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Book Description
Thomas Machell [1824-1862] explorer, traveller, who spent much of his adult life in Bengal as an Indigo planter. Two, extensive autograph letters, signed, both illustrated with sketches writing about his life in India. 1850 & 1851, both to Mrs John Ditmas, Minster Yard, York, from 'Rooderpore Factory, Bongong [i.e. today, Rudrapur, Bangaon] The first letter, four pages with integrated address panel, dated November 12th 1850, in a strongly melancholic, homesick mood painting a picture for his correspondent of life in India on a lonely indigo plantation. Not strong on punctuation, good condition, legible, with only a very few letters lost to wear along the folds. The front page is illustrated around the margins with charming vignettes in sepia coloured ink showing tigers, elephants and whales and scenes from his voyage out from England. "Last year has been anything but pleasant to me neglected and almost insulted by those at whose hands I had a right to expect at least courtesy. I have been baffled in my attempts to obtain a livelihood and for a time almost hopeless but at last I begin to think the tide is turning in my favour. I have made friends and have obtained an excellent berth for I am again an indigo planter and have just been given the charge of six factories a very extensive country to manage. Imagine that you are in a gondola shaped boat sailing up an Indian river on either side you see vast plains all around with long coarse grass interspersed with large swamps. There is no sign of human habitation nor anything to be heard but the hoarse croak of the large waterfowl or the howling of some prowling jackal." The second letter four pages, undated, but with ink postal stamp 'Bongong' dated '1 Dec 1851' in manuscript, and an ink stamp for Jan 20 1852. Making reference to the letter written on 12th November, the writer's birthday, the previous year. The first page headed with a pen, ink, & wash sketch of a large 2-storey thatched building with verandahs, beside a tree titled 'Rooderpore Factory Bongong' "Upwards of two hundred villages are contained within my boundaries and my only desire is for more power to discharge officially the duties which so great a charge must not only impose upon me surrounded by a mixed race of Mohammedans and Hindoos exercising an almost patriarchal sway over them I find myself in the position of Father Priest and Physician. there is fair mixture of good and evil soldiers sailors doctors merchants and a motley crowd of varied habits and varied tastes from the Planter race some look upon it as a sportsman's paradise, some as a dull wretched existence others consider it as a field for reaping a golden harvest and lay aside conscience for a season accordingly amongst planters may be found careless hard living men and men of abstemious habits ardent naturalists, botanists skilful mechanicks and in some out of the way corner you may stumble upon a learned bookworm or a kindly hearted philanthropist." Written in brown ink to most of the 4 sides of a bifolium, with oval blindstamp 'Rolland Frères Fabr. Bordeaux' to top left hand corner. Several folds, with address on final page as above, and ink postal stamps, including Calcutta and York, some small splits in folds, leaf size 26.6 x 21.2cm. Full transcription available on request. Volumes of Machell's letters are held in the British Library and these may well be the only outside of that institution.
Author Thomas Machell
Date 1850
Binding no binding
Illustrator Thomas Machell
Condition vg
Pages 8

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