Dumbarton, Scotland: 1790. Folio half-sheet, 1 p. (20 lines), name of the recipient on verso, 2 vertical and 4 horizontal folds, evidence of wax seal on verso, old tape repair at top margin (not affecting text), ink gall corrosion on outer margin, affecting one word. Preserved in mylar sleeve. Good. Item #3249
An extremely curious provincial Scottish letter, dated 1790, which incorporates misspellings based on non-standard sociolects of the Scottish dialect. While "worthless" relics such as this were almost invariably discarded, they remain of the great interest in Ortheopy (the study of pronunciation). Indeed, much of what is known about Vulgar Latin pronunciation is preserved in graffiti in the ruins of Pompei.
Concerning the content of the letter: William Steuart (or Stewart) writes to John Adam, Esq. describing water damage to four rooms in Dumbarton Castle: two were newly painted, the other two newly wall-papered. An associate suggested that he procure a carpenter in Inversnaid (to the amount of GBP 35), and therefore "if you have any masonwork to do I can do it at the time."
The letter is signed by Steuart, but was clearly dictated by him to an unnamed scribe. Our transcription of the letter retains the original spelling:
"Dumbarton, May 24th 1790. Dear Sir,
I received both your letters one of the 10th & the other of the 13th curant & have noted the contents. I told Capt. Roberson what work was to be don [sic] at the Castle hear [sic] this year when he simed [i.e. seemed] much surprised that his hous [sic] was not rough cast. Ther [sic] is 2 rooms neu [sic] painted & other two neu [sic] pappred [sic] which will be quite spiled [i.e. spoiled] with the watter [sic] comin through [the] wall & he has wrot [i.e. wrote] to Campt. Rudyard about it. Last neight [sic] I had a letter from Mr. Young beiging [i.e. begging] of me to go to Inversnaid to gat [sic] som [sic] Carpenter work don [sic] ther [sic] to the amount of [GBP] 35 so if you have any masson [sic] work to do I can do it at the time. I am Dear Sir, your very humbel [sic] Serv't," [shaky signature of William Steuart].
Questions remain: Why go to Inversnaid to procure a carpenter? This extremely tiny village was located 30 miles away from Dumbarton Castle, while Glasgow was only 13 miles away. And was recipient of the present letter to be identified with the architect John Adam, Esq., of Edinburgh (1721-1792), son of William Adam, and older brother of Robert Adam?