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Letter from William Macewen to J.W.Allan


This letter describes the feelings of friends on Allan's departure for China.

"13 Bath Street, March 5 1872.

James W. Allan.

My dear Friend,
I have received with much pleasure the news, both of the telegram and the letter; each in this season; announcing your safe arrival at the proximal extremity of your China journey. And I will weary till I have a telegram from Liverpool intimating your safe return.
I cannot describe to you, the feeling of that walk home on Sunday night. There seemed to be a wonderful lack of words, and a silent confusion pervaded all of us, as we tottered slowly down the streets, until, last of all, the silence began to be quite unbearable, and each tried to speak: but, the broken, semi-spasmodic sentences, which were uttered, only showed, too plainly, that our minds were on a very different subject from our tongues. Sutherland, remained quietly on the sofa, for a long time, and at last gave vent to a queer expression, emanating from the depths of the trachea, then a faint smile, lit for a moment his swarthy face, but only to make the dull eyes, still more dull and dismal, as if the lower part of his face was masking the upper: and shifting himself uneasily on the sofa he said “Hell man! Jamie is really away to China.” “It’s queer isn’t it.” And after a short interval, all of us, by one desire, wanted to separate. We wanted to be alone. So Archie and I drawing closer to each other than usual & holding each others arms firmer than our want, passed slowly down to the bridge, and for a little time looked sadly into the dark flowing river, which reflected the flickering lights and with promises to meet soon, grasped hands and departed; and the sorrow in Archie’s eye I still see: calm and deep.
There is a sort of dread hanging over me, which I hope will soon vanish. We may never meet again, here. You or I may leave this earth ere from ____, one sent into the past: but if it should be, we will know: whoever goes, that it will only be to participate the sooner in the mysteries of the eternal. One thing will never be shaken [:] our love for each other.

May God be with us.

William Macewen."


William Macewen


c. 1872


RCPSG 10/1A/5/1

Letter from William Macewen to J.W.Allan


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William Macewen, “Letter from William Macewen to J.W.Allan ,” Heritage, accessed January 18, 2022,