The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History

By Emma Rothschild | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
ENDING AND LOSS

The legal cases of Joseph Knight and Bell or Belinda mark the beginning of the end of the Johnstones’ story. It is a story that ends, like so many true stories, in sorrow and loss. “Old age makes wid strids with me now,” the Johnstones’ mother wrote to John, a few months before he left India, and “your poor father does not seem to have so easie a decay, he lives in a constant dread of blindness … all his ails was ever atended with great loness of spirits.”1 When she died in 1773, two of her daughters, Margaret and Barbara, were already dead, and Charlotte died two weeks later; Charlotte's death, like that of Margaret's daughter, was described as an aftereffect of childbirth.2 Betty, who never married, was frequently unwell. “Poor Betty had been taken ill of the particulars attending a Cholera Morbis,” their father wrote to William in April 1772, and her case was “extremely doubtfull”; she was also rheumatic and on occasion scarcely able to “walk about without Pain.”3

The letters between the brothers and sisters were filled, like so many eighteenth-century letters, with descriptions of illness. The brothers who had returned from overseas were constantly concerned with the ailments they had brought with them: the illnesses of empire. There was James’s fever “called Mille Harpies,” George's f atus, Alexander's legs, and John's continuing chills: “seventeen broiling years in Bengal is but Part of his Disorder.” Their feet were almost always cold. They also wrote to each other about the most repulsive

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The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To Victoria v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction - Ideas and Sentiments 1
  • Chapter One - Setting out 11
  • Chapter Two - Coming Home 59
  • Chapter Three - Ending and Loss 97
  • Chapter Four - Economic Lives 121
  • Chapter Five - Experiences of Empire 154
  • Chapter Six - What Is Enlightenment? 210
  • Chapter Seven - Histories of Sentiments 263
  • Chapter Eight - Other People 284
  • Acknowledgments 303
  • Appendix - Children of James Johnstone and Barbara Murray 307
  • Abbreviations 309
  • Notes 311
  • Index 469
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