February 6 - My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean

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On the morning of February 6, 1897, Paul Laurence Dunbar set sail for England on the steamship Umbria.  Paul intended to remain overseas for a year, reciting his poetry and arranging for the English publication of his book Lyrics of Lowly Life.

Cunard Line.  To Liverpool via Queenstown.  Umbria, Feb. 6, 8:30 A. M.  From Pier 40, North River.  For freight and passage apply at company's office, 4 Bowling Green.  Vernon H. Brown & Co., general agents.

Advertisement.  The New York Times (New York, New York).  February 2, 1897.  Page 11.

Cunard Line
List of Second Cabin Passengers


R. M. S. "Umbria"

New York to Liverpool, Feb. 6, 1897

Mr. P. Laurence Dunbar

Passenger list, February 6, 1897.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 3).

Cunard Line

The Umbria made frequent trips between New York and Liverpool, crossing the ocean in about seven days.  According to shipping reports, the weather was poor during Paul's passage.

London, Feb. 13. - The Cunard Line steamer Umbria passed the Tuskar Lighthouse today.  She did not communicate with Queenstown, owing to the heavy fog.

Queenstown, Feb. 13. - The White Star Line steamer Britannic reports having experienced heavy northeasterly gales and high seas during five days of her passage.

"Foreign Notes of Interest."  The New York Times (New York, New York).  February 14, 1897.  Page 15.

Because of the rough seas, Paul was ill during the voyage.  On the fifth day of the trip, he wrote to his mother Matilda who was staying with relatives in Chicago.  Paul told her he had given a poetry recitation on the boat for a Member of Parliament and others.

This is the first day I have felt equal to the task of writing very much.  I have not been throwing up much but I have gotten sick after meals and had to lie down a good deal.  So far the voyage has been pretty rough but in no wise dangerous, for our vessel is a magnificent great big ship and a fast sailer.  We have already passed three ships, two French and one Spanish.  I am feeling in pretty good form just now and hope to continue so.  Recited on the boat [for] Mr. Pond, an M. P. and Mr. Edwards the playwright.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Matilda Dunbar, February 10, 1897.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

Paul also wrote to his fiancée Alice Ruth Moore in West Medford, Massachusetts.  After corresponding for nearly two years, Paul and Alice met in person just a few days earlier and became engaged that same night.

It has been hard for me to wait even this long without writing to you.  I think of you, by night and by day.  Will you keep me in mind dear, and remember the promise you have made me?  I have proved a somewhat better sailor than I anticipated although I have been somewhat sick.  The passage has been very rough though we have not had a real live gale as yet.  The sights have been novel.  I had never before seen the huge dolphins leaping out of the water in play along the side of the ship and I have been kept wondering where the gulls come from and where they rest.  At night I love to stand on deck and through the rifts in the clouds watch the swimming moon and the friendly following stars, and always I think of you, by night and by day, and I long for you my darling.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, February 10, 1897.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 5).

The R. M. S. Umbria

The R. M. S. Umbria