Neil Edmonstone: Correspondence and papers

Scope and Content

1. Letters to William A. Edmonstone (1 folder)

Eight-five original letters from N.B. Edmonstone to his brother William, 1783-1799. There is a covering note, 23 April 1910, and a typescript listing the letters in this folder, and also in the next volume, both written by Marmaduke Edmonstone Browne, grandson of Neil Edmonstone.

2. Letters to family and friends at home (1 volume)

Copies of letters written by N.B. Edmonstone, 1797-1803. Most of the letters are not in Edmonstone's hand, and were probably produced by a clerk or secretary. There is a covering note by M.E. Browne, April 1910, and summary of contents at the beginning of the volume. From the back of the volume, on the reverse of the page, are copies of letters from N.B. Edmonstone to Mr Cherry, 1794-1795, agent of the Governor-General and chief judge of the provincial court of circuit and appeal for the district of Benares, who was murdered by Vizier Alli on 14 January 1799. These letters are preceded by a note by M.E. Browne. The volume contains some loose letters and pages.

3. The Elmore letters (1 envelope)

Twenty-one letters to Neil Edmonstone and Sir Charles Edmonstone from Col. John Ballie, Miss M. Baillie, Alexander Elmore, Frederick W. Elmore, John Elmore and Mr W. Shepherd, 18 May 1811 - 26 January 1817. There is an accompanying typescript list of the letters, a covering note by M.E. Browne, and M.M. Stuart, 'Baillies of Leys', an article from the Scottish genealogist, June 1981, which mentions the Elmore children.

4. Family papers (1 folder)

Autobiography of Sir Archibald Edmonstone, Bart, of Duntreath Castle and of Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, 1794, 27 pages: a typescript copy by M.E. Browne, 1904.

'The genealogy of the lairds of Ednem and Duntreth from the year 1063 to the year 1699', an anonymous work of 1699 (reprinted 1834), 17 pages: a typescript copy by M.E. Browne [1904].

Miscellaneous family papers, including biographies, epitaphs, genealogical notes, letters, obituaries and poetry, with an edition of the Government gazette extraordinary, 10 January 1818, concerning N.B. Edmonstone.

Administrative / Biographical History

Neil Benjamin Edmonstone (1765-1841) was born on 6 December 1765. He became a writer in the civil service of the East India Company in 1783, and was appointed Perisan translator to the government in 1794. He was Lord Mornington's private secretary during the Madras expedition against Tipu Sultan in 1799, and became secretary to the foreign, political and secret department of the Government of India in 1801, and chief secretary to the government in 1809. He was a member of the Supreme Council at Calcutta, 1812-1817, and a director of the East India Company from 1820. Edmonstone died in London on 4 May 1841.

The collection includes letters relating to the children Edmonstone had by his relationship with a native woman in India (no. 3). The mother's identity is not known, although she was of sufficient education to be able to correspond with her sons in England. The letters indicate that the couple had at least four children, of whom three were boys who took the surname Elmore: John, probably born in 1796; Alexander ('Alick'), born two years later; and Frederick, born four or five years after Alexander. There is only a passing reference to the daughter. In 1802 John and Alexander were placed in the care of Miss Margaret Ballie, who lived in Inverness. She was the sister of an officer in the East India Company's army who was an intimate friend of Neil Edmonstone. Frederick was taken to England in 1811, and placed at a school with W. Shepherd, who kept an academy at Leyton. However, he fell ill, and died within a few years. John entered the army at the age of nineteen, after a commission was purchased for him by Edmonstone's brother, Charles, in a Scots regiment stationed at Charlesfort, Kinsale. Alexander found employment in a manufacturer's business in Glasgow.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Received from the papers of Dr J.A. Venn, President of Queens' College, Cambridge, 1960.

Other Finding Aids


Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Neil Edmonstone in Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds, Dictionary of national biography, vol. VI (London, 1908), pp. 399-400.

Custodial History

Nos 1-2 (and probably 3-4) were given to Marmaduke Edmonstone Browne by his aunt, Alicia Augusta Edmonstone, youngest daughter of N.B. Edmonstone. Marmaduke passed the papers on to his cousin, Mrs Susanna Carnegie Venn, the eldest daughter of Charles Welland Edmonstone, one of Neil Edmonstone's sons.

Geographical Names