Section of Unsigned Letter to M. Noyes, August 25, 1873 to August 27, 1873


Dublin Core


Section of Unsigned Letter to M. Noyes, August 25, 1873 to August 27, 1873


Travel; Boats; Weather; Temples--China; Chinese language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers


This letter is written aboard a boat anchored at the southwest coast of Hangzhou. The boat left Hong Kong on August 23 with a load of coal. The writer describes the weather conditions, the crew, their route, the geography, the people, and the village (particularly a temple). Whoever is writing seems to be quite surprised by the hospitality and civility of the people. In fact, when he went ashore he carried two revolvers in case of emergency. The author says that he makes himself understood in Chinese.




Loose, The College of Wooster, Special Collections, Noyes Collection




1873-08-25 to 1873-08-27


Council on Library and Information Resources Hidden Special Collections Grant




eng (English)





Text Item Type Metadata


Off Howchow Island 25th August
&o &o 26th &o
Off Hoi How. Hainan Island 27th &o
Off Pak-Hoi Tonquin Gulf
[u] 1873 [/u]
My dear M Noyes
I am writing this with the [--uncert--]
uncertainty of being able to forward it, but [--shall--]
will endeavor to persuade some Junk bound "Cantonward"
to take it up. We are at anchor off the Sou. West Coast
of Howchow & I suppose the little village with its ruined
& dismantled forts straggling tenements & large Temple,
claims to be it Capital. 'Tis 1.00 A.M. A heavy
gale is raging, with violent squalls at intervals.
'Tis my watch till 4.00. Whilst the gusts last, I shall
be on deck seeing that our "groundtackle" is holding well
& that the men on duty are at their posts; but during
the "lulls" it will only be necessary to give an occasional
look round, the remaining time shall be spent in
scribbling a chat. I like these pen & ink talks with those
I love, respect, & honour, they always give me great pleasure
are more substantial than, [u] thought [/u], alone, & in conjuring up
[?thought-?] friends they in fancy take me back or reconvene, the
happy hours spent in their society. So you see I'm not
altogether free from selfishness, whilst afflicting you
with this. As I intend adding at every place we stop,
'twill perhaps grow lengthy by the time I get an opportunity
of ending it, so please remember the advice given in my
last & lay it by for a leisure or lazy moment if ever you
are troubled with the latter. We left Hong-Kong
with our load of coal early on Saturday the 23rd. The
English Mail arrived just before our departure. I
felt sure there was a letter for me there, was it
not tantalizing being unable to obtain, & answer it, before
starting on our lengthy [?cruise?]? I asked the kind Archdeacon
to write a line, stating how I'm circumstanced, I know
he will & that'll keep my dear Mother from being anxious
on account of [--at--] my silence. Our voyage commenced with
a strong but favourable breeze [Illegible] fairly at sea,
we discovered that our "craft" [Illegible] very freely, whilst [--[?whilst?]--]
working, & straining, on account of the heavy cargo she
contained, the crew had plenty of work at the pumps
& almost constant baling, night & day, but of this we
thought little, she was driving along before a glorious fair wind

& we were doing, what would have proved more than a "week's
work", with a foul one, in less than the twenty four hours.
At 6.00 P.M. on Sunday we anchored under the Isle of "[?Foung-Tye?]"
off the entrance to Shui Tung & Tien Pak over two hundred
meters from Hong Kong by the route we had taken. I thought
of you all as the time for Meeting came round & wondered if
any one of all there would give a [--thought--] thought of unworthy
me, I could hardly expect it or if it so happened, it
must have been of the dark side of my nature, of faults
& failings that have been by far so much more visible &
prominent than my better self. At daylight on Monday
we again started passed [--through--] between sand banks & dangerous
mud flats & by Noon arrived at this fertile Isles, but
by this the weather had changed, occasional squalls, a dull
heavy sky, leaden coloured clouds, fitful gusts of wind
& a sudden fall of mercury shewn by Barometer, all foretold
a coming gale. The Fisherman, too, had all come in, & were
under shelter, this alone, had it been a fine bright day
would have shewn that a storm was brewing. I have
never found them wrong, upon hundreds of occasions during
the last ten years. As the wind is we are snug enough, good
holding ground & with a point of land near to slip round
should the gale veer to the South Coast or South'rd
The Island of Howchow is [?low?] to the North'rd of an undulated
character, rising to the height of about 60 to 80 feet
towards its Southern extremity. 'Tis situated about seven
miles from the North East portion of the Peninsular
of Lien Chaw, (China Coast) & about 45 miles due North
of the Island of Hainan, it is eight miles in length
& the same in width, admirably adapted for agriculture
but apparently thinly populated & but little cultivated
though evidently of a very fertile nature. The inhabitants
are very [--docile--] hospitable, docile, & friendly I never heard
one offensive [--epitet--] epithet used, they "chin-chined" us werever
we went & always used the word "Tye-Farn" (I dont know if
that's spelt right) when addressing us. Being wind-bowed
I went ashore as the sun got low, to gather shells, & soon
made friends with all the children in the place, who shewed [--made--]
a pretty consider [Illegible] [?nuster?], by the by, both they &, their
Papa's & Mamm[Illegible] are remarkably clean); the little ones
shewed no fear of me whatever, even the youngest would
come toddling along, his little face bright with smiles, or [--&--]
laughter, to have a toss in the air or a roll in the sand [--will--]
with a dozen other merry little fellows who were clinging
round me, awaiting their turn, the ladies were rather

shy at first, but that soon wore off, & they became friendly
enough when they saw their little ones & I on such good terms
& joined in the general laughter at our gambols & frolics
I had not been a quater of an hour ashore, when every house
in the place was opened to me & I received pressing invitation
from dozens & dozens more than I could comply with to
[enter] their homes & receive what simple attentions they were
able to offer. I can make myself understood some how or other
without difficulty by the help of a dictionary & the hearty
laughs with which they hail my blunders, put them all in
good humour & consequently places us on the best of terms
at every house at which I stopped. I was treated with the greatest
civility. The Syndic of the village or town (for so I suppose
I must term him as there is no Mandarin here) welcomed
me to his house with much formality & ceremonious politness
He seemed to have great pride in pointing out a long broad
strip of paper on the wall covered with hieroglyphics,
stamps & things resembling cart wheels with crooked spokes
he also took evident pains to call my attention to a
dilapidated sedan-chair, covered with blue cloth, that
had seen its best days, years since, perhaps a generation
or two ago, yet, from the complacency, with which he
viewed it, I think it must also have been an insignia
of office, perhaps 'twas the only one on the Island &
consequently would impress the [?rustics?] with awe
& respect. Knowing that 'twould never do to wound
the dignity of this "little great man", I stayed as his guest,
perspiring most uncomfortably the while, till sundown
I had been conversing by the help of Mr Chalmers's dictionary
accompanied by gesticulations which would have dubbed
Mr Frenchman had any European been looking on & now that it
was getting late with patience exhausted & feeling as if I had
been in a vapour bath, I explained that I wanted to go
shell gathering, so at length was permitted to make my
adieus. I can't say whether the worthy man gave my
little friends a hint of my intentions, it may have been
their good-nature alone that prompted them, any way
directly I reached the beach I had dozens of busy little
hands at work for me which kept me constantly employed
receiving the supplies they were constantly bringing & in
less than half an hour [Illegible] had as [Illegible] as I & two of the crew
who were with me could carry returned on board
just before darkness set in, ashamed, after the very
friendly reception I had received, of having carried two
loaded revolvers in my pockets, which I had taken ashore
with me, [?true?], [u] only [/u] to have been used in a case of [u] great [/u] emergency
& if my life had been endangered by hostile treatment, but my
conscience pricked me & they felt a dead weight, as I received their Kindness

So numerous have been the interruptions, since commencing
this that 'tis nearly four o'clock already. Gale still
heavy, overcast, with rain at times of thick weather,
no chance of leaving this today. The sea is breaking too
heavily on the Bar & we could not see the land-marks
to guide us over the "flats & through the "narrows". I will
call my "relief," lie-down for a couple of hours & weather
permitting go on shore & see the forts, "lions" of the place
& surrounding country taking with me one of the crew
a large tiffin basket for shells & my dictionary, but no
revolvers although I shall perhaps wander many miles
from our boat. I mean to collect sufficient shells
to supply every one of the missionary Community who
want any & then have some to spare. I have already
quite a collection of many hundreds for your Sister
I promised Mrs Kerr a quantity by this evening I shall
have thousands which will do for a commencement.
They are both numerous & beautiful here & of great variety
but I must to bed so I put this away till to night.
4.00. A.M. 26th/[?8?]/73 Yesterday I was ashore for five hours
found the town very much larger than I expected
most of the houses are detached with a plot of
land surrounding them, although they have earthen
floors they are clean, whitewashed outside & neatly
thatched. The dirtiest place to be found is their
large Temple, the courts of which are used as a
bazaar. skins of fruits & dirt of every description
cover the ground & the disagreeable odour prevailing
everywhere made me glad to reach the open air,
here also, all the dirty exceptions & lazy fellows seem
to congregate & sprawl about in idleness, wallowing
in the surrounding filth, a glance at them told one
they were the "good-for-nothings" of the place.
We examined the forts which appeared very ancient
& were in ruins but on quesitoning some of the better
class of inhabitants they [--sayed--] said that they only
numbered 200 years, but the weather worn look of the
granite & the fretted brick work of curious shape, makes
me think them much older. The walls are about 14 feet
in thickness, one is square & originally mounted seven heavy
guns the other round & pierced for ten guns both looking
seaward, in the enclosed spaces there are numerous buildings

Original Format



Unknown, “Section of Unsigned Letter to M. Noyes, August 25, 1873 to August 27, 1873,” Letters from Harriet Noyes: Missionaries and Women's Education in Nineteenth Century China, accessed May 25, 2024,

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