18921218 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/jcre-v694


Rio Janeiro,                              18th December 1892.


My dear Mother,

It is some time since I wrote to you – about a fortnight, I think, – 3rd Dec. was my last, but as I wrote meanwhile to Julie, Emma, & Annie, you will not have been without news from me.

And now I shall begin a letter so as to have it ready for the first steamer; though it probably won’t get much beyond the beginning to-night, for I am somewhat tired, having spent ten hours to-day in train & boat; & further the gas will soon be put out. Still I find that once a letter is begun it somehow grows & ends itself, in spare moments, whereas the fixed resolution to begin & end a letter at one sitting is only born of a Sunday afternoon, or a holiday, when one can “laze” for a few consecutive hours.

Best thanks for your “Monday Pops.” of 7th & 14th Nov., – the latter quite a long one with lots of news. You say there have been ever so many engagements in Belfast, but as you don’t mention names I suppose they are people I don’t know. I am not engaged myself so far, & though leap-year is almost over I have not had any proposals – at least no eligible one. It is thus that young women waste golden opportunities. Perhaps there is not enough gold about this here opportunity.

On Thursday I went to Campos, spent Friday & Saturday there, & returned to-day. Mr Kalkmann, partner of Mr Spann, went with me; – he will remain there for a couple of days still.[1]

It is a very fatiguing journey. It really began the night before, for I had to sleep in town, instead of out at my comfortable Hotel Internacional. We had to rise at 4 a.m. to catch the 5 o’clock steamer & there is no tram in from Santa Tereza at that early hour. The one hour’s sail across the Bay in the fresh morning air, just about sunrise, is very pleasant. The near mountains, the wooded islands, & the winding channels, remind on of the Scotch lakes. From Nichteroy, on the north side of the Bay, the train starts at 6 a.m. & reaches Campos at 3 in the afternoon, a nine-hours’ tiresome, dusty journey on hard cushion-less seats, in carriages that jolt so fearfully that one feels quite sore long before the ride is over.[2] The country is uninteresting; – covered mostly with virgin scrub, scarcely deserving the name of forest; – here & there scattered mud houses, & patches of land under maize or sugar-cane.

Campos itself is a flourishing little provincial town on the river Parahiba.[3]

[  But the gas is out, & my candle is low, & it is 11.30, & I am dead tired,   & –      Buenas Noches, or rather   Boas Noites – for we must speak Portuguese here]

The rest in our next.


Campos is quite a small town, but it can boast of a large square with several palm trees & two electric lights. The Hotel is more like a family boarding house & the proprietor is so amiably pressing as he hovers round the dinner-table & so attentively solicitous for your comfort that you seem to be his guest, & you equal his politeness with assurances that you have nothing left to wish for.

The people are not yet spoiled by too much contact with European “civilization”. They are still simple, confiding, & hospitable. Business begins in the stores at 6 in the morning & goes on without hurry till 9 at night. At half past nine the second breakfast is served in a room up-stairs for the principals & employees all to-gether, & dinner in the same way at four o’clock. If you are transacting business with the people when either hour arrives, as a matter of course you go up & take your seat at the table – if you are a stranger, at the head of the table. The food is good, plentiful & well cooked, & there is wine for everybody.

I was there for two days & did a good business.


20th Dec.     Have just recvd. your letter of 21st Nov. also a few lines from Father, written three days later, saying that the old lady had passed quietly away. Within a month of ninety years. It is a great age.[4] Poor old lady, at the end life was no pleasure to her. But that was only in the last few months. Till then her mind was clear & all her faculties strong. She enjoyed her books, her talks about old times, & the outlook from the window over the trees in which she watched the change of the seasons. What a good thing it was that her mind did remain clear as long as her bodily strength lasted. Old age with loss of reason is painful & pitiable.

It must have been a great strain on you looking after her when at last she became so helpless. You ought to go somewhere – Rostrevor[5] or Newcastle – for a few days’ rest. I wrote to Julie to give you my Xmas present. I hope he got my letter all right & in good time.

I had a nice letter from Mrs Weinberg with a little pocket comb & glass & a very pretty card with a sprig of heather. Also a letter & a Christmas-card from Sissy. Very kind of them. I suppose I shall have a line from Mr W. & from Fred by next mail.[6] I don’t think there will be any need for me to go back to Buenos Aires. I wired Dundee an order y’day. – also for a Campos firm, & I got besides two other small orders there for them, so I did not lose my two days.

Love to all




  1. Campos dos Goytacazes is the largest municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro and is 286 km from the capital city, Rio. Its name comes from the geographical characteristic of the region, very flat with fields (campos in Portuguese) and from the Goytacazes Indians, who were the original inhabitants of the region: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campos_dos_Goytacazes
  2. The word "Niterói" comes from Tupi and means "water that hides". Often spelled Nictheroy or "Nitheroy", it was the indigenous name of the port of the city of Rio de Janeiro that was established around 1554: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niter%C3%B3i
  3. Paraiba River: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Para%C3%ADba_do_Sul
  4. This is Jane's mother, JMcC's grandmother, Ann Isabella McCully (née McCaldin) (b 25th December 1803, d 23rd November 1892, Belfast). See Index of People.
  5. Rostrevor is a village in County Down, Ireland.
  6. Mrs Weinberg = Agnes Weinberg wife of Isaac Julius. Mr W = Isaac Julius Weinberg. Fred = their eldest son Frederick Simon Weinberg (b 1865). Sissy = nickname for their daughter Zerline Adele Weinberg born 1872 – there is a letter from her to JMcC written on 2nd September 1895 on the return from his final trip in this collection. 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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