18900714 See an image of the original letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/h2rp-ww71


No 14                 Santos, Brazil

14th July 1890


My dear Mother,

You will see by the heading that I have left the Plate behind & that I am now at Santos, homeward bound.

Before leaving Montevideo I was glad to receive your two welcome letters of 25th May & 3rd June, – dates somewhat old to be acknowledging on the 14th July, but I hope to have later news at Rio.

I am pleased that you were interested in gold premium explanations; I was afraid you would be rather bored by them.

So you are still supported by the House of Commons on Sundays after Church, when Corryolanus is not occupied in shaping the destiny of the nation.

I send my congratulations to Julie on the acquisition of a tail-coat; but this new dignity is rather a reminder that we are all getting awfully old – a melancholy reflection.[1] As the American poet sings – “Listen to my tail of woe!”

Annie seems to be having a good time in Paris, to judge from her letters.[2]

No doubt you are relieved to have house cleaning over. That my davenport was respected in the general war on harmless dust was perhaps owing rather to your not having the key to it than to a consideration for the private nature of its contents.[3] People out in this part of the world are not so fastidious about a little matter in the wrong place, & if cleanliness is next to godliness they are in a very bad way.

By the time James will have finished his Intermediate Exams I hope I shall be home in time to celebrate his triumph.[4]

The 12th of glorious pious & immortal memory is also over – I hope without very many killed & wounded.[5]

I came up from Montevideo by the Royal Mail Steamer “La Plata”.[6] When I went on board I stared very hard at one of the officers whose face seemed quite familiar to me, & he returned my gaze. I said to a passenger “That must be brother of Captain Milner of the “Avon” – one of the West Indian boats, but on asking one of the stewards I was told that it was Captain Milner himself, with whom I had made two short but very jolly voyages along the coast of Venezuela on my first trip to the West Indies. He remembered me perfectly when I spoke to him, & invited me into his cabin to take a liqueur. We had a long conversation & altogether he was very civil. He had been promoted a short time before to the “La Plata”, a regular passenger & mail packet, from the “Avon”, which is only a cargo-boat.

Another passenger by the steamer was the Miss Petullo whom I mentioned having met at Buenos-Ayres. I think I told you she was from Broughty Ferry & knew many Dundee people.[7]

Curious to say she was at a dance at Fernbrae which took place while I was there. It was on a 19th Jany. either two or three years ago & was given in honour of Fred Weinberg’s coming of age.[8] I did not remember having met her, nor was her memory any better or more flattering than mine, but I have a distant recollection of the date of the month from a New Year’s card that I sent Fred Weinberg, & also of having enjoyed myself very much at it. Miss Petullo played a very good game of whist & we also entertained each other in the afternoons with reversi & backgammon.[9] She is a little woman, no longer very young nor beautiful, but an interesting conversationalist, appreciating fun, & altogether very nice.[10]

The other passengers were also a very pleasant set & I was sorry to leave the ship. Several of them civilly expressed their regret that I was not continuing the voyage with them – one of them rather magnanimously, as I am afraid I was a little rude to him on his maintaining that one way of playing whist was as good as another, & that there was no advantage in informing your partner as to your hand for you conveyed the same information to your opponents.

The run from Montevideo to Santos lasted from Wednesday afternoon till Sunday morning. The sea was perfectly calm & the weather became at once warm & delightful.

Today, Monday, is a holiday, being the anniversary of the Declaration of the Republic in France, or the taking of the Bastille, or something of that sort. The Brazilians in the flush of their recently asserted political liberty feel called upon to celebrate not only their own, but also everyone else’s independence.

Santos is a small town with narrow streets & insignificant houses, but the situation is fine. It is on an island or delta & has a good harbour formed by the widening of the river some four or five miles from its mouth, at the apex of the delta. The country all round is mountainous, with dense tropical vegetation, & exceedingly picturesque. I find it particularly beautiful, after having spent two months in Buenos Ayres with its perfectly flat surroundings devoid of trees. I don’t think I shall remain here more than a couple of days, & I shall probably go to Rio overland, by way of San Paulo where I may spend a few days.

The Dundee letters seem to catch the mails better than the Belfast ones. I found here a very nice letter from Mrs Weinberg, dated 19th June. She says Emma & Olga are to pay them a visit end of July at Kingnossie, & to return with them to Dundee.[11] I must write to Addie some day soon for his birthday.[12] One must look ahead so far when letters have to be sent from the Southern Hemisphere. I hope the cider & the shower-baths (which was to blame?) have not further disagreed with the Pater. I think the Pilsener that Dr Whittla recommends is safer[13]. On receipt of this I think you had better write to Pernambuco Bahia c/o Mr John Eggers, Caixa 114 (Brazil) unless you hear to the contrary by my telegrams to Dundee.[14]

If I should have left Bahia the letters will follow me to Pernambuco, or better still, to Belfast.

Best love.


A painting of the port of Santos in the early 1900s by the Brazilian artist Benedito Calixto de Jesus (1853-1927). Ships lie next to the gridded flat city.
A painting of the port of Santos in the early 1900s by the Brazilian artist Benedito Calixto de Jesus (1853-1927).


  1. Julius Jnr acquisition of a tail coat age 17 ½ (b 17 December 1872)
  2. Annie, in Paris age 23 (b 24 April 1867): what is she doing there? And with whom is she staying - possibly Clara Iklé and her family?
  3. A davenport is a type of desk, a piece of furniture with a writing surface and usually drawers or other compartments
  4. His brother Jim (James Moore b 19 November 1874) – will be just under 16 by the time JMcC gets home
  5. Twelfth of July = the Glorious Twelfth / Orangemen’s Day. In Ulster, where about half the population is from a Protestant background and half from a Catholic background, the Twelfth has been accompanied by violence since its beginning. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelfth
  6. There are several Royal Mail Ships called “La Plata” but none are recorded as in service in 1890. The only ship “La Plata” in service in the region in 1890 was actually a “Messageries Maritimes” ship. It was in service from 1889-1903.
  7. Miss Petullo: see Index to People
  8. "Fred's coming of age dance at Fernbrae" was in honour of Frederick Simon Weinberg (b 5 August 1865) – so age 21 in 1886. However, the party was on 19 January – must have been “three years ago” when he writes, i.e. in 1887 when Fred was 21 ½.
  9. Reversi is a strategy board game for two players, played on an 8×8 uncheckered board. It was invented in 1883. The game gained considerable popularity in England at the end of the nineteenth century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reversi
  10. Miss Petullo "no longer very young nor beautiful". If she is the Catherine Patullo on the passenger list returning from Buenos Aries arriving in Southampton on 5 August 1890 – she is about 6 years older than him
  11. Could only find a Kingussie - a small town in the Badenoch and Strathspey ward of the Highland council area of Scotland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingussie
  12. Addie's 25th birthday (born 23 August 1865)
  13. Sir William Whitla (see Index to People)
  14. John C Eggers (see Index to People)


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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.

Share This Book