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96 posts categorized "Manuscripts"

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.

 

04 December 2018

From Westmorland to India – William Lambert of the Bombay Army

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In our last post we met William Lambert, a young Cadet in the East India Company’s Bombay Army, soon after his arrival in India in 1780.  He wrote to his friend Jonathan Oldman in England giving his first impressions of his new home and joking that a cargo of ‘North Country Ladies’ would be very popular there.

UllswaterView of the lake of Ullswater, Northern England by Thomas Walmsley (1801) Online Gallery


William Lambert was baptised in the village of Bolton in Westmorland on 19 April 1759, the son of yeoman John Lambert and his wife Isabel née Longmire.  In 1778 William was nominated as an East India Company military cadet by director Benjamin Booth.  He sailed for Bombay in the Hawke in June 1779, not arriving there until 23 February 1780.  There were nine other Bombay Army cadets on board as well as a large number of troops and other East India Company personnel.  Jane Wittman and Elizabeth Priscilla Coggan gave birth during the voyage but sadly both they and their babies died and were buried at sea.

The letter to Jonathan showed how keen William was for promotion and a rise in pay.  He was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant on 11 January 1781, and then progressed to Captain in 1796, Major in 1800, and Lieutenant Colonel in 1803. 

Tannah - boatsNative boats at Tannah - William Johnson  (1855) Online Gallery

In the 1790s, William was stationed at Tannah (Thane), about 25 miles from Bombay.  He died there on 3 January 1806.  His will made on 2 February 1803 stated that his property was to be divided equally between his two ‘natural’ children born at Tannah: Harry on 4 May 1792 and Anna Maria on 23 September 1794.  Harry was to receive his watch and seals and a cornelian ring.  He named as his executors his eldest brother Thomas Lambert in England, and his friends Fletcher Hayes and William Kennedy in Bombay.

Lambert will IOR/L/AG/34/29/343 p.4 Will of William Lambert

Two months before he died, William wrote a memorandum of debts and credits: 'In case of Accidents which we are all liable too I put down these little matters to prevent trouble'.  He listed debts for cheese, coffee, oil, two pints of catsup (ketchup), a knife, and a plated coffee pot.  None of his servants deserved more than a full month’s wages except his ‘girl’ who was given 200 rupees, clothing, trinkets, furniture, lamps, kitchen equipment, and ‘other small trifles to her with Coffree Boy’ (a slave). This perhaps suggests that the ‘girl’, Bibee Shariffa, was the mother of Harry and Anna Maria. 

William's children returned to England after his death.  Both settled in London as adults so perhaps they were cared for by their uncle Thomas Lambert who was a timber merchant in Pimlico.  Harry and Anna Maria were each bequeathed £50 by their grandfather John Lambert when he died in 1829 at the age of 94.

Anna Maria married Parliamentary agent John Angus Walmisley at Margate in 1816.  They lived in London and had five sons and three daughters. Anna Maria died in 1849.

Harry married Tabitha Hatchett at St George Blomsbury in 1817 and they had three children.  Harry’s occupation is variously recorded as gentleman, jeweller, and surgeon dentist.  He also died in 1849.  Harry’s son Alfred Augustus was married in 1861 to Josephine Lambert, the granddaughter of Thomas the timber merchant.


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917 Letter from William Lambert, Bombay Army Cadet, to Jonathan Oldman in Cumberland, 30 April 1780
IOR/L/MIL/9/255 East India Company register of military cadets
IOR/L/MAR/B/390H Journal of the ship Hawke
IOR/L/AG/34/29/343 p.4 Will of William Lambert – available online via findmypast
IOR/L/AG/34/27/389 p.8 Inventory of goods of William Lambert  deceased – available online via findmypast

Cadet William Lambert writes from Bombay

 

 

29 November 2018

Cadet William Lambert writes from Bombay in 1780

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In April 1780, East India Company military cadet William Lambert wrote from Bombay to his friend Jonathan Oldman in England.  He reported on the long voyage from England, his first impressions of India, his hopes of advancement, and a longing for female company.

Tom RawTom Raw gets introduced to his Colonel from Tom Raw, The Griffin (London, 1828)

The letter is addressed to Mr Jonathan Oldman, Bannest Hill, Caldbeck, Cumberland.

Bombay April the 30th 1780

Mr Oldman

Sir
I set me down with a great deal of pleasure to scrawl two or three lines to you.  I hope these lines will find you perfectly Happy in the Arms of your Dear ------ as I hope to be in a short time with one of the Beauties of the East.  I have arrived at the (long looked for) place, at last, after a passage of about Nine Months, which was very tedious time on Board a Ship, but knowing it was only for a time, and not for ever we spent our time agreeably as we could.  I have the pleasure of informing you that India is much pleasanter than I Expected, only the Middle of the day is rather to hold.  I thought when I left England, that I left all the Wars behind me, but have had the pleasure to find it to the Contrary, as the more danger more Honour, for the War is much hotter here than Europe, I have not yet got a Commission but expecting one every day.  I arrived on the Island on the 23rd of February 1780, this part of the World produces every thing one could wish for, the Pay of a Cadet is a Rupee per day, that is equall to half a Crown in England, and as soon as Commissioned more than double the sum; how happy I should be to be with you in Cumberland was it only for one day. 

We should have a pleasant [w]alk and an evening retreat, one might have a walk on a grass pland, but grass I have not seen in India the Sun burns all that away, so that we always walk on a Sand Bank, as on the Sea shore, which is very disagreeable for the dust.  If you will take upon you to Freight a Ship for the East Indies I will take upon me to tell what her Cargo must consist of; and that must be Ladies, for they fetch the highest prizes of any one articule.  I think some of your North Country Ladies will do very well, the Ladies here have Money plenty, we dont want you to bring any Fortunes only Beauties so if you think any thing about this affair I shall wait to purchase a part of your Cargo which I hope you’ll let me know in your first Letter which you’ll send by the First Ship that Sails for India, the News of India I have not Collected yet but by the next Ship you may Expect another line which is all at present from your ever loving and nevr failing Friend and Wellwisher

W Lambert
Cadet

NB direct to me at Bombay East Indies Ensign

PS I hope by the time you receive this to have a good step towards a Lieutenant Commission

Lambert MSS Eur C917India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917

In our next post, I shall tell you more about William Lambert and how his life in India turned out.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917 Letter from William Lambert, Bombay Army Cadet, to Jonathan Oldman in Cumberland, 30 April 1780

 

08 November 2018

Journey to India of Randolph Marriott, East India Company Servant

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A recent acquisition to the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting account of the voyage to India of a new employee of the East India Company.  Randolph Marriott joined the Company as a writer, and his papers include his journal of the journey to India in 1753, which complements the official ship's journal in the India Office Records.

Mss Eur F722 - JournalIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

Marriott was a passenger on board the ship Portfield, which sailed from Gravesend on 22 January 1753, bound for Bengal, then a six month voyage, arriving on 25 July 1753.  Along the way, Marriott kept a brief but entertaining account of what he saw on board the ship.  The journal clearly shows the dangerous nature of such voyages.  Only a few days into the voyage on 4 February, Marriott reported that the boatswain had been ‘very much hurt by the Capstone falling on him’, and on 23 February they buried the corpse of Mr Gent, the purser, who it appeared had been ill when he came on board.  There were three more deaths over the course of the voyage.

Marriott describes one particularly hair-raising accident and the dramatic rescue that followed.  On Wednesday 4 April 1753, at 11 in the morning, John Ross, the doctor’s servant accidentally fell overboard, and was in grave danger of being drowned.  Some quick thinking crew members threw a coop containing some ducks over the side, and the cooper Edward Welsted jumped over board and helped the stricken servant onto the coop.  He then held on to him until a boat was hoisted out and brought them both back in alive.  The servant was somewhat bruised by the fall but Marriott reported him to be ‘in a fair way of recovery’.  Happily, the ducks also survived the experience. 

F722 - Servant falls over boardIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

The cooper Edward Welsted again features in the journal, when on the night of 22 May he was put in irons for disobeying and striking the 4th Mate, Mr Edward Altham, and behaving in an insolent and mutinous manner.  Further potentially very serious consequences seemed to have been averted, as Marriott recorded that the next day the cooper was taken out of irons upon his asking pardon of all the officers on board.

Marriott also reported on the sea life he spotted from the ship, mostly whales and sharks.  He described in his journal catching a shark on 31 March, which he said can be caught using ‘a line about the thickness of a penny cord, & a hook 4 or 5 inches long, & ¼ of one round. The bait is a bit of pork or beef’.

F722 - A Narrative of EventsIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

Marriot served with the Company in India until 1766, when he resigned following a dispute with his employers. He arrived home in England on 16 June 1767. During his time in India, he compiled a volume of documents which gave a narrative of the events over that period, including a description of the battle of Plassey and a list of those held in the Black Hole of Calcutta. 

F722 - Black Hole of CalcuttaIndia Office Private Papers Mss Eur F722

John O’Brien
India Office Records

 

Further Reading:
Papers of Randolph Marriott (1736-1807), Writer in the East India Company's service, Bengal 1753-1767 [Reference Mss Eur F722]
Journal of the Portfield by Commander Carteret Le Geyt, 17 Nov 1752-29 Jul 1754 [Reference: IOR/L/MAR/B/609C]