Wolverhampton BTW

Sarah Lushington

Lushington, Sarah née Gascoyne, 1789—1839

by Benjamin Colbert

Sarah Gascoyne Lushington was born on 22 January 1789 in India, the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Gascoyne, East India Company, and Sarah Gascoyne. She grew up with a sense of England as 'home', yet it is unknown when she might have travelled there during her father’s posting. In November 1805 she married Charles Lushington (1785-1866), who, since his appointment in 1798, was an East India Company civil servant. He later became secretary in the general, foreign, and commercial departments to the government of Bengal (1823-27), residing principally in Calcutta.

During these years, and probably for a good time previous, Sarah became close to her husband’s friend and superior in the administration, John Adam (1779-1825; ODNB), nephew to the powerful administrator, traveller, and orientalist Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779-1859; ODNB), with whom the Lushingtons also became friends. Charles and, according to one report, Sarah, helped Adam in his role as censor to publications produced by British subjects on licence, not least of whom was the traveller and journalist James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855; ODNB), founding editor of the liberal Calcutta Journal, eventually stripped of that role and forced to leave India as a result of persecutions energized by Adam’s tenure as acting Governor General in 1823. For the Lushingtons, Adam was the epitome of kindness and gentlemanliness; his death off of Madagascar on 4 June 1825 was a profound shock to them and Sarah’s health suffered from her excessive grief.

With Adam, the Lushingtons had ruminated over a scheme to return together to England following an overland route rather than undertaking the usual five-month voyage around the Cape of Good Hope, but its execution was overturned by Adam’s death. Sarah revived the plan, however, when Elphinstone began thinking about his own return, and, in a letter to him of 10 July 1826, she sought his company and protection for such a journey. Between October and January 1827 the Lushingtons travelled to Singapore and back, by which time the idea had ripened. Sarah wrote Elphinstone upon her return: ‘my late Voyages have even augmented my desire to be one of your party across the Desert, as they have convinced me I have still strength and ability left for travelling, and that what are usually called privations and annoyances are not considered such by me. [I]f therefore you continue willing to be burthened with a female who promises to be as little troublesome as her sex and the nature of the undertaking will admit, I shall consider our engagement as concluded’ (MS letter, 28 January 1827, BL Eur F88/274).

The Lushingtons left Calcutta on 26 September 1827, travelling by steam vessel to Bombay, where Elphinstone joined them. From there, on 15 November, the party continued by sea via Mocha to the port of Cosseir (present day El Quoseir) on the Egyptian Red Sea coast, where they arrived on 26 December. The overland expedition from there, forming the principal part of Narrative of a Journey, included the desert crossing by caravan, visits to Thebes, Dendera, and Cairo, and their destination, Alexandria, reached on 14 February 1828. Crossing into Italy, the Lushingtons followed the beaten paths of the Italian tour, visiting Paestum, Rome, Terni, Florence, Pisa, the baths of Lucca, Genoa, and Milan between April and June, then crossing the Simplon Pass into Switzerland. They toured leisurely, reaching France in early August, and, after an obligatory fortnight in Paris, crossed to Dover on 6 September 1828, nearly a year since their departure from Calcutta.

Soon after their return, Sarah contacted Amelia Heber (1789-1870), who recommended her and her prospective Narrative to John Murray. Murray published the volume in 1829, a second edition appearing in the same year. Despite this success, she soon after fell out of the public eye; her husband's visibility increased, however, as MP for Ashburton from 1833. Around 1835, Charles became vice-president of the Children’s Friend Society ‘for the prevention of juvenile vagrancy’, and Sarah was listed among the Ladies Committee of Management for the charity. Little further is known at present of her remaining years. She died at the age of 50 in Westminster on 24 December 1839.


‘Children’s Friend Society’. Endpapers (advertisements and notices). R. Montgomery Martin. History of the British Colonies. Vol. 4. London, 1835. Print.

East-India Register and Directory for 1825. 2nd ed. London: Cox and Baylis, [1825]. Print.

Freeman, Kathryn S. British Women Writers and the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1785-1835. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. Print.

Heber, Amelia. Letter to John Murray, 18 Dec. 1828. MS 41218. John Murray Archive. Natl. Lib. of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Lushington, Charles. A Short Notice of the Official Career and Private Character of the Late John Adam, Esq. Calcutta, 1825. Print.

Lushington, Charles, and Sarah Lushington. MS Letters. Eur F88/271-74. British Lib., London.

Raza, Rosemary. In Their Own Words: British Women Writers and India, 1740-1857. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.


Title Published
Narrative of a Journey from Calcutta to Europe 1829

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