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



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March 1, 1853

King Arthur: A Poem by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Lardner’s Outlines of History

March 1st

First day of Spring for home folks; with us, delightful warm weather. Today at twelve we have made two hundred and thirty miles. Our pleasant wind continues, and this morning we are going smoothly along at the rate of nine or ten knots.

My husband continues to improve much to my delight and walks quite like himself again. Cannot commence reading aloud yet, although he partly promised yesterday. He now says I must wait until he has finished his newspapers. Oh dear! I hope he is nearly at the end of them.

I have commenced Bulwer’s “King Arthur” today, in perfect despair of Williams ever getting through his papers. I want so much to read it, I cannot wait. I expected it would have been my first book after leaving but others have been before it. Tomorrow I must commence and read an hour or two in Gibbon. Must take the time for that when Willie sleeps.

I was much amused with Willie this morning. Before breakfast Willie, his father and myself were looking at a volume of Punch. Willie, who is quite at home with “Mr. Punch”, as he calls him, was pointing out the different personages, Duke of Wellington, Lord Brougham, Sir Robert Peel and etc. Soon his father was called on deck and Willie himself went into the Cabin where the young gentleman called for paper and pencil to make “old men” with. His wants being supplied, and he on my lap, commenced making his head, or as he calls them “old men”. He made several and then said, pointing to one with a famous nose, “Mama, that is the Duke of Wellington” – another Lord Brougham, another Sir Robert Peel, etc. Another of his favorite personages is Mr. Punch himself, and Willie at all times draws him well enough for anyone to recognize. This passion for drawing “old men” is very great. The consumption of paper, in consequence the same.

Willie has, indeed, a wonderful memory. Of this we have been aware for nearly a year but I never was more struck with it than this evening. As soon as the little fellow finished his tea came the usual request, “Mama show Willie book”. I read him a little hymn of five verses that I had read to him the night before, and then only once. After I had read it once this evening, Willie said, “Willie say it, Mama”. So, I read the first few words and the little kittie finished the line, and this he did in many places. After he has heard it two or three times more he will know it perfectly. Since leaving home I have given him among others a little book called “Nursery Rhymes”. He already knows some dozen of them by heart, and a good many others imperfectly. I never attempt to teach him anything and hope I shall never be induced to until he is certainly six years old. But it is his greatest amusement to have his books read to him and to hear them read for him to learn. Some months ago, Willie was particularly fond of looking at the pictures in an old school book of mine called “Lardner’s Outlines of History”. When he looked at the pictures he wanted to be told about them. It seemed foolish to tell him about Napoleon, Wellington, and Brutus, etc. but the child wanted it, and so we did. One day we found out what a retentive memory he had. He was sitting on my lap, looking at, and asking about, the pictures in the same book. The thought occurred to me to try and see if he remembered what I had told him about the several pictures. His father was sitting by and we were both so startled by the results, that a little fellow, not much more than two years old, should have his head filled not only with the contents of some dozen silly story books, but also with a partial of historical names and events, that we concluded to put the book away and say nothing more concerning it. It was done, and he has never seen it since. However, day before yesterday, I asked him a few questions to try how retentive his memory might be – the result was that every question was answered correctly, so I concluded to let the matter rest.

Accomplished two hundred and twenty-three miles today.

March 2, 1853

March 2nd

Two hundred miles made today. Our wind continues about the same, so hope to cross the equator by day after tomorrow, perhaps before. The weather continues to be delightful, cool, and refreshing this afternoon and evening, but we must expect it to grow warmer and warmer every day.

Enjoyed a delightful walk this evening with Williams on deck. The stars of heaven were bright and beautiful, and the ocean star hardly less so, but Williams says I must to bed.

March 3, 1853


March 3rd

One hundred and fifty miles – a warm day and have felt somewhat languid and lazy.

Read an hour and a half in Gibbon directly after breakfast, the first of it is very dull reading. After I read more in the narrative, I know I shall find it very interesting. This morning’s reading was a sort of prelude to the history, all very necessary but dry as dust. As to “King Arthur”, I am disappointed as far as I have read. From what I heard I expected to find it very beautiful and very interesting. So far, I do not think it either – not to be compared to “New Timon”. I may change my opinion, but I think not. A great deal of it seems to be very labored and very harsh – not at all musical. Certainly, it does not read as if it gushed from his soul.

This morning after Gibbon, wrote considerable; wrote to Horatia and Mary. How I should like to see them both. This afternoon I went up on deck with “King Arthur” and found Willie, Charlie and Colin sitting on one of the long benches with Mary on a small bench in front. Charlie was singing songs, Mary keeping time for him on the tin barrel of Willie’s little water cart. Willie was the very picture of delight and happiness and looked up with wonder on Charlie as he sang. There was one song that Charlie sang two or three times after I went up, how many times before I know not. It seemed to be Willie’s favorite. It had a chorus and Willie had become so familiar with it, that he joined in each time. They sat there listening to Charlie full an hour after I went up. Willie’s little bright, happy face attracted my attention, so much that I made slow progress with my poem, so sent Noah for the chessboard and called Colin away for a game. I unintentionally broke up the singing party and Willie came to kiss my hand and stand at my knee; in a few moments, however the awning was partly taken down with one side drawn up so as to form a sort of hammock. Willie, Charlie and Noah soon found this out, and in a moment all were hid from sight in the folds of the canvas, Willie’s voice however could be heard from one end of the ship to the other. I went with father to take a peek at him. For a moment he would be on his feet dancing in high glee, the next, tumbling and rolling on the canvas. He dearly loves to frolic, and he is as good as he can be all day. He is a perfect treasure.

This evening enjoyed a delightful walk of near two hours with Williams on deck. We always take this evening walk directly after I have seen my Willie is in bed and heard him say his little prayer and hymn. The stars were beautifully bright, and we had a fine wind. More of the phosphorescent appearance in the water we so much enjoyed last evening. Our sunset this evening was beautiful; the sun set behind a magnificent dark blue cloud, the edges of which were lit up with gold light as also the small clouds in the neighborhood. Occasionally the sun in its descent would pass a small opening in the cloud and would shine with splendor from this dark setting. But the ten bell collected us from this beautiful sight. After tea we all again sought the deck. The sun had set sometime but the whole heavens were lit up with the warmth of its departing rays giving the ocean the most beautiful of purple hues and then for the first time on this voyage we had those beautiful, fantastic and wild looking (for all such appearances do they present) grouping clouds so peculiar to Tropical Climes. These always take what the workers in indecipherable work call “shades of white”. I have often and often seen those clouds when they resemble beautiful groups of statuary. This evening one large dark one exactly resembled a monkey. Williams and myself amused ourselves with discussing its perfectness and watching its changes. There was another dark cloud resembling one of those fantastic looking Chinese boats and another white cloud beautifully shaded rose from the center. This, I told Williams, must be “Mercury”, it having the perfect resemblance of a man with wings on either side of the head. It was a beautiful picture. I also saw a head resembling a singular looking old gentleman living in New York. On our last voyage from San Francisco to China we used to see these resemblances to animals so perfect that even little Willie, without having his attention turned to them by any one of us, would exclaim, “Mama, that looks like a dog”, or bear or whatever else it might.

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