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Overview and metadata sections
George Alexander Thompson was born at Ullapoor, near Calcutta, India (date unknown). His father, George Nesbitt Thompson (Warren Hasting's secretary and a barrister by training), married an Indian princess who had been captured by the British. A daughter, Matilda, was born in Ullapoor in 1788, the same year George Nesbitt returned to Britain. His wife may have already died, for he married another woman named Catherine Mary Vansittart (née Powney), the recently-widowed wife of Henry Vansittart's son (also named Henry). George Nesbitt purchased a house in Epsom and subsequently Penton Lodge in Andover, Herts. There, George Alexander attended Rugby School (1797-1802) and became a clerk in the Stamp Office. Later, perhaps in 1806, he was encouraged by his step-brother, Nicolas Vansittart (a foreign translator in the Audit Office), to pursue scholarship on a professional level. Thompson's first published work was a translation of Antonio de Alcedo's five-volume Diccionario geográfico-historico de las Indias Occidentales o América (London: printed for James Carpenter, Old Bond-Street..., 1812-15). Thompson also published in 1813, A New Theory of the Two Hemispheres, which attempts to explain the peopling of the Americas. In October 1823, Thompson obtained a Foreign Office appointment as Secretary to the British Commission to Mexico following the abdication of "Augustin I," the creole emperor Augustín de Iturbide. He spent eighteen months in Mexico, and subsequently visited the breakaway United Provinces of Central America (Guatemala, San Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica) in 1825.
Upon his return, Thompson traveled around London where he repeatedly projected a "Supplement" to his five-volume translation of Alcedo's Diccionario, the stock of which he apparently controlled. He solicited and obtained subscribers in 1829 and 1831, and was still seeking and obtaining new patronage as late as 1848. Thompson's supplement was never printed, despite the commitments of subscribers who, the author claimed, included King George IV (replaced in 1831 by William IV), two archbishops of Canterbury, seven dukes, and other distinguished officials, scientists, and bibliophiles. In 1829 Thompson published, with John Murray, his Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico (London: John Murray, 1829). This report did not include any description of his eighteen months in Mexico. Thompson issued another work in 1849 published as Handbook to the Pacific and California, Describing Eight Different Routes, by Sea, Central America, Mexico, and the Territories of the United States, Particularly with Reference to the Ports Frequented by the Steamers of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1849). His later activities are unknown.
The collection consists primarily of the original page proofs of the first seven chapters pertaining to post-Iturbide Mexico, eventually removed from Thompson's work, which was published as Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico (1829). The excised section, entitled "Narrative of a Mission to Guatemala from Mexico," treats Thompson's departure from Plymouth, his arrival at Vera Cruz, and his journey to Xalapa. From Xalapa he moved to Mexico City. While there he met a F. Iglesias, a close friend of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) during his travels. Thompson describes the general reaction in the country to the execution of Agustín de Iturbide in 1824, his flirtation with a group of young ladies, and the inauguration of Mexico's first president, Guadalupe Victoria. This section includes extensive annotations and manuscript notes in pencil, probably in Thompson's hand. In addition, there are two letters concerning Thompson's appointment as Secretary to the British Commission to Mexico, dated 10 Oct. 1823 and 21 Jan. 1826, in a secretarial hand and signed by Joseph Planta of the Foreign Service. The first letter informs Thompson of his appointment, while the second resolves a pay dispute. Also included is a letter (20 Dec. 1828) from the royal librarian giving permission for the Narrative to be dedicated to the King. The remaining correspondence is primarily between a young Thompson and his father (George Nisbett) and his sister (Matilda), written while Thompson was a student at Rugby School (1797-1802). There are also three items of printed ephemera, including two variant advertisements for a pending supplement (which was never published) to his previously published translation of Alcedo's five-volume Diccionario, entitled Shortly will be Published, A Supplement to Thompson's Alcedo; or Dictionary of America and West Indies... (undated), and a list of subscribers, dated 1831, entitled Subscriptions to Thompson's America and the West Indies.
ALS = autograph letter signed
The collection is arranged by topic.
Purchased from Wm. Reese Company, 2004. AM2004-109.
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This collection was processed by Teresa T. Basler in 2004. Finding aid written by Teresa T. Basler in 2004.
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- Manuscripts Division
- Finding Aid Author
- Teresa T. Basler
- Finding Aid Date
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Collection is open for research use.
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Original page proofs of the first seven chapters pertaining to Mexico, eventually removed from Thompson's work, which was published as Narrative of An Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico (London: John Murray, 1829).Physical Description
An advertisement for a pending supplement by Thompson (which was never published) to his previously published translation of Antonio de Alcedo's five-volume Diccionario geográfico-histórico de las Indias Occidentales ó America.Physical Description
A printed list of subscribers for an English translation by Thompson of Antonio de Alcedo's five-volume Diccionario geográfico-histórico de las Indias Occidentales ó America which was published as "Geographical and Historical Dictionary of America and the West Indies" (London: J. Carpenter, 1812-15).Physical Description