Lot 159
Sold for £ 3,360 (US$ 4,683) inc. premium

Lot Details
Letters of the Moore family, written during their residence in India during the 1850s, principally by the Rev Thomas Moore, the Hon East India Company's Chaplain to the Forces at Cawnpore, and by his wife Dora, and written to Moore's mother, Mrs Moore of Holt, Norfolk, as well as to Dora's father, the Rev James C. Thompson of Calcutta, Moore's brother Tony, and others; the archive comprising some 100 letters and journal-letters, often of considerable length, the majority dating from between 1853 and 1858; approximately 40 of the letters dating from the years of the Mutiny, 1857 and 1858; one Cawnpore siege letter with postage stamp and postal markings, several hundred pages, generally closely-written, some cross-written, on flimsy paper, in considerable disorder and some quite possibly incomplete, mostly 4to, Benares, Calcutta, Cawnpore and elsewhere, c.1853-1858


  • "THE BRITISH ARMY IN INDIA IS A HUGE IMPOSITION": a vivid, at times dramatic, and sometimes outspoken, record of civilian and army life during the Indian Mutiny. As chaplain to the Forces, Thomas More was present at the second siege of Cawnpore in late 1857 and early 1858. In a letter to his father-in-law (passed on by the later to Dora) on 2 December he writes: "I am safe & well living in the entrenchments – with round shot & shell occasionally spinning over me, but in no greater danger than my neighbours, how long we are to be thus shelled I don't know, but hope not too much longer – our enemies are very determined – but if they think they can take this place they are wonderfully mistaken...On Thursday last the enemy advanced after being defeated the day before. They came on splendidly, drove in our people. I was hard at work in my hospital, never dreaming of a defeat and at 8 at night I found all our people were driven in – Wounded moved into entrenchments and myself possessed of little beyond what I stood up in, at 8 PM I went out to my Bungalow and found our furthest Picket very near – all servants bolted and my things looted". Dora was able to join him at Cawnpore after the immediate danger had lifted, and it was she who nursed Captain Sir William Peel – son of the prime minister, one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross and 'legendary Victorian hero' (DNB) – when he died at their house of smallpox aggravated by severe wounds on 27 April 1858; which she describes in a letter to her mother-in-law of 3 May: "This my first letter since my return to my beloved husband ought to be a long & cheerful one, but a sad gloom has been cast over us...Sir W Peel R.N. of whom you must have heard, was brought here on Sunday the 18th April, with fever as we thought – but on Tuesday it was discovered to be small pox – the disease increased & was one the worst cases of confluent small pox – the medical men have ever witnessed, he died on Monday the 26th at 15m 12.AM. it has been a most anxious & critical time for us – but thank God we have thus far been protected – & pray that we may be safely kept – every single thing has been burnt – the doors connecting with the police have been walled up – the rooms fumigated with charcoal & sulphur fires – the doors of the rooms he occupied are put to bleach in the sun & will be washed with soap & hot water & the walls scraped & white washed".

    Although Moore and his indomitable wife – in her letter about Peel's death she makes no mention of the danger she was under – might themselves be thought to fit the mould of the Victorian hero, these letters also reveal Moore to be a critic of the appalling state of the army in India: "these boys are dying by the 1000 – it is horrible cruelty to send them here. They have not the courage to fight against the climate and you might just as well send us a lot of dogs as far as fighting is concerned. Our hospitals are crowded – wherever you go is a poor broken down crushed feeble minded wretch, actually lying down to die, not from disease, which is usually fatal, but from common fever which would not keep an ordinary man fortnight from duty – These poor wretches with stupid insensibility to either this life or the next – moan after their wretched pauper fare & England or Ireland – and die – out of the small garrison we have here of abut 1000 men at the rate of 5 to 8 per diem – No perceptible cause Fever – Sun stroke – Apoplexy...I am weary of trying to rouse such poor-spirited boys. I never can extract a cheerful answer – complaints & moaning in abundance – and this is all England can do for her children in India. If you cannot send us men – at least spare us from witnessing the misery of your violent & lowest, transported to die in this land where we have trouble enough without this addition...I have ½ a dozen letters from officers, calling on me as a Clergyman &c to contradict certain anonymous letters that have appeared in the Times charging the 88th 82nd with cowardice & drunkenness on the 27th of Novr [General Windham's defeat at Cawnpore] – of course it would be a tremendous lie if I said as they wished and they know it too...I have heard officers by the dozen assert that they have no authority over their men...There is no discipline and the Army is now one half of it composed of boys without one bit of pluck, whipped curs barking about the country. The British army in India – and I fear anywhere else – is a huge imposition – Officers know nothing of their work – Generals are made by favour – and men who know their work & do it are snubbed as ungentleman snobs who would reduce the glorious uncertainty of war to a profession in which talent & perseverance must succeed. As to the state of the Country, it is very unsafe. Poor Waterfield who was on the Staff here had to proceed to Agra the other day. He fell into the hands of a wondering body of Sepoys between Myapoorie & Agra & was butchered in his Carriage. Lucknow is really surrounded again".

    Included in the lot is a model of the memorial cross, made of wood taken from the spot, commemorating the women and children of the 32nd Regiment massacred at Cawnpore on 16 July 1857; the cross erected on 21 November. A transcript of Moore's diary incorporating transcripts of excerpts from letters to his wife, made some time after 1890, is in the British Library, Add.MS.37151.
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