Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

85 posts categorized "Religion"

03 October 2023

François Frederic Roget - lecturer, historian, ski mountaineer and Huguenot

The pension records of the East India Company and India Office can sometimes lead to the discovery of fascinating individuals whom pensioners or their children had married.

One such individual is Professor François Frederic Roget, a university lecturer, historian, High Alps ski mountaineer and Huguenot.

Cover of Ski-Runs in the High Alps  with a drawing of a bearded man on a mountain slope, presumably F F Roget

Born in Geneva in 1859, he was the son of Philippe Roget and grandson of François Roget a writer and Professor of Classical History at Geneva.  Roget was educated in Geneva and Heidelberg before coming to England (where his mother originated) to work first as a schoolmaster.  He eventually settled in Edinburgh, working first at Fettes College and later at the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews.

In 1896 Roget returned to Geneva where he took up a post at the University of Geneva lecturing on French and English Literature, and he would remained connected with the University for the next 40 years.

As well as his academic work, Professor Roget was also a Genevan historian and many of his papers and publications promoted the Huguenot virtues and values to which he ascribed.  He became a Fellow of the Huguenot Society in 1887 and an Honorary Fellow in 1924, writing many papers and giving many speeches including one for the monument erected in Geneva to commemorate the Calvinistic Reformation.  He was also a prolific author, with over 70 published works to his name covering his professional and personal interests.

His love of Geneva extended to the mountains and he had a reputation both as a very experienced Alpinist and as a pioneer of High Alpine mountaineering on ski.  In January 1909 he succeeded, along with Arnold Lund, to complete a high level traverse of the Bernese Oberland from end to end.  The two men went from Kandersteg to Meieringen, and achieved the first ever winter ascent of the Finstaraarhorn.

Professor Roget was married 3 times and had a son and two daughters from his marriages.  He died in Geneva on 16 August 1938.

It is his marriage to his second wife, Mrs Mary Jane Hutchinson, which brought him into the Madras Medical Fund Contingent Pension Records.  Mrs Hutchinson was the widow of Alfred Hutchison Esq., a Canton merchant and the daughter of Dr Kenneth McKenzie Adams, a former Madras Assistant Surgeon.  Roget had become acquainted with her during his time in Edinburgh, and the couple married on 2 October 1896. They had one daughter Frances Ismay, born in Geneva in 1898.

Mrs Hutchinson’s father had been a contingent pension subscriber to the Madras Medical Fund, and this meant that following his death in 1859, Mary Jane had been entitled to a pension for any periods of time that she was either unmarried or widowed.  As her marriage to Professor Roget ended one such pension period, the details of the marriage were recorded in the fund registers.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Ac.2073 Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, Vol. 16 1938-1941, p. 204
IOR/L/AG/23/9/5 Madras Medical Fund List of Contingent Pensioners, 1867-1948

29 August 2023

The Use of the Term 'Qafila' in the India Office Records

Within the India Office Records (IOR) and other materials catalogued for the British Library-Qatar Foundation Partnership, there are many references to the term qafila, which appears in a variety of spellings across the records.  These include caphila, caffalla, cafila, kafila, and kafilah.  This post explores the meaning of the term qafila, and examines the way it is used within the records.

Definition of QafilaMeaning of qafila, IOR/R/15/5/384, f 91v, Crown Copyright


The term qafila (pl. qawafil) has its origin in the Arabic root qa fa la (قفل), which primarily means ‘to return’.  The word itself is used to refer to a caravan; a train of travellers; or any large party of travellers such as pilgrims or merchants moving between distant destinations.  However, beyond this common meaning of qafila, there is a literal meaning of the term, which is ‘the returning one’.  Arabs named their parties of travellers, pilgrims or merchants, who were getting ready for travel, qafila as a sign of sanguinity that the travellers would reach their destination and make a safe and successful return.

Arabic meaning of qafila by al-ZabidiArabic meaning of qafila by al-Zabidi, public domain

People working for the East India Company often used the term qafila when corresponding about trading activities in India and the wider Gulf region.  It is difficult though to know whether they were aware of its literal meaning or not.  In their correspondence, the term was often associated with trade caravans carrying commodities such as coffee, spices, cotton, silk, wool, wine, and iron.  The most numerous of these caravans was the wool qafila, which departed from Kerman (also known as Carmenia) and made its way to the port of Bander ‘Abbas (also known as Gombroon), from where the wool was shipped to the British market.

Note on supply of Carmenia wool Carmenia wool qafila, IOR/L/PS/20/C227, f 79v, Crown Copyright

The ‘Gombroon Diaries (IOR/G/29/2-14)’, and ‘the letters and enclosures received from Bandar ‘Abbas (Gombroon) and Basra (IOR/G/29/15-24)’, are rich source materials reporting on the movement of the Kerman wool qafilas, as well as the qafilas carrying English woollen goods sent to the Persian market.  These contain reports on the amount of woollen goods carried, including information about their prices, types and colours.

Woollen samplesWoollen samples IOR/G/29/17, f 4, Crown Copyright


The records also indicate that the safety of the qafilas was a major concern, with cargoes from time to time being seized while en route to their destinations.  There are also references to qafilas being delayed due to various circumstances including bad weather and internal military operations.

Circumstances affecting Caphila’s movementCircumstances affecting Caphila’s movement, IOR/G/29/16, f 192v, Crown Copyright

Caphila seized on way to YazdCaphila seized on way to Yazd, IOR/G/29/11, f 38r Crown Copyright

Other qafilas that appear in the records are the Hajj (pilgrimage) qafilas arriving from various parts of the Muslim world into the cities of Medina and Mecca during the Hajj season.  The most popular of these are Qafilat al-Haj al-Shami (the pilgrimage qafila travelling from Bilad al-Sham or Greater Syria), and Qafilat al-Hajj al-Misri (a qafila which travelled from Egypt).  These were usually received with great excitement and celebration.  One fascinating example has been mentioned by Captain Richard F. Burton in his  Personal Narrative of a pilgrimmage to al-Madinah and Meccah Vol. I  describing the arrival of the qafilas on Sunday 23 Dhu al-Qi‘da 1269 AH/ 28 August 1853 CE:

Richard F Burton's description of the arrrival of Hajj CafilaArrival of Hajj Cafila, W48/9840 vol. 1, [416], public domain


Many more examples of the various types of qafilas, and the records documenting them, can be found among the materials digitised and made available online on the Qatar Digital Library (QDL).

Ula Zeir
Content Specialist/ Arabic Language and Gulf History

Further reading:
IOR/G/29/11 ‘Diary and Consultations of Mr Alexander Douglas, Agent of the East India Company at Gombroon [Bandar-e ʻAbbās] in the Persian Gulf, commencing 1 August 1757 and ending 31 July 1758’
IOR/G/29/16 ‘Letters and Enclosures etc., Received from Gombroon’
IOR/G/29/17 ‘Letters and Enclosures etc., Received from Gombroon (Bandar-e ‘Abbas)’
IOR/L/PS/20/C227 ‘Selections from State Papers, Bombay, regarding the East India Company’s Connection with the Persian Gulf, with a Summary of Events, 1600-1800’
IOR/R/15/5/384 ‘Field Notes on Sa‘udi Arabia, 1935’
W48/9840 vol. I Personal Narrative of a pilgrimmage to al-Madinah and Meccah. Vol. I
Al-Zabidi, Taj al-‘Arus min Jawahir al-Qamus, vol 30 (Kuwait: Kuwait Government Press, 1997), 264. Accessed online 
Ula Zeir, ‘Finding Aid: IOR/G/29/2-14 Gombroon (Bandar ‘Abbas) Diaries and Consultations (1708-1763)’, Qatar Digital Library 

 

10 August 2023

Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orléans, and the Secret Treaty of Dover (1670)

Henrietta Anne (1644-1670), Duchess of Orléans and sister to King Charles II, was a key negotiator of an important diplomatic agreement between England and France. In 1670, Charles II and Louis XIV of France signed the Secret Treaty of Dover. Kept hidden from the public, it included Charles’s promise to publicly convert to Catholicism (which never happened) in exchange for vast sums of money, as well as a mutual alliance against the Dutch Republic.

Painted portrait of Henrietta Anne, Duchess of Orléans, by Peter LelyHenrietta Anne, Duchess of Orleans, by Sir Peter Lely, around 1662, NPG 6028. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Terms of Use: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

The British Library holds a rich volume of papers relating to the Treaty which demonstrates Henrietta’s significant role and is largely written in French.

Henrietta had a brief but extraordinary life. Born in Exeter in 1644, she was quickly whisked away to France because of the English Civil War and raised at the French court. At sixteen, she married Phillippe, Duke of Orléans and brother of Louis XIV. She was highly educated and intelligent, but was embarrassed by her written English and wrote almost exclusively in French.

Title page of a flattering portrait of Henrietta, written in French by Jean Puget de la Serre (1661)Title page of a flattering portrait of Henrietta, by Jean Puget de la Serre (1661). Add MS 33752, f. 3.

In 1669, Charles II wrote a top-secret letter to Louis about the treaty, entrusting its delivery to Henrietta: ‘desireing that this matter might passe through your handes as the person in the world I have most confidence in.’ Charles even sent Henrietta a cipher, so that their correspondence would be totally confidential.

Henrietta was politically invaluable: both exceptionally close with Charles and trusted enough by Louis that he met her almost every day in early 1670 to discuss the negotiations. She provided the link between the two monarchs that allowed Louis to address Charles as ‘monsieur mon frère’ in his letters.

Henrietta’s long letter to Charles II, written in 1669Henrietta’s long letter to Charles II, 1669. Add MS 65138, f. 47.

Unfortunately, many of Henrietta’s letters were destroyed after her death. One of the most striking surviving documents is her letter to Charles about this ‘grande affaire.’ Henrietta, who was Catholic, refers to Charles’s conversion as ‘le desin de la R’ (‘the design about R’), with R standing for ‘religion.’ She advises Charles at length on finances, the prospect of war in Holland, and Louis’s motives. She even suggests that Charles conceal their scheme from the Pope, since he might die before the planned conversion!

After several pages of confident political discussion, Henrietta signs off with a show of modesty, writing that she only dares to meddle in questions above her station because of her great love for her brother.

A visit to Charles by Henrietta was the cover story for the final stage of the treaty’s formation, and she was personally charged with carrying the French copy back to Louis.

Final protocol of the Treaty of Dover, featuring the seals and signatures of Charles II's principal advisorsFinal protocol of the Treaty, featuring the seals and signatures of Charles II’s principal advisors. Add MS 65138, f. 91v.

Tragically, Henrietta died just months later at the age of 26. One first-hand account states that she drank a glass of chicory water, a medicinal drink, before collapsing in agony (Stowe MS 191, f. 22). Another account ungenerously insists on her depraved, sinful life, claiming she was poisoned and spent her final moments repenting (Kings MS 140, f. 107).

What we can be sure of is her affection for Charles. She addresses her letter to him uncharacteristically in English: ‘For the King.’

‘For the King’: a rare example of Henrietta writing in English in her letter to Charles II‘For the King’: a rare example of Henrietta writing in English in her letter to Charles. Add MS 65138, f. 51v.

Isabel Maloney
PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge and PhD placement student in Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:

Keith Feiling, ‘Henrietta Stuart, Duchess of Orleans, and the Origins of the Treaty of Dover’, The English Historical Review, Vol. 47, No. 188 (Oct., 1932), pp. 642-645.

Cyril Hughes Hartmann, Charles II and Madame (London, 1934).

08 August 2023

William Henry Quilliam – the Victorian solicitor who established Britain’s first mosque

What do the names Abdullah Quilliam, Henri Marcel Léon and Haroon Mustapha Leon have in common?  The answer is that they are all aliases of William Henry Quilliam, 19th century solicitor and convert to Islam.

William Henry Quilliam was born in Liverpool on 10 April 1856.  He was of Manx descent and raised by Wesleyan Methodists.  After training and working as a solicitor, he moved to the Middle East in 1887, where he converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah Quilliam.  He returned to England and opened Britain’s first Muslim institute and mosque at 8-10 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool, in 1889.  The site was a place of worship and education, with its own science laboratory and museum.

Quilliam was given the title of sheikh-ul-Islam (leader of the Muslims) of Britain by the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II.  He also found time to edit a series of Islamic periodicals, publishing frequently under the alias H. [Haroon] Mustapha Leon.  A controversial figure in Victorian England, he received backlash for publicly renouncing Christianity, while Brougham Terrace became a target for vandals.  After leaving the UK for a short period he lived on the Isle of Man in the 1910s, changing his name for a third time to Henri Marcel Léon.

Photograph of William Henry Quilliam  alias Abdullah QuilliamWilliam Henry Quilliam, known as Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam. Public Domain

Quilliam is the subject of British Library manuscripts collection Add MS 89684, which has just been catalogued and is now available for research.  The papers in this collection were compiled by Patricia ‘Pat’ Gordon, granddaughter of Quilliam, while conducting research into her grandfather’s life history.  The collection comprises correspondence, newspaper and magazine cuttings, photographs and even a ceremonial silver trowel.  The trowel was presented by the United Methodist Free Churches to Quilliam’s mother, Harriet, on the laying of a memorial stone of the School Chapel, Durning Road, Liverpool, on 20 August 1877.

A ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs QuilliamA ceremonial silver trowel presented to Mrs Quilliam Add MS 89684/4/6

During the 1990s, Pat was in regular correspondence with the Abdullah Quilliam Society of Liverpool.  The Society was founded to restore the location of Quilliam’s mosque at Brougham Terrace.  Pat was invited by the Society to unveil a plaque outside the prayer hall on 10 October 1997, in a ceremony which was organised to commemorate Quilliam’s achievements.  Photographs of this event can be found at Add MS 89684/3/2.

Quilliam died in London on 23 April 1932.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Muslim section of Brookwood Cemetery, Woking, not far from the grave of the Islamic scholar and barrister Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1872-1953).  It is thanks to the work of Pat Gordon and the Abdullah Quilliam Society that William Henry Quilliam’s mosque and unique history have survived.

George Brierley
Manuscripts Cataloguer

Further reading:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Quilliam, William Henry
Add MS 89684 – Papers relating to Abdullah Quilliam

 

06 May 2023

Monarchs enthroned: ceremonial iconography and coronations

King Charles III’s coronation continues an extremely long-standing ceremonial tradition.  The scale of coronations does vary from reign to reign, yet core elements such as the monarch’s selection, anointment with holy oil, public acclamation and enthronement remain unchanged.  Records for English coronations stretch back over a thousand years, but as David’s instructions to crown Solomon as king reveal, the Judaeo-Christian origins of the ceremony actually stretch back much further in time:
“And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there King over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save King Solomon.  Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead” (I Kings 1: 34-5).

The coronation on 6 May 2023 includes a rendition of ‘Zadok the Priest’ alluding to this biblical tradition.  Charles III’s enthronement appears to take its lead from early medieval religious iconography.  The Liber Vitae created around 1031CE centres upon King Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of New Minster at Winchester.  Angels descend from heaven touching the Monarch’s crown.  There is an image of Christ enthroned located immediately above the cross.

King Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of the New Minster  WinchesterKing Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of the New Minster, Winchester British Library, Stowe MS 944 f. 6r. 

The earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign 1042-1066 depicts the King crowned and enthroned, holding an orb and sceptre.  Excluding the Commonwealth era between 1649 and 1660, every monarch has been depicted in this manner on their Great Seal.

Earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign Earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign 1042-1066 - British Library, Lord Frederick Campbell Charter XXI 5.

This theme continues within the illuminated manuscript and other artistic traditions into modernity.  The following detail from Matthew Paris’s Historia Anglorum Chronica Majora created around the 1250s illustrates Henry III seated upon his throne holding a sceptre and a model of Westminster Abbey.

Henry III seated upon his throne holding a sceptre and a model of Westminster AbbeyPortrait of Henry III from Historia Anglorum Chronica Majora - British Library, Royal MS 14 C VII, f. 9r (detail)

Centuries later, during the 1670s, Michael Wright’s portrait of Charles II displays the monarch similarly posed, wearing the St Edward’s crown and dressed in parliamentary robes.

Portrait of Charles II wearing the St Edward’s crownPortrait of Charles II  courtesy of The Royal Collections Trust, RCIN 404951.


Philately also embraces such iconographical references.  This die proof made by the security-printing firm Perkins Bacon and Company Limited, London for the State of Victoria in Australia’s 1856 stamps carries an image of Queen Victoria enthroned on King Edward’s Chair.  Created by Edward I, it is now known as the Coronation Chair having been used in most coronations since that time.

State of Victoria 1856 penny stamp with an image of Queen Victoria enthroned on King Edward’s ChairState of Victoria 1d postage stamp 1856 - British Library Philatelic Collections: Supplementary Collection, Victoria

Edmund Dulac’s design for the 1s 3d stamp for the UK Coronation Issue of 1953 likewise includes a modern iteration of Elizabeth II enthroned.

1s 3d stamp for the UK 1953 Coronation Issue showing Queen Elizabeth II enthroned1s 3d stamp for the UK 1953 Coronation Issue - British Library Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection, Great Britain.

Cecil Beaton’s iconic 1953 photographic Coronation Portrait of Elizabeth II reveals fascinating insights regarding the planning of such symbolic imagery.  It depicts her enthronement at Westminster Abbey, but actually it was taken inside Buckingham Palace.  Beaton’s archives at the Victoria & Albert Museum include photographs illustrating preparations for the portrait which was adopted by Jersey on its 6 February 2002 £3 postage stamp commemorating of Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee.

Jersey £3 postage stamp with Elizabeth II at her coronation  commemorating the Queen's Golden Jubilee 6 February 2002Jersey £3 postage stamp commemorating Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee 6 February 2002 -British Library Philatelic Collections: The Holman Collection

 

Richard Scott Morel
Curator, Philatelic Collections

Further reading:
Roy Strong. Coronation: A History of Kingship and the British Monarchy. Harper Collins. 2005, p. 9.
Susanna Brown. Queen Elizabeth II: Portraits by Cecil Beaton. V & A, 2011.
The New Minster Liber Vitae 

 

30 January 2023

Across the Heart of Arabia (2): H St John Philby, Intelligence Gathering and a Lasting Legacy

In his 1918 mission to Nejd, Philby’s task, as seen by British officialdom, was to gather intelligence on the area and establish a relationship with Ibn Sa’ud on whom the British had little information.  This information could then be used to further British political, economic and strategic interests in the area in the context of the expected demise of the Ottoman Empire.  In 1917-18 the Empire’s writ still held sway precariously in parts of the Arabian peninsula and the Middle East (in 1818 the Ottomans had destroyed Diriyah, the capital of an earlier iteration of the Saudi state).

Memo by Philby about the mission to Najd 1918IOR/R/15/5/66 f 66 ‘22/16 Mr Philby’s Mission to Najd – 1918.’

In 1918 a distilled report of the route taken and information gathered by the Najd Mission 1917-1918 including relations between Ibn Sa’ud and Kuwait and other Arabian potentates was compiled and published.

Philby and the repurposing of ‘colonial knowledge’

However, it seems reasonable to say that Philby did not adhere to the career path of a Colonial Office Intelligence Officer that would be most desired by the officials in London: in 1924 he resigned from the Colonial Office.  Through his deep interest in the Arabian Peninsula Philby was to convert to Islam in 1930 becoming Abdullah Philby and settling on an ongoing basis in Ibn Sa’ud’s domains.

Photograph of Philby used in his book The Heart of ArabiaPhotograph of Philby used in his book The Heart of Arabia (London Constable and Company Ltd, 1922) Public Domain

He advised Ibn Sa’ud as how to best manage relations with the British and other western powers as well as the international oil companies in Ibn Saud’s negotiations over petroleum rights and concessions.  The outcome of this took a decisive turn in London in 1932 on the eve of the proclamation of the consolidated Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (since 1927 Ibn Saud domains had been known as the Kingdom of Hijaz and Nejd and Dependencies).  In a meeting with Ibn Sa’ud’s son, Prince Faisal and adviser, Fuad Hamza, Sir Oliphant Lanceleot sent them away empty-handed after a plea for financial help to develop the oil reserves of the nascent state.

The legacy of Ibn Sa’ud and Philby

In helping Ibn Sa’ud with insider knowledge and advice to resist, negotiate with and deflect the power of the British Empire, Philby - whilst his role should not be overstated - contributed to the establishment and survival of Saudi Arabia which became a key state in the contemporary Middle East state system and global oil economy.  These developments were to come later but the relationship between Ibn Sa’ud and Philby started and was cemented in ‘Mr Philby’s Mission to Najd’ in 1917-18.

Crossing the Heart of Arabia

In a commemoration of this historical significance, 2023 sees another expedition crossing the heart of the Arabian peninsula retracing the original expedition Harry St John Philby made in 1917-18, both expeditions being made, in a coincidence of timing, around the time of global pandemics.  This contemporary team includes Reem Philby, the granddaughter of Harry St John (Abdullah) Philby.  This expedition will end when the team arrive in Jeddah at the end of the month. Like St John Philby’s original expedition, they have sought to undertake research in order to better understand the vast expanse of territory that makes up this still little known and even less-understood part of the world.  The involvement and influence of the Philby family in desert exploration and wilderness education lives on indeed, in the Heart of Arabia.

Francis Owtram
Gulf History Specialist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

 

21 December 2022

Books suitable for Christmas and New Year

Are you still looking for ideas for Christmas gifts?  Maybe we can help?  In 1858, Irish bookseller and stationer Thomas Smith Harvey published a catalogue of books suitable for Christmas, New Year, and birthday presents.

 Title page of Catalogue of books suitable for Christmas  New Year  or birthday presentsTitle page of Catalogue of books suitable for Christmas New Year or birthday presents Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The catalogue is divided into ten sections.

Poetry covers four pages, ranging in price from 1s to 31s 6d.  As well as works from famous poets such as Longfellow, Shakespeare, Byron, Scott and Milton, there are books entitled Language and Poetry of Flowers; Moore’s Irish Melodies; Elegant Arts for Ladies; and Book of German Songs.

Religious books – as well as bibles, Harvey was offering Buchanan’s Christian Researches in India; Quarles’ Judgment and Mercy; Bogatsky’s Golden Treasury; and Morals from the Churchyard.  This last one intrigued me and I discovered its full title is Morals from the Churchyard; in a series of cheerful fables.  Here is the contents page and I am surprised that it was possible to create ‘cheerful fables’ from some of the graves listed here.

Contents page of Morals from the Churchyard; in a series of cheerful fables - graves of little child, mother, lovers, suicide etc

Contents page of Morals from the Churchyard; in a series of cheerful fables Public Domain Creative Commons Licence 


The next category is books for the country – natural history etc.  It includes British Rural Sports; Cassell’s Natural History of the Feathered Tribes; Anecdotes of Animal Life; A World of Wonders Revealed by the Microscope; Mechi’s How to Farm Profitably; Rarey on Horse Training; and Walker’s Manly Exercises.

Title page of Walker’s Manly Exercises with a picture of rowing and sailingWalker’s Manly Exercises Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

There is a section devoted to biography, history, travels, and science.  Titles here include Kansas, or Squatter Life and Border Warfare; The Bridle Roads of Spain; Gavazzi’s Last Four Popes; Things Not Generally Known; How A Penny Became A Thousand Pounds; Overland Route to India; and Mornings at the British Museum. The book Unprotected Females in Norway perplexed me until I found the title continues: or, the pleasantest way of travelling there, passing through Denmark and Sweden, with Scandinavian sketches from nature.

Title page of Unprotected Females in NorwayEmily Lowe, Unprotected Females in Norway; or, the pleasantest way of travelling there, passing through Denmark and Sweden, with Scandinavian sketches from nature (London, 1857) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Here is one of the sketches drawn by the author Emily Lowe showing a Norwegian wedding taking place near Bergen.

Norwegian wedding near Bergen showing a couple and a priest, with a woman holding a baby in the backgroundNorwegian wedding near Bergen from Unprotected Females in Norway  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Perhaps surprisingly there is only one page for fiction although Harvey does state that he can provide a large assortment of cheap works.  His selection included Slick’s Nature and Human Nature; Marie Louise, or the Opposite Neighbours; and Never Too Late to Mend.

Eight pages are devoted to books for young people – three and a half for boys, four for children, and just half a page for girls.  The boys’ section is full of sport, exploration, travel, adventure, and inspirational works: Sporting in Both Hemispheres; Wild Sports in the Far West; Boyhood of Great Men; The Story of the Peasant Boy Philosopher.  For children, Harvey promises a great variety of cheap books for the very young and lists a selection of moral tales and story books such as Stories for Village Lads; Memoirs of a Doll; Norah and her Kerry Cow, as well as Learning to Converse.  The girls’ books include Fanny the Little Milliner; Extraordinary Women; and Amy Carlton, or First Days at School.

A number of almanacs and diaries are offered as well as miscellaneous articles – gutta percha skates; ‘boys’ telescopes’; pocket compasses; microscopes; mathematical instruments; and small magic lanterns with slides.

When you have finished buying and wrapping your presents, have fun searching in our catalogue Explore the British Library for books listed in Harvey’s catalogue.  Many have been digitised and can be enjoyed online.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Thomas Smith Harvey, Catalogue of books suitable for Christmas, New Year, or birthday presents (Waterford, 1858)

13 December 2022

The oldest cyclist in the UK

At the age of 80, Mordaunt Martin Monro was advised by his doctor to take up tricycle riding.  He was assured that this would add ten years to his life.  Mr Monro was to be seen pedaling around near his home in Enfield, Middlesex, until shortly before his death at the age of 92 on 21 March 1899.  The cycling press named him ‘the oldest wheelman in the United Kingdom’.

Tricycle of the 1880s1880s tricycle from Nauticus in Scotland - A tricycle tour of 2,462 miles. Including Skye & the West coast (London, 1888) Digital Store 10370.d.28 BL flickr

Monro’s dedication to tricycling was shared by his friend Daniel Gilsenan.  In his 80s, Mr Gilsenan was a familiar sight in Enfield riding a tricycle which pulled a trailer carrying his widowed sister Justina Clark as a passenger.  Most appropriately, Daniel lived in Raleigh Road.

Mordaunt Martin Monro was the child of Captain James Monro of the East India Company’s maritime service by his second wife Caroline née Martin.  He was born at Hadley in Middlesex on 3 November 1806, just a fortnight before his father died.  His mother had him educated at home by tutors, and he then received practical instruction in agriculture at nearby Rectory Farm.  At the age of 22, Monro took over Bury Farm in Southbury Road and his mother lived there with him until her death in 1848.  Daniel Gilsenan worked as his farm bailiff for 26 years, and his sister Jane was servant and housekeeper for Monro for over 30 years.  When Monro retired from the farm, he lived with Daniel and his wife Lucy.

Monro was associated with Richard Cobden and John Bright in anti-corn laws agitation, and in 1849 was a founder member of the National Freehold Land Society, also known as the National Permanent Mutual Benefit Society.  The Society aimed to enable working men to acquire 40 shilling freeholds and thereby the right to vote.  Monro served as director, trustee and chairman, and remained connected to the Society until his death.

Both Caroline and Mordaunt Monro joined the Society of Friends and attended the meeting house at Winchmore Hill.  Mordaunt supported the anti-slavery movement and the 1850s Peace Movement.  He was a regular and generous donor to the Enfield and Tottenham Hospitals, and paid £5 a year to fund the winding of the clock at Enfield Church.  Although said to be of a retiring disposition, Monro held public office, as Poor Law overseer and then as one of the first members of the local board of health.

Mordaunt Monro was also involved in the temperance movement.  He began to abstain from drinking alcohol in 1840 and founded the first Temperance Society in Enfield, using a converted barn as a meeting place.  This barn was also used as premises for an evening school.  In August 1843 he hosted at his farm a meeting of the Total Abstinence Society which was addressed by the Irish celebrity temperance campaigner Father Mathew.  Hundreds of people attended on a very hot day and were supplied with temperance refreshments from tents erected in a large field.  The temperance pledge was taken by about 400 people on that day.

Newspaper article about Father Mathew at EnfieldFather Mathew at Enfield - Hertford Mercury and Reformer 19 August 1843 British Newspaper Archive 

Daniel Gilsenan survived his friend for five years.  He died on 1 August 1904 at his house in Raleigh Road.  Enfield had now lost both of its most elderly cyclists.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper ArchiveHertford Mercury and Reformer 19 August 1843, Westminster Gazette 24 March 1899, The Middlesex Gazette 25 March 1899, Soulby’s Ulverston Advertiser and General Intelligencer 17 September 1903.

Previous posts about Captain James Monro -
The sale of East India Company maritime commands

Private trade and pressed men – the voyage of the Houghton to China

 

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