From A Visit to India, China and Japan in the Year 1853 by Bayard Taylor
We now experienced a succession of calms and baffling winds for five days, as we stood south by west across the Sea of Celebes, making for the Straits of Macassar. There was an occasional squall of an hour or two, which gave us a “slant” in the right direction. The wind at last shifted, so that we were able to run upon our course close-hauled, and on the afternoon of the 25th we caught a distant and misty view of the Haring Islands. The next morning at sunrise, we saw the lofty headland of Point Kaneoongan, in Borneo, at the western entrance of the straits. Cape Donda, in Celebes, thirty miles distant, appeared for a short time, but was soon hidden by showers.
A very cloudy day with a good wind. This is a delightful change, having had a head wind ever since being in the Celebes Seas with but a few hours exception. If this wind continues we shall soon, in the course of two or three hours, enter the Makassar Strait. The small island of Haring is now in sight. I trust with all my heart that we shall continue to have favorable winds and soon leave Java Head behind us.
Last evening finished “Little Pedlington” by John Poole. Marie Cobb lent it to me, telling me at the time to read it when I wanted a good laugh. I have found it very amusing, however, thought there was rather much of it – two volumes. It is an extravaganza on the people and society of a small out of the way English town, but there is far, far more truth in it than one might first think as they read laughingly on. I have seen very much of the same thing myself, most particularly the subject matter causing the grand final excitement that closes the second volume, setting the whole town “by the ears”. One hears too much of this in China, especially in Macao. How ready we are to detect and talk of each other’s faults – why cannot we be blind to these, or at least leave them alone and delight ourselves and friends in all the good traits of our friends – but alas! It does not seem to be in human nature to do so. I always feel vexed enough with myself if I allow myself to say aught to the disadvantage of another. It is a miserable plan ever to talk of friends or acquaintances unless it may be something within favor – each will soon enough find out for themselves all the faults of those we are thrown with.
Our little Willie has been much better the last few days, his cough has almost entirely left him. He is asleep, his father and I have just been in to look at him. He looks beautifully, sleeping most peacefully with one little arm thrown over his head, and one little leg drawn slightly up so as to allow his Japanese crying baby a snug little place to lie. The two together, they are really a pretty sight. Willie with his little face so quiet and composed and the little “Japanie” as he calls her, with her bright and smiling face and her large black eyes gazing up so intelligently.
This morning had quite a long walk with Mr. Taylor on deck. The more I become acquainted with Mr. Taylor the more I like him. He is ever bright and pleasant, his conversation most interesting, always has something to say worth listening to and remembering. He enjoys highly everything that is laughable and amusing and with humor and is ever ready to contribute his share. There is nothing whatever conceited about him. He gives you the idea of freshness and frankness. Though this morning he gave me an amusing account of a visit that a friend of his, Mr. Taylor’s, made him. He found Tennyson with Carlyle both with pipes in their mouths and smoking away famously – their subject of discourse, “William the Conqueror”. Carlyle said that he was a glorious man – that such a man, or fifty such were needed now – wished he could come to life the same as ever. Tennyson entirely disagreed with his friend, said, if he did, he would like to run him through with a sword. The two got quite excited on the subject and really became very angry talking and smoking away all the time at a great rate. I fancy an intimate acquaintance would do away with very much of “hero-worship”. Mr. Taylor does not like Carlyle – I like much his earlier writings, particularly some of his miscellaneous. His articles on Burns, I think one (or did think so when I read it some ten or twelve years ago) of the most beautiful things I have ever read in the English language; his thoughts so beautifully poetical. I also like much his “French Revolution”, his “History of Cromwell”, his “Hero Worship”, etc., but there are many, and particularly works written more recently, that I do not at all like – indeed cannot at all understand. They seem more like a jargon of words than anything else; what a great pity that he should thus have ruined his own original and beautiful style.
We also spoke of my particular favorite, Macauly – of the great contrast their two styles of writing presented – Macauly’s so clear, precise and majestic brilliant and so very powerful. I asked Mr. Taylor if he knew why Macauly delayed so long before he gave the world another volume of his “History of England”. He said that he had understood that two more were nearly ready but added that he feared that Mr. Macauly would never finish it. I asked why? He said that his health was miserable in consequence of his indulgence in opium. I really was shocked and distressed to hear it. Thought Macauly had too much strength of mind ever to become a slave to any such habit. I hope Mr. Taylor’s mistaken, if not, it is very, very sad. Mr. Taylor further remarked that the use of opium among the distinguished men of England was becoming very common.
We talked of old books, quaint and queer – among others he mentioned one published about the time of Bunyon’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” the title of it “Loaves baked in the oven of charity for the chickens of Church, the sparrows of the Covenant, and the sweet swallows of Salvation”. He also mentioned an amusing saying of, I think he said, Alcott’s “Pleasure’s flour mixed with virtues bran would make good gingerbread, if seasoned with the butter of Benevolence and the molasses of Magnanimity and baked in the pan of Tribulation”. Mr. Taylor did not recollect all the circumstances that gave rise to this amusing remark. It arose in a conversation about the virtues of bran and flour, distinct or the whole grain powdered together.
Speaking of travelers cutting their names on ruins, etc., he said he was very much provoked by seeing the name of Mr. Willoughby of Brooklyn carved on the Pyramid and, everything else in Egypt, every letter being a large capital. Said he often felt as if he would like to see a good thrashing administered to him.
From A Visit to India, China and Japan in the Year 1853 by Bayard Taylor...
On the 27th, at noon, we were in 0° 5′ S., having crossed the Equator about 11 A. M., and thenceforth, for four days, we slowly loitered along through the Straits of Macassar, with light, variable winds, and seasons of dead, sultry calm. The mercury stood at 88° in the coolest part of the ship. The sea was as smooth as a mirror, and as glossy and oily in its dark blue gleam, as if the neighboring shores of Macassar had poured upon it libations of their far-famed unguent. Occasonally we saw the shores of Celebes, but so distant and dim that it was rather like a dream of land than land itself. We walked the deck languidly, morning and evening, sat under the the awning by day, alternately dozing and smoking and reading, watched the drift-wood floating by—mangrove logs, with companies of sea-fowl making their fishing excursions—ate for occupation, and slept with difficulty: and thus the days passed.
Head winds and calms have been the order of the day, and in consequence we did not enter the Strait of Makassar till yesterday and at present there is no telling when we shall leave it and enter the Java Sea. Our course thus far has been equally distant from the Celebes and Borneo shores and we do not see either. This is quite an aggravation as I am most anxious to see both. I only wish Williams would run his ship in such a way as to give us a good peek at both and then if we could see some birds of Paradise flying over the Celebes shore that would be perfect.
And now we are again in the southern hemisphere, passed the line yesterday morning soon after breakfast. May our passage through it be a short and pleasant one, carrying us ever onward till we reach home. Dear home, there I hope to abide for at least one year.
Sometimes I think I cannot possibly go the next voyage even if Williams goes, and then again I feel that I would not for the world let him take such a long voyage without me, be at such an immense distance from home and alone. The thought of sickness or evil happening to him, my own beloved husband, and I not by to administer help, love and consolation, would be more agony than I could endure; No, God grant, Williams beloved, that we may never be parted, that is for any great distance. Where thou goest, I will go.
Day before yesterday I commenced Hawthorne’s “House of the Seven Gables” and finished it yesterday. It is a charming story and beautifully written, some parts powerfully so. As usual with Hawthorne it has its share of wild, horrible and ghostlike. I must say, however, that I was rather shocked at that long soliloquy of his ever Judge Pyncheon as he sat a corpse in the old family chair. It is powerfully written, but all of it did not seem to be in good taste. I liked it not. Mr. Taylor thought it the finest passage in the book. I told him it was too horrible. He liked it for that reason. Phoebe, beautiful character, so fresh and healthy, and good poor old Hepszibah. I like thee too, old maid, Pyncheon.
Bishop Heber’s Journal becomes more and more interesting. He is now (that is with me) arriving at Cawnpore. The account of his visit to Benares is extremely interesting. It made me long to go there, that most holy city of the Hindus. Although so large and holy a city, Bishop Heber mentioned that few suttees happened there in comparison, on account of the great scarcity of wood, but that self-immolation in the river was very common. He says that many scores every year come from every part of India to end their days at this holy place, thus securing their salvation. They purchase two large kedgeree pots between which they tie themselves when empty; these support their weight in the water. They paddle out into the river then fill the pots with the water and thus sink. Now, whenever the English group, all suttees are done away with. I must ask Mr. Taylor about this self-immolation in the water.
At Chunar the Bishop was introduced to the holiest spot of all India. It is in, or very near, the old Hindu Palace. A rusty iron door was opened which was in a very rugged and ancient wall and he was introduced into a small square court overshadowed by a very old peaceful tree growing from the rock at one side, and from the branches of which hung a small silver bell. Under it was a large slab of black marble and opposite, on the walls, a rudely carved rose enclosed in a triangle. No image was visible, but some Sepoys who’d followed them, fell on their knees, kissed the dust in the neighborhood of the stone and rubbed their foreheads with it. On this stone all Hindus believe that the Almighty is seated, personally, though invisibly, for nine hours every day, removing during the other three hours to Benares. On this account the Sepoys believe that Chunar can never be taken by an enemy, except between the hours of six and nine in the evening, and for this same sacred reason the king of Benares before the Musselman conquest had all the marriages of their family celebrated in the adjoining palace.
Last evening after tea Mr. Taylor made his appearance on deck with a regular Turkish pipe – the stem bamboo, pointed mouthpiece of ivory and bowl some kind of red earthenware. He smoked the Turkish tobacco in it. While he smoked he sat Turkish fashion on the deck. I stood talking by his side a few moments when missing Willie I looked for him. Much to our amusement the little fellow was sitting on the deck with his legs crossed under him and with one of the pens from the side of the ship up to his mouth, smoking Turkish fashion. In imitation of Mr. Taylor he looked as sober as possible, notwithstanding the merry laugh of us all. Willie is very observant, particularly of all that gentlemen wear or do. He amuses me constantly with his efforts to do as he sees the gentlemen on board do. He will sit on a high chair and then cross one little leg over the other feeling very grand while he sits this fashion. His father says he scarce ever changes a coat, etc. but that Willie notices and makes some remark about it.
Mr. Taylor and I were talking of Miss Barrett or rather Mrs. Browning and her poems yesterday. I asked him particularly about the truth of the story of her running away and getting married. Why a woman of her age and state of health – having kept her room, generally her bed, for ten years previous to her marriage should think it necessary actually to run off and get married. It seems her father is immensely wealthy and very aristocratic. He knew of their attachment, but looked upon it with such cold discouraged eye that she knew he never would consent and if he had an idea of her determined intention to marry him, he would forbid and have her watched so closely that it would be impossible for her to get away. So all things were kept very secret. One or two servants were bribed and secured her retreat. The couple went immediately to Paris; the change and excitement being of such benefit to the lady’s health that she was able to travel all through France and, I believe, other countries. They have made Italy, Florence I think, their home. Her marriage displeased her father exceedingly and he will have nothing to do with her – even returns her letters unopened. It’s now some six or seven years since her marriage.
Bulgaria, Morocco, France and India are the major rose oil producing countries.
“Arkprakash” an old Sanskrit text mentions rose water distillation and a famous Buddhist monk, Nagarjuna, who lived in the 8th-9th century has given details on how rose water is to be distilled. Around the same time the Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun also described the process.
Rose Attar or Otto is Rose Oil, also called Ruh Gulab.
Attar is a Persian word meaning perfume.
It is made from steam distillation of rose flowers plucked very early in the morning.
The first product is rose water and from the water, over a period of days, rose oil in minute quantities is collected.
1 kg of oil is obtained from 4000 kgs of petals.
10 gms of rose attar are equivalent in price to 10 gms of gold
Rose water is used as a coolant and medicinally in eye drops and lotions and as skin moisturizers.
It is also used as food flavouring, especially in Indian sweets and as a welcome spray at all festive occasions, like weddings.
Rose oil is used in perfumes, soaps and other cosmetics like creams and lotions, for flavouring soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, as also in the Indian system of medicine.
Our voyage proceeds at a dull pace, we are still in the Makassar Strait and there is no knowing how soon we shall bid farewell to it. Today we have just wind enough to say that the ship moves along. It is wretchedly tedious and then the weather is extremely hot. It makes one feel most dull and languid. Oh! How I tire at present of this weary monotonous life at sea. However, it will be different when we leave Java Head behind us and are sailing with a good trade wind through the Indian Ocean. Then Williams will be free again and I shall so very much enjoy his society. We shall walk as of old and have our nice long talks.
I spent this morning mending some clothes of Williams, also mending all Willie’s broken playthings, and when the little fellow awoke from his nap he found them, much to his delight, all ready to play with.
Yesterday afternoon went on deck awhile before tea. Williams showed me a large fruit which was one of some half dozen that had drifted past the ship. Two were caught in the net. One was cut open. Mr. Taylor tasted it, said it tasted like a chestnut. It is a pretty shape, has four sides with very sharp corners and goes up to a long point at one end, and a short one at the other. Each side is as much as three inches wide and it is four and one-half long, I should think its color brown. The husk or shell is quite hard and very thick. Williams gave me the perfect one and I shall try to keep it. It is now hanging up in the Cabin. No one on board has seen anything like it and, of course, its name is unknown. Also he had by his side a pail of water with several, to me, new varieties of sea weed, some very pretty; one of a pale green looked like a cluster of hops. Also there was a very singular looking fish, it was about four inches long, had fins and what looked like a fin on the back. These with his tail were all in motion as he moved along; his body was smooth and body fins, tail and all resembled exactly the spotted sea weed we picked up on the seashore and he looked as if he would snap like those same sea weed if someone would press him between their fingers. This fish was, indeed to us all quite a curiosity. I should like to have kept him as a production from Makassar Strait. The nut that I have must have belonged to either the Island of Celebes or Borneo.
This afternoon Celebes was in sight, but a long distance off, none but practiced eyes could see it. This afternoon a long thick leaf was picked up. It had been used as a cup by some natives, one end being neatly drawn together and fastened with bamboo. Intended to have kept it but forgot and left it on deck.
This afternoon read Heber’s account of his visit to Lucknow, etc. Talked with Mr. Taylor about it this evening. Since the Bishop’s visit, the place has improved very much. Then it had 300,000 inhabitants and the Bishop mentions no very fine buildings. The palace did not even seem to be one. Mr. Taylor says that it now has 700,000 inhabitants and many splendid buildings; the present king, son of the one who reigned during the Bishop’s visit, has a new and very fine palace. Lucknow is now a very gay place, large loans have been lent not only by the present king but by his father to the British Company who regularly pay the interest. This money, a very large sum, is spent in all sorts of gaiety at Lucknow. Many wealthy and princely families have at late come to live at Lucknow, preferring to be subject to a native king, and parties are the order of the day. Mr. Taylor mentioned that two very fine and handsome bridges have lately been built over the Gomti, on which river Lucknow is situated. Mr. Taylor mentioned that the present King of Oudh is almost in some respects an idiot and entirely governed by his minister who is an ambitious bad man. This was pretty much the case with his father. He, however, was nothing of an idiot though owing to his education he understood not the art of governing but was very learned in many subjects. Bishop Heber likens him to James the First of England. Mr. Taylor mentioned one or two quite amusing stories where the poor king had been imposed upon. One where a favorite dog was made to bark almost incessantly, he complained much was told that nothing but a bath of rose water would cure him, so the dog had ordered to his account four quarts of rose water a day. Mr. Taylor speaks of the country comprised with in the Kingdom of Oudh as being not only exceedingly beautiful but extremely fertile; its products very numerous and various comprising both tropical and temperate varieties.
When Mr. Taylor was at Allahabad on the Elganes, just above Benares, he visited a piece of ground of two acres set apart for the shaving of the hair. The Hindus believe that those who have their hair shaved at this place shall for each hair that falls be entitled to one million years in Paradise. This ground is entirely open and notwithstanding all the hair that wind and weather may carry away it is several inches thick with it. Mr. Taylor saw a number shaved here, spoke particularly of one man who had the thickest beard and head of hair (jet black) he ever saw, had it all shaved off. He said the change he presented was curious indeed. However, he gained as he poor soul frankly believed, many, many millions of years of happiness. They certainly seem to have quite an idea of Eternity.
The Bishop speaking of Chazopoor just below Benares says that it is celebrated for the beauty and extent of its rose garden. Many hundred acres are thus cultivated. The rose water there is good and cheap, a large quart can be had for a few shillings. The attar is obtained after the rose water is made by setting it out during the night and till sunrise in the morning in large open vessels exposed to the air and then skimming off the essential oil which floats at the top. The rose water thus skimmed bears a lower price but there is said to be very little perceptible difference in it! To produce one rupee’s weight of attar, 200,000 well grown roses are required. The price even on the spot is extravagant. A rupee’s weight being sold in the bazaar for 80 L.R. and it is often adulterated with sandalwood. At the English warehouse where it is warranted genuine at 100 L.R. at 10 lbs. I can hardly understand how they are paid for the expense even at this price.
Oh, Molly dear, how much I wish you were with me. I think of you very, very often and fancy you are most impatient to see us again. Sometimes I think perhaps we shall not find you your own mistress, but engaged to another. If he is worthy of thee how glad I shall be, thou wilt be much happier but then I shall miss thee very much. In that case you will not go with me another long tedious voyage, if it be my lot to take another.
The more I see of Mr. Contee the less I like of him. I like not his looks, only his pretty little white hands, so soft and plump, and of which he is so excessively vain. He is forever looking at them and fussing with them, constantly spreading them out before one’s eyes. They are really very pretty and sometimes I have a mind to tell him so, perhaps then he would afford them a little more rest.