Robert Suggate was born to William and Hannah Suggate on a family farm in Carlton Colville, a village of West Lowestoft, Suffolk, England. He was one of eight children; his siblings included: William, Alfred, Henry Ezra, Charlotte, Emily, Sarah, and Margaret. Robert became a sailor, traveling on a delivery ship from Yarmouth to London, England. On 17 April 1830, Robert Suggate sailed from England to China on the East India Company cargo ship, the William Lowther. In 1834 Suggate abandoned the life of a sailor and became a clerk for a commissioner of the New Poor Law in Gloucester, England. Robert married Hannah Bullock and in 1845 they had a son, Reginald Suggate. Reginald married Rachel Caroline Milne in 1892. Milne was a widow with two sons, Henry Frederick Milne and Herbert Frank Milne.
This leather-bound, paginated memoir and commonplace book, which the author calls "My rough log very roughly kept," was written by Robert Suggate between 1874 and 1878. It is reconstructed from his memory and from a deteriorated journal that he kept on his voyage to China from 1830 to 1831. The volume includes copied poems; articles tipped in or fully pasted in; descriptive passages of islands and cities from Suggate's trip to Asia and of towns in England; and a detailed table of contents. Suggate describes his childhood, his fascination with the sea and fishing, and how his father brought him to Yarmouth, England where Suggate embarked on his first voyage on a small ship delivering flour to London. In 1830 Suggate boards an East India Company merchant ship named the William Lowther sailing for China to acquire a cargo of tea. Suggate records his experiences with the crew and describes the ocean, including such inhabitants as flying fish and jellyfish. He records an induction ritual, called the Neptune ceremony, for first-time sailors crossing the equatorial line. Suggate gives detailed descriptions of his encounters with the Chinese and discusses his excursion into the city of Canton, which was banned to foreigners. He also observes clothing and cultural symbols, in addition to witnessing a trade dispute between England and China as well as opium smuggling. Descriptive passages of islands and of cities and towns from his voyage follow the memoir, including a list of shells Suggate purchased on the trip. Continuing with his memoir, he explains that he gave up the life of a sailor in 1834 because he could not advance above ordinary seaman due to lack of navigational knowledge. Later in the volume are descriptions of towns and villages in England and recollections of events with his son Reginald. On pages 130-137 is the genealogical history of the Suggate family in another hand, possibly written by Reginald's stepson Herbert Frank Milne. In addition to the journal there is some correspondence from siblings of Robert Suggate, correspondence to and from Herbert Frank Milne, and memorabilia relating to the Suggate family.
Sold by Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts (Vancouver, B.C.), 2011.