18900413 See an image of the original letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/0gg9-ma79


Buenos Ayres

13th April 1890


My dear Mother,

As we dropped anchor in Montevideo I brought to a close the letter written during the voyage, & posted it the same afternoon.

The health officers came on board abt 9 o’clock, & with them an official who turned out to be one of the chiefs of police. A protracted consultation was held in the Captain’s cabin, & then the male passengers were ordered on the quarter deck & the names were called. I thought this proceeding was merely a kind of “passing the Doctor”, but immediately after the order was given to put Mr Deeming’s luggage on the tender. This Deeming was the man who arranged the second concert & sang “The place where the hold orse died.” In the topical song he was referred to as “Mr Deeming, Whose face is always beaming”.

At that moment his face was anything but beaming, & with good cause, for he had just been arrested, on the strength of a telegram from the Foreign Office, for the robbery of some 74 diamonds worth about £5000.[1]

When the news ran round the other 49 passengers, which it did like lightening, you might have knocked them down with 49 feathers. For a long time we could scarcely believe it, as the man did not look at all like a common swindler. On the night of the concert he made an eloquent speech, saying that a collection wd be taken up for the Steamers’ Orphan Society, on whose behalf he made a touching appeal, afterwards heading the list with £2.

It seems his real name was Parsons or Lawson. The diamonds were found in his luggage, & he has confessed, & will be sent back to England for trial. Very likely you will have read something about the affair in the papers. On the voyage he had shown his diamonds all round & spoken freely of them. That very morning another passenger had jokingly advised him to take off a large diamond ring, else he might be arrested for having stolen it! The incident caused great excitement.

We landed at Montevideo about noon. As I shall be visiting it again later on, I shall defer my description till then.

After attending to some business I joined a few of the passengers at a nice hotel on the outskirts of the town, & we had dinner in the garden, under the plane-trees, while the fountains close by sparkled in the light of the lamps & splashed with a pleasant music. It was a glorious night, with a bright full moon & the delightful surrounding, & the relief of getting ashore, not to mention the excellent dinner, made us feel at peace with the world.

We spent all the next day in Montevideo, & in the evening sailed for Buenos Ayres.

La Plata is something like a River. I don’t know its exact width here, but it is between 60 & 90 miles. It is very shallow, so much so, the Captain said, that we were half sliding over the soft mud most of the night. It was not, when we crossed it, of that clear silver colour that its name implies, but a pale brick hue that looked like honest clay.

Landing at Buenos Ayres was quite a complicated operation. The steamer anchored fully ten miles out in the river, & we were transferred to a steam launchcraft that brought us in an hour’s time to within half a mile of the shore. Then the launch could come no nearer & we were transhipped into a sailing boat, in which we managed to shorten the distance to about a hundred yards. The water was now only a couple of feet deep & the last stage had to be done in small rowing boats or in carts! So owing to the shallowness of the water we had to change in all three times to come ashore!

Fortunately we had not to look after our luggage through all these changes. There is a Transport Company whose employees come on board the steamer & take charge of your trunks, passing them through the customhouse & putting them in your room, for a small charge.

They are now busy with extensive harbourworks at Buenos Ayres. It is to be hoped that these will facilitate the, at present, rather disagreeable undertaking of disembarking.

Buenos Ayres is a very large town. The streets are straight & intersect one-another at right angles, cutting up the town into blocks. The pavements are simply shocking, I never saw anything to equal them & I wonder how any wheels can stand them.

There is little or no stone here, & almost all the houses are built of sun dried brick, covered with plaster which is much more durable in this climate than in England, for there is no frost to crack it. Many of the buildings are highly ornamental.

There are tramways along most of the principal streets; the drivers use high pitched horns to give warning of their approach, & the din is hideous.

I have put up at the “Provence”, a fairly comfortable French Hotel. Later on I may take a furnished room if I find that the natives are disposed to lunch & dine me very often, as in the Hotel they don’t make any allowance for that.

I have been awfully busy since my arrival & there are so many important matters to attend to that I scarcely know what to do first.

I have no time for more just now. This goes by Royal Mail “Elbe”. Weather is delightful & I feel very well.

I hope you are all first rate.

Best love


  1. Frederick Bailey Deeming (b 30th July 1853 - d 23 May 1892, hanged) was a serial criminal. Before leaving England he had swindled a jeweler in Hull. After being arrested in Montevideo, he was extradited to England. On release from prison, he eventually moved to Australia where he was convicted of other crimes including murder and executed in 1892: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Bailey_Deeming


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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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