These letters were written many years ago, but in China, and especially at Peking, the old order changes slowly, and they are at any rate a faithful record of the life which was led by those whose duties lay, as the Chinese say, “within the walls.”
Letters from a famous British diplomat based in China to various people. The letters start from early 1865 and end around late 1866. Fascinating insights into the streets of Hong Kong, the temples of Canton, voyages to Shanghai, China-foreigner relations in Tung Chou (which was later to be become a major point of conflict), the walls and urban architecture of Peking, meetings with The Prince of Kung, leisurely and closely-reported meals, the practice of Chinese medicine, the Imperial Examinations and the bureaucracy, etc — a wonderful window into life in China in the late 19th century, of course through the lens of an outsider.
About the author (from wikipedia):
Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale, GCVO, KCB (24 February 1837 – 17 August 1916), of Batsford Park, Gloucestershire, and Birdhope Craig, Northumberland, was a British diplomat, collector and writer. Nicknamed “Barty”, he was the paternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters.
Entering the Foreign Office in 1858, Mitford was appointed Third Secretary of the British Embassy in St Petersburg. After service in the Diplomatic Corps in Shanghai, he went to Japan as second secretary to the British Legation at the time of the migration of the Japanese Seat of Power from Kyoto to Edo (modern-day Tokyo, known as the “Meiji Restoration”. Mitford`s memoirs recount the troubled time of the foreign settlements at Kobe over the fortnight following American Rear-Admiral Henry Bell`s death, and the death of British consul Francis Gerard Mijburgh. Rededale served as secretary under Myburgh`s replacement, John Frederik Lowder. There he met Ernest Satow and wrote Tales of Old Japan (1871), a book credited with making such Japanese Classics as “The Forty-seven Ronin” first known to a wide Western public. He resigned from the diplomatic service in 1873.
Following the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance, in 1906 he accompanied Prince Arthur on a visit to Japan to present the Emperor Meiji with the Order of the Garter. He was asked by courtiers there about Japanese ceremonies that had disappeared since 1868. He is one of the people credited with introducing Japanese knotweed to England.
During his time in Japan, he was said to have fathered two children with a geisha. Later, he was considered to be one of the possible fathers of Clementine Hozier (1885–1977), in the course of an affair with his wife’s sister Blanche. Clementine married Winston Churchill in 1908.