18930228 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/2kjq-f715


Pernambuco               28th Feby.  1893


My dear Mother,

It occurs to me just now that this is my birthday. Many happy return of it to all of us. 29. Oh Jupiter! Well I don’t feel any older than when I was 21, that’s surely a good sign.[1]

The other day I sent you a long letter by “Thames”. After posting it I took the train out to Jaquera[2] where the Boxwells & Williams live, & joined their picnic-party to Jabotão.[3] There were twelve of us; – Mr & Mrs Williams & their little daughter, Miss Boxwell, a Miss Conolly, old Mr Harvey Boxwell & two nephews, a brother of Williams, myself & two others.[4] We had a jolly drive of over two hours in a kind of char-a-banco drawn by four mules.[5] The road was bad & several times we were nearly upset, which rather added to the fun. At Jabatão we lunched by the river where the water forms a pretty little fall of foaming rapids & the trees on the bank give a pleasant shade. We were all very hungry & thirsty after our drive, & the iced claret-cup & cold chicken, turkey, & tongue were worth a king’s ransom, & the good Havana which followed simply priceless.

I wanted to return by rail as I was engaged to dine with the Tucknisses, but there was no train between 3 & 7 p.m. so there was nothing for it but to make what apology I might to Mrs Tuckniss.[6] Boxwells had told me they wd be home at 5, but instead it was ½ past 7.

On the drive home we were very merry – played up-Jenkins & spelling games & told storied. Soon after 6 the sun set & the moon came out. A drive in the tropics by moon-light, with the tall palms standing clear against the red glow in the west, & the polished leaves of the tropical trees glistening in the moonbeams & gently fanning themselves in the cool evening breeze, – and – and – a pretty girl to talk to; – well a fellow might be worse off. I am merely stating a case – generally.

By the time I had changed my clothes & gone round to Tucknisses it was half past 8 & I had been asked to come in the afternoon & stay for dinner! I was awfully sorry, & I wd not intentionally have been so rude for anything. But I explained how it was & they were very nice about it, – did not take offence at all, – but on the contrary asked me for another day & also to come to their usual weekly musical evening.  In the course of the evening Mrs Tuckniss told me the family history – how they were connected with the Wentworth family – Lord Strafford[7] – & that Mrs Tuckniss’ grandfather had the same coat of arms which she produced, – all gorgeous in gold & blue on parchment) as the present Lord Fitzwilliam[8], whose arms she pointed out in a late number of the Graphic.[9]

People tell me all kinds of funny things: – I suppose because I am a good listener. Mrs Tuckniss imparted all this information to me not at all in a spirit of brag, but in a chatty fashion. The conversation turned upon it because I mentioned that Mrs Latham was connected with the family of Lockhart[10] – Scott’s biographer & son-in-law, & she had a Lockhart family heirloom in the shape of a gold chatelaine.[11]

By the way Julie might buy, for my account getting McClury to charge me the cost, this Biography of Scott. I bought it before leaving but gave it to Julian. It was published last year in two vols., cheap edition, plain blue cover with white label I think, costing abt. 3/6 or 4/- for the two vols. I want it sent by book post, registered, to Mrs Latham, address as noted at end of this letter.

I send you a photo taken by my friend Hoyer in Bahia.[12] For amateur work, & that amateur a beginner, & the photo not retouched, it is not bad.

Y’day a man stopped me in the street & shook hands with me – I did not recognize him, but I have a bad memory for faces & I see so many new faces every day, that I thought he might be a customer & have given me an order for handkerchiefs or hessians. So I smiled & hoped he was very well. After the usual interchange of compliments he began:

“About that business, you know, it’s all right, but are your parents alive & do they live here or on the other side?”

I thought the question rather strange, but perhaps he wanted to know if my father was in the firm. Still I could not see what that had to do with handkerchiefs or bags. However I told him they were alive & lived on the other side.

“And your future wife?” But this “floored” me, & I stared at him with my mouth open, & as soon as I had recovered sufficiently from the shock, I said to him. “I think the Senhor must be making a mistake. I haven’t found out yet myself where my “futura” lives.”  “Are you not the Senhor Kanthack?” he asked, pulling out a legal looking document. “No, I only live in the same house with him”, & – I might have added – “I wore his clothes the other night & they fitted me to T, so your mistake is excusable”.

It seems Mr Kanthack is about to be married, so I suppose it was the license or something of that sort.[13] He was the man who lent me the dress suit to go to the ball in, when mine was in the Custom-house.


6th Mar

There has been no mail in or out since I began this letter, so I have had no news from you nor have I had any further opportunity since my last of sending you my birthday wishes.[14] I shall drink your health & prosperity to Ireland on the 17th.

I have not much to add. On Thursday evg. I dined again with Mr & Mrs Guimara͂es, & last night at the Tucknisses’. Business has been going pretty fairly, though, as usual, better for Dundee than for Belfast.

Best love to all.



A list of passengers arriving from Brazil to Southampton on the SS Clyde, showing many of the picnickers described in this letter.
A list of passengers arriving from Brazil to Southampton on the SS Clyde, showing many of the picnickers described in this letter.

  1. JMcC birthday on 29th February, born 1864.
  2. Likely “Jaqueira” – a neighbourhood of Recife (capital of Pernambuco).
  3. Jaboatão, city, eastern Pernambuco state. It is located on the Jaboatão River,  just west of Recife, the capital of the state. The site of two battles in the 17th-century war of the Portuguese against the Dutch, Jaboatão was elevated to city status in 1884. It is an increasingly industrial sector of the greater Recife metropolitan area.
  4. From the passenger list of the “Clyde” coming from South America, we see the Boxwell clan arriving in Southampton on 28th April 1893 (2 months after this letter from Pernambuco). Mr W J Boxwell age 60 (b ~1833) embarking in Rio was William, the father. His daughters “Miss Boxwell” (Ada) and Mrs Williams (Edith) both embarked in Pernambuco. Edith was accompanied by her four children: Henry aged 6 (b~ 1887), Alice aged 4 (b ~1889), John aged 3 (b ~1890), and Annie age 1 ½ (b ~1891). Also embarking at Pernambuco were Mr John Harvey Boxwell age 48 (b~ 1845) – this is William’s brother and uncle to both Edith and Ada who must have been staying with him. So on the picnic we may have: Mr and Mrs Williams and their little daughter -Arthur Llewellyn Griffith-Williams and Edith Williams with possibly Alice Williams (Annie may have been too young); Mr William's brother with Miss Connolly; Mr (John) Harvey Boxwell Sr and his two nephews: his brother William’s sons, John Harvey Boxwell (b ~1868) and William E. G. Boxwell (b~ 1870), both of whom are listed as “Cotton & Sugar Agent Broker” and “Cotton & Sugar Merchant in Brazil” in the 1901 Birkenhead Census. Also in the 1901 Census, Ada aged 30 and still single is living at home with her parents William and Mary – as are her sisters Frances aged 36, Eleanor aged 27 and Sarah aged 38.
  5. A charabanc or "char-à-banc" is a type of horse-drawn vehicle, usually open-topped. It has "benched seats arranged in rows, looking forward, commonly used for large parties, whether as public conveyances or for excursions". The name derives from the French char à bancs ("carriage with wooden benches"), the vehicle having originated in France in the early 19th century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charabanc
  6. Mr Benjamin Tuckniss (b 1826, d 1896) and Mrs Tuckniss, parents of Benjamin Howard Tuckniss (b 1863, d 1924). Keiller lodged with them in Pernambuco. See Index to People.
  7. Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, 1593-1641: Royalist politician; President of the Council of the North (1628), and Lord-Deputy of Ireland (1632); Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (January 1640); 12th January 1640, created Earl of Strafford; supported Charles I, 1639-41; executed.
  8. William Thomas Spencer Wentworth-FitzWilliam, 6th Earl FitzWilliam, KG (b 12th October 1815, d 20th February 1902), styled Hon. William Wentworth-Fitzwilliam 1815–1835, and Viscount Milton 1835–1857, was a British peer, nobleman, and Liberal Party politician: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wentworth-Fitzwilliam,_6th_Earl_Fitzwilliam.
  9. The Graphic was a British weekly illustrated newspaper, first published on 4th December 1869: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Graphic
  10. John Gibson Lockhart (b 12th June 1794, d 25th November 1854) was a Scottish writer and editor. He is best known as the author of a biography of his father-in-law Sir Walter Scott (https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24497), which has been called the second most admirable biography in the English language, after Boswell's Life of Johnson: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gibson_Lockhart
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatelaine_(chain) and https://www.langantiques.com/university/chatelaine/
  12. Georg Hoyer (b 1860, m to Mararethe) from Germany. See Index to People.
  13. Ernest Kanthak, merchant (b 26 May 1866 Ceara, Brazil, naturalized with father and siblings in Liverpool in 1885) married Josephine Maria (née Dowsley, b 19 March 1869 in Pernambuco) approximately 1893/4. Both died in Bournemouth; he in 1953, she in 1946. See Index to People.
  14. It would be Jane's 57th birthday. She was born 17th March 1836.


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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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