18940201 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/6bkm-5v71


Pernambuco,                    1st Feby.     1894


My dear Mother,

I wrote you the other day by “Magdalena”. After this French mail there will not be another for some time, so I think it best to send you a few lines now, to make the interval shorter. I went on board the “Magdalena” on Monday & was cordially received by the Skipper & Officers & by various acquaintances from the Plate, Rio, & Bahia, homewards bound; – took one or two drinks & refused a great many more. Josephy left entrusted with my pineapples.[1]

That same evg. I was at the Biltons’ dance. Mr B. is manager of Lond. & Braz. Bank.[2] They live some two miles out along the railway & all the guests – 60 or 70 came trouping up by the 8 o’c. train.  It was very funny to see the invasion. Mrs Bilton’s arm was quite sore shaking hands with so many. I danced right through the programme & my collar was like the side of a concertina. The “12.30” special train home left some time after 2 o’clock; you see after the dancing ceased it took about an hour to emphasize the fact that Mr Bilton was a jolly good fellow, that Mrs Bilton was a jolly good fellow, & that we were all jolly good fellows. We had lots of fun at the dance, lively lancers, a pas de quatre, spirited polkas, & so on.[3]

Print of the Lancers' Quadrilles
The Lancers’ Quadrilles, from A Complete Guide to the Art of Dancing, 1863, by Thomas Hillgrove.

There was nearly an accident which might have been very serious. Between two dances, the oil in the globe of a lamp took fire, & the lamp fell in a blaze on the floor. Several fellows kicked it out through the door to the verandah where it lit between two ladies with flimsy skirts. One of the ladies jumped right over it. I expected to see her in a blaze next instant. Fortunately she escaped with a fright, & after a little hesitation decided not to go into hysterics but to dance through the rest of the programme.

There is another dance to-morrow night but I do not know the people. Mrs Latham was asked to bring any young men she liked & she invited me to go, but I don’t care to on that kind of invitation.[4] In confidence between you & me, I may boast that I shall be missed a little, for men that can waltz decently are not too plentiful, though the ladies almost all dance well, & I know three or four nice girls who would be pleased to honour me with two waltzes each instead of having some partner who will tread on their toes.

However the next night there is a carnival fancy ball for which I have a card. It is under Brazilian management, but several English families I know are going – Mr & Mrs Bilton, Mrs & Mrs Williams & some others.

I shall leave in a few days now for the north. My clothes are not in very good condition , as the robbery at Bahia left me with a small wardrobe which must in consequence do extra duty. Mrs Latham kindly had the cuffs of some shirts mended for me. She is a very motherly woman, – most kind & thoughtful. When I had a cold she made me drink hot milk & so on; – gives me good advice about not being too much in the sun.

There is no fresh development, so far as we are aware, in the revolution.[5]    The Governor here issued a decree the other day threatening with dire punishment to originators & spreaders of false reports as to the state of affairs in Rio.     A story is told of two Englishmen in a tram at Rio. 1st E. “The rebel man-of-war “Aquidaban” came into the Bay this morning”. 2nd E. “Is that true?”.  1st E. “Yes, I heard it as a fact this morning”. Police officer sitting just behind, touching 1st E. on shoulder “The Governor has not heard this fact & will no doubt be interested to learn the news. Kindly come with me & tell him!”   –      showing that it is safer not to talk politics in open places.


3rd Feb        Just this moment got your letter of 15th Jan. I hope Mrs Black, next door to you, recovered.[6] The girls are young to be alone in the world.

I don’t think I shall write to anyone else by this mail, but by next Roy. Mail I hope to get some letters written.

Best love to all


  1. Albert Josephy. See Index to People.
  2. Mr W. H. Bilton. See Index to People.
  3. The Lively Lancers and Pas de Quatre are both dances for formations of four, in the case of The Lancers a group of four couples. The Lancers became popular in the late 19th century as a variant of the Quadrille. There is a video of it at https://youtu.be/fcCfQZlNqLA
  4. Mrs Latham. See Index to People.
  5. The Brazilian Naval Revolts were armed mutinies promoted mainly by Admirals Custódio José de Melo and Saldanha Da Gama and their fleet of Brazilian Navy ships against the claimed unconstitutional staying in power of the central government in Rio de Janeiro. The second revolt started in March 1892, when thirteen generals sent a letter and manifesto to then-President Marshal Floriano Peixoto. This document demanded new elections be called to fulfil the constitutional provision and ensure internal tranquillity in the nation. Floriano harshly suppressed the movement, ordering the arrest of their leaders. Thus, not legally solved, the political tensions increased. The revolt broke out in September 1893 at Rio de Janeiro, and was suppressed only in March 1894 after a long blockade of the city. With many of the Brazilian Navy's most powerful ships either in the hands of the rebels or under repair, the Brazilian government had to improvise a new fleet to battle the rebel fleet. The revolt included the powerful battleship Aquidaban, build in the mid-1880s, and a collection of small ironclads, modern cruisers and older wood 'cruiser' or steam frigate type ships.
  6. The mother of the heiresses next door in Belfast. It sounds like she was a widow. Possibly also the mother of James Black who had the posh society wedding in New York in 1891, attended by JMcC.


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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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