segunda-feira, 9 de março de 2015

As cartas de Rebecca Kinsman - 1ª parte

Já aqui referi por várias vezes os diários de Harriet Low. Nesses registos ela refere uma outra personagem que viveu em Macau em meados do século XIX (1843-1847), Rebecca Kinsman. Também ela registou nas suas cartas - porventura até melhor do que Harriet -  como era Macau na época. Acontece que as suas cartas nunca foram publicadas na íntegra tendo ela também escrito diários.
Vista da Praia Grande a partir da casa de Rebecca Kinsman num quadro
da autoria do pintor chinês Lam Qua (discípulo de G. Chinnery) ca. 1843
O boletim do Essex Institute of Historical Collections publicou pela primeira vez em 1950, ao longo de várias edições, algumas das suas cartas  e passagens dos diários sob o título “Letters and Diary of Rebecca Kinsman of Salem", no âmbito da série de artigos "The American Mission to China". Em 1981, o Padre Manuel Teixeira, pouco depois de ter recebido em Macau duas irmãs, descendentes de Harriet, publicou um livro intitulado "Macau no século XIX visto por uma jovem americana" (referindo-se a H. Low) e nele deu a conhecer três cartas de Kinsman.
Rebecca Chase Kinsman (1810-1882) era mulher de Nathaniel Kinsman (1798-1847). Nathaniel, capitão e mercador, natural de Salem, Massachusetts, foi colocado em Cantão na firma “Trading house of Wetmore and Company” e morreu em Macau a 1 de Maio de 1847, com 48 anos, sendo sepultado no cemitério protestante do território. Rebecca acompanhou o marido (e dois filhos) em 5 de Julho de 1843 para Macau e depois Cantão. Regressou a Macau após a morte do marido tendo casado em 1865 com Joseph Grinnell (1788-1885).
Em 2002, Cecília Jorge publicou um artigo - “Rebecca Chase: an American in Macau” - na Revista Macau.

Ao lado, retrato de Rebecca num quadro pintado por Lamqua, pintor chinês discípulo de G. Chinnery.
A seguir reproduzo um artigo da autoria de Kimberly Alexander, doutorado em História pela Universidade do New Hampshire, sobre esta personagem de Macau de meados do século XIX.
How plainly I can see those dear County Street parlors as thee describes them, and oh! How inexpressible are my longings to look in upon them and their dear inmates . . . the ties that bind us to home, are very strong and not easily severed."- Rebecca to “My best beloved Friend,” Macao, Thursday, 7 March 1844
In July 1843, Rebecca Chase Kinsman (1810–1882) departed her home port of Salem, Massachusetts for Macao and Canton, China, with her husband, Nathaniel Kinsman (1798–1847), and two of their three children, Nattie and Ecca. Nathaniel was taking up a position in Canton with the trading house of Wetmore and Company, and the couple had made the decision—unusual in antebellum America—to travel together to what was then an exotic and strange world. Indeed, the diaries and letters shared between the couple offer a rare glimpse into an early American household that challenges conventional interpretations.
The written record for the Kinsman family is particularly strong. Not only have a decade of letters between husband and wife and their respective families survived, but also household receipts, diaries, and Nathaniel’s ship logs are among the rich collection housed at the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, the Schlesinger Library, the Smith College Library and in private hands. However, in order to place the family’s personal and professional lives in a larger antebellum New England context, this article will focus on Rebecca’s diary entries, in contrast to her letters, providing a special opportunity to investigate the issue of the domestic lives of early American women travelers and expatriates.
Rebecca used her diary in a number of ways and was clearly cognizant that her travel to China marked an important episode in her life: indeed, after her return to the United States, it is exceedingly difficult to unearth any subsequent information about her. She used her diary to record her experiences in Macao, Canton and Manila, and on her voyages to and from China; as a day book tracking household expenses; as a place to record her detailed observations and her daily frustrations with not only the management of a household staff whose language she did not understand, but also a medium to vent the longing for her “dear absent hubby;” a place where she recorded what she was currently reading, what letters and packages have been received (or not) from home and her thoughts on the local denizens: dress, habits and so on, as well as her reactions to sermons and visits, social events, and walks. When compared to her letters home (detailed and chatty, but also reflecting homesickness and concern over the current divisive nature of Quaker meeting, local politics, and health of absent friends) or her letters to Nathaniel (she was more open in these regarding daily struggles and concerns for his health and well-being of their children), her diary operates in a middle arena. It is sporadic commentary which “spikes” for important events and trails off when life is “routine” in Macao or Canton.
The letters and diaries shared between Rebecca and Nathaniel offer a rare glimpse into an early American household that challenges conventional interpretations. They reveal Nathaniel as a sensitive, romantic figure, who was ill at ease in the public sphere of business and who sought solace in the private sphere of family, while Rebecca, on the other hand, was the stronger partner, supervising a household of Chinese servants, arranging travel, and even organizing a reception for visiting Plenipotentiary Caleb Cushing in 1844 for the signing of the first trade treaty between China and America.

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