THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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116 posts categorized "Manuscripts"

19 September 2019

Solving a provenance puzzle: papers of Henry and Robert Dundas, Viscounts Melville

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Archivists are sometimes required to be detectives.  Three volumes amongst the miscellaneous material in the India Office Records’ Political and Secret Department records contain fair copies of letters written 1807-12 by Robert Dundas, President of the Board of Control. 

Portrait of Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville by Charles TurnerNational Portrait Gallery: Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville by Charles Turner, after Sir Thomas Lawrence, published 1827 (1826). NPG D7851 CC NPG

There are letters from Dundas to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the East India Company, and letters to various correspondents, including Spencer Perceval, Lord Liverpool, Marquis Wellesley, and the Duke of York.  No mystery there.  But closer examination of the volumes furnished some interesting clues. Each had a number written in pencil - ‘45’, ‘78’ and ‘79'.  More unusually, each was annotated with a price – ‘£5’, ‘£5’ and ‘£1’.  If these were ‘official’ records of the Board of Control, then why did they have a price tag written on them and what suspiciously looked like a catalogue number?

Inscription on flyleaf showing priceIOR/L/PS/19/164: Inscription on flyleaf Noc

So began the hunt for information regarding the history and provenance of the volumes.  Provenance provides the contextual evidence for archives, their history, custody and authenticity. Archives with the same provenance - originating from the same source - are kept together, and arranged, described, and catalogued together.  So how had these particular volumes ended up amongst the Political and Secret Department records, and why?

Digging into the India Office Record Department led to a file on the Melville papers, which contained a bookseller's catalogue: 'The Melville Papers Original Letters and Documents Relating to the East But Mainly Concerning Bombay, Madras and Mysore 1780 to 1815.  From the Collection of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville'.  Did it contain numbers '45', '78' and '79'?  Yes, and these were the volumes now residing in the Political and Secret Department Miscellaneous Papers.

Copies of letters from Robert Dundas to the Earl of LiverpoolIOR/L/PS/19/166: Copies of letters from Robert Dundas to the Earl of Liverpool Noc

The Record Department of the India Office purchased the volumes from Francis Edwards Ltd of Marylebone in 1928, together with a number of other Melville papers in the catalogue.  Those other papers were originally given a place in the Home Miscellaneous series (IOR/H/818), before being transferred to the India Office Private Papers as Mss Eur G92 Robert Dundas papers and Mss Eur D1074 Henry Dundas papers.  Lost links between the collections have now been restored.

Portrait of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount MelvilleCC NPG  National Portrait Gallery: Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville replica by Sir Thomas Lawrence, circa 1810. NPG 746 

So how had the Melville papers come into the hands of a bookseller in 1928?  Both Henry and Robert Dundas, father and son, served as President of the India Board or Board of Control.  Their papers were generated as part of their work at the Board, but as was common at the time many would have been deemed to be 'personal papers' and removed when they left office.  In the 1920s the Melville papers were sold at auction in a number of sales at Sotheby's by Violet, Viscountess Melville.  Many items relating to India were sold on 23 February 1927 to individuals and institutions, and other lots were purchased by dealers and sold on.  The Melville papers were dispersed far and wide, and the outcry over this led to the extension of the work of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, ultimately leading to the current legislation regarding the sale of important archival material.  Although catalogues of the sales were published, it would be a herculean task to fully reconstruct whereabouts of the Melville papers.  By researching provenance and recording details of our findings, archivists can help to solve the puzzle, one little piece at a time.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer Modern Archives & Manuscripts

Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/19/164-166: Copy Letters from Robert Dundas, later Lord Melville, Board of Control
Mss Eur G92: Robert Dundas Papers
Mss Eur D1074: Henry Dundas Papers
‘The Sale Room’, The Times [London, England] 24 Feb 1927. The Times Digital Archive
‘The Sale Room’, The Times [London, England] 27 Apr 1926. The Times Digital Archive
‘A Napoleon Letter’, The Times [London, England] 16 Jun 1924. The Times Digital Archive
William Welke (1963) The Papers of the Viscounts Melville. The American Archivist: October 1963, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 449-462 

 

27 August 2019

The Theatre Censors Part 3: George Street

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George Street (1867-1936) became Examiner of Plays in 1914.  Street was already a published journalist, critic and novelist.  He wrote summaries of every play he read leaving behind a valuable historic record of the topics that were of most concern to the censor at the time.  Chief among these concerns was the increasing discussion of women’s rights and sexual autonomy in plays submitted for licensing.

Photograph of George Street from Evening Standard 1914Photograph of George Street  from Evening Standard 1 January 1914  - copyright Evening Standard

Maternity was written by Eugène Brieux and translated by Charlotte Shaw.  The play examined the theme of choice in parenthood and voiced the grievances of a woman expected to continue having children.  The result was the woman’s death during an abortion.  This ending prompted the examiner to consider whether it was useful to license the play, as it would serve as a warning to women, but he decided against this stating:
‘I do not think this play can be justified as useful propaganda…the subject of abortion has not so far been allowed on our stage, and is not so treated, in my opinion as to serve a useful purpose..’

In 1923, Street refused a licence for a play entitled Married Love.  This was a fictional adaption of Marie Stopes’ book of the same name.  The play explored themes of sexual satisfaction within marriage.  The play was quickly refused with this damning conclusion:

Play Report rejecting Married Love, calling it unnecessarily disgustingPlay Report for Married Love, 1923, LR 1923/9 Noc

Shortly after the submission of Married Love, Stopes submitted a play entitled Our Ostriches (initially named The Ostriches) under her own authorship.  The play considered the merits of birth control and advocated for women to have more agency in deciding how many children to have.

Cover of Our OstrichesCover of Our Ostriches, 1923, Add MS 68822 L Noc

Street deemed the play less aggressive in its views than other plays and actually recommended it for licence with certain omissions.   However, the Lord Chamberlain was less sympathetic and he refused it a licence.

Anniversary by Frederick Witney presented a different problem to the censor.  The play was an honest portrayal of a woman on the day of her divorce considering her past and present loves.  It was candid in its female-centred view of an intimate relationship.  Street refused its licence on the basis that:
‘its general freedom of discussion and intimacies are more than is generally allowed on the English stage’.

The play entitled Alone offered another perspective on female desire.  Authored by Marion Norris, it was a rewrite of the banned novel The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall.

Description of the Protagonist based on the character of Stephen in The Well of Loneliness Description of the Protagonist based on the character of Stephen in The Well of Loneliness 1930, Add MS 68834 B Noc

Alone was refused a licence because of its lesbian theme, but not before Street summarised the anxieties of his age with this statement:
‘I think people are indifferent to the abnormality in women with which it deals until it becomes aggressive…’.

These plays all faced censorship because their content presented women’s sexuality or agency in an affirmative rather than submissive way.  Despite George Street’s best efforts, such themes could not be hidden from view and women continued to make their voices heard on the stage.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
Steve Nicholson, The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968, Volume 1 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2003)
Lord Chamberlain Play’s, Licence Refused: Add MS 68816 - 68850
Lord Chamberlain Plays Reports, Licence Refused: Original Reference LR 1903- LR 1949

The Theatre Censors Part 1: George Colman

The Theatre Censors Part 2: William Bodham Donne

 

22 August 2019

Are women more faithful than men? An Eighteenth-Century Couple Discuss the Differences between the Sexes

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In two slim volumes of collected love letters recently catalogued by the British Library (Add MS 89402), a young couple in the mid-eighteenth century discuss their private lives, family news and, above all, their love for one another.  Written between 1758-1762, the couple’s initial correspondence display a certain caution and reveal the discreet nature of their courtship; but over time their letters become longer and more intimate, eventually detailing plans for their wedding.  Though purposefully kept anonymous, the correspondents have now been identified as Francis Smyth (1737-1809) and Mary Plumer (1741-1824).

Yet, whilst they were deeply in love, Mary and Francis did not always agree – especially when it came to the subject of male fidelity.

Cover of volume 2 of Francis Smyth and Mary Plumer’s love lettersCover of volume 2 of Francis Smyth and Mary Plumer’s love letters. Add MS 89402/2 Noc

In the spring of 1762, Francis and Mary discussed the differences between the sexes – particularly in relation to their faithfulness.  In a playful but sincere manner, the couple discussed the nature of courtship and cases of ‘jilting’, each mentioning friends who had sadly suffered heartbreak.  The exchange began after Francis detailed how a fellow student at Cambridge had been rejected by a woman who took a fancy to another man:
'I have much to tell you of my intimates in College, in the love way I have many stories but one I will tell you…a friend of mine has had a passion for a very pretty Lady for many years, & had the happiness of meeting with the kindest return to his Love. They had many meetings & were as much engaged to all appearance as two people could be…[but] about a week ago a new Lover offered, she accepted him, & discarded the old one without any concern, who is at present as unhappy as can be'.
    (Letter 25, F. Smyth to Mary Plumer, 31 March 1762)
 

Detail from a letter from Francis Smyth to Mary Plumer  31 March 1762Detail from a letter from Francis Smyth to Mary Plumer, 31 March 1762. Add MS 89402/2 Noc

Though sympathetic to this young man’s upset, Mary protested that men were more inclined to be “false” than women:
' I am sorry for your friend’s disappointment, & to hear that there are such Women in the world, but for one of our Sex that are false, there are thousands of yours'.
    (Letter 26, M. Plumer to F. Smyth, 2 April 1762)

Francis was dismayed by Mary’s generalisation about the unfaithfulness of men:
'I find we must still dispute! How could you blame the men as you do! to knock them down by thousands to one frail female is what I must resent!'
    (Letter 27, F. Smyth to Mary Plumer, 4 April 1762)

Yet Mary was unconvinced and remained sceptical:
'I find you are obliged to take up arms in defence of the thousand poor men I knocked down (as you term it) don’t you believe there are Male jilts as well as female? I cannot say I can complain of the inconstancy of your sex to myself…but I have felt for my friends…[and] I will have done with this disagreeable subject... '
    (Letter 28, M. Plumer to F. Smyth, 5 April 1762)

With that the matter ended.
  Detail from a letter from Mary Plumer to Francis Smyth  31 March 1762Detail from a letter from Mary Plumer to Francis Smyth, 31 March 1762. Add MS 89402/2 Noc

Despite having differences of opinion regarding the faithfulness of men, Mary and Francis remained loyal to each other and were married six months later at St. Martin’s in the Fields on 26 October 1762.

Their love letters can now be read in full at the British Library.

Violet Horlick
Kings College, London.

Further reading:
Sally Holloway, The Game of Love in Georgian England: Courtship, Emotions, and Material Culture (Oxford: OUP, 2019)

 

16 August 2019

Peterloo

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Today, 16 August 2019, marks the two hundredth anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre – a major event in British history in which dozens of peaceful protesters were killed and hundreds injured when Yeomanry cavalry charged into them as they rallied for parliamentary reform.

Map of St Peter's Field Manchester'Map of St. Peter's field, Manchester, as it appeared on the 16th of August, last' from Peterloo Massacre, containing a faithful narrative ... Edited by an Observer (Manchester, 1819) 601.aa.9.(1) Noc  Images Online

On 16 August 1819 thousands of political protesters met at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester to campaign for parliamentary reform.  They sought a widening of access to the vote and a more democratically accountable Parliament.  It is estimated that somewhere between 60,000-100,000 people gathered at the meeting.  A large draw for the crowd was the speech of the noted radical and orator Henry Hunt (1773-1835).  Concerned that his words might incite a riot the Manchester magistrates ordered the local volunteer Yeomanry to arrest him.  Inexperienced in crowd control, the Yeomanry rode into the crowd with their swords drawn followed by the 15th Hussars who sought to disperse the crowd.  Hunt was arrested, but in the process at least eleven people were killed and many hundreds were wounded.

Portrait of Henry Hunt, and title page of Peterloo MassacrePortrait of Henry Hunt, and title page of Peterloo Massacre, containing a faithful narrative ... Edited by an Observer (Manchester, 1819) 601.aa.9.(1) Noc Images Online

Though the magistrates were officially praised by the government for their actions, there was an immediate national outcry as news spread of the attack.  Very quickly the event was derisively dubbed as ‘Peterloo’ scornfully comparing it with the Battle of Waterloo.  There was considerable public sympathy for the protesters and, for decades after, Peterloo was invoked by radicals as a powerful symbol of political corruption, working-class oppression and the need for parliamentary reform.

One author who was particularly appalled by the Peterloo massacre was the radical poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822).  Shelley was living in Italy when the news reached him.  In response he drafted his, now famous, poem ‘The Masque of Anarchy’.  According to Shelley ‘the torrent of my indignation’ flowed into the work and throughout his anger is tangible. 

The poem gives an apocalyptic vision of a Regency England in political crisis.  Shelley describes several monstrous creatures riding upon horses wearing masks that look like leading politicians.  Taken together they personify murder, hypocrisy, and fraud and they parade a final beast: anarchy.  The poem then describes a ‘maniac maid’ called Hope, though ‘she looked more like Despair’.  Like the protestors at St Peter’s Fields,  Hope is about to be trampled under the horse’s hooves when ‘a Shape arrayed in mail’ rises to defeat the monstrous creatures.  ‘A great Assembly…Of the fearless and the free’ is then described, like the crowd at Peterloo, and a voice is heard advocating freedom and imploring the people to rise up for liberty.  Famously, the poem ends with the rallying cry:

‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number—
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.’


Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'The Masque of Anarchy' autograph draftPercy Bysshe Shelley, 'The Masque of Anarchy' autograph draft, 1819. Ashley MS 4086 Noc

                 
The British Library holds the original manuscript of Shelley’s ‘The Masque of Anarchy’. It was never published in his lifetime. After writing the poem, Shelley sent a copy of it to his friend Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) who felt that it could not be published safely following government censorship in the aftermath of Peterloo. Others also refused to publish the poem and it did not come out in print until 1832.

Alexander Lock
Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Peterloo
'The Masque of Anarchy’

 

31 July 2019

The Theatre Censors Part 2: William Bodham Donne

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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

 

23 July 2019

Finding Mermanjan – the star of the evening Part 4

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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?

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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

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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]