Category Archives: Early modern

Donation of Georgian Books for the Wardrop Collection

Dr. Nikoloz Aleksidze, who organised the recent Oxford University colloquium Medieval Georgian Heritage in Turkey, has been instrumental in securing a significant donation of Georgian books to help extend the collection of reference materials available to scholars working with the Wardrop collection.

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The colloquium featured an impressive display of publications on the manuscripts, heritage and culture of Georgia, which had been donated by the Korneli Kekelidze National Centre of Manuscripts, the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia, Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia and Buba Kudava of Artanuji Publishing. These donations have now come to the Bodleian, which has one of the finest collections of Kartvelain material outside of Georgia built on the nucleus of books, manuscripts and archives donated by the Wardrops.

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The Wardrop Collection was formed by Sir Oliver Wardrop, who was the United Kingdom’s first Chief Commissioner of Transcaucasus in Georgia, 1919-21 and his sister Marjory, who, after teaching herself Georgian, was the first person to make an English prose translation of the Georgian National epic, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.  After Marjory’s early death in 1909, the Marjory Wardrop Fund was founded for the encouragement of Georgian studies and from 1910, through this fund, the Bodleian became the beneficiary of all Marjory Wardrop’s papers, books and manuscripts. They were supplemented by further donations from Sir Oliver until his death in 1948. The library has continued to build on this foundation ever since.

Over the coming months, Dr. Aleksidze will be writing a series of guest blogs which will highlight items from the collection and in the autumn he will commence a series of lectures at the Weston Library focusing on the extraordinary legacy of the Wardrops.

 

 

 

 

 

Foot-men

Statues from Villa dei Papiri in Ercolano. By Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011). Wikicommons.

Statues from Villa dei Papiri in Ercolano. By Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011). Wikicommons.

20 September 1720

“Yesterday was a great foot-race at Woodstock, for 1400 libs, between a running footman of the duke of Wharton’s, and a running footman of Mr. Diston’s, of Woodstock, round the four mile course. Mr. Diston’s man being about 35 years of age (and the duke’s about 45) got it with ease, outdistancing the duke’s near half a mile. They both ran naked, there being not the least scrap of anything to cover them, not so much as shoes and pumps, which was looked upon deservedly as the height of impudence, and the greatest affront to the ladies, of which there was a very great number.”

–A transcript from “Reliquiae Hearniane, ii. 112″ in Percy Manning’s volume of notes on sports and pastimes in Oxfordshire (Weston Library, MS. Top. Oxon. d. 202).

 

This blog post is written as part of our project to increase the accessibility of the Bodleian's Percy Manning holdings in the run up to the centenary of Manning's death in 2017. We are grateful to the Marc Fitch Fund for its generous support of this project.

Hot air ballooning

Here’s how you make a hot air balloon:

Take 23 yards of red and white persian silk, and sew them together in alternate strips.

Then mix:

Boil for about an hour over a slow fire, strain when cool, and mix with an ounce and a half of spirits of turpentine.

Use this mixture to varnish and seal the seams of the balloon.

Create gas to fill your balloon by combining 19 pounds of iron filings, 40 pounds of concentrated vitriolic [sulphuric] acid, and five times as much water in a barrel which is connected by a copper siphon to another barrel that is nearly filled with water. Connect that barrel to the balloon itself by a long metal tube.

(Avoid fire at all costs. And beware explosions.)

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Executions in Oxford

Another snippet from the Percy Manning archive, this time from his ‘Oxford Collections’ scrapbooks which contain notes, newspaper clippings and assorted ephemera on topics ranging from Academic Halls to Earthquakes to Knucklebone Floors, to Lady in the Wall to …. Well, it’s wonderfully diverse!

This one is a simple clipping from the Oxford Times of 21 July 1888, and a chilling reminder of where the saying ‘you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb‘ comes from. A compendium of executions carried out in Oxford between 1778-1888, it lists 44 men and their capital crimes, which range from murder to… sheep-stealing.

A list of executions in Oxford, 1778-1888, from MS. Top. Oxon. d. 180, fol. 69.

Executions in Oxford, 1778-1888, from MS. Top. Oxon. d. 180, fol. 69 – click to enlarge

John Grace, John Cox and Richard Cox were executed on the 27th of March 1786 for stealing sheep (joined at the gibbet by Miles Ward, whose crime was robbing Magdalen College, Oxford); Jessie Wiggins was executed for stealing sheep on the 24th of March 1801 and Richard Wiggins (a relative?) on the 2nd of August 1818. There are five horse thieves too, the last of whom was executed as late as 1827, after which the list of crimes men are executed for narrows sharply to highway robbery, arson and murder.

It’s perhaps interesting that no women were executed – it’s likely that they were transported instead – although one woman is listed, poor Mrs. Barmister, whose husband James was executed for her murder on the 10th of July 1815.

The list also includes Thomas White, who robbed Blenheim House (Palace?), and Charles Walter Wyatt, the postmaster of Witney, whose crime was stealing money from his customers’ mail. They were executed together at Oxford Castle on the 6th of August 1787 in front of ‘a prodigious assemblage of spectators’. Manning’s scrapbook includes a description of their deaths copied from Gentleman’s Magazine.

A description of the execution of Thomas White and Charles Walter Wyatt, from MS. Top. Oxon. d. 180, fol. 68.

The execution of Thomas White and Charles Walter Wyatt, from MS. Top. Oxon. d. 180, fol. 68 – click to enlarge

These two particular deaths were notable because they were executed

…according to a new mode, the more sensibly to affect the prisoners who were made spectators of the melancholy catastrophe

Literally spectators – their fellow prisoners were compelled to stand near the gallows and watch. And then

the cords were fixed, the caps pulled over their faces & in little more than 2 minutes having themselves requested dispatch, the platform sunk & the unhappy wretches were launched into eternity

Unfortunately though, it looks like the Oxford Times list of 1888 is incomplete. The Oxfordshire History Centre has a fuller list here (taken from Oliver’s City of Oxford Almanack, 1929) and it adds more sad detail, including more sheep and horse thieves like Joseph Wren, aged only 17, who was executed in March 1783 for stealing a horse, bridle and saddle. And William Bowler, aged 23, executed in the same month for stealing a single sheep. Yes. Just one.

Using the Oxfordshire Record Office list for the period 1778 to 1836, I tallied:

  • 1 execution for forgery
  • 2 for arson
  • 5 for murder
  • 14 for stealing a horse or sheep
  • 16 for every other kind of theft, including burglary and highway robbery

After 1836 people were executed for murder alone, 13 more executions up to 1921. 18 murders in 144 years seems like quite a small number, somehow (perhaps I’ve been watching too much Morse). Then again, nobody in these lists is being executed for manslaughter or any other killing offence. In Oxford’s courts, it seems, ending somebody’s life really did mean less risk to your neck than nicking that proverbial lamb. Grim.

This blog post is written as part of our project to increase the accessibility of the Bodleian's Percy Manning holdings in the run up to the centenary of Manning's death in 2017. We are grateful to the Marc Fitch Fund for its generous support of this project.

Lizzie Bennett – Blacksmith

Percy Manning (1870-1917), an Oxfordshire antiquarian, archaeologist, and local historian, bequeathed his collection of drawings and prints, photos and detailed notes on everything from sports and pastimes to local folklore (and much more besides) to the Bodleian Library, while his archaeological collections went to the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums.

To mark the upcoming centenary of his death, the Bodleian is contributing to a mapping project that will pinpoint these collections against the places they relate to, and this involves adding more details to our existing catalogue.

This collection is full of delights, from 18th-century prints of rural idylls that are now thoroughly built-up Oxford suburbs to detailed notes on Oxfordshire dialect words and obscure local festivals.

Elizabeth Bennett, blacksmith, in a 1708 manuscript account of works at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, MS. Top. Oxon. c. 230, fol. 45v.

MS. Top. Oxon. c. 230, fol. 45v – Click to enlarge

And this pleasing thing, the last entry in a 1708 account book that records building and landscaping work done on the then-unfinished Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, only 3 years into what would be an eyewateringly expensive 29-year construction project.

An account of blacksmithing work done in December 1708 by Eliz[abeth] Bennett at Blenheim ‘Castle’, her job included making 32 dozen holdfasts for the joiners (at 2 shillings a dozen), making new handles for three saws, mending a pump in the meadows, and making wedges and clouts (patches or plates) used in the stairs. But in addition to making items for a fixed price, she also charged for work by the pound weight. Twenty five pounds of iron works for a grindstone at 4 pence a pound earned her 8s 4d (100 pence total) and 31 pounds of wedges and clouts, also at 4 pence a pound, made her 10s 4d.

The total for what would have been several days or weeks of highly skilled work? 4 pounds, 17 shillings, 2 pence. Not bad at all if you compare it to a female servant’s income at about that time – maidservant Sarah Sherin made £4 a year in 1717, while in the farming world, a female labourer called Goody Currell was paid 4 pence a day at an Oxfordshire farm in 1759, fifty years later.

Elizabeth appears three times in this account book, which only covers the outlay on  Blenheim from October to December 1708. In October (fol. 9v) she had a more lucrative commission, earning a handsome £8 12s 9d doing very similar work, including another 12 dozen holdfasts (this time, puzzlingly, at a mere 6d per dozen, a quarter of the amount charged in December – perhaps they were a simpler design?). She also made small cramps at 3½d per pound: over two hundredweight of small cramps which, needless to say, is a lot of small cramps, earning her £3 19s 0d.

Nothing has made me so grateful for decimalisation as checking the maths of an early modern accountant. Elizabeth made precisely 2 hundredweight, 1 quarter, and 19 pounds of small cramps in October. That’s an astonishing 271 pounds of metal work. 3½d per pound earns her 948½ pence. And with 240 pence in a pound (20 shillings in a pound, 12 pence in a shilling) that’s… well, have fun working that one out. By my reckoning it comes to £3 19s and 0.4d, so they seem to have shorted her a farthing or so. I had the benefit of a digital calculator, however. Kudos to Mr Henry Joynes, the architect who signed off on these accounts.

In November, Elizabeth made over £14 making more small cramps (a lot more – 767 pounds total) and 12 ‘gudgeons’, which the Oxford English Dictionary tells me means:

A pivot, usually of metal, fixed on or let into the end of a beam, spindle, axle, etc., and on which a wheel turns, a bell swings, or the like

But how much would a male blacksmith have been making? Well, luckily, the account book also has entries for a John Silver, Blacksmith, who earned himself the grand sum of £46 9s 9d in October, and then £12 9s 9d in December. Interestingly, however, he was paid exactly the same pound rate of 4d to make wedges and clouts (but was paid 4d a pound to make holdfasts for the joiners, rather than being paid by the dozen). Plus he, like Elizabeth, was paid 3½d per pound to make small cramps. Was this a smiths’ guild-mandated price? Or perhaps the result of a tendering process: did Elizabeth and John simply offer the lowest bids? Would they have charged more than this usually, or about the same?

Poster for the 1898 National Exhibition of Women's Labour, Netherlands (Gemeentemuseum, The Hague). Uploaded to wikicommons by Jan Toorop.

Poster for the 1898 National Exhibition of Women’s Labour, Netherlands (Gemeentemuseum, The Hague). Uploaded to wikicommons by Jan Toorop.

And as for who Elizabeth Bennett was? An interesting puzzle! It isn’t so unusual to come across craftswomen in this period and earlier – there’s a picture of a woman forging a nail in the 14th-century Holkham Bible – and the work of women silversmiths like Hester Bateman is extremely collectible to this day. Like Hester, it’s likely that Elizabeth was a widow carrying on her husband’s trade, but there are no Bennetts listed on this (very unofficial) directory of Oxfordshire blacksmiths, and no Bennetts working near Oxfordshire either. Perhaps she was a member of a local craft guild – possibly an Oxford guild? – but surviving records are poor (although a good chunk of the what’s left is, conveniently enough, here at the Bodleian). Perhaps she took an apprentice after 1710, in which case, there should be a registration record. And there’s always parish records, of course, to, try and track down her baptism and death dates, and any marriages. I for one, would love to know more!

This blog post is written as part of our project to increase the accessibility of the Bodleian's Percy Manning holdings in the run up to the centenary of Manning's death in 2017. We are grateful to the Marc Fitch Fund for its generous support of this project.

Shakespearean Talk

This year, 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, the Bodleian Libraries are taking part in Oxford’s year-long celebration Shakespeare Oxford 2016.

On the 18th of March, David Crystal and his actor/director son Ben Crystal gave the second of a series of fifteen free talks on Shakespeare that will be held at the Weston Library. The lecture, ‘How To Talk Like Shakespeare’, focused on the inspirations and evidence for David’s soon to be published book, the Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation, which is the first full description of the way that Shakespeare and his cohort actually spoke in the 16th-17th centuries. The talk featured short performances by David and Ben to demonstrate the differences between the usual modern ‘received’ pronunciation of Shakespeare’s work and the way the plays would have sounded in their original pronunciation (OP).

You can see them in action for yourself in this Open University video.

Friday’s lecture beautifully illustrated the case David makes on originalpronunciation.com for why we should be care about how Shakespeare and his actors spoke:

  • Rhymes that don’t work in modern English suddenly work.

  • Puns missed in modern English become clear.

  • New assonances and rhythms give lines a fresh impact.

  • Original pronunciation illustrates what is meant by speaking ‘trippingly upon the tongue’ (Hamlet).

  • Original pronunciation suggests new contrasts in speech style, such as between young and old, court and commoners, literate and illiterate.

  • OP motivates fresh possibilities of character interpretation.

As archivists, we get to add that OP makes us consider our early manuscripts in a new light! In the Q&A session after the talk, Mike Webb, the Curator of Early Modern Manuscripts here at the Weston Library, mentioned the 1645-1649 account book of Mary Gofton (described online here). Spelling wasn’t fully fixed in this period and Mary often writes phonetically. It would have been easy to overlook this or perhaps even to mark the author as badly educated, or just a poor speller, but this phonetic spelling turns out to be a fantastic gift. Reading the account book aloud and doing your best impression of OP, Mary’s voice jumps out of the text. You can see a sample of the account book below: the perfectly OP-sounding ‘Lettell Mall’ and ‘Lettell Neck’ [Nick] are her grandchildren.

Gofton account book (MS. Eng. e. 3651)

Gofton account book (MS. Eng. e. 3651) – Click to enlarge

David Crystal also discussed the effect that OP has on audiences and actors. One outcome of using OP is that the plays become more engaging to people who are put off by, or find difficult to understand, the ‘posh’ received pronunciation (RP) that we have all come to associate with Shakespeare. (Interestingly, there was nothing like received pronunciation in Shakespeare’s day – distinct class-based accents seem to be a product of the nineteenth century.)

Another advantage is that actors who would normally fake RP don’t have to hide their native accents because OP wasn’t itself an accent, more of a dialect, and it underlay many distinctive regional accents in the early modern period. So, for example (with apologies to all linguists!) ‘temptation’ and any other word ending in ‘tion’ was pronounced something like ‘temp-tay-see-on’ in OP, whether the speaker came from Devon or London, while today it’s pronounced something like ‘temp-tay-shun’ by most English speakers, wherever you come from. And for that majority of modern English-speaking people who don’t use RP, whether they’re from the UK or other English-speaking countries, OP can sound more familiar and intelligible than RP – not surprising, as it was the foundation accent for so many English-speaking countries.

If you want to hear more OP in action, there are plenty of demonstrations and transcriptions online. Why not start with Ben Crystal performing Hamlet’s ‘To Be, or not to be?’.

New catalogue: The Montgomery family papers

A small collection, this is the archive of a close-knit family of intellectuals, Robert Montgomery (1859-1938), his son Neil Montgomery (1895-1979), Neil’s wife Margaret (1896-1984) and their children, Lesley Le Claire (1927-2012) and Hugh Montgomery (1931-2008).

Robert Montgomery was an Argyll-born weaver’s son who became a headmaster in Huddersfield. While the archive is light on his papers, it may contain a long-lost gem of Highland romanticism, Robert’s draft novel The Last of the Clans. Or perhaps not – as his son, Neil, wryly writes in a preface:

“For the main part, however, the novel is hardly a success. My father never intended to publish it, or if he ever entertained such an idea he quickly abandoned it.”

Neil Montgomery was a distinguished psychiatrist who became the superintendent of Storthes Hall Hospital, a Huddersfield asylum. He had a strong interest in metaphysics, literature and theological matters with a particular interest in the philosophical poetry of Denis Saurat (1890-1958), an Anglo-French scholar, writer and broadcaster.

The Montgomery children went on to excel in divergent fields. Hugh Montgomery studied at Merton College, Oxford and  became a physicist, working among other places at the Harwell Research Laboratory in Oxford. He was a member of the Scottish Arctic Club and one of the features of the family archive are his photographs of expeditions to Greenland and Iceland in the 1970s and 1980s. Lesley Montgomery (who in 1986 married Alan Le Claire, also a physicist and originally Hugh Montgomery’s boss) became a much respected librarian, finishing her career as Librarian of Worcester College, Oxford (1977-1992). She was an expert, in particular, on seventeenth-century Britain, a hub of scholarly work on the period, and friend to researchers, reflected in the large pile of letters from Eric Sams, a musicologist and a Shakespeare scholar. The archive also features Lesley’s literary works as a playwright and author, including the script she wrote for Worcester College students to dramatize the Putney Debates of 1647, which was eventually produced for BBC radio. She went on to write other BBC Third Programme documentaries and to write and lecture on subjects including Kenelm Digby (manuscripts collected by Digby can be found in the Bodleian [PDF]).

The Montomery family archive is notable for the warmly affectionate, psychologically informed, intellectually stimulating, and open-minded correspondence between family members. In a letter from Neil Montgomery to Lesley, then 24, on the 16th of June, 1951, he writes about divorce, repression, the emancipation of women and the sexual sphere.

“The insistence on feminine chastity is of course a culture pattern belonging to a firmly based patriarchal society […] the demand for chastity of wives and daughters is basically the jealousy of the “Old Man”, the father, against all younger males. […] Nevertheless in a properly regulated society the vote will be a useful thing to have. So too will sexual freedom. Women will then be able to choose chastity freely and not forced to accept it as something imposed upon them by the lordly male. And that, unless I am much mistaken, will be in basic accord with the normal woman’s nature. […] Deep in her bones woman knows what the biological meaning of all this sex business is. She must have a stable home for the children which are born. Therefore she is instinctively against promiscuity. […] So then I come back to my genial Victorian corner. The sanctity of marriage is not overthrown. Women can still be paragons of virtue, and at the same time I can lay claim to be in the vanguard of modern thought. Did ever you know a better of [sic] example of having one’s cake and one’s halfpenny?”

The archive is particularly strong on early twentieth-century psychological theories, and their intersections with literature, philosophy and theology. It is also notable for Neil Montgomery’s correspondence with Philippe Mairet and W.T. (Travers) Symons, editors of the New English Weekly; the long sequence of letters from Eric Sams to Lesley Le Claire; a series of draft articles written by the mathematician Ethel Maud Rowell; and the transatlantic, wartime letters written by Margaret Montgomery (the honorary secretary of the Huddersfield Association of University Women) to Lydia Lagloire of Quebec City, Canada (a fellow University Woman) which touch on conditions in the U.K. and Canada and the political situation in Quebec, among many other matters.

Digital.Bodleian + Wikipedia

For anyone looking to define Taijitu, Putso or Sangha, or to learn about Elizabeth Fry, the Junior wives of Krishna, or the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, one of the top internet search hits will be Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Articles about these, and hundreds of other topics, are now being improved using the Bodleian Libraries’ historic collections.

Images from Digital.Bodleian collection are being uploaded to Commons, the database of freely reusable digital files. From here they can be embedded in articles not just in English Wikipedia, but in other languages and in other educational projects. So far, more than six hundred articles, across many different languages, are illustrated with images from the Bodleian Libraries, reaching a total of nearly 1.5 million readers per month.

Military Insignia of the Late Roman Army (Insignia of the magister militum praesentalis. Folio 96 v of the manuscript Notitia dignitatum. Bodleian Library, MS. Canon. Misc. 378.) Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Military Insignia of the Late Roman Army (Insignia of the magister militum praesentalis. Folio 96 v of the manuscript Notitia dignitatum. Bodleian Library, MS. Canon. Misc. 378.) Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Bodleian images come from many different countries and eras. The themes range from the serene watercolours of 19th century Burma (present-day Myanmar), via geometrical diagrams in an 11th century Arabic book, to the nightmarish demonic visions of the 14th century Book of Wonders.

A taste is given in an image gallery on Commons. Clicking on any of the images – here or in Wikipedia – and then on ‘More details’ will bring up a larger version, along with links and shelfmarks so that interested readers can track down the physical object.

Anyone is allowed to edit the entries for the images, for example to translate descriptions into other languages. However, these edits are monitored to make sure they respect the educational goals of the site.

This is just the start of an ongoing project: more files and more themes will be added over the next nine months. The Bodleian Libraries’ Wikimedian In Residence, Martin Poulter, welcomes enquiries – you can get in touch via the form below.

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Search and Searchability, or Desperately Seeking Susan’s Husband: an anonymous Regency diarist revealed

The diaries in question comprise three small volumes, written on three separate excursions to the South coast in the summers of 1813, 1821 and 1822. They were purchased in late 2012 as anonymous holiday diaries.

John Cox diary 1813-cover

The path to discovery is so convoluted that I thought it would be worth recording the steps by which authorship was established. The story illustrates the power of the Internet, not necessarily in the data it contains (though there is much of great use), but more in its ability to establish links between isolated snippets of information which themselves may lead nowhere, but together provide enough pieces to complete the jigsaw.

Before I outline the steps to discovery, I will make a short digression on the subject of Fawcett Road, Southsea. When my grandmother died in 1989 we found her birth certificate among her papers, and discovered that her mother’s maiden name was Lesar. She was born in South Africa, and I was keen to discover who the Lesars were. I knew absolutely nothing about the family, and that is the way it remained for many years. However, as the internet grew and there was more and more family history activity, I found quite a lot of information about the name Lesar. It is a Sephardic Jewish name; or it is a French Huguenot name. Or a German name. Or Croatian perhaps. You can find all these facts out there, but I was getting no nearer to establishing who my Lesars were. I did however find a passenger list recording the voyage of my South African family to England in 1923. The address they gave as their destination was Fawcett Road, Southsea.

1280px-VOC-schip_'Slot_Ter_Hooge'_op_de_rede_van_Rammakens

Dutch East India Company ship

I searched the Internet for the actual address, and to my astonishment found the exact address on a family history website that linked up many families including my great grandfather’s family from Nottinghamshire.The owner of the website had lost track of my great grandfather and his brother because she was unaware that the reason they disappear from British records is that they had emigrated to South Africa. The Fawcett Road address, however, established that their sister lived in Southsea. From this one piece of information I have reconstructed the family history, established links with a double cousin (the two emigrant brothers married two Lesar sisters in South Africa), and found that the Lesars in the Cape originated with a ship’s boy, Isaac Lesar or Leser, a German in service with the Dutch East India Company, who arrived in Cape Town in 1787.

So what has this got to do with our seaside journals? I mention it because the whole process of discovery illustrates the point about what can be done with the tiniest scrap of information when there are means to link it to data elsewhere. So the first thing needed to identify our author was belief that it would be possible and not a complete waste of time. Fortunately the diaries are quite short, and so I set myself to read through them as quickly as possible to pick up any references to names or places that might give the slightest lead. Let me list the scraps of information in the order I found them.

James_Pollard_-_North_Country_Mails_at_the_Peacock,_Islington_-_Google_Art_Project

Mail coaches at the Peacock, Islington, 1821 [Wikimedia Commons]

 i) The author was certainly from London, where he began his coach journey, and appeared to be from Islington. In the 1822 diary he begins by telling us that he wished himself 1000 times back in Pleasant Row – apparently he always began his holidays in a gloomy mood. Pleasant Row was certainly the name of a street in early 19th-century Islington (now Pleasant Place) as I was able to establish from the digitised version of the Victoria County History for Middlesex.

ii) The author was on holiday with his wife, whom he refers to as Mrs C. This suggested that his own surname began with C.

Cox sketches

Sketch of the Govers near Hastings, 1813

iii) The author knew someone by the name of Mr Basire. In the 1813 volume he tells us that having gone out sketching with his camera lucida, and dined on duck, he wrote to Basire and Mr Barnett. The combination of the unusual name of Basire and the camera lucida gave me grounds for optimism that he might have something to do with the well- known dynasty of engravers, James Basire, and his son James Basire II.

iv) The author received a letter from William Tite to tell him that William’s mother was going to join the author on holiday. William Tite was also sufficiently uncommon a name to try searching, and I immediately found a William Tite born in 1798 who was in the Dictionary of National Biography as a noted architect. This seemed too good to be true. However, I had seen a pencilled note at the end of the 1822 volume which I took to read ‘S Elgar artillery cottage Brighton’. I noticed in the DNB entry for WilliamTite that his mother was one Sarah Elgie, and on returning to the inscription later, realised that it did indeed read ‘Elgie’. But that is jumping a little ahead.

Cox sketch

Sketch of ‘Sumpting’ (Sompting) church, 1822

v) Mrs Tite joined our author and his wife on holiday. The author, Mrs C and Mrs Tite went for a walk, and the ‘two sisters’ fell twice on the slippery grass. So now I had established a relationship with the Tite family, but I still had no surnames as I hadn’t picked up the significance of the name Elgie at this point. The author also refers to ‘Susan’, and from the context it was apparent that Susan was one and the same as Mrs C.

vi) On 17 August our author records that he received a letter from Mr Basire and another from Benj. Cox. The name Cox interested me given that our author was Mr C. So I searched James Basire together with Cox, and found that James Basire II had married a Mary Cox. Now I returned to the previous entry mentioning Basire and Mr Barnett, and searched Cox, Basire and Barnett. This landed me on Exeter Working Papers in Book History: London 1775-1800 which showed me that Basire, Barnett and Cox were all engravers or printers, and that there was a company Cox, son, and Barnett, copper plate printers, 6, Bream’s Buildings, Chancery Lane. I then contacted Julian Pooley, an expert on John Nichols, editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine,  and his family of printers and antiquaries, whose archives are a major source for the study of the book trade. He confirmed that Nichols corresponded with Cox and Barnett, and that the company was employed in producing plates for the Gentleman’s Magazine.

vii) The final piece of the jigsaw was established with the author’s entry for 25 August 1813. Having visited a dripping well and eaten a fine custard pudding, he recorded that ‘I wrote on Tuesday last to Mr Basire to ask the favour of Mary to come with Mr and Mrs Moore should they come here – or if Mr and Mrs B thought proper to let James and Mary come – should like much to shew my dear Mary the delightful scenes rural, Romantic & grand …’.

John Cox diary 1813-Basire

“I wrote on Tuesday last to Mr Basire”

 This ‘dear Mary’ was clearly intimate with the author; furthermore she was dependent on James Basire, and linked with another James. Surely this must be Mary Cox, wife of James Basire II? And this evidence suggested that the author was most probably her brother.

But I still did not know his name. So I tried searching for Susan Cox Islington, and when this proved fruitless, I tried Susannah as I believed I had seen the name so written though I had not noted it. ‘Susannah Cox Islington’ revealed the existence of a will in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury records in the National Archives, dated 1831. To view this required a subscription, but fortunately a colleague’s mother had the necessary memberships, and soon I had the information I needed. To my delight I found that Susannah Cox, widow, lived at 4 Pleasant Row. She left her worldly goods to various Basires and Elgies. She even left a copy of Hannah More’s Practical Piety which Mr Cox mentioned in his diary as his companion on a lonely walk one day. But I still did not know her husband’s name though he was now established as Mr Cox, brother-in-law of James Basire II.

The camera lucida in action [Wikimedia Commons]

The camera lucida in action [Wikimedia Commons]

Surely, since I knew now that Mr Cox must have died between 1822 and 1831, it must be possible to find his will too. A search for Cox Islington turned up one or two post-1831 wills. But then I remembered that on one occasion Mr Cox mentions his wife’s birthday, her age and the length of time they had been married, which in 1822 was thirty-one years. So now I tried a new tack, looking for the marriage of Mr Cox and Susannah Elgie in London in 1791. And quite quickly I found it in a digitised copy of The Register Book of Marriages belonging to the Parish of St George Hanover Square. John Cox married Susannah Elgie on 15 February 1791.

With all this information it was now easy to find John Cox’s will in the PCC records. He did not have an Islington address, but instead used his business address – Bream’s Buildings, Chancery Lane, the location of Cox, son and Barnett. His obituary was in the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1825, a rather poignant recollection of the man which fitted well with what I had come to know of him in his short diaries kept in just three summers of his life – his religion, his interest in music, and above all his fascination with medieval churches which he sketched with his camera lucida.

Gent Mag Cox obit

 

Marks of Genius and Waterloo 200: The MP for Banbury meets Napoleon in 1814

The current Bodleian exhibition, Marks of Genius, asks us to consider the meaning and context of the concept of genius. In this 200th anniversary year of the battle of Waterloo, it seems appropriate to kill two birds with one blog, and consider a contemporary attitude to Napoleon whom many, even his opponents, regarded as a genius.

Opnamedatum: 22-08-2008Frederick Sylvester North Douglas (1791-1819). Print from an original sketch by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Rome 1815 [Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, ref. RP-P-1972-6]

 

Frederick Sylvester North Douglas (1791-1819), MP for Banbury, classical scholar and admirer of Byron, was on the Grand Tour from 1814 to 1816. This necessary part of the education of a gentleman had been denied to Britons during the almost continuous wars with France from 1793 to 1814. But now, with Napoleon defeated and exiled to the tiny island of Elba, the once invincible Emperor himself had become part of the tour. There are at least three accounts of visits to him on Elba in the manuscript collections of the Bodleian Libraries.

Elba_Bay_-_PortoferraioPortoferraio, Elba

 In November 1814 Frederick Douglas was in the north of Italy, and resolved to arrange a visit to Bonaparte to see for himself what the conqueror of much of Europe was really like. He booked himself a passage with Captain Adye on HMS Partridge, a small warship which plied between Elba and the mainland and patrolled the Elba station. Douglas wrote in his journal [MS. Eng. misc. c. 815] on Monday 14 November:

When we awoke after a very quiet night we found ourselves entering Porto Ferraio one of the safest as well as most beautiful in the Mediterranean.… The town itself tho very steep is prettily situated in an amphitheatre upon the port. … The house in which Napoleon has fixed his residence is in the upper part of the town with a fine view of the sea & of every vessel that goes out or in. It is in itself a very simple & I should suppose a small house with nothing to mark the imperial residence.

The British agent informed Douglas that the best way to meet Napoleon was to stand at the Porta di Terra, and sure enough, after they had waited some time, Napoleon ‘appeared in a barouche drawn by four indifferent grey horses & two green postillions.’ Douglas believed he might be able to spot a genius from his outward appearance:

All was extremely simple if not shabby but he was followed by four or five officers & two Polish lancers upon wretched post hacks who were joined by two miserable looking Mamalukes one a black & the other a French man. He was sitting with his hat on but accompanied by an aide de camp who remained all the time uncovered. When Buonaparte saw us he moved his hat & made a bow which Captain Adye thought formal. Buonaparte is not so fat as I expected. He is short & full in the face with a remarkably healthy look. At the same time we saw him he was sulky but his eye was full & clear & there was look [sic] of great sense & intelligence more than of remarkable genius in his countenance. I might I think pass him in the street without looking round. None of the persons I have heard considered as like him are like him at all, Alfred Harris, Lord Wellesley etc, & none of the prints. But the best is that which has the inscription, Adieu Malmaison, particularly in manner. His complexion is brown, but he looks younger than his age. However growing fat must have altered him extremely.

Alfred Harris would appear to be Revd the hon. [Thomas] Alfred Harris (son of James Harris 1st earl of Malmesbury) who, like Douglas, was an alumnus of Christ Church, Oxford.

 

P1030676Corsica and Elba, from the Carta Amministrativa del Regno D’Italia (1806). The Kingdom of Italy was created by Napoleon in 1805, with himself as its first king.

 

Later, Douglas commented on Napoleon’s villa, and was filled with

surprize admiration & compassion to see the simplicity of his tastes … . His retirement & his amusements are certainly those of a great man & an hero.

There followed an incident with an officious member of Napoleon’s staff who wished to clear the crowds away from Napoleon’s residence and threatened to use the Polish lancers to do it. Douglas’s military companions took offence, and acting as interpreter Douglas was asked to find out the officer’s name which he eventually gave reluctantly and rudely as ‘Roule’. This must be the Major Roule who had a reputation for officiousness and is mentioned in The journal of Sir Neil Campbell, published as Napoleon at Fontainebleau and Elba (London, 1869).

On the next day an opportunity to visit Napoleon was missed, but

we again saw Buonaparte who was going out in his carriage & who bowed to us with much more civility & with a smile which had something very gracious & attractive in it. His countenance continues to give me what is the idea I had formed of his character, more that of great sense than of genius, of calculation than of greatness. I see no marks of want of amiability in his features but much the look & manner of a gentleman.

At last, on Wednesday 16 November Douglas was granted an interview with the great man. He immediately wrote up what he could remember of his conversation in a breathless stream of unpunctuated text, interrupting his usual journal ‘in order to put down Buonaparte’s conversation fresh as it came to my recollection’.

FSND-journal-16-Nov-1814“I am just returned from a conversation of near an hour with Buonaparte”

The interview seems to have been rather one-sided, with Napoleon apparently asking all the questions. Douglas seems to have been a little disappointed at his ignorance of British affairs. I have added punctuation:

I am just returned from a conversation of near an hour with Buonaparte. He first asked me where I came from, where I was going, what place I represented, whether it was a family borough, how the election was conducted, what my father’s name was, whether he was chief of my family, who was, how many Scotch peers there were … . He talked of Milan, asked whether the Milanese were not tired of the Austrians … . Asked who were the principal people in the Ministry & opposition, but seemed to know very little about them. Asked what had become of Lord Sidmouth, whether Grey & Holland were not the head of the Opposition & Burdett. Asked a great deal about our seigniorial rights & did not know they had been all abolished. Wished to know when territorial slavery was abolished & seemed surprized to find it so early. Talked about the Puritans whom he seemed to confound with the Presbyterians. His voice is disagreable & his manner of speaking thick & unintelligible. His manner was however agreable & his look expressed the utmost kindness & civility. He asked the name of our chief families in Scotland & England, wanted to know whether there were not some boroughs in which there was no election – how many nobles, by which he meant landholders, in the house of Commons, how many connexions of the house of peers, talked much about Ireland, & said they had very absurd tenets as Catholics, seemed to wish to change the subject when I had changed it to his wife. Talked much about our way of marrying. Tried to find out [if] we were discontented in Scotland, asked about the dress, knew the 42nd & 94th. … He asked a great deal about Oxford, Cambridge & Edinburgh but seemed perfectly ignorant of everything about either [sic].

Douglas was the son of the Scottish peer and politician, Sylvester Douglas, baron Glenbervie (1743-1823),  which explains the Scottish interest. The 42nd and 94th were Scottish regiments. The former, the famous ‘Black Watch’, had fought throughout the Peninsular War, and faced Napoleon again only seven months after this interview. In February 1815 Napoleon made his escape from Elba and began the ‘Hundred Days’ that culminated at Waterloo on 18 June.

Douglas was only twenty-three years of age in 1814, but Napoleon thought he was much older:

He said I was not forty yet? He said vous buvez beaucoup [do you drink a lot]? I answered, thinking he meant the Scotch, oui mais pas qu’ autre fois. Le taxe sur le vin l’empeche mais ici vous pouvez boire sans taxe [yes, but not as much as in former times. The tax on wine prevents it, but here you can drink without tax]; when I found he meant me.

An interesting perspective on the interview with Napoleon is provided in a letter from Lady Mackintosh to John Whishaw, 22 December 1814, published in The “Pope” of Holland House: Selections from the correspondence of John Whishaw and his friends 1813-1840 (London, 1906).