BOWDITCH, Thomas Edward (1791?–1824), writer & traveler. ALS to an unnamed lady. c.1821


BOWDITCH, Thomas Edward (1791?–1824), writer & traveler. ALS to an unnamed lady. c.1821

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protégé OF CUVIER & TRAVELLER IN AFRICA

BOWDITCH, Thomas Edward (1791?–1824), writer and traveler in Africa. Autograph letter signed to an unnamed lady, 1 side of a folded 4to sheet, ‘Thursday morng.’, no date or place [probably Paris 1820-1822], sending her 3 tickets for a performance or event, and 3 more for “Mrs Lefan [?] or Miss Ainslee to present to her friend Miss Sims for me with my compliments, as I have never yet been able to pay the family any of those little attentions which were due from me for their polite attention to Mrs Bowditch last year, owing to the great distance and my constant occupations”, adding that if he can procure more tickets he will send them,  “but, to tell you the truth, 6 centre tickets were more than I had a right to expect, considering the large family demands on M Cuvier’s condescension; and Gallery tickets are of no use but to simple Gentlemen and deaf ladies”. Left hand margin rather ragged with a paper backing strip on left side; head and foot of paper grubby.


Thomas Edward Bowditch (1791?–1824), was born in Bristol, probably in 1791, the son of Thomas Bowdich, a hat manufacturer and merchant. He was educated at Bristol grammar school, and at Corsham grammar school, Wiltshire, and although intended for the bar, his father bought him into the family business. Following his marriage in 1813 to Sarah Wallis, of Colchester, his uncle secured a writership in the Royal African Company service. Stationed in Cape Coast Castle he joined an expedition to the Asante, and formed a treaty with the king of the Asante, which promised peace to the British settlements on the Gold Coast in return for commercial and political co-operation. Following his return to England in 1818 he published a detailed account of his expedition.

In 1819 he published an attack on the corruption and inefficiency of the African Company, and the ensuing controversy resulted in the transfer of the company's forts to the crown. Disappointed by his reception in London, Bowdich left for Paris, where he studied mathematics, physical science, and natural history. In Paris, eminent savants gave him a generous reception, in particular Georges Cuvier who introduced Bowditch and his wife to his circle, and gave them unlimited access to his extensive library and collections. Bowditch published extensively whilst in Paris on African travels, customs, geography and natural history, several of which works  included fine illustrations by his wife, herself an accomplished natural historian. The success of these publications enabled Bowdich and his wife to embark upon a second African expedition in 1822 via Lisbon, but after a short period of travels Bowditch succumbed to a fever whilst in Gambia, and died there in January 1824 at the early age of 33. The published account of his last expedition was edited and illustrated by his wife (ODNB).

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