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Gordon Willoughby Gyll Travel Journals

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Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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Gyll, Gordon Willoughby

Gordon Willoughby Gyll (b.1802) was the son of William Gyll (1774-1807; equerry to H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex) and Harriet Jane Gyll (1776-1813; the daughter of Hamilton Flemyng, 9th and last Earl of Wigtoun). Gyll was a worldwide traveler and friend of the African adventurer John Davidson (1797-1836).

The collection consists primarily of Gyll's manuscript travel journals, ten in number, bound into two quarto volumes. The first volume contains his observations on his travels in Spain, ca. 1826/7 (on 84-sides), returning via Germany. This is followed by his journal, 1827/8, of his travels, in the company of his friend, John Davidson, to Italy, Poland, Russia, Germany, Sweden and Denmark (on 181-sides). Other journals comprise a journey to Portugal, August - September 1834 (32-sides); to Paris and environs, November 1834 - January 1935 (22-sides); a tour in England and Wales, July - August 1835 (17-sides); to Malta, Egypt, and the Greek Islands, August 1836 - January 1837 (95-sides); and a tour of Europe, August 1839 - April 1840 (140-sides). Also included (bound in) is Gyll's diary of his readings, 1829-1831.

A third volume contains copies of Gyll's speeches, 1827-1875.

Additionally, loose, are two letters by the English adventurer John Davidson (1797-1836) to Gyll: one, dated 29 August [1835], when he is leaving England bound for Morocco; the other, dated 8 February 1836 from Morocco, while planning his trip to Timbuktu. He headed out in November, and just six weeks into the desert journey his party was ambushed and Davidson was murdered. There is also a permit for Gyll to leave Mexico, signed by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (1794-1876), president of Mexico.

Purchased from David Bristow Autographs in 2009 (AM2010-60).

This collection was processed by John Delaney on December 3, 2009.. Finding aid written by John Delaney on December 4, 2010, using dealer's extensive journal descriptions.

No appraisal information is available.

Publisher
Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
John Delaney
Finding Aid Date
2009
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Collection Inventory

JOURNAL 1, circa 1826-1827. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(84-sides 4to, ca. 30,000 words).  Gyll travels to Seville, Vittoria, Madrid, Gibraltar, Rostock, Bremen, Hanover, Brunswick, Hamburg & elsewhere.

Arrangement

Not arranged according to any arrangement scheme.

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 2, 1827-1828. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(181-sides 4to, ca. 60,000 words).  Gyll travelling with Davidson to Turin, Florence, Sienna, Rome, Venice, Milan, Como, Naples, Vienna, Warsaw, Petersburg, Moscow, Hamburg ("This evening my dear friend Davidson embarked for London, to bid him adieu we accompanied him to the water's edge") and then Gyll alone to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Upsala, Christiana and Ystad etc.

A short transcription of part of his comments on St.Petersburg: "....They say there is no postillion or a courier expected, for whose use the horses in the stables, & other subterfuges to oblige you to give double for the procurement .... to continue.  We occasionally took breakfast, beer etc. in the house by which we were promptly served, always buying a stock of provisions in case of necessity – thus transferred from packhorse to postchaise, under all fatigue of a journey & discomforts of cold & the jolting of a carriage in 72 hours we entered through an arch in the capital of all of Russia, Petersburg. A most astonishing city which .... continues to make rapid strides in magnificence & extent, & scarcely recognisable by its plans & original boundaries. Most of its beauty is owing to the good taste & liberality of Catherine 2nd. The streets are very ample, & the quay beautiful .... after repairing for ... a good meal at the Hotel Demuth, paying 55 roubles a week for an apartment .......... they have a strange fashion of tying the horses heads here which gives them the appearance of going awry – also mangers in the street for them to eat from. The inclemency of the weather obliges the government to erect large iron & stone places for fires, that passengers may warm themselves whenever he pleases. Sentinels stand at the top of each street with a sort of axe to preserve order. When I issued forth a second time ... viewed the part of the town near the old palace where Paul was strangled in 1801. I returned home and we went to the table d'hote of Andrieux where were seated many respectable people & several officers .... made the acquaintance of a Dutchman, named Hooyman, who had been 3 weeks in the place, said he .... disliked the natives & noticed their disinclination to talk on subjects in consequence of the strict surveillance of the police .... went to the opera in the Place Columna, very few visitors, but the house well built ... the royal box supported by caryatides, it seemed somewhat shabby & badly lighted, ... the performers were scarcely above mediocrity ...."

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 3, 1831 August-1832 August. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(188-sides 4to, ca. 90,000 words).  Travelling to America and Mexico with Davidson. They board the Caledonia (650 tons) Captain Graham on 16th August 1831:  "The cabins are good & external work beautiful".  At New York:  "We landed with some difficulty and saw 2 boatmen fight on the water to approach us ... I descended by rope ladder, crossed another boat through ropes, tar .... & finally got my foot on American soil". They travel to Buffalo, Niagara, Montreal, Quebec, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington - which they visit twice, on both occasions being received by President Andrew Jackson – on the first visit Gyll writes:  "Went to the President's house & was introduced ... [he] is in the 3rd year of Presidential office, which he fills with dignity, virtue, & utility.  I found him a plain man .... being about 65 – steady in demeanour ... not luminous but judicious – not courtly but amiably polite, we discussed indifferent subjects .... he told us he would be happy to see us on our return with which we replied thanking him for his civility & promised to renew our visit".  From Washington they travel to Pittsburgh Lexington, Memphis, New Orleans, Tampico, Mexico (which they enter on 17th Feb. 1832 and remain till May, Gyll noting in his journal,  "I never want to return") and then back to New Orleans, Cincinnati, Baltimore & Philadelphia.  They board ship on 1st July 1832 and arrive in London on the 8th August.

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 4, 1833 April. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(12-sides 4to, ca. 6,000 words).  A tour taking in Plymouth, Falmouth, Penzance, Bristol, Bath, Salisbury, Stonehenge.

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 5, 1834 July-August. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(8-sides 4to, ca. 4,000 words).  A tour taking in Guernsey, Jersey, Granville, Caen, Le Havre, and Ryde, Isle of Wight.

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 6, 1834 August-September. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(32-sides 4to, ca. 11,000 words).  London to Falmouth by coach and thence, aboard the 'City of Edinburgh' to Oporto and on to Lisbon.

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 7, 1834 November-1835 January. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(22-sides, ca. 7,000 words). To Paris & environs, in the company of J. Neald (M.P. for Chippenham): "We took our places for a seat to Dover, meeting an agreeable communicative clergyman of Canterbury on the coach, at 7 we reached the York Hotel & dined tolerably – I promenaded the town, a fine moonlight night & at 11 returned to bed – in the morning we were almost too late for the foremost Packets .... & got to a boat on the beach which was launched .... a very narrow escape had we of capsize. The sea was very high & the pitching we encountered before we reached the steamer was enough to make us vomit".  But upon arrival in France they, "repaired thro the rain to the Hotel & suffering from the coup de mare partook of a potage to solace our innards".  Thence by diligence to Paris.

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 8, 1835 July-August. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(17-sides 4to, ca. 6,000 words).  A tour taking in Dover, Canterbury, Cambridge, Leicester, Banbury, Kidderminster, Bridgenorth, Shrewsbury, Bangor, Holyhead, Conway, Dolgelly, Aberystwith, Hereford, Warwick, Stafford, Newcastle under Lyme, Macclesfield, Manchester, Buxton, Haddon Hall, etc.

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 9, 1836 August-1837 January. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(95-sides 4to, ca. 32,000 words):  "Having completed our arrangements, having fulfilled all I had to do in London .... I have at length commenced an excursion which I have projected for these 10 years.  I see no time more favourable ..... as for my companions, Messrs. Neeld & Oliveira – whom I am to meet at 'Phillipi' tomorrow, that is 'Falmouth' – to embark on the 'Firefly' – bound for Malta & Alexandria".  So commences the tour which takes in Gibraltar, Algiers, Malta, Alexandria, Cairo, Poros, Athens, Corfu, Bologna, Modena, Parma, and Turin

Physical Description

1 folder

JOURNAL 10, 1839 August-1840 April. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

(140-sides 4to, ca. 50,000 words):  "28th August 1839.  Having much to my heart's content and ultimate hope of great mental, bodily, & spiritual advantage united myself in holy matrimony with one so eminent for all goodly endowments & having received most unequivocal kindness from the parents of the lady chosen ......, I resolved to take a Continental Expedition ..... so having been joined at her father's church in the parish of Hill Hall, Essex, we repaired to Shenley, to ... my good brother Hamilton.  We visited several places in the vicinity, & then came to London preparatory to our excursion – so that on the day above inscribed, we started from Tower Stairs in the Nerai packet for Ostend, embarking our carriage & ourselves".  They travel from Ostend to Bruges, Aix la Chapelle, Cologne, Coblentz, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Heidelberg, Milan, Verona, Padua, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples, Palermo, Messina, Syracuse, Malta, Gibraltar, & Lisbon;  arriving back in London on 20th April, 1840:  "We have enjoyed wonderful health, have seen wonderful things, been by land & water about 5,000 miles".

Physical Description

1 folder

VOLUME OF SPEECHES, 1829-1875. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Contains, on 236-sides, "Speeches or Skeletons of Addresses made at sundry times by Gordon Gyll Esq. of Remenham House, Wraysbury, Bucks," including addresses he made at Ploughing Match and other agricultural meetings, meetings of the Star Club, etc. largely 1850-1870 but including, "A brief Memoir of John Davidson Esq. who was assassinated in Africa, going to Timbuctoo in 1837, written soon after by his Friend Gordon Gyll";  this on 14-sides.

Physical Description

1 folder

DAVIDSON, JOHN  (1797-1836; traveller, murdered in Africa; see Dictionary of National Biography), 1836 February 8. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Autograph letter signed, 3-sides 8vo, folded with address panel, to:  "Gordon my Dear Friend, If I could leave old England without one line I would, because you have sadly disappointed me – did I not come up from Devonshire to see you, have I not delayed my departure to shake you by the hand, how much I have to tell you, which I cannot write, so much about the dear angel ......... today I leave for Gibraltar, I saw his Majesty at Windsor yesterday, lunched at the Castle, have letters to all the grandees, but have not the pleasure of shaking the hand of my dear esteemed friend;  Farewell not adieu ..... I go to seek fame, hard is the task, great the danger, but greater will be the honour & with none shall I more gladly share it than with you my Boy – honours, kindness, flattering testimonials ......... dear to me as a Brother, revered as a friend – get thee married; I shall the moment I get back ....... God bless you, give you every happiness, adieu & believe the sincerity of your attached friend".  No place, 29th August no year, but 1835.  Written as he sets out on his last and fatal journey.

Autograph letter signed, 1-side 4to, with address panel, postal markings and remains of seal to reverse.  Closely written in a very small hand, 62-lines, ca. 1,000 words: "Gordon, my Chum, ............ much as I have been flattered on other journeys, this far outstrips them all. I was landed under a salute, commenced my journey accompanied by all the consular corps, had on my route at one time a guard of four hundred cavalry, arrived here met the Sultan at the very gates ............ am occupying one of his palaces & gardens. I see him daily, am fed from his table, he has given me a horse, the brother of the one he rides himself, has dubbed me 'wise & discreet, the learned & skilful physician' . I feel his pulse, and press the breast of the sultanas to taste their milk, have bought the friendship of the eunuchs, frighted the prime minister......... I have many friends & not a few jealous foes but get on astonishingly ...... tickle the women & give cartharides [sic] to the men preserving with great care the same silver 'save all' which is my panoply 'do tell Tudor' ............. I have orders to examine faces & parts, & my parts swell much,...the...beautiful, black eyes, raven locks, heaving breasts, daily have I to see why they are not with child ..................... I did not see you as I left & now I write to my most valued friend, but to him alone, with your letter came one from my dearest Hester, we are to be married as soon as I return but not a hint of this I have told my good Father ........ you will hardly believe me when I say the kiss she gave me at parting I have [?] ever since.  I have certainly touched faces but no lips have taken her pup away ..... the difficulties I have [to] contend with have determined me to curtail the journey but I'll make the King's word true 'I'll get to Tim' & come back forthwith. My affairs stand thus, I have made a most extraordinary impression upon the Sultan, has done more for me, shown me more attention, & given me greater promise that if I had come as Ambassador, he has promised to send me across the Atlas with one hundred horse, had written himself to the Sheik of [?] who has power to within four days of Tim ........ I have deposited one thousand dollars, promised to furnish two horses which the Sultan I feel will give me & procure four camels .............. to get back as I can provided the Sultan will give directions to his subjects there. I have offered to attend him as his physician for six months & during this time to instruct some persons in the use of medicines, he promised on my return, thinking I am only going to cross the Atlas, to take me to ... Fez and show me all the Empire & says I shall well remember coming to his country, think what I have before me, two thousand miles of desert going by one road & coming back the other, the tribes all at war & the conquests of the French have made them vow vengeance against any Christian ............ I shall keep half a quire of paper to write from Tim & you shall have one sheet ....." The Gardens of Mulai, Morocco, 8th Feb. 1836.  Some browning and staining which obviously occurred in transit but quite legible.

The D.N.B. entry for Davidson states that "while stopping at a watering-place called Swekeza he was robbed and murdered on 18 Dec. 1836 by the tribe El Harib, who, it is supposed, were bribed by the merchants of Tafilelt, and had left their usual haunts with the set purpose of seizing the traveller and his goods.  He had inured himself to great bodily privations, and acquired the power of resisting the action of the sun, his face, hands, arms, feet, and legs having been three times excoriated".

Physical Description

1 folder

SANTA ANNA, ANTONIO LOPEZ DE (1794-1876; President of Mexico), 1832 May 5. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Manuscript permit signed, allowing, "D. Gordon Gyll y D. Henrrique Tudor" to embark onboard the 'Tampico' bound for New Orleans.  Dated "Veracruz, Mayo 5 de 1832".  Signed by Santa Anna. With a note added in Gyll's small hand, lower left:  "This permit to embark was given to Gordon Gyll & Henry Tudor when at Vera Cruz, Mexico, 5 May 1832 by the celebrated Santa Anna whose autograph it bears ..."

Physical Description

1 folder

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