Thursday, 12 March 2009

Victorian travel

In 1853 Isabella de Franca, the English wife of a landowner on Madeira, visited the island and recorded her trip in minute detail in her journal. She was also an extremely talented watercolour artist (as so many ladies were, including Queen Victoria herself).
They sailed to Madeira from Gravesend in the brig Eclipse, and one of her first pictures is of a group of women disembarking. She wrote:
As the vessel kept moving on, the boat bobbed up and down so that it was rather difficult to drop into it. Captain Davis got over the side, and took the ladies down one by one as he could, every one of them screaming, kicking, laughing and struggling not to show her legs, till she was landed with a shout in the last it was accomplished and the boat rowed off. I waved my handkerchief as they left the ship, and in an instant a sea of white handkerchiefs rose from the boat...

It is not clear how Isabella got this sketch from the ship's deck, but it is completely convincing in its vivacity and humour.
The boat Will Pattison is a typical Thames working skiff, with a small lugsail and a single oarsman providing all the power.

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