THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

11 posts from March 2018

29 March 2018

Love and tragedy in the British Library: The story of Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling Part 2

Edward Aveling was a well-known public thinker, noted for his secularist views and socialist politics. In 1882 he registered to the Reading Room at the British Museum, which set the stage for his romantic pursuits as much as intellectual ones.

Aveling-EdwardEdward Bibbins Aveling - Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, Moscow via Marxists Internet Archive CC BY-SA 3.0 logo


In his essay ‘Some humours of the reading room at the British Museum’, Edward suggested that ‘a special district should be set aside for ugly readers’ with a police force to ‘prevent those who were plucked and dissatisfied from forcibly asserting their right to a place amongst the well-favoured’. Aveling’s piece, written for Progress journal, displays his savage wit and weakness for ‘dainty-figured, sweet-faced women’. 

Humours of the reading room 1Edward Aveling, ‘Some humours of the reading room at the British Museum’, Progress (1883). P.P.5857.e.

Unscrupulous, spendthrift, and reptilian in appearance, Aveling was roundly disliked by many of his peers. However, he possessed a charm that exceeded the sum of his parts, and proved an unaccountably seductive figure. In 1883, Aveling first encountered Eleanor Marx in the Reading Room, and commissioned her to write a short biography of her father for Progress. The two quickly fell in love. By June of 1884, they were presenting as married; but only unofficially, since Eleanor was under the impression that Aveling had another wife from whom he was long separated but could not divorce. As she told her friend, writer Dollie Radford:
‘Well then this it is – I am going to live with Edward Aveling as his wife. You know he is married, and that I cannot be his wife legally, but it will be a true marriage to me – just as much as if a dozen registrars had officiated…’

Photo 27.09.17  14 58 14 Photo 27.09.17  14 58 25 Photo 27.09.17  14 58 29 (2)Letter from Eleanor Marx to Dollie Radford, 30 June 1884. Add MS 89029-1-25.


Eleanor and Edward collaborated in their political work, which included the pamphlet The Woman Question: From a Socialist Point of View. But Aveling's egalitarian mores did not extend to his home life. His hot temper, unexplained absences and frequent infidelities made a mockery of Eleanor’s devotion to him, and the values they publically espoused.

Aveling, much like Eleanor’s father Karl, was known for borrowing money. The British Library holds various records of his debts, including one of £50 to the artist William Morris. ‘I regret to say,’ he writes in a letter dated December 1896, ‘that I am not in a position to repay now. Long arrears of difficulties are still slowly being cleared off’. Eleanor shouldered the burden of Aveling’s spending, settling his scores from her own income.

Photo 03.10.17  11 14 08 Photo 03.10.17  11 14 15Letter from Edward Aveling to William Morris’s agent, 1 December 1896. Add MS 45346, f. 96.

Sometime between 27 and 31 March 1898, Eleanor discovered that Aveling – under an assumed name – had secretly married his mistress, a young actress named Eva Frye. We know not how the revelation came about, but for Eleanor, it proved a fatal blow. On the morning of 31 March, she was found dead in her room, having swallowed a phial of prussic acid. Though the exact circumstances of her demise remain unclear, the socialist community generally blamed Aveling for Eleanor’s death. ‘I have little doubt in my mind,’ wrote Olive Schreiner, ‘that she discovered a fresh infidelity of Aveling’s, and that ended all. I don’t know if you know the life she had with him: she has come to me nearly mad having found him in her own bedroom with two prostitutes... I am so glad Eleanor is dead. It is such a mercy she has escaped from him’.


 Schreiner 1
Schreiner 2
Schreiner 3Letter from Olive Schreiner to Dollie Radford, June 1898. Add MS 89029-1-26.

 

Izzy Gibbin
Doctoral student, University College London - Anthropology department

Further reading:
Rachel Holmes, Eleanor Marx: A Life (London, 2014) [ELD.DS.71583]
Tara Bergin, The tragic death of Eleanor Marx (Manchester, 2017) [DRT ELD.DS.167611]
John Stokes (ed.), Eleanor Marx (1855-1898): Life, Work, Contacts (Aldershot, 2000) [YC.2000.a.13685]
Yvonne Kapp, Eleanor Marx – Volume I: Family Life 1855-1883; Volume II: The Crowded Years 1884-1898 (London, 1972-6) [X.0809/449]
Chushichi Tsuzuki, The Life of Eleanor Marx 1855-1898: A Socialist Tragedy (Oxford, 1967) [X.709/5699]

Love and tragedy in the British Library: The story of Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling Part 1

Discover the links between the British Library and Karl Marx and his daughter Eleanor, through original documents from their work in the British Museum Reading Room and their political activism in London. Free exhibition in The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery 1 May-5 August 2018. 

 

27 March 2018

Love and tragedy in the British Library: The story of Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling Part 1

Love is seeking the anodyne of work, in vain.
   - Edward Aveling

Eleanor Marx, the youngest of Karl Marx’s daughters, was an immensely talented scholar and activist in her own right. Born in 1855 in the Marx family’s cramped and squalid Soho dwellings, ‘Tussy’ – as she was known from a young age – would go on to act as her father’s amanuensis and posthumous translator. At a time when leftist thought was dominated by educated men, her work demonstrated the relevance of socialism to working-class women. But just as Eleanor entered public life as a pioneer of socialist feminism, she became the private victim of a bully and master manipulator.

Jenny-Julia-Eleanor-Marx-later-Marx-Aveling(Jenny Julia) Eleanor Marx (later Marx-Aveling) by Grace Black (later Grace Human), 1881. NPG 6771 © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG CC By


As a young woman, Eleanor spent long days in the Reading Room of the British Museum, aiding her father’s work and, later, drafting her own. After Marx’s death in 1883, Eleanor put out a call for his materials with the aim of transcribing, translating and publishing them. In the process she wrote literally hundreds of letters to Marx’s former correspondents; amongst them, the Chartist Collet Dobson Collet, who provided the material for her translation of the Diplomatic History of the 20th Century.

Photo 03.10.17  10 22 54

  Photo 03.10.17  10 23 29Letter from Eleanor Marx to Collet Dobson Collet, 8 October 1896. Add MS 87372.

Eleanor’s work did much to advance Marx’s ideas in Britain. She delivered energetic polemics to crowds exceeding 100,000, campaigned alongside striking dockers and gas workers, and with her journalism gave voice to the labour struggles that specifically affected women. She described the economic struggles underlying patriarchy with compelling force, but never turned away from socialist praxis and the possibility of relieving present suffering.

  Photo 28.09.17  15 39 06Eleanor Marx, ‘Sweating in type-write offices’, The People’s Press, 5 June 1890. LOU.LON 40.

 

Eleanor had a refined appreciation for literature, and was responsible for the first translation of Madame Bovary into English. She was also an Ibsen enthusiast, learning Norwegian with the express purpose of performing his plays alongside her fellow artistic luminaries. In a letter to George Bernard Shaw, she wonders over casting choices. ‘We mean to try and get May Morris, though I fear she may not have time. She was here yesterday looking as sweet and beautiful as the flower she is named after.’
  Photo 28.09.17  11 29 52
Photo 28.09.17  11 30 10Letter from Eleanor Marx to George Bernard Shaw, 2 June 1885. Add MS 50511, f. 88.

 

Despite her qualities as a beloved friend and dedicated socialist, Eleanor suffered many doubts and feared that she would never live up to her father’s legacy. In a touching obituary, sexologist Havelock Ellis describes a passage written by Eleanor in her loneliest hours: ‘I shall never be good and unselfish as he was. I am not good – never shall be, though I try, harder than ever you can think, to be so. There is too much of the devil in me.’

Photo 27.09.17  14 32 47

Photo 27.09.17  14 33 10Henry Havelock Ellis, ‘Eleanor Marx’, in Modern Monthly (September 1885). Add MS 70557, f. 185.

Sadly, Eleanor’s low estimation of herself made her easy prey for the man who would bring her useful, active life to a dreadful close.

To be continued......

Izzy Gibbin
Doctoral student, University College London - Anthropology department

Discover the links between the British Library and Karl Marx and his daughter Eleanor, through original documents from their work in the British Museum Reading Room and their political activism in London. Free exhibition in The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery 1 May-5 August 2018.

 

24 March 2018

Humphry Repton, Landscape Gardener

Humphry Repton is acknowledged as the last great landscape designer of the 18th century. He died 200 years ago, on 24 March 1818, aged 65. Repton claimed that during his career he worked for over 400 clients. Not all the sites where he worked have been identified so far. His report, often called the ‘Red Book’, has survived for 110 sites, 84 are supported by documentary evidence and 48 are mentioned in Repton’s published works. Many others are illustrated in Peacock’s Polite Repository, a little pocket diary for which Repton provided illustrations. It is generally accepted that this indicates he had been invited to advise on the property. The British Library holds a number of these little books as well as copies of his published works.

Repton 1Peacock’s Polite Repository, August 1803 Woodford Hall, Essex – Seat of J. Maitland Esq c.58.aa.12 Noc

 In 1806 the East India Company decided to establish its own college to train the clerical staff who would serve them overseas, and a new building was designed by William Wilkins at Haileybury. 

Repton 2View of Haileybury College in Hertfordshire, 1810, by T Medland BL, K Top Vol 15 no 74 Online Gallery Noc

Humphry Repton was invited to advise on landscaping the grounds. The report which he presented to the East India Company appears not to have survived, but many of the letters from Repton to the Company have survived in the archives of the Committee of College, one of the standing committees of the Court of Directors.

Repton 3Report from the Committee of College in the Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 23 May 1809  IOR/B/149 p.246 Noc

Repton first visited the site in November 1808 when he was shown around and various ideas were explained to him. His first accounts show he visited the site again before presenting his ‘Book of Plans, Sketches and Report’ for which he charged £52 10s. Several more site visits were made to take measurements and meet with the contractor, and for each of these he charged £21 when accompanied by an assistant or £15 15s when alone.

The letters give us several clues about the proposals in Repton’s Report which included planting 420 horse chestnut, elm or plane trees to make an avenue. He mentioned digging up the old road and levelling the site, and gravelling the ‘public road’. However later, when the contract was nearing completion, the roads were being ‘torn up’ by coal carts before they had become established. Repton suggested moving the coal yard to a site more easily accessible from the main road.

Repton also mentions problems arising from the building work, adding an additional £152 to the original estimate for moving 2620 cubic yards of earth. Later he addressed the problem of old clay pits by proposing two pits be made into one pool by raising the lower one and partly destroying the upper one.

Repton 4British Library IOR/J/1/25/333-34 : 1810  Progress report from Humphry Repton, 22 January 1810 Noc

Repton’s letters about Haileybury give us a glimpse of the missing report, but are also interesting because the East India Company did not just commission the proposals from Repton but, unusually, he had a supervisory role in their implementation. Among other indications for this are his letter dated 2 July 1809 when he says ‘I should be glad to leave full direction for the contractor how he is to proceed during my absence & to do as much as possible before the harvest takes off his men’.

Georgina Green
Independent scholar

 

23 March 2018

With the Hampshire Pioneers in the Kaiserschlacht

This blog has been following the six members of the Library Departments of the British Museum who died during the First World War.  The last-but-one casualty was 11351 Sergeant John Frederick Nash, M.M., of "B" Company, 11th (Pioneer) Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, who was killed in action on 23 March 1918, aged 24.  He was a casualty of the German Spring Offensive (also known as the Kaiserschlacht, or Kaiser’s Battle), which had commenced on 21 March.

  IWM Q 8702 Battle of St. QuentinBattle of St. Quentin. British walking wounded leaving a RAMC casualty clearing station near Bapaume which was captured the next day, 23 March 1918  © IWM (Q 8702)

John Frederick Nash was born at Cwmbran in Monmouthshire in 1893, and baptised at the Church of All Saints Shrewsbury on 22 February 1894.  By the time of the 1901 census, the family had moved to Stockport and had taken the family name of Turner.  John F. Turner had been joined by two younger sisters, Delia and Emily. His father was working as a solicitor's clerk.

The name change is difficult to explain.   John Frederick Nash’s parents had married at the Church of St Peter, Blaenavon on 25 December 1892. The marriage register entry clearly gives their names as John William Dominack Nash and Emily Beatrice Davies. Curiously, however, a marriage notice published in the Wellington Journal of 7 January 1893 provides some alternative names: John William Dominack Nash Turner and Emily Beatrice Davies Howells.

Turner Howells marriageWellington Journal  7 January 1893

According to the London Gazette of 2 June 1908, John Frederick Turner Nash was appointed a Boy Attendant at the British Museum in May 1908, working in the Department of Manuscripts.  The 1911 Census records that John Frederick Nash was living in Tufnell Park with the family of his uncle, Alfred Edward Nash, who also worked at the British Museum.

Nash enlisted in September 1914.  He was shortly afterwards posted to the 11th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.  During the First World War, the 11th Hampshires were the pioneer battalion in the 16th (Irish) Division.  While pioneer battalions were trained to fight as infantry - and often did - their main role within a division was to support a myriad of engineering tasks, including the construction and repair of defences and transport links.

The 11th Hampshires fought in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  Sergeant Nash was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.  A document attached to the war diary of the 11th Hampshires suggests that the medal was awarded for actions undertaken by the battalion during the capture of Ginchy during the Battle of Guillemont in September 1916.

On 21 March 1918, the 16th Division were based in the area around Villers-Faucon, east of Péronne, where they had spent several months working on the construction of new defensive positions. The division was very badly hit by the opening stages of the Kaiserschlacht.   At the end of the day, a new line was formed based on Ste. Emilie, which was held with the support of the divisional reserves including the 11th Hampshires.  The following day, the pioneers covered the withdrawal of what was left of the division before falling back towards Péronne.   It is not recorded exactly where Sergeant Nash fell on 23 March 1918, but he is buried in Ste. Emilie Valley Cemetery, Villers-Faucon.

Michael Day
Digital Preservation Manager

Further reading:
WO 95/1966/2, 11th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment War Diary, The National Archives, Kew.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 16 November 1916, p. 11142 – award of Military Medal to Sergeant Nash.
Martin Middlebrook, The Kaiser’s Battle: 21 March 1918: The first day of the German Spring Offensive (London: Penguin, 1983).
K. W. Mitchenson, Battleground Europe: Epéhy (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 1998).

 

22 March 2018

The creative genius of Edmund Dulac: Artist, illustrator and stamp designer extraordinaire

Although Edmund Dulac graduated in law from Toulouse University his true passion was art, so he also attended a number of art schools whilst at university. Passionately Anglophile, Dulac studied English and often wore the latest English fashions thereby earning his nickname 'l’Anglais'. He moved to London in 1904, becoming a naturalised British citizen in 1912.

  Edmund-DulacEdmund Dulac by Howard Coster, 1938 NPG x11459 © National Portrait Gallery, London   NPG CC By

 Dulac is best remembered as a book illustrator whose works span over 116 published monographs including Edmund Dulac’s Fairy-Book. 

Dulac 3 aUrashima Taro from Edmund Dulac’s Fairy-Book: Fairy Tales of the Allied Nations (Hodder & Stoughton, 1916)

He also produced portraits, caricatures, posters, tapestries, carpets, furniture and theatrical props. Well known within Britain’s artistic and literary circles, Dulac was a close friend of William Butler Yeats, participating in the first performance of his play 'At the Hawk’s Well' in 1916. He also produced much of the play’s scenery, costumes, masks and music. 

Dulac 4 aMask for Young Man in “At the Hawk’s Well” from W. B. Yeats, Four Plays for Dancers (Macmillan, 1921)

Less well known outside philatelic and numismatic circles is that Dulac designed stamps, banknotes and proposed coinage. Notable designs for British stamps include the following.

Dulac 51937 (13 May) Coronation Issue [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

 

Dulac 61937-1947 Definitive Issue ½d to 7d stamps with Eric Gill [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  Dulac 71937-1947 Definitive Issue 7d to 1s stamps alone [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  Dulac 81939-1948 Issue 1s 6d to 5s stamps [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  Dulac 91948 (29 Jul) Olympic Games Issue, 1s. [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  Dulac 101951 (3 May) Festival of Britain 2½d. [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

  Dulac 111952 Elizabeth II Definitive Issue, 1s, 1s 3d and 1s 6d [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: Great Britain] Noc

General Charles de Gaulle also approached Dulac to design stamps and banknotes aimed at fostering unity and a common cause for the Free French Colonies against Vichy France and the Axis powers during the Second World War.
 

Dulac 12French Equatorial Africa 1941 Free French Issue 30c [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: French Colonies] Noc

  Dulac 13St Pierre & Miquelon 1942 Free French Airmail Issue 5fr stamp [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: French Colonies] Noc

  Dulac 14St Pierre & Miquelon Mutual Aid and Red Cross Fund Omnibus Issue 5fr+20f stamp [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: French Colonies] Noc

  Dulac 15France 1944 Provisional Government Definitive Issue 5fr. [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: France] Noc

  Dulac 16French West Africa 1945 Definitive Issue 4fr [Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection: French Colonies] Noc

Dulac suffered a heart attack following a strenuous bout of flamenco dancing, sadly dying on 25 May 1953. He left behind well over a thousand works of art and design spanning various mediums, much of it awaiting detailed research.

Richard Scott Morel
Curator, British Library Philatelic Collections

 

20 March 2018

Insurgency in the archives

DEAR READER, Please realize that this book will be no suitable ornament at present for Mahogany drawing tables or ivory bookshelves - no doubt its rightful place. The despoilers and oppressors of India will want to hunt it out of view. They cannot stand its fierce light. Whether, therefore, you are an Indian, or a foreigner temporarily in India, we entrust this and subsequent volumes to you for safe custody, by all the ingenious means one employs to save a treasure from theft or robbery, and for as many people to read as you can personally arrange.

Free India Committee, India Ravaged, January 1943 (Delhi, 1943), shelfmark EPP 13

On Friday 12 and Saturday 13 January 2018 the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London, hosted a two-day workshop on ‘Insurgency in the archives: the politics and aesthetics of sedition in colonial India’, with focus on the British Library’s collection of publications proscribed by the Government of India. As discussed in a previous post, this collection is one of the largest archives of primary sources relating to any twentieth century decolonization movement. Unable to do justice to the papers presented in such a short space this blog will present collection items related to the workshop’s five panel themes.

Archiving revolution

Both censors and insurgents were concerned with the maintenance of records and circulation of texts. Revolutionaries sometimes also appropriated the apparatus of the colonial state: distributed their writing in the mails or adopted the style and format of official literature. India Ravaged (above) collects texts documenting ‘atrocities’ committed under ‘British Aegis’ during the Quit India movement of 1942. Elsewhere a ‘balance sheet’ published by Indians based in San Francisco estimates that whilst Englishmen extract $136 million from India per year, the daily income of an average Indian is 2.5 cents.

EPP 1(8)
The Balance Sheet of British Rule in India (San Francisco, n.d.), shelfmark EPP 1/8

Communism in the vernacular

British anxiety about Soviet incursions in this region was such that communist literature was automatically banned.

PIB 69(1)
Sāmrājyavāda, a Hindi translation of Lenin’s Imperialism (Benares, 1934), PIB 69/1

PIB 18(1)
Lenina aura Gāndhī by René Fülöp-Miller, a comparative study of Lenin and Gandhi translated into Hindi from German (Delhi, 1932), shelfmark PIB 18/1

Networks of extraterritorial sedition

Banned works not only discussed international affairs, but were also sometimes disseminated via transcontinental underground networks. The wide-ranging nature of these is evident in a cache of Chinese language pro-German propaganda produced during WW1.

PIB 215(65)
A collection of German war reports and speeches translated into Chinese (n.d. and n.p), shelfmark PIB 215/65

Regulating ‘hatred’ and ‘disaffection’

The two main criteria for censorship were established in the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure, which defined ‘seditious material’ as that likely to incite ‘disaffection’ towards the Government of India or ‘class hatred’ between India’s different communities. The proscribed publications are therefore a valuable archive of both the nationalist movement and communal tensions in the lead-up to Independence and Partition.

PIB 126(2)
A handbill printed on saffron paper urges Hindus to only buy produce from coreligionists in order to protect Gomāta (Mother cow). (Ayodhya, n.d.), shelfmark PIB 126/2

PIB 93p1
A special edition of the Arya Samaj Urdu-language periodical Vedik Maigzīn disputes the authority of the Quran (Lahore, 1936), shelfmark PIB 93

Spoken texts, picture texts

The collection is particularly strong in popular print and street poetry. These texts were intended for a mass audience during a period of low literacy levels, and meant to be seen and heard as much as read.

PIB 210(2)p1
Vidrohiṇī (Rebel woman), a collection of nationalist songs (Bombay, 1942), shelfmark PIB 210/2

 PP Hin F93
Gore kuttoṃ kā harāmīpana (The bastardy of the white dogs), a stream of invective printed on red paper (n.p., 1930?), shelfmark PP Hin F93

Such literature would have circulated hand-to-hand and by word of mouth, before being intercepted by the colonial censor and kept in the British Library.

Pragya Dhital

Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London

 
Further reading:

Pinney Christopher. 2004. ‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (London: Reaktion Books)

Shaw, Graham and Mary Lloyd (eds.) 1985. Publications proscribed by the government of India: a catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division (London: British Library)

Singer, Wendy. 1997. Creating Histories: Oral Narratives and the Politics of History-making (New Delhi: Oxford University Press)


Previous blog posts on the proscribed publications collection:

Alex Hailey, 'Caught out at Customs', 4 April 2017 

Pragya Dhital, 'Inflammable material in the British Library', 25 September 2017

 

15 March 2018

Preventing disorder at the East India Company factories

More than 1500 volumes of East India Company Factory Records are being digitised though a partnership between the British Library and Adam Matthew Digital. The factories were the Company’s overseas trading posts from the 17th to 19th centuries. The Factory Records are copies of documents sent back to London to be added to the archive at East India House.  

EIC factory Cossimbazar 1795 Add.Or.3192 - Cropped East India Company Factory at Cossimbazar 1795 Add.Or.3192 Online Gallery Noc

The main categories of documents included in this series are formal minutes of official meetings; diaries recording daily business and life at the factory; and correspondence.

A wide range of topics is covered, for example:
• Commercial transactions and dealings with local merchants
• Descriptions of goods traded, with prices
• Private trade of Company servants
• Relations with other European nations and with local inhabitants
• Ship arrivals and departures; negotiations with captains
• Personnel management
• Misdemeanours
• Establishments and salaries
• Complaints and petitions
• Sickness and death

The first of two modules of digitised Factory Records was launched recently. It includes the Company trading posts in South and South-East Asia. Amongst these are the records for the Hugli Factory in the Bay of Bengal, 1663-1687.

IOR G 20 2 p.19IOR/G/20/2 part 2 pp.19-21 Rules for good behaviour December

In December 1679 the Agent and Council for the Coast of Coromandel and the Bay of Bengal composed a set of orders ‘’for advanceing the Honour of the English Nation and the preventing of Disorders’. All Company servants employed in the Bay of Bengal were instructed to –

• Stop lying, swearing, cursing, drunkenness, ‘uncleaness’, ‘profanation of the Lord’s Day’, and all other sinful practices.
• Be sure to be back inside the Company house or their lodgings at night.
• Say morning and evening prayers.

Penalties for infringement were specified.

• For staying out of the house all night without permission or being absent when the gates were shut at 9pm without a reasonable excuse – 10 rupees to be paid to the poor, or one whole day sitting publicly in the stocks.
• For every oath or curse, twelve pence to the poor, or three hours in the stocks.
• For lying - twelve pence to the poor.
• For drunkenness – five shillings to the poor or six hours in the stocks.
• For any Protestant in the Company’s house absent without a valid excuse from public prayers on weekday mornings and evenings - twelve pence to the poor or one week’s confinement in the house.
• For any Christian absent from morning and evening prayers on a Sunday - twelve pence to the poor.  If no payment was made, the money was to be raised by selling the offender’s goods, or he might be imprisoned.

If these penalties failed to ‘reclaim’ someone from these vices or if any man was found guilty of adultery, fornication, or ‘uncleaness’, or disturbed the peace of the factory by quarrelling or fighting, he was to be sent to Fort St George for punishment.  The orders were to be read publicly at the Factory twice a year so no-one could profess ignorance of them.

One of the Company officials who signed the regulations was Matthias Vincent. He was accused in India of corruption, immorality and extortion!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

The East India Company digital resource is available online from Adam Matthew and there is access in British Library Reading Rooms in London and Yorkshire.

 

13 March 2018

Getting a fair price: a handy pocket-book for merchants (and smugglers?)

We recently acquired a little book with strong ties to Cornish trade and smuggling in the 18th century.  Money of England, reduced into money of Portugal was printed in the sea port of Falmouth, Cornwall, in 1787.  It is a pocket-sized book of tables and calculations of the rates of exchange between Portugal and England, together with conversion tables for measures of cloth, wine and corn, and weights – indispensable for the merchants and sailors involved in Falmouth’s lucrative trade network, clandestine or otherwise, wanting a fair price for their goods.

Photo 1Money of England, reduced into money of Portugal Noc

During the 18th century there was a thriving maritime trade between Lisbon and Falmouth, as described by Daniel Defoe in his Tour through the whole Island of Great Britain, 1724:

"Falmouth is well built, has abundance of shipping belonging to it, is full of rich merchants, and has a flourishing and increasing trade.  I say 'increasing,' because by the late setting up the English packets between this port and Lisbon, there is a new commerce between Portugal and this town carried on to a very great value.  It is true, part of this trade was founded in a clandestine commerce carried on by the said packets at Lisbon, where, being the king's ships, and claiming the privilege of not being searched or visited by the Custom House officers, they found means to carry off great quantities of British manufactures, which they sold on board to the Portuguese merchants, and they conveyed them on shore, as it is supposed, without paying custom.  But the Government there getting intelligence of it … that trade has been effectually stopped.  But the Falmouth merchants, having by this means gotten a taste of the Portuguese trade, have maintained it ever since in ships of their own”.

The Falmouth-Lisbon Packet Service described by Defoe started operation in 1689.  It was an early postal service that carried mail on packet ships from country to country.  There were other packet stations on the south and east coasts and, together, they ran important routes across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and through Northern Europe.  The packet crews furtively traded goods on their own account, duty-free, on the side, making the packet service risky but potentially lucrative work.  Even when the government got wind of this practice and stamped it out, the smuggling continued using privately owned boats.  Portuguese gold bars and coin were particular favourites, and often found their way up to London.  This little pocket book would have been a handy guide for converting measures of smuggled goods, and calculating the exchange rate between currencies.

Photo 2Money of England, reduced into money of Portugal Noc

The last page has an advertisement for Elizabeth Elliot, bookseller, stationer and printer.  Elizabeth was the widow of the printer Philip Elliot and, together, their business was responsible for ten out of the 24 early printed books with Falmouth imprints that survive today.  Elizabeth’s shop sold an eclectic range of “books in all languages and all manner of bindings; stationary/wares of all sorts; mathematical instruments; violins, German and common flutes, and fifes, music, music-books and music-paper; the late Sir John Hill’s medicines, by appointment of Lady Hill; Wash-Balls, lavender-water, eau de luce, &c. &c.”.  Elizabeth took over the shop in 1787 and printed this book of tables, an English grammar for “young beginners”, two sermons, a book of spiritual songs and a satirical poem about slavery.

Photo 3  Money of England, reduced into money of Portugal Noc

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections