The writer, Edmond Warre, came up from Eton to Balliol in 1855, he was a distinguished oarsman; Treasurer of Oxford University Boat Club in 1858, President in 1859, and rowed in the Boat Race against Cambridge in 1857, 58 & 59. He was Captain of the College boat, which came head of the river in 1855 and 1859. The Oxford University Volunteer Corps was founded in his rooms, and he was its first officer.

There is a long entry in the Dictionary of National Biography for Warre, some details of which are: in March 1867 he was ordained — he became Hon. Chaplain to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V. But his main fame rested on the fact that he was Headmaster of Eton the famous English Public school, from 1884-1905, where he was a very successful tutor. A boarding house was named after him and and a portrait of him by J.S. Sargent hangs in the school hall at Eton.

Edward Herbert was first cousin of Sir RGW Herbert, Premier of Queensland 1860-1866. He had been at Eton with Edmond Warre, and also went to Balliol in 1855. After leaving Balliol in 1859, he entered the Diplomatic Service, and became 1st Secretary at Athens. However, his luck ran out in April 1870, when he visited Marathon, and was captured by brigands and held for ransom. The brigands were pursued by troops and murdered their other captives. Herbert was spared so long as he could keep up with the brigands, but was killed when he fell.

The Envelope and Postal Markings

This letter is enclosed in the smallest envelope in my collection, a very small 12cm x 7cm (4-3/4" by 2-1/2"), and addressed to

Edward Herbert Esq.
Poste Restante
Rome Italy
[inscribed by the writer ‘ Via du Mare’ (seamail).]

In the bottom left hand corner he has put his initials EW, so that Herbert would know who had written to him, when he collected it from the Post Office, Poste Restante section. This was a service provided by many post offices which would hold mail until called for. If you were travelling, you could have mail addressed to the main post office in the city. This system was still in use in the late 1980’s when we sent mail to relatives who were in Europe. It did not always reach them, and it never came back to us despite having the return address on it - but that was just the luck of the draw.

The letter is dated Easter Sunday, which was April 24th that year, and the envelope, although small, has seven postmarks on the back of the envelope which plot the route from Talyllyn, (undated town stamp) Machynlleth 25th April, 1859, Shrewsbury also April 25th, London morning duty stamp of April 26 in red. It also has the charge mark, which looks like 96. From London it went across the Channel to Calais and the postmark there is 26 April AMB. CALAIS M, which is the railway postmark, then Paris 27th April this has the figures (20) at the base of the postmark, and a figure 3 just where that number would be on a clock face. Finally it has a Roma postmark dated 2 May 1859. It took a total of 9 days to go from a small village in Wales to Rome, which is surprising, as it started on Easter Sunday.

A French Steam packet service from Marseilles to Mediterranean ports was set up in 1837, and arrangements were made that British mail could go in sealed bags from Paris to Marseilles for onward transmission. The postage had to be prepaid, but there is neither any PAID markings on the letter, nor any indications to show that it had been prepaid.

The Letter

Considering the age of the letter, I have been able to find out an amazing amount of information about the writer, the addressee, and the people mentioned in the letter.

My Dear Herb

I have treated you very badly in not writing but the truth is I have been so hard put for time that I have not been able to do so.1 Your letter reached me, about a month after it was written. I hope this will find you in Rome. Will you tell Samuel that I have not got time to write and that I am sorry to say I shall not be able to get abroad this year after all and so unless he can get to England, I shall not have the pleasure of seeing him. I suppose we shall see you up here next term at least at Oxford. You already know my eyes have been bad and have thrown me back considerably. I am very much afraid I shall only turn out a second after all, but still I must work while there is hope."

The work is tremendous, there is such an enormous lot of it to do that one book shoves the other out of ones head. You will have heard that we won at Putney2, I hope that Balliol will be head of the River next term, but at present I can see or think about nothing but these beastly schools." [the Oxford examinations]

My sister has presented the world with an addition in the shape of a son and me with a nephew and both are doing well as can be expected.

Our paper is scanty so torn notebook produces the material for this epistle. And you must pardon the brevity thereof.

We know no news in this desolate region but suppose that you have the excitement of being near the seat of war. You should go back through Switzerland unless the war prevents you.3

"I am under the impression that you will come back here one of the sons of the soil blackened in the face by exposure to the sun and considerably hairified. I should have liked to have been with you and old Samuel and to have seen Algeria and the desert.

I hope if you are going to be at Asherwell in the summer I shall be able to pay you a visit and read law a lot there as I am going to master the noble Blackstone history [Commentaries on the Laws of England] during the long [vacation]. But time will show what we can say about this. I feel as if the end of the world began somewhere about the 29 of May the day the schools begin.

Oxford news I have none to tell but I should think Warren, if up there, as I think he is, will let you know.

Frank is very hard working owing to his Rector being away and during Lent he has been preaching no end of sermons.4

My youngest sister was run away with in the park the other day and nearly damaged, but escaped with a bruised arm. They have been to London since the beginning of February but return to Fyne Court next month. I am glad you like old Samuel he is a real good fellow and I wish he was better off than he is. He is all in his glory there in his own land. We have had very nice weather here Jan Feb & March mild, snow and frost in April. No apricots or walfruit this year everything of that kind has been cut off. We have had snow on the mntns5 pretty deep here and I very nearly killed myself the other day up the one behind the house in a snowstorm. I could not get a handy place and held on like grim death. Making holes with my feet I made a place to stand in and it took me nearly an hour to get down, being awfully steep and the snow letting me down sharp.

Hills6 has come and I must shut up. Remember me fondly to Samuel and make my excuses strong for not writing as I stated have no time.

Ever yr affec friend
Edmond Warre."



ew Political History Social History Letters from the Past

Last modified 31 May 2010