Thursday, July 18, 2019

This Finn was an intelligent man

This man had come to America five or six years ago; he had brought a family which had since increased by three or four members. This family he had at first left behind in the city, while he himself was drifting about. He had come to this town and started to work for my present employer who, seeing his great strength and his love of work, had treated him well, had gained his confidence, and finally had made him an offer which had seemed good to the Finn. It had even seemed kind.

The offer was this. The lawyer would sell the Finn a half-section of land at twenty dollars an acre, to be paid for in half-crop payments. He would build a shack and a stable for him at so-and-so much, and equip him besides with all the machinery and the horses he needed at stated prices. The machinery was second-hand; I do not remember the sums involved; but I do remember that the price as stipulated was what it had cost when new. Of horses there had been five--good horses, the Finn admitted; but colts, not broken or trained for the work. The price of these was one thousand dollars. For the whole of this equipment the Finn had been induced to give five notes, lien-notes, with that iniquitous clause, ". . . Or if the party of the first part should consider this note insecure, he shall have full power to declare this and all other notes made by me in his favour due and payable forthwith, and he may take possession of the property and hold it until this note and all other notes made by me are paid, or sell the said property at public or private sale; the proceeds thereof to be applied in reducing the amount unpaid thereon; and the holder thereof, notwithstanding such taking possession or sale, shall thereafter have the right to proceed against me and recover, and I agree to pay, the balance then found to be due thereon."

This, I am aware, is perfectly within the law; it may even work without hardship where "the party of the second part" is fully aware of what he signs, though I doubt it. This Finn was an intelligent man; he could read and write his own language. But, as far as English goes, he was to all intents and purposes illiterate; through none of his fault. He had been turned loose on American soil, equipped for the struggle of life with nothing but an inherent trustfulness; he was paying for his lesson with bankruptcy. My own, comparatively trifling and mild experiences, annoying as they had been, here widened out for the first time into the experience of a whole class of immigrants, and that the most desirable one. In every nation there are sharks, of course; it is only just to say that in later years I found the worst of the sharks among successful immigrants. In every nation there are brutes and fools; we cannot charge their doings to the collective score. But children need looking after; and the immigrant is, as far as the ways of this country are concerned, no better than a child. Here was a bona-fide settler, a prospective citizen of the most promising kind, turned into a sower of discontent. Do you blame him?

Frederick Philip Grove: A Search for America (1927)

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A delightfully retired spot, called Suonenjoki

The second Sunday after leaving home I spent at a delightfully retired spot, called Suonenjoki. I went to the Church in the forenoon, and carried a number of Testaments with me to distribute among the people. The clergyman gave away some of them in my presence. To see the tear of joy and gratitude stealing down the manly cheek of the peasant, excited feelings of gratitude in my heart to that God who has counted me worthy to be a dispenser of blessings to others. I felt something of the blessedness of giving.

On Monday, the 2d instant, I arrived in Kuopio. There are some pious people here, whose acquaintance I made when I passed the place in 1817, on my way to England, on whom I immediately called, in order to learn the true state of things. One of them is a bookseller, and who has chosen this line of business for the pious purpose of supplying his countrymen with religious tracts, and other religious books, but especially with Bibles. He brings them from Abo, at his own expense, a distance of 400 English miles, and carries them about with him to all the fairs, and sells them for five rubles per copy, which makes about five pence advance for his trouble and the carriage of them. From this pious and intelligent man I learned, that the cause of our Lord and Master is prospering in various places, particularly to the north of Kuopio, and extending itself to Karel. Many are inquiring about the salvation of their souls: the awakening in some parts is general, and the consequence is a desire to have the Scriptures, and to read them.

Monday, July 8, 2019

She describes her people, so primitive in their habits

The most notable woman we have aboard is Miss Selma Borg, well known as the translator of Swedish and Finnish novels. She goes for the summer to her home in Finland. We find her a talented, warm-hearted woman, full of enthusiasm in regard to America and her institutions, yet always mindful of her people and her native land. She goes to labor for the Centennial cause, to arouse her countrymen to the importance of their having a proper representation at that time. Despite the apathy of the Russians on the subject, she is determined that Finland shall send specimens of her arts and manufactures. "How shall I go to my family," she said, in her beautiful patois, "how satisfy them about your great land? They will ask me of your government, your public schools, woman's suffrage, social science, and all the great topics of the times; and although I have been among you fifteen years, they have been so crowded with work, that I feel I know nothing thoroughly."

Miss Borg is a strong, vigorous thinker, a woman of large heart and intellect. She is an ardent reformer and searcher after the truth. In connection with Miss Marie A. Brown, she has translated the novels of Madame Schwartz and Gustav Adolph, and has lately made a collection of the lays of Sweden and Finland, which are full of feeling and replete with melodic sweetness and beauty. The weird character of the songs of the Norsemen as interpreted by the Swedish Nightingales, Jenny Lihd and Christine Nilsson, has created in our continent a desire for their translation, and Miss Borg has given them to us in all their wild, quaint, plaintive beauty.

She tells us much that is new, interesting, and instructive concerning Finland: of the days which commence at two o'clock in the morning and last until ten at night, of the fierce cold of the winter, and the warm, beautiful summer, when in three months they sow the seed, have the blossom, the fruit, and the harvest. She describes her people, so primitive in their habits, simple in their tastes, and noble, honest, and loving. But she expresses her determination to spend the remainder of her days in the land of her adoption. Her lines have fallen in pleasant places, for she has made friends with the Quakers of Philadelphia. But no language of mine can express her enthusiasm of words and manner when she speaks of the "dear people among whom I passed my time." Her compagnon de voyage is a countryman, Mr. Fagerstrom, a genuine specimen of the men of the Norseland. He has spent seven years in America in the study of machinery, and goes home to put in practice the knowledge he has gained. But I think there lurks in his heart a fear that he will not be content, after the hurry and enterprise in which he has so long mingled.

Mary H. Wills: A summer in Europe. 1876

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The salle à manger we find chequered with tables

The salle à manger we find chequered with tables, where famished individuals are busily engaged, absorbing with astonishing rapidity savoury concoctions of original appearance, the obsequious "Kelner" displays a document, which imparts the refreshing knowledge that matter for refection is obtainable in endless variety from the cuisinal laboratory.

The Finnish has been liberally and literally rendered into the English tongue for our edification, and we have the choice of ox-steak, calf-steak, calf-cutlet, swine-steak, sheep's-leg, and so on, reminding us of some of the Parisian restaurants, where the liqueur "Chinois à l'eau de vie," is translated "a Chinese in brandy." Our lot falls upon calf-cutlet, and an unctuous conglomeration appears, redolent of garlick, and smothered in fennel and other species of the grass kind. Our entremêt is a cock-de-bois, which we innocently imagine might be cock of wood, alias woodcock, but the "rara avis" proves to be a species of capon, old as Methuselah, with a parchment hide, and must have lived at the period of the great fire and then and there been roasted. A supply of Finnish beer, a sort of attenuated rhubarb and magnesia tends to gravitate the solidities, but it is funny stuff, and our paymaster disburses the few farthings necessary in liquidation of expenses, and we adjourn to the billiard-room.

George Francklin Atkinson: Pictures from the north, in pen and pencil; sketched during a summer ramble. 1848

With the consent of the Lutheran Bishop of Heinola

No trace of pursuers were behind them now, though their flight must by this time have been known both in the capital and at Schlusselburg. But in those days there were neither railroads nor electric telegraphs ; so, riding on more leisurely, Balgonie changed horses again near Viborg, and erelong the great Lake of Saima appeared before them, with the distant hills of Swedish Finland beyond its friendly waters.

A boat was procured there; the kabitka was abandoned ; and, with a shout of joy, Usakoff assisted the Finnish boatman to hoist the great lug-sail to catch the breeze of a balmy and beautiful evening, as they bade a long farewell to Russia and all its terrors.

In a quaint old Church of Finland, by the eastern shore of the Lake of Saima, and in view of its little archipelago of granite isles, — a lonely little fane, buried amid groves of plum and cherry trees, built of wood and painted red, with a little holy bell jangling in its humble belfry, — Charlie Balgonie and his fugitive bride were united by the old Curate, with the consent of the Lutheran Bishop of Heinola ; and there a thousand roubles spent among the poor spread in the primitive district a happiness, the tradition of which is still remembered with many a grateful exaggeration.

After this, poor Usakoff, finding himself perhaps, as a third person, rather in the way, left them to become a soldier of fortune; and he is supposed to have perished in one of the Polish struggles for freedom ; at least, they heard of him no more, after their final journey to Scotland.

James Grant: The secret dispatch; or, The adventures of Captain Balgonie. 1874

Friday, July 5, 2019

But they are much less rude and barbarous

The inhabitants of Russian Finland were formerly very similar to those of Lapland, and have indeed the same origin; but they are much less rude and barbarous. Those of the towns are engaged in commerce and various trades, while the inhabitants of the country follow agriculture, hunting and fishing. The latter are laborious, and in general very prudent. Their dress also is similar to that of the Swedish peasants. They most commonly let their beards grow; some, however, only wear mustachios. Their clothes are generally made of a coarse kind of cloth, called walmar, which is manufactured by the women; but they sometimes purchase a finer sort. In winter they wear pelises, made of sheep or other skins. Some wear shoes made of skin, some wooden shoes, and others make their shoes of the bark of some tree laced together. They wear a leathern girdle, generally untanned, in which they carry a large knife. Their hair hangs loose; and they cover their heads with a sort of felt hat.

William Alexander: Picturesque representations of the dress and manners of the Russians. (1814)

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

It is very beautiful, certainly, but it is a very poor one

I WAS tempted to make an excursion from Helsinfors to Abo, a distance of one hundred and fifty English miles, in order to see a part of Finland which I had heard represented as a very beautiful country. It is very beautiful, certainly, but it is a very poor one. I saw only two mansions on the road, and they were nearer to Helsinfors than to Abo; the latter town having been formerly the capital of Finland, as the other is now. You see fir, beech, and mountain-ash trees, with alder and juniper plants, clustered together very picturesquely, forming glades, and crowning mountain-tops; and you have an eternal variety of small lakes, barren scaurs, and cultivated grounds. In spite of the abundance of water, we could find no fish to eat on our road; and there was only one decent inn, which was at Nyby, rather less than half way between Helsinfors and Abo. But when I speak of a good inn, my readers must not imagine that they will be received in a papered room, with sofas and tables, and a neat chimney-piece, adorned with fly-catchers in papers; —no, they will have to mount a small scaffold of steps, (for all the houses here are of wood, and built on an above-ground foundation of stone); you then enter a room which is unpainted, and the whole of the rafters stuffed with moss, to prevent the air from penetrating; the floors are clean, and you generally find a stove which keeps the whole warm.
Frank Hall Standish: Notices on the northern capitals of Europe. 1838

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

If the weather is stormy, the ice assumes all the appearance of waves

“To visit Langhorn and to relieve his distress, Ledyard crossed from Hamburg to Copenhagen, thus leaving the direct course to St. Petersburg, and, as you shall hear, increasing the distance many hundred miles. From Copenhagen he went to Stockholm, intending to cross over to Abo in Finland, and thus proceeding to the place of his destination.
“The manner in which the passage between Stockholm and the place I have just mentioned is made in the winter season, is so singular that I must describe it to you. The traveller, muffled up in furs, is seated on a sledge, which is drawn by two or three horses. The ice is sometimes so smooth that the passage is comparatively easy; but, if the weather is stormy, the ice assumes all the appearance of waves, and immense masses, heaped one upon another, offer the most fearful impediments. The sledge is frequently upset, and the horses sometimes become unmanageable and run away. When, however, there happens to be an open winter—one in which the frost is not sufficiently intense to freeze the passage entirely over, the water yet contains so much floating ice that no vessel can sail through it. This happened to be the case in the season in which Ledyard arrived, so that he found it necessary either to stay at Stockholm till the spring, or to proceed round the gulf, a distance of twelve hundred miles, over trackless snows, and in regions thinly peopled, where the nights are long and the cold intense, and all this to advance on his journey only about fifty miles.
Thomas Bingley: Tales about travellers - their perils, adventures, and Discoveries. 1841