Gibraltar, Algeria, Malta, Egypt, India, Burma, Singapore, China, Japan, Korea, Russia
April 17th, 1889
My Beloved Angee,
Eighteen hours steam has brought us into a new country and among a different race and language to those we left at Nagasaki. If you refer to the map you will see that it is a Peninsula connected with China on the northern side and Russian Siberia on the south east. It is governed by a king who is a vassal of the Emperor of China. The Coreans are quite distinct from either the Chinese or Japanese the men being tall with fine features and wearing altogether a different dress. They look like a mixture of Tartars and Chinese and Japanese. Our steamer arrived at the above port about 8 this morning and the scenery all around the harbour is simply charming – high hills with slopes down to the water's edge – here and there a few scrubby trees and green patches of millett or paddy and stretching along the beach there is the Japanese settlement and a few Corean villages which are rudely constructed mud and bamboo huts covered with thatch and at the extreme end of the beach just as Croyde may lie from Morthoe is a typical Corean city walled in on all sides. Our stay from 8am until 5pm gave me a nice opportunity of having a walk through the villages to this city and it was pretty rough and steep I assure you, the track not going around the side but in all cases over the steepest part of the hill. It was alive with Coreans of the poorer kind mostly carrying their burdens to and fro – not many women are seen as among the more respectable they are never allowed to look upon another after their marriage and their laws in this respect appear to be as strict as the most rigid Brahmin.
The poor women working in the fields or washing clothes at a stream are curiously dressed. This consists of a white bloomer pattern trousers drawn tight at the ankle – a white petticoat with a rather deep waist band just girdling the waist and a tight jacket covering the arms and neck but leaving their breasts exposed. All their garments are white. The men also wear trousers of the same pattern and a long flowing priestly kind of coat – these too are all white. The men bring their hair up into a pyramid on the top of their heads and their coverings are very odd. First they have a tightly fitting cap or rather band made of the same material as our wire dish covers or looking like it so that good ventilation is guaranteed and over this band they wear a regular welshman's hat made of the same material as the wire band - a wide brim perfectly flat with the sugar loaf top thus and this is tied under their chins the hat itself being much too small to allow their head to enter it. Of course I was very careful to enquire if I was likely to be molested in walking to the city and was assured by some Europeans in charge of the customs that no one would interfere with me so I started off and greatly enjoyed the walk and a sight of the village and city life of the Coreans and except the looking and the laughing of the children I was not interfered with by any. They are very poor and are said to subsist upon sweet potatoes and millett and a little fish. Their dwellings are certainly not much superior to the huts of the North American Indians. When a man makes a few cash (their money) they cease working until this is exhausted as if the Mandarins find out they have made a few dollars he calls with a demand which must be paid or terrible punishment is inflicted.
If a man steals money to extent of 10 dollars (about 30 Shillings) he is beheaded and his body put outside the city walls as a warning and a public example and is eaten by the dogs. People are beheaded for very small offences – there are two American ladies on board going to Chemulpoo the port for Seoul, the capital about 27 miles inland – one is the wife of a doctor missionary and the other the daughter of a gentleman in the customs and I have had a nice conversation with the doctor's wife who is a believer – she listened with the deepest interest and attention to the word of the truth of the gospel last night for a long time and on going down to her cabin shook hands and said it had done her good. She has three little girls and they live at the capital but the doctor is not allowed to promulgate the doctrines of Christianity by the King's command. He is however very glad to have them to practice medicine and their hands are pretty full of this work which the poor people seem to appreciate. This lady had been over to Japan for a little change and when she left carried a great sorrow with her in consequence of her husband having become sceptical as to the divinity of Christ and she wept with joy last night when telling me that since her absense God has removed the rail from his eyes and has made Christ very precious to his soul. She has entreated me to come up to the city but it would detain me a week so that I cannot entertain it, but trust she has heard something to take home that God may bless to their own souls.
I wrote this far yesterday before we left Fusan[?] but now we are steaming through the Corean archipelago which is crowded with small islands. The sea however is fairly smooth so that I thought I would try and write a little more. We took on about half a dozen Corean gentlemen at Fusan who are going up to Chemelpoo for the capital and one being able to talk a little English I have had a nice conversation with him this morning, which I feel to be deeply interesting. I was speaking about Jesus Christ as the true God and he said – Corean's same God only not so far on as England and that there were only two sorts of people in Corea – some believe God – they good people – some not believe God – they bad wicked people. How little we think what a witness the very heavens are to the heathen of the eternal power of God and even where this testimony is received by the conscience there is fruit to God brought forth in the life even apart from the knowledge of God as revealed in Christ. Had another nice conversation with the two American ladies last night – Boston is the home of one of them and she had received the now eternity and punishment doctrine but the doctor's wife I am glad to say refuses this error and I have hope the other may be delivered from it. Our steamer is small but very comfortable and good plain food – the Captain is a German and from the moment I put foot on the ship has been very kind – on boarding he followed me to my cabin and said I should have the sole use of it and if I wanted anything special it should be got for me and in many ways he has shown great attention and kindness which is a mercy and a comfort – the officers are all English and I have had a word for the Lord with one of them and am hoping to have an opportunity with the others also. On the voyage down from Yokohama to Kobe on board the Verona there was a nice family I became friendly with – an English lady and gentleman called McGhie with three children who have been living in New York for the last 8 or 9 years and Mr McG. is now sent by some large firm of tea merchants to Japan for 3 years to buy tea for the firm. Another lady with them the Hon. Mrs Sugden of Reigate a sister of Mrs McGhie is on her way to Chefoo to visit an only child, a son occupying a good position in the customs there and I am the bearer of a mother's love to this youth as I shall be there D.V. before she visits him. Mr McG. was filled with joy when he found I was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and said he had not had such joy on all the journey to Vancouver and across to Japan as he had known in meeting one that loved God – his wife was also a believer and they were never weary in listening to the truth. The Hon. Mrs Sugden is a widow. You can see the goodness of God in this meeting His dear children on the various voyages to be a mutual cheer and help and comfort to one another. How His grace delights that we should ever be found waiting upon Him who delights to feed His flock and it is only as we are kept feeding upon that which His love and wisdom has given us in His word that we can feed others and I have learnt in these travels that His sheep though they may be poor and half-starved do delight in the pasture of the Good Shepherd when they can get it.
Lord's Day April 21st
We arrived in Chemalpoo last Friday at noon and left this morning at 7. Our two lady passengers have left us and gone to Seoul the capital. This port of Chemelpoo is an interesting place and there is a good deal of activity in the way of building going on being the principal port of Corea. The usual mixture of nationalities are located there and foremost among them the Chinese who shew their usual keenness where there is the prospect of any trade – Japanese too are numerous but they are a long way behind the Chinese in enterprise and the Coreans are mostly very poor doing all the drudgery of labourer's work – in the customs and various consulates they are mostly Europeans and Americans and their dwellings look very comfortable. P.F. had sent a shipment of goods some twelve months ago to a merchant here upon whom I called and who was very glad to see me and I hope it may lead to a furtherance of our business. I should have liked to visit the capital but was advised not to attempt it, the time of the steamer's stay being not long enough and 27 miles in a sedan chair to the city and the same distance back was not a very bright prospect for the squatter inside and certainly not very bright for the poor coolies upon whose shoulders the burden of the man and the chair would have to rest. On examination of one of these boxes too it was not a bit clear to me how I could arrange my body in any possible posture in it without removing the roof. We are now speeding our way across the water (the Yellow Sea) to Chefoo on the Chinese coast again and hope to reach that port tomorrow morning where I intend dropping my letters. We have had a beautiful day so far but it continues very cold and I seem never to be able to keep warm upon deck – I shall be glad to get into a little warmer weather once more but shall have to endure it even colder than this before returning to more southern latitudes.
The chief officer is a very dear fellow and has been a real joy to my heart – he was telling me about his conversion yesterday – the Lord met with him in Calcutta while he was on board an American ship and one evening he and some others were invited to some place to tea and as a matter of a little amusement he went. After the meal a working man preached from that word – "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" and God blessed the word to the salvation of his soul. His eyes were opened to the danger he was exposed to and to the refuge God had provided and in that refuge he had found more real pleasure than he had ever known before. This morning the door was opened for the gospel for which I was thankful. I had some conversation with the other officers yesterday so this morning after muster I went to the Chief Engineer's cabin and five of the officers came and listened to the word for about an hour and I trust that God may in His mercy bless it to them. They are all English and one of them remarked that they never heard anything on this subject from one year's end to another. I had a word with the Captain too yesterday but soon found "he had his own views on religion" and the story of God's love in Christ had not much charm to him, he is however very kind, and God may give him to remember some word he heard. It is His own Blessed work to draw a soul to Jesus and that blessed one has said "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out".
Our ship is beginning to roll a bit so that writing becomes difficult and makes my head ache, I shall therefore leave the closing until our arrival in Chefoo tomorrow. How I do long for home.
Chefoo April 22nd, 8am
Our stay at this place will only be until 12 so shall not have much time for my business and must arrange to call in again on returning from Pekin. We hear they have had bad weather in this place for last 2 days which we have been fortunate to escape as it is a nice fine morning and a little warmer than it has been which is very acceptable to me. I have written a long rambling letter but dare say you and the dear boys will be interested in it and now I must send a good cargo of love to you my dearly beloved Angee, dear Arundel and Harry, Harriett and Emma and all the darling children, Eunice and Eliza and Mr Robertshaw and all my loved ones in Barnstaple and elsewhere commending you all to the love and goodness and care of our blessed God and Father even the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Who has washed every believer from their sins in His own blood and has made us Kings and Priests to God and His Father and to Whom we joyfully ascribe glory for ever and ever.
The Lord comfort your heart my dearest Angee and believe me ever.
Your very affectionate Husband