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Offshore from the Cape to Mauritius, 1857-1860: The Letters of Lady Barbarina Grey

Easton, Kai (2011) Offshore from the Cape to Mauritius, 1857-1860: The Letters of Lady Barbarina Grey. In: Coastlines & Littoral Zones: The 8th Annual Literature & Ecology Colloquium, 12-14 August 2011, Kleinmond, Western Cape, South Africa. (Forthcoming)

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Abstract

Wife of Admiral Sir Frederick Grey, Commander of the Cape of Good Hope and South Coast of Africa Station (a title changed, immediately on his arrival, to the West Coast of Africa Station), Lady Barbarina Grey left behind both a journal, the extracts of which have appeared in a published family chronicle, and also some 93 letters to her husband's cousin, Countess Maria. Today the letters are housed in Durham University special collections. Extracts from both have been edited by Andrew L. Harington and published by the South African Library (1997). Harington came across Lady Grey's archives accidentally, but he is keen to reproduce a combined record that focusses on the Greys' sojourn at the Cape: those letters and journal entries, in other words, that focus on the Cape itself. The record is still fairly slight, but there is some remarkable material, particularly in the tantalising references to Lady Eliza Grey (no relation, but so elusive in the historical record compared with her husband, the Governor of the Cape, Sir George Grey). Lady Barbarina Grey documents her travels on the peninsula and inland -- visits to the usual colonial sites of Table Mountain and the Moravian mission station of Genadendal. For health reasons (risks of disease), she is advised not to accompany Sir Frederick on his tours of duty to West Africa. She does however take significant voyages with him east to Knysna and then, further into the Indian Ocean, to Mauritius and Madagascar and other nearby islands. But for all this it would seem, based on Harington's book, that Lady Grey's record is not written primarily offshore. Considering Sir Frederick's profession, and the fact that they are resident at Admiralty House in Simon's Bay rather than in Cape Town, to what extent does the 'coastal zone' of the south coast of Africa feature in her writings? This paper, which forms part of my larger project on British women writing colonial South Africa, looks at a selection of actual letters from the Durham special collections and assesses Lady Grey's engagement with the sea and all matters nautical. It also considers more critically other circuits of travel that she encountered as hostess: the traffic of visitors that included, for example, the legendary Dr Livingstone.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Paper)
Keywords: archives, colonial letters, Lady Barbarina Grey, Admiral Sir Frederick Grey, Lady Eliza Grey, Simon's Bay, Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, Mauritius, Indian Ocean
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Centre for Gender Studies
Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies
Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa
Regional Centres > Centre of African Studies
Depositing User: Kai Easton
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2011 09:13
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/12036

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