White, George Francis, 1808—1898
by Benjamin Colbert
George Francis White was born in Chatham, Kent, on 20 June 1808, the second of seven children by Henry White (1781-1849), army officer, and Jean Hanna (1779-1870). His father served in the Peninsular War and later relocated his family to Kingston-on-Hull, Yorkshire, where he became Town Major. During these years, George Francis White almost certainly received training in landscape drawing given his later proficiency as an amateur artist.
However, like his father, White opted for a military career. In 1825, at the age of 17, he enlisted as an ensign in the 31st (The Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot serving in Bengal (Hart 182). He became Lieutenant in 1828, Captain in 1841, and Major in 1848 (Hart 182; London Gaz.; Freeman’s 1848). In the following year, he reduced to half pay and was no longer attached to his regiment (Aberdeen). He re-joined active service in 1857 with the 54th Foot and was immediately promoted to be Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army (Freeman’s 1857; Morning Chron.). He was further promoted to Colonel by the time he left the army, but when that event happened is not at present known.
Whether part of or in addition to his military duties, White found time in the 1830s to undertake the arduous ‘mountain tour’ to the source of the Ganges in the Himalayan mountains and to make the drawings of those regions for which he is chiefly remembered. What White brought to this project in artistic merits he apparently lacked in literary ones, for his publisher commissioned a tried and tested travel writer on India, Emma Roberts, to write the letterpress and edit White’s Views in India, Chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains (1838). Roberts’s name had pride of place in a new edition of 1845 in which White’s views were amalgamated with those of Robert Elliot under the title Hindostan, Its Landscapes, Palaces, Temples, Tombs … and the Sublime and Romantic Scenery of the Himalaya Mountains (1845). Notwithstanding the wider circulation of White’s work that these volumes achieved, he published no more.
On 11 February 1839, not long after the publication of his Views, White married Anne Greenwell, the second daughter of Thomas Greenwell, then mayor of Durham (Newcastle Courant). When he finally did retire from the military, he played an increasing role in Durham civic life, becoming Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham from 1880 and for a considerable time serving as Chief Constable. He retired from the latter position around 1891. He died at his residence in Durham on 23 July 1898 after a short illness (Leicester Chron.).
I am grateful to Helen Rowe for kindly supplying details of George Francis White’s parentage and additional family history (email corresp., 16 July 2018).
Aberdeen Journal, no 5275 (Wed. 14 Feb. 1849). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.
Burke, Bernard. ‘White, formerly of Redheugh, co. Durham’. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland. Vol. 2. London: Harrison, 1871. 1504. Print.
Freeman’s Journal (Mon., 24 Jan 1848). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.
Freeman’s Journal (Tue., 18 Aug. 1857). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.
Hart, H. G. The New Annual Army List, for 1841. London: John Murray, 1841. Print.
Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury, no. 4574 (Sat., 30 July 1898): 7. Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.
London Gazette (Fri., 4 Mar. 1842): 631. Print.
Morning Chronicle, no. 28395 (Sat., 29 Aug. 1857). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.
Newcastle Courant, no. 8570 (15 Feb. 1839). Gale Databases: British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900. Web. 16 Jan. 2018.
|Views in India, Chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains||1838|