Snippets 122. In 1815 George Head, the assistant commissary-general of the commissariat of the 3rd division of the Spanish army, undertook a journey across North America, snappily titled Forest Scenes and Incidents in the Wilds of North America, Being a Diary of a Winter’s Route from Halifax to the Canadas. His diary was published in 1829. Finding good places to stay during his travels was sometimes a problem, and in the following quote he describes one of his worst experiences, while travelling in Canada.
The house we were now in for the night was very particularly dirty and comfortless. There were two beds in the room, one for the host, his wife, and four children, the youngest of which was not more than a few weeks old, and the other was appropriated to me. The driver and my servant lay on the boards before the stove, which was a Canada one, and too powerful for the size of the room. The heat all night was quite suffocating, though the weather certainly was not warmer than 20° of Fahrenheit. The bed I slept in had green stuff curtains, full of dust; and the sheets were of some soft spongy material which, if clean, at least felt otherwise, and for the first time since I had been in the country, I was tormented with fleas. It was impossible to get a wink of sleep; for besides my own grievances, there were other causes of disturbance. The child cried incessantly in spite of all the woman could do to pacify it. It had, I believe, nothing at all the matter with it, but seemed, from sheer frowardness, to imagine that the little world of our miserable apartment was made for itself. Sometimes the good wife sat up in her bed with the little animal hugged up between her chin and her elbows, hushing and rocking herself and it; and then she patted its back, and it still cried. Then ten times I dare say in the course of the night, out of bed got the poor husband, who stood for several minutes at the stove, displaying a pair of lean bare legs, and an extremely short shirt, and stir- ring something in a saucepan with the broken stump of an iron spoon — a picture of obedience and misery ! Then he got into bed again. Then came a long consultation, and almost a quarrel about what was best to be done. Then the grand specific was administered, but all without effect. At last the other children awoke, and the youngest of these began to cry too : and the mother said it was the big one’s fault, and b eat her. So off she went, and we had a loud concert, till, what with the noise of the children, and the heat, and the dirt, and the fleas, I felt ready to rush out of doors and roll myself in the snow. But every thing must have an end, and so at last the children were all tired out, and by degrees grew quiet ; and in the morning I found I had been asleep, and got out of bed determined to be off as soon as I possibly could.
If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.