Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Edward James Rapson (1861-1937)

E.J. Rapson was my great-grandfather's (Flora's husband, Herbert Benjamin's) brother. Their father was Edward Rapson, the Vicar of West Bradley. He was a Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Cambridge for thirty-three years, and wrote various articles in different journals, mainly in the Numismatic Chronicle and the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. He also wrote a series of six papers on Indian Coins and Seals, followed by a work on the British Museum's coin-collections, the Catalogue of the Coins of the Andhra Dynasty, the Western Ksatrapas, the Traikutaka Dynasty and the 'Bodhi' Dynasty (1908). His other main work was Ancient India: From the Earliest Times to the First Century A.D. (1897). I have managed to acquire both of these books - the former I was able to purchase, and the latter was my great-grandfather's, which my grandmother passed on to me:

I was also able to buy his obituary, which shed a lot of light on his life and interests. He was apparently an accomplished musician, with a tenor voice which was often heard in amateur choirs. He was a skillful organist and pianist, and resented the "blatant ugliness" and "perverted ingenuity" which was common in "modern music" (I wonder how he would have reacted if he had heard the music my generation listens to today...!). His favourite artist was Handel, followed by Bach and Beethoven.

In 1902, he married Ellen Daisy Allen, daughter of William Allen, of 'The House' in West Bradley. She was very supportive of his work, but passed much of her married life in infirmity, and died on the 26th March 1921.

When the First World War began, Rapson was resolved to participate in the national defence. He had previously served in the Officers' Training Corps (O.T.C.), and now he joined the platoon of O.T.C. veterans formed in Cambridge and became a drill-sergeant. In 1915 he took a commission in Falmouth, where he instructed a company before returning to Cambridge and serving as Assistant Adjutant at the Headquarters of the 2nd Cambridgeshire Regiment.

During the evening of Sunday 3rd October 1937, while dining at the high table in his college, he swooned, and after about an hour died without recovering consciousness. The medical verdict ascribed his death to a cerebral haemorrhage.

Source: L.D. Barnett (1937). Edward James Rapson (1861-1937). Oxford: University Press. p1-p14.

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