William Cornwallis Harris (1807-1848), Artist & Hunter

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by monish, Sep 4, 2010.

  1. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    William Cornwallis Harris (1807-1848), Artist & Hunter

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    William Cornwallis Harris (1807-1848), Artist & Hunter

    Major Sir William Cornwallis Harris (baptised 2 April 1807 - died 9 October 1848) was an English military engineer, artist and hunter.

    Life and Career
    Born to James Harris of Wittersham, Kent, William entered Addiscombe College at the age of fourteen. Two years later, in December 1823, he joined the East India Company as second lieutenant in Engineers, Bombay Establishment. Over the following thirteen years, Harris was posted to several places in India and was able to pursue his taste for field sports and the depiction of wildlife. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1824 and to captain ten years later.

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    William Cornwallis Harris (1807-1848), Artist & Hunter

    In June 1836, Harris arrived at Cape Town on the 1467-ton Buckinghamshire and stayed for two years in order to recover from a fever. He was fortunate to meet Dr. Andrew Smith, freshly returned from a journey north on which he had visited Mzilikazi at Mosega. From the Cape, he arranged a hunting trip, which was to last from 1836 to 1837to the Western Transvaal and Magaliesberg with William Richardson of the Bombay Civil Service, who had been a fellow passenger on the voyage.

    They sailed to Algoa Bay and made their way to Grahamstown, where they outfitted their expedition and received helpful advice from the ivory traders David Hume and Robert Schoon. Their route took them across the Orange River to Kuruman. Here they met Robert Moffat, who had befriended Mzilikazi and was able to provide Harris with useful information about the ruler. Mzilikazi received Harris' presents with pleasure and the expedition set off confidently for the Magaliesberg toward the south-east.

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    Bechuana Hunting The Lion by William Cornwallis Harris

    Here they experienced at first hand the struggles of the Voortrekkers against the Matabele. Harris came across his first Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger) in the Magaliesberg, and sent a description and specimen of the animal to the Zoological Society of London. David Hume had years earlier decided that it was possible to cross the Kalahari and reach Lake Ngami. Harris was of like mind and made known his willingness to go, but the geographical societies of Bombay and London decided to ignore him. He remained at Cape Town to the end of 1837, then for the next three years he resumed his work in Western India as field engineer to the Sindh Force.

    From 1841 to 1843, Harris led a British diplomatic mission from Bombay to Sahle Selassie, Meridazmach of Shewa, at the time an autonomous district of Ethiopia, with whom they negotiated a commerce treaty. They collected extensive scientific data during the trip. Harris was gazetted major in 1843 and was knighted in England the following year for his services. After being knighted, Harris acted as executive engineer at Dharwar Dion and Poona.

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    Sable Antelope by William Cornwallis Harris

    Harris married Margaret Sligo, whose father was George Sligo of Auldhame in Scotland, and whose uncle was General Sir James Outram. The marriage was childless.

    Harris died at the age of 41 near Poona as a result of fever.

    Harris was one of the more notable of the early Victorian travellers, and his illustrations of the large African fauna were the first to have any claim to accuracy. He hunted on a ruthless scale, even as he wrote with passion about the regions he traversed, and painted the animals he encountered with great attention to detail. He was not an outstanding artist, but his paintings and sketches have great charm and spirit and have considerably enriched natural history art.

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    Mzilikazi by William Cornwallis Harris, 1836

    Books
    • Narrative of an Expedition into Southern Africa during the years 1836, 1837 and 1838
    • The wild sports of Southern Africa, 1839
    • Portraits of the game and wild animals of Southern Africa, 1840
    • The highlands of Aethiopia - 3 vols., 1844
    • Illustrations of the highlands of Aethiopia, 1845




    Monish
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2010
  2. andriesdeklerk

    andriesdeklerk AH Veteran

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    I would highly recommend his books. He was also the first to describe the Harris Buck (Sable). Also a fine naturalist and not the type of hunter that shot everything he could lay his eyes on. Unlike many other early explorers. A must reed for people the long back to the early days of the truly dark continent.
     
  3. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    No doubt , his works are great reads, full of elaborate knowlege of flora & fauna of the Dark continent a century ago.

    Monish
     
  4. ibie

    ibie AH Veteran

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    good write up sir!!! :)
     
  5. monish

    monish AH Elite

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    Glad you relish the write ups..

    Monish
     

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