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Letter 1076

John Hancock to Henry C St John (13 December 1880)

Draft copy of a letter to St John. Hancock thanks him for a copy of his book Notes and sketches from the wild coasts of Nipon, which he and his sister enjoyed. However, there are a few corrections he would like to make to the text.





13th Dec. 1880.

Rough Copy


My Dear St John


Accept my best thanks for the copy of your book on “The Wild Coasts of Nipon” — –

I have read it through, which I did allowed aloud to my sister, we are both delighted with the book. Your descriptions of the countries you visited are capital, they make me wish I had been with you.

on some occasions — – –

What work you must have had amongst these [p.2] Pirates, I don’t think I should much have relished being amongst such game. The plan the natives have of catching whales with nets is most ingenious. As Many of their customs you tell are most interesting to read and given in a very graphic style, I like your book much — –

Allow me to make a few remarks, the first I want to speak about is the Water Ouzel2, you state say the Japanese bird at P.138 The Water Ouzel was busily at work in the pools streams enjoying the trout spawn.”  Now the very same thing was once said to me by a veteran Salmon fisher whom I was on a visit to. [p.3] (This was on North Tyne) my friend said we were killing all the Water Ouzels here, for they are eating the Salmon spawn, I asked his reason he said they dive in the very spawning beds — I said that is no proof of what you state to be a fact — Shoot me a couple of the birds at these beds and I will examine their crops which he did, but on dissection I found nothing in their crops but aquatic insects and their larvae, no trace whatever of spawn could be detected, the fact is the insects on which our little friends had been feeding were much more likely to destroy the fish spawn than the bird. On letting my friend know this [p.4] he said he would will never kill another water Ouzel — now what I want to know from you is did you dissect the birds and did you find the spawn in their crops? — I have spoken of this in my Catalogue of the Birds of Northumberland & Durham at p.62.3

The second — what is the bird you mention at P.165 under the name “Wood Grouse” for that name in England is given to the Capercailzie.4

The third. — at p.173 the Grasshopper Warbler is under a wrong specific name, the name you use phragmites is the Sedge Warbler — the h is omitted.5

[p.5] The fourth — I see you were on several occasions in the very land for the Osprey — I wish you had brought a skin home of the bird in first plumage and another in the down.

I never saw a description of either of these states of this interesting bird –

I find you say in the book that the Great Crab is was presented by me to the Newcastle Museum[,] I think the label on the case says presented by you but mounted by me –

[p.6] I finish this letter by asking the Capt. to come and see us in the North before he left went to sea again –

J. H. [signature]


[p.8] 1880

Copy of a letter to Capt. H.C. St. John R.N.




1. Captain H. C. St John. Notes and sketches from the wild coasts of Nipon with chapters on cruising after pirates in Chinese waters. 1880.

There is a copy of this book in the Natural History Society’s library.


2. The Water Ouzel is more commonly known as the European Dipper Cinclus cinclus. The bird St John refers to in his book is the Asiatic species the Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii found from the Himalayas to China, Korea and Japan.


3.  J Hancock, A Catalogue of the Birds of Northumberland and Durham. Transactions of the Nat. Hist. Soc. of  Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland and Durham. Vol. VI, 1873.


4. Capercailzie – the Scottish spelling of the Western Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus also known as the Wood Grouse.


5. ‘The grasshopper warbler, Calamodyta pragmitis, I found in Yeso, but I never remember seeing it further south.’ Captain H. C. St John. Notes and sketches from the wild coasts of Nipon with chapters on cruising after pirates in Chinese waters. 1880.