Untold lives blog

141 posts categorized "Arts and crafts"

25 April 2022

The Prayer Book of a Queen: Isabella of Castile and Inquisitorial Culture in Late Medieval Spain

In the British Library’s illuminated manuscript collection lies the breviary of Isabella of Castile, queen of Spain alongside her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, in the late 15th century.  This breviary, much like Isabella’s book of hours that is held by the Cleveland Museum of Art in the United States, was designed to be used by Isabella on a daily basis to recite daily prayers and record the lives of saints.  Beyond its daily function as a prayer book, what can this book tell us about Isabella herself?  What can it tell us about religious life in late medieval Castile, particularly for Jews and Muslims living in Isabella’s domains?

The month of January as depicted in the calendar section of the manuscriptThe month of January as depicted in the calendar section of the manuscript (MS 18851, c. 1497)  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

To place this manuscript in its 1497 context, we must first travel back to 1494 when Pope Alexander VI (born Rodrigo Borgia of Valencia) bestowed both Isabella and Ferdinand with the title ‘The Catholic Kings’ following their annexation of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada in 1492.  This title came to characterise the reign of Isabella and Ferdinand since quickly after the extension of their rule into Granada, the Muslim and Jewish residents of Iberia were made to convert to Latin Christianity or leave the peninsula entirely.  Many travelled to the Americas to live in Iberian controlled territories in North and South America, while others fled to the Ottoman Empire or the North African coast.  For those that did remain, called conversos in Castilian Spanish, life under Isabella and Ferdinand was tumultuous as the establishment of the ‘heretical’.  Their religious practices, dress, interactions with their neighbours, and daily lives were scrutinised by the Inquisition in violent and, often, deadly ways.

The coat of arms of Isabella and FerdinandThe coat of arms of Isabella and Ferdinand Digitised Manuscripts (bl.uk)  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

What, then, does MS 18851 have to do with this history of religious persecution and violence?  Like the books of hours and breviaries of other Iberian monarchs, notably of Alfonso V of in the British Library’s collection, they were crafted both for personal use and for performance since these manuscripts were often shared at court and read among the ladies of a queen’s household.  Since Isabella’s breviary was not only for her eyes, its importance as a symbol for her piety and position as a ‘Catholic Monarch’ meant that it embodied the social, political, and religious violence occurring in late 15th century Iberia since she used books, artwork, architecture, and dress to perform the role of the Catholic Queen.  While those within her domains were forced to convert and tried before the Inquisition, Isabella’s books, both the breviary and the book of hours, were symbols of her position as a Christian ruler for her own subjects and courtesans, and for those that flip through its digitised pages at the British Library today.

Jessica Minieri
Doctoral Researcher in the Department of History at Binghamton University

Further Reading:
Catlos, Brian A. Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, c. 1050-1614. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Downey, Kirstin. Isabella: The Warrior Queen. New York: Doubleday, 2014.
Edwards, John. Isabella of Castile: Spain’s Inquisitor Queen. Tempus Publishing, 2005.
García-Arenal, Mercedes, Gerard Wiegers, Consuela López-Morillas, and Martin Beagles, eds. The Expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain: A Mediterranean Diaspora. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
Piera, Montserrat. Women Readers and Writers in Medieval Iberia: Spinning the Text. Leiden: Brill, 2019.

This blog post is part of a collaborative series with Medieval and Early Modern Orients (MEMOs). On the last Monday of every month, both Untold Lives and MEMOs' own blog will feature a post written by a member of the MEMOs team, showcasing their research in the British Library collections. Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BLMEMOS.

 

14 April 2022

Mary Marshall – JMW Turner’s Mother

Mary Marshall was born into a prosperous family of butchers and shopkeepers.  She was baptised at St Mary’s Islington on 13 November 1735.  She married William Turner, a barber and wigmaker, at St Paul’s Covent Garden, on 29 August 1773.  Turner was newly arrived from Devon and eager to establish himself.  When he applied for the marriage licence William declared his age as 28 and Mary’s as only 34, perhaps indicating someone‘s embarrassment at her being about ten years older than her husband to be. 

West front of St Paul's Covent GardenThe west front of St Paul’s Covent Garden by Edward Rooker (1766) British Library Maps K.Top.24.1.a. BL flickrPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Mary’s younger brother had moved to the thriving west London community of New Brentford to become a butcher.  His name was Joseph Mallord William Marshall and when Mary gave birth to a son in 1775, he was given the names Joseph Mallord William Turner, possibly with an eye to inheritance.  A daughter, Mary Ann, was born in 1778.

There is very little reliable evidence of Mary Turner’s appearance or personality. Turner's first biographer, Walter Thornbury, built his picture of her around the supposed existence of an unfinished portrait by her son, ‘one of his first attempts’.  Thornbury writes: ‘There was a strong likeness to Turner about the nose and eyes; her eyes being represented as blue, of a lighter hue than her son's; her nose aquiline, and the nether lip having a slight fall.  Her hair was well frizzed . . . and it was surmounted by a cap with large flappers.  Her posture therein was erect, and her aspect masculine, not to say fierce.’   No-one has, as yet, been able to trace this portrait and Thornbury had not seen it himself.

There does, however, exist a sketch in one of Turner’s notebooks that has been widely believed to be of his mother.  Intriguingly, the recent scanning of Turner’s painting 'Mountain Scene With Castle, Probably Martigny', has revealed two previously unknown portraits, one of which might be of his mother. 

Thornbury described Mary Turner as ‘a person of ungovernable temper’.  Her fragile mental health deteriorated, probably exacerbated by the death of her daughter, Mary Ann, just before her fifth birthday in 1783.  When the situation at home became difficult, Turner was sent at the age of ten to live with his uncle, Joseph Marshall, in Brentford.

Although his parents’ unhappy marriage may have contributed to Turner’s negative view of that institution, there is evidence that Mary supported her son’s artistic ambitions and promoted his work amongst her friends and neighbours in Covent Garden.

In 1799 Mary Turner was admitted to St Luke’s Hospital, a public mental health asylum in Old Street.  Turner, by this time a successful and prosperous artist, has been criticised for not paying for private care.  However, St Luke’s was a highly respected establishment with specialist provision and Turner probably had to use his influential connections to get his mother admitted.   She remained in St Luke’s until December 1800, when she was discharged as incurable.

Hospitals - St Luke's and Bethlem WellcomeSt. Luke's and Bethlem Hospitals in Moorfields. Engraving by J. Peltro. Wellcome Library no. 26125i

Once again, Turner’s friends pulled strings and Mary was transferred to the Bethlem Hospital in nearby Moorfields (‘Bedlam’), now, surprisingly, described as curable.  On Boxing Day 1801, she was discharged uncured but within a week Turner managed to get her readmitted to the incurable ward, where she remained until her death on 15 April 1804.  Her name was later included on her husband’s memorial plaque in St Paul’s Covent Garden.

Turner memorialThe memorial to Turner’s parents in St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden - photograph by the author Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Further reading:
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).
Anthony Bailey, Standing In The Sun – a life of J.M.W.Turner (1997).
Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner R.A. founded on letters and papers furnished by his friends and fellow Academicians, Volume 2 (London, 1862).
Records of patients at Bethlem Hospital  are available via Findmypast.
Explore Archives and Manuscripts for papers at the British Library relating to JMW Turner.

“Old Dad” – Turner and Son in Twickenham

Turner's House logoTurner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

 

12 April 2022

The early life of painter Sarah Biffen

Sarah Biffen was a celebrated Georgian painter.  At the height of her career, she was patronised by royalty and commended by the Society of Arts.  She was self-taught, and her achievements are all the more laudable in consideration to the circumstances of her birth: born to a Somerset farming family with no arms nor hands, and only vestigial legs.

Miniature self-portrait by the artist Sarah Biffin, set in a gilt-metal frame and with a little eye for a chain, which would allow the owner to wear it like a piece of jewellery.Miniature self-portrait by the artist Sarah Biffin (1830) Scottish National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons CC by NC

At the will of her parents, Biffen spent her formative years travelling from town to town as the subject of public exhibition.  She was bound to her ‘conductor’, Emmanuel Dukes, with whom she toured fairs where curious punters would pay to watch her sew, draw and paint using her mouth.  The young artist’s life during these years is chronicled by handbills and ephemera, many examples of which survive in the British Library collections.

Handbill for Wells Fair featuring Miss BeffinHandbill for Wells Fair featuring Miss Beffin from Lysons’s Collectanea  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


The greatest density of this material can be found among Lysons’s Collectanea, several scrapbooks compiled by the antiquarian Daniel Lysons during the early 19th century.  Lysons was fascinated with a variety of topics including the people whom he encountered at fairs and exhibitions, and he accumulated a wide selection of printed ephemera on this subject.  Lysons’s Collectanea offers a glimpse into the touring life of Sarah Biffen, providing handbills from Tetford, Sheffield, Wells, Rochester, and Lyson’s own hometown, Gloucester.  These handbills advertised the opportunity for members of the public to observe Biffen for an admittance of 1s or 6d for children, servants and ‘working people’.  These advertisements highlight Biffen’s exceptional artistry as a selling point, and challenge doubting readers with a wager: ’if she cannot [do as claimed], and even much more, the Conductor will forfeit one thousand guineas’.  Touring the fairs was big business and there was money to be made.  Her miniatures often sold for three guineas each. However it is believed that Dukes compensated Biffen as little as £5 a year.

Handbill for Barton Fair, Gloucester in 1810, where Miss Beffin was advertised as ‘the eighth wonder!!!’  Handbill for Barton Fair, Gloucester in 1810, where Miss Beffin was advertised as ‘the eighth wonder!!!’  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Lysons most likely met Biffen at the Barton Fair, Gloucester in 1810, where she was advertised as ‘the eighth wonder!!!’.  This encounter sparked a correspondence between the two, which Lysons pasted alongside his printed ephemera in the Collectanea.  The letters illustrate that Lysons wrote to Biffen, asking questions about her life and experiences.  Biffen subsequently provides Lysons with a short biographical note.  Interestingly, in one of her responses, dated 25 March 1810, she explains: ‘I feel wonderful pleasure in being exhibited and will go so far as to say I think it my duty’.  Yet sixteen years later, her sentiments are changed.  In 1826, Lysons received a proposal for a new print of Biffen’s work.  In the printed matter, she recounts her time on tour with Dukes unfavourably: ‘the result was by no means equal to the expectations raised, and fourteen years of my life thus passed away without any substantial benefits to me’.  Between those years Biffen’s life had changed considerably, and so too had her opinion of her early life as a touring exhibition.

Lysons’s collection of printed and manuscript materials relating to Biffen opens a unique insight into how the artist lived and felt during her early life, and also how her own opinion of her early life changed.  It is rare to gain such an intimate glimpse into the life of one such as Biffen, yet countless similar stories can be uncovered throughout the rich pages of Lysons’s Collectanea.

Alex Kither
Cataloguer, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Lysons’s Collectanea (C.103.k.11.)
Obituary for Sarah Biffen Gentlemen’s Magazine. vol. xxxiv. new series, 1850, p. 668.

 

05 April 2022

The Bookbinders’ Provident Asylum

The foundation stone of this building in London’s Balls Pond Road was inscribed; ‘Bookbinders’ Provident Asylum, established A.D. 1839, erected 1843’.  It was funded thanks to The Bookbinders' Pension and Asylum Society (created in 1830); its aim to ‘provide a weekly pension of 6s. to 12s. and an asylum for aged and incapacitated members and their widows; also for females who have worked at the business for at least ten years’.

Bookbinders’ Provident Asylum - black and white drawing of outside of building.Bookbinders’ Provident Asylum from Illustrated London News 8 July 1843 British Newspaper Archive

Many 19th century London workers were only a step away from the breadline and a misfortune like illness or losing one’s job meant destitution, imprisonment for debt or being dispatched to the workhouse.  It is no wonder that bookbinders banded together to help people in their trade who could no longer look after themselves.  Their fund raising work attracted interest in the newspapers, including this column in The Planet.

Bookbinders Asylum  - Planet 1 Nov 1840Report of meeting of the Bookbinders’ Provident Asylum Society from The Planet 1 November 1840 British Newspaper Archive

Money-raising activities included dinners, theatrical performances, outings, and securing donations.  The latter came from a surprising variety of patrons, from Prince Albert (£25) to a miser resident in Hoxton who left the majority of his estate (£900) to the Asylum.

Unusually, we can see the faces of two early residents, James England (b.1797) (who appears in the newspaper cutting above) and Richard Stagg (b.1791).

James England

Richard Stagg

Photographs of James England and Richard Stagg from The British Bookmaker Vol. 4, no. 38  p.16 (August 1890) and Vol. 4 , no. 42  p.17 (December 1890)

By the early 20th century it had become impossible maintain the asylum in its existing set up.  The land, which had been located on the outskirts of the capital, now occupied a prime situation.  The asylum closed in 1927 and a new establishment, called The Bookbinders’ Cottages, was built in Whetstone.  It consisted of seven semi-detached two-storey blocks, each containing two dwellings.  Subsequently, the foundation was modernised and is now owned by the Book Trade Charity.

P J M Marks
Curator, Bookbindings

Further reading;
Lost Hospitals of London 
Herbert Fry's Royal Guide to the London Charities – the quote about the purpose of the Society is taken from the 1917 edition p.22 
The British Bookmaker - a journal which recorded the history of the bookbinding trade societies.
British Newspaper Archive also via Findmypast

 

27 January 2022

The 1914 United Missionary Exhibition 'Other Lands in Leicester': a global and colonial aspiration

In April 1914 the newly built De Montfort Hall in Leicester hosted a United Missionary Exhibition.  ‘Other Lands in Leicester’ was described as ‘A picturesque and vivid representation of work in many lands’.  The exhibition was deliberately fixed during Easter week, between 6 and 16 April, as this is the most important celebration for the Christian religion, and this period must have been thought of as ideal for attracting visitors from all over the country and engaging more volunteers.  The aim was to educate and inspire the public about missionary work abroad.

Advert for ‘Other Lands in Leicester’ at the De Montfort Hall in April 1914Leicester Daily Post, Thursday 19 March 1914, The British Newspaper Archive.

Missionary exhibitions aimed to bring different fields of activity together in one city.   Visitors could tour the colonised world without travelling, through the convenience of a settled exhibition organized by comfortable explanatory pavilions.  In the ethnographic and anthropological museums emerging at the beginning of the 20th century, it was common practice to collect and reframe objects based on colonial contemporary categories.  Material culture circulated in international exhibitions, which emerged around the 1840s and lasted until the 1960s, albeit with substantial changes due to mutations in ideology, politics, and taste after the Second World War.  Both museums and these events played a crucial role in shaping knowledge around the relationship between Britain and Empire through the use of material culture, and therefore the history of collections and taste is closely linked with the objects arrived in Europe through colonial missions abroad.

The concept of a standalone exhibition of missionary objects began with the first independent missionary exhibition organised by the London Missionary Society in 1908 with the name ‘The Orient in London’.  This – and ‘Africa and the East’ the following year, still in London - set the pattern for other exhibitions in Europe and the United States.  These were events to display and sell objects produced before and after the arrival of missionaries.

But what was the idea behind such huge object-based lessons?

While the broader public participated in missionary exhibitions for elements of spectacle, amusement, and exoticism, the Church wanted to show the success of missionary work in converting local population to Christianity, and therefore justify the cost of the Empire and raise funds for further missions.

In ‘Other Lands in Leicester’, three different ecclesiastical institutions – the Baptist Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, and the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society - gathered together to show their union and will in achieving the goal of the evangelization of the Empire.  This ‘union’, which saw no major divisions between different branches of the Christian Church, might be considered as the will to foster an imperial civilising mission toward ‘the heathens’.   An article inThe Leicester Mail  clarifies that the exhibition’s scope was ‘Not merely the show, but the coming into contact with the nations that would be represented’.

Plan of the Hall at the United Missionary Exhibition in Leicester 1914Plan of the Hall at the United Missionary Exhibition. It is possible to see evocative sections dedicated to the display of a Chinese Tea Garden, a Congo Village, or a Malagasy Market. The Exhibition Herald, 3, February 1914,  The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, box 4D56/91.

But who decided the narrative in the representation of those nations?  How could missionary exhibitions be neutral if they were imperial institutions that conveyed a religious, artistic and political message?

Around 1200 stewards were hired at Leicester with the purpose of explaining the exhibits to the public.  This suggests that objects were used as a means to educate visitors in Leicester about their global place, and to illustrate the national progress and religious success of Christianity through missions.

Maria Chiara Scuderi
AHRC PhD researcher – University of Leicester

Further reading:
Leicester Daily Post, Thursday 19 March 1914, The British Newspaper Archive.
The Leicester Mail, Thursday 4 March 1913, The British Newspaper Archive.
The Exhibition Herald, 1, October 1913, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, box 4D56/91.
The Exhibition Herald, 3, February 1914, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, box 4D56/91.
Corbey, R., Weener, F., K., 2015, ‘Collecting while converting: missionaries and ethnographics’, Journal of Art Historiography, 12, pp. 1-14.
Filipová, M., 2016, Cultures of International Exhibitions 1840-1940. Great Exhibitions in the Margins, London: Routledge.
Groten, M., 2018. ‘Difference Between the Self and the Heathen. European Imperial Culture in Dutch Missionary Exhibitions, 1909–1957’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 47,3, pp. 490-513.
Hasinoff, E. L., 2011, Faith in Objects. American Missionary Exposition in the Early 20th century, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Jacobs, K., Knowles, C., Wingfield, C., 2015, Trophies, Relics and Curious? Missionary Heritage from Africa and the Pacific, London: Sidestone.
Longair, S., McAleer, J., 2012, Curating Empire, Museums and the British imperial experience, Manchester: Manchester United Press.
McAleer, J., Mackenzie, J., M., 2015, Exhibiting Empire. Cultures of display and the British Empire, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

 

31 December 2021

New Year greetings from a Victorian scrapbook

To welcome the New Year, we’re sharing some Victorian greetings cards taken from a scrapbook in the British Library collections.  An inscription at the front of the volume reads ‘E.M.L. from J.M. 76’.  The identity of these people is a mystery.  There are several items in the book linked to Church of England clergy and members of the gentry in Buckinghamshire - Princes Risborough, Stokenchurch, Horsenden, Aylesbury, Wendover, Hughenden.  Does this clue help any of our readers to identify E.M.L. or J.M. in the 1870s?

New Year card with red holly berries and foliage - 'May the Old Year's last smile brighten thy Christmas hours'.

New Year card with pink and red flowers -  'May your New Year be full of gladness and joy'.

 

New Year card with pink rose buds - 'Opening rosebuds fair as ye, May the coming New Year be'.

New Year card with anchor and white and pink flowers - 'Happiness attend thee through the coming year'.            Card with 'A Happy New Year'  surrounded by white and pink, and red carnations.Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

New Year greetings from Untold Lives!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
A scrapbook of printed ephemera British Library RB.23.b.7952

22 December 2021

Clever Christmas Jokes: festive illustrations from 1910

The December 1910 edition of The London Magazine decided to move away from the tradition of sharing typical Christmas jokes for the festive season, and instead to draw its readers’ attention to a selection of Yuletide drawings.  The magazine considered that the drawings chosen were 'Characteristic examples of the best humorous black-and-white work of the day'.

The artists featured included:

  • W. Heath Robinson, famed for his 'mechanical humour' with many of his works featuring wheels, ropes and other mechanical aids.

Testing Christmas Puddings: An Imaginary Mechanical Process involving a small boy being fed puddings whilst seated in a weighing device 'Testing Christmas Puddings: An Imaginary Mechanical Process by Mr. W. Heath Robinson', The London Magazine, December 1910, p. 499 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

  • George and Norman Morrow, who came from a family of illustrators, renowned for their illustrative work both in colour and black and white featuring 'a brimful of Irish Wit'.

Three illustrations of how toys are made – testing small-arms in the toy armoury, a speed test for toy motors, and casting funny masks from life.'How Christmas Toys are Made' by George Morrow – The London Magazine, December 1910, p. 500 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

  • John Hassall,  'a master of line', whose works are considered to be the best in their field, and F. H. Townsend, who was best known as an illustrator for Punch magazine.

Three illustrations of 'Clever Christmas Jokes' - ‘Hope’ where an artist is told his Christmas picture might be accepted for publication if he changes almost everything in it; ‘Oil on Troubled Waters’ where a pudding is lit with paraffin after brandy fails to ignite; and ‘Cigars’ where a young woman wants to buy a box of cigars suitable for a fair, slim gentleman.'Clever Christmas Jokes' - ‘Hope’ by Norman Morrow; ‘Oil on Troubled Waters’ by John Hassall; and ‘Cigars’ by F. H. Townsend – The London Magazine, December 1910, p. 501 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


We hope, as the editors of The London Magazine did in 1910, that these festive illustrations have provided something a little different from the usual Yuletide jokes and brought a little cheer for this festive season.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
P.P.6018.ta - The London Magazine, December 1910, No.2 [new series], pp. 496-502.

 

31 August 2021

East India Company appointments by the Prince Regent – (1) Henry Meredith Parker

In December 1812 the Chairman of the East India Company received a letter from Colonel McMahon, Private Secretary to the Prince Regent.  The Prince had asked McMahon to express how much he would be obliged if the Court of Directors granted him a writership for Bengal for a young gentleman aged seventeen whom the Prince was desirous of serving.  The Company directors resolved unanimously that His Royal Highness should be presented with the nomination of a student for East India College with a view to appointment as a writer on the Bengal establishment.

Prince Regent's request for a Bengal writership December 1812Request of the Prince Regent for a Bengal writership December 1812 IOR/B/156 p. 996 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Nominations for East India College were normally shared amongst the Company directors, but sometimes others were granted the privilege of putting a name forward, for example politician Lord Sidmouth.

The young man being favoured by the Prince Regent was Henry Meredith Parker.  In July 1813 Henry was appointed Deputy-Assistant Commissary to the Forces but he then reverted to seeking a career in the East India Company.  In December 1813 the Court of Directors resolved that he should be appointed as a writer in Bengal without having to attend East India College if found suitable.  Henry was examined by Samuel Henley, Principal of East India College, and rated ‘preeminently qualified’.  The sureties who put up money to guarantee Henry’s good behaviour were his father and Colonel McMahon.

Writer's petition for Henry Meredith ParkerWriter’s petition for Henry Meredith Parker January 1814 IOR/J/1/29 f.19v Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Henry’s application papers state that he was born on 4 June 1795 in St George’s Surrey.  He had to provide details of his parents’ situation, profession and residence: ‘My Parents Mr and Mrs William Parker, reside in Bridge Street in the Parish of Lambeth on their Private Income’.  Henry did not reveal that his parents were both well-known entertainers.  His father William Parker was an equestrian specialist and for some years proprietor of a circus in Edinburgh.  His mother was Sophia Granier, a singer, dancer and actress from a large family of stage players. Henry played the violin in the orchestra at the theatre in Covent Garden.

Why did the Prince Regent wish to help Henry with his career?  It seems that the Prince had seen the Parker family perform.  William Parker had an older daughter Nannette by his first wife, and she was a celebrated actress who married the popular Scottish actor Henry Erskine Johnston.  Apparently the Prince took a fancy to Nannette and forced his way into her dressing room.  Her furious husband sought out the Prince and gave him a thrashing.  Johnston was arrested but managed to escape, hiding in London before fleeing north.

Henry Meredith ParkerSketch of Henry Meredith Parker from Colesworthey Grant, Lithographic sketches of the public characters of Calcutta (Calcutta, 1850) 

Whatever the reasons behind his appointment, Henry flourished in India.  Away from his duties at the Board of Customs, Salt and Opium, he had a busy social life - acting, making music, and writing poetry, plays and prose. His friend, the journalist J. H .Stocqueler, described him as ‘a man of rare talents and brilliant attainments’.  Henry’s younger sisters Sophia Zenana and Josephine joined him in India and married Bengal civil servants.

Obituary for Henry Meredith Parker
British Newspaper Archive – obituary for Henry Meredith Parker in Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 19 September 1863

Henry Meredith Parker died in Richmond, Surrey, on 17 September 1863.  His obituary in the Homeward Mail said that Henry was accomplished, kind and genial, the life and soul of British society in Calcutta.

I have found another writer’s nomination by the Prince Regent in 1815 and I’ll tell you about that in our next post.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/B/156 pp. 996, 1000 - Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 9 and 11 December 1812.
IOR/B/158 pp.960, 1210 - Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 23 December 1813 and 4 March 1814.
J. H .Stocqueler, Memoirs of a journalist (Bombay, 1873).
Philip H. Highfill, A biographical dictionary of actors, actresses, musicians, dancers, managers & other stage personnel in London, 1660-1800 (Southern Illinois University Press, 1973-93).
Donald Campbell, Playing for Scotland – A history of the Scottish stage 1715-1965 (Edinburgh, 1996).
Máire ní Fhlathúin (ed.), The poetry of British India, 1780-1905, Volume 1 1780-1833 (London, 2011), pp.237-269 Henry Meredith Parker.
British Newspaper Archive – obituary for Henry Meredith Parker in Homeward Mail from India, China and the East 19 September 1863 (also available via Findmypast).

 

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