This month I am running a “Christmas History” series on Windows into History, with a new post every day until 24th, but continuing the remit of exploring history through forgotten books. Today I present two snippets from 1850s travel books. The first is from Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa by Heinrich Barth, a German explorer who spent several years travelling around the continent. This journal was published in 1857.
To-day was Christmas-day; and my companion and I, in conformity with a custom of our native town, tried in vain to procure some fish for a more luxurious entertainment in the evening. The meat of giraffes, which formed the greatest of our African luxuries, was not to be obtained; and as for elephant’s flesh, which we were able to get, although we both liked it, we had too sadly experienced its bad effect upon the weak state of our bowels to try it again. Hence, in order to celebrate the evening, we were reduced to coffee and milk, with which we regaled ourselves.
The second snippet for today is from the pages of From New York to Delhi by Robert Bowne Minturn Jr, published the following year (1858). The son of a noted ship owner and merchant, Minturn Jr had the small town of Minturn, Colorado named after him, due to his position as vice president of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad.
On Christmas day I went with several officers to a large dinner at the house of Mr. Beresford, the manager of the Delhi bank. His house was a large and handsome mansion in the city, near the Chandee chok. It was built and at one time occupied by the Begoom Sombre or Sumroo of Sirdhana. Mr. Beresford came out to India as a common soldier in the Company’s European army, and had raised himself by his talents to the opulent position which he then enjoyed. The Misses Beresford, two very charming young ladies, who had just returned from England, where they had been educated, and other ladies of the station were present.
After dinner we had music, and dancing; and the evening concluded with the old fashioned games of snap-dragon, blind-man’s buff, and hunt-the-ring. At the latter, Colonel Riddle, who was on his way to Agra, to take charge of the newly-raised Third European regiment, distinguished himself greatly. Among the decorations of the room were several misletoe boughs, which had been brought with much trouble from the Himalayas, but there were so few young ladies that kissing would have been personal, so the old custom went unhonoured.
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