Baldwin, George (DNB00)

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BALDWIN, GEORGE (d. 1818), mystical writer, was born in the earlier half of the eighteenth century, but the exact date is uncertain. The place was probably London. The chief knowledge we have of him is gained from the prefaces to his works. He was a great traveller. We find him at Cyprus in 1760; thence he travelled to St. Jean d'Acre in 1763. In 1768 he returned to England, and obtained leave to go as a free mariner to the East Indies, with the idea of exploring the connection between India and Egypt by the Red Sea. On the point of embarkation he received news from Cyprus of his brother's death, and was advised to return thither. He did not accomplish his purpose there till 1773, when he passed over into Egypt, and was at Grand Cairo in the time of Mehemed Bey, who told him, 'If you bring the Indian ships to Suez, I will lay an aqueduct from the Nile to Suez, and you shall drink of the Nile water.' He then went to Constantinople, and made his plan known to Mr. Murray, his majesty's ambassador at that place, by whom it was favourably received. In 1774 he returned to Egypt and went to Suez, whence he accompanied the holy caravan on a dromedary to Cairo. His services there were accepted by the East India Company. He arrived in Alexandria in 1775, and succeeded in establishing a direct commerce from England to Egypt. Baldwin returned to England in 1781 — having been plundered on the plains of Antioch by thieves and shot through the right arm — in a destitute condition, and petitioning for justice. He then received a summons from Mr. Dundas to attend the India Board, and present to it a memorial, entitled, in his works, 'Political Recollections.' On this his majesty's ministers sent him as a consul-general to Egypt. He entered on the functions of his office in Alexandria 18 Dec. 1786. In 1796 Baldwin counteracted a public mission entrusted to Tinville, the brother of Fouquier-Tinville, the notorious public accuser before the French revolutionary tribunal, who arrived in Cairo expressly to inveigle the beys of Egypt into the designs of the French. About this time he received an official letter that the office of consul in Egypt had been abolished as unnecessary four years before. 'The effect of this letter' says Baldwin, 'was to depress me to such a degree as to bereave me of my strength, and of every faculty to attend to any earthly concern.' He left all his property behind him, and sailed on 14 March 1778, and on the 19th landed happily on the island of Patmos, in the grotto of the Apocalypse. From Patmos he went to Chismé, the sepulchre of the Turkish fleet, where the Greeks for five-and-twenty days came round him every night and danced the carmagnole. He went on to Trieste by Vienna, and then, disturbed by the battle of Marengo, retreated to Leghorn. He was there surprised by a party of republicans, and had just time to save himself on board his majesty's frigate, Santa Dorothea, with little more than a change of linen in his wallet. After a fortnight's cruise he landed at Naples, where he was requested by the English commander-in-chief to join them at Malta in the campaign of 1801.

Whilst acting as consul-general Baldwin first turned his attention to what he calls magnetic influence. The cures effected by this in Egypt he declares to be many and marvellous. In 1789 he commenced experiments in it himself with remarkable success. The gifts of which he considered himself possessed were, he says, obtained from the hand of one Cesare Avena di Valdieri, an extempore poet who had 'coursed and sung his carms (sic) over various regions of the World, and at length imported under my roof' in Alexandria on 23 Jan. 1795. The gifts were obtained from Cesare in his magnetic sleep. Baldwin's Italian work, 'La Prima Musa,' is written in poor and ungrammatical Italian. It reads more like the raving of a maniac than a wholesome speculation on a subject of science. He presented a copy of it to the British Museum in 1802. Baldwin probably died poor. He speaks of his 'Legacy to his Daughter' as the only property he had to leave her.

Baldwin, during his long residence at Alexandria, after much observation of cases of the plague, proposed as beneficial for this hitherto incurable malady the rubbing of sweet olive oil into the skin. He communicated his ideas to the Rev. Lewis de Pavia, chaplain and agent to the hospital called St. Anthony's at Smyrna, who, after five years' experience, pronounced it the most efficacious remedy he had known in the twenty-seven years during which the hospital had been under his management. One of the many ingenious observations made by Baldwin is that, amongst upwards of a million of inhabitants carried off by the plague in Upper and Lower Egypt during the space of forty years, he could not discover a single oilman or dealer in oil.

Baldwin was the author of some remarkable works and a few pamphlets. Amongst them are: 1. 'A Narrative of Facts relating to the Plunder of English Merchants by the Arabs, and other subsequent Outrages of the Government of Cairo in the course of the year 1779.' 2. 'Osservazioni circa un nuovo specifico contra la peste,' Florence, 1800. This has been translated into German. 3. 'Sur le Magnétisme Animal,' translated into French, 1818. 4. A pamphlet 'Memorial relating to the Trade in Slaves carried on in Egypt,' Alexandria, 1789. 5. 'Political Recollections relative to Egypt, containing Observations on its Government under the Mameluks; its Geographical Position; its intrinsic and extrinsic Resources; its relative Importance to England and France; and its Dangers to England in the Possession of France; with a narrative of the campaign in 1801,' London 1802, 8vo. 6. 'Philosophical Essays' (dedicated to Governor Johnstone, whom he addresses as his most honourable and most honoured friend), London, 1786, 8vo. 7. 'La Prima Musa Clio', London, 1802. 8. 'La Prima Musa Clio, translated from the Italian of Cesare Avena di Valdieri by George Baldwin, or the Divine Traveller; exhibiting a series of writings obtained in the extasy of magnetic sleep', 3 vols. (London, 1810?), 8vo; vols. ii. and iii. have no title-page. 9. 'Tre Opere Drammatiche prese nelle visioni di Dafni e concatenate istoricamente nell' ordine die segue, cioe, II Trionfo di Melibeo, La Cipria Silene, e la Coronazione di Silene, scritte da Dafni ossia Timi Dafni cosi poeticamente divisato Arcade Pastore, essendo nell' estasi del sonno magnetico', London, 1811, 4to, privately printed. 10. 'Mr. Baldwin's Legacy to his Daughter, or the Divinity of Truth in writings and resolutions matured in the course and study and experience of a long life ' (including a series of writings obtained from the hand of Cesare Avena di Valdieri in the magnetic sleep), London, 1811, 4to.

[Brit. Mns. Catal.; Lowndes's Bibliog. Man. i. 102: Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Meyer's Grosses Conversations-Lexikon; Annual Register, xl. 402,. xxxv. 271.]

J. M.