Category Archives: Humanities

The Shāhnāmah of Ibrāhīm Sulṭān – Available Online from Digital.Bodleian

The Shāhnāmah – Book of Kings (or King of Books) – is an epic poem written in Persian by Abū l-Qāsim Firdawsī of Ṭūs. Completed in about 1010 CE, the book is composed of some 60,000 verses which narrate the history of Greater Persia from mythical beginnings until the Arab conquests of the 7th century.

Said to be the longest poem ever to have been written by a single person, the significance of Firdawsī’s Shāhnāmah to the Persian-speaking world can be compared to that of the works of Homer to Greece.

No manuscript copies of the Shāhnāmah survive from the 11th or 12th centuries, and only two from the 13th century are still extant, but many copies from the Timurid and Safavid periods are preserved in Library collections today.

Three of the grandsons of Tīmūr (Tamerlane) are known to have had lavish copies of Firdawsī’s Shāhnāmah or Persian Book of Kings made for them. The Shāhnāmahs of Bāysunghur, Muḥammad Jūkī, and Ibrāhīm Sulṭān are preserved in the Golestan Palace, Tehran, the Royal Asiatic Society, London, and the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, respectively.

Left: Shamsah showing inscription dedicated to Ibrāhīm Sulṭān. (MS. Ouseley Add. 176, fol. 12a). Right: Ibrāhīm Sulṭān holding court outdoors. (MS. Ouseley Add. 176, fol. 1b).

Thought to have been made in Shiraz sometime between 1430 and Ibrāhīm Sulṭān’s death in 1435, this copy of the Shāhnāmah is known for its exceptional miniature paintings and exquisite illuminated panels.

The manuscript was acquired by Sir Gore Ouseley, a Diplomat and Linguist, during travels in the East in the early 19th century, and came into the Bodleian in the 1850s along with many other of Sir Gore’s collections. It is now preserved as MS. Ouseley Add. 176.

Ibrāhīm Sulṭān’s Shāhnāmah is now digitally available online via Digital.Bodleian. Recently, its sibling Muḥammad Jūkī’s Shāhnāmah was published online by the Royal Asiatic Society; both in good time for Nawruz or Persian New Year on 20th March!


Abdullaeva, F., & Melville, C., The Persian book of kings : Ibrahim Sultan’s Shahnama (Treasures from the Bodleian Library). Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2008.

Beeston, A. F. L., Hermann Ethé, and Eduard Sachau. Catalogue of the Persian, Turkish, Hindûstânî, and Pushtû Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library . Oxford: At the Clarendon, 1889.

Robinson, B. W.,  A Descriptive Catalogue of the Persian Paintings in the Bodleian Library. Oxford: Clarendon, 1958.

The Bodleian Libraries would like to thank the Bahari Fund for helping to make this digitization project possible.

The UK Web Archive Ebola Outbreak collection

By CDC Global (Ebola virus) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By CDC Global (Ebola virus) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Next month marks the four year anniversary of the WHO’s public announcement of “a rapidly evolving outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD)” that went on to become the deadliest outbreak of EVD in history.

With more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths, it moved with such speed and virulence that–though concentrated in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone–it was feared at the time that the Ebola virus disease outbreak of 2014-2016 would soon spread to become a global pandemic.

No cure or vaccine has yet been discovered and cases continue to flare up in West Africa. The most recent was declared over on 2 July 2017. Yet today most people in the UK unless directly affected don’t give it a second thought.

Searching online now, you can find fact sheets detailing everything you might want to know about patient zero and the subsequent rapid spread of infection. You can find discussions detailing the international response (or failure to do so) and lessons learned. You might even find the reminiscences of aid workers and survivors. But these sites all examine the outbreak in retrospect and their pages and stories have been updated so often that posts from then can no longer be found.

Posts that reflected the fear and uncertainty that permeated the UK during the epidemic. The urgent status updates and travel warnings.  The misinformation that people were telling each other. The speculation that ran riot. The groundswell of giving. The mobilisation of aid.

Understandably when we talk about epidemics the focus is on the scale of physical suffering: numbers stricken and dead; money spent and supplies sent; the speed and extent of its spread.

Whilst UKWA regularly collects the websites of major news channels and governmental agencies, what we wanted to capture was the public dialogue on, and interpretation of, events as they unfolded. To see how local interests and communities saw the crisis through the lenses of their own experience.

To this end, the special collection Ebola Outbreak, West Africa 2014 features a broad selection of websites concerning the UK response to the Ebola virus crisis. Here you can find:

  • The Anglican community’s view on the role of faith during the crisis;
  • Alternative medicine touting the virtues of liposomal vitamin C as a cure for Ebola;
  • Local football clubs fundraising to send aid;
  • Parents in the UK withdrawing children from school because of fear of the virus’ spread;
  • Think tanks’ and academics’ views on the national and international response;
  • Universities issuing guidance and reports on dealing with international students; and more.

Active collection for Ebola began in November 2014 at the height of the outbreak whilst related websites dating back to the infection of patient zero in December 2013 have been retrospectively added to the collection. Collection continued through to January 2016, a few months before the outbreak began tailing off in April 2016.

The Ebola collection is available via the UK Web Archive’s new beta interface.

New Catalogue: The Archive of Hilary Bailey

The catalogue of the archive of Hilary Bailey is now available online here.

Hilary Bailey (1936 – 2017), was a writer and editor whose career spanned many decades and genres. Her early output largely focussed on science fiction, with many of her short stories, including The Fall of Frenchy Steiner (1964), published in the science fiction publication New Worlds during the 1960s, and during this time she also co-authored The Black Corridor (1969) with her then husband, the science fiction writer Michael Moorcock; Bailey served as editor of New Worlds from 1974 to 1976 .

Her social circle contained a number of science fiction writers who were fellow contributors to New Worlds, including Graham Hall, another science fiction writer and editor of New Worlds whose papers are also included within the archive.

Hilary Bailey’s post-New Worlds output tended not to fall under the genre of science fiction. Her first solo full length novel, Polly Put The Kettle On (1975), was the first Polly Kops novel she wrote, and the character would later feature in Mrs Mulvaney (1978) and As Time Goes By (1988) – novels focussing on a woman in London through the 1960s to the 1980s.

Indeed, much of Bailey’s work had a focus on women, including her retellings and sequels of classic novels – including Frankenstein’s Bride (1995) – an alternate telling wherein Victor Frankenstein agrees to build the monster a wife rather than spurning the suggestion and Mrs Rochester (1997), which imagines Jane Eyre’s life a number of years  into her marriage to Edward Rochester. Women were also the focus of her historical fiction novel, The Cry From Street To Street (1992), which imagined the life of a victim of Jack the Ripper and Cassandra (1993), a retelling of the fall of Troy. She also authored a biography on Vera Brittain.

Draft artwork for the book jacket of As Time Goes By (1988)

Her most recent work ranged from the speculative fiction Fifty-first State (2008), a novel set in the then near-future of 2013, looking at politics within the United Kingdom, to imagining Sherlock Holmes’ sister in The Strange Adventures of Charlotte Holmes (2012).

The archive comprises a large amount of correspondence both personal, with family, friends and other writers and professional, with publishers and literary agents, as well as artwork for book jackets, early draft manuscripts for novels and assorted miscellanea.

Bailey’s archive also includes a small series at the end consisting of correspondence and draft writings belonging to Graham Hall (1947-1980), a friend of Bailey’s and fellow New Worlds contributor, editor, science fiction writer and general science fiction enthusiast. As Hall’s writing career was cut short by his death in 1980, aged just 32, his name is perhaps not as easily recognisable as those of his correspondents. His correspondence contains interesting information regarding science fiction enthusiasts in the 1960s, from Hall’s early involvement with fanzines and hopes to compile bibliographies for the work of more well-known science fiction writers, to his involvement with the scene and time as editor of New Worlds. Hall’s illness and death are chronicled in Michael Moorcock’s novel, Letters from Hollywood (1986).

Oxford College Archives

A new website for Oxford College Archives has been launched at

Painting of Oxford students entitled 'Conversation Piece, Worcester College' by Edward HallidayThe site includes a general introduction to the archives held by the Oxford colleges, individual pages on most of the colleges (with further links to catalogues etc.) and links to associated archives in the City and University.  There is also an FAQ page, a glossary of all those odd Oxford terms, and a bibliography.  The site will be enhanced and updated regularly.

New Conservative Party Archive releases under the 30 year rule

Top-level strategy papers that detail the Thatcher government’s efforts to secure a third term are among papers newly-released by the Conservative Party Archive for 2018. The previously-restricted documents, now made available for the first time under the 30 year rule, form part of an extensive series of party papers from the election year of 1987, including drafts of the Conservative manifesto, detailed plans of campaign activities, and election briefings prepared by the Conservative Research Department. This piece briefly examines two such documents from one of the newly-released files [CRD 4/30/7/25], private briefings prepared for the Prime Minister’s election planning meetings in December 1986 and April 1987, to illustrate the research potential of these newly-available collections.

Although the 1987 election ultimately resulted in a second landslide for Thatcher’s Conservatives, the party was far from certain of such an outcome. ‘We believe that the electorate will be in a more questioning mood than in 1983 in the aftermath of the Falklands’, the December 1986 report cautioned, stressing the need for the party to develop and communicate clear plans for the future rather than simply seeking re-election on the basis of past achievements. The changing nature of the electoral map prompted particular concern. Although the Conservatives had opened up a narrow polling lead, the report identified a ‘sharp North-South disparity’, which posed a serious risk to the Conservative position: while the party’s national polling suggested a parliamentary majority of 20, this ‘disappeared entirely and left us in a minority of 2’ when regional variations were taken into account. In an echo of the party’s present-day challenges, the report additionally flagged up the dangers of the growing age-gap in the party’s support: ‘the under 45 group, and particularly first time voters, are still a cause of considerable concern.’

The Conservative Party’s electoral position was complicated by the growing North-South political divide. [CRD 4/30/7/25].

The prospect of a lost majority was still taken seriously on the eve of the election campaign, as the papers prepared for a top-level meeting at Downing Street on 16 April 1987 reveal. Although Party Chairman Norman Tebbit’s paper on general strategy began with the cautious observation that the government were favoured to win ‘with a smaller but working majority’, he warned that ‘the prospect of a hung parliament is attractive to the press and will be promoted by those hostile to us’. To counter this, he urged, the party needed to polarise the issues as far as possible, presenting a Conservative majority as the only alternative to weak or extreme government: ‘Our aim should be to make the supreme issue whether there will be a continuation of Conservative Government or through a “hung” Parliament a Labour administration with Alliance or other minority party support.’

Strategies aside, the party’s election plans also give a fascinating insight into how the party sought to understand and reshape its image going into the election. Discussing the party’s loss of support during the middle of 1986, the CCO Campaign Plans document warned of a ‘a growing perceived conflict between the two important themes of “Calvinism” or “individual responsibility” on the one hand, and “caring” on the other […] reflected in serious concerns about unemployment, health care, education and pensions’. Yet the strategy paper also reveals a resistance to any significant change in course: the proposal to organise the Prime Minister’s campaign tours around the theme of ‘regeneration’ is pointedly removed from the draft document in favour of a more individualistic emphasis on ‘believing [in] people’ and ‘personal property’. Similarly on Thatcher’s own image, the paper goes out of its way to reject suggestions that she adopt a ‘soft’ image, instead recommending a campaign focused upon her strengths: ‘leadership, strength and experience.’

Early plans emphasised that the Prime Minister campaign on the idea of ‘Regeneration’, but as the notes in the margin show others favoured a more ideological campaign theme. [CRD 4/30/7/25].

These papers will provide an essential resource for scholars of the 1987 general election and the politics of the Thatcher era, complementing the Conservative Party Archive’s existing collections of published material from the campaign. The Bodleian has also additionally taken receipt of a large donation of previously undocumented files from this period, so it is hoped that the CPA will be able to continue to expand its collections on the 1987 general election in years to come.

Among the new releases is the first draft of the 1987 Manifesto [CRD/4/30/7/29], shown here next to the final version [PUB 157/4].

The material examined in this blog post will be made available from 1 Jan 2018. In addition to papers on the 1987 general election, the list of newly-released papers also includes material on the introduction of the poll tax, the party’s private polling and opinion research, and a wide range of briefings produced by the Conservative Research Department. For a full list of derestricted items, see the CPA website.

Jenny Joseph celebration with Miriam Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes

Miriam Margolyes

On Sunday 10th December the actress Miriam Margolyes will be in Oxford to perform a public reading of poems by Oxford alumna Jenny Joseph, the author of Warning:

‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me’

The event, hosted by the Bodleian and St Hilda’s College, celebrates the recent gift of Jenny Joseph’s literary archive to the Bodleian and will include a selection of poetry ranging across her more than 50 year-long writing career. There will also be a free display of material from the archive in the Weston Library over that weekend.

The reading will be at the beautiful, seventeenth-century Convocation House in the Old Bodleian Library from 12pm-1.30pm. Tickets cost £8, including tea/coffee and a pastry. You can complete our booking form at What’s On to reserve tickets in advance. (Please note that tickets will not be available on the door.)

Subcultures as Integrative Forces in East-Central Europe 1900 – present: a Bodleian Libraries’ Web Archive record

A problem, and a solution in action:

The ephemeral nature of internet content (the average life of a web page is 100 days – illustrating that websites do not need to be purposefully deleted to vanish) is only one contributing factor to data loss. Web preservation is high priority;  action is required. This is a driver for not only Bodleian Libraries’ Web Archive, but digital preservation initiatives on a global scale.

However, today I would like to share the solution in action, an example from BLWA’s University of Oxford Collection: Subcultures as Integrative Forces in East-Central Europe 1900 – present.

On the live web, attempts to access the site are met with automatic redirects to BLWA’s most recent archived capture (24 Jan. 2017). The yellow banner indicates it is part of our archive. Image from

Subcultures is a University of Oxford project, backed by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, which through its explorative redefinition of ‘sub-cultures’ aims to challenge the current way of understanding simultaneous identification forms in the region of Eastern Europe through a multi-disciplinary methodology of social anthropology, discourse analysis, historical studies and linguistics. The project ran from 2012-2016.

The Subcultures website is an incredibly rich record of the project and it’s numerous works.  It held cross-continent collaborative initiatives including lectures, international workshops and seminars, as well as an outreach programme including academic publications. Furthermore, comparative micro-studies were conducted in parallel with main collaborative project: Linguistic Identities: L’viv/Lodz, c.1900; Myth and Memory: Jews and Germans, Interwar Romania; Historical Discourses: Communist Silesia and Discursive Constructions: L’viv and Wroclaw to present. The scope and content of the project, including key questions, materials, past and present events and network information is* all hosted on

Was*. The site is no longer live on the internet.

However, as well as an automatic re-direction to our most recent archival copy, a search on Bodleian Libraries’ Web Archive generates 6 captures in total:

Search results for Subcultures within BLWA. Image from

The materials tab of the site fully functions in the archived capture: you are able to listen to the podcasts and download the papers on theory and case studies as PDF versions.

The use of Subcultures

To explore the importance of web-archiving in this context, let us think about the potential use(rs) of this record and the implications if the website were no longer available:

As the  project comprised a wider outreach programme alongside its research, content such as PDF publications and podcasts were available for download, consultation and further research. The website platform means that these innovative collaborations and the data informed by the primary methodology are available for access. This is of access to the public on a global scale for education and knowledge and interaction with important issues – without even elaborating on how academics, researchers, historians and the wider user community will benefit from the availability of the materials from this web archive. Outreach by its very nature demands an unspecified group of people to lend its services to help.

Listening to the podcast of the project event hosted in Krakow: ‘Hybrid Identity’ in 2014. Rationale, abstracts and biographies from the workshop can also be opened. Image from

Furthermore, the site provides an irreplaceable record of institutional history for University of Oxford as a whole, as well as its research and collaborations. This is a dominant purpose of our University of Oxford collection. The role of preserving for posterity cannot be underplayed. Subcultures provides data that will be used, re-used and of grave importance for decades to come, and also documents decisions and projects of the University of Oxford. For example, the outline and rationale of the project is available in full through the Background Paper – Theory, available for consultation through the archived capture as it would be through the live web. Biographical details of contributors are also hosted on the captures, preserving records of people involved and their roles for further posterity and accountability.

Building on the importance of access to research: internet presence increases scholarly interaction. The scope of the project is of great relevance, and data for research is not only available from the capture of the site, but the use of internet archives as datasets are expected to become more prominent.


Here at BLWA the archiving process begins with a nomination for archiving: if you have a site that you believe is of value for preserving as part of one of our collections then please do so here. The nomination form will go to the curators and web-archivists on the  BLWA team for selection checks and further processing. We would love to hear your nominations.

A sympathy for strangers: Oxfam and the history of humanitarianism

On Tuesday 31st October the Oxfam Archive Assistants attended a lecture at St Antony’s College by Princeton University’s Professor Jeremy Adelman, entitled Towards a Global History of Humanitarianism. Professor Adelman’s focus was primarily the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but his narrative had implications for the way we might view contemporary humanitarian agencies such as Oxfam.


Historians have not always been kind in their assessments of international humanitarianism. Alex de Waal was broadly critical of the role such agencies have played when dealing with famine on the African continent: by supplying aid externally, he argues, they inadvertently undermine the democratic accountability of African governments, disincentivizing humanitarian intervention or crisis prevention as a way of preserving political power.[1] To an extent, Adelman spoke in a similar vein: abolitionists may have helped stimulate the rise of humanitarianism in the nineteenth century but colonial penetration itself was often justified in terms of humanitarian intervention, where the white settler was morally and ethically obliged to ‘civilize’ the unsophisticated ‘native’. Humanitarian discourse, Adelman argued, is by its nature racialized, and it invariably reinforces the self-image of Western nations as occupying the apex of a civilizational hierarchy.


This might seem somewhat damning of all Oxfam does and stands for. However, Adelman also spoke of a ‘sympathy for strangers’ which grew out of increasing global connectedness and integration as telegraph cables, railways and steamships curtailed the spatial and intellectual distances between disparate peoples. The camera was, according to Adelman, a fundamental technological innovation in this respect and the relationship between photography and humanitarianism has in many ways been central to the development of charities like Oxfam. Borrowing from Susan Sontag, Adelman suggested that ‘moral witnesses’ – i.e., photographers – record public memories of pain, creating a connection between the ‘victim’ – the subject of the photograph – and the viewer.


In the 19th century missionaries armed themselves with Kodak cameras, and by producing lantern slide shows of their experiences in foreign climes hoped to raise money for future missionary work. But in the Congo Free State, rendered a personal possession of King Leopold of Belgium in 1885, missionaries began to use their cameras to record atrocities committed against Congolese rubber plantation workers. In the face of international scrutiny – which admittedly was somewhat more self-interested than compassionate – King Leopold was forced to cede Congo as a personal asset. It could certainly be argued that such photographs exploited the pain of others, titillating public interest at home without any true empathy for or understanding of the Congolese people. According to Susan Sontag, the ‘knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whether cynical or humanist’.[2]



But the power of the photograph to reinforce moral or empathetic feeling can be – and has been – used for the genuine betterment of others. From 1957 to the early 1960s Oxfam sent simple Christmas ‘appeal’ cards to its donors, featuring a simple ‘thank you’ message and photographs of individuals helped by the charity. A card from 1958 showed a huge-eyed little girl, sitting wrapped in a coat and woollen socks with a spoon stuck into a beaker of food. The caption read ‘This little Greek girl was found as a baby hungry and dying… Now she is properly fed… because Oxfam sends food, and years ago was able to plant black-currant bushes in her village which are now bearing fruit.’ This photograph does not simply broadcast the pain of strangers. It broadcasts hope, and promises resolution through charitable action. While a healthy scepticism and constructive interrogation of the conduct of international agencies is to be encouraged, we should be careful not to overlook and devalue the charitable efforts inspired by genuine ‘sympathy for strangers’.

[1] Alex de Waal, Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa (1997)

[2] Susan Sontag, On Photography (1973)

Donation of Monier-Williams archive

The Bodleian owes much of its rich collection of Indic manuscripts and books to the personal collection of Oxford University’s Boden Professor of Sanskrit, Sir Monier Monier-Williams and that of the Indian Institute Library, which he founded in 1883. Scholars have long assumed that the library also holds Sir Monier’s papers: these, however, remained with his family.

Sir Monier-Williams’ great great grandson has now most generously donated these papers to the library.  This archival collection includes diaries, material on the controversial election of Sir Monier to the Boden Professorship, his lecture notes and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, all of which provide new insights into his career and the history of Indian Studies at Oxford.


Mary Ann Flaxman revealed as the author of an anonymous diary, Weimar and Lausanne 1805-6

Are these unknown sketches by Mary Ann Flaxman? (MS. Eng. misc. d. 48, fol. 35)

Readers of the Archives and Manuscripts blog will have noted that the internet has been invaluable in helping to discover anonymous authors of diaries in the Bodleian, both recently acquired items (see Search and Searchability), and manuscripts that have been in the library for more than 250 years (see Discovered! A ‘lost’ diary of Sir Edmund Warcup). This latest discovery relates to a diary purchased in 1921.

The diary is described in the Summary Catalogue thus:

45961 Diary of a continental tour, in the Almanach de Lausanne, 1806, with a (fols. 34-5) sketches and b (fols. 51-8) a diary for 1805. iv + 60 leaves.
MS. Eng. misc. f. 48

This rather unhelpful description immediately caught my eye. I was intending to use this intriguing diary as one of the manuscripts to investigate in a workshop held in the Bodleian in 2015 when students were invited to see if it would be possible to supply authors to a group of anonymous travel diaries using internet resources (Travelling Incognito workshop). However, it is a fairly fragile item and it was deemed unsuitable for the workshop.

There are some oddities about this diary. Most obviously, a simple ‘continental tour’ is not something that would have been lightly undertaken in 1806. Most British travel diaries in this wartime era either date from 1802, during the brief peace of Amiens, 1814, after Napoleon’s first defeat and exile to Elba, and 1815 after his final defeat at Waterloo. Why would anyone be travelling in 1805-6, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars? Napoleon defeated the Russians and Austrians at Austerlitz in October 1805, and the Prussians at Jena and Auerstadt in October 1806. So our diarist seems to have chosen a war zone for a tourist destination – indeed, the earlier part of the diary includes a stay in Weimar.  In 1804 Duke Charles Augustus of Saxe-Weimar married his son to the sister of Alexander I of Russia, and then joined the Prussians in their war with Napoleon. As a consequence of the defeat of the allied coalition, the Duke had to join the Confederation of the Rhine, Napoleon’s new German order following his abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. All in all, not a good time to be a British tourist in Germany.

My first thought was that some mistake had been made. The diary is written in a printed almanac of 1806 – perhaps the manuscript diary was written a few years later? A brief perusal of the short diary soon put me right. The 1805 diary at the end of the volume is clearly headed as such, and the author was in Weimar at this date. There are no substantial entries between February and 20 June, at which date the diarist left Weimar, heading for Gotha then Eisenach, Fulda, Frankfurt and Wilhelmsbad, where the author notes, ‘an alarm on account of the French’, September 1805. By the last entry in this section, Basle has been reached. This section of the manuscript is on a gathering of leaves sown into the binding of the printed almanac towards the end. It is necessary to return to the beginning of the volume to continue the story, which begins 1 January (no year) when the diarist was given a gown as a New Year gift by ‘Mr Hare’. So it was reasonable to assume that the diarist was a woman.

What, then, was the relationship to Mr Hare, and what were they doing abroad in 1805-6? That they were still on the continent in 1806 was apparent from further entries. On 6 January the diarist attended a ball where she ‘danced only once, & with the Prince of Mecklenbourg’, presumably the Prince of Mecklenburg who visited Madame de Staël in Coppet, Switzerland, in 1805 . On the same page she noted ‘finish’d the portrait of Mr H’ which sounds formal enough to suggest that she was something of an artist. As the catalogue entry notes, there are indeed a few sketches in the diary.

Our diarist was moving in quite elevated circles, and Mr Hare seems to have been the key figure in her entourage. This promising lead was reinforced by a stark entry in the diary:

“Sunday 6th April at 7 o’clock in the morn[in]g poor Mrs H expired”

This was crucial information. Entering the words Hare died Lausanne April 1806 into a search engine produced remarkable results. Among these was a Wikipedia entry for Francis Hare-Naylor, which included the information that ‘on Easter Sunday, 1806, Georgiana Hare-Naylor (his wife) died at Lausanne, leaving her children to the care of Lady Jones (her eldest sister). The Handbook of Dates confirms that Easter that year was indeed 6 April. Georgiana was the cousin of her more famous namesake, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Who were the Hares (Hare-Naylors)? How was our diarist connected with them? And what were they doing in Weimar and Lausanne in 1805-6? The answer to some of these questions can be found in the DNB entry for Francis Hare-Naylor. It would appear that the Hare-Naylors went to Weimar for several reasons, a combination of political, social and financial problems in England that made removing to the continent desirable, coupled with Mrs Hare-Naylor’s failing health. Weimar  attracted the family because of the literary circles that were established  there, among whom was Goethe, and because they had developed a good relationship with the ruling Duchess. The move to Lausanne was presumably partly occasioned by the political developments mentioned above. Once Mrs Hare-Naylor had died, the family made a rather hazardous journey back to England. After crossing the Rhine and then the Danube, the diarist noted that they

“pass’d through a number of French troops, always civil”.

By the end of 1806 their journey had taken them to Hamburg, and by 23 July they had landed at Gravesend. It appears that the sketches in the diary might have been done on this voyage: there is a view of the English coast (probably Orford Ness – my thanks to Sumner Braund for helping to identify this), and a number of figures who appear to be lounging on or below deck. Could they be rather bored young Hares?

Sketches in the ‘Almanach de Lausanne’ for 1806. Probably unattributed works of Mary Ann Flaxman. (MS. Eng. misc. d. 48)








The diarist was clearly on intimate terms with the Hare family, but not a member of it. Michael Heafford (University of Cambridge) who has worked on travel diaries and in particular on travellers in Switzerland, made an inspired suggestion. Could she be the Hares’s governess, Mary or Maria Flaxman? This suggestion was the key that unlocked the diary. Everything fell into place, and the locations, the names mentioned, and the sketches, all made sense. Mary is well known enough to have left substantial traces in the records. She was the half-sister of the famous sculptor John Flaxman (1755-1826). His DNB entry shows that he had a European reputation – he was even invited to the the Musée Napoleon in Paris in 1802. The DNB article goes on to say:

“In Germany, too, Flaxman was acclaimed as both sculptor and illustrator. His half-sister recorded seeing copies after his sculpture being sold in Hamburg, and in Weimar she met Goethe, who told her how much he admired her brother’s art.”

Augustus J. C. Hare, grandson of Francis and Georgiana Hare-Naylor, gives an account of the Hare-Naylors in Memorials of a Quiet Life, published in the 1870s. He mentions John Flaxman’s friendship with the family, and the advice he gave to Georgina to improve her own painting skills. He also states:

“Flaxman, who, with his sister (who was governess to little Anna), accompanied the Hare-Naylors to Weimar.”

There is a separate entry for Mary Ann Flaxman in the DNB, under the main entry for her brother. This too highlights the Hare-Naylor connection, and shows that Mary was an artist in her own right:

“Mary Ann exhibited at the Free Society of Artists, the Society of Artists, and the Royal Academy between 1786 and 1819. … For several years she lived as a governess with the Hare Naylor family, first in Italy and afterwards in Weimar. From 1810 she lived with John Flaxman and his wife in Buckingham Street until the sculptor’s death in 1826.”


Sketches and paintings by Mary Ann Flaxman are held in various repositories, and some of her letters are in the British Library. All that remained for me to do to complete the reattribution of the diary was to see if the handwriting of her letters and the style of her sketches matched what was in front of me. Claire Wotherspoon of the British Library very kindly supplied me with scans of some of Mary’s letters in Add MS 39782, and I can confirm that the handwriting matches that of the diary. There are also sketches by Mary Ann Flaxman in the same collection. To my untrained eye at least, there is nothing in the sketch below that makes me think that Mary was NOT the creator of the sketches in the diary reproduced above.

Sketch by Mary Ann Flaxman (BL Add MS 39792 B)

The diary is now being recatalogued.


Mike Webb