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William Pitt and Sarah Archer Amherst Family Collection, 1808-1830
4 half archives box 2 archives boxes
Collection number: MA.00295

Abstract:
Correspondence, manuscript documents, printed ephemera, diaries, and books that document the life and career of William Pitt Amherst, Second Barron Amherst of Montreal and First Earl Amherst of Arracan (1773-1857). Documents to and from Lord Amherst largely document his time as ambassador to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1890-1812) and his embassy to China (1815-1817). The diaries kept by Lady Sarah Archer Amherst cover the entirety of their stay during Lord Amherst's appointment as Governor-General of British India (1823-1828). The collection also includes two Persian manuscripts given to Lord Amherst while in India.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

There is no restriction on access to the William Pitt and Sarah Archer Amherst Family Collection for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Restrictions on use:

Requests for permission to publish material from the William Pitt and Sarah Archer Amherst Family Collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Amherst College Archives and Special Collections

Biographical / Historical

William Pitt Amherst, second Barron Amherst of Montreal, first Earl Amherst of Arracan (1773–1857), diplomatist and governor-general of Bengal, was born on 14 January 1773 in Bath, the first of three children of Lieutenant-General William Amherst (1732–1781), aide-de-camp to the king, governor of St John's, Newfoundland, and adjutant-general of the army, and his wife, Elizabeth Patterson (d. 1776/7). Amherst and his two sisters were brought up on the Isle of Wight until the deaths of their parents caused them to be transferred to Kent, where they were placed under the care of their uncle Jeffrey Amherst, first Baron Amherst (1717–1797), commander-in-chief of the army.

After completing his education at at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, William Pitt Amherst went on to a diplomatic career. He held the office of lord of the bedchamber to George III from 1802 to 1804. In 1809 he was appointed ambassador-extraordinary to the court of the Two Sicilies, which he resigned in 1811. He was then called to lead an embassy to the court of the Chinese emperor in 1816. His most significant period of government service was his appointment in 1823 as governor-general of Bengal in succession to the marquess of Hastings. Shortly after his arrival in India, war was declared between British India and Burma on 24 February 1824. This conflict would dominate his time in India until he resigned his post and returned to England in 1827. Following his return from India, he was named lord of the bedchamber by George IV (1829–30) and again by William IV (1830–37). Thereafter, he stayed clear of national and imperial politics, preferring instead to spend his time on his Kentish estates, where he occasionally took up local affairs, pushing for road improvements in the county and promoting the establishment of a savings bank in Sevenoaks. He died at his home, Knole House, near Sevenoaks, on 13 March 1857 and was buried eight days later in the church at Sevenoaks.

His first marriage was on 24 July 1800 to Sarah, countess dowager of Plymouth (1762–1838), widow of the fifth earl of Plymouth and daughter of Andrew, second Lord Archer, whom he had first met while touring the continent in 1793. They had three sons and one daughter: Jeffrey, Sarah, William, and Frederick. Jeffrey died in India in 1826; the second brother, William, succeeded to his father's titles on his father's death in 1857. After the death of his first wife Amherst married on 25 May 1839 Mary (1792–1864), widow of his stepson, the sixth earl of Plymouth, and eldest daughter and coheir of the third duke of Dorset. Amherst's second marriage was without issue.

Life and Career of William Pitt Amherst
1773
William Pitt Amherst born 14 January 1773
1797
Receives MA from Christ Church College, Oxford University
1800
Marries Sarah, countess dowager of Plymouth (1762–1838) 24 July 1800
1802
Lord of the Bedchamber to George III (1802 - 1804)
1809
Appointed Ambassador-Extraordinary to the Court of the Two Sicilies (1809 - 1811)
1816
Called to lead an embassy to the court of the Chinese emperor. Left England aboard HMS Alceste on 9 February 1816.
1823
Appointment as Governor-General of Bengal (in succession to the marquess of Hastings).
1824
Declaration of war between British India and Burma on 24 February 1824 -- the First Anglo-Burmese War.
1826
Death of his eldest son, Jeffrey, at Barrackpore, India.
1827
Leaves India to return to his home, Knole House, near Sevenoaks, England.
1829
Appointed Lord of the Bedchamber by George IV (1829-30)
1830
Appointed Lord of the Bedchamber by William IV (1830-37)
1838
Lady Sarah Amherst dies 27 May 1838
1839
Marries Mary (1792–1864), widow of his stepson, the sixth earl of Plymouth, and eldest daughter and coheir of the third duke of Dorset. 25 May 1839
1857
Died, 13 March 1857. Buried in the church at Sevenoaks.
Scope and Contents

The collection includes manuscript letters to and from Lord Amherst that document his diplomatic service as ambassador to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1809-1812) and his embassy to China (1815-1817). Most letters by Amherst are copies kept for his records, though some are originals that were later returned to him. All incoming letters are originals. The bulk of the diplomatic correspondence was acquired in a group of 11 portfolios. Documents were removed from these containers, but the original order and divisions have been retained; the original portfolios themselves are housed in box 6 at the end of the collection. Additional Lord Amherst correspondence has been acquired by gift and purchase and is organized in separate sub-series; this material includes personal letters sent to Lady Sarah Archer Amherst, including a series of letters written while travelling from England to China, and small groups of letters and individual pieces of correspondence with others.

The most significant documentation of Lord Amherst's time in India is the seven volume diary kept by Lady Amherst from 1823-1828. Her diary includes some of her own sketches as well as other illustrations and ephmera bound in or laid in. One of the 11 portfolios received as a group was made up entirely of newspaper clippings, assorted correspondence, and other ephemera addressed to and collected by Lady Amherst during their time in India; the contents have been rehoused and the original portfolio retained. Two early-19th-century bound manuscript volumes in Persian were given to Lord Amherst and form their own series. Three published items (two books and one map) have been removed from the collection and added to the general rare book collections. Other documents related to Lord Amherst's life and career, including a manuscript notebook from his youth, two letters patent, and a manuscript account of a court martial in which he was involved have been collected in a sub-series under Lord Amherst. The collection also includes two scrapbooks and a file of ephemera assembled by Julia Emily Gordon, an Amherst relative, during the nineteenth century. These form their own series.

The collection is organized into four series:
  1. Series 1: William Pitt, Earl Amherst, 1808-1817
  2. Series 2: Hon. Sarah Archer (1762-1838), Countess of Plymouth and Countess Amherst of Arracan
  3. Series 3: Bound Persian Manuscripts, 1817, 1826
  4. Series 4: Gordon Family, 1809-1891

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

There is no restriction on access to the William Pitt and Sarah Archer Amherst Family Collection for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Restrictions on use:

Requests for permission to publish material from the William Pitt and Sarah Archer Amherst Family Collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

[Identification of item], in William Pitt and Sarah Archer Amherst Family Collection [Box #, Folder #], Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library.

History of the Collection


Additional Information
Contact Information
Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
PO Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000

Phone: (413) 542-2299
Fax: (413) 542-2692

Email Reference Form: http://www.amherst.edu/library/archives/askus
URL: http://www.amherst.edu/library/archives
Language
English
Separated Materials

Three printed items were removed from the collection and added to the general rare book holdings in Archives and Special Collections:

The Book of Common Prayer. Oxford: Printed by the University Printers, 1698. "Amherst" written on verso of front free endpaper. Two color drawings tipped in at front. No other ms notes present.

The Book of Common Prayer. Oxford: Printed by John Baskett, 1719. "Ann Kirrill 1731" written in ink on title page and verso of blank leaf at front. Manuscript record of family births and deaths from 1720-1829. Many notes appear to be in the hand of Lady Sarah Amherst.

A New Travelling Map of the Country Round London. JNo. Andrews and A. Dury, 1776. Large map backed with fabric, folded in original marbled paper slipcase.

Contents List
Series 1: William Pitt, Earl Amherst
1808-1817


The bulk of the documents in Series 1 were acquired as a group from Jack W. C. Hagstrom, MD (Class of 1955) and are described in Sub-series A. Additional William Pitt, Earl Amherst documents were acquired separately and are described in Sub-series B. Sub-series C collects assorted non-correspondence materials, including a notebook from Lord Amherst's youth, two letters patent, and a manuscript account of a court martial.

Sub-series A: Correspondence Portfolios
1808-1817


General

Series 1 consists of 10 portfolios of unbound letters to and from William Pitt, first Earl Amherst. Letters from Amherst are, for the most part, copies; letters to Amherst are all originals. Letters have been removed from original portfolios, but the original order and divisions have been noted. Original portfolios are housed separately at the end of the collection. The bulk of the documents relate to Amherst's time in Palermo, Italy and his embassy to China.

Outgoing Correspondence from Palermo, Italy
1809

Box 1: folder 1
General

Copies of outgoing letters for 1809-1810 removed from Portfolio 1, labelled "Private Official. 1809-10. Copies" in ms inside white paper heart shape on purple paper cover. Original portfolio housed separately at end of collection.

Outgoing Correspondence from Palermo, Italy
1810

Box 1: folder 2
General

Copies of outgoing letters for 1809-1810 removed from Portfolio 1, labelled "Private Official. 1809-10. Copies" in ms inside white paper heart shape on purple paper cover. Original portfolio housed separately at end of collection.

Outgoing Correspondence from Palermo, Italy
1811

Box 1: folder 3
General

Copies of outgoing letters 0 removed from Portfolio 2, labelled "Private Official. 1811. Copies" in ms inside white paper heart shape on purple paper cover. Original portfolio housed separately at end of collection.

Letters to Lord Amherst in London and Palermo, Italy
1808-1811

Box 1: folder 4
General

Letters removed from Portfolio 3, unlabelled paper with squiggly pattern. Original portfolio housed separately at end of collection.

Letters to Lord Amherst in Italian
1809-1811

Box 1: folder 5
General

Letters removed from Portfolio 4, unlabelled paper with squiggly pattern. Original portfolio housed separately at end of collection.

Assorted Letters to Lord Amherst
1811

Box 1: folder 6
General

Letters removed from Portfolio 5, unlabelled paper with squiggly pattern. Original portfolio housed separately at end of collection.

Correspondence with Lord Amherst regarding expedition to China
1815-1817

Box 1: folder 7
General

Letters removed from Portfolio 6, unlabelled marbled paper boards with leather spine. Original portfolio housed separately at end of collection.

Letters and Dispatches from Lord Amherst regarding expedition to China
1816-1817

Box 1: folder 8
General

Letters removed from Portfolio 8, unlabelled marbled paper boards with leather spine. Original portfolio housed separately at end of collection.

Letters and Dispatches from Lord Amherst
1816-1817

Box 2: folder 1
General

Documents removed from Portfolio 8, unlabelled marbled boards with leather spine. Original portfolio is retained at the end of the collection.

Letters from Lord Amherst
1817

Box 2: folder 2
General

Documents removed from Portfolio 9, unlabelled marbled paper boards with leather spine. Original portfolio retained at the end of collection.

Assorted correspondence
1809-1811

Box 2: folder 3
General

Documents removed from Portfolio 10, unlabelled portfolio with original watercolor artwork pasted to front and back covers. Portfolio retained at end of collection.

Original portfolios
1809-1817

Box 6
General

Original paper portfolios in which the manuscripts in Sub-series A were originally housed.

Sub-series B: Assorted correspondence
1808-1827


General

Materials included in 1986 gift from Jack W. C. Hagstrom, MD (Class of 1955) but not filed in portfolios.

Letters from Amherst to the Earl of Plymouth
1815-1827

Box 2: folder 4
Letters from Amherst to Hugh Hammersley
1808-1827

Box 2: folder 5
Search Terms
Hammersley, Hugh, 1774 or 1775-1840

Letters to Amherst from Hugh Hammersley
1812

Box 2: folder 6
Assorted letters
1830-1832

Box 2: folder 7
Letters from Amherst to Lady Amherst
1815-1817

Box 2: folder 8
Provenance:

Donated by Jack W. C. Hagstrom prior to 1986. Formerly housed with Lord Jeffrey Amherst materials, moved to William Pitt, Earl Amherst Papers.

Series of twelve letters from Amherst to Lady Amherst detailing his sea voyage to China
1816

Box 2: folder 9
Provenance:

Purchased June 1994.

Letter from Amherst to Sir G. A. Robinson
20 March 1826
1 item
Box 2: folder 10
Provenance:

Purchased January, 1995.

Letter from Amherst to Colonel Doyle
11 March 1832
1 item
Box 2: folder 11
Provenance:

Gift of Jack W. C. Hagstrom, MD (Class of 1955), previously housed with Lord Jeffrey Amherst papers.

Letter from Amherst to Evert Van Allen
4 January 1809
1 item
Box 2: folder 12
Provenance:

Gift of Cornelia Colton Hollister and Olive A. Colton, March 1936.

Letter from Amherst to W. Ridge
18 November 1812
1 item
Box 2: folder 13
Provenance:

Donated by R. M. Collett of Dayton, OH in 1944.

Sub-series C: Assorted manuscripts and printed ephemera
1787, 1817, 1830, 1835


Includes four manuscript items by and about Lord Amherst: one juvenile manuscript volume of Lord Amherst's notes on Virgil, one manuscript account of a court martial in which he is mentioned, and two letters patent granting offices to Lord Amherst. Three pieces of printed ephemera are also present. All items are arranged in chronological order.

Manuscript notebook containing "Notes on the Six Last Books of Virgil's Aneid," by William Pitt Amherst
31 January 1787

Box 5
General

Quarto volume bound in leather with "Wm. Pitt Amherst. 1787" stamped on the front board. Front paste down is inscribed "Wm. Pitt Amherst. January 31st, 1787." Bookplate of Jack W. C. Hagstrom, MD (Class of 1955) also on front paste down. Latin verses are written on the versos with notes in English on the rectos of each opening. Approximately half of the book is unused. William Pitt, Earl Amherst was 14 years old in January 1787.

[House of Lords. Resolution.] Die Martis, 5o Julij 1814.
5 July 1814

Box 2: folder 14
General

Resolution of thanks for the officers and men in the army formed in Great Britain and Ireland. Signed "George Rose, Cler' Parliamentor'"

Manuscript account of the court martial of the officers of H. M. S. Alceste
circa 1817
5 Sheets
Box 2: folder 15
General

HMS Alceste was wrecked in the Java Sea on 18 February 1817. Lord William Amherst, then the British ambassador to China, was present on the ship when it sank. The document consists of a lengthy statement by the ship's captain, Murray Maxwell, detailing the events surrounding the shipwreck in the Java Sea and the crew's subsequent survival on Borneo. No one was convicted as a result of the trial; instead the Captain and crew were commended for their actions.

Physical Description

Folio, bound with blue ribbon. 20 pages.

"China Embassy. Ourang Outang." Printed broadside
circa 1817

Box 2: folder 16
General

Broadside advertising the exhibition of a live "Ourang Outang" brought to England "by a Gentleman in the Suite of Lord Amherst." Assorted newspaper clippings have been pasted to the verso.

Second Additional Supplement to the India Gazette
30 January 1826
1 Sheets
Box 2: folder 17
Physical Description

Printed broadside.

Letter patent appointing Amherst Captain General and Governor in Chief, Upper and Lower Canada
24 November 1830
1 item
Box 5
Physical Description

5 sheets vellum; royal arms and heading printed by lithography. Broken seal in tin container.

Search Terms
Letters patent

Letter patent appointing Amherst High Commissioner for Lower Canada
2 April 1835
1 item
Box 5
Physical Description

1 sheet vellum; royal arms and heading printed by lithography. Seal in tin container in excellent condition.

Search Terms
Letters patent

Series 2: Hon. Sarah Archer (1762-1838), Countess of Plymouth & Countess Amherst of Arracan



General

Includes one portfolio of miscellaneous documents and clippings collected by Lady Amherst during their time in India (1823-1828), collected in Sub-series A. Sub-series B contains her personal diary of their years in India which fills seven uniformly-bound volumes of approximately 200 pages each. This sub-series also includes seven folders of loose items removed from the bound volumes, each corresponding to a diary volume.

Sub-series A: Correspondence, clippings, and printed ephemera



Letters, clippings, and printed ephemera collected by Lady Sarah Amherst while living in India
1824-1828

Box 2: folder 18
General

Contents removed from Portfolio 11: Assorted letters to Lady Sarah Amherst, newspaper clippings regarding William Pitt Amherst, and a selection of letters and articles detailing William Pitt Amherst and Lady Amherst's stay in India, c. 1824-1828. Among the contents are letters from Rajah Rammohun and Maharaja Birjinder Sewaee Bulwint Singh, and an 1814 account of the discovery of a perfectly preserved mammoth corpse in an ice bank in Siberia ("The Siberian Elephant"), copied from the British Review. Original portfolio (marbled paper boards with leather spine) retained at end of collection.

Original portfolio
1828

Box 6
General

Original portfolio in which Lady Amherst's documents in Box 2, Folder 18 were originally housed.

Letter from Lady Sarah Amherst to Dr. Nathaniel Wallich
22 February 1826

Box 2: folder 19
General

Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854) was Botanist and Curator of Calcutta Botanic Gardens. Lady Amherst writes to thank him for his botanical books and inquire on behalf of her daughter about another book by Dr. William Cary.

Search Terms
Wallich, N. (Nathaniel), 1786-1854

Letter from Victoria, Duchess of Kent to Lady Amherst
4 March 1829

Box 2: folder 20
Sub-series B: Lady Sarah Archer Amherst Diaries
1823 - 1828
7 Volumes
Box 3
Physical Description

All volumes uniformly bound in red morocco with gold tooling. Box 3 also contains seven folders of loose items removed from each of the seven volumes.

Search Terms
Diaries

Diary
1823-1824

Box 3
Diary
January - September 1825

Box 3
Diary
August 1825- July 1826

Box 3
Diary
August - December 1826

Box 3
Diary
December 1826-March 1827

Box 3
Diary
April - December 1827

Box 3
Diary
December 1827 - July 1828

Box 3
Series 3: Bound Persian Manuscripts
1817, 1826


Two bound manuscripts in Persian that were presented to Lord Amherst during his time in India. Both are heavily illustrated and include some manuscript notes by Lord Amherst.

Tazkirat al-Salatin/Tazah Akhbar
December 1817

1
General

Note laid into volume reads: "A Persian history of the Kings of Kabul with many curious illustrations. This copy was finished in the month of Safar 1233 A. H. (December 1817)."

History of Lucknow by Husein Ali Kahn
circa 1826
85 Leaves
2
General

Manuscript note by William Pitt Amherst glued to the paste-down of the back board: "Given to me by Husein Ali Kahn, eldest son of Kasim Ali Kahn [crossed out] at Lucknow 4 Dec. 1826. This Book is a history of Lucjnow -- the drawings are portraits -- the whole executed by himself. The last portrait is his own and not unlike him. The 5 separate drawings are also by him. A."

Physical Description

47 watercolor portraits, 27 of them full-page. Bound in painted cloth.

Search Terms
Lucknow (India)--History

Series 4: Gordon Family
1809-1891


The Gordon Family series includes two scrapbooks and one file of loose manuscripts and ephemera. The exact family connection between William Pitt Amherst and the Gordon family is uncertain. Lady Julia Emily Gordon (1810-1896) was the daughter of General Sir James Willoughby Gordon, 1st Baronet and Quartermaster General of the Forces and Isabella Julia Lavinia (1775–1867), daughter of Richard Henry Alexander Bennet of Shorwell, Isle of Wight. The Gordon family materials arrived with the William Pitt Amherst materials, so they have been processed as a single group.

Search Terms
Gordon, Julia Emily, Lady, 1810-1896

Gordon family documents
1821-1844

Box 4: folder 1
Lady Julia Emily Gordon, scrapbook 1
circa 1809-1891

Box 4
General

Scrapbook compiled by Lady Julia Emily Gordon, daughter of General Sir James Willoughby Gordon, 1st Baronet and Quartermaster General of the Forces, and Julia Lavinia Bennett. Largely contains copies of letters sent to Lady Gordon from various British notables, as well as musical programs and other ephemera. Of particular interest is a letter containing a transcript of an interview between a "Doctor Turner" and "Shaikh Mohammed of Timbuctoo" on life in the region, made in 1836; as well as an 1829 letter detailing an account of an expedition down the Bahar el Abiad, a section of the White Nile in present day Sudan.

Lady Julia Emily Gordon, scrapbook 2
circa 1811-1890

Box 4
General

Scrapbook compiled by Lady Julia Emily Gordon, daughter of General Sir James Willoughby Gordon, 1st Baronet and Quartermaster General of the Forces, and Julia Lavinia Bennett. Includes letters from several notable individuals, including Lord Byron (autograph possibly cut out), Sir David Wilkie (a well-known painter), Fanny Kemble (an actress and writer), and a various European nobility. Also includes first-hand accounts of the Egyptian pyramids, c.1814; of Stonehenge, c. 1828; an extensive copied account of the last days of Prince Frederick, the Duke of York, c. 1827; an account of the use of magic in Egypt (addressed to Sir Walter Scott); as well as invitations to coronations, music/theatrical programs, and other ephemera.


Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.


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