Although Mariana Starke’s grandfather, John Starke, was never an employee of the East India Company, both his sons, Richard and John, were. Richard Starke (1719 – 93) – yet to be the father of Mariana – sailed from London in 1734 as a passenger in the Onslow to Fort St George, taking with him wine, a chest of apparel and an escritoire. In Fort St George he could have resumed contact with his mother’s family, the Empsons.
On 29 December 1735 Richard Starke entered ‘the service of the Honourable Co on the coast of Coromandel as ‘Writer Entertained’. A 1736 note made clear that it was ‘out of regard for his father’ that he was ‘taken into our service’, a 10 May 1737 dispatch confirming that ‘Mr Richard Starke is so usefull a hand in the Secretary’s Office’. During the following years his father sent out to him several boxes ‘of apparel’ and in 1746 ‘two boxes of books’, in 1747 one box of books and a hat, in 1750 one box of pamphlets and pens, in 1752 a box of books and in 1753 a pair of scales, a lanthorn and books. In April 1747 Richard was joined as a writer in the EIC by his younger brother, John Starke (aged 22), who sailed out on the Houghton with one chest, one escritoire, and a bundle of bedding
A dispatch from Fort St George to England, dated 22 February 1749, stated that Richard Starke, who had been ‘upper searcher at Madras – now appointed to that position at Cuddalore [i.e. Fort St David]. By 2 November 1749 he had been appointed ‘second’ at Fort St George – that is ‘under deputy governor’ and in February 1752 he succeeded Mr Prince as deputy governor of Fort St David, formally taking office on 31 July 1752.
Fort St David, about a mile from Cuddalore, was a small fortified town, near to the sea and, by all accounts, a very comfortable billet. In The Life of Lord Clive Sir George Forrest quotes the following description of the area: ‘The country within the boundaries is very pleasant, and the air fine, having seldom any fogs. In the district are many neat houses with gardens; the latter were laid out with much good taste by the gentlemen, who either had been, or were in the company’s service. These gardens produce fruits of different sorts, such as pine-apples, oranges, limes, pomegranates, plantaines, bananoes, mangoes, guavas, (red and white,) bedams (a sort of almond), pimple-nose, called in the West Indies, chadocks, a very fine large fruit of the citron-kind, but of four or five times it’s size, and many others. At the end of each gentleman’s garden there is generally a shady grove of cocoanut trees.’
Clearly it was all too comfortable to last. First we hear that John Starke, who was also working at Fort St David, under the Paymaster, received a peremptory dismissal for which no reason was given; a dispatch from London to Madras, 31 Jan 1755 merely noted: ‘The services of John Starke are dispensed with.’.’ Having no further occasion for the service of Mr John Starke he is upon receipt of this to be accordingly discharged from the Company’s service’.
A year later Richard Starke was compelled to write the following letter, dated 19 August 1756:
‘Honourable Sir and Sirs [to the President and Governors of Fort St George] I am to acquaint you that agreeable to your orders of the [lacuna] June I have delivered over the charge of the settlement of Fort St David to Col Robert Clive and as I imagine by the Company’s having been pleased to supersede me, by the appointment of that Gentleman so much my junior in their service, my conduct cannot have been so agreeable to them as I can assure Your Honour etc I have endeavoured to make it, I am to desire permission to resign their employ and return to Europe. Richard Starke.’
To the letter was subsequently appended a brief note: ‘In which the Board acquiesce’.
A dispatch of 21 November 1756 gave further information. ‘Starke handed over charge to Clive, returned to Madras in August, and requested leave to resign the service as he had been superseded by Clive.’ A further dispatch, 20 October 1757, gave a list of the passengers sailing to England on the Norfolk, among whom were Richard and John Starke.
Thus ended, rather ignominiously, Richard Starke’s Indian career, ousted by the very much more wily and ambitious Robert Clive. I am sure that a reading might be made of The Sword of Peace in the light of Mariana’s close knowledge of these events.
In 1759 Richard Starke married Mary Hughes, the 23-year-old daughter of Isaac Hughes, a merchant of Crutched Friars in the City of London, and Yewlands House, Banstead. Mariana, born in the last week of September 1762, was their first surviving child; I think a first son had died soon after birth. UPDATE (6 April 2014) I’ve just found a news report in ‘The Public Advertiser’ of 21 June 1762, to the effect that this young boy, aged 20 months, had died the previous week after falling out of the coach in which he was ‘taking an airing’ with some women servants and was then run over by the vehicle’s wheels.
Richard’s father, John Starke, died in a year later, in October, 1763. His will reveals some family dissension. Richard and his sister, Martha, appear to have been involved in a lawsuit, presumably involving John, the result being that, although John Starke left Hylands House at Epsom to Richard, the main part of his wealth was to bypass Richard, to be settled on Richard’s children. Thus, by the time she was a year old, Mariana Starke was living in a large, pleasant house in Epsom, where her father, who never again took up employment, could maintain a position in society on account of his Indian EIC service and, while probably not overburdened with great wealth, could live with a certain nabob style.