18920828 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/km0w-hw02


No 4                “Thames”

Headed notepaper:           Buenos Aires,..28th Aug….de 189 2


My dear Mother,

Another week’s hard work, an afternoon’s tennis, & cold weather. That is all I have to relate, compressed into one line, instead of being judiciously spun out to fill three pages. I shall pass lightly over the hard work, lest you should think it unusual by my dwelling on it, & I shall enlarge on the tennis to impress you with the conviction that the moments of relaxation are rare. There are four excellent courts at the club, laid with brick-dust sand. The lines are marked by thin slips of iron, such as are used for hooping bale, painted white.


Writer:  “It through my memory flashes

I’ve said all this before;

The thought me quite abashes

Your pardon I implore.”

Polite Recipient:

“Don’t mention it! Your words are pearls, & greeted

As like-sized gems in golden coil repeated.”


Very civil of you to say so I’m sure, – but to proceed: – there is a swagger pavilion–grandstand–verandah– edifice on one side, &, on the other, excellent dressing-rooms, with luxurious shower-baths & so on. The founders of the Club came forward very generously & defrayed the cost, – one of the timber, another of the plumbing, another of the labour, so that the young institution was not burdened at the start. Balls sometimes go over the wall into the street & then someone must promptly run up the ladder to the “look-out”, while the “fielder” goes round by-the door. If the first is not very quick the ball has disappeared into somebody’s pocket long before the second has arrived on the scene. Today one was lost in this way & we strongly suspected the guardian of the public morals – the bobby at the corner – of having secreted it about his person in a moment of absent-mindedness.

There is to be a tournament on Tuesday next, for which Julian has entered. I was giving him some practice to-day.

And now to my third topic, the weather. For the last four or five days getting out of bed in the mornings has been an act requiring the courage, & indifference to physical discomfort, of a Spartan. At half past seven one awakes to a sense of the agreeable warmth of the blankets & the nippingness of the outer air. This pleasant consciousness is mingled with the melancholy realization that “it is time to get up”, but the latter conviction is of slow growth & takes quite fifteen minutes to come to maturity.


“And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”,


till a war-whoop from the next room announces that “the Mr Ferguson” is stirring. “How are you, Mr Loewenthal, & how’s the boy? – pretty well?”, & with an answering “Oh yes!” I jump out to the middle of the floor, while “the boy” utters a deprecating grunt & turns over for another five minutes.

The late telegrams from Europe bring very bad news of the cholera epidemic.[1] In Hamburg the people seem to be in a state of panic & I see that one or two cases have occurred in London & in Aberdeen. I now take it for granted that the Pater will not have gone to Russia this year, perhaps not even to Berlin. Business must be at a stand-still in all the infected places.

The authorities here are adopting rigorous precautions to prevent the introduction of the disease. Quarantine has been declared for all vessels from Hamburg, Havre, Antwerp, & various other ports, & if the epidemic becomes worse it is quite possible they may refuse altogether to admit vessels coming from those places. But the summer is well advanced in Europe, & the colder weather will soon come, I trust, & gradually stamp out the plague.

A cholera disinfection team with their cart and buckets, Hamburg 1892
A cholera disinfection team with their cart and buckets, Hamburg 1892

There has been a little flutter in Argentine politics this week. President Pelegrini was at loggerheads with the Chamber of Deputies & wanted to resign, but the president-elect, Dr Saenz Peña, would not take office before the appointed date; – everybody patted everybody else on the back – & everybody felt virtuous & happy. Which means, being translated, that Pelegrini withdrew his resignation & the cloud has rolled by for the time being, but the political atmosphere is still far from clear, & there are “rumors of wars”.[2]

In Venezuela they are still cutting each other’s throats, as last year they did in Chile. They are a pretty kettle of fish, these South American republics.[3] And now they are organizing balls & banquets in Valparaiso & Santiago to celebrate the anniversary of the decisive battle in the late civil war!

I just now recvd. your welcome letter of 2nd Aug. from Strone, & I am glad to have all your news.[4] I hope the change of air will have done you both good, also Julie from whom I suppose I shall have a letter soon. Miss Patullo is pleasant & chatty, is she not?[5] The primrose-league day must have been “great”[6] Wish I had been there to chaffy Mr W. – with all due respect – about the “intelligent cultivation of disinterested conservative principles by a generous distribution of tea & buns”. Wouldn’t I have got it hot!

Bye-bye. Love all round.


  1. The cholera pandemic of 1881–1896 was the fifth major international outbreak of cholera in the 19th century. It spread throughout Asia and Africa, and reached parts of France, Germany, Russia, and South America. The 1892 outbreak in Hamburg, Germany, was the only major European outbreak; about 8,600 people died in that city.
  2. The Argentine presidential election of 1892 was held on 10 April to choose the president of Argentina. Luis Sáenz Peña was elected president. He was inaugurated president on 12 October 1892. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1892_Argentine_presidential_election; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_S%C3%A1enz_Pe%C3%B1a
  3. The Chilean Civil War of 1891 (also known as the Revolution of 1891) was a civil war in Chile fought between forces supporting Congress and forces supporting the President, José Manuel Balmaceda. It lasted from 16th January 1891 to 18th September 1891. The war saw a confrontation between the Chilean Army and the Chilean Navy, which sided with the president and the congress, respectively. After the battle of Placilla, it was clear to President Balmaceda that he could no longer hope to find a sufficient strength amongst his adherents to maintain himself in power, and in view of the rapid approach of the rebel army he abandoned his official duties to seek asylum in the Argentine legation. On August 29th, he officially handed power to General Manuel Baquedano, who maintained order in Santiago until the arrival of the congressional leaders on the 30th: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilean_Civil_War_of_1891
  4. Probably with the Weinbergs.
  5. Miss Patullo: See Index to People. Initially mentioned in the letter from Buenos Aires on 15th June 1890. She was friendly with the Weinbergs and at Fred Weinberg’s coming of age dance at Fernbrae.
  6. The Primrose League was an organisation for spreading Conservative principles in Great Britain. It was founded in 1883: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primrose_League


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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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