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99 posts categorized "Manuscripts"

14 May 2019

Henry Stubbe: Islam and religious toleration in Restoration England

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Stephen Noble examines the life of Henry Stubbe (1632-1676), physician and writer, and his manuscripts concerning Islam in the Harley Collection.

Henry Stubbe was financially assisted through his education by Henry Vane the Younger, Puritan and Parliamentarian, and after taking his M.A. from Christ Church, Oxford in 1656, Stubbe wrote many texts in support of Vane’s ideas. However, come the Restoration, Vane was arrested and eventually beheaded for his role in the execution of Charles I, and Stubbe left Oxford for Stratford-upon-Avon, establishing himself as a physician.

Henry Stubbe Image 1
'The Rise and Progress of Mahometanism', by Henry Stubbe, Harley MS 6189, f. 1.

This did not deter Stubbe from his writing. He had a wide range of interests and after 1660 he started to write on more diverse topics, including a discourse concerning chocolate published in 1662. His abilities were highly regarded in his time. He was described by the antiquary Anthony Wood in Athenae Oxonienses as ‘the most noted Latinist and Grecian’, and ‘thoroughly read in all political matters’.

Henry Stubbe Image 2
Henry Stubbe, The Indian Nectar, or a Discourse Concerning Chocolata (London, 1662), 1651/1620.

Perhaps Stubbe’s most radical piece of work is a text on the Life of Muhammad and a defence of Islam, usually known as Account of the rise and progress of Mahometanism. Four complete manuscript versions of this text are known to exist today, two of which are found within the collections of Robert and Edward Harley, and have recently been added to our online catalogue (Harley MS 1876 and Harley MS 6189).

English intellectual engagement with Islam grew in the 17th century as trade with the Ottoman Empire increased and more manuscript sources became available. Stubbe’s text, written around 1671, is one of the earliest English works to portray Islam sympathetically. Stubbe researched his topic extensively, as shown by the number of references found in the margins of the manuscripts, and presents a history of Islam and the life of Muhammad which is surprisingly free of bias.

Henry Stubbe Image 3
'An account of the Life of Mahomet', by Henry Stubbe, Harley MS 1876, f. 13

In the text, Stubbe highlights the tolerance shown towards Christians living in Muslim domains, and uses this to comment on English attitudes to other religions. Toleration was a contentious issue in England at this time. The probability of a Catholic King (James Stuart, brother of Charles II), growing numbers of Protestant dissenters, including Unitarians, and the resettlement of Jews in England by Oliver Cromwell, had led to discussions on the possibility of accepting other religions worshiping openly. Thinkers like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, both contemporaries of Stubbe, wrote on the subject, as had Stubbe himself in An Essay in Defence of the good old Cause (1659), where he urges ‘an Universal Toleration’.

Henry Stubbe Image 4
Letter from Henry Stubbe to Thomas Hobbes, 25 October 1656, Add MS 32553, f. 9

Stubbe argues that Muhammad was a wise leader, and draws parallels between Islam and Early Christianity. Stubbe believed that the Christian church had drifted too far from the Early Christian teachings found in the Gospels, thanks to the introduction of doctrines such as Trinitarianism. Stubbe rejected these doctrines and, in Islam, he found a model for a radical civil religion, tolerant of dissenters.

Stubbe does not appear to have tried to publish this work in his lifetime and it remained unpublished until 1911, around 240 years after it was written.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Follow us on Twitter @BL_ModernMSS

Further Reading:

Henry Stubbe, An account of the rise and progress of Mahometanism, ed. by Hafiz Mahmud Khan Shairani (London: Luzac & Co., 1911)

Henry Stubbe, Henry Stubbe and the Beginnings of Islam: The Originall & Progress of Mahometanism, ed. by Nabil Matar (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014)

P. M. Holt, A Seventeenth-Century Defender of Islam: Henry Stubbe (1632-76) and his Book (London: Dr. Williams’s Trust, 1972)

James R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe, radical Protestantism and the early Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983)

30 April 2019

Records of homosexuality in 17th century England

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Stephen Noble explores manuscript sources recording homosexuality in 17th-century England, using recently catalogued material in the Harley collection. 

There are difficulties in looking at the history of homosexuality through modern eyes. The term ‘homosexuality’ was coined in the 19th century and we cannot know how people from the past would identify with the language we use today.

The Buggery Act of 1533 criminalised homosexual activity between men and as a result, records of people self-identifying are rare. The records that remain tend to focus on the criminalised acts and not the feelings of those performing them, usually containing accusations or gossip using terms like ‘sodomite’, ‘ganymede’, ‘catamite’, ‘bardash’ and ‘tribade’. This also means that, as female homosexual acts were not specifically criminalised, records of male homosexuality are more prevalent. Lower literacy rates amongst women also plays a role in the relative lack of female perspective.

Harley MS 646 contains the autobiography of politician and antiquarian Sir Simonds D’Ewes. When D’Ewes writes about the corruption charges levelled at Sir Francis Bacon in 1621, he goes on to accuse Bacon of the ‘sinne of Sodomie’, and keeping ‘a verie effeminate faced youth to bee his catamite and bedfellow’. He includes a verse ‘Within this sty a hogg doth ly/That must be hang’d for Sodomy’ (‘hogg’ being a play on Bacon’s surname).

Homosexuality Image 1Autobiography of Sir Simonds d’Ewes, Harley MS 646 f. 59v.

Interestingly, when the autobiography was published in 1845, the editor removed the accusation and changed the words of the verse from ‘sodomy’ to ‘villany’. A footnote states ‘D’Ewes here specifically charged Bacon with an abominable offence, in language too gross for publication’.

Satirical theatre and poetry played a large part in 17th-century literary culture. Sexuality was a common topic, including references to both male and female homosexuality.

Harley MS 7315 contains the poem ‘Venus Reply’, where Venus says that women ‘have got a new game/call’d Flatts…’ (‘game of flats’ being a euphemism for sex between women). The poet also writes of ‘Frogmore Frolics’, referring to rumours of what went on at Frogmore House, home at this time to Viscount Fitzhardinge, where the women are ‘for no Masculine lover’.

Homosexuality Image 2 new'Venus Reply’, Harley MS 7315, f. 285v

In Harley MS 6913 is a poem containing the line ‘…that patient bardash Shrewsbury’, referring to Charles Talbot, 12th Earl of Shrewsbury. What prompts this accusation is not said, but one possible interpretation may be that in 1679, when the poem was written, Shrewsbury converted from Catholicism to Anglicanism.

In the English imagination, homosexuality was often linked with foreigners, especially Catholics and Italians (‘in the Italian way’ was another euphemism for sodomy). Perhaps the poet is using homosexuality as a metaphor and, by referring to Shrewsbury as a ‘patient bardash’, is implying that he had not truly changed his religious views?

Another example of this link between homosexuality and Catholicism in English satire is the play Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery, one of the few remaining manuscript copies of which survives in the Harley collection.

Homosexuality Image 3‘Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery’, here attributed to John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, Harley MS 7312, p. 118

Whilst the play deals exclusively with sexual matters, the purpose was not to satirise Charles II’s sexual activities, but rather his toleration of Catholicism and his use of the Royal Prerogative. In Sodom, King Bolloxinion transforms his kingdom by legalising same-sex intercourse and, by the end of the play, becomes increasingly tyrannical. The playwright warns that allowing Charles II to use of the Royal Prerogative to transform religious toleration in England, and leaving his power unchecked, could have similar consequences.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Follow us on Twitter @BL_ModernMSS

Further Reading

Alan Bray, Homosexuality in Renaissance England (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995)

Marie H. Loughlin (ed.), Same-sex desire in early modern England, 1550-1735: an anthology of literary texts and contexts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014)

Cameron McFarlane, The sodomite in fiction and satire, 1660-1750 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997)

26 March 2019

A Melancholy Death on James Cook’s first Pacific expedition – Private William Greenslade

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After a voyage to the Pacific in HMB Endeavour lasting almost three years, James Cook arrived back in England in 1771.  By then more than 40 of the ship’s company had died, most from diseases caught on the way back in the Dutch colonial city of Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia).  The voyage’s first death, however, was not from natural causes.

Endeavour at seaSydney Parkinson, 'The Endeavour at sea' from Sketches made in Captain Cook’s First Voyage 1768-1771. © British Library. Add.Ms.9345f.16v Images Online

Private William Greenslade was one of twelve marines serving under Sergeant John Edgcumb.  Barely 21 years of age, quiet and industrious, Greenslade disappeared overboard on 26 March 1769, as the Endeavour was within days of its destination – Tahiti.  Both Cook and the young botanist Joseph Banks describe the events retrospectively and second hand.  As Cook noted, 'I was niether made acquainted with the Theft or the circumstances attending it untill the Man was gone'.

According to the accounts of Cook and Banks, Greenslade had shame heaped upon him by his fellow marines and Sergeant Edgcumb for having stolen a piece of sealskin in his care.  The sealskin acquired in Tierra del Fuego was prized for making waterproof bags to protect tobacco.  Banks appears to have concluded it was suicide, sure that Greenslade 'was drove to the rash resolution by an accident so trifling that it must appear incredible to every body who is not well accquainted with the powerfull effects that shame can work upon young minds'.  Cook was not quite so so sure, writing that his disappearance overboard might have been 'either by Accident or design', although he too agreed that 'circumstances makes it appear as tho it was done designedly'.

However Banks's description opens up opportunities to speculate about the role of the other marines, especially Sergeant Edgcumb, opportunities that Martin Dugard explores fully in Farther Than Any Man.  We learn from Banks that the sealskin was in the charge of one of Cook’s servants, possibly Thomas Mathews, who had promised to make tobacco pouches for several of the men.  Greenslade’s requests for one had been refused several times.  While Greenslade was on duty outside the Great Cabin around noon, Cook’s servant had been called away hurriedly, leaving the sealskin with the young marine.  The temptation apparently proved too much to resist, and he cut a piece from it to make his own tobacco pouch.  When the servant immediately discovered the theft on his return, he decided not to raise it with the officers “for so trifling a cause”.  The marines, however, had other ideas.

Sergeant Edgcumb “declard that if the person acgreivd would not complain, he would”,  and resolved to take the matter to the captain, for the honour of the marines.  Between the noonday theft and around seven in the evening, the marines “drove the young fellow almost mad by representing his crime in the blackest coulours as a breach of trust of the worst consequence”.  When Edgcumb ordered the young marine to follow him up on deck, Greenslade slipped away and was seen no more.  It was half an hour before Edgcumb reported him missing, by which time there was no chance of a rescue.

For Dugard, there is enough in these accounts to speculate whether Greenslade had been deliberately set up with the temptation to steal and driven to suicide.  Whatever the truth, young William Greenslade holds a melancholy place in the records of Cook’s first Pacific voyage.

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Banks’s Journal Entry  
Cook’s Journal Entry
Cook, James, Beaglehole, J. C., Davidson, James Wightman, Skelton, R. A., Williamson, James Alexander, and Hakluyt Society. The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery. Edited from the Original Manuscripts by J.C. Beaglehole with the Assistance of J.A. Williamson, J.W. Davidson and R.A. Skelton, Etc. Extra Series (Hakluyt Society); No. 34-37. (Cambridge: Published for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press, 1955.) British Library Shelfmark: Open Access Manuscripts Reading Room MSL 912.09
Dugard, Martin. Farther than Any Man: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook. (Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2001.) British Library Shelfmark General Reference Collection YA.2002.a.15416

 

19 March 2019

Marie Corelli: Superstar Author of the Victorian Era

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Of all the authors of the Victorian era, Marie Corelli (1855-1924) is not easily recalled, names such as Tennyson, Dickens, the Brontës and Mary Shelley are more likely to come to mind.  She has slipped into obscurity over the years.  Yet intriguingly, Corelli was one of the most popular authors of her time.  She was a bestselling author and an individual whose life contained many of the hallmarks of contemporary celebrity: fame, fortune and famous friends.

Picture 1Postcard depicting popular Victorian author Marie Corelli Wikimedia Commons

Evidence of the scale of her popularity is illustrated in the British Library’s Manuscript Collections.  There are a number of her publishing agreements in the archive of Marie Corelli’s publisher, Richard Bentley (Add MS 46560-46682).  One of these is the publishing agreement for Corelli’s book Wormwood (published only a few years into her literary career) which shows that she was offered a total of £800 for this title.  In today’s money this would be an advance of over £65,000, quite a lot of money for any author.  Such a sum shows just how much confidence Bentley had in Corelli.  He evidently believed that the investment would be rewarded.

Picture 2Add MS 46623, f.327

Corelli's novels combined a writing style that was melodramatic and florid.  Her interest in mysticism and spiritualism could lead to her characters expressing bizarre abilities to dematerialise and time-travel.  On top of this she had a tendency to moralise and bemoan contemporary society.  This made her novels rather liable to ridicule by critics.  However it does not seem to have affected her sales; according to the Bentley’s accounts, Corelli made over £900 in royalties alone in 1893, and £1000 in 1894.

Picture 3Add MS 46562, f.15

Aside from considerable sales, the stardom of Corelli is further illustrated by a number of unlikely, but influential fans, one being Oscar Wilde who stated that she told of ‘marvellous things in a marvellous way’.  She was also friends with Ellen Terry, the leading Shakespearean actress.  Another fan was the Prime Minister, William Galdstone.  Gladstone was such a fan that he popped around unannounced to meet Corelli.  To her horror, she was out at the time and was dreadfully disappointed to have missed one of the ‘profound thinkers and sage of the century’.

Picture 4Add MS 44507, f.3

Corelli’s extroverted personality and her fame meant she was scrutinized more closely than most.  She often cut a contradictory figure.   She railed against marriage in her article 'The Modern Marriage Market', feeling that women too often were sold and traded like property, and yet she was an avid anti-suffragette.  She appealed for charity on behalf of hospitals during the First World War, but was convicted of hoarding food against regulation.  She could be fleeting with friends, but she lived solely with one woman, Bertha Vyver, for 40 years, dedicating her books to her and leaving her everything in her will.

Picture 5The dedication to Bertha in Thelma, 1888

A century after her death, Marie Corelli’s work is largely forgotten.  Her florid style and sentimentality became unfashionable as a new generation of modernist writers took hold of the literary lime-light.  For most of her lifetime, however, Corelli’s writing brought her great success, so much so that that most of her fellow Victorians would have known her name.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
The Bentley Papers, Add MS 46560-46682, British Library
Bigland, E. Marie Corelli: The Woman and the Legend, (London: Jarrolds Publishers, 1953)
Corelli, M and Others. The Modern Marriage Market, (London : Hutchinson & Co, 1898)
Corelli, M. Thelma: A New Edition, (London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1888)
The National Archives, Currency Converter

 

12 February 2019

Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford, part 2: The Breakfast Club and 'the Irish Question'

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Stephen Noble continues to explore the lives of Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford in this second of two blog posts. The correspondence and papers of this fascinating couple were acquired by the British Library in 2016 and are now available to be viewed in our Manuscripts Reading Room.

Chichester Samuel Parkinson-Fortescue was born 18 January 1823 in County Louth, Ireland, and became MP representing the County in 1847. He met Countess Waldegrave in 1849 and was devoted to her from the start. They eventually married in 1863.

Carlingford Image 1Chichester Samuel Parkinson-Fortescue, Baron Carlingford and 2nd Baron Clermont by Lock & Whitfield, published by Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington. Woodburytype, published 1883. NPG Ax17696. Used under Creative Commons Licence.

Countess Waldegrave supported Fortescue in his political career and was at the time widely regarded as the main cause of his rise through the Liberal Party, and his prominent roles in the Liberal governments of the late 19th century. The parties they hosted at Strawberry Hill were an opportunity for the top politicians of the day to network, and for Countess Waldegrave to influence the political conversation. Fortescue served as Chief Secretary for Ireland, President of the Board of Trade and Lord Privy Seal, and took his place in the Cabinet in 1868 in no small part thanks to Countess Waldegrave’s lobbying of Gladstone on his behalf.

Carlingford Image 2Selected correspondence of Lady Waldegrave, Add MS 89287/1/3/6

Fortescue was a member of a group called ‘The Breakfast Club’. This was a group of about a dozen leading political figures who met once a week for Breakfast, where discussion included Whig politics and Whig literary culture. Fortescue was by disposition more of a traditional Whig thinker than a Liberal one, and these meetings were a place to forge useful political connections with figures including Lord Aberdare (a Home Secretary under Gladstone), Thomas Erskine May (Chief Clerk to the House of Commons and author of an authoritative work on the British Constitution), and Lord Dufferin (Viceroy of India).

Carlingford Image 3Letter from Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue to Henry Bruce, later Lord Aberdare, 15 December 1870, Add MS 89287/2/2/1. Permission kindly given by Charles Strachey, 4th Baron O'Hagan.

Ireland was a central feature throughout Fortescue’s political career. He was first appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1865, and returned to the role in 1868. He was also made a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1866. In this time he drew up, and helped pass, some important pieces of legislation, including the Irish Church Act (1869) which disestablished the Anglican Church in Ireland. Vanity Fair commented at the time ‘it is fortunate that the new order of ideas should have been introduced under the guidance of one who knows so well as he the necessities of the country’. However, he was not rewarded for his work by the voters of County Louth, who voted him out in the 1874 election. He was immediately given the title Baron Carlingford and continued to play a role in front line politics from the House of Lords.

Carlingford Image 4Gladstone's Cabinet of 1868 by Lowes Cato Dickinson. Oil on canvas, 1869-1874. NPG 5116. Used under Creative Commons License. (Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue is 5th from the left).

Ireland was a hotly debated political issue during this period. Legislation became difficult to pass with divisions arising between parties, and between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. For Baron Carlingford, it was the question of Irish Home Rule that led to his eventual split from Gladstone’s Liberal Party, aligning himself instead with the Liberal Unionists in 1886.

The correspondence and papers of Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford (Add MS 89287) are now available to be viewed in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

07 February 2019

Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford, part 1: political influence and family ties

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The papers of Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford (Add MS 89287) were acquired by the British Library in 2016. Stephen Noble, who catalogued the papers, introduces the collection and explores the personal and political lives of this fascinating couple.

Frances, Countess Waldegrave was born Frances Braham on 4 January 1821. The daughter of John Braham, a noted opera singer, Frances rose to prominence in Victorian society due to her many high profile marriages. After her short-lived marriage to John Waldegrave, Frances caused some scandal by marrying his half-brother, George Waldegrave, 7th Earl Waldegrave. Through this marriage she became Countess Waldegrave and inherited Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham, originally built by Horace Walpole. In 1847 she married George Granville Harcourt, a man 36 years her senior, and in 1863 Countess Waldegrave married for the final time to Chichester Samuel Parkinson-Fortescue, later Baron Carlingford. Fortescue had been devoted to Countess Waldegrave since they first met in 1849, and their marriage lasted until her death in 1879.

Waldegrave Image 1 (cropped)Frances Elizabeth Anne (née Braham), Countess Waldegrave by Camille Silvy. Albumen print, 24 February 1861. NPG Ax51617. Used under Creative Commons Licence. Cropped from original.

Countess Waldegrave became known as one of the foremost political hostesses of her generation, as well as a great intellect and an adept political influencer. She, along with Baron Carlingford, managed a wide circle of political friendships, both nationally and internationally. The parties she hosted at Strawberry Hill were considered to be important social and political occasions. The influence of the couple was widely commented on. Newspapers reported on the guest lists of the Strawberry Hill parties and many suspected that Baron Carlingford and Countess Waldegrave were used by Anthony Trollope as the models for his characters Phineas Finn and Madame Max in the novels Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux.

Waldegrave Image 2Anthony Trollope, Phineas Redux (London, 1874) Yes, There She Is facing p. 273. British Library shelfmark: 12620.f.26.

Family was another important aspect of Countess Waldegrave’s life. In July 1860 she formally adopted her niece Constance after Constance’s mother died earlier that year. Countess Waldegrave was very taken with Constance and felt the need to ensure that she received a proper education. Constance and Frances had a good relationship, and Constance continued to view her with gratitude and affection.

Waldegrave Image 3Letter from Constance Braham to Frances, Countess Waldegrave, 4 January 1875, Add MS 89287/1/1/2. Permission kindly given by Charles Strachey, 4th Baron O'Hagan.

Lady Waldegrave enjoyed matchmaking, with one of her more successful pairings being that of Constance with Edward Strachey, later 1st Baron Strachie. The two had known each other since childhood, and Frances, along with Mary Strachey, mother of Edward, encouraged their interest in one another. In Baron Carlingford’s 1878 diary (Add MS 63686, f. 161) he wrote that he had ‘Joined F[rances], Constance and Eddy Strachey at Opera Comique, H.M. Ship. Pinafore’, and notes that Eddy had also been out with Constance to a play just the night before. He writes, ‘F[rances] & I talk a great deal about him & C[onstance]’.

Waldegrave Image 4Letter from Constance Strachey née Braham to Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue, Baron Carlingford, 4 January 1889, Add MS 2/1/1/28. Permission kindly given by Charles Strachey, 4th Baron O'Hagan.

Countess Waldegrave died on 5 July 1879, and did not get to witness the wedding of Constance and Edward Strachey in 1880. The Countess’s death was a devastating loss for both Constance and Baron Carlingford, who largely withdrew himself from society after her death. Constance remained close to her ‘Uncle Carlingford’, and was a great comfort to him throughout his later years.

The correspondence and papers of Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford are now available to be viewed in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

31 January 2019

The Favourite and the Marlborough Papers

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All things are chang'd in Court & Town

Since Sarah's happy days

And she that once had scarce a Gown

Now Queen and Kingdom Sways

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite has been wowing audiences over the past few weeks with its political intrigue, wonderful costume design, and sharp dialogue. To this we might add the strong employment of documents in understated supporting roles: letters exchanged, financial records examined, and books consulted in secret. Archivists have a habit of picking up on documents and recordkeeping in films - Star Wars Rogue One saw a number of recordkeeping takes on the poor digital preservation planning displayed by the Empire – and when I came out of the cinema I wanted to see how the actions of Anne, Sarah and Abigail were recorded in the Blenheim papers.

The papers – so named because they were formerly housed at Blenheim Palace – consist primarily of the personal papers and correspondence of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and Sarah Churchill, Lady Marlborough. 

Correspondence

Volumes Add MS 61414-61418 contain Sarah's correspondence with Anne, or rather letters received from Anne (originals and copies) and drafts and copies of Sarah's letters to Anne. Many of the letters were annotated by Sarah as she compiled arguments in defence of her behaviour and position.

In this letter, undated apart from 'Wednesday night', but thought to be from 1692, Anne acknowledges Sarah's request of a place for Abigail Hill on her staff:

Add ms 61415 f32 CROPAdd MS 61415, f 32 "As to what you say about Mrs Hill you may asure [sic] your self she shall have ye place you desire for her"

Throughout the film Sarah and Anne refer to each other as Mrs Freeman and Mrs Morley. The earliest surviving letters using these names date to 1692, although in her memoirs Sarah claimed that they had been in use prior to 1688.

Affectionate letter A to SAdd MS 61416, f 7 Anne to Sarah

Sarah's correspondence with her husband can also be found in the archive, and is partly written in cipher. Add MS 61575 contains copies of the various ciphers used by the Marlboroughs, and in the image below we can see two different numbers used to refer to Anne.

Cipher cropCipher table, Add MS 61575

Groom of the Stole, Lady of the Bedchamber, Mistress of the Robes, and Privy Purse

Sarah's roles in the royal household are well documented in her personal papers. Add MS 61420 is a volume of accounts, correspondence and papers accumulated through her various household positions. They include copies of the warrants of appointments, and bills and instructions which give us an insight into palace life and the Queen's tastes.

Addms61420warrantAdd MS 61420, f 3 Warrant to admit Sarah into the Place and Quality of Mistress of the Robes

Addms61420housekeeperAdd MS 61420, f 28 Details of disbursements made to Faith Browne, annotated by Sarah in her role as Privy Purse.  The Mr Cogg referred to here was Sarah's goldsmith.

Gathering evidence for her defence

Sarah’s papers bear evidence of her arrangement and use of the material in preparing pieces defending her position, partially surviving the subsequent arrangements of later keepers of the archive. These include copies of letters between the principals in the tug-of-war for Anne’s favour, charting Abigail’s marriage to Masham, her taking of the lodgings at Kensington – all with Sarah’s annotations and notes on the events.

Abigail letter cropAdd MS 61454, Abigail's letter to Sarah defending her behaviour.

Sarah note on Abigail cropSarah's annotation. "This letter so full of a good conscious was writ to me by my lady Masham after she had done me so much mischeif [sic], in I think the still [style] of her master Harley in her own hand writing"

S annotation cropOrganisational note by Sarah, "Leters in 1709 when Abigal ruled"

Sarah also collected copies of satirical poems and pamphlets which circulated throughout  court and parliamentary circles. Add MS 61462 includes material written by Sarah’s friend and confidant the literary critic Arthur Maynwaring, some of which may have been co-authored by Sarah herself. These copies also feature Sarah’s annotations and notes.

Addms61462abigalAdd MS 61462, f 16 A Ballad on Mrs Abigal [sic] To the Tune of, the Dame of Honour, 1708

 

Addms61462f145cropAdd MS 61462, f 145. Letter of resignation drafted for the use of Marlborough by Maynwaring, address to the Duke of Shrewsbury, Jan 1711.

This post has been a quick dip into the 610 volumes and files which constitute the Marlborough papers, which can be accessed in the manuscripts reading room in the Library.

Further reading

Ophelia Field, The Favourite (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002)

Francis Harris, A Passion for Government. The Life of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991)

Blenheim Papers, Add MS 61101-61701, Add Ch 76069-76142

Alex Hailey

Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

24 January 2019

‘Methods of barbarism’: how Emily Hobhouse exposed the humanitarian crisis of the Boer War

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On 24 January 1901 Emily Hobhouse arrived in Bloemfontein, South Africa, bringing with her a large consignment of supplies for the women and children of the refugee camp there.  The inhabitants of the camp were fleeing the fighting and destruction caused by the Second Anglo-Boer War.  The Bloemfontein camp was home to thousands of displaced Boer civilians who were confined in the camp in temporary shelter without the facilities needed to sustain such large numbers.  The appalling conditions that Hobhouse witnessed would motivate her to challenge the British authorities at the highest level.

Hobhouse brought to light the conditions of the camp, as well as the extreme military tactics being utilised against the Boer in South Africa under General Kitchener.  After visiting the camp in Bloemfontein Hobhouse visited a number of other camps to survey the wider situation and found conditions much the same.

Image 1Add MS 42848 A: example of admittance card for the Camp Hospital at Mafeking

Determined to change the situation, she resolved to take it up with the authorities on her return to England.  One of the Parliamentarians she met was Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was leader of the opposition.  The report of what Hobhouse had encountered in Bloemfontein is recorded in Campbell-Bannerman’s papers at the British Library (Add MS 41252, ff.244-245).

Image 2Add MS 41252 Campbell-Bannerman Papers

On hearing Hobhouse’s account of the camps in South Africa, Campbell-Bannerman was shocked by such ‘methods of barbarism’.  As well describing as the condition of the people in the camps, Hobhouse lamented how British military tactics were the source of this misery.  She explained that the British Army, wherever they went, took care to destroy all means of subsistence.  They did this by burning farms, grains and livestock.  Such tactics intentionally left the women and children with little choice but to move to the British camps or face starvation.  Her meeting with Campbell-Bannerman led him to make a famed speech on the matter at Holborn in June 1901.  He then took forward her complaints to Parliament, as outlined in Campbell-Bannerman’s ‘Notes on South Africa’ (Add MS 41243 A).

Image 3Add MS 41243 Campbell-Bannerman Papers

Hobhouse’s protest did not end there.  She sent her report to another Liberal politician, George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon, as recorded in the Ripon Papers (Add MS 43638), and continued to expose the camps in her book The Brunt of the War (1902) which gave testimonies of those who were there.  The book also recorded the number of deaths in the camps, counting them in the tens of thousands and included estimates of the deaths of non-white refugees.  Through this book, knowledge of the squalor of the camps was communicated to the wider public.

Emily Hobhouse and her reports from Bloemfontein gave the British authorities a different perspective on the Boer War and made the camps – which became known as concentration camps – a national scandal.  Her persistence ensured that the conditions of the camps were relayed to Parliament, which was eventually forced to establish the Fawcett commission to investigate.

Iamge 4The signature of Emily Hobhouse on one of her letters to Ripon,Add MS 43638 f.76.


Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts


Further Reading:
Hobhouse, E. The Brunt of the War, (London: Methuen & Co, 1902)
Add MS 41243 A, Campbell-Bannerman Papers, ff.36-37, On Methods of Barbarism. 1901-1902.
Add MS 41252, Campbell-Bannerman Papers, ff. 234-243; (f) reminiscences by Emily Hobhouse relating to South Africa, 1901.
Add MS 43638, The Ripon Papers, ff. 36, 54, 75, 93, 97 Emily Hobhouse, social reformer in South Africa: Correspondence with Lord Ripon: 1901-1906.