James Backhouse Correspondence 1831-1838 Index: Royal Society Collection

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.

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James Backhouse Correspondence
1831 - 1838
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
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
Authors/Creators:Backhouse, James
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

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