Autograph letter signed 'W. Gifford Palgrave' with his original print portrait photograph with a fez

Autograph letter signed 'W. Gifford Palgrave' with his original print portrait photograph with a fez

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WILLIAM GIFFORD PALGRAVE, (English priest, soldier, traveller, orientalist and Arabist), (1826-1888).


Manuscript ALS., Westminster, [ca. 1875].


Original autograph letter signed (ALS) 'W. Gifford Palgrave', to "Dear Joseph", regretting he is unable to make the journey William Palgrave Gifford. Speaker's Court, the Palace, Westminster, undated. 15x10 cm. In English. 2 pp. in good condition, with a separate photographic portrait of Palgrave. William Gifford Palgrave was an English priest, soldier, traveller, and Arabist, author of A Personal Narrative of a Year's Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia (1862-1863). Palgrave was born in Westminster. He was the son of Sir Francis Palgrave and Elizabeth Turner, daughter of the banker Dawson Turner. His brothers were Francis Turner Palgrave, Inglis Palgrave and Reginald Palgrave. He was educated at Charterhouse School, then occupying its original site near Smithfield, and under the head-mastership of Dr Saunders, afterwards Dean of Peterborough. Among other honours he won the school gold medal for classical verse, and proceeded to Trinity College, Oxford, where he obtained a scholarship, graduating First Class Lit. Hum., Second Class Math., 1846. He went straight from college to India and served for a time in the 8th (The King's) Regiment of Foot, Bombay Native Infantry, H.I.C. Shortly after this, he became a Roman Catholic, was ordained a priest, and joined the order of the Jesuits, (Society of Jesus), and served as a member of the order in India, Rome, and in Syria, where he acquired a colloquial command of Arabic. He convinced his superiors to support a mission to the interior of Arabia, which at that time was terra incognita to the rest of the world. He also gained the support of the French emperor, Napoleon III, representing to him that better knowledge of Arabia would benefit French imperialistic schemes in Africa and the Middle East. Palgrave then returned to Syria, where he assumed the identity of a travelling Syrian physician. Stocking his bags with medicines and small trade goods, and accompanied by one servant, he set off for Najd, in north-central Arabia. He travelled as a Christian. The service he would do for the Society of Jesus and the French empire would be as a spy, not a missionary. Palgrave became friendly with Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah Al Saud while in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Faisal's son, Abdul Rahman bin Faisal, asked Palgrave to get him strychnine. Palgrave believed that Abdul wanted to poison his father. Palgrave was accused of espionage and was almost executed for his Christian beliefs. 

Signed by the author.


Autograph letter ALS Manuscript Photograph Orientalism Arabian philology