Huntsville, Ala. 8 - 4 - 1903. 14 pages of ink autograph on 7 leaves of lined stock, 8 x 5 inches, approx. 1300 words. Some splitting along the old mailing folds on the final leaf; some light toning and wear; in very good condition. Cover not present. Item #19865
Major William Augustus Battle (1825-1909), Alabama planter, Virginia Law School class of 1849, and Confederate veteran, here in the autumn of his years pens an eccentric letter to his son that would seem in its style and subject matter to aspire mightily to assume the mantle of Southern local color; after noting the “green scum of dullness” that covers everything in Huntsville, he declares himself more or less content: “There is indeed, some phylosophy [sic] in simple living, and, high thinking. You might crush my body in a mortar but you could not kill my sou. . . . In order not to feel that, I am utterly bankrupt, I sometimes, have my last two dimes changed into nickels that I may hear them rattle and seem, to my dallying fingers, more wealthy in this numisical dignity. Really, I have throw aside my agnosticism, and have gotten to believe that I so really know that four nickels are more than two dimes. Perhaps you have never gotten so high up in mathematical logic.” The one regret however that would seem to nag at Battle is his lack of capital to develop a new invention, or otherwise “the positive & actual demonstration of the problem of Perpetual Motion. For some reason, among the mysterious rulings of Providence, it seems, tho’ an humble instrument, I have been bro’t into existence, and preserved, to develope [sic] the phenomenon of an invention, the long supposed chimera of Perpetual Motion, or, auto-supplying motor, that moves by its own inherent force, & runs untiringly & forever. . . . It is to supercede [sic] the vast majority of all the machine forces that the world knows. It is to move at any velosity [sic] without the use of fire, water, air, steam, or gas; needs no fuel, coal, wood or oils, neither engineer, does not explode as it has no boilers, or gas cells [?] & runs smoothly and noiselessly as the sighing of the breezes or the rustling, hustling whisper of a woman’s silken gown. Is it not wonderful? Just *4 wheels* - 2 + 2 parallel, with chain-bands, & all moving in the same directions, simultaneously, so this no force can change or stop, every wheel, & every link in the band, held in position & moving as by miraculous influence – Now, if I do not die before I can raise $50.00 to set it in motion, *wheels* & all, I hope to leave behind enough to startle & shove along the world, & leave Susie and yr’self well set-up, so that you will not be afraid of starving but only afraid of dying too soon. . . . I am profoundly in earnest & have the courage of my convictions, just as all the great & famous men had, who from the deep arcanum of tho’t and genius, put the steamship on the ocean, harnessed the lightning & made it the newsboy of the world, in telegraph & cable lines under the sea. . . . I am very much disappointed in not being able to have my machine ready for the World’s Exposition. Had things been different, I should have been advertised thro’ out the civilized world, and been, by now, the most famous man of Christendom and more opulent than Croesus.” Battle cheerfully pivots to news of his wife, Susannah: “Susie is still watching over her beautiful ward, and winning laurels as the chicken charmer of North Ala. She has a splendid brood of Plymouth Rocks that sing & crow around her whenever she goes out doors flying and pecking on her head & in her arms with almost human love and affection, & an especial one actually caresses her and kisses her squarely in the mouth – Every thing around her seems touched with a skillful hand.” Battle supplies news of other family members, and looks forward to a visit from William, Jr. in October. With a pencil note at the head of the letter dated Jacksonville, August 18, 1904: “Dear Mat. Please keep this letter for me. I may never have so typical one again from him.” With a preliminary typescript.