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This page is an example of a crossed letter. To save money on postage, nineteenth-century correspondents would sometimes write over a page they had previously covered with text. The second time the handwriting would go up and down instead of left to right. With a little practice one can read it.
The first seven lines of Jack's letter to Jeanie are shown in the image at the head of this page. A transcription follows:
Washington July 8th 1853
My dear Jeanie,
Who is Martin do you know such a man? What does
he look like? I hear you cry out “You are crazy Jack!” so before going further
had better tell you the why and wherefore of those queries – about ten minutes
ago I started out of a deep sleep aroused by something occurring (what I can
not remember) between you & said Martin. I heard both names distinctly
& was awakened by a shout from you calling for me. More crazy yet!! So it may
be perhaps an attack of the nightmares caused by Mrs. Bremley’s champagne.
The handwriting running up and down the page is actually a continuation of page four of the letter! Jack covered two sheets front and back before going back to page one and writing across the lines already there. Below is an image of the same page as above, but turned on its side to make the long lines easier to read. Underneath is a transcription of the first eight lines:
or by crook I must get a letter off to China soon, else they will think I have forgotten them entirely & after the
great kindness every one poured upon me there, it is a shame the worst of it is the longer I delay the
less I am inclined to begin. Tell Charlie A that I am glad to hear he is a good boy & did not blow
himself up with fire crackers on the 4th. Your account of the racket did not surprise me much as
I overheard the preparation making in New York. Here the day was comparatively quiet had it not
been for an occasional drunken man reeling through the streets, one could hardly have known it was
the birth of a nation who style themselves “great” year after year, the day is less observed & I regret
to see it showing as it does that the memory of what it once was is being forgotten.