12 January 2016

Brighton Traveller of 1890 - Edith Warne

The Travel Letters of Edith Warne 1890

Edited by Judy Middleton (1983 revised 2013)

(For biographical details of Edith Warne and her family, please see separate entries A Brighton Lady in Tasmania (her earlier letters) ) and The Old Ship Hotel, Brighton;  for more details about Harry Duke Warne please see TenThousand Miles by Sea.)

S.S Zealandia
24 January 1890

My Dearest Mother,

I find this boat will take a letter to you, which is fortunate for the mails I find only leave New Zealand every month, so that you would have been worried at my long silence I expect.

Well, dearest, first of all Sydney. I told you how we arrived at 5.30 a.m. Oh how you would like to have seen us, you’d have killed yourself laughing. We were both very cross – somehow our luggage has increased terribly, small bundles and parcels of things forgotten to be packed, you know, and I was perfectly ashamed to see the number of things piling up around us and men coming with yet more. I was standing with fourteen boxes and bundles around me and I saw about five more large boxes in the distance and to crown it all saw dear old Harry struggling along with another. We determined to do away with some of the smaller parcels and bought a large tin box in Sydney, which carries all our rugs, big coats and small bags. The moving from place to place is really awful.

We saw as much of Sydney as possible in two days and I like it better than Melbourne. The surroundings are beautiful for which ever way you turn you have some beautiful view of the harbour, which as you know is one of the wonders of the world and deservedly too I think. The beauty of it is made by hundreds of little bays, some indeed large enough to be big harbours of themselves. Then of course all the land jutting out all around the bays are covered with houses and pretty gardens sloping down to the water’s edge. There is a wonderful lot of shipping to be seen; you can sit for hours without being dull. There are big passenger ships from all parts of the world coming and going and men-of-war from all nations and literally hundreds of little steamers always puffing up and down to take passengers from one part or the other.

(Sydney is the oldest city in Australia and it is the capital of New South Wales. Captain Arthur Phillip founded it in 1788 as a small penal settlement. Sydney’s most rapid expansion was during the period from 1850 to 1890.)

We went to the Botanical Gardens and I made the acquaintance of the biggest butterfly and most gorgeous I have ever seen. It looked really quite as big as a little robin. Here also one sees the locust – oh my dear this is no exaggeration – they are the length of my palm and I have just measured it. They make a most horrid screaming noise, which to a stranger seems unbearable. They are however perfectly harmless and the boy in the street generally carries one about, shaking it up occasionally to make it squeak. Then there is the common or house cockroach – never again will I complain of the ship ones. In our Hotel, which was old but comfortable, they swarmed and if you will think of the biggest stag beetle you ever saw you will form some idea of the size – and they run like lightning. The first I saw coming home from the theatre I mistook for little mice but I met twogoing up to bed with such fearful expressions on their faces that I got the ‘boots’ to kill them before I proceeded.

We slept under mosquito nets, which I really think add a great deal to the prettiness of a bed but ours had big holes in them and though we went round at night pinning and sewing, the wretches got in and we found them in the morning swollen up with our blood. By the bye before finally leaving insects, on the night I met the cockroaches Harry put on the counterpane under the net curtains my hair-pad – to give me a nice little turn getting into bed.

On Tuesday we went to a place called Parramatta. (Parramatta is the second oldest settlement in Australia dating from 1788, just nine months after Sydney was founded. Parramatta is an aboriginal word meaning either ‘head of the river’ or ‘the place where eels lie down’. One feels Edith would have preferred the latter derivation.)  We arrived about 1.30 and went to our Hotel The Wool Pack for lunch. A very unpleasant surprise it turned out to be. We asked for a little cold meat and bread. After waiting some time they told us at last to walk into the coffee room and then we found that we had been lured into hot mutton. We gently and firmly refused and as there was nothing else we had a little cheese, slice of bread, lemon squash (a libel on the name) and a pint of beer. For this they charged us at the rate of two dinners. This was more than we could stand so Harry paid for the drinks and asked to see the landlord. A bullying brute calling himself manager then came and on Harry offering him what he considered a fair price for a piece of bread and cheese, he became fearfully abusive, swore and my dear finally took my dear little man by the shoulders and pushed him out into the passage. Harry went very white but controlled himself admirably thank goodness and quickly walked off to the nearby Police Station. We saw the Clerk of the Peace and in a few moments Harry walked back to the Hotel with a constable and a summons for assault. Fancy having to go to the Clerk of the Peace after only an hour’s visit to a place.

We had however a very pleasant drive to the oranges. We saw ‘em all a-growing and a-blooming – lemons, oranges and quinces. Since being in the Colonies I have tasted some oranges and there is no doubt about them being good. The great charm about Sydney to my mind isthe fruit. On the first day we bought some wonderful peaches with the ‘George’ flavour (you know the corner tree in Keymer conservatory) 1/- a dozen, nectarines the same and glorious pines 1/- each and yet at the Hotels you get the most inferior fruit for dinner (don’t market themselves as Clara would say). Edith’s old family home called Wentworth was situated at 79 Keymer Road, Hassocks, Sussex. Edith had fond memories of the fruit that grew in the conservatory there.)

We left Sydney on Wednesday about 4.30 in the afternoon. This ship is bound for San Francisco and nearly all the crew are American. By Jove, we have got a pretty stewardess; she wears a most picturesque dress, almost fancy, a short blue and white striped cotton with huge embroidered collar that falls nearly to her waist, then a big sun hat – straight all round and lined with spotted muslin; the most becoming thing in the world. She is a bit cheeky and mashes (flirts with) the men but ‘vurry’ attentive. I like the ship better than any I have been on, it is built with Saloon and cabins all forward so that you don’t hear a sound of the engines or smell the cooking. Then there is a long walk on the main deck and also a big upper or I believe they call it a spar deck. As we are only going to Auckland we have not a deck cabin but ours is a good size and as the weather is calm we are able to have our port open.

Yesterday I was very seedy all day and did little else but lie about and sleep but today I am all right again and enjoying the weather, which is perfect. The sea is just like glass and barring the occasional roll you might be on the Thames – and such a colour. It really looks as though you could put a white garment in and dye it royal blue. I consider the feeding here is also excellent and then you know how tricky the Americans are with drinks so can get variety in that way. Last night I tried a ribstone pippin drink; it was like a very refined cider. Today I went in for a pineapples, not bad well iced but rather sickly.

Sunday 26 January.

We have been in sight of land all day and expect to reach Auckland about 9.30 tonight. As I said before I like the boat very much but I am glad we don’t go any further with this set of passengers; such a ‘rummy’ set. There is one lady who goes in for dress, a Colonial married evidently to an Englishman though he’s no great shakes. She wears really lovely things in which she looks like a pig in armour. In the morning she comes down and floats about deck in a cream and lace costume. Some evenings she wears a cream silk shirt and a pink silk tea-jacket with transparent neck and sleeves, sometimes a gorgeous plush tea-gown with pale blue front – all very nice on a ladylike person but imagine this on the sort of female I described – huge brown hands and arms and a very bad set of false teeth.

We had a little music last night but I fear my choice new English songs don’t go down well. I played several accompaniments to order of songs sung with a good American twang and went down wonderfully in the men’s estimation when I confessed my inability to play accompaniment of Down by the Swanee River without music. That’s the sort of song that appeals to them here.

My dearest love and Harry’s to all at home; my dear doggies I suppose have quite forgotten me – I have resigned myself to that – by the way I was so pleased to have their likenesses.

(Edith had two dogs, a Labrador-cross with a shaggy coat and a Fox Terrier. It is obvious she doted on them, in fact quite the hardest part in leaving England was having to part with her dogs.) Goodbye for the present, dearest and my love to Aunt Ridley, please. (Aunt Ridley was the wife of Samuel Ridley, co-owner of the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton with Edith’s father Robert Bacon from 1851 to 1887).

From you ever loving daughter Edith Warne

P.S. Excuse creases but can’t get an envelope to fit.   


Grand Hotel
11 January 1890

My Dearest Clara,

I believe there is a mail for England in a few days so that I will send a line and tell you a little about Auckland. (Auckland is situated on the North Island. It was founded in 1840 and for 25 years was the capital of New Zealand until Wellington became the capital in 1865.) The house we are in is new and is in a very good position overlooking the harbour and we are very comfortable. The chief attraction and excitement has been in the Jubilee Festivities. We arrive just in time. You will doubtless have read that they are celebrating the 50thanniversary of the British possession of the colony or rather the making of it into a British colony.

(The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840 and it meant that approximately 47 Maori chiefs accepted British sovereignty in return for British protection. It is said Britain was in no hurry to annex New Zealand, being already over-committed to a burgeoning Empire, but people who felt something ought to be done to protect Maoris from being exploited exerted pressure. It is doubtful if the Maoris knew what they were signing and in any case settlers soon infringed the treaty, which resulted in the Maori Wars.)

For this event the Maoris have come in numbers from all parts of the country and pretty nearly every other one you meet is a Maori.

(In 1800 it was estimated that there were some 100,000 Maoris in the North Island, which always had a larger population than the South Island. By 1891, the year after Edith’s visit, the census revealed there were only 39,800 Maoris in the North Island, the indigenous people having been decimated by European diseases and fighting.)

Unfortunately they appear in a sort of mongrel European costume, which spoils their looks. But the women are most amusing with their colours. I saw one yesterday in a short bright violet skirt, a loose red and white striped jacket, bright scarlet handkerchief round her neck and a straw hat with a red band.

On Wednesday the first day of the Jubilee there were races and a regatta and we went over to the North Shore to see the Maori encampment. Some are under tents and some in a huge building where they sleep on a bit of straw and a blanket. We saw some of the older Maoris and one or two of them were splendidly tattooed.

(The Maoris adorned their faces with tattoos, both men and women, although for the latter it was confined to the lips. The most intricate designs of whorls and lines were reserved for tribal chieftains. A small stone adze was the instrument used and a blue dye was rubbed into the wounds; the dye was made from the pulverized charcoal of the veronica plant.)

 But this is dying out and none of the younger children are marked at all. It was so funny seeing the older ones meeting one another and rubbing noses and murmuring a sort of sing-song salutation.

Yesterday was the Maoris’ great day. In the morning they ‘processed’. They were supposed to be in native costume (costume altogether conspicuous by its absence). The men wore a red and blue band round their chests and a blanket or towel round their loins; a couple of feathers were stuck in a coloured band round the head and they each carried a canoe paddle. Nearly every man’s appearance was spoiled by some addition of our costume; for instance one marched past with an ordinary striped bath towel round him and elastic-sided boots. They are splendid looking men but I think the English are spoiling them, teaching them to smoke (the women nearly all have large pipes in their mouths) and drink.

We watched one of the Maori canoe races. The canoes are wonderful looking things and I can tell you coming along filled with natives they give you an awful creepy feeling; you can just imagine how you’d feel in some lonely unfriendly shore and these chaps paddling up to have a look at you and decide whether you would be better boiled, roasted or raw. The canoes are made of trunks of trees just scraped out – one is 70 feet long and holds about 30 natives. They got very excited over their race and made horrid noises and the chatter and excitement of their pals on shore wasso funny.

After the canoe race we all went about a mile further inland to the racecourse where the event of the day was to come off – the war dance. We arrived early but in spite of that found the stand (the only one mind you) crammed. We managed to get a seat near the railings and waited patiently an hour or more, with the crowd every minute getting thicker and thicker.

At last the Maoris came – a splendid number having mustered – and will you believe it the committee had made no arrangement to keep the crowd back or secure a spot for the dance. The Maoris literally fought their way to the racecourse in front of the stand and then sat down, as it was impossible to go on. Then there was a hullabaloo from the stand commanding the committee to do something. Finally fourpolicemen were found and some blue jackets (Naval seamen) and by enormous efforts a space was cleared – about the size of your drawing room.

The minute it was cleared they had the Maiden Maori dance (most peculiar) the girls all in their white dressing gowns. As soon as this was over and the men ready for their war dance, the crowd broke through and after the first few movements the Maoris gave up in despair and walked off. Wasn’t it a beastly shame and isn’t it a disgrace to the town to manage things like this?

When the Governor arrived he had to fight his way to the stand and then saw nothing, poor man. Lord Carrington (Governor of New South Wales) and Lord Charles Scott accompanied him. (The Governor by the bye is Lord Onslow). Well all I can tell you about the war dance was that they commenced with a series of leaps in the air flourishing their weapons and make the most blood curdling noises – like a lot of lions that see the keeper coming with the food. 

(The Maori war dance is called ‘Peruperu’ in their language. Edith would no doubt be astonished to know a variation of this is performed by the All Blacks rugby team. The weapons Edith refers to are the ‘taiaha’ – long clubs.)

We went in the evening to a Maori entertainment – a little went a long way – such a noise and sameness, but funny. The instruments consist of a big drum, a little drum and two long hollow boxes beaten with a stick. You can’t conceive the noise they are able to get out of them.

(The long hollow boxes sound like a classic Maori instrument – drums were a much later addition. Traditionally, stamping the feet or slapping the thighs provided the rhythm but occasionally boxes or resonant pieces of wood were used. Europeans found Maori music dull because the singing was within a very limited range.)

The chorus of ten ladies and about an equal number of men sit or squat in two lines in front of the stage and while they chant, drone or sing, made peculiar contortions with their bodies. They pat and smooth themselves all over and keep time with their knees swaying back and forward, looking like the pistons of an engine going backwards and forwards under their dressing gowns. I’ll have to show you one day. All the movements are graceful but more or less indecent.

There was grand Ball last night given to the Governor and the festivities continue today and tomorrow. We go to the Hot Lakes tomorrow and I shall hope to direct my next letter from there. I am very much hoping the sulphur baths will do Harry good, his leg has been very painful again but I think it is because he has been generally seedy.

I think I must conclude for this time – oh by the bye I have quite forgotten to tell you I’ve been up Mount Eden here. You can drive right to the very top. It is an extinct volcano and has a perfect crater but it is the view, which is so wonderful. You can see round the peninsular on which Auckland stands.

Dear love to everyone in which Harry unites and believe me dearest Cleg
Your loving sister Edith Warne


Palace Hotel
(Once the main Maori settlement on Lake Rotorua)
New Zealand
6 February 1890

My Dearest Mother,

It was so delightful to get your letter today, written on December 12th – it has of course been delayed a fortnight from Hobart. A letter out here seems to bring you all so much closer and the papers are a great excitement.

We left Auckland last Saturday and our first resting place on our way to the lakes was a country place called Hamilton. There we stayed at a cottage attached to the Hotel called Honeymoon Cottage, such a picturesque little place in a large garden sloping down to the Waikato river. There were some beautiful magnolia trees in blossom (you know the magnificent bloom with a scent like lemon peel) and large bushes of hydrangeas with blue instead of pink blossoms. Everything was perfect outsidebut the place was simply falling to pieces inside, the old doors worm eaten and your feet went through the boards at every other step. There were some fewcobwebs but the spiders kept very timidly to themselves and the bed was most ‘comfy’.

My, wasn’t Sunday a scorcher, we didn’t venture out of the garden till six. The next day we went another stage to a place called Oxford by train and then by buggy to Okoroire, another four miles over a sort of Scottish moor. Oh what a drive – well it wasn’t a drive, it was like the roughest ride with an occasional five-barred gate thrown in. After having been jolted out once or twice, I took to rising in my seat, as you would do in trotting and got on better. Dear Harry had to get out about every five minutes to open gates.

However we were repaid in the end, a very nice bungalow Hotel, the only house in Okoroire, built there on account of the hot springs. The scenery as I told you looked like a Scottish moor. At the foot of the green hill on which the Hotel is built is the Waihou River rushing through a lovely gorge and the hot sulphur springs are on the side of the hill with a kind of shed built for the accommodation of bathers. Of course the men (there was another buggy full) all took hot baths directly but I thought I would wait till morning. However the proprietors told me I ought to take one at night so at 9, I went down with Harry and had my first experience of a natural hot bath. We trudged off with a lantern and there was a lovely moon but I declare to you it looked so weird in the moonlight that Harry had great difficulty to get me in. It is a large pool about 4 feet deep hedged round on three sides by wooded walls but the back is hedged by a lovely high bank of ferns. I ventured in at last but refused to venture from one spot – it looked so awful dark. The water was about 99 and just like velvet but sucha horrible smell (nearly all sulphur you know) but afterwards your skin feels A1.

The next morning we went down about 7.30 and then I thoroughly enjoyed it and was quite brave. Of course Harry will tell you some wonderful stories about my first attempt. The other baths were much hotter 104 and 115 but they have effected some marvellous cures for gout and rheumatism.

(The hot springs at Ohinemuto contain sodium chloride predominantly. The present day Hotel boasts a small golf course but alas for Harry you can only bathe in the hot springs during daylight hours.)

We went on next day in our buggy. I must tell you that for our tour in the North Island we have taken Cook’s tickets – he arranges everything for you and actually we were seen off by the head man at the station who gave us a few final instructions and marked the stations where we would stay and how long etc. Well for very little extra he arranged a special buggy to take you from place to place instead of the coaches, which start awfully early and don’t go so easily. So at 10 on Tuesday we started for this place Rotorua.

(By 1890 the name of Thomas Cook & Son was known world wide – it had indeed come a long way since Thomas Cook organised his first excursion; a railway trip from Leicester to Loughborough for a Temperance meeting. The Cook maxim was ‘Leave it all to us’ and in various far flung places the intrepid British traveller was reassured to find a Cook’s man with the familiar name emblazoned across hat and lapels. Thomas Cook himself died in 1892.)

The drive was altogether about 36 miles, the first part was like the previous evening’s scenery; and then we gradually got higher and at one part of our drive saw the snow-capped peaks of Mount Ruapehu, at least (so the driver said) 100 miles away.

(Mount Ruapehu stands in the Tongariro National Park established in 1887. It is always snow-capped and is New Zealand’s principal skiing ground.)

 Soon after this we got into the bush of which we had twelve miles; it is not so monotonous as the Tasmanian bush as there are several kinds of trees and not just the everlasting gum. We came across a bush fire – the woods burning on each side of the road for some considerable distance – it pretty nearly stifled us. There has been no rain for some time so that the least thing will set the woods on fire now.

At the end of the bush we had another six miles with the Lake Rotorua in sight all the time but otherwise uninteresting with the ground for miles around covered with brake fern. We didn’t pass a soul the whole day but I saw one or two Maori settlements. We arrived here about 4.30 and of course the first thing took a sulphur bath. There is a pond or cauldron on the left of the Hotel in a field of boiling water and this supplies the baths in the garden. It simply takes your breath away to see the water boiling and bubbling all around here and the smell of sulphur– like thousands of rotten eggs.

Edith was right about Rotorua – it does pong due to the every present hydrogen sulphide. A modern local euphemism is ‘Soir de Rotorua’ while the Maoris call it ‘Whangapiro’ an evil smelling place.)

The Maoris have a small settlement here and the first evening we walked round and saw them cooking potatoes and puddings in the boiling pools; in some parts they make a hole and put in a sort of oven and the steam bakes their bread for them, so that a fire is never necessary.

The Maoris here are quite spoiled by the English, they simply do nothing but hang around the Hotels picking up as much money as they can and buying beer. The men nearly all dress in European costume and learn to speak English and use our slang phrases. It is a great disappointment to Harry who remembers them so different and infinitely more interesting. We saw them yesterday to better advantage at a small place not far away from here called (look out for your jaws) Whakarewarewa, where we went to see the geysers. Harry was determined to get a good set of photographs here so we waited for the big geyser, which plays once in six hours but there is no certainty. I shall never forget the place, the sulphur and steam breathing out all round you – almost stifling. Every now and again you come across huge holes, most of them geysers, which play at odd times. Shortly after we arrived the little one played and then we waited patiently for the big one; it is wonderful to see it getting ready. There is a large cauldron at its side and about half an hour before it plays, this gradually rises higher and higher and has a little play on its own account. At last this overflows and then you hear and feel the rumble and see the steam come belching out and then suddenly it bursts up to a height of 30 or 40 feet. An awful sight really.
The Whakarewarewa Geyser,
 New Zealand.

(Visitors still come to admire the geysers, the largest being called Pohutu, which plays up to about 100 feet. People can also visit a Maori village and watch the Maoris cooking, no doubt in the way Edith describes.)

You can imagine how busy Harry was but I fear he will not be able to get a very good idea of it, as it wants a darker background. We were accompanied all day by a Maori guide to keep us off the dangerous places for in some parts the crust is very brittle. Besides the guide we were followed by several other natives all anxious to carry part of the apparatus. They are so funny and when Harry lets them under the dark cloth and snap the shutter they are quite happy. They squat about wherever you are and as a rule I sit with them and learn the Maori names and expressions, which they are most anxious to teach. They got hold of Harry’s name yesterday (heard me call him) that was quite enough, they called him ‘Harrie’ for the rest of the day and thought it quite correct.

There was a tattooed chief in the village, who allowed Harry to take a picture of himself and dwelling. He was so pleased with him that he came up and before Harry knew what he was going to do, stooped forward and rubbed noses with him. We found out afterwards that in days gone by he had eaten several white men. The younger Maoris won’t mention that time but I quite expect the old chaps much preferred it. I haven’t got hold of a greenstone yet. I don’t care for one from the shops for they say they are polished in Birmingham or the big towns here. I want to get one from the Maoris and as a rule they won’t part with them. Tomorrow we go on an excursion to Waiotapu and stay the night at some bungalow place.

Sunday 16 February.

Since the above was written we have had two long expeditions, which have given us 175 miles in a buggy. Yesterday we started for the Waiotapu Valley and after 20 miles rough but pretty drive we arrived at Scott’s bungalow – it is a series of tents; one for meals, one for visitors’ sleeping and another for Scott’s family and cooking. It is situated in a most beautiful wild place all amongst the mountains.

Immediately in front of the dwelling rises a tall volcanic mountain called Kakaramea. It is supposed to be an extinct volcano but still very hot and smoky. At our feet lay a beautiful miniature lake. We contented ourselves that evening with just roaming about close to the tents and old Scott served us (and the coachmen at the same table) with a ‘mealy’ meal about 6.30 and about 9 we turned in to our mattress.

The little hut was a funny experience. A mattress laid down on some matting but plenty of blankets and they were quite clean. There was no washing apparatus or glass – we were supposed to go to another tent for that. However when I dressed in the morning Harry managed to get me the family basin and a little looking glass and I squatted on the matting (a la harem) and managed my toilette. After breakfast we soon started for the valley with a small boy guide and it was a really wonderful experience. We saw boiling cauldrons of mud, mud geysers, lakes of mud and kerosene oil and miniature lakes of different coloured water, some blue, others emerald green or yellow and silky white. The most fascinating things to see were the mud lakes throwing up little geysers every few feet and the mud thrown up assumes all sorts of fantastic shapes as it falls. You can imagine what work there was for the camera – we lost all idea of time and began to get exhausted by the heat and want of food and we were a long way from Scott’s. We pushed on to a waterfall where we thought we could get some drinking water, however when we asked our small guide, he said in a solid kind of way ‘water not good to drink’. Imagine us with our tongues all parched. We made him understand he must take us back quickly but first of all I bathed (I had taken a dress with me) and for a little while it relieved my thirst. Trudging back was awful and we did not reach our destination until 5 p.m. not having had anything to eat or drink since 7.45 a.m. We couldn’t exactly blame old Scott for it was the photography that delayed us so but still he ought to have suggested our taking something with us.

Well, we still had to accomplish over 20 miles back to Rotorua so we couldn’t waste much time and what little there was I spent in drinking. I tried everything – beer and ginger ale, sherbet and brandy and water, tea and preserved milk. We kept it up till it was time to start and then bade adieu to old Scott and his Maori wife and half-caste children. I haven’t told you half enough about old Scott but he is awfully kind and fussy and talks your head off. He does anything for you as they would think it an awful insult to a European to send a Maori to wait on you. He is rather a muddler – I gave him one or two hints how to clean his table and wanted to do it myself only that distressed the old chap so; but if you could have seen him muddling about.

(A guide book to New Zealand published in 1893 states ‘The principal sights in Waiotapu are a little more than 20 miles from Ohinemetu; a carriage must be hired. It is possible to make the excursion in one day; but it is better, if time allows, to stop for the night at Scott’s bungalow at Waiotapu {rough accommodation}.)

We started back about 5.30 – the coachman assuring us we had plenty of daylight left. I must tell you as usual the road was none of the best and wound round and round the hills and up and down the valleys and I didn’t relish the idea of being nighted. There is no twilight to speak of here, the sun goes down and darkness comes almost immediately. We went on fairly well for two or three hours but unfortunately after the sun set, clouds gathered and rain began falling – darkness came on with a vengeance. I kept on asking the driver if he could see the road and for a while he said ‘Yes’ with great confidence. At last I felt we were getting slower and slower and I asked again and to my horror he told me he daren’t go a step further. He had completely lost sight of the road and could barely see the horses.

Well, Harry got down and felt on either side, and having found the middle of the road took off his coat to show his white shirt and for a time we went slowly on. Then we couldn’t see that so I got down to walk as I felt I couldn’t sit in the buggy. Harry commenced lighting matches and found a piece of greasy sandwich paper, which lighted us up for a bit. Then this was at an end and Harry made another trick by rubbing some paper round the axles of the wheels to get some more grease. When these expired we held a council of war and almost made up our minds to stay for daylight, the alternative of being driven over one of those gorges was too awful to think of. However the road seemed a bit wider and the driver thought that if he persevered he could get on the high road soon. So Harry and I walked in front – he with his white shirt gleaming, I with a white handkerchief pinned to my jacket and I am thankful to say we reached the high road safely. Fancy these coachmen being sent out without lamp or lantern. We felt pretty done up next day.

Last Tuesday we started for Taupo, the big lake; this was a drive of 56 miles and we started about 8 in the morning. We shared our buggy with Sir Philip and Lady Mainwaring. They were very nice people and it was such a change to have a woman to talk to for a day or two. They are swells I think with a park in Cheshire. He is travelling for his health and is a sweet old thing between 50 and 60. She might be any age, she is a tremendous hunter at home and that makes the face rather weather-beaten you know but anyhow she is much younger than he and she manages everything. She is very ‘horsey’ and walks with square arms and enormous strides. She smokes cigarettes and gets herself thoroughly disliked about the country as she insists on her own way. If the food isn’t quite the thing or the place where they stay dirty, she tells them so and moves off. She starts for the long drives at her own hour and quarrels and bullies the coachman if he dares to contradict her. She won’t go near or speak to or touch anybody she thinks common but she can be charming if she takes to you and she amused me intensely. We got on very well because of course I gave in to her in everything. We have received a very pressing invitation to Cheshire on our return to England. She is so like Clara in many ways, thinks it really bad form to be thirsty or hungry (never is herself) and very fussy in the bedroom; she hardly lets the dear old chap put his foot inside and sends him to the bath when there is (as is always the case in this country) only one basin in the bedroom. Of course all her belongings are awfully swell but the bullying doesn’t seem to me quite the thing for a lady.

(Edith was right, the Mainwarings were swells. Ranulphus, a companion-in-arms of William the Conqueror, was the founder of their estates in Cheshire. The couple Edith met were Sir Philip Tatton Mainwaring, the 4th Baronet and his wife Louisa Emily and there were three children of the marriage. Edith was also correct in guessing his age – he was born in 1838.)

We didn’t see much of Lake Taupo, which is so enormous you might easily mistake it for a sea; our excursions were made inland to see some more natural wonders. The sights were at a place called Wairakei and we spent a good day there. – I rode over with Lady Mainwaring while a party of men went in a buggy. I was obliged to ride in my ordinary dress but many do that here and I had such a funny doddery old grey mare. They send you out shamefully here; some part of the harness is sure to break and have to be patched with rope – upon my honour it’s a wonder they don’t come often to grief.

Lake Wakatipu is in the South Island, New Zealand. Edith was ‘awfully sorry’ not to visit but the Warnes had to be careful about expenses.
The ride was through some very lovely country overlooking the Waihato River. We passed the Hooker Falls and it was a grand view for at that time we were high up the side of a hill; but you get so used to it here that even I am able to stand or sit on horseback looking over without any feeling of fear. On arriving at Wairakei we had lunch in a little cottage and then walked to the valley and in an hour seemed to see all the wonders of this country close together. There were boiling cauldrons of endless depths, mud geysers, hot water geysers, steam holes with unearthly knockings going on below and a miniature hot lake; I saw growing here a very rare fern called the hot water fern and the stag moss is very fine and grows such a length.

We have made up our minds not to go to South Island but to go straight on in about a week to Honolulu. I am awfully sorry not to see more of New Zealand but it is so expensive travelling about. These lakes have been a great treat – and the baths – I shall miss them awfully. They have done Harry’s hip good I am sure; he doesn’t complain of the pain and feels better. I wish he could have a month of them.

My dear love to everyone, I am so anxious to hear how my doggies are again.
Your ever loving daughter Edith Warne


S.S. Alameda
5 March 1890

My Dearest Mother,

You will receive this letter by this same mail as my long letter from the Hot Lakes. I write this letter in pencil on account of so much movement – I cannot use my pen satisfactorily. I want to talk about our homecoming. I am perfectly certain Harry is not yet fit to go straight back to work. I am sure he will never be able to do the amount he has done in bygone days. He has lost his bad headaches and as a rule his leg seems better but directly there is a little to do and think about (when for instance we are packing and moving from place to place) he gets knocked up, nervous and shaky and unlike himself. I find him (thank goodness I have insisted on keeping this letter private) brooding a great deal on his future and dread of returning to work. I have persuaded him after great trouble to arrange about spending our English summer quietly somewhere in the country. My argument is this – he sees doctors before leaving England who all tell him to keep from work for two years. Well nine months have already gone and what is the use of spending all the money if he goes back only half patched and gets worse again – we might as well have chucked it in the sea. I have thought a lot about it and have asked him to write to Frank by this mail to see if he could find us a little place somewhere on the Thames or a couple of rooms in a house where I could just take Cook. Of one thing I am resolved and that is to keep Harry away from Brighton because I don’t want his old clients to know he is back again. After the summer is over we must see how things go and arrange with doctors how much he can undertake.

(Francis Plews Bacon was one of Edith’s four brothers and the second oldest. At the time Edith wrote this letter Frank and his wife were living in London where he worked as an architect. His younger brother Gresham was busy managing affairs at the Old Ship Hotel, Brighton.)

One thing I nearly forgot. We found on starting from Auckland we had a stowaway on board. A poor girl about seventeen – she had no proper ticket and had some tale about being hired as a maid to some lady. However it didn’t wash and she was obliged to go off with the pilot. She didn’t hide herself long enough. Funny enough a man managed to get from Sydney to Auckland on this same voyage without anyone finding him out.

I shall be so thankful to arrive at Honolulu. I have hated this voyage and we have not had one calm day. You get thoroughly tired of knocking about and the sea and wind make such an awful noise all night. The only thing in the ship’s favour is our cabin, very large and most comfortable and the bunks with spring mattresses are almost wide enough for two.

My dearest love to dear old Clara, Gresham, Alfred, Bo, Aunt Ridley and all.
Believe me ever your loving daughter Edith Warne


S.S. Australia
Wednesday 19 March 1890

My Dearest Clara

It seems a long time since I directed a letter to you so here goes. At last I can hold a pen steady enough to write a little of our late experiences – we have been on board the Australia since Friday and have all endured the utmost misery. We had a storm right off for five days, such a passage hasn’t been known for ages – even the Captain confessed it was bad and that means a lot. The whole ship has ‘lain sick’ and I was very bad for a day or two. How some lived through it I can’t think, ten times worse than myself.

Yesterday the sea got a little better and one or two crawled down to table. Today is bright and comparatively calm so we are all pretty cheerful though there are some not yet able to put in an appearance. We have a deck cabin and though feeling the motion more, we still could get air but the poor wretches in the below cabins have had their ports screwed up ever since starting – for the sea continually burst right over the ship. Can you imagine their sufferings, not being able to move off their bunks and deadly sick every few minutes.
Although this view of Honolulu was taken some years after Edith’s visit, it probably looked much the same.

We arrived last Friday week in sight of Honolulu.

(Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii, a group of over twenty islands in the central Pacific Ocean, discovered by Captain James Cook in 1778. At the time of Edith’s visit Hawaii was still independent but this ended in 1898 when the United States of America annexed it.)

We had a very anxious morning, tremendous seas and so thick with rain that at one time, knowing we were close to land, we were obliged to stop engines and keep on with the fog whistle. Suddenly the mist cleared and we found ourselves not far from Diamond Point and we also saw a tremendous sea breaking all round the coast. To our bitter disappointment we received a cable from the pilot telling us he couldn’t possibly come to us that day. We lay broadside on with the huge waves, we did some tremendous rolling; people from the shore could distinctly see our decks every time. The children howled with fright and the mothers and nurses rushed to gather them and count them to see if any had gone overboard. Upon my life how people can bear their lives with children on board I can’t think, the anxiety is frightful.

On Saturday morning the weather seemed a little better and during the night this boat the Australia had arrived from San Francisco and lay near. About 12 o’clock I am glad to say the sea went down and the dear old pilot came aboard and was, I can tell you, most heartily welcomed by all of us. You can imagine that it is nasty work getting in when I tell you there were three men at the wheel, two on the watch behind them, the Chief Officer, the Captain and pilot on the bridge and the joke was they tried us before the Australia to see how we fared. I believe we drew less water or something. That night nearly all our passengers dined at Table d’Hote at our Hotel the Hawaiian and had a pretty jolly evening.

I can’t describe to you how I appreciate being on land again and in such a lovely place. There are coconuts and bananas growing and behind most of the trees a lovely purple creeper that gives a blaze of colour – and this is supposed to be their winter. All I can say is that the heat was too much to walk out in the middle of the day and one needed only the thinnest silk jersey.
Climbing the tree to 
reach coconuts in Hawaii.

The natives one sees very few of – the islands seem to have been taken possession of by the Chinese and the residents and visitors – nearly all American – they make it their winter resort.

(In 1853 there had been only 364 Chinese people in Hawaii but in 1864 an immigration bureau was set up specifically to recruit labour from the Orient, mainly to work in the sugar and pineapple plantations.)

The Chinese do all the housework and carry on nearly all the trades in the town. They amuse me very much in the Hotel; Chinamen wait and Chinese boys do the bedrooms, I don’t think barring the housekeeper there’s a woman in the house. They are very quick, patient and fairly good tempered but will do their work in their own way. For instance on Monday I was getting up early and had made up my mind to do the job I hate (sorting soiled linen) after breakfast. A knock came at the door, boy enters ‘Me put washee in tub.’ I said ‘No, after breakfast, not ready.’ ‘Ah’ he said and vanished. Not ten minutes later he comes again, knocks, ‘Me put washee in tub now.’ I sighed and said ‘Very well me get it ready,’ and did it accordingly and made myself hot and half an hour late for breakfast.

The Americans thoroughly annoyed me. They don’t seem to mind what they say or do. Their last accomplishment is riding astride (I only saw about four women riding side saddle) and they tell me if it is once tried no woman ever rides any other way. All I can say it looks horrid. They wear a skirt made three yards wider than an ordinary one and when they are on, this is pinned round the ankle or the tops of their boots. The jacket is loose and there is a sash falling to one side of the waist and a big hat either felt or straw. Well this is one peculiarity. Another is spitting inside the house and out, which is terribly sickening, and again their manners at table. Barring these slight oddities I will say they are nice especially Mr and Mrs Corwin sitting at our table who were very kind to us and gave us the opportunity of a very jolly afternoon.

Mrs Corwin arranged last Thursday for a small party of six to go to the King’s boat-house and see the natives dance. We were to be numbered with the six and to be presented to the King. The King lives juts opposite the Hotel and is a wonderfully nice man (native of course) well educated and a perfect gentleman. He delights in meeting all the visitors. Whenever a steamer comes in he has a reception for the men in his boat-house. On these reception nights champagne and whisky flow like water and they are entertained by music and the dance and sent home as a rule pretty screwed. That unfortunately is the King’s chief failing.

(The Hawaiian King, David Kalakaua, was not such a pleasant gentleman, as he seemed to Edith. He became King in 1874 but his reign became increasingly arbitrary and corrupt. He was also strongly anti-American, which did not go down well with the local American businessmen; it was pressure from these and others that forced the King to undertake some reforms. The King died in 1891, the year after Edith’s visit, and his sister became Queen Liliuokalani; Princess Ka’iulani was declared heir apparent. By an extraordinary coincidence Princess Ka’iulani was sent to England to be educated and by 1892 was living with Mrs Phoebe Rooke at 7 Cambridge Road, Hove, only two streets away from where Edith and her sister Clara later lived at York Avenue. The Princess felt she had been born under an unlucky star because she never became queen and buffeted about by politics could not return home to Hawaii until 1897 by which time she was suffering from ill-health. She died in 1899 at the age of twenty-three and her large flock of peacocks of which she was so fond screeched their mourning incessantly.)

Well, to return to our day. It had to be kept rather dark because it was considered rather rowdy for women to see the dance but I didn’t think it mattered in a place where I was not known and I wanted to see his ‘dusky Majesty’. We were received at the boat-house by the aide-de-camp an awfully handsome Kanaka. He led the way up a flight of stairs to a large room with a balcony at both ends and the walls decorated with all the arms and shields of every country. Here we were presented to His Majesty, a handsome man, speaking English without the slightest accent and dressed in flannels, black and white striped coat (being the colours of his boating club). He showed us the various works of art and the prizes won in boat races and then we had champagne. I may as well say that this and whisky and gin were handed round about every half hour afterwards – it seemed a horrid waste of ‘chammy’ for of course after the first glass, we could only sip the others unless we wanted to lose our heads.

After hanging around for a considerable time, we were seated to see the dance and to relieve your minds at once I will say it was perfectly graceful and decent. We had the old dance (forbidden now) first. The music supplied by an old man and woman seated on the floor with a huge gourd in front of them and they kept time by thumping this on the ground and smacking it with their hands. All the time they kept up a monotonous chant. The dancing girls slowly came in (five of them) from the verandah and went through the motions – you can’t call it dance for they hardly move out of one place. They were dressed in short pink skirts and a lot of nice white petticoats (and drawers) with anklets of some stuff that looked like pine shavings and made a funny rattling noise when they moved. Their hips are so enormous that I thought they had life-belts on and mentioned my suspicion to the King. He immediately sent for one of the girls who dropped on her knees on the square of carpet and said I might feel her waist and assure myself. I did so and found it was all flesh and petticoats.
The tower of the Episcopal Church in Honolulu is somewhat overshadowed by the magnificent tree.

After the first dance there was an interval of more talk and refreshments and then one of the principal dancers decorated us all with a ‘lei’, which is a necklace of a peculiar orange coloured flower strung together with green leaves. After this a few performers from the King’s band came in and gave us a few selections. I had heard the full band before, conducted by a German – they played beautifully and nearly always some of the old opera selections. It is the first band we have heard since leaving England. After this performance we had some more dancing and then the King having been told by Mrs Corwin that I sang, asked me to sing for him. I had to do my best without a piano and I had to pitch it twice before I got it right. How I thought of you all at that moment – it was such a quaint scene. I stood behind a chair facing the King and did my best. He was very pleased and thought it quite beautiful. After more music and dancing we left (it was about 6 o’clock) and we got back in time for dinner.        

This was the evening before we left on our boat the Australia. It was a great event every month in Honolulu and they celebrated by illuminating verandahs with Chinese lanterns and the band played in the garden for a couple of hours. We were invited to the Corwin’s cottage to have a sort of breaking-up party. I think no less than three if not four bottles of champagne were opened. We kept it up until 12.30 and I had to sing song after song.

The next morning the steamer left at 12 and of all the wonderful sights I have yet seen the scene on the wharf was the most unique. I had heard it was the custom for the passengers who are leaving to be decorated with flowers by their friends but I had no idea what a sight it would be. The whole town turns out as a rule. Everyone in such a small place knows everyone else and they bring wreaths or ‘leis’ and a bunch of flowers for all those they know. They hang them round their hats, necks, waists and arms and those who have many friends are simply smothered. The flowers are mostly roses, heliotrope and some brilliant coloured flowers of which I did not hear the name. All the time the band plays lively selections and when we gradually float away from the wharf they strike up a weird native farewell song, then God Save the Queen and last of all their own National Anthem. It was most impressive, the music, the dozens of faces all turned our way and our passengers flower-decked standing in a row waving to their friends. Very trying.

Owing to the kind heart of Mrs Corwin, Harry and I were not allowed to leave without our ‘leis’. I thought that was thoughtful – for to go on board undecorated made one feel out of it, although we could hardly expect much more in four or five days. For some reasons I would have liked to stay for the next steamer but we were not very comfortable at our Hotel. Nicely built but no management, nothing to eat and we were eaten up my mosquitoes. At the risk of wearying you I must again mention the huge cockroaches (same size as the Sydney ones) my one deadly fear night and day. We fortunately did not come across the local spiders and centipedes but I have brought one of the latter home (stuffed) for you to see.

One night I had got carefully into bed and tucked in the mosquito curtains and whisked down one or two mosquitoes who were quietly waiting for our b-l-ood; having done this I put my head on my little pillow, which all through has been the greatest blessing, when presently I heard a noise. I looked on Harry’s pillow and there, my dear, was one of the hugest cockroaches – it looked like the finger of a driving glove walking about. The curtains kept me from flying out, so I made one spring to the bottom of the bed with an unearthly shriek and gradually undid enough curtain to let myself out. Then I had to wait in the corner of the room half an hourbefore Harry came up. By then the cockroach had disappeared but we moved everythingand did not go to bed until he had died you bet.

We are now in very cold weather and feel it doubly after such heat. I am told crossing the Atlantic will be bitter and I should be so much obliged if you would send to Cook’s address in New York my fur lined coat – having worn the coat I won’t have to pay duty.

Thursday 20 March.
There are some nice talkable people on board and a very sociable Captain but as usual not a musical soul except myself. They all seem delighted with my songs but none of them play or sing – isn’t it funny I haven’t come across anyone the whole time I have been away who can do anything in the way of music. We are feeling the cold more and more and piling on all out thick clothes. In case you have mislaid Cook’s address it is 262 Broadway.

Friday evening; Occidental Hotel, San Francisco.

We arrived safely at 2 this afternoon; a lovely fresh day giving us a good view of the approach to the city and the harbour. The first thing after settling the baggage and passing through the Customs (they opened every piece) we got our letters and newspapers – we had seven delightful letters.

We stay here for a week or two I think and I have been able to take out my things and shake them and hang them up but I fear I am very seedy looking. It is cold and I am relying on my tailor-made serge and Mrs Pickett’s brown costume with sable; then I have my old grey skirt and the red braided jersey and these will have to get me home. Boots I have none and fear I must again appeal to Harry. I do so wish I had thought to ask Mother to send a little money out here for I should rather like to have brought something of dress American and I want one or two things badly.

Well, dearest, I must really conclude with love and kisses to everyone. Believe me you every loving sister Edith Warne

P.S. ‘Chammy’ here is 16/8d per bottle. What we long for: Household bread by Mackay, Seltzer water by Schilling, rasher of bacon by Ellis, Wilson and Bacon.

(The firm of Ellis, Wilson and Bacon had premises in Preston Street, Brighton, and there were connections with the same Bacon family who ran the Old Ship Hotel. One of the firm’s most long standing customers was the Hove Club, a well-known gentlemen’s club in Fourth Avenue, Hove, which they supplied with drinks for over fifty years.)  


Occidental Hotel
Montgomery Street
San Francisco
Wednesday 26 March 1890

My Dearest Mother,

I received another letter yesterday from you written on 7th March. It is delightful to know we can write and receive letters within the month – we don’t seem so far away. I have not much to tell you this week, the weather has been rather bad and I have been seedy with the change not only of atmosphere but living; it upset my liver and I have had to take a little pill, which has done much good. We hear dreadful accounts of the snow blockade in the country and the mails are somewhat delayed in consequence. We shall be unable to se the Yosemite Valley or Yellowstone Rock. We are too early. They are at present shut up.
A Californian Lemon Grove, near the Snow Mountains.

San Francisco is very much like other big cities except for the cable cars. We saw them in Melbourne but here they are the principal traffic and brought to a wonderful pitch. San Francisco is built on steep sand hills, some really perpendicular and you see these cars running up and down (like bugs as an American told me the other day) just as quickly and as easily as on level ground.

(San Francisco introduced the famous streetcars in 1873. The city is situated on a peninsular between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish founded it in 1776 and it did not belong to the USA until 1848 when they captured it during the Mexican War. Two years later gold was discovered in California and the rush was on.)

Sunday is a regular day for amusements here, theatres all open and everything going on. On that day we went to see Baldwin ascend in a balloon and come down with the parachute. It was a very graceful and successful performance I thought. It was a lovely afternoon and he went up almost straight for a mile, and then let himself go. He came down only a few yards from his starting point.

We travelled from Honolulu with a Mr and Mrs Mackee who are staying here on their way to Germany for his health. She is so kind to me, trots me about town and asks me to her sitting room. Funnily enough Mrs Mackee is the mother of a girl Harry knew when he was out here before. She was travelling with friends and Harry joined their party at Honolulu and travelled over America with them. She called here yesterday and remembered Harry quite well. Mrs Mackee has rather a trying life with her invalid who is suffering from 1st an enlarged liver 2ndweak heart 3rd decided dropsy. You can see the continual anxiety and nursing is wearing her out; yet he persists in telling people he wants nothing done for him and won’t hear of a nurse – there is one thing about men, they are not a bit selfish!

We begin our long journey across America next Saturday week. We stop at Salt Lake City, Denver (amongst the Rocky Mountains) then at St Louis and down the Mississippi a little way, then on to Chicago and so to New York. We shall take a steamer, Cunard line, about 10th May and we hear it is necessary to take our cabins now, there is always such a rush.

There was a wonderful prize-fight here (the only place where it is allowed) the first night of our arrival; the stakes were sometimes enormous. Harry would very much like to have gone but the prices were prohibitory – 30 dollars a seat (over £6). Knowing what a sportsman the Evening News man, Nash, is at home Harry has sent him a paper with a long article so I dare say an account will be given in Brighton about the time you receive this.

Ever so much love to you all
Your ever loving Edith


Occidental Hotel
San Francisco
Tuesday 1 April 1890

My Dearest Mother,

We have spent our time here since I last wrote seeing as much as possible of San Francisco as the cars will take us. We take a different line as often as possible and we go till the car stops and the come back by another route. The ride each way, however long it is, is 2 ½ d or 5 cents in this money. There is one wonderful sight along the shore. The car takes you right round the edge of the cliffs with a very pretty view all the way and you get our at an Hotel called Cliff House. This overlooks some big rather high rocks just a little way from the shore and these are always covered with hundreds of sea lions. You see them in shoals swimming about and continually clambering up and down the rocks. You know by our Aquarium experience the noise they can make but of course it is not so deafening here on account of being in the open air. It is a most interesting sight and you can sit for hours watching their antics. They play together and sometimes there is a disagreeable one who wishes a little extra room, so he flops amongst the others and pushes them all into the sea. We went at 8 o’clock this morning for Harry to take some pictures while the light was good.        

Last evening we devoted to China Town. (The first Chinese people settled in San Francisco at the time of the Californian Gold Rush.) There are 40,000 Chinese in the city and a portion of the town is reserved for them. You have to take a guide or else you can’t get into the various dwelling places or dens. We started with ours at 8 o’clock last night (everything is in full swing then) and soon reached the first place we were to see. A small room, which we were told was an ordinary dwelling room for ten. There was only one window looking out the passage, not the street, therefore fresh air was an impossibility. Three or four were smoking opium, two were playing draughts.

I thought this room awful enough but others we saw were ten times worse – regular dens, mostly underground. In one room with only just enough space for two of us to go in at the same time, lived an old woman of 76, husband, four or five cats, and one or two dogs. This was certainly curious but the atmosphere and smell wouldn’t allow you to wonder at it long. The guide said after a minute ‘I guess you’d like to be going’ but I had already gone.

We were of course taken to the underground opium dens – men lying about by the score sucking in the drug over a little oil lamp. It has to be cooked before putting it in the pipe over the little lamp; when ready the piece is stuck into a tiny hole in the pipe. Then still holding it over the lamp they suck down the smoke; the most hardy smokers let very little escape them, inhaling if possible the whole quantity. I saw one old man of 70, boss of one of the dens – he never eats now but lives on opium. He is never known to leave the den except for about twenty minutes when the Chinese god is taken out for a walk. He then goes up the street to see the procession and then gets back to his beloved den. The consequence is he looks precisely like a well preserved mummy.

The joss house, their place of worship, is very curious. The god is enthroned at the back of the room, surrounded by wonderful carving and tinsel and gaudy ornaments. Incense burns day and night and there are always three cups of tea for him to drink just in front of the throne. The Chinese have to pay a dollar each time they worship, so you can imagine they only come when are in trouble or trying to make up their minds about certain things. They have certain signs to show if the god is favourable or no – two pieces of curved wood are dashed to the floor. If they are turned up in a certain way, they are all right, if not they dare not undertake the task or journey or whatever they have come to ask about.

The furniture of the joss house is something to be envied. Large square ebony chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl and beautiful little folding tea-tables of the same workmanship. We went into all the principal stores and into the various workshops, which all go on with their various trades till 11 o’clock.

Then we had half an hour at the theatre, which was screamingly funny. Just a large bare stage partly occupied by the audience and the band. The scenery is all imagined; they are told to believe it is a handsomely furnished room or a lovely secluded wood and I suppose they do it. At all events the place was crammed and there was a look of deep interest on all the faces. We went in about 10; the play had been going since 5 o’clock and would not stop before twelve. Sometimes they begin at 2 in the afternoon. I asked how it was they understood it, coming in at odd times and was told that the plays were never new and each had heard his father or grandfather describe the plot often enough. When we went in apparently an old man with the most gorgeously worked dress was trying to persuade a lovely women (another man dressed to represent a woman) to marry some relation. The woman appeared to be in great distress and kept retiring to the back and wiping her eyes with her long sleeves.; she also blew her nose ‘a la navvy’ with the fingers. The funny thing about the old man’s makeup was the beard. It hung overhis mouth and away from the face, just hung by two sorts of curtain hooks behind his ears. When he got too hot he turned his back on the audience, unhooked it and wiped his poor warm face.

The weather prophets have promised San Francisco an earthquake next month and the people are warned to leave the valley of the Mississippi as a flood is expected that will outshine everything of the sort ever heard of.

(A major fault in the earth’s crust named the San Andreas Fault extends down the coast of California and this is the cause of San Francisco’s earthquakes. The most severe one took place on 18 April 1906 and although it only lasted for 48 seconds the destruction was enormous and 315 people were killed.)
The devastation in California Street in San Francisco caused by the earthquake on 18 April 1906
is apparent in this view, which was posted to London on 12 July 1906.
We leave here on Thursday evening and arrive at Salt Lake City on Saturday evening. We shall spend our Easter amongst the Mormons – Brigham Young’s place.

(Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah and the Mormons, under the leadership of Brigham Young, founded it in 1847. It was in 1830 that Joseph Smith established this Christian sect in New York State. But when Smith was murdered by a mob, Brigham Young decided to lead a large number of Mormons away from persecution to a more remote part of America.)

Thursday evening. All in the throes of packing, will just finish this for the mail

Ever so much love
Your loving daughter Edith Warne


The Cullen (S.C. Ewing Proprietor
Salt Lake City
7 April 1890

My Dearest Cleg,

We accomplished part of our long journey in safety and arrived here on Saturday. We left San Francisco at a quarter to eight on Thursday night and the first wonderful thing we did was at 9 o’clock when our whole heavy train engine and all was transferred from one side of the river to the other in a ferry-boat. It is the largest ever built and has four sets of engines – it looks like a small floating pier. You can guess a little of its strength and size when you know it took over four Pullman cars, three luggage cars and the engine – a long heavy train.

The next scene in the play was wonderful certainly but not pleasant – getting the sleeping arrangements ready. Of course I thought one had separate cars or partitions but no – a bunk is drawn down from the top and the seats you sit on during the day made into another and a curtain hung in front. You have to get behind and sit doubled up onthe bunk in the dark and undress. Oh the misery of it. I thought I never should have got my frock off, much less anything else. I am certain I should have stuck there all night if Harry had not helped me. He held out the curtain a bit so I was able to stand behind them and strip off the things. Then I had to sleep with them all beside me on the bunk. The bunk was very comfortable when at last I got in.

Unfortunately we passed during the night some of the most wonderful scenery on the Sierra Mountains. We were gradually ascending all night and at 6 a.m. when I looked out we were amongst the snow and fir trees and went continually for several miles through snow sheds with, they say, 10 or 12 feet of snow above us. We stopped at 8 at a place called Truckee for breakfast. We were then 7,000 odd feet above the level of the sea. Quite a big town but always with snow and all the traffic is carried by sleighs. There were several Red Indian women with their babies on the platform and they were the centre of attraction. By now of course I was dressed and I will spare you the recital of the dressing trials. There were about twelve women in the car and only one dotty cupboard with a tiny basin so you can imagine how you have to wait your turn and ‘the lick and the promise’. One girl said to me ‘I guess this is your first experience of sleeping cars, you’ll soon get used to feeling dirty and half dressed all day.’

After breakfast we began to descend the mountains and then for the rest of the journey we were mostly in the American desert. We left the train at Ogden on Saturday morning and took another to Salt Lake City. This is a wonderful place when you come to think of it – built up in 60 years right in the middle of the desert just within sight of the huge salt lake (100 miles long, 40 miles broad and surrounded by high snow-capped mountains). The Mormons settled here to get out of everyone’s way but gradually the Americans began to build and now there are people from many nations making their fortunes, for the mountains are full of silver and there are traces of gold.

We are rather too early – the trees are not yet budding so that we lose the beauty of the place but the mountains make up for it to my mind. We have been shown today the various houses Brigham Young’s wives lived in. He had nineteen wives and 47 children. The city is now governed by Gentiles (as they call those of other persuasions) and polygamy is forbidden. If it is found out the offender has to go to a penitentiary for five years and pay a fine of 500 dollars but I still believe it is done on the quiet.

(The banning of polygamy in Salt lake City was a very recent event as regards Edith because it only dates from 1890, the very year of her visit.)

Yesterday we went to the Tabernacle (it holds 10,000 and seemed quite full). There was a good deal of talk; one old man was speaking for an hour and a quarter and all the time bread and water were being handed round the immense congregation. A sort of supper table was spread, about which twelve elderly men sat and on which were the numerous silver jugs and cups that were sent round amongst the people. It looked like an Ice Cream Soda shop does out here. Their religion is nothing like ours only they seem to think a great deal more of Joseph Smith, a prophet and founder of their religion, than of Jesus Christ. Smith is continually revealing truths to them and they know the meaning of all the Bible mysteries through him and exactly what to expect hereafter.

I went to one service in the morning and heard some impossibly difficult chants rendered indifferently by two or three women and an equal number of men.. Isn’t it funny they cannot get boys in America for the choirs and all the services are sung by women and men. Sometimes one hears (as I did in San Francisco) a beautiful voice but even then I did not think it had the sweet angelic sound that a boy’s voice has when good. Otherwise I think the services over here are preferable to our own. They neversay the Lord’s Prayer more than once and cut the lesson and Psalm if they are too long. Oh my dear how pleased you would have been to hear how they treat All ye works praise ye the Lord – they take four or five verses together and make one praise and magnify him ..etc do for the lot. Much more sensibleI think.

(The Tabernacle was constructed in 1867 and was an architectural wonder of its day because it was shaped like a turtle’s back and had no interior supports. Anybody could attend the Tabernacle but the nearby six-spired, granite Temple was reserved for members in good standing only. The Temple took 40 years to build and was not completed until 1893.)

We go tomorrow to Denver. The journey only involves one night but it is narrow gauge so I am thinking I won’t undress for there will be only half the room we had coming. The scenery however will be grand and the time passes so quickly with the fresh scenery to look at. You would be awfully mashed on the Negroes, they do everything about here – the conductors of the train are black and so are the porters in the Hotel. They are so cheerful and good tempered, nothing too much trouble for them. I am sure a black boy would be a great success at home, should like to take one back with me.

There is one thing I forgot to tell Mother in my last letter and that is I was fortunate to see two houses being bodily moved. I have heard it was done here but never quite believed it but now I have seen and roared with laughter. You can’t think how ridiculous it looks. A small villa two storeys high moving along on rollers, fancy it. A delightful idea, you get tired of one spot so move to another with all your goods and chattels.

A wonderful country and wonderful people truly but I think a lot more of the country than I do of the people. I am awfully glad I am English and feel prouder of it every day. You’d be surprised at the eagerness of the people, not only here, but wherever we’ve been, to get to England and to hear about it. No man or woman’s life is complete without having taken the trip and they save up for it if they are poor and do anything for the chance of going once.

Mine and Harry’s dear love to Mother, the boys, Emy, your dear self, precious doggies and little birdies. Believe me dearest Cleg

Your loving sister Edith Warne


Barker’s Hotel
12 April 1890

My Dearest Mother

We arrived at the above address on Thursday evening, changing our minds at last, as we thought we would rather be close to the mountains for a few days instead of going to Denver. And very glad I am for this is most lovely but before describing it I must tell you of our journey from Salt Lake City, which was indeed memorable.

We left at a quarter to eleven on narrow gauge cars and we had gone smoothly for an hour when suddenly we felt a shock and the brakes being put on with great violence. Then the cars gave a jump and went swaying and jolting on for about another quarter of a mile – we feeling and knowing we were off the line and expecting every moment to be overturned. However I am thankful to say the train (though going at 40 miles an hour) was brought to a standstill without any of the passengers being hurt or injured. We all turned out directly, it was still and there were all the cars jammed up in the earth and the line behind us like a ploughed field. The rail in some parts broken away and the bolts snapped in half like toys – the sleepers were smashed to pieces. Fortunately we were only two hours from our lunch place Provo and the officials went forward to get help. Soon the body of workers began to set to and get the cars back on the line again. A truck and engine were sent for us and we went to get some lunch and wait about until we could continue.     

While the cars were being righted a telegraph man stood by one of the posts with a little telegraph machine, which was fixed to the post, the line overhead brought down and every item of news telegraphed to Salt Lake City from the spot. I mention this as I was so interested watching how quickly all this was done. I need hardly tell you how thoughtful we all felt at our miraculous escape.

There was no panic (except for one hysterical woman) all kept perfectly still in their seats and calm. The one exception was a youngish woman who had a boy on board and of course at the crucial moment he was ought of sight. Naturally she thought the worst at once, got up screaming and rushed to a conductor and threw her arms round his neck. (Afterwards I found she had no remembrance of this). Harry thinking the boy was really smashed went out directly expecting to see his mangled remains but the boy came flying to his mother in tears but safe. It appears he had gone to the little lavatory when the accident happened and the tank containing our drinking water fell on him nearly drowning the child and blocking his way out.. His mother soon recovered especially when she found nobody was taking much notice of her.

Of course there was the comic element and the funniest thing of all to my mind was Harry who didn’t lose a minute (when we were all calm again) with his camera; so you will have an exact idea how the line and cars looked in the wreck. They were seven hours getting the cars on the line again and they were found (especially ours – the last one) to be so damaged that it was impossible for them to go on. We therefore waited for a train coming from the East and about 6.30 started again on our way. Something went wrong with the engine and then if you please for the first part of the journey they put a broad gauge engine on to draw our narrow gauge cars – you can imagine how unevenly it pulls. However dear, you need not be uneasy for we have done the dangerous part.

By going on so late in the day we missed some scenery but made up for it next day when we went over the Marshall Pass. It is simply a marvellous piece of engineering and the scenery was beyond description. We kept winding round and round the mountain, corkscrew fashion, getting higher and higher, seeing the track sometimes above us and wondering how on earth we would get there; the next minute on it looking down on the track we had just left. This went on till we reached the highest point 10,760 feet above the sea, all amongst the snow and looking down to the green valleys and around at the snow-capped mountains – it was beautiful. We came down faster than we went up but every care was taken so it was not too alarming.

Harry and I stopped at Selida that night as we were anxious not to miss the Royal Gorge and had we gone straight on we should have missed it in the night. On Thursday morning therefore we started again and just before coming to the gorge an observation car was attached to the train. This has no covering and gives one a splendid opportunity of seeing everything. It certainly was the grandest piece of our journey though one has the dreadful feeling at first of a possible scrunching. Most of the rocks were 3,000 feet high and sometimes overhung the train. The river rushes along at the side of the line and at one place the gorge became so narrow that there is no room for the train on the bank and so a swinging bridge has been built for about 200 feet overhanging the river. Every now and again there is a small waterfall but at present the snow is not sufficiently melted for a great fall of water. It was altogether wonderful but Harry and I were both delighted we have not to do it again – it is a little risky.

This place is quite the most beautiful spot bar none we have seen since the beginning of our travels. It is a little town celebrated for its mineral waters, nearly half way up a range of the Rocky Mountains. We are about 7,000 feet above the level of the sea and towering above us on all sides are the grandest mountains – hardly any of them less than 14,336 feet. The air is rarefied for most people. Harry for instance has to go very slow or he loses all his breath; but except I run or walk too fast, I don’t notice it – in fact I find it invigorating. The highest peak here, Pike’s Peak, is easily ascended on a donkey but I am rather nervous about attempting it; so few can stand the atmosphere, generally faint or are deadly sick. The sun during the day is as hot as you can stand and although cold at night it is such a dry cold it does you more good than harm.

Harry is simply revelling with the camera and will bring home some lovely views. The Hotel is most comfortable and just redecorated. The mineral water is just like Apollinaris though rather softer I think. We go tomorrow or Wednesday to Chicago where I expect to get several letters.

Harry joins with me in sending heaps of love to all and with many kisses
Believe me dearest your loving daughter Edith Warne


17 April 1890
Sleeping car Burlington en route for Chicago 9. 30. a.m.

My Dearest Clara

I thought I would like to send you a line from the cars. We started at 9 last night having spent the day at Denver. The latter is rather a fine town but entirely spoilt by mud, which is a quarter up the wheels of the carriages. Everyone wears galoshes – the roads here have never been made.

These cars are just as delightful as the others were horrid (of course broad gauge) quite a large ladies’ toilet room with hot and cold water and a large looking glass. We could neither of us help thinking of the possibility of another smash especially when we were going apace about 8 o’clock this morning and a dining car was attached with kitchen. I saw them switch it on and with the cook and the waiters dressed in white running busily about it looked quite picturesque. It makes such a nice change going into a separate car for meals. It is prettily laid out and there is a small menu like the best Hotels. Before, we had to get out at dirty stations or eat tinned meats on board.

I manage the putting on and taking off of my clothes more cleverly now but it is still a nuisance – am always banging my head. I am much too big to travel. We left Manitou in a snowstorm. Isn’t it funny they always have one the third week in April and after it the buds come out and they are fairly set with Spring.

The country we are passing through now is not interesting. This journey we go past about 500 miles of wheat fields – this particular state supplies half Europe with wheat. America is like the sea to me – never ending. Fancy here we go on day after day and we could go as many days north or south and not see half the country. The size amazes me and not one child in a hundred I am sure is taught in England to recognise this. They grow up with the notion that America is big but secretly cherish the thought that England is a wee bit bigger. Without exaggeration England could be placed comfortably in the middle of one of their states. But as I have said before this makes me prouder and prouder of the little country because after all it is quite the ruling power in the world. Everything that is well known and extra good is English, their songs and books are mostly English, when you come across refinement you bet it comes from England. You’ll get tired of all this prosey stuff so will shut up. We have some posh cards so will send a line tomorrow.

Dearest love, hope you will be able to read this
Ever your loving sister Edith Warne


Palmer House
Sunday 20 April 1890

My Dearest Mother

I received your letter this morning, Harry having kindly telegraphed to New York as it seemed so long to wait for more letters. The Middle Street news is capital – just fits in with what I want when we return though I should much like to have Cook. Perhaps she would care for the people and can wait until I return. The Keymer news is good but has given me some sharp pangs of regret; I was so hoping it would only get let but of course it is a very good thing it is no longer a drag on you.

Chicago is a very fine city, quite like a bright London and the streets are Bond Streety. The finest jewellery I have ever seen and so tastefully arranged. There is generally a marble statue in the window draped around with pale pink and white China silk and in the folds the diamonds are placed – it looks exquisite ‘just elegant’. As usual we go about in the cars and have seen the waterworks, which are something special here; such wonderful machinery.
Although this view of Chicago was taken long after Edith’s visit, it gives some idea of the bustling city
Edith found so appealing. The postcard was used to promote Chicago’s World Fair 1933.
We have also spent a morning at Libby Prison. This has been removed just as it is from Richmond several hundred miles away. It was celebrated during the American Civil War and is now a museum with hundreds of relics from the war.

(Richmond is the capital of Virginia and was also the capital of the Confederate States during the American Civil War 1861-1865.)

We had a talk with one of the old soldiers who escaped during the war with 130 others from this same prison by means of a tunnel, which they actually dug out in a month and landed themselves safely out of sight of the sentinels. They first made a hole in the wall behind the stove and let themselves down to the dungeons; then they made another hole in the wall and commenced their tunnel. They worked from 10 at night until 4 in the morning and then closed the hole with old bricks so that nothing should be discovered during the day. They accomplished it all with a broad chisel and a wooden spittoon. The spittoon carried away all the loose earth as it was dug out. The old chap’s description was very interesting especially as he was able to point out the exact places where it all took place.

We have been to one or two of the parks. I see by the guide book that there are fourteen altogether. The one we were in yesterday has a small zoo and amongst other things a cage of English sporting dogs, precious hearts. They have a nice big open space but fancy keeping them boxed up for show.

The Hotel (this) is the great wonder to me – it is more like a busy street. One never sees women in American Hotel halls; they have always a separate entrance but you can look down from a balcony and it is a wonderful sight I think. To begin with the floor is all marble, the hall is lighted by twelve electric arc lights (that gives you some idea of the size) and then there are book stalls, barber shops, shirt makers, perfumeries, telegram office, telegraph ditto, typewriter and shorthand ditto and the Hotel office where you register. Oh I forgot the baths – Turkish, electric, Russian and plain hot and cold – now isn’t it like a small village? Hundreds of men stream in and out and lounge about and smoke.

I am happy to tell you that spittingis getting better; now we are getting further east there is a nicer class of people. Poor Mrs Sendall has had a dreadful time with this particular weakness of the American. She is obliged to put up a notice the first thing in every theatre ‘No spitting allowed on the stage’. Fancy her beautiful dresses sweeping about in such filth. The men mostly chew tobacco – that’s the cause I think; but nearly every woman chews a gum of some sort and Violet Vanburgh has seen many take it out of their mouths before going on to act and stick it on some wall handy for them to re-chew on coming off. Isn’t it beastly?
copyright © J.Middleton
Violet Vanbrugh was a famous English actress 
who was touring the States at the time of Edith’s visit.
(Violet Vanbrugh (1867-1942) was an English actress who toured the United States with Kendels’ Company, returning to England in 1891. She was noted for her beauty and the length of her career, which lasted for some 50 years and encompassed stage, silent movies and ‘talkies’.

The coffee room here has a marble floor and the walls and pillars are gilt picked out with blue while the ceiling is elaborately decorated with paintings. The drawing rooms are also most gorgeous but so desolate – no homeliness about these great Hotels. It’s a funny thing that with all their grand ideas so little care is taken of the bedrooms. They are generally nice rooms and nearly always have a bath and ‘convenience’ attached and hot and cold water. But having this you are supposed to want for nothing and however long you stay the place never seems dusted or swept. A horrid familiar female comes in to make the bed and brings towels (you never use a towel more than once) and then you never see her again – a boy always answers your call. All the tidying and dusting you must do yourself. You also have to pay 10 cents every time you put a pair of boots out to be blacked. Imagine such a thing in England.

Mine and Harry’s best love. I trust, dearest, your cold has gone. Poor Mrs Warne sends bad accounts of herself, such terrible colds and the doctor says she has had influenza.

Love to Clara and Gresham, Alfred and all friends.
Believe me ever with love and kisses, your loving daughter Edith Warne


Hotel Kaltenbach
Niagara Falls
Friday 25 April 1890

My Dearest Mother

Behold the headpiece and know we arrived without further accidents. We started for Niagara Falls on Wednesday morning (me with a ‘beashy’ cold) first I’ve caught and a right good one though happily passing quickly.

The Hotel (about the only one open yet) is juts opposite the rapids above the American Fall. We walked there the first evening; a parapet wall enables you to go to the very edge with water tumbling over close to your shoulder. Now you have to have some idea of the immense force and violence of water; all I can say or think was ‘my goodness’. I seem to have no breath left and one gets a hysterical feeling. But I assure you that the first impression is nothing to the second or third. Every time you see them and in every different position your wonder, and I must say your terror, increases. At first I think the American straight fall you notice most but when you get closer to the horse-shoe and see it from both sides you can no longer hesitate as to which is the finer.
Horseshoe Falls photographed from Goat Island.

No one can possibly describe it or give any idea of the volume of water. In one part it is 22 feet deep as it falls over and because of the depth of the water is a wonderful green. The American fall though higher has little or no colour, being like snow from the very beginning. The rapids below the falls (nearly a mile) that Webb tried to swim are more awful still I think; the pace is as bewildering as a fast train passing through a station. And of course the water is tossed with big waves. I haven’t the slightest feeling of pity for Webb – any man would be a like a straw in these waters.
Niagara Falls photographed with the little sightseeing boat Maid of the Mist. This view was posted in 1904.

(Captain Matthew Webb (1848-1883) was the first recorded person to swim the English Channel. He died on 24 July 1883 at Niagara Falls after he was swept against a jagged rock.)

At every part you visit you hear such gruesome stories of suicides, caused by nothing but the fascination of the water. Four women last summer threw themselves in; one was sitting above the American fall and suddenly got up and after first throwing in her parasol jumped in herself and some who saw her say she was smiling when she went over the fall. When found a few days later every particle of clothing was torn off and all her hair had gone – she was as bald as a baby. Our equilibrium is quite upset, I suppose the excitement is too much for at night Harry and I can’t sleep and when we do we are literally always by the water and under it or going to it.

We heard of a man yesterday who was seeing the falls with a friend some time ago and suddenly he turned and told his friend he was just going to throw him in, then follow himself. His friend with great presence of mind quietly said ‘Very well, so be it but first let’s go to the Hotel. I have forgotten a piece of important business.’ The man followed him back to the Hotel and when told what he had said, declared he did not remember one word; but for all that he wouldn’t go within sight of the falls again.

We are thinking of leaving tonight (Saturday) for New York. It is very wet and we don’t rest well. Poor old Harry has had a touch of fever, which has made him very queer. My dreams last night take the cake, first of all the everlasting waters. I thought I was shown the motive power of the falls in a tiny room and all the water of the two falls had to pass me.

(It is almost as if Edith was seeing into the future because a hydro-electric plant was installed at Niagara in 1894. The falls are some 190 feet high and 2,500 feet wide.) 

After that I was having supper in the middle of the London Road with Martha and a dozen other women so oddly dressed that I began to laugh. Martha cautioned me not to let them see me laughing but I could not stop. My jaw fixed wide open and my teeth fell on to my lower lip. I woke up roaring with laughter at 3 in the morning and had a regular fit of hysterics. Oh how my sides ached with laughing and my pillow was soaked with tears. Harry at the same time had a fit of coughing so the people in the passage of our Hotel must have enjoyed themselves for a time.

I hope you are all keeping quite well and that we shall find you so. My dearest love to Clara (I believe I owe herthis letter) Gresham and doggies and all those away from home. Harry of course joins with sending heaps of love.

Believe me dear, your loving daughter Edith Warne

The signature of Edith Warne


 Here we take our leave of Edith and Harry. The Niagara letter leaves us on an unsatisfactory note because they were obviously unsettled by the place. Perhaps too they were beginning to tire after nine months of continuous travel. In this frame of mind, the prospect of home and family, friends and pets must have seemed inviting.                         

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