18950331 See an image of this letter, https://doi.org/10.17613/7xwe-ya26


Pernambuco,   31st March 1895


My dear Mother,

I wrote to you about a week ago. To-day, Sunday I was in town all morning as there was a mail from home & another leaves for England early to-morrow morning. The “Galicia” brought your welcome letter of March 11th, and I had still later news from the office. I am very sorry to hear you were still poorly when you wrote and I hope in your next letter you will be able to give a better report of yourself.

Here we have had ten days almost continuous rain and colds are very prevalent too. Three of four people had to remain in their rooms in the house for several days and Miss Davis, Mrs Latham’s sister, an old lady of 76, is seriously ill with bronchitis. I am all right. I scarcely remember having had a cold in South America though I usually have one at intervals at home.

The rainfall has been very heavy. In one spell of some thirty hours it was twelve inches. Up country the downpour must have been of exceptional severity too; for to-day the river has flooded all the low lying districts in the suburbs and the houses there must have several feet of water in the ground-floors. Communication is interrupted on the three or four suburban railway lines that connect the scattered districts which, all together, go to form the straggling town of Pernambuco. I hear that the water was so high on one line that it put out the engine-fires and one train stuck. What the passengers did I have not been told.

Perhaps the floods are partly owing to the tears shed over “The bonny Briar-bush”.[1] A tough old Scotchman, judged incapable of any display of emotion, took the book to his room and admitted having wept over it. I myself found it very wearing on the back of the throat.  Briny tears came to the Parson’s eyes and I am sure that Mrs Latham wept “buckets full”. It is very well written. Several people have heard of it and were anxious to read it but hitherto no one had received a copy. It seems the Author is a presbyterian clergyman in Liverpool, – Mr or Dr Watson.[2] Mrs Latham has heard him preach there. Mrs Macfadyen, the sermon–taster, is inimitable.[3] “We will now consider Satan in all his offices and characteristics”, and “Am I a goat?”, and that other about heaven being a place where “we shall sook the juicy pear and looscious meelow”, are stories deliciously told.

I dined out twice this week – on Tuesday with the (Boxwell) Williamses, a “diplomatic dinner” – there were four consuls present, no ladies except Mrs Williams who I had the honour of taking in, much to my surprise.[4] Mr Williams has been very generous with his Havana cigars of late – gives me one when we happen to meet – and as they are about the best cigars I have smoked (cost 90/- a hundred in bond, someone told me) I do not care to hurt his feelings by refusing. The consuls were rather slow company – one did not speak Portuguese, and one did not speak English – but the dinner was good and the wines excellent.

The other dinner was at the Ellises and was also a bachelor entertainment, as some charming young ladies were not able to accept Mrs Ellis’ invitation.

The frogs are in their element in this rainy weather, and they make a terrific noise all round the place. You cannot form an idea of it without hearing it. In addition to those that croak there are ever so many other kinds that have peculiar calls. One of the noisiest calls  Hey! Hey!  in a loud and most human tone, – so much so that Youle and the Parson said the other night they had turned round to see who was calling them. Another has a shrill whistle, another barks; then there is the cooper-frog and the anvil-frog, that make noises exactly like a cooper and a blacksmith at work.

I intend going down to Bahia on Thursday next on the same boat with Bertie W.[5]

Best love.




c/o Messrs. Adolf Spann Co

Caixa 1

Rio de Janeiro


  1. Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush was a book of short stories by Ian Maclaren's published in 1894. It became a hugely popular bestseller: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beside_the_Bonnie_Brier_Bush and https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7179
  2. The man behind the pseudonym Ian Maclaren was John Watson (b 3rd November 1850, d 6th May 1907). He was a minister of the Free Church of Scotland. In 1880 he became minister of Sefton Park Presbyterian Church in Liverpool, from which he retired in 1905. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Maclaren
  3. Mrs Macfadyen is a character in Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush, described as "our recognized sermon taster, who criticized everything in the technique of the pulpit, from the number of heads in a sermon to the air with which a probationer used his pocket-handkerchief."
  4. Edith Ann Williams (née Boxwell) was Ada Boxwell’s sister, married and living in Pernambuco. Her husband was Arthur Llewellyn Griffith-Williams (b ~1857), a Sugar Planter in Pernambuco. See Index to People.
  5. Herbert Weinberg. 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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