18930905 See an image of this letter, http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/5ava-fn29


S.S. “Magdalena”                                                 5th Sept. 1893


My dear Mother,

I suppose you got both letter & p.c. from Lisbon. Thanks to Julie for his notes which were delivered to me after the ship sailed.[1] We are now eight days out from Lisbon.[2] We sighted Grand Canary on the third day & since then we have not seen land but to-night we shall view Fernando Noronha & to-morrow reach Pernambuco.[3] These big ships have ceased calling at St Vincent (Cape de Verde), a comfortable omission: – the place is so barren & parched that I never was tempted to land there & the ship, when coaling is going on, is horribly dirty.

The weather has been perfect all along. Not a single rough day, & the heat has not been oppressive.

I mentioned that my cabin was not a good one & that two Brazilians were booked to enter it at Lisbon. Well they came, & the purser held out small hopes of being able to do better for me as the ship was so full. I wondered if my luck was going to desert me, but it didn’t! On the second day I was moved into one of the best cabins on the ship, – better than Julian’s who paid £7-10-/ more for his ticket.[4] My room-mate is a very nice old gentle-man called Fraser, who does not mind at what hour I come to bed & who turns out before six in the morning leaving me room to dress leisurely. He further gives me an occasional cigar & we get along famously.

We are having a very jolly voyage. I have not played cards much – in fact the smoking-room has not known me, except two nights when I joined a table of small poker which the old Pernambucanos run. There are no whist-players – though half a dozen are willing to play, but they don’t know the elements so I seldom cut in: – it’s no fun & it’s apt to ruffle one’s equanimity.

I have a very tough & come-up-again-smiling opponent at chess in the 2nd officer, Mr Joliffe.[5] Y’day we had a hard battle lasting two hours almost. I go to his cabin usually twice a day, before lunch & after dinner; we light our pipes & fall to.

Y’day we had a game of euchre[6] in the Captain’s cabin, where we took afternoon tea: – Mr & Mrs Broad, Mrs Jewett & myself.[7]

I the morning y’day Neptune came on board & delivered some amusing letters to various ladies, causing much amusement.  In the afternoon he came back & held a court. About a dozen of the young fellows who had not yet crossed the line were shaved with a wooden razor after having been lathered all over the face with a white paste liberally laid on by a white-wash brush, & then chucked head over heels into a sail containing about three feet of water, where four of Neptune’s sea-police ducked them about unmercifully.

In the evening there was a very good concert in the 2nd class,[8] which we all attended, the poop being prettily decorated with flags & electric light.[9] We had lots of songs, comic & serious recitations, step-dancing, banjo-playing, & nigger business.

The “nigger” told a funny story about his “gal” having met with an accident. She climbed a peach-tree, got out on a branch, tried to get a peach on the top of the tree, the branch broke & she fell down “peach-less”!

It has been so calm that several nights there has been dancing on deck, to the rapturous delight of two sweet gushing young ladies & the more moderate pleasure of those of more sober age.

The passengers are all pleasant companions, some of them very nice indeed. An engineer who superintends various bridges & water-works under construction in Brazil, Mr O’Meara (Irish of course), whom I knew before at Rio, gave us the other night an interesting lecture on the eclipse of the sun at Cerarã, illustrated by magic lantern slides.[10] He had much to do with the Commission that was sent out from England to observe the eclipse, & lately, when at home, he had an opportunity of examining papers & photographs & learning results which have not yet been published. I have had many conversations with Mr O’Meara & he has lent me a delightful book on Astronomy.

Many thanks to the girls for my plum-cake (I think it was Annie who baked it this time).[11] Several ladies said it was the best cake they had ever tasted, & I was able to have several little afternoon tea-parties, invitations to which were much coveted. And the chocolate creams which were used as padding for the tin made me very popular.

Just now there are two little girls, Silvia & Lucy, who want to be sweethearts to me so I cannot write any more.

Bye-bye. Love to all.






  1. Julie = JMcC's brother Julius.
  2. The duration of the journey from Southampton to Pernambuco was 13 days. Southampton to Lisbon took four days (delayed by one day by fog). As per the previous letter, the journey from Lisbon to Pernambuco was nine days.
  3. Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, part of the State of Pernambuco, Brazil, and located 354 km offshore from the Brazilian coast: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_de_Noronha
  4. For Julian Weinberg see Index to People.
  5. Probably Austin Joliffe (b 1859 Lincoln), registered as First Mate by Merchant Service in 1887 and Master Seaman in 1891.
  6. Euchre or eucre is a trick-taking card game commonly played in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euchre
  7. Mr and Mrs Broad are on the passenger list as travelling with 3 children – nil else. Lida Eliza P Jewett, an American lady travelling with her 2-year old son Harry, is described in the notes to the last letter.
  8. HE was travelling in 1st class (see previous letter, “We have about 150 “firsts” on board . . .”)
  9. The poop is the aftermost and highest deck of a ship, especially in a sailing ship where it typically forms the roof of a cabin in the stern. Word origin: 15th century from Old French pupe, from Latin puppis.
  10. Patrick O’Meara, Irish civil engineer – see notes to previous letter.
  11. "The girls" are his sisters. His sister Anne Isabella Loewenthal (b 1867) baked the cake. 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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