Untold lives blog

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75 posts categorized "Writing"

29 October 2023

Clement Mansfield Ingleby of Valentines

Clement Mansfield Ingleby was born in Edgbaston (Birmingham) on 29 October 1823.  He is remembered as a Shakespearean scholar, but his interests included metaphysics, mathematics and philosophy as well as literature.



Portrait drawing of Clement Mansfield IngelbyPortrait of Clement Mansfield Ingleby ‘from a recent photograph’ in Edgbastonia, Vol.III, No.25, May 1883.


Ingleby suffered from ill health throughout his life and was privately educated, but in 1843 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge.,  He graduated BA in 1847, later receiving the degrees of MA (1850) and LLD (1859).  Against his own inclination, he worked in the family firm as a solicitor until his father died in 1859.

On 3 October 1850 Ingleby married Sarah Oakes, and around 1860 they moved with their four children to live with Sarah’s uncle at Valentines in Ilford, Essex, her home as a teenager.  Ingleby provided for his family by writing – his work in the British Library catalogue comprises 18 books in 29 editions, including 12 on Shakespeare with an edition of Cymbeline with notes for schools.  He analysed Shakespeare’s use of words rather than writing a commentary on the meaning of his text, saying ‘The textual critic who discharges his true function is as one who, bearing torch or lantern, attempts to find his way through dark and devious lanes’.

In the 1850s Ingleby taught Metaphysics and Logic in the Industrial Department of the Birmingham and Midland Institute, and the British Library holds four books on these subjects. He also wrote many essays and contributed to publications like Notes & Queries. Apart from Shakespearean topics, his articles ranged from ‘The Principles of Acoustics and the Theory of Sound’ to ‘Miracles versus Nature’.  Ingleby also composed poetry, both serious and amusing, some of which was published in periodicals.  After his death, his verses were collected together and printed for private circulation.  This volume has now been reprinted.

At the Annual Meeting of Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust at Stratford-upon-Avon on 5 May 1875, the Trustees unanimously agreed to elect Dr Ingleby one of the Life Trustees.  He was also elected a Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature, an honorary member of the Shakespeare Society of New York, and an honorary member of the German Shakespeare Society of Weimar.

In 1877 and 1881 he published the two volumes of his work Shakespeare – The Man and the Book.  This was a compilation of his writings gathered from a number of sources, some published in magazines, some previously unpublished.  In the introduction Ingleby says ‘It is useful to get one’s scattered papers together… the collection includes such of my smaller writings as I have deemed worthy of preservation’.



Title page and frontispiece of Shakespeare's Bones, showing a picture of the playwright on his death bedShakespeare’s Bones (1883)

One of Dr Ingleby’s later books, Shakespeare’s Bones (1883) was a proposal to disinter the skull so that it could be considered in relation to its possible bearing on Shakespeare’s portraiture.  The proposal was attacked in the press and firmly rejected by the town council, but it shows that he was a man who wanted facts, and his logical mind is evident in much that he wrote.

Ingleby was well liked in the Ilford area and had a particular fondness for children and animals, taking an interest in the fight against vivisection.  He suffered a serious rheumatic attack in August 1886 and, although he seemed to recover, died on 26 September.  His obituary in Shakespeariana said: ‘he died – honoured and mourned by all who knew him best and longest. . . . he probably never made an enemy and never lost a friend’.

CC-BY
Georgina Green
Independent researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Edgbastonia, Vol.III, No.25, May 1883
Shakespeariana, Vol.III 1886
Memoir of his father by Holcombe Ingleby in Poems and Epigrams (Trübner & Co, London, 1887) - Original in London Library, now available as a facsimile reprint.
Family papers donated to Redbridge Museum & Heritage Centre
History of Valentines Mansion 

 

05 October 2023

What about the East India Company Women? Emma Roberts and East India Voyagers

In 1827 Emma Roberts published her first book Memoirs of the Rival Houses of York and Lancaster.  The following year she sailed to India in 1828 on board the ship Sir David Scott with her sister Laura who was married to Captain Robert Adair McNaghten of the Bengal Infantry.  The arrival in Calcutta of this ‘celebrated writer’ was announced in the local press.  India became a major focus of Emma’s writing from this point in her life.

East Indiaman Sir David Scott  at the entrance of the Straights of Sunda. February 1830East Indiaman Sir David Scott  at the entrance of the Straights of Sunda. February 1830, by E. Duncan, handcoloured aquatint published by W. J. Huggins, London, 1833 via Wikimedia

Emma published a book of poetry entitled Oriental Scenes, and edited and composed articles for the Oriental Observer in Calcutta.  Laura died in October 1830, and in 1832 Emma returned to London where she wrote on a wide variety of topics.  But in 1839 she travelled to India taking the overland route via France and Egypt.  She arrived in Bombay in November and quickly became very busy with writing, editing, and a project to provide work for India women.  Sadly she fell ill in April 1840 and moved to Poona hoping to aid her recovery, but died there in September.  Emma was buried on 17 September as a spinster, ‘years unknown’.

Burial register entry at Poona for Emma Roberts 17 September 1840Burial entry for Emma Roberts at Poona 17 September 1840 IOR/N/3/14 p.480

Emma’s book The East India Voyager, or ten minutes’ advice to the outward bound was published in 1839.  There were chapters on: Choice of Cabin; Ladies’ Outfit; Desultory Remarks; Domestic Economy, Diet, Clothing ; The Civil Service; Cadets; The Medical Service; Desultory Remarks upon the Office Of Chaplain; The Overland Journey; Journey from London to Bombay; Expenditure on Journey to Bombay.

The choice of cabin was not so important for young men on the ship as they spent the greater part of their time on deck.  But they were advised to secure at least part of a cabin, however economical they were trying to be, since a berth in steerage was particularly disagreeable.

Ladies, married or single, should opt for upper, or poop, cabins which were light and airy.  The ports seldom had to be shut even in the roughest weather.  The cuddy, where meals were served, was only a few steps away, so there was no need to go out on deck, avoiding the annoyance of a rolling vessel and the risk of meeting crew members.  The disadvantages of the upper cabins was the noise overhead – sailors trampling, ropes dragging, blocks falling, the banging of the hen coops, and the cackling of poultry.  But Emma thought this was good preparation for life in India, and ladies could stop their ears with cotton.

The cabin floor needed to be covered with carpet or mats, and a small rug was useful to put under the feet when eating in the cuddy where the boards were very cold.  The ship’s carpenter could be asked to put up swinging shelves and a piece of board with holes of different sizes for wine glasses, tea cups and tumblers.  Soap was useful as a gift for crew members doing odd jobs, as was brandy because many sailors did not like the rum provided.

Emma also gave advice on the care of dogs on board.  They needed to be brushed, and young dogs were to be given a cup of tea every day, preferably green, with milk and sugar.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator. East India Company Records

Further reading:
Emma Roberts, The East India Voyager, or ten minutes’ advice to the outward bound (London, 1839) British Library shelfmarks 10057.bb.7. and T 37318
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Bombay Gazette 18 June 1828
For other works by Emma Roberts, search the British Library online catalogue

26 September 2023

Wonderful Rice

In 1928, Francis Graham Arnould retired as the Chief Engineer for the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway.  Born in 1875, Arnould had studied engineering at the City & Guilds (Engineering) College in London from 1892 to 1895.  On graduating, he had joined the B,B & CI Railway.  He worked on many important railway construction projects such as the Tapti Valley Railway and the Rewari Phulera Chord Line, gradually working his way up to Chief Engineer.  In 1928, he was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.).

Programme for the Farewell Dinner for Arnould with a photo of him attending a flood on the railway in 1927Programme for the Farewell Dinner for Arnould Mss Eur E403/2


His colleagues saw him off in style, with a grand farewell dinner at the Willingdon Sports Clubs, Bombay on Saturday 31 March 1928.  Guests were treated to a band playing a selection of popular show tunes of the time, such as ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’, ‘No, No, Nanette’, ‘Gonna Get A Girl’ and ‘The Blue Train’.  They ate well too with a scrumptious sounding menu:
• Oeufs au Caviar.
• Consommé au vin de Madère.
• Pomfret du Willingdon Club with Punch a la Romaine.
• Tournedos de Boeuf Bearnaise with Pomme Chippes.
• Pintade au Jambon Froid with Salade a l’Adeline.
• Poires a la Chantily.
• Laitances sur Croutes.
• Dessert.
• Café.

Letter from the Manager of the Darulfalah Museum about the Wonderful RiceLetter from the Manager of the Darulfalah Museum Mss Eur E403/3

However, there was probably one retirement present he was not expecting.  In June 1928, he received a letter from the Museum Darulfalah in Delhi, congratulating him on his C.I.E. and presenting him with a humble ‘present’ of a ‘Wonderful Rice’.  This arrived by separate post with a letter of explanation.  The ‘Wonderful Rice’ was a common seed of rice with the 'difficult and incredible skill of inscription' making it a ‘marvellous curio’.  In his letter, the Museum manager explained that it was inspired by 'the historical event of a verse in the Holy Quran being inscribed on a split pea of a gram, which was then presented to the Emperor Akbar.  The Emperor was extremely surprised and amused of it and rewarded the inscriber with Jagirs worth lakhs of Rupees'.

Suggested uses for the Wonderful Rice Suggested uses for the Wonderful Rice Mss Eur E403/3

Miniature writing goes back at least 4,000 years, with very small clay tablets written in cuneiform from ancient Mesopotamia.  It is thought that writing on rice began in ancient Anatolia and India, with artisans inscribing short messages using rice as a symbol of abundance and good fortune.

Inscription on the Wonderful RiceInscription on the Wonderful Rice Mss Eur E403/3

The grain of rice sent to Arnould (No.7108) apparently had 102 English characters, saying ‘Long & happily live F.G. Arnould Esq., C.I.E., Chairman, Indian Rlys Confce. Assocn (Enging) & Chief Engineer, B.B. & C.I.Rlys, Bombay. 5.6.1928’.  Arnould also received a leaflet on the ‘Wonderful Rice’ which claimed that King George V had sent for one, and that the King of Siam had so admired his that he had given a donation of 300 rupees.  Arnould was also requested to send a donation to the Museum, as the Museum manager explained, ‘As the beginning of every work is difficult, so our work has also great many difficulties and the chief of them is the lack of capital, which is a hindrance to our efforts’.  The correspondence does not say what Arnould thought of his present and whether he did send a donation, and unfortunately we do not have the ‘Wonderful Rice’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers relating to the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, 1923-1927, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/1.
Papers relating to F G Arnould's retirement as Chief Engineer of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, 1928, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/2.
Letters from the Manager of the Museum Darulfalah, Sadar Bazar, Delhi, regarding presenting Arnould with the "Wonderful Rice", a grain of rice inscribed with words, 1928, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/3.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 4 June 1928 
Doris V Welsh, The History of Miniature Books (Albany, New York: Fort Orange Press, Inc. 1987).

 

07 September 2023

A Victorian holiday embarrassment

On holiday in Brittany in 1864, a Victorian clergyman from Norwich bravely tested the seaside facilities at St Malo, unfortunately with embarrassing results.

Head and shoulders portrait of Arthur Charles Copeman sporting a large beardPortrait of Arthur Charles Copeman via Wikimedia Commons

Three diaries of the Reverend Canon Arthur Charles Copeman (1824-1896), father of the medical scientist Sydney Monckton Copeman, have recently been added to the British Library’s collections.  Two describe the daily life of an English clergyman, while the third volume details a month-long tour around Brittany with his brother-in-law, seeing the sights.

Two weeks into the trip, the pair walked from Mont Dol to the town of St Malo.  Having secured a room in a local hotel, they made their way down to the beachfront, presumably to refresh themselves after their hot and dusty journey.

View of St Malo with windmills on the shore and boats sailing on the seaView of St Malo from Vues des côtes de France dans l'Ocean et dans la Méditerranée peintes et gravées par M. L. Garneray, decrites par M. Étienne de Jouy. British Library shelfmark: 650.b.7 Images Online

Copeman describes in detail what they discovered at the shore:
‘We found a congeries of little wooden cells ranged on the sea-ward side of a gentle slope which was thronged with ye ladies & gentlemen of S.Malo with whom it appears the favourite and fashionable promenade – and an office for the issue of bathing tickets which was beset with applicants’.
(Congeries, an unfamiliar word, defined by the OED as ‘a collection of things merely massed or heaped together’.)

Having secured a bathing ticket, the pair were pleasantly surprised to find it entitled them to temporary possession of two of the beach huts, together with towels and bathing costumes.

The Reverend was particularly taken with the available attire, enthusing it was ‘of the simplest construction but of imposing & indescribable effect’.  Once within this pair of loose blue shorts and sleeved ‘gaberdine’ top, he thought he would have been unrecognisable to even his closest friends.  However, Copeman believed he and his companion attracted ‘the admiring inspection of the promenade’ as made their way down to the sea.

And yet, their favoured bathing suits would prove to be their undoing.

‘When emerging after a delightful bathe, we found our wondrous costume clinging everywhere tenaciously to the skin & bringing out in strong relief every irregularity of a development somewhat obtrusively bony.’

Shocked by the betrayal of their previously modest attire, the pair ‘took fright & with a leap & a run we regained our dressing houses whence were heard roars of convulsive laughter till we re-appeared in civilised attire’.

Bathing at Brighton - bathers standing in the waves in front of the bathing machines

Bathing at Brighton from George Cruikshank, Cruikshank's sketches British Library shelfmark: RB.23.a.34787 Images Online

It is perhaps reassuring to know that self-consciousness in a bathing costume is not new, and was affecting people nearly 160 years ago.  Fortunately, the Reverend also refers elsewhere in his journal to other occasions when he bathed without incident, away from the prying eyes of a popular promenade, in locations more suitable to the shyer swimmer.

I am pleased to report that Copeman did not let this event dampen his spirits or lessen his opinion of St Malo, as this final quotation demonstrates:
‘Joking apart however no one can fail to be struck with the admirable arrangements here & elsewhere on ye French coast for the enjoyment & safety of the bathers’.

Matthew Waters
Manuscripts Cataloguer

Further reading:
Add MS 89721/3 - Journal of the Reverend Arthur Copeman of a walking tour of Brittany, France.

 

24 August 2023

Seditious Publications

In the early decades of the 20th century the Government of India became increasingly concerned by the publication and circulation of what they perceived as anti-British or seditious publications.  This was a particular concern following the Amritsar massacre which sparked protests across India.  One small collection in the India Office Private Papers gives an interesting glimpse of the efforts of government to suppress these publications.

These are a collection of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces.  The notifications give the legislation used and details of the publication suppressed.  A government reviewer had also listed the paragraphs or lines of particular concern.  The legislation used was section 99 of the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure, and section 12 of the Indian Press Act of 1910.  These pieces of legislation allowed the authorities to declare such books, newspapers or other documents forfeited to His Majesty.  Police officers could then seize them.

Notification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired IndependenceNotification about book in Hindi - How America Acquired Independence

One of the defining events, which galvanised the campaign for Indian independence, was the Amritsar massacre.  Many Indian writers and publishers took this as a subject in calling for resistance to British rule in India.  One collection of poems, ‘Jallianwala Bagh ka Mahatma’, has the line ‘Jallianwala Bagh will be immortal in the world’, and in another of the poems is written: ‘It is Jallianwala Bagh, where the martyrs of the motherland and the gems of the country were robbed’.  It goes on to advise the public to consider the Jallianwala Bagh a place of pilgrimage [folio 21]. 

Notification about Gandhi-ki-gazlenNotification about 'Gandhi-ki-gazlen'

Another pamphlet in Hindi ,‘Gandhi-ki-gazlen’, predicted ‘Scenes of Jallianwala Bagh will be repeated in every city if this Government is not driven out of this country’ [folio 48].  The reviewer noted that the writer urged Indians to follow non-cooperation and emphasised the adoption of swadeshi goods.

Notification about Asahyog KajliNotification about 'Asahyog Kajli'

The campaign to boycott British goods and use Indian products, known as swadeshi, features in many of the publications.  For instance, a pamphlet in Hindi entitled ‘Asahyog Kajli’ encouraged people to use the spinning wheel (charkha) and weave cloth for their use [folio 17]. 

Notification about Sawan SwarajNotification about 'Sawan Swaraj'

Another pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Sawan Swaraj’, written by Sallar Maharaj contain songs with the lines: ‘By working at charkhas the enemy will disappear from our sight and from India’ [folio 19].  The non-cooperation campaigns led by Gandhi are a common theme. 

Notification about Swaraj PratiqyaNotification about 'Swaraj Pratiqya'

One pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Swaraj Pratiqya’, collected poems on the subject.  One line urged: ‘Let us take the vow of non-violent non-co-operation with all resoluteness and let us try soon to liberate India from the unlawful possession of the unjust’.  A similar tone was taken in another line: ‘Let there be new sacrifices made on the altar of liberty and let us all be proud of our mother tongue and of swadeshi clothes’ [folio 118].

Notification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troopsNotification about leaflet addressed to Gurkha troops

One notification concerns a leaflet in Nepalese addressed to Gurkha troops.  Printed and published anonymously it warned: ‘Just as an insect eats the wall from the inside and makes it hollow in the same way the foreign nation (British) which is deceitful and dishonest is going to make us hollow’.  It urges Gurkha soldiers to ‘Leave the services and protect your brothers’ [folio 75].

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
India Office unregistered files containing copies of notifications issued by the Government of the United Provinces proscribing seditious publications, together with translations and summaries of the literature, 1910-1930, reference Mss Eur F242.

Records relating to seditious or proscribed publications can be found in the Public & Judicial Department records series (IOR/L/PJ).

Indian Press Act, 1910

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.  

Publications proscribed by the Government of India: a catalogue of the collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division, edited by Graham Shaw and Mary Lloyd (London: British Library, 1985).

 

22 August 2023

The Hakluyt Society: Publishing in Wartime

In 1946, the Hakluyt Society published the last two volumes in its Second Series, The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires, translated and edited by Armando Cortesão from Portuguese manuscripts in the Bibliothèque de la Chambre des Deputés, Paris.  Correspondence in the Hakluyt Society archive at the British Library reveals just how difficult it was to undertake ‘business as usual’ publishing for the Society during the Second World War, and how difficult it could be for individuals to undertake such work during wartime conditions.

Armando Frederico Zuzarte Cortesão (1891-1977) had been an Olympic sprinter for Portugal, who had then qualified as an agronomist and had worked as a colonial administrator on Sao Tome and Principe before overseeing the Agência Geral das Colónias.  Increasingly interested in history and cartography, Cortesão left Portugal in 1932 for political reasons and did not return until 1952, spending his ‘exile’ in England and France.

First page of typed letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940

Second page of typed letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940Letter from Cortesão to Edward Lynham, 1 October 1940 - Mss Eur F594/6/3/5 f.11r & f.11v

In 1938, Cortesão was working on his transcription of the Tomé Pires codex, alongside translator Margery Withers, and by May 1939 he hoped to have everything ready for publication in early 1940.  The war obviously changed all that.  In September 1939 he informed the Hakluyt Society that he would have to put his work for the Society on hold as he was working both for the BBC and for the Ministry of Information, splitting his time between London and Evesham.  The Society was understanding: 'I fully understand your position and when you began your book nobody foresaw this war' wrote Edward Lynam, although the Council was worried about its ability to produce the books that its members were expecting in return for their subscription.  Letters from both Cortesão and Lynam in October and November 1940, the height of the Blitz, refer to falling bombs and blown out windows.

Despite the practicalities and the call on Cortesão’s time, by the end of 1943 the manuscript was complete, with only Appendices, Foreword, and some notes on maps outstanding.  The Society was writing to publisher Cambridge University Press and casting about for a printer.  CUP couldn’t give any promises due to contract work for Naval Handbooks and with work for HMSO.  Printers Robert Maclehouse and Co. had available paper (the Hakluyt Society had no regular paper ration), but they also had no way of knowing whether they would have available manpower.  Emery Walker agreed to print the plates 'subject to our being able to obtain the paper'. 

First page of typed letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945
Second  page of typed letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945

Letter from printers Robert Maclehose & Co, 28 March 1945 - Mss Eur F594/6/3/5 f.36r & f.36v

The Hakluyt Society was surprised at the length of Cortesão’s notes and asked him to reduce them substantially.  He replied: 'I am tired… I think that the notes cannot bear further cuttings, and I hope that the Council will now find that they are within the limits of reason and that I have done my best to please every body'.  A compromise was reached, and the rest of 1944 was taken up with typesetting and preparation.   In March 1945, the question again arose of the availability of paper for the print run; the book was longer than expected and Cortesão had requested an additional 50 copies which he would pay for.  Maclehose managed to find a few reams of paper from another publication, which caused further issues as it was a different thickness.  At the same time, the Ministry of Supply were insisting that Maclehose reduce their electricity consumption to 75% of their weekly total, while also under pressure to print University Examination Papers 'at the same scale as in peace time'.

Hakluyt Society minutes state that the binders promised delivery of the book by April 1946.  Despite their wartime delay, the volumes were deemed to be the Society’s 1944 publication and distributed to subscribers who received them by June 1946.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading
Hakluyt Society 2/89: The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires / An Account of the East, from the Red Sea to Japan, written in Malacca and India in 1512-1515 / and The Book of Francisco Rodrigues / Rutter of a Voyage in the Red Sea, Nautical Rules, Almanack and Maps, Written and Drawn in the East before 1515 / Translated from the Portuguese MS in the Bibliothèque de la Chambre des Deputés, Paris, and Edited by Armando Cortesão. Containing the translated Books I-IV of the Suma Oriental (Hakluyt Society, 1944).
Hakluyt Society 2/90. The Suma Oriental of Tomé Pires … Vol. II. 1944. Pages 229-578 + 10 maps, 5 illustrations. Book VI of the Suma Oriental, together with a translation of Rodrigues’ ‘Book’, the entire Portuguese texts, and a letter from Pires to King Manuel, 1516. (Hakluyt Society, 1944).
Mss Eur F594/6/3/5: 'Pires Voyages in the China Sea', Apr 1938-Nov 1945.
Mss Eur F594/1/2 Hakluyt Society Council Minutes, 18 Jul 1923-7 Jan 1965.

 

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).

30 May 2023

‘Bringing up a chicken to peck out their eye’: A niece’s betrayal

Alice Thornton (1626–1707), a Yorkshire gentlewoman, made sure that her life didn’t go untold by writing at least four versions of it in the 1660s to 1690s, two of which were acquired by the British Library in 2009. But why was she so keen to record her life and what was the significance of a chick-induced eye injury which she included?

Manuscript written by my dear Grandmother Mrs ThorntonFlyleaf of Add MS 88897/2, with Thornton’s monogram (AWT), the date of her husband’s death and a later inscription by her grandson.

Halfway through Thornton’s final autobiographical account, she tells a story about the writing of an earlier book:

‘About March 25, 1669, I was writing of my first book of my life to enter the sad sicknesses and death of my dear husband, together with all those afflictions befell me that year, with the remarks of God’s dealing with myself, husband and children until my widowed condition… There happened [to] me then a very strange and dangerous accident… as I was writing in my said book, I took out this poor chicken, out of my pocket, to feed it with bread and set it on the table besides me. It, picking about the bread innocently, did peep up at my left eye … [and] picked one pick at the white of my left eye … which did so extremely smart and ache that I could not look up or see.’

Thornton's account of the incident with the chickThornton recounts the incident with the chick, below the line: Add MS 88897/2, page 177.

This story about her pet chicken, though, soon turns into an account of why she never forgave her niece, Anne Danby, for spreading rumours about her and her family, a topic that much consumes her in this final book. Danby – like the chick – had been taken in, fed and looked after by Thornton. This connection is explicitly made by Thornton:  

‘There was some who jested with me and said they had heard of an old saying of bringing up a chicken to peck out their eye. But now they saw I had made good that old saying both in this bird and [in] what harm I had suffered from Mrs Danby of whom I had been so careful and preserved her and hers from starving.’

Thornton's account of her niece's betrayal‘Upon my sad condition and sickness that befell me by the slanders raised against me, July 20th 1668’: Add MS 88897/1, page 246.

It seems likely from internal evidence that Thornton was writing this final book in the 1690s, after the death of her only adult son. This loss might explain why Thornton writes so much about Danby’s earlier betrayal. Thornton’s main heir was now her daughter, also named Alice, who was married to Thomas Comber. Thornton’s close relationship with Comber was one of the topics of Danby’s gossip, as was his marriage to Thornton’s daughter (then only fourteen) in late 1668. Thornton was perhaps keen to set the record straight about this match a quarter of a century later, when the Thornton name was dying out and being succeeded by that of the Combers. 

The motives behind Thornton’s writing four versions of her life are being tackled by an AHRC-funded project, ‘Alice Thornton’s Books’, which will also make freely available an online edition of all four manuscripts.

Chicken pecking the ground  from a music scoreDetail of a chicken pecking the ground, from a music score, 1650. British Library shelfmark: 59.e.19, between pages 30-31.

We haven’t been able to trace the saying about the chicken and the eye – have you heard it before?

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Cordelia Beattie
Professor of Women’s and Gender History, University of Edinburgh

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Further Reading:

Cordelia Beattie, Suzanne Trill, Joanne Edge, Sharon Howard. 'The Four Books By Alice Thornton'. Alice Thornton's Books [accessed 23 April 2023]

Charles Jackson. Ed. The Autobiography of Mrs. Alice Thornton of East Newton, Co. York. Durham: Surtees Society, 1875

Alice Thornton, My First Booke of My Life, ed. Raymond A. Anselment (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014)

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