Wolverhampton BTW


Dornbush (Miss), fl. 1783—1795

by Benjamin Colbert

The first edition of Narrative of a Ten Years’ Residence at Tripoli gives the author as the sister of the late Richard Tully (b. 1750; fl. 1768-1800) while the second and third editions change this to sister-in-law. The latter, insofar as it is a correction left standing, appears the more likely identification. This is reinforced by an obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine of August 1855 which identifies Thomas Faulkner (1777-1855) as having edited Narrative ‘From Miss Dornbush’s papers’ (216), although it is still possible that a relation of Tully’s wife (née Dornbush) possessed rather than composed the said papers.

Miss Dornbush’s origins are obscure, but if she was the sister-in-law in question, she would have been sister to Catherine Dornbush, who married Richard Tully on 30 June 1768 at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden (Hunt 242). It is possible that their father was the John Dornbush who witnessed the marriage, and, further, that this was the John Dornbush, mantuamaker, who was partner to Benjamin Day at Long's Warehouse, Tavistock Street, Covent Garden since around 1752 (Publ. Advert.; Thomson 295). The marriage register was also signed by ‘A. Dornbush’, who has not been further identified.

What we might surmise further is tied up in Richard Tully and his consulship at Tripoli. Richard Tully was born in Italy, the son of an English-born father who had immigrated to Italy at an early age (Richard Tully’s grandfather was the first of the family to move abroad). His father was employed by the British consulate in Naples and through his influence Richard Tully received his appointment in 1768 as secretary to the British consulate in Tripoli (Tully, C.). Around this time, or possibly before, Tully had taken up residence in London. His marriage to Catherine Dornbush took place just before he and she departed for North Africa.

From the beginning, Tully found that his salary could not keep pace with debts, some of the most serious ones contracted on consular business during periods in which the secretary became de facto consul during illnesses and absences of the consuls under whom he served. When, in September 1782, he was himself appointed Consul-General at Tripoli (London Gaz.), the augmentation in salary was too little too late. To economize he had sent his family to England in 1780, a forced separation of nearly three years. It is likely that Catherine Tully and her children took up residence with her relations and that Miss Dornbush became part of the household at this time.

Once Richard Tully was appointed consul-general, he returned to England and conducted his family overland via Italy back to Tripoli, a journey that depleted afresh his cash reserves. He was recalled in late 1790 (Gen. Evening Post), but appears to have continued serving until the arrival of the new consul, Simon Lucas, which did not take place until July 1793. Richard Tully and his family sailed from Tripoli on 23 August 1793, leaving a mountain of unpaid bills that would remain a source of contention between Tully, Lucas, and the Home Office for several years. During this time he remained on a reduced salary as ‘Interpreter of Oriental Languages’ in the ‘Secretary of State’s Office, Whitehall’ until around 1800, when he again drops out of sight (FO Corresp.; Gent. Cit. Alm. 89).

Narrative indicates that its author (‘Miss Dornbush’) accompanied the family back to Tripoli in 1783, arriving with them in June. At Tripoli, the family were in close daily contact with the Pasha of Tripoli, Ali I Karamanli, as well as other dignitaries, including the family of the ambassador to England, Hadgi Abderrahman, and the Narrative author concentrates her descriptions on the manners, customs, and political intrigues radiating around her informants. Little personal information is offered on Richard Tully, Catherine Tully, their children, or herself.

The author’s eye is particularly acute in describing Tripolitan society from the perspective of its female inhabitants, warranting the comparison in reviews to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s travel letters. She visits the royal harem, attends ladies at their toilette, and details the differing customs among the Moorish, Christian, and Jewish inhabitants of the city. The text also records major events including an outbreak of plague (the Consul’s family lived in quarantine from June 1785 to the end of July 1786) as well as the political machination undermining Ali Karamanli’s reign by his sons, the Turkish invasion, and the rise of Yusuf Karamanli in 1793.

After the Tully party left Tripoli in August 1793, they sailed to Minorca. The rest of the family remained at Mahon, while Richard Tully returned alone to London (again to economize). The last letter published in Narrative is dated Gibraltar, 30 April 1795, and is devoid, as usual, of personal information. However, the author was almost certainly present at her niece’s wedding, for Richard Tully and Catherine Tully’s daughter, Louisa Maria Tully, married Alexander Simpson of Aberdeen on 19 March 1795, also at Gibraltar (St. James’s Chron.).

Nothing is known after this point about Richard Tully, Catherine Tully, or Miss Dornbush.


Foreign Office Correspondence of Richard Tully, Consul-General at Tripoli. 1766-1805. MSS. Natl. Archives, London.

General Evening Post, no. 8932 (28-30 Dec. 1790). Gale Databases: 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 12 Jan. 2018.

Gentleman’s and Citizen’s Almanack. Dublin: Thomas Stewart, 1800. Print.

Hunt, William H., Rev. The Registers of St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, London. Vol. 3: Marriages, 1653-1837. London, 1907. Print.

London Gazette, no. 12328 (3-7 Sept. 1782). Gale Databases: 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 12 Jan. 2018.

‘Mr. Thomas Faulkner’ [Obituary]. Gentleman’s Mag. 44 (Aug. 1855): 215-16. Print

Public Advertiser, no. 11786 (Thurs., 31 Dec. 1772). Gale Databases: 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 12 Jan. 2018.

St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, no. 5829 (2-5 May 1795). Gale Databases: 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. Web. 12 Jan. 2018.

Thomson, Gladys Scott. The Russells in Bloomsbury 1669-1771. London: Jonathan Cape, 1940. Print.

Tully, Catherine, née Dornbush. Letter to Lord Hillsborough [c. 1783]. MS. FO 76/4, ff. 201-02. Natl. Archives, London.


Title Published
Narrative of a Ten Years' Residence at Tripoli in Africa 1816

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