Section of a letter from Martha


Dublin Core


Section of a letter from Martha


Fashion; Visitors, Foreign; Rivers; Horses


Mattie writes from aboard a boat and describes all the things happening around her. She notices that respectable people seem to be wearing silk skull caps that are either blue or black. She sees a boat being rowed by women with onions. Mattie remarks that she would not change places with any foreigners. She notices people using the river for everything from cooking and dishes to washing bodies. Mattie also mentions the animals on board with her.


Kerr, Noyes Martha


The College of Wooster, Special Collections, Noyes Collection, Box #3






Council on Library and Information Resources Hidden Special Collections Grant




eng (English)





Text Item Type Metadata


[Note: &c transcribed as etc]

Over there in one of the boats is a
lad of perhaps 14 years taking a
partial bath. Things here are not
always done in a corner and there
is a boy with two bird cages and
the little birds are singing beautifully
I do believe I will have to have a
bird sometime A nice looking Sin
Shang now marches by carrying a
fan. When these fans are not in
use they put them in the neck of
their shams and you almost in-
variably see them with this article
in the hand blowing away furious-
ly or else sticking out at the back
of the neck of the sham. This like
the stockings and shoes seems to be
a passport to respectability These
respectable people always wear a
close fitting skull cap either of blue
[--sik--] silk bound with black or black
bound with black satin. I saw
one of the officials out the other day
in a chair wearing a sham made
of material like Mother's satin dress
with large sleeve lined with most
beautiful blue satin I do think he
had the most beautiful hands
I ever saw on a human being

Perhaps I have already written about
him Look at that man leading
his little girl by the cue she does
not seem to fancy it much and
now that he sees me he laughs
and seems to keep on in his bad
ways Lillie and Miss Shaw just
passed on their way to Shawmin
and game me an invitation to ac-
company them but I begged to be
excused To tell the truth I never see
the time when I am particularly
anxious to promenade up and down
the [illegible] and we use various ex-
pedients to escape the necessity each
as playing blind[--s--]man's buff Quoits
etc What has that man got I am
sure I do not know something that
looks like our straw mats for the
table, only many times bigger and
there goes a boat rowed by a poor
miserable looking woman filled
with onions I should say Here
comes that man back again with
the mats and they prove to be most
enormious palm leaf fans .I do
think I have seen them 5 times

as large as those we have at
home If you look across on
shawmin you will see some
nice looking celestials They do not
allow any of the common trash over
there but I am sure I would not
change places with any of those
foreigners There comes a chair but
it is so shut up that no [u]one[/u] could
possibly tell who was there in
There one of the boat women is
washing the dishes, I expect she
has had her rice and now propose
to do up the work. This canal is
the most convenient article I ever
saw they dip up water to cook
with [--get out--] and lean over the
side of their boats wash dishes
clothes hands babies any every
thing. Their dish pan is always
ready for any occasion Of course
some people might feel an
objection to drinking their tea
and etc but if they think it is all
right whose business is it to ob-
ject There go five little ponies
over on sha[--w--]min each led by

its groom and there behind the last one is a big
nice newfoundland dog Oh dear the ponies are
little insignificant things but I do wish I could borrow
that dog for a little while. If I stand here a little
while longer I expect I will see some of the mis-
tresses of the mansions on the island out taking an
[illegible] on some of those self same horses. Dear dear
what a racket these children out here are making their
tongues run like [--a--] windmills. If I could rent one
of those tongues it would save me some work There
goes a man with a basket of Chinese [u]cakes[/u] but I have
no wish to interfere with his peac[--e--]able possession
of them Well I must stop now as it is team time
and I must stop for this time - as I am not ready
for our evening call. It looks like rain so we
will go in the boat. Our boatman is sitting out
on one end of it smoking and looking the personifica
tion of comfort-- There is the bell good night
Your loving Mattie

Original Format



Kerr, Noyes Martha, “Section of a letter from Martha,” Letters from Harriet Noyes: Missionaries and Women's Education in Nineteenth Century China, accessed April 18, 2024,

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