The Real Story and Remarkable Adventures of the <i>King and I</i> Governess
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote
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Table of Contents
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I first read Anna Leonowens’s 1873 The Romance of the Harem in 1982, shortly before my first visit to Thailand. I came across the book while browsing through the stacks in the Echols Collection at Cornell University. I remember my astonishment and delight at reading it. ...
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I have done research for this biography for more than a decade, and in that time have been helped in significant and often essential ways by many more people than I can name in this space. My first debt must be to the organizations whose financial support made this research possible. ...
1. Introduction: A Life of Passing
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On June 25, 1859, a woman with two young children stepped off a steamship onto the dock of Singapore, island city and British colony at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. The family was arriving from the small island of Penang in the British Straits Settlements, a convenient port up along the northwest coast of the peninsula. ...
2. Ancestors: A Methodist, a Soldier, and a “Lady Not Entirely White”
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On a steaming July day in 1810, the air still wet after the morning rain, a young Englishman leaned on the railing of an East India Company frigate at anchor in the Bay of Bombay. He was of medium height, with the brown eyes and even darker brown hair that bespoke his Welsh heritage. ...
3. A Company Childhood
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Anna Leonowens was born on November 26, 1831, in the presidency her grandfather had loved so well. She was christened Anna Harriett Emma Edwards. Her mother, Billy’s eldest child, was still mostly a child when she married in 1829, eight years after her father died in the Persian Gulf. ...
4. Daughter of the Deccan
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There is almost no information about Anna Harriett Edwards’s early years. Without public records, a biographer can usually turn to personal records. But Anna herself has been the greatest obstacle to discovering anything of her personal history. She threw away or destroyed any records, family letters, or souvenirs and replaced them with lies. ...
5. Love and Bombay, at Last
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Anna Harriett had only one romantic love in her life. His name was Thomas Louis Leon Owens. He was from a middle-class Protestant family, literate but not well-off. John Owens and Mary Lean, Tom’s parents, had married in 1810 in the diocese of Ossory, Ireland. ...
6. Metamorphosis: “A Life Sublimated above the Ordinary”
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On June 25, 1859, a woman got off a boat in Singapore. She was nobody special, part of that vast underclass of travelers in the far reaches of the British Empire in the mid-nineteenth century, and just a woman at that. There is no reason for us to know she existed, much less to know that she arrived in Singapore that June of 1859. ...
7. A Teacher and a King
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Mrs. Leonowens and her son, Louis, age five and a half, arrived in Bangkok in March 1862. Anna was thirty years old. The daughter she left behind with Mr. Cobb was seven and a half, considered old enough in those times to be sent from her family to board at school. ...
8. A Job in a Palace
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By the early summer of 1862, Anna and Louis were comfortably settled near the Grand Palace. They missed Avis terribly. She had sent a simple note to them after they left Singapore, “Mamma good-bye now goodbye for Louis, your own child, Avis Leonowens.” Anna wrote a cheerful letter back: ...
9. "The Noble and Devoted Women Whom I Learned to Know, to Esteem, and to Love"
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Anna’s schoolroom in the palace complex was the marble-floored grand hall of one of the many temples—Wat Khoon Chom Manda Thai, Temple of the Mothers of the Free. This beautiful wat (temple) was located behind the inner wall of the Grand Palace, within the royal harem. ...
10. Settled in Bangkok
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Anna had an enthusiastic and intense personality, always fascinated with the world about her. She was a sociable being who liked to be among other people, and she made many friends during her years in Bangkok. Most of her friends were Siamese women. ...
11. The Paths to Good-bye
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Anna had been ill in the fall of 1865 and, though she recovered, in the summer of 1866 and on through 1867 she still felt worn out. She began to think seriously about taking some time away from Bangkok. Anna’s plan was to start with a visit to Singapore. ...
12. An American Writer
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When Anna and her daughter landed in New York, they were not planning to stay. Anna’s fragile plan for her future, which she had worked out at the Wilkinsons, was simply to delay making any final plan until the following spring. She was waiting for a reply from King Mongkut sometime in April or May 1868 ...
13. The Canadian Grande Dame
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Tom and Avis spent all of that summer of 1878 on their honeymoon. They went home to Tom’s family in Scotland. His father, Alex, was a farmer and Tom, along with siblings Sandy, Peter, and Jane, had grown up happily in the country in Easter Balbeggie, near Kirkcaldy. ...
14. "Shall We Dance?": Anna and U.S.-Thai Relations
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Although Anna did achieve some fame during her lifetime, she did not really “live,” with all the media pizzazz attached to that term, until she had been dead for some thirty years. Anna came back to life in May 1944 as the heroine of Margaret Landon’s runaway bestseller, Anna and the King. ...
Appendix One: The Magnificent Charter: How the British Got to India
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Appendix Two: The Women of British India
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Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2008