This is the family correspondence - it is almost entirely correspondence - of the Monro family, about 1775 to 1905. (The one 1905 letter is an exception; most of the correspondence ends in the 1880's.) During most of the period the family lived at Hadley. They were gentry, descended from the Monro family of Foulis, baronets; but the sort of gentry who earned their livings in the law, in the East India service, etc., rather than being landed gentry.
There are three boxes. One box contains the earlier correspondence, mainly from various members of the family. A good deal of it is from overseas, especially India. (Incidentally, some of the early postmarks might have a substantial monetary value, and will have to be watched.) There is an attractive grant of arms by Lyon, 1787, to Henry Knight Erskine, esq., and a most competent copy, 1862, of an achievement in full colour of the arms of Doctor Alexander Monro, Principal of the College of Edinburgh, by Henry Frazer, herald and painter, 1687. An unusual document is a passport, 1820, issued by the maire of Lisieux for Cecil Monro of Hadley ('sans profession'). There is quite a batch of letters from James Monro (cb. 1806) who seems to have been captain of an East Indiaman. I find he was master of the 'Houghton', the command of which he eventually sold for £8,000. There is also a printed pedigree of the Monro's, beginning with John Monro, M.D., as part of a pedigree of Smith, baronets, of Hadley; a note on the envelope indicates that this is by Montagu Burrows (who appears to have been a relation).
The other two boxes consist entirely of the correspondence of Cecil J. Monro, beginning with his earliest letters home from school and continuing for about fifty years. (He may have survived into the 20th century.) He went to Harrow and Cambridge, and corresponded with many more or less eminent people (though not many of them are actually in the D.N.B.) His circle of correspondents included many who were in touch with public life and public affairs or with literary or scientific circles. Just what he was himself I am not sure. He does not appear to have been a practising barrister, yet he obviously knew a great deal of law. There is much correspondence with Clement Mansfield Ingleby, Shakespearian scholar (see D.N.B.). Amongst other correspondents I have noticed W.J. Prowse, journalist and humourist (see D.N.B.). One of his friends, Litchfield, seems to have been Darwin's son-in-law. His brother was a barrister, as also had been his father. We shall no doubt find out more about C.J.M. in due course.
|Administrative / biographical background:
The Monro family of Hadley were a cadet branch of the Munro baronets of Foulis. They settled in London in the late seventeenth century, providing a series of distinguished doctors who ran Bethlem Hospital throughout the following century, when the care of lunatics was far from fashionable. They also owned two private asylums, Brook House, Clapton, and the Palace, Much Hadham (ACC/1063/049-057 and 164-5). James, the second son of Dr. John Monro (1715-1791), entered the East India Company's service, becoming captain of an East Indiaman, and most of this archive consists of letters written by himself, his sons and his grandsons. Apart from those of Captain James himself there is a series from his eldest son James, who became a 'writer' with the East India Company in 1806; from his son Edward who went to India; another group of papers relating to his son George, a midshipman who was killed in action on board the "Menelaus" in 1812; and numerous other letters and papers relating to this same generation of the family. The youngest son of James's first marriage, Cecil Monro (1803-1878), entered the law, eventually becoming chief registrar of the Court of Chancery, and it was he who finally inherited the family home which Captain James had bought at Hadley. He was an antiquarian of some repute, editing The Letters of Queen Margaret of Anjou for the Camden Society in 1863; he was zealous in collecting details of his family history, which he incorporated into a "Family Book" (ACC/1063/001). There are also several documents relating to the disputed entail created by Sir Harry Munro of Foulis in 1776, which probably owe their preservation to Cecil Monro. The latter married Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel Knight Erskine of Pittodrie, Aberdeenshire, which ACCounts for the presence of a few documents relating to that estate.
The largest group of letters are those written by Cecil's three sons, Cecil James (1833-1882), Charles (1835-1908), and Kenneth (1818-1862). The letters to their parents began when they were at preparatory school, and in the cases of Cecil and Kenneth continue until their respective deaths. All three were sent to Harrow and their letters at this period throw a vivid light on school life in the early Victorian era (ACC/1063/966 - 1146). Both the older boys went on to Cambridge, but Kenneth, who was not academically inclined, joined the Army and his letters continue from various camps in England and then from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he was posted in 1857 (ACC/1063/257-579). The climate there undermined his health and he returned home to die of consumption at Hadley, aged 24. The rest of the letters centre round his eldest brother Cecil, who read classics and Mathematics at Cambridge and then read for the Bar. Before he could take up a career, symptoms of the family consumption manifested themselves in him too, and dictated that his winters be spent abroad in the more salubrious climates of Madeira, North Africa, or the south of France. His letters home to the family are full of the trials of an invalid expatriate: the difficulties of obtaining suitable lodgings, the vagaries of climates, the dependence upon unreliable mails from home, and the intolerable boredom. He was not, however, self pitying, and the last-named problem he tackled by teaching himself languages, writing articles, and corresponding with learned men on a variety of subjects (including theology, classics, philosophy, mathematics physics, linguistics and politics). His correspondences included J. C. Maxwell, professor of experimental physics at Cambridge; Darwin's son-in-law Richard Litchfield; William Donkin, professor of astronomy at Oxford; C.M Ingleby, the Shakespearean critic; and Charles Tawney, registrar of Calcutta University. He spent the last years of his life at Hadley, a semi-invalid, dying in 1882 four years after his father. The letters virtually cease at this date, but there are a few written to Charles, the last just before his death in 1906.