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Papers of Sir Arthur Eddington Cottingham, Edwin Turner (1869–1940) astronomer Image
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Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

Transcript

R.M.S: Anselm
Tuesday, March 11 | 1919

My very dear Mother

We are now approaching Lisbon and expect to arrive soon after daylight tomorrow morning. The weather has been pretty good; it was warmest on Sunday, which was a beautiful sunny day, and one could sit out on deck chairs without an overcoat. Yesterday and today, there was more wind and occasional showers. It has not been very rough, but there was sufficient motion to make a good many of the passengers unhappy. Of our party, Crommelin & Cottingham succumbed for a time, but they both seem much better today.

We all arrived at Euston an hour-and a half before the train started; but it took a good while to deal with our bulky luggage. We were charged 30/– excess, but most of that was for the object-glasses which being labelled “glass” were charged at a higher rate. We got to Liverpool at 3∙45 and then difficulties began. The Hotels were full and there were scarcely any porters at the station. At last we found a porter of a baggage agency, and put all except our handbags in his charge to deliver to the Steamer. Then we set off in a taxi to hunt for a Hotel. After 3 or 4 attempts we got in at quite a comfortable commercial hotel. I think we were probably very lucky. It was a pouring wet night, so we did not go out.

The next day we got down to the dock about 10 a.m. Our luggage was promised for 10∙30 a.m.; but did not arrive. Soon after 11 we had to go on board, because the emigration officer was only there for a short time. He just looked at the passports and did not worry about anything else. We were not very anxious about the luggage because we soon found about a dozen other passengers were in the same plight as ourselves having entrusted their luggage to the same firm. Ultimately about 12∙30 it all turned up, and we went down to lunch, much relieved.

The Anselm is a very nice boat, and seems much roomier than I expected. I should think there are at least sixty first-class passengers on board. Our cabin is nicely placed, a good height above the water, and is very quiet. Davidson & Crommelin are next door. It seems curious to have done with rationing entirely—unlimited sugar, and large slices of meat, puddings with pre-war quantity of raisins & currants in them, new white rolls, and so on.

We left at about 2 p.m. and went slowly through a chain of docks to the Mersey. One of the Directors of the Booth Line was on board at the start and saw us for a few minutes. We saw the lights of Holyhead about 9 p.m. and stopped a few minutes to drop the pilot. Since then we have seen no land whatever, and have had only very vague ideas as to our position; there is still a war-regulation which forbids them letting us know where we are & what our course is.

Davidson & Crommelin had to sit at the Captain’s table, so our party was broken up. It is supposed to be a special favour to be asked to sit there; but as they are too far from the Captain to get to know him, it does not seem much good. There is one other passenger whom I knew through correspondence, Mr. Walkey an amateur astronomer. He is going out for the Bible Society to live on a house-boat on the Amazon travelling up and down the various tributaries. He expects to be out there most of his life.

I have had a few games of chess with Crommelin and also with a Frenchman, have read a bit, and passed the time very comfortably. I am quite glad to be having a long steamer trip again.

With very dear love from
your affectionate son
Stanley

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Numbered ‘1st’ at the head. Two passages have been marked off in pencil by a later hand.

Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

Transcript

Hotel Bella Vista | Funchal
Saturday, March 15.

My very dear Mother

We arrived here yesterday in most summerlike weather, and today has been just as bright and warm. It is a lovely spot to have to stop at, although of course I am anxious to get on to the journey’s end. I am afraid we shall have to wait longer than was expected; the date of sailing is now supposed to be April 3, but one cannot rely on the boat times at all. The ship is called to Quelimane.

We reached Lisbon on the 12th about breakfast time, and all four went on shore. I cannot say what the time was because we had three times—ship’s time, Greenwich time and Summer Time, each differing about an hour—; it was most confusing; although summer-time is legally in force in Lisbon and, I believe, in Madeira most people stick to the old time.

Oom met us at the Quay and took us up to the Observatory in a motor car. We met the Director {1} (aged 82) a charming old man, who looked as little like a Vice-Admiral as one could imagine. The Observatory is in a fine park, and the almond blossom was full out and looked very bright. We spent about two hours there and then were motored down to the ship by a longer route through Belem. We had no chance of seeing either the steamer company or the planters, because they do not start business in Lisbon until 3 o’clock.

Lisbon seemed full of soldiers. They have disbanded all the police, but the country seems pretty quiet.

We left Lisbon about 5 o’clock and sailed down the Tagus by daylight—about 12 miles to the mouth of the river. Then we were out of sight of land until the morning of Friday (about 40 hours) when the Madeira islands appeared.

We got fine views of Madeira as we had to sail a good way round the main island to reach Funchal which is on the south coast. We all four landed about 11 o’clock (having seen that our baggage was alright) and spent an hour or two strolling round. Then we had a farewell lunch together at a restaurant. We saw Davidson & Crommelin on to the launch for the ship, and then Cottingham and I drove out to this hotel in a bullock sleigh. I expect I have told you, that except for a few motor cars there are no wheeled vehicles. All the carts and cabs are sleighs, drawn by bullocks, which slip quite easily over the cobbled streets. They put down grease in front of the sleigh to make it go easier. The streets, which are often very steep, are very slippery, and I soon found it necessary to buy a walking stick for support.

We are about 10 minutes walk from the centre of the town, and have beautiful views of the harbour and town and mountains from the balcony of this hotel. Especially at night it looks very fine with all the lights (street electric lamps) stretching a long way up the sides of the mountains. It is rather a large town and the houses are very scattered.

The Hotel is kept by English people, and in normal times there are large numbers of English visitors, so that English is spoken at most of the shops. But they have had a bad time during the war—scarcety† of most provisions except that sugar which is very widely grown here has been cheap & plentiful. Sugar cane & banana plantations abound everywhere, and vine pergolas, but the vines are not in leaf yet. The fruit in season now is almost solely bananas and nesperas (the latter is something like an apricot in appearance but tastes more like a cherry). We get some very good fish at meals, but otherwise they are chiefly English dishes.

It is too hot to walk very far, but we went four or five miles this afternoon near the coast. Inland the mountains rise almost at once to a height of 4000 or 5000 feet, so it requires some energy to go far.

The hotel has very nice, but small, gardens, which are bright with flowers. There are fine date palms and cactus’s of various kinds. I am finishing this on Sunday morning and the weather is just as bright and warm as ever. Another boat came in from Lisbon this morning, and there are a good many new arrivals at the hotel. I suppose there would be about 30 people here now, but it is not half full.

I hope you are getting on alright at home. It will be a long while before I get any news of you.

Much love from
your affectionate son
Stanley

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Numbered ‘2nd’ at the head. Two passages have been marked off and emended in pencil by a later hand.

{1} Vice-Admiral C. A. Campos Rodrigues, Director of the Observatory at Lisbon since 1890.

Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

Transcript

Funchal
1919 March 27

My very dear Mother

We have been here nearly a fortnight, and though we are anxious to be getting on to Principe, it is very delightful being here and I am not at all tired of Madeira. We have had a variety of weather; but there is always a good deal of hot sunshine every day. At first we had three days of “leste”, a hot dry east wind coming from the Sahara; it blows in gusts—dead calm for a long time then quite suddenly a furious wind for about 10 minutes. It did a good deal of damage to the trees and to the tiles on the roof here. Afterwards we had brilliant weather all day, but not quite so hot. This last week we have had a good deal of rain—chiefly at night but some sharp showers in the day as well—with snow on the tops of the mountains. Now it is comparatively cold; but that is only relatively speaking; because I am still wearing my thinnest shirts & vests and can sit out of doors even at night.

I have been two good long walks on the mountains. The funicular railway is not running regularly but there are occasionally excursions. We went up one day starting at 12 o’clock and reached the top—Terreira de Lucta—(2800 feet) about one o’clock. Cottingham and I took some sandwiches, and walked on at first by road and then on the hillside, making for a special view-point in the centre of the island. He found it too hard work, so I left him for 1½ hours and finished the climb alone. The view-point, Ariero Observatory, is 4800 feet above sea-level, and is a balcony overlooking a magnificent gorge at least 2000 feet deep which winds down to the sea on the other side (north) of the island. After seeing this, I rejoined Cottingham and we walked back to Terreira de Lucta which we reached about 5 o’clock, and then came down into Funchal in a toboggan a run of about 4 miles.

The second expedition was to the Grand Curral a point further round to the west. Cottingham and I started at 9 o’clock, and we got back about 5∙30. The walk was nearly twenty miles; but the weather was cooler so it was easier. Most of the way was along paved roads often very steep. We got many fine views on the way; and in places the gorse was out, and looked very pretty. The Grand Curral (=great cattle-fold) is a small plain almost entirely surrounded by a ring of mountains—like the crater of a volcano. We looked down on it from a saddle 3300 feet above sea-level and more than 2000 feet above the Curral. On all other sides the mountains were much higher. It is extraordinary, how much of the land is cultivated, all the steep sides of the mountains are terraced into tiny fields up to a great altitude. There is an elaborate system of irrigation; the artificial water-courses (called “levadas”) tap all the rivers near their sources, taking away nearly all the water and leaving only stoney† beds.

The main place of resort in Funchal is the Casino. We often go there in the afternoon for tea. The tea (the beverage) is much better than at the hotel; it has been very scarce in Madeira. There is a roulette table which is well-patronised and it is interesting to watch the players.

The beach is very poor, very steep and stony; and is unattractive, because it is used as the general rubbish-heap. But it is interesting to sit on the pier especially when any of the large steamers are in. There has been no mail from England since I came; but we are expecting one today—the Chepstow Castle—. I did not know I should be here so long or I would have asked you to write here.

There are lots of bananas here and I usually get through about a dozen a day. There is not much other fruit. Prices are generally a bit lower than in England but there is not much difference. The meat here—mutton, veal, beef—is extraordinarily good the best I have ever tasted I think. We can get good cigarettes at 10 a penny; but I chiefly smoke a mixture of native tobacco at a penny an ounce with imported tobacco at a shilling an ounce—the native stuff is too dry to use by itself.

We made friends with a gentleman from the telegraph (cable) station, and he got us permission to see round it yesterday. It was very interesting. They have a lot of new improvements since I was at the station in Malta.

There was a British warship here one day, and they had a football match against the Cable station, which we went to see. The weather was more suitable for watching than for playing. They must have found it terribly hard.

We know a number of people in the hotel. Ritson a commercial traveller from Manchester, Ash a queer old gentleman, Mrs. Caswell a merry widow and her daughter, Mr and Mrs Thomas from Swansea and others. Most of them intend to go on to the Canaries next Sunday. The landlord & landlady Mr. & Mrs. Jones are extremely pleasant & good-natured people.

Three ships were torpedoed by submarine in Madeira harbour during the war, and one sees the masts of two of them sticking up out of the water. The town was also bombarded and there are a few traces visible.

I hope all is going well at Cambridge. I shall be glad to hear news of you when I reach Principe.

With very dear love from
your affectionate son
Stanley

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Numbered ‘3rd’ at the head. Four passages have been marked off and emended in pencil by a later hand.

† Sic.

Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

Transcript

Funchal, April 6

My very dear Mother

I think that our time here is nearly up. We are to go on by the steamer Portugal which is due here on Wednesday, April 9, and should reach Principe on the 23rd. It calls at two places in the Cape Verde Islands and then goes straight to Principe. We shall not be the only English on board as we know of two others going as far as St Vincent (in Cape Verde Is.). The Quelimane which we had thought at first would be our boat was due here on the 3rd but did not arrive till yesterday; it was going direct to St Thomé, only a hundred miles from Principe, but did not call at Principe.

Since my last letter I have had one other splendid walk on the hills. I went alone as it was too far for Cottingham. I started at 7∙45 and reached Terreira de Lucta (the terminus of the railway) by half past nine; I was walking as there was no train early enough. It was then an easier walk though still uphill over Poiso pass 4550 feet up; then steep downhill to Ribiera Frio. This is one of the famous view-points of the island. The Balçoã (or balcony) there is about 2800 feet above sea-level, and one looks up and down a splendid deep ravine, thickly wooded. It is the same ravine that I saw from Ariero Observatory; but here, being in the middle of it instead of at one end, one gets a much better view and better idea of its size and depth. I reached this place about 12∙15 and stayed there till near 2 o’clock. It was very fortunate I had made an early start, because by the time I left the mist had come up from the sea on the north of the island and completely filled the ravine, so that one could see nothing. When I got there it was quite clear except for a few clouds round two or three of the highest snow-covered peaks. The highest peaks are 6000 feet high. One got good views of the levadas (artificial aqueducts) cut in the sides of the precipitous cliffs, and part of the way the path was by the side of one of these levadas. I climbed back through the mist to Poiso; and then got into the sunshine again, and left the road striking over the hills to Pico da Silva more to the east, getting a good view of the coast at the east end of the island. I reached Funchal about 6∙30, coming down the last 2000 feet by a very steep road like a flight of steps. The walk was about 25 miles altogether.

A good many of the people staying at this hotel left by a boat last Sunday, and it seems more empty now. There are about 8 or 10 permanent residents, and in addition I think there are only three other visitors—Ash (an old gentleman who came with us on the Anselm), Mr Bickmore a new arrival, and Geoffrey Turner a boy of sixteen from Mumbles, who has come out here for six weeks after an illness. Since some of his fellow-passengers left last Sunday, he has come to sit at our table and generally goes about with us.

The weather this last week has been very showery but always with long intervals of bright sunshine. The inhabitants say it is exceptionally bad weather; but I only wish we had “bad weather” of this kind in England. It is, however, unsuitable for long walks and the clouds are fairly low on the mountains; but that does not matter as I have been to the chief points of interest that are at all accessible. Nearly every morning this last week I have spent bathing at the Ajuda a place on the coast rather more than a mile from here which Geoffrey showed us. It is about the only place for a bathe here unless one goes out in a boat. The sea is rather rough and the coast rocky; but here there is a more or less enclosed pool where one can get a good swim without being knocked about on the rocks by the waves. I have got tremendously sunburnt.

We generally go to the Casino for tea, though we have tried once or twice another restaurant. There is always a band there. Roulette is prohibited in Madeira; but the authorities pretend not to know that it goes on. Now and again they make a raid, but they always telephone up to say they are coming. One afternoon, I was wanting to come away and found the main doors, which lead out through the dancing saloon, fastened, and we had to come out by a back way; the reason was that the Chief of the Police had come up for the dancing, and he was supposed not to know what was going on the other side of the door.

I have scarcely ever been out after dinner, but last night I went with Geoffrey to a picture-palace. The chief film was the funeral of King Edward VII! It was rather curious seeing it after so many years. After about ¾ hour of pictures, there was a short play of which we naturally could understand nothing. Then some recitations (chiefly serious) and some songs (chiefly comic). One of the comic songs was very amusing though one could not understand the words. It was a very crowded house, and very interesting to watch the audience.

I had a talk this morning with the English Doctor an old gentleman who has gone in for science a good deal. He is brother-in-law to the late Lord Kelvin, and told me a lot of stories about him. Kelvin met his wife at Madeira—a Miss Blandy—the Blandys are the agents of most of the shipping companies here, and they saw after storing our instruments, here.

I expect my next letter will be from Cape Verde Islands. I shall be glad to be progressing again; but I have enjoyed the whole of my stay here immensely—it has been a splendid holiday

With very dear love from
your loving son
Stanley

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Numbered ‘4th’ at the head. Three passages have been marked off in pencil by a later hand.

Letter from A. S. Eddington to Sarah Ann Eddington

Transcript

“The Portugal”
Sunday, April 13

My very dear Mother

We expect to reach St. Vincent about 4 o’clock this afternoon, so I shall be able to post a letter there.

There is not much to say about my last two or three days at Funchal. They passed very quickly, bathing and so on, and I was very sorry to leave. Mr. & Mrs. Jones the proprietors of the Hotel were very nice people; we saw a good deal of them, and found the hotel very comfortable.

On Monday I went round to the various offices getting my passport in order. First the British Consul had to visé it and charged 2/–. Then there was a complicated business with the Civil Governor, and a visit to the Treasury to buy the necessary revenue-stamps costing 14/2 altogether. Finally I had to see the chief-of-police, who for a wonder, did not charge any thing.

I should have found it rather difficult, but at the Civil Governor’s a man who could speak English volunteered assistance and took me to all the different places. He looked a very unkempt, seedy individual and I quite thought he was after earning a tip; but on the way he introduced me to the Governor of Principe {1} (who was in Madeira on leave) and later on asked me a lot of questions about Cambridge saying that his son was in the University of Coimbra, so I had to revise my idea. It turned out that he was Editor of the local paper; and, though I gave him some information about the expedition which duly appeared the next day, he was merely helping me out of politeness. Cottingham waited to see how I got on, and got his passport in order the next day.

The Portugal arrived punctually about 1 o’clock on Wednesday and we had to spend a good part of the afternoon seeing our baggage taken from the custom-house to the lighter and afterwards checking it on the ship. We had tea at the hotel, and went down to the pier about 5∙30. The waiter, Antonio, had taken our luggage on board before.

This is quite a decent ship about the same size as the Anselm. The cabin, which we share is large and airy. The food is good, but it is difficult to get used to the foreign meal times. We have coffee and biscuits in the cabin about 7 o’clock, déjeuner at 11, tea at 3∙30, dinner at 6, and tea again at 9∙30. The déjeuner and dinner are good meals to which I do justice, but the tea is very poor. They give us some splendid tender beefsteaks pretty often.

The weather has been good, a strong fresh wind (the trade-wind) behind us, with blue sky and warm moonlight nights. The ship goes along with a gentle easy roll. There are seven English on board (including ourselves) but three of them are men going to the cable station who leave at St Vincent. Of the others one is a man going to manage a Portuguese sugar-refinery, and the other a lady-missionary. The missionary is having a rare time with several young men dancing attendance on her and appears to be enjoying herself thoroughly. The rest of the passengers (about 20 in the first class) are Portuguese.

I have had a game of chess with the Doctor which was a very long one, lasting 2½ hours; but I think he was not very pleased at being beaten, at any rate he has not given me an opportunity of another game. I played a good many games with Geoffrey at Madeira who was keen on chess and fairly good. Cottingham does not play.

There are some actors on board and they gave two short plays last night. I went to see them but, of course, could not make out much of what was going on.

I am looking forward to some letters at Principe; I expect there will be one travelling by this ship. I hope you are all well

Much love from
your affectionate son
Stanley

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Numbered ‘5th’ at the head. Three passages have been marked off in pencil by a later hand.

{1} João Gregório Duarte Ferreira.

Letter from A. S. Eddington to Winifred Eddington

Transcript

Roça Sundy | Principe
May 5.

My dear Winifred

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With much love from
your affectionate brother
Stanley

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

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

{1} A slip for ‘sent’.

{2} The square brackets are in the MS.