Cette semaine, les “grands” ont voyagé dans le temps, pour se mettre dans la peau d’un immigré européen du XIXème siècle. Laissant derrière eux leur terre natale, ils devaient s’embarquer pour la terre promise (les Etats-Unis). Leur devoir consistait à écrire une lettre à leurs proches, une mère, un frère, un cousin, laissé en Europe, dans laquelle ils décrivaient leurs aventures d’immigré. Voici un petit exemple de missive, et la réponse qui y fut donnée.
New York, December 1 st,
Hello Walt, my dear friend ,
I have been in America since July 1st ; as you know, I boarded the “Western Great” from Bristol on June 13th, 1870 ; the journey was long and difficult ; one afternoon ,we had a terrible storm with many big waves, the biggest I’ve ever seen. Many people on the boat were ill, including me.
Despite the weather, every evening, I took a little time to think of what I would do when I would arrive to New York , the country of freedom and large spaces ! If I am alive after this boat trip, I will be the first one of my family to live abroad .I could work in a library ; New York will certainly be a very big city and after this horrible Civil War, people will certainly want to read novels and romance novels like Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson.
At first, when we arrived , I thought I was back in England in London but It was just the harbor which seemed the same.
Afterwards, I realized that New York gathers a lot of nationalities: French, Italian, Polish, German, Spanish . Everyone has come to America to look for a better life .
I couldn’t find work in a library ; they didn’t hire anyone ; in the future, if I work hard , I will be able to open a shop , a bookshop . Imagine, dear Walter , a shop only with books ! . So for now, I work as a reporter for the “New York Herald”. The topic of my first report was my boat trip and the people I met . I like to write about people’s life.
I have a lot of ideas : I could meet this woman named Mary Cassatt who painted as the impressionists ; she lives in Pittsburg in Pennsylvania . I could meet her and make an interview for my newspaper.
Although I ‘m not very wealthy, if my boss agrees, I could take “ The Trans America “; it’s a train which goes from New York to San Francisco. On the one hand, I could talk with people and make a paper for the NYH and, on the other hand I could see San Francisco.
I’m also a little homesick ; I wouldn’t return to England , definitely too foggy, and too many people are so snobbish! But, as for you my dear Walt, my childhood friend, I miss you . When are you coming ? Spring, New Yorkers say it’s very beautiful here ; and we could spend a weekend on the coast near Rhode Island.
Looking forward to hearing from you ,
London, 21th December 1870
My dear Brian
What a good day, finally I have got news from you. You are in New York, in good health and you have found a job. I phoned your parents this morning, they are happy and relieved to know you are unharmed.
You are so fiery! Going off so, with too little money, venturing into a new life. Why would you want me to come join you! I’m not moody, I would not leave so rashly and settle far away. I’m well in London.
If I were alone, I could perhaps do it, even though I would rather go to Paris. But I have my family, my job. Talking about it, I have to tell you I’m now working as a reporter at “the Daily Telegraph “and I’m covering important events. I know it used to be your job before you went off. If you were not so far away, we could work together, as usual.
You talk about New York and its events, but London is not a small town where nothing happens. The city is expanding more and more. We have now 1000 omnibus and as many taxis, a lot of exhibitions, artists, renowned painters, writers. I don’t need to go to New York to read a good book.
You tell me you hope to find a job in a library, but I think you don’t enough know about books, Suzanne Rowson is long dead and her novel “Charlotte Temple” is outdated. Only young girls read it. Here, we also have famous writers like, for example, Lewis Carroll and his renowned “Alice”.
I find out you like art displays. If Mary Cassatt were famous, I would have heard about her, but here, in London, it is not so.
You’d like to travel, to go through America by train from New York to San Francisco. But it must be very dangerous, how many days does it take? I haven’t heard anything about Trans America. Are you sure there is a regular line? In the end I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.
I worry a lot about you, you just arrived and you want to do so many things! You should be more careful, you’re always been so naive, so confident. There must be lots of crooks and thieves in this big city. You should keep away from strangers and look for honest friends, who could help you.
I really wish you succeeded in these ways, accomplished your dreams and were happy. Move forward, mind your own business and earn a lot of money. If you are lucky, you will succeed. Maybe, one day, you will be rich!
But If you have a hard time, you can come back home, your friends will always be very happy to see you again.
Your oldest pal, Walt