Montreal: Printed for the author, by J. Starke, 1838. First edition. Hardcover. A reasonably rare account of a Scottish soldier's military service during the Napoleonic Wars and later immigration to Canada, where he is engaged as a soldier against the Upper Canada Rebellion that resulted in rebels being transported to Tasmania. With an intriguing early owner inscription at the ffep: "Mrs. John Richardson her book 1838", possibly wife of the 1st Canadian author to achieve international recognition.
Beginning with his enlistment in the Edinburgh Militia and his service in India, with detailed description of life there and elsewhere, including Bombay, Tannah, Goa, Madras, Malacca, Batavia, Cornelius, and Sourabaya in Indonesia. Williamson gives a detailed description of the 1811 successful attack (in which he was wounded in the attack on 'Fort Cornelius'). The author received two pension payments, totaling 14 pounds, with a third installment promised, but never given, for his "prize money for the taking of Java", (p263).
In 1832 Williamson commuted his pension, receiving a sum of 30 pounds from the government; he had the choice of moving to either Canada or Australia, and chose Canada, where he settled in Montreal (p. 265). He deemed his land grant useless, and returned to Montreal to soldier, joining Lieut. Colonel Maitland's Battalion of Volunteers in the Upper Canada Rebellion. The Rebellion was crushed and many of the American instigators, such as Benjamin Wait, Samuel Snow and James Hardy Vaux, were transported to Tasmania.
The Montreal Herald reported on the Narrative as follows: "obligated while here to work at his trade for his daily subsistence, he contrived to find leisure to set forth into the literary world the above mentioned work, which was extremely creditable to him, and would have been creditable to anybody; for while interesting events and descriptions in tolerable number are dispersed through the work, light incidents are told in such a palatable way, and with such an easy grace and often so archly, as to make the perusal of the volume a very agreeable relaxation." The narrative is chatty and compelling, with portraits of many of the people he encountered, especially on Goa, and specifics about people he fought alongside in battles.
There is an interesting account of his recovery from a malarial-type illness after visiting Malacca, which refers to Captain Cook's ship. 18 of the sailors died of the disease; "I was also attacked by it, and when the fist symptoms appeared, I adopted the plan of one of the sailors on board Captain Cook's ship when at the Island of Java, that is to say, I got nearly drunk. Having procured a bottle of arrack from the ship's steward, I made up and slung my hammock, drunk nearly the whole bottle of spirits, and got under the blankets."' He was recovered the next day, which astonished the ship's doctor, and then visited by the commanding officer. He repeated his remedy had been got "in reading Captain Cook's voyages..." and "the one devil drives out the other." He was examined by the whole medical staff, and the new regimen for sailors was double allowance of arrack with an addition of half a pint of shrub. This no doubt made him a popular man.
Williamson also describes in detail the lives of his fellow soldiers, love stories, the plight of widows and children after the death a soldier, celebrations for the King's Birthday, games of cricket, drinking arrack, details of "an army on the march in India" with its many followers including jugglers, fortune tellers and thieves. The volume is "Dedicated to the British Army and Royal Volunteers in the Canadas". Lge 12mo, (ii) 320pp, text uncut and clean. Original blue papered boards rebacked with some of the original cloth laid down. Front board soiled, back board much less so and corners rubbed.
With an intriguing early owner inscription at the ffep: "Mrs. John Richardson her book 1838". It is possible that this is inscribed the John Richardson, considered "the first Canadian born novelist to achieve international recognition." (Wikipedia). Richardson had used a pseudonym before, as "A British Officer" in “A Canadian campaign, by a British officer,” (New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal (London), new ser., 17 (July–December 1826), pt.ii: 541–48; 19 (January–June 1827), pt.i: 162–70, 248–54, 448–57, 538–51.) There is a familiarity in inscription, that could be from a husband to a wife. It is a little too intimate to be from another man. However, there were many John Richardsons at this point in Canadian history - the author, the Arctic explorer, etc.
Sabin 104461; OCLC cites only 2 copies, at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (OCLC:757184098) & the Library of the Canadian Parliament (OCLC:797037655); TPL 2237; Lande 2307; Dione 343: Watters, "A Checklist of Canadian Literature p. 418. Not held in book form in Australian institutions according to Trove; does not appear to be held in the National libraries of Indonesia, Scotland or Portugal. As "J.W." the author published his autobiography, The Narrative of a Commuted Pensioner (2 vols., 1838), queried as a anonymous fiction in Bibliography of Canadian Fictions (1904) by L.E. Horning and L.J. Burpee. (Cf, Morgan, Bib. Can, (1867); Wallace (D.C.B). Item #17509