- Museum number
Inkstand; silver-gilt; rectangular tray with border of high relief cast and chased floral and foliate ornament, which continues on the feet; fitted with three cylindrical holders, for a detachable taper stick in the centre, flanked by a pair of cut-glass pots for ink and sand, each with silver-gilt liid, the sand-pot lid with hand-pierced holes. At the front, a pen trough, with inscription; hallmarks and maker's mark; in original tooled and gilded leather case.
- Production date
Length: 22.40 centimetres
Width: 16.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The presentation of this item by Staunton in 1826, and Morrison's feelings about it and letter of thanks are described at some length in Robert Morrison and Eliza A. Morrison, 'Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Robert Morrison D.D.', London, 2 vols, 1839, vol 2 pp. 325 and 342-43 (reference kindly supplied by Henrietta Harrison, Professor of Modern Chinese Studies, University of Oxford China Centre, 8.6.2019).
Both men were distinguished sinologists working in China in the early decades of the 19th century. They met in Canton, where Morrison arrvied in 1807 as the first Protestant missionary in China. At that time foreigners were allowed there only to trade. Morrison therefore lived clandestinely with American merchants while working on his Chinese dictiionary and grammar. He became a close friend of Sir George Staunton, who had been writer at the East Indian Company's factory since 1798, and was a significant collector of Chinese litertaure, presenting 2,600 volumes to the newly-founded Asiatic Society in 1824. When the East India Company proposed in 1815 that Morrison should be dismissed for publishing Chinese translations of the New Testament, Stauinton resised the proposal. He returned to England in 1817, while Morrison returned in 1824, leaving again in May 1826 for Canton where he died in 1834. On the eve of his departure in May 1826, Morrison received a number of tokens of friendship, but the one that pleased him most was this inkstand. He wrote on 29 April 1826 to Staunton:
'My dear Sir, I have received the beautiful inkstand which you have sent me, and done me the honour to inscribe with your own name. In China, and in England, you have for twenty years condescended, I may say, (considering my humble circumstances) to favour me with your friendship. The last token of your kind regard shall be preserved in my family as a memento of your goodness to me. Accept, my dear Sir George, my sincerely grateful thanks for all your kindness; and for your suibstantial aid to the cause of our holy religion, through me, its humble servant. And accept of my best thanks for this parting expression of your 'affectionate' friendship. May the divine blessing of God our Saviour rest upon you !' (Morrison 1839, pp. 342-43)
Staunton replied 'I am happy you like the little inkstand, which I was hard pushed to get finished previous to your departure.' (Morrison 1839, p. 325). Hennel's firm probably employed outworkers for the cast and chased ornaments and the cut-glass bottles, so there may have been delays in assembling the component parts.
On his return visit to Canton, Morrison was accompanied by his wife and two sons. The Memoirs do not indicate whether he took the inkstand with him but as he was intending to stay in Canton for good, it is likely the inkstand went with him.
- On display (G47/dc8)
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: HG.1045 (masterlist number)