Magdalene College Cambridge Notes: Robert Edgar Hughes, the Yachting Don, and the Baltic Campaigns (1854-55)

The Reverend Robert Edgar Hughes was a Fellow of Magdalene College Cambridge from 1846 until 1856.[1] For the last three years of his tenure, he was also Junior Tutor, sharing in student administration, during which time he also served twice as a University examiner. Thus far, we have the profile of a typical clerical don of Victorian times.[2] But it was precisely in this period, in 1854 and 1855, that Robert Edgar Hughes also took his yacht, the impossibly tiny Pet, on two long summer cruises to the Baltic.[3]

These were no mere tourist excursions. Even the most casual student of nineteenth-century British history will know that the Crimean War of 1854-1856 took place on a distant Black Sea peninsula, where British and French expeditionary forces fought a bizarre and gory comic opera of a war against Russia. But there was also a necessary second front against the Tsarist empire, in the Baltic Sea. It was here that the Allied fleets essentially achieved their strategic aim, of inflicting enough damage to ensure that the Russian navy would not emerge to attack British and French shipping or coastal towns. Unfortunately, as in the land campaign, a combination of bombastic ambition and practical inefficiencies pointed to an embarrassing gap between rhetoric and reality. A civilian lacking any official accreditation, Hughes insouciantly tagged along with naval and military personnel, while the Pet not only nestled among warships but made occasional provocative sallies under the muzzles of Russian artillery. He published an account of his two voyages, a travelogue which carried some sharp and secular messages about Britain's place in the world.

        The Hughes family claim of descent from the kings of Gwent may be treated with scepticism. Certainly by the sixteenth century, they were resident in England, producing lawyers and naval officers. Captain Richard Hughes was commissioner of the Portsmouth dockyard in 1773 when George III made an inspection, and bestowed a baronetcy upon him, apparently in recompense for using the commissioner's official residence during his visit. The second Sir Richard Hughes was an admiral who took part in the relief of Gibraltar in 1782.[4] Although the naval tradition would jump a generation, it inspired Robert Edgar Hughes from boyhood. Writing in 1855, and using the authorial 'we', he confessed that the royal Navy "supplied the day-dreams of our youth".[5]In default of male heirs, the baronetcy passed from the admiral to a younger brother, Robert, a Suffolk clergyman and father of six children. The third of these, Thomas Collingwood Hughes, was the father of Robert Edgar Hughes. Robert's life and career were to be shaped by his parents' romantic early marriage.[6]


Marrying in Haste: Thomas Collingwood Hughes


Thomas Collingwood Hughes was almost three months short of his twentieth birthday when, in May 1820, he married Elizabeth Butcher, who was about the same age.[7] In his later career as a clergyman he was presumably well qualified, if hardly morally entitled, to warn peasants against improvident matrimony. The couple's first child, Marcus, born in August 1821, was destined for the Army, and it may have been simple symmetry that directed their next offspring, Robert Edgar Hughes, who arrived on 11 September 1822, towards the Church, a vocation to which he subsequently showed little sign of any enthusiasm.[8] However, first, the issue of a career for Thomas Collingwood Hughes had to be resolved. Initially, it seems he was destined for the Army, but an indeterminate spell at Sandhurst was evidently followed by a change of direction: he would follow his father, and enter the Church. A degree was the usual prerequisite for ordination and, in June 1825, Thomas Collingwood Hughes enrolled at Emmanuel College Cambridge, as a Fellow Commoner. This was a privileged category of undergraduate, who paid higher fees in return for exemption from restrictive regulations. Primarily intended for adolescent aristocrats, it was also a handy way of making provision for mature students, especially married men with families. When Thomas Collingwood Hughes came into residence, in October 1825, he transferred to Downing, Cambridge's newest college – it had admitted its first students five years earlier – which seems to have been particularly flexible in its attitude to Fellow Commoners. Thomas and Elizabeth Hughes presumably resided in Cambridge – a daughter was born there in 1827 – and Robert Edgar Hughes perhaps retained early childhood memories of the town where he would establish his own academic career. Thomas Collingwood Hughes graduated, with a Pass degree, in 1829, and was ordained, in the diocese of Norwich, the following year.

        Unfortunately, this was not a prelude to a glittering career in the Church. Lacking influential patrons, Thomas Collingwood Hughes bumped along, serving in miscellaneous curacies. This form of ecclesiastical gig economy makes it difficult to trace his trajectory: Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses has him as curate at Wheatacre in Norfolk and Runwell in Essex. Birthplaces of his continuously expanding family provide further clues: he was apparently based at Bradfield in Essex, where two of his children were born in 1836-7. This was not far from the family home at East Bergholt in Suffolk. Lack of job security and the notoriously miserly stipend available to curates may help explain why Robert Edgar Hughes was sent to Shrewsbury, a traditional public school but much less glamorous (and hence cheaper) than Eton or Harrow. He entered Shrewsbury sometime between June 1836 and June 1837, remaining there until he left for Cambridge in 1841.[9] Choice of school would shape the career of Robert Edgar Hughes in two respects. First, he was taught by Benjamin Hall Kennedy, one of the most effective Classics teachers of his generation (and Professor of Greek at Cambridge from 1867). Second, Shrewsbury was the beneficiary of reserved scholarships at Magdalene College Cambridge. Indeed, for much of the nineteenth century, Magdalene's academic record depended on Shrewsbury students recycling their Shrewsbury Classics. Hughes would be one such example of this.

        But the wider education of Robert Edgar Hughes did not depend entirely upon his schooling. Sometime in the late eighteen-thirties, Thomas Collingwood Hughes seems to have moved to Germany: a daughter was born there in 1839, followed by a sister in 1843 whose birthplace was specifically given as "Baden". The spa town of Baden Baden was developing as an international holiday resort in this period, and the services of an English chaplain would have been in demand from tourists. Possibly it was a seasonal assignment, combined with some forgotten curacy in England.[10] When Robert Edgar Hughes entered Cambridge in 1841, his father's address was given as "Southampton," which was often used as an identifier for Hampshire. In 1854, northern Gotland reminded him of the New Forest: "undulating hill and valley, dark forest and green glade, with here and there a silvery strip of shining lake; and away in the distance blue sea fading into gray [sic] in the far-off east."  However, the younger Hughes spoke German, and his Baltic book indicates considerable knowledge of the country and its people – if also a muted level of enthusiasm.

Thomas Collingwood Hughes had returned to England by 1845, when he began a four-year stint as vicar of Cerne Abbas in Dorset. Robert Edgar Hughes seems to have explored the county. When Allied naval guns battered a hole in a Russian fort off Helsinki in 1855, he likened the gap to "Durdle Door in Dorsetshire," a prominent coastal rock arch. It would have been at this time that he came to know Weymouth, the 'watering place' and coastal port sixteen miles away. The Pet was Weymouth-built, and Hughes owned her by 1851. Thomas Collingwood Hughes did not remain in Dorset.[11] There is an eleven-year gap in his career record between 1849 and 1860, when he reappeared as vicar of a village in Devon. It is possible that he returned to Baden: Robert Edgar Hughes reported that he had witnessed Prussian troops scattering "Badish" revolutionaries, part of the repression at the close of the turbulent year of 1848-9.[12] Although it is clear that Hughes had not visited Scandinavia before his 1854 cruise, it is evident that he was an experienced continental traveller.


The Cambridge Career of Robert Edgar Hughes


Robert Edgar Hughes entered St John's College Cambridge in the Michaelmas (autumn) term of 1841, but 'migrated' (transferred) during his second year to Magdalene, no doubt lured by one of the scholarships reserved for 'Salopians'. Unusually, something can be reconstructed of his undergraduate life. A major reason for this is that Hughes was a fanatic for rowing – possibly also a legacy of Shrewsbury. At twelve stone he was one of the heaviest of members of the Magdalene Boat Club, of which oarsmen, he became a stalwart, serving as captain in 1844 and 1845. For four years between 1843 and 1846, he stroked the Boat, returning in 1848 – by which time he was a Fellow – to row at Number Seven. He rowed Stroke again in 1850 and 1854, crowning his twelve-year association by coxing in 1855 – despite his bulk. He is believed to have been the longest-ever member of the Magdalene Boat. In 1845, he was a selector for the University Eight, but he never took part in the Boat Race against Oxford himself. His enthusiasm for rowing even gives a glimpse of where he 'kept' (had rooms) in College. In November 1842, three weeks after Hughes had moved from St John's, the undergraduates of Magdalene's First Court challenged their Second Court neighbours to a race. Hughes rowed Stroke for Second Court, with a fellow Shrewsbury student, Lewis Denman – a Blue in 1841 and 1842 – at Number Seven. Second Court won comfortably. "The supper which took place the same evening went off satisfactorily."[13] At that time, Second Court was the name for the Pepys Building. As a newcomer, Hughes perhaps had rooms in the attic storey.

        Early in 1843, Robert Edgar Hughes was an observer, but not a participant, in a clash between two Trinity undergraduates, which demonstrated the absurdity of the student code of honour. In bitterly cold February weather, the Union held a lecture on – of all subjects – shorthand. Whether because they regarded the practice as ungentlemanly, or simply out of devilment, a group of undergraduates attempted to disrupt the proceedings. Eventually, an ex-President, Edward Craufurd of Trinity, a tall Scotsman in his mid-twenties, took the lead in evicting the offenders. In the confusion that followed, another Trinity man, George Peacocke, claimed he had jostled Craufurd. Since Peacocke was "about a foot shorter," he made much of his triumph, sneering that Craufurd had not dared to attempt retaliation. On hearing of the boast, Craufurd insisted that he had not even noticed Peacocke's body-charge, but announced his intention of horse-whipping the smaller man for his impertinence. In fact, he had in mind a humane act of token flagellation: in their eventual confrontation, he simply tapped his alleged assailant on the shoulder and instructed Peacocke to consider himself horsewhipped. Thanks to their shared recruitment from major public schools, there was a strong Trinity-Magdalene axis in that era. Craufurd's anger was sharpened by the fact that Peacocke happened to be dining in the smaller college, a move that the Scotsman denounced as cowardly evasion. On learning this, Peacocke asked two Magdalene undergraduates, one of them Hughes, to accompany him to Craufurd's rooms, like Seconds in a duel. Neither of the Magdalene witnesses seemed to have known that Peacocke had armed himself with a 'life preserver', a weighted cosh used by honest citizens to protect themselves against muggers. After the whip-waving Craufurd had haughtily pronounced the ritual humiliation of the smaller man, Peacocke set about him with a series of blows to the head. The victim reported the assault to the Town magistrates, who declined to interfere with an episode within the walls of a college, and referred the matter to the Fellows of Trinity. They rusticated Craufurd until the end of term (i.e. temporarily expelled him), but sent Peacocke away for an indefinite period. He promptly matriculated at Oxford, which obligingly credited his Cambridge studies, enabling him to graduate in 1844. He then symbolically demonstrated his contempt for Trinity by returning to Cambridge and enrolling at Magdalene, which apparently did not regard grievous bodily harm as a barrier to membership.[14] Whether Hughes was required to explain his part in this strange affair to the dons of Magdalene is not recorded.

        However, it was not the Cambridge code of honour that created difficulties for Hughes, but the University's regulations for Honours. Until 1822, the only Bachelor of Arts qualification above the Pass degree was in Mathematics. In that year, a second Honours degree, the Classical Tripos, was added – but, until 1850, candidates could only present in Classics after achieving Honours in Mathematics. This restrictive provision was hotly defended by the claim that only Mathematics could provide rigorous mental training, while the study of Classics – especially as examined at Cambridge – concentrated on arcane and narrowly grammatical knowledge.[15] The argument assumed that candidates must be capable of achieving at least an unimpressive Junior Optime (Third Class) in Mathematics before proceeding to shine in Classics.[16] Since the despised Pass degree also included a jumble of basic Mathematics, it would be a hard case indeed who could surmount the one hurdle but fall at the other. That hard case was Robert Edgar Hughes, who, according to Magdalene tradition, "was a brilliant classic who had failed to qualify in the Mathematical Tripos."[17]

        As a result, Hughes graduated with a Pass degree in 1845. Perhaps he returned to make further attempts to master the mysteries of Mathematics. Since, in those days, the Tripos was held in January, he presumably failed in 1846 and maybe abandoned all hope before the 1847 round. To its credit, early in December 1846, Magdalene elected him to a Fellowship "on the Wray foundation".[18] Perhaps it helped that his uncle was a baronet, and the College tradition that he was a fine horseman would not have detracted from his eligibility. But, fundamentally, it was a decent act by Magdalene to show support for one of its own, effectively victimised by a narrow restriction. Perhaps the Hughes hard case helped the cause that repealed the dual Honours provision in 1849.

        The career of Robert Edgar Hughes for the next few years does not seem to be closely documented. He had already taken the first step to ordination, becoming a deacon, in 1846, and took the full orders at Ely Cathedral in 1847.[19] There is little sign in his subsequent career of any particular religious fervour.[20] He would have perhaps taken some Chapel services in Magdalene, and Cambridge provided a reservoir of unemployed clerics who stood in for more favoured but less assiduous parsons in nearby country parishes. But he never held a living, and by the mid-eighteen fifties, his interests – in naval strategy and educational policy – were decidedly secular.[21] He had presumably decided to stay on in Cambridge after taking his Pass BA to pursue further studies in the Classics, but the only clue to his intellectual activities came during a visit to Sweden's ancient university at Uppsala in 1855. He noted the prevalence of English books, and "was surprised to find that some of our new standard works find a resting-place in the Bibliothek ... before they reach the shelves of the University Library at Cambridge." It is possible, too, that his knowledge of German would have enabled him to open fresh dimensions in Cambridge Classical scholarship, but that can only be a speculation. Unfortunately, although his pen was fluent enough on yachting matters, he did not publish any academic study – in common with most Cambridge dons of the time, who kept their learning to themselves, or imparted it through College teaching or private coaching. As already noted, on becoming the Reverend Mr Hughes, he had withdrawn from the College Boat, but was prevailed upon to return in some subsequent years to make up numbers.

        However, there are indications that Hughes was becoming an influential person in the internal politics of Magdalene. The key issue here, as so often in Magdalene history, was the fact that the appointment to the Mastership was vested in the Visitor, Lord Braybrooke, whose selection was restricted only by the vague provision that the Master must be "thirty or thereabouts". George Neville (later Neville-Grenville) had been appointed in 1813 by his father, the second Baron Braybrooke. In 1845, Neville-Grenville had been appointed Dean of Windsor, not only a prestigious ecclesiastical post but one that required personal attendance upon Queen Victoria. However, the third Lord Braybrooke, his brother, who was now the Visitor, had discouraged the largely absentee Master from resigning. Braybrooke wished to appoint one of his own younger sons, Latimer Neville, to the Mastership. This required Neville-Grenville to remain in post until young Latimer (born in 1827) approached more closely the age of thereabouts, and could thus be an acceptable Master.

        Hence the succession created sensitive issues, both personal and constitutional, that required careful handling in a small society. Latimer Neville had entered Magdalene in 1845. He did indeed become Master in 1853, and it is generally agreed that his fifty-one year reign – especially in its later decades – was harmful to the institution. But as a young man, he had some points in his favour. Not only was he an effective left-arm slow bowler,[22] but he also made a point of sitting examinations. Technically, he graduated in 1849 as a nobleman, proceeding direct to the degree of Master of Arts. From 1825, aristocrats (the category was broadly defined) were required to reach Pass degree standard in Mathematics, but Latimer Neville also entered for the Classical Tripos, achieving third place in the Second Class in 1849.[23] The paradox was that Hughes had been barred from proceeding to take the Classical Tripos because he had failed to qualify for Honours in Mathematics; but Neville had been able to achieve Honours in Classics without gaining a place in the Mathematical Tripos, since he graduated as a nobleman, and had entered for Classics entirely as a voluntary act. Following his graduation, Latimer Neville had been elected to a bye-fellowship, which made him a member of Magdalene High Table. Outright resistance to his elevation was thus, on the one hand, a discourtesy to a colleague who had adopted a creditable approach to academic studies. On the other hand, it would be a stance which would ultimately prove futile, since the Visitor would eventually have his way and install his son in the Mastership.

        For Hughes, and other Fellows, the issue was not whether Latimer Neville was to become his uncle's successor, but how the appointment was to be made. In 1813, the second Lord Braybrooke had dismissed the problem that his son was only twenty-four (hardly "thereabouts" in relation to being thirty) by simply announcing that he was exercising his Visitorial power of "dispensing" with any inconvenient provision in the College Statutes. In 1853, the third Lord Braybrooke commissioned Joseph Romilly, a University official and Fellow of Trinity, to sound out the Magdalene Fellows regarding the succession to Neville-Grenville. Negotiating with Mynors Bright, one of the two Magdalene Tutors, Romilly discovered that the Fellows of Magdalene were determined that the high-handed action of forty years earlier should not be repeated. A Royal Commission was examining England's two ancient universities, giving malcontents the opportunity to denounce undesirable practices, so there was an implied threat in the Fellows' stance. Bright set out to placate his colleagues. After a meeting with Bright on 19 April 1853, Romilly noted that "he has had a talk with Hughes – they are not desirous of inducing the Dean of Windsor to resign, but if he should resign they are most willing to accept Mr. Latimer if Lord B[raybrooke] nominates him on the ground of his degree, his attainments & his having been a Fellow, & they would be willing to give a wide interpretation to '30 years or thereabouts', but they utterly object to Lord Braybrooke's [insistence?] on the alleged right of dispensing with the statute."[24] With University reform on the political agenda, the Fellows were on strong ground in resisting any such cavalier interpretation of the Statutes. Hughes, it would seem, was a moving force in the resistance.

Succeeding to the Mastership at the age of twenty-six, Latimer Neville seems to have purchased peace through a general re-allocation of the loaves and fishes, although, given Magdalene's limited patronage resources, this did not amount to much more than crumbs and minnows. Edward Warter, a long-time Fellow who had hoped to become Master himself, had already acquired a country living in Shropshire, although it seems that he continued to reside in Cambridge. In 1852, he had added a Magdalene appointment, East Aldrington in Sussex. This was an undemanding assignment, since the population of the parish was two, and the church had fallen down. Vincent Raven, the President, took another Magdalene living, becoming Vicar of Great Fransham, in Norfolk.  Robert Edgar Hughes was appointed Junior Tutor. It was perhaps his tutorial fees that made possible the indulgence of his passion for yachting.


Robert Edgar Hughes: Yachtsman


The Pet was "a very small cutter-yacht, about as long as a moderate-sized drawing-room, and scarcely so wide as a four-post bed". Hughes generally sailed with a friend or relative, sharing a cabin "ten feet long, and fitted with every possible locker and cupboard that skill can devise. Rolls of charts, a spy-glass, and our knapsacks, decorate the sides; we have a table," and there was "a comfortable institution for washing". There was even space for a bookshelf holding twenty volumes – "a great luxury and unfailing resource." In addition to its brace of gentlemen sailors, the Pet also carried two hired crewmen, who lived in "a small forecastle" which also contained a galley. The yacht sat low in the water, so that the main living quarters were below the surface of the sea. Onlookers doubted her seaworthiness: "to judge from her low sides, her large sails, and her narrow deck, it could scarcely be supposed that she could trust herself at sea, or venture to do battle with a gale of wind".[25] But Hughes had confidence in his yacht: "small as she is, one may live very snugly aboard the little Pet, in tolerable weather; and in gales of wind I fancy some of the big ones are not much more comfortable than we."[26]

        Hughes probably purchased the Pet by 1851, when he took her around the coast from Weymouth in Dorset to Lowestoft in Suffolk. In the summer of 1852, accompanied by one of his brothers, he made a longer cruise, a virtual circumnavigation of Great Britain.[27] Instalments of the log appeared over several months in the newly launched Hunt's Yachting Magazine: Hughes originally intended his Baltic travelogue to appear in the same publication, but it grew into a book.[28] One drawback of the 1852 voyage was that there were relatively few landfalls: once the Pet took on sail, she ran before the wind and could cover a great deal of distance at sea. His few contacts with the people of Scotland emphasised the alien nature of North Britain. Feeling obliged to offer the usual tourist assessments of Edinburgh, he pronounced it "the most beautiful and the dirtiest capital in Europe." At Leith, the city's harbour, there was a clash with local health and safety culture. A port official demanded that the fire in the Pet's galley stove be extinguished. Hughes replied that the fire would be put out once his supper was cooked. The "Scotch jack-in-office" then threatened to come aboard and deal with the stove himself. He was firmly advised that if he set one foot on the yacht, the other would be sent flying in the air. But Scotland was to have its revenge. To save three hundred miles of stormy sea in the notorious Pentland Firth, Hughes took the Pet through the Caledonian Canal, and down the length of the Great Glen. The yacht sailed into one of its many locks late on a Saturday night, and was held there for the whole of the Sabbath. The expedition then proceeded down the west coast of Britain in further long sweeps. They touched at the Isle of Man, where Hughes tried without success to learn something of the Manx language. Off Lands End, the Pet was swamped in a violent storm, her crew fearing that they would not survive. The fact that the doughty yacht came through the ordeal undoubtedly encouraged Hughes to attempt his Baltic voyages of 1854-5.[29]


The Baltic Cruise of 1854: from Lowestoft to the Gulf of Bothnia


The background to the Pet's two Baltic cruises can only be summarised here.[30] If it was fought for anything, the Crimean War of 1854-6 was about limiting Russian influence in the Near East and Black Sea regions. Britain and France sent an expeditionary force to the Crimean peninsula, where the British Army in particular proved to be poorly led and badly equipped. The Baltic was a second theatre, usually overlooked in the overall narrative except as a sideshow. In fact, as already indicated, it can be argued that the Baltic would have been a great deal more of a problem to the Allies had the Russians been able to use it as a launch-pad for attacks on British and French shipping and coastal towns. Britain's navy minister aimed to send a force "large enough to render the escape of any Russian squadron from the Baltic impossible, and to leave us at our ease in England".[31] Thus the naval operations were important in bottling up the Tsarist fleet, and incidentally disrupted Russia's external trade. There were, however, major problems in conception and expectation. The British public took for granted that Nelson's successors would overwhelm enemy land fortifications, an impression initially encouraged by the commander of the British fleet in 1854, the bombastic Sir Charles Napier. In the event, Napier concluded that he lacked adequate firepower to attack the fortress of Sweaborg, which straddled a line of islands protecting Helsingfors (Helsinki) in the Russian province of Finland. Instead, the Allies succeeded in occupying the Åland Islands, at the entrance to the northern Baltic, the Gulf of Bothnia.[32] The islands were in fact too far north to have seriously hampered a naval incursion into the easterly Gulf of Finland. They were attacked in the hope of providing a bait to lure Sweden into the War. The Swedes did not respond, and (as outlined below) Hughes, despite his admiration for the country and its people, took the view that the Allied cause would have gained little from their adherence. In 1855, a new British commander, Sir Richard Dundas, did bombard Sweaborg, but the Allies never attempted to attack Kronstadt, the fortress that guarded St Petersburg itself. There is a certain bizarre symbolism to the Baltic campaign in the detail of a small private yacht darting about among the battleships, with its clergyman-don captain inviting himself to front-line military engagements.

        As Hughes prepared to leave Lowestoft, in mid-July 1854, an incredulous passer-by asked: "you don't mean that you are going to the Baltic in that little thing? You'll be drowned, you know." He was unmoved. "I could see no reason why the seas should roll more heavily, or the gales blow more violently, in the tideless Baltic than they do in the chops of the Channel or the Irish Seas; and as the little Pet had long carried me in safety round our coasts ... I determined to trust in Providence, and go out and see the battle." To modern readers, all too familiar with the concepts of exclusion zones and total warfare, the notion that a private citizen could make a tourist visit to a theatre of war seems incomprehensible. Hughes also displayed a remarkably casual attitude to the enemy, dismissing warnings that the "Rooshians" would knout him to death – knouting was the particularly brutal Tsarist form of flogging – or hang him as a spy.[33] It may be that he was impelled to the Baltic by the same reckless spirit that had hurried Thomas Collingwood Hughes to the altar at the age of nineteen.

        Hughes was accompanied by "a younger brother who had never been to sea before". This was almost certainly twenty-two year old Richard Hughes, who had entered Magdalene in 1852 from Marlborough College. Richard was evidently no dunce: Magdalene elected him to a Scholarship in 1853. However, his Baltic jaunt left him with the military bug, and he left Cambridge without a degree to join the Army. He would be killed elephant-hunting in India in 1861.[34] The Pet had begun her 1854 season at Southampton, where Hughes had recruited two crewmen. One was William Shelley, "a smart, sailor-like fellow, who could heave the lead, hand, reef, and steer". The other, Ned Dawson, "could not read or write; the compass was a mystery to him, and the chart an unknown land; but he was bold and handy [and]... he had a ready wit, and loved a timely joke – an excellent quality at sea." "They were both clean and quiet fellows, and I thought myself very fortunate in my crew," Hughes reflected, although he did not tell them that they were travelling into a war zone. Later, when the Pet encountered hot weather off the Danish coast, Shelley fell ill. He had been treated for yellow fever during a recent voyage to the West Indies – information that he had kept from Hughes – and was now suffering a relapse. The crisis forced an unscheduled diversion to Copenhagen, where Shelley was admitted to hospital. He was replaced as crewman by "a Danish lad named Peter" who proved to be "a very sorry exchange."

        The Pet had left Lowestoft on 14 July. "I confess I scarcely know anything that approaches so nearly to happiness as the feeling one experiences the first day at sea. The sensation of escape is delightful," Hughes recalled. After his first academic year as a Magdalene Tutor, he was no doubt entitled to celebrate his liberation. Modern-day academics will perhaps feel that he had cleared his desk remarkably quickly. The Pet made its first landfall on the North Holland coast, close to the location of the battle of Camperdown in 1797. "It is the peculiar privilege of British seamen that wherever they sail they have for their landmarks the scenes of British victories," reflected Hughes. Next came a call to Flensburg, a predominantly German-speaking port within the Danish-ruled duchy of Schleswig. "The town is Dutch in its aspect, but not so clean," Hughes recorded; "... it is garrisoned by a few Danish soldiers, whom the good citizens regard with little favour. They assert that they are Germans, body and soul, and that the Dane has no business there." Ten years later, Bismarck would answer their prayers. There are touches in the description of the Pet's traversing of the North Sea coastline that make one wonder whether Erskine Childers had read Hughes before writing The Riddle of the Sands. But some stopping-off points left the author speechless. "I have little to say about Kiel," he wrote. "It is a great, stupid, hot German place."

        William Shelley's illness created an unplanned opportunity to inspect the Danish capital. "Copenhagen is a fine handsome town, much larger than its appearance from the sea would lead one to suppose." For Hughes, the most impressive sight in the city was the statue of Christ by the Danish sculptor Thorvaldsen, placed in the cathedral in 1844.[35] "Our Saviour's figure is full of gentleness and dignity: kind, majestic, beautiful," he wrote, in one of his very few allusions to religion.

        Hughes liked the Danes. He found them "very English in manner and appearance. There is a very fair amount of business and bustle in the streets, well-appointed carts and wagons drive rapidly about, and at every town one meets a workman or tradesman whose configuration of nose, whisker, and cheekbone, is English every whit." He certainly preferred them to the Germans. "Often when travelling in Germany I have looked in vain among the flat-sided, broad-footed, wide-faced, low-caste natives, for some trace of kindred race and origin with ourselves; but in Denmark you are constantly encountered by groups who would pass muster anywhere for the Anderson girls or the Johnsons, and upon inquiry they will probably prove to be the Johannsen girls or the Andersens." In another barbed comparison, he added that "the Danes appear to share with ourselves that peculiar propensity for washing their hands and faces – doubtless an absurd and insular prejudice – from which our continental neighbours, we must do them the justice to say, are generally exempt." Hughes did not seem unduly troubled by the fact that Copenhagen's Vor Frue Kirke had been destroyed by the Royal Navy in 1807, and he took a positive pleasure in studying how Britain's greatest admiral had destroyed the Danish fleet there six years previously. "I had a good opportunity of observing the ground where Nelson fought the battle of Copenhagen, and I find it impossible to admire sufficiently the boldness, seamanship, and judgment he showed in his plan of attack". He saw no incongruity in patronising the Danes: "we have no reason to be ashamed of our Danish cousins: they are a bold energetic race, and if we have given them unhappily little cause to love us, they on the other hand have given us every reason to respect them." Hughes sailed into the Baltic with a mindset that took for granted British naval triumphs. The next few weeks would shake some of those assumptions.

        Soon after their departure from Copenhagen on 28 July, the Pet was becalmed in thick fog. All shipping dropped anchor, and Hughes noted the eerie effects. "Fog is a great conductor of sound, and frequently strange voices are borne far along the waters, from unseen vessels at anchor or drifting in the calm. A German vessel may be known by the beautiful national melodies which the crew sing in harmony, a Dutchman by the clatter of wooden shoes, a Frenchman by vociferous chatteration, and a ship that sails from our own dear native land may be recognised by our national curses and bad language in general."

        Although by the conclusion of his second cruise, Hughes would become an enthusiast for all things Swedish, his initial impressions of the Swedes were mixed. Slitehamm on Gotland (now Slite Hamn) was a "miserable place," although "the people were very civil". The crew's laundry was entrusted to a washerwoman, who returned it complete with fleas.  But at a settlement on the northern tip of Gotland, he was impressed by "the daughters of the principal merchant. Miss Emily and Mary Grubb, the roses of Faro Sound ... wherever the British ensign waves and the pennon flies, there the likenesses of the fair Emily and Mary Grubb are destined to be carried indelibly imprinted on the  heart of every middy, mate, or lieutenant who has let go his anchor at Faro Sound". Their father's store was well-stocked, and not merely with merchandise: "it would be hard to find a gentleman in England who could retail such treacle, cheese, candles, and miscellaneous condiments, and, at the same time, display two such charming daughters as those who soothe the green old age of the parent Grubbs of Faro Sound."  These were unusually gallant sentiments for a clergyman.

        In fact, the Reverend Robert Edgar Hughes was also emerging as an authority on naval warfare, and a tough-minded one at that. One issue of public debate at the time of the Crimean War was the role of gunboats, and here definition is unusually important. Gunboats were floating artillery platforms with a relatively shallow draft. The war hastened their transmutation into small, steam-powered gunboats, later known as ironclads. Countries fringing the Baltic had long relied upon large numbers of oared gunboats – Hughes himself noted that Sweden had 278 of them, each crewed by sixty men. These were effective operating in swarms against becalmed sailing vessels: in 1809, a 38-gun British frigate had been attacked by twenty Danish gunboats for seven days.[36] Armchair critics argued that the British fleet in the Baltic needed equally large numbers of gunboats to batter Russian fortifications. The criticisms were simplistic. The Baltic was suitable for gunboats because it was virtually free of tides and, in normal conditions, had little more than lake-like waves. But the region was vulnerable to storms: Prussian, Russian and Swedish gunboats could take refuge in coastal bases. No such support was available to the British expeditionary fleet. The more fundamental problem was that the oared gunboat was vulnerable to steam-powered warships, while its fire-power – Swedish gunboats carried two thirty-two pounders – represented little more than a pock-marking nuisance to fortifications with the strength of Sweaborg or Kronstadt.

        Hughes dismissed the argument that the Swedish navy could be of use to the Allies in the Baltic campaign. Their gunboats were "entirely out of date." Essentially, they were barges, roughly fifty feet long by sixteen feet wide, with a gun mounted on a fixed emplacement at each end. "The direction of the gun can only be altered by slewing the craft round, and unless she should unhappily be between two enemies she can only use one gun at a time." With heavy guns at both ends, the gunboats were "laboursome" at sea, while "the bow and stern ... are necessarily cut away to make room for the guns, and they form complete water-traps." With no defence either to port or starboard, "the strong crew of rowers" were "liable to be fearfully cut up by shot, shell, and musketry." The veteran of the Magdalene Boat Club knew what he was talking about. The oarsmen would be better used to man a steam-frigate. The Crimean War hastened the transmutation of gunboats into small, steam-powered artillery platforms, also known as ironclads. Within the next few years, the new generation of gunboats would be used on the Mississippi in the American Civil War, and on the Waikato River in New Zealand's Land Wars. Most notably, they became associated with operations against China in the Second Opium War, one of the imperial adventures that helped popularise the pejorative term 'gunboat diplomacy'.

Hughes was more impressed by Sweden's naval personnel than by their equipment. "The Swedish seamen are excellent, fine, sturdy, healthy fellows, very like English [a predictable comparison]; but, I must confess it, cleaner and better clad." Their officers were "gentleman-like, well-educated men," openly sympathetic to the Allies, who "lose no opportunity to show us civility and kindness." One central fact in Swedish history – still crucial today – is the country's proximity to its imperial neighbour across the Baltic. Naturally, the Swedes welcomed any weakening of Russia's ability to threaten them. But it was equally obvious that they would not rush to become involved themselves. At the close of the conflict, the British and French would sail away, leaving Sweden at the eventual mercy of an angry Bear. Hughes took the view that the Swedes could not have added much to Allied strength anyway. And the peculiarly Swedish device of sympathetic neutrality did reap a dividend: in the peace settlement of 1856, Russia was obliged to agree to the partial demilitarisation of the Åland Islands.


The Baltic Cruise of 1854: Bomarsund


It was to the Åland Islands that Hughes now headed, arriving in the war zone on 7 August. As she entered the anchorage of the Allied fleets, the Pet encountered "a smart French frigate, in honour of whom we ran up our colours as we passed; to which she immediately responded by hoisting her ensign. This was a great compliment to the little Pet, and a highly dignified proceeding." Unfortunately, Ned, the cheery but illiterate deckhand, "had hoisted the ensign upside down, and there it was flying in the morning sun, a signal of distress". Even so, nothing could seriously dent the swelling excitement of having arrived. "A few more minutes and we were among them all. The huge Queen, the magnificent Princess Royal, the brilliant St. Jean d'Acre [despite her name, a British battleship], and the glorious Duke [of Wellington], with many more noble ships, French and English, sat proudly and peacefully on the waters of the Czar". Far from being challenged and warned off as an unauthorised civilian, Hughes found himself welcomed, even fêted. A small boat arrived from the Acre, carrying an officer who invited Hughes to berth his yacht by attaching it to one of the warship's hawsers. 

        The Hughes brothers were strolling around the decks of the Acre, "when a handsome little middy [midshipman] accosted us, and brought us the offer of a tow up to Bomarsund from the Cuckoo." This was no random kindness, but an example of insider networking: HMS Cuckoo was a 234-ton steam packet, used for coastal patrols and based, from 1842 to 1848, at Weymouth. "This was too good an offer to be neglected, so we left the warlike world of the line-of-battle ship, and bore up for the Cuckoo, now lying with steam up all ready to sail, half a mile to leeward." Towed through a "narrow creek," the Pet emerged into "the magnificent panorama in Lumpar Bay ... the Russian forts, glistening white in the sun's glare, straight before us; to the westward, little scattered islands and dark peaceful woods; and in the foreground, some thirty sail of different sizes in all the pomp and circumstance of war."[37] Hughes dropped anchor alongside the schooner Esmeralda. The Pet was quickly surrounded by "a little squadron of boats ... eager for news, and loudly expressing their surprise and congratulations that so small a craft should have succeeded in reaching so distant a port in an enemy's country, and fortunately for us, on the very eve before the battle."

        Throughout the day, "cheers and martial music" greeted Allied ships as they approached, preparing to attack Russian positions on shore. The only sight of the enemy was the appearance that evening of a few troops who "were marched down to bathe; we could see them splashing, and we could hear their yells and shouts." That evening, the brothers "dined on board the Esmeralda, and there we heard the rumour fully confirmed that the attack would begin at daylight". Security was evidently not a priority in the Baltic fleet, but Allied intentions were no doubt obvious enough. The enemy certainly knew: "the last sound that reached us before we slept, was the rattle of the Russian drums." It would be a disturbed night. The French, who supplied the soldiers for the planned landing, were moving into position by boat. Around midnight, "a French steam sloop ran ashore on a reef close to the Pet, and the row that was made in their ineffectual efforts to get her off was tremendous". The Russians fired a few shells to exploit the confusion.

        On the strength of his first-hand observation of the capture of Bomarsund, the only Allied success in the Baltic, Robert Edgar Hughes formed an exaggerated opinion of the ability of warships to batter land-based fortifications. It is important to make clear that the Russian defences in the Åland Islands were far weaker than the fortresses at Sweaborg, which protected Helsingfors [Helsinki] and its dockyard, or Kronstadt, the complex that guarded St Petersburg itself.[38] At Bomarsund, there were two Martello towers, Fort Tzee and Fort Nottich,[39] which were in turn flanked by a Half-Moon (semi-circular) artillery battery and five guns in a "mud battery," presumably located behind an earth rampart. Russian gunnery was ineffective. The French were adept at showering the roofs of the two forts with shot "like huge cricket balls," which made it impossible for the garrison to post look-outs to pinpoint targets. Russian guns fired at an angle of about forty-five degrees, and it may be that the cramped conditions of the two forts made it difficult to adjust their range anyway. When the defenders blazed away, "though the shells burst over and all round the ships, I could not hear that even a rope was cut." Their cannon also seems to have been slow to re-load: after landing near the forts, British and French soldiers became adept at strolling around until the moment arrived to take cover, at intervals of about five minutes. Only rarely did the Russians get lucky, as when "they blew up an ammunition-box, and sent an unfortunate gunner flying all piecemeal into the air." However, they were more dangerous when they occasionally fired shrapnel ("spherical case"), one round of which gave Hughes his "closest shave". "We heard them come singing along with their ominous tenor voices, and we wriggled ourselves and flinched into our holes as they passed; one took off a bit of fir within six inches of my nose". But, overall, his verdict was "their gunnery was a decided failure from first to last."

        On Tuesday 5 August, French soldiers established a foothold on land, in what was obviously a well-rehearsed manoeuvre: "every one spoke in admiration of the orderly and systematic manner in which the French managed the landing." A British contingent, of marines, sappers and sailors, leap-frogged the French to establish an advanced post inland. Hughes visited it a few days later, and was amused by the contrast between the pre-planned orderliness of the professional French, and the "pretty and picturesque" amateurism of his own countrymen. The sappers naturally knew how to construct snug and waterproof temporary accommodation from the available timber, but "Jack, more ambitious, had hewn off large branches with his cutlass," to construct "fine roomy huts, but a large supply of accidental doors and unintentional windows made a pleasing variety, and afforded the inmates an opportunity of contemplating the motions of the heavenly bodies." Hughes noted with approval that the British position was shielded from Fort Tzee by rising ground, but it seemed uncomfortably close, leaving him to wonder whether the position was vulnerable to a night-time Russian sally. Something similar would happen at Inkerman in the Crimea itself three months later.

        Hughes had used the morning of the Allied landings to smarten up the Pet after her North Sea crossing. No doubt naval personnel were conscripted to pull the yacht out of the water, where she was scraped, painted and varnished. By early afternoon, "the hot sun had dried everything," and Hughes celebrated by cruising among the warships and under the Russian guns. "We could see the embrasures swarming with heads and faces as the saucy little Pet passed the long fort at about two musket-shots distance; but we well knew that they would not waste a shot on so tiny an antagonist, and but for the chance of a sunken rock we had nothing to fear." This excursion was a forerunner of his more spectacular act of defiance off Sweaborg the following year. His confidence was foolhardy. A Russian gun crew might well have loosed off a practice shot against the tempting target of the Pet, and a near-miss would have inflicted more damage on an elegant, high-masted sailing boat than upon the solid bulk of much larger warships. Moreover, the fate of the grounded French transport a few nights earlier ought to have underlined the point that the Åland archipelago was nearly all sunken rocks.[40] "I have had many a pleasant day's sailing in my life, but this little cruize [sic] in Lumpar Bay surpassed them all," he wrote. In one of the many passages that portrayed the War as a glorious holiday, he celebrated "the bright sun, the pleasant breeze, the noble fleet, French and English, with their bright colours and ringing music, the enemy's batteries, the troops landing, their gay uniforms, glistening here and there among the dark foliage of the forest, while from time to time a gun from the batteries would roar out a sullen curse of defiance, and send its red-hot offspring muttering and moaning high overhead to seek a peaceful bed in the dark depths of Lumpar Bay."

        In his forays on land, Hughes wandered among the Allied lines with a freedom that now seems astonishing in an unattached civilian. On one occasion, he was allowed to join a party sent out to reconnoitre scrub towards Fort Tzee, where a British sentry had reported seeing "half a dozen fellows in long dark cloaks crouching among the bushes". The ground was unoccupied, but the opportunity was taken to climb to a viewpoint where "we gained full view of the tower about three hundred yards before us.... A sentry was stalking about in his long bed-gown-looking coat, a slack-hosed varlet in appearance, and we saw some Russian visages ... among whom we distinguished a woman, peering out of an embrasure, but no notice was taken of our presence."

Early on the morning of 13 August, the French succeeded in advancing their heavy guns to within four hundred yards of Fort Tzee, and began a close-range cannonade. "My brother was off soon after dawn, and secured an excellent position among the French sharp-shooters, where he got a capital view of everything. I followed soon after, and quickly came into view of the fort, which was blazing away pretty briskly. On reaching the first French encampment, an officer came forward and told me that the enemy had fired several shots right into their tents. I hoped no loss had occurred. 'Si, si,' he answered, shaking his head."[41] The Reverend Mr Hughes did not seem bothered by the fact that it was a Sunday. After an hour with the French, he worked his way around to the nearby English camp. At one point, "a naval officer, posted in a little hut behind a rock, warned me to get forward, as the place was in the track of a shell which came every five minutes." Further along, he encountered an advanced party "ensconced behind some sandbags." He joined the officers for "a grand luncheon on ship biscuits and some of the imperial sherry." Hughes had acquired the "imperial sherry" as he had made his way along the coast of Gotland: a ship carrying "glorious golden sherry" for the Tsar's own cellars had been shipwrecked, and he had been able to purchase a few dozen bottles from the salvage. Hughes does not seem to have queried his presence so close to the action, but there is surely something unutterably bizarre about a clergyman wandering around a battlefield, presumably carrying a knapsack loaded with sherry bottles. Drinking fortified wine in the midday heat of a summer day is not especially conductive to alertness; sipping the Tsar's sherry within reach of his guns seems a reckless indulgence. Yet all his only comment was that "[n]othing but pigeon pies and young ladies were wanted to make the pic-nic party complete." His brother Richard "turned up about dark, in high delight at what he had seen. He had been with the French sharpshooters all day, and had got close up to the fort."[42]

        The long Northern nights illustrated the informality of the Allied camps. One warm evening, the brothers lit their cigars and headed off for a stroll. Challenged with a cry of "Who goes there?", they answered "Friend." "'Bloody lot of friends,' replied the sentry, a highly respectable Scotchman, who did not approve of irregularities." To "Qui va là?" at the French lines, they were allowed to pass on replying "Officiers anglais" – although Hughes, of course, was in no sense a British officer. The lack of passwords was surprising enough, but there was evidently no awareness that the Russian elite generally spoke French as fluently as their own national language. Spies or saboteurs could easily have penetrated the Allied camps. Care was needed in approaching French positions, as our allies were reported to be "very prompt and remorseless in firing upon strangers who do not reply to their challenge." Two of their units even engaged in what modern military jargon surreally calls 'friendly fire'.

        Late on 13 August, a French storming party captured Fort Tzee. Under bombardment, Fort Nottich surrendered two days later, and resistance in the whole complex ceased on 16 August. "The cowardly garrison had decamped," leaving only a token force in its defence, Hughes reported of Fort Tzee. In reality, the Russians had withdrawn the bulk of their troops from a hopeless position, leaving only a small detachment whose task was demolition.  The brothers found a "disgraceful scene of filth and confusion ... tubs of salted fish, bread, salt, and filthy garments, with here and there a crucifix, tossed about among disgusting bedding, and in one or two places a ghastly corpse."

        He was equally contemptuous of the garrison that emerged from Fort Nottich. They "showed no symptom of martial training; little squeezy bald-headed old men, or raw loose-spun boys, they looked more like a herd of half-starved emigrants than the imperial troops of a great military power." Had he been less censorious, Hughes might have understood the "drunken, senseless merriment" of the "strange sordid crowd of convict-looking wretches" who were so keen to surrender. "They tore off their uniform, they stamped on it and threw it in heaps, they sang, they laughed, and danced." They were not the imperial troops of a great military power at all. They were Finns, compelled to fight for a Tsarist regime for which they felt no loyalty. Maybe they did resemble "unclean animals, grunting, wallowing swine," but it is only fair to recall that they had been trapped in an insanitary death chamber at the behest of an alien government.

        The captured Finns received little sympathy from their conquerors. Hughes asked a laconic French officer what he thought of the prisoners. "Canaille (rabble)," he replied with a sneer. What should be done with them? "Fusilier (shoot them)," came the response. Inside the fort, he was struck "a cold feeling" on entering one chamber. "I was walking hastily on, when my brother called aloud; I looked round, and saw, on the floor before, behind, and beside me, the cold, clean, silent forms of the dead. ... the light linen cloths that shrouded the stiffened figures waved and flickered in the draught, as if stirred by the breath of those that would breathe no more. What did these poor fellows know or care about the Turkish question?" It is one of the few passages in the memoir that even faintly recalls that its author was in Holy Orders. Somehow the comment comes across as a conventional sentiment, almost formulaic. Richard Hughes was more prosaic and definitely less charitable. The dead in the Fort Nottich mortuary, he pronounced, were the first Russians he had seen who were clean and sober.

        Robert Edgar Hughes was becoming hardened by the normality of warfare, perhaps because the low casualty rate hardly emphasised its innate brutality. As he put it, "scarcely one horrid sight of death or suffering on our side disturbed the bright pageantry of war." As the brothers moved in to watch the final bombardment of the Half-Moon battery, they decided to "forage a bushel of potatoes, which the natives refused us as in duty bound, but which we dug up with our fingers and paid for honestly before we went." He watched unmoved a French officer threatening a captive who was bound hand and foot, and could only plead for mercy. The man was suspected of attempting to blow up the Fort Nottich magazine after the official surrender. Hughes coolly rounded off the tale: "they hanged him the next day. At least, so I was informed."

        The reduction of Fort Nottich proved to be the central event in the emerging ideas of Robert Edgar Hughes about the potential of naval warfare. The conventional wisdom of politicians and senior officers held that warships could not destroy land-based fortifications: even Sir Charles Napier, noted for his wayward judgement, generally accepted the principle. The 1474-ton frigate Amphion took the lead in shelling Fort Nottich. "Amphion fired beautifully, and it was clear enough that half-a-dozen Amphions placed a little nearer would have rendered the presence of our gallant allies entirely unnecessary," Hughes noted. "No sooner did a Russian gun open than bang went a round shot against the embrasure, and sent dust and splinters to keep company with smoke and stench in the casemates of the foe. A fine crop of measly spots soon came out all over the face of the building, but what was far more important, embrasures began to approach each other in more loving contiguity, and a promising little infant of a hole began to show". Hughes concluded that "it was now simply a question of time, unless the Russian gunners were to improve suddenly and immensely, or our own gunners should be struck with paralysis, we should see the stone bulwarks collapse before the wooden walls, and then hurrah for old England!" In his view, the victory at Bomarsund meant that "the stone-wall bubble was burst and blown up for ever." Sadly, his enthusiastic endorsement of an aggressive naval strategy was a classic example of the dangerously misleading effects of first-hand experience. As Napier's successor, Admiral Sir Richard Dundas, was to find in 1855, Sweaborg was a tougher proposition than the Åland Islands. Hughes, who would be there to witness the seaborne assault, adopted the classic responses of a person who refused to accept that he had been mistaken, blaming inadequate preparation and lack of resolve for failure.

        The summer campaign was coming to an end (as was the Cambridge Long Vacation), and it was time for the Pet to return to England. "At Copenhagen, we heard bad news of poor Shelley, the sailor whom I had left in hospital." His health had been so damaged that he required surgery, and had been sent back to his home in Southampton for treatment. The unsatisfactory Peter also quit the crew, on hearing that his mother was on her deathbed. Hughes concluded that "he did not seem to care so much about his mother, but was in great fear lest his brothers and sisters should appropriate his share of her things." There was a brief excursion to Elsinore, "a very pretty and interesting place," although there seemed to be nothing very Shakespearean about Hamlet's home town.[43] Then followed a nine-day crossing of the North Sea, battling autumn storms, "never for one hour on our true course". Hughes played down the details, simply describing the voyage as "very hard and anxious work – on one occasion I stood nineteen hours at the helm". Provisions of food and water were a problem too. "Of salt beef we had an abundant supply, but I dared not cook it for fear of thirst." By great good fortune, they made their landfall close to the Pet's home port of Lowestoft, "the red buildings ... stacked as it were one over the other". The pier where they tied up was "silent and deserted in the early morning, but our triumph was complete." Only later did Hughes learn that five vessels had been lost in the North Sea during the storms, including a schooner that he had moored alongside at Copenhagen.


The Baltic Cruise of 1855


"In the spring of ... 1855, I found it impossible to resist the temptation to undertake another Baltic cruise." Britain's ancien régime social and political culture had not yet got around to banning dilettante fleet-followers, but one might have expected that some intimation would have passed through the political-academic network that a second appearance of the Reverend Robert Edgar Hughes in the Baltic would not be welcome. However, Hughes never once portrayed himself as an embarrassed intruder. Rather, by the close of 1855, he had emerged as a public contributor to debates on naval strategy and defence policy.

        He revealed less about his travelling companions this year. His cabin-mate was simply 'F', but the added information that he "had a brother on the Cossack" supplied a useful clue. HMS Cossack had recently been involved in a now-forgotten outrage called the Hango incident. Under a flag of truce, the warship had sent a small boat ashore at the Finnish town of Hango (modern Hanko) to repatriate seven prisoners – the fleet had no prison ship – and Russian troops had allegedly fired on the white flag, massacring the prisoners and all but one of the crewmen.[44] There was considerable public outrage in Britain, and HMS Cossack was held in high regard in the Navy. One of her officers was Lieutenant J.B. Field: the ship's commander Captain Fanshawe had sent him to discover why the landing party had not returned. "We have two clergymen (Field's brother and a Mr Hughes from near Bungay), who are yachting in a very tiny craft," Fanshawe reported in August 1855.[45] Field is identified by Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses as the Reverend Thomas Field, who had entered St John's in 1840, and was thus an undergraduate contemporary of Hughes. Venn adds that he was one of the best skaters in Cambridge, and that he used to wear a flowered silk waistcoat. He was a Fellow of St John's from 1847 until 1858, when he married and became vicar of Madingley. Like Hughes himself, Field does not sound like a typical clergyman. Alfred Hughes, younger brother of Robert Edgar Hughes, had married the daughter of a Norfolk landowner in 1851, and settled at Stow Park, a mile south of Bungay, while Thomas Collingwood Hughes was also living near the town in 1855, even if perhaps briefly.[46] If Robert Edgar Hughes was using Bungay as a home base, it would perhaps explain his use of Lowestoft as home port for the Pet. None the less, it is curious that Captain Fanshawe apparently did not register the Cambridge association of his unlikely guest. The association with HMS Cossack would prove useful during the Baltic excursion of 1855.

          One of the two crewmen, who was not named, "had traded a good deal with the Channel Isles," where he had picked up a few words of French. These he used to break the ice with everybody he encountered, "no matter whether the stranger were Dane, Dutchman, Swede, Rooshian, or Proosian". The other, Jim, was an East Anglian youth "of coarser texture. His opinion of all foreigners was, that 'if they were not lousy they had a lousy look,' and he gave them a wide berth whenever he could." 

        They left Lowestoft late in June 1855 (very soon after the conclusion of the academic year), and their four-day North Sea crossing "passed away pleasantly and quickly". The Pet was becalmed for twenty-four hours on Dogger Bank, and her crew "beguiled the time by hauling up whiting from their native depths. Poor wretches, they always wear such a stupid and surprised look when they come on board," Hughes noted. "I always feel sincerely sorry for them." The pleasant days "were passed in reading and mackerel-fishing, our nights in songs, yarns, and sleep". Perhaps prayer was regarded as too private an experience to parade in a travelogue, but there was nothing to suggest that the two gentlemen travellers were clergymen.

        In contrast to the lingering and inquisitive approach to the Åland Islands the previous year, Hughes seemed anxious in 1855 to reach the war zone. "Copenhagen does not improve upon acquaintance," Hughes wrote, adding that "the crowded anchorage and foul stinking water in the harbour, made us glad enough to hoist our sails and away." "We had a tiresome voyage up the Baltic," struggling with unfavourable winds which sometimes dropped away altogether, leaving the Pet "rolling and roasting under the fiery northern sun." One high spot was a reunion with his favourite Swede, the enterprising merchant of Faro Sound. "We were entertained sumptuously by the worthy Mr. Grubb, where we met a number of Swedish officers, who were very friendly, and invited us to their camp, their corvette, and a grand haymaking frolic, in which the young ladies of the neighbourhood were to take an active part."

        Yet, for all his determination to witness the action, Hughes now knew enough about war to feel some qualms. "At the sight of Russian land, a slight indisposition seized our crew, which recurred with greater or less intensity throughout our stay in the waters of the foe. The principal symptom was a trembling sensation, sometimes violent, accompanied by general lowness of spirits, and a morbid desire to be in some other locality." Since his presence in the Gulf of Finland was not only entirely unnecessary but also an intrusive distraction, it is hard to sympathise. Once again, he was inspired by the sight of "the glorious fleet around us," not merely the mighty warships, but "a large and continually changing squadron of paddle frigates and corvettes. The saucy-looking gun-boats, with their pale, lead-coloured sides, and their three raking masts; our yawl-rigged mortar-boats, bluff and ugly as bull mastiffs; and the strange, grotesque craft which the French had got by way of gun-boats, and their schooner-rigged mortar-vessels, altogether composed a most heterogeneous but formidable squadron." The mortar boats had been specially constructed to bombard Sweaborg at close range. They had not been designed to sustain repeated fire, nor indeed had they been adequately tested, and they mostly overheated and failed soon after they were sent into action.

Hughes enthusiastically explored the hostile coastline. "Twice we took advantage of a fresh breeze, and sailed in with a number of officers to reconnoitre the beautiful town of Reval [now Tallinn in Estonia]." The yacht must have been crowded. A few days later, the Pet encountered a rare instance of discourtesy, from the crew of the steam transport Cottenham, which was taking "invalid seamen" back to safety. "You don't mean to say you came from England in that thing!" was their comment on the intrepid yacht. Hughes displayed something less than charity when the Cottenham was wrecked on the shores of Gotland a few days later, and he seemed positively delighted that the passengers "mutinied, broke into the captain's wine-bin, and committed every possible atrocity."

As the British planned their first major attack, "[t]he first lieutenant of the Cossack [Thomas Field's brother] most kindly asked us to sail with them ... and we went to rest in high spirits at the prospect of some real active work on the morrow." The Pet accompanied a small flotilla sent to destroy barracks on the island of Kotka [now Mussalo], which protected the coastal port of Kotka, to which it was joined by a bridge. As the raiders approached their target, the Reverend Mr Hughes allowed his combative patriotism to boil over into savage sarcasm. He noted "a large granite fort, which the Russians, not having that implicit faith in the virtue of stone walls which some of us entertain, had dismantled and blown up." He was cheered, too by the enthusiasm of the marines who were to constitute the landing parties, "the delight and spirit with which the men welcomed that for which our authorities have so profound a hatred – active service."

Kotka was soon cleared, and its strategic bridge set on fire. With the exception of "two unhappy old crones," the population had fled. Hughes strolled through the chaos of a hastily abandoned village, and was struck by the detail of "a little bird-cage with the door open, just as some poor girl had snatched away her pet bird and left the cage in her haste". These were the cameos that "told their little tale of the tears and the terrors which war brings with it."

        But farce was never far from tragedy. A farmyard had caught fire, and, late at night, Hughes spotted a "half roasted" pig attempting to escape. "Actuated by motives of humanity, I felt it my duty, if possible, to direct the suffering animal towards the bayonets of the marines". The pig had other ideas, and it required a confused ten-minute chase to head the creature towards the British sentries, one of whom shot it. The incident was both a good deal more amusing and much more dangerous than Hughes realised. The marine detachment which he hoped would deliver a human coup de grace to the suffering porker was alert for a possible counter-attack at the bridgehead. When midnight silence was broken by "a great commotion," they naturally prepared for action, only to find, as Captain Fanshawe's biographer put it, "a parson chasing a pig!"[47] In the circumstances, the injured animal might be regarded as legitimate spoils of war, but another incident reported by Hughes leaves a sour taste. "I picked up a little silver locket contain[in]g a miniature picture of the Virgin and Child upon porcelain; it was a very pretty memento of Kotka Isle." Some would regard this souvenir-hunting as looting.

        The ravaging of Kotka Island formed part of the preliminaries to the attack on Sweaborg, the linked line of fortifications that protected Helsingfors [Helsinki] and its Tsarist naval base. On 4 August, the Pet made the forty-mile run, arriving "in time to drink a cup of coffee on board the Hastings, and get a good view of the Russian batteries before sunset."[48] The scene on a summer evening was so normal as to be surreal. "The blue cupolas of Sveaborg and Helsingfors churches, studded with golden stars, shone brightly in the sunset; the sails of the boats that crossed and recrossed, the splash of the oars, and the crop-headed, round-shouldered figures of the men, could be seen plainly with the glass; and the whole scene was so peaceful that one could scarcely believe that the chief hope and wish of the sturdy blue-jackets [British sailors] on board, and the long-skirted gray-coats [Russian soldiers] ashore was to slaughter and destroy each other on the earliest possible opportunity, and all about the Danubian Principalities."[49]

        It was obvious that the defences of a major base and provincial capital would be more robust than the handful of small towers and batteries the Allies had assaulted at Bomarsund. "The works which constitute the defences of Sveaborg and Helsingfors extend over a convex line of some five miles facing the sea." The Pet attempted a reconnaissance. "We sailed at a distance of about two miles in front of the enemy, and were compelled soon to give up the attempt to count the guns he mounted, not from their number, but ... from the extremely patchy and irregular character of the works."

        On Thursday 9 August, the naval bombardment of Sweaborg commenced. Hughes was everywhere among the gunfire. At one point, he boarded a British mortar boat, firing from a forward position, and "found the officer in command in a state bordering upon starvation." His command ship had failed to supply rations, leaving him "fasting and hard at work for twenty-four hours. Fortunately I was able to procure a bottle of wine and some of Hogarth's preserves, upon which we feasted gloriously."[50] The bombardment was prolonged, it was noisy and it was exhilarating, but it was not especially effective. Crowds of Helsinki citizens viewed the damage from the waterfront, the unconcerned ladies "in the bonnets and parasols of peaceful life". When weather conditions deteriorated overnight on Friday, the opportunity was taken to wind down the attack. A few more shells were fired on Saturday, but during the afternoon the cessation of operations was officially confirmed. "Sunday was spent, after church [a rare allusion to religious practice], in exchanging calls and writing letters, and on Monday morning we all sailed away." Hughes was deeply disappointed. He believed that the smaller craft such as mortar boats that had engaged the enemy at short range had inflicted damage on the fortifications, and he remained confident that the defences might have been destroyed had the bigger ships closed in to press home the bombardment. But before Monday morning came, and they all sailed away, the Pet had engaged in one last act of defiance.

        Among the miscellaneous hangers-on accompanying the fleet was "my friend Mr. Lodge, of the Indian army, a great enthusiast in military matters". It is likely that this was Edmund Lodge, who had entered Magdalene in 1836, and graduated with a First Class degree in Mathematics (36th Wrangler) in 1841. He was a cousin of John Lodge, a senior Fellow of Magdalene and the only member of the College to serve as Cambridge University Librarian. There is no record of Edmund Lodge having served in the Indian Army, but he did spend a decade on the sub-continent after graduation, initialling working as an Inspector of Schools and also serving a two-year term as Principal of Agra College. He had returned to England by 1852, and lived on a legacy from John Lodge.[51] Lodge "was most anxious to see what damage we had really done, and what progress the enemy had really made in raising and arming new works of defence." The double use of "really" indicates that both men were sceptical about the decision to break off the action. Hughes was keen to see for himself as well, and "an hour before dark, I got the Pet under way, and we went in; there was a nice evening breeze blowing towards the shore, and we carried our largest sails." It is puzzling that he did not appreciate that his yacht would constitute a tempting target: even though there was a Russian steamer close to the land batteries, "we did not think it likely that she would venture to chase us." The Pet was "about a thousand yards or rather less, from the citadel" when "a light puff of smoke" from the fortifications was "quickly followed by the report and the roar of the shot as it came nearer and nearer, and plunged sullenly into the sea." More and more Russian guns opened fire on the yacht, and one of the Tsar's warships joined in. "Hot shot, cold shot, solid shot, hollow shot and shell, the whole evil generation of iron projectiles were hurled by three batteries of a first class Russian fortress and a line-of-battleship, at an unarmed and defenceless yacht. ... and preciously they did shoot, their round shot went roaring dismally overhead and fell far beyond us in the sea; the shell came curvetting towards us, their lighted fuzes sparkling in the dusk, and fell harmlessly fizzing, far away under our lee; one only burst near us, and two at the very muzzles of their own guns."[52]

        The problem with this bravado was that the Russians needed only to score one hit – or, given the elegant fragility of the Pet's sails and rigging, simply drop a shell close by – to destroy their target. But for Hughes and his companions, adrenalin manifested itself in manic hilarity. "We could not help laughing with delight to see their abortive and ungenerous missiles plunge stupidly, one after the other, into the hissing waves." The yacht held its course "without alteration for perhaps ten minutes". Hughes steered, while Lodge swung the lead to test for depth and avoid the hidden rocks that were the feature of the maritime approach to Sweaborg. The Pet's topsail, tall and "shining white as fairies' petticoats in the sunset, was a capital mark, but they never succeeded in hitting us, or even throwing a shot decently near." As the yacht passed beyond the batteries, a final salvo "thrown by a gun of enormous range, flew far over us, and this noisy display of puerile and unmanly rage came to an end."

        Hughes was perhaps on weak ground in choosing to call the Russian cannonade "puerile". What on earth did he think he was doing? The correspondent of the Daily News, for whose competence and veracity Hughes had very little respect, sensationally reported that the Pet had been carrying officers of the Cossack plus a German prince, far too large a complement for the tiny craft in any circumstances. In the Magdalene tradition, Hughes had "got into great trouble with the authorities for standing in under the guns of Sveaborg with several Captains of the Navy on board his vessel. Their object was to provoke a general engagement, to which Sir Charles Napier was very properly adverse."[53] The tale had evidently lost nothing in telling over the Combination Room port – Napier was not even the commander by 1855. In any case, a general engagement by definition could only take place if the British returned fire, which they could only do under orders. Three naval vessels did send out boats, ready to fish the Pet's complement out of the Gulf of Finland is she sustained a hit. "One officer came, he told us, from friendship to F[ield], who has friends everywhere; another for the fun of the thing; and the third, as he candidly confessed, in the faint hope of getting into fire under some pretext or device." The spontaneous rescue attempt "was one proof among many that we received of the kindness and friendly feeling of the officers of the fleet." Hughes and Lodge enjoyed "a merry run back to the roadstead with the boats in tow, the men regaling themselves with grog to the health of the Pet, and the destruction of the 'Rooshins'." As the heroes sailed their maritime lap of honour through the fleet, "every ship had a kind greeting or a word of good-will for us as we passed."

The Pet's escapade was no doubt a cathartic act of defiance on behalf of sailors deprived of a crushing victory, but the destruction of a small, delinquent sailing boat would hardly have forced the Royal Navy back into action. Perhaps the exploit was magnificent, but it was certainly also very silly. "Owners of yachts should be careful, and not run foolish risks, for they might bring into danger, any assistance which might be sent them," the correspondent of The Times tersely commented.[54] A reviewer in the fashionable Morning Post noted that Hughes "was repeatedly fired at, which he seems to think was very unhandsome conduct on the part of the Russians, the citadel being so big, and the Pet so very small. On this point, however, he may find some difference of opinion among military men."[55] In the atmosphere of public distrust of the country's military and naval leadership, it might well have seemed inappropriate to censure an act of civilian boldness, however foolhardy, that so splendidly contrasted with official caution. But there was probably an undercurrent of criticism of Hughes for his quixotic action.

        There was to be no repetition of the stormy homeward crossing of the North Sea in 1855. Hughes had become fascinated by Sweden, and arranged to lay up his yacht at Stockholm, with the intention of returning the following year, to learn the language and study the country's culture. He travelled through the country on internal waterways, collecting information about its constitutional and religious life. (One gem that appealed to him was that congregations were locked inside churches during sermons.) He was not starry-eyed about everything Swedish: Gothenburg he described as "a regularly built and cleanly town, placed in the centre of a swamp. The climate is said to be very pestilential." But he enjoyed the entertaining and elaborate rituals in which Swedes bowed to one another on meeting, and he liked the people from whom he had received "invariable kindness and goodwill from high and low". Perhaps he did return in 1856, but it seems sad that he did not make himself into the interpreter of Sweden and its people that the educated British public lacked – and still lacks to this day.

        Rather, the last months of 1855 were to propel him before the public as a polemical, self-declared authority on naval strategy. By coincidence, 1855 saw the publication of the first of a series called Cambridge Essays. The product, it would seem, of the new spirit of university reform, the four volumes that appeared gave some Cambridge academics the opportunity to bring their scholarly research before a wider public, while enabling others to contribute to matters of public debate. In his contribution, "Future Prospects of the British Navy," Hughes ranged widely and speculatively, supplementing the stark conclusions to his log, Two Summer Cruises with the Baltic Fleet, in 1854-5, which were expanded in response to critics in a second edition, hastily completed in January 1856.

        "It is now pretty generally admitted that we left our work at Sveaborg when it was scarcely half done," was his bald and despondent verdict.  In fairness, he accepted that "Admiral Dundas did exactly what he originally planned, and that it was not intended under any circumstances to do more. ... the Admiral intended to make a demonstration, to satisfy the public, and to do the enemy just as much harm as could be done without loss or damage to ourselves; and so far we must do that excellent officer the justice to admit that he surpassed all our expectations." But, for Robert Edgar Hughes, this was not enough: "the resistance of the enemy was contemptible, the success of the attack beyond our own hopes, and yet our fire was suffered to burn out in its own socket; and a British fleet left an enemy with his guns unsilenced and his defences scarcely impaired; and, without loss or injury, sought shelter in a distant roadstead." "At present it seems a maxim that no enterprise should be undertaken which incurs a chance of loss or a probability of failure" – a very different principle from the days of Nelson. In angry frustration, Hughes could only dream of "the value to this country of a British victory in the Baltic" to balance the humiliations of the Crimea. He accepted, of course, that there were risks in an aggressive naval strategy: "the ships would have encountered the risk of being set on fire or sunk. But men-of-war were not built to be looked at, and steam-vessels are not like stone batteries, compelled through weal or woe to stand fast for ever and abide the issue of the strife."  A steamship was highly manoeuvrable: "if the fire is too hot for her she can shift her berth; if she sees a weak position she can assail it; if she sustain damage, she can retire out of action, and allow a fresh ship to supply her place." Once enemy forts were set on fire, "the glare of the conflagration" made them an unmissable target, while the defenders would be blinded by belching smoke which would make "all distant objects black and invisible".

        Fundamentally, Hughes held the opinion which was attributed to Sir Terence Lewin at the time of the Falklands War: there is no point in having warships if you are not prepared to lose them.[56] Hughes found it "difficult to listen with patience" to arguments that claimed, as he put it with heavy irony, "that our Baltic fleet contains the most beautiful ships in the world, and we cannot afford to lose them." "When we are shedding blood like water before Sebastopol, shall we grudge wood and iron before Sveaborg? And cannot it be said that a ship is never more truly lost to her country than when she is slumbering at her anchor while her services are required? A man-of-war is a fighting machine; and if she cannot, or may not fight, she is good for nothing." It is doubtful whether any supporter of the Navy would have disagreed with his premises. The issue was surely the balance of advantage in risking ships. Hughes does not seem to have been aware that the Russians used mines in the Gulf of Finland, but, having sailed the coastline, he ought to have recognised that there were too many underwater rocks to allow warships to duck and weave when under fire from land batteries. Some of his readers at the time might have noticed the inconvenient fact that, in the Black Sea, the Allied navies had bombarded Sebastopol six times. At Sweaborg, British shells had ignited timber installations but hardly damaged stone fortresses. The mortar-boats, newly constructed for close-range bombardment, had mostly malfunctioned after a few rounds.[57]

Even Hughes recognised that "our mortars were snuffed out at Sveaborg," but he still insisted on placing the blame on failure of leadership. Sweaborg, he concluded, was "a place which, for my part, I shall not quickly forget; where we beheld a succession of most unrivalled fireworks ...; where we saw with satisfaction what a cautious fleet could do, and observed with humiliation what a daring navy might have done". He believed that British strategy in the Baltic had been too much influenced by concern not to alienate Russia's restive subject peoples. "The presence of this semi-neutral population upon the coast is in fact a serious disadvantage to us; it ties our hands, and gives us no advantage in return." He took no pleasure in thinking of civilian casualties, but "timely warning and opportunity for escape would be given," while it seemed absurd to compare the destruction of property with "the overwhelming pain and misery occasioned by such conflicts as Alma, Balaclava, or Inkermann." "Such advice may to some appear sanguinary and unchristian, and little to become the mouth of a clergyman," admitted a friendly reviewer in the Spectator[58]. In his preface to the second edition of the log of the Pet, Hughes made rare use of the vocabulary of his calling. "It is agreed that the Russian war can only be terminated by our success; consequently, if this war be prolonged by feeble measures on our part it becomes not only a calamity, but a great and grievous sin at our door: it is stern duty no less than true humanity to render this necessary success speedy and sure." No doubt 'sin' is not a term that relates easily to yachting, but this is the only occasion on which this loaded term appears in his book.

        In his contribution to the first volume of Cambridge Essays, on "Future Prospects of the British Navy,"[59] Hughes ranged even more widely. He repeated his fundamental point: "the British navy has failed – not in numbers, not in skill, but in dash, in enterprise, in élan". Root-and-branch reform of naval practice was required, to take account of the switch from sail to steam. The future of the warship at sea was easy to envisage. "Not a sail will be set, not a man aloft; protected by lofty bulwarks, the crews will go into action, not to sail the ship, but to fight the guns. The gunner will win; the seaman will have no place."[60] The average rating would have to become a cross between a matelot and a marine, combining enough seamanship to sail a ship with the adaptable skills that could fight on land or ocean. He expected that there would be fierce resistance to so radical a realignment of the navy and its training, but his fierce patriotism drove him to insist that change must come. "It is painful to hear it said by foreign lips that our naval glory has culminated, and is already on the decline. ... England is prepared for anything rather than a timid policy and an inefficient fleet."


After Cambridge, 1856-1863


By the beginning of 1856, it would have to be conceded that Robert Edgar Hughes was a very unusual Cambridge don. A scholar devoted to the ancient literature of Greece and Rome, he seemed to be positioning himself to become an authority on modern-day Scandinavia. A clergyman of the Church of England, he was the uncompromising advocate of an aggressive naval policy, to be enforced by a wholly remodelled seagoing force. It would not have seemed impossible that something had to give, that Hughes needed to strike out in some fresh direction. So it proved to be. At a meeting of the Privy Council on 28 July 1856, Queen Victoria (acting, of course, on advice) "was pleased to appoint the Reverend Robert Edgar Hughes, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Magdalen [sic] College, Cambridge, to be one of Her Majesty's Assistant Inspectors of Schools."[61]

        What had happened? He was now approaching his 34th birthday, and had been a Fellow of Magdalene for a decade. His Tutorship was no doubt remunerative, but the work was tedious, checking tailors' bills to ensure that his pupils were not being cheated, enforcing petty discipline on resentful adolescents. Acceptance of college responsibilities also by implication involved taking a share, usually without pay, in the burdens of University administration. In March 1856, Hughes had been re-appointed as an examiner for the Previous,[62] a menial chore. His widening horizons were perhaps no longer compatible with the nightly routines of Chapel, Hall and Combination Room, and his colleagues may have become uneasy about his outspoken public role. But probably the most likely explanation for his change of course is that he wished to marry. Until 1882, a rule of celibacy applied to Fellows of Cambridge and Oxford Colleges: those who wished to marry were required to move on. Since most dons were ordained clergymen, the standard retreat was to a country parsonage. Magdalene had few livings, and it is highly possible that Robert Edgar Hughes had effectively outgrown his nominal vocation. However, being a clergyman of the Church of England was an asset to an inspector of schools, since most establishments were under Anglican control, and Hughes was thus qualified to assess their religious teaching.

        He was married on 24 October 1857, at the village of Newton, a few miles south of Cambridge, to Frances Eleanor Pemberton. Her father was the local squire, but at the time of the 1851 census, the family had lived in the town of Cambridge, where Christopher Pemberton had served as a magistrate, and employed nine servants.[63] It is thus likely that the couple had known one another for some years. Certainly Robert Edgar Hughes had not followed the example of his father and rushed into matrimony.[64] The bride was 27, the groom, "late of Magdalene College," was 35. Two daughters and a son would be born to the couple in the next four years.

        Hughes was assigned to work under the Reverend W.W. Warburton, Inspector of Schools for the region of Berkshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight. This was a part of England that he already knew. It was well-served by railway lines: Basingstoke and Eastleigh were important junctions, while a branch line linking Salisbury with Westbury opened the year Hughes was appointed, making much of Wiltshire easily accessible. However, Robert and Elizabeth Hughes rejected the potentially convenient mainland locations, and settled in Cowes, the yachting capital of the Isle of Wight.[65] (If their address, 1 Castle Terrace, is the modern Castle Street, then they were looking down immediately upon the town's two leading yacht clubs.) He apparently continued his yachting activities after his marriage, being reported in 1858 as the owner of a cutter named Sorella.[66] Hughes enjoyed a basic salary of £250 a year, plus an allowance of the same amount. There were also travelling expenses, of between £140 and £150 a year in 1859 and 1860. Curiously, his salary in 1859 was returned at £222, two shillings and elevenpence (approximately £222.15). It is difficult to untangle the precise arithmetic (a sentiment that Hughes himself might well have endorsed), but it is possible that he took around six weeks in unpaid leave, perhaps for another yachting expedition.[67] But although the sailing world was "impatient for another of his cheery pleasant Logs," it is likely that the Board of Education discouraged such frivolity.[68]

        In a typical year, Hughes devoted 173 days to "actual inspection of schools," processing 113.5 children each working day. 35 weeks on the road, plus time to write reports, suggested a busy year. He inspected schools in Wiltshire and, in 1857-8, conducted an almost-complete investigation of schools on the Isle of Wight. (He was unable to visit two small establishments, and ignored a number of child-minding operations.) In all, he visited 42 schools, teaching 3,416 children. Hughes stressed the poor take-up rate for schooling among the island's young people, and deplored the fact that girls at the garrison town of Newport seemed to be educated mainly for careers in prostitution. Two-thirds of the schools were rated adequate, but the remaining fourteen were "for the most part, embarrassed by old and inefficient teachers, whose very meritorious efforts are impaired by their own bodily feebleness, or mental incapacity." It was imperative to remove two of them from the classroom straightaway, which could be only be done by granting them pensions, something that the Board was normally reluctant to permit. One was a Mr Barton, aged seventy and with thirty years of service. "He maintains order with a huge cudgel and loud menaces, but I believe at the same time with perfect kindness," Hughes explained with elaborately polite irony. The key point was that Barton was "no longer efficient".[69]

        Hughes was not destined for a long career. On 5 November 1863, The Times announced the death, four days earlier, "at Little Shelford, near Cambridge, in his 40th year, the Rev. Robert Edgar Hughes MA, late Fellow of Magdalen College."[70] In fact, he was just past his 41st birthday. Magdalene tradition attributed his death to a job-related accident caused by the travel demands of his Inspectorate: "having to sleep in a bad inn's worst room, he struck his head against a beam, sustaining injuries from which he never recovered."[71] In his annual report for 1862, Warburton, his superior, regretted "having lost the assistance of Mr Hughes": the fact that he had not been replaced suggests that there were still hopes that he might return to work.[72] The accident had evidently happened before April 1861, since the census recorded the presence in the Hughes household of a "nurse to invalid". It goes without saying that this must have been a difficult time for Elizabeth, the more so because she was pregnant with her third child, a son born in June 1861. Presumably she decided soon after to move closer to her own family, for Little Shelford is the next village to Newton. No obituary has been traced for Robert Edgar Hughes, but the College traditions about him were probably passed to the Magdalene historian, E.K. Purnell, by the long-serving Master, Latimer Neville.[73]

       Although as the daughter of a gentry family, Elizabeth Hughes would hardly have been plunged into penury, it is likely that she was left short of money. The 1871 census records her living at New Street, Rugby, with her three children and two servants. This street was not especially smart, but there can be little doubt that the town had been chosen to qualify her son Robert Alexander Hughes for admission to Rugby School. As a traditional foundation, Rugby was under obligation to admit qualified local boys. Nineteenth-century headmasters did their best to raise the bar in order to exclude youngsters whom they regarded as socially undesirable – such as the offspring of tradesmen – but Robert Alexander Hughes, "son of Mrs Hughes of New Street," was accepted on his thirteenth birthday, 5 June 1874. To say that he was accepted is not to claim that he was welcomed. The Rugby School Register labels him "Town" and curtly states that he left in 1877.[74] In fact, Rugby started a spin-off day school, to divert local youths from diluting the public-school ethos, and to get around its legal obligations to the population of the town. This establishment opened its doors in 1878, and it may be that Robert Alexander Hughes was exported to the new institution.[75] In 1881, the census recorded her as an annuitant and widow, living with her two daughters and a housemaid, at Bridge House, Remenham in Berkshire, close by Henley-on-Thames. It does not sound a large establishment.

        Both her daughters married in the mid-eighteen eighties. The younger, Cecil, married an Army officer and talented painter, Benjamin Donisthorpe Alsop Donne, in 1886. He had already served in Egypt, and, although an officer in the Royal Sussex Regiment, was attached to an Egyptian Army unit serving in the Sudan in 1887-1889.[76] Elizabeth's elder daughter, Beatrice Mary Hughes, had preceded her sister to the altar the previous year, marrying Jerome James Guiry, a member of an Irish Catholic landowning family who lived at Peppardstown House in County Tipperary.[77] Although her daughter Cecil initially did not follow her husband abroad, the possibility of an overseas posting would have made it difficult for her to offer a home to her mother. Consequently, Elizabeth moved to Peppardstown House.[78] It was there, on 12 October 1885, that the Hughes family endured another premature death, that of Robert Alexander Hughes, "of typhoid fever". The death notice in The Times does not indicate whether he was living permanently with the Guiry household, or merely visiting, nor can we know the source of the typhoid.[79] However, it is likely that Elizabeth Hughes settled at Peppardstown House soon after her daughter's marriage. She cannot be traced in the 1891 census for England, and was definitely living with her daughter (now herself widowed) at the time of the Ireland census of 1901. Elizabeth Hughes died in Ireland in 1902. More than a century later, Peppardstown House still belongs to the Guiry family.


Robert Edgar Hughes in Retrospect


Robert Edgar Hughes was the victim, if that is not too strong a word, of two Cambridge practices, the requirement to qualify at Honours level in Mathematics before taking the Classical Tripos, and the ban on married Fellows. Both were hotly defended, the Mathematics hurdle as a vital ingredient in training the mind, the marriage bar as a means of ensuring a turnover among the donnish population. Both would be abolished as part of the movement to reform the University, although that movement made only stumbling and intermittent progress: Hughes, for instance, would have had to wait until he was sixty to lead his bride from the altar and retain his Fellowship. In the event, we may suspect that he was more than ready to choose a new career when he left Magdalene in 1856.

        Hughes achieved distinctions across a range of activities, from his involvement with the Magdalene College Boat Club – rowing intermittently across fourteen years, probably a record – to his brief emergence as an author, "the only writer who has been able to give the real nautical text of a Narrative of Yachting Adventure," as an admirer put it in 1858.[80] His appointments as a College Tutor in 1853 and an Assistant Inspector of Schools in 1856 indicate efficiency, while his scourings of Baltic waters and of Isle of Wight schools leave no doubt of his energy. His early death remains to some extent mysterious, although there is no reason to query the tradition that it resulted from a head injury, even if the chronology suggests an interval of about two years between the accident and his death. As so often when somebody dies in bizarre, almost domestic, circumstances, it is possible to marvel that he should have come through so many dangerous experiences – ferocious storms off Cornwall in 1852 and in the North Sea two years later, exposure to Russian guns in both his cruises – and perished because he cracked his head on a beam in a country inn. It is difficult, too, to resist might-have-been speculations about the subsequent career of Robert Edgar Hughes. Had he lived, he would have been in his late forties when the Education Act of 1870 inaugurated the massive extension of elementary education, and he would have brought the experience of more than a decade to perhaps even radical leadership of the new state sector. In the same year, the Clerical Disabilities Act made it possible to disclaim Anglican orders, which might have led to a third career, as a member of parliament.

        Robert Edgar Hughes ought to be remembered primarily for his two excursions "to go out and see the battle," the unauthorised and occasionally provocative intrusion of his yacht, the startlingly tiny Pet, into a naval war in the Baltic, during the summer months of 1854 and 1855. Yet a surprising veil of amnesia has engulfed the exploits of the clergyman-don who flaunted his vulnerable boat under the guns of a Russian fortress. This may be partly because the inconclusive Baltic campaigns have themselves been largely forgotten as a seemingly irrelevant sideshow to the central saga of the disasters in the Crimea. Yet even the relatively few scholars who have written about the operations against Bomarsund and Sweaborg have referred to his opinions only in passing. The Spectator was full of praise for "the manhood displayed in meeting and conquering difficulties, the cheerfulness of spirit, the physical endurance, the readiness of wit and inventiveness of resource" displayed by the Reverend Robert Edgar Hughes in his Baltic vacations. So what, its reviewer implicitly asked, that he "got into a scrape with his little boat at Sweaborg".[81] Perhaps that was the most appropriate way to acknowledge his adventure in the final hours of the ritually disappointing assault on Sweaborg: it was impossible to justify what he had done, but it was equally unthinkable to condemn his action.

        The brief emergence of Robert Edgar Hughes as a commentator on naval strategy, in 1855-6, is, at the very least, evidence of the confidence with which he declared his opinions: an amateur yachtsman was not the most obvious authority on the capabilities of battleships. It would be unkind to suggest that his views represented an example of the way travel can narrow the mind. However, it does seem that his strongly-expressed belief that warships, British warships, could batter land fortifications into submission was a generalisation from his observations at Bomersund, which was relatively lightly defended, and by an unenthusiastic garrison. Confronted with the failure of the assault on Sweaborg the following year, Hughes faced the choice between recognising that he had exaggerated the potential of seaborne bombardment, and censuring others for failure. It is hardly to his credit that he chose the latter option. His broader discussions of naval reform in the Cambridge Essays cogently highlighted the need for a fundamental change in the process of switching from sail to steam. The paradox was that, in foreseeing the mechanised Navy of Jutland, he was so deeply inspired by patriotic memories of the era of Trafalgar.

In his own College, Robert Edgar Hughes was faintly remembered for half a century, a folk memory kept alive by the long-lived Master, Latimer Neville. But, after Neville's death in 1904, a new and more serious Magdalene briefly began to take shape. The renegade don who had so recklessly sailed under Russian guns probably seemed too redolent of that deplorable Victorian era "when an undergraduate drove his own coach and four through the gateway, round the First Court and out again".[82] Of course, that equestrian episode may be mere legend. But Robert Edgar Hughes was a real person, and most definitely a real personality. It is high time to rescue him from the neglect of posterity.



[1] I refer to Hughes either by surname, or by his full name as "Robert Edgar Hughes". A death notice for his son, in 1885, refers to him as "the late Rev. Edgar Hughes," which suggests that he was known by his middle name among his family.

[2] Basic biographical information on Robert Edgar Hughes from (consulted 18 July 2017).  For academic appointments, The Times, 7 December 1846, 19 October 1854, 17 March 1856. See also T.O. Licence, "Out to Sea with the 'Pet': the adventures of Robert Hughes", Magdalene College Magazine, 53, 2008-9, 65-7.

[3] Robert Edgar Hughes, Two Summer Cruises with the Baltic Fleet, in 1854-5: The Log of the "Pet" Yacht... (London, 1855). Quotations are taken from the revised second edition of 1856. The work was consulted, July 2017, as  As this text is easily searchable by key words, page references have been omitted.

[4] As lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 1778, he made a treaty with the Malecite to open to trade the St John River in the future province of New Brunswick. As a young man, Hughes had accidentally blinded himself in one eye while using a fork to kill a cockroach. Nelson criticised him for not living in "the style of a British admiral. ... he does not give himself that weight that I think an English admiral ought to do." P.R. Blakely, "Hughes, Sir Richard," Dictionary of Canadian Biography, v, consulted 18 July 2017 as

[5] R.E. Hughes, "Future Prospects of the British Navy," in Cambridge Essays ... 1855 (London, 1855), 225.

[6] Mary Hughes, sister of the second and third baronets, had married a naval officer, Captain Thomas Collingwood. He died in 1780, having suffered a mental breakdown following the failure of an attack in the West Indies. He was not closely related to Nelson's Admiral Collingwood. Information from, consulted 18 July 2017. It is likely that Thomas Collingwood Hughes was named in memory of this uncle by marriage. Thanks to a convoluted genealogy, Thomas Collingwood Hughes inherited the family baronetcy from a nephew in 1889, shortly before his death.

[7] According to the London Magazine, ii, July 1820, 115, Elizabeth St John Butcher was the youngest daughter of Robert Butcher, Esq., of Upland Grove, near Bungay [Suffolk].

[8] Information from, consulted 18 July 2017, supplemented throughout by helpful census and genealogical information supplied by Gail Wood. Marcus Hughes became a lieutenant in the 63rd Regiment (later the West Suffolks), and died in India in 1846.

[9] J.E. Auden, ed, Shrewsbury School Register ... (Oswestry, 1909), 115. The date is uncertain, because Benjamin Hall Kennedy, who became headmaster in 1836, initially kept no formal admissions register.

[10] But the daughters were born on 26 November 1839 and 3 May 1843, both dates outside the tourist season.

[11] According to S. Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848), the annual net income of the vicar of Cerne Abbas was £81 (, consulted 27 July 2017). This was not an attractive living.

[12] Thomas Collingwood Hughes was reported to be living at The Lowlands, near Bungay (an 18th-century house, now a scheduled monument) at the time of the marriage of his daughter Gratiana in 1855. Bury and Norwich Post, 15 August 1855. However, he is not listed as occupant in the 1855 History, Gazetteer and Directory of Suffolk, 652, so this may have been a temporary address. A possible explanation of the decision to give up Cerne Abbas might lie in inheritance. All that seems to be known about Bethia Hiscutt, the mother of Thomas Collingwood Hughes, is that she was his father's second wife, and married him in 1798. The date of her death has not been traced, but it is striking that several members of family seem prosperous from c. 1850.

[13]The Magdalene Boat Club 1828-1928 (Cambridge, 1930), 55-9, 10-11.

[14] This absurd episode is recorded in M.E. Bury and J.E. Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1842-1847 (Cambridge, 1994), 45-6 (16 February 1843). Peacocke was elected MP for Harwich in 1852, but quickly unseated for corrupt practices. He was then returned for Maldon, and proved to be an active backbencher. Edward Craufurd became a successful English barrister, and also sat in Parliament, for Ayr Boroughs, where he concentrated on law reform issues. Despite his cudgelling, Craufurd lived to the age of 70. The other Magdalene witness to the incident, James Child, had followed Charles Kingsley to Cambridge from King's College, London.

[15] D.A. Winstanley, Early Victorian Cambridge (Cambridge, 1955), esp. 216-18.

[16] Magdalene achieved five Firsts in Classics under the pre-1850 system. Edward Broadhurst (8th Classic in 1832) was first Junior Optime. Edward Warter (4th Classic in 1834) had scraped through as 37th Junior Optime. Henry Thring, 3rd Classic in 1841, had been 16th Junior Optime. Charles Kingsley (9th Classic in 1842) and John Roberts (5th Classic in 1847) had both appeared as 39th Senior Optime. The College's only double First, Chichester May in 1838, was 3rd Classic and 36th Wrangler (First in Mathematics). Broadhurst, May, Thring and Warter were all products of Shrewsbury. George Sandford, also from Shrewsbury, was Wooden Spoon (i.e. lowest Junior Optime) in 1840, but went on to become ranked second in the Second Class in the Classical Tripos.

[17] E.K. Purnell, Magdalene College (London, 1904), 190.

[18]The Times, 7 December 1846. Mynors Bright, the highest Second Class in the Classical Tripos in 1840, was elected at the same time. Sir Christopher Wray had been a 16th-century benefactor of Magdalene.

[19] Ordination information is from Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses. Robert Edgar Hughes does not appear in, presumably because he was never a beneficed clergyman.

[20] In Two Summer Cruises with the Baltic Fleet, he baldly noted that, on board ships of the Royal Navy, "youngsters of all ranks are taught the Church Catechism, and other things which a Christian ought to know."

[21] "Nature intended him for a sailor, although fate has made him a parson". Morning Post, 10 December 1855.

[22] Purnell, Magdalene College, 191n.

[23] J.R. Tanner, ed., The Historical Register of the University of Cambridge ... (Cambridge, 1917), 614; Winstanley, Early Victorian Cambridge, 152-3, 167.

[24] M.E. Bury and J.D. Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1848-1864 (Cambridge, 2000), 133. Curiously, no Magdalene historian seems to have discussed Lord Braybrooke's high-handed action in 1813.

[25] Hughes described the Pet as 8 tons "O.M.". This seems to have been a tonnage based on burthen, known as Old Measure, which was going out of use with the introduction of iron ships. A correspondent of Hunt's Yachting Magazine [HYM] estimated that she was more likely 14 tons. HYM, 3, 1854, 611. The key point is that the yacht was small.

[26] Hughes may well have been a Classical scholar, but even he would have been challenged to translate this awkward sentence into elegant Latin.

[27] Although not identified, his companion was perhaps his next brother, Alfred, who eventually inherited the family baronetcy in 1889. He was then 27, and married.

[28]HYM, i, 1852-3, 312-18, 350-3, 437-45; ii, 1853, 7-17, 57-68, 122-30, 181-4.

[29] His vivid description of the Spithead naval review of August 1853 suggests that the Pet was one of the 300 yachts that followed the review, off Southsea and Selsey. Hughes, "Future Prospects of the British Navy," in Cambridge Essays ... 1855, 195.

[30] Recent scholarly discussions include A. Lambert, The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 1853-6 (2nd ed., Farnham, Surrey, 2011) and A. Rath, The Crimean War in Imperial Context, 1854-1856 (Basingstoke, 2015).

[31] C.S. Parker, Life and Letters of Sir James Graham ... (London, 1907), ii, 230 (to Admiral Napier, 10 April 1854). Graham was First Lord of the Admiralty. "England" was a conventional usage for Britain: Scotland was equally, if not more, vulnerable to coastal raids. Graham added the point that the despatch of the Army to the Crimea would leave the home islands with "no large reserve [of troops] ready on our shores."

[32] Sweaborg often appears in contemporary accounts as "Sveaborg", the form preferred by Hughes himself.

[33] Hughes was amused by the popular pronunciation, "Rooshian," although this may have been closer to the original 'Rus'. In HMS Pinafore (1878), W.S. Gilbert celebrated the national identity of Ralph Rackstraw: "For he might have been a Roosian / A French, or Turk, or Proosian / Or perhaps Ital-I-an!... But in spite of all temptations / To belong to other nations  / He remains an Englishman!"

[34] Biographical information from Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses. Richard Hughes was promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant in the 66th Regiment of Foot in January 1855. London Gazette, 9 January 1855, 86.

[35] From other comments, it is clear that Hughes was well aware that the church (Vor Frue Kirke, although he preferred to use its German name) had required reconstruction after being bombarded by the Royal Navy in 1807.

[36] Hughes, "Future Prospects of the British Navy," in Cambridge Essays ... 1855, 224; Lambert, The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 187.

[37] A useful website, (consulted 28 July 2017) traces the phrase "pomp and circumstance" to Shakespeare's Othello (1616), Act 3, Scene 6: "Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!" Philip Massinger's The Bashful Lover (c. 1640) adapted this to "all the pomp and circumstance of greatness". The phrase would later become indirectly associated with Magdalene through Elgar's Marches, and A.C. Benson's words to Land of Hope and Glory. It is a curious coincidence that Hughes should have used the phrase half a century earlier.

[38] As a reviewer later explained: ""The real defences of Sweaborg are far more imposing than stone forts or Martello towers, as at Bomarsund. They consist of a succession of sloping works and small stone batteries dotted about wherever nature affords a crevice or a slope to protect them, and show no face to the front for horizontal fire." Morning Post, 10 December 1855.

[39] Now called Brännklint and Notvik.

[40] Another aristocratic tourist, Lord Dufferin, arrived at about the same time in a larger yacht, the Foam. Dufferin secured permission to join HMS Penelope in a close encounter designed to draw the Russian guns and assess their capacity. Penelope grounded on a rock and after incurring several fatalities among the crew, her captain refused to accept further responsibility for a young aristocrat known to be a Court favourite, and insisted on his transfer to another vessel. Dufferin eventually accepted an offer "to give me a written order to retire out of fire" – an unhelpful addition to the burdens of an officer in action. After four hours under enemy fire, Penelope floated herself off the rock by dumping her guns overboard. The following day, her captain wrote to Dufferin to "make my peace for so unceremoniously ordering you out of the ship ... I told the Admiral that I had never seen more pluck in my life". The contemporary values system is here on full display: the wishes and feelings of an aristocrat, however much he might also be an inconvenient nuisance, took precedence over naval discipline even in the thick of conflict. A. Lyall, The Life of the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava (London, [1905, single volume ed.]), 86-8.

[41] The emphatic form of "yes," "Si," indicated that there had indeed been casualties.

[42] This may have been the day that decided Richard Hughes upon an Army career.

[43] There is, of course, no reason to assume that Shakespeare himself ever visited Elsinore.

[44]Hansard, 18 June 1855, col. 2150. The only British seaman to escape (with considerable courage and ingenuity) was described as "a black man". It later emerged that some of those believed killed had been taken prisoner by the Russians.

[45] A.E.J. Fanshawe, Admiral Sir Edward Gennys Fanshawe ... (London, 1904, privately printed), 332 (11 August 1855).

[46]History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Suffolk, 1855, 23; Bury and Norwich Post, 15 August 1855.

[47] The parson "had come over from England in a yacht to witness naval operations in the Baltic." Fanshawe, Admiral Sir Edward Gennys Fanshawe, 327.

[48] The 74-gun HMS Hastings had been built in 1818, but modernised by the addition of screw propulsion in 1855. In 1838, she had carried the Earl of Durham to Canada.

[49] The independence of the Principalities, modern Romania, was one of the points at issue in the Crimean War, but it was an artistic exaggeration to imply that it was the key cause of the conflict.

[50] Hogarth's preserves were an early form of canned food. The Aberdeen company had been using high-pressure steam to seal and cook meat since 1837. K. Farrer, To Feed a Nation ... (Collingwood, Vic., 2005), 44.

[51] Information from Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, and Bury and Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary, 1842-1847, 48.  Edmund Lodge had been in some trouble, apparently involving College discipline, in 1839. Bury, ed, Romilly's Cambridge Diary, 1832-41, 160. This may explain why he was not elected to a Fellowship, despite his Tripos success, and could also perhaps account for his decision to go to India.

[52] The correspondent of The Times confirmed the account: "The owner of the yacht Wee Pet, Mr. Hughes, was very nearly paying a severe penalty for endeavouring to satisfy his curiosity. Just before dusk he stood in towards the fortress, and got within range of the guns, when a perfect shower of shell and hot shot was thrown at him, dropping over him astern, indeed, in every direction, but fortunately not touching him." The Times, 21 August 1855. Hughes appears to have used "shell" as both singular and plural.

[53] Purnell, Magdalene College, 190-1.

[54] Correspondent of The Times, 21 August 1855 (also quoted South Australian Register, 27 November 1855).

[55]Morning Post, 10 December 1855.

[56] L. Freedman, The Official History of the Falklands Campaign, ii (London, 2005), 302. Lewin's reported comment referred specifically to destroyers.

[57] H.J. Fuller, Empire, Technology and Seapower ... (London, 2013), 185-8.

[58]Spectator, 1 December 1855, 14.

[59]Cambridge Essays ... 1855, 193-225.

[60] Hughes recalled that HMS Amphion, whose bombardment of Fort Nottich he had admired, had sheltered behind a small island. However, her position had been revealed by her masts. Hughes regarded this as absurd: Amphion was essentially steam-powered, and only rarely carried supplementary sail. He argued that there should be provision to disable masts when such a vessel went into action.

[61]London Gazette, 29 July 1856, 2587.

[62]The Times, 17 March 1856.

[63] Newton Lodge, the Pemberton family home, was rebuilt c. 1853, and the family were perhaps based in Cambridge temporarily. In 1851, they were living in the parish of St Mary the Less. The location, and the size of the establishment, point to the Trumpington Street area.

[64]Cambridge Independent Press, 24 October 1857. Census information from Gail Wood. Family history websites place the wedding at Chesterton, which was probably the registration district.

[65] 1 Castle Terrace, West Cowes was their address at the time of the (April) 1861 census, but their daughters had been born in Cowes in 1858 and 1859.

[66]HYM, 7, 1858, 504. "Where is the Pet now, does anybody know?" Hughes had perhaps sold the Pet in Sweden in 1856. Dr Licence states that the yacht was broken up in 1883, at Fairlie in Ayrshire. T.O. Licence, "Out to Sea with the 'Pet': the adventures of Robert Hughes", Magdalene College Magazine, 53, 2008-9, 67.

[67]British Parliamentary Papers, 1861, 369, 2.

[68]HYM, 7, 1858, 504.

[69]British Parliamentary Papers, 1859, Session 1, 2510, 114, 127-9.

[70] Venn indicates that a death notice also appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, but this source was rarely informative. 

[71] Purnell, Magdalene College, 191.

[72]British Parliamentary Papers, 1863, 3171.

[73] No Will or probate has been traced.

[74]Rugby School Register, iii (Rugby, 1904), 6.

[75] The subsequent career of Robert Alexander Hughes has not been established. His name does not appear in Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses, or Foster's similar work for Oxford. He cannot be traced in the London Gazette, indicating that he did not become an officer in the Army or Navy.

[76] Information from the website of the National Army Museum,, consulted 26 July 2017, and see A. Harfield, ed., The Life and Times of a Victorian Army Officer ... Benjamin Donisthorpe Alsop Donne (Wincanton, Somerset, 1986).

[77] In 1876, Jerome James Guiry owned 554 acres of land in Tipperary:, consulted 27 July 2017.

[78] Cecil Donne seems to have visited the Guiry household too. Her husband noted in 1889 that she was "having a quiet time in Ireland". Harfield, ed., The Life and Times of a Victorian Army Officer, 170.

[79]The Times, 16 October 1885. A brother of Elizabeth Hughes, Christopher Peace Pemberton, had also met an untimely end. An Army officer, he had become a correspondent of The Times covering the Franco-Prussian War, and was killed at the battle of Sedan in 1870. His death was all the more unlucky in that he was attached to the Prussian Army, and fell in the last stages of the battle, in which the French were routed.

[80]HYM, 7, 1858, 504.

[81]Spectator, 1 December 1855, 14.

[82]Magdalene Boat Club, 1828-1928, 43.

Copyright © 2017 Ged Martin. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU General Public License.