Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Letters of Nicholas Loney (17)

Letter No. 17


April 30th, 1859

My dear Father,

I have received yours and Annie’s letters and am very much obliged indeed for them. At present if I am to catch this vessel I cannot reply or write you anything in particular, but will do so by an early opportunity. I at present merely wish principally to save the mail to tell you that Father Ceberio, who orders the organ, wishes that it should be so constructed that the organist can see the priest while playing; and not be seated with his back to the priest and congregation. In Spain it is the custom for the organist to be seated so as to be able to see the priest when celebrating Mass at the high altar. I suppose this matter could be managed by Mr. Walker. Father Ceberio says that other priests have told him that if this turns out well they will order other organs also.

I am now loading the British barque “Camilla” for Australia. Matters in that direction are going on well enough, but in the piece-goods line I am likely to lose some money owing to the failure of a debtor. An awkward amount, but not enough to swamp me. Will write you more fully soon – I hope Mother’s health has continued to improve. I will write to Robert soon. Tomorrow we are going over to Guimaras, with the Captain of the “Camilla” who is a very decent fellow, on a sort of picnic. With best love to all

Your affectionate son,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Letters of Nicholas Loney (16)

Letter No. 16


January 8th, 1859

“Rosalia” to Manila

My dear Nanny,

I wrote you a small note from Manila the day before shipping myself per “Soledad;” and eight days after, a boat pulled by four swarthy indigenes was observed to detached itself from a gaily painted barque in the outer harbour of Iloilo and land two coves upon a wharf. One of these coves was the Biscayan skipper of the “Soledad,” high Don Santiago de Lierra; the lowly cognomen of the other, though decidedly one of those “not generally known,” may perhaps not be unfamiliar to you under the mysterious initials, N.L.

To my surprise I found H.M.S.V. “Magicienne” anchored near the Iloilo fort. It seemed that while on voyage to Labuan, Sir J.B. (John Bowring) was attacked by fever and ague, and instead of going to Borneo they bore up for Zamboanga and after staying there a day or two came on to Iloilo. The steamer arrived here on the afternoon of the 30th December, and the “Soledad” on the morning of the 31st. I found J.B. installed at the house of Ulsurrum and Co., which had been placed at his disposal by the Governor, the latter’s own temporary one being rather too small for the purpose. Higgin had offered him ours, for which J.B. thanked him, but said he must place himself in the Governor’s hands.

It was proposed to show J.B. something of the country, and the next morning after going to a ball at Molo the night before, which J.B., the Captain and some of the officers also patronized, we started off for Janiuay, a large pueblo about 18 miles off, passing through Jaro, Santa Barbara and Cabatuan. The Governor drove Sir J.B. and myself as far as Cabatuan, and Captain Vansittart and J.B.’s secretary came in my carriage, the padres of Jaro and San Barbara and D. Jose Coscolluela and D.V. Ulsurrum bringing up the rear. At Cabatuan we breakfasted at the convent of Padre Ramon Alquigan, and then went on to Janiuay where Fray Miguel Carvod gave us another breakfast, after which we had a siesta, and then a dinner in the afternoon. Then we started for Iloilo – I, with young Mr. Secretary Payne and Captain Vansittart, and J.B. with the Governor. Got back to Iloilo late in the evening, and partook of another spread given by the Governor at Ulsurrum’s house. Next day whirled off again to the pueblos along the coast. Molo, Arevalo, Oton, Tigbuan, and Guimbal, returning to Iloilo late and again prandializing with the Governor. The following morning the steamer left. While we were rushing through the country Higgin took charge of feeding several of the officers and inducting them into the New Year festivities at Molo, and some of them slept on shore at our house.

Sir J.B. and Captain V. and Payne much admired the beauty and fertility of the country through which we passed on the first day’s journey, and in visiting the towns on the coast J.B. was struck with the amount of population and the extent to which the native manufactures are carried on. At the breakfast and collations at the convents, sundry small speeches were made and toasts proposed and J.B. got on very well on these occasions, speaking Spanish capitally. On the whole, especially as I believe, he intends writing a book about China and the Philippines which will have the effect of directing attention to this quarter.[i] I think his visit will be productive of good, though it is to be regretted that he did not or could not come as a private individual so as to have avoided giving his Spanish entertainers so much trouble. Our poor old Governor gave himself no rest day or night to treat his guest as well as possible and must have spent a lot of money besides. Some of the padres also did the hospitable on the “Bodas de Camacho[ii] scale. The fare at our “Umble domicile” was not on a very regal scale as the “good things” I bought on the “Soledad” could not be landed in time.

I brought J.B. to the Consulate on the morning he left, showed him my reports, of which he requested copies, and posted him up about the port in general.[iii] I did not see much of the officers of the “Magicienne.” Those I knew were a Lieutenant Sharpe, the purser W. Alexander, Harvey the master, and the chaplain who name I forget. The first lieutenant’s name was Soady. I saw and spoke to him on board but did not know at the time that he is a Devonshire or Cornishman, and I believe I have heard a family of that name sometimes spoken of at home. He seemed a very good fellow, and I am told that he was very much liked on board, and that the men would do anything for him. I got Captain Vansittart to give a passage to Manila to a priest who wished to go and attend the chapter meeting of the Augustinian order at Manila.

A good many of the other padres went on board to see him off and to see the vessel, and looked very funny in their long white habits groping about the engine room and lower decks. I cannot write you any more on this present occasion, and you must excuse this insipid letter. Some detestable business letters occupy the feeble N.L. mind. If I do not find time to write Father by this copy, please tell him that things go on pretty well.

With best love to Mother and all, I remain

Your affectionate brother,


[i] Sir John Bowring wrote “A Visit to the Philippine Islands,” London, 1859.

[ii] From Cervantes’ novel, “Don Quixote,” used idiomatically to mean on a grand scale or lavishly.

[iii] Other reports by Nicholas Loney found by Fr. Horacio dela Costa, S.J. in the British Museum are kept in the Ateneo University Museum. Their inclusion in this book was not possible due to lack of time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Letters of Nicholas Loney (15)

Letter No. 15


June 20th, 1858

My dear Nanny,

Tengo a la vista,[i] as we Spaniards say, your welcome and long missives of Feb. 2nd and March 2nd and 3rd. See how beautifully exact I am in citing dates. It I was only as regular in writing by every mail I should be perfection, and again lift up the voice of thanksgiving for such interesting accounts of things in general. Now I, by way of intense contrast, am about to write you the miserably little note you ever did see. But que faire? will the big black arraez of the “Gras” detain his vessel a moment if I am not ready? and haven’t I got to write to Phillips Mooer and Co. about those 63 bars of Swedish iron; to Ker and Co. about those ginghams at four and two-eighths; to Smith Bell and Co. about printed muslins and to Andres de Zarate concerning those customs duties? Such is the melancholy fact, and these and other horrid subjects act like bullying tares, and choke the timid growth of this unfortunate little letter which strives to get its head out of the heavy mental brushwood of a/c sales and remittances. All very fine says you, but why didn’t you begin earlier or write before? To which I reply when he procrastinates again, punch his head and hit him hard.

My ideas at present are on a wool-gathering excursion and there are not exactly enough of them at home to attend to what I am writing. I am also undergoing an attack of toothache since last night and have been trying some of Gidney’s atalgic or black bottle,” a powerful anodyne for the alleviation of painful teeth – which, having proved powerless to conjure the evil one, creosote has been resorted to, with no effect at present beyond a considerable spluttering and a delightful odour of cold tar. The fiend, however, is just at this moment beginning to yield, hurray! there’s virtue in that stumpy little bottle, and I begin to experience the buoyant sensations of the old familiar ha-ha-cured-in-an-instant individual.

I don’t think I told Father in writing him this morning that the steamer intended for the Iloilo and Manila line left New York on the 1st of March last. Sturgis and some friends took a trial trip in her about New Year’s Day, and he described her as a “perfect beauty” sailing very fast and making 10 knots in tolerably smooth water with ease under steam. So he sailed early in March but comes out under canvas except during calms and headwinds. I haven’t time at present to say much about myself and doings, I think I told you that Domingo and his wife and mother-in-law had gone away to Manila. D. went wrong and I had to part with him. I have in his stead a young man from Manila called Atanacio, a mild good-looking youth, no relation to him of the creed. These is also Martin, a cove who looks after the lamps and sweeps the floors; young Lucas who makes himself useful generally; and young Francisco, the son of an English deserter from a whaler, who got married at one of the pueblos in the interior and left several children. His name was John Last, which in the marriage certificate is translated into “Juan de los Ultimos” by which appellation he was known. The juvenile Francisco was brought to me by his mother and sisters, and sold for $4. That is, they took $4, and left him to work it out in wages, which he is doing at the rate of 6 reales a month. They bought him some clothes with part of the money.

Of the old domestics I formerly mentioned, none are left but the coachman. Cecilio was discovered in the interesting occupation of mixing a lot of mud in the sugar shipped per “Sumbilla” to account for a deficiency in the weight, so I had to discard him; he had previously been picking up such unconsidered trifles as handkerchiefs, etc.

I am getting now to be more of a hermit than ever – I usually feel so disinclined for stirring out of an evening after the heat of the day, the exhausting effect of which I now feel considerably, after so many years of it that I seldom go out at all, and usually turn in at 9 o’clock, a fearfully early hour in this part of the world where everybody turns in after 12 midnight in general. I have in consequence seen very little of Mrs. Carles and her sister, they appear to be all right. I saw Dolores dressed in pink some nights ago at a dance the first time she has been at a thing of the king since Don Emilio’s death. By George! I musn’t forget to say that I am actually likely to get soon a Vice-Consular fee. The owner of the ship going to China with timber wants a certificate of ownership, being desirous of selling her in Hongkong; unfortunately as he is “a friend” I shall probably have to forego the fee.

J.H. soon got over the disappointment about the young mestiza – he goes to visit her frequently. I imagine that the assertion about her being engaged to another was a “pious fraud” on her part to soften the refusal, and I think he is biding his time till matter are more propitious. I tell him he had better let me send him out someone from the Seagirt Isle, which he admits would be preferable, but then this young lady had some money and a good house, and anybody from home would doubtless want money and a house, which is different.

I have come to the end of my string without having said anything worth saying, but never mind will do better next time, with love to everybody

Your very affectionate brother,


[i] I have on hand

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Letters of Nicholas Loney (14)

Letter No. 14


September 20, 1857

My dear Nanny,

What are the moments sighing, sister all day long, that ever while swiftly flying, they sing but the selfsame song – saying “Rash one, whole months have vanished since last you wrote to who am; crying, write, for the mail is rushing to leave the silvereye foam.” En effet, I find that my last letter to you appears to have been dated on the 5th of July last. Coasting craft, my boy, coasting craft will have their vagaries and not start at the right times, and Nicks will have their procrastinations and their “moods” in which writing may not be done.

Since I last had the satisfaction of addressing you, I am in receipt of yours of the 18th May and April for which I am your poor debtor ever. There is not much very particular news in your last letters to comment upon, but “Point de nouvelles; bonnes nouvelles” – an axiom which I hope you fully agree with, as I have scarcely the slightest scrap to tell you. I think I mentioned formerly that my friend Carmen had gone to Manila to see her Seraphim; but Carles tells me that her baptismal certificate can’t be found, and she can’t be married until it is, it appears that she was born on some vessel in the English Channel, and baptized either at Cork or at some other place – Federica who was then on board was too young at them time to remember where. Three witnesses to the Baptism would do instead of the document, but as neither it nor they can be found, the Archbishop won’t let her get married. So things are in a dreadful state – Seraphim in despair. Carmen wringing her hands and offering to be baptized all over again “sub conditione,” and the Excellentisimo e Illustrisimo SeƱor Don Fray Jose Aringuiren, Arzobispo de las Islas Filipinas sternly refusing to compromise in the matter in any shape or way. What a dreadful warning to all non-heretical ladies not to lose their certificate of Baptism. As for Dolores, you may put it down as pretty certain that the undersigned entertains no matrimonial projects in that quarter, as to fulfill them he would have to go through the trifling ceremony of becoming a Roman Catholic, of which at this time of day ‘pon my conscience I’d say (as the old song has it), there isn’t much likelihood – unless she was particularly fascinating, and he could turn the tables on Mother Church by carrying out the Popish principle of Mental Reservation on appearing to enter the Apostolic fold. Besides I am rather disgusted with Miss Pains[i] since last week when she ordered a pet dog, several months old, to have its ears and tail cut, Federica standing by consenting unto the deed. I, who hold the doctrine of Schopenhauer with regard to animals, am scandalized.

I have now a companion in the house, and am again learning to speak the tongue which the “Divine William” spake. But O Horror! John Higgin is the uneuphonious name of the youth in question – a Liverpudlian style of youth, with Liverpudlian manners and a squeakyish voice, he will probably remain with me and take a share in the “business” if business there be – I think that by this arrangement if I can scrape up a spare thousand dollars or what Robinson Crusoe and the old writers call “pieces-of-eight.” Then I may perhaps come home again – but who knows? The curtain is still drawn over that part of the play, and the actors must just play out the intervening acts, no skipping being allowed in the sublunary theatre.

What dreadful things have taken place in India! It is fearful to think of the number of women and children massacred, and I am afraid every succeeding mail will bring bad tidings to many a family at home. The last accounts we have here are of the murder of 606 Europeans at Cawnpore and the unsuccessful siege of Delhi, but we expect another mail in a few days. I think the insurrection may be suppressed after the shedding of an immense amount of blood, but the people at home will have to look sharp and send out the British Legions as soon as possible if the stout young woman at Windsor Castle is to retain her Empire in the East. I should like to be in India now, but seemed destined to live where life’s stream runs dullest. It seems also to run pretty sluggishly off the Pongo river, to judge from what our medico so humorously says in his letters from that Lethian flood. My household is now getting rather too large, consisting at present of the following dramatis personae:

John Higgin, junior partner

Cecilio Francisco, native clerk with a salary of $150 per annum

Domingo Ruiz, majordomo, salary $60 p.a.

Elena Ruiz, wife of Domingo

Carlotta Manson, mother of Elena

Victor Rafelos, coachman, salary $30 p.a.

Juan Lopez, warehouseman.

Doroteo, servant.

Mariano, ditto.

Ygnacio de los Reyes, cook, salary $48 p.a.

Tom and Terry – carriage horses

Bravo – a valiant bull terrier

Pinto – a spotted coach dog

Moro – a Manila poodle

Zapiron – a predatory cat

The above list of servants will appear large to you, but it is not out of the way in these Eastern countries. To give you an idea of the superfluities which some people have I may mention that the Governor of the Province has just now no less than twenty-five horses in his stables.

There are a lot of old beggar women kicking up a row on the stairs. They have a most peculiar style of begging. First they exclaim “Blessed be the most Holy Sacrament on the altar!” Then they repeat the “Lord’s Prayer,” and the “Hail, Virgin Mary,” etc. ending with a choral “Good Morning, gentlemen and ladies!” until you get quite tired, and shy down an alms to get them away. I have been reading little lately except the “Revue des Deux Mondes” in which there are some fine articles by J.J. Ampere on “L’histoire Romaine a Rome” with mischievous allusions to Louis Napoleon. How long is that individual going to last? Or rather how long is France going to consent to have her hands and feet tied? “Salva Libertate potens” and the state of things where Walewskis, Pereires and Morneys rise to the top. There is also a most excellent article on “Le roman de la vie domestique en Allemagne” in the Revue.

I am getting on very slowly with my building projects. The weather has been so bad that the timber can’t be brought from the adjacent islands, but I have built a temporary store of cane and palm, on the site which I formerly spoke of as covered with mangrove trees waving about in the water. The road which I had so many misgivings about is approaching completion, and will, I think, stand the action for a couple of years or so without requiring much repair, or at least I hope so. Another person has ventured to occupy a site close to the one I have taken, and if others do so also it will be an additional security for the road being kept in order. In this way the best and most advantageous part of the river bank will gradually be occupied, though no one had ventured to do so hitherto for want of a road across a deep part of the swamp. The road, however, has cost a great deal, and I sometimes wonder at my temerity in commencing it. If it tumbles down or causes an unremunerative expense R. and S. must look upon themselves as component parts of that body of victims caused by advancing civilization whom Napoleon alludes in one of his last speeches. I have forgotten to mention to Father that I am obliged to him for his suggestion about building with clay and chopped straw, but fear the heavy rains would affect it too much, as the soft stone used by some people here becomes very much worn, and requires to be faced every now and then with cement. Well, I hope I shall be able to scrape up enough money to take me home again in two or three years, but I have no doubt you have no faith in my homeward projects, and to tell you the truth I have none myself.

I have commenced an article on Panay, but don’t believe I shall ever finish it, or that if it were miraculously concluded it would be admitted to any of the better magazines. I am glad to hear your better report of the state of John’s health – I am waiting for that tabular statement of nephews and nieces. The waning margin reminds me to conclude this epistle, which I do with some compunction as to its stupidity. But you seem to have no objection to this latter quality, which is very fortunate in the present instance. I am inclined to agree with the parallel you draw between sincerity in any shape, and intellectual selfishness. I know a very scantily-gifted man at Manila who has the best heart in the world. I can’t lay claim to anything of that kind, but nevertheless have metaphorically speaking enough of that important organ to be your affectionate brother, Nick.

Don’t let that infant be called Peter Nicholas! It’s monstrous – might as well call him Nehemiah or some such dreadful name! The 10th of this month was my Saint’s day, San Nicholas de Tolentino – the two bands of the town came and played alternately in front of the house, and the residents called, or sent in their cards. This is “the custom of the country.”


[i] Refers to Dolores, which is the Spanish word for pains.