18930218 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/0147-3k78


Pernambuco.          18 Feb. 1893


My dear Mother,

Here beginneth the letter for “Sorata” promised in my last by “Trent”.

To my disgust my baggage was sent to the Custom-house instead of being passed immediately on arrival. It was the last day of Carnival & a half-holiday.[1] At half past nine the Inspector had not put in an appearance so I said I wd return later on. I asked the man if the Custom-house wd be open in the afternoon. “Certainly it will”, he said “We don’t go out masquerading”. At five minutes past twelve I returned & the whole place was shut up until next day. I had not a stich with me but what I was wearing, &, to rile me more, Tuckniss,[2] a friend of Keiller’s[3], gave me a card for a ball at the Club that evening. I said I cd not possibly go & told him of my fix. He said to leave the matter to him, – I shd go to the dance.      Through Mr Guimara͂es[4] I have been lucky enough to secure a room in an exceedingly nice English boarding-house owned by a Mrs Latham.[5]   There are several English fellows living here & one of them said to me during dinner “That’s all arranged”. I asked him what was all arranged. “About this evening – I have had a telephone from Tuckniss”. So after dinner this man, whose name is Shaw, introduced me to another fellow called Wilson, who again produced the keys of the private boxes of a third man, yclept Kanthack, to whose room, in the proprietor’s absence but with his permission, we repaired, & there I was rigged out.[6] Shirt, collar, tie, gloves, underclothing, & dress-suit, were subscribed by one or other. Fortunately all the garments fitted pretty well. The only difficulty was pumps, – no one had a pair big enough, so I went to the ball & danced in my laced boots! At first I felt rather uncomfortable – the unwhisperables were tight in the legs & I had no place to put my thumbs for the pockets ran across, the tie was not clean, & I thought my boots must be remarkable. But afterwards I forgot about all these things & enjoyed myself thoroughly. I danced with Mrs Williams,[7] who asked about “my sister” – I suppose it was Annie she met – , also with her sister Miss Boxwell, a very pretty girl, just out from England for a short visit,[8] with a Miss Rawlinson, “the best dancer in Pernambuco”, & a very lively young lady, etc.[9]  We drove home about three in the morning after a jolly night.

Offices of the London and Brazilian Bank in Manaos, 1910.
Offices of the London and Brazilian Bank in Manaos, 1910.

Mrs Latham is a kind motherly woman, & a lady. Her husband had formerly considerable means but he came to grief. He is in Ceara͂ on business just now. They have one daughter & three sons.     Mrs Latham supplied me with comb & brush etc. & instructed the servant to leave pyjamas in my room – my things being still in the Custom-house. It was very thoughtful. And when I mentioned that my eyes were a little sore after the ball, she gave me some spirit of rum to bathe them with. The house is exceedingly comfortable. We have English breakfast in the morning, afternoon-tea for those who are home, & dinner at half past six. Mr Bilton, manager of the London & Brazilian Bank, is living here now, & there are in all eight boarders, – all gentlemen.[10] The tone of the house is excellent.

There is a grass tennis court in the garden. I have had one or two good games already.

I am glad to be so far north already. Rio is still healthy, according to the accounts, but here is now some fever in Santos & several vessels from there had cases on board & were quarantined at Bahia. It is surprising that the fever did not show itself sooner. The hot season will be over in another two months. But this hot season has been phenomenally healthy in Rio & Santos.

Keiller is very well & doing splendidly.[11] Two contracts he signed with Wilsons have been broken by the firm to sign others more favorable to him. He was a short time ago of some use to the new Cable Coy.[12] & the head office wrote to the directors of Wilsons asking permission to forward to Keiller a check for £200.[13] He has been appointed Danish Consul & altogether things have been going well with him. Miss Anderson made a mistake.

I have been getting your letters somewhat irregularly of late. 16th Jan. arrived after 23rd Jan. & several others in the same way.

The Rio Allens are nothing to the Allens you mention – so far as I know – I fancy they are a very different style of people.[14]

Am glad to hear the private news in your last letter, re finances. Hope next year will be better again.

Best love to all.


  1. The Carnival of Brazil (Portuguese: Carnaval do Brasil) is an annual Brazilian festival held the Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday at noon, which marks the beginning of Lent, the forty-day period before Easter. During Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry, hence the term "carnival", from carnelevare, "to remove (literally, "raise") meat." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_Carnival
  2. (Benjamin) Howard Tuckniss (b 1863) lived in Pernambuco. See Index to People.
  3. John Gibson Keiller. See Index to People.
  4. Alfred Lopes Guimaraes ( b ~1855). Merchant. See Index to People
  5. Mrs Latham: see Index to People
  6. "Kanthack" probably Ernest Kanthack (b 1867 Ceara). Merchant. Brazilian and naturalized English in Liverpool in 1885 along with father Emilio and sister Emilia and brother Francis. His sister Emilia Victoria Kanthack (b 1865) became a nurse at Barts hospital in London. See Index to People. "Yclept" = Old English gecleopod, past participle of cleopian ‘call’, of Germanic origin.)
  7. Mrs Williams = Ada Boxwell’s sister Edith Ann Boxwell (b~1862 married to Arthur Llewellyn Griffith-Williams). See Index to People.
  8. Ada Boxwell. She features in later letters from Pernambuco. See Index to People.
  9. Miss Rawlinson = possibly the daughter of William Rawlinson, Civil Engineer in Pernambuco, sister of Robert Purcell Rawlinson dentist (m to Carlote M Rawlinson).
  10. W. H. Bilton Retired and returned to England in 1898. See Index to People. The London and Brazilian Bank was established in 1862 with the first branch opening in Rio de Janeiro in February 1863. Shortly afterwards branches were established in Bahia and Pernambuco and the Anglo-Portuguese Bank which had branches in Lisbon and Oporto was taken over. In 1864 a severe monetary crisis in Brazil, followed in 1866 by the repercussions of the Overend Gurney crisis in London, hit the fortunes of the new bank. A run on the bank in May 1866 resulted in the Rio branch being drained of over a million pounds within fifteen days. The bank only just survived. Head Office in London shipped gold to Rio as fast as possible. To obtain further funds the manager in Rio sold drafts to London to the value of £200,000. These events led eventually in 1871 to the bank being reorganised. The fortunes of the bank changed and by 1880 it was the leading foreign bank in Brazil with a wide network of branches from Manaus on the Amazon and Para and Maranhao on the northern coast to Porto Alegre, Pelotas and Rio Grande do Sul in the south. The bank and the London and River Plate Bank operated as friendly rivals for many years, sharing a similar tradition and outlook. In 1923 Lloyds brought about their amalgamation, the new name chosen was Bank of London & South America Limited (BOLSA). By this point, the London & Brazil Bank had offices in Buenos Aires, Rosario, Montevideo, Manchester, Paris, New York and several in Portugal: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/49348d0b-a19f-3ecf-9d5b-c8bee0a1b948
  11. John Gibson Keiller (b 9th July 1865 Dundee, d 24th February 1897 Pernambuco). His sister Grace Keiller (b 31st May 1870 Dundee, d 5th November 1935 London) married Frederick Simon Weinberg (“Fred”) (Isaac’s eldest son). See Index to People.
  12. Probably the Western Telegraph Company: “In the mid-1880s the Brazilian Submarine Telegraph Company changed its name to the Western Telegraph Company. One of the first tasks undertaken by the new company was to lay cables from Para to Montevideo. CS Scotia undertook the laying. Para-Pernmabuco 1390 nm Pernambuco-Rio de Janeiro 1372 nm” https://atlantic-cable.com/CableCos/CandW/EATC/index.htm
  13. In 1837, Edward Pellew Wilson and his brother Fleetwood Pellew Wilson founded Wilson Sons in Salvador, Bahia. One of the oldest companies operating in Brazil, it still prospers as in the areas of port, shipping, and land logistics services. Throughout the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the company supplied coal, the main fuel at the time, to Brazilian Navy arsenals throughout the country. After signing a contract with the Great Western of Brazil Railway Company Limited in 1879, Wilson Sons begins the construction of the Recife to Limoeiro Railway in Pernambuco. On October 24, 1881, the first two sections of the railway were inaugurated. https://www.wilsonsons.com.br/en/history/
  14. There are many English Allens in Rio de Janeiro – all buried in the Cemiterio dos Ingleses Gamboa: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cemit%C3%A9rio_dos_Ingleses,_Gamboa. It is also known as the English Cemetery or the British Cemetery Gamboa. For JMcC's friends John and Grace Allen, 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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