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Record number: WCP3791

Sent by:
? James Brooke
Sent to:
John Brooke Johnson-Brooke (formerly Johnson)
27 January 1856

Sent by ?James Brooke, Peninjauh, Sarawak, [Malaysia] to John Brooke Johnson-Brooke (formerly Johnson) [none given] on 27 January 1856.

Record created:
02 February 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


Wallace is passing Christmas on Peninjau with Spenser St John and his brother (page 1) but is about to leave soon, which causes James Brooke to give a pleasing character description (page 5), in a letter otherwise full of domestic and political detail about Sarawak.

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LETTER (WCP3791.3705)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House
Finding number:
MSS. Pac. S. 90
Copyright owner:
ęBrooke Heritage Trust

Physical description

Transcription information





27th Jan to 7th Feb 1856

My dear Brooke

Our communication is so completely dislocated that we are daily expecting the arrival of two mails by one or other of three vessels each of which has been gone a month from this. En attendonts I am willing to write you a peaceful letters from the Hill where with the two St Johns2 and Wallace, I [[2]] am passing a few days. I have little to tell you but that little is satisfactory - Imprimis the Serekei people have been here, promising fair, and not willing to abandon our government for Sheriff Masahor - I pointed out to them the objects which I have had all along in view and the way they had been treated by the deception practiced by the Sheriff and the underhand dealings of the community for the sake of profit with the Dyaks - there will be [[3]] no difficulty now in keeping a fort at Sakarran Serekei, and the people being no longer able to communicate secretly with the Dyaks or to trade with the subrosa,with the understanding that they are to wink at their small peccadillos in the head taking line - the Kajan will be rendered secure. It will no doubt increase our expenses at least 100 dollars per month, but if matters go right at home, this expense will not affect us and if wrong, there will be the [[4]] option between retrenchments and the repetition of the same measure at the Sarebas which by completing our line of posts might place us in a position to lay a revenue sufficient to defray the expenses of government - We will think of this in due time but this fact as stated might be urged as showing the mischief produced by the conduct of the Bsh Government - Damn them for a base faint hearted crew - There is nothing else to tell you of - Old Tumongong and Tuanku Moksain [[5]] have had severe illnesses - but both are well as is little Mab3 who was attacked with fever which caused her parents to great anxiety. Wallace leaves us soon - he is a pleasing and collected companion whom I shall be sorry to lose - St John sickness has wonderfully improved on Sarawak air and our Bishops treatments I think I told you in my last that the Bishop had been installed into the see of Sarawak under the authority of this government - I shall send Templer4 the letters patents as they would be called in England. Here we may call it the authorisation as we must not do any thing [[6]] because others do it or call silly names because it is so at home - Now to mention to you some things which I think you can usefully do during your stay in England which would be advantageous or might be so - Only however that it should not be done as a duty but as a pleasure and by asking these enquiries personally you would be able in future to order the things you wish yourself per the proper persons -

First then inquire about a paddy cleaner or rice mill [[7]] for such a machine as established at Sakarran would prove of great advantage to the people and to the community generally

2 is to inspect agricultural instruments of the simpler sort such as good spades, rakes, clay diggers (of modern invention), drawing tools - particularly spades - do tiles - I have a fencing mania - iron fencing &c &c - in all these things in prospering would be needed for the model farm which I have in my minds eye - Then in addition to these we absolute wants of more to be added to your lists but which need not be purchased til you are leaving - 1st a saddle & bridle for Baby from Penty5 [[8]] and 2nd a good hone and razor strop. You are fond of poking about in odd places and your Father will be delighted to keep you company - There is one other want buy a chess board from 22 to 24 inches square and chess men of box wood to match - I have been thinking of mentioning these things for a long time and so I have discharged any budgets -

1st Feby Sarawak

I have now to acknowledge your letters of November [[9]] written aboard the Steamer and dated November. I rejoiced to hear you were both well. There is no news from home I need dwell upon - Do all you can to evince our sense of Monsr Philerete Chasles6 compliments and strengthens our hands in France without hesitation in any way you think best.

I have written to Mr Booty7 apprizing him that the arrangements to complete the payment into his hands of £1000 per ann - and desiring him to let you have the portion of the same you may require for your expenses whilst at home - at the same time [[10]] I have sent him a bill for Smith Elders8, for payment but let him know if you have paid any account from them. I will do what you wish with the letter of approval of your forming a later married connexion - I have more fear of you marrying a rich than a poor woman - and our officers are far too unsettled and our position too undefined for any grand cats parents to seek the alliance - Should the Govt concede the question, now at issue, or should we back them upon it, it will close this aspect of things.

[[11]] What made you say that Charlie Grant's9 father and mother will find him much altered by his two years sojurn in Lundu this last time? From the tone of Grants letters I still hope to have Charlie out again and he would be very useful.

I want to add few new arrangements for our papers and magazines - Instead of the Times let us have the Da Evening Mail via Marseilles to the latest date - and from Lackington10 send us Times’s via Marseilles from the 1st to the 9th of each month - Earlier dates [[12]] are of no use - Then further dis-continue "Fraser" & "Household Words" and substitute the "Press" and the "Chess Chronicle", above all let us have "Home News" sent regularly and over and above I want Stanton’s "Chess Players’ Hand book" (latest edition) to be sent in the monthly parcel. Mr Thor may bring me my Chess men & Board or they may come overland as I am chess mad (N.B. I find I misread your letter about Charlie Grant - it was not "much altered" but "not much the worse). I send you the Bishop’s reply to your query about Bayre - Should they think of coming no arrangements could be more agreeable to me [[13]] as you may apprise them - The Bishop however is giving Chambers’s11 claim the precedence - I would say more did I think the projects likely. Young Nicholetts12 has arrived safe and well - a fine young fellow swelling visibly into a large man at the expense of his clothes. I like much what I have seen of him and he likewise takes to the place - McKintosh gets on very well, and is a steady trustworthy hand - he has had charge of Crymble’s13 office for a week while he was away at Santobong - Crymble is being steady and I believe really improving - The two Channons14 are better - both having been ailing - and are gone to the hill for change - Steele15 is here - I shall [[14]] keep and Haji Wahit in charge of the two forts turn and turn about. Pangeran Matusen is a quiet, good man spite of his having murdered such a number of persons already & indirectly in the heat of his fury, and his connexion with the Kayans is drawing them towards ourselves - I am now trying to induce Kun Nipa to lay aside his instructions on trade from the interior. Charley was quite well a few days since.

The L C Cy new steamer "Labuan"16 ran into and sank the Bark Zarah17 of 400 tons and is now in the hands of the Sheriff pending the decision of the claim [[15]] against her for 41,000 dollars - these men poison every thing they touch. The news of the Patingi death has been verified from Mecca but is not absolutely confirmed - His relations take it very cooly and the general feeling in the country is one of satisfaction. St John particularly wishes for a few numbers of the National Review and if Madame Pfifer18 works worth reading send out to us.

5th Feby 1856 I have been thinking about the letter you wish me to write and there is no doubt that such a letter would be more definite and carry greater weight when the position was fixed one way or the other - I will not however delay it but write you a second short I think it advisable - You must not forget my old schoolfellow the Archdeacon of Lindisfarne19 and Miss B_ will be a charming wife - that is if you love [[16]] her - One great recommendation is that she is poor -

The Sarebas negotiation will end in a rupture as it is to contain Mellanos - Saji, Api Dandong, &c are supporting Rentap - they are plying us with professors and I have no wish to precipitate affairs as time is more valuable to us than to them - Japper went to Sarebas and Rentap stated that Jambu had fired at his house three times pending the negotiation about which he sought wished to engineer I shall merely repeat my old demand ie that he returns Gopins property and raise the fine from eight to three times eight tajaus By the bye I am at a loss to know what arrangement you made with Mr Rorly - there is no record of it and he is not very clear on the subject In the mean time there is no check whatever to his use of medicine and no returns from him for his expenditure for his private practice - It is a dead failure - he is a ready and grasping man and his medical ability is of the lowest. I have nothing to add but love to the dear party.

[[17]] 7th Feby

I may just sketch to you the measures I propose on the Sarebas side - News came by Nakodah Ibrahim for Lipat that they (the Sarebas) had been mengayan anak to Sapang - The Kembas Dyaks all wish to leave their country and take up new ground in the Kalaka above Lipat - the Bandar of Sarebas proposes moving there too - this is good and to be encouraged. I shall insist upon the Lyar and Paddy Dyaks declaring whether they are for us or against us - the good and the rest to be testing Rentap or making him pay the fine of eight times eight Tajaus20 - Those who accede must be further tested by removing them below Paddy on to Kalaka - the rest to be [[18]] treated as enemies.

Our last moments for the mail has come. May God have you all in his keeping.

- Adieu as ever

Your affect[ionat]e fiend & uncle | JBrooke [signature]

Captain Brooke Brooke


1. Peninjauh was the name of a village on Serembu mountain where James Brooke had a cottage

2. Spenser St John and ?James Augustus St John

3. Mab was Mary Colenso McDougall, daughter of the Bishop, born in 1853

4. John C. Templer was James Brooke's close friend in London

5. Probably Charles Penty, who was James Brooke's servant/valet in 1857

6. Victor Euphemien Philarète Chasles was a French historian and man of letters who had spent some time in London.

7. Booty was James Brooke's solicitor

8. Smith, Elder & Co were publishers in London

9. Charles T.C. Grant had left the Royal Navy, where he was a midshipman, to become James Brooke's private secretary in 1848. He became heir to the Scottish estate of Kilgraston on his elder brother's death in 1854.

10. White Lackington, Somerset, was the family home of the Johnson family into which James Brooke's sister Emma had married

11. Walter Chambers was a missionary in Sarawak from 1851

12. Harry Nicholetts, a nephew of James Brooke, arrived in 1856

13. Probably Charles Adair Crymble, treasurer

14. William Channon was James Brooke's servant; John was his brother, and also went to work in Kuching

15. Henry S. Steele had worked as a merchant and interpreter in Kuching before becoming a government officer.

16. L C Cy = Labuan Coal Company: Brooke evidently thought that the Eastern Archipelago Company had changed its name after he succeeded in having its royal charter declared invalid in 1853. The "Labuan" was a British screw steamer, newly built in Liverpool for the company's coal trade, with a revolutionary tubular design.

17. The sinking of the Jersey registered Zarah just outside Singapore on New Year's Day, 1856, was reported in the Singapore Free Press (and extracted in Buckley's Anecdotal History of Singapore, 1902). The legal proceedings were reported in the Straits Times for 26th August, the steamer being to blame for not keeping a proper watch; the claim for 40,993 Spanish Dollars (minus 8,570 disallowed for estimated profits from the cargo at Akyab) was awarded, resulting in the sale of the Labuan.

18. Ida Pfeiffer, an Austrian lady, visited Sarawak in 1851/2; her book recounting the travel, A Lady's Second Journey Round the World, was published in 1856

19. The Archdeacon of Lindisfarne was a schoolfriend of James Brooke, Richard (Dick) Coxe

20. A tajau is a large and valuable earthenware jar

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.