Letter from Alice Welsh to Her Sister Anna Maria from Florence, Nov. 13, 1870

This is another letter in the group sent to me by Lydia Wiley of Philadelphia. The date at the top of the letter is Nov. 13, but there is no year. From the context, this letter presumably was written in 1870, during the extended trip to Europe by Alice Welsh, along with her sister Ellen, their father, John Welsh, and others. I am not sure who the “Mary” is that Alice writes about in this letter. I think it is a Mary Welsh, but I don’t have enough information to confirm that, or to know where that Mary Welsh would fit into the family tree. If anyone who reads this can answer that question, I would be very interested in knowing. Somers is J. Somers Smith, Jr. (1866-1956), and Mr. Smith is Anna Maria Welsh’s husband, J. Somers Smith (1828-1894).

Anyway, here is Alice’s letter from Florence:


Nov. 13th

My dear Sister Anna

Your letter, of the 27th and 28th of last month, came yesterday. Thank you very much for it. I thought Somers’ little letter to Father was sweet, and hope I may soon have one from him in answer to mine. I don’t wonder the house seems desolate to you without little Mary. You can’t tell what it is to me never to have had one look or one touch and how I have longed for her all the time we have been away, and but there is no good in talking about it.

I was very glad to hear that sister Lill was looking stronger when she came home, as I was rather worried about her. Our time here has been taken up with pictures galleries, palaces and Churches. Father has probably given you full descriptions. He is very well and has not had a particle of rheumatism since we left home, which quite surprises me, as the galleries and other places where we spend hours together are so cold and damp that one would think that even anyone who had never had rheumatism would have an excellent opportunity to contract it.

I have just come from Church. The sermon was most dry and uninteresting but the room was so crowded that a number had to stand. Today is the first clear day that we have had since we arrived here.


I am afraid my hopes that today might be the beginning of pleasant weather, were in vain for now it is as cloudy as ever again, and has been raining a little. I do not know how Florence ever got the reputation of being a beautiful city. Of course, there are a great many beautiful things to be seen here but the city itself is very far from being pretty. The streets are narrow, the palaces are massive, but look more like prisons than anything else, and the Arno is a very muddy, and to my eyes, ugly stream. The hills in the neighborhood are beautiful but the weather has not been clear enough for us to see much of them.

You would be surprised to see the way in which Mary is able to understand and make herself understood in the stores, where the people talk nothing but French and Italian. You know in Italy they always ask more in the stores than they expect to get, and one is always obliged to beat down. Isn’t it disagreeable? Mary has them to put down on paper what they charge and then she puts below it what she will give. She often goes shopping for me. I don’t know how she makes them understand what she wants, but she always does somehow or other.

There are a great many Americans here, the Camacs [?], Munts [?], Minnie Rawle, now Mrs. Jones, John Carpenter and his wife, old Mrs. Carpenter and the girls. The Churchman family went to Rome a day or two ago, and then there are quantities more that you don’t know. I would quite as leave be someplace where there are not so many, but I am afraid that place is not to be found. Perhaps there won’t be quite as many in Egypt and the Holy Land, but I believe there are a great many.

I want to see you all so much, you can have no idea. Give love to Mr. Smith for me, and a great many kisses to Somers. Love to all. Please remember me particularly to all your girls.

Your loving sister