 under the following circumstances as I learned them on the spot. [Anderson passed through Fort Nez Perces in late October, 1832].

One of the principal chiefs of the place rich in an unusual degree in all that constituted Indian opulence had a favorite son the only issue of a former marriage (beside a family by a more recent connection). This young man entitled by his parentage to the respect of his tribe had moreover gained their affection by the suavity of his demeanor & the numerous accomplishments that distinguished him in a marked degree from all his companions.

The hopes of a fond father became concentered [sic] in a son in whom so many [more?] qualities were developed, & every kind of indulgence was lavished on him. After attaining the age of seventeen, symptoms of a decline began to manifest themselves but the insidious approaches of disease were so gradual that it was long ere any suspicion of the truth arose to alarm his friends; but at length increased debility gave warning of the truth, still the father strove to persuade himself that the disorder was but of a temporary nature & that the return of spring would bring with it renewed health & activity, but there fond anticipations were doomed to be disappointed. the winter passed over with little alteration, & with the advancing year the dreaded symptoms increased in [violence], then after a month or two the catastrophe arrived.

Magnificent obsequies were prepared; the finest racers were called from the herds that roamed free & unfettered around the grave (for the lad expressed a dying wish to be interred after the fashion of the white men) — had been dug by the father’s directions deeper than is customary & doubly as broad. The department of the latter during these preparations had been unusually calm & collected; indeed with his son’s death every incentive to action seemed to cease; & to the astonishment of all he appeared to contemplate that event with a resignation none had ventured to hope for.

Upon the day of the funeral a large concourse of people assembled. The grave had been dug in a conspicuous situation near the fort; horses were led thither & property of all descriptions was heaped by the side; the first as a sacrifice, the rest as offerings of respect to be suspended around the burial place. Kettles, blankets, pieces of scarlet cloth, broken or torn into shreds, but sacrilegious hands should thereafter be terrified to steal them were lying there. At length the body was lowered into the grave & the bystanders prepared to cover it with earth. At the juncture, the father, who during the whole ceremony had stood silently aloof, seemingly inattentive to all outward objects, advanced to the brink of the pit, & arresting those who were about to fill it up, thus addressed the assembly. Commencing with the birth of his son he proceeded to enumerate the several virtues which had distinguished him, detailing all the circumstances of his illness & his premature death & [coinciding?]  a long & mournful ovation by expressing a determination not to survive his son. Upon this he sprung into the grave & clasping the corpse which lay shrouded in mats at the bottom commanded the by-standers to complete their work. Amazed they resisted & employed every argument which suggested itself to dissuade the father from the horrid determination he had expressed. Wife, children, relatives of every degree strove to move his resolution, but in vain, his will prevailed, the grave was filled & the remains of father & son rest in it together.

So where is this manuscript? It is identified as Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s. Is it part of his first writing, or a new edition of it, or a new story entirely? I don’t know. I don’t know how to find it anymore. I don’t know where the original might be, or in whose hands it was when Benjamin Tappan saw it. It is certainly not in the British Columbia archives, nor in any other archives under Anderson’s name. It could be anywhere, and is likely in a collection of papers, with no identifying titles. It might be lost. In fact, the latter is the most likely answer of all. If you know where it might be, please take a peek, and let me know.

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2014. All rights reserved.