Letter to Polly

Polly Ann Burgess Arthur

Polly Ann Burgess Arthur

Polly Ann Burgess Arthur is my paternal grandmother. The transcribed letter below is from her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Miller Arthur, written on November 21, 1910, while in London, England. Elizabeth and her husband, Luther Arthur (brother to Polly’s husband, Benjamin Baxter Arthur), were on a cruise from America to England to Cape Town, South Africa, to Australia. I have been unable to determine to date whether this trip was for business or pleasure or both.

Elizabeth makes reference in the letter to J.P. (John Preston) and wondering what he thinks of his little brother. At the time Elizabeth was writing, she did not know that Polly had given birth to a second son. She tells Polly that Lou says if it’s a boy he wants it named after him. Little did they know, he had already been named Luther Paul (my father) and so Lou (Luther) got his wish. What no one knew at the time was that Polly would pass away in 1912 of pulmonary consumption at the tender age of 24.

Letter from Elizabeth

Nov. 21, 1910

Dear Pollie, No doubt you are wondering where we are at by this time. We are also wondering where you all are and how everything is. I certainly hope all is well with you. Lou says if it is a boy you must name it after him. I don’t know where to address this but will send it to Pa Arthur’s and they can forward it to you wherever that is.

We have been here for three weeks and don’t leave until the 15th of Dec. on the “Medic” of the White Star Line. And then we are due in Sidney the 5th of February so we will be nearly seven weeks on the water from here. We like the sea very much. Lou said he didn’t care if we ever landed. We were seven days getting here. Lou was not sea-sick at all but I was sick the 5th day out. It was very rough. The “Arabic” would nearly turn over on her side and the waves sweep over the deck. Nearly everybody was sick that day. But it is a grand night to be out at sea and we had a fine time.

The “Arabic” has a five piece orchestra of its own and there was an opera troupe on board so we had all kinds of music and singing. Some of it was as fine as I had ever heard too. The meals were fine.

We came from Liverpool to London by rail and so got to see quite a great deal of the country. It is lovely. Far ahead of the U.S.A. but I hate to say it. We don’t like London very well, though, of course, there is plenty to see here and all that but it has rained nearly every day since we got here and when it don’t rain there is a fog that you can’t see across the street. I said the other day if it looked that way in the U.S. we would think the world was coming to an end. We have been taking in everything and have seen some wonderful sights. Last week was Lord Mayor’s day here and there was a parade about two hours long and the Royal carriage with the King himself was in it. We were real close to him and so had a good chance of seeing what a real king was like! Which is very much like any other man only he looks pretty well fed and well dressed. I will try to tell you about it some day.

Everything seems to be about the same price as the U.S. that is to take it all around. Clothes are some cheaper. But little things that you can buy at the 5 & 10 cents store you would have to pay fifty cents for here and markets are about the same only some fruits are much cheaper. Postal cards are 2 cents each and poor ones at that. You can get the best in N.Y. ten for 5 cents.

Now you can write me at once and tell me all and where you are and what Bro. Ben is doing. And how everybody is at Pa Arthur’s, and how J.P. is and what he thinks of his little brother and please don’t forget. Write anything for Lou as he’s been wondering if Ben is in war yet and if it’s a boy ever since we left. So write as soon as you get this and address it with ink to Mrs. Luther Arthur, S.S. “Medic”, c/o Messrs. W. Anderson and Co., Cape Town, South Africa.

I am enclosing a postal of the “Arabic” the ship we came over on. One each for you, Jennie and Helen from London. They are not good ones but the best ones I have to send at present. Will try to send some better ones later. I hope this finds you all well and happy and to hear from you soon. Lou looks well, also myself.

We stop at Cape Town and will get your letter then if you write at once. I guess that is all for this time. With love to all. Elizabeth

Everybody here speaks very highly of Australia. I can’t hardly wait until we get there.

The SS Arabic was an ocean liner which entered service in 1903 for the White Star Line. She was sunk on 19 August 1915 by the German submarine U-24, 50 mi (80 km) south of Kinsale. Her sinking caused a diplomatic incident.

The SS Arabic was an ocean liner which entered service in 1903 for the White Star Line. She was sunk on 19 August 1915 by the German submarine U-24, 50 mi (80 km) south of Kinsale. Her sinking caused a diplomatic incident.

SS Medic was a steamship built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast for the White Star Line in 1899. Medic was one of five "Jubilee Class"ocean liners built specifically to service the Liverpool-Cape Town-Sydney route.

SS Medic was a steamship built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast for the White Star Line in 1899. Medic was one of five “Jubilee Class”ocean liners built specifically to service the Liverpool-Cape Town-Sydney route.

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4 comments on “Letter to Polly

  1. Sheryl says:

    Wow, that’s some trip–even by today’s standards. Elizabeth and Luther must have been very adventurous. The pictures of the ship are wonderful and make it much easier to picture the trip.

    • I agree. I think it would have been wonderful. I’ve been on one one-week cruise to the Caribbean and loved it. But to travel at leisure to all those places and at that time…how luxurious.

  2. cindy knoke says:

    It is incredible that you have this treasure trove of letters and cards from your family. What a wonderful gift and what smart relatives to have kept them. I bet you feel them sometimes being pleased with you remembering and honoring them in this way. Fascinating. I have photos from my family but no narratives what so ever. How special that you do~

    • I do treasure the few little items I have. Sometimes I find myself getting greedy and wishing they’d left me more pictures, and written journals or diaries! But, hey, I have more than some and less than others! I’m still blessed! 🙂

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