W4635 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Aug 10 1902
To: Calvin McQuesten Montreal Quebec
My dear dear boy,
It seems a very long time since I wrote you, when I did Ken [Trigge] was just here and his visit was the occasion of most trying experience for all concerned. Of course, I had to have a very plain talk with him and when I spoke to him of his not being an abstainer, he was very frank and open, but simply said that for him to be an abstainer meant that he must throw up his position and then I discovered that it was all far worse than I imagined. It is his business to be most agreeable to the firm's customers and to this end Mr. Beardmore gives him and instructs him to go to any expense in treating, asking men to lunch or dinner and when he does so of course he must drink or smoke with them. Well, of course, I said it was far worse than I had any idea, that I always heard a traveller's life was one of great temptation but I thought it meant that others would ask him to drink but in this case, he was asking others, in fact was making his living by tempting men to do wrong. What an awful position! So I said I could never consent. On explaining the state of affairs to H.[Hilda] she agreed with me, but it was a most distressing time and really made us ill. Ken felt so terribly, particularly as he said, there was nothing else he could do and all business is carried on in this way. But Hilda I must say was wonderfully brave and conscientious and though she had quite determined to take him, she withstood him and said no, she would not marry a man whose living was made in such a way. He himself said, that no one had ever put it before him as we had, that he was given liquor at home from when he was twelve years old and never knew it was any harm. But now, he said, he saw, that he was committing a sin every day of his life. But where to find another situation is the difficulty. It does seem a most iniquitous thing, this treating system, Ken had been pretty well disgusted I think with what he saw at Chateau Frontenac at Quebec. I do trust this may be a turning point in his life and that he may have strength to give it up and if only some good opening would present itself, I think he might become a really good man. I certainly spoke to him very strongly & he seemed impressed, but do not know what his parents will think. Think they will be very indignant with us. I would have certainly said no at the very beginning but had not the least idea of the business methods pursued, until I spoke to Ken about being a teetotaller. That Beardmore is one of the worst men he could be with, if he continues with him, he will be lost. What sort of business is Will Leslie in? Could he be any help to Ken? Of course I do not know what Ken means to do or whether he will try to make a change, he had such glowing prospects, it was a great blow to him, poor fellow. I am very very sorry, for I think he would have suited H. very well & she seemed quite heart broken but we must hope that it may all be overruled for their lasting good. All this fuss quite spoiled the last week of R.[Ruby's] visit, she went off on Monday morning and of course I felt blue for many days but live in hopes1.
I gave two or three of the Heralds to Colin Fletcher to read & the Doctor [Fletcher] came home and wanted to keep one to read which he had not finished, when I went for it yesterday of course he could not find it. Please try & get me another, August 30th, one of the most interesting, I was so provoked at losing it, I would not have taken it up to the Manse only I thought Colin had not seen any of your writings & he was quite interested in seeing them, but the Doctor is awfully stupid2.
The Tatler of today is very good too, that Eagle & the Serpent is a most remarkable thing, a keen satire, I should call it, especially that part where "people of brains are invited & reward immortality" that's pretty good3.
Had a card from Mrs. MacKay from Banff on their way home, can you believe it? They were to leave Toronto on August 16th & her card was written at Banff on September 5th & were leaving next day for Winnipeg. Did you ever know anything like them? That restless Donald4? Well, dear, I wish you good success with your tale, but hope you are not working yourself to death & the hair off your head.
Perhaps you had better not say anything to Ken for a while till you see if he speaks to you about it. But I told him "I had just set to work & cross-questioned you, because I had to know how he lived," and you had said a great many kind things about him. What you may say about him, must write on a separate page, because the family always wants to hear your letters, and it would not be pleasant for H. to hear Ken discussed. With much love my dear dear boy.
Your loving Mother
1 Kenelm Trigge had proposed marriage to Hilda who was twenty-five years of age. Ken was the son of Captain Trigge and Mrs. Trigge of "Auchmar" in Hamilton, a member of the Plymouth Brethren, and his prospects were good (Farmer 19; Best 16). We can speculate on what would have been the outcome if Hilda and Ken had married and if Hilda had become the chatelaine of "Auchmar." The Trigges other children, Mary and Arthur, were also friends of the McQuestens. Mary, the matriarch, rejected Trigge because he drank alcohol and was "tempting" others to do so as well. In 1905 a letter from one of Calvin's newspaper friends (incomplete and unsigned) states that Ken "is even less of an abstainer than he was when we dwelt on Sherbrooke. He is still there and still more or less infatuated" (W7553). The McQuesten's experience with Isaac's alcoholism, which likely contributed to his death, had created a very strong temperance commitment in the household. Also the temperance referendum was being hotly debated in 1902 and Mary and Hilda were actively campaigning for the vote, to be held in December 1902 (W4713, W4717). The Trigges are often mentioned in connection with the Lockes and were likely related (W4500, W4521, W4531, W4546, W4549, W4605, W4647, W4651, W4686, W4698, W4810, W4877, W4902, W5233, W5371, W5382, W5392, W5398, W5736, W6256, W7489, W7553, W-MCP2-3b.041).
2 Rev. Dr. Colin Fletcher (1847-1927), brother of Rev. Dr. Donald Hugh Fletcher (minister at MacNab Street Presbyterian Church, see W4479), was pastor at Thames Road, Kirkton, Ont, near Stratford, 1879-1916. He married Anna M. Agur in 1879. She was active in the WFMS and attended conferences with Mary (BDKC 73-4; W4803, W5512, W5524, W5970, W6075, W6125, W6147, W6177, W6196, W6223, W6233, W6236, W6240, W6252, W6853, W6999, W7380).
3 This article appeared in Calvin's column "The Tatler" under the title of "Freak Journalism" (see Box 13-030) in which Calvin referred to a new publication, "The Eagle and the Serpent: A Journal for Free Spirits and for Spirits Struggling to be Free." He wrote: "A curious publication has recently appeared in England. . . . devoted to the propagation of envy, malice and all uncharitableness. The leading article is entitled "The Divinity of Hate". . . "This periodical appears to be an entirely new departure for journalism. No lunatic asylum should be without it." Mary had abridged the quotation which reads: "People of brains are invited to contribute to this column. We can offer only the small reward of immortality, if immortality is desired, kindly mention it" (The Montreal Herald, September 6, 1902).
4 For the MacKay family, see W4297.