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AN EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY TRAVEL ACCOUNT COVERING THE PACIFIC, THE
AMERICAN WEST AND THE FAR EAST ON THE GLENN LINE ~ THE MAIN LONDON-CHINA
STEAMSHIP COMPANY ~ INCLUDING AN ACCOUNT OF JACK THE COWGIRL
Strictly Private. From Far East to
Far West. A Further Diary of A voyage to the Orient & Across the Pacific. A
rough incomplete record of some of the things seen and heard. NEC TARDE NEC
TIMIDE. March 1902.
By R. B. P.
A neat quarto manuscript notebook on
lined paper, with an account of a journey from Algiers, to Penang, Singapore,
Hong Kong, Shanghai, Annam, Philippines, back to Hong Kong, Japan, the Pacific,
USA (Seattle), the Wild West, Tacoma, and back to Hong Kong, then to Europe via
Italy and Brittany. The description of the US wild west is particularly
evocative. The writer appears to be a general practitioner of 13 years (page
5), apparently has signed up as the ship’s doctor. Though headed private, the
author has drawn up the account carefully with corrections throughout, and
experimented with two title pages.
Details: Dimensions: 25cm x 21cm x 3.2
cm. Lined notebook, with bookseller label; J. H. Bishop, Heraldic & Art
Stationer, 18 & 19 The Arcade, Bournemouth [UK]. Original half leather with
cloth boards, hinged started, somewhat rubbed, internally clean. Some 220
written pages in all, mostly on the rectos, with some notes to verso in a clear
hand, with occasionally later corrections or additions, some in red. A neat log
of the ship’s voyage is folded and loosely inserted; an account of an Irishman
in a barfight tucked into the pages on Seattle.
Contents run: Title page; Strictly
private From Far East to Far West A voyage to the Orient & Across the
Pacific; A rough incomplete record of some of the things seen and heard. RBP,
there follows a similar title page; then Index (3 sides); a postscript at the
beginning (two sides), and the account begins: 1. [The voyage; start]. 2
Algiers to Penang. 3. Penang. 4. Singapore. 5. Hong Kong. 6. Shanghai. 7.
Saigon. 8 The Philippines. 9. Hon Kong. 10. Japan. 11. Kobe. 12. Pacific Ocean.
13. Uncle Sam’s Territory: Seattle. 14.
Tacoma. 15. Homeward Bound. 16. Old Countries Again: Kobe. 17. Italy. 18. [Voyage
Home] Hatred is stronger than emotion. Extract from the Ship’s Log showing
places and distances travelled. 12 pages blank. Rough notes on Malta (two
pages). 4 pages blank. FOLLOWED BY ‘Five and a half months in Brittany
(France). 18 leaves, with some notes also on versos. Then 44 blank pages. Four
pages ‘Notes on Japan’ followed by GLOSSARY; Hindistani word list (two sides);
Chinese word list (three sides); Zulu word list (two sides), three pages notes
on the American cowboy, timber (one side), ending with a few lines on American
The voyages begin on June 22nd, 1901,
and he spends the initial pages speculating on what a man needs to be
successful in life, industry, chance or cheating reflecting the long nights
that give one time to think going across the sea. His thoughts also go back to
his time in South Africa. The ship then arrives in Algiers, then on to Port
They appear to have rested in
Singapore, arriving in Hong Kong on August 18th, where they stayed four days
before going onto Shanghai with the mails. He describes Shanghai for some nine
pages, before they arrive in Saigon on September 12th, and then to the
Philippines, which he discusses in some detail, before returning to Hong Kong,
and then to Japan, and Kobe. After Kobe, they set sail across the Pacific, and
land in Vancouver on Nov 1st, and then onto Seattle by November 3rd, upon which
he writes extensive notes, including an account of Tacoma.
From there, they return retrace their
steps via Hong Kong gradually to Europe, to Italy, landing in Naples, where he
writes extensively on Pompei. There follow twelve blank pages, and the author
takes up his travels again talking of Brittany, there follow further blank
pages until there are endnotes on Japan, and vocabulary drawn from his travels,
with a note on the American cowboy, the Hobo, The Den or Dive, Timber (in
Washington State), and American gold diggers.
The author is an intelligent
thoughtful man who takes a systematic interest in the places where he visits,
particularly the US West, Japan, China, Philippines, Hong Kong, Italy and
France. Interesting in themselves, the account also gives a fascinating
insight into a complete voyage by one of the most important of the links
between China and Britain at the height of a golden period of maritime trade
before the Great War.
Example extracts from his writings on
the US, which total approximately 30 pages:
decent tramp of Seattle is a place springing up as rapidly as mushrooms &
called Ballard & the house at present are all of wood some resembling the
Malay by being perched up on piles or uprights from the ground. Everything
seems labour saving particularly noticeable at the saw mills where huge trees
are stripped of their bark & cut into planks in no time, the
electric-elevators for unloading ships is an example...During our preambles
& searchings curious characters dropped in our way, but one of the most
noticeable was Jack a true daughter of the Wild West (see note at end, the
Now Jack was a
natural girl if ever there was one, moving in the early days in Texas, Mexico
& down California & gradually migrating farther north until the present
finds her in a wild up country ranch surrounded by her father’s cattle, horses,
& cowpunchers or more commonly known as cowboys …This Jack a bronzed-face
girl of 28 or 30 with ruffled hair under a large hat & short, evidently
divided skirt…she wore over her well-developed calves the American high lace-up
boot & small spurs on both feet. A loaded riding whip in hand, a gun
(revolver) in a holster at her side…on further acquaintance, she could ride,
shoot, take a peg, & [?]form swear words common to the country like any
trooper…She was not illiterate far from it & I can only remember her as a
good hearted generous lass who could be true blue if occasion arose….I
commented on her wearing two spurs as a woman, she replying with Yankee Drawl
& emphasis something about never yet meeting an Englishman who understood
or could ride a horse….more roaring on her part & more indignation on mine
but when she leaped into her saddle & rode cross-legged like a man my ire
turned into admiration when I watched the many feats of horsemanship.
He describes further their banter,
including a remark she makes,
No, said she,
America only recognises two men: Je-sus Christ and General Jackson.
He avoids falling in love, though
clearly admires her greatly, concluding: Upon hearing
more about Bobtails, which meant a two-wheeled waggon, & the references to
Nickels (5 cent piece), shacks (log-cabin), the sticks, whisky joints (an up
country inn) I deemed it time to clear as I had a long journey before me &
what with Plainsmen of the prairie, Frontier Boys, & tricks with the [?]
lauriat ?lassoo had sufficient to think about the whole way back.
He goes on to describe Tacoma, nearby
to Seattle, before eventually starting his return journey through stormy waters
to Japan, Hong Kong and Europe.
Genuine manuscript material
describing the Wild West is extremely rare, and all the more on Cowgirls.
‘Jack’ appears to be unknown, so will need to be added to the list of known
As well as the US material, there are
also good close descriptions of Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan (where he
appears to have become smitten by a Geisha girl), China, and so on.
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