Archiver > INDIA-BRITISH-RAJ > 2006-12 > 1166437906

From: "Harshawardhan_Bosham Nimkhedkar" <>
Subject: [INDIA-BRITISH-RAJ] David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 16:01:46 +0530

Today's Oxford DNB page has this to offer: David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre.

--- Harshawardhan_Bosham Nimkhedkar
Nagpur, India


Sombre, David Ochterlony Dyce (1808-1851), traveller and putative lunatic, was born in Sardhana,
a semi-autonomous princely state near Meerut, India, on 18 December 1808, the eldest of the three
surviving children of Colonel George Alexander Dyce (d. 1838), of mixed Scottish and Indian
ancestry, and Julianne Reinhard (d. 1820), of mixed French and Indian ancestry. His maternal
great-grandfather's second wife, Begum Sombre (d. 1836), raised him as a Roman Catholic and had him
educated privately with the Revd John Chamberlain and then the Revd Henry Fisher. She eventually
entrusted the management of Sardhana to him, appointed him a colonel in her army, and declared him
her heir. She also ceded Badshahpur (an altumgha jagir or personal estate) to him, and gave him
3,600,000 rupees (360,000) in East India Company bonds. He added Sombre to his name in 1835,
indicating his acceptance of this inheritance, which was derived from her husband, Walter Reinhard
or Reinhardt, alias Somru or Sombre (d. 1778), a German Catholic mercenary. In addition to composing
poetry in Persian and Urdu, Dyce Sombre kept mistresses: Dominga (d. 1838), a Catholic who bore him
three children, Walter George (1832-1833), Laura Celestine (1834-1835), and Penelope (1836-1838);
and Hoosna, a Muslim who bore him Josephine Urbana (1834-1835). In 1835, on receipt of a donation of
15,000 from the begum, Pope Gregory XVI named him chevalier of the order of Christ.

At the begum's death (27 January 1836) the East India Company seized Sardhana and its army,
confiscating their accoutrements, leaving Dyce Sombre only her extensive personal property (worth
about 150,000). He began a series of law suits (which lasted thirty-seven years) against these
seizures. In October 1836 he left Sardhana, touring north India, Calcutta, Penang, Singapore, Macao,
and Canton (Guangzhou). He returned to Calcutta, settled his affairs in India, including marrying
off his mistresses, and left for England. He arrived there on 2 June 1838, and entered high society
through the influence of a friend, Stapleton Cotton, Viscount Combermere, and that of Lady Cork. His
large fortune made him an eligible bachelor; within months he became engaged to Mary Anne Jervis
(1812-1893), third daughter of the second Viscount St Vincent, a Jamaica plantation owner. An
accomplished singer, dancer, and composer, she had long associated with the duke of Wellington and
Samuel Rogers. Soon after their engagement, he travelled to Italy, where he commissioned for the
begum both a vast cenotaph by Adamo Tadolini and a memorial mass by Nicholas Wiseman. On Dyce
Sombre's return to London, he quarrelled with his fiancee over her continued social engagements,
then over their future children's religious affiliation (Mary Anne was an Anglican). Nevertheless
they married on 26 September 1840 in the fashionable St George's Church, Hanover Square, and then in
a private Roman Catholic ceremony.

In 1841 Dyce Sombre made 3000 available for the election campaign which he and Frederick Villiers
undertook in the radical-Liberal interest in Sudbury, Suffolk. They were elected, but on 14 April
1842 parliament controverted their elections for 'gross, systematic, and extensive bribery' and (in
1844) disenfranchised Sudbury. During tours of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the continent Dyce
Sombre's behaviour appeared increasingly anti-social, including his frequent challenges to duels
(never accepted) and violent accusations against his wife of promiscuous adultery with her friends,
servants, and father. On 30 March 1843 Dr James Clarke supervised his confinement for lunacy, first
in the Clarendon Hotel, then, from April 1843, in Hanover Lodge, Regent's Park. After his sisters,
Anna May (1812-1867) and Georgiana (1815-1867), and their husbands, John Rose Troup (1802-1862) and
Baron Paolo Solaroli (1796-1878), reached London, they agreed with his wife to a commission of
lunacy. Despite Dyce Sombre's protests against the validity of the inquiry (held under Francis
Barlow in Hanover Lodge in July 1843), public examination of his private papers, and his lack of
legal representation, a special jury found him of 'unsound mind', retroactively to 27 October 1842.
The lord chancellor seized his property and ordered him confined in Hanover Lodge.

In September 1843 Dyce Sombre was allowed to tour Bath, Bristol, Gloucester, Birmingham, and then
Liverpool under the custody of Dr John Grant. Early on 21 September 1843 he fled Liverpool, reaching
Paris via London in thirty hours. Living on credit and pawning his jewellery, he appealed to French
authorities for protection. A board of leading Paris physicians unanimously declared him of
perfectly sound mind. With this evidence, he resisted English efforts to return him to custody and
obtained a small portion of his income from the lord chancellor. He began legal appeals-for control
over his property and for supersedeas of the lunacy judgment-that lasted until his death. In 1844,
1846, 1847, 1848, and 1851 he returned to England, under protections from the lord chancellor, for a
series of extensive mental examinations by various court-appointed doctors. These panels repeatedly
confirmed the original judgment of lunacy, but, from 1846, allowed him his income, reserving 4000
per annum for his wife. His defenders excused his actions as not lunatic but rather due to his
'Indian blood' and upbringing; his accusers argued he knew enough of European manners that he must
have been lunatic to act as he had done. He consistently maintained he was European, since each
parent had some European blood.

In 1849 Dyce Sombre wrote and published his 592-page Refutation of the Charges of Lunacy in the
Court of Chancery, and also a pamphlet, The Memoir, in English, French, and Italian-later found
libellous by a French court-excoriating his brother-in-law, Solaroli, and asserting the illegitimacy
of his sister Georgiana. Meanwhile, he accomplished his project of visiting every European capital,
including St Petersburg and Constantinople, plus Cairo. His obesity, irregular lifestyle, and
frequent venereal diseases broke his health. While in London for yet another court-appointed lunacy
examination a sore on his foot mortified, and he died on 1 July 1851 at 8a Davies Street, Berkeley
Square. His body was buried in Kensal Green cemetery on 8 July, although, as his will (dated 25 June
1849) specified, his heart was apparently later interred with the begum in Sardhana. His wife
inherited by successfully challenging (on grounds of his lunacy) his will, which left most of his
estate, under the management of the East India Company's directors, for a school for Indians in
Sardhana. In 1873 the privy council found the East India Company had been justified by
administrative need-but not by treaty-in annexing Badshahpur, but that it owed 63,618 for its
illegal seizure of the Sardhana army's accoutrements. Dyce Sombre's widow married on 8 November 1862
George Cecil Weld Forester, later third Baron Forester.


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