Gordon to Pitt-Rivers

Add.9455vol1_p63 A page from Gordon's collection in second collection catalogue


The Red House | Ascot | 9.12.82

My dear Pitt Rivers

You have obtained my address at Queens Gate Gardens but you have neglected to give me your own, your letter bearing no other date than Nov (?Dec) 3. and the "here" mentioned it being clearly not Rushmore which is also alluded to. Carry Gordon, however, who is here to day advices me to write to you at Rushmore and I have followed her counsel.

It would I fear be impossible for me to indicate what specimens I wish to keep without seeing them. I do not even know what part of my collection you have received and should be glad to learn. The things were sent straight from the Melbourne Exhibition in two ship loads one of which has not yet arrived. All I know is that the spears, some of which are particularly fine, have not come yet. I have an especially good collection of priests bowls - the flat wooden bowls on high stands - and I hope these which were really the most valuable articles reached you in good condition.

I do not think that the Oxford folks [presumably the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford] would make any difficulty about receiving the collection on the same conditions as yourself viz that of my retaining the right during the next (say) five years to claim the return of a few articles from among those deposited. Very likely the right would never be really exercised as I am never likely to have a house suitable for the reception of more of these sort of articles than I already have here.

Yours very faithfully
Arthur Gordon


The Red House | Ascot | 20.12.82

My dear Pitt Rivers

I went the other day to 4 Grosvenor Gardens, and saw my clubs etc: It would be quite impossible for me to make a selection from them as they lie there, and, at present, I have little room for such things here.

If you do not object, and Oxford does not object, I had much rather they should go to the Museum about to be built, subject to the one condition that, during my life time, I may take out individual articles. On my death, in any case, the whole to be theirs. And if this be accepted, I can make it a very much handsomer present; for I have cases more of very fine specimens at Haddo, unopened, and what is, I believe, an unique collection of priests bowls, here, which shall all be thrown in. By the way, the bowls at 4 Grosvenor Gardens are not Priests Bowls, but Oil Bowls. The priests bowls are always raised on high stands, and are so shallow as to be well nigh flat.

I wish you would come here some day, and see my collection of Fijian pottery. I mean to keep the best specimens of that, but there are plenty to spare, which you might think worth having.

Yours ever faithfully
Arthur Gordon

Excuse this paper. I did not see until I had done, that I was writing on two sheets. Probably I should never use the privilege I wish to retain!


[Answered 2 Jany '83]

The Red House | Ascot | 31.12.82

My dear Pitt Rivers

I wrote to you on the 20th inst: about the proposed gift of my whole Fijian collection to Oxford, but have not heard from you again on the subject.

Meanwhile, my own University, Cambridge, has accepted a gift of Fijian articles from Mr AP Maudslay, and wishes me to add mine. His collection, mine, and Baron von Hügel's, combined, would certainly make a very fine show of purely Fijian objects. I fancy you must know Anatole von Hügel, the writer of the enclosed letter, which please read, - (if you can, for it is a vile hand,)- and return to me.

With all good wishes for the New Year, I remain

Yrs very faithfully
Arthur Gordon

[NB the following two letters seem to have been miscatalogued by date by Thompson, the dates given below are confirmed]


The Red House | Ascot | 10.8.83

My dear Pitt Rivers

I have kept you so very long waiting for my final decision as to the disposal of that part of my collection which is with you that I certainly cannot complain of any delay on your side in replying to my note of the 1st.

At the same time, I think it as well to write again, not in the least with the view of hurrying you, but to let you know that Von Hügel will be in town in about a fortnights time and is quite willing then to undertake the packing if you have no objection to his doing so.

Yrs very truly
Arthur Gordon

[the note referred to presumably lated 1.8.83 does not appear to have survived]


The Red House | Ascot | 30.8.83

My dear Pitt Rivers

I received, the other day, a fragmentary, unsigned, note, which, from internal evidence, I may safely conclude to be from you.
You say you expect to be in London again, "before long". Could you kindly give me any more definite idea as to the probable time; I mean, of course, only approximately?
I ask, because Von Hügel is ready to come up at any time, but is likely to be living out of town for some months yet.
He is to come here to pack up my collections here, and I should like to arrange it so that he could do both things at one time
You speak of "the box" in which my things were. Messrs King report having sent you three boxes full, but very likely you wrote "the box" in a generic sense, to signify the articles had been taken out of what they were packed in.

Yrs very truly
Arthur Gordon

This collection is listed in the second collection from Add.9455vol1_p60 /1 onwards, Pitt-Rivers obtained over a hundred and fifty objects from Arthur Charles Hamilton Gordon (1829-1912) Colonial Governor, first Baron Stanmore. The Pitt Rivers Museum has only three objects from Gordon in its collections, two obtained via William Herschell and a further one received via Julia Maclear. In 1882 Pitt-Rivers was in negotiation with the University of Oxford regarding the transfer of the founding collection, Pitt-Rivers may have intended, at this juncture, to make the Gordon collection part of the founding collection. It is unlikely that the University would ever have accepted Gordon's terms.


LL102 'The Early Hunter'  copyright S&SWM PR papers

[Ansd Nov. 14/94]

The Red House | Ascot | 9 Nov: 94

My dear Pitt Rivers

Do you recollect my taking some photographs of the "early hunter", when I had the pleasure of being at Rushmore some weeks ago?

They were not very good; but you must remember that they were taken under difficulties and in a heavy shower of rain. Such as they are, I hope you will accept these proofs of them, for I think you said that the hunter had not been photographed before?

With my own and my daughters kindest remembrances to Mrs Pitt Rivers,

Yrs most sincerely



Words on Fijian "Lali"

Lord Stanmore

Rushmore | Salisbury

Lord The Wind Great

I translate Ratu "Lord" and not "Chief" because Ratu is a title of birth and not of office. Every chiefs child is from birth "Ratu" (m) or "Adi" (f) but not "Turaja" TURAJA which implies the office of chief. Whatever his official rank whether Rako Tui or a simple village officer the personal title of born Fijian is always Ratu e.g. Ratu Epeli Roko Tin Tai Leon = Sir John Smith Governor of Sierra Leone.

NB In Fijian C has the sound of Th

G [has the sound of] ng

D [has the sound of] nd

This refers to Add.9455vol2_p340 /5 a drum which Pitt-Rivers obtained from Fentons in August or September 1887 and must therefore date after this, it is presumably a note on the drum written by Gordon (Baron Stanmore) during a visit to Rushmore hence the headed paper.


Ansd Oct 27/98

The Red House | Ascot, Berks | Oct. 24. 98

Dear General Pitt Rivers

I am sending you for the collection of peasant jewelry in your Museum a silver gilt brooch from the Cierlandes a little district near Hamburg. This is the kind of brooch which the women there always used to fasten their dress - until the costume went out - Now that the Vierlander dress is no longer or at least very seldom worn, the women are selling their ornaments. This brooch is the one worn on feast days, the every day brooch is of the same shape but made of silver roughly engraved with certain simple patterns. I do not think the brooch I am sending is very old - as I seen only one date & set of initials on the back [sic] & the really old ones are often covered all over the back with the initials of the various owners

I hope you will think the brooch worth putting in the Museum. I should be so pleased if it were of any use to you

Yours very sincerely

R Gordon [possibly Rachel Nevil Hamilton-Gordon]

This would appear to be Add.9455vol3_p1262 /2, however that was acquired from Miss Neville apparently in April 1896 but is described with almost the same words as above

Transcribed by AP May - July 2011 as part of the Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project.

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