A letter by a teenager clerk: Year 1846

Following is a letter discovered in 1988 of a teenager clerk in Edinburgh, UK. It was published in an article in "Accounting Historians Journal," Dec 2008 v35 i2 p43(27): A letter from a teenage accounting clerk in 1846: a hidden voice in a micro-history of modern public accountancy, by Thomas A. Lee. (Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2008 Academy of Accounting Historians.) I only wish to reproduce the letter here:

Edinburgh, 1 George Street
December 24th 1846

My dear Papa,

Your kind letter I got yesterday along with one from
Glasgow which enclosed another note from you to
Mama for my perusal. I was perfectly surprised to find
the Phaeton did not go into Glasgow till Saturday. After
all you see you might just have done as I wished you to
do, and not left here till the Friday night. I am now very
vexed you have been the worse of your trip though, but
I trust you will soon be perfectly recovered.

I will attend to all your instructions with respect to
the almanacs etc. In Mama's letter she says something
about extract of malt. Do you wish me to send a jar to
Montrose Street along with them? I have made up my
mind to give Marianne Cairns some little thing just now
also, for I wish her to see that I feel their kindness to
me a little. I am thinking some Saturday in the beginning
of the year to take a 4th class drive to Glasgow in
the morning if it won't put them about at all, and if
they could give me a bed, stay till the Monday. If not,
return on the Saturday evening. But I don't wish you
to mention this because in the first place I may not do
so at all, and in the second if I do, it will be a nice thing
to surprise Mama by popping in to breakfast some fine
morning. I was sorry to find Aunty and Frederick poor
Manny had been ill, but I am glad they are well again.
I am very glad indeed that Mr Peddie's report of your
humble servant pleased them all in Glasgow, but oh I
am thankful that it has been an almighty Father that
has been on my right hand and on my left for the last
year. The more good accounts I hear of myself it makes
me the more so, for I feel convinced that without Him I
could have done nothing. You may perhaps my dearest
Father be surprised to hear such a statement from me.
I perhaps never said so much about my own feelings
to any one before, but I think it right to tell, that these
feelings in regard to God's Providence, I never had till I
got my first quarter's salary. Vanity was and is still too
much I fear my besetting sin. I ought to say rather self
conceit--but that day I felt it was not my own cleverness
nor anything I can do that made Mr Peddle think
I should get 5 [pounds sterling] instead of 3.15 [pounds
sterling]/- and ever since then I
have felt more and more that 'without me you can do
nothing.' I must now draw near a close, though I am
already too late for this evening's Post. I forgot to bring
up the Pict. Times tonight too, so you won't get it till
Saturday. I won't be able to get Mama written to till the
beginning of the week either. You may say when you
write. Miss Low would get a parcel from Mrs Murray
which she sent up to me to take charge of when I am
going west, but as I was not, she was to send it herself.
I think Dr Minto will come round a bit now; there has
been a regular quarrel between him and Archy at last
and he, the latter, is unseated from the foot of the table
(!). The Plaid is a delightful thing. I got out a Ticket
for the lectures from Mr Peddie. Many thanks for your
leave to take a few lessons on dancing. I go to the
Cresct. tomorrow you know; on Tuesday to the Messers
and on New Year evening to the Millers. These are
the invitations I have on hand at present but there will
likely be more next week.

Now dear Papa I must stop. Love to all, large and small.

Your ever affectionate son

Alexander Niven


I wish you could devise any possible excuse for leaving
the Tron Church. I go there Sabbath after Sabbath, and
I must tell you distinctly I come out vexed and uncomfortable,
because I never get any good, and I feel quite
vexed almost, when Sunday returns for I feel convinced
that every time I enter the church I am just about to
waste two hours of the Holy Sabbath. Please to think
this seriously over and let me know what you think I
ought to do. I could write many things more but I must


10 of Thursday pm

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