Friday, January 22, 2010

Back to Baltimore

Sorry if I've left anyone hanging, but my Internet was out for a few days (not the whole explanation, but I'm not above resorting to it as an excuse).

In any event, after Betsy announced that "Mrs. Anderson" would be departing from England while the rest of the party wintered in London, there was an abrupt reversal. Betsy wrote to her father the next day, rather tersely, "Our plans are changed with respect to Mrs. Anderson--that is to say, Mrs. Anderson does not mean to go until next spring; therefore I do not send some things to Mama that I mentioned in my letter to her; but by the first good opportunity they shall be sent."

Again, this seems a rather odd way to talk about a dear friend who has risked her life crossing the Atlantic to keep you company in your hour of need. Betsy writes as though Mrs. Anderson were some pawn in a chess game, with plans being made for her--when just the day before it had been Mrs. Anderson, anxious to return home, who was clearly doing the planning. What happened to her anxiety? Not to mention that the only reaction Betsy betrays to this turn of events is disappointment that she can't send some things home to Mama.

The following day, August 16th, we get a bit more of an explanation--though not from Betsy. Betsy's brother Robert, also in London, writes to his father that they have "prevailed on Mrs. Anderson to remain here, as it is possible I may find it necessary or beneficial to go to France; in which case it would be more proper that my sister should not be left alone." This sounds like Robert's decision more than Betsy's. (By "left alone," Robert apparently means without a female companion; another Patterson brother, William, was in London as well.)

It's hard not to wonder if there hadn't been some rift between the two women. After all, on the voyage over to Europe the captain describes the two of them happily passing the hours by gossiping about everyone and everything in Baltimore. Now Betsy's tone about Eliza Anderson is almost as dismissive as the one she uses to describe the departure of a servant (perhaps a slave) in early September: "Prudence, who was of no earthly use, sailed in the Baltimore."

Or maybe there hadn't been a rift, and Betsy was just revealing her imperious, self-centered temperament, which was to come to the fore in the correspondence of her later years. Maybe her feelings of friendship for Eliza didn't run very deep--although Eliza's later letters to her (we don't, alas, have any letters from Betsy to Eliza) seem to reflect a close relationship. Betsy certainly knew how to charm--as she'd thoroughly charmed her husband, Jerome Bonaparte. Maybe she simply deceived Eliza into thinking they were good friends.

In any event, plans soon changed once again. On September 27, 1805, everyone except Robert--which is to say, Betsy, her infant son, her brother William, and Eliza Anderson--embarked for America on the brig Mars. Crossing the Atlantic in late fall and winter was treacherous, and a departure at this late a date was risky. It's not clear what prompted the decision to leave rather than wait until the spring, but it may have had something to do with a letter from Dr. Garnier, a French physician who had attached himself to Jerome Bonaparte, telling Betsy that Jerome wanted her to return to Baltimore. Betsy scoffed that the letter had "all the marks of a deception." But still, things didn't look promising.

The brig Mars safely delivered its passengers to Baltimore in mid-November. The most interesting part of Betsy's life was now over--and she was only 20 years old. But the most interesting part of Eliza Anderson's life was about to begin.

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