THE BRITISH LIBRARY 

Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

24 May 2016

Shakespeare in India

The British Library holds a vast collection of Sir Francis Younghusband’s papers.  Younghusband is perhaps chiefly remembered for his role in the British invasion of Tibet in 1903-1904, but his military career was only one aspect of a fascinating character, He was a writer, explorer, mystic, and, from the evidence of one file amongst his papers, perhaps an amateur drama critic as well.

 

Younghusband F60155-77

Portrait of Francis Younghusband - India Office Private Papers Mss.Eur. F197/646 (13) Images Online  Noc

 

The file is titled ‘Shakespeare in India’.  It contains two undated versions of an essay (one typescript, one handwritten) which was composed in Westerham, Kent, where Younghusband and his wife lived between 1921 and 1937 after his retirement.
 

  Shakespeare in India

India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F197/505 Noc

 

The essay begins with an anecdote about a teenage Indian Maharaja known to Younghusband who regularly slipped out of his palace to go and see productions of Shakespeare in the local bazaar. Younghusband then sets down his thoughts about the interpretation and reception of Shakespeare in the sub-continent, even ranking the plays in terms of popularity:
“The most popular is Othello. There is a larger number of translations of this play than of any other. Othello is an Oriental figure; he is heroic, and he is a lover. Hence the popularity of the play among Indians. The next in favour is The Merchant of Venice. Shylock reminds Indians of their own money-lenders and they enjoy seeing him outwitted … Third in order of popularity is Romeo and Juliet. Indians love it because of its intensity of passion. Hamlet is not so generally popular as these three or even As You Like It and The Tempest. The historical plays the Indians do not care for …” .

 

Othello

From W. Harvey, The Works of Shakspeare (1825) BL flickr Noc


Younghusband identifies seven plays which are worthy of being recognized as great, as distinct from merely popular, works: Othello, King Lear, Hamlet, The Tempest, Cymbeline, Measure for Measure, and finally Romeo and Juliet . He believes that Indians like Shakespeare especially for
   "... his magic use of words, his gorgeous imagery, his love of nature and of humanity ... He creates heroes, and Indians love the heroic ... He shows delicacy of touch in handling the relations  between men and women, and Indians love to keep that relation sacred. He praises home and home affections, and Indians love their homes and believe in the virtue of domestic  affections ...".
 
There is, however, one aspect of the western writer's work which Indians compare unfavourably to their own national epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata:
"Indians love to feel lifted out of themselves to a higher, lovelier spiritual plane ... And in that light, they note a deficiency or inadequacy in Shakespeare ... There is in [the plays] none of that intensity of joy which mystics know ... They think his realism is not real enough. He has probed deep but not deep enough. If he had pierced deeper into the nature of things he would have nearer to the true reality - to that most real which is also the most ideal".

 

   Ramayana_lgNoc
Ramayana, by Sahib Din. Battle between the armies of Rama and the King of Lanka. Udaipur, 1649-53 British Library Add. MS 15297 (1), f.91 BL Online Gallery 


 
If this story has made you keen to know more about Younghusband , the enquiry desk staff in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room on the third floor will be delighted to assist!
 
Hedley Sutton & Karen Waddell
Asian & African Studies Reference Services   Cc-by

Further reading:
Papers of Sir Francis Younghusband – India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F197.
Baptismal certificate for Francis Younghusband born 1863 in Murree, India  -  IOR/N/1/107 f.52.
Ranjee Gurdarsing Sahani,  Shakespeare through Eastern eyes (London, 1932) - T 13070.
Patrick French, Younghusband: the last great imperial adventurer (London, 1994) - ORW.1995.a.1939.
Francis Younghusband, The British invasion of Tibet (abridged edition London, 1999) – Asian & African Studies Reading Room OII951.5.
Poonam Trivedi & Dennis Bartholomeusz (eds), India’s Shakespeare  (Newark, N.J., 2005)  – YC.2006.a.16549.
Douglas A. Brooks (ed), Shakespeare and Asia  (Lewiston, 2010) – YC.2011.a.12555. 


   

Visit the British Library’s stunning exhibition Shakespeare in ten acts     Vivien_leigh_shakespeare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 May 2016

Bringing Colin Mackenzie Home

Colonel Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821), the first Surveyor General of India, was a determined man. He was employed by the East India Company as a Military Surveyor, but did far more than simply make maps. During his four decade career in India, Sri Lanka and Java, he carried out vast, complicated historical and cultural research.

F13 copy

Portrait of Colin Mackenzie with three of his assistants by Thomas Hickey (BL - F13)  Noc

 

Mackenzie’s attitude towards collecting drawings, historical manuscripts and artefacts verged on the obsessive. Today, thousands of paper manuscripts, at least 1700 drawings, and 521 palm leaf manuscripts that he collected, mainly in India, form the British Library’s Mackenzie Collection. Other manuscripts and drawings that he collected are held in the Asiatic Society’s Library in Kolkata and the University of Madras Library. The objects he collected, ranging from coins to monumental sculpture, are now in the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Chennai Government Museum, the Indian Museum Kolkata and the National Museum of India.

The British Library’s Mackenzie Collection is a treasure trove of information about the people and places in Asia that Colin Mackenzie encountered two centuries ago. The one thing that Mackenzie conspicuously failed to collect was any personal information about himself. To find out about his origins, one must travel 5000 miles north-west from Mackenzie’s final resting place at Calcutta, to his birthplace at Stornoway, on the Island of Lewis.

Here is a picture of the seaside church of Ui on Lewis, where the Mackenzie family’s mausoleum stands.

  Ui Church copy
The Ui Church at Aignish, near Stornoway. The rectangular granite structure on the left is the Mackenzie Family Mausoleum. Noc

 

Inside, there are inscriptions composed by Colin’s older sister, Mary Mackenzie (1747-1827), dedicated to Colin, their brother Alexander (1740-1810), and their parents, Murdoch (1717-1802) and Barbara (1720-1792). Through these inscriptions, Mary Mackenzie ensured that her family’s history was not forgotten.

 

Colin and Alex copy

The inscriptions inside the Mackenzie Family Mausoleum at Aignish.  Noc

Murdoch and Barbara copy

 

Today, Stornoway has become the vibrant capital of the Outer Hebrides. The Purvai Project, based at the An Lanntair cultural centre in Stornoway, seeks to explore Colin Mackenzie’s vast legacy. One aspect of the project will be an exhibition at the newly opened Lews Castle Museum about the life and work of Colin Mackenzie, scheduled for 2017.

Jennifer Howes
Art Historian specialising in South Asia

Bibiliography:

Blake, David. M.  “Colin Mackenzie: collector extraordinary”. British Library Journal (1991), pp.128-150.

Howes, Jennifer. Illustrating India: The Early Colonial Investigations of Colin Mackenzie. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Jansari, Sushma.“Roman Coins from the Mackenzie Collection at the British Museum.” The Numismatic Chronicle, Volume 172 (2012), pp.93-104.

 

 

16 May 2016

William Adams – from Gillingham to Japan

William Adams, often described as 'the first Englishman in Japan', died on 16 May 1620 at Hirado.  He has become a powerful symbol of Anglo-Japanese friendship, and each year a memorial service is held in Hirado in his honour. The British Library holds letters written by Adams to the English East India Company and so curators from the Library send an annual message to be read aloud at the service.

Here is part of a letter dated 23 October 1611 which was sent by William Adams at Hirado to his fellow countrymen at Bantam.

Adams William - letter E 3 1 B20095-09
IOR/E/3/1 ff.122-129v Images Online  Noc

The letter provided a potted biography to explain how Adams came to be in Japan, starting with his birth in Gillingham Kent and his apprenticeship in Limehouse to ship owner Nicholas Diggins. Following service with Queen Elizabeth’s ships and the Barbary Merchants, Adams joined a Dutch merchant fleet as chief pilot in 1598. After a disastrous voyage, Adams arrived in Japan on board the Liefde in 1600.  Adams became immersed in local customs and built a new life for himself in Japan, prospering under the patronage of Tokugawa Ieyasu. 

When the Dutch and English East India Companies arrived in Japan in 1609 and 1613 respectively, Adams helped them to establish factories (trading posts) at Hirado. Adams served the English as interpreter and adviser and also undertook local trading voyages for them.

Adams had married Mary Hyn at St Dunstan Stepney on 20 August 1589 and they had at least two children.  One was a daughter named Deliverance. Letters passed between William and Mary while he was in Japan, and he arranged for money to be paid to her in London by the East India Company.  He also had a Japanese wife by whom he had a son Joseph and a daughter Susanna.  Another child was said to have been born in Hirado to a Japanese woman.

Hirado B20095-11

Sea route from Hirado to Osaka, Japan Or.70.bbb.9. (roll 2) Images Online Noc


Adams remained in Japan until his death. His will was dated 16 May 1620, the day he died, and probate was granted to Mary Adams in London on 8 October 1621.  He wished his estate to be divided into two parts, half going to his ‘lovinge wyfe & children in England’ and the other half to Joseph and Susanna.

His daughter Deliverance married Ratcliff mariner Raph Goodchild at St Dunstan Stepney on 30 September 1618. Records show that they had two daughters: Abigail baptised and buried in October 1619, and Jane baptised on 8 April 1621.

In August 1624, Deliverance Goodchild petitioned the Court of Directors for payment of her father's investment sent home on the Company ships Moon and Elizabeth.  Her mother Mary had died, leaving her share to Deliverance.

Very little else is known about William’s children.  I have discovered that Deliverance  was married for a second time to John Wright at St Alfege Greenwich on 13 October 1624. Joseph Adams made five voyages to Cochin China and Siam between 1624 and 1635.  Susanna was given a present by East India Company merchant Richard Cocks  in 1622 but then she disappears from the records.

Can any of our readers shed more light on the family of William Adams?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Anthony Farrington, The English Factory in Japan 1613-1623 (London, 1991)
IOR/E/3 Correspondence of overseas East India Company servants
IOR/B Minutes of East India Company Court of Directors
Parish records at London Metropolitan Archives