Journal Portsmouth to Madras 1835-36

Price: 18,500.00 AUD

At sea: 1836. Journal kept by Captain J.T. Baldwin Madras Artillery during a voyage to India in the year 1835 [&] Original verses written on visiting home after a few years absence; Original verses on visiting Newgate after seven years Transportation; Extracts from the Lady Flora Gazette of Saturday 26th September 1835 etc., autograph manuscript, together 186 pp., 6pp. An important rediscovery: this substantial journal, never before published in any form, provides a remarkable insight into life on board an India-bound vessel called the Lady Flora in 1835. It was written by Captain John Timins Baldwin, an officer in the Royal Artillery returning to his post in the subcontinent, and a literate and keen observer: "What scope," he justly observes at one point, "a voyage to India gives one for the study of character, and how impossible for an individual to conceal theirs from a close observer" (65). The journal was written privately for Baldwin's wife Barbara (née Campbell): she was from the influential Edinburgh family of that name, and was remaining in Scotland with their young children, but would later join him in India. In fact, she outlived him by some 45 years, and would no doubt have treasured this relic of his life and thoughts written while still a relatively young man. One of the most significant aspects of the journal is that it dates from an era when the close association between India and New South Wales was really being cemented, in which light it is fascinating to see Baldwin reverting to the subject of transportation. Far and away the most important, and a genuine contribution to the tradition of comic verse relating to transportation and New South Wales, is Baldwin's inclusion of his own unrecorded comic poem 'Original verses on revisiting Newgate after seven years Transportation' (168-171), which imagines the thoughts of a transportee to Van Diemens Land on his return to England. In the poem the narrator finds himself once more in Newgate, awaiting the ship which will take him back to "Botany Bay". It is a conspicuously rare example of a poem in which the narrator is delighted with his good luck at being sent out to Australia, rather than the more common examples in which narrators lament their fate.With an adroit comic turn it concludes: But still what Odds! The big wig's care, Thinking I wanted change of Air, Gave me of Hope once more a ray, And pack'd me off, to Botany Bay. Oh then it was a bitter pill, But since I've found they meant me well And graceless it would seem and rude, Did I not show my gratitude. Then once more free, and left and right, I'll do them all, so blow me tight. The poem is also adorned with a nicely executed ink drawing of the prisoner languishing in prison, which shows that Baldwin was a useful artist. Although Baldwin describes the poem as a parody, it is important to note that it is not simply a random nor unstudied inclusion, because Baldwin had clearly given a deal of thought to the subject of transportation to New South Wales, based on what he had heard and discussed of the conviction of a friend and fellow officer of his in India, on "Dickinson". Given the date and the details provided by Baldwin, it can be shown that this must have been John Dickenson (usually spelt with an "e"), a Captain in the Artillery cashiered in late 1834. Dickenson was initially sent to Tasmania on the Resource (Captain Coombes), but then went on to Sydney on the Siren (Captain Munro), arriving 9 April 1835. Dickenson's life is neatly summarised in his convict indent, where he is noted as being a 40-year-old married man with one son who had been convicted of embezzlement (New South Wales, Convict Indents, 1788-1842). Dickenson had had a long career in India, having been made a "Lieutenant-Fireworker" in the Royal Artillery as early as July 1813, full Lieutenant in 1818, and Captain in 1824, long before his eventual court-martial. Baldwin's thoughts on the fate of his friend are revealed because of a remarkable coincidence: while all-but becalmed off the Indian coast, the Lady Flora happened to hail a ship called the Mary (Capt. William Ascough), then en route from Sydney to India. Conditions at sea were so benign that two of the ship's passengers were able to come on board the Lady Flora, and, compounding the coincidence, they evidently knew Dickenson and were happy to discuss his life. Baldwin was particularly interested about what he could learn about how his friend could have been expected to be treated as an educated prisoner in New South Wales. Although many convicts from India were transported to Australia, their history is not well studied, and the intimate perspective of one of Dickenson's closer friends is therefore an important insight. A long section at the end of the journal transcribes a number of pieces of occasional verse, which prove that Baldwin was an accomplished amateur versifier - and, more than that, gives a window into the sort of pieces with which the educated traveller whiled away a long voyage. Throughout, Baldwin's journal has all the hallmarks of one of the better works of its kind. For a start, it is a work of genuine substance, the journal itself running to 163 pp. (some 35 or 40,000 words), supplemented by a further 43 pp. of occasional verses relating to his experiences and the voyage. It has the candidness one would expect in a journal written expressly and exclusively for his wife Barbara (21) and "not intended to be published (80). Indeed, not only is it marked by the introspection of a man leaving his much-loved children behind, but it is also suffused with his awareness of the threat of some heavy debts to be met when he arrived (61). [A fuller description is available on request.]. Provenance: John Timins Baldwin, and by descent through the family until recently. Throughout the paper is watermarked J. Morbey & Co. 1834, confirming that he must have acquired the paper shortly before he sailed. One long passage has been efficiently deleted, apparently by Baldwin himself (20-21). Quarto, contents and index, small pen and ink sketch of a prisoner in Newgate Gaol, full-page pencil drawing of a building in India (small tears and tipped in with tape), both by J.T. Baldwin, typescript page of contents inserted; first p. soiled, 20th century ink inscription on front free endpaper, wrappers.

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