Edward’s Wife

Arthur GROTE formed a close friendship with Edward BLYTH in Bengal. I don’t know if they journeyed back to England together but they took lodgings close to each other in London and must have kept in touch. A couple of years after Edward died, Arthur wrote  a memoir of his friend that was published originally in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol.xiv  (August 1875) and reprinted in Loren Eiseley’s Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X in 1979.

Arthur gives us some useful detail about ‘the Father of Indian Ornithology’ but is somewhat vague with regard to Arthur’s marriage.

In 1854 Blyth was married to Mrs. Hodges, a young widow whom he had known as Miss Sutton, and who had lately come out to join some relatives in India.

Elizabeth Mary Turner SUTTON was 13 years younger than Arthur. She was born in London and would have been seventeen when Arthur left England for the sub-continent. It is a bit of a stretch to say that Elizabeth was lately arrived in India because she married John Charles HODGES in Calcutta in December 1846. He was 26 years-old and the register says he was commander of the Brig Amity. He had been captain of the ship for at least two years.

(This was not the Amity that transported European settlers to Australia.)

In the fifth year of marriage, Elizabeth was widowed. John died on the west coast at Colaba near Bombay on 19 April 1851. Though the date is precise, I haven’t found the cause of his death at age 31. (Some sources give his birth two years earlier than the marriage register implies.)

After fourteen years, Edward’s salary at the Asia Society’s museum was barely adequate to keep his own body and soul together, but Elizabeth married him anyway. In 1855 he asked for an increase in salary and a pension “after a certain number of years’ service”. The Society pleaded poverty.

In December 1857, Blyth had the misfortune to lose his wife. His short married life had been of the happiest, and the blow fell heavily on him. His letters to his sister for the early months of 1858 are painful to read. The shock proved too much for him, and brought on a serious attack of illness; it threatened paralysis of the heart, and he seems to have been subject to partial returns of similar attacks for the rest of his life. His health too suffered much from the isolation imposed on him by his straitened means, and from want of proper exercise.

Arthur doesn’t name the sister with whom Edward corresponded but it was almost ccertainly the middle one of three, Sarah Clara.

Ten years after returning to England, Edward went to Antwerp “for a change” and on his return called on Arthur.

…[he was] feeling better, though claiming of great prostration. He seemed full of what he had seen in the Antwerp Zoological Garden, where he thought he had found another new species of Rhinoceros. This was our last interview. Though nursed by a tenderly attached sister, his weakness increased, and he died of heart disease on the 27th of December, within a day or two of his sixty-third birthday.

In 1871, Edward was living alone in rooms in Cecil Street, St Clement Danes, in a property that would be demolished with others to make space for a hotel and much later the Shell-Mex building. Arthur was a mile away in more salubrious Pall Mall lodgings. And Sarah Clara may have already settled at Regent’s Park Terrace, three miles from Cecil Street but only a few hundred yards from London Zoo.

Sarah’s home for at least ten years before her death in 1891 is partially hidden by the tree. I’d like to think she brought her brother here for his last days, and that he could hear the roars, bellowings and trumpetings of the larger mammals from his sick room window. (If you wanted to buy her house nowadays the mortgage payment would be around  £13,000 a month.)

Find Edward on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.

Tree 40 · Martin’s Ravine

A Victorian Influencer

Born in 1810, Edward BLYTH used a small inheritance to open a pharmacy in London. A passionate interest in zoology led to him neglecting the business and it failed. Suffering ill-health, his future seemed uncertain but, partly on the strength of articles he had written for leading scientific journals and notes written for a re-issue of Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne (1837), he was recommended for the job of Curator of Zoology at the Museum of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. He sailed for Calcutta in 1841. Though not universally respected at the museum he was considered by some to be “the greatest of Indian naturalists” (Allan Hume), and known for many years as the Father of Indian Ornithology. (Thirteen bird species carry his name. One, Blyth’s pipit, occasionally loses its way on migration from Mongolia or India and fetches up in the land of Edward’s birth. The count of confirmed sightings in the UK is in the twenties I think.)

Edward married the Widow Hodges (née SUTTON) in 1854 but she died three years later. His health broke down altogether and he returned to England in March 1863. Had he recovered his strength he might have returned to the sub-continent to supervise the transmission of the Asiatic Society’s collections to the Indian Government and become the first Superintendent of the Indian Museum (Christine Brandon-Jones). Instead, he suffered a total breakdown, spent some time in a private asylum, and took to drink (Wikipedia). He died in London of heart disease on 27 December 1873.

1864, photographer unknown, Woodbury Company, public domain

Edward’s representation on the FamilySearch Shared Tree is minimal, giving the lie to this post’s title.

There are sources on FamilySearch that can expand the pedigree a little and Geni offers more connections. I’m hesitating to add some of the information I have found because of doubts regarding Edward’s father. One online tree says Clare Blyth died in 1820. Another Clare died in 1837 aged 78 and the calculated birth year of 1759 fits a birth record but indicates a late age to marry in 1808 and have four children with Catharine SAUNDERS. (Catharine’s parents and sisters have representation on the Shared Tree.)

Another puzzle regarding Edward’s father is this notice in a newspaper.

It seems odd that a 31 year-old worsted weaver would feel threatened by the press-gang. Fourteen years later a Clare Blyth in London ended a partnership with  Leeds woolstapler John BELL.

Note the Ironmonger Lane address. When an English census enumerator finally caught up with Edward in 1871, our naturalist was very precise when giving his birthplace.

Two years before his death, Edward was mentioned in a Pall Mall Gazette article titled Fragments of Science.

The custom by which literary men of the present day collect and publish in a convenient form the separate contributions which they may have offered to periodical literature during a certain period is one which has been acted on so extensively for the last few years that we are not surprised when Professor Tyndall contributes his own quota to the roll of self-connected articles. Such a plan is infinitely preferable to that adopted by many other scientific men as, for example, the late Dr. Hugh Falconer, whose memoirs throughout life were scattered through an enormous series of partially accessible publications, and were not collected in a systematic form until after his decease. Perhaps one of the most prolific and excellent among our living zoological writers, Mr. Edward Blyth, is the one whose contributions to scientific literature are the most scattered and the most inaccessible. If the best of of our scientific authors had adopted the plan on which so few have really acted, and had preserved copies or at least references to their contributions to scientific literature, great advantage would result…

Poor Edward, almost gone but not forgotten. One of the scientists who paid heed to some of the ideas expressed in his prolific output was Charles DARWIN. The more eminent Victorian hat-tipped Edward in print, invited him on several occasions to Down House and they exchanged many letters.  In Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X, Loren Eiseley suggests that Edward contributed more to the great man’s theory of evolution by natural selection than was publicly acknowledged. He ends his chapter Darwin, Blyth and Natural Selection thus:-

But let not the world forget that Edward Blyth, a man of poverty and bad fortune, shaped a key that dropped half-used from his hands when he set forth hastily on his own ill-fated voyage. That key, which was picked up and reforged by a far greater and more cunning hand, was no less than natural selection. At that moment, probably in 1937, the Origin  was born. When Blyth died in 1873 there was found among his papers a fragment of a work which he was preparing “On the Origination of Species.” It was not, his literary executors opined, worth publishing. It was derivative. In truth it was the dry seed husk fallen from what had grown to be a great tree.

The End of Slavery

If only slavery had ceased. Candace Owens reminds us that large numbers of Afric’s children are being trafficked still – by people of colour.

Bird 86 · Churchyard Crow

A Clerical Error

The boy who would be an estate agent and poultry farmer (Saturday’s post) cannot be found in the GRO Births Index. However, FamilySearch serves up his christening details in a Record Hint.

NUGENThenrywj_FST_Chr

Curiously, the birth of a Nugent boy was registered in Bedford in the September quarter of 1867. His name…

1867_NUGENTjohnv_Birth

Henry’s mother, Mary Susan Boyd, was the widow GOGERLY when she married Mariner John Venables NUGENT in Calcutta. Her maiden surname was BETTS. The GRO printed Index clearly shows “John Venables” so it isn’t a recent transcription or digitization error.

Less a mistake, more a case of several economies with the truth – on the Shared Tree Mary S B Betts was born in Calcutta on 26 July 1826. In 1871, the Bedford census enumerator noted her birthplace as the Channel Islands. In 1891, a widow again and living with recently married Henry and Hannah, she claimed to be 63 years old, born “At Sea”.

None of these errors and narrative inconsistencies matters much. I wonder if the families Betts, Gogerly AND Paliologus knew each other in Calcutta. And how does a Mariner gain an entrée into ex-pat Bengal society?

Constantine

I did some more work on the Paliologi today, putting the five sons of Nicholas and Annie Elizabeth DRIVER on the Shared Tree.

Theodore, St John Lower’s older brother, was obviously of more interest to me now, after seeing the photo of a possible ancestor’s tomb inscription. He was just Theodore in the few sources that mentioned him – until I found a record of his aunt Sarah’s will, made in Middlesex Hospital a short time before her death in 1890.

I Sarah Paliologus leave and bequeath to my nephew Theodore Constantine Paliologus two thirds of what I possess and one third to my cousin Rose Marie Laura Kallonas. I declare before God that this is my last Will and Testament.

I wonder, named after the last Byzantine Emperor?

Find Sarah Isabella on FamilySearch. Take a closer look and you will notice that her mother was born Mary Jane Sophia DRIVER, and nephew Theodore’s mother is Annie Elizabeth DRIVER. In a gene pool as small as that of the British occupiers in Calcutta, it is a relief that mother and grandmother from opposite sides of the track are not related by blood. Annie’s father was Garret and Mary’s, John, their connection a mystery, to me at least.

Mary Jane Sophia and Nicholas Paliologus senior married in St John’s Cathedral, Calcutta, on 12 January 1824 and I was pleased to see one of my favourite early British photographers had captured it in the 1860s.

St John's CathedralKolkata_SamlBOURNE_BL
courtesy The British Library

Samuel Bourne India Photographs. On the Shared Tree, he waits at the altar for Mary TOLLEY. In 1911 the couple, aged 76 and 66, were enumerated at a house in The Park, Nottingham, that they  (I guess) had named “The Bright Lands”. Living with them was their unmarried daughter, Constance, born in Simla in 1870.