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Papers of Sir Arthur Eddington Eddington, Winifred (1879–1854), sister of Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington
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Letter from A. S. Eddington to Winifred Eddington

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Roça Sundy | Principe
May 5.

My dear Winifred

We are pretty well advanced in our work of erection and are taking a holiday today so I may as well start a letter to you. It seems ages since I started off in a rush in the taxi from the Observatory, and as I have only got Mother’s letter of March 14 as yet I do not know what has been happening to you for a long while—indeed I do not know what has been happening in the world in general—whether peace has been signed or any important events have occurred. I hope Punch is well and getting some walks, wish him many happy returns of his birthday from me; I expect you will not get this much before that event.

It was awfully nice having nearly four weeks in Madeira. I do not think the delay made much difference to us; if we could have gone on at once and reached here a month earlier we could have got some check photographs, though it would have been a rush getting the instruments ready in time. Failing that, there was not much object in arriving here earlier; and as things here have been managed very expeditiously, we are now making time for a week.

Cottingham & I get along very well, and I find him a very useful companion and good company. He is just 50, so, of course, is not fond of very much exercise, and generally preferred pottering round in Madeira and talking to the people; so I sometimes went off alone. For our last ten days I was very glad to find a more active companion in Geoffrey Turner, a very jolly boy keen on butterflies, on swimming and on chess, so we had several common interests.

I expect Mother sends on my letters to some of our relatives, so I did not mention in them, that I played roulette, of course not seriously, but enough to get a good idea of it and experience the ups and downs of fortune. I lost, like almost everyone else does, chiefly at the beginning, and then had pretty even fortune. I was about a £1 down, when I stopped; but I could not grudge it them, as it lasted for a number of afternoons’ play, to say nothing of the fact that I used the grounds of the Casino and had a very good & cheap tea there most afternoons during my stay.

It was a good thing to have some time at Madeira, because one got accustomed to hot weather. Out here the thermometer keeps steady at about 80° day and night; but one scarcely realises it is so hot. The evenings feel quite cool and refreshing. We have to wear sun-helmets out of doors almost always.

The ‘Portugal’ was a fairly good boat; but there were no games or facilities for exercise like on most boats, and (what surprised me very much) no deck-chairs for hire. Apparently they expected people to bring their own chairs. The time seemed to pass rather slowly, and even I was glad when we came to the end of the voyage. Of course the English and Portuguese did not mix very much; but we played games with them sometimes, and I think were quite popular on that account because the English usually keep aloof. We had “rings on the string” and “musical chairs” one afternoon.

The Portuguese here are a very superior type to those we have met before—in particular, they do not spit about all the time, and suck toothpicks at meals. Mr Carneiro is I believe very wealthy; he was going to Lisbon early this month, but postponed going especially in order to entertain us. No one speaks more than a few words of English except the two negroes Lewis & Wright, and in S. Antonio conversation is fragmentary because our friends there do not know French either. But here Mr Atalia and I plunge recklessly into very bad French, and can talk freely. Cottingham does not speak any French.

I wonder if you are still rationed. It seemed funny on the boat at starting to see full sugar-basins, unlimited butter, and to eat in a day about as much meat as would have been a week’s ration. We have had no scarcity of anything since we started. I have, however, scarcely tasted ham or bacon (eggs have been plentiful). The milk was not good on the Portugal, and I have got into the habit of taking tea without milk, which is the usual Portuguese custom & is probably better in hot climates. I cannot get any swimming here, because of the sharks.

There are several dogs about here, one of them rather a nice terrier; but for the most part they are not up to much. Nipper the dog at the hotel attached himself to me very much and followed me almost everywhere, although I did not encourage him at all, as he was neither beautiful nor free from fleas. He used to like to come and spend hours hunting lizards whilst we bathed.

It gets dark here about 6 o’clock, and as one does not sit much inside the house, one does not want to stay up long. I am usually quite ready for bed by half-past eight!

Please give my kind regards to Mr Green. I hope he is getting on alright. I think I shall be back home not much later than the middle of July.

With much love from
your affectionate brother
Stanley

[Added at the head:] [I send {1} a letter to mother a few days ago which will probably arrive by same mail. This letter assumes you have read hers.] {2}

—————

Three passages have been marked off in pencil by a later hand.

{1} A slip for ‘sent’.

{2} The square brackets are in the MS.

Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

Transcript

Passa Quatro
1912 Oct 13

My very dear Mother

I almost forgot how far I carried our adventures in my last letter, but I think it was somewhere about Monday last {1}. We had a number of rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday & on Wednesday morning and had got able to do everything quite smoothly. Besides Aguirre and Andrews we had another gentleman M. Seux {2} who lives in the neighbourhood, who was to count seconds for us during totality. Monday was a glorious day, Tuesday good, Wednesday started overcast, and at noon rain began. We regarded this as a very hopeful sign; as hitherto the rainstorms have been short and have cleared the air beautifully. On Thursday morning we were up soon after five-o’clock and went down in heavy rain to load the photographic plate carriers. At eight o’clock we were beginning to get hopeless, but of course went on with the preparations up to the last moment.

About 7∙30 the special train arrived from Rio bringing the President (Marshal Hermes) the Foreign Minister (Dr Lauro Müller) and their wives, the American Ambassador and about thirty other gentlemen. They were received with bands, rockets and crackers—crackers is the regular Brazilian way of demonstrating. Most of the people came and looked round the camp but it was too wet for the President. The American Ambassador sheltered in our shed where our cases are; we like him very much. The rain became heavier as totality drew near; it was not until 5 minutes before totality that the darkness increased noticeably, then it came on very rapidly. It was extremely dark for the time of totality—one could just see one’s watch with difficulty As soon as it was over it grew lighter very quickly.

The owner of the Fazenda, where we were, gave a banquet to the President and his party after the eclipse. Dr Morize, M. Stephanik (leader of the French expedn) and I were invited. M. Stephanik was not able to go. I was next to Morize during the meal, three places away from the President. Fortunately the Secretary to the American embassy was opposite me, so I had someone to talk English to. There were one or two speeches afterwards; but they did not concern us and I had only a very vague notion of what they were about, as they were in Portuguese. After the banquet we were photographed in a group outside the Fazenda in pouring rain—this was the beginning of heaps of newspaper photographs. I have been in eleven different groups. (One photographer caught the Greenwich Expedition at tea (at the camp) I have seen the negative it is very good and amusing.)

The rain continued without stopping all Thursday and until Friday about 4 o’clock. The passage through mud & pools of the Presidential party to the train was very amusing. In the evening we had a feast at this hotel; there were about forty present—our numbers had gradually increased night by night. I had to make a short speech in reply to a toast, and of course thank Dr Morize & compliment him.

On Friday we had lunch at the Fazenda with Sr Hess—the whole of the expeditions with their volunteers. It was very pleasant there, as there were several gentleman friends of his who could speak English well. About 4 o’clock Aguirre[,] Andrews, Davidson, one of Hess’s friends & I went up a hill (in Hess’s property). Quite unexpectedly it cleared up beautifully when we reached the top, and we had a glorious view of sun & clouds on the distant mountains.

Yesterday Saturday we spent the whole day packing and got on well (It had been too wet to do anything before). The sun was very hot in the afternoon. Towards evening there was a most extraordinary sight—the ants began flying. We have two large white ants nests in our field, and these were swarming with the small ants driving away the winged ones. These winged ants were flying off—about 50 a minute to found fresh colonies They are large creatures like dragon-flies. Besides these hundreds of winged garden ants about the size of tiger-moths were flying over the camp; dozens pitched on our canvas huts, and I expect we packed up a great many of them. Just as we were ready to go home a thunderstorm came on. It was a regular tropical deluge and we were kept about 2 hours waiting at the shed The fireflies were very brilliant in spite of the rain and the lightning (though distant) was very vivid. It was really like fairy land (or the last scene in Peter Pan) and quite enjoyable waiting there. We managed to slither home through mud & lakes about 8 o’clock.

We are a small family now. I think we shall not hurry back to Rio but see a little of this neighbourhood. Lee & Worthington are gone, which is a great relief to everybody. We may go to Rio on Wednesday. We sail on Wednesday week—it was impossible to get the baggage down to Rio in time for the earlier boat. {4}

We have a good deal of fun here in spite of everyone being dejected at the result of so much labour. Stephanik & De Souza (Morize’s assistant) are very nice fellows, and Aguirre has been a tremendous help to us, and is a splendid companion here. Atkinson (though he has had an attack of gout) keeps us very lively and is a great favourite everywhere.

The photographs {5} are some of Davidson’s

With very dear love, ever
your affectionate son
Stanley.

The posts here are very irregular I got Winnie’s letter on Tuesday morning and yours on Thursday just after the eclipse. If you see an article in the Times it will be mine—but as the eclipse was a failure they may not print it.

—————

Numbered ‘8’ at the head in pencil.

{1} 7th.

{2} Pierre Seux. See the Report in MNRAS, lxxiii, 386.

{3} Marshal Hermes Rodrigues da Fonseca, President of Brazil from 1910–14.

{4} The last two sentences have been marked with a vertical line in pencil in the margin.

{5} These photographs presumably accompanied the letter, but are no longer with it.

Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

Transcript

Passa Quatro | Minas Geraes
1912 Sept 26

My very dear Mother

I was very glad to have your letter of Sept 5, which reached me here yesterday afternoon. It was a long time to be without news of you. We spent Friday & Saturday last week pretty quietly in Rio; our baggage (instruments) at last departed on Friday midnight. We left at 9∙30 p.m. on the São Paulo express for Cruxeiro with Lee and Worthington; it was a very comfortable train and we reached Cruxeiro at 2∙30 a.m. Our plan was to sleep in the waiting room and superintend the transfer of the instruments to the narrow-guage† line as soon as it was light; but on arrival we found the instruments had only got a little way and would not reach Cruxeiro until the next day. The waiting room was rather crowded, so I slept very comfortably on my trunk on the platform. We caused much amusement to the porters.

We breakfasted off black coffee, bread and bananas; and Davidson & I had a good walk. It was rather cold cloudy weather, but the country was very wild & beautiful. We left Cruxeiro by a goods train (on to which however they put a saloon car for our benefit). It took nearly 3 hours to do the 20 miles to Passa Quatro, but there was a steep climb all the way. We wound up a very remarkably engineered track and it was a most enjoyable journey with splendid mountains all round.

At Passa Quatro we have a clean and comfortable inn kept by M. Rénier who is in charge of the government meteorological station here. He and his family take meals with us. The other occupants of the inn are de Souza and his wife who is (until Morize arrives) in charge of the Brazilian party’s arrangements; and Stephanik†, and his assistant, who form an official French expedition sent by the Bureau des Longitudes. They are all very nice people; but we very much dislike Lee and Worthington (especially the latter) and it is hard work to avoid a regular rumpus.

Our eclipse camps are about a mile away at a Fazenda near the railway. This site seems a very good one though it is rather surrounded by hills. Since the first day we have had splendid weather—clear blue skies with hot sun but cold in the shade and freezing at night. There are no mosquitoes snakes bugs or cockroaches so far. The Brazilian butterflies are very fine; but they are not very numerous as it is too early for them. I have seen some very large ones.

We have a special engine on which we go to and fro to the Fazenda. It takes us down at 8 am, brings us back to déjeuner at 11; takes us down again at 1 and brings us back at 6. The meals are quite good but rather French in style—all sorts of little meat courses. We have various weird vegetables and concoctions—no black beans as yet. One speciality here is fruit-cheeses, which we have at lunch every day.

We started the building of the piers for the instruments on Monday and they were ready for use today. Our baggage turned up on Monday night and was dumped by the side of the railway opposite the Fazenda. It took us practically all Tuesday afternoon to convey it (in bullock carts drawn by 6 oxen) to the actual field of operations; and it was pretty heavy work loading the carts and unloading them.

These last two days we have been hard at it, erecting huts and getting out a few instruments. I daresay it will be a week before we can slacken off our efforts. We have one boy engaged to assist us but he is not very much use.

The Argentine & Chilean expeditions were going to Christina about 50 miles further on. The former (Perrine & his 3 assistants) came to dinner with us at our hotel in Rio on the Thursday evening and we had a very jolly time I hope to have time to visit their camp at Christina before the eclipse.

I find my helmet very useful but have not worn my drill suit. It is really wonderfully cool weather and one could hardly imagine we are in the tropics. The country here is lovely.

With very dear love to both
ever your affectionate son
Stanley

I hope Winnie had a good trip.

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Numbered ‘6’ at the head in pencil.

† Sic.