Bertram Lenox Simpson

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Bertram Lenox Simpson
Portrait of Bertram Lenox Simpson.jpg
Born 1877
Died 1930
Nationality UK
Other names Putnam Weale
Occupation Journalist
Known for Book: The Fight for the Republic in China

Bertram Lenox Simpson (1877–1930) was a British author who wrote about China under the pen name "B. L. Putnam Weale" (or sometimes simply "Putnam Weale"). Lenox-Simpson was the son of Clare Lenox-Simpson, who had been in the Chinese Maritime Customs Service since 1861; he had a brother, Evelyn, a mining engineer who worked in China, and a sister, Esme.[1] His education was at Brighton College, after which he too joined the Service.[2] He was in China during the Boxer Rebellion and during the siege of the legations. After this, he became Brigade Interpreter for the British Expeditionary Force (he spoke 5 languages).[2]

Lenox-Simpson left the Chinese Maritime Customs Service in 1901, perhaps connected with zealous looting after the siege of the Legations in 1900. One historian calls him "the consummate treaty port jobbing hack, writing commentaries, begging for newspaper work, penning novels... and serving as Daily Telegraph correspondent in Beijing from 1911 to 1914." He remained in China, and began a prolific career writing about China and the Far East.[3] His 1914 novel, The Eternal Princess has the earliest reference as yet located to the apocryphal sign in Shanghai's Huangpu Park, "No Dogs or Chinese."[4] As of 1916 he was working for the political section of the office of the President of China. One researcher reports that "During the period of September 1916 to June 1917, he had written at least thirty-eight reports on foreign affairs for the Chinese government. Many of them were ... read by President Li Yuanhong."[5] His journalistic career in China included periods as editor of the Peking Leader and as chairman of the Far Eastern Times syndicate.[6]

By 1930 Lenox-Simpson had become thoroughly embroiled in Chinese internal politics and thus took control of customs in Tianjin on behalf of Yan Xishan.[7] He was killed in what some believed to have been an assassination. This was difficult to conclusively prove, because the killers were never caught or identified.[6]


His work Indiscreet Letters from Peking is widely cited as an eyewitness account of the events during the siege of the Legations in 1900, but several scholars have cast doubt on its reliability.[8]

A number of his books have recently been republished in facsimile, usually under his pen-name "Putnam Weale". There are free downloads of The Fight for the Republic in China, his best-known work. The Oxford English Dictionary cities his Why China Sees Red as an early example of use of the word term warlord, though the New York Times had used it earlier.


  1. ^ Robert, Hart; James Duncan Campbell (1975). The I. G. in Peking; letters of Robert Hart Chinese Maritime Customs 1868–1907 (Vol. 1). Harvard. pp. 1075, 1148. ISBN 0-674-44320-9.  Ed: John King Fairbank, Katherine Frost Bruner, Elizabeth McLeod Matheson.
  2. ^ a b Burke, Edmond (1931). The annual register of world events (vol. 172). Longman's Green. p. 143. 
  3. ^ Robert Bickers, Britain in China: Community, Culture, and Colonialism, 1900–1949 (Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press,1999), p. 34.
  4. ^ Putnam Weale, The Eternal Priestess, p. 26, quoted in Robert Bickers, Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, "Shanghai's 'Dogs and Chinese Not Admitted' Sign," China Quarterly 142 (1995): 450.
  5. ^ Xu, Guoqi (2005). China and the Great War. Cambridge University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-521-84212-9. 
  6. ^ a b French, Paul (2009). Through the looking glass: China's foreign journalists from opium wars to Mao. Hong Kong University Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-962-209-982-1. 
  7. ^ Bickers, Robert (2003). Empire Made Me; an Englishman adrift in Shanghai. Columbia University Press. p. 236. ISBN 0-231-13132-1. 
  8. ^ Lanxi Xiang in his notes on sources says that many of the so-called diaries "are bogus ones, which were written after the events, including Indiscreet Letters From Peking – I consider them secondary, rather than primary sources." Lanxin Xiang. The Origins of the Boxer War: A Multinational Study. (London; New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), p. 363). Robert Bickers says of it that it is "No straightforward memoir" but a "stylized account" and an attack on "supine British diplomatic leadership" Britain in China: Community, Culture, and Colonialism, 1900–1949 (Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press, 1999),(p.34).

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