Guide to the Papers of Charles Meryon (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Meryon, Charles
Papers of Charles Meryon (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1818 - 1892
Collection Number
2 items
Language of Materials
The correspondence is mainly in French with a few letters written in English.
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

The material filmed by the Australian Joint Copying Project includes: letters covering Meryon's schooling, English lessons, reading, his interest in a naval career, the death of his mother, his naval service, attendance at the Naval School at Brest, friends, his life at Toulon, experiences in the navy, travels including to New Zealand, financial difficulties, training and artwork, ideas for a novel, experiences during the 1848 Paris revolution, his illnesses and internment at the asylum at Charenton St Maurice (1858-59) and various sketches.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the British Library. For more information visit: How I use the images I order?-The British Library [].

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref: )

Archival History

Originally microfilmed at The British Library, London, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1965 (AJCP Reel: M595). Microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Onine Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

British Library, 96 Euston Road, London. Collection Reference: Add MS 37015-MS 37016. For further information search the Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue at the British Library. Charles Meryon at the British Library (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding Aid Note

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.

Advisory Statement

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this Finding Aid contains material and descriptive information which may be considered culturally sensitive and may cause distress, including names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. This Finding Aid contains terms that reflect authors' views or those of the historical period, but which may not be considered appropriate today. While the information may not reflect current understanding, it is provided in an historical context.


Akaroa, New Zealand; Artists; Chaspoux, Pierre N., Mme; France; French in the Pacific; Le Rhin, French ship; Meryon, Charles; Meryon, Charles L.; Meryon, Lewis; Paintings, Drawings and Prints: Pacific Islands; Pans, France; Wedmore, Frederick; Pierre-Narcisse Chaspoux; Etchers


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 321, pp. 119-120.

Biographical / Historical

Charles Meryon (1821-1868) was born in Paris, the illegitimate son of Charles Lewis Meryon (1783-1877), an English doctor, traveller and author, and Pierre-Narcisse Chapoux (1793-1838), a dancer at the Paris Opera. His half-sister was Fanny Lowther (1818-1890), who eventually married Henry Broadwood and lived in England. Meryon was brought up by his mother and educated at Paris and Marseilles.

Narcisse Chapoux died in 1838, by which time Meryon had entered the Naval School at Brest. He subsequently served in the Mediterranean on the ships Alger, Montebello and Inflexible. In 1842 he joined the corvette Le Rhin on its voyage round the world. In January 1843 the ship reached Akarao, the small French settlement in New Zealand, where it spent lengthy periods during the next two years. Visits were also made to Auckland, Wellington, the Bay of Islands, Valparaiso, the Marquesas, Tahiti, Wallis Island, the Gilbert Islands and New Caledonia. In New Zealand Meryon made a number of drawings of coastal scenery, landscapes, natural history, canoes and Maori profiles. Le Rhin also called at Hobart on its way to New Zealand and twice visited Sydney, where Meryon made a drawing of a pet dingo, a portrait of an Indigenous Australians, and a view of Sydney Harbour. Some of the drawings were later to be the subject of etchings.

In 1846, following his return to France, Meryon resigned from the Navy and announced his intention of becoming a professional artist. He took painting lessons, but within a few years colour blindness forced him to abandon oil painting. One of his teachers, Renier Zeeman, transformed him into an etcher and he soon showed an extraordinary ability. His famous series of 22 etchings of Paris appeared between 1851 and 1854. While little known in his lifetime, they placed him among the greatest original etchers.

Meryon was a man of brooding temperament and strange visions and in the 1850s he became increasingly unsociable and mentally unbalanced. In 1858 he was removed to an asylum at Charenton Saint Maurice. He was released after fifteen months, but was never well again. Although assisted financially by his sister and supported by several loyal friends, he lived in wretched conditions. In 1866 he was re-admitted to Charenton, where he died in 1868.

Item Descriptions

Volume I - Correspondence, 1821 - 1868 (File Add MS 37015)

2 items

Letters of Pierre-Narcisse Chaspoux and her son Charles Meryon to Charles Lewis Meryon (letters 1-100), 1821 - 1839 (Item ff. 1-196)

The letters from Chaspoux (also known as Mme. Gentil) date from 1821 to 1836, two years before her death, and were written from Paris. Charles Lewis Meryon travelled extensively and the letters were addressed to Florence, Marseilles, the Levant, Broadstairs, as well as London. The earliest letter that he received from his son was written in 1828 and there are regular letters from onwards.

The letters from Chaspoux refer to Charles Meryon's childhood activities, including his baptism, visits to the theatre, presents from his father, his relations with his half-sister Fanny Lowther, visits to the theatre, house moves, his education, his stay in Marseilles in 1834-35, his study of the English language, a visit to Italy, his moods and interests, and his interest in a career in the French Navy. There are also references to Chaspoux's relations with Lord Lowther (the father of Fanny) and meetings with Charles Lewis Meryon. The letters are all in French.

The letters from Charles Meryon deal inter alia with presents, his schooling, English lessons, reading, his interest in a naval career, and the death of his mother (1838). A few of his letters are in English, but most are in French.

Apart from six original letters, the letters are all manuscript copies, which are numbered. Occasionally, sentences or passages were omitted and there are a few annotations in English, probably made by Lewis Meryon, who donated the collection to the British Museum.

Letters of Charles Meryon to his father Charles Lewis Meryon and some letters from other correspondents regarding Charles Meryon (letters 101-219), 1839 - 1868 (Item ff. 197-568)

The letters from Meryon, which are the originals, date from 1839 to 1863, five years before his death. They were mostly written in Paris, but some of the earlier letters, which document his naval service, were written in Toulon, Smyrna, Tunis, Valparaiso, Tahiti and Akaroa. They were addressed to his father in London. All the Meryon letters are in French.

The letters refer to Meryon's attendance at the Naval School at Brest, friends, his life at Toulon, cruises on the Alger in the Mediterranean, financial difficulties, his impressions of Algiers, Tunis, Athens and Smyrna, shipboard life, painting lessons at Toulon, his appointment to the corvette Le Rhin (1842), the ship's visit to the French settlement at Akaroa in New Zealand, life in Valparaiso (1844-45), the Marquesas Islands, his return to France (1846), a visit to England and meetings with Fanny and Henry Broadwood (1847), the 1848 revolution in Paris, his decision to study painting with Eugène Bléry, the transformation of Paris, exhibitions, his series of Parisian views, commissions, his illnesses and internment at the asylum at Charenton St Maurice (1858-59), his relations with his father and friends, and his thoughts of emigrating to New Zealand (1862).

Within the chronological sequence of letters are a few from relatives and friends of Meryon: Antoine-Edouard Foley, Mme Blouin, Fanny Broadwood, Gustave Salicis and Charles Lewis Meryon's principal Parisian correspondent, M. Miranda. The letters of Broadwood and Miranda are in English. The letters from 1863-68 describe visits to Meryon, his health, living conditions and companions, his financial difficulties, his re-admission to Charenton (1866) and his death. There are also copies of a few letters of Charles Lewis Meryon. The 1867-68 letters are not numbered.

Volume II - Papers and sketches, 1818 - 1892 (File Add MS 37016)

7 items

Typescript copies of two letters (1892) from Lewis Meryon to Frederick Wedmore, the author of Meryon and Meryon's Paris (1879), 1892 (Item ff.1-4)

Although described individually, the last page of the second letter was originally filmed with a page from another letter. The last page of the letter described can be found at the beginning of nla.obj-753486261.

English translations of letters (nos. 195-216) from Charles Meryon and other correspondents to Charles Lewis Meryon, 1863 - 1866 (Item 2)

Meryon contemplated using the letters as a basis for a novel and he assigned fictitious names to the writers, such as Clarence D'Anvers (Charles Meryon) and Mrs Dashwood (Fanny Broadwood). There is also an index to the letters. (pp. 5-68)

Fragments of a diary kept by Charles Lewis Meryon in England and France, June 1818 - October 1818 (Item 3)

One entry refers to the birth of Fanny Lowther, Charles Meryon's half-sister. (pp. 69-72)

'Annotations de la carte', comprising brief hydrographical notes in New Zealand waters, 1846 (Item ff. 85-87)

Notes and sketches of skies and birds in the South Seas and also Wallis Island word lists, 1842 - 1846 (Item ff. 88-100)

Sketches of vessels in the South Seas and notes, 1842 - 1846 (Item ff. 101-25)

Agenda notes written by Meryon in his last years, 1890 - 1891 (Item ff. 126-181)

The date of the Agenda notes is known. Includes a cutting from the St James Gazette (17 July 1891) and two Christies' catalogues of sales of engravings and etchings by Meryon (26 Nov. 1890, 17 July 1891). (pp. 182-203)