18900831 See an image of the original letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/pzjp-k009


No 18

Rio de Janeiro.

31st Aug. 1890


My dear Mother,

I wrote you a few lines the other day from the office. This will be the last letter that I shall date from Rio & before it leaves for England I hope to be in Bahia. I have had to stay here longer than I anticipated, but I don’t think Bahia will detain me & once in Pernambuco I shall fix my steamer & go with it, leaving the untaken orders for somebody else.

I have been very quiet this week, spending most of the evgs. in the hotel, writing or reading. I dined once more with Mr Lucius, & after dinner the young Englishmen boarding at the same house entertained us with a varied vocal & instrumental concert, ranging from Wagner to Gilbert & Sullivan, – very pleasant it was; I had not heard any music for a long time.

Last night I called at Gottos & found Mr & Mrs G. deep in stamps & albums. But what is interesting Mr G most just now is a picture, said to be a genuine Murillo, which he is trying to buy from an old native. They say the picture represents some saint or other, & the old gentleman is unwilling to part with it, not because he likes it, but because he has a vague idea that it is a valuable picture. He said to Mr Gotto “They say it’s by some fellow called Murillo, or something like that, but I don’t know; – I like the landscapes better.”

I hope to have a look at it tomorrow.


S.S. “Finance” 5th Sept.

Northward bound once more! I left Rio on the 3rd, having had altogether a very pleasant stay there; still I was glad to say goodbye to it & to make for Bahia, my last port but one.

On Monday evg. I dined for the last time at Gottos’ who crowned their many kindnesses by giving me an excellent farewell dinner. They have a first rate cook – no small blessing in a place like Rio where it is extremely difficult to find good servants, & having found them, to keep them. Mrs Gotto complains that as soon as she has trained a servant to orderly & clean ways, the servant takes another place, for preference & higher wages are always given to those who have been in English houses. The last maid they had was a “breaker”, & one day Mr G had to beseech her “by the love of all the saints” to leave – to leave at once, & by the back door, for if she were to go by the front door, she would break something on the way!

The next day I met Mr Gotto by appointment & we went to see the celebrated Murillo. I must say I was not very much surprised to find that the picture was a copy, – a good copy, of a well-known Murillo: it represents a dirty little beggar boy looking inside his shirt for – well perhaps for a lost stud.

The old gentleman – a “Commendador” – maintained that the picture was a genuine Murillo, & Mr Gotto let him down gently by suggesting that perhaps this was the original & the other one the copy.

From Rio to Bahia is a three days’ sail. Yesterday we had a head wind & the vessel pitched rather, & as I could not write, nor walk, nor sit comfortably, I lay in my bunk & read Ruskin on the Relation of Art to Morals, & was much edified thereby. A little Ruskin at a time is conducive to meditation, & I can always meditate best with my eyes closed, as Addie used to do over the preparation of his lessons.


Bahia  8th Sept   Have just recvd. pleasant letters from Father –  the last of 18th Aug. before starting for Russia – but yours have gone to Pernambuco. In future I must give you a copying-press or books specially prepared with carbon paper, so that you may send me duplicates of your letters to different places. We might screw the copying-press on the top of your Davenport.[1]

I have not seen anyone here yet except the agent. Today is a holiday & I shall employ it in advancing a stage further my never-ending correspondence.

If I can manage it I shall write you a few lines again by the “Clyde” Royal Mail, due in 2/3 days.

With best love








  1. What exactly is a letter copying press? Apparently, back in the 1800s these ‘book presses’ were used for making copies of letters into blank books. A copying book, which sounds to be a blank book filled with thin tissue paper, was used inside of these machines. Once a letter was freshly written, it was sandwiched inside the book. An oiled sheet sat atop a blank page, while the fresh letter sat under it, and another oiled sheet below the fresh letter. The tissue paper was dampened to encourage the ink to transfer onto the tissue paper when the book was being pressed. Of course, we know when printing, everything prints backwards. This was the reason the paper was made from tissue, so the ink could easily be seen from the other side! It might seem tedious today, but this was before the invention of carbon paper, so having such a device around saved more time than having to write everything out a second, third or fourth time: https://lakemichiganbookpress.com/blogs/news/what-is-the-difference-between-a-book-press-and-a-copying-press


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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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