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James Backhouse Correspondence 1831-1838 Index: Royal Society Collection


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Backhouse, James (2011) James Backhouse Correspondence 1831-1838 Index: Royal Society Collection. Royal Society of Tasmania, University of Tasmania Library Special and Rare Materials Collection, Australia. (Unpublished)

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James Backhouse Correspondence 1831 - 1838 RS.58 James Backhouse (1794-1869) was a Quaker missionary, of Darlington, and later, York, England. In 1831 he sailed for Australia, accompanied by George Washington Walker (1800-1859), with the financial support of the London Yearly Meeting. They arrived in Hobart in February 1832 and from then until their departure from Australia in 1838 they visited most of the scattered settlements throughout Australia. They spent three years in Van Diemens Land where they visited the penal settlements, reported to Lieut.-Governor Arthur on conditions and made suggestions for improvement of the prisons, chain gangs, assigned servants etc. They also encouraged the formation of benevolent services, such as the Ladies Committees for visiting prisoners on Elizabeth Fry's model, inspected hospitals and recommended humane treatment for the insane, as well as distributing religious tracts and school books. In 1833 they established a Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends in Hobart and in 1834 the Hobart Yearly Meeting. In 1837 they bought property for a Meeting House in Hobart. James Backhouse also collected many botanical specimens and continued to correspond with the Tasmanian Society and the Royal Society. After his return to England, Backhouse published an account of his journeys as A Narrative of a Visit to the Australian Colonies (London, 1843) (See Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 1.) The correspondence consists of letters addressed to James Backhouse and his companion relating to their missionary journey. Most are from people in official positions thanking the missionaries for their work, acknowledging books and reports, replying to requests for information or offering int~oductions, help and hospitality and also some discussion of religious matters and references to botany in which J.B. was interested. A later letter of 1844 acknowledges Backhouse's gift of his book to the Tasmanian Society. The letters were kept by the Backhouse family until 1933 when a grandson of James Backhouse, A.J. Crosfield, presented letters of Australian interest to the Royal Society of Tasmania through Ernest E. Unwin, headmaster of the Friends' School, Hobart. With them were a few other letters not connected with James Backhouse but of the same period and also of Australian interest. These (numbers 29-37) are mainly addressed to John Gould and refer to his study of Australian birds. It is unlikely that they were ever in the possession of James Backhouse who died some years before Gould, but they were probably collected by a younger member of the family. Apart from their interest in connection with John Gould and ornithology, many are signed by or include references to well known explorers. Many of the letters bear a pencil note in a later hand identifying the writer, often by a position or title received some years after the date of the letter. About the time of their presentation to the Society the manuscripts were professionally guarded on to mounting paper and bound into a volume entitled "Autograph Letters". At the front, typed directly on to the mounting paper, is a list of the letters, probably copied by the binder from a handwritten draft as it contains a number of misreadings, such as Bushy for Busby, Benk for Back, Hirst for Stirt, Jawler for Gawler, etc. Also typed on to the mounting paper is an "introduction" by Mr. Unwin:- The letters contained herein are original autograph letters which have been preserved by the family of James Backhouse. They came into the possession of Albert J. Crosfield of Cambridge, England, a grandson of James Backhouse, on the death of his brother James Backhouse Crosfield, and were offered to the Library of the Royal Society of Tasmania through Ernest E. Unwin, Headmaster of the Friend's School, Hobart, who was consulted by Mr. A.J. Crosfield in the matter. Most of the letters are addressed to James Backhouse or to James Backhouse and George Washington Walker from prominent people in this and mainland states mostly during the years 1832 to 1838. There are also a few letters addressed to other persons, which were probably collected by James Backhouse for their autographic value. Ernest E. Unwin. Presented to the Roya1 Society, September 1933. II Other papers of James Backhouse are in the Friends' Library, London. RS 58

Item Type: Other
Keywords: Tasmania, Royal Society of Tasmania, science, natural science, social history, Australia, indexes, University of Tasmania, Library, private deposits, archives, Collections, catalogue, Special, Van Diemen's Land,
Publisher: Royal Society of Tasmania, University of Tasmania Library Special and Rare Materials Collection
Collections: Royal Society Collection
Other Special Collections
Additional Information: RS 58
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2011 02:38
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 04:19
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