THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

7 posts from July 2018

19 July 2018

The Adventures and Vicissitudes of Captain Cook

A penny dreadful account of  James Cook’s boyhood titled The Adventures and Vicissitudes of Captain Cook, offers an unusual example of 19th-century literature concerning this figure.  Published in 20 parts from 1 November 1869, the author of the account remained anonymous, but its publisher was E. Harrison, known for his “sensational fiction” and creation of cheap weekly periodicals aimed at children and adults.  Each part opened with a striking illustration, often of the young figure of Cook embroiled in a physical struggle or in the process of escaping danger.

Adventures and Vicissitudes of Captain CookThe Adventures and Vicissitudes of Captain Cook, Mariner. Showing how by Honesty, Truth, and Perseverance, a Poor, Friendless Orphan Boy became a Great Man.  Beautifully illustrated (London: E. Harrison, 1870) available online

This work is notable for the inaccuracies and embellishments in its description of Cook’s childhood.  Though it is not acknowledged as fictitious in the volume itself, this may have been presumed by the readership.

The story begins with James Cook at the age of ten, living in the village of Marton with his sick and widowed mother.  While this was the correct location of the real Cook’s birth, on 27 October 1728, at the age of eight his family had moved to Great Ayton.  His parents in the Adventures are named as James and Mary Cook, and his father had died while working for a Farmer Gripman.  In reality Cook’s mother was named Grace.  James Cook Senior worked for a Mr Mewburn in Marton and a Mr Thomas Skottowe on Ayton and he was still very much alive at this stage in the younger Cook’s life.

A key plot point of the early chapters of the volume is the death of Cook’s ailing widowed mother, leaving him behind as an orphan with no siblings.  The real Cook was the second of eight children, four of whom died young.  Through this constructed context the series introduced the 19th-century literary trope of the impoverished orphan.  By opening the fictional story of his life in this manner the events that followed could address Cook going out into the world alone and navigating its trials and tribulations.

The events that ensued are filled with action and adventure, childhood companions both kind like Ichabod ‘Ikey’ Mangles, and cruel like Octavius Challoner.  Mysterious strangers act as defenders and draw the hero into new environments.  Together they guide the fictional Cook to his ultimate purpose and allow him to display his moral worth.  His values of honesty and kindness are always rewarded.

While connections to the facts of Cook’s early life are few, these tales create an origin story for the idealised vision of the James Cook that had become well-known in juvenile literature of this period.  In the final scene, as the vessel enters Whitby harbour, where the real Cook learnt his trade and his ships like the Endeavour and Resolution were built, the writer states ‘that with honesty and integrity for a motto, the most unpromising commencement of life may have the brightest finish’.

Mary McMahon
AHRC CDP PhD Student, Royal Holloway, University of London, and the British Museum

Further reading:
Beaglehole, J. C. The Life of Captain James Cook (London: A. and C. Black, 1974).
The Adventures and Vicissitudes of Captain Cook, Mariner. Showing how by Honesty, Truth, and Perseverance, a Poor, Friendless Orphan Boy became a Great Man.  Beautifully illustrated (London: E. Harrison, 1870) - available online.

 

Visit our exhibition James Cook: The Voyages
Open until 28 August 2018

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17 July 2018

The mysterious death of Captain Archibald Anderson

Captain Archibald Anderson was in command of the East India Company ship Nottingham when he disappeared in May 1790.  Accident?  Suicide?  Or something more sinister?

Archibald Anderson (c. 1751-1790) started his career as an apprentice in the Scottish coastal trade in the mid-1760s.  He joined the East India Company’s service as a midshipman in 1770.  By 1786 he had risen through the ranks to be appointed Captain of the Nottingham and in 1790 was returning to England from his second season in command of the vessel.

East Indiaman from Betwixt the Forelands'East Indiaman' from William Clark Russel, Betwixt the Foreland (London,1889) BL flickr  Noc

On 23 May 1790 the Nottingham arrived back in England at the Downs having sailed from Portsmouth in February 1789 for Madras and China.  The following morning the Captain's servants discovered that Anderson was not in his quarters, his clothes for the day were still laid out on his sofa, and he was nowhere to be found on board ship.

The Chief Mate George Max states in his journal:
“The servants missing Captain Anderson, a search was made throughout the ship not finding him, supposed he had fell overboard out of the Stern Gallery, as his clothes laid all on the sopha”.

A second ship’s journal tells a very similar story:
“Am. the Servants missing Capt. Anderson a first search was made thro the ship not finding himself found he had fell overboard in the Night out of the stern gallery as his cloathes was left on the Sopha”.

The general consensus from the ship’s officers and crew was that he must have fallen out of the stern gallery during the night and that they therefore considered his death to be accidental.  Newspaper reports of the incident published on 4 June 1790 however shed two very different lights on what they believed had occurred.

The Hereford Chronicle reported that there had been confrontations throughout the voyage between the Captain and his officers and that he had intended reporting their conduct on his return.  Although not explicitly stated, the tone of the article implies that he may have been pushed to prevent the poor conduct charges from being pressed.

Hereford Journal 4 June 1790Hereford Chronicle 4 June 1790 British Newspaper Archive

The Chelmsford Chronicle however claims his death as a suicide.  It also references the poor conduct and relations between Captain and Officers, but claims that the Captain had in the days leading up to his death apologised for his conduct and stated his intention not to pursue any conduct charges and to leave it be.  He allegedly even dined with the officers two successive evenings, including the evening prior to his death.  The newspaper also alleges he had written a report to the Board of Directors of the East India Company, dismissed his purser and then written and sealed a letter to a friend before throwing himself out of the window.

Chelmsford Chronicle 4 June 1790Chelmsford Chronicle 4 June 1790 British Newspaper Archive

If Captain Anderson did write a report to the Board of Directors and sent it to them prior to his death, it sadly appears that it no longer survives, and his death therefore will forever be shrouded in mystery. 

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/B/287H, Journal of George Max, Chief Mate, 27 Nov 1788-12 Jul 1790
IOR/L/MAR/B/287-H, Ship’s Journal 27 Nov 1788-12 Jul 1790 (unknown author)
Hereford Chronicle 4 June 1790,  and Chelmsford Chronicle 4 June 1790 accessed via the British Newspaper Archive

 

13 July 2018

Tyau mate oee – My friends, I am dying

On 9 November 1770, a Tahitian boy about twelve years of age died, probably of tuberculosis, in Batavia, now Jakarta.  In the 18th century Batavia was a Dutch East India Company base, and so plagued by disease that it acquired a reputation as a ‘cemetery’. 

Taiato ‘The Lad Taiyota, native of Otaheite, in the dress of his country.’ from A Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, in his Majesty's Ship the Endeavour (London, 1784). 10497.ff.6, plate IX Images Online

Taiato is among those in the shadows on our historical stage; sadly not unusual for indigenous people.  He made nine appearances in the records, between 13  July, when he joined Captain Cook’s Endeavour with the Tahitian navigator and priest Tupaia, and 26 December 1770, when Cook noted his death alongside others.  He burst into the limelight in one of these appearances which took place off the coast of New Zealand on 15 October 1769.  The Endeavour had only sighted land a few days before, but already a great deal had happened. Banks described  9 October as ‘the most disagreable day My life has yet seen’.  An estimated nine Māori had already been shot dead, and the Endeavour had acquired virtually no fresh supplies of food and water in the nearly two months since they left the Society Islands.

As the crew started to trade for fish with Māori in canoes alongside the ship, a many-layered event unfolded.  Cook tried to trade some red cloth for a Māori cloak, but no sooner was the cloth in the trader’s hand, than he sat down in the canoe, which calmly withdrew.  After a brief discussion amongst themselves, the Māori approached again.  This time however they had other ambitions.  As the ship’s surgeon Monkhouse recorded: ‘we were attending to the coming up of the great war Canoe when all on a sudden an Alarm was given that one of the fishermen had pulled Tupaia’s boy into the boat – they instantly put off, and the great Canoe, as if the scheme had been preconcerted, immediately put themselves in a fighting posture ready to defend the other boat and stood ready to receive the boy from them.  Our astonishment at so unexpected a trick is not to be described’.  The Endeavour’s crew, and particularly Tupaia, were outraged and shots were immediately fired at the Māori, fatally wounding several, and securing Taiato’s escape.

This brief moment in the limelight hints at significant relationships, clearly between Tupaia and Taiato, but also between Taiato and others on the Endeavour.  This invites speculation as to what happened off-stage in the shadows.  According to Druett among others, Taiato was popular with many of the crew. His last, painful, dying words were addressed to his friends, and we have some reason to believe that they were genuine friendships.

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager, Modern Maps

Further reading:
Beaglehole, J. C., 1955-1969. The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery. Cambridge: Published for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press. (For Monkhouse's account.)
Druett, J., 2011. Tupaia: Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator. Oxford: ABC-CLIO, LLC.
South Seas Voyaging Accounts   

 

Visit our exhibition James Cook: The Voyages
Open until 28 August 2018

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10 July 2018

Spence Broughton: A Ghostly Highwayman

Spence Broughton was a highwayman executed for robbing the Sheffield and Rotherham mail in 1792.  His body was gibbeted on Attercliffe Common and, notoriously, it hung there for 36 years.  Thousands flocked to see this gory spectacle and it has remained somewhat of a local legend.  Only four contemporary publications about Broughton are recorded, all provincially printed (probably in York) and extremely rare.  We are delighted to add to this with the discovery of a hitherto unknown broadside: 'Full and complete particulars of the dreadful, surprizing, and alarming apparition of Spence Broughton, which appeared to Miss S---- H----, on Sunday morning, April 15, 1792'. 

Highwayman1'Full and complete particulars of the dreadful, surprizing, and alarming apparition of Spence Broughton...'

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Broughton’s fate was of his own making; he deserted his family, gambled and committed many highway robberies after all.  However, in this broadside, the highwayman is instead a victim of a seductress, absolving him of responsibility for his crimes and condemning his unfortunate mistress to a life of' 'never-ending tortures'.

The night before his execution, the highwayman appeared as an apparition in his mistress’s bedroom.  Upon waking she saw Broughton’s coffin, flanked by his widow and three orphans.  The widow reportedly cried:
'Most worthless of thy sex, behold the misery thou hast occasioned!  Behold the widow and the orphans thy infamy has plunged into woe! … The blood of a whole family calls aloud for vengeance upon thee!'

The widow then disappeared, leaving Broughton in spirit-form to condemn his mistress:
'If the sufferings of an innocent and virtuous woman cannot avail, I charge thee to mark my words, for surely they must strike thee with unspeakable remorse.  Have thy not delusive tongue occasioned me to relinquish the chastest love for the lewdest dalliance? Canst thou exist on earth without a foretaste of never-ending tortures? … Surely thou canst not behold my mangled limbs without shedding the most heart-rending tears!'

Broughton then disappeared in a ball of fire, leaving poor Miss S---- H---- terrified and the curtains mysteriously soaked in blood.  The landlady admonished and urged her to 'forsake the highway of destruction, and seek the happy path of reformation and amendment'.  The other surviving printed sources about Spence Broughton strike a similarly sympathetic note about his fate; he apparently repented for his crimes prior to execution and that earned him a measure of public compassion.

Highwayman2'Full and complete particulars of the dreadful, surprizing, and alarming apparition of Spence Broughton...'


This grubby but unique survival adds to the small corpus of provincial printing about Spence Broughton, and to the corpus of highwaymen broadsides more generally.  Popular print in the eighteenth century was saturated by sensationalist tales, infamous criminals and the odd, squeezed-in, moral lesson.  This was perhaps printed just hours before the execution and its extraordinary but decidedly misogynist tale would’ve been avidly consumed by locals.  It was printed cheaply on waste paper – on the back of a Register of Freeholders form - and it cost only a penny.  It could also provide a valuable clue about the identity of Broughton’s much-maligned mistress, whose name has long since been lost.  The initials “S H” may be the printer’s invention but, then again, they may not.  Either way, this is an intriguing piece of printing.
 
Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

 

06 July 2018

New black Britain and Asian Britain web pages launched

The British Library holds rich resources for the study of black Britain and Asian Britain. A new suite of web pages highlights the wide variety of material available, including printed, archival, visual, music and oral history collections.  The development of these web pages is discussed in the Asian and African studies blog.

The collections of the former India Office Library and Records, which are held at the British Library, illuminate the long history of South Asian people in Britain.  They document the stories of people from all walks of life including Indian seamen, known as lascars, soldiers and others providing vital support during both world wars, workers, servants such as ayahs (nannies), entrepreneurs, campaigners, students, lawyers and doctors, politicians, sportsmen and Indian royalty.  The people featured below are just a small sample of those whose lives are recorded in the collections at the British Library. 

  Dean MahomedPortrait of Sake Dean Mahomed , 1826 (T 12646)

Sake Dean Mahomed started his varied career in the East India Company’s Bengal Army.  He left for Ireland in 1782 with a Captain Godfrey Baker. After marrying an Irish woman in 1786, he wrote a book about his travels.  His next venture was the Hindoostanee Coffee House which he set up in London.  When that failed, he moved to Brighton where he created a thriving business as a ‘shampooing surgeon’.  Dean Mahomed’s children lived in Britain and pursued successful careers.

 

Dadabhai Naoroji was the first Indian MP in Britain.  NaorojiDadabhai Naoroji -- Mirror of British Merchandise, 1892 (14119.f.37)

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was born in 1876 in Suffolk, the sixth child of Maharajah Duleep Singh, the deposed ruler of the Punjab. Proud of her Indian ancestry, Princess Sophia was a generous patron of causes which helped Indian people in Britain. Today, she is best remembered as a passionate suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote.

Sophia Duleep SinghSophia Duleep Singh - The Suffragette, 18 April 1913 IOR/L/PS/11/52, P1608, f.273

The photograph shows Princess Sophia selling The Suffragette newspaper outside Hampton Court Palace, where she lived in an apartment. 

The Bevin Training Scheme was established in 1941 with the support of the British Minister of Labour, Ernest Bevin. The Second World War increased demand for skilled engineers in the Indian industries engaged in war-related work. The scheme aimed to provide practical training for young Indians who otherwise would not have the means to travel to Britain. This booklet was produced by the Indian Government as part of an essay competition for Bevin trainees to stimulate public interest in the scheme.

Ambassadors of Goodwill IOR-L-I-1-978Ambassadors of Goodwill - Essays by Bevin Trainees, 1940s IOR/L/I/1/978 f.30

We hope that you will be inspired to look at the new web pages and discover more about our collections relating to the history of black and Asian Britain.

Penny Brook and John O'Brien
India Office Records

Further reading
Asians in Britain
Paper bag reveals forgotten history
Award of Victoria Cross to Khudadad Khan
A tribute to forgotten heroes of the seven seas 
Indian princess in suffragette march
Bevin Indian trainees during the Second World War

 

04 July 2018

James Cook and Benjamin Franklin

James Cook departed on his last voyage eight days after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence (4 July 1776).  The official account of that voyage was published on 4 June 1784, less than a month after the final ratification of the Treaty of Paris (12 May 1784), which concluded the American War of Independence.

The coincidence of these two historic events converged in the public sphere on 10 March 1779 with the publication of Benjamin Franklin’s open letter ordering American sea captains, if they happened to encounter him, to treat Cook and his crew ‘with all civility and kindness … as common friends to mankind’.

  Franklin 1 Franklin 1ACopy of pass by Benjamin Franklin, 10 March 1779 State Library New South Wales, Dixson Library, MSQ140

The letter received considerable press coverage at the time.  Opinions about it were sharply divided. On 26 May 1779, after summarizing its contents, Lloyd’s Evening Post ends with a quotation from Swift: ‘See, Brothers, how we Apples swim’.  The line, spoken by a ball of ‘horse’s dung’, clearly implies that Franklin’s support for Cook’s voyage is nothing but a vain attempt to share in its glory.

The Whig-leaning Public Advertiser, in contrast, used the letter to voice anti-war sentiments.  On 7 June 1779 a whimsical article imagines Cook being captured by an American ship.  On discovering his identity, the Americans follow Franklin’s orders and present him with ‘Half a hundred Weight of right Virginia Tobacco, three Bags of Rice’, and other produce plundered from ‘a Portugueze Vessel’.  In referencing their highly profitable trading relations and their shared enemy, the ‘Portugueze’, the article stresses the economic and political importance of the relationship between Britain and America.

  Franklin 2
Public Advertiser [London, England], 7 June 1779; Issue 13935

A similar note is struck by the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser’s response to news of Cook’s death, communicated in a letter from Charles Clerke from Kamchatka, a place that in the 18th century was used as a metaphor for distance and coldness:

‘Had we been born in an island in the South-Seas, we should perhaps have called [Cook] an invader, a pirate. …The most striking circumstance surely is, that Captain Clerke should sit down in the Bay of St. Peter and Paul at Kamschatka, and write a letter to Mr. Stephens, at Charing-cross, which, in about half a year, reaches him as safely, as if it had been put into a penny-post-office… This is civilization; nor should we forget the friendly assistance of the Russians, any more than the French order, respecting Captain Cook’.

The greatest achievements of the voyage, the article suggests, were not so much Cook’s discoveries but the co-operation and free lines of communication between potentially warring powers that enabled these discoveries to happen and to be so promptly reported on.

As a counterpoint to the hostilities between Britain, France and America in the Atlantic, therefore, Cook’s voyages in the Pacific were seen, by some at least, as a way of promoting unity between so-called ‘Enlightened’ countries – les états bien policés (well-governed states) – whose destinies were presented as increasingly more entwined by commercial links and shared mœurs or ‘polite manners’.

Ben Pollitt
PhD Candidate, Department of History of Art, University College London

Further reading:
Copy of pass by Benjamin Franklin, 10 March 1779, State Library New South Wales, Dixson Library, MSQ140
Lloyd's Evening Post (London, England), 26 May- 28 May 1779; Issue 3421
Jonathan Swift, ‘On the words Brother-Protestants, and Fellow-Christians, so familiarly used by the advocates for the Repeal of the Test Act in Ireland,’ [1733] in The Works of Dr. Jonathan Swift, Vol. VII, London: T. Osborne et al., 1766, p. 206
Public Advertiser (London, England), 7 June 1779; Issue 13935
Sophie Forgan, ‘A note on the ‘Afterlife of Kamchatka,’ in Smoking Coasts and Ice-Bound Seas: Cook’s Voyage to the Arctic, Whitby: Captain Cook Memorial Museum, 2008, pp. 33-40
Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (London, England), 17 January 1780; Issue 3327

Visit our exhibition James Cook: The Voyages
Open until 28 August 2018

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02 July 2018

Open spaces for children – the Foundling Site Appeal

In 1926 the Foundling Hospital estate in Bloomsbury London was sold by the Governors to a business syndicate. The children were moved to the country and the old Hospital was demolished. Nine acres of ground were put on the market as building land.

Foundling Hospital ThornburyThe Foundling Hospital from Old & New London by George Walter Thornbury and Edward Walford (1897) BL flickr

Dismayed at the prospect of this open space being covered by buildings, local residents formed the Foundling Estate Protection Association.  They asked the London County Council to purchase the land and preserve it as a Public Open Space, but the asking price of £700,000 was too high.  In 1929 the School Care Committees in the borough of Holborn petitioned the LCC to acquire the space as a playground and welfare centre for children growing up in neighbouring congested housing.  Again the cost proved too much.

The Association appealed to Viscount Rothermere who offered £525,000 for the Foundling Site.  His offer was rejected and the vendors prepared for a development with blocks of flats.

In January 1929 an influential group was formed – the Joint Committee of Voluntary Associations for the Welfare of Children and Young People (Foundling Site).  It had representatives from the Scouts, Guides, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, nursery schools and children’s play centres.   The Association and Committee agreed to work together.

Lord Rothermere purchased an option on the site for £525,000 in April 1929.  In August that year the Joint Committee opened the Site to nearly 3,000 local children.  Many had never run about on grass before. Toys and games were provided.  The LCC gave a grant of £500 and Queen Mary made the first of three visits.

Local schools used the Site for games throughout the year and for open-air classes in the summer.  The swimming bath was reconditioned and a nursery opened in the old sanitorium building.  The nursery children spent most of their time outdoors in fine weather and their health was seen to improve.

Foundling Site AppealNotes on the Foundling Site Appeal 1929-1936

However in December 1930 Lord Rothermere informed the Joint Committee that he could not exercise his option to buy the estate.  So in February 1931, at a time of economic depression, a public appeal was launched to save the Site. Rothermere promised a gift of £50,000 if the appeal was successful.  By the end of April 1931, an average of £2,000 per week had been contributed from all over the world.  Local schoolchildren made penny collections.

A set of postcards entitled 'Save the Foundling Site' was issued by Raphael Tuck & Sons showing happy children playing in the open spaces.

Football on the Foundling Site reverse

They included images of boys playing football…

Football on the Foundling Site

 Football on the Foundling Site - image courtesy of Tuck DB Postcards

...and the Infants’ Lawn.

The Infants' Lawn Foundling SiteThe Infants’ Lawn - image courtesy of Tuck DB Postcards

By June 1932 sufficient money had been raised to secure about 5½ acres of the Site.  In April 1933 Sir Harry Mallaby-Deeley purchased the Foundling estate, including the still unsaved part of the open Site.  Sir Harry promised a donation of £36,250 towards the cost of the remaining part of the Site, leaving £150,000 to be raised through a ‘Final Appeal’ launched in February 1934.  The LCC made a grant and the Governors of the Foundling Hospital repurchased the northern portion for child welfare work.  In December 1935 the long struggle to save the whole of the old Foundling Hospital Site for the children of London was brought to a successful conclusion. The park re-opened in 1936 under the new name of Coram Fields.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Notes on the Foundling Site Appeal 1929-1936 issued by the Council of Management of Coram’s Fields

The Art of Children's Games