Life was good for George Jnr., Fanny and their young son George William in Malta in the 1840s. At least it certainly appears that way from a hundred and fifty years or more in the future. George Jnr.'s business looks like a real success. The hindsight provided by his 1858 last will and testament confirms that success. The business was a bookshop, a circulating library, an agent for London publications, a publishers - including a Malta almanac, a leaser of furnished lodgings, a retailer of patent medicines and English-made furniture. How did George fund this venture? I'm not sure. It is possible he got some kind of lump sum he could use as capital at the end of his service with Admiral Stopford - prize money perhaps? But at the moment I don't really know.
Almost at once advertisements started appearing in the Malta Times:
13 Oct 1842
“NOTICE FANCY SHOP 44 STRADA MEZZODI NOW 43
FORMERLY MR MUIR'S CIRCULATING LIBRARY
Mr Goldzeicher begs to inform the nobility and gentry...”
5 & 10 Nov 1842
“G Muir Bookseller, Stationer, Circulating Library Str. Reale,
Malta, Furnished Lodgings; Orders for Galignani Messenger
or any publications from London or Paris punctually executed
likewise, Agent to J.Murray Bookseller, and Messrs Colnaghi and
Packle, London: also Sole agent for Morison's Hygeen medicines
— a certain cure for any curable disease”
15 Dec 1842
“SMITH'S COMPOUND EXTRACT OF SARSPARILLA
SOLD AT MUIR'S CIRCULATING LIBRARY, STRADA REALE:
N.B. A discount of £1 allowed to persons taking 12 large boxes
JUST RECEIVED AT MUIR'S CIRCULATING LIBRARY
Hand-Book of Painting — an assortment of Annuals and
Almanacks for 1843 — latest English papers — particularly the
Overland Mail and Atlas of 5th December”
So, it seems the Muir organisation initially had premises on the Strada Mezzodi in Valetta and then moved to the Strada Reale (now Republic Street) which was the main commercial thoroughfare. The particular premises were destroyed by bombing in the Second World War. Apparently it was the Post Office for many years after it was vacated by Muir. Back in England, in June 1843, George Jnr.'s half-brother Reuben Harrison married Mary Ann Eveleigh at Old Church St. Pancras in North London. Reuben Harrison had moved from Portsmouth and was now a coachbuilder in the Euston Road.
Embossed paper dating from the 1840s or 50s. Stamp reads "Muir — Malta".
Marriage of Reuben Harrison & Mary Ann Eveleigh:
9 June 1843 Old Church, St. Pancras, London
Recorded children of Reuben & Mary Ann:
A page from the 1845 edition Of Murray's Handbook Advertiser showing one of George Muir's advertisements. This image was produced by Google Books® from the out-of-copyright issue of Murray's Handbook Advertiser, 1845.
There was one cloud over the 1840s in Malta for George Jnr. and Fanny. George William remained an only child for over ten years. If he had remained an only child forever it probably wouldn't be so obvious. But sadly a ten year gap suggests a history of miscarriage, still-birth or infant mortality. But in August 1848 the thirty-two year old Fanny gave birth to twins. It is easy to imagine that the pregnancy may have been a shock to all concerned!
These twins were Thomas Douglas Muir and Mary Jane Muir, known all her life as 'Lily'. Douglas, as he was called, was to follow his elder brother into the Royal Navy as a Clerk. Lily never married and eventually became a governess back in England. It is reported that she was quite a 'simple soul' and spent many years closely attached to her brother George William, and eventually to his wife, Sophia Louisa Thomas.
It is alleged that Douglas was always in trouble with money, and that his brother George William was always having to help him out. His niece, my great aunt Grace, suggested in letters to my father in the 1960s that he killed himself because of the dishonour of some dreadful debt. This now looks like fantasy, because he died at the Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, on 08 March, 1881, of an affliction my medical relatives suggest may have been what is now known as Crohn's Disease. He was 32 and had not married.
Republic Street (formerly Strada Reale) today
Photo by Wilfred L. Camilleri
Recorded children of George and Fanny Muir:
A page from Murray's Handbook Advertiser showing one of George Muir's advertisements, this time from 1850. This image was produced by Google Books® from the out-of-copyright issue of Murray's Handbook Advertiser, 1850.
Through the 1850s George Jnr. continued to develop his business, especially the publishing arm. As well as Muir's Malta Almanack there were a number of travel and phrase books, and collections of poetry. Some examples are held by the British Library, but thus far I have been unable to find anything published by George on the secondhand and rare book market. Typical of the works in the British Library is "A Collection of Colloquial Phrases, on every topic necessary to maintain conversation. The whole so disposed as considerably to facilitate the acquisition of the Italian, English and Maltese Languages." George Muir: Malta, 1849.
It seems clear that George Jnr. was at least acquainted, and probably very friendly with Henry Lushington, the Chief Secretary to the government of Malta from 1847 to 1855. Henry published several works of poetry and prose and it is likely George Jnr. was responsible for some of them, although I have no proof of that. Henry was the brother of Franklin Lushington and a cousin of Sir Stephen Lushington. Franklin was the particular friend of Edward Lear who he had met when the latter visited Malta in the late 1840s. Like his brother, Franklin wrote poetry and shared three volumes of verse with Henry. Sir Stephen Lushington was a naval man and featured heavily in the life of George Jnr.'s son George William. But during the 1840s he spent a lot of time in Malta. It is likely that George Jnr. filled a commercial and professional role for all these gentlemen. I imagine quite a little social and literary scene going on at his premises!
A smart house in Sliema; a successful business; his oldest son about to enter the Royal Navy as a well-educated Paymaster's Clerk (this was the growth of the Victorian middle classes in action). Life must have seemed good for George Muir Junior in the early 1850s. But as things have a habit of doing, they started to go wrong …
Steep, stepped street in Malta today
Photo by Wilfred L. Camilleri
Both George Jnr.'s sons went to the Malta Protestant College. This is the dedication from a book given as a prize to younger son (Thomas) Douglas Muir in 1864.
Click for 3rd page about Geo. Muir Jnr. »