Erasmus Ommanney (1814-1904) was an extraordinary individual from one of those sorts of families. He was born in 1824 seventh son of Sir Francis Molyneux Ommanney. In 1836 he went to Baffin’s Bay with Sir James Ross … he was second in command on the Franklin searching expedition and was the first to find traces of Franklin’s ships in 1850. He travelled over 500 miles on sledge to find the Franklin traces at Beechey Island. During this adventure he gathered much geographical information.
In 1854, on commencement of the Crimean War, he commanded a Squadron in the White Sea and engaged a Russian flotilla off the mouth of the Dwin that year … later the Committee at the Royal Geographical Society … Royal Society, Royal Astronomical society (Observed the transit of Venus at Luxor in 1874)… Knighted etc for Arctic services.
The recipient possibly equally well known in literary circles, historian and traveller Hepworth Dixon (1821-1879). A controversial writer at that. He was active in organising London’s Great Exhibition of 1851.
Two pages in a strong clear hand from 6 Talbot Square … a nice London address. Marked clearly Private. Erasmus is obviously not happy … he had previously written to Hepworth Dixon and clearly provided some personal information about his naval conduct (about which we believe he had been criticised … he was pretty heavy handed in the White Sea) and Dixon had published these “private letter” in the press.
“I was at the point of replying to your last note when I was surprised to find you had published my letters to you in the Newspapers, I believe it is always customary on such occasions first to obtain the sanction of the writer”
Erasmus goes on … “My object in criticising your representations of my conduct at Solaretet was simply to induce you to add … comments, in your next edition of “Free Russia” … to show that your countrymen were justified in punishing … and that we did not bombard a defenceless … ; and I was going to enquire that you would not publish my [this] letter but evenly take the substance of my information for your guidance”
Erasmus continues … not happy … “ As you have published my letters in the daily papers I must abide by the unpleasant announcements of the press, – there are various considerations to be dwelt on before an Officer writes on matters of a national and public nature in the newspapers; and in the present instance my letters should not have appeared.”
Erasmus turns up the heat … “As you have forwarded a copy of your work to the Emperor of Prussia, I have greater cause to feel dissatisfied with you colouring of my conduct in the Solowitch affair, which on the while I fear injurious to my reputation. I hope that the subject will not appear again in the papers”
Cranky letter from Victorian Naval hero and Adventurer who has had his reputation challenged in the Press