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Cox, Euan Hillhouse Methven
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Reginald Farrer Collection

  • GB235 RJF
  • Collection
  • 1880 - 2004

The Reginald Farrer collection comprises correspondence between Reginald Farrer and his family (his mother in particular), E.A. Bowles, John Buchan, Sir Francis Younghusband, Ernest Gye, Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour and others as detailed below. It also includes paintings, photographs, 35mm slides, glass plate negatives and lantern slides covering mainly his two plant collecting expeditions to China in 1914-15 and Burma in 1919-1920, as well as scripts for plays written by Farrer.

Farrer, Reginald John

Farrer written material, box 5; Burma expedition with Euan Cox

Box 5: 1919-1920; includes correspondence to family and Aubrey Herbert, 1919 - includes references to Frank Kingdon Ward and George Forrest; telegrams from RJF to his mother, 1919; correspondence to family, 1920; letter from Farrer to Sir Francis Younghusband, 13/09/1920; correspondence from Isaac Bayley Balfour and William Wright Smith of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to Farrer and family, 1917-1924; general correspondence, 1920, correspondents include Lionel de Rothschild, Postmaster Gye? J.T.O. Barnard, and William Purdom; folder of ephemera including telegram, ticket to Rangoon, diary entry and Burmese travelling times and Regulations for dealing with tribes; copy of Gardener's Chronicle including article by Farrer, 1921-22; notes written by Farrer's mother regarding instructions and dispatches from Farrer; plant / seed lists, including identifications from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; Farrer's supply lists; information relating to E.H.M. Cox, including, copies of few diary pages, maps and letters from Farrer to Cox; and various maps of various dates relating to Farrer's collecting localities.

Farrer Family

Reginald Farrer - correspondence to Ernest Gye

A collection of 13 letters purchased at auction in 2008, written by Reginald Farrer and most likely sent to the British Diplomat Ernest Frederick Gye C.M.G., though Farrer tends to refer to him as his “Poison”, “Viper” or “Venom”.
Gye's mother was the singer Dame Emma Albani and his father was Ernest Gye, the lessee of Covent Garden theatre. Gye entered the Foreign Office in 1903, became Second Secretary in 1908 and Councillor in 1924. He served for some years in Tehran in the earlier part of his career (and where he was when these letters were written) before being appointed Minister and Consul General in Tangier in 1933. Three years later he was made Minister Plenipotentiary in Venezuela, retiring in 1939.
The 13 letters were written in Upper Burma (now Myanmar), mainly from Hpimaw and Nyitadi, and date between May 1919 and September 1920, the last being written only five weeks before his death. The letters are liberally peppered with nicknames and gossip, and the identity of everyone mentioned may never be known; for example, his 1919 travelling companion, fellow plant collector Euan Cox, is often referred to by the name “Jumps”. In amongst intimate information and personal references are descriptions of the country, people met and plants collected.

Gye, Ernest Frederick

letter dated 04/09/1919 from Farrer, Hpimaw Fort, to Ernest Gye

Living in the Fort, having spent a month of really wonderful camp-life in a high alpine valley. Had good weather there and had collected 45 Rhododendrons and will return in October to collect their seeds. Bought a horse, Ma in Chinese, which has got fat and will only carry him, the Master. States how Jumps [Euan H.M. Cox] is highly companionable, shall miss him when he leaves, but looks forward to the Scottish Derrick joining him in the winter. Jumps writing a novel. Recounts scenes of the coolies from the alpine village doing their folk-dances & songs by the camp-fire - views them as the real thing, real art. The Cook has another drunken bout, and R. Farrer administered justice on the verandah, docking some of his wages, the rupees were thrown away and he, R. Farrer almost collapsed in tears. Speaks of letters from home in the aftermath of the War being sad and glad he had decided wisely to get away. Hopes E. Gye will get away, suggests Peking 1921 to attain care-free-ness. Requests him to supervise Mr Bain to send out useful books, seeks two sets of Winchester Edition of the Divine One, for himself and Jumps.
Camp was in a high-alpine valley, in a beautiful open glade, filled with golden Anemones, beside a babbling beck, with gaunt hungry-looking granite peaks aspiring overhead all round. Derrick [Milner] he describes as 10 feet high, and you want a flight of steps to see his large rosy face! From the batches of letters, he gets a uniform impression of utter failure, of fatigue so acute that it can't fine rest, of disappointment, old age, & general failure.

Farrer, Reginald John

letter dated 24/09/1919 from Farrer, Hpimaw Fort, to Ernest Gye

Writes fondly of the past and E. Gye's pet expressions. Of his life, he recounts how a Dep. Comm. from the Indian Government, a Kingdon Ward (a rural botanist), Jumps [Euan H.M. Cox] and he, all played Auction as it rained incessantly outdoors for weeks. Unsettled by the company and pleased to be living just with Jumps again. Jumps still writing his novel which R. Farrer offers many literary comments with candour. Notes kites are being seen flying over India, an immemorial sign that the Monsoon is nearing its end. Plans to go to Chimili to collect seeds of his treasures. He states he has written up about this in the Gardener's Chronicle, read by thousands, he says. Sending Nomocharis pardanthina seeds for E. Gye to grow, hopes that it will open. Initial expedition plans to Putau authorities refused but he has readjusted these and his plans are now accepted to visit the wildernesses of Akhyang. Planning a further one for 1922-3. Writes of the Watsons living at Ingleborough, happy he is planning more travel. Waiting for the main rush of seeds of the Rhododendrons to come. Hopes to go down to Rangoon with Jumps for Christmas, Jumps is then required to return home. Enquires why E. Gye and some chums going to Jamaica. May go to live alone in Mandalay for a while. ‘Nomocharis pardanthina will open the amazed and amusing loveliness of her eyes upon a London fog.’

Farrer, Reginald John

letter dated 26/07/1919 from Farrer, Hpimaw Fort, to Ernest Gye

Writing to "Sweet Poison" [Ernest Gye] as resting after a ten days' trek searching for a hypothetical Rhododendron during which it rained relentlessly. Feels rudderless and needing the anchor of wedlock then swings away from this idea. Fed up with some Captain staying with Jumps [Euan H.M. Cox] and him who talks endlessly -Farrer states his ages makes him less tolerant, loses patience and ridicules him for being five-foot-nothing. Soon to go down to Htawgaw then a month's camping in a high-alpine valley which he hopes will be profitable and amusing. Complains of lack of art, architecture and antiquity in this country. Writes of the beauty of Nomocharis pardanthina, like a pink lily with a spotted Odontoglossum all over the alpine meadows, asks Ernest Gye to experiment with its seed.

Farrer, Reginald John

letter dated 19/12/1919 from Farrer, Upper Burma Club, Mandalay, to Ernest Gye

States he has lost Ernest's last letter and is in low spirits, refers again to his age, 40 years & lack of being anchored by marriage. Discusses merits of English literature - unsettled by the Times' review of his book, ‘The English Rock Garden’. Describes his relationship with Jumps [Euan H.M. Cox], 25 years, as not intimate just cordially pleasant. When Jumps has left, he is going to rest in Mandalay until February. Speaks of a possible conflagration between the Chinese & aborigines which would close the frontier to further expeditions. ‘In low spirits these days, what with windings up & endings with a crushing sense of my own worthlessness & inadequacy. His book, The Rock Garden, 6 years old, wears its vast erudition (2nd hand) with an affectation of jocosity or preciousness that nowadays would make me feel quite sick. Of Jumps [Euan M. Cox], especially when 40 & 25 have not quite a common ground of breeding, training & traditions.’

Farrer, Reginald John

letter dated 29/05/1919 from Farrer, Hpimaw Fort, Upper Burma, to Celia Noble

Delighted with receiving letter from Celia and hearing her homely gossip. Goes touring and camping in the mountains. On return, describes trying to paint a primula in his tent-door, holding an umbrella with a dense fog of midges and smoke around. Saw great snowy trumpet-lilies on steep brackened hillsides when tramping the long leagues back. Describes the cook getting drunk, falling over a cliff, injuring himself & a pleasant Scotch youth with the staggers, called Jumps [Euan H.M. Cox] taking over- making astonishing concoctions with the jam of little wild white strawberries. ‘And yet it was delightful, the solemn enormous loneliness of the heights, & the silence & the invariable alpine feeling of clean peace & remoteness.’

Farrer, Reginald John

letter dated 29/05/1919 from Farrer, Hpimaw Fort, to Ernest Gye

Pleased to get letter from Ernest Gye, nickname Poison - shared letter with Jumps [Euan H.M. Cox]. Speaks of the restless desire to impress & seeks gossip of English friends. Ernest writing of going to Tangiers. Describes at length he and Jumps picking raspberries to make jam, concoction insipid. Then reverted to making better jam with wild white strawberries. Writes of Jumps as youthful, unlike him who is becoming of crabbed age. Describes how a brace of young boys, Gurkhas have joined their camp. Painting primula in a tent, through a dense fog of midges and smoke. Requests from Ernest to purchase 2 or 3 Everyman volumes of Floris's Montaigne, delights in the first one. This letter is signed your loving Poppet. Jumps cooking until the Chinese cook has recovered from his cliff fall. ps Gossipy enquiries and comments. Encouraging E. Gye when writing, to be thoroughly indiscreet and viscous. Speaks of his own return to a de-Poisoned London. [Poison = E. Gye] Describes the place abounding in the most preposterous brambles - titanic wilderness of thorns, beset with raspberries in almost every colour & degree of nastiness. Wondering if Jumps [Euan M. Cox] is like all Scotch lower (or middle) class minds, are alike in a sort of Jackdawish unassimilating appetitiveness.

Farrer, Reginald John

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