Transit of Venus : G.L. Tupman Private Journal 1875. Age 36.

Transit of Venus

<p>This is a pre-printed diary for the year 1875, published in San Francisco. It contains the usual pages of useful and local information at the front and entries completed by Captain George Lyon Tupman, of the Royal Marine Artillery, throughout the year. The journal opens while Tupman is in Honolulu, as Chief Astronomer for the British astronomical expedition to the Sandwich Islands (Hawai‘i) to observe the 1874 transit of Venus. It reports on work and events there before following Tupman on his journey back to Britain and, for the latter part of the year, life and work at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, where he began the long business of reducing and collating observations of the transit for all five British expeditions. This “Private Journal” contrasts with the official journals kept by Tupman while on the expedition [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00059-00070/1'>RGO 59/70</a>] and when back in Greenwich [<a href='/view/MS-RGO-00059-00056-00003/1'>RGO 59/56/3</a>] during the same period. This, however, appears to be the only journal Tupman kept for the voyage home (the period 19 March-29 June 1875), although the caricatures drawn by Lieutenant E.J.W. Noble, another member of the observing team, include some of what they saw on this journey, as well as the experiences of the seven observers throughout the expedition [<a href='/view/MS-TRANSIT-00002/1'>Transit 2</a>].</p> <p>Although this private journal includes less detail on the observing and computing work than the official ones, it is still well represented, as are the expedition’s observers and instruments. Once back at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, red ink or underlining is sometimes used to track key names and events in relation to administration of the transit of Venus expeditions. Tupman’s work involved dealing with accounts, managing the observers, checking the returning instruments and records as well as checking, reducing, arranging and recalculating the work of the British transit observers. These brief daily entries were probably used to inform the official journals, which were written up periodically. The Memoranda section of the diary lists “Letters Written” and “Letters Received” by date, with the names of Tupman’s private and official correspondents [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(114);return false;'>106-114</a>].</p> <p>The diary is printed with each week on two-pages, so entries are necessarily brief. There is room to record the names of those who Tupman met socially, notes on personal health (“Touch of lumbago?” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>1</a>], a “bad boil” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(11);return false;'>3</a>], and a more serious illness during the journey [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(45);return false;'>37</a>]), and short comments on the weather. We gain some insight into Tupman and the worlds in which he moved, from the “Luou’s [Luaus] and hulas all day among the natives” of Honolulu on 1 January [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(9);return false;'>1</a>] to the many people he visited in America, regular dining with the Astronomer Royal in Greenwich, a jolly visit to Hastings [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(73);return false;'>65</a>], roller skating in Blackheath [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(86);return false;'>78</a>] or the specimen cabinet he bought to use with a microscope [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(112);return false;'>104</a>]. However, many of the notes are so short as to be cryptic, even if tantalising: “Curious communication regarding Mrs W, Miss M. and Lieut A.” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(11);return false;'>3</a>]. Tupman, who was to get married to Rebecca Gumbes Wetherill of Philadelphia in October 1876 (perhaps the “Becky” or “Beckie” that he records writing to several times), was attentive to various women, mentioning, for example, “Little Miss Buckman’s pretty feet!” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(16);return false;'>8</a>], that “little Jenny Brickwood was simply divine” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(25);return false;'>17</a>], his “very last duet with Carrie” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(31);return false;'>23</a>] and taking Miss Annie Harris to Crystal Palace [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(67);return false;'>59</a>]. This aspect of Tupman’s life was also recorded by Noble, who teasingly depicted him as “a ‘most dangerous Man’” [<a href='/view/MS-TRANSIT-00001/60'>Transit 1: 57</a>]. There are some thorough deletions that may contain more private material, for example on 3 February [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(18);return false;'>10</a>], and some enigmatic notes in September, some of which are reported speech: “Good night” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(83);return false;'>75</a>], “Smoke” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(84);return false;'>76</a>], “Fire” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(85);return false;'>77</a>], “Much you care” [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(85);return false;'>77</a>] and, frequently, “C”.</p> <p>There are a few notes of public events, including hearing the “Terrible news” of the impurity of drinking water in England [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(48);return false;'>40</a>], perhaps relating to the publication of microscopic observations of water by Jabez Hogg, and that Queen Victoria’s yacht Alberta, with the Queen on board, had sunk another yacht, Mistletoe [<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(74);return false;'>66</a>].</p> <p>See “Contents” tab for some of the key events recorded throughout the year. </p> <p>Rebekah Higgitt<br /> University of Kent</p>


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