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Translation and the British Colonial Mission: The Career of Samuel Turner Fearon and the Establishment of Chinese Studies at King's College, London*

  • UGANDA SZE PUI KWAN (a1)

Abstract

The University of London was the first institution in the United Kingdom to establish a professorship in Chinese. Within a decade of the first half of the nineteenth century, two professorships in Chinese were created at its two colleges: the first at University College in 1837 and the second at King's College in 1847. Previous studies of British sinology have devoted sufficient attention to the establishment of the programme and the first Chinese professorship. However, despite the latter professorship being established by the same patron (Sir George Thomas Staunton; 1781–1859) during the same era as the former, the institutionalisation of the Chinese programme at King's College London seems to have been completely overlooked. If we consider British colonial policy and the mission of the Empire in the early nineteenth century, we are able to understand the strategic purpose served by the Chinese studies programme at King's and the special reason for its establishment at a crucial moment in the history of Sino-British relations. Examining it from this perspective, we reveal unresolved doubts concerning the selection and appointment of King's first Chinese professor. Unlike other inaugural Chinese professors appointed during the nineteenth century at other universities in the United Kingdom, the first Chinese professor at King’s, Samuel Turner Fearon (1819–1854), was not a sinophile. He did not translate any Chinese classics or other works. His inaugural lecture has not even survived. This is why sinologists have failed to conduct an in-depth study on Fearon and the genealogy of the Chinese programme at King’s. Nevertheless, Samuel Fearon did indeed play a very significant role in Sino-British relations due to his ability as an interpreter and his knowledge of China. He was not only an interpreter in the first Opium War (1839–1842) but was also a colonial civil servant and senior government official in British Hong Kong when the colonial government started to take shape after the war. This paper both re-examines his contribution during this “period of conflict and difficulty” in Sino-British relations and demonstrates the very nature of British sinology.

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*

The author owes many thanks to Prof. Theo Hermans and Prof. Bernard Fuehrer who gave invaluable comments on earlier drafts of this article. My gratitude also goes to Prof. Timothy Barrett who provided constant support when I was revising the article. The paper could not have been written without the benefit of the excellent preservation of the archival material at the university archives of King's College London. I wish to thank especially Ms Lianne Smith, the archive manager at King's College London for her help during different stages of research of this project.

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1 Hartog, P. J., “The origins of the School of Oriental Studies”, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, I (1917), pp. 12, 20; Benjamin Ifor Evans, “Papers of the Commission of Enquiry into the Facilities for Oriental, Slavonic, East European, and African studies 1945”, SOAS Archive, MS 380612/2.

2 Great Britain. Colonial Office Correspondence (hereafter CO) CO 129/83/110–117 [1861-06-13]; CO 129/191/393-405 [1880-11-03]; Foreign Office (hereafter FO) FO 17/233/55 [1854-10-15] etc. For the detailed account of the execution of the interpreter training programme for the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office at King's College London, see Uganda Sze Pui Kwan, “Fanyi zhengzhi ji Hanxue zhishi de shengchan: Weituoma yu Yingguo waijiaobu de Zhongguo xuesheng yiyuan jihua 翻譯政治及漢學知識的生產:威妥瑪與英國外交部的中國學生譯員計畫(1843–1870)[The politics of translation and Chinese knowledge production: Sir Francis Thomas Wade and the student interpreter programme of China], in Zhongyang yanjiu yuan jindaishi yanjiusuo jikan 中央研究院近代史研究所集刊 [Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica] 81 (09.2013), pp.1–52; and Uganda Sze Pui Kwan, Daying diguo, hanxue, fanyi: Liyage yu Xianggang fanyiguan xuesheng jihua 大英帝國、漢學、 翻譯:理雅各與香港翻譯官學生計畫 [British Empire, sinology and translation: James Legge and the interpreter cadetship programme in Hong Kong (1860–1900], Fanyishi Yanjiu 翻譯史研究 [Studies in translation history](Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2 (2012), pp. 59–101.

3 Morse, Hosea Ballou, The International Relations of the Chinese Empire. Vol. 1 (Shanghai, Kelly and Walsh, 1910–1918), p.150 .

4 Davis, John. F., Chinese Miscellanies: A Collection of Essays and Notes (London, John Murray, 1865), p. 50 .

5 Youjing, Hu 胡優靜, Yingguo 19 shiji de Hanxueshi yanjiu 英國19世紀的漢學史研究 [The history of sinology in the United Kingdom in the 19th century], (Beijing Shi, 2009), p. 63 .

6 Yaosheng, Chen 陳堯聖, “Yingguo de Hanxueshi 英國的漢學研究” [Sinology in the United Kingdom] in Zhenyu, Tao 陶振譽 (ed.), Shijie geguo Hanxue yanjiu lunwenji世界各國漢學研究論文集 [The anthology of sinology studies in the world, vols. 1–2 (Taibei, 1962 –1967), p. 186 .

7 Honey, David B., Incense at the Altar: Pioneering Sinologists and the Development of Classical Chinese Philology (New Haven, CT, 2001), p. 207 n5.

8 Barrett, Timothy Hugh, Singular Listlessness: A Short History of Chinese Books and British Scholars (London, 1989) p. 74 .

9 Hawkes, David, Minford, John, Siu-Kit, Wong, Classical, Modern, and Humane: Essays in Chinese Literature (Hong Kong, 1989), p. 7 .

10 Le Pichon, Alain, China Trade and Empire: Jardine, Matheson & Co. and the Origins of British Rule in Hong Kong, 1827–1843 (Oxford and New York, 2006), p. 591 .

11 King's College London Archive (Ref K/LEC1 1831–1878).

12 Timothy Barrett, Singular Listlessness, p. 74.

13 Uganda Sze Pui Kwan, “Lost in translation and diplomatic deception: Sir George Thomas Staunton and the birth of the Chinese programme at the University of London,” presented at the international conference “Sinologists as Translators in the 17–19th Centuries: Archives and Context”, Organised by SOAS (Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and inner Asia) and CUHK (Research Centre for Translation Studies), SOAS, 19–21 June 2013.

14 Great London, General Register Office, England. Births and Baptism Records (1813–1906). Baptism records indicate that he was born around 1819.

15 General Public Record Office, Marriage record, Kensington, 1846, vol. 3 (Jan–Feb–Mar), p. 210.

16 England Census Record 1851. Stanstead, Hertfordshire, England, no. 53. Family: family members include Samuel T. Fearon (head; age 32: medical practitioner), Caroline Fearon (housewife; age 31), Charles J. Fearon (son; age 2), Kate Fearon (daughter; age 1) with maids and medical pupil etc.

17 General Register Office, England. Death certificate, 1854. Quarter of registration: (Jan–Feb–Mar), District, Pancras (1837–1901), County, London, Middlesex, vol.1b, p. 24.

18 Sir Lindsay Ride mentioned that Samuel Fearon was the second son born to Christopher Fearon and Elisabeth Noad in a remark in “Journal of occurrences at Canton during the cessation of trade 1839”, written by Hunter, William C., in Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, IV (1964). Samuel Fearon should be the first child of the family, as Christopher and Elisabeth were married on 14 May 1818, at Saint Leonards Church, Streatham in England. See J. L. Cranmer-Byng and William Hunter, “Journal of Occurrences”, p. 39, n 30. See also the marriage record of Christopher Augustus Fearon and Elizabeth Noad, batch no. M1055191.

19 The grandson of Samuel Fearon's brother, Robert Inglis Fearon (1837–1897), Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard Percy Fearon once wrote a column entitled “Fearons and the China Connection” in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong during the 1970s, which was later expanded into an unpublished article about the family's history, “Pedigrees of the Fearon Family Trading into China and Notes On Collateral and Other Matters of Family Interest”. Unfortunately, the information it gave about Samuel Fearon and his family was not all accurate. See South China Morning Post (Sunday Post Herald), 9 June 1974, p. 6, and the unpublished article housed in the library of the University of Hong Kong.

20 Farrington, Anthony, A Biographical Index of East India Company Maritime Service Officers: 1600–1834 (London, 1999), p. 264 ; Farrington, Anthony, Catalogue of East India Company Ships’ Journals and Logs: 1600–1834 (London, 1999), pp. 166, 458, 530, 702.

21 Chinese Repository, Jan. 1837, vol. 5, p. 426; Morse, Hosea Ballou, Chronicles of the East India Company Trading to China 1635–1834, vol. IV (London, 2007), pp. 148, 163, 167, 187.

22 Chinese Repository, Aug. 1841, vol. 10, p. 528.

23 Great Britain, Papers Relative to the Establishment of a Court of Judicature in China, for the Purpose of Enabling the British Superintendents of Trade to Exercise Control over the Proceedings of British Subjects in Their Intercourse with each other and with the Chinese (London, J. Harrison & Son, 1838), p. 444 ; KCL (Ref KA/IC/C31) [date unknown] May 1847.

24 Croucher, Noel, “A little about George Chinnery and the Fearons”, in England, Vaudine, The Quest of Noel Croucher: Hong Kong's Quiet Philanthropist (Hong Kong, 1998), p.30 ; Teixeira, Manuel, George Chinnery: No Bicentenario do s eu Nascimento, 1774–1974 (Macau, 1974), pp. 7174 .

25 Conner, Patrick, “George Chinnery rediscoveries and recent research”, in Arts of Asia, XXXIV, 5, 2004, p. 96 .

26 Hillard, Harriet L., Lights and Shadows of a Macao Life: The Journal of Harriett Low, Travelling Spinster, Part 1 (Woodinville, WA, History Bank, 1900[2002]), pp. 480, 505; Hillard, Katharine (ed.), My Mother's Journal: A Young Lady's Diary of Five Years Spent in Manila, Macao, and the Cape of Good Hope From 1829–1834 (Boston, George H. Ellis printer, 1900), p.44 ; Lamas, Rosmarie W. N., Everything in Style: Harriett Low's Macau (Macau: Instituto Cultural de Macau, 2006), p. 36 .

27 Wellcome Trust Library, MS.5827 Letter 17, “John Robert Morrison to His father, Robert Morrison”, 23 Oct 1830.

28 The author wishes to thank Robin Markbreiter, the Director/Executive of Arts of Asia and Dr Patrick Conner of Martyn Gregory Gallery, London for their help in getting the reprint permission. And sincere thanks goes to the private collector who is in possession of this portrait.

29 See above note 20.

30 An old resident [ Hunter, William C.], The “Fan Kwae” at Canton Before Treaty Days 1825–1844 (London, Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1882), p. 120 .

31 For the historical development of Hong merchants and their role in the Canton trade, see Cheong, Weng Eang, Hong Merchants of Canton: Chinese Merchants in Sino-Western Trade, 1684–1798 (London, 1995).

32 Pui Kwan, Uganda Sze, “‘A requisite of such vital importance’: The want of Chinese interpreters in the First Anglo Chinese War 1839–1842”, in Wong, Lawrence Wang Chi (ed.), Towards a History of Translating: In Celebration of the Fortieth Anniversary of the Research Centre for Translation, (Hong Kong: Research Centre for Translation, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2013), pp. 389418 .

33 Anonymous, “Second Annual Report of the Canton General Commerce Committee, Presented at a General Meeting Held the 3rd of Nov. 1838”, Canton Register (1838.11.6), XI, 45, pp. 160–182; later reprinted in Chinese Repository, Nov. 1838, VIII, 8, pp. 386–389.

34 Canton Register (1839.2.5) supplementary, pp. 1–3.

35 Hunt's Merchants’ Magazine and Commercial Review; 1839, I, p. 87.

36 Baker, Mona, Translation and Conflict (London, 2006).

37 Zexu, Lin 林則徐, Xinji lu 信及錄 [Records of Xinji] (Shanghai, 1982), p. 12 .

38 Ibid. , pp. 19–21, 22–24.

39 Slade, John, Narrative of the Late Proceedings and Events In China (hereafter, Narrative) (China, Canton Register Press, 1839), p. 31 .

40 Narrative, p. 42.

41 Great Britain, Report from the Select Committee on the Trade with China; Together with the Minutes of Evidence Taken Before Them, and an Appendix and Index. Communicated by the Commons to the Lords (London, House of Commons, 1840).

42 Elliot, Charles, A Digest of the Despatches on China (including those received on the 27th of March): with a Connecting Narrative and Comments (London, James Ridgway, 1840), p. 100 .

43 Narrative, p. 49.

44 Narrative, p. 51; 文慶, Wenqing, Zhen, Jia賈楨, Baoyun deng 寶鋆(eds), Chouban yiwu shimo 籌辦夷務始末 [The accounts of organising foreign affairs], Vol. 6 (Shanghai, 1995), p.13 .

45 Great Britain, Report from the Select Committee on the Trade with China; Together with the Minutes of Evidence Taken Before Them, and an Appendix and Index. Communicated by the Commons to the Lords (London, House of Commons, 1840), p. 14 .

46 Nye, Gideon, Peking the Goal,–The Sole Hope of Peace: Comprising An Inquiry into the Origin of the Pretension of Universal Supremacy by China and into the Causes of the First War (Canton: [s.n.], 1873), p.62 ; Eames, James Bromley, The English in China: Being an Account of the Intercourse and Relations Between England and China From the Year 1600 to the Year 1843 and a Summary of Later Developments (London, Pitman and Sons, 1909), p. 347 ; Chinese Repository from May 1838 to April 1839, vol. VII, April, pp. 623–624; Office of the Chinese Repository, Crisis in the Opium Traffic: Being an Account of the Proceedings of the Chinese Government to Suppress that Trade with the Notices, Edicts, & relating thereto (China, printed by the office of the Chinese repository, 1839), p. 16 .

47 Forbes, Robert Bennet, Personal Reminiscences (Boston, Little, Brown, & Co.), pp. 347349 .

48 Nye, Gideon, Peking the Goal (Canton: [s.n.], 1873), pp. 2122 .

49 CO 129/12/300 [1845–07–23].

50 Great Britain, Public Record Office, Admiralty (ADM) 171/12/24.

51 Fay, Peter Ward, The Opium War 1840–42, Barbarians in the Celestial Empire in the Early Part of the Nineteenth Century and the War by Which they Forced her Gates Ajar (Chapel Hill, 1975), p. 277 .

52 CO 129/10/11-12 [1841-05-17]; Chinese Repository Aug. 1841, vol. 10, p. 479.

53 CO 129/10/25 [1841-07-31].

54 Bluebook, 21 August 1844, p. 45, no. 16, “An Ordinance for Establishing a Registry of the Inhabitants of the Island of Hong Kong and its Dependencies”.

55 FO 233/185/19–20, Ordinance 24–25.

56 CO 129/7/198–217 [1844-11-06]

57 CO 129/7/200 [1844-11-06]

58 CO 129/12/293–5 [1845-07-15]

59 CO 129/7/322–328 [1844-12-28]

61 CO 129/12/302 [1845-06-21]; CO 129/12/303 [1845-06-18].

62 CO 129/12/304–310 [1845-06-24]

64 King's College London Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 1/162) 13 Feb. 1846.

65 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 3/166) 13 Mar. 1846.

66 Staunton, George Thomas, Memoirs of the Chief Incidents of the Public Life of Sir George Thomas Staunton, (London, L. Booth, 1856), pp. 206207 ; KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 5/175) 12 Jun. 1846.

67 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 3/166) 13 Mar. 1846.

68 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 5/175) 12 Jun. 1846.

69 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 5/175) 12 Jun. 1846.

70 KCL Secretary's Out Letter Books (Ref KA/OLB/103), Cunningham to Staunton, 13 May 1846; KCL Secretary's In-Correspondence (Ref KA/IC/29), Staunton to Cunningham [date unknown] Jun. 1846.

71 University College London, Council minutes, 22 Apr. 1837.

72 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 4/192) 11 Dec. 1846.

75 University College London, Council minutes, 7 Aug. 1841.

76 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852;3 and 4/195) 8 Jan. 1847.

77 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852;4/200) 19 Feb. 1847.

78 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 1/208) 13 Feb. 1846.

79 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 5/210) 16 Apr. 1847.

80 CO 133/2/76 (Bluebook 1845).

81 KCL (Ref KA/IC/C31) [date unknown] May 1847. Fearon wrote the booklist in abbreviation, for instance, “Marshmman's Grammar £4.4”; “Premare's Notita Lingua Sinica £1.1.”

82 The Calendar of King's College London for 1847–8 (London, John W. Parker, 1847), p.41; The Calendar of King's College London for 1848–9; pp. 70–71; The Calendar of King's College London For 1850–51, pp. 70–71; The Calendar of King's College London for 1851–52, pp.71–72.

83 KCL (Ref KA/IC/S49) Staunton to Cunningham, 4 Mar. 1850; KCL (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 2/95) 8 Mar. 1850.

84 KCL (Ref KA/IC/S49) Staunton to Cunningham, 4 Mar. 1850.

85 KCL (Ref KA/IC/S50) Staunton to Cunningham, including the extracts of the letters from the Rev Jacob Tomlin written on 20, 21, 26 Feb. 1850.

86 KCL Council Minutes (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852; 1/95). 8 Mar. 1850.

87 KCL (Ref KA/OLB 3–4/238) Cunningham to Staunton, 23Feb. 1850. Back in 1849, the College wrote a letter to Fearon notifying him that “No student had yet entered for him, Mr. Cunningham (college secretary) will not fail to endeavor to make the arrangement he wishes in case any pupils come forward”. KCL (KA/OLB 3–4/188). Cunningham to Fearon, 8 Oct. 1849.

88 Lindsay, Sir Ride, An East India Company Cemetery: Protestant Burials in Macao (Hong Kong, 1996), pp. 4647, 163–164.

89 KCL (KA/IC/S49) “Extract letter from Rev. Jacob Tomlin dated 20 Feb 1850”, Staunton to Cunningham, 4 Mar. 1850.

90 Medical Times, XXIII, 1851, p. 550; The Lancet, I, 1848, p. 513. Part of the information was provided by Mr. Wong Ho To, to whom I am indebted.

91 KCL (KA/IC/S50) Staunton to Cunningham, 23 Nov. 1852.

92 KCL (Ref KA/C/M 1846–1852) 23 Dec 1852.

93 KCL (KA/IC/S50) Vincent Stanton to Cunningham, 25 Nov 1852.

94 General Register Office, England, Death certificate, 1854. Quarter of registration, Jan–Feb–Mar; Pancras District (1837–1901), County London, Middlesex, vol. 1b, p. 24.

95 Timothy Barrett, Singular Listlessness, pp. 72–73.

96 CO 129/97/41–47 [1864-01-12]; see above note 2.

97 CO 133/3/98 (Bluebook 1846); see above note 2.

* The author owes many thanks to Prof. Theo Hermans and Prof. Bernard Fuehrer who gave invaluable comments on earlier drafts of this article. My gratitude also goes to Prof. Timothy Barrett who provided constant support when I was revising the article. The paper could not have been written without the benefit of the excellent preservation of the archival material at the university archives of King's College London. I wish to thank especially Ms Lianne Smith, the archive manager at King's College London for her help during different stages of research of this project.

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Translation and the British Colonial Mission: The Career of Samuel Turner Fearon and the Establishment of Chinese Studies at King's College, London*

  • UGANDA SZE PUI KWAN (a1)

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