Biography and History

George Alexander Thompson was born at Ullapoor, near Calcutta, India (date unknown). His father, George Nesbitt Thompson (Warren Hasting's secretary and a barrister by training), married an Indian princess who had been captured by the British. A daughter, Matilda, was born in Ullapoor in 1788, the same year George Nesbitt returned to Britain. His wife may have already died, for he married another woman named Catherine Mary Vansittart (née Powney), the recently-widowed wife of Henry Vansittart's son (also named Henry). George Nesbitt purchased a house in Epsom and subsequently Penton Lodge in Andover, Herts. There, George Alexander attended Rugby School (1797-1802) and became a clerk in the Stamp Office. Later, perhaps in 1806, he was encouraged by his step-brother, Nicolas Vansittart (a foreign translator in the Audit Office), to pursue scholarship on a professional level. Thompson's first published work was a translation of Antonio de Alcedo's five-volume Diccionario geográfico-historico de las Indias Occidentales o América (London: printed for James Carpenter, Old Bond-Street..., 1812-15). Thompson also published in 1813, A New Theory of the Two Hemispheres, which attempts to explain the peopling of the Americas. In October 1823, Thompson obtained a Foreign Office appointment as Secretary to the British Commission to Mexico following the abdication of “Augustin I,” the creole emperor Augustín de Iturbide. He spent eighteen months in Mexico, and subsequently visited the breakaway United Provinces of Central America (Guatemala, San Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica) in 1825.

Upon his return, Thompson traveled around London where he repeatedly projected a “Supplement” to his five-volume translation of Alcedo's Diccionario, the stock of which he apparently controlled. He solicited and obtained subscribers in 1829 and 1831, and was still seeking and obtaining new patronage as late as 1848. Thompson's supplement was never printed, despite the commitments of subscribers who, the author claimed, included King George IV (replaced in 1831 by William IV), two archbishops of Canterbury, seven dukes, and other distinguished officials, scientists, and bibliophiles. In 1829 Thompson published, with John Murray, his Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico (London: John Murray, 1829). This report did not include any description of his eighteen months in Mexico. Thompson issued another work in 1849 published as Handbook to the Pacific and California, Describing Eight Different Routes, by Sea, Central America, Mexico, and the Territories of the United States, Particularly with Reference to the Ports Frequented by the Steamers of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1849). His later activities are unknown.

Source: From the finding aid for C0963