Untold lives blog

59 posts categorized "Writing"

21 April 2022

The Archive of the Hakluyt Society

The Hakluyt Society is a subscription organisation whose aim is to advance scholarship by producing scholarly and academic editions relating to historic voyages, travels, and works of geographical interest, from both printed and manuscript sources.  The Society was founded in 1846 and is named in honour of Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616), the Elizabethan collector, writer, and editor of geographical literature who is particularly remembered for works relating to the exploration of North America.  Originally the Hakluyt Society published works relating to travel before 1700, but over the years the Society has expanded its scope beyond that date and extended its work to conferences, lectures, and the award of grants and prizes.

Four volumes of leather-bound Council Minutes after conservationMss Eur F594/1/3-4: Hakluyt Society Council Minutes, 1965-1987. These minutes have been conserved and rebound with the financial assistance of the Hakluyt Society. Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

We are pleased to announce that the archive of the Hakluyt Society is now catalogued as part of the India Office Private Papers and available to researchers.  Descriptions can be found via the British Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue, and researchers can consult material in our Asian and African Studies Reading Room.  The Hakluyt Society has had many links with the India Office and its predecessor the East India Company over the years.  Its Presidents Sir Henry Yule, Sir William Foster and Sir Gilbert Laithwaite all served at the India Office, Foster being one of the Hakluyt Society’s longest serving Officers as President from 1928-1945, and Vice-President from 1945-1951.  The Society has also had long-term connections with the Map Room and the Department of Printed Books first at the British Museum and subsequently at the British Library.  Hakluyt Presidents with British Library connections include Edward Lynam, Charles F. Beckingham and Sarah Tyacke.

Hakluyt Society Presidents -Sir Henry Yule, Sir William Foster and Sir Gilbert LaithwaiteImages © National Portrait Gallery, London – from left to right: Sir Henry Yule by Theodore Blake Wirgman (1881) NPG D23052; Sir William Foster by Bassano Ltd (1929) NPG x81132; Sir (John) Gilbert Laithwaite by Howard Coster (1927) NPG Ax2276 National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

The archive contains papers relating to the running of the Society, including signed Council Minutes, Committee papers, administrative records and financial papers, and correspondence and other papers generated by the work of the Society's various Honorary Secretaries.  These include Raleigh A. Skelton - known as Peter (who worked in the Department of Printed Books and then the Map Room at the British Library), the geographer Eila Campbell (Birkbeck College, University of London), and the geographer Terence E. Armstrong (Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University).

The bulk of the archive relates to the Hakluyt Society's activities in the 20th century, and particularly in the period after the Second World War.  Some 19th century materials do survive, including the Society's Record Book from 1846, Council minutes from its first meeting in 1847, printed Annual Reports from 1849, and some correspondence with contributors from the 1890s.  A significant amount of the later material relates to proposals for volumes (not always completed or published) together with correspondence with the Society's contributors.  These include significant publications for the Society, such as The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery… (Cambridge: Published for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press, 1955-1974).  Other material relates to the relationship between the Hakluyt Society its publishers and distributors.  There is only limited material relating to individual members of the Society, and these include published membership lists, and subscription accounts.  The Hakluyt Society archive also contains some manuscript and original material collected by or deposited with the Society.

Lesley Shapland,
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Mss Eur F594 Archive of the Hakluyt Society
The History of the Hakluyt Society by Raymond John Howgego

 

30 March 2022

The travel writer Mary Ann Parker

Mary Ann Parker's A voyage round the world in the Gorgon man of war (1795) was the first travel memoir, by a European woman, of her voyage and visit to New South Wales.  Beyond this memoir, and grant applications made to the Literary Fund, Mary Ann Parker's origins, family, and later biography remained obscure.  Here, I historically identify Mary Ann Parker's father as the Georgian medical practitioner, John Burrows.

Black and white view of Sydney with boats in the bay and buildings along the shore.Fernando Brambila, View of Sydney (1793) British Library Online Gallery Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Burrows was a London apothecary’s son who identified himself at different times as a ‘surgeon’, a ‘doctor of physick’, and an MD.  A medical adviser who was sometimes favoured by wealthy patients and patrons; who travelled and worked as a doctor in other European countries; who translated, wrote, and published medical books; who obtained a patent in 1772 for Velnos vegetable syrup, from the sales of which another man later succeeded in making a fortune; and who was described as a ‘druggist’ when he was declared bankrupt in August 1783, a few months after his daughter Mary Ann Burrows married a Royal Navy officer, John Parker, in London.

Title page of A voyage round the world by Mary Ann ParkerMary Ann Parker,  A voyage round the world in the Gorgon man of war (1795) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Mary Ann Parker completed the fifteen month return voyage to New South Wales with her husband, Captain John Parker, of HMS Gorgon, in 1791-2.  She had previously travelled with her parents, in Europe, in 1775-82.  Living in Spain and Italy, and travelling home through France.

In September 1782, Amelia Barry, who was stranded in Pisa, entrusted ‘Dr Burrows’ to carry a letter to Benjamin Franklin in Paris. Observing that

Docr. Burrows, the Gentleman who will have the honour to present you this letter, is one of the few friends to whom I am under infinite obligations.   During his residence in Tuscany, I have found united in his Person, the character of a skilful Phisician, and a most sincere Friend: To my lasting regret, he is going with his family, to England.

By the time Amelia Barry next wrote to Franklin in February, ‘Miss Burrows’ was married to John Parker, at a wedding on Monday 29 January 1783, in her home parish of St James Piccadilly in London.

John Parker obtained promotion to Lieutenant from February 1783.  It was Lieutenant John Parker who purchased insurance for the Burrows' new London home on James Street, Golden Square, and was probably the leaseholder.  Within a few months of being declared bankrupt, Burrows obtained his certificate, and recommenced trading. He was listed in London directories up to the mid 1790s.

A quack doctor stands outside his house surrounded by a pyramid of bottles inscribed 'Velnos Syrup', one of which he holds up, demonstrating its virtues with a complacent smile to a band of rival practitioners who are furiously threatening his barricade.Thomas Rowlandson, Mercury and his advocates defeated, or vegetable intrenchment (1789). The pyramid of bottles is inscribed 'Velnos Syrup'. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Captain John Parker, by then of HMS Woolwich, died of yellow fever in Martinique in 1794.  His widow did not marry again. In 1818, the Parkers' eldest daughter, Margaret, married Robert Vincent, a solicitor.  In 1841, the census enumerator found ‘Mary Parker’, aged ‘70’, at home on Harpur Street, Holborn in London with her two granddaughters, aged 15 and 20.  All three were described as independent, not as employed or in school.

By 30 August 1848, the Vincent family had moved to Connaught Terrace, where Mary Ann Parker died, aged 82.  Mary Ann Parker’s death notice appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine, edited by John Bowyer Nichols, whose father, John Nichols, had printed and appreciatively reviewed A voyage round the world in the Gorgon man of war (1795).

Dr Charlotte MacKenzie
Independent Researcher
@HistoryCornwall

Further reading:
Marie E. McAllister ‘John Burrows and the vegetable wars’, Linda Evi Merians (ed) The secret malady: venereal diseases in eighteenth century Britain and France (1996), pp. 85-102.
Charlotte MacKenzie, The travel writer Mary Ann Parker (2022).

28 March 2022

Those who Lust and those who Lack: Tyranny and Passivity in Early Modern English writing on the Ottomans

In A Voyage into the Levant (1636), Henry Blount creates a number of stereotyped images of Turkish people he encountered during his travels through the Ottoman Empire by stating that they were ‘addict[ed] to sodomy’ (Tiryakioglu, 2015, p. 134).  Blount, according to Rosli and Omar (2017), travelled to the Levant and stayed there for 52 days.  He then made a five-day stop in Constantinople before making his way to Egypt.  Blount even goes as far as to circulate false information about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  He claims that the Prophet himself thought those who followed his teachings were ‘rude and sensual’ (Blount, 1636, p. 121) and that he wished to trick them into believing in the false paradise for which they were fighting (for example, when the Ottomans invaded the Levant in 1516): ‘Mahomet [...] made not his Paradise to conflict in Visions, and Hallelujahs; but in delicious fare, pleasant Gardens, and Wenches with great eyes [...] he promises that their Souls shall suddenly have given them young lusty bodies, and set in Paradise, eternally to enjoy those pleasures [...]’ (p.122).

Castles Sultaniye and Kilitbahir on the European and Asiatic shores of the DardanellesThe castles Sultaniye and Kilitbahir on the European and Asiatic shores of the Dardanelles from Henry Blount, Zee- en Land-Voyagie Van den Ridder Hendrik Blunt, Na de Levant. Gedaan in het Jaar 1634 (1707) via Wikimedia Commons

Thus, it appears that Blount was attempting to demonise the Ottomans in the minds of his reader due to English anxieties about increased Anglo-Ottoman trade at the start of the 17th century (Ágoston, 2013; Erkoç, 2016).  This attempt to demonise the Ottomans as self-indulgent and barbaric also recurs in The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painfull Peregrinations (1632) by William Lithgow.  Lithgow recounts what he witnessed of the Ottoman slave trade whilst visiting a market in Constantinople and, as a result of his experiences, warns his reader that Turkish people are ‘extremely inclined to all sorts of lascivious luxury ... besides all their sensual and incestuous lusts, unto sodomy, which they account as a dainty to digest [with] all their other libidinous pleasures’ (Lithgow, 1632, p.105).

The stereotyped cultural Ottoman figure that features in Blount’s and Lithgow’s writing also affected early modern dramatic portrayals of Ottomans as violent, lustful, and, politically corrupt.  The theatrical Turkish type may have generally encouraged early modern resurgences of crusading rhetoric, whereby the First Crusade in 1095 was seen as a means to relieve the Orient from what European Christians perceived as barbarism.  However, the endorsement of English crusading rhetoric against Ottomans in early modern writing are a point of contention for Roger Boyle in his play, The Tragedy of Mustapha (1665).  Boyle depicts his Sultan Solyman’s killing of Mustapha, not as being driven by violent impulse but instead, as being driven by the Sultan’s fear that his throne—and therefore, the safety of his subjects—is at risk of being disrupted by Mustapha.  Mustapha is also humanised by Boyle because, in submitting to his death sentence without retaliation, Mustapha fulfils his political duty to his father.  Thus, Boyle represents the disastrous consequences that occur (in the form of Mustapha’s death) when a ruler forces their actions to align with, or to conform to, the expectations of the stereotyped violent Ottoman.

Aisha Hussain
Doctoral researcher at the School of English, University of Salford

Further reading:
Ágoston, G. (2013). ‘War-Winning Weapons? On the Decisiveness of Ottoman Firearms from the Siege of Constantinople (1453) to the Battle of Mohács (1526)’. Journal of Turkish Studies, 39 (1), pp.129-143.
Blount, H. (1636). A Voyage into the Levant. London: Andrew Crooke.
Erkoç, S. (2016). ‘Dealing with Tyranny: Fulke Greville's Mustapha in the Context of His Other Writings and of His View on Anglo-Ottoman Relations’. The Journal of Ottoman Studies, 47(1), pp.265-90.
Boyle, R. (1665). The Tragedy of Mustapha, the son of Solyman the Magnificent. In: The Dramatic Works of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery: Volume One, ed. by William Smith Clark II. (1937). Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Lithgow, W. (1632). The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painefull Peregrinations of Long Nineteene Yeares Travailes from Scotland to the Most Famous Kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Affrica.
Rosli, U.N.B.M., (2017). ‘References of Sexuality in Relation to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in 17th-19th Century Selected French and English Orientalist Travelogues’. Arab World English Journal, 1(4), pp.68-82.
Tiryakioglu, N. O. (2015). The Western image of Turks from the Middle Ages to the 21st century: the myth of 'terrible Turk' and 'lustful Turk’. Published Doctoral Dissertation, Nottingham Trent University.

This blog post is part of a collaborative series with Medieval and Early Modern Orients (MEMOs).  On the last Monday of every month, both Untold Lives and MEMOs' own blog will feature a post written by a member of the MEMOs team, showcasing their research in the British Library collections.  Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BLMEMOS.

 

02 March 2022

Letters of James Jackson of the Royal Navy – Part 2

A recent post on this blog introduced James Jackson, Royal Navy seaman, whose letters to his family in England have been acquired by the India Office Private Papers.  We left James aboard the HMS Suffolk sailing to India.

On 30 September 1794, James wrote from Madras Roads.  He says that they had a ‘tolerable pleasant voyage of 4 months and 9 days…but the monsoons or winter months are now very near coming on – we yesterday was drove from our anchor to sea in violent weather but are here again all well’.  Of India he says: ‘I find this country very hot but I think it pleasanter than Europe’, although he is unimpressed by the lack of good meat: ‘the beef is not bigger than your small calves of a twelvemonths growth, the sheep are also very diminutive and pigs like rats – all skin and bone’.

Letter written by James Jackson from Madras Roads. 30 September 1794

Letter written by James Jackson from Madras Roads. 30 September 1794 - Mss Eur F756 f.8Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

His sixth letter is dated 20 August 1795 and gives news of the British invasion of Ceylon.  He says they have been laying siege to Trincomalee for three weeks, ‘I cannot say how long they may hold it out with us – but we are determined to be victorious – it is the most valuable island the Dutch have in this country and nearly as large as England’.  The British were stopping all vessels that came to Ceylon so that the Dutch could get no supplies: ‘there is a strange vessel in sight of us now and I am going in our boat to board her’.  He also reports on the sinking of the British ship HMS Diomede, ‘but by the endeavours of all people on board the other ships here at that time – her men was saved but the loss was great happening at this critical time’.  He mentions that his brother William was well when last he heard in July, but he does not expect to see him on this voyage.

Letter written by James Jackson 19 March 1796 on board the Suffolk in the East IndiesLetter written by James Jackson 19 March 1796 on board the Suffolk in the East Indies - Mss Eur F756 f.14 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


James’s last letter is dated 19 March 1796, on board the Suffolk in the East Indies.  He describes the British attacks on Amboyna (‘this island was full of cloves and other spices and their warehouses were all full’) and Banda (‘the nutmegs on this island alone are valued at two hundred thousand pounds sterling’) in the Dutch-held Molucca islands.  He expected the British ships to sail for Europe about Christmas, but the war had taken its toll: ‘we have not much above half our compliment of men, we have buried a great many indeed’, and he was worried about the lack of fresh provisions ‘as we are all upon very short allowance of victuals - what we have is badly salted - the country is very hot and unhealthy for Europeans in this part which is near the Pacific Ocean’.  However, he is hopeful ‘if our Agents for our prize money do us the least justice in nature we shall be pretty well and decently paid for our troubles’.  James concludes his letter by looking forward to meeting his family again in England.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers of the Jackson Family, 1784-1843, British Library shelfmark: Mss Eur F756.
HMS Suffolk 

28 February 2022

John Sanderson’s horrible housemates

The Levant Company clerk John Sanderson had arrived in Istanbul on 12 March 1592.  However, something had changed in the behaviours and manners of the English residents since his first being there.  Sanderson wrote that there had been a ‘great alteration; frome serving God devoutly and drinking puer water, nowe to badness stoutly and much wine (the witts hater).’  In Sanderson’s absence the embassy had been taken over by Edward Barton and Sanderson now had to decide whether to move in with him.  Despite his reservations, the benefits – and probably also savings– were too great to forego Barton’s offer.

Sanderson_title pageTitle page of John Sanderson's commonplace book British Library Lansdowne MS 241 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Born in 1560 John Sanderson is a rare example of an early modern man of trade who wrote a record of his life.  His miscellaneous commonplace book is held in the British Library manuscript collection (BL Lansdowne MS 241).  His short ‘autobiography’, entitled by its author ‘a record of the birthe and fortunes of John Sanderson, alias Bedic’, noted down not only Sanderson’s illnesses, fortunes and misfortunes, but also and very keenly, his many judgments (‘censures’) about other people.  And there were loads of them.

Reading Sanderson’s account, anyone who has ever been stuck in a riotous house-share with horrible house-mates will soon start to feel sympathy.  Sanderson claims that the ambassador Barton ‘vexed me to my very soule,’ although his foremost adversary seems to have been William Aldrich, who Sanderson claims to have ‘stealingly’ struck him.  After Sanderson struck him back the ambassador Barton himself ‘laid his fists one my face for so doinge, and confined me to my chamber.’  After all these fisticuffs Barton sent a stern letter to Sanderson’s room, threatening to deport him back home to England.  After the altercation Aldrich refused to dine in the same table with Sanderson and complained that he ‘outlooked him'.  Ill-will continued for some time, although the ambassador eventually tried to make amends by gifting Sanderson ‘a redd velvett goune wch the Gran Sigr had vested him with before he kiste his hand'.  Additional proof of this reconciliation was that Sanderson later acted as the ambassador’s deputy when Barton famously, and somewhat notoriously, accompanied the Ottoman sultan Mehmet III to his wars in Hungary.  However, the scuffles continued between Sanderson, Aldrich, and the steward of the house.

Based on his writings, Sanderson was a keen observer of the faults of other people.  He listed all the names or sometimes the initials of his ‘frenemies’, saying that ‘many other agreevances and discontents passed whilst I was ther, in comp of Bushell, Aldrich, Mons, Wragg, Rivers, Babington’...  The animosities between Sanderson and the two Aldrich brothers, William and Jonas, were explained by the different ‘conditions and qualities’ of the men, whereas the differences between Sanderson and Barton were probably due to breaching social hierarchies and trying to police Barton’s behaviour too much (possibly due to toxic masculine bravado).  Sanderson gave all these men derogatory nicknames ranging from ‘wicked athiesticall knave’ to ‘poysoner’ and ‘whoremonger’ and continued to record their deaths with no small amount of glee.

The selected texts from this old ledger volume bought by Sanderson’s father were edited by William Foster, the then president of the Hakluyt Society and published in 1931.  You can find this fascinating manuscript as part of the Lansdowne collection.

Dr Eva Johanna Holmberg
Academy Research Fellow, Department of Philosophy, History, and Art Studies, University of Helsinki
(eva.holmberg@helsinki.fi)


Further reading:
British Library Lansdowne MS 241.
The Travels of John Sanderson in the Levant 1584-1602. Ed. by William Foster. Hakluyt Society 2nd Series ; No 67. London: Hakluyt Society, 1931.
Eva Johanna Holmberg, ‘‘Passages recollected by memory’: Remembering the Levant Company in seventeenth-century merchants’ life writing’, in Trading Companies and Travel Knowledge in the Early Modern World. Routledge, 2021. p. 211-239 (Hakluyt Society Studies in the History of Travel; Vol. 1).

This blog post is the second in a collaborative series with Medieval and Early Modern Orients (MEMOs).  On the last Monday of every month, both Untold Lives and MEMOs' own blog will feature a post written by a member of the MEMOs team, showcasing their research in the British Library collections.  Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BLMEMOS.

24 February 2022

Letters of James Jackson of the Royal Navy – Part 1

An interesting new addition to the India Office Private Papers gives a glimpse into the life of a seaman in the British Royal Navy in the late 18th century.  Little is known about James Jackson other than he was serving aboard HMS Suffolk from 1793 to 1796.  His letters were sent home to his ‘brother and sister’ who were living in Enfield, England at that time.

The first three letters were written at Spithead on 18 November 1793, 5 January 1794 and 19 April 1794 where the Suffolk was being refitted in preparation for sailing with the next fleet to India.  In his first letter he apologises for not writing sooner ‘but was prevented from fulfilling it by our ship’s being unexpectedly ordered to sea’.  He mentions mutual friends, and says ‘I think Brother John Clarkson has met his fate poor fellow in the watery Element as well as Robert or you would have heard some tidings of him before this’.

Letter written by James Jackson from Spithead 18 November 1793Letter written by James Jackson from Spithead 18 November 1793 - Mss Eur F756 f.1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In these letters he enquires anxiously after the health of his sister who he had heard was ill, and reports a rumour that he had heard from an officer who he is friendly with that they will be continuing on to the East Indies, and that they will be attacking islands belonging to the French.  James believes that they will not be returning to England for about two years.  He mentions that if he gets the opportunity he will try to contact their brother William who is in India.  The collection does also include three letters from William Jackson in Calcutta.  He thanks them for paying the postage on their reply to his previous letter as ‘otherwise I could not redeem it at present we have not been paid as it is customary to be the last thing before we sail altho’ we are now quite ready for sea waiting for it’.

Letter written by James Jackson from Spithead 5 January 1794Letter written by James Jackson from Spithead 5 January 1794 - Mss Eur F756 f.3 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

In his third letter, on the eve of sailing he wrote: ‘it is a pleasing satisfaction to me to be able to inform you that I leave this country without the least regret and in good health which I hope will be continued till my return both on my part and yours’.  He promises to write whenever he can but warns that it may be eighteen months or longer before they hear from him again.  In May 1794, the Suffolk under the command of Captain Peter Rainier led a convoy of merchant ships to Madras.  During the voyage, James was able to send off a letter home, via the East Indiaman Earl of Wycombe to St Helena, dated 6 June 1794 ‘at sea’: ‘I have this first opportunity embraced to forward you this letter according to your request as also to acquaint you that I am very well.  I might say never better only very warm for we are at this time nearly under the sun….we shall touch at Rio Janario in South America’.  He concludes ‘I wish you well but the boat is waiting alongside so adieu’. We will catch up with James in a forthcoming post.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers of the Jackson Family, 1784-1843, British Library shelfmark: Mss Eur F756.
HMS Suffolk

 

15 February 2022

Leendert Hasenbosch’s diary: the story of a gay soldier marooned on a desert island

Leendert Hasenbosch, a Dutch East India Company soldier, was marooned on Ascension Island as punishment for sodomy in 1725.  Abandoned on an uninhabited island, he kept a diary of his days as a castaway and his struggle for survival.

Views of Ascension Island circa 1596

Views of Ascension Island circa 1596 Wikimedia Commons

This diary was later recovered and published as Sodomy Punish’d: Being a True and Exact Relation of what befell to one Leondert Hussenlosch (London, 1726), surviving in a single copy in the British Library.  It is a rare first-hand account of the lived-experience and hardships of a gay man at a time when sexual relationships between men were punishable by death.

Title page of  Sodomy Punish'dSodomy Punish’d, London: 1726, British Library RB.23.a.6682

Leendert Hasenbosch spent his first month on the island searching for water and praying for rescue.  Lonely, he wrote in his diary and tried to keep a bird as a pet but it died.

May 5: '…They put on shore with me a cask of water, two buckets an old frying pan &c.  I made a tent on the beech'.
May 8: '…I trust God Almighty will deliver me by some ship that may touch here'.
May 11: 'I sat down very discontented, being almost dead with thirst'.
May 12: 'This afternoon put some onions, pease and calavances into the ground near my tent to try if they would grow'.

In June, Hasenbosch experienced hallucinations and his situation got increasingly desperate.  He linked these visions to his guilty conscience and prayed for 'forgiveness for [his] sins'.  He was haunted by 'devilish spirits', including one with 'the resemblance of a man [he] had been well acquainted with, whose name [he is] afraid to mention; he staid with [him] for some time'.

By August, Hasenbosch’s water supply had dried up and he was beginning to starve.  He’d failed to catch any of the goats on the island and rats had eaten his crops.  His entries became shorter and preoccupied:
August 8 to 10: 'Nothing particular. No rain'.
August 12 to 16: 'Still no rain'.
August 17: 'No rain falling. I am in the most deplorable condition…'

He resorted to desperate measures:
August 22: 'This morning I caught a large turtle, and drank near a quart of her blood, and took some eggs and fat…I drank my own urine'.

Hasenbosch survived for just over another month on eggs, turtle meat, blood and urine:
October 7: 'I was again oblig’d to drink my own urine; I likewise eat raw flesh'.
From October 9 to 14: 'I liv’d as before'.

His published diary ends here.

Entry from the journal of the East India Company ship Compton describing the discovery of Hasenbosch’s campEntry for 20 January 1725/26 from the journal of the East India Company ship Compton – British Library IOR/L/MAR/B/666A

In January 1726, the East India Company ship Compton discovered Hasenbosch’s camp – a tent, bedding, and items including a kettle and tea, pipes, a hatchet and nails, and his diary up to November.  The Compton’s men searched in vain for the man or his body.  They did not believe that he had left the island because ‘his Paper and a great many Necessarys’ had been left in the tent.

Tragically, there are two fresh water sources on Ascension Island but Hasenbosch didn’t find either.  His diary was brought back in the Compton to England where it was published.  Other editions followed, some more homophobic than others.  His identity was only determined centuries later.

As the sailors didn’t find a skeleton in Leendert Hasenbosch’s camp, there is a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, he was rescued by a passing ship and survived.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Read Leendert Hasenbosch’s diary in full
Journal of the East India Company ship Compton – British Library IOR/L/MAR/B/666A

 

14 February 2022

PhD placement opportunity: John Evelyn correspondence

We are now accepting applications for an exciting new PhD Placement opportunity, John Evelyn’s miscellaneous correspondence: making connections. This placement within the Modern Archives and Manuscripts (1600-1950) section is one of 15 placements currently being offered by the British Library, to be completed over three months full time or six months part time between June 2022 and March 2023.

The papers of John Evelyn (1620-1706) and his family are one of the library’s great archive collections. Evelyn, like his friend Samuel Pepys, is best known for his diary, and is regarded as one of the great chroniclers of the seventeenth century. An important figure in the British hub of the republic of letters, he corresponded and wrote widely on scientific, cultural and political issues. Evelyn’s correspondence provides much needed context and flavour to his diaries, and is an invaluable resource for seventeenth century studies.

Portrait of John Evelyn

Portrait of John Evelyn

Following the acquisition of the papers in 1995, extensive arrangement and cataloguing work took place, with the bulk of Evelyn’s incoming letters grouped and arranged alphabetically by correspondent. However, five volumes of ‘single letters or small groups’ were arranged chronologically and have not been fully catalogued and indexed.

The placement student will work to catalogue these five volumes of letters, which cover the period 1637-1705. Initial scoping has revealed letters from the architect Christopher Wren, sculptor Grinling Gibbons, and antiquarian Ralph Thoresby, as well as less well-known correspondents on topics of business, family matters and Evelyn’s Grand Tour of Europe. In addition to letters from correspondents in Amsterdam, Paris and Florence, there appear to be numerous letters relating to Evelyn’s local parish at Wotton in Surrey, representing a broad cross section of society; letters seeking patronage are found alongside petitions from local parishioners.

As an additional task, the student will be asked to select one aspect of the letters – it could be a correspondent, a particular place, event or theme – and explore links and connections on this aspect through the wider Evelyn papers.

Letter from Jane Newton

Add MS 78315, f 2r. Letter from Jane Newton.

The successful candidate will receive an introduction to the work of the Library and the Modern Archives and Manuscripts section, and training will be provided in object handling, archival cataloguing standards and their application in the library’s in-house cataloguing system, IAMS. They will also have the chance to take part in other training events and talks, including Digital Scholarship training sessions and reading group discussions.

Information on eligibility and funding can be found on the placement scheme pages. The deadline for applications is 25 February 2022 (5pm).

We look forward to seeing your applications!

The Modern Archives and Manuscripts Team

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