Day after Day 22
July 31st 1905
I find it hard to believe that it was a year ago when I received confirmation that I was to work here in Malaya. The time has gone very quickly and although I have been lonely at times, and of course miss you very much, I have also learned such a lot. And I have accumulated quite a good salary so that we should be confident of a good standard of living after we are married - wherever we may
You asked why we have mainly Chinese workers here. It is really because it was they who first found the tin in this area and set up the whole industry.
I hope this won't sound too much like a lecture, as I am copying some of it from a book that I have found on the subject.
Rich alluvial deposits of tin had been worked here from early times and, a long time before the arrival of the English, Chinese came down from their own country to search for it.
Most of the land which is now being worked by big European companies (in some cases by underground shafts, in others on the surface by means of hydraulic monitors or of the dredge) has
already been partly worked by the pioneer Chinaman with his pick and shovel.
Practically all the labour employed on tin mines is Chinese, and many of the largest and most valuable mines are owned by Chinamen. They are an extremely hardworking and enterprising
people, and many of the richest towkays (leading Chinamen) of to-day came to the country in the first place as unskilled coolies.
The natives of the country, the Malays, do little wage-earning work, as they have their own little plots of land, the produce from which provides them with a livelihood without much effort. We benefit from their agricultural products, and the rainfall, sunshine and rich soil mean that farming is very
Most of the towns in this area were established in the late 19th century and have character and charm and are flourishing, but most urban growth is concentrated in Ipoh.
The principal sources of revenue are an export duty on tin, the rents paid for the revenue farms, the right to collect import duties on opium, wine and spirits, to keep licensed gambling-houses for the exclusive use of the Chinese population, railway receipts, land and forest revenue and postal revenue.
Perhaps this sort of information is not of much interest to you, but I find it fascinating. The Malay government, due to its clever financial dealings, does not owe money to anyone. They paid for the railways, the roads, the health service and benefits to their own people as well as the many work immigrants out of their profits. Most of the tin that is produced in the world comes from here, and I feel very privileged that a good share of it comes from my own little piece.
I think perhaps I have bored you enough for one letter. I do so look forward to hearing from you, but find that my thoughts and words tend these days to be almost entirely relating to work. Perhaps I should make more of an effort to get out more, so that I can make my letters to you more interesting.
It will soon be autumn and we will have been parted for a year. But it is my dearest wish that I will be with you, making you my wife in 10 months' time. I will count every day until I see you again.
I do like classical music, but not particularly Wagner. And I don't know who the quote was by.
'There are no wise few. Every aristocracy that has ever existed has behaved, in all essential points, exactly like a small mob'. Who said that?
All my love from Harold
7 Lansdowne Crescent, Worcester
What a very interesting letter. I do very much enjoy hearing about your new country which shall soon be my country too. Do feel free to talk to me in the letters about whatever you wish to in regard to your work. I may not understand it, but I must learn about it. I don't properly understand how you go
about mining for tin. You talked about the women panning for it - rather like people pan for gold, but that is not how you obtain most of the ore, I am sure. Is the system mechanised? It sounds as if
there is money to spend on using the latest methods, so please tell me a bit more about how you do it?
I admit that I had to have Father's help in finding out where your quote came from. Good old Chesterton. We started our quoting with him, and we are now back to him again.
I expect you will get this one very easily. 'There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.'
Do you have access to newspapers? Would you like me to give you some of the headlines of importance that I think may be of interest to you? For instances did you know that Lord Curzon
has resigned as the Viceroy of India? Perhaps you are better informed than I am in which case I will not tell you what you already know.
As I have reached the ripe old age of twenty five, I am so pleased that I have my diamond and sapphire ring to flash if anyone dares to insinuate that I am on the way to being an old maid.
May and I will continue with our education and our pastimes and we are pleased that the new season will soon begin for classes. Margaret Tree has got a job working in the city for one of
the councilors. She works each day from 11-1 and finds it fascinating. Jessie spends some time working in her father's office. I wonder if May and I should look for paid work. We still do our
charity bits - May with reading at the Blind School and me with finding ways of helping the poor people with clothing. Father is increasingly busy with his committees and his work.
The Wagner quote was by Edgar Wilson Nye. I hadn't heard of him either, but I thought it was quite clever. Here is another music one. 'I think I should have no mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort,when I am filled with music.'
I expect you will find that one very easy.
Much love from Muriel
September 30th, 1905
How I look forward to your letters. I am pleased that you didn't find my ramblings too boring.
As far as you sending me tidbits of information, I would welcome them. We do get some newspapers but often the news is very old, and we have little time. Even if I have heard things before, it will be interesting to find out what you think is important in the world.
I have read most of George Eliot's books and did recognise the earlier quote as coming from her. And I do know my Chesterton pretty well, and have got a copy of Heretics. Who are your
'Art is on the side of the oppressed. Think before you shudder at the simplistic dictum and its heretical definition of the freedom of art. For if art is freedom of the spirit, how can it
exist within the oppressors?'
You asked about the mechanisation of the site. From very early on there were pumps to drain the water. One of the early Frenchmen on the site, Jacque de Morgan, was a civil mining
engineer, and it was he who set up the methods that we still use to a large extent.
In Papan, a dam was built by the Mandailings, possibly with the help of the Chinese, to supply hydraulic power to the mines in case of drought. The Mandailings themselves are skilled
in dam construction and have great engineering skills.
The leader, Raja Bilah bought his first machine, a horse-powered engine imported from England but found out that it could not be used. One can picture the poor Mandailings, not understanding the meaning of horse-power, spending days and weeks trying to figure out how to harness the machine to their ponies!
The furnace used by the Mandailing smelters in particular required charcoal made from hardwoods, and large tracts of forests were cleared merely to extract these timbers. In 1888, the Perak Government banned the use of all Chinese furnaces except ones which employed only ordinary firewood.
So In 1891, Sir George Maxwell visited Papan, which in those days was a bigger town than Ipoh, met Raja Bila, who he said was a grand old man and arranged for the English to take over
much of the mining industry.
I think that is enough for one letter about the history of this place and how it works. I could just say that we use pressurised hoses to loosen the sand that surrounds the tin with its other complex metals, and it washes into the river where the tin, being heaviest, falls to the bottom.
The resulting metal mixture is sent along a magnetic belt and the tungsten sticks to the belt, and the tin is then recovered in quite a pure form. I've included a picture of our mine. (see above)
I must admit that it is my impression that this a very lonely life for white women, and the ones I've met generally finds the climate more trying than the men, as most of their time is necessarily spent in the bungalow. You must make sure you bring with you your sketching and painting materials, and writing equipment so that you can entertain yourself for those long lonely hours when I am
at work, and before the children come.
One thing we must discuss at some time is the education of any children we may have. Most, when they are old enough to be educated in England, are sent back there to boarding schools, and I imagine you met many girls at your school whose parents worked abroad, as I did in mine. But I have thought that with this separation there comes the inevitable break up of the home life; the
children either having to forego the parental influence or the wife having to remain in England with them and thus be parted from her husband. I wonder if perhaps when our children are old enough for
school, I will have earned enough money and had enough adventure for me to choose work back in England.
I hope this letter will not be too heavy to go by the basic rate, as I have only enough stamps to cover that.
All my love from Harold
22nd October, 1905
It seems so strange for you to betalking about the education of our children, as if they had already
been conceived and born.
But I do agree with you that I wouldn't like them to be sent home on their own. The ones we had at our school, many of whom became my good friends, were very lonely and so much missed out
on having a family to go to for the holidays. We had several of them staying with us during the breaks.
I didn't recognise your last quote. I would guess Karl Marx, but I don't really know. I found it a bit hard to understand.
'Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.' Now, who said that?
I don't think I told you much about the town of Warwick itself when I last wrote.
Warwick is built on a low hill above the Avon, and, according to the guide book, is one of those towns that leaves one with a sense of wonder. (I do agree.) Not just for the famous castle which is thought to be the finest medieval castle in England, nor the soaring church tower, nor its wealth of historic buildings, but rather the atmosphere of the place, as if history was all there in one package.
Another place we visited was Wroxhall Abbey the country retreat of architect Sir Christopher Wren, set on the site of a medieval abbey with 27 acres of grounds and gardens complete with Wren's Walled Garden. John rather fancies the idea of being the chaplain for the Abbey if the position ever comes vacant.
You asked about my favourite authors. I would have to list Shakespeare and Dickens at the top, and then the Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Mrs. Henry Wood
(who came from Worcester you know), Henry Fielding, Wilkie Collins. I have eclectic taste, as you will see from this list.
I have another small snippet of news for you. The actor Henry Irving died last week. And going back a bit, on September 8th there was an earthquake in Italy that killed thousands and destroyed 25 villages. I also read that there is a new Anglo-Japanese treaty which provides for Japan to help safeguard India. And there are plans to connect the Far East and the U.S.A. by submarine
telegraph lines. You might be more interested in those things than I am.
I might also inform you about the Three Choirs Festival which was in Worcester this year. In early September, the Mayor, Hubert Leicester seconded by the High Sheriff, resolved unanimously: "That pursuant to the Honorary Freedom of Boroughs Act, 1885, the Honorary Freedom of the City of Worcester, be conferred upon Sir Edward William Elgar, Musc. Doc., LL.D; in recognition of the eminent position which he, a Citizen of the Faithful City, has attained in the Musical World; and that he be admitted as an Honorary Freeman accordingly."
On Festival Day there was a procession making its way from the Guildhall to the Cathedral with
the Mayor, the High Sheriff and all the aldermen in their civic robes and Elgar walking solemnly in their midst, clothed in a strange gown which puzzled most of the onlookers. Upon inquiry this turned out to be the Yale University gown and hood which Elgar hastened to wear on the very first occasion that a Doctor of Music's robes were needed at any of his public engagements. It was also lovely that Elgar turned as he passed a certain house in the High Street on his way to the cathedral and saluted an old gentleman whose face could just be seen looking out of an upper window. It was his father, who was watching the honour being paid to his son by the city of his birth. Being very
old and growing feeble, he was unable to leave his room; but what must his feelings have been on looking out of that window and seeing before his very eyes the fulfillment of his wildest dreams!
All for now.