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Willis, John Christopher (1868–1958), botanist
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Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence

Account of a journey via Bombay, Mangalore, Kundapur, Kota, Purdur (and other centres in South Canara), Mangalore, Nellore, Madras, Tuticorin, Colombo, Kandy, and Colombo.

(A continuation of 5/30b. Identified in the first sentence as ‘an encyclical … the third of the series’. The letter was begun some time between 3 and 10 April, and finished on the 30th.)



Once more I start to write an encyclical; this the third of the series, & the last which I shall write about India. At the present moment {1} I am at Katpadi Railway station where I was deposited soon after 3 A.M. Finding no suitable place to go to bed again, & not feeling very sleepy I had some tea & toast (a very early chota hazri) & started to take a little exercise up & down the platform watching the full moon getting lower & lower down, & finally the dawn of day & the rising of the sun just before 6 o’clock. Now I have an hour or two to spare before I shall have breakfast & then at 9.40 my train starts to carry me to Nellore. Probably it would amuse you if you could see me sitting here right out on the platform (on the shady side) in my deck chair writing on a little stool, with the ubiquitous native hanging about all round. Did I ever tell you how the native goes by train? He takes his rug & his cooking pot, & his few rupees tied up in the ends of his turban, & gets to the station; perhaps there is a train just gone, perhaps there will be one going soon, but in that case very likely he misses it by not getting (or not being able to get) his ticket in time; do you think he cares? Not a bit of it. He just sits him down, & perhaps rolls himself up in his rug and goes to sleep; later on when he feels inclined he buys a little food & cooks it & eats it, then he goes to sleep again; he probably won’t get a train for 12 hours very likely not for 24, but it doesn’t make any difference; he is just as happy at the Railway Station as anywhere else, perhaps happier because he has nothing to think about & nothing to do. So it comes about that whatever time of the day or night you arrive at a Railway Station you will probably see a number of bolster like objects strewn about some on the platform some in the sort of native waiting room. On closer inspection these objects turn out to be natives wrapt up head & all in their sheet or blanket. Shall I tell you how the European goes by train? Even he has probably to arrive ½ an hour beforehand to take the tickets & get his luggage booked, unless he allows his boy to do this. In the meanwhile his servants have come with all his luggage brought by coolies or on a bullock cart. One or two big things are very likely booked & sent in the van, the rest are poured pall mall into the carriage under the directions of the boy. The typical Mrs Brown or whoever it is that is jeered at it in England for having big box, little box, .… brown paper parcel, travels quite free handed compared with the ordinary European in India. The first class railway carriage here is generally something like the sleeping carriages of GNR {2} at home, & each compartment can sleep 4 at a pinch (upper & lower berths); but you generally consider yourselves a bit aggrieved if you have to sit more than 2 even during the day for any distance. (Here a native barber has come & shaved me just where I sit) Yesterday coming from Calicut we were 3; every available space under the seats was filled up (& they are very broad) all the space between the seats, in addition to packages on the seats & in the racks; I should think in all they must have got well into the thirties at any rate; every man having 1 or 2 bundles of rugs, one or two bags 2 or 3 despatch boxes, umbrellas, tiffin baskets, bundle of hats (this last may surprise you, my boy always insists on carrying all mine—I don’t include top hat—roll[e]d up in a pillow case) etc etc etc. I used to know at one time how many I had, but I have given that up long ago; I think my boy’s motto must be “Divide et Impera”. I calc’late he will be somewhat surprised when I insist on compressing them well within the single digit before I start for Australia.

While I am on the subject of trains there are two or three things more I want to mention: 1stly most of the lines here are broad gauges 5ft 6in (4-8½ at home) so that there is plenty of room; a few however including the line to Nellore are narrow gauge (metre). Another rather curious thing is that even the main lines (except in one or two places) are only single line & are run almost entirely on the staff system or a modification of it. Generally speaking there is only one fast train in the day along a line each way, & that is the mail. The others are immeasurably slow in comparison, so much so that unless you are only going a short distance you will generally get sooner to your destination by waiting for the mail of the following day. Moreover as distances are long, the mail must pass through many stations at night, thus frequently in travelling you are compelled to start or arrive in the middle of your night’s rest.

The fast mails go 20 to 30 miles an hour[,] stops included; & where there are no fast trains one perhaps covers 10 or 15; so to-day though it is only about 150 miles from here to Nellore I dont† arrive till 8.30 P.M. The stops for meals are definite & marked, the guard or station master wires on how many dinners etc will be required, & when you get out you find all the 1st class passengers assembling in the refreshment room. I think it is time to go & have my breakfast now, & as I am rather hungry perhaps you will excuse my running away to take it! {3}

I write now from Nellore—my 12 hour journey by narrow gauge proved as you may imagine somewhat tedious especially as in the middle of the day it got extremely hot; still I had all the carriage to myself so I did not do so badly.

Before giving you any more general descriptions I will now try & fill up with a few pictures the gap which there is between the date of my writing my last encyclical, & the present.

I think I told you that there were two ways of getting down from Bombay to Mangalore, one by the B.I {4} boat which goes straight, & the other by the little Shepherd steamers {5} which stop at some dozen ports along the coast; the former is in every way superior, but is very uncertain as to time. And so it came about that as Booty was particular as to time when I should reach him, I came to the conclusion at the last minute that I must go by Shepherd {6}. Certainly these boats are very so so but perhaps hardly quite so terrible as the Anglo Indian seems inclined to make them out; nevertheless inundated with natives, & full of cockroaches. Anglo Indians take their servants with them who cook their food for them, but as my boy is not a cook I had to make special arrangements with the Co[mpan]y (who do not as a rule provide anything) to supply me with meals.

[26 Feb.] Reached Marmagoa† Saturday afternoon & fell in with a man who drove me out to Vasco da Gama in a bullock dummy & subsequently gave me dinner before the boat started on again southwards. From there we stopped at all the little ports on the way; but we did not go along side & there was not time to get off.

[27 Feb.] Sunday afternoon I reached Kundapur which is in the South Canara district & [28 Feb.] early next morning we anchored outside the bar at Mangalore. Leaving my Boy with my luggage on board, as I had heard from Booty that he proposed going back to Kundapur in the boat that evening, I went ashore in the launch. I say “went ashore” but in reality I was landed first upon an island where I was disinfected from any chance of carrying plague by being sprinkled with 3 drops of very dilute corrosive sublimate!! After this I was allowed to sail accross† to the mainland, & there found a brougham drawn by two bullocks which conveyed me up to its master’s bungalow—the home of P A Booty.

I hadn’t seen Percy for 2½ years, but he did not seem very much changed, a little thinner perhaps.

“My dear fellow what induced you to put on a linen shirt & a collar; we never do that here except at a dinner party; let me lend you a tennis shirt.”

No sooner said than done; & never again was I so misguided in a district which is the wettest & stickiest I was ever introduced to.

But I have not told you what a pleasure it was to see again Mrs P. A. Booty & to be introduced to the first crowd baby. Query:—am I now Great Grandpapa? Answer:—No: because Percy was always known as “PA”. Unlike the Jerome K Jeromian infant “lots of hair”. “More hair than poor Grandpa haven’t you baby?”

So a pleasant few hours; & then Percy & I are carried away to the Shepherd steamer. Percy regards 3 days on the boat {7} as the 8th wonder of the world. It also tickles him to see me. For my own part, [I am] getting used to finding friends scattered about the vast peninsular.

The Anglo Indian takes beds chairs, table, & servants on board who provide meals. For the Indian cook can cook anywhere; one frying pan is all he wants & will serve you up a dinner of 6 courses. Moreover you can have it at any time. The correct hour is always 8; but if you call out at 6.30, 7, 7.30, 8, 8.30[,] 9.0, 9.30, 10.0 “Boy bring dinner”. Dinner comes.

And so we dine & I am initiated into the mysteries of picquet, sleep on deck, have chota hazri & [1 Mar.] reach Kundapur. Fine bungalow, coming right down to the water’s edge, magnificent view across the backwater—Booty’s head quarters. Sing the glory of the cocoanut palm; all the banks & all the islands of all the rivers of S. Canara are cocoanut palms, cocoanut palms, cocoanut palms. You look North & you see cocoanut palms, you look South & you see cocoanut palms you look East & you see cocoanut palms you look West & you see cocoanut palms; Mangalore is cocoanut palms. Great feathery fans of green resting on brown trunks. This is South Canara.

I have said Kundapur is Booty’s head quarters, but no other Europeans live there; so his wife stays at Mangalore when he goes out into camp. Mangalore is chief station of district, & head quarters of Collector & assistant Collector, but Booty is head assistant Collector & has head quarters of his own[;] he is also head assistant magistrate—the two things always go together—unlike Campbell & Adie who being a year junior are only assistant collectors & assistant magistrates. By the way, though, I should say that this is only an “acting” appointment of Booty’s; but you will find out when you have been in India some time that people are very rarely what they seem, they are only “acting”. Do not read a double entendre!

A ride in the morning, Booty tries cases, lawn tennis, dinner, picquet & bed; so a few days at Kundapur. [5 Mar.] Then out into camp {8}.

Now as “going into camp” is a thing which nearly all Government servants out here, have to do for a large part of their time, perhaps a few words in explanation may not be amiss.

In the first place you will observe that whether a man is in the ICS, is “forest officer”, or “policeman” or a multitude of other things his work will range over a considerable area, & though he will have a head quarters at a station, if his work is to be properly done he will frequently have to spend days & nights (for transit is slow) away from that station. No doubt some men might be inclined to shirk outside work & stay in a sociable station as long as possible. To prevent this there are a† certain regulations. In the first place ICS men are obliged to spend I believe at least 5 months out of a year in camp, & I think most other services have a similar rule. Moreover when out in camp a man draws T.A (Travelling Allowance), so many rupees a day according to his position, or if he “marches” more than 20 miles in the day so much per mile.

You will at once perceive that this is reasonable because he has to keep up his establishment at head quarters as well as that which he takes with him & the object is to encourage rather than discourage going out into camp. A man is “out in camp” whenever he is away from his head quarters, whether he is stopping at a friend’s bungalow, in a “traveller’s bungalow”, or actually under canvas.

Now get out of your head all such things as hotels, inns, restaurants, & general shops, & you will see that it is necessary to carry your whole house about with you;—tents, tables, chairs, beds, bedding, cooking utensils, bread, butter, biscuits, jam, soda water & all the required European stores to say nothing of your servants themselves & your personal luggage. Chickens, rice, & a few similar things you will be able to obtain wherever you go.

The sum total of all the things you have to carry about with you is known down in these parts as your “Saman”. The only method of carrying saman is by bullock cart & as the average rate of progression by one of these is 2 miles an hour, you will see at once that you will not be able to cover any great distance in a day, & further that one part of your saman must precede & another follow you.

If you can avoid it you do not travel in the middle of the day, so that marches are of 2 kinds[,] morning marches & evening marches.

Booty is to do “Jamabundy” {9} in the Udipi taluk (a taluk is something like a county). So after breakfast his boy & his cook start off with one bandy (cart) containing inter alia:—beds & bedding table & chairs, cooking utensils & most of European stores, to go to Kota about 7 miles off. Thither after tea drive Percy & I in dog cart, & after a bit we dine, play picquet & go to bed. In the meantime my boy & Booty’s Peons arrive with the rest of the Saman in another cart.

In most places in S. Canara there is a traveller’s bungalow, looked after by a caretaker, & possibly containing some furniture; at Kota it is out of repair, so Booty has previously had tents sent on. In addition to all this, Booty’s “Office” ie his Office Clerks, & his official books, table etc, etc all follow him about from place; his second sais {10} has brought his second horse; one of his Peons (these are official servants) has brought my bicycle.

After dinner Cook & boy start on again 8 miles to Bremarwaer {11} crossing a ferry on the way, & [6 Mar.] Booty & I proceed in the morning in dog cart, & stay there all day. Next march is to be 15 miles into Purdur {12} where is first centre for Jamabundy. We settle to drive first half, & ride, Percy on horse, self on bike, the second half.

[7 Mar.] We make an early start & at the end of 7 miles find Booty’s horse & my bicycle awaiting us; & so we ride on together till within 2 or 3 miles of Purdur, & then I determine to ride on ahead to get my bath before Booty turns up. So I go on & at the end of another mile I notice a man on in front with a horn, & I gradually become aware that he is making a point of keeping in front of me; every now & then he turns round, sees me & hastens on blowing the horn.

At last I pass him & come upon a conclave of villages holding up a triumphal arch for me to pass under; the Tasseldar {13} is at their head; all respectfully salaam, the tom toms beat the native musicians play their strange harmonies; & so with every sign of reverent appreciation accompanying me I pass onwards to the bungalow clad in blue cycling shorts & socks, a flannel shirt & a topi.

At the time, I supposed they had mistaken me for the Head Assistant Collector for of course they did it all over again when he turned up; but I am not so certain about it now, for knowing that I was with him they could hardly have done less.

In this land a white face always commands respect, & it has often seemed odd to me—who am not really connected in any way with the Raj—that as I passed along the road on my bicycle the native[s] should bow down before me on all sides. But these things are beginning to cease to surprise me.

A few words about clothing. All European clothing is, of course, utterly different from native costumes, & accordingly I don’t suppose one set of clothes appears to the native more odd or more proper than any other.

I suppose it is quite likely that certain fond people at home imagine that the magistrate of a district turns up to his court in a top hat & black coat or at least in a linen shirt & a respectable suit of clothes, whereas as a matter of fact he wears just what he commentably well pleases, which will probably mean a tennis shirt & a suit which a self respecting artisan might think twice before putting on.

Booty has come & we have had Chota. This brings me to say that on the subject of meals of which I wrote in my first encyclical I have yet another variation to give which prevails in S. Canara viz:—“Early tea” (tea & toast) on rising say at 6.30. Chota hazri (Buttered eggs, toast marmalade etc with coffee) after the morning’s exercise say at 9 o’c; Breakfast—a substantial meal—at 12 with wet {14} drinks—you will understand this ridiculous remark—tea at 5 & dinner at 8. “What a lot to eat in a day in a hot climate” You† probably say, & so it is; personally I always used to try to cut down the amount of breakfast.

“Jamabundy”!—spelt up here Jamabandy according to the prevalent method of spelling—“what on earth is that?” {15} Well I wasn’t in much better position myself, for when I had asked about it, people had talked in a vague sort of way about revenue—land settlement—potehls {16}—shanbhogues {17}. And so this afternoon we were to start doing Jamabundy; I think there is a sort of fascination about the word & I will talk about nothing for a little in order to give you time to conjure up all sorts of weird things in connection with it, to piece together all the odd assortment of ideas which you have got in connection with the duties of the collector of a district. Go to sleep & dream about it—Jam—a—bundy!


[8 Mar.] Wake up! It is time to go down to the temple square where Jamabundy is to be held! Arrived: a crowd of comparatively well dressed natives sitting inside, & of worse dressed waiting outside having badges on; we go inside & walk to the end where there are 3 chairs, 2 for us, & one for the Tasseldar (the head of the taluk), the others squatting as is their wont on the floor. Who are these? Are these the potehls & the shanbhogues respectively? No the potehls & shanbhogues are all inside. Those Outside† are the Ugranis {18}. What is an Ugrani?

To-day we only do preliminary work; vague talk about things I do not understand “Stitiberries” or something of that sort, & occasionally a shanbhogue or a potehl comes up to make explanations; the next afternoon we set to work to go through the papers; & I gradually find out what it is all about. The potehl is the headman of the village & it is his business to collect the land revenue. I believe all the land in the Madras Presidency belongs to the government & everyone pays rent for what they have. The potehl makes out a return, showing a few general statistics;—the number of people in the village, the revenue due, the number of people unvaccinated, of cattle killed by wild beasts etc etc. Then several of these reports go together, & the shanbhogue who is an accountant attends to the accounts. For each set of villages Booty has the shanbhogue, the potehls & the Ugranis who are their official servants up before him, sees whether they are fit for their work, & puts a few questions to them connected with the reports, & in fact general[ly] “inspects”.

Nothing very romantic! But if you like, you can say that these people are the fingers of the great Raj—meaning thereby the English Government—of which the Indian Civil Servants are the hands. It is by these people that the rural villagers who perhaps have never seen the white man, come ultimately in contact with his rule. And Jamabundy reduced to its elements is the inspection of revenue collecting, & it is in his capacity of revenue collector that the chief ICS man in a district is known as The Collector, while at the same time he is Head Magistrate, & President of Taluk boards.

One day the Tasseldar said that there was a special festival on at the temple with a temple play, & would we come down & see it; Booty said that the last time he had been to see one of these performances, he had not got back till daylight; the Tasseldar said that if it would please his honour to come, he would see that it began early. So after dinner about 9.30 we saw coming up the hill a torchlight procession, who—having waited till we had finished the particular partie of picquet in which we were engaged—conducted us down to the back of the temple, where there was a sort of broad pathway lined on both sides by rows of spectators, & at the end 3 or 4 chairs for ourselves, & for the more important of the natives who sat down on being so requested by the head assistant collector.

Our position may be perhaps call[e]d the Royal Box, the broad pathway was the stage, & for the footlights, a native on either hand held out a metal pan of oil in which floated a wick. Between us & the “stage” a vase of tapers glowed with odoriferous light, over our heads swung the punkah, strange figures of natives squatted all around among the artificially planted palms, & slowly as the strange play proceeded, ebbed away the hours of night.

The play was an old mythological story of battle, & nearly all the characters were warriors, but such women as there were were represented by boys. Of course there was little or none of what we understand by acting, & there was something more of the pantomime than of the drama. Tom tom[,] tom tom, tom tom, went on all the time & all the warriors danced. You know how excited a boy gets—a boy of 10 or 12 say—when he gets an unexpected holiday or something of the sort, how he jumps up turns round, dances about; so danced these warriors to the sound of the tom tom. Each new player before coming on to the stage stands behind a curtain, which allows you to see his legs & his head, stands with his back to the audience & proceeds to jump about like mad; the greater warrior he is the more he jumps about before he is allowed to come on; at last the tom tom waxes wild & furious & with a yell & a whoop he flings aside the curtain & rushes forward on to the stage jumping & twisting & comes suddenly to a dead stand.

The dialogue of the play was conducted in strict Classical Canarese, and there was a certain amount of definite plot carried into execution, but by far the greater amount of time was taken up by the dances. Thus four warriors would be determining to go out to fight & they would come in & dance round the stage to the accompaniment of tom tóm tom, tom tóm tom, .…, & they would go out again & come in & dance (or rather jump) round to tóm tom tom, tóm tom tom, tóm tom tom, .… & then again to tom tom tóm, tom tom tóm, & again to tóm tititititi tóm tititititi tóm .…, & so on perhaps twenty different processions round the stage ending up with something very fast & furious quite unrepresentable in words with a final tóm with which to come to an abrupt conclusion.

So the play played itself on, every now [&] again one of the human footlights (who took care always to keep his lamp in front of the performers) would come forward & get fresh oil or a fresh wick, every now & again someone would bring us fresh tapers, every now & again the tom tom would stop or change its rhythm. At last the first part of the play comes to and end, and engarlanded & accompanied by torches we reach again our bungalow in time to get 2 or 3 hours sleep before the first grey sign of an early dawn, undisturbed by the distant sound of the tom tom which plays on to the second part till daylight is broad & distinct.

What more have I to tell you of my life in South Canara, of our early marches starting by the light of the opalescent moon, of the welcomes that we received at the various centres, of the bananas with which we were presented, of the tender cocoanuts which we drank, of the temples & statues which we saw, behold you must endeavour to picture them to yourselves out of your imagination.

Neither shall I stop to tell you of [21 x 26 Mar.] our return to Mangalore {19}, of the surprising growth of Doris Marjorie, of golf, of the club, of the calls which I paid in Booty’s bullock carriage or [4 x 9 Apr.] of my departure by B.I steamer after a vast amount of uncertainty as to its arrival.

Steamer, Calicut, Katpadi, fade out of view, & it is 9.15 PM when a tired & famished traveller who has journeyed 150 miles in 12 hours & enjoyed all the warmth that the tropics can provide in April, is put out at the flag station Nellore.

With him is a small bag which a coolie starts to carry, & while the light of the moon prevents the possibility of any mutually unpleasant meeting with the creature that walks on its belly, he explains to the coolie “Mr Campbell’s bungalow”—“Captain Ashworth’s bungalow” & the coolie nods. Presently while the traveller proposes to go straight on, the coolie points to turn off to the left. Can the traveller have forgotten, or have C & A moved? the traveller takes the coolie’s word for it, & soon arrives at a strange bungalow where he only just fails to be embraced by a lady—young & beautiful—who takes him for her husband. Thence a straight march to the right place where Ashworth—but no Campbell—& also dinner. “I hope you haven’t waited dinner.” “Yes I have, but its† not very late; I am afraid you have walked, I sent a bandy to the station, wash & let us set to.” And the traveller did so. It might perhaps seem, that there would be some awkwardness in arriving at the house of a friend, when that friend was absent, having sent no word that you were coming—I had wired both Ashworth & Campbell [not] knowing the latter was out in camp with no telegraph station—& in stopping there several days without any news from him. But this is not so in India. Of course as it was, I knew several of the people in Nellore, & in particular Ashworth with whom I was living; but even without these advantages there would have been nothing particularly strange. On the contrary it seemed the most natural thing in the world.

I went down to the club & played lawn tennis & billiards, I rode out on my bicycle, I played round the links at golf, I dined out, in company with Ashworth, [10 Apr.] I went to church on Easter Sunday, the first time since I left Delhi (Oh Oh Oh, 1st in train Agra–Bombay, 2nd on steamer to Mangalore 3rd 4th 5th out in camp, 6th & 7th in Mangalore where church is being retiled!) & last but not least I joined in the gymkhana which was held on the polo ground. This gymkhana was great fun, & as most of the events included riding I was but a pony (all except very big horses are called ponies here) of an absentee, & took part in the tie tying race, surprise parcel race, hitting polo ball & other things. The first two of these, consisted in galoping† up to a lady who tied on an evening tie, or arrayed you in wondrous costume, mount again & round the flag home; hitting the polo ball I found could not be done with great rapidity; a leisurely walk was all I could manage & even so I sometimes missed it. I also went in for & won a bicycle tortoise race.

So I went along very comfortably, & in the meantime I had a letter from Campbell who had just got word from me, (one of the wires I sent him having been lost), saying he was coming in to the station in a day or two, & it was not worth while for me to join him in camp. So he came in, & it was very pleasant to see him again.

One day we both played polo; of course you can imagine how excessively brilliant my own play was. He, too, is only just beginning, but is practising now assiduously. Four years ago what should we have said if anyone had foretold.

[23 Apr.] And so another week has slipped away, & I have repacked my greater & lesser trunks for a new voyage. To-morrow} to Madras where I shall stop with Michie Smith; then to Ceylon where possibly I shall meet an old friend of my year {20} who I see has just been put in a high position in the Botanical Gardens at Perideniya, & then on to the Britannia {21} where I hope to find P. Alden {22}.

I think being in a station (on a holiday) is a little like being on board ship, one doesn’t have anything to bother about. One never carries any money with one, nor any papers of any kind. One just goes on vegetating. A short space now of having to think & then a return to a placed state of torpor.

A few general impressions I will give before I conclude.

In my first encyclical I think I described an Indian bungalow as a place with outer walls more or less, but with no inner walls to speak of. One is led to this idea because the vast lattice windows & lattice doors seem to occupy the greater part of the wall, & in winter in the south are always open; so that the walls might be described as a “number of openings joined together with masonry”. In the summer, however, one shuts up the house during the day, to keep out the heat, just as in England (in Winter) one shuts it up to keep out the cold, & then one finds that the outer walls can be made pretty tight. Inside, one sits under a punkah, & so long as the night is cool you will see one is able to obtain a very fairly comfortable temperature—probably well over 80°—indoors. But the rub comes when the nights get hot too. I was told that I should get a taste of the hot weather if I stayed in India through April; but I understand that this year it can hardly be said quite to have come yet (April 23) & though the day temperature is about 100° & the night about 74°, I do not find that I notice the heat as much as when I came before in December when the thermometer stood very much lower. This is partly because I have grown into an Indian method of existence & partly because I came here from S Canara where though the temperature did not go above 90° in the day, it scarcely went below 80° in the night, & where if the breeze or the punkah ceased for 2 minutes one’s hands presented the appearance of a morning field after a heavy dew.

I have written above that I have grown into an Indian method of existence; this refers a little bit to the clothes which I wear; it came to me as a surprise the other day that what my boy was calling my thick grey suit, was what I had had especially made in England to be cool, & my tailor called it a “tropical”. Also the calm determination to attempt nothing at all in the middle of the day: thus from 10–4 one would never think of going out of doors unless it was absolutely necessary, of course if a man had to go to office or anything of the kind, he would go, but he would do so extremely leisurely, & would wear sun spectacles. One hardly ever thinks of walking here at all, & in the middle of the day it would be ridiculous.

(I am writing now in the train, so please excuse all defects).

You will see moreover from all this, that life out here does not tend to make one prepared for warm weather at home; whether it be the heat of the sun, for at home one has no topi; whether it be exercise in the middle of the day, for here one never takes it; whether its be for hot nights, for out here one sleeps out in the open air or under a punkah; whether it be to curb ones† thirst, for out here 6 or 7 large sodas (& they are large compared with our biggest at home) is a by no means uncommon daily allowance, & I am told that in the hot weather it may amount to double that figure.

It is rather a curious thing that people seem so very rarely to have cold food to eat. And I remember being very much surprised at home when I was told by a man who sold hot water dishes & the like that he sent a great many out to India. The first may perhaps be accounted for by the rapidity with which many things go bad, & the latter by the fact that there is a tendency for things to cool very quickly owing to the constant draught which there is in the rooms; & nothing is more unpleasant in hot weather than tepid food.

Let me turn to quite another subject:—the Rupee. Don’t be alarmed I am not going to discuss bimetallism or the gold standard, but to speak of its general effective value out here. When you come out, you find you get somewhere about 15 rupees for a sovereign, each of them looks like a two bob bit, but you [are] inclined to reckon them as a little over a shilling. And then each rupee is divided into 16 annas—at present almost exactly pence—& each anna into 12 pies.

When you learn that you can buy a chicken for 2 annas or send a coolie across Calcutta & back for the same sum, & that the wages of a good cook are perhaps 12 rupees a month—& finds himself—you begin to think that living out here must be very cheap, & that the Rupee goes a very long way. But India is essentially the place where pies mount up into annas, & annas into rupees, & moreover of course all “European stores” are abnormally expensive. Things which you could get for 6d at home you will very likely be called on to pay one Rupee for out here. And so gradually one builds up for oneself a new system of relative values & the rupee figures among them on its own lines & one forgets that there is such a thing as an exchange rate which make[s] so many rupees worth a pound.

It is amusing to note that at home one pays 1d for soda bottles & 2d or so for their contents; out here the empty bottles are reckoned often at 5 annas each, while the contents are only worth 8 or 10 annas a dozen. Of course these are not strictly “European stores”, because the soda water is made out here (& it does not contain as I believe it does in England carbonate of soda itself)

“Native servants” might form the subject of a book in itself. The Anglo Indian is fond of remarking on their incompetence, & when you first come out you expect to see them bungle everything. As a matter of fact they don’t, & gradually you begin to build up out of your experience a belief that the Anglo Indian is very hard to please, & that his servant is a very well meaning & intelligent person; but the moment you have got to regard him in this light you begin to see how often he fails, & what a lot of valuable things he spoils by his stupidity & carelessness.

There is rather a good story told which illustrates the “boy”’s method of packing for travelling. A man had a new lamp with glass chimney & globe, & wishing to go into camp he had a special case made to hold the glass parts to prevent breaking, & explained to his boy that he must never carry them about (travelling) without carefully putting them in the case. The boy said he understood. But at the next halt came to him with a long face saying they were quite smashed. On enquiry it was found he had packed them very carefully in the case, but finding just before starting that he had an empty soda water bottle not packed, he wrapped that up in paper & put it inside also! Little acts of petty larceny are particularly attractive to them, while valuable things they will very rarely steal partly I suppose because of the probability of detection. Even on your behalf they will sometimes make strenuous endeavours to save a few annas, perhaps by fair means perhaps not. I remember a lady saying that when she got home from a visit, her bearer (who had been with her of course) showed her a boot polishing brush in great triumph, which he had bagged from the bearer of another visitor.

One other point about servants may surprise you. In the North when you go out to dinner you always take your boy with you.

Of course one never believes anything that a native says if he has any reason for perverting the truth. This is the great difficulty in hearing cases; the evidence is almost always conflicting & it is only a question of which of either is to be believed. A missionary himself told me the following; one day he—or one of his colleagues—went down to talk—I think, to some of their converts—upon the Christian Virtue of Truth; after he had talked & had answered questions for some time, he said to them;—“now supposing I was charged with an offence which you knew I had committed, what would you do?” “The sahib” they answered with one voice “is our father & our mother what could we do but swear he was innocent”

The hindu† mind could never feel this was doubtful for one moment; to him, to abandon a friend in the hour of need that would be base, to defend him would be the only possible course, even at the risk of incurring the penalties for perjury which a fastidious & fatuous Raj may endeavour to inflict.

And now as I have mentioned the missionary I suppose I may as well say a few words about him. In the first place don’t confuse him with the Padré who is the Church of England parson provided by the government for the spiritual requirements of the English speaking population; so far as I am aware he is never a missionary in any sense of the word.

The true missionary is the man who is sent out by private societies to convert the native to Christianity. I don’t know how he really feels, but I can’t help supposing that if he is quite honest he must be prepared to admit that he is somewhat of a failure. He comes out prepared to treat the native as a brother, he finds that unless he rules him with a firm hand he is regarded as a fool; that what he intends for kindness is regarded as fear; that unless he adopts forcible measures his punkah rope is not pulled properly, that he is cheated by his servants, & imposed upon all round. He expects to find opposition to Christianity, he finds indifference. He expects at any rate to make some converts among men of caste, he succeeds in attracting a few among the leather-workers & sweepers, men who have no caste to lose, men who are so low in the scale that the crossing-sweeper in England is high compared with them, men who having nothing to lose & everything to gain by adopting another religion. With these he spends hours of his day arguing out some abstruse doctrinal point. Converted to Christianity these men are freed from the old ethical regulations—feeble as they were—& are hardly constrained by the new.

In his educational work, he tries to inculcate moral principles as well as intellectual, he finds that his students profiting by the position they are able to obtain through their intellectual achievements, make use of it—as the native almost invariably does—for the purpose of tyranny & extortion.

Can it be wondered at that I say that when he is honest he must regard himself somewhat as a failure.

No doubt I have exaggerated, no doubt my ignorance is very great, but the fact remains that the results are very minute. He consoles himself with the thought that he is sowing the good seed, & it is not in his power to determine the fruit which is to be produced.

I am not saying that I disapprove of the missionary or his works; & you must remember that it is not he who is undermining the old religion & any little good it may do but the force of circumstance, the inroad of education, which is I suppose inevitable. The more educated have ceased to believe in Hinduism; are we going to give them anything else?

It has been said that the Anglo Indian is to blame for not intermingling more with the Native. Practically all the upper class Englishmen in India are Officials. Among them the taking of a bribe is almost absolutely unknown. The native always takes bribes; as a whole he is about the most corrupt person in that way you could wish to see in the world. He is not above accepting a bribe from the poorest & meanest, or from forcing a contribution of 25 per cent of the small government dole presented to the starving famine stricken peasant. It is hardly to be wondered at that the white man views him with contempt.

A few short descriptive notes on different points:—

The Presidency of Madras stands out from the rest of India; it has its own way of doing things. By the rest it is regarded as benighted, but it (I of course refer to the Anglo Indian world) is quite sati[s]fied with itself. As it is the home of a vast variety of languages, nearly all the “boys” speak English. It is very rarely cold in Madras.

It should never be forgotten that the Mohammedan & the Hindu exist side by side, the former being generally the conquering race; they are always antagonistic. Both are equally unscrupulous, the Mahommedan† perhaps more intelligently crafty, the Hindu more obese!

In speaking of the native going by train I think I forgot to be† mention how devoted he always is to travelling.

If a coolie brings a note or something to you from a friend & you are out when he arrives, he does not leave it & go away, but sits down & waits even if it be several hours; this he does not regard in any sense as a hardship.

The night punkah coolie is fond of going to sleep (you have 2 for the night), then you wake very damp & perhaps bitten by mosquitoes; to rouse him by voice would rouse the house & ruin your lungs, the only safe thing is a basin of water.

There is no such thing as privacy in India; you can’t shut your door & draw your chair up to the fire; you can never be certain at any hour of the day or night that a native has not pushed aside the curtain, entered with his noiseless feet, come up beside you waiting with some note or paper till it shall be your good pleasure to attend to him.

It was not without a good deal of sadness that I set my face to say goodbye to India, the land in which I had renewed so many old friendships, had made so many new ones, & had been treated with such universal kindness.

India is a marvellous monument to England’s greatness. The immense power which she has, the immense amount of work which she has done in so vast a country, in so short a time, with such a handful of her citizens. The extraordinary justice honour & fidelity of her officials [must leave] {23} an imprint upon history which the finger of time can never obliterate.

The official in India—& under this title must be included the Educationalist & the Railway people as well as the others—stands for trustworthiness as the native stands for corruption.

The Anglo Indian is thoroughly English,—one is surprised perhaps at first to find him not in any sense a Colonial—& as such he possesses the English faults as well as the English virtues but he is charmingly hospitable, & he undoubtedly does his best for the native & endeavours to carry out the task which has been set before him.

The native is the very reverse, docile, & beautifully courteous he fawns upon strength & oppresses weakness.

Such are the races which fate has layed† one across the other like the knife across the fork. Who can predict how it will end? {24}

A couple of quasi postscripts must end my third encyclical.

[24 Apr.] I left Nellore on Sunday morning April 24, driving a friend’s dog cart to the railway station in the dark at 4.30 A.M; & I bid goodbye to Campbell on the platform, & left him standing there looking just as he had done when I arrived nearly 5 months before.

After a warm days railway journey I reached Madras & drove straight to Michie Smith’s house. He has a large compound of 11 acres, & in this & the next he has made a golf course of no mean dimensions. He took me about his grounds & showed me his flowers & trees, & presently we went to the club where I met Moore—who had so kindly entertained me on the previous occasion—& several other friends.

[25 Apr.] Next morning early I played golf with M. Smith & 2 of his friends all of whom played pretty well but fortunately I did not make a fool of myself, & drove over ponds etc much to my own surprise.

In the day I did some shopping & in the afternoon called on Mrs Moore & went on to the club, & came back & met at dinner a mathematician—Stuart—whom M. Smith had kindly asked to meet me.

[26 Apr.] And so next day the time wore on for me to go; & M. Smith had been very good to me, had shown me all over his instruments, & had given me some photographs taken at the eclipse by our instrument, & I had had a very pleasant time.

And I took train, & a day brought me [27 Apr.] to Tuticorin, & a nights passage with rather rough weather [28 Apr.] to Colombo.

And now my second postscript must be about Ceylon.

One always had thought of Ceylon as a sort of appendage to India like the I of Wight to England, & even though I knew it was under the foreign office & not the India Office I still imagined it would be much the same.

Well I landed & went to an hotel where I found electric punkahs.

Then to Cook’s agency about my passage, & wired up to Parkin saying I should be passing through Peradeniya on my way up to Kandy at 6 P.M & could stop if he met me.

He did meet me, he & the Director of the Botanical Gardens—a Mr Willis of Caius Coll. Cambridge {25}. & they made me get out & come to the bungalow. There I found Mrs Willis late of Girton {26}, so we were all Cambridge. And I stopped there the couple of nights I had to spare, & [29 Apr.] the first morning I drove into Kandy with Parkin & we saw the famous temple & the casket in which is Buddha’s tooth, & we looked down upon the great artificial lake. In the afternoon we walked through the Botanical gardens & then played tennis before dinner.

[30 Apr.] This morning we all drove out & had marvellous views & saw a rock temple with a reclining Buddha.

Then we went over a tea factory. And so after a most delightful 2 days, I come down here {27}, & am writing this before going to bed; to-morrow early to the Britannia!

Ceylon is an enchanting place; everywhere are vast masses of verdure, & trees of every description. The Botanical gardens which are famous throughout the world mainly consist of trees; all kinds of palm, rubber trees, giant bamboos, & multitudes of others, extremely beautiful. The mountain views are grand, & it is not nothing to see tea growing everywhere, & coffee & cocoa scattered about. The only place in India a bit like it to look at that I saw was S. Canara.

Here the S.W. Monsoon is on, with an extra large quantity of rain. So it is comparatively cool. I said I had expected to find Ceylon a mere adjunct of India; but it is in reality much more English; it is not necessary to take one’s bed about with one or even to have a boy. English is understood everywhere (ie I do not know anything about out of the way places).

A most delightful place & with 3 fellow Cantabs a parodise†. Really I think if I had had ½ a dozen friends & had had to put them down in India & Ceylon, so as to be most serviceable to myself I don’t think I could have done better than putting them where they are.

Goodbye India, Goodbye Ceylon.


{1} Some time between 3 April, when Lawrence was still in Mangalore, and the 10th, by which time he had arrived at Nellore. See p. 140.

{2} Great Northern Railway.

{3} The ink changes here.

{4} British-India Steam Navigation Company.

{5} The boats of the Bombay Steam Navigation Company, managed by J. A. Shepherd. See W. H. Coates, The Old ‘Country Trade’ of the East Indies (1911).

{6} Lawrence probably set sail on 25 February. See pp. 106, 115.

{7} i.e. Lawrence’s three days on the boat, 25–28 February.

{8} See 6/18.

{9} The process of settling the amount of land-revenue due from a village, etc., or a written statement of the same. See OED, s.v. jumma, and Hobson-Jobson, s.v. jummabundee.

{10} ‘A servant who attends to horses, a groom’ (OED).

{11} The reading of this word is uncertain. In Fate Has Been Kind, where this passage is quoted, the word is printed simply ‘B—’, so evidently Lawrence or the typesetter couldn’t read the word either. The usual spelling of the place in question is now Brahmavar.

{12} This place-name is now usually spelt Perdur.

{13} The chief (native) revenue official of a tahsil or taluk (administrative divisions). See OED, s.v. tahsildar, and Hobson-Jobson, s.v. tahseeldar.

{14} This probably means ‘alcoholic’. Cf. OED, wet, n.2.

{15} Followed by ‘I expect you have been thinking for some time’, struck through.

{16} A potehl is the head-man of a village. See OED and Hobson-Jobson, s.v. patel.

{17} A shanbhogue is a village clerk or account. See Hobson-Jobson, s.v. shambogue.

{18} The first sentence of this sentence was interlined. A ugrani is a village peon under a patel. See Männer’s Tulu-English Dictionary (1886). Lawrence later describes ugranis as ‘official servants’ of the shambogues and patels.

{19} Lawrence was still ‘in camp’ on 20 March, but had returned to Mangalore by the 27th. See p. 140.

{20} John Parkin.

{21} The RMS Britannia, a P. & O. steamer of 6525 tons.

{22} Percy (later Sir Percy) Alden (1865–1944), social worker and politician; warden of the Mansfield House University Settlement at Canning Town, 1891–1901.

{23} ‘which’ interlined after ‘officials’ and struck through. The words ‘must leave’ have also been struck through, but they appear to be required.

{24} The ink changes here.

{25} John Christopher Willis (1868–1958), Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Ceylon, 1896–1912.

{26} Minnie Willis (née Baldwin). She married J. C. Willis in 1897.

{27} i.e. to Colombo.

† Sic.

Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence

Account of a journey via Brisbane, Townsville, Thursday Island, Hong Kong, Canton, Hong Kong and Kowloon, Amoy, and Shanghai.

(A continuation of 5/30e. Identified in the first sentence as the writer’s ‘sixth encyclical’. This letter was begun after Lawrence’s departure from Hong Kong and probably completed before his arrival at Nagasaki.)



The Southern Sun is shining on the China sea, as with a gentle breeze on the “Belgic” {1} I start to write my sixth encyclical.

A vast rush of impressions & experiences crowded into a brief space of time, are beginning to sort themselves out & take distinct shape in my mind, so that I hope to be able to present them to you in something other than a confused jumble; & at the same time to portray oriental existence freed from the unnatural tint of rapidity which the spectacles of the globe trotter impress upon it.

But I cannot pass over without some description the days which were spent on board the Omi Maru on the way up from Brisbane to Hong Kong. I think I told you that we were to get away by the tender at 8 o’clock in the morning to go down the river; so making an early breakfast we got on board & steamed slowly down. At last after 4 hours we came in sight of the Omi right out at sea {2}, & were not altogether pleased to learn that after being prevented from spending the morning in Brisbane we were not to get really off till dawn of the following day. However on arrival on board we were gratified to find that all our belongings—trunks, bags, bundles, books, bicycle, chairs & table—had been duly deposited there in accordance with the mighty swears we had exacted from all concerned in Sydney, & we settled ourselves down, undepressed, to an afternoon of quoits & reading.

The number of passengers including ourselves were only just able to reach into double figures {3}, & of these, 3 were to leave us at Thursday Island; the remainder were capable of classification in a great many ways: thus we were, 3 from S. Africa, 2 from Melbourne, 2 from England; 4 women & 3 men; 3 invalids, 3 nurses and a supernumerary. Perhaps you are at a loss for a moment to see how Percy & I figure in this last numeration, but a recollection of his fondness for break downs will not leave you long in doubt; I always say when I see him racing up hill at a break neck speed that the only thing he retains is a “good heart”.

The first week of our voyage was spent in getting up to Thursday Island; & we kept land in sight nearly all the way. Right out to sea was the great barrier reef, too far away to be visible; but every now & again the ship passed groups of islands on either side. We had a Pilot on board, a grumpy old man, very cautious in his old age, who used to insist upon anchoring nearly every night owing to the narrowness of the channel. A stern breeze (ie a breeze from the stern) assisted the movement of the ship & made our “aft” accomodation† a blessing rather than the reverse.

Every day was very much like its fellow; still not hot enough to have to make one’s bed on deck, a comfortable sleep in our “spacious” cabin could be enjoyed right up till breakfast time, when the Japanese Stewards attended to our requirements after their own peculiar manner. Then would come reading from the library which Percy & I—in our forethought—had brought on board, perhaps a German exercise, & the diurnal contests at Quoits—Percy v self, Percy v “Jim”, “Jim” v self—always ending in a double victory for the Champion, Percy. So would come lunch, & a repetition of events with a pleasant tea on deck; darkness, dinner, a talk with the Captain {4}, dreaminess, & bed.

In the midst of this, Townsville as a diversion.

[7 July] Off in a launch to shore, after an early tea. Would like to “get our hairs cut” but Thursday afternoon is barber’s holiday, so cannot be; fine hill overlooking the harbour, must mount to the top. 1800 feet a good climb for Latitude 16 but not impossible, & magnificent view of land & sea amply repays the effort. Scramble down again to the Queen’s hotel in the speedy gloom of evening, sit in the tropical verandah, dine pleasantly off “land” food with “grenadilloes” {5} for dessert, a quiet smoke, a “hundred up” in 20 minutes & so catch the launch back to the ship, before long to sleep in spite of the continuous disturbance produced by lading. A seagoer’s holiday!

But in the morning the ship is under way again, & the diurnal recreations pursue their course with unaltered regularity; nevertheless it begins to get warmer, & though the Punkah still remains inert, a doubled awning protects the deck. To take “early tea” & get up an hour before breakfast becomes a more reasonable course to pursue; while “flannels” give place to “cottons”, & redundant clothing is altogether discarded. And so the few remaining days go by till [11 July] Thursday Island is reached {6}. Here I go ashore alone to see the sights of the place; & find a wonderfully cosmopolitan town.

Townsville had been interesting as a place well within the boundary of the tropics & yet inhabited almost entirely by the white race; Thursday Island presented an utterly different appearance,—Japanese, Chinese, Philipinos† & multitudes of other races all unite with the Australian to make up the 2000 of its inhabitants, to work its pearl fisheries & to carry on the shipping trade of the most northerly Port of Australia. An hour on land & then back to the ship to sail for China & Japan, to cross once more the famous line.

And now we begin to be surrounded in real earnest by the essentials of the tropics; the warmth of the nights compels us to sleep on deck, the punkah in vain endeavours to cool our meal hours, while the all eternal peg slakes our oriental thirst. In the evening we all gather together & read the tales of “Many Cargoes” {7}, while the Captain listens with no feigned amusement. In the early mornings we stroll about in pyjamas on the deck or play leap frog with “Jim” & so at last come the dress & to breakfast & a short game of quoits, then the day begins to get hot (though the monsoon saves us from anything very severe) & we labour at peaceful occupations till the going down of the sun. Sometimes the Captain talks to us of Japan, sometimes “Jim” retails experiences for our amusement; sometimes we have much to gaze upon in the passing islands.

But who or what is “Jim”? Some six feet of untidiness, a pair of grey trousers braced over a flannel shirt, a pair of brown boots, a shockhead of hair surmounting a weather beaten countenance, 30 years of childlike simplicity combined with farming adroitness, is this all that is to be said of Jim? By no means; an Englishman of S. Africa covered with the veneer of the Dutch, intelligent, good natured, anxious to learn but uncertain what is knowledge; now add to all this a deep fraternal devotion to a consumptive sister obeying as a dog, commands from her or from her nurse, & you have nearly, but not quite, Jim.

Of his sister & her nurse there is not very much to tell, except that they were always having their port hole open & getting their cabin swamped. The 2 remaining passengers were sisters from Melbourne, who had a house there & another place in Tasmania; one of them was an invalid & nervous & so naturally quiet, the other posed as coming under the latter adjective. So we could not be said to have a wildly exciting time, still the days passed away very smoothly.

The boat, as you know, belonged to a Japanese Company, & the only Englishmen on board besides the passengers were the Captain Chief Officer & first engineer; the Captain was a jolly sort of fellow who used to invite us up on to the bridge whenever there was anything to see; we lent & gave him several books of our library & he in his turn added to our store. As for the rest of the officers we did not come much into contact with them. The stewards used to amuse us very much. All very little men, they used to bob & curtsey about whenever they did anything for us, & they used to make a good deal of difficulty in understanding; at the same time they took a lot of trouble to please. The Japanese sailors all looked like boys, but they were pretty sharp about their work & did whatever they were told. Since arriving in China we have heard many tales of difficulties arrising† on boats of this line between the Japanese Crews & English Captains who are said to be only nominally in charge, placed there to satisfy the requirements of the Insurance Companies; of course we don’t know how far these may be true or not, but for our own part we found everything very satisfactory, & aided by smooth weather we made an excellent passage.

We had hoped to get some sort of sight of Manilla, but 20 miles out at 8 o’clock at night does not conduce to much instruction, & ‘divil a bit’ of town of men or of ships did we come across. For all we learnt we might as well have been at the other end of the globe; far better indeed such position if it had been in connection with a telegraph wire.

And so island after island has been passed, & day by day it has grown warmer & warmer & now [21 July?] we were in the China sea on the eve of our arrival in Hong Kong {8}; no boisterous typhoon disturbs the tranquillity of our progress, while once again the Great Bear illumines the Northern sky. So have we come back Westward & Northward from the newest civilisation in the world to the oldest & most decayed. What though there be hundreds of millions of this old world race, is it not rather a trouble after our weeks of tranquillity to rush in amongst them? What can we hope to learn of them in afew† days of sojourn? (what indeed, though it were weeks or months, or years or lifetimes?) Had we not better save our energies for the sprightlier race that lives so close at hand, & turn upon this rabbit-like population a doubtful but unenquiring gaze?

And all the while, steadily but surely the Omi is ploughing her way towards the island of Hong Kong, though in the darkness of the night the myriad toilers of the land rest from their labours in peaceful dreamless sleep.

China at last.

Dawn is breaking in the East, the balmy dawn of the tropics; outside the harbour of Hong Kong is the Omi at anchor. But with daylight she is again under weigh, & we steam slowly through amid the great multitude of craft, past the great sugar works until we anchor again right over against the town.

I suppose the first thing which must strike anyone in seeing Hong Kong is the fact that [it] is all hills; only just along the very front is there anything like level ground, & even there, but a very narrow strip, so that men are endeavouring to reclaim from the sea what nature has denied them on the shore. A large part of the town is built up on the side of the hills, & to this must be added a little colony who live up on the “peak”; in order that they may be able to make an easy & rapid ascent a funicular railway has been built by which you can get up to the level of 1500 feet in about 7 minutes. This is a much more wonderful thing than the ordinary railway of the kind; for instead of a straight run up & a straight run down, it winds in and out & is sometimes steep & sometimes nearly level. Close to the upper terminus is the Peak Hotel which is largely patronised by residents, who gain in coolness of the atmosphere what they lose in convenience, & even seem to find little difficulty in running up there every day for lunch.

We however determined to patronise the Hong Kong hotel which is on the shore, & as we were right in the centre of things & very well looked after, we were glad we had done so. Landing in the hotel launch before breakfast, we found that the rainy season was now on which kept the whole place in an incessant state of moisture, so we promptly invested in suitable clothing of white cotton & found ourselves thoroughly repaid in comfort for having done so.

Nevertheless you may imagine that a continuous temperature of 81 & 82 in a stew bath is not particularly adapted to walking about; & after making the requisite enquiries about our journey on to Japan etc, we took greedily to the rickshaw as an easy, comfortable & inexpensive method of locomotion. We first went to see Mr Smith of Butterfield & Swire’s to whom I had a letter of introduction; he advised us to go away to Canton the same evening while the fine weather held out, & invited us to come up to lunch with him soon after our return. We next set off for a missionary {9} to whom Percy had a letter, & we were directed up the hill; for this the rickshaw is unsuited & we started off to walk, after a little I began to get exhausted & upon being continually pressed by Percy I subsided moist & sticky into a chair & consented to be carried in that, while he walked triumphant at the side. I may add here that this was the last occasion of his triumph, for ever afterwards he always proceeded in like fashion in going any considerable distance where the rickshaw is unable to proceed. By considerable distance I mean perhaps ½ a mile, & for this purpose you have 2 coolies, marvellously strong little chaps who, unlike the Swiss, carry the chair rods upon the shoulders, & so render the motion very steady; they have tremendous calves, &—like Percy himself in a cooler climate—will go up a steep hill at quite a rapid pace. The most picturesque thing about them, I should say, is their hats; in Hong Kong these are blue & of a pretty fair size, while in Canton they are of brown straw & about as big as a small umbrella; when they have them on, they look perfectly wonderful, & Percy & I used to meditate upon the effect in England of ourselves photographed with these environments. Alas we never quite brought ourselves to adopt the still more extraordinary locomotion which can be had in Shanghai; if we had done so, I am sure the mere convulsions of our laughter would have caused us to fall off the … the …. wheelbarrow. These extraordinary conveyances which are wheeled by a single man have on either side of the big wheel an arrangement like the knifeboard of an old fashioned omnibus—where bales can be put or people can sit—; factory girls make use of them in going to their work & as many as 8 or 9 have been counted on the same barrow! Percy himself saw as many as 5 people, & I have seen 4 large bales which I should estimate at little under 2 cwt each. [There follows a sketch of the vehicle in question.] I wish I could draw well enough to give you an idea of the thing in motion, but as I have not succeeded in drawing it correctly even at rest, that is out of the question. [There follows another sketch of the vehicle.] The man of course holds the 2 handles in his hands, but he has also a strap attached to them which goes over his shoulders; residents say the squeak of them coming along, is like the despairing cry of the dying pig; others explain that it is the manner in which a man can move the heaviest load.

Well ultimately after asking the way of nearly everyone we met, (quite a fatuous proceeding so far as the Chinese were concerned, especially as Percy always insisted on spelling the name of the street to those who did not understand) we reach our destination to find our friend out, but his wife at home; so after a short call we descended to the hotel & had lunch. The afternoon was spent in writing a few letters, & fetching the remainder of our luggage off the Omi; then we rickshawed down to the “night” boat to Canton, & were able to have a few words with Dr Pearce (the missionary) & his wife, who had come to see us off, before the boat started.

There were only 2 other first class passengers on board, both men, & one of them came up to me & said “Do you know if the plague is bad in Canton now” “No, but I suppose Europeans are immune as they are in Bombay” “Oh have you been in India?” “Yes I spend† some months there with friends from Trin Coll Camb” “Oh are you a Trinity man, so am I”. Then after a little more; “I think I have heard of you; did you not stop with Willis at Peradéniya, I was there a short time after you left, my name is Reynolds {10}.” And so we had a long talk about all sorts of things; & it turned out afterwards that the fourth passenger was from Magdalene Oxford.

At dinner the Captain told us a lot about the Chinese & about Canton in particular, he said he had some 800 Chinese on board then, & often had a good many more; as a rule they were a very peaceable set & gave no trouble at all; he recommended us to employ Wong Yew as guide on the morrow. [24 July.] At daybreak we were passing through the outlying districts of Canton, & at 6 o’clock we were made fast to the wharf; all around us, busy as bees were the floating population: now a junk with its huge rectilinear sail, now a sampan with father mother & children living their lives out upon it, now a mighty stern wheeler, with its paddle rotated by a hundred human feet—climbing climbing climbing from dawn till dark on each succeeding day—. How many think you, this river population? A few hundred? A few thousand? Try again: Put all the population of Oxford, & all the population of Cambridge, & hardly so will you have reached to the number of those who live & die in boats upon this river, this little part of the river where it flows past Canton.

Surely one might spend days gazing gazing upon this countless crew, & it is well that we have an hour at any rate to inspect; for Wong Yew has told us that, contrary to my expectation, it is better to wait till after breakfast to go ashore & view the city. At last at 8.30 we make a start, Wong Yew putting all of us & himself into chairs; he & Percy have 3 coolies each while Reynolds & myself have 4 each, being supposed—not without truth—to be heavier. [There follows a sketch of four coolies carrying, on poles, a man in a chair.]

And so we go away through the streets to inspect many different shops: who will ever be able to describe the streets to one who has not seen them? Narrow of course,—not wider than the pavement of an average London street—flagged, & often surmounted by a kind of matting to keep off the sun, they were bordered on either side by the “signs” of the shops; signs consisting of narrow vertical boards painted with chinese characters & bearing such inscriptions as “Honesty is the best Policy” & the like. Our method of procedure in single file did not admit of our putting questions, while we went along, to the guide; but everything on the route was of interest & all our senses except that of taste were called into play. Shops of all kinds we stopped to inspect, temples of Buddha, of Tao, of ancestors, the great Doctor temple & the temple of the Emperor, all these we beheld in their glory & decay; but ever to me the most interesting sight was the people, whether to watch the differing types of countenance, to note upon many the signs of culture & of intellectuality, whether to return the stare of the children gazing open mouthed at the foreignor†, or else to admire the skill of the chair coolies in getting round the narrow corners or in avoiding the basket carriers who everywhere abounded. [There follows a sketch of a person carrying two baskets on a pole.] Now & again a Chinese was having shaved the front of his head, or combing out his splendid raven hair, or plaiting it into the famous pigtail; occasionally a high class woman hobbling along on her feet or carried in her chair; but everywhere the incessant stream of human beings, men here & men there & a few women of the common rank with their smooth hair & their uncontorted feet showing bare beneath their trousers.

At last we mounted to the top of the 5 storeyed pagoda & seated at lunch we looked down upon the city; there spread out before us, seemed one continuous mass, filling an area perhaps hardly as large as Derby & yet containing nearly 2 million of living human souls. {11}

And so we came down & the tour of our inspection of the city was continued; one thing in especial we impressed upon our guide that we were anxious of beholding & that was the Examination Hall. At length we were within its classic walls; a long central pathway leads up from the gateway to the dais of the examiners & on either side are rows upon rows of tiny cells. Into one of these on the morning of the first day marches the candidate; his age is not limited by the Psalmist’s allotted span of life, no iron regulation determines the number of his possible attempts. He marches within, & straightway he is immured; from thenceforth no sound reaches his excited consciousness but the stealthy tread of the watchman. The fierce noontide of the hot summer’s day comes & goes, & finds his task but just begun; his daily allowance of food is lowered into his cell, & the lamp of evening has been lit, and still but a mere fragment of his dissertation has been completed. The night wears through, & another long day drags out its torrid course; perhaps he eats a little, perhaps he sleeps a little, perhaps in the excitement of his labour he forgets to do either. Again another night; will he survive another day? For a few more hours he must labour; & then as the sun sinks below the horizon the walls are pulled down, & from each cell there issues forth one bearing the fruit of his exertion,—from all save here a cell & there a cell whence comes no living form, but where there is seen the prostrate figure of what was once a man. So at length for all, the task is finished! For what is the prize awarded? For knowledge of the classics, for elegance of diction, for beauty of style; for everything—in which an essay on a set subject can excel—except for originality or for scientific knowledge. What is this prize which is so coveted a possession; which is one of the highest expressions of filial piety, which ennobles the whole backward pedigree? The prize is the admission of the candidate into the list of those who will become mandarins; & each year in Canton 50 or 60 (??) out of some 2000 competitors achieve the coveted distinction. Room there would be in the spacious “hall” for many many more to make the fateful endeavour, for it has been estimated that the total number of cells hardly falls short of 15 thousand!

As a matter of fact the word “hall”, hardly conveys the correct idea, for the place is quite open to the sky; & while we were there, down part of the long central Avenue, an examination in archery was being conducted. This is part of the examination for military mandarins; & 2 by 2 the students in gorgeous robes came forward upon the dais to fire off their three shots; whether the distance was greater than it appeared, or whether their bows were of a peculiarly awkward pattern, or finally whether the unseen presence of the boorish foreignor† exercised a mystic spell over their movements, I am unable to say, but in my immature judgment proficiency seemed to be remarkable by its absence. At length we had seen enough; & with mixed feelings we bade farewell to the most ancient relic of the system of competitive examination.

A few more shops of curios & another temple were to end our round of Canton; but last but not least we visited a pawnbroker’s. All over the city may be seen certain brick buildings towering up into the sky; 12 or 13 short storeys with narrow barred windows, in each storey stacks upon stacks of neatly tied up parcels with little wooden Chinese labels. Thus is the pawnbroker an institution as well recognised here as in the lands of the west; rules & regulations are very similar, but perhaps quite a large amount of the depositing is done with a view simply to placing the articles in safe custody.

The return to the boat about 4 o’clock in the afternoon concluded one of the hardest days of pure sight seeing I have ever “put in”; & a peaceful night on board, with many discussions upon diverse subjects brought us back [25 July] to Hong Kong. There we were now to remain several days, & in spite of a great deal of rain we were able to accomplish nearly everything we wanted.

One day we took tram up the peak & walked from the upper terminus to the top of the hill, from whence we got a magnificent view all round the island; the harbour is very grand & is capable of containing a large number of vessels simultaneously. To give some idea of the amount of shipping which passes through, it is perhaps worth while mentioning that on the day of our arrival, five boats of the P & O Company alone were riding there at anchor; & I have heard it said that Hong Kong stands second only to London in the quantity of its annual tonnage.

One day we crossed over to the mainland, & visited Kowloon, which, to the regret of everyone on the spot, the British government has left under Chinese jurisdiction while obtaining for England the fine piece of territory in which it is situated. One day Dr Pearce took us over the prison & showed us the Chinese prisoners under the supervision of English & Indian officials. Another day we went up to dinner with him & met a native Chinese doctor, who took us, later on, to a native theatre; we sat in seats upon the stage & were extremely interested both in the spectators & in the drama itself which the doctor was kind enough to explain to us. All the actors are men, but they manage to imitate women very cleverly, when required, both in voice & in their manner of walking; one of the several plays acted during the evening, described the attraction felt by a young lady for the scholar who was instructing her brother! The actors converse in the Mandarin dialect which must be unintelligible to quite a large portion of the audience; nevertheless as the plays run more or less upon fixed lines, they have no difficulty in following them, & scenes such as that in which the young lady titivates herself with a view of compelling the admiration of the scholar, are watched with keen delight.

Another day we went up with Mr Smith to lunch on the peak; from the top of tram line we took chairs to his house which we found very pleasant & cool. Then after lunch we descended in the same way walking down to his office from the foot of the line; in this manner the total time away from office can be reduced well within 2 hours. In the afternoon I went on to see over the greatest sugar factory in the world & was duly impressed.

Another day—I notice I have said this sometimes when it was really the same day—we went on to the Omi again for a short time to bid adiew† to our friends; we found all the passengers rather tired of staying in the harbour, some of them wishing that they had come ashore to a hotel, nevertheless they were looking forward to starting away for Japan the next day.

Another day we visited the “Happy Valley” where the remains of the English race who have died in this spot so far from home are laid at rest; perhaps in the care with which this is tended, if in this alone, the reserve sentiment of “l’Anglais phlegmatique” is attested.

So with one thing & another, not omitting the gentle game of pills at the hotel, our time at Hong Kong passed away; & we found ourselves once more upon a boat {12}, bound for Shanghai & Japan. Stopping for a short time at Amoy to take on a cargo of tea, we reached Shanghai after 3 days sailing, & were pleased to find that we were to have more than a whole day before it would be necessary to get away again; so we proceeded at once, in a manner characteristic of ourselves, to get a lot of information by going & calling upon different people. I hope to be able to narrate to you, presently, a few of the things we heard then & at other times, so as to give you a few ideas about the Chinese; but of course you will remember that they represent only the second hand opinions of a few people coupled with a very minute amount of direct observation, & as such are to be accepted with the greatest caution. Nevertheless as proof that some of what we gathered was good in its foundation, I may perhaps mention that a lady who had been a doctor in China for many years, & was discussing things Chinese with Percy for some time, said at length “you must have stayed a very long time in China”.

These last two sentences must be taken as as kind of interlude representing the time we spent in talking to people, before I mention the things we actually saw & did. Late in the afternoon of the day of our arrival, we went out to the Recreation Ground going by way of one of the principal streets (ie of the foreign settlement, of course); on the way we were very much interested in how things “went along”. Mentally I compared the place with the presidency towns of India; but there were many differences; in some cases Chinese ladies driving about in open carriages, as I only saw of the Parsees in Bombay; in one case I noticed a European coachman driving a couple of Chinese gentlemen; all along the route were Chinese men sitting in rows upon the balconies, watching the foreigner driving down at his accustomed hour to his athletics. Victorias, Dog Carts, bicycles, rickshaws, even Wheelbarrows jostled one another along the road; while occasionally one would catch a glimpse of the Chinese lady with her cramped up feet. At length we reached the recreation ground itself & were struck dumb with admiration; almost every form of athletics & recreation was there displayed; so that so far as I am aware the ground is absolutely unrivalled in the whole world. While we were there, cricket, lawn tennis, bowls[,] quoits, & other games were all going on, & in the winter some of these give place to football & other things; in addition to these all the paths make splendid bicycle tracks, & polo golf & base ball are constantly played. [The preceding sentence is written around a plan of the recreation ground.] The whole enclosure must be something like a hundred acres.

The next morning we started away for an inspection of the Chinese city under the guidance of Mr Box a Missionary; after strolling round a little way on the walls we descended & saw all manner of strange & wonderful things. Here was a temple with god & goddess before whom was spread out a repast of all kinds of real food; of course these are afterwards sold, & eaten by the people, reminding one of “meats offered to idols”. Here was the plaint of weeping women; “this”, said Mr Box, “must mean either a death or a family quarrel[”]. And sure enough as we got nearer we saw them burning the little paper house for the use of the dead man, & with it large masses of paper money made to imitate silver & copper; these with a real suit of clothes were all added to the conflagration. Many things we noticed similar to those we had seen in Canton, & in many cases we learnt their meaning for the first time; but perhaps the most interesting thing we did was to go up to tea in the “willow” tea house. Call up to your consciousness the willow pattern & put it into reality in your mind, then imagine Percy & myself existent there in the flesh, crossing the little bridge & mounting to the top of the little tea house! At first Box gave no sign of knowing the language; but when the proprietor tried to “do” us, he amused every one very much by quoting a Chinese proverb “It is good to skin the foreigner”. He afterwards had a long conversation with the man at the next table, introducing us as 2 scholars from England. At a Chinese tea house, you take neither sugar nor milk, & you pay so much for one “go” of tea; you can have this replenished with hot water as often as you like, & may stay there half the day if you are so minded; for my own part I found it very refreshing. So with interesting & delightful experiences—only marred by the mosquito—we spent our time in Shanghai, where—though there is no absolutely British concession—there are, I believe, more British & American residents than in Bombay or Madras or even in Hong Kong itself.

And now for a few words on China and the Chinese in general; let me take the following points in order:

The pig-tail. Somehow or other I always imagined the pigtail would be a very ugly thing; I was surprised therefore to find that in a great many cases it is really quite the reverse; Percy describes the Chinese “boys” on board the Belgic, with their glossy black pigtails hanging down over their blue blouses as “perfectly fascinating”. I was also under the impression that loss of pigtail in this life was supposed to imply loss of heaven in the next world; this too is quite erroneous, the only thing that it really brings is loss of “face” (which means something rather more than loss of dignity) & it is the greatest loss of “face” which a man can be subjected to; it is a curious custom, & in view of the fact that it is not many centuries ago that it was introduced, & was then a mark of servitude, it goes to show that the Chinese are not quite so slow to change as some people are wont to suppose.

People often get confused about the religion of the Chinese; in point of fact the great mass of them are Buddhists, Taoists, Ancestor worshippers & nature worshippers all combined and par excellence Confucianists. Few among the men would profess much about the former, but nearly all would admit themselves to be disciples of Confucius; & really they might do a great deal worse, for as a system of ethics, his teachings are admitted on all hands, to be of a very high order. What the missionaries aim largely at doing, is to supplant the superstitions of the other religions & particularly of Taoism, the practices of which are continued though there is little or no belief in them retained by the male portion of the population.—In this sentence I have considerably over-stated the position. This brings me as usual on to the inevitable subject of the missionary. Of course there are always objections raised everywhere, but so far as I could gather, the missionary in China is regarded with a good deal more favour by outsiders than he is in other places; in the first place he is almost the only one who is thoroughly conversant with the language, & he is prepared to do a great deal in addition to strictly evangelical work. Commercial men admit that he “opens up” the country; & newspaper men acknowledge the vast debt which they owe the missionary for the amount of news which he is willing to provide for them.

Moreover there are signs that the younger men, at any rate, are beginning to avoid preaching Christianity as the one inspired religion (I had almost said mythology) whose acceptance is a safeguard against all the evils of this world & the next; but instead, they are endeavouring to encourage education & to supplement the deficiencies of the Confucian system with the best parts of Christianity. If and so far as they do this, I believe they will receive support from the Chinese; & there is no reason why their influence should not be extremely beneficial. {13}

A very natural thing for me, was to attempt to compare the Chinese with the Indian, & in this I found a great number of interesting points of difference. Take for instance some of the small everyday matters:—in India it is a sign of great want of respect to a superior, if a man does not remove his shoes & stockings when he comes into your presence, in China it is exactly the reverse; in China head gear is hardly worn at all among the lower orders and where it is, it is merely a protection against the sun, which must be removed in the house, in India on the other hand, the turban is worn indoors as well as out. Then of course caste in any strict sense does not exist in China, & theoretically at any rate there is no reason why a man should not rise from the lowest position to high estate in the country. Turning to the poorest part of the population I was unable to learn of any one earning such small wages as I had observed in the Indigo districts of India (something under a penny a day for a man), but I do not think this at all proves that in out of the way districts there may not be Chinese Coolies earning this wage or even less. At the other end of the scale, Chinese merchants appear to be respected by every one, & their business honesty is world famous; in this way they are contrasted with the Japanese whose merchants are unfortunately regarded with considerable suspicion. {14} The Chinese mandarin is famous for his “squeezes” which spelt vulgarly amounts to nearly the same thing as “bribery & corruption”; defences are allowed to go to rack & ruin because the mandarin whose business it is to look after them, keeps most of the money, intended for the purpose, in his own pocket; the very shells for the guns are often purloined & sold, & dummies are put in their place, while the numbers of a garrison are rarely up to their correct figure in order that the mandarin may pocket the pay of the men who do not exist. The great mass of people, however, suffer very much less from the wholesale official corruption than might have been supposed; so far as the military mandarins are concerned the people care nothing for their military prestige, & even with the civil mandarins they come less into direct contact than might be supposed. Lawsuits they avoid except as a form of murder & suicide (cf Court of Chancery in England); & being of a peaceable nature they are little interfered with except in the matter of a somewhat excessive taxation which they have come to regard as normal.

The Chinese consider the foreigner as essentially a person of no manners; the same attitude in a more or less degree is held with regard to the European all through the East; & if one cannot help realising everywhere that it is true in part one is bound to acknowledge it more particularly in China. Manners, ceremonial, dignity of carriage, a “grave & thoughtful countenance” (which being translated gives “a smile that is childlike & bland”)—in all these things it would be difficult to deny that the Chinese is preeminent; at the same time under this external may lie cruelty, rudeness, & deceit. How far these hidden vices do exist, it is impossible to judge; while those who have the best right to form an opinion differ considerably in their estimate. The erudition of the scholars in works of antiquity is very great; & even the common coolies may often be seen reading the proclamations in the streets written not infrequently in recondite characters.

Taken as a whole I was more favourably impressed with the Chinese than with the Indian; but against this general statement must be set a great many cautions & modifications. In the first place when I speak of “the Indian” I lump together in my mind the people of Bengal Bombay & Madras, leaving out of account altogether the Sikhs, the people of the Punjab, & the people of the Hills who are generally said to be the best people in the country; and secondly I am afraid one must admit with most Orientals that as a rule the better one knows them the less one likes them, & my knowledge of India is very much greater than that of China. Nevertheless taking the opinions of those who know more than myself I believe that my general proposition is to be substantiated.

A few words upon the political outlook will bring this encyclical to a close. I have already spoken of the feeling in reference to Kowloon, this refers to the relations with China itself, but by far the most important points arrise† out of our attitude towards other foreign powers. On all hands it is strenuously urged that we ought to show a bolder front towards Russia, that we ought to put forward a definite position & stick to it, that we ought to be prepared to support China in her opposition to the demands of the Great Bear. They say that there can be no doubt that the Chinese would stand by us if they thought we were prepared to stand by them; on the other hand it must be remembered that Li Hung Chang & the Dowager Empress are directly in the pay of Russia.

People in China complain than† those at home do not appreciate the true state of affairs in the far east; & do not realise how strong Great Britain is & how easily she could enforce her demands. But the editor of a newspaper who was most strenuous in this position & who was in things Chinese extremely well informed, showed that he too was not quite conversant—in my opinion—in the state of affairs in distant countries when he took for granted that if Russia & France were against us Germany would take our side, & Australia would prove to us of very real assistance.

As regards Wei-hai-wai opinions seem to differ a good deal, but the great majority seemed to be of opinion that it would prove of very small value to us. On the other hand I have heard it stated that if we are prepared to spend a large sum of money in fortifying it & keep there a considerable garrison, it may be made a very strong place.

For my own part I feel that China is of immense importance; it is nearer home to-day than India was but a few years ago. It has a vast almost homogeneous population capable of nearly anything. Looking to the future, we should not allow it to fall into the hands of unscrupulous foreign nations, neither for its own sake nor for our own. Let us make ourselves as strong as possible, let us make just demands & see that they are adhered to through everything. We are the only country in the world who can administer a foreign nation; on our resolution to-day must hang the future of China, and may depend the whole destiny of the world.

End of encyclical VI.


{1} The steamship Belgic was built in 1885 for the White Star Line.

{2} The steamer Omi Maru belonged to the Nippon Yusen Kaisha. It stopped at Sydney from 26 June to 2 July, then on the 4th called at Moreton Bay, near Brisbane, where Lawrence and Alden boarded it. It was due to set off again the same day but did not actually go till early on the 5th. See the Brisbane Courier, 5 July, pp. 1 and 3, and 6 July, p. 3.

{3} The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 2 July (p. 10): ‘The following passages have been engaged by the Omi Maru, sailing for Hongkong and Japan, via ports, from west side of Circular Quay [Sydney] at noon to-day in the Nippon Yusen line:—Mr. F. W. Lawrence, Mr. Alden, Dr. Agassiz, Mr. G. Fischer, Mrs. A. Lewis, Mr. H. Arnheim, Miss Parkes, Miss Tyre, Miss Nicholson, Miss Nicholson [sic], and Mr. J. F. Parkes, and a number of Chinese in the steerage.’ This list includes eleven non-Chinese passengers, whereas Lawrence only refers to ten, but perhaps one of the number either did not board or left the ship before Brisbane. ‘Jim’, mentioned subsequently, must be Mr J. F. Parkes, Miss Parkes being his sister. The Miss Nicholsons are the sisters from Melbourne mentioned on p. 208. Miss Parkes’s nurse was either Mrs Lewis or Miss Tyre, probably the latter. Those who left at Thursday Island were clearly Dr Agassiz, Mr Fischer, and either Mrs Lewis or Miss Tyre.

{4} Christopher Young (d. 1907), steamship captain of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha; born at Heligoland. See the Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, 15 Apr. 1907, p. 1.

{5} The fruit of the passion-flower; see OED, s. v. granadilla | grenadilla, which, curiously enough, cites the phrase ‘The tropical verandah, with the grenadillas trained along the lattice-work’ from The Times, 31 Jan. 1894, p. 13.

{6} The ship left the island the same day. See 6/14 and The Queenslander, 12 July, p. 103.

{7} A collection of humorous sea stories by W. W. Jacobs, first published in 1896.

{8} They were due to arrive on the 22nd (see p. 177), but according to the Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 25 July, p. 3, and The Standard (London), 25 July, p. 8, the ship did not arrive there till the next day.

{9} Thomas William Pearce.

{10} Leetham Reynolds.

{11} The ink changes here.

{12} The S.S. Belgic.

{13} The ink changes here.

{14} The ink changes here.

† Sic.

Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington


R.M.S.P. Danube {1},
Oct 23.

My very dear Mother

We are now on board the Danube and left for home at noon today, so I shall have to bring this letter with me; but so much has happened in the last week, that I must begin to write it down.

We were all terribly disappointed over the eclipse and were a rather depressed company for some days afterwards. Our numbers quickly melted away from Passa Quatro and by Monday, Morize, Stephanik, Worthington and Lee and most of the volunteers had gone. Atkinson who had been suffering from gout at times left for Rio on Sunday (at that time we expected to follow him in a day or two). {2} Lee & Worthington were detested by everyone and their departure was a great relief. Lee, I think, had taken this up as a sort of lever to advertise himself and get in with important people; he had somehow got round the British Consul who recommended him to us. We had rather a bad time from him at first, but had the satisfaction of seeing him completely checkmated. Further as soon as Aguirre came, we were independent of Lee; and could do without him.

The party that remained at Passa Quatro for the next week Oct 14–20 consisted of De Souza and his young wife, & Da Costa of the Brazilian Observatory, Kraliçek (Stephanik’s assistant), two ladies relatives of the innkeeper M. Rénier & several children (at these small places we are quite in the innkeepers family—however Rénier was a superior sort of man), besides our two volunteers Aguirre and Andrews, Davidson and myself. We were a rather young party, all under 30 except Da Costa and Davidson; M. Rénier was knocked up after his labours and was in bed most of the week. We had a very jolly time though of course the mixture of languages was troublesome.

The rain continued with very few fair intervals and practically no sunshine until Wednesday, and our packing was very slow owing to that. On Wednesday we were finished at last, and that afternoon which happily turned out fine, nearly all the packages (Brazilian, French, & ours) were removed in oxcarts & mulecarts to the side of the railway and put on the train late at night. We had nothing further to do with them; yesterday I heard that they had got as far as Cruzeiro—a distance of 20 miles! We have left them to be sent on by a later boat—I daresay they will reach Rio in a few weeks. Stephanik sailed today in a French boat, leaving his baggage to follow.

On Thursday (Oct 17) we were relieved of our cares and able to do what we pleased, and the next three glorious days we had a splendid time. The reason of our staying was really that De Souza was going to take us a trip further up-country to Cambuqueira; but it was always ‘amanha’ (tomorrow). Tuesday was the first day fixed for it then it became Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat and on Saturday it was finally given up. We liked De Souza very much; but he is typically Brazilian, and has got the ‘amanha’ as badly as all of them. As we enjoyed being at P. Quatro, it did not matter very much this continual putting of[f].

These three days we explored the neighbo[u]rhood in all directions. We never got very far as there was so much to see in the forests, and the sun was very hot indeed. Aguirre (although he has been in England for the last seven years) knew all the things of interest, and could tell us what all the plants birds & insects were. We saw beautiful butterflies[,] some of them very large—the hot weather brought them out—& a great variety of beetles. The ants were sometimes troublesome; they are all over the place, but they are particularly interesting. The leaf-cutting ants make regular highways about 4-inches broad, and you see a regular procession—along one side, the ants going out to forage, and on the other side those that are returning each carrying a leaf a great many times larger than itself. It looks like a procession of moving leaves. The ferns were very fine and in great variety; I am bringing home a few roots we collected in hopes they will travel alright. Most of the trees are full of orchids and parasitic plants and have great masses of creeper, etc hanging from them.

Twice we were able to bathe; but the rivers are not very good for it, being generally shallow. In the afternoons we got coffee at wayside vendas; generally the whole village looked on. They always wanted to give it us gratis. We occasionally could get good oranges; but it is not the right time of the year for much fruit, and as a matter of fact most of the fruit in Rio comes from England.

On Friday we decided on a horse-back expedition. Generally it was just our party of four that went out together, but this time Kraliçek came with us. Horses were ordered for 6∙30 a.m.; by this time I was used to Brazilian ways, and accordingly I got up at 8. There was then no sign of horses, but it was ascertained that they were being caught and might be expected about noon. Accordingly Aguirre Davidson & I had a good walk & arrived back very late for déjeuner at 1∙30. Ultimately the horses turned up at 3 o’clock & the cavalcade started. As three of us had not been on horseback before, very tame horses had been insisted on. Mine, which was 17 years old was very tame; and as it had a prejudice against going the right road, Aguirre (who is a good horseman) took it in exchange, and for the rest of the way I had a nice willing little horse, which gave me no trouble. We set off for the virgin forest about 8 miles distant up a mountain track. It was a lovely ride, with grand scenery. I think we had gone about 6 miles, when Aguirre’s horse (the very tame one) fell, and was evidently good for nothing more. It was a long time before we could make it get up; and then it could only be walked home. Aguirre managed to hire a mule, and we came slowly home by the moonlight & firefly-light; at a walking pace on account of the led horse. In spite of the accident it was a very pleasant ride indeed and though we did not actually reach virgin forest, we had some beautiful glades to pass through with fine mountain views.

On another occasion we passed a fazenda, where they made tobacco. The proprietor saw we were interested and showed us all about, gave us samples (which we afterwards found were worth at least 10/–). He even invited us to breakfast, but we did not accept. The tobacco is made in long ropes coiled on sticks; we often see the mules loaded with it going along the country-lanes. These mule trains are quite a pretty sight.

One night a fire-fly had got into my room, and woke me by flashing about. I had to get up & chase it before I could get to sleep. Davidson had a similar experience when he was changing plates at night, and had darkened the room. We have not seen any snakes; but have several times found large cast-off skins of snakes. I saw a large lizard (iguana) one day.

We left Passa Quatro on Sunday at eleven o’clock Kraliçek, Aguirre, Davidson & I. Andrews stayed on another two days. Da† Souza wanted us to stay till Monday as he was coming down ‘amanha’, but we were wise; he had not turned up when we left Rio this morning. We had quite a fine send-off—such leave-takings at the station[.] Old Rénier had recovered and gave us each the Brazilian embrace at parting; it consists of a hug with three pats on the back—I must demonstrate it sometime to you; it is quite the regular thing here.

It was a very hot day and the scenery was beautiful. The short run to Cruzeiro we had seen (under less favourable conditions) before; but the 5-hour journey from there to Rio was new, as we had passed it at night before. But the dust was terrible and the journey was most exhausting. By drinking black coffee at practically all the stopping places, and eating bananas in between whiles, we managed to survive. Like everybody else we lost our luggage at Cruzeiro; however it turned up at the hotel the next morning so no harm was done. We passed along the banks of the river Parahyba most of the way, and it was interesting seeing the rice & sugar cane growing. Banana trees are very abundant everywhere and look very untidy—they are the one piece of ugliness in this country—; the mangoes, palms (cocoanut and date), jacas and orange trees and better than all the bamboo clumps, are fine trees.
We found Atkinson at the Hotel Estrangeiros; he had had rather a bad time with gout, but was getting better. The next morning (Monday), we spent taking our passages in the Danube, & called at the Consulate, where I got your last letter—it seemed funny to find it was a reply to my letter describing Madeira {3}—that seems years ago. Davidson was not very well, so Aguirre and I went out alone in the afternoon. We went by the funicular to the top of the Corcovado (2200 feet) It is a beautiful ride up through forests, and at the top there was a magnificent view of Rio Harbour. Fortunately it was one of the clearest days we have had. At last I got a clear understanding of the geography of Rio, with its numerous Bays, and Nichteroy† on the opposite side. After coming down we walked up a zigzag path to Sylvestre, and then returned to the hotel by tram by a different route, which runs along an old Jesuit aqueduct.

In the evening Davidson and I went to dinner at Mrs Andrews’s—the mother of our younger volunteer.

Tuesday morning we started (Aguirre, Davidson & I) at 6 a m for the Botanical gardens; it was pleasantly cool then. We did not get back until 11∙30, so spent about 4 hours wandering round the gardens & taking some photographs. Mr & Mrs Willis (the former is Director of the gardens {4}) had been helping Worthington at Passa 4, so we paid them a short visit. With our visits to the gardens and the Brazilian forests I seem to have seen almost all the useful plants one has heard of. There are not very many flowers in the gardens; it is chiefly trees and shrubs. I carried away a souvenir in the shape of a dozen mosquitoe† bites over my face hands and legs. This is the only place in Rio, where there are any mosquitoes.

An Englishman Ihlot, whom we met at Passa 4 on the eclipse-day, was waiting for us at the hotel and after déjeuner carried us off in a motor to Quinta da Boa Vista—a park where there is the former Emperor’s palace, now a museum. The museum was not yet open (being in course of arrangement); but Aguirre had some influence there, and we were shown round and saw many Brazilian curiosities. We then returned to pay visits to the Foreign Minister & Observatory (to take leave and say polite things!). Ihlot met us again at the Observatory and we went down to the ferry for Nichteroy†. On the way we passed through the market, where our two guides plied us with all the weird outlandish fruits they could find. It was most interesting; the sapoti was a very nice fruit, looks on the outside just like a potato; the condessa a sort of pomegranete† (I think) was not so nice. It was perhaps fortunate that not many fruits are in season now, or I dont think we should have survived—as it is I have a mango and cocoa bean still to sample, which I put in my pocket. We finished up with a tumbler of caldo de canna—the fresh juice from crushed sugar cane. It was very nice.

We went on the steam-ferry to Nichteroy† about 4 miles across, and then by tram along the shore there. Here we had a lovely view of Rio from the other side, with the fine peaks of Sugar-loaf, Corcovado and Gavea, standing up finely against the sunset. This is really the best viewpoint in the harbour.

After dinner we just paid a short visit to Aguirre’s brother-in-law (with whom he was staying), who is now learning English and could speak a little. On returning we had a rather boring visit from Tigré†[,] another friend of ours—a poet and literary man[,] very excitable—and at last got to bed about midnight.

We had to start at 10 o’clock this morning for the boat so there was no time for anything except packing up, etc. The Observatory people motored us down to the quay and Dr Morize was there to see us off. It was a somewhat misty day for our last look at Rio harbour, but it was a fine sail out of it all the same.

Rio is said to be the finest city in the world, and that is probably true. Besides the advantage of its splendid situation, it is well laid out with fine parks and avenues and sea-front. It is now very healthy with the lowest death-rate of any city in the tropics—ten years ago it was a hotbed of yellow fever and malaria, but that has been entirely got rid of by exterminating the mosquitoes, which carry the diseases. Living here is I think even more expensive than I first thought; the average cost of things is about 4 times what it is in England (so the inhabitants say) but many things are much more expensive. Strawberry jam is a great delicacy, rare and expensive; you could offer your friends a spoonful like a sweet. Marmalade is 4/– a pound; ham 15/– a pound. A straw hat costs 16/–. Delivery of personal luggage for 3 of us from station to hotel (about 2 miles) cost £1. Most of these prices are what Rio people tell me they pay and are not those extorted from the stranger. (A gentleman on the Danube tells me he paid 5/4 for a half-pound of marmalade) The Brazilian government has treated us royally; we have had no hotel bills to pay or railway travelling expenses. It has been quite difficult to get rid of any of the filthy paper which serves for money in this country. All the same the little odds and ends and tips mount up, and I find I have managed to spend about £20 here. The government entertained all the volunteers in the same way as us.

Nov 2

We are just about to pass out of the tropics today and the weather is already much cooler, but we have had it much hotter so far than on the outward voyage. The Danube is rather an old boat but is quite a favourite as it is a fast boat and very steady. It is not much more than a third the size of the Arlanza. Very few people are travelling from Brazil at this time of the year so we are nearly empty I think there are only 20 first class passengers. I have a good sized cabin to myself, and am very glad to have plenty of room as the nights are very close and stifling. There is one passenger Meares a civil engineer who came out with us on the Arlanza; we see a good deal of him, also the Doctor and Captain. There are only two ladies on board—one American & one French. Nearly all the passengers are English—a great change from the Arlanza on which only 15 per cent were English.

We have been very comfortable and very lazy The weather has been beautifully fine (except the first two days, when it was overcast), and there has been a fresh breeze all the time; it is only in the cabins and saloon that it gets extremely hot. We did not go ashore at either Bahea or Pernambuco; at the former we did not ar[r]ive until 9 p.m., and we left at 6 a.m.; at the latter (where landing is more difficult) there was hardly time to go ashore. Yesterday we had the morning at St Vincent coaling, and I spent an hour or two on shore There is not very much to see except the negro population, who are very amusing. The fruit market was rather a pretty sight. At St. Vincent they only get rain once in three or four years; but they had had some just recently and the island was looking quite green. All their water and fruit are brought from a fertile island São Antonio 15 miles away; St Vincent simply exists, because it has such a splendid harbour.

Soon after leaving Pernambuco we passed an island Fernando Naronha† {5} where there is a Brazilian penal settlement and Marconi station. It has a most curious steep pinnacle of rock several hundred feet high. We passed very close to it, the Captain purposely altering the course a little to let us have a good view of it.

We have not seen any whales or sharks this voyage; but the flying fish have been very abundant. We also see a few porpoises from time to time. There is a good deal of phosphorescence in the water at nights; but it is not so striking as I have sometimes seen it.

Nov 7

We did not call at Madeira this time but went straight from St Vincent to Lisbon, about 5 days sail. We passed quite close to Palma the most westerly of the Canary Isles, and could make it out quite well although it was about 11 p.m and a very dark night. At Lisbon we were on shore from 10 a m to 2∙30 p.m., so had time for a good look round. We spent most of the time at Belem (½ hour ride by tram) where there is a magnificent monastery of St. Jeronymos. It is now used as an orphan-school. The cloisters are the finest part of it; but there are a great many interesting things to see there, including the tomb of Vasco da Gama. The church was built about 1520.

We had lunch in Lisbon, and reached the ship again with only a few minutes to spare. Our American Howell was very excited about the Presidential election, as he is a supporter of Woodrow Wilson. Howell is an international chess player, having played for America against England four or five times. He played a game blindfold against me last night and won.

Early this morning we called at Leixōes (for Oporto), but were only there for about an hour. Now we are sailing along quite close to the Portuguese coast, which looks very pretty. About a dozen more passengers have come on at Lisbon and Leixōes, so we are not so empty now.

The weather still continues fine and the sea smooth. At Lisbon we had a perfect day, cold in the shade, but with hot sunshine. Today for the first time, it is too cold to sit or stand about on deck, but it is clear and sunny.

We have now to call at Vigo and Cherbourg, and are due to reach Southampton on Saturday about noon, where I shall post this. I dont know yet when I shall get down to Weston but hope to come down about Thursday or Friday next week. Your last letters were dated Sept. 25 so I a[m] looking forward to hearing more recent new[s] of you {6}.

With very dear love from
your affectionate son


Letter-head of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. Marked ‘9’. ‘Nichteroy’ should be spelt ‘Nictheroy’.

{1} ‘R.M.S.P.’ is printed.

{2} There is a vertical line in pencil in the margin by the rest of this paragraph.

{3} EDDN A2/2.

{4} Willis was Director of the Botanic Garden at Rio de Janeiro from 1912 to 1915.

{5} Fernando de Noronha, about 220 miles from the Brazilian coast.

{6} The paper is damaged, and parts of two words are missing.

† Sic.