Coming soon, a classic serial for Autumn. ‘Dear Brother-‘, the travel letters of Charles 2nd Earl Cadogan (1749 – 1832).

Sunday classic serials are as much a part of Autumn as woodsmoke, crisp mornings, and hushed misty dusk. This September, I’ll be serialising a remarkable set of letters, written by Charles Henry Cadogan, later 2nd Earl Cadogan, on his tour of Europe, the Near East and Egypt from 1783 to 1790.

I found them in a London archive last month. My intern was looking up Nineteenth Century politics for a project of her own (I learnt a lot), and I was browsing the boxes looking for something interesting for a blog post.

The first letter I saw is dated from Constantinople in 1783, describing a ceremony in the Sultan’s Seraglio that the writer had witnessed. Elsewhere he walks round the ruins of Egypt and Turkey, calmly suffers a horrific-sounding eye ulcer, has to miss Jerusalem because of the plague and is present at the National Assembly in Paris when the Revolutionary government declares war on England in 1790. That all sounds very interesting indeed.

The letters were docketed in a Nineteenth Century hand:

Letters of Charles Henry 2nd Baron and 1st Earl Cadogan (Earldom revived, brother of the Commander-in-chief Earl Cadogan) to his brother describing his tours on the Continent and in the near East. Not very interesting.

Well, I disagree, of course. Any historical voice is interesting, especially when they’re being heard for the first time. The cataloguer had not even identified the writer of these letters correctly. I wonder if they actually read them. The ‘Dear Brother’ to whom they’re written is identifiable from his address as the Hon and Rev William Bromley Cadogan (1751 – 1797), so the writer ‘CH Cadogan’ must be Charles Henry Sloane Cadogan 2nd Earl Cadogan (1749 – 1832), rather than the 1st Earl his father (who was General Earl Cadogan’s nephew rather than his brother).

And that’s very interesting, because the 2nd Earl leaves only the faintest of marks on the history. He was born November 29th 1749, and baptised at St George’s Hanover Square on December 13th. He succeeded his father as 2nd Earl Cadogan in 1807, and, says the Complete Peerage:

Was sometime an officer in the army. He who had been insane for more than 25 years died unmarried at Enfield 23rd December 1832, and was buried 3rd January 1833 at Chelsea, aged 83.

Beyond these sad lines, nothing further is recorded of his life it seems. So these letters are not just interesting, they’re an important addition to his biography. Cadogan comes across as very likeable – funny, concise and unflappable, full of jokes about people they know and thoughts about the family estate that their father had just sold. Cadogan knows that he is seeing remarkable things, extraordinary works of art and antiquity, and often wishes that his brother were there with him, because he would appreciate them more, and be able to explain what they all were. Sometimes he and his brother write to each other in Latin, and that’s a bit unusual, even in the Eighteenth Century, but he doesn’t seem the least mad.

Featured image: Constantinople from the Cemetery, Scutari 1882 (c) Antique Maps and Prints


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