Letter dated at Smyrna, Turkey, August 9, 1829, from David Offley, to his sister, Mrs. Mary Offley Sharpless, at Philadelphia, Pa.
Folded letter has red “NEW-YORK” cds, red “SHIP” handstamp, and manuscript “14-1/2” rate. The NYC postmark is dated Oct. 12th, indicating that the letter took a little over 2 months to reach the U.S.
The letter includes an account of how he feels he is prematurely aging at age 48; spent the past winter at Constantinople, and was often in knee deep snow there, which leads him to believe that spending a winter in Philadelphia would “finish” him; He writes of his 3 grown sons (from his first marriage), who live with him in Turkey, and of his small children (from his second marriage in 1820 to a Greek woman in Smyrna, Helena Curtovich), and asks his sister to make an addition to the family Bible, by noting the recent birth of a daughter in Smyrna. He also writes of how they pass the summer months in Smyrna, but plan soon to go to their home in a village 7 miles outside the city (Burnabat). Of special interest is his comments on how the Greek Revolution has made serious “inroads” on his finances (the war between Turkey & Greece ended the year this letter was written, and the modern Kingdom of Greece was established), and his hopes that restoration of peace will increase their business opportunities, and also he voices complaints of how the U.S. Government owes him money for services rendered and money advanced, and that he feels the U.S. Government “use me very ill in delaying the payment”.
“It is a very long time since I had the pleasure to receive a letter from you, and the state of your health when last you wrote, has made me very anxious to hear from you. I am aware that you seldom can hear of opportunities, as the commerce between this place and the U. States is nearly all carried out from Boston, and which I am persuaded is the reason I so seldom hear from you. The duties of a mother occupy much time, but for one who has so great a facility in writing as you have, that cannot occasoin your silence, and I am less willing than all to believe our long separation can have occasioned any dimunition in the brotherly affection I know you have for me. I think much and often of you, and dear Mother’s image is as perfect in my imagination as if it was only yesterday I saw her...
Here we go on as usual. To begin the account with myself, I must tell you I feel most sensibly the approaches of old age, and have many tokens to warn me that I am likely, as respects health, to be a tolerably miserable old man. I suffer at this moment much with the rheumatism in my knees. I am nearly bald, my teeth are fast decaying, and without spectacles I cannot even read a newspaper. Yet, I am only 48 years old. Perhaps my travels, change of climate, &c. may have occasioned a premature old age.
The past winter I spent in Constantinople, where frequently the snow was knee deep. I was not for one day in the enjoyment of good health, & I am well convinced that a winter in Philadelphia would make a finish of me. Contrary to your ideas (for every thing is different in this Country), we are in town to pass the summer heats. When they are over, I shall retire with my family to a neighboring village, distant about 7 miles, to pass the remainder of the year, where, what with gardening and little carpenter jobs, I pass my time pleasantly enough.
Richard & David [his sons] are with me and doing little or nothing, waiting for such changes as we hope peace may bring about, to engage in business. Holmes [another son], I believe is doing something in Trieste. My little ones are all in the enjoyment of fine health, and make in my house and under my eye, good progress in their education. I have another entry which I beg you to make in the family Bible - ‘1829. Catherine, daughter of David and Helen Offley, was born at Smyrna, in Asia Minor, on the 28th July’. My dear Helen is quite well and desires her love to you all. She is yet confined to her room, but hope in a few days she will be able to join us again at table.
Give my best respects to your Blakey [his sister’s husband, Blakey Sharpless]. Tell him I hope...to hear that my small draft on the Secretary of State has been paid. They certainly use me very ill in delaying the payment of my drafts for money advanced by me for the use of Goverment, without fee or reward for so doing. It is now a long time since I have been rendering services to our Govt. without any renumeration. I trust eventually from their Justice, that I shall receive some, and which will be most acceptable. Without business, and a very large family to support, it requires no little management to make both ends. Most this, but nothing more I have been able to do for some years past. The Greek revolution and S. Williams’ failure made a real inroad in my finances...”