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Observations

Observations
James' sketch of a pot

Carts in Buenos Ayres

I have spoken of the convenience of carts in landing & promised to make more particular observations of them.

Their construction was extremely rude and their appearance most inelegant. The body of was formed by a few beams of wood crossing each other transversely, unpolished, multangular, and with large interstices between. This rested on a stout axletree, at each end of which was an immense large wheel high & broad – being I suppose double the height & double the breadth of our own. The sides were raised to a considerable elevation by tall bamboe canes stick perpendicularly, to which were fastened crossways bamboes also. The ends were open. From the front of the body, projected a stout pole, intended to confine a horse on either side of it, whilst a third was secured at the very extremity, being the leader. The driver of this elegant machine rode on the horses, and managed his car as handsomely & cleverly as ere a one in England or Ireland to boot. These carts are employed in every thing as well as in the conveyance of goods – the vending of beef – the transference of your person from your boat to the shore - &.c  Some of them are covered over with like our wagons with hides especially for long journeys & for keeping goods dry. I observed a good many carts of English Manufacture – and was not a little amused at the air of superiority assumed when their drivers were passing one less elegant but perhaps more useful vehicle of the natives, considering the nature of the country, as where you have such immensely deep ruts after rain, that ordinary carts & ordinary wheels if once in them would never emerge from them in the unassisted efforts of the horses.

Names of the Streets at Buenos Ayres

In Buenos Ayres the names of the streets have undergone a total change, since the natives have thrown off the yoke. Of course I do not know the former names of the streets, but the present names plainly indicate a revolution in name as well as in reality as Calle (Street) de la VictoriaCalle de la reconquistacalle de la Independencia Calle del 25 de Mayo, the day of their independence. Then you have streets & squares called after the different battles in which they were successful – and also not a few which are honoured with the names of confederate republics, similarly circumstanced with themselves – as Calle de Perude Chilede Mexico. This is indeed quite a Novel plan of aiding the Memory in History and Chronology – and should have no doubt but it might be advantageously followed at home to a much greater extent than is done. As for instance we might have 15th of June StreetReform SquareGrey & Russell Courts with many others too numerous to mention. The only rule which I should see followed would be that the name should bear some correspondence to the place & the place to the name. As that a very fine Street, square, crescent of Circus should be known by the name of eminent benefactors to his species, or some event of importance by which the destiny of a nation has been affected – and that meaner streets should recall by their names some events of less importance & dignity – But this is mere speculation on my part.

Running notes on B. Ayres

Postscript running notes - Great numbers of women are to be seen in the streets – ladies well dressed, with their faces muffled up with handkerchiefs – on account of colds – English ladies might do the same but would not [be seen] walking about with indifference in the public streets – Theatre & Churches, in such a queer attire.

I have seen combs worn at B. Ayres, of a semi-circular shape, which, if extended into a straight would be half a yard or more long.

Tea is not much drank here – and chiefly by the English residents. The natives prefer an herb called Mate which is common in South America – but that which is grown in Paraguay is esteemed the best. In using it they have regular pots of tin, cocoa nut or silver of this shape either plain or highly ornamented [see illustration].

The ladies use it as a luxury – not drinking it but sucking it from the cup thro’ a tube of this form pierced at the bottom with holes.

When using it, you would fancy that they were in the attitude of smoking and before I was let into the secret, I actually imagined that they were so engaged, tho’ I could not account to myself whither the smoke went as I saw none issuing from their mouths.

I saw at Buenos Ayres for the first time dogs without any hair at all on their hides. The colour of their skin was black. One felt a sort of repugnance and disgust to them, which custom alone would overcome. I believe they do not bark, nor do I know of what utility they are. They are said to be of Chinese breed.

In my last journal I mentioned the verification of an old proverb about beggars and horses – so I have now to take notice of another expression that we ought not to put the cart before the horse. This I actually saw one day and an excellent it was. A cart was about to be taken down a slope & as they have nothing to check the wheel, horse & cart would by their own impetus have made but one slip from top to bottom because the cart would press too much on the behind of the horse. At least so thought the carter, who chose rather to put the cart first, by which means it rolled down slowly being kept in check by the instinctive efforts of the horse which came after it.

Barque Beagle nicknamed the Bearded Ship

While we were laying before Buenos Ayres we were in company with H.M. Barque Beagle Captain Fitzroy.[13] Most of the men and officers wore enormous beards, as if they had been the genuine descendants of Fathers Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. On their first arrival, the barbers were in great glee, anticipating a rich harvest of rials, never doubting but that being Englishmen they were Christian, & that being Christians they would not fail to remove the marks of an Hebrew origin. But day after day passed by without any change and at last they were reluctantly compelled to forgo all their golden hopes. Tis strange, tis passing strange, that Englishmen abroad allow themselves many liberties and a much greater latitude of acting and speaking than they would assume, or even dream of at home. What can be the cause of this anomaly? It proceeds I imagine from the strong feeling of superiority over all foreigners which we fancy ourselves to possess, and in right of which we scruple not to over step the bounds of good sense, decency and politeness. Hence it is that in many parts of the world an Englishman is respected / feared but never loved – his character is that of a supercilious, overbearing Islander – and all his advances to friendship & good fellowship are received with suspicion, as if there was danger of a gloom darkening under an apparent sunshine.

In an assumption of our national superiority the officers and men of the Beagle chose to go about the town in a way which attracted unusual notice & I may [say] contempt and ridicule. Had they passed in the same disguise thro’ Plymouth or Portsmouth, they would have had a mob at their heels and make but a scurvy figure with uprooted beards after a severe mauling. This they knew very well & never tried the experiment, but with the cowardly foreigner, why should they deserve any measure of affectation of conformity to the proprieties of the society to be found there. The forbearance of the B. Ayreans they doubtless attributed to fear – but those who knew them well alleged there were some of politeness & good breeding common to the lowest, as the true reason. Our countrymen were therefore allowed in peace to wear their beards after their own fashion – and [the] natives contented themselves with giving the Beagle the cognomen of the Bearded Ship.

Moustachioed & Whiskered Ships

Last year the men and officers [of] H.M.S. Rattlesnake [14] excited as much notice at Buenos Ayres, as the Beagle did now. From their appearance you could easily see that Moustachios with them were all the go – and in compliment to them the Rattlesnake was termed the Moustachioed Ship.

Four years ago H.M.S. Ranger [15] was laying in the River & afforded in her crew an illustration of the proverb ‘Many men, many minds.’ Regarding a long shaggy beard as too Israleitish for Englishmen, and thick and overhanging moustaches as too fierce & we may add too disgusting for any but soldiers, they looked upon nothing as so genteel and proper, as the nourishment, & cultivation of whiskers, which in their full perfection at once form a protection to the face on both planes & at the same time are highly ornamental to those on board the Ranger, & as they thought they practiced. Hence their vessel was nicknamed the ‘Whiskered Ship.’

It will be long ere the circumstances connected with the above three vessels are buried in oblivion at B. Ayres. Among the natives themselves, the[y] form a standing joke, which with all my heart, I would be content to allow them – since not being equal to us in great things at would be hard to deprive them of any merit over us in trifles.

Tis a bad plan to be writing notes on a place after you have left it never to revisit it – and I fully coincide with the observation that a few lines written on the spot is worth a whole cart load of recollections. But I don’t know how it is, but there is always one thing or t’other in the way to prevent your writing on the spot – and I often find that the more leeway I have to make up, the more disinclined I am to set about, thro’ dread of the labour before me. I conclude with these observations, which I have just shoved in by way of apology for taking you away from Buenos Ayres & leaving you right smack in the middle of the river on your route to Monte Video, whilst I have been spinning a long yarn & all about nothing.

To take up the thread of the story, we left B. Ayres on Tuesday 20th Nov.r and with fine w.r and a tolerable breeze set sail for our return. At 8 P.M. we had strong breezes from ESE with gloomy w.r so that it was judged necessary to anchor.