18930828  See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/km0w-hw02


S.S. “Magdalena”

to be posted from Lisbon 28th Aug. 93


My dear Mother,

You will have seen from my wires that I reached successively London & Southampton without mishap. In London it rained in the morning but was fine in the afternoon, & I got my shopping done. I hope the Pater got the Picquet box I forwarded as forfeit from the Stores, & you the cap.[1] If latter does not please or is too similar to the last one they will be pleased to change it.

I could not find anything suitable for presents to my lady-friends but I bought a couple of pipes & two pencil-cases – not dear ones – for the males.[2]

I put up at Charing + Hotel but did not like it.[3] The food & accommodation were not in keeping with prices charged. In the evening I spent an hour at Simpson’s Divan – saw Bird & Blackburn & other masters.[4] Afterwards I dropped in at the Empire expecting to run across some of the people who wd be going out to S. America next day but did not see any one I knew. But at Waterloo I met a crowd of old acquaintances next morning. Mr Boxwell, Willson, & another from Pernambuco, old McLalennan, a Mr & Mrs Jackson, Mr Abraham Q.C., Mr O’Meara from Rio, & several others with whom I have travelled before.[5] My cabin is not bad, but it might be better & I shall try to have it changed after Lisbon. Until the purser knows how many he has to provide for there nothing can be done.

We have made up a jolly little table of eight & we certainly have more fun than any of the other tables. The other passengers look round with envious enquiry as to the joke when they hear our almost continuous laughter at dinner.

In the carriage with Julian[6] & me going down to Southampton there was a young & pretty American lady with whom we soon made friends, & by the time we got to Southampton were quite chummy. She goes out to join her husband, an officer on the U.S. cruiser “Yantic”, stationed at Montevideo. Julian has made great friends with her little boy, a rather naughty youngster of two summers. This American lady, Mrs Jewett, is the life of our table.[7] Someone was being chaffed about having been seen at the bar early in the day. He explained that he went there merely to have a pencil pointed. “I guess you write considerable” said Mrs J. in inimitable Yankee manner. It was very rich.

She came from N.York by the old “City of Paris” – now the “Paris” – arriving at Southampton on Wednesday afternoon.[8] She did not want to leave England next morning without having “done” London, so she went up with some fellow-passengers, arriving at 10 p.m. ! & coming back perfectly satisfied by 10 a.m. train next morning.

We have about 150 “firsts” on board & I think the voyage will be pleasant. As far as the weather goes it has begun well except for a fog off Finisterre that lost us a day. We should have been in Vigo y’day instead of this morning, & in Lisbon to-day – Sunday – but it will be early to-morrow when we enter the Tagus.

The Bay of Biscay was like a mill-pond & scarcely a passenger has failed so far to turn up at the call of the dinner-bell. The fog was rather a nuisance. When not completely stopped we were going dead slow with the fog-horn blowing constantly.

I have not had any whist so far. It becomes more & more difficult every voyage to arrange a rubber. Poker has almost annihilated its more sober rival. I have played several games of chess, read a novel & a half, & written several letters.

Julian, who just now nearly sat down on my ink-bottle, desires me to note his kind regards.

I shd have mentioned in due order that I saw the two younger Miss Blacks at Larne & had a five minutes chat with them. They wished me a pleasant voyage in a most friendly manner. Mrs Black has benefited much by the change of air.[9]

On the Stranraer steamer I made friends with the chief engineer who invited me in to look at the engines, & we had a long chat. He pointed out to me an appliance which indicates in the chart-room the number of revolutions of the paddle-wheels, so that in foggy weather the Captain knows by this alone when he is about “there”.

I had no letter or wire from you at Southampton, but I hope to hear from you at Lisbon. Julie will give you my address which is c/o O. Letzgus[10], box No 1 ? 1, B. Aires.

You need not expect news from me for fully a month – a fortnight out to P’bco. & a fortnight back. Best love.



Monday 28th Aug. 93

Just anchored in the “Tagus”.

Last night had a long chat with a charming little woman, Mrs Jackson, who goes out with her husband to Rio.[11] She knows McKissacks very well, especially Mrs McK., has visited them several time in Belfast, & several other Belfast people.[12] She has been in Rio before & knows the Gottos & others there & will be a pleasant addition to my circle of friends.[13]

Bye bye. Hope you are all flourishing & that I shall have news to that effect this afternoon.

Love to all


  1. Picquet (alt spelling of piquet) can be “a trick-taking card game for two players, using a 32-card pack consisting of the seven to the ace only”.
  2. Presumed to be his sisters and brothers.
  3. Till now he always stayed at 205 Adelaide Road when passing through London with Uncle Addie and family – why this change?
  4. Simpson's-in-the-Strand is one of London's oldest traditional English restaurants. After a modest start in 1828 as a smoking room and soon afterwards as a coffee house, it gained a reputation as a place to play games. Chess matches were played against other coffee houses in the town, with top-hatted runners carrying the news of each move. The Grand Cigar Divan soon became recognised as the home of chess in England: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson%27s-in-the-Strand. Joseph Henry Blackburne and Henry Edward Bird were noted players of the day, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Henry_Blackburne and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Bird_(chess_player)
  5. Mr Boxwell = Mr John Harvey Boxwell (b ~1845) of Pernambuco (confirmed on passenger list); Mr Willson not identified; McLalennan /McLolennan / McClalennan / MacLennan ?; Mr Abraham Q.C. = Mr P. B. Abrahams on passenger list (b ~1849);  Mr O’Meara = Patrick O’Meara, Civil Engineer (b 1834 Negagh, co Tipperary, d 1st of April 1898 Harrismith South Africa). Mr O'Meara's obituary in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers notes that "in September, 1883, he went to Brazil as Chief Resident Engineer of the Brazil Great Southern Railway, on the completion of which he undertook the duties of general manager as well as engineer. In 1889, he was appointed by Messrs. Punchard McTaggart and Company to take charge of the construction of the Ceará Harbour Works in the North of Brazil. He resigned that post in 1893."
  6. Julian Weinberg. See Index to People.
  7. Lida Eliza P Jewett (b 4th September 1869 New Jersey [née Polhemus]). She is nearly 24 with a two-year old son, Harry Jewett (b 1891). Her husband, Harry Erradt Jewett (b 1868) is indeed an officer on the US cruiser “Yantic”: http://www.navsource.org/archives/12/09904.htm.  The whole family is on the passenger list returning from Montevideo to Southampton on 8th November 1895. Little Harry dies in 1900 aged 9, by 1910 she will be divorced. She remarries in 1914: https://www.ancestrylibrary.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/87237708/person/422090608466/
  8. The “City of Paris”, renowned as being the 1889 Trans-Atlantic record-breaker, was renamed “Paris” in 1893.
  9. Miss Blacks (the heiresses) from across the way of Lennoxvale and their mother Mrs Black.
  10. Ottmar Letgus. See Index to People.
  11. On passenger list – going to Rio – traveling with 1 Servant (unnamed!)
  12. McKissacks of Belfast – unidentified friends of the Jacksons.
  13. For the Gottos, 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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