Sir John Bowring was an intellectual, a Liberal, a friend of, and the Literary Executor of, Jeremy Bentham, the Editor of the Westminster Review, a supporter of Free trade, a man who could read two hundred languages and speak a hundred of them.
He was not a career diplomat, but a Member of Parliament; one of the founders of what became the Liberal Party. He was a rationalist who recommended the adoption of decimal currency in Britain, something which came to pass exactly 100 years after his death. Unfortunately, in those days, MPs were not paid, and, after he lost money after investing in an iron foundry in Wales, his friends, of whom he had many, looked for a good job for him...
His talent for languages suggested something in China, and he was appointed as Consul at Canton, where, of course, he learned Cantonese as well as Mandarin.
He had barely got back to Britain after four years in that post when Sir Samuel Bonham retired, and Sir John seemed the obvious choice to succeed him as Governor of Hong Kong.
As a Governor of Hong Kong, however, he was not the brilliant success that he ought, on paper, to have been.
Most accounts suggest that this was largely the fault of this chap:
Sir Harry Parkes, a charming rogue who managed to marry a beautiful wife and make a lifetime career as a British diplomat in Asia despite causing wars and other upsets at every opportunity. Sir Harry might indeed be one of the originals for Harry Flashman...
What we need at this point is a photograph of a lorcha. There is a very good one, of a lorcha alongside the Praya, in the lifts of the Hong Kong Club, but I am blest if I can find one on the Internet. If any reader of Gwulo can supply one, please do!