THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

64 posts categorized "Manuscripts"

19 October 2017

Grimaldi family correspondence

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Louisa Edmeads was the wife of a curate at Over, Cheshire. We’ve recently catalogued a collection of her letters to her brother William in London, chiefly 1819 to 1829, dealing with domestic matters – health, clothing, family, neighbourhood gossip, work, and, above all, money. Money for goods from London, for cloth to make William shirts, for postage and transport by canal, for lodgings. This in itself provides a fascinating glimpse into the affairs of an early 19th-century family in straitened circumstances.

Grimaldi letters versos
Letters of Louisa Frances Edmeads (1785-1873) to her brother William Grimaldi (1786-1835). Add MS 89258

The family was, however, an unusual one. Louisa was the daughter of William Grimaldi (1751-1830), descendant of Alessandro Maria Grimaldi, head of the Genoese Grimaldi family, who left Italy for England in 1684. William senior was a renowned miniaturist whose customers included members of the aristocracy, but his finances were a continuing cause for concern to his children. Louisa was particularly anxious for him to leave his unsatisfactory lodgings and set up home with William, or their younger brother, Stacey Grimaldi (a successful barrister):

LFE to WG 9 June 1819 Merely to get rid of this rent
'Merely to get rid of this rent' (Letter from Louisa Edmeads to William Grimaldi, 9 June 1819)

There were other problems. William senior’s enthusiastic 'Methodising' and going out every evening caused friction with Stacey, but there was no hope of inducing him to change his habits. As Louisa writes: 'The arrangements between these two personages keep my mind in a constant state of anxiety & suspense, both by night & by day' (28 June 1819).

At one point Louisa even suggests a stealthy departure from his lodgings:

LFE to WG 17 Aug 1819 to abscond (2)
‘It would be a most unpleasant & painful thing for my Father to abscond but I do not really see any other means by which Mr W. can be brought to any kind of terms' (Letter from Louisa Edmeads to William Grimaldi, 17 August 1819)

There is affectionate exasperation over their father’s ways: 'As long as I can remember he has found occupation in arranging his Enamel Colors - & I doubt if he would ever complete that job if he had 50 years to do it in' (10 August 1822).

Despite tensions, the family worked together to try to solve problems. Louisa constantly urges William to find a better situation  than the one he held with Josiah Wedgwood, at St James’s Square, and issues frequent invitations to Over, and Cricklade, Wiltshire, their home from 1821. Though she writes only disparagingly of her own artistic efforts (she was herself a miniaturist of some ability), there is often a practical side to the letters. She asks William to admire her visiting card box and get his 'varnish person' to finish it; she draws a plan of her new house at Cricklade ('We hope to get in by Sept. – but workmen are great plagues' (9 June 1829)); and she describes in great detail the fabric, cut and style of the shirts she sews for him.

Tantalisingly, there are no letters at all from 1821, perhaps because of some disagreement with Stacey Grimaldi, into whose hands the letters later passed. In that year he published The Toilet, a significant early example of movable book publishing. Designed by William Grimaldi senior, each illustration showed an article from a lady’s dressing table or toilette (apparently sketched from Louisa’s dressing table), in the form of a flap, which the reader could lift to reveal a specific virtue. Despite the correspondence gap, earlier and later letters show that Louisa took a keen interest in The Toilet, which was a great success, even selling copies to local acquaintances.

A fine lip salve crop

A fine lip salve (open - cheerfulness) (3)
A fine lip salve – hand coloured illustration from The Toilet, by Stacey Grimaldi (2nd ed, 1821). When the flap is opened, we see 'cheerfulness' (British Library shelfmark: Cup.410.d.29).

Other highlights include a trip down the salt-mine in Winsford, treatment of her brother-in-law for lunacy, and the protracted process of finding a new curacy ('I write this from Salisbury – which is already swarming with clergymen on the watch for all the crumbs from the Bishop’s table … Edmeads is out for a long morning’s fishing' (30 July 1820)). The letters are a useful new source for local and social historians, and for anyone interested in the untold lives of women of the early 19th century.

Tabitha Driver
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

The Grimaldi family letters (Add MS 89258) are available to consult in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Follow us on Twitter @BL_ModernMSS

19 September 2017

'I have made resolutions to be good': letters of Princess Charlotte to her tutor

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Can you imagine the 19th century without Queen Victoria? If the young Princess Charlotte, only legitimate daughter of the Prince of Wales, had not died in childbirth in 1817, aged 21, she could have succeeded her father George IV to the throne in 1830 – and perhaps been quite a different sort of Queen.

Charlotte was the only child of an unhappy marriage between George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Her parents lived apart for most of their marriage and fought constantly over their daughter, at the same time neglecting her in a way that would seem cruel today. George was determined Charlotte should never be alone with her mother. George and Caroline’s quarrels were public knowledge – the Prince instigated more than one investigation into his wife’s morals, while living openly with his mistress, and Princess Caroline’s own behaviour was less than discreet. The country took sides, and Charlotte became for many the focus of future hopes for the monarchy.

Expectations of the young Princess were high. Judging her education and training to be of some importance, her grandfather George III appointed John Fisher, later Bishop of Salisbury, as her ‘preceptor’ and the Reverend George Frederick Nott as ‘sub-preceptor’.  Nott was responsible for  religious instruction, Latin, English and ancient history.

  Princess-Charlotte-Augusta-of-Wales
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, by Marie Anne Bourlier, published by Edward Harding, after Sir Thomas Lawrence. Stipple engraving, published 19 May 1806. © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Library has recently acquired 31 letters from the young Princess Charlotte to Mr Nott, written between 1805 and 1808 when she was aged 9 to 12 (Papers of John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, Add MS 89259). Nott was a regular visitor to Warwick House, where Charlotte lived alone with her appointed carers. As the letters show, he was an important figure in the Princess’s life. The letters are signed affectionately; she enquires anxiously after his health; she even ‘wishes he were here’.

  Christmas 1805 p.2-3
'I wish you had been of the party': Charlotte’s description of Christmas Day in a letter dated 29 December 1805. Add MS 89259/2 © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

But things didn’t always go smoothly. Charlotte’s school work and behaviour often fell short. Contemporary accounts describe her as lively and rebellious. There are tales of her throwing the Bishop’s wig into the fireplace, standing behind him imitating his mannerisms, and getting up to mischief with her young playmate George Keppel. What’s more, writing and spelling were not her strong suit. Nott had many occasions to rebuke Charlotte, prompting pained expressions of contrition on her part.

My dear Mr Nott I assure you Early undated (2)
'I have made resolutions to be good'. Undated letter, around 1805-1806. Add MS 89259/2 © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Were these authentic expressions of remorse, or was the young Princess simply playing the game? She was sincere, she protested, time and again.

My dear Mr Nott I cannot help (4)
“It is not cant, but sincere words from my heart, I feel it”. Undated letter, around 1805-1806. Add MS 89259/2 © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Charlotte’s letters show a childish mixture of spontaneity (‘do, do forgive me my dear Mr Nott’), and amusingly formal turns of phrase (‘Feeling conscious my dear Mr Nott how much I must appear to deserve your reproaches for my long silence’, 26 August 1807). The same variety is seen in her handwriting – sometimes careful, at other times hastily scrawled and crossed out. As Charlotte’s epistolary style matures over the four years, we also see her best handwriting gradually evolve from round, carefully formed letters to a rapid, rather spidery hand.

These letters, in Charlotte’s own hand, breathe life into her story. She may never have excelled at ‘Lattin’, but the strength of feeling evident in the letters foreshadows the determination she would display a few years later, when steadfastly refusing to marry against her own inclination.

Tabitha Driver
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Follow us on Twitter @BL_ModernMSS

Further reading:

Add MS 89259 Papers of John Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, canon of St George’s Chapel Windsor, and superintendent of the education of Princess Charlotte, 1758-1849
Add MS 82586 Correspondence of Princess Charlotte with her tutor George Frederick Nott, 1805-1809 (transcripts). Papers of Lord Chancellor Eldon, volume 6
Add MS 58865, ff. 167-178v Papers of Lord Grenville concerning the education of Princess Charlotte, 1804-1806. Dropmore Papers, volume 11
Add MS 86491 Letters to Fisher, chiefly from or relating to Princess Charlotte Augusta, 1816, and undated. Fisher Correspondence. Vol. 3 

31 August 2017

Lord Derby's letters and the two general elections of 1910

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If you’ve been suffering from political fatigue recently, imagine how you would have felt in 1910 when there were two general elections in one year. Not only were there two elections, in January and December, but each election lasted for weeks. The Prime Minister H. H. Asquith called the first election in order to gain a mandate for the People’s Budget, which had been rejected by the House of Lords. The result was a hung parliament and the Liberal Party continued to govern with support from the Irish Parliamentary Party until a second election was held in December.

One woman who avidly followed political developments in 1910 was Lady Wolverton, née Edith Amelia Ward (1872–1956). Lady Wolverton was addicted to politics and political gossip. Letters recently acquired by the British Library show that she received political news in abundance from her friend the Conservative politician Edward Stanley, the 17th Earl of Derby (1865–1948). Derby sought her advice and opinions about political matters and wrote to her on 25 November 1910 saying that, "I shall never forget that it was you who made me keen again about politics" (Add MS 89228/9).

Hon-George-Edward-Dudley-Carr-Glyn-Edith-Amelia-ne-Ward-Lady-Wolverton
Edith Amelia Glyn (née Ward), Lady Wolverton and George Edward Dudley Carr Glyn, photographed by H. Walter Barnett, circa 1905. By permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London

I am currently cataloguing around 600 letters from the Earl of Derby to Lady Wolverton, dating from 1907 to 1942. Randolph S. Churchill did not have access to these letters when he wrote his 1959 biography of Lord Derby, and the nature of this epistolary friendship has not been fully appreciated before.

P1010605
Some of the letters from Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby to Lady Edith Wolverton, Add MS 89228

The letters of 1910 shed some light on the Conservative Party campaign and the Earl of Derby’s own role in both elections. Derby had lost his seat in the House of Commons in the general election of 1906 when the Liberal Party won a landslide victory, but he took his seat in the Lords in 1908 after he inherited the earldom. Although Lord Derby did not stand for election in 1910, he was heavily involved in the campaign, by suggesting, meeting and supporting Conservative Party candidates in Manchester and the north-west of England.

On 16 January 1910 he wrote to express his frustration about Labour Party gains in the north of England:

Well what do you think of the first day. Personally I am disappointed and depressed. Although as far as I can make out we have won 14 seats on the balance. There are one or two disquieting symptoms.

[…] when you come to the great industrial belt right across Lancashire, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Durham, there can be no doubt we are in a hopeless minority, & the reason is that the whole of that district is getting more & more socialistic every day. Manchester I was prepared to see go badly, but not so Salford. (Add MS 89228/6)

Letter 16 January
Letter from Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby to Lady Edith Wolverton, 16 January 1910, Add MS 89228/6 (enlarge). By permission of The Rt Hon. The Earl of Derby 2017

On 4 August he begs Lady Wolverton:

Please keep this quite secret. Bonar Law has practically offered to give up his seat at Dulwich & fight a Manchester seat. It is very good of him as it means giving up a very safe seat for a doubtful one, though personally I think he is sure to win, and not only his own seat, but his influence, and his extraordinary good speeches will do much to win seats round. (Add MS 89228/8)

Andrew Bonar Law lost in Manchester North West in December 1910, but he returned to Parliament in March 1911 after being elected to the safe Conservative seat of Bootle in a by-election. The general election of December 1910 was the last to take place over several days and the last to be held before the Representation of the People Act 1918 gave suffrage to women over 30.

Forthcoming posts will look at what the letters reveal about the 17th Earl of Derby’s position as Secretary of State for War during the First World War and Lady Edith Wolverton’s continuing role as his political confidante.

Catherine Angerson
Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Follow us on Twitter @BL_ModernMSS

29 August 2017

Philip Allwood and the Cuban Slave Trade

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Tucked away in the manuscript collections of the British Library is a Report on the Cuban Slave Trade written in 1787 by Philip Allwood, a British merchant. This document looks at the possibilities for trading slaves in Cuba, a new market then seen as having great potential as British Abolition loomed on the horizon.

Plan of city and harbour of Havana
Plan of city and harbour of Havana 1739

Philip Allwood started his mercantile career with the Boston merchants Fitch, Poole & Co of Boston and Jamaica, a firm engaged in general provisioning and the inter-island colonial slave trade. He moved to Jamaica where he became a partner with Henry Ludlow in Ludlow & Allwood. They were 'prize agents' and therefore had much to do with shipping, some of it engaged in the contraband trade to Spanish America and other parts of the West Indies. Allwood was closely linked to Eliphalet Fitch who was a major figure in Jamaica and associate of the slave factor and plantation owner Thomas Hibbert. 

Kingston Harbour Street and King's Street
Kingston: Harbour Street and King's Street – from James Hakewill's A Picturesque Tour in the Island of Jamaica (1825)

Allwood's connections with Spanish America would no doubt have included some involvement in the Jamaica/Mexico/Cadiz bullion trade possibly through Fitch and the Gordons who shipped specie from the island of Jamaica under contract with the London merchant bankers, Barings and Hope & Co of Amsterdam. Gordon & Murphy of Jamaica were major players in the mercantile world and much has been written about them. But it was Allwood's partnership with Baker & Dawson, major Liverpool slave traders who won the contract to supply Cuba with slaves, which should interest historians wanting to explore these networks more closely.

Ken Cozens and Derek Morris
Independent scholars

Further reading:
Philip Allwood, 'Report on the Spanish Slave Trade', November 1787, Add MS 34427, f.168. 
Adrian Pearce, British Trade with Spanish America, 1763–1808 (2007)
J. H. Parry, ‘Eliphalet Fitch: A Yankee trader in Jamaica during the War of Independence’, History, New Series, 40, no. 138/139 (1955): 84–98.

24 August 2017

Daydreaming in the service of the East India Company

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The British Library holds an interesting maritime journal showing the daydreams of one young man.  The journal records the voyage of the East India Company ship Ceres from Madras to China and then to England in 1797 to 1798.  Interspersed with entries recording latitude, longitude, weather conditions, deaths and punishments on board copied from the official journal of the ship is a collection of doodles and jotted thoughts.

  WhampoaNoc
Whampoa from Thomas Allom, China, historisch romantisch, malerisch (Carlsruhe, 1843) British Library 792.i.30.
BL flickr 

The author of the journal was seaman William Davenport Crawley who joined the Ceres in Madras aged about 20. His identity is revealed by many examples of his signature as he practised writing it in the journal.  Crawley belonged to an Irish family from Castleconnell in County Limerick.  There is a letter inserted in the volume addressed to Thomas Crawley at Castleconnell, and a note that Thomas was an officer in HM 32nd Regiment of Foot.

Crawley writes out the names and addresses of female relatives, for instance, Miss Mary Crawley, 38 Southampton Street, Strand, London.  He jots down a message to Mary: ‘Miss Mary Crawley, you are a very bad girl for not writing’.  Another doodle reads: ‘Sally Davis, WDC loves you’.  William also fantasises about becoming a captain. He tries signing ‘Captain Crawley’ several times.

The reality of life on board ship was that periods of boredom could be punctuated by distressing events. One entry remarks:
‘At 7 am Departed this Life Thos. Spinks, Seaman. At Noon Committed the Body to the Deep’.

Another entry records the meeting of the Ceres with an American ship in September 1797. The Ceres was told that that ‘the Americans were at war with France’ and that Admiral Nelson had engaged the French fleet. This may refer to the blockade of Cadiz against the Spanish fleet, rather than the French.

On 30 September 1797, Crawley records that a ship from Cork has appeared bringing news of ‘Adml. Nelson being killed and his Ship Sunk’. This was not true, although Nelson had been wounded in July 1797 and one arm was amputated. The crew of the Ceres would have been unable to verify that Nelson had survived until they reached port. Bad news, and worries about dangers at sea, could prey upon the mind. It is perhaps unsurprising that William Crawley occasionally mused upon mortality. He wrote out the following motto twice:
‘All human things are subject to decay and Death the broom that sweeps us all away’.

 

  Limerick - White AbbeyNoc
Thomas Walmsley, White Abbey near Limerick (1806) K. Top. LIV no. 23

We have been trying to discover more about William Davenport Crawley.  It appears that he returned to Ireland to live as a member of the local gentry at White Hill Castleconnell and had children.  He died aged 73 on 11 July 1850 at the home of his daughter Mrs Elizabeth Kelly in the town of Limerick ‘to the deep regret of his family and friends’.  Elizabeth’s son William Pierce Kelly followed his grandfather’s example and journeyed to India, joining the Madras Medical Service in 1857.  William Pierce Kelly’s son, born in Rangoon in 1877, was named William Davenport Crawley Kelly.

Can any of our readers help us fill in the gaps before William joined the Ceres in India and tell us more about his later life?

Helen Paul
Lecturer in Economics and Economic History, University of Southampton
Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Journal compiled by William Davenport Crawley, seaman, East India Company ship Ceres - British Library Mss Eur F490
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Limerick Chronicle 13 July 1850
Journal of voyage of Ceres by Captain George Stevens IOR/L/MAR/B/215J
Assistant Surgeon papers for William Pierce Kelly IOR/L/AG/9/397 ff.594-598, 639-640
A Passage to India –Shipboard Life: podcast of event held at British Library in June 2017

 

03 August 2017

Travelling through Europe: the journals of Mary Cecilia Blencowe

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Mary Cecilia Blencowe was born in 1852 in relatively unremarkable circumstances. She never married and has no descendants, but luckily for us Mary Cecilia Blencowe left behind something even better– her diaries. Mary was an avid traveller, and detailed two voyages across Europe in 1871 and 1872 in journals which I am currently cataloguing.

Her first voyage began in March 1871. Mary travelled to Europe during the tail end of the Franco-Prussian war, which had seen France suffer a humiliating defeat to a nascent Germany. She was in no doubt about her allegiance, regularly expressing her sadness for ‘Poor France’ and insulting their ‘merciless foes’. Her assessment of the war is uncannily prophetic, writing in 1871 that ‘France has fought and been conquered…only for a moment and – we shall see’, presaging the hostilities that would erupt in World War One 53 years later.

Landscape Diaries
Mary Cecilia Blencowe's diaries, Add MS 89256/2 and Add MS 89256/1

Her travels took her to Verona (‘the house where the parents of Juliet lived…is now a tavern, and looks neglected and dingy’), Venice (‘embarking in a gondola…[is] much pleasanter than rattling through the streets in a noisy omnibus!’), Genoa (‘if our boat had only not been quite as unwieldy, we should certainly have fancied ourselves in fairy land’) and Stresa (‘how doubly beautiful it seemed to us, after having been so long in towns in the busiest haunts of men who don’t always improve things’), before arriving in Switzerland to stay in Lausanne. Her entries give a fascinating snapshot of Europe immediately after the Franco-Prussian war, as well as providing details of a Victorian woman’s holiday activities.

Vue Generale de Lausanne
Vue Generale de Lausanne, A Garcin, 1870-75. J. Paul Getty Museum (Getty Open Content Program)

Mary’s diaries reveal a surprisingly modern sense of humour, rather than the dry and moralistic attitude culturally associated with the Victorians. In Venice she enjoyed the eternal pastime of people-watching from the campanile, ’watch[ing] the small people and still smaller pigeons in the piazza below’. She also went to art galleries, although she didn’t always appreciate the exhibits, describing one as ‘an ancient picture of an ancient prince, with his favourite cat who is so hideous I think it is a good thing the days of her life are over’.

Landscape Text
Add MS 89256/2

Childsnatcher smallThis adventure ended in July 1871, when she returned to London. In 1872 she travelled to Germany and Switzerland and began writing again. The highlight of this trip was her encounter with ‘a very curious specimen of the human race, a very little weird old man…[who] looked like some creature of another world, but what sort of world I cannot say.’ It wasn’t just her who was scared as ‘he glared at children…until they ran away frightened’. Underneath her description Mary drew a tiny sketch of the man – a Victorian child catcher.

Childsnatcher Page

Her adventures end in August 1872 when she regretfully returned to England in a carriage, comforted by the presence of ‘such a nice Prussian. So handsome and so manly’. Holiday romance, Victorian style.

Emily Stevenson
Modern Archives and Manuscripts Intern

 

27 July 2017

Flouting Laws for his Cause: John Flavell’s FAQs

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John Flavell (1630-1691) was a Presbyterian preacher from Dartmouth, who overtly disobeyed both the ‘Uniformity Act’ of 1662, and the ‘Five Mile Act’ of 1665. These acts prohibited those who opposed the Church of England’s structure from preaching or living within five miles of their parish. Presbyterian ministers, including Flavell, refuted the bishop-centric hierarchies of the Church, and he was expelled.

However, Flavell went to extraordinary lengths to reach his followers. He spoke to his flock in a forest, preached in private houses at midnight, and sermonised on the Saltstone, a ledge in the middle of the Salcombe estuary (quickly evacuated when the tide was on the turn). He also dressed as a woman to ride through town and perform a baptism.  Pursued by riders, he fled into the sea, where both he and his steed swam to the next bay in order to escape persecution.

Flavell 1

Although he was publicly vilified, with antagonists burning an effigy of him in 1685, Flavell continued to preach, and to write extensively about his spiritual learning. An Exposition of the Assemblies Catechism (Add MS 89247) is set out in a ‘frequently asked questions’ format, with answers providing clarification of small topics such as ‘Man’s Chiefe Ende’ and ‘God’s Truth’. The answers are not merely derived from his work as a preacher, but cited from specific bible verses.

Flavell 2

When published in print, this text, like other works published by Flavell, would become exponentially popular with notable puritanical figures such as Increase Mather, rector of Harvard University from 1685-1701, and who was involved with the Salem Witch Trials.

This manuscript notebook, suspected to be composed mainly of autograph script by Flavell himself, could be partially copied from the printed edition of Flavell’s work, as the first page mirrors exactly the frontispiece from the 1692 printed edition, leaving out only the publisher’s details.

Flavell 3

Considering Flavell died in 1691, references to the 1692 printed version are most unlikely to be his doing. However, the presence of Flavell’s hand for the majority of the book suggests that it could have been a fair copy that later fell into the possession of the inscribed ‘Mary Davey’, who wrote ‘A covenant drawn up between God and my own soul’ at a later date than Flavell’s ‘Exposition’. Her ink can be seen throughout the subsequent pages, suggesting she used it as a personal prayer book.

Flavell 4

The last page ends mid-sentence: ‘We know that an idol is nothing in the world, or that...’, leaving the final question unanswered, and raising more about the overlap between manuscript and printed texts, the circulation of recusant religious texts, and issues arising from personal archives. The legacy of the text is wide reaching, considering its clandestine origins in sermons preached in an estuary at midnight.

Flavell 6


Emily Montford
Modern Archives and Manuscripts Intern

Further reading:

John Flavell, An Exposition of the Assemblies Catechism, Add MS 89247
John Flavell, An Exposition of the Assemblies Catechism (London: T. Cockerill, 1692), 1018.h.6.(1.)

 

25 July 2017

A Soldier’s Life – the memoir of William Young 76th Regiment of Foot

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We recently acquired the captivating memoir of William Young, HM 76th Regiment of Foot.  Young wrote  ‘A Soldier’s Life &  Experience’ whilst stationed in Bangalore in 1871 ‘surrounded by lovely scenery, thousands of miles away,’ to give his relatives at home ‘some faint idea of my chequered life – its joys, its troubles and sorrows’. 

Mss Eur F 698 -1 compressed
One of H.M.’s 76th Regt’ by William Young MSS Eur F698

William starts with his childhood in Ireland and his unhappy relationship with his father who was ‘a very cross man’ with ‘ a rough harsh manner’.   Having decided to leave home, William ‘in mad brained folly enlisted for a Soldier’.  His ‘ever gentle and kind mother’ fretted for him. When she died soon afterwards, she was said to have called for William with her last breath.

Mss Eur F698 - 2 compressed
‘Good bye Sister!  I’m going for a Soldier!!’ by William Young MSS Eur F698


In February 1864, William’s regiment arrived in Madras  after ‘a charming voyage’.  He describes his reactions to his new surroundings – the people, their clothes and language, the blazing sun.  Barely a week after landing he was promoted to Lance Corporal at the age of only nineteen, being ‘a tall, smart, healthy looking young fellow’.

William started to court Mary, the daughter of John Nugent a retired Army Warrant Officer. As John objected to the relationship, William visited Mary at night muffled up in a large black cloak!  John eventually gave his consent to the marriage, but, as William expected, the Colonel of his regiment said that he was too young to marry and there was no vacancy for Mary to be taken on the strength as a wife. 

John Nugent died on 2 November 1865 and Mary’s mother Jane agreed that the couple should marry without permission.  William and Mary had two marriage ceremonies, Protestant at St Matthias Vepery on 17 November 1865, and Catholic at Bangalore on 22 December 1865.  The couple were forced to live apart and Mary worked as a lady’s servant. They did not meet for eighteen months. After William signed on for another term of eleven years, he was given accommodation in the married quarters, with the promise of Mary being taken onto the strength as soon as a vacancy occurred.

There is a gripping description of a military march.  William marched with a pebble in his mouth to help keep away the ‘parching thirst’.  The women of the regiment rode in a cart; many were drunk.  Mary was horrified at their uncouth behaviour and was ostracised for refusing to associate with them.   When the regiment received orders to go to Rangoon, Mary fled to her sister in Trichinopoly rather than travel on with the other women. Her belongings were on board the ship and so William was obliged to sell them in Burma. The couple were later reunited in 1868 at Madras when Mary came to visit William in hospital.  Sadly, Mary died in November 1868 at the age of only 25 – ‘thank God we were permitted to meet and make up all our little misunderstandings’. 

Mss Eur F698- 3 compressed
‘The tired Soldier and his family’ by William Young MSS Eur F698

William’s memoir continues with his return to Britain on leave, his voyage back to India, and a fascinating account of the daily life of a soldier in India, including the relationship between the Army and the local peoples.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
MSS Eur F698 Memoir of William Young
Church register entries for William’s marriages- IOR/N/2/46 ff. 359, 379. Digitised images available via the Findmypast website.
(Mary’s name is given as Catherine in the church records from India.)