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C. M. Patterson diary of a voyage from London to Calcutta


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

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C. M. Patterson was probably a British woman who traveled from London, England, to Calcutta, India, in the autumn of 1863. She appears to be newly married to "B" with whom she was moving to India, almost certainly for his career. It also appears that her marriage and this trip resulted in her separation from her family for the first time. Mrs. Patters never refers to any single individual by their full name: her husband is called "B," and her closest friends are "Mrs. Bliss," "Miss Cinzelle," and "Mrs. Bayley."

This volume describes Mrs. C.M. Patterson's journey aboard the Queen of the South, a three-masted screw steamer, which left Gravesend, England, on September 21 and arrived in Calcutta on December 23, 1863. Mrs. Patterson's diary is written as letters to her family, but particularly, her father; and she describes her day to day life; the people she met and her impressions of them; the activities undertaken in order to fill the time; the weather; the food; and sights seen. At the start of the journey, Mrs. Patterson was filled with enthusiasm, excitement about her fellow shipmates (120 passengers and 106 crew members), and confidence in her ability to manage sea sickness and the long voyage. She enjoyed the food, made friends quickly, formed special attachments with a few women (many of whom she describes as "the brides"), and enjoyed the view from the deck, including seeing flying fish. Although she never provides full names of her fellow passengers, her descriptions of them is quite detailed. Some of the passengers included thirteen French nuns and four French priests traveling to Mauritius, a chaplain traveling to Madras, a young German woman traveling to Calcutta to marry an Englishman, "waifs and strays," etc.

Over the course of the voyage, her opinions on all things changed multiple times, usually depending upon the heat, being seasick, and sometimes simply the constant proximity with fellow shipmates. As passengers became bored, their behavior devolved and their time was spent drinking, gambling, and flirting, much to Mrs. Patterson's dismay. As time progressed, Mrs. Patterson was faced with the realities of racism and the brutality of colonialism. On December 17, Mrs. Patterson described the beating of a boatman who had stolen a sheet and blanket from a cabin. Witnessing the beating, she "got dreadfully sick," but was told "it was an everyday occurrence in India," (p. 78).

The ship passed between the Islands of Palma and Teneriffe; stopped in Cape Town in November; dropped passenger in Mauritius; and landed in Madras, India on December 16, where Mrs. Patterson "spent [her] first night in India," (p. 66). On December 23, Mrs. Patterson wrote from Calcutta, "here we are safe and sound at our journey's end, just 3 months and 1 day from Gravesend." (p. 81). The last entry is dated January 4 and describes the Pattersons' first days in Calcutta, including the wedding of their fellow passenger, Miss C., shopping, their first Christmas away from their families, and settling into their new life. The diary ends abruptly, mid-sentence on the last page of the volume and may have been continued in a new blank notebook.

Sold by lizzyoung bookseller (Newport, Rhode Island), 2020.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Holly Mengel
Finding Aid Date
2023 April 28
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Diary of a voyage from London to Calcutta, 1863 September 21-1864 January 4.
Volume 1

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