THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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138 posts categorized "South Asia"

15 August 2019

Gerasim Lebedev, a Russian pioneer of Bengali Theatre

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Whilst browsing through a list of inhabitants of Calcutta in the 1790s one particular entry caught my attention.  In June 1794 a Russian musician by the name of Gerasim Lebedev was listed as a resident of Calcutta.  As it seemed unusual to find a Russian in India at that time, I was intrigued to learn more.

List of European Inhabitants in Calcutta June 1794IOR/O/5/26 – Gerasim Lebedeff’s entry in a list of European Inhabitants in Calcutta, June 1794 Noc

Lebedev was born in Yaroslavl Russia in 1749, the eldest son of a church choirmaster.  The family later moved to St Petersburg where Lebedev sang in the choir, performed in theatre and began to learn English, French and German, also teaching himself to play violin.

In 1792 Lebedev accompanied the new Russian Ambassador to Vienna as part of a musical group.  However he left this employment shortly afterwards and began to tour Europe, earning a living as a violinist.

By February 1785 Lebedev was in England.  He sailed for India aboard the East India Company ship Rodney, arriving in Madras in August 1785 where he obtained the patronage of the Mayor, Captain William Sydenham, and earned a living putting on musical programmes.

In August 1787 Lebedev moved to Calcutta where he was to live for the next ten years, and where with the support of a Russian doctor he was able to establish himself as a musician.  Lebedev was interested in Bengali language and music and he is considered to be the first person to perform Indian music on western musical instruments.

In 1791 Lebedev was introduced to a teacher named Goloknath Das who taught him Hindi, Sanskrit and Bengali.  He used his new language skills to translate plays into Bengali and in 1795 he opened the first drama theatre in Calcutta.  The two plays he translated were Love is the Best Doctor by Molière, and The Disguise by M. Jodrelle.  They were performed on 27 November 1795 and again on 21 March 1796, with music composed by Lebedev himself and lyrics from a Bengali poet Bharatchandra Ray.

Poster advertising Lebedev’s first performances of his plays on 27 November 1795Poster advertising Lebedev’s first performances of his plays on 27 November 1795. Image taken from Wikimedia (Public Domain)

The shows were very well received and Lebedev received great encouragement from Calcutta society, including the Governor-General Sir John Shore.  The performances are today considered to be the first performances of modern Indian Theatre.  But Lebedev’s success was short lived as his theatre burned down shortly afterwards.

Lebedev was also involved in several disputes with both the British administration and one of his former employees and was asked to leave India in 1797.  Lebedev returned to London where he set about publishing works on the Indian Languages including A Grammar of the Pure and Mixed Indian East Dialects in 1801.

Lebedev returned to St Petersburg shortly afterwards and was still working there on publications on Indian languages in 1817 when he died at his printing house on 27 July 1817.

Plaque erected in Calcutta in 2009 to mark the location of Lebedev’s theatrePlaque erected in Calcutta in 2009 to mark the location of Lebedev’s theatre. Image taken from Wikimedia. Attribution: By Biswarup Ganguly, CC BY 3.0

In 2009 the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the Cultural Department of the Russian Federation Consulate in Kolkata erected a plaque in Ezra Street, Kolkata to commemorate the site of the pioneering theatre Lebedev had opened there in 1795.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
A Grammar of the Pure and Mixed East Indian Dialects, by Herasim Lebedeff (London, 1801) V4516.  (The introduction pp. i-viii gives a summary by Lebedev of his life up until the publication of this work.)
IOR/O/5/26 List of European Inhabitants in Calcutta, June 1794.

13 August 2019

Fourth ‘Queen’s Own’ Hussars in India

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A small but unusual collection in the India Office Private Papers is a folder of ephemera of the British Army cavalry regiment, the Fourth Queen's Own Hussars.  The items in the folder are mostly related to the Regiment’s time overseas in the 1870s, and gives a fascinating glimpse into activities and entertainments when not on combat duties.

Ephemera collectionMss Eur C610 Noc

Raised in 1685 as Berkeley’s Dragoons as a consequence of the rebellion by the Duke of Monmouth, the Regiment would serve in many notable military actions, including Wellington’s Peninsula Campaign.  Renamed the Fourth Queen's Own Light Dragoons, the Regiment would spend 19 years in India between 1822 and 1841, and see action at the Battle of Ghazni during the First Anglo-Afghan war. 

Group of officers of Fourth Queens Own HussarsOfficers of the 4th (The Queen's Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons, 1855.  Photograph by Roger Fenton (1819-1869), Crimean War, 1855 NAM. 1964-12-151-6-35

The Regiment also served with distinction during the Crimea War, and was part of one of the most famous events in British military history, the charge of the Light Brigade.  The Fourth Light Dragoons were in the second line of the charge on 25 October 1854 against the Russian forces at Balaclava.  Of the 12 officers, 118 men and 118 horses of the Fourth Light Dragoons, 4 officers, 54 men and 80 horses were killed, wounded or missing at the end of the charge.  One of the men of the Regiment, Private Samuel Parkes was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the charge.  The collection of ephemera contains a nominal roll of the officers and men of the Regiment who embarked on 17 July 1854, and Private Parkes is listed on page 7.  Parkes survived the charge and was captured by the Russians, spending a year as a POW. He was awarded his VC in 1857, and left the Regiment in December of that year.

Front cover of nominal roll of Fourth ‘Queen’s Own’ Hussars

Mss Eur C610 Noc

In 1867, the Regiment embarked on its second tour of duty in India.  Some of the most interesting pieces of ephemera in the collection from this period are programmes for ‘Evening Readings’ which the Regiment put on.  The programme for the evening readings for 26 February 1874, included the songs ‘They have laid her in her little bed’ sung by Private Fox and ‘A Life on the Ocean Wave’ sung by Corporal Walmsley.  Private Elliot gave a rendition of the comic song ‘Betsy Waring’. 

Front cover of programme for Evening Readings
Mss Eur C610 Noc

Evening readings programme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another occasion, an ‘Assault of Arms’ was staged displaying athletic prowess (dumb bell exercises, parallel bar) and combat skills (fencing, sword v bayonet, ancient combat), concluding with a boxing melée involving the whole company.

List of events for Assault of armsMss Eur C610 Noc

The Regiment left India on H.M. Indian troop ship Serapis on 6 December 1878 for the voyage back to England.  The collection includes the ship’s menu for Christmas dinner. 

Christmas dinner menuMss Eur C610 Noc

This included a soup course (mock turtle), starter of jugged hare, mutton cutlets or fricassee chicken, main course of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast mutton and red currant jelly, boiled turkey and oyster sauce, or roast goose and apple sauce, and finishing with plum pudding, mince pies and cherry tart.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Printed ephemera of the 4th Light Dragoons in India, including `Nominal Roll of the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Men,' programmes for evening readings and other entertainments, 1869-1878 [Reference: Mss Eur C610]
A Short History of the IV. Queen's Own Hussars, by H. G. Watkin, continued by T. W. Pragnell., (Meerut, 1923) [Reference: 8823.e.46.]
A Short History of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, by Major T. J. Edwards (Canterbury: Gibbs & Sons, 1935) [Reference: 8820.df.30.]
4th Hussar. The story of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, 1685-1958, by David Scott Daniell, etc. [With plates and maps.] (Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1959) [Reference: 8840.bbb.7.]

Exploits of the Queens Own Light Dragoons

 

08 August 2019

Captain Henry Liddell’s recipe for spruce beer

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Entered in the journal of the ship Fame for 1796-1797 is Captain Henry Liddell’s recipe for spruce beer which was believed to ward off scurvy:

Take 2 tablespoons of essence of spruce, add 20 or 21 lbs of molasses or coarse sugar with 20 gallons of boiling water.  When well worked together and frothing, add 1 bottle of porter or wine. Work them all well together, then let them stand until cool, keeping the bung closed for 12-15 hours.  When done working, it will be fit for use.

If the beer was given to the sailors on Liddell’s ship, it was not entirely successful.  On 24 December 1796 there were ‘from four to Six People sick for some time past, complaint is most Scurvey’.


British sailor from mid 19th centuryA British sailor from A collection of 111 Valentines HS.85/2 plate 15 (London, 1845-50?) Images Online Noc


The Fame had been chartered by the East India Company from Calvert and Co for a voyage to Bengal.  The ship was built for the West Indian trade and had recently undergone thorough repairs.  Henry Liddell commanded the ship, assisted by two British officers: John Cundill, first mate, and Giles Creed, second mate.  33 crew members joined the ship on 22 July 1796 – twelve British, twelve Swedish, six German, two Danish and one Spanish. Of these, three died at sea, one drowned, and nineteen deserted. 

The Fame sailed from England in convoy with a fleet of East Indiamen in August 1796.  The French Wars increased the dangers of the voyage and there are many sightings of strange sails noted in the journal.  The ship arrived in Bengal in February 1797.   On 19 March 1797, 32 crew were signed on for the return journey to England via St Helena – nine Swedish, eight Malay, and fifteen Portuguese (two of whom drowned the same day).  A cargo of 4,729 bags of sugar, 434 bags of ginger, 773 cases of indigo, and one case of cochineal was loaded.  Evidence of some plundering by the crew is recorded.  Rum, rice and paddy was delivered to the East India Company personnel at St Helena.   The Fame arrived in the Thames in December 1797.

The ship’s journal is written in more than one hand, with Liddell’s distinctive writing easily to spot.  On 7 November 1797 Captain Liddell composed a note complaining about his officers, particularly ‘everlasting Grumbler’ John Cundill who was ‘of such a Temper that if any thing of violence happens he has brought it on himself by his Capricious ways’.

The Fame made a second voyage for the East India Company in 1798-1799, this time to Bombay under Captain Richard Owen.  Unfortunately there is no journal for this voyage in the Company archives, although there is a copy of a memo by Owen about Company shipping.  He reports that there is very little news from India apart from the expectation of war with Tipu Sultan, with a Company expedition sent from Bombay to take Mangalore. Calvert and Co subsequently sent the Fame on slaving voyages captained by Diedrick Woolbert.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/MAR/B/242A  Journal of the Fame on a voyage to Bengal, Captain Henry Liddell.
IOR/E/1/100 no.155 Copy of memo from Captain Richard Owen to the East India Company’s agent at Deal.
Gary L Sturgess and Ken Cozens, ‘Managing a global enterprise in the eighteenth century: Anthony Calvert of The Crescent, London, 1777-1808’ in Mariner’s Mirror Vol 99 No.2 (May 2013), pp.171-195.

 

06 August 2019

Indian Police exams August 1919

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August being the month of national GCSE and ‘A’-level results, today’s post is about a set of examinations taken exactly a century ago.

After the end of the First World War it was widely recognised that demobilised servicemen needed to be found suitable employment.  In 1919-20 the India Office collaborated with the Civil Service Commission to offer a set number of places in the higher grades of the Indian Police Force to British subjects of good character born between June 1894 and August 1900 who had served in the conflict.

Indian Police group photographPolice group at Dera Ghazi Khan 1924 Photo 348/(29) Images Online Noc

They did not, however, take in simply anyone who applied. The candidates were required to sit five papers in English, arithmetic and general knowledge, over nine hours in total, on 28 and 29 August 1919, and were expressly forbidden from trying to bring any undue influence to bear on the results:

‘Warning. Any attempt on the part of a candidate to enlist support for his application through Members of Parliament or other influential persons will disqualify him for appointment …'.

The English tests included making a 250-word precis of four pages of text, answering questions on extracts from Dickens and Sheridan, and writing an essay on one of the following:

1. Popularity as a test of merit.
2. The value of camouflage in military operations.
3. The advantages and drawbacks of official appointments in India, as compared with Home appointments.
4. An appreciation of President Wilson, or Mr Lloyd George, or M. Clemenceau.

Four out of twelve questions had to be chosen in the two hour general knowledge paper, such as

        How has the war affected the position of women?
        To what extent is the United Kingdom dependent on imported food supplies?
        Discuss the importance of the establishment of a Ministry of Health.
        Compare the constitution and powers of the House of Lords with those of the House of Commons.
        Describe the position and importance of the ex-German colonies.

The (anonymous) examiners marked the papers from A+ to C-.  A total of 70 brave applicants took the examinations, of whom 52 were selected for interview. While the answers submitted have not survived, the leading candidate was undoubtedly J.E. Reid, whose efforts garnered a range of A grades (including the only A+ awarded, for general knowledge), whereas the hapless A.R. Anderson and E.T. Everett could only muster a variety of C’s.  The examiners considered E.I. Wynne-Jones’s essays worthy of only a C+, but he managed A’s and A-‘s in everything else.  Mercifully B.M. Mahony, E. Allenby-Peters and W.N.C. Scott never knew how close they came to passing, their mix of B and B- grades just failing to better the efforts of F.W. Cresswell, R.A. Foucar and R.W. Jewett, who each gained one precious B+.

Little is known of the careers of the successful candidates, but let us hope that Mr. Reid’s opinion of President Wilson, and his knowledge of former German colonies, later helped him to catch lots of criminals in India.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services Team Leader

Further reading:
IOR/L/PJ/6/1631, file 6510

29 July 2019

Choice little dinners for July

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Looking for ideas for summer evening meals?  Help is at hand!  Christina Helen Gwatkin began to compile recipe books during the 1880s when she was the newly-married wife of a Bengal Army officer.  She saved a newspaper cutting detailing ‘bills of fare for choice little dinners on three consecutive nights during July for six people’.

Dinner table laid for a mealImage taken from Isabella Mary Beeton, The Englishwoman’s Cookery Book (London, c.1870) British Library shelfmark 7949.de.26 Images Online Noc

On the first night –
• Clear oxtail soup
• Boiled salmon, sauce tartare, cucumber
• Lamb cutlets with peas
• Roast ducklings
• Cherry tart, cream
• Anchovy toast
• Cream cheese and Gorgonzola, handed with brown biscuits
• Dessert, strawberries and cherries

On the second night –
• Clear gravy soup with peas
• Salmon cutlets with piquant sauce
• Hashed duck
• Roast loin of lamb boned and stuffed, mint sauce, French beans, potatoes, purée of peas
• Fresh strawberry cream
• Apricot fritters
• Cheese fondue
• Watercress sandwiches
• Dessert, strawberries and melon

On the third night (if you still have an appetite for cooking or eating) –
• Giblet soup
• Fillets of sole à la maître d’hotel
• Rissoles of lamb
• Roast chicken with watercress, purée of haricot beans, potatoes, stewed vegetable marrow
• Currant and raspberry tart, whipped cream
• Cheese canapés
• Tomato salad
• Dessert, cherries and apricots

Mrs Gwatkin’s books include a wide variety of recipes, for example curries, chutneys, kofta balls, ragout of rabbit, gruel, a mould of pig’s feet, vinegar cake, gateau of prunes, and claret pudding, as well as cosmetic preparations such as carrot grease for the hair.  She also offers guidance on catering for 20 choir boys, 130 children on a school treat, and teas for Mothers’ Unions, Sunday Schools, and cricket.

Bon Appetit!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F664/1/3 Recipe books and press-cuttings 1883-1889 compiled by Christina Helen Gwatkin, wife of Frederick Stapleton Gwatkin, Bengal Army

 

25 July 2019

Decorating the East India Company's records

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One of my favourite items from the East India Company archives is currently on display in the British Library exhibition Writing: Making Your Mark.  It is a volume of official minutes from the Court of Directors 1657 to 1665, and it is special because a bored or creative clerk has added drawings or decorations to some of the headings to enliven the usual plain format.

This is the entry being shown in the exhibition – is it a hawk?

Page from Court of Directors' Minutes 20 February 1662/63  IOR/B/26 f.296 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 20 February 1662/63 Noc

Here are some other examples of his handiwork, starting with a bird which looks like a cross between a pheasant and a dodo.

Page from Court of Directors' Minutes 8 April 1663 IOR/B/26 f.303 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 8 April 1663 Noc

Page from Court of Directors' Minutes 14 January 1662/63IOR/B/26 f.288v Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 14 January 1662/63 Noc

Page from Court of Directors' Minutes 13 April 1663IOR/B/26 f.305 Minutes of the East India Company Court of Directors 13 April 1663 Noc

It appears that the clerk was told to stop embellishing the minutes as there are letters prepared for decoration but left unfilled.  I haven’t been able to discover the identity of our artist.  Until 1666 East India Company Secretaries employed their own clerks who weren’t on the official payroll and it seems likely our man fell into this category.

The Company Secretary at this time was John Stanyan.  His brother Laurence was employed as his salaried assistant.  The Stanyans faced difficult challenges during their time in office.  In 1665 plague spread through London: Laurence stayed to deal with Company business whilst John was given permission to go the country.  Laurence was rewarded with a gratuity of £50 for remaining in town at a time of ‘great mortality’.  The following year, John helped to organise operations when East India House in Leadenhall Street and Company goods were threatened with destruction during the Great Fire of London.

In December 1666 John Stanyan was dismissed by the East India Company. The directors discovered that he had carried out private trade in prohibited goods, and had advised the Company’s overseas merchants on how to maximise their personal trading profits to the detriment of the Company.  He had also written disparagingly of the Court and its orders.  Laurence Stanyan was sacked in May 1677 for private trading, and for copying letters with confidential information written by his brother.

Settlement of John Stanyan’s affairs took years – he was still negotiating with the Court in 1671.  He secured the post of Principal Registrar of the Consistory Court in Gloucester, presumably through his wife’s father, John Pritchett, who was the Bishop there.  Since the work in Gloucester could be carried out by a deputy, John enjoyed the life of a country gentleman in Harefield Middlesex.

Laurence also prospered, becoming Commissioner of the Revenue, settling in Monken Hadley near Barnet.  His son Abraham became a diplomat and MP.

But I wonder what became of our artistic scribe?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

23 July 2019

Finding Mermanjan – the star of the evening Part 4

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We’ve reached the final instalment in our story of Mermanjan.

Mermanjan, distraught at the sudden loss of her beloved husband, was taken in by a General and his wife who were fervent evangelical Christians.  They persuaded her to be baptised at Poona in December 1861 in the hope that she would meet Thomas in heaven.

Portrait of Mermanjan

Portrait of MermanjanPortraits of Mermanjan, probably by Thomas Maughan - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

On 5 November 1863 Merrmanjan married an Irish Roman Catholic doctor Francis Ronanyne O’Kearney, who was attracted by the ‘comfortable little fortune left to her’ by Thomas.  This was no romantic relationship: ‘she told him plainly that her first husband held all her heart and always would’. During the early years of her second marriage she travelled and visited many of the capitals of Europe, but she found she was suffering from glaucoma and she eventually became totally blind.

My great-grandmother Beatrice became firm friends with Mermanjan after the Dimmocks were posted to Mahableshewar in 1889.  Beatrice wrote of the O’Kearneys: ‘relations were obviously strained, but the ill-sorted couple still lived together.  Little by little she poured her troubles into my ear, and occasionally I had a glimpse of the terrible violence of her anger against her husband, long unfaithful to her and becoming more and more insulting and indifferent to any attempt at disguising his feelings’. 

Beatrice moved to Bombay in 1892. She soon received news that Dr O’Kearney had brought a charge of infidelity against Mermanjan and had  ‘lodged his complaint against her in the High Court of Bombay to obtain separation from her’.   The man named was a blacksmith with whom Mermanjan used to read the Koran, together with her Muslim house staff.  ‘The disgrace and disgust nearly turned her brain’ – she was 68 and the blacksmith only 25, a ‘low born workman!’.   She was confined to her room and followed by her husband and sister-in-law every time she left the house and was worried that she would lose claim to her belongings if she left without her husband’s permission. As she was blind, Mermanjan found a kindly librarian who wrote to Beatrice to ask for her help. 

Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock

Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock concerning Mrs O’Kearney (Mermanjan) 1894 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/15 (Copyright - heirs of the author of the letter)

Mermanjan was grudgingly allowed to travel to Bombay to obtain legal advice with Beatrice’s help.  Eventually the case was settled out of court when O’Kearney realised that he ‘would simply be washing his dirty linen in public with no advantage to himself’.  He even expressed himself ‘willing to forgive and forget etc.’ but Mermanjan said that she did not want to see his face again. O’Kearney returned to Ireland and Mermanjan bought a small house in the hills at Satara.

Then Mermanjan’s health began to fail, and she became ‘querulous and irritable’.  It was not deemed acceptable for a Muslim woman to live apart from her husband so she wrote to O’Kearney forgiving him.  He joined her in Satara, though it was not a happy household.  O’Kearney died in 1911 after catching a cold.  Mermanjan died of heart disease in 1917, aged 84, and was buried by the side of her second husband.

Mermanjan’s treasured relics and papers were left to her friend Beatrice. She handed them down to her daughter Gertrude who pieced together the story: ‘Mermanjan, Star of the Evening,  who may  shine once more and the story of her life may light up those other lives, like the brilliance of an Indian sky at night, uncovering some small piece of the making of what was once an Empire’. 

Felicia Line
Independent researcher

Further reading:
Gertude Dimmock, Mermanjan, Star of the Evening (Hendon Publishing Co. Nelson, 1970) 
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304 Maughan Collection
IOR/N/3/35 f.278 Meermanjan’s baptism at Poona 13 December 1861
IOR/N/3/37 ff.307, 312 Marriage of Mermanjan to Francis O’Kearney at Roman Catholic and Church of England ceremonies, Poona 5 November 1863
IOR/N/3/106 f.329 Burial of Francis O’Kearney
IOR/N/3/117 f.276 Burial of Mermanjan [Her name is generally spelled Meermanjan or Meerman Jan in official records]

Finding Mermanjan Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

16 July 2019

Finding Mermanjan – the star of the evening Part 3

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We continue our story of Mermanjan and Thomas Maughan.

The couple moved to Bombay soon after Thomas was promoted to Major in 1849.  In 1854 he became Lieutenant Colonel.  When the Indian Rebellion or ‘Mutiny’ broke out, Thomas was Political Secretary in Kolhapur.  Thomas recounts how he disagreed with ‘the cruel destruction of (36) wretched creatures shot in cold blood, many of the aged men on the verge of the grave… Our troops had not been fired at, and there was no necessity, in truth no excuse for the butchery’.  As a result of Thomas’s disagreements with his superiors, which had taken a toll on his health,  he was ‘turned out’ of his appointment and granted 15 months furlough (leave) in England.

Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858

Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858 Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/11

Mermanjan and Thomas had been living together bound by the Muslim ‘Nikkah’ ceremony and they were both convinced of the validity of their union.  However 'gossip was busy’ and Thomas realised that their unique union was viewed with suspicion by his British friends: it would ‘injure his reputation and hers if they were not made man and wife in the eyes of his world’.  Perhaps prompted by the imminent visit to England, they were married on 19 January 1858 by the registrar for Bombay at his home. 

For a while they lived in London, where Thomas had relations. Mermanjan was ‘shy and retiring by nature, but of great spirit’, and she was greatly celebrated and made a few good English friends, including Thomas’s niece Eliza with whom she corresponded. Thomas appears to have composed the ‘Nina waltz’ for his wife, using his pet name for his wife. 
 

Music in Mermanjan’s possession, Nina’s Waltz possibly by Thomas MaughanMusic in Mermanjan’s possession, Nina’s Waltz by Thomas Maughan? (name of composer has been torn away) - India Office Private Papers  Mss Eur E304 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan?)

By September 1858 they had moved to a country house, Wrotham Place in Kent. Mermanjan must have caused a stir amongst the locals who would have thought her an exotic visitor to the village. Thomas and Mermanjan were invited by Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort to stay at Windsor Castle.  Mermanjan was well received at court and ‘bore herself well’.

Sketch of Victorian women Sketch of Victorian women

Sketches of Victorian women - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

By 1860 Mermanjan and Thomas were back in Poona. They found many changes. The East India Company had been wound up in the wake of the Rebellion and its armies had been absorbed into Her Majesty’s Army.  Thomas was ‘fretting at continued unemployment’ and his health ‘was not good’.

On 3 July 1861, aged only 55, Thomas ‘died very suddenly, after taking a dose of medicine wrongly made up by the native apothecary’.  The prescription was later described as being a ‘lethal dose’, which ‘no reputable chemist would make up … without reference to the doctor who made it’.

Mermanjan was left alone in India grieving for Thomas, a widow at the age of 28 estranged from her family. None of the papers mentions any children, but some baby clothes and shoes were found among her possessions which suggests that maybe Mermanjan lost a child too. 

Mermanjan’s tragedy and hardships did not end there – Part 4 will take us to the end of her fascinating life.

Felicia Line
Independent researcher

Further reading:
Gertude Dimmock, Mermanjan, Star of the Evening (Hendon Publishing Co. Nelson, 1970) 
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304 Maughan Collection
Finding Mermanjan Part 1, Part 2, Part 4
IOR/N/11/1 f.412 Marriage of Thomas Maughan and Mermanjan at Bombay 19 January 1858 [her name is generally spelled Meermanjan or Meerman Jan in official records]