Category Archives: Humanities

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

The Braun Family Archive: Second edition catalogue now available

The second edition of the catalogue of the Braun Family Archive is now available here.

More than 50 boxes – MSS. Braun 168-221 – have been added since the first catalogue was published in February 2015. In addition to the papers of, and collected by, Thomas Braun and his parents Konrad and Hildburg Braun, the archive now includes a collection of family verse and writings, as well as correspondence, personal documents, writings, memorabilia and photographs of Gerhard Braun, his wife Anneliese and daughter Ruth.

Gerhard Braun (1893-1946) was Konrad Braun’s elder brother. By profession he was an obstetrician and gynaecologist. As a young man he served as a medical officer in the First World War and then as an American POW. In 1927 he married Anneliese Finster (1901-1996), and adopted her daughter Ruth (‘Rüthli’, 1926-1999).

Braun family photo, c. 1931

The Friedmann-Brauns, c. 1931: Gertrud and Felix Friedmann-Braun with Ruth, at the back Konrad, Hildegard, Johannes, Anneliese and Gerhard Braun. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Due to the Friedmann-Brauns’ Jewish ancestry, the family faced discrimination and persecution under the Nazi regime. After losing his posts in the public health system and seeing his previously successful practice limited to private patients and the to Jews only, Gerhard Braun was arrested in the course of the November pogrom in 1938 and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was detained for five and a half weeks. He was released in December 1938, on condition that his family paid a large sum in tax and that he emigrated.

12-year-old Ruth was sent ahead to safety in England in late 1938, staying with family friends – Curt and Hilde Sluzewski who had had already emigrated from Germany – in London. Gerhard and Anneliese followed in early 1939. Since they had been forced to leave behind most of their possessions, and Gerhard Braun was forbidden to work, the family, for more than three years, was reliant on the generous support of Marcel Wolfers, a merchant in the China trade.

Gerhard Braun was detained as an ‘enemy alien’ at the Huyton internment camp near Liverpool for several months in 1940. Only from 1942 was he able to practice medicine in England, as a junior hospital doctor in Birmingham. However, his health had been seriously impaired by his mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis and he died in 1946, at just 52 years of age.

Gerhard Braun at the piano

Gerhard Braun at the piano. – Photograph by permission of Christopher Braun

Anneliese and Ruth Braun eventually moved from Birmingham to London, where they shared a house in Golders Green until Anneliese Braun’s death in 1996. Mother and daughter were extremely close, and together they were known as ‘the Pummels’ to family and friends.

Anneliese Braun was an amateur writer since her youth, and some of her poems and short stories had been published in German newspapers before 1933. Even before coming to England in 1939, she had begun to write in English as well, and later she also translated works by other writers, including Monika Mann, Ruth Tenney (Marcel Wolfer’s wife) and Veronica Erdmann-Czapski, with whom she was friends.

Ruth Braun, having attended Birmingham Theatre School as a young woman, also had a lifelong interest in drama and music – in many ways, following the family tradition. Her ‘adopted grandfather’, Felix Friedmann-Braun (1861-1934), had been a brilliant amateur pianist in Berlin, and his four children grew up in a prosperous, cultured family with many links to leading literary, musical and artistic figures in Germany.

Poster for a recital by Hildegard Braun in Berlin, 1918. The Bechstein-Saal, a chamber music hall with more than 500 seats, had been opened 1892 with a series of concerts by Johannes Brahms, Anton Rubinstein and the like. Hildegard Braun certainly was in good company! – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Daughter Hildegard was a successful professional singer, the youngest son, Johannes, an actor. Konrad Braun was a keen amateur violinist and played in a string quartet with friends (Curt ‘Slu’ Sluzewski, amongst others), while Gerhard had inherited his father’s talent as a pianist. Gerhard also composed short pieces of music, such as birthday serenades for Ruth, and set to music verses by his wife Anneliese and poems by Ruth Tenney. Some of his compositions survive in the archive (MS. Braun 221), and together with a collection of family verse compiled by Thomas and Christopher Braun (MSS. Braun 168-169), these give a wonderful glimpse of the important role that music, literature and writing played in the Braun family’s life – as a profession, as a pastime and for pleasure, and not least, as a source of a sense of identity, dignity and hope in times of hardship.

A song written down for Konrad Braun “von seinem Papa” – by his father, Felix Friedmann-Braun, 1911. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Poem written by Konrad Braun for his wife Hildburg’s 30th birthday on 14 May 1940. Just a year earlier, they had emigrated from Germany to England to escape persecution by the Nazis. The poem was published 63 years later, transcribed and translated by their son Thomas Braun, in The Oxford Magazine, No. 216, 2003. – Photo: Braun Family Archive

Find out more about the Braun family story, and about the archive, here.

The Braun Family Archive was donated to the Bodleian Library by Christopher Braun, London, in several tranches between July 2010 and May 2017, together with a grant towards the cost of preparing the catalogue.

A Brief Encounter with Jane Austen’s Aunt and Cousin, Paris 1786

Eliza de Feuillide, nee Hancock (1761-1813), by an unknown artist

Visitors to the Jane Austen exhibition (Which Jane Austen?) will have seen a small diary whose anonymous author attended a party in Paris where both Jane Austen’s aunt and cousin were present.

Although the diary has been in the Bodleian since 1945, the Jane Austen connection had not been noticed until I stumbled across it in 2015. In June of that year a number of History and English students came to a workshop in the Weston Library to help us discover the authors of some anonymous manuscript travel diaries in Bodleian collections. We called the workshop ‘Travelling Incognito?’ Archivists in Special Collections surveyed the diaries briefly before the workshop to assess them for readability, condition and potential research interest. During this process, a page in one of the diaries, MS. Eng. misc. e. 250, caught my attention. The catalogue entry for the diary is brief: ‘Journal of a tour in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, late 18th cent. 60 leaves; marbled wrappers.’ The author mostly describes towns, houses and gardens he visits, and perhaps apart from his visit to the Royal Court at Versailles where he saw Marie Antoinette, there is nothing especially remarkable about the diary. No year is mentioned, but we can date it to 1786 from the correlation of days and months and some references to recent events. One or two pages for no apparent reason are written in French, and it was on one of these pages (fol. 19v ) that I noticed some interesting names in reference to a dinner in Paris on 17 June. The description of the dinner reads as follows:

Saturday 17th

… Nous avons aujourdhui dine chez Monsr. Pattle ou il se trouvait le Doct. Geary, deux Anglais, Made Hancock anglaise & sa fille[,] un Curé[,] Mde Villette & Monsr. Pattle qui se trouvait bien indispose, mais il nous a reçu avec beaucoup d’honnetété & nous a conté beaucoup d’Histoires –  Mde Hancock en des Indes & connait tres bien Mons Sumner, Mde Yorke, la famille Birch &ca. Le Doctr ma dit que sa fille etait de Monsr Hastings. …

[We dined today at Mr Pattle’s, where were Doctor Geary, two Englishwomen, Madame Hancock and her daughter, a Curé, Madame Villette and Mr Pattle, whom we found was very unwell,  but he received us with great sincerity, and recounted to us numerous stories. Madame Hancock was in the Indies, and knew well Mr Sumner, Madame Yorke, the Birch family etc. The Doctor told me that her daughter was Mr Hastings’s …]

What are we to make of this? At first I was struck by the author’s apparent interest in India. The fact that Madame Hancock had been ‘en des Indes’, and had known various people out there, was clearly of interest to the author who may well have had connections with India and the East India Company, and appears to have had mutual acquaintances there with Mrs Hancock. The name of the host, Pattle, was sufficiently unusual to be worth an internet search, so I tried my luck and put the names Pattle, Hancock, Sumner, Yorke and Birch into a search engine together with India. The results were encouraging. One ‘hit’ was on a document created by the British Library, People and Places.  A guide to materials relating to India at the British Library Western Manuscripts Collections.  This guide revealed that one Thomas Pattle had been a director of the East India Company; that Richard Sumner was also an East India Company official, and that Warren Hastings, as Governor-General of India, had corresponded with him. The names Yorke and Birch are also listed in an Indian context, but the name that really stood out was that of ‘Tisoe Saul Hancock’, Surgeon at Fort William (Bengal), especially as his name came up in the context of letters he had written to Warren Hastings. Also mentioned in the British Library Guide was ‘Mrs Hancock’. Copies of Mr Hancock’s letters to his wife and daughter, and his will, are among the papers of Sir Warren Hastings. The significance of all this is that Tysoe Hancock’s wife was Philadelphia Hancock, nee Austen. She was Jane Austen’s aunt.

Portrait of Warren Hastings by Tilly Kettle, c.1772 (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

So now let us return to the dinner at Mr Pattle’s house in Paris in June 1786. Those knowledgeable about the history of Jane Austen’s family will have noted straightaway that the ‘fille’ of Mrs Hancock, also present at the dinner, must be Eliza. And of course, Eliza and her mother were in France in 1786 because Eliza had married a French Army Captain, Jean-François Capot de Feuillide. Jean-François made the mistake of making (possibly bogus) claims to aristocracy and ended up a victim of the guillotine, by which time the Hancocks had returned to England. Eliza was thus Jane Austen’s cousin, and Jane knew her well. She was 14 years older than Jane, and according to the article on Jane in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Eliza was ‘a frequent visitor to Steventon and a powerful influence on her cousins.’ Her vivacious and witty nature is thought to be reflected in the character of Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park, published shortly after Eliza’s death in 1813. By then, Eliza had married Jane’s brother Henry, so that she was Jane’s sister-in-law as well as her first cousin. The most interesting thing about the passage mentioning the dinner in Paris is the apparent reference to a story circulating at the time, that Eliza was the natural daughter of Warren Hastings (stated in the rather bald French, ‘sa fille etait de Mons r Hastings’). Whatever the truth or otherwise of the rumours surrounding her birth, and this subject remains controversial among Austen scholars, it is very interesting to see that the story was apparently circulating in Paris in 1786, even among those very close to Mrs Hancock and her daughter.

None of this has helped us to identify the author of MS. Eng. misc. e. 250, but it does suggest a network that might be pursued. And during the course of the Travelling Incognito workshop, the student assigned to work on this diary discovered that the author had visited Mr Pattle on 13 June. His house was in Place Royale, and the author delivered to him ‘our letters and parcels’, one of which was from Mr Hastings, thanking Mr Pattle for his offer of his services ‘on the trial’. So it certainly would appear that there is some connection between the author and Warren Hastings, and that perhaps some official business took him to Mr Pattle’s house.  Warren Hastings’s impeachment for alleged corruption in India began in 1787 and he was acquitted after a trial that lasted until 1795.

It was during this first visit that Mr Pattle invited the author to dine on the 17th. He describes Mr Pattle as a 76-year-old man with one eye. This identifies Mr Pattle as Thomas Pattle of Paris, whose will of 1788 is among the Prerogative Court of Canterbury records held at the National Archives. Mrs Maria Villette, presumably the Madame Villette noted in the diary, was a major beneficiary, in recognition of the care she had taken of Pattle and his affairs.  Julia Margaret Cameron, nee Pattle, the noted photographer and great aunt of Virginia Woolf, was Thomas Pattle’s great granddaughter.

This takes us some way from the brief entry in the anonymous diary however. Of more interest in this context is a reference to the same Thomas Pattle and his Paris residence in the correspondence of Jeremy Bentham (see  The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, Electronic Edition, ed. Sprigge et. al., InteLex Corp., Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.A., 2000). Just a year before the anonymous diarist met Thomas Pattle and the Hancocks in Paris, on 17 August 1785, Jeremy Bentham wrote a letter to his father, Jeremiah, on 17 August 1785:

“I scribble in haste from Mr. Pattle’s Country house at Argenteuil, formerly the House of the Marquis du Chatelet, and Residence of Voltaire, present Mrs. Villette, Mr. Pattle, Captn and Mrs. Brook and Mr. Roger Metcalfe… .”

Later in the letter he adds:

“I met your Friend Dr. Keary here on Sunday who made the most affectionate Enquiries after you.”

It may not be significant, but it was a ‘Dr Geary’ who confided to the anonymous diarist the story of Eliza Hancock’s alleged origins. The editors of the Bentham correspondence were not able to identify Dr Keary. Could our diarist have mispelt his name? The editors did have something to say about Thomas Pattle however, noting that Samuel Bentham, Jeremy’s brother,  had stayed with a Mr Pattle at Paris in 1775.

In September 1785 Jeremy Bentham wrote to Jeremiah from Florence, ending a long letter with the following:

“I don’t know that I saw Lady Craven. I had a pretence to call on her from having seen her beautiful little boy, Keppel at Mr. Pattle’s (Mrs. Villette and she are great friends) … .”

This brings us once more into the Jane Austen orbit, for she had connections with the Cravens through her great friend Martha Lloyd, and through Thomas Fowle who was betrothed to Jane’s sister Cassandra before his untimely death in the West Indies, both of whom were descended from a junior branch of the Craven family. The Countess Craven in Jane’s day, daughter in-law- of the Lady Craven  mentioned by Bentham, read and offered her opinions of some of Jane Austen’s novels, as indeed did Warren Hastings (see footnotes in the The Letters of Jane Austen  published by OUP, 1995; online database version published by InteLex Corp., Charlottesville, 2004).

The diary remains on display in the Which Jane Austen? exhibition in the Weston Library until 29 October.

Dancing all night with Aphra Behn: a recently acquired diary of Jeffrey Boys of Betteshanger, 1667


The library recently acquired a little Gallen almanac of 1667. This work, itself a rare book (we have traced a handful of Gallen almanacs in the Bodleian, and none for 1667), has become a unique manuscript as it contains a diary of Jeffrey (or Jefferay) Boys of Betteshanger, Kent for the year 1667. The catalogue has just been published online. Although the diary covers only 12 pages (one per month), it is of considerable interest as a record of Restoration London. In the words of the bookseller  Samuel Gedge, who identified the author and the significance of the diary, the diarist “offers a masterclass in Restoration dandyism: gambling, socialising, drinking, dancing and theatregoing”.

Jeffrey Boys (1643-1703) was a young lawyer at Gray’s Inn, one of many sons of John Boys (d. 1678), possessor of the manor of Betteshanger in Kent. John Boys was married three times, and the numerous references to brothers, sisters and cousins in the diary refer to step-relatives and brothers and sisters-in-law as well as full siblings, and all can be traced in pedigrees of the Boys family and John Boys’s will held in the National Archives. Jeffrey’s mother and father make a brief appearance in the diary when ‘Father & Mother Let’ come to London. Jeffrey’s mother was named Letitia.

The most extraordinary aspect of the diary however is Boys’s meetings with the female playwright Aphra Behn, with whom he is clearly acquainted. Aphra goes by the name of ‘Astrea’, and her identity might not have been established but for the fortunate discovery in 1930 of another Jeffrey Boys diary of 1671. Astrea was apparently a name Aphra Behn adopted when she was a spy in Antwerp. Sadly, the whereabouts of the original diary is not presently known, but the discoverer, though not recording where he saw it, wrote it up in Notes and Queries, noting that Boys records that he saw Astrea’s play the Forc’d Marriage, and then that ‘Astraea’s boy brought me her play the Amorous Prince’.

[May] 29 Sisters, Mrs An. Farew[ell], Astrea & divers men set up dauncing at Spr[ing] gard[en] all night

The 1667 diary shows that Jeffrey Boys’s connection with Aphra Behn was more intimate, and went back further than could be discovered from the the 1671 diary. She makes her first of five appearances in Boys’s 1667 diary on 29 May when Boys, his sister, Astrea and ‘divers men set up dauncing at Spr[ing] gard[en] all night’. The date of this first entry is noteworthy because it is known from other sources that Aphra Behn had returned from her spying mission to Antwerp earlier that month (see her entry in the Dictionary of National Biography). It is clear from this entry that Boys already knew Astrea, and as she is treated in the same way as all his other friends and relatives mentioned in the diary, it is likely that they had known one another a long time.


The diary has numerous interesting references to life in Restoration London. On 14-15 Jan 1667 Boys records attendance at various plays. He saw the ‘Indian Queen’ (‘it not having been acted in a long time’) and its companion the ‘Indian Emperor’ performed over two days, ‘the whole Court almost except th[ei]r Maj[est]ies being there’. This was Thomas Killigrew’s production, the man who was later to stage Behn’s plays and who was also connected with her spying activies. In February 1667 Boys helped to set up an Anatomy Club, missing its first meeting as he was watching Spanish rope dancers. At a later meeting he saw ‘a dog well anatomized’.

November  ….lost my cloake in Lincolns In field  … bought new sword [he lost his old one]. had new Periwig.

Boys also attended the ‘Humorous Lovers’ by the ‘Duchesse of Newcastle’ exactly, he says ‘as shee writ it’. It is supposed that the Duke of Newcastle actually wrote the play, but Pepys also saw it at the same time, and he too believed it to have been written by the Duchess.

Boys seems to be following Pepys around. He and his companions saw a ‘riding of Skimington’ on 10 June 1667 in Greenwich. This was a form of community retribution meted out on people deemed to be acting anti-socially, and Pepys witnessed the very same incident in Greenwich on the same day:

[from Pepys Diary 10 June 1667] ‘…in the afternoon took boat and down to Greenwich, where I find the stairs full of people, there being a great riding there to-day for a man, the constable of the town, whose wife beat him.’

The diary gives an interesting picture of places of entertainment in post-Fire London. Several taverns are mentioned, the favourite being the Bacchus, where once again we find Boys and others dancing all night with Astrea in December 1667. In October Boys was up all night again, this time at ‘La Frouns’ (or possibly La Trouns – if anyone has information about this institution, please let us know). Among his companions on this occasion were ‘Ld Bellamounts daughters Lady Frances and Persiana’. Frances Bard, daughter of the Earl of Bellomont, was Prince Rupert’s mistress and mother of his natural son Dudley.  According to some accounts, the relationship ended in 1667.

At the end of the volume, Boys has copied out the steps for various country dances – perhaps he and Aphra Behn tried a few of them!

Looking back and pushing forwards: 75 years of Oxfam

As an Archives Assistant spending the next twelve months helping to catalogue the Oxfam Archive, I probably shouldn’t admit how woefully ignorant I was of Oxfam before I started. I knew their shops sold cheap books and nice Christmas cards. I knew you could buy someone a goat or a toilet for Christmas, and that this goat or toilet would go to someone who lived somewhere without a sewage system or a supermarket selling pasteurized milk. But beyond this, I’d never really stopped to think who ‘Oxfam’ were and what they meant. It came as a surprise that ‘Oxfam’ wasn’t just a made-up word but came from Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, and that a charity which was born in one small city has spread its offices and infrastructure across the globe. I’ve learnt a lot in the two months since I started. But Oxfam’s 75th birthday party, held in Oxford’s town hall on Friday 6th October, taught me a lot more. 

some of the archive material used for the ‘show and tell’ sessions


At the Bodleian we were involved with preparations for the 75th anniversary in a low-key way, answering enquiries from Oxfam staff regarding photographs which would be used in exhibitions and slideshow presentations. Between the 4th and the 6th October there were also opportunities for Oxfam staff and volunteers to view some of the highlights of the Oxfam archive in the Bodleian, and this proved a learning experience for me as well. Through objects such as a scrapbook documenting fundraising and a damp-gnawed but still-legible gift-shop cashbook from 1948-9, I realised the importance of innovatory and motivated figures like Robert Castle and Joe Mitty, who respectively established the first permanent Oxfam shop and helped make the charity-shop phenomenon what it is today. A particularly memorable entry in the cashbook was simply ‘Dog’, which sold for 5 shillings – we presume the dog was ornamental, especially as an ‘Elephant’ was also sold at around the same time!

Oxfam’s first permanent shop on Broad Street, Oxford


The anniversary celebrations themselves took place on Friday 6th October in Oxford’s Town Hall. We were treated to cake and tea in the Assembly Room, and then moved into the ornate Main Hall where the Oxfam choir sung us into our seats. The full hall made me realise not only the importance of Oxfam as a UK employer, but also as a social institution which generations of people have grown up with. Many of the volunteers were elderly, but a gurgling baby at the back of the hall indicated that the Oxfamily spans all ages.


My job is to catalogue Oxfam’s project files, bundles of correspondence, receipts and reports which document how development work plays out on the ground. This is what Stan Thekaekara, founder-director of trade model ‘Just Change’ and one of the evening’s speakers, would call the ‘worm’s eye view’. I was much less aware of the ‘bird’s-eye view’, the need for an overarching vision and policy and the tension that can result between the bird and the worm, between the decision-makers at home and the boots on the ground. This was something discussed by the panel hosted by Duncan Green, strategic advisor at Oxfam GB. The panellists debated the need to reorient the global economic system away from exponential growth and a capitalistic zero sum game, but also the importance of listening to the communities worst-affected by this system and providing them with the knowledge that could help improve their lives.

the programme for the evening’s events



In a discussion on the future of Oxfam, Mark Goldring (Oxfam GB’s Chief Executive) suggested this focus on communities was already being embodied by Oxfam International, the worldwide confederation of Oxfam affiliates. Oxfam International Executive Director Winne Byanyima was optimistic as she announced that Oxfam International’s headquarters would shortly be moving to Nairobi, and the celebratory talks concluded with reiterations of Oxfam’s commitment to end poverty.

While the optimism and passion of the speakers was inspiring, I couldn’t help but notice the tragic irony of the fact that, twenty-five years ago, Oxfam’s 50th anniversary celebrations were overshadowed by the influx of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh, and that 2017 has witnessed renewed attacks and allegations of genocide by the Myanmar authorities. Despite Oxfam’s energy and determination, I can’t help but think that, while human hatred continues to fuel governments, human suffering will not be easy to uproot.

British Ambassador to Georgia visits Wardrop collection

On Monday 25th October the Justin McKenzie Smith, the British Ambassador to Georgia, visited Oxford University’s  Georgian Studies Programme and the Bodleian’s Wardrop Collection. During his time at the library he was shown some of the new materials added to the collection in May and learned more about plans for 2018, which include Nikoloz Aleksidze’s forthcoming book with Bodleian Library Publishing, Georgia: a cultural journey through the Wardrop Collection.

Oxfam archive inspires potential University of Oxford students

Nineteen year-12 students recently attended a seminar in the Weston Library’s impressive Bahari Room as part of a summer school organised by Wadham College.

The programme allows students from schools with low application/entry rates into higher education to experience university life through a four-day residential. During the visit, students attended lectures, seminars and tutorials, giving them a taste of what it is like to be an undergraduate at the University of Oxford.

The theme for this year was ‘The Politics of Immigration’ and in the seminar, students had the chance to handle a selection of material taken from the Oxfam archive. They were then asked to discuss the representation of Palestinian refugees in the archival documents dating from the 1960s. The material used was taken from the Communications section of the archive – i.e. records of Oxfam’s external communication with the public – and is just a very small example of the material available to the public in the extensive Oxfam archive (the Communications catalogue is online here).

An example of some of the material that the students were using from the Communications section of the Oxfam archive.

Though initially hesitant, we were pleased when two eager students volunteered to open up the archival boxes and find the files that were needed. After being carefully handled by our volunteers, all the files were laid out for the students to analyse in groups.

Dr. Tom Sinclair and a student unpacking an archival box.

The students then took it in turns to give examples of how Palestinian refugees were represented in the Oxfam material. One of the excellent examples that students spotted was how Oxfam was able to remain politically neutral (a constitutional necessity for charities) by not specifying why the refugees were displaced. Students also remarked that Oxfam preferred to focus on individual stories in their communications – for instance, that of a displaced teenager with aspirations to be an engineer – which the students suggested helped humanise a crisis that could be difficult for the public to comprehend.

The students studied selected material from the Oxfam archive and gave examples of how Palestinian refugees were represented.

Overall, the ‘Politics of Immigration’ seminar was a great success that gave the students a good feel for what it would be like to use the archives to complete research for a dissertation or other academic project.

Dr Tom Sinclair, who organised the summer school, said: “It was such a privilege to be in that lovely room and have such free access to the archives… I really think that a couple of the students were inspired, and I hope they’ll be future Oxford undergraduates visiting the archives again in a few years’ time.”

Study day of Ge’ez manuscripts of Ethiopia and Eritrea

Recent months have brought an unprecedented interest in Ge’ez manuscripts of Ethiopia and Eritrea – a development that we welcome at the Bodleian. Study of this material has reached a new level, with further palaeographical and codicological knowledge, as well as a growing appreciation of art history. Studying, displaying, and digitising a variety of our little-known codices and scrolls with modern means help us better understand and disseminate our findings to new audiences.
With this in mind, on Saturday, the 17th of June we welcomed a small group of Ethiopians and Eritreans at the Bodleian to view a selection of Ge’ez manuscripts of Ethiopia and Eritrea. The material, which was studied and discussed with great excitement, included a magic scroll with miniatures of angels and demons, an illuminated seventeenth-century prayer book, fragments of a medieval gospel with evangelists’ portraits, a hagiographic work with copious illustrations to the text, an important textual variant of the Book of Enoch and the epic work Kebra Nagast (Glory of the Kings).
The experience of the day was that of beautiful exchange of ideas, as well as building bridges within and between communities. We look forward to future developments!

Engaged in discussion from left to right: Dereje Debella, Judith McKenzie, Girma Getahun, Yemane Asfedai, Gillian Evison, Madeline Slaven and Rahel Fronda. Photo credit: Mai Musié.

Studying a magic scroll, from left to right: Yemane Asfedai, Girma Getahun, Dereje Debella, Madeline Slaven and Rahel Fronda. Photo credit: Gillian Evison.

Studying a textual variant of the Ethiopian Book of Enoch, from left to right: Rahel Fronda, Dereje Debella, Girma Getahun, Yemane Asfedai, Gillian Evison and Madeline Slaven. Photo credit: Miranda Williams.

Buying books on witchcraft in 17th-century London

Letter from bookseller Edward Millington, November 1673

Letter from bookseller Edward Millington, November 1673 (click to enlarge)

The Bodleian Library has acquired an extremely rare autograph letter by the 17th-century English bookseller and auctioneer Edward Millington. The letter, dated 29 November 1673, is only the second known item of correspondence in Millington’s hand and represents a significant addition to evidence of book trade in this period, not least because Millington’s correspondent is both a researcher of witchcraft and a woman. The addressee is  “the Lady Gerhard at Mr Sanders a woollen draper in York Streete near Covent Garden” ;  most probably Lady Jane Gerard, née Digby, baroness of Bromley. At the time the letter was written Lady Gerard had already lost her first husband, Charles Gerard, 4th baron Gerard of Bromley (d.1667) and was yet to marry her second,  Sir Edward Hungerford (1632-1711). Lady Gerard’s discovery of a ‘healing spring’ at Willowbridge in Staffordshire would be recorded in 1676 by her chaplain Samuel Gilbert in a pamphlet entitled ‘Fons sanitatis’ (London, 1676). She died in 1703.

The present letter reveals Lady Gerard to have had a serious interest in writings on witchcraft; tantalisingly, it seems to have been part of a longer correspondence with Millington, the rest of which is now lost. In it he recalls having promised Lady Gerard “an exact account of all the English authors of witchcraft both for and against,”  and mentions a previous “parcell of books” sold to her. Millington himself was well placed to advise on such a topic; in 1669, he had published John Wagstaffe’s ‘The question of witchcraft debated’ out of the print shop he ran at the sign of the Pelican on Duck Lane, Little Britain. By the time of this letter he had moved to his later premises, at the sign of the Bible, but was yet to make his name as an auctioneer; a career that would see him described by Thomas Herne as “certainly the best Auctioneer in the World, being a man of Great Wit and Fluency of Speech… [though] very impudent and saucy” [DNB].

Three early modern books on witches and witchcraft

Books on witches and witchcraft, as recommended by Edward Millington

By 1673 Millington was evidently active in the second-hand book trade; the purpose of this letter to Lady Gerard is to provide a list of further books he was able to supply, with prices. These include “Dr Dees Relation of his actions with spirits,” probably ‘A true & faithful relation of what passed for many yeers between Dr. John Dee […] and some spirits’ (London, 1659); “Ady’s Candle in the Darkness,” i.e. Thomas Ady’s ‘A candle in the dark: or, A treatise concerning the nature of witches & witchcraft’, first published London 1655, and “Lavater Of Walking Ghosts,” which must be an English translation of Ludwig Lavater’s  ‘De spectris, lemuribus et magnis atque insolitis fragoribus’, such as the one published in 1596 as ‘Of ghostes and spirites, walking by night, and of straunge noyses, crackes, and sundrie forewarnings, which commonly happen before the death of men…’. Copies of all three of the books recommended by Millington are available to researchers at the Bodleian – soon they will be able to consult them alongside Millington’s letter of recommendation.

–Jo Maddocks and Mike Webb

War, Health and Humanitarianism

How can we define humanitarianism?

What motivates humanitarian actors like Oxfam and the Red Cross?

How have relief and development organizations competed and collaborated to mitigate suffering from conflicts?

Is political neutrality feasible or necessary?

These and other questions will be addressed in the symposium, ‘War, Health and Humanitarianism’ on 16 June in the Weston Library Lecture Theatre, which brings together historians studying conflicts from the medieval period to the present day. Speakers will include Dr. Rosemary Wall, Bodleian Library Sassoon Visiting Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Global History at the University of Hull, whose current research focuses on conflict in Cyprus, Vietnam and Nigeria in the 20th century and British and French humanitarian responses.

For further information and to register see:

Unloading dried milk

Unloading dried milk for the starving people of Biafra at Fernando Po during the Nigerian Civil War, July 1968
MS. Oxfam COM/5/1/51
Credit: Duncan Kirkpatrick / Oxfam