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Writing by or about members of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service

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This page lists books and articles published by or about members of the Chinese Customs Service and their families. It was compiled for the 2003-2007 AHRC Chinese Maritime Customs Project website, and is likely to be out of date.

Books on US staff

Memoir

 

L. C. Arlington, Through the Dragon’s Eyes: Fifty Years’ Experiences as a Foreigner in the Chinese Government Service (London: Constable and Co., 1931)

 

Lewis Charles Arlington joined as a Watcher in November 1885, and resigned in Suzhou, in October 1905 as an Examiner.  He later wrote:

The Chinese drama from the earliest times until to-day (Shanghai, Kelly and Walsh, 1930).

In search of old Peking, with William Lewisohn (Peking, H. Vetch, 1935)

Famous Chinese plays, translated and edited by L.C. Arlington and Harold Acton (Peiping, H. Vetch, 1937)

Helen Groff-Smith, An American Girl Grows up in China (Rome: privately printed, 1967). Groff-Smith was daughter of Commissioner H.F. Merrill, and married Everitt Groff-Smith (Customs 1916-45).

 

Lewis Stanton Palen, ‘A Yankee Mandarin’Asia XXVII (Dec. 1928), pp. 996-99, 1021-26.

 

A Cornell graduate, Palen joined as a Fourth Assistant, B in October 1900, resigned to take up other work, including teaching at St. John’s University, Shanghai, in May 1902, before rejoining in June 1905. He finally resigned when Second Assistant, A in January 1913. His 1900 Cornell A.B. thesis was on ‘The relations of Europeans with China from 1833 to 1846’. For the Customs he prepared the 1908 Memorandum on wild silkworm culture in southeastern Manchuria. He subsequently ghost or co-wrote, or translated, a number of travel accounts, as well as a novel, The Red Dragon: A China story of today (1927).

Biographies of American staff

 

Herbert Croly, Willard Straight (New York: MacMillan, 1924). Diplomat and financier Willard Straight joined as Fourth Assistant, C in January 1902, resigning as Fourth Assistant, B in February 1904. He was one of the founders of Asia magazine, 1917-42.

 

John King Fairbank, Martha Henderson Coolidge and Richard J. Smith, H. B. Morse: Customs Commissioner and Historian of China (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1995)

 

Books on German or Austrian staff

 

Vera Schmidt, Aufgabe und Einfluß europäischer Berater in China. Gustav Detring (1842-1913) im Dienste Li Hung-changs (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1984). Detring served for almost 50 years in the Service, and was a powerful figure in the Customs, based in Tianjin, and an important figure in the German presence in China.

 

Biographies of British staff

 

If you have access to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, you can access these biographies of British members of the Customs: Sir Francis AglenHenry AugustineJ.O.P. BlandJames Duncan CampbellSir Robert HartSir Patrick MansonSir Frederick MazeHosea Ballou Morse(Samuel) Cornell Plant. The project is unable to assist if you are unable to access these subscription-only biographies.

 

Sir Robert Hart:

 

Juliet Bredon, Sir Robert Hart: The Romance of a Great Career (London: Hutchinson, 1910)

 

John King Fairbank, Katherine Frost Bruner, and Elizabeth Matheson (eds), The I. G. in Peking: Letters of Robert Hart, Chinese Maritime Customs, 1868-1907, 2 volumes (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1975)

 

Katherine Frost Bruner, John King Fairbank, Richard J. Smith (eds), Entering China’s Service: Robert Hart’s Journals, 1854-1863 (Cambridge MA: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1986)

 

Richard J. Smith, John King Fairbank, and Katherine Frost Bruner (eds), Robert Hart and China’s Modernization: His Journals, 1863-1866 (Cambridge MA: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1991).

 

Mary Tiffen, Friends of Sir Robert Hart: Three generations of Carrall Women in China (Tiffiana Books, 2012).

 

Stanley F. Wright, Hart and the Chinese Customs (Belfast: Published for The Queen’s University, Belfast, 1950)

Other staff:

 

Isidore Cyril Cannon, Public Success and Private Sorrow, The Life and Times of Charles Henry Brewitt-Taylor, 1857-1938, Chinese Customs Commissioner and Translator (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009).

 

Robert Ronald Campbell, James Duncan Campbell: A Memoir by his son (Cambridge MA: Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1970)

 

Mary Tiffen, Friends of Sir Robert Hart: Three generations of Carrall Women in China (Tiffiana Books, 2012).

 

Andrew HillierMediating Empire: An English Family in China. 1817-1927 (Folkestone: Renaissance Books, 2020).

 

Jack J. Gerson, Horatio Nelson Lay and Sino British Relations, 1854-1864 (Cambridge Mass.: East Asian Research Center, 1972).

 

Douglas M. Haynes, Imperial Medicine: Patrick Manson and the Conquest of Tropical Disease (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001). Manson was a Customs Surgeon from April 1871 to December 1883, and from April 1887 to March 1889.

Memoirs by British staff:

 

Rosamund Beveridge, Chingwangtao to Kinross: A personal memoir (Perth: Perth & Kinross Libraries, 1999). Beveridge was married (1936-53) to John Franklyn ‘Jack’ MacLellan, Customs 1926-49 (d.1953), who was Finance Secretary after the Second World War.

 

Christopher Briggs, Hai Kuan: The Sea Gate (Stockport: Lane Publishers, 1997) Christopher Briggs was appointed Second Officer, C (on probation) in July 1932, resigning for war service in October 1939 when Acting Commander (First Officer) C.P.S. Haiping (based at Kowloon).

 

David Boyle, With Ardours Manifold (London: Hutchinson, 1959). Boyle joined August 1904 as a Fourth Assistant, C, and resigned from Wuhu as a Fourth Assistant, C in February 1906. There are a few references to him in The I.G. in Peking.

 

T.J. Eldridge, Knots in a Sailor’s Life (Richmond Hill Printing Works: Bournemouth, [1937.]) Eldridge joined in December 1888 as a Third Office, B, and retired as Coast Inspector in July 1924.

 

Charles J. H. Halcombe, The Mystic Flowery Land: Being a true account of an Englishman’s travels and adventures in China (This is a link to the second edition, London: Luzac, 1899). First edition, London: Luzac & Co., 1896. Halcombe joined as a Watcher in November 1887, and resigned from Kiungchow (Qiongzhou) as  Second Class Tidewaiter in March 1893. He also published these China-related novels:

Called Out; or the Chung Wang’s daughter. An Anglo-Chinese romance (Hong Kong: Hongkong Daily Press Office, 1894).

Children of Far Cathay: A Social and Political Novel(Hong Kong: Hongkong Daily Press Office, 1906).

 

Mrs Thomas Francis Hughes [Julia Grimani], Among the Sons of Han: Notes of a Six Years’ Residence in Various Parts of China and Formosa. (London: Tinsley Brothers, 1881).

 

Paul King, In the Chinese Customs Service: A Personal Record of Forty-Seven Years (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1924). Revised edition, 1930. King also wrote the following novels as ‘William Rivers’ (and with Veronica King):

Anglo-Chinese Sketches(S. R. Menheneott: London, 1903 [1902])

Eurasia: A Tale of Shanghai Life(Shanghai : Kelly & Walsh, [1907.]).

The Chartered Junk: a tale of the Yangtsze Valley (Shanghai, London [printed] : Kelly & Walsh, 1910)

The Commissioner’s Dilemma: An International Tale of the China of Yesterday, (Heath Cronton: London, 1929).

 

A.C. Hyde Lay, Four Generations in China, Japan and Korea (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1952). Although billed as an account of the Lay family’s involvement with the Customs, starting with I.G. Horatio Nelson Lay, this is mostly a memoir of the author’s own career. Arthur C. Hyde Lay joined the Customs in December 1919 as a 4th Assistant B, and remained in it until April 1946, rising to Deputy Commissioner.

 

Charles Welsh Mason, The Chinese Confessions of Charles Welsh Mason (London: Grant Richards, 1924). Mason joined as a Fourth Assistant, B, in December 1887, and was dismissed in September 1891 for his role in a Gelaohui plot. He was then a Fourth Assistant, A, at Chinkiang. As ‘Julian Croskey’, or anonymously, Mason wrote the following novels and story collections with Chinese themes, amongst others:

The Shen’s pigtail, and other cues of Anglo-China life, by Mr. M-. (London: Pseudonym LIbrary No.39, 1894)

The Chest of opium, by Mr. M- .(London: New Vagabond Library No.2, 1896)

Max (London: John Lane, 1897)

The S.G.’: A Romance of Peking(London: Lamley & Co., 1900)

 

John Pal, Shanghai Saga (London: Jarrolds, 1963). John Pal was the pseudonym of Alan Palamountain (who also published the salacious Shanghai Nights (Shanghai: n.d., 1929) as ‘Tasman Ile’. Palamountain served in Shanghai from November 1920 to November 1922 when he was dismissed. He was possibly Australian.

 

Pickering, W.A. (William Alexander)Pioneering in Formosa: Recollections of adventures among Mandarins, wreckers, & head hunting savages (London: Hust & Blackett Ltd., 1898). Pickering served as a Tide-waiter, 1862-1866 in Fuzhou and in Taiwan, before joining a trading firm. In 1877 he was appointed Protector of Chinese in the Straits Settlements (Singapore).

 

Shaw, Norman Rymer, The Diaries of Norman Rymer Shaw, 2 vols, ed. Alexandra Grandy, privately printed, 1991. Shaw joined in February 1902 as a Fourth Assistant, C (Studying Chinese), resigned in 1905 to train as a missionary, but returned to the Customs in 1905. He served until retirement at the end of long leave in March 1934 with the rank of Deputy Commissioner.

 

F. Tyler, Pulling Strings in China(London: Constable and Co., 1929). Tyler joined in March 1889 as a Third Office, resigning in September 1918 when Coast Inspector.

 

C.A.S. Williams, Chinese Tribute (London: Literary Services and Production Ltd, 1969)

 

G.R.G. Worcester, The Junkman Smiles (London: Chatto and Windus, 1959).

 

George Raleigh Grey Worcester (1890-1969) joined the Customs as a Second Officer C in March 1913. He rose to Assistant River Inspector by the end of the 1930s, but for some time was redeployed on a pet project of IG Sir Frederick Maze’s, a large scale survey of Chinese junks published as The Junks and Sampans of the Upper Yangtze (1940), Notes on the crooked-bow and crooked-stern junks of Szechwan (1941), and The Junks and Sampans of the Yangtze, 2 volumes (1947). The last was one of the final publications of the pre-1949 Customs. Worcester was later for 7 years editor of The Mariner’s Mirror. Obituary: The Times, 11 January 1969, p. 10. He was closely involved in the commissioning and despatch to London of the Sir Frederick Maze collection of model junks, which is housed at the Science Museum.

Fiction

 

C.S. Archer, China Servant (Collins: London, 1946).

 

C.S. Archer, Hankow Return (Collins, London, 1941).

 

Charles Stanley Archer joined as a Fourth Assistant, B in February 1926, resigning for war service in August 1940 when a First Assistant, A.

 

Stella Benson, various, obliquely related. On her marriage to James (Seamus) Carew O’Gorman Anderson, CMCS 1914-42, Benson lived with him in various China postings (Nanjing, Kowloon, Mengtsz, Pakhoi). Her later novels sometimes take China themes, but after Japanese diplomatic complaints about an article of hers in The Nation on 27 August 1927, Anderson was advised by the Officiating I.G. A.H.F. Edwardes that if she wrote in the press again while he was in Service ‘I shall require your resignation’.

 

Books on or by Danish staff

 

Books by S. A. Klubien (1890-1970). Klubien worked in the Chinese Customs from 1914, when he joined as a 4th Assistant B, until November 1928, when he was dismissed from his position in Tianjin. He was then a ‘Supernumerary Assistant, B (awaiting orders)’. After his return to Denmark he wrote eight books for children (the hyperlinks will show you the covers):

 

Under dansk flag (Under Danish Flag) (1937)

Bag Jadetemplets mure (Behind the Walls of the Jade Temple) (1942)

Paa togt med kinesisk toldkrydser (Cruising with a Chinese Customs Cruiser) (1943)

Paa vagt ved Tolder i Kina Kinakysten (On Duty along the Chinese Coast) (1944)

Den stjaalne motorbaad (The Stolen Motorboat) (1945)

Kinesernes lærling (Apprentice of the Chinese) (1947)

Den kinesiske baadsmand (The Chinese Boatswain) (1948)

Tolder i Kina (Customs Officer in China) (1954).

Gule skæbner. Roman fra Kina (Yellow Destinies. A Novel from China) (1941).

 

K. H. v. Lindholm: I kinesisk tjeneste (In Chinese Service) (1930). K. H. v. Lindholm (1866-1932) joined as a 4th Assistant B in September 1888.  He retired in 1925 as a Commissioner.

 

Harald Kierkegaard, Mod nye Tider (Copenhagen 1949). H.S. Kierkegaard joined as a Watcher in December 1909, and resigned from the Customs in March 1912, when stationed at Ichang as a Tidewaiter, Third Class.

 

I am very grateful to Hans Jørgen Hinrup at the Statsbiloteket, Århus, Denmark, for these references, and for the scanned book covers.

 

Books on Italian staff

 

Ugo Theodoli, Cineserie ed altri ricordi (Roma: Palazzotti, 1970). Theodoli served from 1906, when he joined as 4th Assistant, B, until 1928, when he retired from Santuao as a Deputy Commissioner (and Acting Commissioner).

 

Maria Theodoli de Luca, Mi ricordo… ho visto (Milano: Garzanti, 1939). This was Ugo Theodoli’s sister, who was married to one of the de Luca brothers.

 

I am grateful to Dr Andrea Francioni for these references.

Memoirs by Norwegian Customs staff

 

P. C. Hansson, 25 år i midtens rike (25 years in the centre of civilization) (Oslo: Erindringer, 1947)

 

–Hansson resigned as Commissioner (at Mengzi) in February 1919, having joined in November 1894 as a Third Officer.

 

Hans Th. Meinich, En tolder og synder I Kina  (A custom officer and sinner in China) (Oslo: Ernst G. Mortensens Forlag, 1966)

 

–Meinich joined as a 4th Assistant B in June 1925, and resigned when a Chief Assistant, A, attached to the Lappa Station (Macao) in October  1939.

 

A. H. Rasmussen, China Trader (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1954)

 

A. H. Rasmussen, Sea Fever (London: Constable & Co. 1960)

 

–Rasmussen joined as a Watcher in April 1905, resigning at Chinkiang (Zhenjiang) in September 1910 when a Second Class Tidewaiter.

 

I am grateful to Ingvild Helle for providing some of these references.

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