My Great Grandfather James Stuart Eldridge
- an American Physician practising in Japan at the time of the Meiji Restoration

A few years before she died, early in 1996, my late father’s cousin, Karin Warming, gave to me the two volumes of the journals of Stuart Eldridge. He had written these in the early years of his life and work as a doctor in Japan. Karin’s mother Frances was the daughter of Stuart Eldridge and Frances’ sister Beatrix was my father’s mother. Both were born to Stuart and Frances Eldridge in the 1870’s in Japan. It would seem likely that Stuart Eldridge’s wife had handed the volumes on to her daughter after they came to live in Surrey following their evacuation from Yokohama in the wake of the disastrous earthquake of 1923 (the family home was destroyed by the tsunami that compounded the awful destruction that was witnessed by Karin and her mother).
Although referred to as "journals" it quickly became apparent during my transcription of them that the fine script was in fact not in pencil, but carbon copy: Eldridge wrote frequently and at length to his wife, Frances, whom he had left behind in the United States and who did not join him in Japan until 1873, almost two years after he had docked in Yedo. So these records are in fact not true diaries, but copies of letters written by a young man (he was 28 years old when he first arrived in Japan) who was clearly homesick and missing keenly the loved ones he had left at home, at a separation of some 8000 miles . They are perhaps all the more interesting for that.
Eldridge was in every sense a remarkable man, as may be gathered from his obituary, and his biography. In addition to his achievements in the fields of medicine and administration, his journals contain a series of charming drawings and water colours, skilfully made. He had an eye for strange and beautiful things and was painstaking in his descriptions of them.
Transcribing the journals in the last year of the second millenium has been a fascinating and absorbing task. The probability that I, his great grandson, am the first to have read them in depth since his wife, Frances, opened the original letters in Philadelphia some one hundred and thirty years ago, has added a sense of awe. I am mindful, too, of the privilege afforded to me by my cousin when she handed the two volumes to me for safe keeping, in the knowledge, perhaps, that she might not have very long to live.

Link to the Biography and Obituary of Dr Stuart Eldridge and to Trascriptions of his Journals