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Letter 1053

John Hancock to Henry C St John (3 June 1878)

Draft copy of a letter to St John. Hancock comments on his recent visit to the Yorkshire Moors where he observed the noise or ‘murmuring’ made by the European Snipe in flight and discusses the difference in the feathers of the native species and the Japanese Snipe specimens. He mentions the sad death of his friend William Hewitson and the legacy he has inherited.




Copy. 3rd June 1878                                        To. Capt. St. John



My dear St. John,

I am very much obliged by for your line from Belfast regarding the Yeso Snipe — It is most satisfactory, for the same feather of the common Snipe is fully 1/3inwider across the [1 word illeg. back?] than the Yeso bird’s feather so if this one made the sound in consequence of the [2 words illeg.] wing. How does it happen the same sound is produced by the [1 word illeg.] feather but it is really not worth discussing for the sound produced is by the wings most assuredly.

I have heard lots of snipe making the sound on the Yorkshire Moors where I was staying a few weeks ago — The House where I was staying was is quite on the moors near a swamp & the snipes every evening were “murmuring” [p.2.] away in fine style, sometimes coming over the top of it of the House –

I really don’t know what to say about the Pheasant at this moment, but I shall take care to examine it again & see if I can make any thing particular out about it.

With regard to the Orkneys’s [sic] of course it is too late — ! From your silence on the subject I concluded it would be on account of the Eastern business — But we must look forward to another season for our projected trip.

The sad affair [of] Mr. Hewitson’s1 death has put us all out of sorts, I was with my poor Dear friend when he died.  I am glad to say he did not appear to suffer much.

He has left me one of his Executors & Residuary Legatee. Which will cause me to keep me busy all this summer.

I don’t know where I may be in Oct. or Nov. but if in the south shall [3 word illeg.] going to [1 word illeg.] on the 5th of this month principally of this [2 word illeg.]



1. William Chapman Hewitson was born in Percy Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in a house opposite the Haymarket on January 9th, 1806. He was a his life-long friend of John Hancock and when he died at his home Oatlands Park on May 28th, 1878, aged 72 years he bequeathed his estate to him. He also left the large sum of £3,000 and the remainder of his books to the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Hancock used the money towards the building of the New Museum of Natural History at Barras Bridge, later renamed the Hancock Museum.