18910301 See an image of the original letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/mqz7-pc39


No 6

Royal Mail                         Barranquilla 1st March 1891


My dear Mother,

I wrote on the 13th Feb (No 4) by Royal mail, & on the 21st by French Packet.

Y’day I received your welcome letters of 26th Jany & 1st Feby, & as it was my birthday, for want of a 29th, I was particularly glad to have your home news. The day before, I had a letter from Addie & also letters & cards from Mrs Chappell & Mrs Simmelkiaer, – very kind of them to remember.[1] I am sorry to have missed Mrs H. Brown’s dance, particularly as it took place on such a memorable date as the 28th. I made the occasion festive by giving a little dinner. We were four, – Taylor of Dundee, Clark from Belfast, & a fellow from Manchester living here, called Pearce.[2] I have moved into a larger room & I persuaded the old landlady to let us have dinner in it, being so much snugger & nicer than at the long common table. We had a little round table, with a clean cloth!, & two side-tables for fruit etc. & copper faced, bare-footed, four-feet-high Blas to wait on us. I asked him to get some flowers, so he came in triumphantly with two long-stalked, big-leaved, artificial plants, – fearful things – the leaves streaked white & green, & on the stalk a ticket with the price. I would not let him put them on the table, but he insisted on leaving them on the side-board & was quite delighted with the effect.

In the morning I interviewed & tipped Pachita, the black cook, praised her powers, & asked her to excel herself, & she really did very well. We had macaroni soup, boiled fish, roast beef, fowl, tongue (solid you see) salad, tomatoes, tart, preserves, oranges & papaya, a kind of melon; – wines claret & iced Heidsieck sec (don’t be alarmed – only one bottle of each), coffee & cigars. As it was the birthday of your eldest son I wanted to give him an entertainment befitting the occasion.

Thanks to Julie for his second Spanish letter. It is not as good as the first though. I have a letter ready to post to him.

Addie writes that he has been able to open a fair number of new accounts with O’Flaherty. I hope he will get commission on them.[3]

I am now waiting for a steamer to take me to Cartagena.[4] The worst of travelling on this coast is that one must often lose time owing to the irregularity of the few vessels that come round. I hope to be back in Curaçao about 15th March.

This is Sunday evg. & very likely just about the time I am writing to you, you will be writing to me.

We have some new neighbours in the hotel; among them a family with three small children that howl night & day. “Why doesn’t someone drown those children?” is a question put every morning at breakfast & every evening at dinner. My snoring friend has been put in the background by a more recent arrival, & now he is simply “not in it”. It is very funny now to hear No 1 complain that No 2 prevents him from sleeping.

I have just been reading a book of Burnand’s, – on the whole tedious, but with “happy thoughts” here & there.[5] Apropos of nautical ballads he says that “the words do not always realize the deferred expectations of a lifetime” & then two lines from “The Saucy Arethusa”

“On deck five hundred men did dance,

The stoutest they could get in France

about this he remarks

“What possible glory could there be in taking prisoners & crew of five hundred dancing French Daniel Lamberts?[6] Notoriously, when a Frenchman is stout he goes to twenty-two stone in a very short time, & if these were the stoutest they could get in France, i.e. the very fat of the land, so to speak, – what a helpless set they must have been, except for dancing, by way of exercise, just to keep it down a bit! And what accommodation they must have had on board that vessel. Fancy five hundred of the stoutest Frenchmen in five hundred hammocks”!

I have also been reading a pretty story called “Not like other Girls”, simple & interesting. Towards the end it is amusing to see how the husbands are imported wholesale to provide for all the unattached spinsters.

Best love to all



  1. Mrs Simmelkiaer and The Chappells were friends of Addie’s in NYC (see Index to people). Mrs Simmelkiaer was the widow who offered to give Addie music lessons in January 1891.
  2. Clark from Belfast (worked for “York Street”) and Taylor from Dundee were both mentioned in the last letter. See Index to People for both
  3. Addie – brother Ferdinand Adolphus – who is a commission agent in NYC. O’Flaherty, probably Francis Hale Hill O’Flaherty (b~1848 Belfast) linen merchant in Belfast. In the 1901 Census living in Eglantine Avenue (same as Elizabeth Kinnaird).
  4. Cartagena is about 130 km south of Barranquilla: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartagena,_Colombia
  5. Sir Francis Cowley Burnand (b 29th November 1836, d 21 April 1917), usually known as F. C. Burnand, was an English comic writer and prolific playwright, best known today as the librettist of Arthur Sullivan's opera Cox and Box: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._C._Burnand#1870s:_prolific_author
  6. Daniel Lambert (b 13 March 1770, d 21 June 1809) was a gaol keeper and animal breeder from Leicester, England, famous for his unusually large size: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Lambert


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John McCaldin Loewenthal: Letters Home from a Victorian Commercial Traveller, 1889 - 1895 Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Fink, Robert Boyd, Sarah Watkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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