RICHARD BATE (b.1736)
Apparently autograph manuscript autobiography and journal, 'The Life of R* B*', a fair copy, inscribed to his brother and dated Tellicherry, 16 December 1770, in 17 chapters, covering events from 1750 to 1770, illustrated with 39 full-page and 15 folding drawings, and three vignettes (one unfinished), in pencil, ink and wash, and watercolour, a few heightened with gold leaf, including topographical views of Charlestown, Havana, St Jago, Anjengo, Bombay and Tellicherry, together with maps (of Bombay and Salset), a portrait, and detailed drawings of fish, reptiles, insects and other wildlife, approximately 309 pages, 4to (250 x 185mm), original pagination, a pocket pasted inside upper cover labelled by Bate 'My honoured Father's Instructions to me at setting out for Portsmouth 1 January 1750 ...', (the enclosed letter now separate and fragmentary); autograph note by J. Hollwall pasted to front endleaf, certifying Bate's good conduct and service as Midshipman on board the Mermaid under his command, 26 May 1752 to 24 July 1753; end pastedown cut to enclose an oval bust-length portrait of a woman, ink and wash on card (neat tear to fold of one plate, 'South view of Moyland Fort', short marginal tears to 2 folding plates, some light surface soiling, occasionally touching plates). Contemporary calf, bound in Tellicherry (worn); together with, Richard Bate, autograph letter to his sister 'Betsy', Bombay, 10 February 1761, one page, 12mo, enclosing a cut-paper image of the Trinity.
A remarkable account by an English merchant of his voyages to the East Indies and America in the 18th century, with fine illustrations. A lively and detailed journal, the opening chapters describe the events of Bate's early life, from 1750 when, at the age of fourteen, he entered the Navy as a seaman on board the sloop of war, Scorpion, and then served as an officer on his uncle's 'twenty Gun Ship', the Mermaid. This first period of life at sea includes descriptions of a near-drowning incident in his canoe on the Cape Fear River, north Carolina, learning the art of navigation whilst stationed in Charles Town, South Carolina, surviving a hurricane there ('no longer the proud the flourishing Charles town, -- decked with elegant buildings & beautified with Gardens -- but the whole an heap of confusion'), and exploring the harbour and city of Havana. Returning to London in 1753, following a brief period as a Midshipman and deciding against a career in the Navy, Bate was appointed a 'writer to the India Company' in Bombay on 29 January 1755. He sailed for the East Indies on 24 March on board the Indiaman Stretham, via the Island of St Jago, the Cape of Good Hope, stopping at Madagascar in September, and reaching Bombay on 9 November. By March 1757 Bate was working for the Company in Anjengo on the coast of Malabar, returning to Bombay in 1760, making trips down the coast, visiting the Caves of Kenaree, Salset, and staying with his sister in Calcutta in 1764. Chapter 17 marks a change in Bate's narrative, when on 23 January 1765 he begins a daily journal, titled 'A Voyage towards Bombay' on the yacht Calcutta, reaching Madras on the anniversary of the French raising the seige of 1759, Bate describing his meeting with General Stringer Laurence (1697-1775) at Admiralty House ('the sight of an officer so ... instrumental in defeating the purposes of our Enemies gave me great pleasure and I complimented him on the occasion ... "Aye" cried the old man, pointing with his cane over the Rampart ... "there the French had a battery, and there ... we routed the Dogs in a Sally"'). Sailing on to Ceylon, Bate relates an amusing meeting with the Dutch deputy governor at Colombo, in addition to a detailed description and history of Ceylon, with observations on the 'monopoly and riches' of the Dutch. Passing Cape Comorine, and giving an account of 'Angria ... the Arch-pirate of the Malabar Coast', Bate ends his journal in Tellicherry, where he is distracted by a dispute involving the provision for a young woman he had met in Bengal; deciding that his future marriage would merit another volume, he has his journal bound in Tellicherry, unable to completely finish the final drawings, in a hurry to place it in the hands of his brother.
A remarkable and vivid narrative, the author gives both historical and descriptive accounts of the places he visits (at times combining his own observations with accounts from printed sources, such as Harris's Voyages), together with detailed descriptions of life at sea. To convey the immediacy of certain passages, the author writes in the present tense ('Diametrically opposite to me sits our worthy Captain deeply engaged in calculating the Profits of his Bengal voyage. Whenever he is puzzled at a Figure he looks me full in the face ... close by ... seated on a trunk, and moving gently to and fro with the motion of the Yacht, sits Shaik Doud, a lean, old black Merchant who is going with us to Bombay to sell his goods, at this instant of a livid, sallow complexion, with a fixt grin on his countenance importing great sickness of stomach'). Bate explains the dangers of 'cotton-loaded ships' catching fire, and how to 'clear ship', involving turning everything on board 'topsy turvy' to confound pirates. It is also an amusing account, Bate describing fiddlers falling in the water at the launching of the Dunkirk Man of War in 1754, a concert on board the Calcutta with 'dancing on the slack rope by two monkies', the huge nose of the Dutch deputy governor at Colombo, and losing seven Madagascan 'mococks' on the quarter deck, which eventually tumble out of the mainsail.
TRADE AND THE EAST INDIA COMPANY
As a writer to the East India Company, Bate's account offers an insight into the lives of its employees; he describes cramped living quarters in Bombay ('pigeon holes'), and gives details of expenses and low wages ('three people living for less than 20£s a year each in the East Indies where provisions are far from being reasonable'). This picture is further embellished in the form of a play, The Writer, a 'Tragi-comic Farce' in three Acts.
On arrival in Bombay, Bate wrote to Colonel Clive, then Governor of Fort St David, in the hope of being able to enter his service. He later attended a dinner where 'Colonel Clive acquainted me that he had asked leave of the Governour & Council to carry me round with him' but they had refused 'as they could not think so very young a Servant entitled to such a favour'; a decision causing Bate much regret in retrospect, 'had I known that this great man would have made so rapid a progress up the Ladder ... as from a Colonel ... to a Lord to a Governour General'. Clive did however recommend Bate to John Spencer, in whose service he remained for ten years (working in his office for 24 rupees a month, and with 30 rupees 'Company allowance'). Spencer (d.1766) was appointed to the 'Chiefship of Anjengo', Malabar, and in 1757 Bate worked as his secretary to the factory there ('the natives formerly made good cloth, which was also an article of the East-India Companys Investments but the Madras Manufactory is so very superior that the Anjengo Cloth is but little esteemed'). Bate records a strange instance, when Spencer and the Company aided the King of the Malabars; the latter having quarelled with his gods for being made of wood, Spencer had them sent to England 'and in two years time the East India Company sent out the like number in glass of different colours as a present to his majesty'. Bate describes several centres of trade, leaving Bombay in 1764 for Calcutta, 'the land flowing with the milk and honey of a merchant, money and merchandize'; he also offers a long discussion of the Dutch and their trade of cinnamon and pepper from Ceylon ('they are jealous to the utmost degree of their cinnamon trees, which they shew to strangers with great difficulty ... they take special care to prevent its being propogated anywhere but in their own islands').
'As to the drawings, -- if any of them have any merit ... they have been the means of many and many an hours sliding away imperceptibly ... the first thought of introducing them at all was owing to ... a listlessness of temper one morning that seemed to require some novelty of amusement ...': deciding his book should have a frontispeice, Bate took up his pencil to draw himself, in a tiny boat 'in peril', felt it apt and was pleased with the result, so continuing with the other drawings, 'they are all as exact copies from Nature as in my power to take them'. He admits however that the drawing of Calshot Castle was copied from B. Ralph's England Illustrated (being below decks when passing it), and that he 'stole' the view of Charles Town and of Havana from 'a large book of prints'.
The drawings are titled as follows:
Frontispiece; In a Hoy passing by Calshot Castle on his voyage to Plymouth; Charles Town, South Carolina; The Entrance of the Harbour of the Havana taken from within; A View of the city of Havana taken from a Road in the Country; Plan of our House about 2 miles from Charles Town; Situation of it during the hurricane; 'Do you think to rubeedle me by stroking my cat?' ('Mrs Deborah Wilcox and Major Petty'); Embarked on board the Stretham, bound to the East Indies; A View of Porto Prayo Bay on the Island of St Jago; A Madagascar Mocock; John Spencer Esq; A View of Anjengo on the coast of Malabar; An Anjengo Catamaran; A View of the Billiard Room at Anjengo; A Pullias Hut in the Verges; A Malabar ceremony; A remarkable Banian Tree near Anjengo; The Bicha de Vergonha; A Map of Bombay and Salset shewing our Road to the Caves of Kenaree; A view of the Grand Cave of kenaree; A plan of the Grand Cave of Kenaree (no.s 1 & 2); A Plan of the Island of Bombay as it was surveyed anno 1765; A view of Malabar Hill at Bombay; A plan of the new Sepulchre belonging to the Persees on Malabar Hill; A view of the Persees Sepulchre; A section of the Persees Sepulchre; [Four coast profiles]; A View of Point de Gala; Cape Comorine (unfinished); A View of Sacrifice Rocks; The South View of Moylan Fort; the North East View of Tellicherry; A View of the Coast from Tellicherry to Durmapatam; Peixe Pedra or the Rock-Fish; the Sardina; Péixe Bógre or the Cat Fish; the Curveen; Mourcan or Cobra Alcatifa; the Blood-Sucker a Species of the Cameleon; an 'extraordinary insect... like burnished gold'; 'curious snake'; [two drawings of fish, unnamed]; The Devils Horse; Moulancouretchy; Peixe Pelao or the Rammer Fish; Peixe Boy or the Bull Fish; Peixe Agulha or The Needle Fish; The Sea Horse in its natural size; Cola; Natoli; Moussu; The Tellicherry Flying-Frog in its natural size and colours; The River-Dog; the large black hairy scorpion.
The author is most likely to be the son of James Bate (c.1775), clergyman and writer on religion who was born in Boughton Malherbe, Kent, and became the Rector of Deptford and Bishop of Ely's Fellow at St John's college, Cambridge 1726-33. James Bate bequeathed a 16th-century Perisan manuscript of the Khamsa of Nizami Ganjavi to St John's (Browne 1434), with an accompanying note, 'My son Richard Bate, a merchant of Bombay, happening to be then at Calcutta in Bengall, bought this book to present it to me ... I received this book from my son at Tellicherry in October, 1770'.