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Item 2005 - Chinese Taiping Rebellion Firsthand Account Catalog 445 (Jan 2015)

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ALS signed “George Royle,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 9.25 x 11.75, engraved ‘Shanghai’ letterhead, May 20, 1862. Letter to his cousin Hester, written from the H. M. Gunboat Havoc in Kinkiang. In part: “I really do not deserve to be thanked for getting poor West’s things in order, because it was an act that it was only right a[nd] proper to perform for a brother officer and still more, should I not have been a barbarian to have neglected it, knowing that he was such a friend of yours?—I could not myself see the chest and things dispatched to England or even attend the sale of uniform, because, you see, the 'Snake' was at Shanghai and I was at Hankau, but I am told that the greater part sold for more than the cost price, the books as much as three times. I hope that long before this you have received the desk and everything all right. A monument is being made at Shanghai by subscription of the Officers and men; but the 'Snake' has been moving about so much lately that it has not yet been sent up. I am now going to write about it to the 'Snake.' The First Lieutenant of the 'Snake,' poor Royse, as good a fellow as ever breathed, has since died: he was very careful about West’s things: and her Doctor, Eastcott has been seriously wounded by the rebels and is not expected to live: she is a very unfortunate vessel.

I was very glad to hear tidings of old 'Cuttle' because I have never seen the 'Mary Shepherd’s' name in the papers. I suppose he has gone out as third officer in her again. Is Captn Budge in her still? He must be rather tired of Bombay. I hope we shall see him out here again. Tell him when you write to look alive and get his Master’s Certificate, for there is plenty of employment in China, a good steady officer is nearly sure of a command in fine steamers. There is no place like China for a good steady officer in the merchant service and 'chin chin him, too much-ee for any' as they say out here…I do not expect to be in England this year, in 1863 possibly…. I often think of those glorious old times and of the 28th June excursion in the Good ships 'New hope' and 'Halcyon.' Those were indeed happy days, and I look forward anxiously for many like them…. I thank you very much for your kindness in sending me the Illustrated News. I assure you they were very acceptable for we have no new books to read and we were about to commence reading the old ones backwards, but that is not a very interesting amusement. What is Dick West doing out in America? I wish him luck wherever he goes….

I have enclosed a sketch of the Han-yang hill shewing the site of the British Cemetery. The people flatter me by saying that the sketch is very correct and 'although I say so as I shouldn’t I am of the same opinion myself. The chart, however, on the back is very rough and where it does not coincide with the sketch it is the chart that is at fault and not the sketch. I hope that you will be pleased with it, and I hope that it will arrive in safety but I fear it will get a good deal crumpled. Up and down this hill is the only walk in summer, because the other one (there are only two) is inundated by the Yangtze and in the summer evenings all the Foreign residents may be seen disporting themselves thereon to the great astonishment of the Chinese who cannot understand why we should toil up a steep hill, the sole apparent object being to be enabled to come down again.

It is not my intention to compete with the newspapers in telling you news, for a general rule you get the most correct information in the newspapers, at this distance inland we only hear faint rumours. But it is my opinion that the Tai-pings or rebels are getting a very severe beating. I wish I could come in for a share of the fighting. This vessel has captured 7 or 8 Imperial War junks since we have been in the river for different offices, but they never resist us. On one occasion we took more prisoners than the whole of our ship’s company numbered...The people here are at times very insolent and it can never be said to be safe to walk through the streets for there is no saying at what moment you might not be killed on the spot by some of these malevolent rascals, but I take my chance with the rest and trust to providence and a big stick and occasionally to a revolver, but I find that if you pick out of a crowd the man who insults you no matter how large he is and begin and give him a good thrashing he will soon run away and the mob too, but if you run away they will all run after you but if you make a run at a mob of any number they will always run away from you: there must be running on our side or the other. These Chinese are certainly a wonderful race." In very good condition, with a noticeable tear to the center, partial separations along extremely fragile middle fold (item was not unfolded to image it due to fragility), and slight show-through from writing to opposing sides.

Beginning in 1850, the Taiping was a radical political and religious upheaval in which the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom attempted to overthrow the ruling Manchu Qing dynasty. The Qing government besieged the Taiping armies throughout the rebellion, eventually defeating them in 1864 with the aid of British and French forces. A lengthy, interesting description of the conflict and day-to-day life from the perspective of a European observer and participant.

Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.


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