CORNWALLIS, Kinahan




Author Tags: 1850-1900, Early B.C., Transient

An English lawyer, historian and editor, Cornwallis wrote The New El Dorado; Or, British Columbia (1858) with the intent of persuading the upper class to immigrate to B.C.

Born in London in 1839, he attended school in Liverpool, entered the British Colonia Civil Service and spent two years in Melbourne, Australia. He arrived in Victoria via San Francisco to prospect for gold on the Fraser River in June of 1858. He wrote very favourably of his discoveries in The New El Dorado; or British Columbia, one of the first sophisticated, literary works about British Columbia. This philosophical travelogue is seldom cited because Cornwallis' stay in British Columbia was so brief. In 1860, he joined the staff of the New York Herald where he stayed for nine years. Upon leaving the Herald he became editor and owner of the Knickerbocker Magazine and the Albion. In 1886 assumed control of the Wall Street Daily Investigator. During this time, Cornwallis also practiced as a lawyer. Cumulatively he traveled to the Philippines, Singapore, Ceylon, Egypt, Japan, Africa, South America and Canada. He died in 1917.

Cornwallis was unusually supportive of the Indians he met in British Columbia, as this excerpt attests: "And this was two hundred and eighty miles up the shelving banks of the Frazer River, and adjoining a camp of reported warlike Indians. As for the latter, I would thus as readily trust myself into their power as I would to humanity of the white skin; it is only when the savage becomes morally vitiated by his intercourse with civilisation that his unsophisticated honesty and generosity become obscured or perverted; and when he is driven relentlessly to the brink of death by force of vice and starvation engendered by his association with the white man.

"It is a preposterous thing for ignorant conventional old women, and domesticated men to match, who have never wandered beyond the regions of lamp posts, rant about savages, and pray for the conversion of the heathen, and then look down upon them as degraded beings, lost in the darkness of sin and iniquity; when the fact is, that they themselves are the sinful and iniquitous, compared with which the rover of the woods is often a personification of magnanimity and virtue, while he is never degraded till he has succumbed to the blasting, withering power of a perverted and vicious civilisation, when his valiant courage and sovereign heroism forsakes him, and very soon he is no more. Ashes to ashes.

"How much more noble was he than those vassals of civilisation by whom he was overrun, who would cringe into servility, and lick the dust of a petty despotism equally contemptible with themselves. 'Give me a free, wild, boundless solitude', rises to my lips as I write, for I enjoy about as supreme a contempt for anything like servility and social snobbism as any man that ever sniffed the desert air, or ever tasted the sweets of triumphant liberty remote from the haunts of civilized man."

AUTOBIOGRAPHY:

Kinahan Cornwallis, My Life and Adventures; an Autobiography (London: A. Hall, Virtue, & Co., 1860) (2 vols.)

POETRY:

The Song of America and Columbus, or, The Story of the New World, a greeting to Columbus and Columbia, and descriptive narrative of the voyages and career of Columbus and the precursors of his great discovery, with the sequel as seen in the United States, in celebration of the four-hundreth anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus, 1492-1892 (New York: Published at the office of The Daily Investigator, 1892)

The Conquest of Mexico and Peru; prefaced by The Discovery of the Pacific, an historical narrative poem (New York: Published at the office of The Daily Investigator, 1893)

The War for the Union; or, The Duel between North and South; (U.S.A., 1861-1865) A poetical panorama, historical and descriptive (New York: The Wall Street Daily Investigator, 1899)

TRAVEL

Yarra Yarra: or The Wandering Aborigine. A Poetical narrative in thirteen books (London: Ward and Lock, 5th ed., 1858)

The New El Dorado; or, British Columbia (London: T.C. Newby, 1858)

Two Journeys to Japan, 1856-7 (London: T.C. Newby, 1859)

A Panorama of the New World (London: T.C. Newby, 1859) (2 vols.)

Wreck and Ruin: or, Modern Society (London: T.C. Newby, 1859) (3 vols.)

Royalty in the New world, or, The Prince of Wales in America (New York: M. Doolady, 1860) [on-line text]

Pilgrims of Fashion, a Novel (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1862)

Adrift with a Vengeance a Tale of Love and Adventure (New York: Carleton [etc., etc.], 1870)

A Marvellous Coincidence; or, A Chain of Misadventures and Mysteries, an American Novel (New York: Dillingham, 1891)

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2003] "Early B.C." "1850-1900" "Transient"