Sarah’s Journal2021-12-20T02:45:12+00:00



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August 10, 1853

Commodore Matthew Perry and the Opening of Japan Expedition
Samuel Wells Williams
Gideon Nye
Macao Walks

August 10th

Yesterday afternoon Mr. and Mrs. S.W. Williams called. Mr. Williams had returned but that morning from accompanying Commodore Perry in his Japan expedition, he went as an interpreter. Over a hundred of them landed. The letters were presented to one of the Princes who came to meet them and were to be forwarded immediately to the Emperor. The squadron returned again in March. Meantime Commodore Perry will take a house in Macao and his ships will go off exploring the neighboring seas. Mr. and Mrs. Williams accompanied us in our afternoon walk. We walked up on Penha Hill and there we sat for some time on the rocks. The view from this hill is very fine and commanding though the view of the town and Praia is not so fine as that from the convent garden situated on a neighboring hill. From there the view is very fine and beautiful, far more so than any I have seen. Here we sat and talked for a long time about Japan and about poor, dear Doctor Parker’s shipwreck. It was sad for him, poor man, but most laughable for us as told by Mrs. Williams.

After scrambling down what was to us a new side of the hill, we came upon the little lookout at Bishop’s Bay. Here we found Mr. and Mrs. Nye. All joined company and walked or rode home together. All together we had a charming time. Spent the evening home.

This morning and yesterday morning Mr. Nye and Williams were making calls. I also made some this morning on Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Williams of Hongkong, Mrs. Watson and Mrs. Sears. All calls were pleasant. I then went into Mrs. Nye’s and sat with her about an hour. When I came home found Williams returned. In the afternoon Willie went off for his walk. Mary took him first to Mrs. Hunter’s. She had given him a china basket the evening before but unfortunately he let it fall and it broke to pieces. She wanted him to come in the afternoon and get two Chinese figures. He came home highly delighted with them, his visit and the walk. It seems they were at dessert, the children were all sent for, ready equipped for their walk, to come to the table. Williams and myself strolled off towards Bishop’s Bay, a lovely place. We went in Sturgis’ garden, mounted the steps leading to the flat roof and there sat down and stayed till after seven. This is a beautiful spot – though much neglected. It is situated some distance above the water on a steep bank – beyond the garden ascend hills; one directly back of the garden being crowned by a convent, from the garden of which is a very fine view of Macao. The view is also fine from the roof of the little house in the garden. I have been there many times with Williams and love the place.

When we returned our Willie had not yet made his appearance. While dressing for the evening, he came in, came direct to my room and taking hold of my hand said, “Come into the parlor and see my Chinese figures. Mrs. Hunter gave them to me because I let my pretty basket fall on the ground and broke all smash.”

After tea we received a note from Mr. Nye inviting us in there to tea and to meet two or three gentlemen. Mr. Williams late from the Japan expedition among them, but we, bound to see Mrs. Williams, the wife, so declined but promised to call in on our way home. Made a very pleasant call on Mrs. Williams, conversation turned on India. She promised to send me one or two very interesting books that she has lately read on that country. She also showed us some things that her husband bought at Lew Chew. They were mostly articles of lacquer ware. She gave me one of their teacups. It consists of saucer, cup and cover, all of red lacquer. I shall quite value it as being an article brought from the first expedition. It seems the Commodore would not accept presents but insisted that Lew Chew merchants should bring a variety of their wares down to the shore and have a sort of bazaar there. He then allowed every member of the expedition to take turns in going on shore to buy what articles they pleased. They had nothing very handsome or valuable to dispose of as the Lewchewans are a very poor people.

On our return we stopped at Mr. Nye’s, had a little chat with Mr. Williams. He had conversed with some of the members of the deputation, thought them more intelligent than the Chinese. A number came on board their steamship. Their questions regarding the machinery, steam, etc. were very intelligent. Some of them also seemed to have a much better idea of geography than any Chinese he had ever met with. On being shown a map they pointed out New York, Boston and several places mentioned in the United States, also in Europe. Their dress was neat, various, in many cases very rich – particularly that worn by the Prince which was made from the richest brocade silk. His dress consisted of a sort of jacket and very loose trousers with a girdle or sash around the waist. Some of the Officers and Soldiers were clad in complete armor. Their arms were various. About half past ten we had some delicious ice cream which certainly was most refreshing. As we were leaving, we received an invitation to dinner on Friday. They expected to have quite a large dinner party.

August 11, 1853

August 11th

Another beautiful bright day and I suppose will be equally warm with yesterday. Have sent for Mrs. C.D. Williams to spend the day with me. I know not yet if she will come.

August 12, 1853

Japan: An Account Geographical and Historical by Charles MacFarlane
James Perkins Sturgis and His Gardens
Gideon Nye
Macao Social Life

August 12th

Yesterday one or two gentlemen called. Mr. Stewart was one. When we were here two years ago, Williams did not call on his wife, not caring to have me visit her, she having a reputation of picking friends and foes to pieces and holding them up to be viewed by the world. However, with the advice of Mr. Nye, he thought best to call. The lady not withstanding his former neglect received him most kindly and hoped I would call. I shall go very soon. She is quite old and in most delicate health – never goes out of the house. Mrs. S.W. Williams and she are great friends. She urged Mr. Howland’s calling very much when here before and now she is glad to think that I am to make her acquaintance. She says Mrs. Stewart is very animated and interested in conversation. She has lived a great many years in this country and in India and talks most intelligently and pleasantly of the last country. If I am only able to hear her I have no doubt that I shall enjoy my call or calls there. But that’s the difficulty, I could not understand her husband yesterday and when I asked him to raise his voice it was little better. I could only catch a word here and there and form some idea of what he was saying.

To my relief, Mrs. C.D. Williams came in to spend the day. Another gentleman was also in, Mr. Van Loffatt. We three became engaged in conversation and Williams had a long talk with Mr. Stewart. During the course of our conversation, Mr. Van Loffatt mentioned the annual rise of the Canton river. It submerges the country for a number of miles on either side making it very rich and fruitful. It continues for about 30 days. Its rise is very gentle and as it is every expected, no injury is ever done to property. When he left Canton last Sunday at high tide all went about the streets in boats – even up at Mr. Nye’s it would be 18” deep. At Canton the river is banked up or the ground naturally much higher than the river, the last I think else it would be much deeper.

We also were speaking of the compactness of the city, of its dense population and its wonderful healthiness. This, persons competent to judge, think owing in great measure to the immense quantity of firecrackers fired off every day. You cannot go out into the streets but you constantly hear the sound of them.

We also spoke of the Japanese expedition, mentioned that Mr. Williams was reminded of the Mandarin ducks when he saw the principal men of the Japanese delegation, so gay and various were the colors in the dress of each one. The brocaded silks that they wear were very rich and the figures of every color. I then asked him questions of the Mandarin ducks. He expressed surprise that I should have been three times to China and yet never have seen one. Mrs. Williams confessed to 8 years residence and yet never a sight of one had she had. One sees at the best but little of China, and we poor ladies just nothing at all. And then another thing, these things may all be spoken of again and again when I am present and yet I may not hear a word. I had not even heard of these ducks. What a fund of information I might gain if I could but hear the conversation going around me, but I must be content with my ignorance.

Had a pleasant visit from Mrs. Williams – she left us a little after four. Willie went away happy at half past five for his walk. Williams took a nap in his chair and took up MacFarlane’s “Japan” a book I commenced in the morning and found very interesting. Read till six then got ready for my walk and woke Williams but he was feeling lazy and disinclined for walking. I took off my things and we took our chairs on the plaza where we sat, with the exception of a stroll through the garden, till Willie’s return. Williams thought he would like to transport the garden just as it is to the United States. The variety of trees in it are very great, also a number of tropical fruit trees. All these trees were planted by old Mr. Sturgis who died some two years ago. Williams knew him very well. The old gentleman had lived in China forty years. Willie came in delighted with his walk and as he sat on my lap told us about all that he had seen and made his remarks thereon. About 9 o’clock Williams went into Mr. Nye’s and I took up my book.

This morning is delightful – the sun shaded by clouds. We dine at Mr. Nye’s. When Williams came in last evening he mentioned that Mr. Nye had received a note from Bayard Taylor, the author, saying that he would like to take passage home with us. He has been with Commodore Perry and returns disappointed with the sudden present termination of Japan affairs. He cannot wait to go again in March. Mr. Williams during their absence became quite well acquainted with him – found him a very interesting and intelligent companion.

Mr. Nye called for Williams about two o’clock to go with him and call on Commodore Perry. During their absence I dressed for the dinner party and Mary was just putting her finishing strokes as Williams came in. At four we went in, found Mr., Mrs. and Miss Spooner there and Mr. and Mrs. S.W. Williams soon followed. Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Williams of Hongkong had been invited but Mrs. Williams left that morning unexpectedly for home. Her husband coming for her. Her grandfather, Mr. Rawls, had failed in business at Hongkong but the day before.

Our dinner party was a large and pleasant one – besides being very elegant. Mr. Nye must be very wealthy. They live most elegantly. Their house is by far the finest here and furnished with every luxury and elegance. I can hardly recognize it as the house I lived in for two months, two years ago. The dessert was beautiful, fruits and flowers piled up together. The house was dressed beautifully with flowers. In the square hall before entering the entrance leading to the immense drawing room was a very large and fine peacock framework of wire but entirely covered with flowers. On the second piazza or terrace were two large baskets of flowers made in the same way, and an immense lantern covered beautifully with flowers. These were all hanging from the roof and low enough to admire of close inspection. In the evening the lantern was lit up – the heat meanwhile causing a set of figures constantly to revolve round the lantern. It was really quite curious. After dinner instead of going out to take the usual ride or walk, we all walked several times round the large garden, the walk being beautifully shaded by trees. Afterwards conversation, playing at a game somewhat resembling billiards, looking at illustrated papers, books and engravings of which Mrs. Nye has any quantity and constantly receiving fresh supplies. After tea a large party gathered round one of the tables with the wish of having a table-moving scene for our own and the company’s edification, but the party behaving so badly it was given up.

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