Victorian Study Fires 26


Just been working on this section of Sikunder Burnes:

The only evidence for Pottinger’s heroics was allegedly in his journals, which were the basis of the account of “The Hero of Herat” by the doyen of British Indian historians Sir John Kaye. But this evidence disappeared in one of those infamous Victorian study fires, in which papers potentially embarrassing to the Imperial narrative were apt to vanish.1 It seems likely that this fire is where Alexander Burnes’ private diaries disappeared too, with their evidence of religious scepticism (and perhaps sexual adventure). Kaye published that “the journals and correspondence of Sir Alexander Burnes were given to me by his brother, the late Dr James Burnes”2, but there, to my extreme frustration, the trail ends. The same conflagration took private papers of those martyr icons of Victorian India, Henry Lawrence and John Nicholson. This almost certainly destroyed evidence of homosexual relationships among some members of the circle including those two and Herbert Edwardes, known as “Henry Lawrence’s young men”, and paedophile relationships with the young boys in their charge.3

It was a continual process. I just came across this, written with apparent naivety in John Lawrence’s 1990 biography of his ancestor, Henry:

“The papers collected by Herbert Edwardes came to my grandfather and were passed down to my father… Unfortunately some of them were lost in a fire while they were with Macleaod Innes, who had known Henry in his youth.”

“Known Henry in his youth.” I bet he did. The most tragic of the study fires was of course Isobel Burton’s destruction of Richard’s papers, though that was rare in being avowed. I was wondering if there is not an interesting little book in Victorian study fires and the bowdlerisation of history.

This great British tradition continues of course with the loss of paedophilia dossiers in the Home Office…

For the footnotes you’ll have to buy the book!


26 thoughts on “Victorian Study Fires

  • Tony_0pmoc

    We have been to India 4 times..Completely Love The Place…

    The last time we took our Daughter For New Year..Indian People are just so nice in my personal experience…

    We were told not to go to India..by an Indian Girl we have known for years at the time of the Indian Bombings..We said..don’t be ridiculous..we have been there before where you grew up..and we have been to well other places..far more in theory dangerous than that..

    You see how this Mind Programming Works..

    The important thing is to ..well of course be sensible..but do not be afraid by the latest “Terrorist” Incident..

    Anyhow..I just wrote this..it might be crap but wtf I come from Oldham.

    “The under 30’s are not just socialists…like they socialise make friends and have fun..they are also Rampant Capitalists..They Want Paying For Their Work…and get paid fuck all from the System..so they…well I am only talking from the Experience of young people who did not go to university..and instead started up their own small businesses…

    But wtf..All Our Political Parties..and Governments Across The World..These Corporatists..These Big Business People..are Trying To Destroy these little small businesses…

    Its just that they are a little bit quicker and more efficient at doing all the bollocks Bureaucracy and complying with all the laws and paying all their taxes..

    The Big Companies Don’t Do That..they Do Not Pay Their Taxes..They Bribe The Politicians..and they get away with it…

    So who the Fuck Do I vote for..To support Small Business..when All You Cunts Have Been Bought, Bribed and Blackmailed..By BIG MONEY.

    Cunts

    Tony

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Looks like my advice about Russophile Brougham and the Whig Russophobes has come far too late.

    Too bad as I am sure that it would have vastly improved your book.

  • Abe Rene

    Nowadays it’s easy to make multiple copies of things, but I wonder, are there hidden extra copies of some of these files incriminating people with high positions in society, which might be revealed after those who would harm the possessors are dead or can no longer do so? What if someone made an extra copy of the file handed to Leon Brittan and observed that the original disappeared, and so wished to be sure that the same would not happen with a second copy? Suitable stuff for a thriller novel, maybe!

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Abe Rene
    01/05/2015 7:17 pm

    I think there must be. The absolute first thing I would do with any remotely sensitive material like that would be to take a photocopy of it and tell no-one I had done so. Wouldn’t you?

    Kind regards,

    John

  • lysias

    By making copies, you would be risking at the least having operatives break into your office and home. At worst, since the act of making copies would show that you both know and are willing to break the rules, they might even kill you.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Lysias
    01/05/2015 7:45pm

    Not that it’s ever likely to happen. But you risk that anyway just by possessing originals. How would any “operatives” know if someone had made copies or not?

    I said “tell nobody”. If I were ever to have to make copies of anything, no-one would see me do it, I can assure you.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • craig Post author

    Hmm, just read that Henry Lawrence’s sister Letitia’s papers were also burnt by the family as “too personal for a biographer.”

  • Anon1

    Is this new book to be a serious history or a vehicle for your anti-British sentiment?

  • craig Post author

    Anon1,

    It is a serious attempt to discover the truth of a number of much mythologised events.

  • lysias

    Copying machines keep track of the number of copies made on them. They sometimes retain traces of the documents copied.

  • lysias

    Marine Sergeant Roget Boyajian was in charge of a detail of U.S. Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital the evening of Nov. 22, 1963. He kept a copy of a document that he had signed attesting that a casket containing JFK’s corpse had been received at the hospital at 6:35 PM. The motorcade supposedly carrying JFK’s corpse arrived at the hospital at 7:17 PM. Boyajian was later transferred to a Marine base in North Carolina, and, after his retirement, he and his wife were living just outside that base. Around the time the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which reopened the investigation of the assassination, was under consideration by the Congress, some unknown party broke into the Boyajians’ home. Mrs. Boyajian went home while the intruder or intruders were in the house. She was assaulted and injured, and had to be treated at the hospital on the Marine base. (She survived.) Boyajian continued to possess the copy of the document, which he sent (or maybe it was a copy of his copy that he sent, I no longer remember) to Douglas Horne of the Assassination Records Review Board that was established by the 1992 act.

    Shows what can happen if you hang onto a copy of a sensitive document.

  • ------------·´`·.¸¸.¸¸.··.¸¸Node

    Copying machines keep track of the number of copies made on them. They sometimes retain traces of the documents copied.

    Nearly every printer is identifiable by a unique combination of tiny dots which it inconspicuously includes in every document it prints. Since a copier is also a printer, I presume it also does this.
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/12/02/18/0455217/foia-request-shows-which-printer-companies-cooperated-with-us-government

    As well as this, all large copiers have a hard drive which stores the document while it is being printed. These copies are rarely deleted.
    http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/tr-dojo/police-medical-records-found-on-used-copy-machines/?tag=content%3BleftCol

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Not if you buy a small copier for cash then chuck it in the Thames.

    Or drive a hundred miles and find a local copier shop.

    Sure, these things have to be thought through. If it is that important.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Quite recently I attempted to purchase some residents’ one day parking passes from our local library, of which I am a member.

    I was asked for documentation to prove I was a resident of the borough from a list of acceptable documents. I didn’t have any, so I produced my library card, which was issued at that library a few months before, and asked them to look up my address on their computer systems.

    This was not acceptable. Only the documents on the list could be accepted.

    Kind regards,

    John

  • craig Post author

    I was working in Falkirk library a few months ago and asked to produce proof of address before I could use the toilet (honestly, I am not kidding).

  • John Spencer-Davis

    One wonders what they would have done if you hadn’t had any on you. Given you a bucket?

    Kind regards,

    John

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Lysias
    01/05/2015 9:04 pm

    I am sorry to hear about Mrs Boyajian, but how do we know it wasn’t some chance burglar?

    And if it wasn’t, how could anyone possibly know Sgnt Boyajian had kept a copy of this document?

    Kind regards,

    John

  • fedup

    As well as this, all large copiers have a hard drive which stores the document while it is being printed. These copies are rarely deleted.

    Hence it would pay to invest in old copiers and keep these at hand. Anyone (included those with the access to the latest technology) would be hard pushed to make sense if any at all from the last document that was printed as long as five minutes ago, after which there would be zilch to adduce or spy on.

    ====

    I was working in Falkirk library a few months ago and asked to produce proof of address before I could use the toilet (honestly, I am not kidding).

    Do you think, those 19 Arabs with Stanley knives were conjured up for nothing?

    Not long left to be asked to produce ID and sign a document that one will not pass one’s son’s flight simulator game to the enemy!

  • lysias

    John Spencer-Davis, We do not know either of those things.

    On the other hand, we have the long record of several witnesses of doings connected to the JFK assassination dying suspicous deaths shortly before they were to testify to one of the investigations.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    Lysias

    I’ll take your word for it. The JFK assassination is one place I don’t want to go.

    J

  • Habbabkuk (la vita è bella)

    When Lysias gets (politely) rubbished by Spencer-Davis for his Sgt Roger Boyajian theory he speedily and effortlessly diverts onto the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory.

    I think we have identified another member of the Circle of Conspiracy Theorists.

  • Giyane

    Libraries have been targeted for theft. Pop an incunable into your pocket on the way to the topilet and cut out some priceless vellum leaves.

    As to privacy and bowdlerisation, if I get the impression from the street that I am the subject of rumours acquired through internet spying, I attack the spy suspects on line, their ignorance of Islamic law, their betrayal of neighbours, their racism and I use porn as bait for their weird minds that they think they are in charge of the community like ISIS or the Taleban in remote corners of Afghanistan. They seem to forget they are living in a pluralistic liberal country, in Birmingham.

    Piggies have to eat poo. If they want to break trust on their side, they also have to laboriously chew through my insults to them as perpetrators of haram crimes. Enjoy the poo my friends.

  • Tim

    Wilfred Owen’s mother burned many of his private papers, apparently at his specific request. So the tradition was alive as late as WW I – probably a good case that the war was also the death of the kind of moralistic idealism which assumed that perceived weaknesses and defects should not be admitted to.

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