British Library

 

Clive of India

British Library in a flutter

MSS EUR D546 1-33 may not be everybody’s idea of a good read but it is meat and drink to some of us. The numbers refer to a collection of private letters between India and England written 1720-1780, held at the British Library where I have just spent two wonderful days.  The women’s letters are of particular interest but the men’s are not half bad. I came across them originally through a family connection. An extract may help to justify my  obsession:

Letter from Robert Clive, London, to Luke Serafton, Bengal, 2 December 1770, introducing Joseph Fowke (Lady Clive and Joseph’s deceased wife, Elizabeth, had been close friends) who had lost £18,000 ‘at play’ and hoped to return to India to recoup his fortunes:

‘’I need not trouble you with the history of Joseph Fowke – you know his passion for play. I could not refuse him letters of introduction to my friends in India, & as I have always understood him to be a man of principle & sense, tho’ not common sense, I cannot help wishing you would give him all the assistance in your power to rescue him from his present state of distress.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

 Robert Clive’