James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1849 – China

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1849 – China

After having spent one hundred and sixty days in ships and boats during the first eight months of [1849], we were, indeed, glad of a little rest. The squadron now dispersed, Her Majesty’s ships sailed for Singapore; Captain Brooke, suffering from fever, went to China for a change; and Grant and I remained with the Rajah. Though quiet, we were busy, as deputation after deputation arrived from the pirate rivers to express their firm determination to give up piracy, and messengers came from the distant inland tribes to interview the Rajah, ‘for the Dyaks had heard, the whole world had heard, that the Son of Europe was the friend of the Dyak.’

We also visited several of the interior tribes, and the manifold proofs that the Rajah witnessed of the great advance made by those poor and humble subjects of his raj must have been pleasing to him.

It was during these quiet months that we gave ourselves up to the library. The Rajah was a good reader, and it was a treat to hear him read Miss Austen’s novels, which were great favourites of his. He was also very fond of religious discussions, and I think we listened to the whole of the long controversy between Huxley and Priestley, and heard all Channing’s Essays. Whatever the Rajah touched appeared to gain an additional brightness. He was always gay and full of fun, and dearly loved an argument.

Every evening the native chiefs came in to talk to the Rajah, who supplied them with cigars, and it was from these conversations that he gained that minute knowledge of the local politics of every district, which served him so admirably when he had to deal with the chiefs along the coast. The Rajah had the rare gift of never forgetting a name or a face. One evening a poor Milanau came in, and after touching the Rajah’s hand, squatted on the floor, and remained silent, as many chiefs were present. ‘I have seen that man before,’ said Sir James; and presently he turned round and addressed the native by name, and said, ‘Bujang, what is the news from Bintulu?’ This man had piloted a steamer into that river ten years previously, and the Rajah had never seen him since.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John


Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner