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10 posts from July 2019

31 July 2019

The Theatre Censors Part 2: William Bodham Donne

William Bodham Donne became Examiner of Plays in 1857.  He officially assumed the role after the death of John Mitchell Kemble, but Donne had already been examining plays on his behalf since 1849.  Donne was dedicated to his job and took time to publish his thoughts on theatre in his Essays on the Drama.  In this collection, he deplored what he saw as a fall in standards in contemporary drama.

Photograph of William Bodham DonneWilliam Bodham Donne from William Bodham Donne and his friends ed. Catherine B Johnson (London, 1905)  Noc

Chief among his concerns was the celebration of the petty criminal on-stage.  He believed that productions involving such criminal characters as Oliver Twist and Jack Sheppard would inspire the working classes into a life of crime.  With this in mind, Donne was quick to refuse licences to plays in this tradition.

Jack Sheppard adaptions were endlessly popular and this had been an issue of contention even for Donne’s predecessor.  Kemble had sought to ban these productions in 1844, but they kept on arriving on Donne’s desk.  This version by Sydney French was refused a licence without explanation in Donne’s Day Book.

Front page of 'Jack Sheppard' by Sydney French Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1868, Add MS 53069 T  Noc

In 1853, Donne refused a licence to a play entitled, Wrath’s Whirlwind, because of its rebellious content. From the entry in the Day Book 1852-1864, we can see that the Lord Chamberlain agreed with Donne’s action against the playscript. In particular, he mentions the setting of the saloons, which ‘have a tendency to lower the morals and excite the passions of the classes who frequent these places’.

Front page of 'Wrath’s Whirlwind'Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1853, Add MS 52942 U  Noc

Another example of a play that did not make it past the censor is The Blood Spot by William Suter.  Suter had a habit of depicting the felon on stage.  His titles included Dick Turpin, The Robbers of the Pyrenees and The Felon’s Bond, but these were inoffensive enough to pass the censor.  The Blood Spot, however, seems to pushed Donne a little too far, and he scrawled his dismissal across the front of the manuscript.

Front page of 'The Blood Spot'Lord Chamberlain’s Plays, 1858, Add MS 52974 J  Noc

With these contentious plays out of the public eye, Donne could feel he had done his best to protect the morals of British theatre audiences, but as a man of detail there was little he would not consider suppressing for the sake of the nation.  A good example is his objection noted in the Day Book 1866-1870 concerning the play Faust in a Fog.  He stipulated the play could be produced, so long as long as the ‘Can-Can dance was excluded from the Bills’.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
William Bodham Donne, Essays on the Drama (London: John. W. Parker & Son, 1858)
J. R. Stephens, The Censorship of English Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980)
Add MS 42865- 43038, Plays submitted to the Lord Chamberlain's Office for licensing under the provisions of the Acts regulating the performance of stage plays
Add MS 53702-53708, Chamberlain’s Office Day Books. Registers of plays received in the Lord Chamberlain’s office

 

29 July 2019

Choice little dinners for July

Looking for ideas for summer evening meals?  Help is at hand!  Christina Helen Gwatkin began to compile recipe books during the 1880s when she was the newly-married wife of a Bengal Army officer.  She saved a newspaper cutting detailing ‘bills of fare for choice little dinners on three consecutive nights during July for six people’.

Dinner table laid for a mealImage taken from Isabella Mary Beeton, The Englishwoman’s Cookery Book (London, c.1870) British Library shelfmark 7949.de.26 Images Online Noc

On the first night –
• Clear oxtail soup
• Boiled salmon, sauce tartare, cucumber
• Lamb cutlets with peas
• Roast ducklings
• Cherry tart, cream
• Anchovy toast
• Cream cheese and Gorgonzola, handed with brown biscuits
• Dessert, strawberries and cherries

On the second night –
• Clear gravy soup with peas
• Salmon cutlets with piquant sauce
• Hashed duck
• Roast loin of lamb boned and stuffed, mint sauce, French beans, potatoes, purée of peas
• Fresh strawberry cream
• Apricot fritters
• Cheese fondue
• Watercress sandwiches
• Dessert, strawberries and melon

On the third night (if you still have an appetite for cooking or eating) –
• Giblet soup
• Fillets of sole à la maître d’hotel
• Rissoles of lamb
• Roast chicken with watercress, purée of haricot beans, potatoes, stewed vegetable marrow
• Currant and raspberry tart, whipped cream
• Cheese canapés
• Tomato salad
• Dessert, cherries and apricots

Mrs Gwatkin’s books include a wide variety of recipes, for example curries, chutneys, kofta balls, ragout of rabbit, gruel, a mould of pig’s feet, vinegar cake, gateau of prunes, and claret pudding, as well as cosmetic preparations such as carrot grease for the hair.  She also offers guidance on catering for 20 choir boys, 130 children on a school treat, and teas for Mothers’ Unions, Sunday Schools, and cricket.

Bon Appetit!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F664/1/3 Recipe books and press-cuttings 1883-1889 compiled by Christina Helen Gwatkin, wife of Frederick Stapleton Gwatkin, Bengal Army

 

25 July 2019

Decorating the East India Company's records

One of my favourite items from the East India Company archives is currently on display in the British Library exhibition Writing: Making Your Mark.  It is a volume of official minutes from the Court of Directors 1657 to 1665, and it is special because a bored or creative clerk has added drawings or decorations to some of the headings to enliven the usual plain format.

This is the entry being shown in the exhibition – is it a hawk?

Page from Court of Directors' Minutes 20 February 1662/63  IOR/B/26 f.296 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 20 February 1662/63 Noc

Here are some other examples of his handiwork, starting with a bird which looks like a cross between a pheasant and a dodo.

Page from Court of Directors' Minutes 8 April 1663 IOR/B/26 f.303 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 8 April 1663 Noc

Page from Court of Directors' Minutes 14 January 1662/63IOR/B/26 f.288v Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 14 January 1662/63 Noc

Page from Court of Directors' Minutes 13 April 1663IOR/B/26 f.305 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 13 April 1663 Noc

It appears that the clerk was told to stop embellishing the minutes as there are letters prepared for decoration but left unfilled.  I haven’t been able to discover the identity of our artist.  Until 1666 East India Company Secretaries employed their own clerks who weren’t on the official payroll and it seems likely our man fell into this category.

The Company Secretary at this time was John Stanyan.  His brother Laurence was employed as his salaried assistant.  The Stanyans faced difficult challenges during their time in office.  In 1665 plague spread through London: Laurence stayed to deal with Company business whilst John was given permission to go the country.  Laurence was rewarded with a gratuity of £50 for remaining in town at a time of ‘great mortality’.  The following year, John helped to organise operations when East India House in Leadenhall Street and Company goods were threatened with destruction during the Great Fire of London.

In December 1666 John Stanyan was dismissed by the East India Company. The directors discovered that he had carried out private trade in prohibited goods, and had advised the Company’s overseas merchants on how to maximise their personal trading profits to the detriment of the Company.  He had also written disparagingly of the Court and its orders.  Laurence Stanyan was sacked in May 1677 for private trading, and for copying letters with confidential information written by his brother.

Settlement of John Stanyan’s affairs took years – he was still negotiating with the Court in 1671.  He secured the post of Principal Registrar of the Consistory Court in Gloucester, presumably through his wife’s father, John Pritchett, who was the Bishop there.  Since the work in Gloucester could be carried out by a deputy, John enjoyed the life of a country gentleman in Harefield Middlesex.

Laurence also prospered, becoming Commissioner of the Revenue, settling in Monken Hadley near Barnet.  His son Abraham became a diplomat and MP.

But I wonder what became of our artistic scribe?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

23 July 2019

Finding Mermanjan – the star of the evening Part 4

We’ve reached the final instalment in our story of Mermanjan.

Mermanjan, distraught at the sudden loss of her beloved husband, was taken in by a General and his wife who were fervent evangelical Christians.  They persuaded her to be baptised at Poona in December 1861 in the hope that she would meet Thomas in heaven.

Portrait of Mermanjan

Portrait of MermanjanPortraits of Mermanjan, probably by Thomas Maughan - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

On 5 November 1863 Merrmanjan married an Irish Roman Catholic doctor Francis Ronanyne O’Kearney, who was attracted by the ‘comfortable little fortune left to her’ by Thomas.  This was no romantic relationship: ‘she told him plainly that her first husband held all her heart and always would’. During the early years of her second marriage she travelled and visited many of the capitals of Europe, but she found she was suffering from glaucoma and she eventually became totally blind.

My great-grandmother Beatrice became firm friends with Mermanjan after the Dimmocks were posted to Mahableshewar in 1889.  Beatrice wrote of the O’Kearneys: ‘relations were obviously strained, but the ill-sorted couple still lived together.  Little by little she poured her troubles into my ear, and occasionally I had a glimpse of the terrible violence of her anger against her husband, long unfaithful to her and becoming more and more insulting and indifferent to any attempt at disguising his feelings’. 

Beatrice moved to Bombay in 1892. She soon received news that Dr O’Kearney had brought a charge of infidelity against Mermanjan and had  ‘lodged his complaint against her in the High Court of Bombay to obtain separation from her’.   The man named was a blacksmith with whom Mermanjan used to read the Koran, together with her Muslim house staff.  ‘The disgrace and disgust nearly turned her brain’ – she was 68 and the blacksmith only 25, a ‘low born workman!’.   She was confined to her room and followed by her husband and sister-in-law every time she left the house and was worried that she would lose claim to her belongings if she left without her husband’s permission. As she was blind, Mermanjan found a kindly librarian who wrote to Beatrice to ask for her help. 

Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock

Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock concerning Mrs O’Kearney (Mermanjan) 1894 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/15 (Copyright - heirs of the author of the letter)

Mermanjan was grudgingly allowed to travel to Bombay to obtain legal advice with Beatrice’s help.  Eventually the case was settled out of court when O’Kearney realised that he ‘would simply be washing his dirty linen in public with no advantage to himself’.  He even expressed himself ‘willing to forgive and forget etc.’ but Mermanjan said that she did not want to see his face again. O’Kearney returned to Ireland and Mermanjan bought a small house in the hills at Satara.

Then Mermanjan’s health began to fail, and she became ‘querulous and irritable’.  It was not deemed acceptable for a Muslim woman to live apart from her husband so she wrote to O’Kearney forgiving him.  He joined her in Satara, though it was not a happy household.  O’Kearney died in 1911 after catching a cold.  Mermanjan died of heart disease in 1917, aged 84, and was buried by the side of her second husband.

Mermanjan’s treasured relics and papers were left to her friend Beatrice. She handed them down to her daughter Gertrude who pieced together the story: ‘Mermanjan, Star of the Evening,  who may  shine once more and the story of her life may light up those other lives, like the brilliance of an Indian sky at night, uncovering some small piece of the making of what was once an Empire’. 

Felicia Line
Independent researcher

Further reading:
Gertude Dimmock, Mermanjan, Star of the Evening (Hendon Publishing Co. Nelson, 1970) 
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304 Maughan Collection
IOR/N/3/35 f.278 Meermanjan’s baptism at Poona 13 December 1861
IOR/N/3/37 ff.307, 312 Marriage of Mermanjan to Francis O’Kearney at Roman Catholic and Church of England ceremonies, Poona 5 November 1863
IOR/N/3/106 f.329 Burial of Francis O’Kearney
IOR/N/3/117 f.276 Burial of Mermanjan [Her name is generally spelled Meermanjan or Meerman Jan in official records]

Finding Mermanjan Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

18 July 2019

How old are you Miss Nightingale?

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was the famous nursing reformer, who improved conditions in the war hospitals of the Crimea during her time there (1854-56).  Patrolling the wards at night, she became known as the ‘Lady with the lamp’.  On returning to England, she continued her good work, using statistics as a useful tool.

Photograph of Florence NightingaleFlorence Nightingale by Henry Hering, copied by Elliott & Fry 1950s (late 1856-1857) NPG x82368 © National Portrait Gallery, London NPG CC By

Dr William Farr (1807-1883) was a statistician and epidemiologist, who shared her passion for public health and statistics. They wrote to each other extensively for 20 years, from 1857 to 1877.  The British Library holds this correspondence in three volumes (Add MS 43398-43400).
 
One of the topics they discussed was the 1861 UK Census, in which Dr Farr was heavily involved.  They discussed the practicalities of collecting data;  for example, would landlords complete the census forms on behalf of their tenants?  The implication was that landlords would have to find out, or invent, potentially sensitive personal details such as age.  Florence joked that she must fill her own form in, as nothing would induce her to declare the age of her cats to her landlord.

There were columns to declare ‘Condition’ (we would now call it ‘marital status’), ‘Rank, Profession, or Occupation’, ‘Where Born’, and one asking ‘Whether Blind, or Deaf-and-Dumb’.  Florence believed there should be a column for ‘the number of sick people in each house and their Diseases’ and that the census should include details of ‘cellar and basement dwellings’ and ‘back to back houses’.

Florence lived at 30 Old Burlington Street, nominally part of a vast hotel but containing private family suites of rooms for long-term tenants, rather than overnight guests.  On census morning, Sunday 7 April, a junior hotel employee (‘fac-totum’) asked her to write her age, and that of her maid, on a bit of paper.  Outraged, she choked back her initial answer and, with admirable restraint, tried to ascertain the truth from ‘this person’.  It appeared the hotel was withholding forms from the resident families, instructing a staff member to fill them in, presumably using his imagination in the absence of accurate information.  They must have thought it amusing to knock on the door of the famous Florence Nightingale to ask her age.  Thankfully, Dr Farr had supplied Florence with her own specimen form, which she duly completed ‘fully & accurately’.

The incident is much better described in her own words, in this three-page letter:

Letter from Florence Nightingale to Wiliam Farr 9 April 1861

Letter from Florence Nightingale to Wiliam Farr 9 April 1861

Letter from Florence Nightingale to Wiliam Farr 9 April 1861Add MS 43399, ff. 10-12. Letter from Florence Nightingale to Farr 9 April 1861

Farr’s two replies of 12 April acknowledged her ‘shabby treatment’ from the ‘somewhat brutal’ proprietor of the Burlington, saying hotels were the weak point when collecting returns and ‘something… must be done’ before the next census in 1871.  He passed her letter to his superior, Major Graham, who wrote Florence an unsatisfactory reply which entirely missed the point.

Here is the 1861 Census entry for Florence Nightingale and her housekeeper Mary Bratby (aged 40 and 48 respectively):

Entry for Florence Nightingale 1861 census

The 100-year embargo on access to censuses means that no-one listed would have seen their entry, but Florence Nightingale must have been confident that hers was correct!

Zoe Stansell
Manuscripts Reference Specialist

Further reading:
British Library Add MS 43398-43400 Letters from Farr to Nightingale are originals in his handwriting. Nightingale letters to Farr are typewritten copies (originals are in the Wellcome Library, ref: MS. 5474).

These are part of the large BL Florence Nightingale Archive, containing over 300 volumes.
Add MS 43393-43403, 45750-45849, 47714-47767, 68882-68890

 

16 July 2019

Finding Mermanjan – the star of the evening Part 3

We continue our story of Mermanjan and Thomas Maughan.

The couple moved to Bombay soon after Thomas was promoted to Major in 1849.  In 1854 he became Lieutenant Colonel.  When the Indian Rebellion or ‘Mutiny’ broke out, Thomas was Political Secretary in Kolhapur.  Thomas recounts how he disagreed with ‘the cruel destruction of (36) wretched creatures shot in cold blood, many of the aged men on the verge of the grave… Our troops had not been fired at, and there was no necessity, in truth no excuse for the butchery’.  As a result of Thomas’s disagreements with his superiors, which had taken a toll on his health,  he was ‘turned out’ of his appointment and granted 15 months furlough (leave) in England.

Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858

Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858 Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/11

Mermanjan and Thomas had been living together bound by the Muslim ‘Nikkah’ ceremony and they were both convinced of the validity of their union.  However 'gossip was busy’ and Thomas realised that their unique union was viewed with suspicion by his British friends: it would ‘injure his reputation and hers if they were not made man and wife in the eyes of his world’.  Perhaps prompted by the imminent visit to England, they were married on 19 January 1858 by the registrar for Bombay at his home. 

For a while they lived in London, where Thomas had relations. Mermanjan was ‘shy and retiring by nature, but of great spirit’, and she was greatly celebrated and made a few good English friends, including Thomas’s niece Eliza with whom she corresponded. Thomas appears to have composed the ‘Nina waltz’ for his wife, using his pet name for his wife. 
 

Music in Mermanjan’s possession, Nina’s Waltz possibly by Thomas MaughanMusic in Mermanjan’s possession, Nina’s Waltz by Thomas Maughan? (name of composer has been torn away) - India Office Private Papers  Mss Eur E304 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan?)

By September 1858 they had moved to a country house, Wrotham Place in Kent. Mermanjan must have caused a stir amongst the locals who would have thought her an exotic visitor to the village. Thomas and Mermanjan were invited by Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort to stay at Windsor Castle.  Mermanjan was well received at court and ‘bore herself well’.

Sketch of Victorian women Sketch of Victorian women

Sketches of Victorian women - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

By 1860 Mermanjan and Thomas were back in Poona. They found many changes. The East India Company had been wound up in the wake of the Rebellion and its armies had been absorbed into Her Majesty’s Army.  Thomas was ‘fretting at continued unemployment’ and his health ‘was not good’.

On 3 July 1861, aged only 55, Thomas ‘died very suddenly, after taking a dose of medicine wrongly made up by the native apothecary’.  The prescription was later described as being a ‘lethal dose’, which ‘no reputable chemist would make up … without reference to the doctor who made it’.

Mermanjan was left alone in India grieving for Thomas, a widow at the age of 28 estranged from her family. None of the papers mentions any children, but some baby clothes and shoes were found among her possessions which suggests that maybe Mermanjan lost a child too. 

Mermanjan’s tragedy and hardships did not end there – Part 4 will take us to the end of her fascinating life.

Felicia Line
Independent researcher

Further reading:
Gertude Dimmock, Mermanjan, Star of the Evening (Hendon Publishing Co. Nelson, 1970) 
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304 Maughan Collection
Finding Mermanjan Part 1, Part 2, Part 4
IOR/N/11/1 f.412 Marriage of Thomas Maughan and Mermanjan at Bombay 19 January 1858 [her name is generally spelled Meermanjan or Meerman Jan in official records]

 

11 July 2019

Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library IV – Lost and Found, The Biccherna Panel

A British Library reader has asked: what happens when you find a collection item that was stolen or displaced during the Nazi period, and was never returned to or recovered by the original owner?

In 2013, the British Library received a restitution claim for Davis 768, the Biccherna Panel, a 15th century painted wooden panel that was used to encase tax records in the treasury of the Palazzo Pubblico (centre of civic life) in Siena.  The panel had been in the gallery stock of a Jewish owned firm, the A.S. Drey in Munich, since 1930 when it had been acquired at auction.  Forced to liquidate their assets by order of the Reich, the Drey firm’s holdings were sold at the Paul Graupe auction house in Berlin in 1936.

Wooden panel for the accounts of the Biccherna of Siena, painted by Guidoccio Cozzarelli 1488Davis 768 Wooden panel for the accounts of the Biccherna of Siena, painted by Guidoccio Cozzarelli, 1488, oil on panel ,depicting the return to Siena of the Noveschi, a mercantile-banking oligarchy, and showing the armed exiles with their leader, Pandolfo Petrucci (1452-1512) on a white horse, before the Porta di Fontebranda Noc

Title page of sale catalogue, Paul Graupe, Berlin, 17-18 June 1936Title page of sale catalogue, Paul Graupe, Berlin, 17-18 June 1936 Image courtesy of University of Heidelberg CC Heidelberg


Page of sale catalogue, Paul Graupe, Berlin, 17-18 June 1936Detail of sale catalogue, Paul Graupe, Berlin, 17-18 June 1936, lot no.49, p.16 Image courtesy of University of Heidelberg CC Heidelberg

Image of Biccherna panel from sale catalogue, Paul Graupe, Berlin, 17-18 June 1936Plate IX, of sale catalogue, Paul Graupe, Berlin, June 17-18, 1936, lot no.49 Image courtesy of University of Heidelberg CC Heidelberg

While the buyer at the 1936 sale is unknown, the panel passed to the collection of British business-man and collector Arthur Bendir (b.1872), London.  Shortly afterwards in 1942, Bendir sold the panel at Sotheby’s London where, unaware of the object’s past, it was acquired by Henry Davis (1897-1977), O.B.E.  In 1968, the panel was gifted along with the rest of the Davis Collection to the British Museum, and in 1972 entered the collection of the British Library.

As research showed that the Biccherna panel had never been returned to the Drey firm, or its heirs, and the 1936 sale recognized as forced, with the contents of the auction being sold for a fraction of their value, the British Library was open to restitution.  National legislation typically prevents de-accessioning collection items (the process by which an object is permanently removed from a museum or collection-based institution’s holdings).  However, a 2009 act of the UK Parliament - The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009 – has authorised certain national institutions to return an object in the event of specific circumstances.  Any claim must first be reviewed by the Spoliation Advisory Panel, a non-departmental public body created in 2000 under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.  If presented with a Holocaust era claim, the Panel has the authority to recommend an object’s return, with final approval being given by the Secretary of State for DCMS. Alternatively, the panel may also recommend financial compensation be paid to a claimant.

After reviewing documentation from both the Drey heirs and the British Library Board, the Advisory panel recommended the return of the panel to the claimants. Through amicable discussions, however, the heirs chose compensation in lieu of physical restitution, and the panel has been retained by the library collection since.  The panel continues to be researched and studied, and its unique history within the fields of book-binding, early Italian panel painting, the history of collecting, and Nazi era spoliation shared.  The panel is currently on view in the British Library Treasures Gallery.

Antonia Bartoli
Spoliation Curator, British Library Printed Heritage Projects

Further information
The Nazi Destruction and Looting of Libraries public lecture given by Antonia Bartoli.
Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research I - The Nazi Destruction and Looting of Libraries
Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library II - the Collection of Jean Furstenberg
Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library III – The Collection of Lucien Graux
Spoliation Report of the Spoliation Advisory Panel in Respect of a Painted Wooden Tablet, the Biccherna Panel, 2014

 

09 July 2019

Finding Mermanjan – Star of the Evening Part 2

We left sixteen-year-old Mermanjan in 1849 about to run away from Afghanistan to find her beloved Captain Thomas Maughan in north-west India (today Pakistan).  Accompanied only by a servant, Mermanjan rode her horse close to 1,000 miles from the Khyber Pass through Multan and Kohtri to Karachi. 

Watercolour of Indian landscapes, possibly by MermanjanWatercolour of Indian landscapes, by Mermanjan? - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

They encountered hardship and prejudice on the way, on account of being Muslim, but also found people who helped them on their way.   When the fugitives’ money ran out and they were facing hunger, Mermanjan decided to sell her ring at a local bazaar.  The shop owner paid them much less than it was worth, but an Indian soldier saw that they were being tricked and made the shop owner give them the rightful amount. 

Watercolour of Indian soldiers, probably by Thomas Maughan Watercolours of Indian soldiers, probably by Thomas Maughan

Watercolours of Indian soldiers, probably by Thomas Maughan India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

On their final stretch in Kotri when they had to cross the Indus river, they found that they didn’t have enough for the boat fare.  They pleaded with the boatman and even though he could not understand them, he had heard of Captain Maughan and his regiment. Presumably Mermanjan had written ahead to tell him that they would be arriving, and by chance the day before Thomas had sent an orderly to find them.  The boatman rushed off and caught the orderly just as he was about to buy his return ticket. He took the man to the travellers, and soon all was arranged. 

When the travelling party finally made it to Maughan’s bungalow, Mermanjan refused to dismount until her beloved came out: ‘he will only know me when he sees me on my black horse, for I am in rags and soiled and disfigured with boils and blisters and very ill’.  She sat there patiently but ‘almost fainting from fatigue and fear now that the terrible strain of her great adventure was nearly at an end.’  Maughan was urgently sent for and found her a ‘poor huddled little form’ seated on her black horse sobbing bitterly.  ‘Tenderly he carried her into her house and sent for the doctor… soon she was cared for and comforted but it was a long time before she recovered from the effects of her hardships and was very ill for many weeks’. 

In the early days after Mermanjan was reunited with Thomas, she could not be persuaded to see anyone, so nervous and frightened had she become.   A fellow Colonel remarked: ‘[he] always made an awful fuss over her, even to bathing her daily even when she was over twenty’, also buying her dolls and picture books as though she were a child.  From these years Mermanjan kept many of Thomas’s little drawings calculated to amuse his young wife - little ladies in crinolines; caricatures of his fellow officers.  She used account books to practise writing rows of letters as she gradually learnt to write in English.   She preferred seclusion ‘considered by the higher orders as indispensable to a woman after a marriage’ and took to flower arranging in the house.  

Caricatures of English Victorians in India possibly by Thomas MaughanCaricatures of English Victorians in India by Thomas Maughan?  - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

These were perhaps the happiest years of Mermanjan’s life. However, there was not to be a fairy-tale ending for our heroine.  Find out what happened next in Part 3!

Felicia Line
Independent researcher

Further reading:
Finding Mermanjan – the star of the evening – Part 1, Part 3, Part 4
Gertrude Dimmock, Mermanjan, Star of the Evening (Hendon Publishing Co. Nelson, 1970) 
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304 Maughan Collection

 

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