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



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August 31, 1853

Macao Social Life
Macao War and Treaties
Comet of 1853

August 31st

Williams left us this morning early for Canton, will probably return for us a few days before we sail. It is lonely enough without him and Willie, who is now asleep. Read a little book by Dr. G. Spring of New York this morning. It is called “The First Woman”. It is one of a series of lectures. I liked it much. It is beautifully written. His ideas in connection with women please me much, are very true.

Friday evening at eight o’clock we sat down – a party of 16 – to Mr. Nye’s grand dinner. There were but four ladies at the table – I the only invited one. Think the dinner would have been much pleasanter had there been five or six more – so many gentlemen sitting together made them stupid. I was handed in by the Baron du Cercal. My right hand neighbor was Mr. Heard, he made a very pleasant companion. The Commodore’s band played during dinner. This had the effect of putting a stop to almost all conversation and eating. Mr. Nye as usual was nervous to a degree – makes me think of a person traveling over pins and needles. Mrs. Nye, I thought seemed entirely absorbed by the music – leaned back in her chair and had no thought of talking or eating and all seemed to think it incumbent to follow example. The band played through the evening till long after twelve. After dinner we had quite a large evening party. The music was decidedly the best part of the whole affair. Williams and I were the first to leave – we left at twelve. After taking off my dress I joined him on the piazza while he smoked his cigar. The band played three more pieces and we enjoyed them equally as well as when at Mr. Nye’s.

Early Saturday morning I sent out Willie’s invitations – all came and they had a merry time of it – there were 13 altogether – there were five nurses to take care of the little company and play with them. Their games were various – blind-man’s buff not forgotten. The oldest of the party nine, the youngest about 18 months. Till dusk they played in Willie’s magnificent sky-parlor. Williams and I went up several times to look at them; all seemed to enjoy themselves as much as possible. Willie was wild with spirits. I never saw a little creature enjoy himself more. Took part as well as the oldest in all the games. Mrs. Nye sent in a large basket full of sugar plums. I gave each of the children one just before leaving – they were perfectly delighted. I had a large table set out for them, and at seven they all sat down to their tea which they certainly seemed to enjoy. It was a pretty sight to see them. After tea till a little after eight, they played in the garden and parlor. Then they all left.

Williams and Mr. Nye expected to leave Monday morning for Canton, Williams wishing before leaving to have our two passengers that are to be dine with us and as there was no other day, they were asked to come to a quiet family dinner on Sunday. Mr. Taylor and Mr. Contee both accepted and then Williams asked Mr. and Mrs. Nye. All came, we had a pleasant dinner. All seemed to enjoy it. We rose just in time to leave for church whither Mr. and Mrs. Nye and I went. Williams remaining with the other gentlemen. At tea, the same party met with the exception of Mr. Taylor who went home to write, and the addition of Miss Nye and the two Mr. Purdies. At dusk we had a fine view of the comet through Mr. Nye’s spy glass, which he had sent in for that purpose. This comet realizes more of my childish idea of a comet. There is the bright glove or star and apparently issuing from it is the long flaming tail. It looked very beautiful.

On Monday morning Mr. Nye not feeling well and hearing that another steamboat would certainly leave this Wednesday morning, they determined to wait. So in the afternoon, Williams, Mrs. Williams and myself went to visit the “Joss Temple” where the “treaty” with Keying was signed and where he gave a splendid entertainment to all the American men. The building looks very pretty as you approach it, being entirely Chinese, not nearly as pretty however as some I have visited in Canton. For some distance before reaching the “temple” our walk took us through a very large vegetable garden. It was well taken care of. Sometimes we would have the paddy of rice growing on either side of us. This always grows in water. After tea, I dressed and we made a pleasant call on the De Silva’s. Yesterday afternoon Williams and I took a pleasant stroll through the beautiful Casa Garden and spent the latter part of the evening at Mr. Nye’s. Have been mending clothes all this morning – with the exception of an hour while reading my little book.

September 4, 1853

Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan

September 4th

Have been packing trunks all the morning for we are bound to Canton tomorrow – rather an unexpected move. Thursday evening, the day after Williams left me, I received a note from him saying our vessel would sail on the Friday of next week and that I might expect him the next day to come after us. Thursday, Willie and myself spent the day with Mrs. Nye’s family – we passed a very pleasant day. In the afternoon we had out little Emmie’s pony just arrived from Manila – it is a perfect little beauty. It has a dear little side saddle to correspond. Willie was the first to mount, he was delighted, not in the slightest degree afraid. All the children rode in turn and felt no fear. A coolie led the horse while the camprodore held their hands. Late in the afternoon we all went down to the Praia to hear the band play. They played till eight. It was truly charming.

Friday morning early I took Willie in next door to hear Mrs. Munroe play and sing “Old Folks at Home”, a great favorite of Willie’s and one he also sings. They insisted upon my again dining with them. I consented but went home to finish Mr. Sleeman’s first volume on India. Finished and sent it back to Mrs. Williams who says I can take the second volume to Canton to finish – shall read the most of it going up tomorrow. Just as we had finished dinner, we heard the steamboat gun so I left the ladies and returned home to meet Williams. He soon came and surely he was most heartily welcomed. I had soon to leave him, having made an engagement to go with a party of ladies to the Commodore’s to see his Japan, Lew Chew, Bolin and St. Helena sketches. I wanted Williams to go, but his trunk had not come up and he thought his clothes looked too tumbled. We spent a very pleasant hour at the Commodore’s. Some of the sketches were very interesting, particularly their landing (which was about seven miles from Jeddo) to meet the Japanese expedition. The Commodore explained it all most satisfactorily. It was colored and gave a good idea of the appearance presented. There was another very interesting one where they were entertained by the Governor of Lew Chew – also their return from the castle. The band played all the time that we were there, played by particular request “Old Folks at Home”. After we had looked the sketches over we were invited to take some wine and cake. The Commodore also showed us a likeness of his daughter which was very beautiful and also one of his grandson of whom he seems very proud. After we left there, instead of walking with the rest, I hurried home to Williams. Found him on the way coming to meet me. He turned and we went home, sat on the terrace and talked till Willie returned. We took tea and spent the evening with Mrs. Williams. There was a Mrs. Brewster there from Canton – she and her husband, missionaries, arrived there in January. He died very soon – she looked quite cheerful and pleased. Mrs. Harper was also there and Lt. Murray, connected with the squadron. After tea, Bayard Taylor came in – spent a pleasant evening. After tea, talked all the evening with Lt. Murray. He has been a great traveler, visited all the places where I had been and it was these and on subjects connected with them that we conversed.

Saturday morning all the Nye family, including children, the Spooners, Williams, Willie and myself accompanied Mr. Taylor to the hospital to hear the band play. The party was made up by Mr. Taylor and myself, he having told me that if I would make up the party, he would speak to the leader and request him to play some of his finest pieces. We sat on the piazza of the second story and the band played directly under us. The music sounded finely. We also saw some very pretty paintings of scenes in the Bolin Islands. Dined at Mrs. Nye’s; the children, Willie included, had a ride on Emmie’s horse, and were as much delighted as ever. We all took our afternoon walk together.

September 11, 1853

Dr. Peter Parker
The Great Exhibition of 1851

September 11th

We are fairly at sea again some 230 miles from dear Macao. We left Whampoa on Friday morning, the 9th, about 12 and kept the steamer to tow us, there being no wind till the next morning at 1am. We left Canton at nine Friday morning and met quite a party of friends on the steamboat – they were going down to Macao – all with whom we were acquainted and many more. Spent the day aboard ship not leaving till late in the evening. It was a pleasant but most fatiguing day. There were two English ladies of the party, one Mrs. Dale, I had become acquainted with her two years before at Macao. She seems to be a very lovely, amiable woman and one who has a good deal of good common sense and moreover I think her the prettiest woman I have seen in China. I enjoyed her visit much. Some of our gentleman visitors were Mr. Nye, Mr. Mugford, Mr. Tuckerman, Mr. Purdie, brother of the one engaged to Miss Nye, Mr. Don Richard Van Wagner’s friend. I had one or two long chats with him but did not admire him. He did not seem particularly smart. There were also quite a number of English gentlemen, their names I do not remember.

There were one or two of our naval ships at Whampoa. The band of the Mississippi came off in a small boat and played several sweet tunes by the side of our ship, the rowers keeping her by our side as we were slowly towed along. Just before parting they played “Home Sweet Home” and then cheers and answering cheers followed in quick succession, till we were far parted. No doubt many of them wished they were with us.

In the morning before dinner, I wrote notes to Mrs. Nye and Mrs. Munroe and made up a box of some things I thought they would like.

We have our three passengers with us – Messrs. Taylor, Contee and Parkman. I think we shall find them all pleasant. As yet we have not got settled down to a quiet sea life. I shall not till I can get my trunks and unpack and arrange my clothes. Just now I feel rather unsettled.

But to go back to China and follow up my Journal. Our things were all packed and were ready for the steamer which was expected about 12. Went into the Nye’s. Soon after the steamer arrived but its circular soon told us that it would not leave till eight in the evening, so we spent the day with our friends. Mrs. Williams called in to see us and brought me a beautiful and curious present of a Shanghai teapot. It is made of earthen and covered with representations of nuts, fruits, etc. During the morning the ladies were writing letters for the home mail, so I followed their example and wrote one short one to Mary although she deserves none, having written me but one short letter to China. In the afternoon we took our farewell walk together. Tea was made ready early and afterwards we bade them all farewell. I felt most sorry to part from them as I had become much attached. I will ever think of their kindness and our intimate friendship with much pleasure.

Willie and Mary took possession of the ladies’ Cabin and the little fellow slept well. I remained with Williams all night on deck – Mrs. Nye having kindly sent on board a couch for me and a large Chinese chair for Williams. We both slept well, though of course, waking many times during the night. Mr. Contee, Mr. Taylor and several other acquaintances were on board, spent the evening in pleasant talking.

Arrived at Canton about five in the morning and although quite dark found Mr. Nye’s servants and boat waiting for us, though we were to go to Dr. Parker’s. We went immediately on shore and soon found ourselves at the Doctor’s. Went up to my room where all things were ready for me. Mrs. Parker soon joined me. After talking awhile, although it was quite light, both agreed to take a nap. Willie and Mary meantime roaming about the house.

We spent three most pleasant days and nights at the Doctor’s. The weather was most delightfully cool all the time we were there. A number of gentlemen called to see me, some old acquaintances, others I had never before seen. One evening while there, the Doctor and Mrs. Parker showed us many things that had been presented to them. There was a good deal of handsome silver medals, etc. One of the most interesting was a gold medal sent to the Doctor by the present Pope of Rome. The Doctor having most kindly delivered three of their Priests and Bishops from a Chinese prison. One of the Bishops was very ill at the time and the Doctor had him taken directly to his house where he soon died. The medal was accompanied by a very interesting letter. He also showed us a medal certifying that he was one of the contributors to the great Exhibition of 1851.

I went out shopping but once while at Canton, went with Mrs. Parker. This shopping at Canton has lost much of its novelty to me. This year I found it very disagreeable on account of the crowds in the street preparing for two of their religious festivals – the “Feast of Lanterns” and one other, I remember not its name though I witnessed it last year when at Canton. The great night for the “Feast of Lanterns” is at the full of the moon but they had already commenced their display and we saw more or less of it every night while there. It consists of a gay lantern or lanterns, as many as one can afford, suspended over every house and boat of which there are an innumerable number on the river. It is a very pretty sight. The foreigners used to comply with the custom and lanterns were suspended over each hong, but that has been given up for the last few years. Last year when in Canton we saw many of these bright lanterns elevated to a great height by means of kites; so bright and distant and stationary were they as to be easily mistaken for stars unless watched closely and for a few minutes. In some instances there would be long strings of these lanterns – perhaps a dozen or more on a string – elevated over a boat. The effect of these is very pretty – the slightest breeze being sufficient to wave them backwards and forwards. The last night of the feast the lanterns are burnt up.

The other religious ceremony – the name of which I do not remember – I also witnessed a year ago. It lasts about six weeks – the streets are illuminated and decorated in a very gay and costly manner. Three streets only at a time are thus illuminated and these for three nights, then the next three in order and so on, till all the city outside and within the walls have had their share. This year Doctor Parker told me the ceremony would pass off very quietly and with little show – the Commissioners having requested the people on account of the rebellion to keep as quiet as possible and to prevent all large gatherings; also to save their money which they would probably ere long want.

Last year, after some little persuasion, Williams gave his consent that we should go and see for ourselves these illuminated streets; his consent only being given when Doctor Parker promised to go and take us under his particular care. It was the second night of the illumination and of course we witnessed the first three streets. When we entered the first narrow street (all the streets of China as far as my experience goes are narrow) it was one blaze of light, innumerable strings of all colored lanterns were suspended across the streets and every little while we would pass underneath a high square tower, the inside illuminated from top to bottom with circular rows of little lamps which shining as they did on the tinsel ornaments and figures of all colors and kind presented a very pretty and fairy-like show. These towers were quite high and all seemed to differ. Also, every few moments, we would come to staging thrown across the street – on the front part were automaton figures representing Chinese men and women about 1 ½ feet in height and most admirably made, the faces most expressive. These figures were acted upon by some machinery and made to represent scenes from ancient Chinese history. While these scenes were acting, there were a number of Chinese singers both male and female on the back part of the staging chanting in a wild sort of manner the story acted by the figures. We went but a short distance through each of the three streets but met in our walk a number of these scenes. Besides these, there were Chinese curiosities on all sides of us, trees dwarfed and trees made to grow in such a manner as to represent animals of various kinds and also to represent boats – some of these representations were excellent. At every corner we came upon immense idols. They were actually startling, while at their feet lay many sleeping Chinese. It was sometimes difficult to see them in their little gloomy recess as they lay with their naked bronze skins. But one of the most interesting and at first startling parts of our adventure was seeing the immense crowds of Chinese that we were the means of collecting. As Doctor Parker said we were to them a greater curiosity than was anything that we would see, to us. No doubt there were hundreds of Chinese men who saw for the first time that night, foreign women. It being something quite new for the women to venture out in such a scene and there were thousands of Chinese who came in from the country to be present at this celebration. When we first entered the street there were comparatively few to be seen. We came almost immediately upon one of the towers, or theatricals, and while my whole attention was taken up with examining the scenes, crowds were unbeknown to me collecting in numbers around us as my eye was withdrawn to more spectacles. I was startled to see the many black eyes and bronze figures cluster and almost touching us. Such looks of intense curiosity as were then beholding me, I never before or since beheld. I said to the Doctor “how shall we now be able to proceed?”, we being completely, as far as the eye could see, hemmed in by immense numbers. But the Doctor gently waved his hand and instantly the crowd separated, pressing back against each other and leaving a clear road for us and thus, whenever we would stop, we were instantly surrounded, but the moment we attempted to move, room for us was instantly made. Such a peaceful and well disposed crowd I never before beheld, for all of the crowd and pressing, they never once touched me. When we would turn from one street and enter another, perhaps not a man would be seen, but on venturing to move forward after looking at the first object that had attracted our attention, we would find that we were again surrounded by these dark and almost naked forms.

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