To Mrs Mylne, Pouderhall.*
As I have now no further occassion for the furniture of the house in Halkerstones wynd which I am now leaving, I beg you will accept of it and likewise any silver work that I am possesd of, as some small compensation for the extroardinary expence you have been at on my account.
Your ever affectionate son
Edinr. 2nd. May 1773.
William’s whereabouts for the next three and a half months are unknown. His baggage was carried to London on board the Betsie (or Betsey), which sailed from Leith* on August 17.
After the Tea Act was passed by Parliament on May 10, the East India Company began making arrangements to ship its first consignments to American ports. The company decided to select a small number of well-known importers in each of the major colonial ports, Boston, New York,* Philadelphia* and Charleston, and appoint them agents to receive the tea and sell it on behalf of the company for a commission fixed at six percent. It cannot be doubted that all of these chosen consignees were known to have Tory sympathies; and it was inevitable that any Tory leanings of other merchants in the colonial ports would be weakened or destroyed by their exclusion from the new tea trade. The company had simply chosen an easy way of marketing the tea with assured profit, ignoring any risk of a political reaction. The names of the consignees were announced in London on August 4; but because communication with them in America took many weeks, they themselves only learned of their involvement when their consignments were in mid-Atlantic or nearing the American ports, and in those ports there was a rising storm of opposition to the new tea imports.
Powderhall in the late nineteenth century.
From J. Grant, Old and New Edinburgh (1883), vol. 3, p. 93.
The arrangements for shipping the tea began as soon as the consignees’ names were announced. Immediate deposits of one-eighth of the value of consignments were made in London by the agents or underwriters for the consignees, full payment being required two months after arrival of the cargoes in American ports. The import duty at destination was to be paid by the consignees, but with bills of exchange drawn on the East India Company, which meant that payment of the duty would actually be made to the Treasury by the company in London.
The vessels chosen to carry the tea were the Eleanor, the Dartmouth and the Beaver all bound for Boston, the Polly for Philadelphia, the Nancy for New York, and the London for Charleston. The shipments totalled two thousand chests of tea, each containing 320 pounds, of which two hundred and fifty-seven chests were bound for Charleston on the London.
29th August 1773.
I have received from the mate of the Betsey my trunk, box, & gun, all in good order, it was only last Friday, and I began to be uneasy about them. When at the wharf, I heard one of the clerks say there was a cask for a Mr Mylne also, the mate answered that was for Robt Mylne Esqre Architect, you may guess where it comes from.2 The same morning after I had got my things to my lodging and was going out again, who should I see coming down the street but his honour.3 At first I suspected he was in search of me, I stept asside, and observed he past our door, I was very glad of it, for although in my present temper of mind I should have paid little regard to him, he still had it in his power to have embarrassed me very much in my intended voyage; I pray to God we don’t meet, for it must be very disagreeable to both of us. I hope it will not happen as I have but a few days longer to remain here, for on Saturday I took my passage on board the London, Captn Curling,* bound for Charles Town South Carolina, who sails the end of this week, and the capn desires my things may be in the ship by Thursday; and to show you how good a economist I am turned, and how little I regard appearances, I must inform you how I managed this matter. I went to the Carolina coffee house where I found bills hung up for several vessels going to Carolina. I asked if any of the Captns were in the room. A Captn Wilson* was pointed out to me, I went to him he said the passage was ten guineas, and to find myself in provisions, that the passengers always met and agreed among themselves what to lay in, which he provided for them—receiving money for that purpose; that the provisions and drink generally, at the lowest, cost fifteen guineas, which made the whole come to twenty five guineas, this was the expence of a cabbin passenger.
Engraving of Robert Mylne, from a miniature painted by his daughter Maria.
I was a good deal surprised to find I had been so far out in my calculation, which was oweing to the books I have lately read. When I came home, I laid my plan, and next morning got a boat and went aboard Captn Curling’s ship, luckely he came at the same time, I told him I wanted to go as a steerage passenger, and to know the terms and accomodation I could have, he told me the passage was eight guineas, that I should be furnished with ships provisions, that if I chused tea or coffee I must buy them myself, that I would sleep in a hammock, and that I must bring my own bedding. I immediatly agreed with him, this now brings my expence within what I had proposed at setting out, and enables me to purchase several little necessaries I might have occassion for, that otherwise I must have gone without, at the same time preserves the capital I proposed to have on my arrival. The London is a fine large ship, very clean and airy, the captn a young sedate man, about thirty, very civil and sensible as far as I could judge, I think I shall be full as easy as if I had gone a cabbin passenger; from what I had seen aboard the collier4 I know the ships provisions are of the very best kind, you know I can do with anything and they must be bad indeed if I cannot put up with them. I beged the captn would be so good to allow one of his people to assist me in buying my bedding; he directly desired one of the mates to go along with me for this purpose whenever I pleased, and likewise that he should do me any other service I might have occassion for.
Last night in stepping into a shop to sell my bad guinea, I lost Mungo.*5 It was at the Exchange* and about a mile from where I lodge, I was very uneasy, I could not think of losing him when he had stuck so close to me, I went in search of him which after some time I was obliged to give up. I then went to the coffee house I frequent, thinking he might have gone there, and then home, and when the door opened, bounce came Mungo up to my very throat. I understood he had come directly to the house and had been there some time. It is very surprising how the creature could find his way through the turnings and streets and so many people in so short a time. As I am never able to eat one third of what is set before me Mungo fares well, but within these two days he is turned as delicate as his master and will eat nothing but lean.
Yesterday I met Jock Learmont* gayley dressed, we passed close to one another, he did not know me. I don’t in any manner confine myself, but the limits have been as yet towards the West End* of the town—no farther than Saint Pauls.* I have wrote this far on Sunday.
Saturday the 4th Septr.
I thought before this to have been at sea but something has happened that delays the ships sailing till next week, the captn says Wednesday next. There are four ships going together, so we shall have company, unless seperated, all the way. I wish now I had not by my last confined your writing to the first post, as I might at least have heard your intelligence exdy from P——d——ll.6 I begin to be quite tired of London—although I walk out in the country some miles every day. Last night I happened to stroll into Moorfields* at one end of which stands an hospitall; I enquired how it was called, it was Bedlam;* instantly the Man of Feeling’s story rushed on my mind, I left the place, I am as chicken-hearted as ever.
I have given over buying, having laid out three or four pounds more than I at first intended, that I might have no wish unsatisfied, and my situation may be easier where I am going. My way of life at present is, breakfast at 8, walk out till 2, dines, sit an hour, come home and read, walk out till near dark, go to the Bear house,7 sup one night, one two penny worth of oysters, the other on cucumbers, 3 a halfpenny, a pint of beer. My dinner is extravagant being 14 or 15 pence.
I see by the newspapers there are 400 highlanders going to Carolina, I suppose that part of your country will be a desart soon.
I have got a new coat of a forrest cloath, 2 pair of breeches, a hat, 2 pair of shoes, 4 check shirts, 6 pair stockings, 4 handkerchiefs, I have bought some books, fishing tackle of all kinds, pouder & shot and a number of other little things which obliged me to add a packing box to my other luggage. They are all shipt on board the London and I have likewise paid my passage.
I should imagine it was oweing to the Selby’s* you was not inabled to write by the first post, I wish it had been otherwise, for now I cannot hear from you till long after my arrivall in Carolina. I had a good prospect of settling in this place, the Bear house I frequent is kept by a widow of thirty six, has been well looked, she for what reason has taken a fancy to me, she first began the attack on Mungo of whom she grew very fond, she carried it on by degrees till at last I have left the house. She thought I was a good natured man, could count and write. I might have done worse however, the house is well frequented, the pots all silver—how would you have liked me selling a tankard of beer?
This day I took a long stroll, I found myself near Islington;* thought I, if his honour is at the Water works and we meet, there will be a fine piece of work. It came on rain and I was obliged to house, I asked if a beef stake was to be had, no such thing, they were fine salmon at the door, I got a plate and bought a groats8 worth, which was sufficient for dinner, it was pickled, I am surprised how they could sell it so cheap, it was as much as I could eat.
This town is much altered to the advantage since I was here before, the minories* which lately there was no crossing is now better paved than the high street of Edinr, as are all the streets in Wapping,* which I remember a pudle. Last Sunday afternoon I took a long walk on the Surry side and came over Blackfriars Bridge. To give the devil his due9 it is a noble piece of work, the avenues are so compleat on that side, nothing can be better done, when those on the London side are finished it will far eclipse Westminster Bridge.*
I forgot to mention my bed, it consists of a matress and pillow, a blanket and a covering, I believe I must add another blanket. They are all clean and neat, very cheap and will be of service to me in America. Although I am impatient to be gone yet my mind enjoyes that peace inwardly to which it has been so long a stranger. Here there is little enjoyment without entering into the greater or smaller circles, my walk is without them. Poverty & extravagence, folly & vice are strangely blended together, if your ears are dea’ved with the cries of the beggar, your eyes are saluted at the same time with the most pompous equipages, & last night Lady Huntingtons* preacher was holding furth at one end of Tower Hill* to a crowded audience, among which were many coaches and chaises, while a foreign quack doctor was luring the blind and the lame at the other; in the middle space the mob were entertaining themselves with ducking a poor wretch who had picked a man’s pocket, one of the doctor’s audience, in the Tower Ditch and half drowned him.
After long revolving in my own mind in what manner I should setle the management of my affairs, I have at last come to the resolution of sending a power of attorney to Livingston* to act. This I can recall when I please, I will send it to my brother along with the letter I shall write to him at the moment the ship is under sail; leaving it in his power to forward or not as he thinks proper. In my letter to our brother I shall let him know that my intention was to have divested myself of all my effects in his favour for the behoof of my creditors, but this could not be done without papers and the rights of process. I shall let him know that as soon as I arrive at my port I will write, when the form of a paper may be sent over in any shape he pleases, which I shall execute. After long thinking this occurred to me the best conclusion I could come to, I have employed an attorney for this purpose. I shall write you a few lines before I go and along with them shall send my will properly done and witnessed. I send this away that you may not think any accident has happened to me.
My duty to our mother, my best respects to the Selby family in case my secret has transpired, but I desire it may always be given out that I am gone for health, which will be a reason when I write to his honour. I shall not write Livingston on this occassion. If you receive any money or pay on my acct set it down distinctly in case his honour should come to have a finger in the pye—take good care of the money I left with you for your own sake, put it into Mansfields* hands in your name.
I think as soon as I get a setlement to bring Willy* 10 over—I can learn him any part of education that is necessary for him. Believe me to be your ever affectionate brother
The weather has been very hot here ever since I came till this day when it has rained much.
1. William’s common name for his sister Anne.
2. Robert relished his wine. The cask may have been ordered from Alexander Brown.
3. William’s frequent mode of reference to Robert.
4. Presumably a ship on which he had traveled from Leith to London.
5. William Mylne’s dog, who accompanied him from Edinburgh.
6. “. . . intelligence extraordinary from Powderhall.”
7. A public house or hostelry. “Bear” or “bere” was the name of a type of barley, but the term died out, first in the south and later in the north of England and Scotland.
8. A groat was worth four pence.
9. Mylne refers here to his brother Robert, architect of Blackfriars Bridge.
10. William Mylne’s illegitimate son.