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Sophia Hull (b. 5 May 1786, London - d.12 December 1858) became Raffles' second wife on 22 February 1817. She bore him five children and is famed for penning his biography the Memoir of the Life and Public Services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles which brought recognition to Raffles' accomplishments.
Sophia was of Irish descent, taking her name after her mother, Sophia Hull. She was the second of 15 children, the eldest of eight daughters. Her parents had married in Bombay where her father, James Hull, had worked as a writer for the East India Company.
Marriage to Raffles
Sophia met Raffles in Cheltenham in August 1816 where she was living with her mother. She was a family friend, particularly close to Mary Anne, Raffles' favourite sister. They were married within six months of their acquaintance on 22 February 1817 in Marylebone Parish Church, London, a quiet affair that had been kept a secret from even Raffles' close friends. Sophia was then 30, rather beyond the marriageable age and Raffles, at 36 was a widower for slightly more than two years. He was still recovering from the loss of his wife and the recent death of his mentor, Lord Minto. However, Raffles was at his peak in both his career and his vision for the East when they married. Within two months of the wedding, Raffles was knighted by the Prince Regent and by October, they both had set sail for Bencoolen onboard the Lady Raffles.
Hull bore him five children overseas. All save but one died tragically from illnesses in Bencoolen before they returned to England. She lost Raffles a mere nine years into their marriage and was thereafter strapped with debts imposed by the East India Company. Added to this was the death of her last surviving child, Ella, on the eve of this daughter's marriage which would also have been her 19th birthday.
Her indomitable spirit, however, proved the day for Sophia. She vowed that her husband have a biography written within several weeks after his death. With little literary experience and limited knowledge of Raffles early life and accomplishments, she penned his life story from his personal letters and notations, capturing his work between 1805 to 1816. In the tradition of her day, she took liberties in deleting and adding on to Raffles' original writings. But her biography, Memoir of the Life and Public Services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, remains the standard biography of Raffles because of the sheer weight of original materials used.
The first edition under the title Memoir of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was published in 1830 and a total of 1,500 copies were printed and sold at a cost of 2 pounds 12s. 6 d. The publishers were John Murray, noted for publishing works of such authors as Byron, Moore and Jane Austen. However, she changed publishers to James Duncan for the second edition which was published in July 1835, in two volumes, selling at the cost of 1 pound 4s 0d .
Father: James Watson Hull (b. 11 July 1758 - d. 1831).
Mother: Sophia Hull nee Hollamby (b. 5 September 1762 - d. 10 March 1836, Cheltenham).
Pearson, H. F. . This other India: A biography of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (pp. 56-63). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.570210924 RAF)
Raffles, S. (1991). Memoir of the life and public services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (p. iv - xxxiii). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 RAF)
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days (pp. 23-27). (1993). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR)
Bastin, J. S. (2002). Sophia Raffles. Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: SING 959.5703092 BAS)
Bastin, J. S. (1994). Lady Raffles: By effort and virtue. Singapore: National Museum.
(Call no.: SING 959.57021092 BAS)
List of Images
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days (p. 24). (1993). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient.
(Call no.: SING 959.57021092 SIR)
A painted portrait of Sophia Hull in colour but is a Chinese replica of a replica of A. E. Chalon's painting.
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.
Raffles, Sophia, Lady, 1786-1858
Colonial administrators' spouses--Singapore--Biography
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