Marvin, Charles Thomas (DNB00)

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MARVIN, CHARLES THOMAS (1854–1890), writer on Russia, was born at Plumstead, Kent, in 1854, and was in 1868 employed in a warehouse in Watling Street, city of London. At the age of sixteen he went to Russia to join his father, who was assistant-manager of some engineering works on the Neva. He remained in Russia for six years (1870–6), and acquired a good knowledge of the language. During eighteen months he was the correspondent of the ‘Globe’ at St. Petersburg. Returning to London, he on 10 Jan. 1876, after passing the civil service examination, was appointed a temporary writer in the custom-house, and in May was transferred to the inland revenue department, Somerset House, and thence to the post-office. He afterwards returned to the custom-house. On 16 July 1877 he entered the foreign office, and here, although only a writer, with 88l. a year, he was on 29 May 1878 entrusted to make a copy of the secret treaty with Russia. The same evening he furnished to the ‘Globe,’ from memory, a summary of the document. On 1 June Lord Salisbury, in the House of Lords, said that this summary was ‘wholly unworthy of their lordships' confidence.’ On 14 June the ‘Globe’ printed the complete text of the treaty from Marvin's extremely retentive memory. On 26 June he was arrested, and on 16 July discharged, as he had committed no offence known to the law. In 1878 he published ‘Our Public Offices, embodying an Account of the Disclosure of the Anglo-Russian Agreement, and the unrevealed Secret Treaty of 31 May, 1878.’ During the Russo-Turkish war in 1878 he contributed to twenty publications.

In 1880 he published his first book on the Russo-Indian question, ‘The Eye-witnesses' Account of the disastrous Campaign against the Akhal Tekke Turcomans,’ which was adopted by the Russian government for the military libraries, and commended by General Skobeleff. In 1881 he printed ‘Merv the Queen of the World and the Scourge of the Man-stealing Turcomans. With an Exposition on the Khorassan Question,’ in which he predicted that the next Russian advance would be pushed to Penjdeh. In 1882 he was sent to Russia by Joseph Cowen, M.P., to interview the principal generals and statesmen on the Russo-Indian question. On his return he wrote ‘The Russian Advance towards India: Conversations with Skobeleff, Ignatieff, and other Russian Generals and Statesmen on the Central Asian Question.’ The following year he proceeded to the Caucasus, and explored the Russian petroleum region. An account of this was published in 1884, in ‘The Region of the Eternal Fire: an Account of a Journey to the Petroleum Region of the Caspian.’ The best-known of his works is, however, ‘The Russians at the Gates of Herat,’ 1885, a book of two hundred pages, written and published within a week, which circulated sixty-five thousand copies. He died at Grosvenor House, Plumstead Common, Kent, on 4 Dec. 1890, and was buried in Plumstead new cemetery on 10 Dec.

Besides the works already mentioned he wrote:

  1. ‘The Russians at Merv and Herat, and their Power of Invading India,’ 1883.
  2. ‘The Petroleum of the Future; Baku, the Petrolia of Europe,’ 1883.
  3. ‘Reconnoitering Central Asia, Pioneering Adventures in the Region lying between Russia and India,’ 1884.
  4. ‘The Railway Race to Herat. An Account of the Russian Railway to Herat and India,’ 1885.
  5. ‘Shall Russia have Penjdeh?’ 1885.
  6. ‘Russia's Power of Attacking India;’ tenth thousand, 1886.
  7. ‘The Petroleum Question. The Coming Deluge of Russian Petroleum,’ 1886.
  8. ‘The Petroleum Question. England as a Petroleum Power,’ 1887.
  9. ‘The Petroleum Question. Our unappreciated Petroleum Empire,’ 1889. Marvin translated Colonel Grodekoff's ‘Ride from Samarcand to Herat,’ 1880.

[Times, 17 July 1878 p. 11, 5 Dec. 1890 p. 6; London Figaro, 13 Dec. 1890, p. 11, with portrait.]

G. C. B.