Everything in Style
Harriett Low’s Macau
ISBN : 978-962-209-789-6
364 pages, 6″ x 9″
Also available in Hardback HK$495.00
Macau in the 1820s and 1830s was the centre of life for foreigners trading with China through the only permitted gateway of Canton. To this European enclave on the China coast in 1829 came Harriett Low, a young American accompanying her aunt and uncle, a trader from Salem, Massachusetts. Throughout her five-year stay, she wrote a diary that both shows her lively personality and gives us a rich picture of life in Macau.
Rosmarie Lamas focuses on that picture of Macau, embedding extracts from the diary into her text to create an interesting account of that place and its society. But first she embarks with Harriett on the ship at Salem and describes the sea voyage. Once Macau is reached, the history of this old Portuguese settlement is outlined. Then, through Harriett’s eyes, but enhanced greatly by her own historical research on Macau, Lamas explores religion and the position of American Protestants in that Catholic city. After this she moves on to write: about foreign women’s lives of style and luxury there, to which the title refers; about love and marriage, a favorite topic of Harriett understandably as a single woman in a predominantly male population; about the human side of the economic activity that was the raison d’être for the community, an obvious subject for a trader’s niece; and about the relationships between the different communities that made up Macau’s polyglot society.
This book sets a selection from Harriett Low’s delightful diary into a fascinating account of life on the China Coast. Organized by theme, Lamas enables the reader to enjoy Harriett the person but primarily to see what life was like, especially for a young woman, in that extraordinary community in an exotic place.
“One of the most engaging memoirs of nineteenth-century Macau from a foreign viewpoint is the journal of Harriett Low. This book is a fascinating and remarkably fresh view of foreigners and Chinese in the days of the Old China Trade that makes Low’s journal very accessible. Lamas’s work will surely be a major contribution to the study of Chinese-Western cultural and commercial relations in the early nineteenth century.” —Jonathan Porter, University of New Mexico
“Taking Harriett Low’s diaries as a prism though which to throw light on the lives of the early Anglo-American community in South China, Ms Lamas offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Western women in China before the age of imperialism. This book will prove stimulating to anyone interested in women’s history and travel in China.” —Glenn H. Timmermans, University of Macau