<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

IIIF Actions
Swinton, George, 1780–1854

Papa's keepsake : being stories and verses, funny and grave, for Archie the scholar, and Alan the brave : and a rose for a looking glass, wondrous rare, for my own darling Meggy the fair.

[Kolkata?, India], 1829.
Physical Description:
42 pages, [14] leaves of plates : illustrations ; 22 cm
Rare Books and Manuscripts
DS475.2.S9 P3 1829
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
View by request in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.

Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Related Content:
View catalog record for the British Library copy of Papa's keepsake
Archives & Manuscripts
The author-compiler of the present volume is George Swinton (1780-1854), of the notable Swinton clan of Berwickshire, Scotland. Like many of his ancestors and descendants, George Swinton had a distinguished career of civil service in India. He joined the Bengal Establishment of the East India Company in 1805, became Persian Secretary to the Governor-General of India in 1814, and served as Chief Secretary to the Governor General in India from 1827 to 1833 (at Kolkata). Swinton also served a term as President of the India Board of Trade.
In 1820, George Swinton married his cousin Anne Elizabeth Swinton (1794-1883), with whom he had five sons and two daughters: Archibald Adam (1820-1894), Alan (d. 1888); George Keith (1827-1854); William Bentinck (d. 1876); James Samuel (d. 1858); Margaret (d. 1879); and Harriet Mary Eliza (1830-1896). See: swintonfamilysociety.org (accessed March 30, 2016).
George Swinton was active in contemporary fields of science and pseudo-science. In India, he served as officiating Superintendent of the Botanical Garden (Calcutta), and collected specimens for Nathaniel Wallich. In 1829, Swinton donated "two very interesting models of the the orang outang and a skeleton of an elephant" to the London Zoological Gardens (see: Magazine of natural history and journal of zoology, botany, mineralogy, geology and meteorology, v. 2). The Phrenological Journal and Miscellany (v. 9, 1833) notes Swinton's donation to the Phrenological Society of Edinburgh of "seven skulls of Thugs or Stranglers of Central India." An obituary for Swinton in The Zoist: a journal of cerebral physiology and mesmerism, and their applications to human welfare (v. 13, pp. 108-109) notes that he had contributed several articles, including: "A suggestion to explain certain properties of Levity" and "On the transference of the sense of hearing from the ear to the abdomen."
Binding: Boards covered in red cloth with geometric design embroidered in gold silk thread.
Privately printed book, with original illustrations, produced by George Swinton, Chief Secretary to the Governor General in India, for his children in Scotland. Swinton does not identify himself in the text, but the names of family members mentioned make him the only plausible author. The book was created for Swinton's three children, Archibald Adam, Alan, and Margaret, who remained in Edinburgh with their mother, Anne Elizabeth Swinton. A second copy of the book, with variant illustrations, is known: British Library, Asia, Pacific & Africa ORB.30/5690. See link provided herewith. It's possible that Swinton made extra-illustrated copies for each of his three children.
Original illustrations are executed in watercolor and gouache, by multiple unidentified artists. These include five full-page depictions of "Sir Oran and Lady Oran" in a variety of humorous situations and attire. The remaining images primarily feature natural history subjects. There are five full-page illustrations of birds. Four of these appear to be Chinese export watercolors on pith. Such watercolors were popular souvenirs for Western travelers in the 1820s, as Chinese overseas trade expanded rapidly.
Intricately drawn butterflies are depicted on pages 6, 10, and 34. Dogs are depicted on the front and back pastedowns. The front bears a hand-colored aquatint of a terrier; the back, a shepherd dog. Opposite page 28 is the volume's most exotic illustration, showing "an exact representation, taken from the life, of the Madras Juggler, who pretends to sit in the air." Some of the illustrations include printed (or manuscript) captions on the versos.
The texts comprise a collection of amusing and, at times, poignant, original short stories and poems. In several of these pieces, the children themselves are the protagonists. Texts at the beginning feature Swinton's own creation, Sir Oran, an anthropomorphized ape: "You all know, my dear children, that Papa has got an Oran Otang, or wild man of the woods. Last year Papa sent you some funny verses about him. Since then, a gentleman gave Papa a female Oran Otang, as a wife for Sir Oran. Sometimes we called them Sir Oran and Lady Oran, and sometimes we gave them the title of Rajah and Ranee, which means King and Queen ...".
There are also hand-colored prints of contemporary fashion (untitled), including a lithograph by Charles Motte and an engraving by W. Read, the latter captioned in manuscript "Mamma."
Texts in the volume include an anecdote about the children's Uncle William (1784-1853); another is a poem about their "Mamma" and her beloved Arab horse. Towards the end of the book are translations of several poems by "the Persian poet Jaumee", dedicated to Archie (in his father's eyes, a scholar), with the father's instruction that he read these aloud to his Aunt Harriet (Henrietta Swinton, 1771-1853) on Sundays. These poems are preceded by a description of John Adam (1779-1825), "Papa's most intimate friend" and godfather to Archie. The final piece, titled "A children's prayer, for their mamma on her voyage to India," with parts to be recited individually and in unison by the children, is prefaced by the following: "... I will conclude with a little prayer for mamma, who will be sailing on the sea when you receive it. It must be read to Aunt Mary [Mary Swinton, b. 1765], kneeling by her side, each repeating a verse as she will teach you."
Inscribed on title page: "In Frank Stanlake Lee's box when opened at their desire, 1892." Frank Stanlake Lee is presumably a descendant of George Swinton's son William Bentinick Swinton (d. 1876), whose daughter Emily Harriet Swinton married Stanlake William Henry Lee in 1884.
With wood-engraved tail-pieces.
Subject Terms:
Adam, John, 1779-1825.
Birds -- India -- Pictorial works.
British -- India.
Butterflies -- Pictorial works.
China trade watercolor painting -- Specimens.
East India Company -- Officials and employees.
India -- History -- British occupation, 1765-1947.
Magicians -- India.
Orangutans -- Fiction.
Swinton family.
Swinton, Alan, -1888.
Swinton, Anne Elizabeth, 1794-1883.
Swinton, Archibald Adam, 1820-1894.
Swinton, George, 1780-1854.
Swinton, Henrietta, 1771-1853.
Swinton, Margaret, -1879.
Swinton, Mary, 1765-
Swinton, William, 1784-1853.
Wood engravings -- 1829.
Engravings -- Hand-colored -- 1829.
Lithographs -- Hand-colored -- 1829.
Short stories.
Fashion plates.
Extra-illustrated copies (Provenance)
Motte, Charles Etienne Pierre, 1785-1836, lithographer.
Read, William, active 1817-1842, engraver.
Jāmī, 1414-1492.

If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.