18900601 See an image of the original letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/6f9w-c288


No 9[1] Buenos  Ayres posted 3rd June


1st June 1890


My dear Mother,

Eight letters & one postcard on the way already, so I suppose I shall soon begin to hear of your having received some of them. In your last, of 28th Apl. you write that none have yet arrived.

I am very sorry not to have seen Wheeler of Guayaquil.[2] He is a very good fellow & we spent many evenings together in Guayaquil playing chess, supporting ourselves the while under the mental strain, by drinking a glass of some rare old port he had picked up by good luck.

I would have been glad if you had asked him to dinner or something, & I would have left word with you to that effect if I had known he was coming to Belfast.

I hope Aunt Martha is better.[3]Give her my love.

You having the heiresses as neighbours is evidently owing to Julie’s dancing, as he wrote me once, with £60,000 in one evg., & making a favorable impression.[4] Let him go in & win. The embroidery department, with Mr Hicks’s lead, is evidently the one marked to set the example to the long list of bachelors in Moore & Weinberg’s.

The girls (unless some old fossil of a pre-Raphaelite professor takes pity on Olga) & myself are evidently doomed to grow, live, & die in single blessedness.[5]

About Addie I am not sure; I have not yet quite recovered from the shock to my nervous system occasioned, on my first entering his lodgings, by hearing a voice from the next room ask me, in a musical treble, & accompanying the enquiry with an endearing epithet of what might be called a pastoral character, whether it was really I, – and, – before I had regained sufficient composure to assure the affectionate enquirer of my identity, – hearing my younger brother’s complacent & sprightly reply “Yes, dear!”[6]

I meant to have told you, in this letter, about some choice little bits of English as she is spoke by a young German at our table, but this must wait till the next letter, for my candle (charged at 1/3 in the bill!)  is burning low, & besides I must be up early to-morrow to prepare for my trip to Rosario.

For tomorrow, 3rd June, I am off to Rosario de Santa Fé, where I hope to finish my business in a few days, returning to spend another very few in Buenos Ayres. Then I shall joyfully bid farewell to the Argentine (It won’t be “drefful sorry Argentine!”) & take me to the other side of the Silver Plate; – which expression is tautological, but that matters little since it affords me the opportunity of remarking wittily, with regard to the whole district, that when you rub the surface glitter off this Silver Plate you find that its solid foundation is really our Britannia metal.

When I leave Buenos Ayres, & I hope you will have news, from Dundee, of my having done so before this letter reaches you, I shall consider that I have started homeward, though on the way, I shall have to call at a few of the principal towns to find out how the intelligent natives are off for coffee bags (& other necessaries) & pocket handkerchiefs (& other luxuries).[7]

Best love to all



  1. Labelled No. 9 by JMcC – he also notes that “Eight letters & one postcard on the way already” – but we do not have the No 8 – presumed the postcard.
  2. I wonder at what stage JMcC was in Ecuador? Mr Wheeler not identified so far. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guayaquil
  3. This is Martha McCaldin (b 1808, d 23 Dec 1897). She was JMcC’s great-aunt, his mother Jane’s Aunt - sister of her mother Ann Isabella McCully (née McCaldin), the granny who lived with them at Lennoxvale.
  4. “Julie” this is the nickname of his brother Julius who was 17 ½ at the time (see Index of People). These neighbours, the Blacks, have been mentioned before in association with Julie (who danced with “£60,000” and obviously impressed!) Who knows – if it had not been for his premature death he may well have married in there.
  5. Very sad perspective of the fate of himself and “the girls” on the marriage market - although he was correct regarding his sisters Annie and Emma. Olga married “late” at the age of 29 to Claude Hardy, a man 13 years older than her (although not quite an “old fossil of a pre-Raphaelite professor”)
  6. Wonderful description of his younger brother’s debauchedness (to his mum!!). I assume this is Addie in New York – we have a description of his life there from JMcC’s later visit (and the “pretty young widow”) – but can’t find anything about him in NY in early 1890. I wonder if JMcC returned for the West Indies via New York after January 1890 (unfortunately we do not have any letters following on from the last one from Curaçao dated 24 Jan 1890).
  7. Presuming the “necessary” jute coffee bags from Dundee, and the “luxury” linen handkerchiefs from Belfast. Jute sacs were often used for transporting coffee.


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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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