18941222 See an image of this letter, https://doi.org/10.17613/madg-5c57


22nd   Dec.  1894


My dear Mother,

I wrote to you by the last Royal Mail about a fortnight ago, and to Emma and Julie by Pacific steamer leaving yesterday. I have your letter of 26th Nov. but I don’t seem to have received one of the 19th – whatever has become of it. Otherwise the series is complete Monday by Monday. I am very sorry to hear the Pater was still poorly when you wrote. It is a very tedious and troublesome thing and must try his patience.

I hope Gideon enjoyed his plum-pudding. Why did you not send me one? Well anyway I am to have a piece of an English-made plum-pudding. Youle had one sent out to him, together with a plum-cake, and he gave them both to Mrs Ellis who has invited us to dinner on Christmas-day.


S.S. “Kaffir Prince”,     31st  Dec.  1894

I did not proceed with above because I did not want to post another letter from Pernambuco; – I wished to be fairly on my way to Pará before putting pen to paper again.

This steamer was so long coming and, when it did come, remained so long – a whole week – in P’buco harbour that I really lost patience. However that’s the way they manage things out here, and finally we embarked on the 26th, the steamer sailing early next morning.

The one compensating consideration was that I was able to spend Christmas-day among friends. The Ellises gave us a nice dinner, and afterwards the Thom connection came around,[1] – three ladies and three men and we spent a right merry evening, dancing and singing about every song that has a chorus. It was two o’clock when we separated. We had plum-pudding (the ring falling to my share), mince pies, and champagne.

I may mention that I went to church on Christmas-day. There was a choral service, the church was nicely decorated, and the parson gave us a very good discourse. The English colony turned out in force: I think the congregation numbered over 130 not counting children and there was a highly satisfactory collection for the Church of England Society for Waifs and Strays.

I have not yet received my Christmas letters. It was very aggravating that the “Kaffir Prince”, having waited so long, did not stay a few hours longer, for we saw the English mail steaming in as we went out, and I shall now not get them for another ten days at least.

Mr Leppin has come up with me from Pernambuco and has been a most pitiable object, – abjectly seasick the whole time, and unable to eat or drink anything.[2] For five days and nights he did not take his clothes off and he moaned constantly as if he were just about to die. Luckily I am a good sailor and I can adapt myself to circumstances. I like a comfortable bed with a spring mattress but if there is not one to be had, why I can sleep soundly in a bunk like a scooped-out board with a few dozen cockroaches crawling around. I enjoy a good dinner and a bottle of iced Heidsieck dry Monopole, but I can satisfy the pangs of hunger and thirst with leathery beef and lukewarm water.[3] This adaptability is not entirely desirable, I am quite aware, but it makes life much more pleasant.

This 1901 advertisement for Heidsieck & Co's Monopole champagne was buy the Czech Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha.
This 1901 advertisement for Heidsieck & Co’s Monopole champagne features art by the Czech Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha.

I had an exceedingly pleasant stay at Pernambuco this time. Everybody was as kind and hospitable as I could possibly wish. The only returns I made were, – a box of French sweets to Mrs Howard Tuckniss on Christmas-day, a share in a little present of a silver-topped scent bottle to Mrs Latham, and a merry little farewell dinner-party to five fellows in a small inn at Capongá, one of the suburbs. The dinner was a great success, I bore with me, I really think, a great deal of good will, on leaving kindly Pernambuco.

I had an invitation to the “Bachelors’ Ball” which will have taken place on the 31st. I was rather sorry to miss it. The previous one, on the 6th Janry. last, was one of the jolliest dances I have ever been at. The supper alone on these yearly occasions costs about £150, and everything is done as well as it can be done.

As I mentioned, I had to go on board on the evening of the 26th. Three of the fellows with whom I have been most chummy, Youle, Shaw, and Phillips, actually left in the middle of dinner, and that is a severe test of friendship, to come down and see me off.[4]


Pará  1st Janry.  1895.

A happy New Year to you all. Here I am safely ashore. I send this off to-day via Pernambuco. I am afraid it will be rather long on the way, but there is no direct mail from Pará till the 10th Janry. I cal’clate you will have this about the 26th.         You had better address c/o Theo Just who will forward letters from Pernambuco to wherever I may be along this northern coast.[5]

Best love to all





  1. In letter of 4th November1894: "The Thoms are an old Pernambuco-English family"
  2. The pitiable Leppin is an ex-Moore & Weinberg employee. See Index to People.
  3. Heidsieck & Co "Monopole" is a champagne house located in the Champagne region of France. It was founded in 1785 by Florens-Louis Heidsieck: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidsieck_%26_Co
  4. Frank Youle is the only one he has really mentioned before. See Index to People.
  5. Theo Just was the Moore & Weinberg agent in Pernambuco. See Index to People.


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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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