Bridging Generations

Ancestors and descendents of Joyce Verla Pratt and Mark Richard Berrett

Archive for the tag “Dickens”

Uncommercial Travelers

On 20 May 1863 Eliza, her father John Brown, and her brother George left their village of West Lavington to begin their trip to Utah.  It took about two weeks to get to London and make preparations for their journey.  Their ship, The Amazon, was anchored in the Thames River and a group of 882 Saints went on board.


Passenger list from the Amazon – bound for New York.
The Brown family is listed about halfway down the page.

Emigrant ships full of travelers going to America were not an uncommon sight at the docks.  However, this ship caught the interest of the English writer, Charles Dickens, and he went aboard the ship before it sailed.  He was curious to know why and where such a large group of emigrants was going and to find out what was the motivation behind their travel.  Family history reports that among those Dickens interviewed were Eliza and George and their father. His impressions of his visit that day of June 4, 1863 appeared in his book, “The Uncommercial Traveler.”  (And whether or not it really is our Eliza who is featured, the link is to an excerpt from the book that is very interesting and worth at least a quick read.)

The following excerpt is the conversation as Dickens published in his book.

“But nobody is in an illtemper, nobody is the worse for drink, nobody swears an oator uses a coarse word, nobody appears depressed, nobody is weeping, and down upon the deck in evercorner where it is possible to find a few square feet to kneel, crouch, or lie in, people, in everunsuitable attitude for writing, are writing letters.

“Now, I have seen emigrant ships before this day in June. And these people are so strikingldifferent from all other people in like circumstances whom I have ever seen, that I wonder aloud, Whawould a stranger suppose these emigrants to be!
The vigilant bright face of the weatherbrowned captain of the”Amazon” is at my shoulder, anhe says, ‘What, indeed! The most of these came aboard yesterday evening. They came from various partof England in small parties that had never seen one another before. Yet they had not been a couple ohours on board, when they established their own police, made their own regulations, and set their owwatches at all the hatchways. Before nine oclock, the ship was as orderly and as quiet as a manofwar.’

“Similarly on this same head, the Uncommercial underwent discomfiture from a Wiltshire laborer: simple fresh colored farm laborer, of eightandthirty, [Eliza’s father, John] who at one time stood beside him looking on anew arrivals, and with whom he held this dialogue:

“UNCOMMERCIAL: Would you mind my asking you what part of the country you come from?
     WILTSHIRE: Not a bit. Theer [there]! (Exultingly) Ive worked all my life o Salisbury Plain, righunder the shadder o Stonehenge. You mightnt think it, but I haive [have].
UNCOMMERCIAL: And a pleasant country too.
     WILTSHIRE: Ah! Tis a pleasant country.
UNCOMMERCIAL: Have you any family on board?
     WILTSHIRE: Two children, boy and gal. I am a widderer [widower], I am, and Im going out alonger mboy and gal. Thats my gal, and shes a fine gal o sixteen (pointing out the girl who is writing bthe boat). Ill go and fetch my boy. Id like to show you my boy. (Here Wiltshire disappears, anpresently comes back with a big shy boy of twelve, in a superabundance of boots, who is not at all glato be presented.) He is a fine boy too, and a boy fur [for] to work! (Boy having undutifully bolted,Wiltshire drops him.)
UNCOMMERCIAL: It must cost you a great deal of money to go so far, three strong.
     WILTSHIRE: A power of money. Theer [There]! Eight shillen a week, eight shillen a week, eighshillen a week, put by out of the weeks wages for ever so long.
UNCOMMERCIAL: I wonder how you did it.
     WILTSHIRE:recognising [recognizing] in this a kindred spirit). See there now! I wonder how I donit! But what with a bit o subscription heer [here], and what with a bit o help theer [there], it werdone at last, though I dont hardly know how. Then [p. 227] it were unfortnet for us, you see, as wgot kep in Bristol so longnigh a fortnight, it wereon accounts of a mistake wi Brother HallidaySwallerd up money, it did, when we might have come straight on.
UNCOMMERCIAL:(delicately approaching Joe Smith). You are of the Mormon religion, of course?
     WILTSHIRE: (confidently). O yes, Im a Mormon. (Then reflectively). Im a Mormon. (Then, lookinround the ship, feigns to descry a particular friend in an empty spot, and evaded the Uncommercial forevermore.)”

Maybe we really are published!


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