The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0515 Friday, 10 August 2007
From: Joseph Egert <
Date: Tuesday, 7 Aug 2007 13:41:55 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Letter in a Bottle
The tide of time has washed ashore a bottled letter from the past---the
bottle, in this instance, being a library copy of Frederick James
Furnivall's SOME 300 FRESH ALLUSIONS TO SHAKSPERE (1886) (see Fig. 1).
On the blank recto side of the unnumbered front flyleaf, an earlier
owner, Robert North Green-Armytage (1878-1966) has signed his name both
in pencil near the center as "R. N. Green=Armytage, Middle Temple: E.C.
1904" and in ink at the top as "R. N. Green=Armytage: Bath: '21". Also
on this page are pasted three short letter-to-editor clippings (two by
C.R. Haines; the third by Gordon Crosse) proposing additional allusions
(see Fig. 2).
On page ii, a 113x177mm single-leaf handwritten ink letter may be found
centered on the blank 180x240mm book page and attached there by a thin
strip of tape at its lateral margin. The undated letter to Henry Gay
Hewlett (1832-1897) is from Frederick James Furnivall (1825-1910), or
"Furnie", as his scull-ery maid-ens fondly dubbed him (the model for
Ratty the Water Rat in Grahame's THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS).
The letter reads as follows (see Figs. 3a and 3b for facsimiles):
3 Old Square
I am sorry to
say that it is too true
that your & my friend
Girling Tupling did start
for America in the Pacific.
I did not know it till
his father told me a few days
after he had gone. By
calling on, or writing to,
his father, Mr John Tupling
23 Paternoster Row, you
could learn whether he
still hopes that the vessel
is not lost. I have given
up the hope,--holding still
the assurance that it is better
for him to be where he is, for
this earth could never have
satisfied his longings & aspi-
rations, & now with God
they will be fulfilled.
F. J. Furnivall
H.G. Hewlett Esquire junior
[End of letter]
Who then was this lost soul Girling Tupling (c. 1835-1856)? His father
John Tupling (c. 1810-1873), after failing as a Cambridge bootmaker in
1849, became accountant to a London publisher, while his young son
Girling (spelled elsewhere "Gurling" or "Gertling") learned the
bookselling business. Dissatisfied with his name, Girling later renamed
himself "John" with his father's consent---a name that "was not likely
to prove a hindrance to a man!". At age seventeen (c. 1852), young John
agreed to his father sponsoring and financing him in a small London
bookshop on the Strand against the church at St Mary's. During his brief
career young John authored, along with his quaint eccentric catalogs,
FOLIOUS APPEARANCES in 1854, and published Donne's ESSAYS IN DIVINITY
(1855), newly edited by his friend Augustus Jessopp.
But young John had grander dreams beyond his dingy bookshop. "I'm tired
of it," he told Jessopp. "I want to see the world; and, above all, I
want to see the bottom of the Atlantic" with its "Kraken", its
"monstrous sea-weeds", and its "undisturbed and imperturbable quiet".
So, young John left his father after bitter argument and "lit out for
the territories". The Golden Land, America, beckoned to him with her
siren song. He debarked from Liverpool for New York on Jan 23, 1856, one
("W. Topling") among 45 passengers and 141 crewmen, on the American
Collins Line steamer PACIFIC.. The ship was never seen again, with all
aboard lost at the bottom of the Atlantic.
Young John Tupling's wish had been granted, R.I.P.
(The PDF figures may be found at
http://www.shaksper.net/review-papers/index.html by clicking on images,
or they can be accessed at the "Bottled Letter" thread at HLASM at:
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
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