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, shortlybefore my first visit to Thailand. I came across the book while browsingthrough the stacks in the Echols Collection at Cornell University. I remem-ber my astonishment and delight at reading it. It is a preposterous book, acollection of interwoven stories really, extreme in content and style, and...
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I have done research for this biography for more than a decade, and in thattime have been helped in significant and often essential ways by many morepeople than I can name in this space. My first debt must be to the organiza-tions whose financial support made this research possible. My thanks partic-ularly go to the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation for a year of support...
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...steamship onto the dock of Singapore, island city and British colony at thetip of the Malay Peninsula. The family was arriving from the small island ofPenang in the British Straits Settlements, a convenient port up along thenorthwest coast of the peninsula. The woman was no one important or fa-mous, just a woman, a nobody. She was one minor member of that vast un-...
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On a steaming July day in 1810, the air still wet after the morningrain, a young Englishman leaned on the railing of an East India Companyfrigate at anchor in the Bay of Bombay. He was of medium height, with thebrown eyes and even darker brown hair that bespoke his Welsh heritage.William Vawdrey Glascott, named after a family friend in Cornwall, William...
3. A Company Childhood
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...dency her grandfather had loved so well. She was christened Anna HarriettEmma Edwards. Her mother, Billy’s eldest child, was still mostly a child whenshe married in 1829, eight years after her father died in the Persian Gulf. She wasjust thirteen years old. Life in Bombay Fort required that British, and particu-larly Anglo-Indian, children not stay a financial burden on their parents. For...
4. Daughter of the Deccan
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...early years. Without public records, a biographer can usually turn to personalrecords. But Anna herself has been the greatest obstacle to discovering anythingof her personal history. She threw away or destroyed any records, family let-ters, or souvenirs and replaced them with lies. When she was quite old in Can-ada, and pressed by her grandchildren to provide them with a record of her ad-...
5. Love and Bombay, at Last
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...was Thomas Louis Leon Owens. He was from a middle-class Protestant fam-ily, literate but not well-off. John Owens and Mary Lean, Tom’s parents, hadmarried in 1810 in the diocese of Ossory, Ireland. Their son was one of thou-sands who emigrated to escape the economic blight caused by the potatofamine that swept Ireland from 1845 to 1850. Most of these young men went...
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On June 25, 1859, a woman got off a boat in Singapore. She was nobodyspecial, part of that vast underclass of travelers in the far reaches of the BritishEmpire in the mid-nineteenth century, and just a woman at that. There is noreason for us to know she existed, much less to know that she arrived in Sin-gapore that June of 1859. But passenger arrivals in that port were recorded, I...
7. A Teacher and a King
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Mrs. Leonowens and her son, Louis, age five and a half, arrived inBangkok in March 1862. Anna was thirty years old. The daughter she left be-hind with Mr. Cobb was seven and a half, considered old enough in those timesto be sent from her family to board at school. But Anna kept Louis with her,perhaps because she could not afford to, or bear to, lose both children, and cer-...
8. A Job in a Palace
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By the early summer of 1862, Anna and Louis were comfortably settlednear the Grand Palace. They missed Avis terribly. She had sent a simplenote to them after they left Singapore, “Mamma good-bye now goodbyefor Louis, your own child, Avis Leonowens.” Anna wrote a cheerful letterBirds sing sweetly and brightly the sun beams as Mamma reads her darling’s...
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-flooredgrand hall of one of the many temples—Wat Khoon Chom Manda Thai,Temple of the Mothers of the Free. This beautiful wat (temple) was locatedbehind the inner wall of the Grand Palace, within the royal harem. Theking’s children who were old enough were expected to attend Anna’s classes....
10. Settled in Bangkok
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...fascinated with the world about her. She was a sociable being who liked tobe among other people, and she made many friends during her years in Bang-kok. Most of her friends were Siamese women. These relationships evolvedboth because she spent almost all of her time among the women and childrenof the royal harem and because there were very few foreign women in Siam...
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 beganto think seriously about taking some time away from Bangkok. Anna’s planwas to start with a visit to Singapore. But her real goal was to take passagefrom Singapore with Louis for what would be their first visit to England, to...
12. An American Writer
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...not planning to stay. Anna’s fragile plan for her future, which she had workedout at the Wilkinsons, was simply to delay making any final plan until thefollowing spring. She was waiting for a reply from King Mongkut sometimein April or May 1868 to her November 1867 letter requesting a salary advance.That was the time when, as her brother-in-law put it, “you may naturally ex-...
13. The Canadian Grande Dame
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...moon. They went home to Tom’s family in Scotland. His father, Alex, was afarmer and Tom, along with siblings Sandy, Peter, and Jane, had grown uphappily in the country in Easter Balbeggie, near Kirkcaldy. In London, Tomand Avis visited Tom Wilkinson, whom Avis pronounced to be very conser-vative, and Avis wrote that long lovely letter to Anna about her feelings on...
14. "Shall We Dance?"
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...did not really “live,” with all the media pizzazz attached to that term, untilshe had been dead for some thirty years. Anna came back to life in May 1944as the heroine of Margaret Landon’s runaway bestseller, Anna and the King.Her resurrection has turned out to be phenomenal, in both its impact and itslongevity. That resurrection is going on even now. At the beginning of this...
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Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2008