At the start of the 19th century, Bengal became the home for the Shakespear family of Calcutta (now Kolkata), whose ancestry dated back to close relations of William Shakespeare.
Arup K. Chatterjee, Associate Professor, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
At the start of the 19th century, Bengal became the home for the Shakespear family of Calcutta, whose ancestry dated back to close relations of William Shakespeare.
In Calcutta’s South Park Street Cemetery, one can still find two Shakespear tombs. One of them belongs to John Talbot Shakespear, born in 1783 to John and Mary Shakespear in England; the other belongs to his wife Emily. Shakespear arrived in Calcutta during the early 1800s as an East India Company official, marrying Emily Amelia Thackeray in 1803. She was the eldest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray senior, who was the grandfather of the more famous Calcutta-born author William Makepeace Thackeray.
Emily’s brother, Reverend Francis Thackeray, married John Talbot Shakespear’s sister Mary Anne. Another brother, Richmond, arrived from London around the same time to become the Secretary to the Board of Revenue. He married Anne Becher and their son, William Makepeace Thackeray, was born in 1811 at Thackeray House in Alipore. Clearly, the eminence of the Thackerays seems to have overshadowed the lineage of the Shakespearean relative in their midst.
Thus, Thackeray’s father’s name Richmond also became the name of the youngest son of John Talbot and Emily Shakespeare, Sir Richmond Campbell Shakespear. He would later acquire renown as an agent to the Governor-General of Central India and a Companion of the Bath. Another son of John Talbot and Emily was named William Makepeace Shakespear.
But what do we know about John Talbot himself, and how does his ancestry trace back to Shakespeare?
John Talbot Shakespear was appointed by Richmond Makepeace Thackeray as the assistant to the Collector of Birbhum. John’s brother Henry also served in the Bengal Civil Service. John’s own successful career at the East India Company was truncated by his death at sea on board the Rose in 1825, a few months after the death of his wife.
Published on: British Library’s Untold Lives blog
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