Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maurice Bowra - A Footnote to the History of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs



This is a wee bit of an obscure posting but I know a lot of people are interested in the history and characters involved in the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs run for so long by Sir Robert Hart, the "IG". One of the fascinating things about the Maritime Customs administration is the number of serious scholars it produced – I posted about a new biography of one, Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor, a noted translator recently.


For those who like ephemera about the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs they may like to note that one person being remembered at the moment through a new biography was the son of a Maritime Customs administration official in China who rose to prominence in British academia between the wars – Maurice Bowra. Nowadays Bowra is pretty obscure though I seem to come across references to him regularly in the biographies and autobiographies of old Oxford types where he was a well known Don for decades. Last year I enjoyed reading AN Wilson’s biography of John Betjeman who was tutored by Bowra and who seemed to affect the young poet.


Bowra is also largely forgotten as he never really produced any seminal scholarly works (though did write a few understandable books about ancient Greece) and his famous bon-mots and supposedly cutting remarks don’t really translate to 2009, if they were ever funny outside of a bunch of public school boys – ‘a man more dined against than dining’ may have had the young fogies in stitches back in the 1930s but doesn’t mean much now. However, his remark (alluding to his rather mysterious sexuality) upon marrying a noted lesbian that, ‘My dear, buggers can’t be choosers’ is quite amusing.


He also wrote and apparently regularly recited some pretty bad poetry. Still, as an inspiration to a bunch of largely privileged boarding school boys embarking on university life he was influential. And to several generations too - he was Warden of Wadham College (left) from 1938 to 1970 and served as Vice-Chancellor of the Oxford from 1951 to 1954. If he has a lasting claim to fame it’s probably in his role as a defender of the university from the pernicious influences of politicians seeking to interfere and meddle with the place.


The point of this digression is that, as a footnote to a history of the impact of the Maritime Customs administration, Maurice Bowra’s father was Cecil Arthur Verner Bowra and Maurice was born in Jiujiang in 1898, then of course Kiukiang on the southern shores of the Yangtze River in northwest Jiangxi province. However, China doesn’t really seem to have had much effect on his life – at a young age he was sent to school at Cheltenham College and then New College, Oxford before serving in the First World War and then heading back to Oxford seemingly not leaving the place until he died. (the Kiukiang Bund early 20th century pictured opposite).



As I said it’s a small footnote in the history of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs. I know nothing else really about Bowra or his father in China though there is a new biography of him – Leslie Mitchell's Maurice Bowra: A Life – that seems to have been generally well reviewed.





9 comments:

CW Hayford said...

To further compound the obscure connections, Bowra's birthplace, Jiujiang, was Pearl Buck's home at the time, and the house has been recently made an historic site.

Paul French said...

I can't imagine they would have got on very well

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the origins of the Bowra family? Wikipedia describes Maurice Bowra as having been born in China of English parents, and also says that his father was born in China. But "Bowra" is not an English surname so far as I can see, and Maurice Bowra looks rather Russian (indeed some of his pictures strikingly like Nikita Kruschev). Could Bowra be an Anglicisation of a Russian or other East European name? jne@gcal.ac.uk

Biber said...

I came across a nice quote while re-reading Randall Gould's great China memoir China in the Sun the other day. Gould was a veteran member of the old China press corps before the war.

cheapest wow gold|Tera account|Tera gold|buy eden gold|wow gold

WOW Gold said...

The overall development of the brain of a child depends on the core activities that involve the brain and play equipment manufacturers have contributed greatly to the physical conditions that are needed, it is important to note is the fact that the team game support increased physical activity of children who in turn increase the metabolic rate and keeps the body healthy at all times.
WOW Gold
RS Gold
Tera Gold
Cheap RS Gold
Tera Online Gold
Buy Tera Gold
Eden Gold
Tera Gold Cheap
Buy Runescape Gold

Buy Runescape Gold said...

I just found the article and have already been studying together. I must express my love of one's writing expertise as well as capacity to help make viewers go through in the first place for the end. I must go through more recent content and also to share my personal thoughts along.

http://www.fzf.com/christmas/christmas.html
http://www.4rsgold.com/christmas/active.html

Anonymous said...

At the moment the Studio has a fascinating exhibition of original printed North Korean film cambridge satchel|cambridge satchels|cambridge satchel bag|cambridge leather satchel|seo|cambridge satchel company bag|satchel cambridge|cambridge satchel|cambridge satchels|cambridge satchel bag|cambridge leather satchel|women ugg boots sale

cambridge satchels said...

cambridge satchel are very fashion, now they have become a popular fashion trend. You will like cambridge backpack very much. ugg boot cambridge satchel company satchel cambridge leather bag cambridge satchels cambridge satchel bag ugg boot cambridge satchel company satchel cambridge leather bag cambridge satchels cambridge satchel bag

Anonymous said...

The continuing Diablo 3 Gold development of the mind of your little one is determined by the particular primary routines that entail the mind and engage in products makers currently have added considerably to the physical conditions are needed, you should take note is always that the group sport help improved physical exercise of babies who in return increase the rate of metabolism GW2 Gold kaufen in addition to will keep your body healthy always.