18940325 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/qz01-qg73


On headed notepaper:                                           LENNOXVALE, BELFAST.

S.S. “Gregory”

Easter Sunday, 25th Mar. 1894


My dear Mother,

It would do you good if you could be here this Sunday afternoon instead of shivering at home, with neuralgic March winds blowing & the rain probably beating down with steady perseverance from a grey sky.

I am sitting in my deck chair, gently rocked as the steamer lazily rises & falls over the long low waves. The sun is almost overhead, & my feet, resting on the rail, are nursed by its comfortable warmth, while the awning keeps the glare from my head. Over my shoulder comes the soft cool breeze of the north-east “trades”, filling out the sails & raising white crests on the little waves that dance in joy over the more grave & serious ocean-swell.

The sea is deep blue – nothing can rival that glorious depth of colour – each plunge of the ship takes down millions of tiny air-bubbles which come seething up in great swirls of grey-blue & snow-white veined marble. The flying-fish, frightened by the ship & taking her for one of their natural enemies, start from under the bows, & sail with outspread fins, low up & down like a sea-gull skimming over the waves, & take a fresh spurt with a quick wriggle of their tails, if they happen to touch the top of a wave, until they fall with a splash two or three hundred yards away.

Now & then a nautilus floats by, with inflated sail, transparent blue edged with pale pink, like a delicate shell of iridescent crystal.[1] No other living thing to be seen, & not a ship, nothing but the ocean all round to the horizon.

Anyone with a turn for it can moralize or be inspired to write poetry, according to his bent. As for me I merely feel that it is good to sit here & do nothing, think of nothing; – just to breathe in the pure air & let it sweep the dust & cobwebs from one’s lungs & brain.


28th March    Just come ashore at Barbados. The steamer goes on at once so I shall send this on without postage. It ought to arrive some four days before the next packet, & so you may pay fivepence on it for the satisfaction of knowing as soon as possible that I have left behind the delectable Brazils & have arrived at this happy island.

Your letters of 5th & 12th March were waiting for me. Very glad to have news only 16 days old & to know you are all well. Best love, Jack


  1. Thank you to Richard Boyd, grand-son of JMcC, for his explanation. The “Nautilus” (not a Nautilus as we now know them - these are confined to the Indo-Pacific apparently, and are marine molluscs of the cephalopod family; not surface living) is Velella velella (the By-the-Wind-Sailor) “a monospecific genus of Hydrozoa in the Porpitidae family; a cosmopolitan free-floating Hydrozoa that lives on the surface of the open ocean.” A very eccentric sort of jellyfish. Deep blue, with a little sail. Found all over the tropical oceans: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velella


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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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