A Clue About the Writing of the Travel Journal

Seasick. Eliza Baylies Wheaton did not enjoy her first dinner aboard the Niagara. The cup of tea she drank to settle her stomach had the reverse effect, and she retired to her stateroom to take to her bunk. She had planned for seasickness, bringing along homeopathic remedies to fight off the effects of the waves on her sense of equilibrium. The remedies helped, but not as much as she might have hoped.

“I vomited some,” she wrote, “but by laying still and using Homeo. I did not vomit severely.”

The way that Wheaton wrote about her seasickness gives us a clue to how she wrote the travel journal. When she described the effects of the tea at that first dinner on April 16, she wrote: “I was obliged to leave the table and no more return to it for some 11 days.” Since we know that she was seasick and in bed, we can assume that Wheaton did not write in her travel journal after dinner on April 16. Among other difficulties, she would probably have been challenged to do so without spilling ink all over her bunk.

But we need not make assumptions about Wheaton’s writing of the journal. By indicating in her entry for the first day of the voyage that she was absent from the dinner table for eleven days, she told us herself that she wrote the journal retrospectively. Wheaton dated her entries in the travel journal according to the days of the voyage, but she probably wrote from notes, perhaps during days that she spent alone in the group’s lodgings in London.

Since there is no entry for April 17, we may assume that Wheaton kept to her bed that day.

Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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