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Doctor Peter Degravers Pioneer Eye Surgeon
Doctor Pierre  Degravers was the father of Peter Degraves, the founder of Cascades Brewery. Of French birth he moved to London in the 1770's probably after marrying Anne Jones, daughter of a wealthy Dover family, who would become the mother of Peter and Henry Degravers; all three of whom would later change the speeling of their name to avoid the scandal Doctor Degravers brought upon them

Like his son Peter Degraves, Pierre Degravers fiddled around with his name a lot which tends to make tracking him through history a little tricky. Also like his son Pierre Degravers was probably a genius who was capable of thinking well beyond the limits of the conventions of his time. However whilst his brilliant mind  brought him to the forefront of his area of medical speciality, Ophthalmology, or the study of the eye, it also brought him a lot of grief. This page will tell the rise and fall of one of  Ophthalmology's great pioneers, Dr Peter Degravers
Peter Degravers MD Ophthalmologist circa 1777

The Sins of the Father
In the histories concerning the famous Tasmanian, Peter Degraves, his father is variously described as being an eminent, respected or wealthy doctor, whilst Degraves himself stated in an 1810 court document that he “lost his father in infancy and was brought up by his mother and his aunt”.  However, this “loss” of his father was very different from the death that the term normally implies. “Loss” in this case covertly meant disappearance, though, as you will see, it is likely that the son did wish his father had simply died.

In Doctor Degravers' 1786 self-published book A Complete Physico-Medical and Chirurgical Treatise on the Human Eye the author introduces himself as Dr. Peter Degravers, M.D. Professor of Anatomy and Physiology and the world authority on diseases of the eye. The book has been published four times; in France in 1777, then in London in 1780 and, finally, in an extended form and with additional illustrations, in Edinburgh in 1786. Finally in 1990 in English.
The original three editions of  Degravers' book did not contain a biography, though their text is full of little anecdotes highlighting the author’s obviously advanced medical skills and knowledge. The biography found in the reprinted version (part of a series called The Classics of Ophthalmology Library published by Gryphon) was put together by the publisher as an introduction to the work of Peter Degravers, but it sheds no light on the doctor’s life prior to his arrival in England. It does admit, though, that he was largely unknown and had been regarded as a quack by most 19th century English medical authorities, though this attitude is changing as modern medical historians review his work without the Anglo-French biases that existed in the 19th century.
Fortunately for history, as well as self publishing, Peter Degravers was an extremely able self-promoter who used the newspapers and other periodicals to keep himself and his medical practice in the public eye. Because of this there exists in the recently digitalised, historic newspapers of London and Edinburgh a body of material that is sufficient to give an insight into his life after his arrival in England—a life that took many a twist and turn and which was never far from scandal.

In the foreword of each English edition of his book, Peter Degravers politely drew the reader’s attention to the fact that he was exclusively responsible for translating his treatise from French to English. The first English edition was a fairly simple instructional textbook on treating diseases of the eye and contained a few basic drawings of cross-sections of the eye. The 1786 edition was a particularly lavish production with high-quality engravings and an additional section for diseases of the ear. This edition was probably paid for by the doctor’s short lived second wife, Elizabeth Baikie, and included an etched portrait of Dr. Degravers done by the famous Scottish barber, etcher and portrait artist John Kay.

While details are sketchy, it can be reasonably assumed that Degravers married Peter Degraves’ English mother, Anne Jones, sometime in the mid 1770s and that their marriage produced at least two children: Peter, in 1778, and his younger brother Henry, in  July 1782. Anne Jones was born in Dover in 1753 the daughter of Michael and Deborah Jones. She had a sister Deborah, born in 1755 and a brother, possibly named Charles.  Anne's sister Deborah also married a man of French descent and became Mrs Deborah Decharme. that both sisters should marry Frenchmen is not too surprising as Dover was the main port of entrance between France and England.

During the early 1780s records from a wide variety of London newspapers show that Degravers operated a medical practice in London out of his premises at Red Lion Square in Soho, from at least as early as 1780 and that he and his young family also had their London residence there and both his sons were baptaised in the local Anglican church of St George the Martyr in nearby Queens' Square.

Doctor Degravers' practice, whilst being general, had a special interest in diseases of the human eye and, later, the ear. Peter As part of his medical practice Degravers performed the (at that time) very rare and difficult operation of removing cataracts from the eyes of his patients using a clever little surgical knife called a “kystitome”. This was an instrument with a fine doubled edged blade that was normally retracted inside of a thin sheath. The blade could be made to protrude at right angles to the sheath by pressing a button. The kystitome was Dr Degravers’ tool of trade and in his book he described exactly how it was used in an account that takes more than ten pages and is a very detailed guide to removing cataracts. Keeping in mind that Degravers was assuming that the “operator” following his written instructions had not performed the procedure previously, he advises that: “If the patient be of a good constitution…it will be unnecessary to prepare him for the operation by cooling drinks, bleeding or other indications…” It should also be kept in mind that, whilst the description of this operation may seem quite horrific to teh modern reader it needs to be placed in the context of 18th century medical practices and knowledge: placed in this context the practices described can be seen as both advanced and enlightened.

The operation, he stressed, should be performed on a sturdy table in a room darkened to dilate the patient’s iris and that a strong assistant should stand behind to hold the head immobile (there was no local anaesthetic and the patient was fully conscious throughout the operation). Meanwhile the operator slipped a speculum (a kind of eyeball-sized spoon) down between the eye socket and the rear of the eye to hold the eyelid off the eyeball and keep the whole eye still.  Once the patient’s head was firmly in the grip of the operator’s assistant, Peter Degravers advised that a sharp knife be rested gently on the eye’s membrane and inserted into the eye “with a slight pressure”; the operator taking great care not to cut the iris. The knife should then be carefully removed from the eye. At this point Dr Degravers suggested that the “operator” should explain to the patient how important it was to keep his eye immobile “and that the pains he is about to suffer are not really as violent as he might imagine.”

Once a cut in the eye was made to the depth of the cataract the sheath of the kystitome was “introduced into the interior of the globe” of the eye via the fresh cut, the button was pushed to “have the blade out of its sheath” and cuts were made left and right and up and down around the cataract. If the patient was co-operating by holding his eye still and was not thrashing about or screaming the cataract was extracted by the operator squeezing the globe of the eye “softly” between his fingers until the cataract popped out of the eye via the passage created by the knives. Once the operation was complete Doctor Degravers suggested a clean linen pad should be strapped over the eye and the patient bled by the arm regularly.   But even after regular bleedings the doctor advised that there were still “numerous dangerous consequences” from complications that may await the patient “which might puzzle very much a young beginner.”

How successful the doctor was at removing cataracts, and how many of his patients were pleased with the results, is not known though again it is important to remember that in the 1770's the existance of germs as the cause of infection was not known so antiseptic and sterilisation was not used. As a result it is likely, regardless of the mechanical success of the eye operation, many of Doctor Degravers patients would have suffered infections in the eye.

Regardless of this Dr Degravers would certainly have had some most spectacular successes which would have restored sight to persons who were effectively blind because of their cataracts, and so he continued to promote himself as the leading expert on treating diseases of the human eye in advertisements and “advertorials” in various newspapers and also through the sales of his book, which he advertised heavily in London newspapers from 1780 onwards.  During the period from 1780 to 1784, as well as running his London practice, Degravers also gave a regular series of well-advertised lectures, complete with live surgical demonstrations. Thus, according to the Morning Herald and Advertiser of 10 February 1781:

This Day Dr Degravers of the Red Lion Square will deliver the sixth lecture of his Physico-medical and Chirurgical course on the human eye. Such gentlemen students of the hospitals, who have obtained a ticket for the whole course are desired to take their seats as they come in on the right hand side of the theatre to prevent confusion as the preceding evenings. The subject of this lecture will consist in the accurate description of all the medical diseases incident to the human eye, together with the best method to cure them. The chair to be taken precisely at seven o’clock in the evening. The chirurgical disorders will come on the Saturday following.
Terms of attendance are two guineas for which a Ticket is delivered at Dr Degravers’ residence at Red-Lion Square …

Such advertisements usually contained a mention of his book, which was almost certainly also offered for sale at the lectures. Two guineas was a huge amount of money in the 1780s, representing about the same as a master mason’s weekly wage or a month’s wages for a labourer.  Thus the advertised lectures provided Degravers with a threefold income stream (with the ticket and book sales being supplemented by whatever actual medical work he gained through the increased awareness of his skills). This in itself was more important than it might at first seem as Peter Degravers was able to exploit a loophole in the convention which prevented English medical practitioners from placing paid advertisements for their practices until the end of the 20th century.  For Degravers was not advertising his practice but his lectures and book. Without such a strategy, as a recent French émigré, he would have had to rely purely on word of mouth and social contacts to build up his medical practice, and associated income, in London. 

That Degravers was a pioneer of dubious forms of newspaper advertising and direct sales techniques is acknowledged by Hamish Mathison who, in his 1998 paper “Tropes of Well Being: Advertisement and the 18th Century Scottish Periodic Press” cites Degravers’ later advertising in Edinburgh newspapers as an early example of deceptive advertising. For example in the Caledonian Times of 11 November 1786, Degravers placed an “open letter” supposedly from six of his former patients extensively praising his work and skills. Mathison maintains that the letter was specifically designed to blur the lines between a genuine factual article and an advertisement. Whilst Mathison's claims regarding Peter Degravers' advertising techniques are not doubt valid it is also worth considering the mind of a man who was both an expert on eye surgery and advertising.

Doctor Peter Degravers began using this form of advertising in 1780 and continued to refine it through the 1780s in both London and Edinburgh. Indeed, he may well have been the pioneer of the ploy of supporting a paid advertisement with a fictitious “testimonial” letter or a supposed news article. Examples of his advertisements, which were strategically placed on the same page as the following “news” article, appeared in the Whitehall Evening Post on 18 May 1784, and again a week later, in the London Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser on 28 May 1784.

Medical News
We are informed Dr Degravers has attended the lovely Miss Sh----y and cured the complaint in her eyes which has baffled the attempts of several medical gentlemen…

The “news” piece then went on to promote Degravers’ medical book and lectures. This suggests that the doctor possessed a shrewd business mind and that he used whatever means he could to promote himself, his lectures, his books and his reputation, none of which might ever have gained any attention from his peers or the public had it not been for the self-promotion campaign he sustained for most of the 1780s.

Another interesting insight into Peter Degravers’ approach to his lectures is that the notices for these and accompanying “news” pieces often occurred on the newspapers’ “Entertainment” page, alongside reports of stage performances and other diversions. Perhaps Degravers knew that there was an implicit offer of entertainment of an unusual kind in his promise in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser of 28 July 1781:

A great many patients shall be dressed and operated upon in the lecture room… By such practical demonstrations those who attend this course shall undoubtedly acquire in very short time... practice of the most delicate part of the physic and surgery that would cost many years of study without such an opportunity.

Being pursued by his creditors Doctor Degravers fled Lond to Edinborough where he had more 'adventures'.

As a result of his actions in both Edinburgh and London Dr Degravers would have found it almost impossible to practise medicine in any city in the British Isles. Finding his options limited Peter Degravers M.D. took to the sea. The next phase of his colourful life is preserved in a number of letters he wrote between 1790 and 1792 to the owner of the British slave-trading company James Rogers & Co. From these it is clear that, sometime after fleeing Edinburgh, Degravers gained employment as the medical officer on board a slave ship called the Pearl, owned by the aforesaid Bath-based slave-trading company. In a letter to his employer, James Rogers, Degravers shows himself to be a strong supporter of the slave trade.

"I have now finished the History of the Kingdom of Haifock, commonly called Old Calabar… I have not mentioned the transactions of your ship masters, nor those of others, leading to the ideas which a copy of my journal have naturally raised within you; the barbarians would most undoubtedly have been productive of another argument to abolish the slave trade, which obviously is clearly demonstrated humane in the actual state of that part of Africa." 

There is no evidence that the doctor’s History of the Kingdom of Haifock was ever published and unfortunately neither the journal or the manuscript can be located.

Degraves left the slave ship Pearl and the employ of James Rogers & Co. in 1792 and moved back to London where he embarked on his next great project.

In 1794, Peter Degravers and a French colleague named Henry Ould submitted to the Longitude Board a paper called “The Longitude discovered, by a new Mathematical Instrument, called “Graphor.” Unfortunately for Degravers and Ould, contemporary developments in determining longitude with the chronometer and improvements to the sextant had largely satisfied the Board’s requirements in this area and their paper was rejected. Despite this setback Degravers continued to promote the Graphor, and its associated “New Mathematics” maintaining that its advantages had not been fully appreciated. To help his cause he resorted to his familiar tactics by employing the London press to promote his invention. He and Ould published a long and complex pamphlett explaining the Graphor and the associated new mathematic followed by an open letter to the Board of Longitude in several London newspapers and journals. In this letter they explained the basics of the “New Mathematics” in order to try to pressure the Board to reconsider the rejection of their invention. Sadly for the two inventors, not only was the Board not moved, but the tactic resulted in several unfavourable reviews of the Graphor and the associated New Mathematics such as the one below by Hookham and Carpenter in the Monthly Catalogue.

“The Longitude discovered, by a new Mathematical Instrument, called Graphor.”
We have heard so often of the Longitude being discovered that, on reading the title of this Book, we were very willing to make allowances for the author’s sanguine expectations, and to be reconciled to the event, if it should be found that this grand geographical mystery had eluded his most accurate researches. With this resignation we opened the work; but notwithstanding the positive assurances of the writer, that the secret was discovered, our natural incredulity took possession of us, when we found that the Board of Longitude had been applied to, but had not designed to take notice of the communication…” 

Degravers’ response to these rejections was to offer his system up for public scrutiny by appointment at his residence. Indeed, he went further, advertising an opportunity for the public to invest by subscription in his invention through an interesting instrument involving an “independent” trustee. Hookham and Carpenter described the device in The Critical Review:

“Before the public is favoured with a description of this wonderful instrument (the Graphor), a subscription is requested, which, when it amounts to £20,000 is to be, at the discretion of twelve able persons chosen by the subscribers, who are to examine the merits of the instrument, and if it answers, the inventors are to call upon the subscribers for the money. In the mean time, any person wishing to have a sight of the instrument, is desired to send a letter, post paid, to Messrs. Peter Degravers, M.D. and Henry Ould, at the Literary Assembly, No. 15. Old Bond Street; and a few days after they will receive a letter with an appointment to see it.”

Unfortunately for Degravers and Ould, the public perception of the Graphor’s commercial potential appears to have been affected by the negative reviews and the ambitious target of £20,000 in subscriptions was never reached. The result of these public rebuffs was that the Graphor, the “New Mathematics” and Degravers disappeared from London altogether and the 1794 attempt to claim a financial reward from the Longitude Board and subsequent media coverage appears to have been the last time that the flamboyant doctor attempted to employ the press in an exercise of self-promotion.

No further referances to the activities of Peter Degravers have been found. There is some suggestion that he may have moved to the southern states of the U.S.A. where there are referances to a flamboyant French dance instructor named Degraves. Other conjecture has him moving to the French Carribean. Or he may just have died. What ever was the case there can be little doubt that he was a man of genius, ahead of his time in many areas but who, like so many others before him fell victim to his own excesses.

Until recently there have only been two written sources directly concerned with the history of Dr Peter Degraves. One was in connection with his son Peter Degraves and the other was part of a recent re-print of his self published book A Complete Physico-Medical and Chirurgical Treatise on the Human Eye which contained  a short history based on comments in a few 19th century journals. Since the 20th century re-publication of A Complete Physico-Medical and Chirurgical Treatise on the Human Eye Dr Degravers' work has recieved considerably more favourable attention than it did in the 19th century and as a result Degravers has been sited in many recent papers on the history of Ophthalmology. Another historic mention of Peter Degravers occurs where two letters of  his are sited is in relation to the late 18th century slave between Old Calabar in Africa to the Carribean. This because between 1789 and 1792 Degravers worked as a slave ship surgeon for the Bath based merchant James Rogers and Co. These three strands of history have, until now, never been connected.

As mentioned above Peter Degravers was of French extraction; according to the Degraves' family history he came from the Montpellier region in the south of France. He moved to London in the mid 1770's. An advertisment in the 1775 edition of the Journal de politique et de littérature describes Dr Degravers as an

"Oculiste de Londres , est actuellement à Paris"

Tracing his origins earlier that 1775 is difficult because on moving to England Degravers Anglicised his first name from Pierre to Peter and his surname from De Grave to Degravers. 20 years later his English family (wife and Anne and sons Peter and Henry) changed their surname from Degravers to Degraves. Whilst it will become clear to you why Dr Degravers' family changed the spelling of their name why he originally changed his surname from De Grave to Degravers remains a matter for speculation.
Photo of Peter Degraves (son of Dr Peter Degravers and co-founder of Cascades Brewery)
Letters from the slave ship Pearl by Dr Peter Degravers

I discovered these letters in a box in the British National Archives in Kew. Amazingly I was greatly assisted in this discovery by the great, great, great grandson of Doctor Degravers, Tony Fleetwood Wilson, who is Doctor Degravers' great-great-great grandson and whose help has led to many major break-throughs in my research and who also graciously trandscribed Doctor Degravers' letters from his ancestors original and quite tidy handwriting. They are quite a potent record of one man's experience of one tiny apsect of the horrors of a slave ship and I would like to add that, from reading these letters, one is struck by a genuine sense that Doctor Peter Degravers, while no doubt a bit of a rouge, was a humane and caring man.
Ship PearlOld Calabar   August 28 / 1790

Sir / This my Third Opportunity per ship Vale Captn Smyths Tender, who sails tomorrow for the West Indies – am sorry to aquaint you that we have been very Sickly for Six weeks past – have Buried 13 woman & girls 56 Men & Bouys Sixteen White People – Our Doctor is not aquainted with this Country Disorders Hope you will never be Deceived by another – I have been sick for 5 or 6 weeks sometime on Shore had it not been for a Captn Jolly I never should have seen the Ship Pearl again, am not well yet Cannot get strong – Sir, as there is no Tender arrived nor any letter or any account of the Daniel nor the Vessel for Palm Oil had the Daniel arrived at 2 or 3 Months after our arivel could have sent him immedately with good Slaves these Vessels have Certainly hurted this Voyge if not ruined it.  You cannot blame me if the Ship Pearl makes a looseing Voyage – I observe at present there is no other alternative as God nowes where these Vessels are.  I have thought it adviseable to send the Ship Pearl off with Mr Wilding [?] the two mates care I hope will not be wanted to the Slaves, have Purchased 5 Hundred & [80?] Slaves am affeard shall not be able to send her off Full Slaved on account of Buring so many I have keept assortment [end page]

[next page] of Goods to full my Purchase [ . . . . . . ] the may arrive from Bristol which I left behin[?]  I brought Provisions for the Ship Pearl and had no Tender should have saild in 3 Months full slaved I have been laying for 2 Months not knowing what to do this is very disagreeable thing to me to send the Ship off. was I to keep her here it would be a [Fatle?] ruin to ye Voyage as the Doctor is not cliver – I shall put some of the goods in Craft and some on Shore to wait the arivel of some Vessell or other which you must send with the goods I left behind, [& take?] the Number of Slaves to nearly Full the Purchase which I hope to do – I keep George Crumpton Joseph [?] with me  I shall ship 50 Puncheons of Palm Oil, red wood & ivory, Here is 6 Ships now laying with this Tender who sails this day. 2 ships are French the Vale & Othello the Othello is ready for her Tender  the 2 French are giving [a?] Numbers [barrs?] which has & will hurt us greatly the sail in 2 months – Should you be inclined any other Ship here – would advise you whoever you may appoint to the Commander how you Plan your Voyage likewise see every [piece?] & [?] Quality of Goods as it requires every [?] our goods where very well layed in but I could [end page][

[next page] lay in a better an[d] Suitable Cargo which I shall point ou[?]   with a list of Deaths

These goods I shall do not answer ------ I am Sir your Hbl Serv
William Blake

[List of cargo & deaths followed by:]

Sir / if these goods are attended to the will awnswer this Place.  Excuse this writing for I can scarcely hold a pen -  Hope you will be attaintive to Tenders not to ruin another voyage

Ship Pearl Now at Old Calabar
October the 10th 1790


Since my last letter from this place sent by the Brigg Sarah, we have encountered all of us, a great many inconveniences, arising from the long stay of the Brigg Daniel, which arrived here only the 24th of last month.  Had the Brigg arrived here two or three months after our arrival here, we might have been slaved, gone to the west-indies, within six months, where as our cargo of slaves has been perishing for want of knowing what to do for the best; and our uncertainty was such that the Captain had rigged the Pearl to send her to the west-indies, thinking that the Daniel was either lost or had encountered some accident.  Our own People have been Dying & the slaves , thro’ part of this delay and other occurrences too long for a letter; but my Journal will give you a full detail day for day of what has happened since I am on board, & you may depend upon, that it is such a Journal as never was made before.

Here, I am sorry to inform you, we have lost 113 slaves, but when I consider that many were bought against my opinion & others without my advice, I do not wonder at such a loss.

That of our own people amounts to 22 & three in a very precarious state of health.  This last misfortune is owing to a total contempt of the laws of Parliament & the articles.  All the white people are and have been starved; as to the black, their loss is owing to a purchase of bad yams which never fail to give the flux to all those that eat them.  Our bread is all mouldy and I am much afraid of the consequences, in short, Sir, it appears evident to me that you  have depended on people who are incapable to carry on a trade so extensive, perplexing, and Dubious.  I could tell you more, but they should be descriptions of cruelty, that I would not commit to paper.  Our first and second mate beat the crew in a most cruel manner & one would think that they are all a parcel of brainless fellows, who care for no body.  The Captain fairly starve us within the cabbin & the sailors sick or well on the [booms?]
Notwithstanding all this & many other losses whose department don’t belong to me, I make no doubt that we shall make a good voyage. - Judge what a good one it would have been, if the ‘Daniel’ had arrived here three months sooner, and your employed better provided with good sober & steady heads! – If I should speak of myself my situation is most deplorable; at 5 o’clock I rise and go to bed at 8 at night; all that time I am on my leggs, and my greatest employment is worse than that of a waiter at the Bush-inn; as a surgeon, I am a mere atome, because you have not given those orders, I wished you would have given for your own interest. –

at 9 o’clock in the morning we take a breakfast, which is Coffee or Tea and this is the best meal; for the dinner consists in salt mean & yams; sometimes we have a chicken for 5 people who are starved, or a pound & a half a fresh boiled fish.  We have been here six months & your Captain has bought six goats for us & the crew, so that if a person happens to fall sick he has not the least chance of recovery.  This, we the want of bread that the crew have been denied, tho’ there was plenty on Board, is and are the reasons of so many of our people being now dead.  It is even my opinion, that no one of us shall be able to reach King Road, at the rate we go on.  I have been blind two days at a time & one day at another and these are the only days of rest that I have had since I am at old calabar.  My mate has not done above six days duty in six months, so that the whole has been on myself; and I may say with sincerity that within these three months I have not rose in a morning refreshed from the fatigue of the days before.  My health, however, is tolerable good, owing to sobriety & care; & I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing Bristol again, tho’ a ray of despair often comes to obstruck my hopes.

I shall say nothing of your Captain, chief mate, second mate, for I  have no good to tell of them, I only hope that they will be of service to your interests; as to me I am only a mere Surgeon and am never consulted in one thing concerning this trade.  I make no doubt  that your captain will give you other information concerning such things as do not belong to me.

I am informed that the master of the Daniel has given fresh meat twice a week to his crew & it has not a little contributed to keep them in health; as to our master I am affraid he will starve himself, and it is his opinion that fresh meat is not good for sick people.  You would not perhaps believe that after I had asked him to purchase a goat for the sick slaves & white people, his answer was that he knew what was good for them better than I did, and that I was continually talking nonsense.  Every one of us in the cabbin are obliged to buy fresh provisions out of our cloths, and to tell your the truth I have made away with a good many of mine.

I will finish this letter by telling you that we have never had one word between officers & captain, whenever I have been abused I have had cool blood enough to hear all silently, and I will do so to the end of the voyage & I am now determined to sail again with no young people or heads, at least such as we have Now on Board.  I wish you health and prosperity & remain your hard working man

Sir Your obedient Humble
Servant J. P. Degravers M.D.

P.S. Excuse this scroll, for I wrote on my knees ------------

Grenada Decr 14th 1790
Messrs James Rogers & Co


I take the opportunity of Writing to you by Capt Taylor to acquaint you of my arrival after a Passage of Six Weeks & 4 Days from the Coast to Barbadoes.  I arrived there the 27th of Novr with 189 Slaves  I waited on the House of Lytcott & Maxwell, expecting to meet with your Letters but was astonished at not receiving one. on my inquiry at the Post Office I found one lying there, Dated June the 2d & 22d advising me of the Market prices of Negroes at the different Islands, in consequence of which I made proposals to Said gentlemen but they would not take me up on any terms as the Partnership was dissolved.  I then Proceeded to St Vincent & waited on Messrs Geo. Bailie & Co they also told me as times were so uncertain that they could not think of taking me up particularly as being from Old Calabar, at the same time recommended to me to go to Grenada as there were good averages made there Latterly. Also informed me that there was a Hurricane at Jamaica Last Augt in consequence of which I proceeded here, where I arrived the 1st Instt & waited on the House of Messrs & Co as the House of Munrow & Co had just sold one Cargo and taken up another.  I informed them of your expectations but they wd not garrantee any price at the same time assured me they wd doo as much as any other house here in that case I thought it advisable to put the Cargo [into?] their hands, particularly as heering of Jamaica suffering by a hurricane last Augt  - I am still in hopes o making average considering the state the  Slaves were in.  The Sale commenced yesterday, there are 125 Sold at an average of £37 and upwards & I am ian hopes the remainder will not go much under.

I wrote you Septr 9th by the Little Joe Ct Jones of Liverpool acquainting you of the many disappointments & misfortunes I met with on the Windward Coast, which I suppose you have receiv’d ere this. On my arrival at Old Calabar, I found Ct Blake more forward in his Purchase than I could have expected, but eh Slaves were in a most miserable condition through a mistaken notion of  aeconomy, in purchasing bad provisions, & the neglect and ignorance of Mr Degraves / as I was informd / the Slaves were in such a state with the Flux, yaus, & Cracaus that they had but little chance of mending much ere their arrival at Market – I myself & all the Ships Company cot the [ ? ? ? ] days after they came on board that at one time we were scarce able to work the Vessel.

[part missing]

the Day following, annex’d you have the names of those of the Crew which I lost – I forwarded you letters from the Pearl, from Barbados which will inform you of their Particulars –
Am Gentlemen with respect your Obedt
Sert at Command
Richd [ ? ]

Robt Biggs ; John Howell; James Caberan; Isaac Shortman; - drownd 23d July
Geo. Mc L[ ? ] -  died 20th Septr
James Small; Richd Billing; John Bilford; [ ? ] – Press’d at Barbadoes

Old Calabar 19 Decr 1790

This my 5 conveyance pr favour of the Ship Liverpool Hero Captn Smyths Ship, to acquaint you that the Pearl will sail in all this Month but not quite full of Slaves  I believe we have been very sickly and Buried 131 men 45 woman Slaves and still Buring am sorry to say Wilding is Dead and several more, our Ship now is very short of hands which is mostly the case with the other Ships – Mr Stribling Must go Master of the Ship, to keep the Pearl here would ruin every thing as we are burying of slaves and Buryed so many – our Doctor is short of the judgment he pretended to have  he is not suitable to Slaves, [Martin] staying so long on the Windward coast has hurted our voyage to a great degree.  I stay to purchase what number I can for the Daniel is a schooner belonging to the Duke till his arivel  Palm Oil has been very scarce suppose the Triton will sail by 10 of next Month, the Master of the Triton now has not behaved well here  - there is at present Captn  Fairweather & Captn Cumberbush & 1 French Ship the have but few Slaves on board  smyth has [met?] a [Nother?] Tender in the rive,; Jolly & Smyths late Vessel carry betweexen 5 & 6 hundred Slaves off

I enclose with a list of Deaths
Since my last
Am Sir you Hble Sert

William Blake 
[List of dead crew]

Bath, October the 7th 1791

      I have finished the History of the Kingdom of Haifock, commonly called Old Calabar, wherein is included its present political state, laws, commerce, native productions and wants, to which will be joined some dialogues and vocabulary of their language.  I have not mentioned the transactions of your ship masters, nor those of others; leading to the ideas which a copy of my Journal, have naturally raised within you; the barbarians would most undoubtedly have been productive of another argument to abolish the slave Trade, which obviously is clearly demonstrated humane in the actual state of that part of Africa.  I should think myself deficient in good behaviour to publish this work without the consent of those who are concerned with the commerce of that place, therefore you will, if you think proper, communicate this letter to your Company, and on their deliberation, I shall know how to act.

I have, at your desire, been at your Counter in Princess Street to settle my account, and after various attempts I am no farther advanced towards it.  Those fruitless steps have often been productive of loss of time; upon this consideration I beg you will be so kind as to desire your clerk to put together what I have had from you, to subtract it from what is due to me, and to send me the balance in a Bill on Bath, by this means you will oblige
Sir     Your most obedient Humble
Servant J. P. Degravers M.D

No 11 West gate Buildings.

To Mr James Rogers Merchant Bristol

I called several times at your counting house in Princes Street at your desire to have my account settled.  after repeated and useless walks there, Mr Bower, your clerk, told me that he had spoke to you about it and sent me to you back again. So that you see plainly, that between you and him, on account of your multiplicity of business, it has been long at a stand. here follows an account of what Mr Bowers has paid for me & he is in possession of the vouchers.

1790£      sh     d
JanuaryTo James Palmer6  --  5  –  0
“   [ ? ][ ? ]
“   [ ? ] [ ? ]
“   Peter Tarone2  --  2  --  0
“   Jn Roberts0  --10  --  0
“   Ths Howell7  --  6  --  9
“   instrument box3  --  3  --  0

this all that has been Paid to my account
by Mr Bower at the counting house in Princes Street.

Mr Purnell on my not has given me in cash6 --  6  --  0
         31—15 --  5

You will please to recollect that I agreed with you to go to Africa as surgeon in the Ship Pearl, on the following conditions which I gave you in writing.  My wages to be £4—10sh—0 per month; one shilling for every slave who should go out of the ship alive either delivered to the tenders or sold from the ship in the west indies besides three slaves whom I should chuse over the whole cargo carried to Jamaica and sell them myself.  I went on Board the Ship Pearl as soon as she dropped anchor in King Road, and on asking the master when he came on board himself to show me the orders which concerned me about my wages, priviledge and head money, I was surprised to find that you have deviated from your promise; consequently I wrote you a letter complaining of it, before I signed the articles – your wrote me for answer, which letter I have preserved, that as it was customary that the surgeon and chief mate’s wages and priviledge were alike to prevent confusion in the ship, that I might rest assured that whatever deficiency should arise in wages and priviledge should be made up to me by you when I would be returned to England; upon the faith of that letter I signed the articles as the others. – Here follows my account against you.  The prime slaves sold 50 pounds sterling, and the average 38, consequently the deficit for each slave is 12 pounds, and as there was three to my priviledge, it makes 36 pounds. – on the deficiency of head money, there was 31 slaves taken out of the Ship Pearl and delivered to the master of the Brigg Sarah, Goodrich; this makes £1-11sh-0d. – And 187 slaves delivered to the brigg Daniel, Martin; this makes £9-7sh-0. The Barometer and Thermometer were for the use of the Ship, and Mr Bowers charges it to my account unjustly.  George Crompton & the Slaves playing together in the cabbin broke the thermometer therefore I charge to owners 12sh,- The barometer frame was left in the Ship Pearl, and as I was in want of quick silver for the use of the slaves, I charge the owners £1-10sh-0. ------ Besides as it is customary for every officer and seamen to pay the surgeon one month wages as per muster roll for venereal attendance, since the officers of the Hound man of war paid me for Charles Leonard, and Abraham Hilliard when they left the Ship Pearl, here follows the account Just as I gave it you along with a copy of the Ship’s Journal that I kept during the whole voyage at your desire.

   £      sh     d
For venereal attendance – John Wilding    4  --  0  -- 0
Do Wm Blake    5  --  0  -- 0
Do  Jl Hibling    3  - 10  -- 0
Do Wm Collins    4  --  0  -- 0
Do  J. Driskel    1  - 10  -- 0
Do J. Fulton    1  - 10  -- 0
Do Ar Asp    1  - 10  -- 0
Do J. Harvey    1  - 10  -- 0
Do P. Cox    1  -- 5  --  0
Do D. Barret    1  -- 0  --  0
Do J. Birrmingham    1  -- 5  --  0
Deficit of Priviledge for 3 Slaves at 12£ each  36  -- 0  --  0
Deficit of Head money for 31 Slaves put on board the Sarah    1  - 11 --  0
Do for 187 Slaves put on Board the Daniel    9  -- 7  --  0
To Crompton and owners account for breaking the thermometer    0  - 12 --  0
To owners for quick silver and Barometer frame    1  - 10 --  0
Now by act of Parliament under which the Ship Pearl
sailed for the regulation of the Slave trade, the owners are
obliged to keep me in pay – of wages till such time as my
account is settled and paid; therefore is supposing that you
clear and pay this account immediately; twenty six months
wages at 4£ - 10 – 0 per month makes -            117 -   0 – 0
---------------192  -  0 -  0
Deduct              31  -15 -  5
remains due     160  - 4 -  7
I am  Sir
       Your obedient Humble Servant 
J. P. Degravers at Mrs Prichard’s College Green Bristol.  February 20th 1792
N.B. in Two days I shall depart for London.

[Addressed]James Rogers Esqr Bristol

[Various notes on outside] 

Account of Surgeon who sailed in the Ship Pearl  .
Bristol 20 Feby 1792
J. P. Degravers
Recd  & Ansd

Dr Gravers Wages  70 :   2 :   8
[ ? ]         17/8
Sundrys pd    31 . 15 . 5
32 : 13  :  1
Balln due De Gravers          £  37 :   9  :  7

[Signed][  ?  ]

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