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Thursday 11 July 2024

Mohamet Ben Abdel Malik and a Dishonourable British Consul 1786


Credit: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien



In a past when all letters were handwritten it was common for both senders and receivers to make copies or have them made. There were circumstances in which this was routine: a British Ambassador might need to forward a letter received (or a copy of it) to the Foreign Office in London; if any query came back, either the original or a copy would be to hand.

What I transcribe below is a copy letter probably made in Gibraltar and written on watermarked paper of European manufacture – maybe British, maybe Spanish – the watermark will identify if it can be matched. The letter may have been translated from Arabic either at source or in Gibraltar. There is no signature at the end as one would expect on an original, just a note of the date it was written with the year given as an Islamic 1200 (1785-86 and, in context, 1786).

The author is (in the spelling of the English copy) Mohamet Benabdelmalik, Pasha of Tangier, a prominent figure in the service of King Mohammed the Second who ruled Marocco from 1757 to 1790; when Benabdelmalik travelled as ambassador to Vienna in 1783 his portrait was painted and is reproduced above. 

The letter's  recipient is General George Augustus Eliott, Commander in Chief and Governor of Gibraltar from 1777-1787, a period which included the Great Siege of Gibraltar.

The letter concerns the conduct of the recently departed British Consul in Tangier, Charles Adam Duff in post from 1784 to 1786 and succeeded by the much better known James Mario (or Maria) Matra.

This is what the Pasha has to say:

To the Commander in Chief and Governor of Gibraltar, General George Augustus Eliott, Peace to the true and faithfull

I received your esteemed favor last week with an inclosed from Constantinople, which I immediately forwarded to my Royal Sovereign. I am glad to hear of your welfare; at the same time cannot fail imparting to you that your friend Consul Adam Duff, has been at Court with my Royal Sovereign, and I make no doubt that what he told him concerning King George’s Order is too true.

Mr Duff informed me that he intended going to Spain with his mother and family requesting that I should salute him with Guns at the time of his departure, - I told him it was not customary, for if he had remained at this place for four or five years and be afterwards relieved by another Consul he was intitled to a salute in that case only as a favor; - he replied, that if I did not salute him, he should not leave his English staff here. – I leave you to conceive if such conduct is competent to a man of his Character- I apprehend from his Actions and Expressions, that he is not a fit person to act between two Crowns; he has contracted many debts, and in short his proceedings are so bad, that it is a shame to relate; - God forbid that such insults should be suffered by your Nation; -

I thought it proper to impart you thereof, fearing you should be otherwise informed and give Credit to it – what I write you is nothing but fact.-

Believe me on all occasions ready to serve you, and I request you will Command me freely –

Dated the 20th of Dec ElHahdath 1200 

I can find little on Google about Charles James Duff except for an interesting passage from a letter quoted in David Bensoussan Il etait une fois le Maroc (2012). Benoussan notes that according to a British consul writing in 1770, the Islamic rulers of Morocco depended on Jewish assistance to maintain their government and that in 1786 Consul Duff wrote that the employment of Jews in public offices was harmful to the King’s interests.



Friday 21 June 2024

Clarissa Parry writing from Tavistock Place in 1806 to John Dovaston junior


 This is really about how much information is available on Google.  Here is a fairly ordinary letter which I have transcribed and the interpretation of which is aided by the fact that the recipient’s surname, Dovaston, is not common and that the Dovaston in question has his own Wikipedia page as John Freeman Milward Dovaston. Google allowed me to establish that

-          The sender is writing from 30 Tavistock Place though the letter only gives “Tavistock Place”.

-          That the “C Parry” is Clarissa Parry and her father Frederick Parry who is some kind of dispensing chemist and a governor of the “Northern Dispensary”. (It creates only a little confusion that the maiden name of Clarissa Dalloway in Virginia Woolf's novel is Clarissa Parry - though I did wonder if Mrs Woolf living in Tavistock Square had once heard of a Clarissa Parry who over a century before lived in Tavistock Place)

-          That the “Betty” she goes to watch perform in Orestes is the child actor Master Betty whose life story is freely available online.

-          That Mr Foulkes of Hart Street [in Bloomsbury] is an Attorney.

-          That there is a family of sea captains named Bayliff and that the relevant one may have set sail for Bombay earlier in the month in which this letter was written and won’t return until 1807 which may have upset what was being planned.

-          From my own prior knowledge I guess that “Enfield” [in Middlesex] is where a nurseryman supplying plants and seeds is located – but which nurseryman I can’t establish from google.

-          And because I can’t read the word it remains unclear what was causing concern in the conduct of the young man now being lined up for a life on board ship. This is frustrating.


Transcription of the letter

Tavistock Place March 27 1806

I think I hear you say what another letter why surely the Girl is mad what can she mean by tormenting me in this manner; seriously D. [Dovaston] I should not have troubled you with this; but you seem to have taken my saying so little about your Cousin Parry in so serious a light that I think it right that you should be undeceived. I did not at the time of writing recollect what had passed at our house between you and I mentioned him as a matter of course. I have the satisfaction of telling you that I believe he has profited by your advice for I do not think he has visited xxxxx [looks like initials or a house number] since; he has dined with us every Sunday he has had to himself the last excepted when he was at Mr Foulkes of Hart Street and came to us in the evening. He seems to have a great desire of going to sea & papa thinks him very steady and fit for business he believes he has it now in his power to send him out with a particular friend of his Capt. Bayliff to be in the line of a purser if his father consents Parry has written on this subject and papa writes today; I hope he will give his consent and I think it will be a good thing for him.

I thought D when you left town it was to study the law and not the art of gardening  however I am glad to find that you practice so much that I have it in contemplation to make you my head gardener We shall expect you early in April and I sincerely hope you will not be troubled with any of your melancholy fits while here

We have been very quiet since my last [letter] having (only) been to the Play once to see Betty in Orestes and to the opera. Papa has not yet been to Enfield and I dare say you will be quite in time to accompany him for he like many others of my friends takes a long time to consider of a thing before they undertake it. All in the House of Tavistock desire their best regards among whom Madam subscribes herself

Your sincere friend

C Parry

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Dr W G Henderson Headmaster of Leeds Grammar School Will Put Your Name Down for Oxford


It’s surprising what you sometimes find inside old envelopes. Here the Reverend Dr W G Henderson, Headmaster of Leeds Grammar School from 1862 to 1884, writes to the father of a pupil. The school year has ended and Dr Henderson is already taking a break on the Kent coast at Walmer. But he is also sending out bills:

My dear Sir,

I send you your sons [the apostrophe does appear to be missing] accounts for the past half year. His general conduct is quite satisfactory, with the exception of the old want of energy. I did not hear whether he had made up his mind about going to Oxford. If he resolves to go I will write in August & get his name put down.

I beg my kind regards to Mrs. Barstow & am

My dear sir

Very faithfully yours

W G Henderson

Dr Henderson has a Wikipedia page as “William Henderson (Priest)” which tells me that he was - among other distinctions - a Fellow of Magdalen College Oxford and so his recommendation would count.

The charm of this letter is that if young Barstow decides he wants to go then Dr Henderson will “put his name down” and he will go and Barstow Senior will have got good value for the school fees he has paid. Whether even the formality of an admissions interview was required, I do not know.

But did Barstow go up to Oxford?

The Barstow name is not common in Oxford's records of its alumni(only three in the period 1715-1886) but a John Smithson Barstow, son of a John Barstow, [the envelope is addressed to a J Barstow] born in Yorkshire [Leeds is in Yorkshire] attended the Queen’s College, matriculating on 20 April 1866, aged 20. [I think that’s rather old for the period; maybe something to do with “want of energy”]. He obtained a B.A. and M.A. though at what seems a leisurely pace - the records just state “1873” and in 1876 Barstow junior became a vicar of the Church of England as Oxford's graduates often did and still do. It looks like his father put some money into the Lincolnshire parish where he was first appointed, but I guess that is another story for someone else to research.

John Barstow senior is classified as a “Gent[leman]” in the Oxford records and a local Directory of the period identifies him as a farmer which is not incompatible. The Leeds Grammar School records connect a “John Smithson Barstow” to a “J Barstow Farmer”. Glancing through those records, it's clear that Leeds was a school which in the Victorian period regularly sent boys to Queen's College.

Well, after half an hour online, I conclude it likely that Dr Henderson did write his letter.


Postscript: The envelope no longer contains the tradesman's accounts rendered but their presence is indicated by the additional penny stamp added to the Penny Pink pre-stamped envelope and which was needed because the letter exceeded the half ounce weight limit for a penny letter; two pence was the next step up for letters under one ounce. 

Harriette Wilson to John Adolphus 1825


These images show the extortion letter which I write about in the Times Literary Supplement 23 February 2024 under the title "Sly Intrigues". I have provided a transcription below the images.

Transcription, underlining in the original


Paris                No 91 Grande Rue de Chaillot Champs Elysées


Your Family are very low better not have them shewn up to ridicule in Harriette Wilson’s memoirs with your neices [sic] affecting love letters to the handsome young man she seduced and then applied to him for means to destroy the infant in her bosom useless to deny this or cry “fie” for I have the letters in my possession – as well be quiet and oblige a lady you are growing rich  I have spent all my money in furnishing my home and paying my debts will you do an act of Gallantry and send me 100 £? If you do I shall not be ungrateful – or you may publish this letter like Edward Ellice but verily  friend Adolphus we are none of us perfect have all our little sly intrigues either in the neighbourhood of the new Road or elsewhere and I might say to you in the words of Don Quixote to Sancho – “verily friend Sancho the more thou  stireth it the more it will stink ---- once more will you be my favourite and a noble man[?] of Gallantry – if so forward me 100 £ trust to my gratitude – Brougham I am sure would say you might do so safely,, - & sign yourself The Dauphin for fun – but you must be quick about it Yours truly [?]-  because you are witty  Henriette Rochfort



This recently discovered letter is not included in the volume Letters from Lambeth, edited by Joanna Richardson and published for the Royal Society of Literature in 1981.and which includes twenty-two letters from Charlotte Reynolds (1761-1848) to  John Dovaston (1782 - 1854)  It predates by three months the letters published in that book. 

In  rhyming couplets over two sides the writer appears to thank John [Freeman Milward] Dovaston both for the gift of a poem and of a live goose which is going to be eaten. There was indeed a poem which Dovaston published in 1811 with the title, “TO MRS. REYNOLDS, OF LAMBETH, with a Goose.” It can be found online.



Charlotte Reynolds to John Dovaston Esqr JunJan/y 13th 1808


To yourself my good friend, as well as your Muse

I beg my best thanks for her verse, & your Goose

With both I am pleas’d, as they fully express

Strong motives of kindness to say nothing less

And proves, “out of sight, out of mind” not quite true

An adage, of old, but not strengthnd in you.

Well, this friend whom so pleasingly you introduce

Is an uncommon pleasant agreeable Goose,

For as soon as she enterd, the intelligent Bird

Began   xxx [?] stling & cackling, in strains yet unheard,

Her master she said, in remembrance held dear

The hours he had spent in much cheerfulness here

Of Friendship she prated, but seemd rather hoarse

But that might arise from her journey of course.

Then good manners in every sense she expressd

And no doubt she will charm, when once she is dress’d

Oh so warmly, so wily, she chanted your praise

And with such pride & pleasure, deliverd your lays,

That George [Reynolds, her husband], & myself, at once felt the charm,

Of Friendship express’d, in language so warm.

But the best thing of all that we could discern

From her notes, were, that quickly you meant to return.

For this welcome news – respect also to you,

I entreated her stay, t’was the least I could do

She graciously bow’d to my kind invitation

And next Thursday at Table will fill up her station.

When to give her the meeting I mean to engage

The serious, the witty, the young & the Sage.

With mirth, song, & reason, to temper the jest

To which good Madame Goose will no doubt give zest.

When your health shall be drunk at this little carouse

But one thing will be wanting – oh – sweet Pinky [??] House

For what more can please than such music as thine

Admir’d & enjoy’d, by a family circle like mine.

Our girls are all charm’d, our Boy is delighted

Whenever they hear that friend Dov [aston] is invited

But I think it high time, I should make some excuse

For say’g so little, in regard to your muse

Who tho, I acknowledge, must needs be admir’d,

Yet, her praises on me are too high – too much fir’d.

In my life, I was never so finely bespather’d

Tho a theme t’was, in which, I can bear to be flatterd

But allow me to smile, that so late in the day

My name should be sung as tho it were May

So good Lady Muse, let me, ere I adjourne

Present my regards as a grateful return

And that you may remain is my ardent Petition

Clear [Chear?] as ye are – not in hobbling condition

As my humble Muse  - who in rhyming or prose

Cannot even earn Glasses to wear on her nose.

This premis’d I don’t find I have further to say

Than our kindest remembrance to self, & to xx xxx

In which Jane, John [Hamilton Reynolds], & Mary, Eliza & Lot [Charlotte Reynolds junior]

Most earnestly beg, they may not be forgot


Charlotte Reynolds


All arriv’d safe and well & were excellent

Dr Keate's Curate: an 1827 letter from Dr William Grant Broughton


In Great Britain, the technology which made possible the production of cheap, machine-made envelopes was developed in the 1840s, also the decade in which postage stamps came into general use. The habit of early stamp collectors was to tear stamps from envelopes which were then discarded. The letter enclosed might be kept but for future readers the identity of the “Dear Sir” or “Dear Mother” might be lost forever; the envelope would have answered the question instantly. By the end of the Victorian period millions of envelopes had been binned in pursuit of the most popular of the century’s many destructive hobbies.

Prior to the 1840s letters were sent as folded sheets of paper (now called entires) with the addressee’s name written on the outside. There was no stamp to tear off and, usually, no sheet to discard though sometimes a letter might be enclosed within a wrapper and might also be separated from the contents.

It requires little knowledge to conclude that the name and address on this entire letter of 31 January 1827 makes it worth looking at more closely. Dr Keate lives on in the book of records as the headmaster who on just one day succeeded in flogging eighty Etonians.. Who would write to such a man and what might they write about?

The contents are cross-written and when transcribed come to a Microsoft total of 1082 words. They begin “Dear Sir” and close “Your faithful humble servant W.G.Broughton”. He was Dr Keate’s curate in the Hampshire parish of Hartley Wespall where the letter was written.  Dr Keate was a pluralist, awarded this particular living in 1818 by the Dean and Chapter of Windsor and held until his death; he is buried inside its parish church, a prominent tomb much polished. His son succeeded as Rector.

The curate begins by reporting on the discharge of his duties:

previous to leaving home I made an adjudication of the 30 blankets and though they did not arrive until after my departure Mrs Neville distributed them according to my directions. This was before the cold weather set in and from such of the poor as I have yet had communication with I have received very grateful acknowledgements to you for your charitable consideration of their wants.

Both vicar and curate were High Church Tories who accepted that they had duties to the deserving poor. Married with two children living, Broughton also had duties to his family; he was conscious that lack of funds had obliged him to forego an Exhibitioner’s place at Cambridge in favour of a job in London with the East India Company. Only an unexpected legacy from an uncle enabled him much later to enter Pembroke College to study mathematics, graduating in 1818 at the age of thirty. In the same year he took Holy Orders and married a childhood sweetheart. He has been at Hartley Wespall since then.

But now he is leaving and the rest of the letter runs through the arrangements he is making or suggesting to Dr Keate. As for his replacement, he offers several names but concludes by recommending Mr Procter despite the fact that the Bishop (of Winchester) is against him, suspecting Evangelical tendencies, a canard which Mr Procter repudiates:

As the best mode of disproving the charge brought against him, and of undeceiving the Bishop, he is about to publish by subscription a Volume of Sermons, which will explain his real sentiments.

Mr Procter got the job but did not last and I cannot promise you that he published any Sermons. But Mr Broughton did and, more importantly, in 1826 had published a reluctant defence of the view (supported by the methods of the new German philology) that Bishop Gauden and not Charles the Martyr was the author of the EIKON BASILIKE. This impressed the equally reluctant Bishop of Winchester who then offered Broughton the curacy of the parish of Farnham, equipped with a fine residence and grounds being prepared for the bishop’s own eventual retirement. Broughton accepted and is about to leave Hartley Wespall..

Farnham is just sixteen miles from Stratfield Saye and Broughton was soon introduced to the Duchess and then to the Duke of Wellington installed there by a grateful nation. Wellington was impressed by this new but no longer young curate and as Constable of the Tower of London added the chaplaincy there to Broughton’s portfolio. In 1828 Wellington – now Prime Minister – told the Colonial Office that the Reverend Broughton was just the man needed to replace the outgoing Archdeacon of Sydney. Broughton, who had never travelled farther abroad than the East India Company’s London offices, accepted. The salary of £2000 per year promised financial security for his family and offered some compensation for what would be a long and still hazardous journey. He became the first (and only) Bishop of Australia and a significant and controversial figure in the history of the colony, the subject of a full-length biography by G P Shaw (1978) – on which I have drawn - and more recent discussions focussed on his involvement in policy towards Aboriginal populations.

He died on a visit to England in 1853 and is commemorated in Canterbury Cathedral with a chest tomb on which he lies as if a medieval knight at rest from his labours; an exact copy can be found in Sydney’s Anglican cathedral.



Hartley Wespall January 31st 1827

Dear Sir

The severity of the weather and the state of the roads in Kent prevented my returning hither till Saturday last and on Monday I was again on the wing to Farnham and back again yesterday. It has therefore been out of my power to reply sooner to your letters of Jan’y 6th and 27th. First of the first previous to leaving home I made an adjudication of the 30 blankets and though they did not arrive until after my departure Mrs Neville distributed them according to my directions. This was before the cold weather set in and from such of the poor as I have yet had communication with I have received very grateful acknowledgements to you for your charitable consideration of their wants. From what occurred yesterday at Farnham I have reason to think that I shall be required to be there for the first time on Sunday February 18th . Mr Procter who is to make way at Bentley for Mr Austen will take my duty here on that day and the 25th. I am quite in the dark as to Mr Hadow’s [ sp?] present intentions. In answer to the letter which arrived when you were here I sent him an exact account of the emoluments of the curacy, house & premises, duty &c (with which however I should have thought him already acquainted from having lived here with me) and in an answer to a subsequent letter I replied to his enquiries as to the probability of obtaining a supply of pupils in the neighbourhoods. Since this I have not heard from him; but you are probably by this time acquainted with his final decision. I have not the slightest knowledge of Mr Kerr or of his family As however I found from the Bishop’s communication yesterday that they are known and noticed by him I conclude they are acceptable. This however is now unimportant, as Mr Kerr writes to me that he wishes to withdraw his application thinking the house & premises too extensive for a single man. Mr Dobson some times ago told me that upon the same grounds that he should decline it even if you made him the offer. Mr Bricknell has taken the curacy at Hartley Wintney, nor do I think that there is any clergyman in the neighbourhood who could undertake regularly for the period you mention. Mr Procter, whom the late arrangements at Farnham have cast out of house and home, requests me to make you the offer of his service, for as many weeks as you desire; that is until you have got … a permanent curate or until it may be convenient to the gentleman appointed by you to enter upon the duties of the parish. His charge is 2 guineas a Sunday and he will relinquish the employment at any time at [tear in letter from when the seal was broken] week’s notice from you. I must not omit to say that the Bishop declined to license Mr P to the Curacy at Farnham. He assigned no reason of course; but the impression upon Mr Procter’s mind is that his Ldship had been persuaded that he was of the Evangelical school. This however he strenuously denies and assured me that he had a decided dislike to their tenets The circumstance which has given rise to the imputation he thinks can be only that he has in preaching a naturally energetic manner (which indeed shows itself in his conversation & ordinary deportment) and that this has attracted to church some persons who before he came went always to chapel.  As the best mode of disproving the charge brought against him, and of undeceiving the Bishop, he is about to publish by subscription a Volume of Sermons, which will explain his real sentiments. As far as a single interview to be depended on Mr Procter certainly gave me the impression that he was a man of talent & honesty. He is one of the Bye-Fellows of Peter House; and a gentleman residing in his parish spoke of him to me as exemplary in his moral character, in the discharge of all his duties and especially in his attention to the poor. I have thought it right to inform you of all I knew about him good or bad in order that you might better be able to decide whether you would avail yourself of his services or not. I shall see him again next Monday and hope in the mean time to receive your answer. It was my intention to have left Canterbury last Monday week and taken Eton on my way down to Hartley but the great fall of snow which we had in Kent, by obliging me to postpone my departure til the end of the week, frustrated this plan and as I expect tomorrow to have my two pupils with me I really am afraid it will hardly be in my power to have the pleasure of coming over at this time. If you would be so good as to make a memorandum of any further questions you wish to ask concerning the parish I will send you the best answers in my power.  Next Sunday I am to preach a Sermon for the Relief of the Manufacturers and the next day we shall collect what we can in the parish. If you have not already contributed to the full extent of your intention I should be happy to put down your name for a small sum at the head of the list. I have not yet received any communication from the lady you mention respecting her son. I beg you to be assured that I have never for one moment doubted of your inclination to serve and assist me in the matter of pupils, or in any other manner as far as circumstances would admit and my thanks I am sure are due to you for these our good wishess. There are a few fixtures here belonging to me: which the best way will be to have appraised and send to you a list of them and a valuation. They are such as my successor would most probably wish to take. I left Mrs Broughton and children quite well: I shall be very happy to hear as good an account of Mrs Keate and yours. With best remembrances to all I am Dear Sir Your faithful humble servant W: G: Broughton [he uses colons not stops after his initials]