October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


TC TO J. W. PARKER ; 2 November 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18561102-TC-JWP-01; CL 32: 25-26


Chelsea, November 2, 1856.


There is, in the last Fraser, a very pretty little article on America and its Kansas, &c. troubles;1 which I recognise for the work of Mr. Bristed,2 a gentleman whom I have long heard with pleasure on all such subjects. Candid, loyal, clear, intelligent, a thorough ‘gentleman,’ as we define it;—the only man who throws any real light to me on American questions. He might do a great deal of good to both countries, and gain the gratitude of all considerate men in both, by continuing and extending in all ways this fine function of International Interpreter between America and England, for which he has such capabilities. I charge you let him want for no encouragement on your part. As a mere writer I find him very good; style perfect for his purpose. Only I wish he would give up saying ‘at the North,’ ‘at the South,’ which is a mere solecism and careless Yankeeism: no mortal would think of saying ‘at Germany,’ though he would ‘at Berlin’ or the like: the prepositions AT and IN, we imagined, had long ago settled their account!— Please submit to him also the sad case of the word ‘Fillibuster’ (I think that is the current spelling): two-hundred years ago the word Freebooter was rife among certain English naval gentlemen (whose life corresponded) in the West India Islands; the French of the same trade caught it up there (a nice synonym of Boucanier, eater of boucan, or dried salt flesh);—caught it up, but made it into Flibûtier, written Flibustier by the old printers, &c.;—and from this origin have sprung the dreadful progeny of Fillibusters, Filliblusters, Fillibustiers, and I know not what, which are oozing over into our own newspapers;3 and which ought to be killed wherever met with by every respectable man.

But all this is as nothing; mere preliminary talk, and other men's business, not my own. What I wished you to ask Mr. Bristed on my behoof is a ridiculous-looking question, but one I really wish to have answered, for uses it has to me. ‘Speaking to Bunkum.’ What is the indubitably right spelling, Buncombe? or as above Bunkum? and where is the Buncombe or Bunkum?4—I really wish to know (correct, as if on oath!); but am in no hurry about it for months to come. Only, please, bear it in mind; and tell me so soon as you learn.

Yours always truly,