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three pairs of lovers with space



Brave, romantic and highly adventurous, Sir James Brooke (29 April 1803 – 11 June 1868) was a character perfectly attuned to attracting Victorian schoolboys. Investing his fortune in a ship, he sailed out to the island of Borneo, where he repressed a rebellion for the local ruler, established himself as founder and first of the white Rajahs of Sarawak in the north of the island, and went on to fight and defeat pirates in a succession of campaigns. Liberal, not much interested in money and hopeless at making it, he was a hero for the more benign ideals of British imperialism. However, what Victorian boys were not taught and never knew, unless they were amongst the lucky few who met Sir James themselves, was that the attraction was very much reciprocated.

Sir James's locally built ship 'Jolly Bachelor' in combat with two Illanun pirate prahus


Primary sources

The aim here is to present from the original sources what is known about Sir James’s friendships with boys that were unusually warm. These consist of letters, memoirs and biographical writings by Sir James himself or those who knew him intimately. They are mostly prefaced by a note explaining enough about the writer to appreciate his authority on what he was saying. However, explanatory notices are given forthwith on the following whose writings are quoted in more than one section:

Gertrude Jacob, Sir James's first biographer

Hannah Brown (1808-78), a doctor’s widow, was the long-term companion of Miss Angela Burdett Coutts, an immensely rich philanthropist who was a close friend and benefactress of Sir James from 1857 to 1867.

Arthur Chichester Crookshank (1825-91) was “Register” (deputy) to the Rajah in Sarawak 1863-73, and cousin to the Rajah Charles Brooke, Sir James’s nephew and successor.

Gertrude Louisa Jacob (1837-98) was the niece and confidante of a general who befriended Sir James. Though she did not know him herself, she “aimed at making [her] book as far as possible the Raja’s autobiography.” She therefore drew on his memoirs and correspondence and her own with those who had been close to him for her An Account of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., LL.D., given chiefly through Letters and Journals, (London, 1876), the first full account of his life.

Sir Spenser Buckingham St. John (1825-1910), later British ambassador to various countries, was introduced to Brooke in 1847, begun his diplomatic career the next year by going out to Sarawak as his private secretary, and remained his close friend for life. His The Life of Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, from His Personal Papers and Correspondence. was published in 1879.


Interpretation of sources

Sodomy was a capital offence in England for almost all of Sir James’s lifetime, and homosexual acts were considered a shocking crime for a long time thereafter, so it is inevitable that nothing was overtly said about his attraction to boys in either his surviving correspondence (significantly, he spent several days before his death burning papers[1]) or the writings of his friends that furnish the rest of this article.  On the contrary, the latter were inclined to divert suspicions that might have arisen from what they did relate. Thus, an anonymously written article by one who knew and loved him, published five months after Sir James’s death, claimed:

his Eastern life was passed, from the very outset to its end, without suspicion of a stain. And this fact gave him the greater influence among a people so sensual, so utterly unconscious of morality, as is the Malay. The chaste Dyaks looked with enthusiastic approbation at the household of their sovereign, governed, for the first time in Sarawak history, by one who seized no man’s goods, nor carried off his daughters.[2]

Similarly, his secretary Spenser St. John claimed that “the purity of his private life . . . was a bright example to those around him.”[3]

It will be left here to the reader to guess at the truth between the lines of what was both written and preserved for posterity by Sir James and his friends, but a little knowledge of what has been said since may be found useful.

Even when biographies came to be written by those for whom Sir James was not a living memory, the subject of his sexuality was for a long time ignored or downplayed. Thus the nearest that Sir Steven Runciman felt able to come to addressing the issue in 1960 was to note that “he was at his best with the young”.[4] Nicholas Tarling in 1982 touched on the question, but concluded of his letters to Charles Grant, the boy Brooke seems to have loved most, that they “are those of a kind uncle. That homosexual leanings were latent in the Raja is, perhaps, a more acceptable view.”[5] It was only in 1988 that the story of his love of boys was first told in a monograph on his sexuality by Dr. J. H. Walker.[6] Whilst this was invaluable for its detailed presentation of much sound evidence never before published, it was also quite heavily criticized for exaggerating the case for Sir James’s homosexuality, both in general and in seeing sexual attraction in cases where there was no evidence.[7]

The last substantial word on the subject was by Nigel Barley, who sought a measured balance in his lively biography White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke (2002). The following of his reflections concern the broad question rather than just specific friendships with boys:

The matter has been minutely studied by Dr J. Walker in the Borneo Research Bulletin. Post-modernly attuned to the hidden discourse of sexuality and empire, he has devoted a good deal of effort to spotting, between the lines, James Brooke's 'boyfriends', yet the results are sometimes questionable. Attraction is not seduction, nor is seduction love. To equate them is to reduce the rich, polyphonic music of James's emotional life to a single note. […]

We are perhaps too used to the sanctimonious tone of the Victorians as the clear sign of high-Gothic hypocrisy, and over-eager to translate every high-blown expression of esteem into a mere mask for the furtive snap of elastic. […] And let us not pretend that we can easily read the discourse of Victorian sexuality, which is a language very different from our own. […] We are moving in an alien erotic and moral landscape that would fundamentally affect James Brooke's affections and actions in a way it is hard for us to imagine. […]

James Brooke as a child

James spent several days before his death burning papers, but a problem of quite another order is that his closest circle of friends have clustered round and carefully censored even the remaining material, so that while the truth about his love life clearly lies beyond the evidence as we have it, it is impossible to know with absolute certainty what that truth was. They were evidently sensitive about it. When Spenser St John - after all a lifelong friend - took his final leave, the scene was described as follows. 'I ran down to Torquay, once more before leaving, and in the beginning of April 1867 I saw him, and as I leant over him I felt it was for the last time. As I neared the door he called me back and I saw the tears falling and then I could see how he also felt that it was one last adieu.'[8] But deliberately excised from the published version of this passage as 'too sensational and Nelsonic' and 'contrary to British taste' are two chaste kisses.

There are, of course, many kinds of love, sentimental, physical, blatantly sexual, and James Brooke seems to have been an emotional man capable of them all. Yet erotic love seems to have required a seed of compassion around which to crystallise and in which to hide itself. For him, pity does not lead to a purgation of eroticism into pure sentiment - quite the reverse: it stokes the fires of desire into what may be termed 'compassionate lust'. Sometimes, the balance comes down on one element in the pairing and sometimes the other.




Included here is every known boy for whom a reasonable case can be made that Sir James was romantically or sexually drawn to him. The evidence for each boy ranges from weak to strong. In no case can it be proved that sexual intimacy occurred, though it might have in any of them.


I.  George Western


The Rev. Dr. Jessopp on James Brooke’s time at Norwich Grammar School, 1876.

In 1815, the twelve-year-old James Brooke, born and hitherto brought up in India, was sent to England and to Norwich Grammar School, where he remained until he ran away a few years later. The Rev. Dr. Augustus Jessopp was its head master much later,  in 1859-79, but his account was evidently gathered from the reminiscences of others.

Norwich Grammar School, where George Western was James's best friend

“Brooke himself, however, seems to have cared little for his master [the head master Edward Valpy], while for his schoolfellows his feeling was very different — his strong personal regard and  even affection for more than one of them lasted through his  life, and some of the most interesting of his letters are those  addressed to his early playfellows, associates in that glad time of boyhood, […]

"Brooke's career at Norwich came to a very abrupt end. On his return to school after the holidays, in what year is uncertain, he found that his great friend, a boy named George Western, had left the school for a sea-life, and thereupon Brooke declared he would stay no longer, and he was as good as his word."[9]

His parents then had him privately tutored at home in Bath, but “he was just sixteen when he received his ensign’s commission in the Bengal army,” dated 11 May 1819, and he joined his regiment in India that autumn. (p. 9). Wounded serving with it in the first Anglo-Burmese War in January 1825, he returned to England, where he stayed until March 1830.[10]


 II.  The Midshipmen of the Castle Huntley

In March 1830, Brooke embarked for India on the East Indiaman Castle Huntley, but on arriving there later than the terms of his army commission allowed, he resigned it and continued on board the Castle Huntley until it reached China, returning to England in June 1831.[11] The following passage makes it clear that Brooke, aged twenty-seven for most of the voyage, was well-known among those on board for having a special partiality for the “mids.” (midshipmen), the boys who were serving aboard as apprentice officers.


Letter of James Brooke to Alexander Cruickshank, February 1833.

Cruickshank had served as the Castle Huntley’s surgeon during Brooke’s time with her and was about to do so again.

Let me hear from you from the old ship. Present my affectionate remembrance to her. Tell me how she looks and feels, and what sort of folk are aboard. I pity you the job of carving in the cuddy and saying pretty things to the ladies. Take care of the “mids.” and be kind to them, as you always were, for you know the “mids." of the Huntley are under my especial care.[12]

The East Indiaman Castle Huntly in the Channel off Dover by William John Huggins


III.  The Templer brothers

James “Jem” Lethbridge Templer (born 9 November 1811[13]), John “Jack” Charles Templer (born 31 July 1814) and William Christopher Templer (born 28 May 1823)[14] were three of the sons of a Dorset solicitor. The eldest was therefore eighteen when he became friends with Brooke on the Castle Huntley, and the other two fifteen and seven when they got to know him the following year. Three passages by those who knew Brooke have been adduced as indications that his warm friendship with at least the eldest, aged  eighteen when he met Brooke, may have been erotically inspired, but, as will be seen, compared to that concerning all the other boys presented here, the case is weak.[15]


Gertude L. Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals, 1876.

Other friendships also came of this long voyage.

[Footnote to the above] Notably one with Mr. James Templer. “My husband's older brother James was mate in the Castle Huntley. Brooke took an enormous fancy to him, and during a period of four or five years spent a great deal of the time he was in England at my father-in-law's house at Bridport, where a room was always called 'Brooke's room.' Here he made the first acquaintance with my husband, and they soon became great friends, the younger man worshipping in Brooke all the grace, romance, talent and sentiment too, as being so especially attractive at that period of his life. On James giving up the East India Company's service and going to Australia the friendship with John was intensified, and one may almost say transferred, although Brooke always maintained that he had never met so delightful a companion as James.”
     The Rev. William C. Templer adds: “I have a very lively remembrance of Sir James Brooke – first, from the fact that almost before I could walk, to say nothing of swimming, he carried me on his back outside the piers of Bridport harbour; and secondly, when I was a school-boy at Westminster he tipped me a sovereign.”[16]


James "Jem" Lethbridge Templer, as a man

Letter of Spenser St. John to Charles Grant, September 5th 1878.

On the biography he was then writing, The life of Sir James Brooke: rajah of Sarawak: from his personal papers and correspondence, published the following year:

One judicious friend advised me to say nothing disagreeable about Templer and the young Rajah: I would carry out that wish as far as possible.[17]


Ludvig Verner Helms, Pioneering in the Far East, 1882. 

Helms (1825-1918) was a Danish merchant who got to know Brook well through living in Sarawak between 1852 and 1872. Summarizing Brooke’s career:

Returning to India in 1830, and anxious to arrive before the lapse of the five years’ furlough should delay his chance of promotion, he was shipwrecked, and proceeded to Madras in the Castle of Huntly, a slow vessel which successfully prevented his getting to Bengal before the expiration of his time. He made this an excuse for leaving the Company’s service, the real reason, being that he had conceived a taste for adventure and for the sea, and an accidental friendship made on board had set him longing to visit the unknown countries of the East, and especially the islands of the Archipelago.[18]


IV.  Stonhouse

Nothing is known of Stonhouse except, as the following letter shows, that he was a boy whom Brooke had grown close to during the voyage of the Castle Huntley.


Letter of James Brooke to Alexander Cruickshank: Bath, June 16th, 1831.

Cruickshank had been the Castle Huntley’s surgeon on their recent voyage together, and Gertrude Jacob, who quotes this letter in her The Raja of Sarawak, 1876, says those alluded to in the letter “appear to have belonged to the Castle Huntley fraternity.”

Stonhouse called here before my arrival, but could not be prevailed on to come in and see my mother and sister. I wrote to him the next day, but he has not replied to my letter. A few years ago I should have been deeply mortified even at this slight, insignificant as it is. I am so a little now, as my style may show; but I know how terribly all men are inclined to judge one another, and so I cannot help having some hope that Stonhouse may value my acquaintance a little more than I give him credit for; but the real truth is, I have ever been too complying with his slightest wish, and have shown him too many weaknesses in my character for him to respect me much. Now, you will say, I write as if I were sore, and it is true; but the same feelings that make me so would also make me very ready to acquit S. of all intention to hurt me, for you know how well I liked the boy. I expect nothing from men, however; but if they will give me their affection or shew me kindness I am doubly pleased.[19]


The Castle Huntley at anchor, 1833

Gertrude Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals, 1876.

The hope of visiting Mr. Cruickshank in Scotland was realized by Brooke in the autumn. His first letter to the doctor after his return to Bath, dated December 4, 1831, begins with a la-mentation over his want of power to help his friend on in life. The Mr. Stonhouse, who had hurt his feelings by not writing, has been, he says, staying with him for some weeks, and he has learned to understand him better, and to regard his not answering letters as simply “the habit of the creature, rather than forgetfulness of old or past times. I have quite forgiven him in my heart, but I never can get a letter out of him. But if we have friends, dear doctor, we must take them as we find them, faults and all, and God knows we have all enough one way or other.”[20]


V.  Pengeran Budrudeen

Kuching, capital of Sarawak, in ca. 1839

Pangiran Anak Badr ud-din was the sixth recorded son of the 21st Sultan of Brunei. His age is quite unknown,[21] except that he must have been at least sixteen by the time of Brooke’s arrival in Sarawak in August 1839.[22] “Budrudeen” was then living with his elder brother, Rajah Muda Hassim, who was suppressing a rebellion there for their nephew, the reigning Sultan.  There are plenty of references to show that he and Brooke were apparently inseparable from 1840,[23] though the written pronouncements of their strong mutual affection only begins in July 1843,[24] a mere month before their time together ended, as Budrudeen returned to Brunei.


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Jack” (John C. Templer, Esq.): Sarawak, July 20, 1843.

On why “British countenance should place Muda Hassim in a situation” to be the recognized head to govern Borneo, considering the weakness and ignorance of his nephew the Sultan:

This responsible head is, or ought to be, Muda Hassim, because he is well inclined, moderately honest, and has a clever younger brother, Budredeen, who is fitted by nature to govern, and will go the entire hog with us. He is a very clever fellow for a native, and far more clever than many better educated and more experienced Europeans.[25]

Sir James negotiating with the Sultan of Brunei to confirm his being fully sovereign Rajah of Sarawak, 1842


Frank S. Marryat, Borneo and the Indian Archipelago, 1848

Frank Samuel Marryat (3 April 1826 – 12 July 1854) was, like Brereton, one of the midshipmen on board HMS Sarawang given warm hospitality by Brooke in July to August 1843. He later published a book about his time with the Samarang.

The Malays profess Mahomedanism; but Budruden in many points followed European customs, both in dress and drinking wine.[26]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My loved Mother” (Mrs. Thomas Brooke): “Royalist,”, September 24, 1843.

I wish you could know the Pangeran Budrudeen, who with the amiable and east temper of his brother Muda Hassim, combines decision and abilities quite astonishing in a native prince, and a directness of purpose seldom found in an Asiatic. As a companion I find him superior to most of those about me, and there is something particularly interesting, in sounding the depths and the shallows of an intelligent native mind, and observing them freed from the trammels of court etiquette.[27]

Dyak festival in a traditional longhouse, Dutch Borneo,1846

Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Jack” (John C. Templer, Esq.): Singapore, June 27, 1845.

Having had Brooke’s encouragement to return to Borneo and exert their good influence at the court there, Budrudeen and his elder brother were engaged in a bitter power struggle with the faction of their nephew, the Sultan.

If any harm comes to Muda Hassim or Budrudeen, I will burn Borneo end from end, and take care it remains afterwards in desolation.[28]


Budrudeen was murdered with two of his wives by the agents of the Sultan on 31st December 1845.[29]

Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Jack” (John C. Templer, Esq.): Sarawak, April 4, 1846.

Is the murderer had to go unpunished? No. Destroy Bruné, depose the sultan, disperse the population, never allow the place to be rebuilt. Rescue the unhappy survivors of Mada Hassim’s unhappy family. […]

The signet ring (my own crest, and gift to him) that Budrudeen sent to me in his dying moments, is a pledge not to be false to him in death. It is a poor, a melancholy consolation, that he died so nobly; his last thought was upon me — his last request that I would tell the Queen of England how he perished. Surrounded by traitors, who still held back from his desperation, wounded to death and bleeding, he applied the match which blew himself, his sister and another wounded and faithful woman into eternity.

A nobler, a braver, a more upright prince could not exist. I have lost a friend — he is gone and I remain, I trust not in vain, to be an instrument to bring down punishment on the perpetrators of the atrocious deed. Farewell.
                                               Ever your affectionate friend,
                                                                                         J. Brooke.[30]

Following the murder of Budrudeen, Brooke's local supporters land in Brunei in support of the Royal Navy and united against the Sultan 1846

Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Keppel” (Captain the Hon. H. Keppel, R. N.): Sarawak, April 5, 1846.

My indignation and grief are too natural — the former feeling will, I hope, wear away; the latter never. Budrudeen, our friend, was a noble high-minded prince, both brave and intelligent, and the only person who could have renovated the falling condition of his country. He is now in his bloody grave. It is a melancholy consolation to know that he died so firmly ; after fighting so bravely. [His fight, helped by one of his women, his sister and a slave-boy, against his assailants is described at length]. He ordered the boy to escape, gave him my signet ring, which I had made him a present of, and told him to beg me, not to forget him, and to tell the Queen of England of his fate. He then called the woman to him, and when the boy had dropt through the flooring into the water, fired the powder, and all three were blown into the air.


Rajah James Brooke listening to suppliants

Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Keppel” (Captain the Hon. H. Keppel, R.N.): “Phlegethon”, May 6, 1846.

To me, personally, nothing can make up the loss of Budrudeen, and I know not whether the noble manner of his death be a grief or a consolation.[31]


Spenser St. John, Life of Sir James Brooke, 1879.

Also describing the end of Budrudeen, suddenly attacked by a band of the Sultan’s armed men:

His few followers were either killed or fled. He managed, however, to gain the inner apartments, where he found his sister, a favourite concubine, and Japar, a slave lad. The latter he commanded to reach down a barrel of powder, and spread the contents on a mat. He then called the women to sit near him, and turning to the lad said : “You will take this signet-ring to my friend, Mr Brooke, tell him what has occurred, let him inform the Queen of England that I was faithful to my engagements, and add,” he said, “that my last thoughts were of my true friend, Mr Brooke.” He then ordered the lad to save himself. Japar opened the lattice-like flooring, slipped down a post into the water, and swimming to a small canoe was enabled to paddle quietly away, while the murderers, suspicious, were cautiously making their entrance into the house. Japar had not proceeded many yards when a loud explosion told him that the gallant prince had set fire to the powder, rather than fall into the hands of his enemies. […]

Loondoo Dyak by Frank Marryat, 1843

Mr Brooke has often said before me that the destruction of this family was a misfortune to their country. Perhaps it was; but I who lived several years in the capital heard many things which accounted for the unpopularity of these princes. Malay court etiquette, when carried to extreme, is etiquette run mad. With all the apparent servility of the Malays, they are a democratic people, and during late years had become more so. One of the customs of Brunei was, that when a non-noble passed before a house inhabited by a royal personage, he was obliged to fold his umbrella and expose himself either to the hot rays of the sun or to the rain. The custom had fallen into desuetude, but these princes determined to revive it. The principal street of Brunei is the main river. Whenever a non-noble was seen passing before Muda Hassim's palace with his umbrella up, officers were ordered to pursue and bring his canoe to the landing-place, and he himself was to be brought before the Rajahs to be fined. This gave rise to much abuse. The insolent followers of the princes, secure from all punishment, beat and otherwise ill-treated the most respectable members of the commercial class, and thus alienated from the cause the most devoted partisans of Muda Hassim. I give this as but one instance; but similar efforts to revive an obsolete etiquette, and many acts of great oppression whilst raising revenue, practised by irresponsible agents, loosened the bonds of respect which once united the cause of the people with that of the family of Muda Hassim.[32]

[…] I can well imagine the effect which was produced on Mr Brooke by the news of the death of his friends. His excitable nature was roused almost to madness.[33]


Rajah Sir James Brooke on Budrudeen

The following quote is given by two reliable modern historians, Ronald Hyam and Nigel Barley. Neither gives his source, but Barley says Brooke said it “at the end of his life”[34]

My love for him was deeper than anyone I knew.

Kuching, Sir James's capital, in 1846

VI.  Midshipman Jenkins

The name of the boy mentioned in the following published letters was apparently removed by their editor, but his surname can be deduced from another source.[35]

Having become the Rajah of an independent Sarawak in 1842, the next year Brooke was engaged in suppressing piracy by the Iban of the Saribas and Skrang Rivers, in which he was assisted by the British HMS Dido.


Letters from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Jack” (John C. Templer, Esq.)

June 1843, written while the “Dido” was “anchored off the mouth of the Sarawak river”.

I mean to ask you, and all my other friends, Jack, to get one of my “Dido’s” midshipmen promoted to lieutenant when he has passed his examination. He is pretty certain of not waiting long, but a little interest - a very little interest at the Admiralty, will give him the step when he is qualified. My friend’s name is ----. He served in the Syrian campaign, and in the China war.[36] His gallantry has been honourably mentioned in the Gazette, and he has already gained two medals. I should be very willing to take much trouble, for I am interested in him and like him much, and we have been fighting together, and I have been three weeks cramped up in his second cutter, all of which adds to my interest.[37]

The forces of Brooke and HMS Dido's attacking an upriver pirate stronghold in 1843


Sarawak, July 20, 1843.

Do not forget about young ---, if it come in your way before the regular time.[38]


Off Borneo Proper, Sept. 3, 1843.

I wrote to you about young ---, and I want you to find out whether he will be made a lieutenant when he passes. Keppel[39] says he is certain of being made. If not, I must make some interest for him, for he is a great friend of mine and deserves promotion.[40]


VII.  Willie Brereton

William Wilson Brereton was born in 1830.[41]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My loved Mother” (Mrs. Thomas Brooke): Sarawak, July 19, 1843.

Engaged in surveying the coasts of the East Indies, HMS Samarang struck a rock in the Sarawak river on 17 July 1843, but her crew survived.

I must mention that a youngster, by name Brereton, a nephew of the Bishop of Calcutta’s, and a grandson of Joseph Wilson’s, (only thirteen years of age,) is in the ‘Samarang’. He is a delicate and gentlemanly boy, and his age is tender; and when I think of our Charles[42] I cannot help my heart expanding towards him. If you will recall my folly and jokes you will understand why I am inclined to be very kind; and really, already I like him for his own sake. Poor fellow! so young, and not belonging to the ship, and very delicate; in the upset of the ‘Samarang’ he has lost his whole wardrobe. To-morrow I mean to make him write to his mamma. Could I do less? knowing how you would feel (even old gentleman as I am) were you to hear that my vessel was sunken on the most innocent rock.[43]

Immersion of H.M.S. Samarang in the Sarawak on 16 July 1843

Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Jack” (John C. Templer, Esq.): Sarawak, July 20, 1843.

The following passage follows straight on from the one from the same letter quoted above with respect to midshipman Jenkins.

In the “Samarang” I found a distant connection, named Brereton, only thirteen years of age, a nice intelligent boy; he has lost everything he had in the ship except, a few pair of trousers.[44]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Jack” (John C. Templer, Esq.): Sarawak, August, 1843.

An English midshipman, 1824

Writing about boys, I have got a sick one with me, of the name of Brereton, a distant relative of mine - he being a great nephew of the Bishop of Calcutta; a fine little fellow belonging to the “Wanderer”, but, at present, a supernumerary aboard the “Samarang.” I have got quite fond of him since he has been here; and somehow there is something in the position of a young volunteer of thirteen years of age, which rouses one’s kind feelings; so young, yet forced into manhood, to share privations and fatigues, when yet a boy. Since my nephew, Charles, has embarked in the same line, I feel doubly inclined to be friendly with all the mids; but Charles is a healthy and hardy boy, whereas Brereton is weakly, and of a quiet and reflective turn. I was delighted with a letter I have just received from the youngster, an entire sheet full of scrawl.[45]


Rajah James Brooke on Willie Brereton, 1854

When Brereton was only 19, Rajah Brooke entrusted him to rule in isolation some newly acquired territory, and Willie showed that trust was well-placed by bringing about peace between the warring tribes of the area.[46] He died there on 22 September 1854 of dysentery, aged only 24.[47]

According to his biographer Gertrude Jacob, Brooke wrote the following on hearing of his death:

He was an affectionate and particularly lovable person, able, clever, enthusiastic, and with particular tact in handling the natives. Poor dear fellow, he loved me very sincerely, and I was attached to him from his youth upwards.[48]


VIII.  The other midshipmen of the Samarang


Frank S. Marryat, Borneo and the Indian Archipelago, 1848

Marryat, a 17-year-old midshipman of HMS Samarang, like Willie Brereton (section 7), is here describing how Brooke, who lavished hospitality on the ship’s officers while the Samarang was being repaired in July to August 1843, joined in games with the midshipmen following a feast in a Dyak village.

We certainly had in our party one or two who were as well fitted to grace the senate as to play at leap-frog, but I have always observed that the cleverest men are the most like children when an opportunity is offered for relaxation. I don't know what the natives thought of the European Rajah Brooke playing at leap-frog, but it is certain that the rajah did not care what they thought. I have said little of Mr. Brooke, but I will now say that a more mild, amiable, and celebrated person I never knew. Every one loved him, and he deserved it.[49]

Dyak Village by Frank Marryat, 1843
Mr. Brooke's House by Frank Marryat, 1843


IX.  Charles “Hoddy Doddy” Grant

Charles Thomas Constantine Grant was born on 2 July 1831. [50]  He was a grandson of the 7th Earl of Elgin and much the most aristocratic British boy associated with Rajah Brooke. They met in November 1845, when "Charlie" was fourteen, as on 21 October he had written to his father from HMS Agincourt, on which he was then serving, to say that the company was waiting on the Rajah’s arrival to transport him to Sarawak. [51] Those of Brooke’s biographers who address the question of whom he ever loved most agree on Charlie.[52]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to Charles Grant Esqr.: Sarawak, 1st October 1846

My dear Grant,
     […] The frequent use of your pen and your brains will be of service to you, and afford me pleasure, so the sooner you set to, like a good fellow, the better for you. You must tell me all that happens and all you think about it […]

Wanting him to
get sent to some ship in the straits so that I shall have the pleasure of seeing you sometimes. Let me know too if I can help you or pleasure you in this or anything else for you know a Rajah has many ways of being useful to a middy.

After mentioning that he was sending him Keppel’s book (that included his own journal)[53], …
I may say to you once again that if I possibly can I shall meet Agincourt at Singapore, [… ] Then Charlie, if we have any luck we shall meet again and we will have a scamper on poney back and a dinner at the Hotel.”[54]

H.M.S. Agincourt, where 14-year-old Charlie became friends with the Rajah, by William Frederick Mitchell


Letter from Charles Grant to his “Beloved Mother”, Lady Lucy Grant: H.M.S. “Agincourt”, Pinang, Jany. 11th 1847

I do not think I ever told you about my friend Mr. Brooke of Sarāwak, Borneo. You know he was living on board here both times we were on the coast of Borneo & has come from Singapore with us, he is Agent for the British Govt. in Borneo, also he is a Rajah at Sarāwak & has property there in wh. is a great deal of antimony ore, wh. he sends to Singapore. Of course he had all the doing of our affairs in Borneo wh. I suppose you have seen in the Papers long before now; I have said all this because he has been so kind to me ever since I have known him; he once made me a present of a very handsome crease & another time he gave me a pair of very handsome 6 barreled pistols beautifully mounted with Silver.”[55]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to Charles Grant Esqr.: Monday Jany. 25th 1847

My dear Charlie
     I have ordered a watch for you which I hope you will like, but if it does not suit you better change it or do what you like with it.[56]


The Rajah’s Journal to the Hoddy Doddy[57], March 1847

This journal-letter was written by Brooke for Charles Grant between 12 and 26 March 1847, while he was waiting for the latter to join him in Singapore.


When lounging in your easy chairs - I won’t mention Where - you looked serious and I asked “What are you thinking of?” You replied “nothing.” Truly had you been sound asleep you should have said “No think” (a Pun) for a waking man must be thinking of something. […]

I wish you Doddy to spend some money of your own, when you arrive in England - it will be doing me a favour, for though I know well you will have all you require, I wish you to have something more on your own account. I wish you to go to Vanity Fair - I wish you to buy fine clothes, fine studs, fine rings or any other fine things you may have a fancy for, and then ask your heart how much pleasure they bestow. […]

“Written to my Midshipmen Friends in HMS Agincourt”
(A fantasy description of the midshipmen of HMS Agincourt attacking a plum pudding):

My eyes, a rare delicious sight is here
A sight of wonder but no sight of fear.
Solid, consistent, majestically tough
Behold a living map of unsliced Dough.
The knitted walls a precipice present
With plums and cannon bristling at each vent.
Bombproof and arched, the heavy summit
Like Etna sprinkled with eternal snows
Like Etna towering and like Etna hot
Just like emerged from out the devil’s pot
Conscious of strength, the smokey fabric stands
and frowns defiance to all mortal hands […]
So stands Dough Citadel, a virgin post
Uncaptured though begirt with many a host,
Like other virgin places that I wot,
Uncaptured yet because assailed not.
Smoking it stands and seems to dare the worst.
The storm is rife – not care I when it burst […]
Bold Burton first the gaping breach essays
And chokes his luff a hundred different ways
Next Timcae emulous of his leader’s fame
Slice after slice attacks with murderous game
There’s Burnaby, the brave with action light
Lest out a reef and then renews the Fight
There’s signal Russel, nimble, fierce and keen,
When others pause jumps lightly in between;
And youthful Doddy firmly stands his ground.
Unflinching still, he’s swallowed full a pound […]

I write because I am dull, and not sleepy. What better reason would you have - and because I am inclined. […]

Shall I tell you how sorry I shall be to lose you. No – for you know that without being told – Shall I see you in England? I hope so – Will you write to me – Yes, I believe you will – you must not ---[?] ever from thoughtlessness neglect your friends for if they do not resent neglect they will feel it just in proportions as they feel kindly towards you. […]

Now Doddy my friend I will close this Journal as I shall see you every day till you sail. Farewell - may fortune be with you - success and happiness and if you be successful and happy I will forgive you if you forget me, but if any evil come to you, if you be unfortunate or unhappy remember that you have a friend and do not then neglect him.
     ever yours
          The Rajah.[59]

Gun Room - Midshipmen's Mess, Breakfast, HMS 'Caesar' - Baltic Fleet (Illustrated London News 8 March 1856)


Letter from Charles Grant to John Grant of Kilgraston, Esqr.,:H.M.S. Agincourt, Pinang, March 9th, 1847

My dear Father,
     I hope you will make no arrangements about another ship for me, as my friend – Mr. Brooke – has written to a great friend of his, to take me in his ship, and it is very likely he will get one soon, and that is the Hon. Cap. Keppell -[60]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Charlie” Grant Esqr.: Prearson, 8th Septr. 1847, Red Sea, Lat. about 23˚, Long – unknown

Written just before the Rajah’s visit to England 1847-8, and while Charlie was at Kilgraston, his home in Scotland. Following apologies and an explanation for his not having been back in time “to meet Agincourt when she was paid off”:

Do if you can come and see me otherwise I must come and see you, and it will not be difficult as I have several visits to pay in Scotland -en passant. […] Come and see me, just as though you were walking into my cabin aboard the Old ship. Do not turn fine gentleman or let the fooling and starch of the home world come between you and your very
     sincere friend
          J Brooke[61]


Jas. Brooke by Charlie's uncle, Sir Fra. Grant, 1847

Letter from Rajah James Brooke to Charles Grant Esqr.: Mivarts [Hotel[, Wednesday 13 Octr. 1847

My dear Charlie,
     Why have you not written to me for the last few days? I miss your dispatches and much have them. Do you hear! […] I can’t say when I can come to Scotland but it shall be sometime. […]

If you want more leave write to me and I dare say I could get it, at any rate come to London and I will have quarters for you here, as I have a spare bedroom to offer your Honour.[62]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Doddy” Charles Grant Esqr.: Mivarts Hotel, 28 October 1847

Setting out a tight itinerary of visits, including Charlie’s home of Kilgraston, before their return to the Far East (and written while generally busy receiving the honours due to a national hero just returned home, such as being received by the Queen at Windsor Castle).[63]

This plan will bear squeezing if you wish it or can improve it.[64]


Rajah James Brooke to John Grant of Kilgraston Esqr.: Mivarts, Friday [November 1847]

My dear Sir,
     I was not surprised but gratified by your kind note and I will make a point when I can get leave of absence to pay Lady Lucy Grant and yourself a visit at Kilgraston. I should like much to see young Charlie in his native country. I likewise saw your note to Mr. Wise and I really believe that it will be better for your boy to go with Keppel in the Meander than to take the chance of the Mediterranean. It is almost certain that I shall be his shipmate outward bound […] – so that Charlie will always have the Governor [of Labuan, ie. Brooke himself] to take care of him. With my compliments to Lady Lucy Believe me my dear Sir

P.S. I gave Charlie a bracelet to present to Lady Lucy and I hope Lady Lucy will wear it sometimes and will value it no less from being the pure gold of Sarawak.[65]


Mivart's, the top London hotel where the Rajah and Charlie shared a suite (and perhaps a bed) in 1847

Letter from Charles Grant to “My Beloved Mother” Lady Lucy Grant: Mivarts Hotel, London, Novr. 21st 1847

Before the week is over, he [Mr. Brooke] has to go to Bath, on certain business and to Oxford to be made a Dr. of Civil Laws, both of which places he has me to accompany him to;[66] the latter will be well worth seeing at all events; […]

The Rajah is bored to death with visitors and letters of application, besides his own business;  he has to dine out nearly every night but sometimes I have the honour to help him in his secretary part of the business.[67]


Letter from Charles Grant to “My dearest Mother” Lady Lucy Grant: Bloxholm Hall, 11th Decr. 1847

I am very much afraid Mr. Brooke cannot form one of the Christmas party at Kilgraston, he is overpowered with dinners, letters, engagements, & c. & c. & c. and a thousand other things.[68]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to “My dear Charlie” Grant Esqr.: Mivarts, 21st Decr. 1847

The Rajah having told Charlie in a letter of 21 October that he had secured him a berth on HMS Maeander under the command of “your uncle, Captain Keppel” (as he had promised much earlier to try), he now told Charlie his own arrangements for returning to the Far East:

I shall go in Maender just to take care of you as I know you cannot take care of yourself and I feel sure that your journey to Scotland had been marked by the debris of your property - Pray where did you leave my red tie? […]

I regret not being able to come [to Charles’s home, Kilgraston] because I should like to have stored up Kilgraston for a topic of conversation on a moonlit night in the East.[69]


Charlie, aged 15, in Undress Naval Uniform, 17 June 1847, attributed to his uncle Sir Francis Grant and probably intended to pair with the latter's painting of Sir James (above)

Letter from Rajah James Brooke to Charles’s father, John Grant of Kilgraston, Esqr.: Cheltenham, 10th Jany. 1848.

My dear Mr. Grant,
     I can truly join in the regret you express to our not being able to meet, and I must look forward to my next return to England before I can have the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Lady Lucy and yourself. I will do my best to make Charlie a good fellow and a clever one and there is little doubt of his being both for his disposition is excellent his temper very sweet and his ---[?] good though not showy - I am very fond of him and have become so accustomed to his society and profit so much from his cheerfulness, that I miss him whenever he is away.[70]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to Charles’s father, John Grant of Kilgraston, Esqr.: H.M.S. Maeander, Plymouth Sd., 6 Feby. [1848]

Written five days after he and Charles had sailed from Portsmouth on the Maeander.

Lady Lucy and yourself will be glad to hear that Charlie is appointed by the Captain my aide de camp half in fun at first but I propose making it into a serious bona fide appointment which will (without removing Charles from his duty aboard) enable him to accompany me on all diplomatic missions.[71]


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to John C. Templer Esq.: Cove of Cork, 11 February 1848

Written while HMS Maeander had taken refuge in Cork from a gale:

Charlie[72] and Doddy and young Karslake are with me ashore for the day, and we are going out riding. […] C. sends his love. D. and K. would, but are out buying sardines and cherry brandy.[73]


Spenser St. John, Life of Sir James Brooke, 1879

St. John himself was a witness to what he describes here on board HMS Maeander February-August 1848, evidently composed from journals he had written at the time. He was the “grave Secretary” he refers to, having just been taken as such by the Rajah, whom he was accompanying on the voyage back from England to Sarawak.

I now began to have opportunities to study Mr Brooke's character, and I notice frequent references in my journal to the growing enthusiasm which our intercourse created, though I was not blind to the inconvenience of the presence of so good-natured a man on board of a ship of war. Mr Brooke, as I have said, had a large cabin, and this was the rendezvous of as unruly a set of young officers as it has been my fortune to meet. He had a nephew on board, Charles Johnson, a staid sub-lieutenant, who endeavored to preserve order, but it was of little avail. The noisy ones were in the ascendant, led by a laughing, bright-faced lad, who, when he was a midshipman on the Agincourt in 1845–47, had become acquainted with Mr. Brooke, and whose fondness for cherry-brandy was only equalled by his love of fun. No place in the cabin was respected: six or seven would throw themselves on the bed, careless of whether Mr. Brooke was there or not, and skylark over his body as if he were one of themselves. In fact, he was as full of play as any of them.

Spenser St. John, much later

The grave Secretary seated at the writing-table could but look on with astonishment at the liberties taken with his chief, for whom he felt then almost veneration, so highly did he esteem the work he had been performing in the East. But these young imps thought of nothing but fun: they ate his biscuits, drank his cherry-brandy, laughed, sang, and skylarked, till work was generally useless, and nothing was done.

One can readily imagine how all this was injurious to discipline. There were some twenty in the midshipmen’s berth, and nearly all considered themselves at liberty to use Mr Brooke's cabin as a sort of club. The consequences were soon felt: the senior officers thought themselves slighted in favour of their juniors, whose natural impatience of control was heightened by the injudicious encouragement they received; and I, who lived in the gun-room, soon began to fear that this coolness augured ill for our future proceedings in Borneo.

[…] Occasionally he [Brooke] wrote, but much work was impossible, unless the bolt was drawn, and intruders thus shut out. […]

Mr Brooke […] would often get up and keep the middle watch with a friend, walking the deck from 12 P.M. to 4 A.M., or at least a good portion of it. […] I seldom troubled the deck myself during the middle watch. […]

As the voyage drew to a close, Mr Brooke began to draw up minutes for the guidance of the different officers; and as I did most of the copying, the bolt of the cabin-door was more frequently drawn than before, much to the disgust of our mids, who must have looked on me as a dreadful bore, not being able to work amid their noises.

After three months in Singapore, making preparations, their voyage resumed:

Every arrangement being completed, the Meander sailed for Sarawak on the 28th of August, leaving the Lieutenant-Governor to follow after the arrival of the mail. We were a small party, consisting of Sir James Brooke, Mr Grant, and myself. Mr Grant had been a midshipman on board the Meander, but had left the service to become Sir James's private secretary. He was the one with the laughing eyes, who was the leader of the noisy fun in Mr Brooke's cabin. [74]

However, in the meantime, there had during the voyage been correspondence not mentioned by St. John resulting in momentous developments in the basis of the Rajah’s relationship with his protégé:

H.M.S. Maeander casting from Spithead by O.W. Brierly


Letter from Rajah James Brooke to Charles’s father, John Grant of Kilgraston, Esqr.: H.M.S. Maeander at sea, 29th Feby. 1848

My dear Sir
     Had I been able to visit Kilgraston I should have spoken to you freely on the subject of this letter, or could I have managed to arrange the details in my mind, I should have communicated them to you before leaving England. Amid the bustle and distraction of my brief stay, however, I found this impossible, so I must now trouble you with a long letter, and claim the privilege of a friend to write with perfect openness and sincerity.
     The subject will naturally interest you deeply, and I feel sure that without apology my motives will excuse me for venturing to bring it before you.
     I need scarcely tell you the little boy to whom I showed some attention aboard the Agincourt - merely I believe because he was a little boy - has so won upon my affection and good opinion that I consider him quite as one of my own nephews, and I am sincerely desirous to advance his interests and to open to him a road to fortune and to independence. In order however to do this it will be necessary for him to quit his present profession and there are reasons which render this step not unadvisable, always supposing that something better can be done.
     The chief and general objection against the naval service is its utter barrenness in a pecuniary point of view and the chance of distinction is poorly compensated by the certainty of a half pay of 14s 6d a day after thirty years and upwards of toil and exposure! Moreover independently of this general and serious objection there is something in Charlie's mind which is not particularly suited to the profession, and probably were he in the habit of judging his own feelings, he would allow, that he has as small a predilection for the service, as is consistent with a high sense of duty.
     He is bold, active, and high spirited, with a sincere desire of doing right but at the same time he is reflective, takes little interest in detail - the profession being one of detail - and is sensitive to a very high degree. Indeed this peculiar acuteness of feeling causes diffidence in his own abilities, and subjects him to more pain then he chooses to own, or I am pleased to see.
     It is this quality of Charlie's mind which will prevent him from being what is commonly called a "smart young officer" and he must comfort himself with the reflection that had he professed the qualifications which generally form one, he would not have been my friend and companion and I am so attached to him that I should be very sorry to see these fine qualities blunted or destroyed by the rough and indiscriminating discipline which must be maintained in a rough and hard service. In short I consider Charlie's mind to be of a finer and rarer a finer and rarer texture , than is needed in the routine of the service, and if I may judge, there is that in it which under gentle and proper guidance will develop into very fine, and certainly into very elegant abilities.
     These are my dear Sir but negative reasons for quitting his profession, and I will now endeavour to explain the positive advantage which I behave will accrue to Charlie if he change a sea for a shore career. The Indian Archipelago is attracting general and increasing attention, and must in every human probability increase in importance and wealth. The expiration of the Company's Charter (in 1854) will almost certainly add the three Straits Settlements to the other settlements of the Crown and the connection between the Archipelago and our vast interests in China will greatly tend in advancing our settlements. Japan is a country which the restless spirit of the times will not long allow to remain sealed and the same spirit - the necessity which exists for the extension of our trade - must ere long throw open Siam and Cochin China to British Commerce and British enterprize.
     You will not I am sure accuse me of vanity if I say, that from the position I hold, I shall be a leading actor in these political advances in the East, and that I shall have both the will and the power to push Charlie's fortune if you allow him to cast his lot with mine.
     You will not accuse me of vanity if I say that independently of my public position as an officer of the Government, the position I hold in Sarawak is one which any gentleman in Europe might be proud of. The independent sovereignty of a considerable province rich both in soil and mineral productions and with resources in the course of development which must render the revenue large, and which may render it princely, afford me the power to advance my friends.
     This is the large and general view of the subject and there is beyond a doubt a field open for ability, and knowledge, and it is in this field and under my auspices that I wish you to allow Charlie to embark and I cannot entertain a doubt of his success though the exact point where it may stop, it is impossible to conjecture.

     I must however before I conclude make you acquainted with the details as I should wish them to be, and the means which would make Charlie best fitted for his future career. In the first place I propose appointing Charlie my private secretary, on a salary of two hundred a year, and the surplus salary which he would be entitled to were he older, I will lay out in making for him a cocoanut plantation at Sarawak, the particulars of which I enclose for your information. In seven or eight years this plantation will be bearing - it will give Charlie a local interest and stake, and he may increase it at his pleasure. Charlie will of course live with me at Labuan and travel, whenever my duty calls me from place to place. and travel, whenever my duty calls me from place to place. He will readily acquire the native language and in about three years he will be able to write as well as speak with fluency and correctness - he will be acquainted with the condition of the native states, the character of the people and the policy both of the English and Dutch Governments in the Archipelago. The greater part of this he will learn from daily practice as his very duties alone will acquaint him intimately with my views and modes of action and I shall persuade him to read as much of History and literature as he can without being bored. This will occupy about three years and at the end of that time a year spent in European travel and in gaining a moderate knowledge of French will fit Charlie for the appointments which shall await him either at Sarawak or the public service - this acquirement for office will be fully appreciated and his birth and connections will render his success certain. As I have proposed to write to you with candour there is one other point I shall mention. In justice to Charlie, and as a satisfaction to myself, I would not on any account run the remotest risk that he should suffer in any way by my present proposition, and in order to obviate this chance, I propose (should you approve of this change of profession) transferring to him the sum of 5,000 pound (reserving the interest for my life time) which sum I have already left him by will. I prefer doing this to guard against every contingency, and that I might have the satisfaction of feeling, in case of any thing happening to myself, that Charlie would, through my means, be as well off as a post Captain on half pay, with my successors influence in Sarawak to advance him. I will as my revenues increase add to this fund which Charlie may depend upon in case my views are erroneous and I will conclude my dear Sir in the same way as I began by assuring you that I look upon him like a young relative of my own and that I will push him forward with a will, which my enemies are pleased to say is somewhat too determined.
     I have now stated to you with perfect openness my views on this subject, and I believe it would be an inducement to Lady Lucy if I were to say that in the progress of Life her son will be happier ashore than aboard ship and that he will be only distant in time two months from Kilgraston. I hope you will approve of my proposition and I shall feel an obligation if you do but I will answer for Charlie that he will cheerfully follow the course you [point] [out] and whichever way it may be you [...missing...] rest assured that I will [...missing...] him.
     [...missing...] to write something himself but I may add that should you view the subject as I wish and as I see it myself, that the sooner it is concluded the better and the sooner Charlie is withdrawn from the service, the less risk there will be for him. Where it not for the subject matter I should blush to look at my own letter, but I must not add to its length except to offer my best wishes for Lady Lucy's and your health and to remain my dear Sir [...signature removed...][75]

Kilgraston in Perthshire, the Grant family's home, engraved from a drawing by J.P. Neale


Letter from Charles Grant to his father, John Grant of Kilgraston, Esqr.: 13 March 1848

Recounting that when the Rajah first outlined his proposal to have him live with him in Sarawak:
it quite stunned me, and I hardly knew what to say or answer, [… but I] began to listen to his arguments.

Explaining that he was badly bullied and unhappy in the Navy, and that when
the Rajah met me for the first time, he took a fancy to me, I can’t tell why, but I think partly because I was a little fellow, for I was about the smallest in the ship. We went together to Borneo, we were together for some months, he asked me to go to [blank] which I wished for very much but we were both refused for several had to come before me. We met again about a year afterwards, I saw a great deal of him, he was on board for nearly six months, we went to Brunei together and several other places. We again met at Penang, about six months after this, and it was there I saw so much of him. We were much together and often corresponded. The long and short of this is that I knew the Rajah, and I loved him. If I got into difficulties or had any rows, or anything of that sort, I went to him for advice and you know the advice he gave me in his journal. We were, as you know, for a long time together during his stay in England, and we both learned a great deal of the other, and he got me appointed to this ship. […] I have great reason to be fond of the Rajah - I am proud of having such a friend, and I am sure he is as fond of me as I am of him, for he would not have done for me what he has, nor would he have done it without intending to do what he can.

After saying he little regarded his prospects in the Navy.
I wish to be with the Rajah because he is my friend and nothing would be better for me.[76]


Letter from John Grant of Kilgraston, Esq. to his son Mr. C.T.C. Grant: Kilgraston, May 26th 1848

My dear Charlie,
     Of course I consent. I desire to be most grateful to God for having given you such a Friend as Sir[77] Jas. Brooke – his generosity to you seems more like what one reads in a Romance, than an occurrence in real life – […] in this case you have a clear Providential calling to another course of life, & one in which you may reap more honor and glory than the other.[78]


Letter from Rajah Sir James Brooke to Charles’s father, John Grant of Kilgraston, Esqr.: Singapore, 31 May 1848

Evidently written before Charlie received the preceding latter from his father.

Dear Mr. Grant,
     I thank you very much for your kind letter, which I found awaiting my arrival and from what I have written from Rio you will judge of my warm friendship for Charlie. Charlie and I have rarely and briefly spoken on the subject of my letter but his wish for the change as well as mine remains unaltered and after much reflections I cannot but believe that it will be for Charlie advantage and happiness – and certainly a comfort to me. You must remember (and you will forgive my mentioning it) that I am unshackled by any single family tie and you may rest assured that the nephews who possess my affection will not suffer in the remotest degree by the proposed place – If I live a few years I am almost sure of pushing Charlie up the ladder – if I die I will leave him in a better position than he would attain in the Navy after thirty years service […]
     All that I would ask of you is to decide soon and to decide as we wish.

After resuming the point that Charlie was not truly happy in the Navy:
The A.D.C.ship was intended [by the ship’s command] to be a name and not a reality, so I dropped the designation and told Keppel that I never accepted a shadow for substance.[79]

 Wiber Robert Wilson Panoramic View of Singapore from the Harbour 1849
Panoramic View of Singapore from the Harbour by Robert Wilson Wiber, 1849

Letter from Charles Grant to his father, John Grant of Kilgraston, Esqr.: Singapore 31 May 1848

Evidently also sent before receiving his father’s letter giving his consent, quoted earlier.

I still think the same about it.[80]


Letter of Charles Grant to his sister Mary Grant: Singapore, 20 June 1848

Presumably sent after receiving his father's letter of consent, quoted earlier.

Here I am happy as a Prince.[81]


Sarawak flag 1848 ca.1870
The national flag of Sarawak between 1848 and ca. 1870

Letter of Charles Grant to his little sister Annie Grant: Singapore, 27 June 1848

Written while staying at Government House, and after explaining that they rose at five o’clock to ride Brooke’s Arabian horses:

I ride Baby who I think the best horse of the two.[82]


Letter from Rajah Sir James Brooke to John Jolly: Navy House, Singapore, 31st July 1848

John Keith Jolly was a coffee planter in Ceylon, who had been a friend of Sir James since 1830.

I have not been ill but for the last fortnight have been indisposed, indisposed to the world and all therein is. […] Singapore is a dull place because I know nobody that does suit me except one or two far removed from me by years.[83]


Letter from John Grant of Kilgraston Esqr. to his son C.T.C. Grant Esqre.: Kilgraston, Augt. 15 1848

A gentleman, very probably John Grant, by his brother Sir Francis Grant

My dear Charlie,
     I hope, long before this your mind has been at rest by having obtained my consent to your leaving the Navy, & becoming Sir J. Brooke’s Private Secretary – I wrote you a long letter approving of the change, & I also wrote Sir J. Brooke to tell him how much your Mother and I felt his kindness for you & his his [sic] generosity in providing for you as handsomely as he has done – I am glad also at his mentioning to me in a subsequent letter, lately received at the same time with one from you, that it will be no disappointment to any of his own relations that he has settled £5000 on you – It was this act of generosity that confirmed my determination to consent to your leaving your Profession, as notwithstanding the opening that was offered to you, I felt all depended on his life in the near time, & that if anything were to happen to him, it would be a subject of deep regret that you had left the Navy & been thrown adrift in the world – There is something peculiarly noble in this circumstance having occurred to himself. I cannot sufficiently express my admiration of the whole transaction – There is a combination of delicacy, wisdom, & generosity in it rarely to be met with – I only trust you will prove worthy of the affection of such a man, & that you may be able to adopt the qualities of his mind as your own.[84]


Letter from Charles Grant to his father, John Grant of Kilgraston, Esqr., 11 September 1848

Recounting how the Rajah had given him for his own, Baby
the celebrated Arad steed.[85]


Letter from Rajah Sir James Brooke to “My dear Jack” (John C. Templer, Esqr.): Sarawak, September 16, 1848

Brooke Johnson Brooke found me the day before yesterday, and we shall, I think, be a happy party. Grant has left the navy, and become my private secretary.[86]


Letter from Charles Grant to his 4th sister Lucy Grant: H.M.S. Meander at Sea, September 25th 1848

My darling Lucy,
     I received a very charming letter from you the other day when I was at Sarāwak, but I was too happy and interested to write more than one letter home.


The Private Journal of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B.

Describing his sending Charlie away from him to investigate complaints from the people of the Skrang River:
[1850, November] 17th. – Cruikshank, Charlie Grant, and Lee, started for Sakarran at two o’clock. It is the first time Charlie has gone from me, since he joined three years ago; but it is right to made him independent, to burden him with responsibility, to let him judge for himself. The higher and nobler exercise of duty is not to be acquired in a dependent post. […]

Having left Sarawak on 18 January 1851 for a second visit to England with Charlie:
[1851, February] 9th, Penang. - […] Away – Away - Charley Grant with me, in a comfortable cabin;[87]

Lundu Dyaks (the people the Rajah sent Charlie off to govern in 1853) by E. Walker


On their return from England in 1853, the Rajah posted Grant, by then aged 21, to govern the Lundu district of Sarawak, and though they remained always emotionally deeply attached to one another, they never lived together again, and grew steadily apart. The main steps in this direction were Grant’s marriage in 1856 and Sir James’s repudiation in 1863 as heir to Sarawak of his nephew Brooke Brooke, who had married Grant’s sister. This led Grant to break off relations with the Rajah, though he expressed anguish in doing so and attended his funeral five years later.[88]


X.  Unspecified

From 1857, Sir James was mostly in England, and in 1859 he bought a cottage at Burrator in the parish of Sheepstor in the wild countryside of Devon, where he lived in retirement, apart from a visits to Sarawak that year and in 1863. By this time, he was prematurely aged and embittered.[89] Henceforth, his only known friendships with boys were with locals.


Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, ca. 1855

Letters of Brooke Brooke, Rajah Muda of Sarawak to Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak

The following three letters from John Brooke Johnson Brooke, formerly Johnson (1823-68), who was then ruling Sarawak on his uncle James’s behalf as his designated heir, all concern the recruitment in Great Britain of people to serve in Sarawak. They imply that Sir James had already been sending him boys he considered too young. The date is too early for William Blackler or John May (the next boys to be presented here) to have been meant, so there must have been others, perhaps many others. These might include the Prout, Penty or Read mentioned in Spenser St. John’s letter of 1874, quoted below, and presumable include Richard Lawford.[90]


Sarawak, 1 November 1861.

Asking Sir James to recruit two young men, but stressed that he wanted:
grown men of some experience, who know what they are about and are in earnest. [… I am] most strongly against having any more boys. They are no use for three or four years & I don’t think the sort of education they get out here good for them.[91]


John Brooke Johnson Brooke
Brooke Brooke, Rajah Muda

Sarawak, 7 December 1861.

I shall be very short-handed - pray if you send out new hands let them not be boys but men who I may set to work at once.[92]


February [?] 1862.

Explaining his pressing need for a bookkeeper in the Sarawak Service and the qualities he wanted Sir James to look for, and asking that whoever was recruited be:
above all not too young or above his work.[93]


Spenser St. John, Life of Sir James Brooke, 1879.

Following a description of Sir James’s own irregular education and his having as a boy been “indulged and petted by all around him, as he had a lovable disposition”:

He would often endeavour to defend this system of education, and argue that boys should not be thwarted; and certainly he carried his system into practice with all the lads that came under his control, and certainly also with very markedly bad results. Occasionally a bright lad, like James Brooke, will rise superior to a neglected education, but in the mass the want of culture must tell. [p.2][94]


The Rajah thoroughly enjoyed this year [1862]. He passed it in alternate visits to his relations and friends, including a trip to Paris, and varied it by long stays in Burrator, where he was endeavouring to bring up two young cubs for the Sarāwak service. But, as usual, these cubs remained cubs to the end, and were a source of trouble and mortification until they disappeared from the scene. Strange infatuation to believe that he could do anything with such materials, when gentlemen cadets were to be had by the score. [p.350][95]

Map of North Borneo, 1881, showing the extent of Sarawak at Sir James's death


XI.  William Blackler

The best known of Sir James’s Devonshire boy “ruffians” is William Blackler, who was sixteen by January 1863[96] and therefore twelve or thirteen when Sir James got to know him in mid 1859.


Letter of Rajah Sir James Brooke to “My dear Mrs. [Hannah] Brown”: Burrator, 21st Jany, 1862

Rajah Brooke, 1858 by Thomas Wilner, (National Portrait Gallery, London)

I have beside all this rural life another little history to tell you. I mentioned having a protégée in Totnes. It came about as follows – When staying there two and a half years since I used to take my invalid saunter in the meadows skirting the “Dart.” A party of boys were bathing afar off, as it appeared in forbidden water, when three fishermen in their seven-league boots, rushed upon them. They fled (very scantily clothed) excepting one, who having swum further than the others lost his clothes, and was himself taken prisoner and led off to the fishing house. It was not in my nature to see this, so I went to the rescue and got the poor boy off. Thus was our acquaintance commenced.[97] Afterwards he always seemed pleased to see me and I was pleased with the attention, so we gradually became friends and I heard his little history. His father, a stone-mason in the town—His grandfather (with whom he lived) and four uncles shipwrights, well-to-do in the government Dockyards. He was to be a shipwright too and spoke with pride of his lot. I saw the father, who was a really respectable man of the lower order—manly, intelligent, upright, struggling cheerfully to bring up a young family. So it ended. I gave the boy a tip and went my way and not til the other day did I think of inquiring about my young acquaintance. He had not been on the sunny wall of fortune—children had increased and wages were low—his grandfather then was out of work and so the lad had returned to his father. His uncles had families and could not get him into the Dock Yard as apprentice, though he had passed fifth, with seven vacancies, and thirty odd candidates. Luck had been against them but fortunately he had had a good education and was eager for more —so I thought I could be in the way of helping him, and have determined to send him to school for a year or two, and when he has thoroughly mastered book-keeping, to send him to Sarawak as a clerk in our revenue department. I am now inquiring for a fitting school. I hope even to do something for the father, who is a man one likes to meet—independent but respectful— knowing his place, and acknowledging the pains and penalties of a life of labour, without shrinking or discontent.[98]


Burrator House, Devon, Sir James's final home, just after his additions to it

Letter of Rajah Sir James Brooke to Mrs. Hannah Brown, 24 January 1862

The father of the lad is a mason by trade and I should like to give him aid (not charity) to become a Master. Do you know any schools where I could put William Blackler - the son?  To give him a substantial education and thorough knowledge of accounts and book keeping is my object.[99]


Letter of Rajah Sir James Brooke to Mrs. Hannah Brown, 25 January 1862

If you would lend Richard Blackler[100] £25 – without interest - it would be a great kindness to a good man and if the Missus[101] is rich i.e. has more money than her other good works demand - she will perhaps make the sum up to £50 - a handsome capital to start with and which I think would be repaid in a few years. [102]


Letter of Rajah Sir James Brooke to “My dear Lady” (Mrs. Hannah Brown): Burrator, 28th Jany, 1862

I have got a school for the lad at Tavistock[103] where I can judge his progress, and which does not remove him from his proper sphere, excepting in a proper degree.[104]


Arthur Crookshank to “My dear Charlie” Brooke, Rajah Muda of Sarawak: Torquay, Feby. 9th 1868

Sir James Brooke (Rajah of Sarawak), 1860

Charles Brooke, Sir James’s nephew and successor, was then in Sarawak, ruling on his uncle’s behalf, and had dismissed Blackler as a clerk there six months earlier.[105]  Here Crookshank describes events when he was visiting Sir James at Burrator.

Blackler arrived here two or three days ago and wanted to see the Raja, who declined, I was out when he called on me, but he saw Stuart. he yesterday wrote a most impudent and threatening note to the Raja saying he was bound to provide for him and must do so or if it came to the worst he (Blackler) had letters which were sufficient to make him do so when necessity required him to shew them. We have advised the Raja not to take any notice of him, but if he writes again to answer him through a Lawyer. He’s a bad lot!! [106]


Letter from Spenser St. John to Charles Grant, 21 April 1874

The Rajah all his life was on the lookout for an ideal which he never found either in man or woman and his singular infatuation that virtue and honesty and simple-mindedness were more the attributes of the lowborn than of others[107] receives many singular illustrations in the relations he held with such ruffians as Prout, Blackler and May or such incapables as Penty [his steward], Read [his Singapore solicitor] etc., etc. I shall not easily forget the visit Miss Coutts and Mrs. Brown paid us at Burrator, when Blackler pushed the Rajah off the sofa on which he was reclining, in order to have the couch himself. I often expressed my surprise at his permitting such conduct towards himself but he thought it proved great independence of spirit. These were however, but spots on the sun. Still they were curious in a man of as great a refinement of mind.[108]

Burrator Falls by Samuel Cook


XII.  John May


Letter from Arthur Crookshank to “My dear Charlie” Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, September 11th 1868

This letter was sent four months after Sir James’s death. Richard Butt, Solicitor, was one of the three executors of his will. Evidently the letter from May referred to here had been sent before he knew of the rajah’s death, possibly long before it happened.

Mr Butt has just sent me another begging letter from May to the Rajah asking for £100. “that he was onshore, instead of at sea, which did not agree with his health or his pocket” “I should not like the Tuan Muda to know I write for more” + + + + + + + he is a nice youth to send such epistles as that. [109]


Letter from Sir James Brooke’s executor to Charles Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak, 1868

Take that wretched boy May in hand yourself.[110]

Sir James on the quarter cent coin of Sarawak, 1863
Charles Brooke as the 2nd Rajah of Sarawak, on a 10 cents coin of 1910


XIII.  Samuel Bray

It is not known if Sir James ever actually met the boy under consideration here, but two letters concerning him are presented as a demonstration of how, as one recent historian puts it, near his end, “James was still acutely interested in boys.”[111]


Letters from Rajah Sir James Brooke

As the historian Owen Rutter, the editor of the series of letters in which these appear, explains, Samuel Bray “had saved a child from drowning at Devonport. The Rajah read a description of the rescue in a paper and, ever kind, wrote:”

To Samuel Bray, Burrator, 21st of March, 1866

Samuel Bray,
You are a brave lad if the newspapers speak truth, and I send you a half-sovereign to show you how well I think of you. Write and tell me all about it as you deserve the praise of brave men.  
                                                                                                                      Yours truly,

Rajah Brooke, early 1860s
Sir James in his last years
Sir James Brooke by George Gammon Adams, 1868 (National Portrait Gallery)


To Miss Angela Burdett Coutts: Plymouth, 13th December, 1866

Angela Georgina Burdett Coutts, later created a Baroness, (1814-1906) was a philanthropist who was Sir James’s close friend and benefactress from 1857 to 1867.

My dear Lady,
     […] Have you any influence with the Humane Society, because I want to get the silver medal for my “brave boy” who at 13 years saved the life of a younger child with risk of his own—such an act, in one so young, deserves some token of approbation, and if you were interested he might get it, or something else—I could send the particulars. […]
                                                                                                           Ever sincerely your’s
                                                                                                                                          J. Brooke.

The editor notes: “The Rajah continued to befriend the boy, but it would seem that Miss Burdett Coutts was either unable to secure him the Society’s medal or had the matter dashed from her mind by the news, on December 24, that the Rajah had had a second attack of paralysis.”[112]

The Raja's Grave in Sheepstor Churchyard


[1] Nigel Barley, Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke (London, 2002) p. 24.

[2] “The Career and Character of Rajah Brooke,” Temple Bar – A London Magazine for Town and Country Readers, vol. XXIV, November, 1868, pp. 209-210.

[3] Spenser St. John, Rajah Brooke: the Englishman a Ruler of an Eastern State (London, 1897) p. xvi.

[4] Steven Runciman, The White Rajahs: A History of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946 (Cambridge, 1960) p. 89.

[5] Nicholas Tarling, The Burthen, the Risk, and the Glory: A biography of Sir James Brooke (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. 1982) p.7.

[6] “ ‘This peculiar acuteness of feeling’: James Brooke and the enactment of desire” in the Borneo Research Bulletin 29 (1988) pp. 148-189.

[7] The two most criticized cases are Alexander Cruickshank, a ship’s surgeon, who became a friend of Brooke’s in 1830, and the Rajah’s own nephew and successor, Charles Brooke. Responding to Walker in an article in the same issue, “Groping in the Closet”, pp. 206-7, Otto Steinmayer dismissed both as improbable and unsupported. Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke (2002) pp. 21-2 exposed the weakness of Walker’s argument about Cruikshank more thoroughly, but did not think the case for Charles Brooke worth mentioning. Neither author quite addressed how out of known character it would have been for James Brooke to have been romantically attached to an older, mature man like Cruickshank, or Walker’s flawed logic in suggesting that the attraction he implies the Rajah felt for his nephew as a boy resulted in enduring feelings that might have been the reason he made him his heir in place of his elder brother when he was aged 34: in that case, why not have made him his heir in the first place; he had been old enough.
   Neither Cruikshank nor Charles Brooke are included in the list of “Brooke’s Boys” on this webpage because the evidence is simply too weak and also, in Cruickshank’s case, because he was not a boy.

[8] Spenser St. John, The Life of Sir James Brooke (Edinburgh, 1879) p 92.

[9] Quoted by Gertude L. Jacob in her The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) I pp. 5 and 8. Nigel Barley evocatively describes Brooke’s friendship with Western as “the first of the passionate friendships that would swirl in such deep and powerful currents beneath the official surface of his existence” (White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, London, 2002).

[10] Gertude L. Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) I pp. 9-11.    

[11] Gertude L. Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) I pp. 11-12 & 32.

[12] Quoted by Gertrude Jacob in her The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) p. 45.

[13] Preface to his Poems, posthumously published, London, 1872.

[14] J. A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigiensis 1752-1900 (Cambridge, 1954) VI 138-9 gives the dates of birth of the younger two brothers.

[15] As always, it is J. H. Walker in his “ ‘This peculiar acuteness of feeling’: James Brooke and the enactment of desire" in the Borneo Research Bulletin 29 (1988) p. 160, who urges a sexual interpretation. Nigel Barley, in his White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, (2002) takes a more cautious view, reminding the reader:

The whole Huntley period is strongly marked by a strange - almost Californian - touchy-feeliness that is indeed suggestive of more than ‘much merriment and vast foolery'. But it was clearly a golden time of liberty and optimism that the band of young shipmates would never forget, an innocent time free of responsibilities when they made their friends for life, a time of endless undergraduate conversations, when they knew exactly how to set the world to rights, the time perhaps that James had in mind when – a broken and bitter old man - he wrote poignantly ‘that the young hope more than they fear, and that the old fear more than they hope . . .’ (C. Brooke, Ten Years in Sarawak (London, 1866) p. xiii).

[16] Gertude L. Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) I p. 27.

[17] Bodleian Library, Oxford: Basil Brooke Papers, MSS Pac s. 91 vol 15, ff. 104-109.
     Both J. H. Walker, “ ‘This peculiar acuteness of feeling’: James Brooke and the enactment of desire" in the Borneo Research Bulletin 29 (1988) p. 182, and Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, (2002) link this statement to an earlier one made to the same man in a letter of 25 May 1871, that he would not reveal ““the Rajah’s own private life.”” (Bodleian Library, Oxford: Basil Brooke Papers, MSS Pac s. 90 vol. 15, f. 58.)

[18] Ludvig Verner Helms, Pioneering in the Far East: and journeys to California in 1849 and to the White Sea in 1878 (London, 1882) p. 126.

[19] Gertrude Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) p. 33.
     As J. H. Walker comments in his “ ‘This peculiar acuteness of feeling’: James Brooke and the enactment of desire" in the Borneo Research Bulletin 29 (1988) p. 183: “James’s comments about Stonhouse resemble those of a jealous lover rather than a kindly uncle.”  He also suggests that Brooke’s poem about unrequited love, “The Abandoned,” was addressed to a young woman. “is more likely to have been addressed to Stonhouse, Grant or some other youth” than the young woman his biographer Nicholas Tarling assumed had been the addressee. Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, (London, 2002), after casting doubt on Walker’s claim that Templer had been Brooke’s lover, and dismissing as baseless his claim that Cruickshank had been too, concedes  that this “entanglement” with Stonhouse may well have had “a more clearly homoerotic backwash?”

[20] Gertrude Jacob in her The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) p. 33.
     J. H. Walker speculates that Brooke’s “tolerance of Stonhouse’s neglect seems to have indicated his own declining interest.”  ( “ ‘This peculiar acuteness of feeling’: James Brooke and the enactment of desire" in the Borneo Research Bulletin 29 (1988) p. 162).

[21] https://www.royalark.net/Brunei/brunei8.htm

[22] His father had died in April or May 1822.

[23] See, for example, Spenser St. John, The Life of Sir James Brooke (Edinburgh, 1879) p. 41, and Henry Keppel, The Expedition to Borneo of HMS Dido for the  Suppression of Piracy: with extracts from the journal of James Brooke, Esq., of Sarawak, (now Agent for the British Government in Borneo), (London, 1846) I pp. 172-175 and II pp. 116-120.

[24] Ronald Hyam, the eminent historian of the British Empire, listed Budrudeen as one of Brooke’s boy loves (Empire and Sexuality, Manchester University Press, 1990, p. 45).

[25] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) I p. 269. 

[26] Frank S. Marryat, Borneo and the Indian Archipelago (London, 1848) p. 6.  The significance of this passage is as an indication of how, in Nigel Barley’s words, “the young prince accepted James as his mentor in all things” (White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, London, 2002).

[27] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) I p. 292.

[28] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) II p. 73.

[29] https://www.royalark.net/Brunei/brunei8.htm

[30] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) II pp. 134-5.

[31] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) II pp. 140-141.

[32] The point of quoting this paragraph is to show that St. John, very knowledgeable about Borneo and a sincere friend and admirer of Brooke, but also a judicious critic, thought Brooke’s judgment poor in so strongly supporting Budrudeen and his brother. The obvious reason for its being poor is that it was clouded by his love for Budrudeen.

[33] Spenser St. John, The Life of Sir James Brooke (Edinburgh, 1879) pp. 110-112.  

[34] Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality, Manchester University Press, 1990, p. 45;  Nigel Barley, Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, London, 2002.

[35] Henry Keppel, The Expedition to Borneo of HMS Dido for the  Suppression of Piracy: with extracts from the journal of James Brooke, Esq., of Sarawak, (now Agent for the British Government in Borneo). (London, 1846) II, p. 42 makes it clear that “Mr. Jenkins” was the midshipman in the second cutter during HMS Dido’s attack on Saribas. Elsewhere in the same book (pp. 61 and 110), he is described as “already distinguished in the Chinese war” and as having breakfast with Brooke.

[36] Presumably already as a midshipman on HMS Dido, which took part in the Syrian campaign of 1840 and the China (First Opium) War in 1842.

[37] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) I p. 257.

[38] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) I p. 273.

[39] Hon. Henry Frederick Keppel was the Captain of HMS Dido and therefore the boy’s commander.

[40] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) I, p. 287. 

[41] Robert Maitland Brereton, The Breretons of Cheshire 1100-1904 A.D., Portland, Oregon, 1904, p. 116.

[42] Charles Anthony Johnson, Brooke’s 14-year-old  nephew and eventual successor as Rajah of Sarawak.

[43] J. Brooke to Mrs Thomas Brooke, 19 July 1843. Letters, I, p. 266.

[44] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) I p. 273.

[45] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) I p. 283-4.

[46] Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke (London, 2002) p. 123. Barley says of the appointment: “It was perhaps just as well that the basis of James’s recruitments to the Sarawak service was not more widely known.”.

[47] The date and his age are from The Gentleman’s Magazine, New Series, vol XLIII, London, 1855,, p. 104, the cause from Gertude L. Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) II p. 161. Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, (London, 2002) p. 144, adds that “He had sired a child by a local woman…. The Dayaks were astonished but touched that this unpaid official working for love and sheer belief in both James and Sarawak had left his few pathetic possessions to them.”

[48] Gertude L. Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) II p. 161. She does not specify where or to whom Brooke wrote this.

[49] Frank S. Marryat, Borneo and the Indian Archipelago (London, 1848) p.90.

[50] John Burke, History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1837) II 613.

[51] C. Grant to J. Grant, 21 October 1845. Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90 vol 10, f. 3. 

[52] Nicholas Tarling, The Burthen, the Risk, and the Glory: A biography of Sir James Brooke (Kuala Lumpur, 1982) p. 7; Ronald Hyam, Empire and Sexuality, Manchester University Press, 1990, p. 45; J. Walker, ‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, (1998) p. 166.

[53] Henry Keppel, The Expedition to Borneo of HMS Dido for the  Suppression of Piracy: with extracts from the journal of James Brooke, Esq., of Sarawak, (now Agent for the British Government in Borneo). (2 vols., London, 1846).

[54] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, ff. 1-2 and 5.

[55] Quoted by Emily Hahn, James Brooke of Sarawak: A Biography of Sir James Brooke (London, 1953) p. 128. See also Charles’s letter to his father of 11 February 1847, Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 10 f. 15.   

[56] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, f. 5.

[57] “Hoddy-doddy”, meaning “a short and dumpy person” (Oxford English Dictionary), was Brooke’s nickname for Charles.

[58] Of the historians who have published excerpts of this poem, Nigel Barley says mildly “One does not have to be a committed Freudian to detect a phallic subtext to all this.” (Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, London, 2002), while J. Walker says “This is the imagery of sodomy as much as of festive English cooking” (‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, (1998) p. 183.

[59] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s.90, Box 1, File 1, ff. 6, 14-16, 22-23, 26.

[60] Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90 vol. 10, f. 9.

[61] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, ff. 33-34.

[62] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, ff. 34-36.

[63] Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, London, 2002).

[64] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, f. 43. 

[65] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, f. 302. J. H. Walker says “the bracelet of Sarawak gold that Charles brought home to his mother as a gift from James might also have helped to open the way for them to pursue their friendship in England.” (‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, 1998, p. 168), but there is no hint that it might ever not have been open.

[66] Another letter from Charles to his mother (same series, vol. 10, f. 14), gives an enthusiastic description of their subsequent visit to Oxford together.

[67] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, f. 14.

[68] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, f. 18.

[69] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, item 11.

[70] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, item 101. 

[71] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, item 103.  Whether half in jest or not, the Rajah had some months earlier sent Charles a long letter marked “Private and Confidential” concerning the duties of an ADC, summing them up as:
     “He is pulling the string which makes the puppets about him dance, […] You must watch the peculiarities of my disposition, and yield to them. You must frequently sacrifice your own will, and pleasure in trifles, to my wishes. You must be always kind in manner as well as in reality, and you will find that these sacrifices to me will each be without return and if that they be profitable that my heart will be more open and more confiding.” (Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, f.56.)

[72] The Rajah’s now 18-year-old nephew Charles Anthony Johnson, a sub-lieutenant on the Maeander.

[73] Quoted by Gertude L. Jacob, The Raja of Sarawak: An Account of Sir James Brooke, KCB, LLD, Given Chiefly Through Letters and Journals (London, 1876) I, p. 362. 

[74] Spenser St. John, The Life of Sir James Brooke (Edinburgh, 1879) pp. 132-8.

[75] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, item 104.  A month later, on 26 March, the Rajah followed this letter up with further arguments as to Charlie’s unsuitability for a naval career (next item, 105, in the same seies).

[76] “Letters 1848-1850,” in Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac.s.90, Box 5, item 6, ff. 25-27.

[77] Brooke was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in April 1848.

[78] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, 12.3.

[79] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 4, item 106. 

[80] “Letters 1848-1850,” in Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac.s. 90, Box 5, item 6, f. 28. 

[81] “Letter 1848-1850,” in Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, Box 5, item 6, ff. 31-36.

[82] “Letter 1848-1850,” in Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, Box 5, item 6, ff. 37-38.

[83] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 1, f. 37.

[84] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, 12.4.

[85] “Letter 1848-1850,” in Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, Box 5, item 6, f. 47. J.H. Walker suggests that this gift was to celebrate Charles’s father having finally agreed to their request, as it is evident he had from the next letter quoted from (‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, (1998) p. 173.

[86] Private Letters of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B., edited by John C. Templer (London, 1853) II p. 226.

[87] Captain the Hon. Henry Keppel, R.N., A Visit to the Indian Archipelago in HMS Maeander, with portions of the private journal of Sir James Brooke, K.C.B. (London, 1853) II, pp. 79, 124,131  

[88] J.H.Walker, ‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, (1998) pp. 174-8, which gives a detailed account of their interactions in the last fifteen years of Sir James’s life.

[89] Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, London, 2002.

[90] Lawford was a “protégé, Richard Lawford, shipped out to Sarawak in 1858. He is a foundling, ‘intelligent, fairly educated, a good musician’, awarded two medals in the army by the age of eighteen but discharged suffering from consumption.” (Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, (London, 2002), who does not give his source).

[91] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 5, f. 396.

[92] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 5, f. 404.  

[93] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90 vol. 5,

[94] In the light of his other writings and what is known of his friendship with Sir James, which belongs to the years 1848 to 1868, it would seem that St. John is here referring to the poorly-educated Devon boys befriended by the Rajah, both known by name (William Blackler and John May) and unspecified, rather than to upper-class boys whom St. John also knew, such as Charles Grant.

[95] Spenser St. John, The Life of Sir James Brooke (Edinburgh, 1879) pp. 2 and 350.

[96] Sir James Brooke to Brooke Brooke, 23 January 1863. Basil Brooke Papers, Westton Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 3, f. 266.

[97] Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, (London, 2002) says “another version describes poor William as shivering in soaked nakedness with the Rajah, naturally unfazed by his total nudity, detaining him in endless comradely chit-chat”, but he does not give a source for this.

[98] Owen Rutter (ed.), Rajah Brooke and Baroness Burdett Coutts: Consisting of the Letters from Sir James Brooke, first White Rajah of Sarawak, to Miss Angela (afterwards Baroness) Burdett Coutts. London, 1935, p. 131-2.  The original is in the British Library ms. Add 45275, f. 143.

[99] Baroness Burdett-Coutts Papers vol. 2 British Library ms. Add 45275, f. 148.

[100] William Blackler’s father, who seems, in effect, have been demanding this money as the price of handing over his son.

[101] Miss Angela Burdett-Coutts, Sir James’s close friend and benefactress, to whom Hannah Brown was companion.

[102] Baroness Burdett-Coutts Papers vol. 2 British Library ms.  Add 45275, f. 150.

[103] Tavistock was the nearest town to Burrator, seven miles to the north-west.

[104] Owen Rutter (ed.), Rajah Brooke and Baroness Burdett Coutts: Consisting of the Letters from Sir James Brooke, first White Rajah of Sarawak, to Miss Angela (afterwards Baroness) Burdett Coutts. London, 1935, p. 132. Note how this underlines the quite different tone to the relationship caused by Blackler coming from a radically different social background to the upper-class one of Sir James and the midshipmen he had previously courted such as Willie Brereton and Charles Grant.

[105] James had placed Blackler in the Sarawak Service in 1864. He worked there as a clerk until dismissed by Charles Brooke in August 1867. “Roll Book No I: European Officers on Permanent Service,” Sarawak Museum, 01564, 2,” f. 16. 9 (J.H. Walker, ‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, (1998) p. 181).

[106] Brooke Family Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 2, f. 10. This attempt at blackmail is the strongest single piece of evidence for his biographer Nigel Barley’s assertion that “James's relationship with this boy seems to go far beyond anything consistent with previous biographers' claims that his sexual interest remained merely latent, and there is little doubt that at this period of life he was carnally involved with the rough trade of Totnes.” (White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, London, 2002)

[107] Charles Grant (the recipient) annotated this remark, “nor do I agree about the ideal.” It seems peculiarly insensitive of St. John to have said this to Grant of all people.

[108] Basil Brooke Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, vol. 15, f. 64.  As J.H. Walker (who identifies the two names in parentheses) says, though Sir James had enjoyed playing rough games with his midshipmen friends, they “had a level of respect and affection for James which appears to have been lacking in these later relationships.” (J.H. Walker, ‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, (1998) p. 180).

[109] Brooke Family Papers, Weston Library, Oxford, MSS Pac s. 90, 2.47. J. H. Walker says May’s letter was found amongst Sir James’s papers by his executor after his death, and “whether or not James paid money to May, he found a place for him in Sarawak, where he was living at the time of James’s death. [Footnote:] May first arrived in Sarawak in 1864, but left before taking up his position. He returned in 1866 to work as a clerk and, later, as an Inspector of Police, until his resignation in 1869. ‘Roll Book No I: European Officers an Permanent Service.” Sarawak Museum 015164, 2.,’ f. 15.” (‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, (1998) p. 181)           

[110] J.H. Walker, ‘This Peculiar Acuteness of Feeling’, Borneo Research Bulletin, (1998) p. 181, citing Nicholas Tarling, The Burthen, the Risk, and the Glory: A biography of Sir James Brooke (Kuala Lumpur, 1982), p. 490. Walker says this shows the writer “seems to have expected farther trouble from May”.

[111] Nigel Barley, White Rajah: A Biography of Sir James Brooke, (London, 2002).

[112] Owen Rutter (ed.), Rajah Brooke and Baroness Burdett Coutts: Consisting of the Letters from Sir James Brooke, first White Rajah of Sarawak, to Miss Angela (afterwards Baroness) Burdett Coutts. London, 1935, pp. 284-5.




If you would like to leave a comment on this webpage, please e-mail it to greek.love.tta@gmail.com, mentioning either the title or the url of the page so that the editor can add it.


Penerbit, 18 January 2023

This page is extremely well sourced and has very well sourced pictures. There was obviously a lot of care put into the details, so I thought I’d give you a heads up about a small mistake I spotted.

New evidence has come to light that your flag picture is incorrect.  The blue/red cross version was based on an old theory that has been debunked.

James Brooke describes the first national flag himself in a letter asking Lord Palmerston for approval as red & black cross “per pale”

The crown in the middle was added some time in the 1870s but there is no conclusive evidence to give an exact date.

You can read about the confused history of the flag here:


Editor, 18 January 2023

Many thanks for the correction, duly implemented. I much appreciate your help.