18930106  See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/v3n4-2015


Rio Janeiro,    6th Jany. 1893


My dear Mother,

I wrote you 16th & 27/8th December. The other day I recvd. to-gether your welcome letters of 5th & 12th.    You tell me you had a very bad cold. I trust you shook it off before Christmas. You ought to take more care of yourself. The winter seems to have begun with great severity. Here we had great heat all last week, but y’day it rained heavily & to-day is cool & delightful once more, as is always the case after rain. A telegram from Buenos Aires reports continued drought & great heat all over the South. Such a cool & healthy season in Rio is unknown “in the memory of the oldest inhabitant”.

It is very clever of the girls to be able to earn pocket money through art-work. What kind of work is it?

What a shocking thing the sudden death of Mrs James Black. It seems no time since Addie & I went to the wedding reception.[1]

I had a newspaper, dated 14th from Dundee announcing the failure of Lipman & Co.[2] Did Mr W.  lose anything?[3] I am sorry for Mrs Friedländer. The failure cannot really have been a great surprise in Dundee, as Lipmans were known to be short of funds considering their large business. I suppose the Wolffs lose everything.[4] It is hard lines on young Mrs Albert W. unless she has money of her own settled on her.[5]

I spent New-Year with the Youles, stopping with them from Saturday evg. till Monday morning.[6] Several guests disappointed them & there were no other ladies there, but some young fellows from the Bank came to dinner on Saturday, & we spent a pleasant & noisey (with or without e? without I think) evening, playing games, thought-reading, singing choruses & so on. Sunday was fearfully hot & we did not move about much, but we enjoyed our morning & afternoon cold baths. It must sound refreshing to you just now to hear of cold baths twice a day! Youles have a fine bath. One walks, in pyjamas & wooden slippers down the garden, under palms, bamboos, & bananas, to the clear tank, tiled with blue slabs, & rolls with luxurious laziness into the cool water. The tank is three feet deep & about ten feet square, so one can dive slowly from one end to the other, then float on ones back & kick, & afterwards turn on the copious shower overhead. Such a bath in itself makes life worth living.

To-day is another holiday – “Reyes” – the Magi or wise men of the East. There is a fearful band in the Garden of the Hotel, & their music reminds one of the flight of some birds that migrate in a long string, each one a little behind the other.

Interval for dinner.

Recipe for a nice fruit salad. Oranges, melon, & pineapple, cut in small pieces, grapes whole but separated, in a salad-bowl with ice. If all the fruit is sweet no sugar is needed.

Another culinary menu. A favorite breakfast dish of mine is eggs beaten-up with tomatoes.

In honour of the day several of the Brazilian families have seated themselves at the centre-table & are having a kind of banquet. It is pleasant to see them having a jovial time, but their table-manners might be a little more refined with advantage. If only the ladies would not put their elbows on the table, if the men would not cross their legs, nor throw one arm with careless grace over the back for their chair, if they would discriminate a little in their use of knife & fork, if the toothpicks were not so much in evidence all round!

It is funny to see how quickly they become bosom friends. Three or four families meet for the first time at the Hotel. On the second day they are inseparable. The women call one another by their Christian names & promenade arm in arm, four or five in a row.

I expect they will be up bye & bye to dance in the drawing-room & as it is next my room, with a thin door between, my writing will be interrupted. They danced vigorously the other evening, & politely pressed me to join them, but it was too hot & I did not feel in the humour so I politely declined.

The Readies have gone for a few days to Santos. I mentioned already that Mr Readie is manager of the Cable Company. They are very nice people. Mrs Readie kept me supplied in books. The last was the pathetic story of Little Nell. I wonder I never read “The Old Curiosity Shop” before. I recommend it to any emotional person who wants to “indulge in the luxury of a good cry.” Dick Swiveller & the Marchioness playing cribbage make a very funny picture.[7]

In a very few days I am going for a flying visit to San Paolo & Santos & then I shall go to Bahia, where I shall likely be when this reaches you. Hence to Pernambuco.

There come the dancers & musicians, so I may shut up.

Glad to hear the Pater is looking well. I have a letter half-written to him, which I shall send by this mail. Best love to all






  1. This is a reference to James Black’s wedding in New York – described at length in letter of 29th January 1891. His wife was a Miss Russel. He was likely related to the Black “heiresses”, neighbours in Lennoxvale.
  2. Lipman and Co. were international linen and jute commission agents and merchants, providing both raw materials and made up cloth. Their first office was in Dundee in 1844 and then expanded to Hamburg, New York, Glasgow, Chicago, Gratz, Carelshaven and Belfast. Edward Friedlander had entered the firm of Lipman and Co. at some point during the 1870s. Born in Hamburg about 1848, he married in London and then entered business in Dundee. It was a spectacular bankruptcy. There seemed little warning of what was coming, but on the 12th of December 1892, Lipman sent out a letter to their creditors advising they could not pay their debts. It seems to have come as a surprise that the various rumours which had been circulating about the failure of an anonymous Dundee firm had been about Lipman and Co. It was said to be the “most serious to have occurred in Dundee for more than twenty years” and their liabilities were around £300, 000. Full account at: https://mcmanus168.org.uk/mcmanus168entry/lipman-co/
  3. Mr Weinberg
  4. There was a WULFF associate with Lipman & Co as a partner of the Hamburg firm of Lipman & Wulff – this was MALTA Wulff.
  5. Albert Wulff, Jute and Linen Merchant of Dundee (b 27th January 1864 in Hamburg) married Olga Elias (b 21st October 1870) on 14th May 1892 in Hamburg. Albert lived in Dundee and was naturalized in January 1895. So, young Mrs Albert Wulff (age 22) had only been in Dundee for 6 months at the time JMcC wrote. (Albert died in Hamburg on 18th May 1938.)
  6. Fred and Frank Youle. See Index to People.
  7. Novel by Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop was printed in book form in 1841: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/700


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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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