Memsahibs Abroad: Writings by Women Travellers in Nineteenth Century India 0195644239, 9780195644234

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Memsahibs Abroad

Digitized by the Internet Archive In 2022 with funding from Kahle/Austin Foundation

Memsahibs Abroad Writings by Women Travellers in Nineteenth Century India

edited by Indira Ghose





YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi 110 001 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford

New York

Auckland Bangkok Buenos Aires Cape Town Chennai Dares Salaam Delhi HongKong Istanbul Karachi Kolkata Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumbai Nairobi Sao Paulo Shanghai Taipei Tokyo Toronto Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries Published in India By Oxford University Press, New Delhi

© Oxford University Press 1998 The moral rights of the author have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker) First published by Oxford University Press in 1998 Oxford India Paperbacks 2002

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Oxford University Press. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer ISBN 019 566384 5

Printed in India by Pauls Press, New Delhi 110 020 Published by Manzar Khan, Oxford University Press YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi 110 001

For Manfred Pfister, whose idea, after all, it was

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List of Illustrations


Biographical Notes


Glossary Introduction


First Impressions


Arts and Culture






Encounters with ‘Natives’


Encounters with Indian Women




The Mutiny


Heat and Dust


Social Life


Criticism of the Raj




List of Illustrations Views of Calcutta: Old Court House Street from the north,

1788. Thomas Daniell, courtesy: India Office Library, London. A view in the bazaar leading to the Chitpore Road, 1819. James Baillie Fraser, courtesy: India Office Library, London.



Interior of the Great Cave at Carli, 1812. Maria Graham,

from Journal of a Residence in India, courtesy: Cambridge University Library.


The five Radums, 1812. Maria Graham, from Journal of a

Residence in India, courtesy: Cambridge University Library.


Maharajah Ranjit Singh. Emily Eden, courtesy: India Office Library, London.


Raja Heera Singh. Emily Eden, courtesy: India Office Library, London.


Our magistrate’s wife, 1859. George Atkinson, from

Curry and Rice, courtesy: Dildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz.


The flight from Lucknow. Abraham Solomon, courtesy: Leicestershire County Council Museums.


Miss Wheeler defending herself against the mutineers, 1858. Charles Ball, from History of the Indian Mutiny, courtesy: India Office Library, London.


Our band, 1859. George Atkinson, from Curry and Rice, courtesy: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz.


Not-at-home box, private owner.


Biographical Notes

Mary Frances Billington Mary Frances Billington was a journalist sent by the Daily Graphic in 1894 to investigate the lives of Indian women. She also wrote a biography of Florence Nightingale. Christina Sinclair Bremner

Christina Sinclair Bremner presents herself as a ‘bluestocking’ who is one of the few vocal critics of the Raj among these women travellers. She later campaigned for causes such as divorce laws and the education of women in Britain.

Mary Carpenter Mary Carpenter (1807-77) was a well-known social reformer who had been active in the field of juvenile delinquency and prison conditions before she embarked on the first of several trips to India to take up the cause of female education.

Ruth M. Coopland Ruth M. Coopland married a chaplain in the service of the East India Company and moved to India in 1856. She experienced the Mutiny at Gwalior, where her husband was murdered. She managed to flee to Agra, where she describes life in the fort during the siege. .

x © Memsahibs Abroad

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming (1837-1924) made her first trip abroad to India in 1868. She later gained fame as a globetrotter and published several volumes on her travels in the South Seas, Japan and China. Maud Diver Maud Diver (1867-1945) was born in India, was sent to England for her schooling, and returned at the age of sixteen. She married a subaltern and returned to England shortly after. There she began a career as a novelist, writing books mainly set in India. The

Englishwoman in India is her apologia for the memsahib.

Frances Isabella Duberly Frances Isabella Duberly (1829-1903) gained a certain notoriety as the ‘Crimean heroine’—she was the only officer’s wife to accompany the British army during the Crimean War and published a journal of her experiences. She subsequently accompanied her husband’s regiment, the 8th Royal Irish Hussars, on their punitive expedition to India during the Mutiny. Her journal mainly describes the long, weary march on the tracks of the rebels. The Hon. Emily Eden

The Hon. Emily Eden (1797-1869), daughter of the Baron of Auckland, who was a distinguished diplomat,



brother George during his term as Governor-General of India from 1836 to 1842. He is chiefly noted for his role in the disastrous First Afghan War (1838-42), which ended in the ignominious routing of

British forces. Her letters were written during a two-and-a-half year tour in northern India, a grand affair which entailed an entourage of 12,000. She also published a series of sketches of India as well as two novels, The Semi-Detached House (1859) and The Semi-Detached

Couple (1860).

Biographical Notes © xi Anne Katherine Elwood Anne




her husband,


Colonel Elwood, to India in 1825 and stayed on for three years. She claims to have been the first lady to take the overland route to India via Egypt and the Red Sea. Her later publications include

Memoirs of the Literary Ladies of England from the Commencement of the Last Century (1843).

Viscountess Amelia Cary Falkland Viscountess


Cary Falkland

(1803-1858), whose


was the Governor of Bombay from 1848 to 1853, gave her journal the title Chow-Chow, a term for the odds-and-ends sold by travelling pedlars in India. It contains a medley of impressions,

ranging from Bombay’s social life to the excursions the author makes to various famous sights. Maria Graham Maria Graham later Lady Callcott (1785-1842) came to India with her father and married an officer there. She lived in the country between 1809 and 1811. She was deeply interested in ancient Indian culture and religion. She was to become an experienced traveller and writer, journeying to Brazil later in life and working as a tutor to the Portuguese royal family there. Among the books she wrote are A History of Painting (1836) and the enormously popular

Little Arthur’s History of England (1835).

E. Augusta King E. Augusta King was the wife of a civil servant and described the life of a memsahib during the years 1877 to 1882. She also wrote a book on Italy. Anna Harriette Leonowens Anna Harriette Leonowens

(1834-1914) was born in India and

lived there until 1856, when she left for Penang. After the death of

xiv ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

life in India is pervaded by horror about the degraded state of the ‘heathen’. Flora Annie Steel Flora Annie Steel (1847-1927) married a member of the Indian Civil Service and lived in India from 1868 to 1889. During this time she was active in the cause of women’s education and social reform. She went on to write novels and short stories set in India.

Her novel based on the Mutiny, On the Face of the Waters (1896), became particularly well known.

Lady Anne Wilson Lady Anne Wilson (1855-1921), wife of a member of the Indian Civil Service, lived in India from 1889 to 1909, mainly in the Punjab. She was deeply interested in aspects of Indian life,

including Indian music.

Main Sources Buckland,

Charles Edward,

ed. Dictionary of Indian Biography.

London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1906. Dyson, K.K. A Various Universe: A Study of the Journals


Memoirs of British Men and Women in the Indian Subcontinent, 1765-1856. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Keay, Julia. With Passport and Parasol: The Adventures of Seven Victorian Ladies. London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1989. Robinson, Jane. Wayward Women: A Guide to Women Travellers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Glossary The spellings used by the different authors vary.


sixteenth part of a rupee lady’s maid or nurse-maid British children Hindu trader or merchant valet lady hashish




barge, often used while travelling on the Ganges grand dinner chick-peas

anna ayah baba-logue bannian bearer beebee

burra khana chana

chappati chaprassi

charpoy chatti chaukidar (chowkidar) chillum

chillumchee chit

chowry chowrybadar

chummery chunam







baked over a griddle messenger light bed with woven cords earthen pot care-taker; watchman

clay pipe for smoking hashish brass basin letter fly-whisk ceremonial stick-bearer bachelor’s rooms plaster of lime



xvi © Memsahibs Abroad cutcherry cutwal (kotwal) dacoit dak


police officer; native magistrate robber, bandit

post; transport by means

of relays of


dak-bungalow dandi

dhaie (amah) dhobee dhurri doolie ‘durbar Feringhis


hookahbadar howdah hummall jampani

jemadar kanaut khansamah kidgeri

kincob (kinkhab)

khitmutgar khus lambardar lotah mahout masnad mehter

government staging house

open litter, often used for travel in the Himalayas wet-nurse


rug covered litter lévee, court

foreigners throne; cushioned seat landing place on a river, with steps leading down to the water British newcomer to India small bullock cart water-pipe, hubble-bubble water-pipe bearers seat on an elephant house servant porter junior native police or army officer; sweeper canvas walls of a tent head servant

dish of rice boiled with pulses cloth of gold butler dried roots of a kind of grass woven into mats to be used as blind or shade

village head man small brass pot

elephant driver throne sweeper

Glossary @ xvii misri


sugar candy Anglo-Indian term denoting a country station

musjid mussaulchee nautch nawab/nawabin nazir


pittarrah palankeen (palanquin) punkah

mosque scullion dance

Muslim prince/Muslim princess counsellor; court official betelleaf and betel-nut stimulant box or basket covered litter

cloth fan on a frame suspended from the ceiling and pulled by servants


screen; the seclusion of women





peasant groom


widow-burning; a widow who immolates herself on her husband’s funeral pyre; a mound commemmorating a sati

sepoy setringee sirdar sirdar-bearer suwarree

native soldier cotton carpet chieftain head bearer mounted suite

thermantidote tonjon

wet to cool the room kind of mechanical fan sedan chair member of the merchant caste



screen of fragrant khus-khus grass, kept


stringed musical instrument


suffix attached


person having, carrying something women’s apartments

to nouns

to denote




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sinerwa yd be


Ungettlits shi









Menge wal

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er wwe?

Pearce ‘chm siiainsbinine o hashes


ied ebasded roche Thestieieiay *


ca+pertains lynudeallt eee

a wre en,







pana ave lvuy


(Ae bpepaes=

© eriatew olitages * £06 HED EE peer


nar piano “a


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‘I want to see the real India’, Adela Quested announces in E.M.

Forster’s A Passage

to India.'






cynically, ‘Ill end in an elephant ride, it always does’, the end is

hardly as innocuous. Real-life women travellers to India in the nineteenth century were just as curious to see India—even though they didn’t all like what they saw. Their long-forgotten writings reflect a wealth of reactions to India ranging from enthusiasm to disgust, and at the same time all the travellers reveal an intense involvement with the strange new world they find themselves in. The stereotype of the Englishwoman in India tends to contradict this. E.M. Forster is only one in a long line of (male) writers to savage the memsahib. According to his friend, J.R. Ackerley, his intention to explore the native part of town, was greeted by a memsahib’s incredulous: ‘What on earth for? You’re sure to catch something—f it’s only a flea.” To be sure, examples of the supercilious and disdainful memsahib abound and probably not all are the figments of misogynistic male minds. (‘It was the women who lost us the Empire’, Sir David Lean groused.) And it is far from my intention

to launch an attempt to salvage the honour of the embattled species, as has been done recently—‘sometimes they were magnificent’,



critic,’ while another critic asserts,

EM. Forster, A Passage to India (1924; London: Penguin, 1979), p. 46.

*J.R. Ackerley, Hindoo Holiday: An Indian Journal (1932; London: Penguin,

1960), p. 15.

*M. MacMillan, Women of the Raj (London: Thames & Hudson, 1988), p. 7.

2 © Memsahibs Abroad

‘Surely the greater burden was the women’s.” Squirm as we might, we cannot escape from the historical role of women and their collusion in oppressive regimes of power—such as colonialism. The pleasures that imperialism offered English women need to be taken into account. Instead, it seems to me far more productive to dismantle the stereotype by taking a closer look. The most fascinating thing about this collection of texts is that they are full of surprises. A bigoted traveller like the evangelical Helen MacKenzie is quite capable of displaying a warm affection for the inhabitants of a zenana and even declaring that their life was hardly more devoid of excitement


her own.





versed in the lore of the Asiatic Researches, the scholarly journal of the day instrumental in unearthing the treasures of ancient India for European consumption, is not above striking an imperialist pose at times—particularly with regard to Indian women. These women travellers refuse to be labelled and stowed away into compartments. One cannot set up a definition for the nineteenthcentury woman traveller in India. For, of course, the opposition between memsahib (bad) and traveller (good) doesn’t work, either. Most of these women travelled for a lengthy period of time and lived the lives of both travellers and memsahibs in India. One of the most famous travelogues of this period and a favourite with historians of the Raj is Fanny Parks’ Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque. Despite its romantic title and the author’s fondness for adopting an Orientalist stance (she signs the fly-leaf in Urdu and garnishes her text with






of course,a

memsahib, the wife of a civil servant who spent twenty-four years in India. In fact, travelling itself was no prerogative of travellers or tourists—travel was by no means always a voluntary act. The average memsahib was always on the move—Flora Annie Steel recounts that she moved fifteen times within sixteen years and only in three places did she stay longer than a year. The main difference between these women and the usual colonial wife lies *M. Fowler, Below the Peacock Fan: First Ladies of the Raj (London: Viking,

1987), p. 5.


© 3

not in their status or even the places they saw, but in the fact that they kept a written record of their stay in India, so invaluable for the social historian. It is important that their long-neglected voices are retrieved. What we need to uncover is the complexity of women’s contribution to the history of the Raj. This anthology might contribute towards that goal by displaying samples of women’s writings on a range of topics that do not add up to a consistent whole. I have chosen to focus on a spectrum of aspects that women travellers to India tended to deal with. Naturally, the selection is limited by the anthologist’s gaze: I have chosen the pieces more for their lively style than for being representative of a popular point of view. Thus to avoid redundancy I have not listed description after description of sine qua nons such as a visit to the Elephanta caves or the Taj Mahal, but have selected my favourite piece of writing in such instances. The topics themselves reflect typical constraints on women travelling and writing in nineteenth-century India. What is striking . about these accounts is that while they expend page after page on the picturesque landscape of India, encounters with Indians—other than servants—are rare. As Anne Wilson explains, many

Englishmen refused to let their wives make contact with Indians as long as Indians kept their own wives in seclusion. (Although zenanas were only prescribed for Muslim women, the influence of

the Mughal rulers of India had been so pervasive that upper-class Indians tended to emulate this practice, irrespective of their creed.) The exception to the rule was, of course, Emily Eden—as sister to’ the Governor-General of India she played an important role in his good-will tour up the country visiting a number of Indian princes. The crowning moment of this tour was the meeting with the Lion of the Sikhs, Ranjeet Singh, whom Emily Eden describes minutely and, for all her flippancy in tone, not without respect. By contrast, meeting native women in the zenana (women’s quarters) was high on the agenda of British women travellers to India. Even if the encounters tended to fall into stereotypical patterns with both parties staring at each other’s gear and tackle, exchanging pleasantries through an interpreter, and the inevitable attar of roses to terminate the visit, a visit to a zenana

4 @ Memsahibs Abroad

was de rigueur both for the self-esteem of the traveller, as well as for the requirements of the home market for which the written accounts — were produced. This was, after all, an area that male travellers had

no access to (with the exception of the extravagantly daring such as Richard Burton, who boasted of gaining entrance to harems in

the disguise of a wandering medical man). Unlike male travellers, who colonial




to be bound


up within

in India,


were far removed from the great game of politics (once again, with the notable example of Emily Eden). They had no first-hand experience of running the country, of passing momentous decisions over large numbers of people somewhere in the wide plains of the Punjab. They were not professionals—neither as Orientalist scholars nor as social reformers. Their excursions into the world of ancient relics were kept within strict bounds—even as enterprising an Orientalist researcher as Maria Graham is prevented by her companion from entering a temple, an act which probably overstepped the threshold of English propriety. Only towards the end of the century do a few professional travellers emerge, in the wake of the nascent feminist movement in Britain: Mary Carpenter made a trip to India to probe into the conditions of female education, while Mary Billington actually travelled in her capacity as journalist to investigate the role of women in India. The historical tapestry against which these accounts are set encompasses the halcyon days of the Raj.” By 1818 the British had defeated all serious opposition on the subcontinent and had gained paramountcy. In the meantime, however, a different force was making its power felt in the home country—the rising tide of

z For a historical overview of this period I am particularly indebted to Francis Hutchins’ masterly The Illusion of Permanence: British Imperialism in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967). There is a wealth of valuable research done in this field. To mention just two further studies I have drawn on: Kenneth Ballhatchet’s Race, Sex and Class under the Raj: Imperial Attitudes and Policies and their Critics, 1793-1905 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1980) and Javed Majeed’s Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill’s The History of British India and Orientalism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

Introduction e 5


Unlike the earlier generation

foremost of whom

of Orientalists’—

was the legal administrator Sir William Jones,

who discovered the shared origin of the Indo-European languages—the later generation of East India Company rulers was anything but enamoured of Indian arts and culture. While the Orientalists had sought to justify their rule of India in an Indian idiom, founding the famous Fort William College for the dissemination of Persian and Urdu, the keynote of the Utilitarian position on India was set by James Mill’s The History of India (1817). Mill’s utilitarian stance on India involved a rejection of all traditional social structures which he saw as the mainstay of a degenerate aristocracy. Though opposed on ideological issues, in the field of Indian policy the Utilitarians formed an unholy alliance with the Evangelicals. Evangelicals had been clamouring for an opening of East India Company territory for missionary activity for a long time. Finally, in 1813 they were granted permission to carry the war against ‘heathenism’ into the enemy’s own field. The wave of evangelical feeling sweeping Britain finds its expression particularly in the writings of Helen MacKenzie (whose husband, the army commander Colin MacKenzie, was known as a zealot who distributed tracts to all natives he could lay his hands on) and Mrs Sherwood, a friend of the missionary Henry Martyn. Their texts are permeated by an abhorrence for the depravity of ‘heathen’ life and heartfelt hopes for a large-scale conversion of Indians to Christianity. While Christian fervour subsequently ebbed in the face of the obstinacy of the natives, an increasing disdain for Indians among the British is perceptible, and the term ‘nigger’ gained currency in the 1840s. Gone were the days when the British in India would slip into native clothes, smoke

a hookah

and take a native mistress.

Many of the writers in this book voice their concern over the increasing arrogance displayed by the British towards Indians, ° The early generation of Indian rulers, often scholars of Indian languages and cultures, were termed ‘Orientalists’ to distinguish them from the later ‘Anglicists’, the Utilitarian thinkers who aimed to radically reform Indian society. Their programme for reform included a switch to English as the medium of administration and education.

6 © Memsahibs Abroad

even those of a high rank. A wave of discontent began gathering strength in the country, fuelled by peasant exploitation and fears of forced conversion. The Governor-General Dalhousie implemented the ‘doctrine of lapse’, whereby any Indian state whose ruler had no natural heirs devolved on the British state. As adoption was an

accepted custom among Hindu rulers, a significant number of states were affected. The last state to be annexed by the British was the hitherto independent state of Oudh, on the grounds of the ruler’s ‘misconduct’. Matters came to a head on 10 May 1857 with the uprising of Indian soldiers (sepoys) against their British commanders in Meerut. The ‘Mutiny’, as the popular insurrection was termed by British historians in an attempt at containment, spread like wildfire all over North India. Several British stations like Lucknow and Agra were besieged. Numerous women who lived through these experiences wrote down their memories and the market was flooded with survival tales for which there was a large demand, thanks to the myth in circulation that British women had been violated and mutilated by Indian rebels. Although this myth could never be proved, the slaughter of Englishwomen in Cawnpore (Kanpur) by the rebel leader Nana Sahib remained etched on the British imagination. A mass hysteria took hold of Britain and for the first time popular interest was shown in the colonies abroad. As a result of the Mutiny the East India Company was dissolved and India was brought under the direct jurisdiction of the Crown. The trauma caused by the Mutiny could never quite be erased, however, and left its mark on the writings of the Raj. It feeds the sense of anxiety that is to be found traversing so many texts of the Raj—the awareness of the fragility of power. In the second half of the century the Raj seemed to settle into an illusion of stability marked by rapid technological improvements. These improvements had a direct impact on modes of travel: the railway took the place of the palanquin travel of an earlier day. Steamships made the journey from Britain a matter of weeks. Tourists who only planned to come for a short stay began visiting India—like the sportswoman Isabel Savory, who made a trip to India to stock up her bag count of big game (unforturitely, no tiger came her way). As the gap in the pace of soual change

Introduction @ 7

between Britain and British India widens, visitors increasingly comment on the stifling formality of Anglo-Indian social ritual. Beneath

the smooth




begin to be

audible. The Indian National Congress, as yet a body of moderate and loyal Indian professionals, began protesting against injustices of British rule. The sounds of discontent can be heard running through some of the texts in this book. The order of the chapters here is a kind of mirror of British women’s perception of India during the course of the century and is arranged in a rough chronological sequence. The first chapter is a distillation of the first impressions travellers received on arrival at either one of the great cities like Calcutta or Bombay, or on their first view of an Indian town. The descriptions of Indian scenery are inflected by the literary fashions of the time—the sublime leaves its traces as clearly as the picturesque or the romantic. While the early generation of travellers was strongly influenced by the Orientalist vogue in Britain and tended to head straight for old caves, monuments and relics of the ‘golden age’, later travellers, convinced of the depravity of native religions, avoided all encounter with ancient Indian art. In the chapter on travel, the changes in the

modes of travel during the century are reflected in the switch from the grand and cumbersome style of travelling favoured in the early part of the century (Emily Eden’s entourage consisted of 12,000 people, and in addition elephants, camels, horses, and other beasts

of burden) to the fast railway travel enabled by the development of the Indian railway network by the end of the century. Encounters with ‘natives’ dwindle in the course of the century. While Emily Eden sees Ranjeet Singh as an equal, later travellers have only scorn for the native. The educated native in particular becomes a laughing-stock for colonial society. Flora Annie Steel, for example, exhorts the reader not to let the reins of power slip (the natives love authority, she asserts); however there are exceptions: Anne Wilson makes an attempt at crossing barriers in her conversation with an Indian poet. The key chapter focuses on encounters of British travellers with Indian women of equal rank. Here the range of responses to the zenana scenario is revealing in the extreme. Some travellers seem to identify themselves with the colonial policy implemented by

8 e Memsahibs Abroad

their husbands so completely that no space for cross-cultural empathy remains. In the case of both Marianne Postans and Fanny Parks, things are quite different. Postans portrays a leisurely visit to a prince’s zenana that is redolent of the style of Orientalist literature. In the case of Parks, voyeuristic fantasies are revealed in her descriptions of the beautiful inmate of a zenana—in a form strongly reminiscent of Lady Mary Montagu, that eighteenthcentury pace-setter for eyewitness accounts of the harem. A different note is struck, however, when Parks describes the friendship she forms with the middle-aged exiled Queen of Gwalior. Though formally adhering to the restrictions of purdah, the energetic queen and her entourage are far more to Parks’ taste than she likes to admit, despite her weakness for languid Oriental beauties. Finally, we see another traveller, Mary Billington, utilize the zenana for her

own purposes: her defence of the traditional values of Indian womanhood is targeted at emancipated feminists at home. She draws an analogy between the docile Indian working-class woman and her dissatisfied English sister, laying open her ideological cards. In the chapter on servants, the English women’s relation to the Indians closest to them in everyday life is shown. Once again, an ambivalence is visible. While some memsahibs are voluble in their praise of native servants—their honesty and their love for children is especially lauded—others see them as lazy and devious, embodying all the negative traits of ‘the native’ in general. This is brought into focus particularly in the paradigmatic case of the wet nurse. As in a prism a host of colonial obsessions and fears are refracted by the figure of the wet nurse, who negotiates the distance between colonizer and colonized at a particularly pivotal point: the future rulers of the Raj. Most memsahibs articulate their anxiety about the health of their children in a foreign land by pouring a stream of invective on the wet nurse, who is accused of

blackmailing her employers. Only Mrs Sherwood points out that the well-being of the English baby is always obtained at a price—one paid by the baby of the wet nurse. The Mutiny produced a spate of survival literature that was received with a voracious appetite on the part of the readership at

home. Rumours of the rape and mutilation of British women had

Introduction ¢ 9 fuelled a sensationalist lust for real-life tales of horror. However,

none of the survivors’ narratives was able to confirm these rumours with first-hand reports. (In fact, not a single instance of rape was ever corroborated by evidence, as British inquiry commissions were forced to admit.) It was left to the world of fiction to produce salacious stories about the abuse of British women by lascivious natives. By contrast, these accounts by women survivors focus on day-to-day survival tactics and create an image of women who were far more active in taking things in their own hands than in the typical colonial stereotype of the passive and helpless woman. I have included excerpts from the account of only one survivor as representative of this sub-genre of travel writing. More unusual still is the tale of Mrs Duberly, the ‘Crimean heroine’ who gained notoriety as the only officer’s wife to accompany the British army during the Crimean War (Queen Victoria refused to shake the hand of so unladylike a figure). Mrs Duberly accompanies her husband on a punitive mission to round up the rebels and describes her experience of marching across 2,000 miles in India. In the chapter entitled ‘Heat and Dust’, I have presented samples of these women’s descriptions of domestic life in India. Colonial myth-making is revealed in the passages centred around the staples of life in the tropics. Mrs King, for instance, is at pains to point out the difference between the heat in India (debilitating) and heat in Australia (invigorating). Other travellers, however, point out that a routine adapted to the climate, and a prudent diet—avoiding the hecatombs of meat the British were in the habit of devouring in the heat—would make life in the tropics no less healthy than at home. In the excerpts dealing with British children, the chink in the armour of British women

in India is revealed, for

colonial ideology dictated that the future rulers of the Raj be sent back to Britain at the latest by the tender age of seven to avoid the morally debilitating effects of the climate. One gains an insight into the roots of the real tragedy that overshadowed British women’s lives in colonial India. With the increasing stultification of Anglo-Indian society in India and the stricter patrolling of racial boundaries, travellers focused their attention more and more on social life within the British community in India and less on interrelations between

10 e Memsahibs Abroad

Indians and English. They are often scathing in their accounts of the inanities of Anglo-Indian social activity. Practices such as the rituals of ‘calling’ or the evening drive are satirized in vitriolic vignettes. The chapter on social life includes some of the most brilliant set-pieces to be found in this collection of writings. Emma Roberts’ sketch of Colonel Gardner, a soldier of fortune who was

employed by an Indian prince during the early part of the century, reminds us that British society in India used to be a far more colourful medley in the eighteenth century. Descriptions of other women—emphatically not ladies—hint at the fact that there were far more Englishwomen in India than the writings of the travellers and predominantly upper-class and middle-class memsahibs would have us believe. Only occasionally do these ‘poor whites’ appear in these texts, to be firmly put in place. The ambivalence of the writings of British women in India is most apparent in the last section: there was no dearth of criticism of the Raj among the very memsahibs who are held responsible for upholding its rule. The arrogance of the British towards Indians is a recurrent theme here. Some writers even evince an awareness of

being the object of the critical gaze of the natives. In a fiery attack, the ‘bluestocking’ Christina Bremner dismantles the ideology of the ‘white man’s burden’-—the myth that the British were in India for the good of the Indians. In words that echo Indian nationalist arguments, Bremner points out that the British, whom Napoleon once called a nation of shopkeepers, were in India to make the bargain of their lives. This anthology does not offer an overview of all the nineteenthcentury women travellers in India. Instead, I have selected a small number of my favourite texts in an attempt to offer a feast of choice passages to the reader. Inevitably, there is a preponderance of certain authors in contrast to others—Emma Roberts’ lucid style and Emily Eden’s sardonic wit make it hard to resist drawing on their works more often, at the expense of others. What I hope to prove is that these texts do not only serve as invaluable source material, but deserve to be read as a fascinating contribution to the literature of the Raj. To give the reader a flavour of the text, longer passages have been retained than are usually found in anthologies, where texts are often fragmented beyond all recognition. I have

Introduction @ 11

also retained the spelling of the period (there is a quaint touch, for instance,

to Aotti


for elephant!).

I have



scholarly apparatus mainly to footnotes appended by the authors themselves, while Indian terms have been briefly explained in the

glossary. An exception has been made in the case of the instructive footnotes to Emily Eden’s letters compiled by the liberal-minded missionary and historical writer Edward Thompson in 1930, which I have reproduced here. Thompson has painstakingly deciphered most of the initials Eden uses to encode historical persons in her entourage. I have also retained typical designations such as ‘AngloIndian’ or ‘Indian’ (for the British in India) and ‘natives’ (for Indians). At the end of each passage, the volume and page numbers of the original publications are provided in brackets and details of these sources can be found in the bibliography. This is not a book about the ‘real’ India. This is a book about the India created in the colonial imagination. And what this image of India reflects are the fantasies and obsessions of the colonial mind. Nevertheless, the image of India created in travel writing and other colonial literature was enormously influential in shaping future generations’ perceptions of India. Today gathering dust in club


at the








circulated amongst each new shipload of memsahibs or travellers to India. They created a stock of stereotypes and notions about the country that were passed on from one generation to the next and

congealed into accepted truths. Future travellers’ reactions to India were often’ moulded by preconceptions based on_ their expectations of what to find there. Leonard Woolf once described colonial society as a collection of Kiplingesque figures: ‘I could never make up my mind whether Kipling had moulded his characters accurately in the image of Anglo-Indian society, or whether we were moulding our characters accurately in the image of a Kipling story.” Similarly, the travel writings of British women in India fashioned an image of India that left its mark on future travellers.

4 Leonard Woolf, Growing: An Autobiography of the Years 1904-1911 (London: Hogarth Press, 1961), p. 46.

12 e Memsahibs Abroad


But as a browse through this book will reveal, this image was by means uniform but fragmented and contradictory. While









inscrutable Hindu) other voices are always to be heard. What this book hopes to represent is the treasure trove of diversity in the writings of these women travellers.

First Impressions Myriad impressions crowded in on travellers to India. These ranged from awe at the grandeur of Eastern architecture to abhorrence in the face of depraved heathen life. What emerges is how perception is shaped by preconception: Emma Roberts, whose expectations of the East have been fuelled by Orientalist literature, dreams of the magnificence of the Arabian Nights and is exhilarated by the achievements of Mughal civilization. The pious Mrs


on the other hand, finds a confirmation

of the

degenerate effects of Hinduism in every face she looks into. Calcutta, the ‘City of Palaces’, was particularly impressive for visitors approaching by boat along the river Hooghly. Another imposing city was Bombay, with its colourful harbour and streets thronged with exotic life. Unlike either of these two cities, Delhi bore the stamp of the centuries of Mughal rule in India and offered quite a different vista, characterized by Oriental splendour. Even the flippant tone in Emily Eden’s letters gives way to a rare sense of awe at the monuments of Mughal culture. For Emma Roberts, a firm devotee of the Oriental picturesque, little attracts her scorn more than the philistines of Anglo-India, who show scant interest in

the glories of Oriental culture. Incidentally, this is to become a recurrent plaint in the writings of women

travellers to India—as,

for instance, in Fanny Parks’ scathing comment on tourists dancing quadrilles in the Taj Mahal. By contrast, Roberts styles herself as a female Lord Byron, imbued with artistic sensitivity. Travellers like Roberts and Parks wage a constant crusade to draw attention to the treasures of India. Similarly, Roberts campaigns to evoke

interest in the burgeoning art of the Indian picturesque, particularly represented by the watercolours of the Daniells.

14 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

Roberts’ description of the Taj Mahal is the best of a series of similar passages by women travellers, and is the only one selected here. For memsahibs out to join their civil servant husbands, the arrival scenes depicted by Flora Annie Steel or Anne Wilson are more typical. While Wilson’s text articulates a hint of colonial paranoia, the exuberant welcome offered to her husband serves to reassure her—a recurrent scene in memoirs by members of the Indian Civil Service, often cited as a legitimation for the civilizing mission of the British in India. For evangelically-minded women such as Julia Maitland or Mrs Sherwood, everything in the Indian scene serves to remind them of the depravity of heathenism. For Maitland, only a mirror image of an English town finds favour in her eyes (though, of course, it is

never quite up to the mark). The Indian part of town, however, into which she undertakes a foray in a spirit of adventure, appears like a travesty of the English section, and a recurrent analogy to southern Italy is drawn. (Similarly, a comparison between Hinduism and Roman Catholicism threads the accounts of evangelical travellers.) For Mary Martha Sherwood an excursion into the Indian part of town turns into a nightmare trip. For the social reformer

Mary Carpenter,

significantly enough,

the most

salient feature about the Indians is their lack of modesty in their clothing. The aesthetics of the period also leave their mark on these writings, as is particularly apparent in their descriptions of land-

~ scape.

In depicting

the mountain


of Western


Marianne Postans draws on the concept of the sublime, while the

aesthetics of the picturesque pervades most of the landscape descriptions that follow. Only Emily Eden quite flatly refuses to adopt the well-worn traveller’s modes of scenery description. Her obstinacy in this respect strikes the keynote of her letters—a facetious disrespect for the shibboleths of Ango-Indian society. Anna Leonowens, romantic.

finally, describes


in an


of the

First Impressions @ 15

Old Court House Street from the north, Calcutta

Emma Roberts

Calcutta: the ‘City of Palaces’ The approach to the City of Palaces from the river is exceedingly fine; the Hooghly’ at all periods of the year presents a broad surface of sparkling water, and as it winds through a richly wooded country, clothed with eternal verdure, and interspersed with stately buildings, the stranger feels that banishment may be endured amid scenes of so much picturesque beauty, attended by so many luxurious accompaniments. The usual landing-place, Champaul Ghaut, consists of a handsome stone esplanade, with a flight of broad steps leading to the water, which on the land side is entered

through a sort of triumphal arch or gateway, supported upon pillars. Immediately in front of this edifice, a wide plain or meidan

' The river on the banks of which Calcutta was founded.

16 e Memsahibs Abroad

spreads over a spacious area, intersected by very broad roads, and on two sides of this superb quadrangle a part of the city and the fashionable suburb of Chowringee extend themselves. The claims to architectural beauty of the City of Palaces have been questioned, and possibly there may be numberless faults to call forth the strictures of connoisseurs, but these are lost upon less erudite judges, who remain rapt in admiration at the magnificence of the coup d’oeil. The houses for the most part are either entirely detached from each other, or connected only by long terraces, surmounted, like the flat roofs of the houses, with balustrades. The

greater number of these mansions have pillared verandahs extending the whole way up, sometimes to the height of three stories, besides columns, long

a large portico in front; and these clusters of colonnades, and lofty gateways, have a very

imposing effect, especially when intermingled with forest trees and flowering shrubs. The material of the houses is what is termed puckha, brick coated with cement,


stone; and


those residences intended for families of very moderate income cover a large extent of ground, and afford architectural displays which would be vainly sought amid habitations belonging to the same class in England. These are the characteristics of the fashionable part of Calcutta; but even here, it must be acknowledged, that a certain want of keeping and consistency, common to every thing relating to India, injures the effect of the scene. A mud hut, or rows

of native hovels, constructed

of mats, thatch, and

bamboos, not superior to the rudest wigwam, often rest against the outer walls of palaces, while there are avenues opening from the principal streets, intersected in all directions by native bazaars, filled with unsightly articles of every description. Few of the houses,

excepting those exclusively occupied by Europeans, are kept in good repair; the least neglect becomes immediately visible, and nothing can be more melancholy than the aspect of a building in India which has been suffered to fall into a dilapidated state. The cement drops from the walls in large patches, the bare brick-work

is diversified by weather stains, in which lichens and the fungus tribe speedily appear; the iron hinges of the outer venetians rust and break, and these gigantic lattices fall down, or hang suspended

in the air, creaking and groaning with every breeze: the court yards

First Impressions @ 17

are allowed to accumulate litter, and there is an air of squalor spread over the whole establishment which disgusts the eye. (1: 1-

3) Marianne Postans

Bombay: ‘Isle of Palms’ The Harbour scenery of Bombay is justly considered the most lovely in the world, the fairest of all -the Isles that gem Old Ocean’s purple diadem. To detail the particular features which compose its beauty, were impossible. The deep smooth waters, the bright blue cloudless sky, the clustering islands, gleaming in still dreamy indistinctness, fringed with the dark feathers of the palm trees, which seem so jealously to conceal the line where the fair elements unite; the pale purple Ghauts,’ towering, higher and higher, in piles of varied form, their lofty summits dim in the misty distance, blending with

the soft haze of a tropic sky, form a picture, which fascinates the eye, and spell-binds the imagination, as completely as it baffles the power of language to pourtray. To afford to those who may not look upon this glorious scene, a bird’s-eye glimpse of its general coup d’oeil, is all that can be attempted, and the elegant pen of Bishop Heber’ has well performed that task; objections have been made to his descriptions, as too Italianized and florid, but critics of taste, whom opportunity may have enabled to study the various combinations of pictorial effect among these lovely scenes, must acknowledge, that neither poetry, nor painting, can possibly do justice to the peculiar and

exquisite beauty of the ‘Isle of Palms’.

* The Western Ghats, a mountain range in Western India. ; Bishop Reginald Heber (1783-1826), Bishop of Calcutta from 1822 until his death, travelled extensively in Northern India. His letters were published posthumously.

18 © Memsahibs Abroad

Where the inducements which the fair face of nature presents, are so great, it is not remarkable that yachting should be, as it is, a

very favourite recreation; or that the gay streamers of the ‘Lovely Lucy,’ and the ‘Lalla Rookh,’ should be seen so frequently floating

in bright relief against the dark masses of rich foliage which clothe, to the water’s edge, the time-hallowed island of Elephanta, and the beautifully wooded scenery of Salsette. The modern town of Bombay, however (for to such a distinction the march of progress entitles it), deserves description; and how-

ever charming may be the bright and sparkling bay, the palmtasselled islets, the varied craft, and the pretty latteen sails which swell in the fresh breeze, a stranger yet desires to step firmly upon

land, and mix in the bustling interests of his fellow-men. The general appearance of Bombay from the harbour, is certainly not attractive. Little can be seen of it but the walls of the fort, flanking the water’s edge, the tents of the esplanade rising in white and gleaming clusters, and the Island of Colabab, stretching out towards the west, covered with palm trees, and crowned at its

extreme end by the Bombay light-house.



The bundahs, or landing-places, are commonly surrounded by singular-looking boats, whose crews ply among the shipping with passengers or cargo. Moored in a busy knot, may be observed the crazy










miniature barge, covered with the gay purdah (awning), to screen the fat Parsee,’ who sits cross-legged in her stern; and the more important bundah boat, with its comfortable cabin lined with soft cushions, and surrounded with smart green Venetians, awaiting an engagement to convey a party to the spot selected for a picnic, or to stretch down the coast to the various beautiful and sea-girt stations of the southern Concan. On landing at either the new Apollo or the Custom-house bundahs, hummalls bearing the palankeens, rich in green paint and silken curtains, entreat the custom of the new arrival; and half-


coolies press forward in dozens, to seize upon


convey all such articles of the stranger’s worldly goods, as are not

* Parsees are adherents of Zoroaster. They fled Persia in the eighth century to avoid persecution by the Muslims and settled in Western India.

First Impressions ¢ 19 formed to subside conveniently on the shelf of a selected palki [palanquin]. If the object of these attentions is a cadet, an individual readily to be distinguished by an experienced eye, some half dozen dirty-looking Mussulmen run along by the open door of the palankeen, crying out, as they vehemently jostle each other, “I master’s servant—I get master every thing!” This, if allowed, the selected villain readily does, charging most impudently for the same, robbing his employer by means of accomplices, and leaving him at the particular juncture at which his services are most required. The first objects which attract attention, are the innumerable

piles of tightly screwed cotton bales, which flank the bundah, awaiting exportation, and the ponderous cranes and screws used in their compression. This dusty, noisy, mercantile scene, is soon, however, exchanged for an attractive view, including a fresh peep of the beautiful bay, with the snowy tents, and pretty bungalows, which adorn the cheerful esplanade. This fine road, situated parallel to the sea, and receiving its

freshest breezes, forms the fashionable Bombay drive, and is thronged every evening by all the pretty women and gay gallants of the island; some displaying their equestrian talents, and the most luxurious reclining in elegant and various equipages, of the best London make. The small Arab steeds which draw these vehicles,

appear, to an eye accustomed to our splendid English carriagehorses, deficient in size, ragged, thin, and altogether illproportioned; neither is the general effect improved by the singular attire of the coloured menials. The coachmen wear a coarse cloth dress, of whatever colour may have been selected for the family livery, with a cummerbund, and flat turban, of the form of a plate,

consisting of entwined folds of orange, blue, or crimson broad cloth, adorned with crossed bands of gold or silver lace. This costume, combined with bare legs and native slippers, appears as incongruous a melange of personal decoration as can well be imagined. Separated from the road by a slight wooden railing, is an extensive space covered with short grass. This spot is a favourite lounge for the respectable

classes of Jews, Persians,

and other

graceful looking Asiatics; who, in full and sweeping robes, converse in the language most familiar to them, and criticise the

20 @ Memsahibs Abroad fashionable





the more

dusty road,


occasionally draw off and chat at a military band, which twice during the week forms an additional attraction to the evening exercise. (1: 4—10)

Amelia Cary Falkland ‘What bits to sketch!’

The same evening we drove through the native town and bazaar of Bombay. Here I was quite bewildered with the novelty of the scene around me—too much so, indeed—as we passed rather quickly through the streets, to note separately the endless variety of groups and pictures that presented themselves, in all directions: still, I saw a great deal. A bridal-party first drew my attention. The young bride rode a califourchon on a miserable pony; and behind her, on the same animal, sat the bridegroom. They both wore gilt-

paper crowns; and down their faces hung many strips of tinsel, and coloured beads, completely concealing their features; relations and friends on foot, and men beating the ‘tom-tom (native drum) and playing on musical instruments, both followed and preceded the happy couple. The street from that’ part of the bazaar which is called the ‘Bendy Bazaar’, to the esplanade, is crowded from sunrise to nine o’clock at night; and, as the people walk generally in the middle of the streets, the coachmen and ‘gorah-wallahs” (running footmen), who attend the carriages of Europeans and wealthy natives, are constantly calling out to the pedestrians to get out of the way. The most interesting part of the native town begins at the horsebazaar; where, in the cool of the evening, the picturesquely-clothed Persian and Arab horse-dealers sit in the open air, sipping coffee and smoking with their friends. All is much ‘Europeanized’ in Bombay,

to use






instead of squatting on the ground, sit on old chairs and stools.

” Literally, horse-fellows (author’s note).


First Impressions @ 21 Proceeding onwards, the scene becomes more animated, and one is constantly looking to the right and left, fearing to miss some new and curious sight. Many of the houses are lofty, and the ornaments outside carved in wood. Presently, we pass what I am told is a Jain’ temple, and I strain my eyes to look inside, but only see the pillars and external ornaments, painted red and green, and

I wonder who the Jains can be? Some are pointed out, wearing very high turbans, passing in and out of the building. I learn they are a sect of Bouddhists, and long to know all about them; but

there is no time for hearing more just now. A Brahmin priest passes, he is turbanless, his hair floating in the breeze, his white robes falling in ample folds around him; in one hand he holds a

copper drinking vessel; in the other, a few sacred flowers—an offering to some god in a temple close by. To the right is a Musjid, or Mussulman temple, into which the followers of the prophet are crowding

for their evening



us is a Fakir,


religious (Mussulman) fanatic, with a long beard, calling out to passers-by for alms; close to him stands a Hindoo saint who has devoted himself by a vow to a life of begging, meditation, and idleness; his face and matted hair are besmeared with ashes, as

also his body, on which he has as little covering as may be. I have scarcely time to look at this unpleasant specimen of humanity when I see a group of women, with their heavy anklets, ‘making a tinkling with their feet’,’ their sarees” folded over their head and persons, and carrying little chubby children on their shoulders, or astride on their hips; and now these are lost to sight, a fresh group appears, consisting of Hindoo women of various castes, clothed in jackets and sarees of divers colours, and wearing ‘the chains and the bracelets’, ‘the ear-ring’, ‘the ring and the nose-rings’.” I must not forget the toe-rings, which are thick and heavy, and must

* Jainism is a Hindu sect. "Isaiah iii. 16 (author’s note). * The name of the mantle or veil worn by the Hindoo women; one end forms a very voluminous kind of skirt or petticoat; the other end is then drawn over the head and shoulders, somewhat in the style or form of a Maltese Faldetta

(author's note). * Isaiah iii. 19-21 (author’s note).

22 e Memsahibs Abroad cause, I should think, some pain and inconvenience to the w’eerers.

On their heads they bear large copper water-pots, and they walk with a stately and measured step, though the crowd presses on them, some not even holding the vessels with one hand. Next comes a hackery, or peasant’s cart, drawn by two pretty little Indian bullocks, with rings through their noses, through which a

cord is drawn, which serves the purpose of a bridle. In the vehicle are several native women,

returning from a féte, with flowers in

their black hair; then a European carriage, painted light blue, and elaborately mounted in silver, in which a fat native gentleman is sitting, rushes furiously past, driven by a Parsee coachman. On all sides, jostling and passing each other, are seen—Persian dyers, Bannian shopkeepers; Chinese with long tails; Arab horse-

dealers, Abyssinian youths, servants of the latter; Bohras (pedlars); toddy-drawers,

carrying large vessels on their heads, Armenian

priests, with flowing robes and beards, Jews in long tunics and mantles, their dress, half Persian, half Moorish; Portuguese, small, under-sized men, clad in scanty short trousers, white jackets, and

frequently wearing white linen caps. Then we meet the Parsee priest, all in white from top to toe, except his dark face and beard; Hindoo, Mussulman, and Portuguese nurses, or attendants on European children and ladies, mingle in the crowd, and

everywhere I see something new to look at every moment. What bits to sketch! what effects here! what colouring there! (1: 4—9)

Emma Roberts

Delhi: ‘Oriental magnificence’ There is no place in British India which the intellectual traveller approaches with feelings more strongly excited than the ancient seat of the Mogul" empire. The proud towers of Delhi, with its venerable reliques of Hindoo architecture, its splendid monuments of Moslem power, and its striking indications of Christian 10

The Muslim dynasty of Indian emperors of Mongolian origin established by Babar in 1526.

First Impressions ¢ 23 supremacy, cannot fail to impress the mind with sensations of mingled awe, wonder, and delight. In no other part of our Eastern possessions do the natives shew so earnest a desire to imitate European fashions; and though, at present, the mixture, in which

convenience more than elegance is consulted, produces a grotesque effect, the total overthrow of many Oriental prejudices may be safely predicated from the tolerance of all sorts of innovations manifested at Delhi. The modern capital of the Moslem kings, which is called by the natives Shahjehanabad, stands in the centre of a shady plain, surrounded on every side with the ruins of old Delhi, curiously contrasted with a new suburb, the villas belonging to Europeans attached to the residency, and with the cantonments lately erected for three regiments of sepoys. The celebrated gardens of Shalimer, with their cypress avenues, sparkling fountains, roseate bowers, and the delicious shade of their dark cedars, on which Shah Jehan," the most tasteful monarch in the world, is said to have

lavished a crore of rupees (a million sterling), have been almost wholly surrendered to waste and desolation; the ravages of the Mahrattas’* have left few wrecks behind, and amidst these arise the

palaces of the Christian rulers of the soil. A favourite retreat of Sir Charles. Metcalfe,’ afterwards inhabited by Sir David Ochterlony,”* arrests the stranger’s eye, as he seeks in vain to recognize, from the description handed down to us, the paradise of flowers and foliage which once adorned these arid tracts ... . Modern Delhi, or Shahjehanabad, is enclosed by a splendid rampart of red granite, and entered by gateways the most magnificent which the world can boast. The walls were formerly so lofty as to conceal all save the highest towers; but these dead blanks, with their flanking turrets, like the eyries of the eagle, high '' Shah Jahan (1592-1666) was the Mughal emperor who ordered the Taj Mahal built. ” The Marathas, whose empire stretched across Northern India, were one of

the major powers in eighteenth-century India. Their power was broken by the British by 1817. 'S Sir Charles Metcalfe (1785-1846) was provisional Governor-General India and resident at Delhi. 14 Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825) was the British resident at Delhi.


24 @ Memsahibs Abroad

in the air, have been exchanged for low ramparts strengthened by massive bastions. From the outside the view is splendid; domes and mosques, cupolas and minarets, with the imperial palace frowning like a mountain of red granite, appear in the midst of groves of clustering trees, so thickly planted that the buildings have been compared, in Oriental imagery, to rocks of pearls and rubies,

rising from an emerald sea. In approaching the city from the east bank of the Jumna,” the prospect realizes all that the imagination has pictured of Oriental magnificence; mosques and minarets glittering in the sun, some garlanded with wild creepers, others arrayed in all the pomp of gold, the exterior of the cupolas being covered


brilliant metal,






which a fine road now passes, the shining waters of the Jumna gleaming in the distance, insulating Selimgurh, and disappearing behind the halls of the peacock-throne, the palace of the emperors, add another beautiful feature to the scene. It is well known that the line, quoted by Mr Moore,’’ in Lalla Rookh,

Oh! if there be an Elysium on earth, It is this, it is this!

is to be found in the audience-chamber of the King of Delhi; and though the glory of the Moghuls has faded away, and their greatness departed, the superb edifices and luxuriant gardens of this splendid capital would still render it an Eden of delight, were it not for one terrible drawback, the besetting sin of all Indian cities,—dust. In Delhi, this plague is suffocating, choking, stifling,

blinding, smothering,—in fact, perfectly unbearable. The visitors see all they can see in as short a time as possible, and hasten away to some retreat, where the parched and thirsty ground is watered,

and where they may respire freely, without being forced to inhale some ounces of commingled sand and dirt whenever they venture to open their lips. (3: 167—71)

aa tributary of the Ganges.

16 Thomas Moore (1779-1852), poet, particularly known for his Lalla Rookh in Orientalist style.

First Impressions ¢ 25

‘The bustle and confusion of the streets’ The Chandery Choke, or principal street, is wide and handsome, one of the broadest avenues to be found in an Indian city. The houses are of various styles of architecture, partaking occasionally of the prevailing fashions of the west; Grecian piazza, porticos, and pediments, are not unfrequently found fronting the dwellings of the Moslem

or Hindoo; balconies are, of course, very common,


form the favourite resort of the gentlemen of the family, who, in a loose deshabille of white muslin, enjoy the pleasures of the hookah, while gazing on the passing crowd below, totally regardless of the dust which fills the air. ... The crowd of an Indian city, always picturesque, is here particularly rich in showy figures of men and animals; elephants, camels, and horses, gaily caparisoned, parade through the streets, jingling their silver ornaments, and the many-coloured tufts and fringes with which they are adorned: the suwarree of a great personage sweeping along the highways, little scrupulous of the damage it may effect in its progress, forms a striking spectacle when it can be viewed from some safe corner or from the back of a tall elephant. The coup d’oeil is magnificent, but to enter into details might destroy the illusion; for, mingled with mounted retainers, richly clothed, and armed with glittering helmets, polished spears, and shields knobbed with silver, crowds of wildlooking half-clad wretches on foot are to be seen, increasing the tumult and the dust, but adding nothing to the splendour of the cavalcade. No great man—and Delhi is full of personages of pretension—ever passes along in state without having his titles shouted out by the stentorian lungs of some of his followers. The cries of the vendors of different articles of food, the discordant

songs of itinerant musicians, screamed out to the accompaniment of the tom-tom, with an occasional bass volunteered by a chetah [cheetah], grumbling out in a sharp roar his annoyance at being

hawked about the streets for sale, with the shrill distressful cry of the camel, the trumpetings of the elephants, the neighing of horses, and the grumbling of cart-wheels, are sounds which assail the ear from sunrise until sunset in the streets of Delhi. The multitude of equipages is exceedingly great, and more diversified, perhaps, than

26 @ Memsahibs Abroad

those of any other city in the world. English carriages, altered and improved to suit the climate and the peculiar taste of the possessor, are mingled with the palanquins and bullock-carts, open and covered, the chairs, and the cagelike and _ lanthorn-tike of native





the second

surviving son of the reigning monarch, drives about in an English chariot drawn by eight horses, in which he frequently appears attired

in the



of a British



rendered still more striking by having each breast adorned with the grand cross of Bath. Mirza Salem, another of the princes of the imperial family, escorts a favourite wife in a carriage of the same description; the lady is said to be very beautiful, but the blinds are too closely shut to allow the anxious crowd a glimpse of her charms.





by four



driven by postillions, the property of rich natives, appear on the public drives and at reviews, and occasionally a buggy or cabriolet of a very splendid description may be seen, having the hood of black velvet, embroidered with gold. The chetahs and huntingleopards, before-mentioned,

are led hooded

through the streets;

birds in cages, Persian cats, and Persian greyhounds are also exposed in the streets for sale, under the superintendence of some of those fine, tall, splendid-looking men, who bring all sorts of merchandise

from Cashmere, Persia, and Thibet, to the cities of


almost gigantic race, bearing a noble aspect in

spite of the squalidness

of their attire,





complexions, without a tinge of swarthiness. Beggars in plenty infest the streets, and, in addition to the multitudes brought together by business, there are idle groups of loungers— Mussulmans

of lazy, dissipated, depraved habits, gaudily decked

out in flaunting colours, with their hair frizzled in a bush from under a glittering skull-cap, stuck rakishly at the side of the head. Such are a few of the distinguishing features of Chandery Choke, which abounds in hardware, cloth, paan and pastry-cooks’ shops, the business, as usual, carried on in the open air, with all the

chaffering, haggling, and noise common to Asiatic dealings. How any thing of the kind is managed, amidst the bustle and confusion of the streets, the throng of bullock-carts, the strings of loaded camels,



of wild,






First Impressions @ 27

elephants, and the insolent retainers of great men, only intent upon displaying their own and their master’s consequence, by increasing the uproar, seems astonishing. The natives of India form an extraordinary compound of apathy and vivacity. In the midst of noises and tumult, which would

stun or distract the most iron-

nerved European in the world, they will maintain an imperturbable calmness, while, in ordinary matters, where there appears to be nothing to disturb their equanimity, they will vociferate and gesticulate as if noise and commotion were absolutely essential to their happiness. By a very little attention to order and comfort, the Chandery Choke might be rendered one of the most delightful promenades in the world; the famous canal of Delhi, shaded by fine trees, runs down the centre, and nothing could be more easy

than to allay the clouds of dust, at present so intolerable, by keeping the avenues on either side well watered. (3: 171-6)

Emily Eden ‘Such stupendous remains of power and wealth’ Camp, Delhi, Feb. 20.

This identical Delhi is one of the few sights, indeed the only one except Lucknow, that has quite equalled my expectations. Four miles round it there is nothing to be seen but gigantic ruins of mosques and palaces, and the actual living city has the finest mosque we have seen yet. It is in such perfect preservation, built entirely of red stone and white marble, with immense flights of marble steps leading up to three sides of it; these, the day we went

to it, were entirely covered with people dressed in very bright colours—Sikhs, and Mahrattas, and some of the fair Mogul race, all assembled to see the Governor-General’s suwarree, and I do not think I ever saw so striking a scene. They followed us into the court of the temple, which is surmounted by an open arched

gallery, and through every arch there was a view of some fine ruins, or of some part of the King of Delhi’s palace, which is an

28 © Memsahibs Abroad

immense structure two miles round, all built of deep red stone, with buttresses and battlements, and looks like an exaggerated scene of Timour the Tartar,” and as if little Agib was to be thrown instantly from the highest tower, and Fatima to be constantly wringing her hands from the top of the battlements. There are hundreds of the Royal family of Delhi who have never been allowed to pass these walls, and never will be. Such a melancholy red stone notion of life as they must have! G.'” went up to the top of one of the largest minarets of the mosque and has been stiff ever since. From there we went to the black mosque, one of the oldest buildings in India, and came home under ies walls of the palace. We passed the building in which Nadir Shah” sat for a whole day looking on while he allowed his troops to massacre and plunder the city. These eastern cities are so much more thickly inhabited than ours, and the people look so defenceless, that a massacre of that sort must be a horrible slaughter; but I own I think a little

simple plunder would be pleasant. You never saw such an army of jewellers as we have constantly in our tents. On Saturday morning J got up early and went with MajorJ. to make a sketch of part of the palace, and the rest of the day was cut up by jewellers, shawl merchants, dealers in curiosities, &c. &c., and they begin by asking us such immense prices, which they mean to lower eventually, that we have all the trouble of seeing the things twice. ... G. and I took a drive in the evening all round the cantonments, and there is really some pretty scenery about Delhi, and great masses of stone lying about, which look well after those eternal sands. In the afternoon we all (except G., who could not go, from some point of etiquette) went to see the palace. It is a melancholy sight—so magnificent originally, and so poverty-stricken now. The marble hall where the king sits is still very beautiful, all inlaid with garlands and birds of precious stones, and the inscription on the ”The powerful Tartar conqueror Tamerlane invaded India in 1398. * Her brother George, Lord Auckland (1787-1849), Governor-General


India, 1835-41.

" The Persian invader Nadir Shah (1688-1747) sacked Delhi in 1739. His most valuable piece of loot was the famous peacock throne.

First Impresstons ¢ 29 cornice is what Moore would like to see in the original: ‘If there be an Elysium on earth, it is this, it is this!’ The lattices look out on a garden which leads down to the Jumna, and the old king was sitting in the garden with a chowrybadar waving the flies from him; but the garden is all gone to decay too, and ‘the Light of the World’ had a forlorn and darkened look. All our servants were in a state of profound veneration; the natives all look upon the King of Delhi as their rightful lord, and so he is, I suppose. In some

of the pavilions

belonging to the princes there were such beautiful inlaid floors, any square of which would have made an enviable table for a palace in London, but the stones are constantly stolen; and in some of the finest baths there were dirty charpoys spread, with dirtier guards sleeping on them. In short, Delhi is a very suggestive and moralising place—such stupendous remains of power and wealth passed and passing away—and somehow I feel that we horrid English have just ‘gone and done it’, merchandised it, revenued it, and spoiled it all. 1 am not very fond of Englishmen out of their own country. And Englishwomen did not look pretty at the ball in the evening, and it did not tell well for the beauty of Delhi that the painted ladies of one regiment, who are generally called ‘the little corpses’ (and very hard it is too upon most corpses) were much the prettiest people there, and were besieged with partners. The Kootub, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 1838.

Well, of all the things I ever saw, I think this is the finest. Did we know about it in England? I mean, did you and I, in our ancient

Briton state, know? Do you know now, without my telling you, what the Kootub” is? Don’t be ashamed, there is no harm in not

knowing, only I do say it is rather a pity we were so ill taught. I have had so many odd names dinned into me during the countless years

I seem

to have


in this


that I cannot

remember the exact degree of purity of mind (which enemies may

term ignorance) with which I had left home; but after all that had ” The Qutb Minar was built by the Muslim ruler Qutb-ud-Din Aybak in the early thirteenth century.

30 @ Memsahibs Abroad been said, I expected the Kootub would have been rather inferior

to the Monument. One has those little prejudices. It happens to be the Monument put at.the top of the column in the Place Vendome, and that again placed on a still grander base. It is built of beautiful red granite, is 240 feet high and 50 feet in diameter, and carved all over with sentences from the Koran, each letter a yard high, and the letter again interlaced and ornamented with carved flowers and garlands; it is between six and seven hundred years old, and looks as if it were finished yesterday, and it stands in a wilderness of ruins, carved gateways, and marble tombs, one more beautiful

than the other. They say that the man who built it meant it for one minaret of a mosque—a mosque, you are to understand, always possessing two minarets and three domes. But as some say Kootub himself built this, and others say that a particular Emperor called Alexander II

has the merit of it, and as nobody knows whether there ever were a Kootub or an Alexander I, I think it is just possible that we do not know what a man who never was born meant to make of a building that never was built. As it stands it is perfect. (94-9)

Emma Roberts

Agra: ‘The Smelfungus tribe is very numerous in India’ In this age of tourists, it is rather extraordinary that the travelling mania should not extend to the possessions of the British Government in India; and that so few persons are induced to visit scenes and countries in the East, embellished with the most

gorgeous productions of nature and of art. The city of Agra is well worthy of a pilgrimage from the uttermost parts of the globe: yet a very small number amid those who have spent many years in Hindostan are tempted to pay it a visit, and the civil and military residents, together with casual travellers passing through to the places of their destination, alone, are acquainted with a city boasting all the oriental magnificence which imagination has pictured from the glowing descriptions of eastern tales. The

First Impressions ¢ 31 Smelfungus”’ tribe is very numerous is India; necessity, and not ‘truant disposition,’ has occasioned the greater portion of the servants of the Company to traverse foreign lands; and the sole remark frequently made by persons who have sojourned amid the marble temples and citron groves of Agra, consists of a simple statement, that ‘it is exceedingly hot’. (2: 289-90) Perhaps Lord Byron himself, when he stood upon the Bridge of Sighs, his heart swelling with reminiscences of Othello, Shylock, and Pierre, scarcely experienced more overwhelming sensations than the humble writer of this paper, when gazing, for the first time, upon the golden crescent of the Moslems, blazing high in the fair blue heavens,


the topmost


of this splendid

relique of their power and pride. The delights of my childhood rushed to my soul, those magic tales, from which, rather than from

the veritable pages of history, I had gathered my knowledge of eastern arts and arms, arose in all their original vividness. I felt that

I was indeed in the land of genii, and that the gorgeous palaces, the flowery labyrinths, the orient gems, and glittering thrones so long classed with ideal splendours, were not the fictitious offspring of romance. (2: 300-1)

The Taj Mahal: ‘A fairy palace’ It is in the city of Agra and its environs that intellectual persons must seek gratification. The Taaje Mahal is usually deemed the most attractive object, and, considered in its character of a mauso-

leum, it has not its equal in the world. The reader of Eastern romance may here realize his dreams of fairy land, and contemplate those wondrous scenes so faithfully delineated in the brilliant pages of the Arabian Nights. Imagine a wild plain, broken into deep shady ravines, the picture of rudeness and desolation, a tract as unpromising as that which Prince Ahmed traversed in search of his arrow. In the midst of this horrid wilderness, a palace

of deep red stone, inlaid with white marble, and surmounted by *' Smelfungus was Laurence Sterne’s nickname for his disgruntled traveller in A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768)—a

contemporary Tobias Smollett.

clear allusion to his

32 © Memsahibs Abroad

domes and open cupolas, appears. It is ascended by flights of steps; in the centre is a large circular hall, with a domed roof, and

a gallery running round, all in the most beautiful style of Oriental architecture. This is the gate of the Taaje Mahal, a building which, in any other place, would detain the visitant in rapture at the symmetry and grandeur of its proportions, and the exquisite elegance of the finishing; but the eyes have caught a glimpse of a delicious garden, and the splendours of this noble entrance are little regarded. At the end of a long avenue of graceful cypresses, whose rich foliage is beautifully mirrored in marble basins, fed with water from numerous sparkling fountains, the Taaje arises, gleaming like a fairy palace. It is wholly composed of polished marble of the whitest hue, and if there be any fault in the architecture, they are lost in the splendour of the material, which conveys the idea of something even more

brilliant than marble,

mother-o’-pearl, or glistening spar. No description can do justice to this shining edifice, which seems rather to belong to the fanciful creations of a dream than to the sober realities of waking life— constructed of gathered moonbeams, or the lilies which spring in paradise. The mausoleum is placed upon a square platform of white marble, rising abruptly to the height of about twelve or fifteen feet, the steps being concealed, which is perhaps a blemish. The place of actual sepulture is a chamber within this platform; round it on three sides are suites of apartments, consisting of three rooms in each, all of white marble, having lattices of perforated marble for the free transmission of air, and opening to the ae At each of the four corners of the platform, a lofty minaret™ springs, and the centre is occupied by an octagonal building, crowned by a dome, surrounded by open cupolas of inferior height. Nothing can be more beautiful or more chaste: even the window-frames are composed of marble; and it would seem as if a part of Aladdin’s palace had been secured from the general wreck, and placed in the orange groves of Agra. (2: 295-7)


; These minarets, though beautiful in themselves, have a formal appearance as they stand, and look too much like high and slender castles upon a gigantic


(author’s note).

First Impressions ¢ 33

Fanny Parks Quadrilles in the Taj Can you imagine any thing so detestable? European ladies and gentlemen have the band to play on the marble terrace, and dance quadrilles in front of the tomb! ... I cannot enter the Taj without feelings of deep devotion: the sacredness of the place, the remembrance of the fallen grandeur of the family of the Emperor, and that of Asaf Jah,” the father of Arzumund Banoo, the solemn echoes, the dim light, the beautiful architecture, the exquisite finish and delicacy of the whole, the

deep devotion with which the natives prostrate themselves when they make their offerings of money and flowers at the tomb, all produce deep and sacred feelings; and I could no more jest or indulge in levity beneath the dome of the Taj, than I could in my prayers. (1: 355-6)

Emma Roberts Benares: the Indian Venice

The holy city of Benares, the seat of Hindu superstition, is not more remarkable for its antiquities, and the sanctity with which it has been invested by the bigoted worshippers of Brahma,” than for the singularity of its structure, its vast wealth, and immense population. It stands upon the left bank of the Ganges, stretching several miles along the shore; the river is about thirty feet below the level of the houses, and is attained by numerous ghauts which spread their broad steps between fantastic buildings of the most grotesque and curious description. The confused masses of stone, which crowd upon each other in this closely-built city, sometimes present fronts so bare and lofty, as to convey the idea of a prison ** Asaf Jah (d. 1748) was Nizam of Hyderabad in the early eighteenth century. ** Brahma (the Creator) is one of the gods constituting the Hindu trinity, together with Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiva, the Destroyer.

34 @ Memsahibs Abroad

or fortress. Others are broken into diminutive pagodas, backed by tall mansions seven stories in height, and interspersed with Gothic gateways, towers, and arches, (all profusely covered with mullioned battlements, verandahs, balconies, omaments,) pointed and round and cupolas, turrets, windows, balustrades,

domes, the fancies of all ages. Since the conquest of the city by Aurangzebe,” Moosulman architecture has reared its light and elegant erections amid the more heavy and less tasteful structures of Hindu creation. From a mosque, built upon the ruins of a heathen temple, spring those celebrated minarets, which now rank amid the wonders of the city. Their lofty spires shoot up into the golden sky from a dense cluster of buildings, crowning the barbaric pomp below with graceful beauty. Notwithstanding

its great antiquity,


the immense


lavished upon its pagodas, Benares does not boast a single specimen of those magnificent temples which, in other parts of India, convey so grand an idea of the vast conceptions of their founders. Here are no pyramidal masses of fretted stone, no huge conical mounds of solid masonry standing alone to astonish the eye, as at

Bindrabund; no gigantic tower like the Cootub Minar at Delhi, to fill the imagination with awe and wonder, but the whole of this

enormous city is composed of details, intermingled with each other without plan or design, yet forming altogether an architectural display of the most striking and imposing nature. Amid much that is strange and fantastic, there are numerous specimens of a pure and elegant taste, and the small antique pagodas, which abound in every direction, are astonishingly beautiful. The lavish ornaments of richly-sculptured stone, with which they are profusely adorned, give evidence of the skill and talent of the artists of their day, and throughout the whole of the city a better taste is displayed in the embellishments of the houses than is usually found in the private buildings of India. There are fewer elephants of clay, and misshapen camels, with round towers of tile upon their backs, stuck upon the projecting cornices of the habitations of ‘the middling classes. The florid ornaments of wood and _ stone profusely spread over the fronts of the dwelling-houses, bring to eh Aurangzeb (1618-1707), Mughal emperor.

First Impressions @ 35 mind recollections of Venice, which Benares resembles in some

other particulars; one or two of the lofty narrow streets being connected by covered passages not very unlike the far-famed Bridge of Sighs. The views of Benares from the river are exceedingly fine, offering an infinite and untiring variety of scenery, of which the effect is greatly heightened by the number of trees, whose luxuriant foliage intermingles with the parapets and buttresses of the adjacent buildings. In dropping down the stream in a boat, an almost endless succession of intersecting objects is presented to the eye. Through the interstices between tower and palace, temple and serai, glimpses are caught of gardens and bazaars stretching inland; an open gate displays the terraced court of some wealthy noble; long cloistered corridors lead to the secluded recesses of the zenana, and small projecting turrets, perched upon the lofty battlements of some high and frowning building, look like the watchtowers of a feudal castle. The ghauts are literally swarming with life at all hours of the day, and every creek and jetty are crowded with

craft of various descriptions, all truly picturesque in their form and effect. A dozen budgerows are moored in one place; the light bohlio dances on the rippling current at another; a splendid pinnace rears its gaily-decorated masts at a third; while large patalas, and other clumsy native vessels, laden with cotton or some

equally cumbrous cargo, choke up the river near some wellfrequented wharf. Small fairy shallops are perpetually skimming over the surface of the glittering stream, and sails, some white and dazzling, others of a deep saffron hue, and many made up of tattered fragments which bear testimony to many a heavy squall,

appear in all directions. No written description, however elaborate, can convey even a faint idea of the extraordinary peculiarities of a place which has no prototype in the East. Though strictly oriental, it differs very widely from all the other cities of Hindostan, and it is only by pictorial

representations that any adequate notion can be formed of the mixture of the beautiful and the grotesque, which, piled confusedly

together, form that stupendous wall which spreads along the bank of the Ganges at Benares. It is much to be lamented that no panoramic view has ever been exhibited of this singular place, and still

36 @ Memsahibs Abroad more so that the exquisitely-faithful delineations of Mr Daniell,” an

artist so long and so actively employed in pourtraying the wonders of nature and of art in India, should not be in every body’s hands. His portfolios are rich in specimens of Benares, and the engravings from his works,



his own

eye, retain

all those

delicate touches which are so necessary to preserve the oriental character of the original sketches. Drawings made in India, and sent to England to be engraved, are subject to much deterio-ration in the process, from the negligence of persons, wholly unacquainted with the peculiarities of the country, to whom they are entrusted, and many of the cheap productions of this class,

from the pencils of very able amateur artists, are rendered almost worthless by the ignorance and inaccuracy of those persons who are employed to prepare them for the engraver. Writers upon India have frequently occasion to express their surprise at the extreme carelessness and indifference which prevail in England concerning those magnificent realms whence, in other days, the whole of Europe derived its improvements in arts and arms; but in no instance can their astonishment be more highly raised than by the sight of the numerous and interesting sketches, which Mr. Daniell has not yet been encouraged to give to the public. (1: 224-9)

Flora Annie Steel

Arrival: ‘watching, watching, listening, listening, listening’ My first entry into India was in a masulah boat through the surf at Madras. It was exhilarating. Something quite new; something that held all possibilities. A boat that had not a nail in it; dark-skinned boatmen with no clothes on, who did not look naked”, a surf such as I had never seen before, thundering on yellow sands. The *° Thomas Daniell (1749-1840) and his nephew William (1769-1837) were the Oe famous painters of the Indian picturesque. ”” The allusions to the nakedness of the natives abound in the travellers’ tales

and refer to Indians clad only in a loincloth

First Impressions @ 37 sights, the sounds, obliterated even the joy I felt at seeing my eldest brother again; for he met us on the steamer and took us for the twelve hours’ halt to a chummery of his friends on the residential part of Madras. ... The

heat was




fallen short, a famine


threatening, especially in the Cis-Sutlej districts of the Panjab, through which we were literally whirled in the box upon wheels, drawn by the miserable starveling ponies, which at that time was the only method of travel beyond Delhi. The luggage was stowed away below the seats or on the roof, a platform was made by joining the two seats with planks, and on this your bedding was laid, pillows and coverlets all complete. Here you were suppased to sleep, and here my husband, accustomed to the method of travel,

managed to pass hours in slumber; but I was kept wide awake with all the novelties that had to be observed and pigeon-holed in my memory. To begin with, the Grand Trunk Road” itself; inconceivably

straight, broad,





tonous, inconceivably dusty. Then every ten miles the huge square caravanserais built in the time of the Moghul Emperors, set back from the road, so that just one long wall was visible in the

moonlight, pierced by one tall shadow of a wide arch. Dusky forms, queer-shaped camels, unbelievable waggons, humped cattle, all jumbled together in and outside. The smoke of smothered fires, the insistent bubbling of innumerable pipes, and there, under a stunted thorn-set tree, two skeleton ponies waiting to convey us still further. Was it any wonder that my feet were out of the window, and that I was watching, watching, listening, listening,

listening? What a babel of voices, what curious

lacunae of silences, as

those engaged in the task of changing ponies incontinently sought refreshment in a neighbouring pipe. (28; 30-1)

*8 The great highway built by the Afghan Sher Shah running north-westwards from Calcutta.

38 @ Memsahibs Abroad

Anne Wilson A Triumphal Reception Five weeks have passed since we landed, and they have seemed like five years. So many novel experiences have been crowded into the time. First of all, there was the journey from Bombay, which occupied four days—think of it, you who consider twelve hours in the train to London an undertaking! It must be granted that the trial is mitigated as far as may be; the seats are arranged,

for instance, like a waggonette, so that no one sits with his back to

the engine. The compartments are broad and comfortable, and only four people occupy them at night, upper berths being let down to complete the four beds. Each carriage has a dressingroom, and the windows have outer venetaian shutters to keep out dust and sun if possible. Still, the four days and four nights, never hasting, never resting, were to me interminable.

A view in the bazaar leading to the Chitpore Road

First Impressions ¢ 39 The immensity of everything struck one like the statistics that might be given by an American fond of ‘tall’ stories. One saw miles upon miles of flat land, and knew that thousands of miles lay behind

them, and such masses

of people swarmed


Every station platform was densely crowded by them, and it seemed to me that the later it grew, the livelier and younger the people became! In the small hours of the night women rushed about, with babies in their arms and crying children at their heels; men ran helter-skelter, as you never see able-bodied men running,

from sheer excitement and the love of screaming to their friends, at a railway station, at any rate in Scotland! And water-carriers and sweetmeat-vendors

shouted above the pitch of their voices, as if

there were no such thing as night and sleep in their programme. From which you may judge that there was practically very little sleep in mine. Once, about four o’clock in the morning, Jim roused me to ‘look at a glorious sunrise’. I explained to him very quietly that I hoped it was the last, as it was the first, I had seen in

India, and I do not think this will occur on a railway journey again! I honestly confess that the overwhelming crowds of people frightened me. It was a very foolish feeling, as I have since been told; still there it was. What were we in the land, I thought, but a handful of Europeans at the best, and what was there to prevent these myriads from falling upon and obliterating us, as if we had never existed? There are many things to prevent it, independently of their being, as everybody tells me, the most law-abiding and loyal people in the world. But even yet my scepticism and fears get the better of my reason or my faith. If anything could have reassured one, it would have been the reception Jim received on his return after six months’ absence. At the first station we reached on the outskirts of his district were a crowd of Indian officials and notables, who travelled along with us,

their ranks swelling at each succeeding station. Finally, when we reached Khushab and looked out of the carriage window, behold the moon shining down on the dusky faces and white robes of several hundreds, waiting to welcome us! Triumphal arches had been raised in our honour, and as we walked through the crowd bowing in answer to their salaams, it was naturally ‘one of the

proudest moments of my life’. I felt as if I were the Princess of

40 @ Memsahibs Abroad Wales at least, without any of the responsibility. After an excellent

champagne dinner, which good Mr. O’D. had ready for us in the

resthouse, we sat out of doors and enjoyed the fireworks and illuminations displayed in our honour. (2-5)

Julia Charlotte Maitland Bangalore: ‘Naples is nothing to tt’ I am charmed with Bangalore, and hope it will do us all a great deal of good. The climate at this time of the year is delightful, equal to any in Europe. For the first two or three days there was a great deal of fog, but it has now cleared away, and all is so cool, clear, and bright, that it is quite a pleasure to feel oneself breathing. The early mornings especially are as pleasant as anything I can imagine: they have all the sweetness and freshness of an English summer. The air smells of hay and flowers, instead of ditches, dust, fried oil, curry, and onions, which are the Jest of the Madras

smells. There are superb dahlias growing in the gardens, and today I saw a real staring full-blown hollyhock, which was like meeting an old friend from England, instead of the tuberoses, pomegranates, &c., | have been accustomed to see for the last two years. We have apples, pears, and peaches, and I really should

know them all one from the other, though it must be confessed there is a considerable family likeness, strongly reminding us of a potato; still they look like English fruit: and the boys bring baskets of raspberries for sale, which are very like blackberries indeed. The English children are quite fat and rosy, and wear shoes and stockings. There are fireplaces in most of the houses, and no punkahs in any of them. It is altogether very pleasant, but a queer place—a sort of cross-breed between the watering-places of every country in the world. Ladies going about dressed to every pitch of distraction they can invent, with long curls which the heat would not allow for an hour elsewhere, and warm close bonnets with flowers hanging in and out of them like queens of the May; black niggers, naked or not, as suits their taste; an English church, a Heathen pagoda,

First Impressions @ 41


garden, public ballrooms,

Dissenting meeting-house,

circulating library, English shops, and Parsee merchants, all within

sight of each other; elephants and horses walking together in pleasant company over a great green plain in front of our house, where the soldiers exercise; European soldiers and Sepoys meeting at every step; an evening promenade


people take good

brisk walks at an English pace, and chirp like English sparrows, while a band of blackies play ‘God save the Queen’ and call it the ‘General Salute.’ There is a fine old fort here—Tippoo’s stronghold;” a most curious place, adjoining the old native town, surrounded with mud walls to be strong! The Pettah it is called. The English ladies told me this Pettah was ‘a horrid place—quite native!’ and advised me never to go into it; so I went next day, of


and found

it most


‘quite native’. It is

crammed with inhabitants, and they bustle and hum like bees in a

beehive. At first I thought my bearers would scarcely be able to make their way through the crowd of men, women, children, and

monkeys, which thronged the street. The ground was covered with shops all spread out in the dirt; the monkeys were scrambling about in all directions, jumping, chattering, and climbing all over

the roofs of the houses, and up and down the door-posts— hundreds of them; the children quarrelling, screaming, laughing,

and rolling about in the dust—hundreds of them too—in good imitation of the monkeys; the men smoking, quarrelling, chatting, and bargaining; the women covered with jewels, gossiping at their doors, with screams at each other that set my teeth on edge, and

one or two that were very industrious,. painting their door-steps instead of sweeping them; and native music to crown the whole. Such confusion was never seen! Landing at Naples is nothing to it!


” Tipu Sultan (1750-99), Muslim sultan of Mysore in South India, was one of the main opponents of the British during the last decade of the eighteenth century. With the defeat of the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ in 1799 a decisive step in the consolidation of British rule was taken.

42 © Memsahibs Abroad

Mary Martha Sherwood Madras: The ‘horrible darkness’

My other excursion at Madras was in a palanquin to the Black Town. Basil Hall” says that the first impressions made upon a traveller are often the most valuable, and should be collected with

the greatest care. I have not quoted his exact words, but I think that I am correct in his idea; and if he is right, the extreme horror

which I felt when I first visited an Indian bazaar was a more genuine feeling than that with which I afterwards visited the streets of Indian villages. There had at that period been few, if any attempts made to awaken our heathen fellow-subjects from the horrible darkness of the most corrupt and abominable superstitions. ...

It certainly would have been unjust, and entirely contrary to the true spirit of Christianity if, when we became rulers in India, we had persecuted the natives on account of their principles. At the same time, how any one can contemplate the miserable effects of a false religion, and seen only in the countenances of the persons who profess it, and yet make no efforts whatever for the deliverance of persons who are groaning under these horrors of darkness, would seem almost beyond belief were it not so general. I should utterly despair of conveying to the minds of gentle and elegant females in England the feeling which I first had on seeing many together of the women of Madras in their streets or at the doors of their houses. The character of the countenances which are seen is such as I never beheld in an English woman. The old women especially are fearful to look upon; their skin is shrivelled and hanging loose, the lips thin and black, and the whole expres-

sion that of persons hardened by misery and without hope, having in youth exhausted all that life can give, and, through this rapid exhaustion, having grown old before the youth of an honourable English wife could have begun to fade: all this evident misery,

without counting the many secret cruelties which abound in every ” Basil Hall (1788-1844) was an early nineteenth century traveller, who published nine volumes of travels. }

First Impressions ¢ 43 heathen land, in every dark corner of the earth, being the effect, either direct or indirect, of those abominable creeds which we

think it an act of charity not merely to tolerate but to patronise. If a long residence in heathen and Mahometan countries renders a European blind to these symptoms of misery and degradation in the natives of India, well may we regret the feelings of grief and horror with which the English lady or gentleman first visits a native bazaar. (251-3)

Mary Carpenter ‘Perfectly devoid of any sense of decency’ Everything is so strange and wonderful on first landing on a new continent! Not having been on shore since we left the European soil at Marseilles, except during our miserable transit through Egypt, every object attracted my attention, and almost bewildered me. My native friend Mr. G. welcomed me to the land of his birth. ... The beautiful Oriental palms, especially the graceful cocoanut trees, were most striking, and at once reminded me that I was in

India. Everywhere, the appearance of the men, women, and children was sufficiently novel and curious. The deficiency of clothing in the men struck me peculiarly. They seem to consider that a black skin supersedes the necessity of raiment, and in this

respect the lower orders appear perfectly devoid of any sense of decency. I never became reconciled to this, and believe now, as I

did then, that living thus in a sort of savage state in the midst of a civilised people increases that want of proper self-respect and that separation from the higher classes which is so painfully characteristic of Hindoo society. (1: 19-20) A great confusion of tongues early broke my rest the next moming. The window of my sleeping-room overlooked the

landing-place of the river. There, multitudes both of men and women assembled before sunrise to perform their ablutions, and for various household purposes, such as drawing water and washing clothes. Strange was the scene which was here every morning presented to an English eye, for the women appeared

44 @ Memsahibs Abroad

wholly devoid of any feeling akin to delicacy, and in this public place, to avoid wetting their garments, left the greater part of their bodies uncovered. It would seem as if the great seclusion of the wo. en of the higher classes withdraws the refining influence of their sex from society;—those who are not so shielded are thus left in the rude position of barbaric

life, where

the weaker

sex is

oppressed by the stronger, and being degraded, is deprived of its special excellence. In India the voices and manners of the lower classes of women appeared to me more harsh and coarse than those of the men. I felt assured, however, that this did not arise

from their nature being inferior, but from the condition in which they are placed. (1: 85)

Marianne Postans

Landscape: ‘Sublime and varied wonders’ Few scenes Khrishna,”

are more

lovely than the beautiful Valley of the

as seen from the open Temples

of Mahabuleshwar.

The smooth and brightly gleaming waters, like a silvery thread, wind their quiet way between the richly wooded hills, which form a vista of fertile shelter to the grassy banks; while the herds, feeding

peacefully beside the sacred river, complete the scene, and afford a glimpse of pastoral beauty, the more fair and sweet, perhaps, as contrasted with the sublime mountain solitudes of the immediate neighbourhood... The climate cf Mababutedinae is frequently sufficiently cold to render fires necessary, and is found highly renovating to constitutions exhausted by a long residence in the sultry plains. Fogs, in the autumn months, are prevalent, but are not found to

produce either unpleasant or dangerous effects. The walks and drives about the hills, are numerous and beautiful; long avenues, shaded by magnificent forest trees, afford

noon-tide shelter, and permit the visitor the unusual and safe a A river in South India. A popular hill resort.

First Impressions © 45 indulgence, of a mid-day stroll beneath their shade, while here and there an opening in the rich foliage, affords a glimpse of the superb mountain-scenery around, arresting the step in admiration of its sublime and varied wonders. Bold peaks, towering and cloud-capt Ghauts, sparkling cascades, hill-forts, deep straths, and wooded

glens, blend their magnificent effects in a succession of rich and glowing pictures, more wondrous and more grand, than even Italy with her bold Alps and smiling Pyrenees, can charm the traveller’s eye withal. No snowy peaks, ‘tis true, blushing in the rays of the sun-lit sky, form backgrounds to the scene; but veils of fleecy vapour, with mazy indistinctness, shroud the towering scarps of the eternal hills, while the clear atmosphere around, permits the eye to revel in the full majesty of these stupendous scenes, revealing the sun-lit valleys, and the quiet occupation of their peasants, as clearly as it does the dense jungle of the mountain side, crowded with its wild and savage denizens. To the resident in Western India, the Mahabuleshwar hills are

of incalculable value. They afford an invigorating retreat during the exhausting heat of the summer months; and the keen cold air of this delightful spot, re-strings the failing nerves, and plants fresh roses on the pallid cheek. The mind loses its presentiments of evil, and all the sad train of nervous and hypochondriac depressions are overpowered by the new vigour of recovered health. (2: 268-70)

Emma Roberts

The Indian Picturesque In tracking, the budgerow is frequently not more than a yard or two from the water’s edge, and nothing can be more gratifying to the eye than the moving panorama which the scenery of the ‘Ganges exhibits. One of the most striking and magnificent features of an Indian river is the ghaut. The smallest villages on the banks of the Ganges possess landing-places, which we vainly seek in the richest and most populous parts of Europe. The Anglo-Indian,

landing upon the English coast, is struck with the meanness of the dirty wooden staircases which meet his eye at Falmouth, Plymouth, and other places of equal note and importance. In India, wherever

46 @ Memsahibs Abroad

a town occurs in the vicinity of a river, a superb and spacious

ghaut is constructed for the accommodation of the inhabitants: the

material is sometimes granite, but more frequently well-tempered and highly polished chunam. From an ample terrace, at the summit

of the bank, broad steps descend into the river, inclosed on either

side by handsome balustrades. These are not unfrequently flanked with beautiful temples, mosques, or pagodas, according to the creed of the founders, or the ghaut is approached through a cloistered quadrangle, having the religious edifice in the centre. The banian and the peepul fling their sacred branches over the richlycarved minarets and pointed domes, and those in the Brahminee villages are crowded with troops of moneys, whose grotesque and diverting antics contrast strangely with the devotional attitudes of the holy multitudes performing their orisons in the stream. Nothing can be more animated than an Indian ghaut; at scarcely any period of the day is it destitute of groups of bathers, while graceful female forms are continually passing and repassing, loaded with water-pots, which are balanced with: the nicest precision on their heads. The ghaut, with its cheerful assemblage, disappears, and is succeeded by some lofty overhanging cliff wooded to the top, and crowned with one of those beautiful specimens of oriental architecture scattered with rich profusion over the whole country. Green vistas next are seen, giving glimpses of rustic villages in the distance, and winding alleys of so quiet a character, that the passer-by may fancy that these sequestered lanes lead to the cottage-homes of England—a brief illusion speedily dissipated by the appearance of some immense herd of buffaloes, either wallowing in the mud, with their horns and the tips of their noses alone out of the water, or proceeding leisurely to the river’s

edge, which, when gained, is quitted for the stream. A mighty plunge ensues, as the whole troop betake themselves to the water, stemming its rapid current with stout shoulders. One or two of the

leaders bear the herdsmen on their necks; very little of the forms of these men are visible, and their temerity in entrusting themselves to so wild a looking animal, and to so wide a waste of waters, excites surprise to unaccustomed eyes. The savage herds are left behind, and the scene changes again; deep forests are passed, whose unfathomable recesses lie

First Impressions @ 47 concealed in eternal shade; then cultivation returns, wide pastures

are spread along the shore covered with innumerable herds; the gigantic elephant is seen under a tree, fanning off the flies with a branch of palm, or pacing along, bearing his master in a howdah through the indigo plantations. European dwellings arise in the midst of park-like scenery, and presently the wild barbaric pomp of a native city bursts upon the astonished eye. Though the general character of the country is flat, the undulations occurring on the banks of the Ganges are quite sufficient to redeem the scenery from the charge of sameness or monotony. High and abrupt promontories diversify the plain; when the river is full, the boat frequently glides beneath beetling cliffs, crowned with the crumbling remnants of some halfruined village, whose topping houses are momentarily threatened with destruction, or covered

with the eyries of innumerable birds, and tapestried with wild creepers, which fling their magnificent garlands down to the sands below. Other steeps are clothed with umbrageous foliage, and between the trees glimpses are caught of superb flights of stairs, the approach from the water to some beautiful pagoda peeping out upon the summit, the habitation and the temple of a brahmin, who occupies himself solely in prayer, and in weaving garlands, part of which he devotes to the altars which he serves, and part to the

bright and flowing river. These exquisite buildings occur in the most lonely situations, apparently far from the dwellings of man, and the innumerable varieties of birds, some flying in large flocks, and others stalking solitarily along the reedy shore, will at all times compensate for the absence of objects of greater importance. (1:


Fanny Parks

‘Oh that I were a painter’ This river is very picturesque; high cliffs, well covered with wood,

rising abruptly from the water: here and there a Hindoo temple, with a great peepul-tree spreading its fine green branches around it: a ruined native fort: clusters of native huts: beautiful stone ghats

48 @ Memsahibs Abroad

jutting into the river, the effect greatly increased by the native women, in their picturesque drapery, carrying their vessels for

water up and down the cliffs, poised on their heads. Fishermen are seen with their large nets; and droves of goats and small cows, buffaloes, and peacocks come to the river-side to feed. But the most picturesque of all are the different sorts of native vessels; I am quite charmed with the boats. Oh that I were a painter, who could do justice to the scenery! (1: 333-4)

Emily Eden ‘A desolate scene’ The Sunderbunds, Monday, Oct. 23

We came into these lovely riant scenes on Sunday morning. They are a composition of low stunted trees, marsh, tigers and snakes, with a stream that sometimes looks like a very wide lake and then becomes so narrow that the jungle wood scrapes against the sides

of the flat—and this morning scraped away all G.’s jalousies, which are a great loss. I never saw such a desolate scene: no birds flying about—there is no grain for them to eat. We have met only one native boat, which must have been there since the Deluge. Occasionally there is a bamboo stuck up with a bush tied to it, which is to recall the cheerful fact that there a tiger has carried off a man. None of our Hindus, though they are starving, will go on shore to

cook—and, indeed, it would be very unsafe. It looks as if this bit of world had been left unfinished when land and sea were originally

parted. (3) Patna, Sunday, Nov. 5

The whole bank was lined with natives bringing immense baskets of fruit for ‘the Ganges to look at,’ as the Nazir expressed it; and they were dipping their baskets into the river with their graceful salaams and then bowing their heads down to the water. They are much more clothed here than in Bengal, and the women wear bright crimson veils, or yellow with crimson borders, and sometimes purple dresses with crimson borders, and have

First Impressions e 49

generally a little brown baby, with a scarlet cap on, perched on their hips. I wish you would have one little brown baby for a change; they are so much prettier than white children. Behind these crowds of people, there were old mosques and temples and natives’ houses, and the boats of rich natives in front with gilded sterns, and painted peacocks at the prow. In short, just what people say of India; you know it all, but it is pretty to see; and I mean the

‘moral’ of my Indian experience to be, that it is the most picturesque population, with the ugliest scenery, that ever was put together. (11-12)

Anna Harriette Leonowens

‘The romance and the song of India’ The country we passed through was beautiful. The picturesque native villages of immemorial antiquity, their names, their fields, their hereditary offices and occupations, have come down to them out of a dim past and through countless generations, and everywhere we saw fields of millet and wheat, the flaming poppy, and the tall luscious sugar-cane plantations; cream-coloured, dreamylooking oxen moving sleepily about in the fields or drawing water from

the wells


tanks; men,





under the shade of huge trees or bathing languidly in the cool tanks, giving one the feeling of passing through dreamland. ... And

now, as I close these brief sketches of life and travel in

India, the romance, antiquity, the song, and story still stir the memory with the powerful enchantment of a land where all nature seems to lie dreaming in its glory of perpetual sunshine, warmth,

and colour. (323-5)

Arts and Culture For early travellers to India, in a period marked by a wave of interest in Oriental art and culture in England, ancient Indian monuments exerted a strong fascination. A sample of this interest is given in the excerpt from Maria Graham’s travelogue, where she expends pages in describing her trips to cave temples such as the Karle or Elephanta caves and appends sketches for the benefit of

the armchair Orientalist. Her dispassionate mode of writing is replaced by a Romantic, somewhat gushing style in the case of later travellers to the same spots, as is seen in the passage by Anna Leonowens. By contrast, pious-minded travellers such as Mary Carpenter evince a sense of unease at the splendours of heathen art and seem to breathe a sigh of relief when they can seek out the open. A similar discrepancy is visible in the travellers’ attitudes to Indian festivals. While early travellers like Marianne Postans regard them as welcome occasions to plumb the depths of the ‘inscrutable’ Hindu mind, and Emma Roberts describes the Hindu

festival of lights, Diwali, as a magical pageant, evangelical travellers deplore the policy of the British in the early part of the century which obliges British officials to participate in festivals as a sign of good will. Accordingly, the Indian variant of the carnival, Holi, is described either as an interesting native display or alternatively as a disgraceful saturnalia—though Postans does deplore the deterioration in the morale of the working class, revealing how the lines

between Orientalist and evangelical attitudes are not as clean-cut as might be supposed. Fanny Parks is one of the most energetic of travellers who gains access to a multitude of events of native life that remain closed to

Arts and Culture ¢ 51 other travellers.

She gains the friendship of Colonel



colourful remnant of the more easy-going eighteenth-century India, who is married to a Muslim princess, and whose granddaughter is to marry a prince of the royal Mughal family. Parks is invited to the lavish wedding celebrations and describes the rituals in ethnographic detail. Puppet theatre as well as native dramatic performances form ‘the focus of attention of the next two passages. While most women travellers voice their disdain for Indian music and dance— Maitland’s description of an invitation to a native event is just one sample of a series of slightly monotonous variations on_ this theme—a radically different approach is displayed in Anne Wilson’s struggle to understand Indian music, which reminds her of her native Highlands and which she hopes is the key to the soul of the people. In another remarkable passage, Anne Leonowens describes a dance performance with a loving, even erotic eye. Fascinated by a beautiful dancer, she pays a visit to a school for dancing girls (who were, of course, high-ranking prostitutes). This is the only account that has come to my notice where this sort of establishment is described.

Maria Graham

The Cave Temple of Carli’: ‘One of the most magnificent chambers I ever saw’ When at length we looked round, we almost fancied ourselves in a Gothic cathedral. Instead of the low flat roof of the cave of Elephanta, this rises to an astonishing height, with a highly coved roof, supported by twenty-one pillars on each side, and terminating ! The cave era and is constructed particularly

temple of Karle was constructed at the beginning of the Christian famous for its great hall. The cave temples of Elephanta were

in the eighth century. They are famous of the Hindu triune or trinity.

for their sculpture,

52 e Memsahibs Abroad

in a semicircle. Opposite to the entrance is a large temple (if I may call it so), not hollowed, with a dome, on which is fixed a huge teak umbrella, as a mark of respect. Without the pillars there is a kind of aisle on each side of about six feet wide; the length of the cave is forty paces, and its breadth is fourteen. Here are no sculptures within the cavern except on the capitals of the pillars. The columns are mostly hexagons, though the number of angles varies; the bases are formed like compressed cushions; the capitals resemble an inverted flower, or a bell, on the top of which are two elephants, with two riders on each; and on several of the columns

there are inscriptions in a character not hitherto


There is a very curious circumstance in this cavern, which is, that

the roof is ribbed with teak wood, cut to fit the cove exactly, and supported by teeth in the timber fitting to corresponding holes in the rock; I imagine this to be a precaution against the destruction

of this beautiful work by monsoon rains. The cave of Carli is really one

of the most magnificent chambers

I ever saw, both as to

proportion and workmanship. It is situated near the top of a wooded mountain, commanding one of the finest prospects in the world; its reservoirs cut, like itself, out of the living rock, overflow

with the purest water, and the country around it is fertile enough to supply every thing in abundance for human subsistence. The cave is a temple, and on each side there are corridors, with cells proper for the residence of priests and their families. But the most laboured part of the work is the portico of the temple. One-third of its height is filled up by a variety of figures, one of which, in a

dancing posture, is remarkable for gracefulness of design, and the ends are occupied to the same height by gigantic elephants; above these is a cornice of reeds, bound together by fillets at equal distances, and the space over it is filled by small arched niches, finished with the same cornice. The centre is occupied by a horseshoe arch, with a pointed moulding above, and below there is a

square door of entrance to the cave. To protect the portico from the injuries of the weather, a rude screen was left at the entrance,

part of which has fallen in; before it there is an enormous pillar, crowned with three animals, and now overgrown with moss and grass.

Arts and Culture e 53

The difference between the cavern temples of Carli and Elephanta is striking. Here are no personifications of the deity, no separate cells for secret rites; and the religious opinions which consecrated them are no less different. The cave of Carli is a temple dedicated to the _ religion of the Jines [Jains], a sect whose antiquity is believed by some to be greater than that of the Brahminical


Interior of the Great Cave at Carli

faith, from

which their tenets are essentially different, though many of their customs agree entirely with those of the Bramins, as might

be expected from natives of the same country. (64-5)

Anna Harriette Leonowens

The Elephanta Caves: ‘A thousand fantastic shapes’ The principal cave is of great extent, excavated out of the solid rock; the colossal columns of the portico seem to hold up the mountain above them. On either side of the entrance great creepers come down in heavy masses over the mountain. Rows and rows of columns handsomely ornamented appear within, growing beautifully less in the distance and vanishing amid gloomy shadows and a thousand fantastic shapes. ... The massiveness and strength of the pillars, which find their deep foundations in the earth below, supporting the elephant-shaped mountain above, is rendered more and more striking by the thousand and one scenes

54 @ Memsahibs Abroad

of Hindoo, and particularly Saivic, mythology, in part solemn and majestic, in part grotesque and absurd, that fill every part of the walls; gods and goddesses, heroes and monsters, almost stand out

of the rocks. ... Enormous creepers and trees have forced themselves through certain cracks and crevices in the mountain, and the whole scene is very wild and pagan; which enhances the beauty and mysterious appearance of the caves. (60-2)

Mary Carpenter

‘A feeling of oppression’ A pleasant voyage, varied with the changing views of the mountains on the retiring coast, and the islands near, brought us to the low flat shore of Elephanta, from which rises the gigantic mass of rock, reminding us somewhat of the huge beast whose name it bears. The low part of the island, down to the shore, is covered

with bushy trees of the mangrove kind, which are believed to cause an unhealthy exhalation. A very long flight of wellanade steps up the face of the rock was constructed by some devout Hindoo lady, for the convenience of the pilgrims to the sacred shrine, and is a great help to excursionists. On arriving at the top, we see a large rock covered with small trees and brushwood, and a

wide entrance to the sculptured recesses of the temple underneath its brow, which is supported by massive pillars. Modern railings do not add to the beauty or congruity of the place, but may be neces-

sary for protection to the interior. The first glance on entering is most imposing, and fills the mind with astonishment at the marvellous perseverance, talent and power, requisite to have hollowed such a place from the solid rock, and with a somewhat

painful awe at the glimpse into which it reveals. The lowness of thickness and size of the columns, one is irresistibly led on to the

the superstitions of remote ages the roof, in comparison with the gives a feeling of oppression; but grand central sculptured group

* Worshippers of Shiva, the Destroyer, one of the three gods of the Hindu triad.

Arts and Culture ¢ 55

fronting the entrance, which stands alone as an alto-relief from the rock, enframed,

as it were, with grotesque symbolic figures, not

quite worthy to be compared with the cherubic hosts of many of our ancient paintings. This is the famous triune deity of the Hindoos. ... All the figures have some painful significance, nothing is to be found anywhere calculated to elevate or purify the mind. Beyond these on the left, we saw some small chambers with a stone in the centre, either for sacrificial purposes, or as the pedestal

of a figure now gone. Here very sacred ceremonies were performed, but the temple appears to be now deserted by pilgrims or devotees. On the left it was pleasant to get a glimpse of heaven’s light, and see some of the exterior of the rock. Leading to a gloomy chapel hollowed out of it was a flight of steps, on each side of which was the sculptured figure of a lion. These noble beasts were of a somewhat distorted form, for the Hindoos in their sculpture and carving never appear to copy nature, yet they were

more agreeable objects than some which I had seen in this place. Preparations were made for dinner outside the entrance, where it was refreshing again to be in the open air, and a sumptuous banquet was laid before us, which inspired us with feelings forming a striking contrast with what we had just experienced. (2: 5-7)

Marianne Postans

Festivals: ‘Perfect harmony and good-nature’ The festivals of the East, are curious to the researcher into the

manners of the ancient nations; and become interesting to the mere observer of the passing scene, from the circumstance of all restraint being banished from the manners of the people, and replaced by gaiety and good-feeling; at these seasons of national mirth, the oft seemingly timid, and gentle Hindoo, gives licence to

his genuine dispositions, and laughs, sings, and adorns himself with garlands, as if he still inherited his native soil, in a happy state of constitutional freedom; it is at these periods, that his character may

perhaps be best discerned. It is the peculiar effect of joyous impulses, to banish suspicion from the mind, and, as they open the

56 © Memsahibs Abroad

flood-gates of natural feeling, to remove from the countenance all that forced,




which self-interest


cunning suggest, as necessary to be adopted by men, who have inherited oppression as their birth-right, and can hope for no sympathy from these, whom they have only learnt to recognise as the masters

of that soil, which

their forefathers


trod, in

freedom and security. The native population of India, are peculiarly reserved in their intercourse with us, and are perpetually supporting a character foreign to their nature, and the result of the circumstances which surround them. Their prejudices of caste, prevent our having any intercourse with them of a social nature; and their religious ceremonies are less known from personal observation, than from the communications of intelligent natives, which, after all we can acquire, little informs us on the real character, manners, and

feelings of the people, when removed from the restraints of foreign espionage. It is therefore only on festive occasions, when the population of the towns seek the plains and neighbouring country, for the purpose of diversion, that they appear in a natural and unaffected character; and the result of the observation is, that the

Hindoos are a peculiarly social people, delighting in raillery, and easily excited to gaiety and mirth. An Asiatic crowd unites a greater variety of picturesque effects than any other in the world, and the most perfect harmony and good-nature prevail among its members. The older persons gossip, and exchange jests on each other, not deficient in wit; and the younger parties stroll about, with their arms encircling each other’s necks, exchanging the most gentle and endearing epithets, as they laugh and chat, on whatever may be the object of attraction; unassailed by temptations to intemperance, its brutalizing effects never shade the pastimes of these inoffensive people; good-nature supplies the place of the constable’s baton, and every one is merry himself, without seeking

his advantages at the price of a neighbour’s inconvenience. The scene is one of amiable courtesy. ... (2: 190-3)

Arts and Culture © 57

Emma Roberts

Diwali: ‘A scene offairy splendour’ In no part of Hindostan can one of the most beautiful of the native festivals be seen to so great an advantage as at Benares. The duwallee is celebrated there with the greatest splendour, and. its magnificence is heightened by the situation of the city on the bank of the river, and the singular outlines of the buildings. The attraction of this annual festival consists in the illuminations: at the close of the evening, small chiraugs (earthen lamps), fed with oil which produces a brilliant white light, are placed, as closely together as possible, on every ledge of every building. Palace, temple, and tower seemed formed of stars. The city appears like the creation of the fire-king, the view from the water affording the most superb and romantic spectacle imaginable—a scene of fairy splendour, far too brilliant for description. Europeans embark in boats to enjoy the gorgeous.pageant from the river; all the vessels are lighted up, and the buildings in the distance, covered with innumerable lamps, shine out in radiant beauty. European illuminations,








crowns, stars, and initial letters, appear paltry when compared to the chaste grandeur of the Indian mode; the outlines of a whole city are marked in streams of fire, and the corruscations of light shoot up into the dark blue sky above, and tremble in long undulations on the rippling waves below. (1: 254-5)

Marianne Postans Holi: The Indian Carnival

The Hindoos celebrate the burning of the Hooli, at the commencement

of the: vernal




led, perhaps,

to its

comparison with the Hilaria of the Romans, instituted in honour of the goddess Cybele. In the east, this season is one of unmixed and boundless


all restraint

is cast aside, and

indulge in every description of sportive mirth.




58 @ Memsahibs Abroad

processions are common; and the principal actors in the Carnival, disguise themselves as elephants, tigers, goddesses, or Rajahs, as fancy may decide, all dancing, singing, playing, and fencing vigorously together, without the least reference to assumed character. They delight also in playing personal tricks, similar to those common on our ‘All-fools’ day’, deceiving their simpleminded companions, with false messages and news. The evenings are devoted to natches, juggling, and fireworks; but it is considered

most Particularly jocose, to throw handsful of a red powder, called ‘Air’,” over one another, as an imitation of vernal flowers. This, the most mischievous mix with alum and oil, and sprinkle on their

neighbours’ clothes, to the great injury of the said apparel. The lord of misrule alone reigns paramount at the Hooli; all distinction of ranks is lost in its general licence, a woman of respectability dare not leave her house, and even a European officer is not secure from a constrained participation in its frolics. The native officers of the regiments, erect a large tent at the extreme end of their lines, where they indulge in the pleasures of a Natch; not only Natchgirls, but boys, habited as such, frequently exhibit on these occasions, but it is not considered a very polished entertainment. The Sepoys consider it a point of etiquette, to invite their European officers; who, in their turn, always attend, and return with their white jackets plentifully sprinkled with red dust, as an evidence of the sportive pleasantry of their inviters. If an officer is peculiarly strict, or feared by the natives at other times, they now take an innocent revenge, an instance of which I remember to have occurred a short time since. An unpopular officer, being as usual invited to the Sepoys’ Natch, which took place at a tent, about a quarter of a mile from his bungalow, he walked down to the lines at the usual time, late in the evening. The natives, it

appeared, had concerted to plague him; for after being seated, and the usual wreath of mogree blossoms cast over his neck by the premiére danseuse of the evening, he soon found that the showers of red dust which assailed him, were momentarily becoming more * Cinnabar. A somewhat similar custom, according to Mr Southey, exists in Portugal, on the Sunday and Monday preceding Lent, of throwing water over, and in the face of passengers (author’s note).

Arts and Culture e 59

and more stifling: accordingly, he watched his opportunity, and rushed from the tent, rejoicing at so easy an escape; but alas! his triumph was

of short duration;

at every turn, handfuls

of red

powder from unseen enemies saluted his eyes and mouth, and unable to avoid scores of tormentors, lying perdue at their posts, he arrived suffocated and breathless at his house, his face and hair

plastered with red powder, and his whole figure bearing evidence to the zeal of the attackers. (2: 196-9) Hindoo holidays interfere sadly with the labours of the working classes, for, however poor and needy the people may be, they still neglect their general vocation,

and, closing their houses,


arraying themselves in their best attire, hie away to the scene of the festivity. Tailors, shoemakers, silversmiths, workers of tin, potters,

basket makers, carpenters, carvers, and all the labouring population of a native town, are, on these days, only to be found without

the walls, laughing, gossiping, and feasting together. Unrestrained by any dread of losing their customary employment, no amount of bribery will induce a workman to forego the gratifications of idleness and liberty on these appointed feasts, more particularly during the Hooli, which, like an Easter holiday, the very poorest find means to enjoy. (2: 207-8)

Mary Martha Sherwood ‘Abominable superstitions’ .. as regards the higher authorities, almost,

I fear,





I am ashamed to say that time,



afforded to the most abominable superstitions of the heathens. It is still a matter of grievance and complaint to the religious persons holding situations under Government, in the Madras Presidency, that many of them, both civil and military, are required to attend heathen and Mahometan religious festivals, with the view of showing them respect; that in some instances they are called upon to do homage to idols; that the management and regulation of the revenues of some pagodas and mosques are so vested in the hands

of the officers of Government that not the least expense can be

60 @ Memsahibs Abroad incurred, or any of the vile functionaries of the hateful system be remunerated, without the official concurrence of the Christian

trustee. Nor are these all the complaints which may be truly and fairly made against that heartless and unprincipled liberality by which the higher authorities of our country manifest their disregard of the religion of the Bible. (252)

Helen MacKenzie ‘Degrading saturnalia’ Few people at home know that the British authorities still countenance idolatrous ceremonies by their presence. Whether this be merely from custom, or in consequence of express orders from the Supreme Government, I do not know; but neither can justify it. This is the case at Gwalior, Indore, Baroda, and Nagpur, if not elsewhere. An official described to me a solemn Hindu sacrifice, at

which he was present, in the suite of Sir Henry Pottinger.’ At Nagpur the Resident annually makes an official visit to the Rajah, on the occasion of that most degrading saturnalia—of which educated natives are thoroughly ashamed—the Holi festival; and a former Resident even submitted to be sprinkled with the red powder used by the natives on this occasion. No Mussulman Government ever degraded themselves thus. (272)

Fanny Parks A Native Wedding: ‘Innumerable ceremonies’ The trays containing the presents, brought in procession from the Prince, were received by the female slaves, conveyed by them into

the zenana, and placed before Colonel Gardner’s Begam and the Princess Mulka. It is a custom never to send back an empty tray; if money be not sent, part of the contents of the tray is left, fruit, * Sir Henry Pottinger (1789-1856) served the East India Company in the army as well as in a diplomatic capacity.

Arts and Culture ¢ 61

flowers, &c. The presents were displayed on the ground before the bride, who was sitting on a charpai, wrapped in an Indian shawl,

hiding her face, and sobbing violently; I thought she was really in distress, but found this violent sorrow was only a part of the ceremony. Mulka Begam took a silver bowl, and putting into it sandalwood powder and turmeric and oil, mixed it up, whilst both she and Colonel Gardner’s Begam repeated with great care the names and titles on both sides; it being unlucky if any name be forgotten, as any evil that may chance to befall the bride hereafter would be occasioned by forgetfulness, or mistaking the name over this oily mixture. The bride was then rubbed from head to foot with it; how yellow it made her, the turmeric! The natives say it makes the skin so beautiful, so yellow, and so soft: it certainly renders the skin deliciously soft, but the yellow tinge I cannot atimire. After this operation was performed,

all the mixture was

scraped up, put into the bowl, and mixed with more oil, to be sent to the Prince,

that his body might be rubbed

with it—this


considered a compliment! The bridal dress was then put on Shubbeah; it was of yellow gauze, trimmed with silver; the pajamas of red satin and silver. The faces of the attendants were smeared by way of frolic with the oily mixture, and the bridegroom’s party returned to their tents. I must not forget to mention that from the moment the bride is rubbed with this turmeric, she is a prisoner for ten days; not allowed to move from her charpai, on which she sits up or sleeps. Twice a day she is rubbed with almond soap, mixed with turmeric, &c. All this time she is never allowed to bathe; she is fed on sweetmeats,

and not allowed to touch acids, or vinegar, &c.: even pan is almost denied; but I fancy, without it an Asiatic lady would fret herself to death. And in this horrible state, a girl is kept during all the gaiety of the wedding; never allowed to move; to make her skin soft and yellow, and to render her sweet-tempered, I suppose, by feeding her with lumps of sugar! As soon as the bridegroom’s party were gone, Colonel Gardner requested me to go in procession, with his pretty grand-daughter,

Alaida (the Morning Star), to the Prince’s tents, to escort the dress of the bridegroom, sent as a present by the bride. We went accordingly in full procession, as described before, taking back the

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oily mixture. Mulka Begam received us at the Prince’s tent; he was placed on a silver footstool; Mulka took off his upper dress, and rubbed his face and arms with the mixture; she then arrayed him in a dress of yellow and orange muslin, a red turban, and red silk pajamas, in which attire he looked very handsome. Before him sat three women, the Domnee,’ playing and singing bridal songs; I saw the Prince turn very red; he looked at the women, and said something in a low tone to Mulka Begam, who answered—‘The memsahiba knows they are singing galee (abuse); but she does not understand Hindostanee sufficiently to comprehend their songs.’... I mentioned to Colonel Gardner the songs of the women, the Domnee, who were in the tent, and the distress of the Prince. He

said, ‘When marriages are negotiating, in particular, they are of the most unchaste description; they are admitted on such occasions,

but the nach girls never; the songs of the Domnee are indecent beyond the conception of a European.’ (1: 425-7) During the time we were signing the contract, a different scene was going on within the zenana. The Prince sent the n’hut (the nose-ring) to the bride, which is equivalent to putting the wedding-ring on the finger in Europe; it was a large thin hoop of gold, and a ruby between two pearls was strung upon it. On receiving it, the bride was taken from her charpai, on which she had reposed during all the preceding days of this ceremony, in her yellow dress and oily paste, and was bathed. What a luxury that bath must have been, after so many nights and days of penance! She was then dressed in her handsomest attire, richly embroidered garments, and an immense number of jewels; but not one atom of this costume was visible, for

over all was placed a large square of cloth of silver, and over that another large square, formed of cloth of gold, which covered her entirely from head to foot, face and all. ... There she sat, looking like a lump of gold; no one could have

imagined a human being was under such a covering; with difficulty she was kept from fainting, the heat was so excessive. Her lips and : ” A low caste, often musicians.

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teeth had been blackened for the first time with misi,” and gold and silver dust had been thrown over her face! Surma (collyrium) also had been applied to her eyelids, at the roots of the lashes, by means of a piece of silver or lead, made in

the shape of a probe without the knob at the end. The ladies in attendance on the young Begam then performed innumerable ceremonies; they fed the Prince with sugar-candy, and sifted sugar through his hands; they put a lump of sugar on the head of the bride, off which he took it up in his mouth, and ate it; sugar was placed on her shoulders, on her hands, on her feet, and it was his

duty to eat all this misri off all those parts of her body. The bride’s slipper was



rich coverings,

and the grand art

appeared to be to make the Prince eat the sugar-candy off the shoe! The Kur’an was produced, and some parts of it were read aloud; a large Indian shawl was then spread over the heads of the bride and bridegroom, as they sat on the floor, and the shawl was supported like a canopy by the ladies in attendance. A lookingglass was put into the hands of the Prince, he drew the veil of the bride partly aside, and they beheld each other’s faces for the first time in the looking-glass! At this moment, had any false description

of the bride been given to the bridegroom, he had the power of saying, ‘I have been deceived, the face I see is not the face that was pourtrayed to me; I will not marry this woman.’ However, the Prince looked pleased, and so did she, for I saw her smile at this important moment; at which time I particularly observed the

expression of their countenances. The Prince took up his bride in his arms,—the golden lump I before described—and placing her on a silver charpai, sat down by her side, and fanned her carefully. The poor girl was almost stifled beneath the gold and silver coverings, that oppressed but did not adorn her. By this time the night had nearly passed away; the remainder was taken up tedious and trivial ceremonies; at last morning dawned, and at 11 a.m. the

dowry was counted, and made ready to carry away. ... When it was announced that the procession was ready, the Prince took the bride up in his arms, in her lump-like position, and mA, powder to tinge the teeth black.

64 « Memsahibs Abroad carried her to her palanquin, the purdahs of which were then let

down, and fastened outside with gold and silver cords. This taking up a girl who is sitting on the floor in your arms, and carrying her away without touching the ground with your knees,








is a

difficult affair to accomplish; to fail in doing it would be deemed unlucky. The bridegroom performed it very cleverly. (1: 441-4)

Marianne Postans

Puppet Theatre: A Graceful Danseuse The only theatrical attempt I remember, was from Bengal, and consisted of a corps dramatique of puppets (Pootlees), as they are called in India. The dolls had a theatre, suited to their size, and

were well dressed, and admirably managed. One scene represented a native court, or Durbar, to which all the neighbouring Rajahs were supposed to make their salaams to the reigning prince, for whose decoration all the valuable ‘properties’ had evidently been expended. As each Rajah was introduced, with due observance of native etiquette, the stage manager would call out ‘é con hi?’ (whom have we here?) in a tone of such mingled surprise and admiration, as, considering the good _ gentleman’s acquaintance with his actors, was exquisitely ludicrous; in another moment he solved the doubt, with ‘Oh! é Bundelcund Ke Rajah hi! (He is the Rajah of Bundelcund.) And as his puppet finished his salaam, the exhibitor shuffled him off with a ‘Be quick! be quick!’ which seemed sufficiently disrespectful to an acting prince, albeit a man of straw. Another scene represented a fencing match,

in which, a native being killed, two out-caste natives drag off the dead body. Another, was intended as a satire upon our European troops, and represented a regiment on parade, all the officers being attired in cocked hats. This was ridiculous enough; but our native servants seemed most particularly delighted with the wit of this part of the entertainment. The best point, however, by far, was

the management of a little puppet, attired as a Natch-girl, accompanied by two puppets, who attended her movements with the

Arts and Culture e 65

Tom-tom and Siringa. The costume of the danseuse was perfect; her nose-rings, anklets, and bangles, tinkled as she moved, and the grace and exactness of her motions, were really admirable. Now, she would raise her arms, and, extending her veil far over her brows, gently turn slowly round; then, gradually bending, until her


almost reclined


the ground,

she would


recover herself, and commence a rapid and coquettish movement,

receding and advancing with her musicians, until, apparently wearied, she gracefully salaamed to the spectators. The whole was admirably governed; and I never saw even figures in the Italian fantoccini move


easily, or with more

of what would seem,

personal volition. (2: 201-3)

Mary Frances Billington Theatre: Remarkable Similarity to London I was naturally anxious to witness a native play, but it was not until I reached Bombay that the opportunity to do this afforded itself. A native actress is, however, a great rarity at all times, and in Western India she practically does not exist. There is, however, excuse

enough to include an account of the drama in Gujerati, in a book devoted to ‘Woman in India’, on the ground that the sex when it

enjoys the chance is as fond in the East as in the West of seeing a play. The space immediately before the footlights, which in a European theatre belongs to the orchestra, is given over to the female spectators, who, if they are Parsees or anything but the most rigorously purdah of Hindus, can attend and enjoy the spectacle with little fear of being seen, as the seats are sunk a trifle below those of the first rows in the auditorium, and a high screen of wood is interposed. The theatre that I visited is the largest and most important in the native quarter of the city, and its manager,

Mr Kussonji, prides

himself upon his enterprise and liberal spirit towards his patrons. It was, however, a somewhat

embarrassing experience, as I found

that the visit of an English lady was decidedly rare, and in honour of the event new yellow satin-covered chairs had been placed in

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the front row for my own and my friends’ accommodation, while the manager himself was in waiting to receive me with a very thick garland of white jessamine and pink oleander, which he placed round my neck, and I had thus to wear something like a sweetly scented boa of natural flowers all the evening. The theatre itself is a large one, and holds about fifteen hundred people. In construction it may be compared to one vast pit and large gallery, and in the matter of decoration it cannot be called extravagant, as, except for a little painting on the walls, decoration is non-existent. Though the play had been running for some weeks, the house was well filled in all parts, and the drama, which began at nine o’clock and lasted till nearly in the morning, was followed with close, but not demonstrative, attention throughout. As in mediaeval times with

ourselves, all the female characters were personified by men, but in some cases the counterfeit, in make up, voice, and dress, was so

good that I own that until the curtain had fallen on the first act I was not sure that the performers were not of the sex they were representing. ...

The parts of the princesses as brides were merely such as at home we should classify as ingénues, and required very little subtlety of acting, and all that was demanded

of their exponents

was to look pretty, according to native canons, be modest and retiring as a Hindu maiden ought to be, and wear rich clothes and showy ornaments with matter-of-fact ease. The lads entrusted with these parts fulfilled these requirements remarkably well, carrying their chatties on their heads with the same erect grace that the girls acquire, and indicating cleverly the half-shy reserve with which young women in the East listen to the conversation or move about in the presence of their elders. Very much in earnest were the two actors representing the two princes, and the one who took the part of the older and less tried exile worked hard to convey the proper sense of Oriental repose, while the other bore his manifold troubles with curiously characteristic quiet and even stoicism. Proportionately the dresses would have borne comparison with those of the average theatre at home. The kings and princes wore kinkhabs of splendidly hued violet, orange, or crimson silks, stiff

with golden brocading, and turbans with stripes of metallic threads. Minister,








Arts and Culture @ 67 servants had liveries, and even the supernumeraries were very well

dressed. For the female characters some of the cloths and saries were very rich and costly, and the colouring had been chosen with a remarkably good sense of stage effect. There was a constant change of scenery, and the transformations were effected rapidly and smoothly. Many of the ‘sets’ were, indeed, very pretty, and notably among these might be mentioned the jungle scene by moonlight, with the two sleeping boys; and the revels and dances that are held when the older prince arrives in the palace of the princess whom he subsequently marries. From a strictly realistic point of view, however, much of the effect is marred by the custom which obtains of allowing the orchestra—composed, as it is, of weird


shrill wind






which are played with monotonously vigorous rhythm—to have their places on the sides of the stage within the proscenium. The managerial room was not unlike that of a London theatre manager. It was simply furnished with a desk, table, and stools, and over all lay a business-like confusion of papers and correspondence. Several ‘books of the words’, in Gujerati, a luxury cheaply supplied to the theatre-goers, representing the present and previous productions, were there, as well as cuttings from vernacular papers, not merely, I was told, of ‘notices’, but of new poems and dramas of whose existence it was well to be aware, and of writers whose names might possibly be worth bearing in mind. The bookshelves contained various volumes of reference, as well

as of plays, among which were the renderings of Shakespeare’s dramas which have been made into Gujerati, and on the wall were several photographs of former stars and present members of the company. It was, perhaps, more curious than discreet, taking into consideration the sex of the ‘actresses’, to accept Mr Kussonji’s next offer of a sight of the dressing-rooms. Here I was initiated into several of the secrets of the men’s successful make-up as women. The little cholis, or bodices of bright satin or embroidered net, had a little padding discreetly introduced, which imparted to them the due effect of exceeding tightness which the conditions of Oriental good fit demand.

For the hair there were

wigs or false tresses,

which could be easily fastened on under the heavy jewelled head ornaments so dear to Hindu women; and paints and powders

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there were in abundance that would not look mean beside those of a Western actor or actress. For raising and lowering the curtain, and shifting the scenery, the manager had availed himself of the best machinery he could get; and the crowd of native carpenters and shifters had been admirably drilled to their work. I remained in the wings during a scene or two, watching the guardian deity of the wandering boys—a sufficiently awesome presentment, with gilded face and much weaponed in half a dozen hands, riding upon a lion—taken by invisible wires across the stage; and I noticed that the trees and a small bank were remarkably solidly constructed. Then I was taken below the stage that I might judge of the property resources that were stored there, and had pointed out to me with great pride the mahogany counter, with gilded rail and network, which had figured in a previous drama in which was a great bank robbery scene. Thus has realism and modernity reached“even the drama in Gujerati. (225-32)

Julia Charlotte Maitland Music and Dance: ‘Every variety of drone and squeak’ We were led into the great drawing-room, and placed upon sofas, and servants stationed at our side to fan us. ... Then the entertainment began: they had procured the musicians, dancers, and cooks belonging to the Nabob, in order that I might see all the Mussulman


as well as those of the Hindoos.


then, came in an old man with a long white beard, to play and sing to the vina, an instrument like a large mandoline, very pretty, graceful, and antique to look at, but not much to hear. His music

was miserable, just a mixture of twang and whine, and quite monotonous, without even a pretence to a tune. When we were quite tired of him, he was dismissed, and the Nabob’s dancing-girls came in: most graceful creatures, walking or rather sailing about, like queens, with long muslin robes from their throats to their feet. They were covered with gold and jewels, earrings, nose-rings, bracelets, armlets, anklets, bands round their heads, sévignés, and

tings on all their fingers and all their toes. Their dancing consisted

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of sailing about, waving their hands, turning slowly round and round, and bending from side to side: it was graceful, but very tame: there were neitner steps nor figure, as far as I could make out. The prettiest of their performances was their beautiful swanlike march. Then they sang, bawling like bad street-singers—a most fearful noise, and no tune. Then we had a concert of orchestra music, with different-looking instruments, but in tone like

every modification of bagpipes—every variety of drone and squeak: you can form no idea of such sounds under the name of music: the chimney-sweepers’ clatter on May-day would be harmonious in comparison. Imagine a succession of unresolved discords, selected at random, and played on twenty or thirty loud instruments, all out of tune in themselves and with each other, and

you will have a fair idea of Hindoo music and its effect on the

nerves. When my teeth had been set on edge till I could really bear it no longer, I was obliged to beg A— [her husband] to give the musicians a hint to stop. Then there came in a man to imitate the notes of various birds: this sounded promising, but unfortunately the Madras birds are screaming, and not singing, birds; and my ears were assailed by screech-owls, crows, parrots, peacocks, &c., so well imitated that I was again obliged to beg relief from such torture. Then we had a Hindoo dancing-girl, with the most magnificent jewellery I ever saw: her dancing was very much like that of the Mahometans, only a little more difficult. There was a good deal of running backwards and forwards upon her heels, and shaking her silver bangles or armlets, which jingled like bells; then glissading up to me, waving her pretty little hands, and making a number of graceful, unmeaning antics, with her eyes fixed on mine in a strange unnatural stare, like animal magnetism. I really think those magnetic actings and starings must first have been imitated from some Indian dancing-girl, and in fact the effect is much the same; for I defy any one to have watched this girl’s dull unvarying dance long, without going to sleep. The natives I believe can sit quite contented for hours without any more enlivening amusement; but then they are always half asleep by nature, and like to be quite asleep by choice at any opportunity. (54-7)

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Anne Wilson

The Magic Key to the Spirit of the People Lahore, 1901.

Dearest E.,—At last I have found the magic key that has opened the door, behind which brooded and dwelt the impenetrable mystery of the hidden spirit of the people of India. Where has my search not led me? To the tents and caves

of jungle-tribes,


solitary villages, to crowded towns, to the homes of philosophers or country squires, to busy fairs and temple precincts, only to remain a lonely spectator, or like a stranger who has learnt the words of some language by heart, without ever reaching its sense. And to think that in all these wanderings the magical key lay hidden where for years it seemed least likely to be! Sometimes in the night I have heard a far-off sound like an alluring call, elusive, arresting, fading again into silence; the song of

some wanderer in the hills, who was warding off ghosts or evil spirits by notes that vibrated like a broken sob, and seemed the essence of loneliness and hopeless despair. Yet why follow up this haunting challenge? Not there could the magical key be found. For all that I otherwise knew about Indian music at that time was only repellent. In fact, when any band of musicians





or pipes,




performance, it seemed to me simply synonymous with pandemonium. The discordant yells of the men, whose appearance suggested the extremities of toothache, only tended to induce insanity on my part.

Several years passed without anything occurring to dislodge my prejudices, or alter my opinion, until one evening I heard a man playing in a field beside our tent. He was playing a violin, with a drummer beating an accompaniment, and as I listened I thought I had never heard anything more beautiful. It reminded me of the music one hears in the Highlands of Scotland, which are like stories told, with only the hills to hear them, until they become a song; or of the melodies I had heard gipsies sing in Spain, or the

Aris and Culture « 71

wild airs Hungarians improvise. But this was sadder even than those, fuller of a monotonous


of the world’s woe,

despair, as if it carried

in it the

and was the voice of the old and

endless ‘still, sad music of humanity’.

We sent some one to find out who the player was, and learned he was a man whose days were chiefly spent sitting by the grave of a renowned Mahomedan saint, a shrine visited by crowds, to whom this man was accustomed to perform. He came and played to us, and as I sat listening to him under a clump of trees, with dark fields of wheat before me, and beyond a stretch of barren, arid plain, which met at last the star-lit sky, it

seemed to me that I had at last discovered the hidden secret I had sought for years, and that this was the unconscious expression of the heart of the people. I heard in the music the history of vague longings after the unseen and the eternal, of dull resignation to unalterable fate. Then there came strains of vigorous cheerfulness and rustic humour, alternating with hysterical emotion, feverish passion, undisciplined excitement, hatred and despair, and then

again monotony and enduring hopelessness. For me it was that evening as if the dumb had found a voice and deaf ears had gained the power of hearing. (231-3)

Anna Harriette Leonowens

‘A miracle of art’ After this the musicians struck up some lively Hindoo airs, and at

length the heavy curtains from one side of the pavilion curled up like a lotus-flower at sunset, and there appeared a long line of girls advancing in a measured step and keeping time to the music. They stood on a platform almost facing us. Some of them were extraordinarily beautiful, one girl in particular. The face was of the purest oval, the features, regular, the eyes large, dark, almond-

shaped, the complexion pale olive, with a slight delicate pink on the cheeks, and the mouth was almost infantile in its round curves, but with dejection and sorrow lingering about the corners

blush of the most half pouting and an expression of which told better

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than words of weariness of the life to which she was doomed. For my part, it was difficult for me to remove my eyes from that pensive and beautiful face. Every now and then I found myself trying to picture her strange life, wondering who she was and how her parents could ever have had the heart to doom her to such a profession. The Nautchnees, or dancing-girls, of whom there were no less than eighteen, were all dressed in that exquisite Oriental costume peculiar to them, each one in a different shade or in distinct colours, but so carefully chosen that this mass of colour harmonized with wonderful effect. First, they wore bright-coloured silk vests and drawers that fitted tightly to the body and revealed a part of the neck,



legs; a full, transparent


attached low down almost on the hips, leaving an uncovered margin all around the form from the waist of the bodice to where the skirt was secured on the hips; over this a saree of some gauzelike texture bound lightly over the whole person, the whole so draped as to encircle the figure like a halo at every point, and, finally, thrown over the head and drooping over the face in a most bewitching veil. The hair was combed smoothly back and tied in a knot behind,



the forehead,





ankles, and toes were a profusion of dazzling ornaments. With head modestly inclined, down-cast eyes, and clasped hands they stood silent for some little time, in strong relief against a wall fretted with fantastic Oriental carvings. The herald again gave the signal for the music to strike up. A burst of wild Oriental melody flooded the pavilion, and all at once the Nautchnees started to their feet. Poised on tiptoe, with arms raised aloft over their heads, they began to whirl and float and glide about in a maze of rhythmic movement, fluttering and quivering and waving before us like aspen-leaves moved by a strong breeze. It must have cost them years of labour to have arrived at such ease and precision of movement. The dance was a miracle of art, and all the more fascinating because of the rare beauty of the performers.

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Then came the cup-dance, which was performed by the lovely girl who had so captivated my fancy. She advanced with slow and solemn step to the centre of the platform, and, taking up a tier of four or five cups fitting close into one another, she placed this tier in her head and immediately began to move her arms, head, and feet in such gently undulating waves that one imagined the cups, which were all the time balanced on her head, were floating about her person, and seemingly everywhere except where she so dextrously poised and maintained them. This dance was concluded by a cup being filled with sherbet and placed in the middle of the platform. Removing the cups from her head, the dancer, her eyes glowing, her breast heaving, swept toward


filled cup as if drawn to it by some spell, round and round, now approaching, now

retreating, till finally, as if unable to resist the

enchantment, she gave one long sweep around it, and, clasping her arms tightly behind her, lay full length on the pavement, and taking up with her lips the brimming cup drained its contents without spilling a drop. Then, putting it down empty, she rose with the utmost grace and bowed her head before us, her arms still firmly clasped behind her. The grace, beauty, and elegance of her movements were incomparable; the spectators were too deeply interested even to applaud her. She retired amid a profound and significant silence to her place. ... When it was time for me to go I put her [a Hindu lady] one question which I longed most to have answered: ‘Who is that very beautiful Nautchnee who danced the cup-dance and performed the part of Damayanti this evening? ... If you hear anything about her you will let me know, for I have fallen in love with her’, said I,

half in jest and half in earnest. (177-87)

‘A school for dancing girls’ One day, accompanied by Kesinéh [a Hindu lady], I visited a Nautchnee establishment of which the beautiful dancing-girl who so much attracted me was an inmate. ... The Nautchnees’ establishment was a curious building surrounded by a high wall. We entered through a gate, and were at once conducted by a couple of old women across a paved

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courtyard planted all round with the mohgree, oleander, and tall red and white rose trees. Passing this, we were introduced into a

great bare hall, with low seats ranged around the walls, curtained all along the farther end of the room, into which inner chambers seemed to open. Here we took our places. One of the old women stayed by us, while the other went off to announce our visit to the head lady of the establishment. The great slave-markets which we have all read so much about,

where the tender young girls are bought and sold as if they were cattle, no longer exist in British India, but the amount of traffic of the kind that is still carried on everywhere is incredible, although the fact is vigorously denied by both the buyer and the seller. In many cases these Nautchnees are not bought, but hired for a term of years, for money paid not to the girls themselves, but to parents or friends. In the course of time the parents die or move away, and the girl, after having given her best days to her employers, finds herself without money, friends, or social ties, and is glad enough to spend the remainder of her life in instructing the younger members of the establishment of which, with the fidelity so natural to Oriental women, she considers herself a member, and therefore

bound for life to promote its interests. After a few moments Sainah Bebee [the head of the establishment] came in to greet the lady Kesinéh. She salaamed most deferentially to us, and took her place on the floor. She was a woman about fifty and a native of Afghanistan, tall and finely formed. She spoke of the difficulty in procuring respectable young girls to fill the places of those who ran away, were sold to certain rich admirers for wives or concubines, or died. ... On—my questioning the old lady about the average life of the Nautchnees, she could give me no clear estimate, but intimated very decidedly that they generally died young. At my special request we were shown into the exercising-room and almost over the entire establishment. There were over a hundred girls, of all ages, and all shades of complexion from darkbrown to a pale delicate olive, going through their exercises at the

time. The hall was composed of bamboo trellis-work, and was light, spacious, and airy enough. From the roof hung all sorts of gymnastic apparatus, rude but curious ropes to which the girls

Arts and Culture e 75

clung as they whirled round on tiptoe; wheels on which they were made to walk in order to learn a peculiar circular dance called ‘chakranee’



a wheel);


into which


fastened one arm or one leg, thus holding it motionless while they exercised the other; cups, revolving balls, which they sprang up to

catch; and heaps of fragile cords, with which they spin round and round, and if any one of these snap under too great a pressure, they are punished, though never very severely. Altogether, it was a strange sight. Most of the girls from ten to fourteen had nothing on but a short pair of drawers; the older ones had tight short-sleeved bodices in addition to the drawers; and those under ten were naked. They were all good-looking; a few here and there were beautiful. The delicate and refined outline of their features, the soft tint of their rich complexions, the dreamy

expression of their large, dark, quiet eyes, added to great symmetry of form, made them strangely fascinating. The teachers were all middle-aged women, some of whom looked prematurely old. The girls are taught to repeat poems and plays, but no books are used. The dormitories in this establishment were bare rooms; the girls all slept on mats or cushions on the floor. Each had a Jota, or drinking-cup, a little mirror, and a native box in which to keep her

clothes. The more

finished and accomplished Nautchnees


rooms to themselves. I went into one of these. It was matted, and

was very simply furnished. A tier of boxes in which her jewels and robes were


kept, a cot, a few brass lotas, fans, cojas, or water-




looking-glasses ranged



wall,—and this was all.

I for the beautiful Nautchnee who had interested me. ... She was bought at an early age from her parents, who were poor and occupied a hovel in the village of Thur in Cutch, and sold to this establishment when in her seventh year, and was almost as ignorant of her parentage as a newly-born babe. At the time of our visit she had been hired with a party of Nautchnees to assist in the marriage-celebration which was to take place at the house of a rich Bunyah, or Hindoo grain-merchant. These Nautchnees often marry well, and become chaste wives

and mothers of large families. The four requisites for a Nautchnee

76 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

are bright eyes, fine teeth, long hair, and a perfect symmetry of form and feature. A small black mole between the eyebrows or on either cheek will enhance her value to an extraordinary degree. The utter friendlessness, the quiet submission, expressed in the actions and faces of the young girls, and even of the little children, we had seen exercising and acquiring their different parts that morning, were very pathetic. There was none of the impetuosity of youth nor of the joyousness of childhood. It is a sad and dreary picture, these parentless children of the East living for some rich man’s pleasure, and dying as they live, often unloved and uncared for by any relative or friend. (189-93)

Religion Reactions to Hinduism and Islam are particularly inflected by the attitude of the traveller and the period she is situated in. While travellers interested in ancient Indian culture like Maria Graham and Anne Elwood display their knowledge of Hindu philosophy and mythology and are eager to point out the links to Greek mythology and—slightly more abstrusely—events in the Bible, evangelical travellers like Helen MacKenzie can only voice their repugnance for the degradation of heathenism. Hinduism is particularly flagrant in their eyes, though Buddhists or sects like that of the peaceful Jains are not spared. In a sample text (too many grow

extremely wearing for the modern reader) Julia Maitland links Hindu worship to Roman Catholicism, the source of iniquity in Europe.

An interesting insight into the project of educating the natives is afforded by descriptions of visits to missionary schools. A turning point in British educational policy was marked by Macaulay’s ‘Minute on Education’

(1835).' In this momentous policy statement

the programme of Anglicization was implemented, with the aim of creating a class of mimic Englishmen. At this time evangelical notions that equated Indian culture with depravity had gained widespread currency. By contrast, the earlier generation of British rulers had sought to encourage studies in Indian languages. What we see in these passages is, of course, a classic example of ideological indoctrination at work. Significantly, the only knowledge worth acquiring is that which pertains to Europe, a continent that ' Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-59), the famous Whig historian, was Member of the Supreme Council of India from 1834 to 1838.

78 © Memsahibs Abroad most of these education, the domesticity into case of a later


children shall never see. In the case of female aim is quite clearly to inculcate the canons of the minds of the girls. This is revealed even in the school reformer, Flora Annie Steel, who is not

by evangelical

restricted in the wake


(overt proselytizing was

of the Mutiny). Education,

it seems,

much is a

matter of eradicating native immorality. What does not strike any of these observers, however, are the material conditions that made Western education such an imperative for Indians: the fact that all administrative jobs (and a large portion of other jobs) were controlled by the British.

A further revealing passage is Mary Carpenter’s enthusing over native converts, who, she claims, have transcended all the vices inherent in natives: a lack of decency as regards clothing, a love of superficialities such as ornamentation, and a lack of order. Even the voices of the converts sound sweeter. Finally, in Anne Wilson, once again, we see a different attitude to Hinduism. While her grasp of the tenets of the religion remains

tenuous, what interests her is religion as it is practised in everyday life. She is struck by the gentle consideration in the behaviour of her servants to others, and ends with a touching episode of this

same sympathy extended to herself, which she is not too proud to accept.

Maria Graham

Hindu and Greek Mythology: A ‘striking similarity’ In making this slight sketch of the Hindoo mythology, I have forborne to point out the striking similarity of many of the deities to those of Greece and Rome, as it is too obvious to escape your attention. A remarkable proof of their identity with the gods of Egypt occurred in 1801, when the sepoy regiments who had been sent into that country, fell down before the gods in the temple of Tentyra,




as those of their own



Religion e 79

The five Radums

coarseness and inelegance of the Hindoo polytheism, will certainly

disgust many accustomed

to the graceful mythology of ancient

Europe; but it is not incurious, nor perhaps useless, to examine the

various systems of religion which the feelings natural to the mind of man have produced—to observe how they have been modified by climate or other circumstances—and to trace, ‘under all their various disguises, the workings of the same common nature; and in the superstitions of Jndia, no less than in the lofty visions of Plato,

to recognize the existence of those moral ties which unite the heart of man to the Author of his being.” For my own part, living among the people, and daily beholding the prostrate worshipper, t temple, the altar, and the offering, I take an interest in them which makes up for their want of poetical beauty. Nor can I look’ with indifference upon a system, however barbarous and superstitious, which has so strong a hold of the minds of its votaries, and which

* Stewart’s Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (author’s note). Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) was a philosopher of the empirical school.

80 © Memsahibs Abroad

can bring them to despise death and torture in their most dreadful form. (53-4)

Anne Katherine Elwood

Hindu Mythology and the Bible: Further Striking Similarities In spite of Southey’s’ declaration of the anti-picturesque and unpoetical nature of the mythological personages of the Bramins, I must be presumptuous enough to say, that there appear to me to

be more boldly sublime, and magnificently grand ideas frequently to be met with in their sacred writings, than are to be found in any other place but the Bible; indeed so many of the events of our Scriptures seem darkly shadowed out, and symbolically couched under mystic forms, that it were next to impossible not to believe the Hindoos derived many of their ideas from thence, and, as a

large colony of Jews has been from time immemorial settled at Cochin on the Malabar Coast, the Bramins may possibly have received some of their leading doctrines from them. ... Others who give a yet more ancient source to the Braminical doctrines, affirm their great legislator, Menu, to have been no other than Noah himself, and they mention

several very curious

support of their hypothesis, whilst some


identify Abraham



Abram, with Brahma, and certainly there is a curious similarity in their names; Seraswati is considered to be his consort Sarah.

The perverted ideas of the Bramins

appear like a broken

mirror, which, whilst it reflects an image, distorts it into a thousand

hideous forms, under which all resemblance to the original object is totally lost. When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations,

and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools, and changed the glory of incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. I have often thought that if,

* Robert Southey (1774-1843), Romantic poet, was exponents of the Orientalist revival in English literature.


of the leading



_ instead of endeavouring to throw down caste,—for a man may live upon roots and be Christian, and eat beef and be a heathen,—the

Missionaries were, like our primitive Reformers, or their own great Vyasa, the Plato of India and author of the Bhagavat Geeta,’ solely to apply themselves to set up the doctrine of the Unity of the Godhead in opposition to idolatrous sacrifices, and the worship of images, and to prove the folly of worshipping the creature in preference to the Creator from their own books, that their exertions might be attended with more success than has hitherto been found.| ... There are several other curious coincidences between the extravagant fables of the Hindoos and the events recorded in the Bible, from which they appear to have been stolen, and corrupted from the original simplicity by the superstitious additions of the Bramins. Sir William Jones’ observes that the three first avatars of Vishnu’ apparently relate to some stupendous convulsion of our globe from the fountains of the deep, and in the Bhagavat it is related, that when all the world was destroyed in a vast deluge, a pious king, called Styavrata, the seventh Menu, was, whilst

performing his devotions, forewarned by Vishnu of the approaching calamity, and by his directions he fabricated a vessel, in which, with his family, consisting of seven persons, he floated

upon the waters! His son’s names were Charma, Shama, and Jyapeti, whose descendants inhabit the globe at this present time, and this Patriarch, Menu, the progenitor of the human race, and who first planted the vine, is represented as taking into the ark

‘medical herbs and innumerable seeds’, for the express purpose of renewing decayed vegetation after the flood. The origin of the sacred groves is traced to Abraham, ‘who planted a grove in Beershebah, and there called upon the name of the Lord’; and the worship of stones, which may be seen all over

* A sacred Hindu text written about 200 BC. ” Sir William Jones (1746-94) was an Oriental scholar and an administrator in the service of the East India Company. He is regarded as the founder of Indology. : Vishnu, the Preserver, one of the three main gods in the Hindu pantheon,

appeared in many incarnations.

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India, and to which veneration is paid at this day, seems to have originated in the imitation of Jacob, who, after his famous vision,

‘took the stone which he had put for his pillow, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it’, and called the name of the place Bethel, or the House of God; but still more singulay than any that I have mentioned is, that at the birth of Chrishna,’ who is no older than the Saviour Vishnu in his eighth avatar, the tyrant Cansa, sovereign of Mathura, in consequence of a prediction which was subsequently verified, that the infant would dethrone and detroy him, ordered all the male children born at that period to be destroyed. Chrishna, however, escaped by being concealed and brought up among herdsmen. Another very curious legend is, that King Vicramaditya, after a desperate tapyassa [penance], obtained from the goddess Kali” the empire of the world, till the appearance of a divine child, who was to be born of a virgin, and whose reputed father was to be a carpenter, when he was to be deprived of his crown and life, in the

year of the Cali Yug 8101, answering to the beginning of the Christian Era. Vicramaditya, after living a thousand years, remembering this prophecy, sent messengers to seek the wonderful child, and followed with an army to destroy him, but he was eventually defeated and slain by his youthful rival Salivahana, according to the prediction. It must be admitted that these are singular and striking facts and anecdotes, and they would almost lead one to imagine the Hindoos had been acquainted with our Holy Scriptures at an early period. (2: 27-33)

Helen MacKenzie

‘Children systematically trained in wickedness’ It will give you some idea of the depravity of the natives, to mention that we passed to-day a pretty little girl, singing at the top

of her voice, and C. [MacKenzie’s husband] told me that the

7 Krishna ' ; is a Hindu god famous for his exploits. He was an incarnation of Vishnu. * Kali is the goddess of destruction and the consort of Shiva.

Religion e 83 words of the song were so utterly detestable and vile, that hardly any man among the worst in London could sing such, unless previously intoxicated. Muhammedans are practically as bad as the Hindus, though their religion is far better; for nothing, it is said, can equal the abominations of the Hindu deities and modes of worship. The verses taught to children at school are such as cannot be repeated. I saw a letter lately from an educated Hindu, who after citing one or two, said that ‘decency’ forbade him to give any further specimens of the slokas or couplets he had been taught in his childhood.’ Think what must be the state of a nation, when

children are systematically trained in wickedness, and their acts of worship consist of crimes. (109)

Julia Charlotte Maitland

‘Exactly like a Roman Catholic mass’ The other night I was sitting in my Tonjon sketching a pagoda, when I saw a long procession of Bramins go in, and suddenly the service began. I could hear it all, through the walls. The first part sounded exactly like

a Roman

Catholic mass. There was music,

and the mumbling chant of the old priests who could not sing, and the shrill voices of the choir-boys, and at intervals a little bell tinkling; till it was all interrrupted by violent screams from girls’ voices—perhaps they were meant for singing, but they sounded very horrible: then came loud beating of drums and ringing of bells, and it was all finished. (159)

Mary Carpenter “‘Debasing superstition’ We did not visit any Hindoo temples; they do not appear numerous or important in these parts. The Jains are a leading sect here. They profess not to worship any God, but to reverence good

men, whom they place in niches in their temples. There did not

84 @ Memsahibs Abroad

appear to be much to choose between their religion and Hindooism; the Jains seemed to be really quite as idolatrous. We went one morning to view a new and splendid Jain temple built by Hathi Singh, who died extremely rich in 1845; it is sustained by his family. We are accustomed to associate idolatry with barbarism, except among the ancient Greeks and Romans, who so marvel-

lously blended with it the aesthetic element, and left the idols created by their own hand to be models for ever of masculine energy and feminine beauty. It was, therefore, singularly grating and indeed revolting to the feelings, to have it first brought forcibly to the mind, that here not only the low and ignorant cling to debasing superstition, which the advanced and enlightened of their nation discard, but that rich and influential men endeavour to gain popularity with their townsmen by giving position and splendour to the degradation of their so-called religion. This temple is most gorgeously adorned, built on a uniform plan, and decorated with -multitudes of images. All of these are, however, to my taste extremely hideous; not one excited an idea which could elevate or inspire with a feeling of beauty, or of excellence of any kind. A priest, whose countenance was fraught with cunning and expressive of many bad feelings, forbad our entrance without an order from the proprietor; a small coin would probably have obtained admission for us, but I was glad that neither my friend nor I had one to offer him. The horror which I felt on seeing this Jain temple remained with me to the end of my journey, whenever I beheld an idol temple; for I increasingly perceived that the system perpetuated in these places degrades morally and intellectually a great people, and keeps woman bound in moral and spiritual thraldom. Until she is emancipated and brought to her true position in society, the Hindoo nation cannot become what they were intended to be by the Father of all. (75-6)

Helen MacKenzie

Missionary Schools: ‘The one thing needful’ The next class we stopped at was composed of older boys,—they

Religion @ 85 were reading an English history of Bengal; Dr. Duff’ questioned them on it, and then led them to consider the origin of the diversity of language in the world. They could not answer him at first, but when he broke up his questions into smaller ones, they replied rightly. When they can understand English they are instructed exactly as Christian boys would be. An hour each day is devoted to the Bible, or the Evidences; their very earliest books

contain Christian instruction, and those in the College department learn the Shorter Catechism,

the Confession

of Faith, and read

such books as ‘Horne’s Evidences’, ‘Mundy’s Christianity and Hinduism Contrasted’, and Erskine’s ‘Internal Evidences’. Dr Duff

loses no opportunity of bringing every subject to bear on the one thing needful. In this instance he asked them what ‘Puja’ was? They replied “Worship offered to different gods’—one said in a loud voice, ‘to false gods’. ‘Did they know any commandment forbidding that?’ They quoted the first and second. ‘Was it lawful to do so?’ They answered ‘No;’ and one cried, ‘it is dishonouring

God.’ Dr Duff asked them who several of their gods were? and how they were represented? “The God of War is riding upon a pig. ‘A pig that is a very warlike animal’, said Dr Duff, right merrily, whereupon there was such a display of white teeth, and such mirthful looks, as showed they had wonderfully small respect for the warlike deity. He then made them describe Durga, the consort of Siva and the Goddess of Destruction. ‘A very sweet and merciful goddess, was she not?’ This they denied laughingly, and told how she had a dozen arms to slay men with, and a necklace of skulls, and a girdle of hands and feet; in face quite black, and her

tongue hanging out the length of a span! Then he asked them the name

of the Governor-General,

the name

of the Queen, whose

deputy he was, and inquired what they would expect him to feel if some of his subjects, instead of going to make salam to him, were to go down to the river side, take some clay, make it up into any shape they pleased, and then salam to it; would he not be much displeased, and look on it as an insult that they should consider it ” Dr Alexander Duff (1806-78) was famous for his innovative mission work. He opened a school in Calcutta with English as the main medium, arguing that the English language was best suited to effect conversion to Christianity.

86 e Memsahibs Abroad

better to pay respect to this clay than to himself? And so it is with the Most High God. I can only give you a very imperfect account of all Dr Duff said. (6) They answered extremely well in mental arithmetic, geography, Roman and English history, geometry, and Scripture history, &c. The eldest class read and explained a long passage, taken at random,



Lost’, book




flight. ... On English history, Mr Ewart asked them about the civil wars, and then inquired which was best, war or peace?—they all answered ‘peace’, with great zeal. Mr Ewart observed, ‘there might be some just wars, adding, suppose an enemy were to burst into this country, plundering and destroying every thing, would you not fight?’ ‘No, no’, said they. Mr Ewart, who is a very fine powerful man, and gives the idea of being full of manly determination and courage, was so astonished that he paused for a moment, and then said, “But would you not fight for your homes—your own families?’ ‘No’, said they, ‘the Bengalis would not fight—they are all cowards.’ (16-17)

A Girls’ School Dr Wilson took us to see Mrs Seitz’s boarding-school. It contains thirty girls. Mrs Seitz, who is country-born, and widow of a German schoolmaster, devotes herself to the work gratuitously. She is a very pleasing person. Dr Wilson asked me to examine the girls on any subject. We asked them where Mexico was?— Bruxelles?—Germany?—the capital of Germany?—some town on the Rhine?—the boundaries of Belgium?—the religion of Germany?—of France?—of England?—the difference between Romanists and Protestants? Maina (a convert and assistant teacher) answered, that the Romanists worshipped images, and kept the Bible from the people. ... They sang very nicely, and worked well in needle, knitting and crochet-work. (213)

Religion @ 87

Julia Charlotte Maitland ‘Queer and heathenish answers’ We went yesterday to the examination of a native school of Caste boys—not Christians, but they learn to read the Bible for the sake of the education they receive in other respects. They looked very intelligent and very picturesque in their turbans and jewels. They answered

extremely well, in English, questions on Scripture, on

geography, and history, and wrote English from dictation. However, they gave one or two queer, heathenish answers, such as: Query. ‘What is meant by God’s resting from his work on the seventh day? Did God require rest?’ Answer. In the night-time he did.’ This school was established by some English gentlemen for the more respectable classes of natives. Most of the English schools admit Caste boys and Pariahs without any distinction, which is really almost like expecting young gentlemen and chimneysweepers to learn together in England. The real Madras schools, which taught Dr Bell’ his system, are native hedge-schools, held

under a shed. The industry of the poor little scholars is wonderful: from six in the morning till eight at night (with the exception of a short time in the middle of the day to go to sleep and eat rice) they are hard at work, bawling their hearts out; our infant-school noise

_ is nothing to theirs. It is very curious—such a lazy, inert race as the Hindoos are—what pains and trouble they will take for a little learning; and little enough they get (poor things!) with ail their labours. (44-5)

Flora Annie Steel

Purging the Primers ... | was busy rewriting the primers for the schools, and, with the '° Dr Andrew Bell (1758-1832) was the founder of the controversial Madras system of education. It was based on a method of mutual instruction with older pupils teaching younger pupils and was supposed to have a salutary effect on the morals of the children.

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help of Mr John Kipling," illustrating them. They were a success, at any rate more so than the old ones, which were hardly decent. For instance, a favourite story in the Persian primer ran thus: ‘A man accused another man before a judge of having stolen his male donkey. The accused replied by showing his only donkey, which was female; on which the plaintiff remarked that his donkey after all had not been such a very male one.’ I think this excerpt shows, as well as anything can, what female

education was at the time. (164-5)

Mary Carpenter Native Converts: ‘A striking difference’ On Sunday morning, October 14, at halfpast six, we mounted the bullock-cart, and, after passing through many of the low native streets, made our way slowly through sandy lanes. We passed several Musssulman antiquities and some pagan monuments, and at length stopped at a plain simple building, which was the mission

schoolroom and chapel. A bright cheerful couple greeted us with a pleasant cordial smile of welcome, the first I had seen in any native of the humbler classes. ... It was then most refreshing to the spirit on this Sabbath morning to be so greeted, and to receive a cup of new

milk from

the schoolmaster

and his wife, as a token


hospitality. This station is somewhat isolated, and the inhabitants live together as a Christian community, without being annoyed by their heathen countrymen. They are all cultivators—that is, they rent small pieces of land from the Government, on the profits of which they live. These people are very poor, and there is no attempt to raise their condition from the mission funds; they dwell ~ in small huts similar to those in ordinary use; but a striking

difference between them and the heathen is at once perceptible in the sense of personal decency shown in their clothing and general demeanour. Among the lower orders whom I had hitherto seen, q John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard, was a principal of the Lahore school of arts and curator of the museum.

Religion e 89 the men and children are usually devoid of any garment, except perhaps a cloth round their loins; at the same time they wear silver ornaments, and pearl or other earrings; the women

are bedizened

with any ornaments they can get hold of, with very miserable raiment, only partially covering the person. Here everyone was neatly and decently dressed, and I did not notice any ornaments in the place; though these are not forbidden by the missionary, they are not valued as they used to be. At the sound of a bell, the first I

had heard in this heathen land, the congregation gradually dropped in, and took their places on the matting in an orderly manner. The service being in Guzerathi,"” I could not understand it, but I could warmly sympathise with the spirit which evidently pervaded this little congregation. Many looked intelligently attentive, and all joined in the worship in an orderly manner. A little Sunday-school was afterwards conducted by the schoolmaster and some of the elders: the Christian singing was sweet and refreshing, after the harsh meaningless tones I had heard in the schools elsewhere. After a short service for my benefit in English, and a simple but well-prepared breakfast, we departed. ... This little colony appeared to me a striking instance of the natural effects of Christianity. An air of cheerful contentment pervaded the place. I was informed that the members generally live consistent lives, and endeavour to lead others to join them. ... Multitudes of such little stations all over the land would do incalculable good. (1: 78-80)

Anne Wilson

The ‘generous sympathy’ of the Hindus The Bower, 1903.

Dear A.,—Do you by any chance remember my writing a letter to you some time ago about Hinduism? It was written at your own request, just when one was feeling peculiarly shut out from the life of the people, and conscious of how little one knew of their point i Gujarati.

90 @ Memsahibs Abroad

of view about anything, except so far as one could hope to find it in their literature, when that was confirmed by the daily ritual of their lives. I think I may venture to say I know a little more of the people now, and although I still believe that all I wrote to you then was so far true, I realise now that it was only part of the truth. It is true, for

instance, that the creed of the uneducated masses is a patchwork made up of samples of every form of superstition: the worship of stones, plants, tools, animals, ghosts, demons, dead heroes, tribal or Vedic gods and the inevitable Brahmin, with a new bit added at

any moment by the latest variety in gods or doctrines. Also true that every

bit in the patchwork


be propitiated, just as a

petition to the district officer is sometimes preceded by a basket filled with vegetables or rice. True, too, that the typical Hindu is the victim of hereditary fear,

with the belief in transmigration as its culminating terror; that what he most desires is to escape from life, from his feeble body, his devastating climate, his precarious fate, and his unpredictable rebirths, and to cease to be, through absorption in the Self, or the

extinction of Nirvana. He is in many respects the consequence of his history, his traditions, and his environment.

Yet all this is only partly true. Behind such truth there is something infinitely more beautiful, just as one has sometimes seen a vision of heavenly skies behind lowering thunder-clouds and lightning-flashes. And the beautiful fact in the Hindu background is the fruits of the Spirit of God in the Hindu character. ... When I think of the Hindus as a race, I am aware of a hundred

contradictions. Their belief in Transmigration and their Pantheism show them good or evil spirits in everything, and lead them to worship stocks and stones. Yet the same creed saves them from the materialism which sees spirit in nothing. The Hindu thinks in terms of Eternity. Theoretically, the Self that is worshipped is without attributes. Yet if we are to judge a man’s creed, not by what he

professes, but by what he embodies in his life, we must believe that God,


is not far away




of us, has


bestowed in His mercy the fruits of the Spirit on many of His children in India because they have loved them.

Religion e 91 Far be it from me to ignore the whole truth. Horrors are still perpetrated in the name of religion in India, which could barely find a parallel in the dark pages of the Inquisition. The crimes that reach the magisterial courts are at least as varied as those that confront the administrators of the law elsewhere. Yet side by side with such facts, those high notes of the spirit are touched by a multitude; those notes which are not dictated by law, by necessity, or even always by justice; those high notes which are attuned to long-suffering meekness, patience gentleness, self-denial, that some-

times spell failure in Time, but not in Eternity; notes which the God-given Spirit in man intuitively recognises and worships, as the world bowed down before Gordon," dead at his post. It is easy to be.convinced

of the truth of one’s own intuitions,

but not so easy to convey to others the fugitive impressions on which they are built. Let me, however, make the attempt. Anyone could cite instances of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, born of the caste-system, and quote the unhappy fate which has overtaken its victims, when they have had enough courage on certain occasions to break its chains. Yet within the prescribed limitations of caste is not something to be said for an Empire which has no Poor Law, so certain is the charity of the poorest of the population

to their own people, however remote the claims on their pity may be? This self-denying, generous sympathy is not always merely extended to their own clan. I remember an instance of this, which

came to one’s notice in Simla. A poor young Hindu girl, the wife of a groom in our neighbour’s establishment, had lost her husband, and with him her home, and all means of support. Her only relation was in a far-off corner of India. Poor creature! I heard her roaming the sides of the hill beneath us all night, uttering cries of despair and distress, like some wild creature robbed of her young. When I spoke to our head-servant about her next morning, | found that our own household, as well as her fellow-servants, had

already collected quite a large sum of money to add to what her '’ Charles Gordon (1833-85), British general and governor of the Sudan, was killed in the siege of Khartoum and subsequently became the object of a cult of hero worship.

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husband’s employers had given her. Our old Hindu chaprassi was at that moment trying to soothe and comfort her, promising to see her off by the train, and with a father’s tenderness trying to breathe some hope into her poor broken heart. | This generous pity is not even confined to their own race, as one realised at the time of the South African War, when many of the country people held meetings to collect money for the widows and orphans of our soldiers, following the lead of some of our Indian regiments——the Gurkhas” specially stipulating that their contributions should be given to the widows and children of the Gordon Highlanders, their rivals in war, and their chums round

the camp-fire at night. Of the sympathy shown us in times of sickness and sorrow by those of our own household, most Memsahibs can speak with feeling. I can never forget an occasion on which it was given me by a stranger when one needed it most. I was in a far-away bungalow, Jim and our host in camp, when the telegram came this summer which seemed to cut life in two. In the evening I sat in the verandah dreaming of those sheltering arms, wondering in what star of the blest was her home, alone with grief. Hours passed,—then I was conscious that some one was near me, some one with feeble old steps, who was putting sticks on the

drawing-room fire, blowing it up, slowly carrying a chair nearer it, then a light that was shaded, bringing with it all the sense of the sheltering care which might be bestowed by a kind, old nurse. Then the old steps came slowly out to the verandah, and stopped behind my chair and a gentle, feeble, old voice said, ‘Memsahib,

may I say something?’ ‘Please say it.’ ‘It is God’s Will.’ ‘Thank you.’ That was all, but sometimes such things mean a great deal to us. (279-85)

‘* The Gurkhas were a hill people who were extolled as one of the ‘martial races’ in the British Indian army.


The travellers’ reflections on the hazards of travel are chronicled in this section. Anne -Elwood stakes a claim to being the first lady to have attempted the overland route to India and flaunts her firsthand experience of exotic life. She is fond of striking a ‘Lalla Rookh’ pose—this piece of Orientalist Romantic literature by Thomas



after all, a bestseller

at the time.


Roberts gives a more prosaic but detailed description of a march and life in camp for British travellers. Travel was very much a part of colonial life, and the life of both civil and army employees entailed a substantial amount of moving. The most sumptuous tour was probably that by Lord Auckland, Governor-General of India, in the years 1837-40. It was a matter of policy to impress the natives with Oriental splendour, and accordingly the ten-mile-long cavalcade consisted of an entourage of 12,000, and proceeded by carriage, palanquin, horse and elephant. Unlike her contemporary, Fanny Parks, Emily Eden was not impressed. She hates life under canvas (though her description of tents conjures up a world quite different from what most of us would think of in connection with camp life) and makes no bones about the fact. Another common mode of travel was by dak or post relays. This involved being carried in a palanquin on the shoulders of teams of porters. Along the road the British had erected a string of dak bungalows for the convenience of (European) travellers. These are minutely described by Christina Bremner. Coolies are depicted by her in the typical colonial idiom as grown-up children. A slightly different picture is given by Constance Gordon Cumming, who describes the material conditions underlying this form of

94 @ Memsahibs Abroad

(forced) labour. In fact, as Emma Roberts shows, the coolies can even take revenge on disagreeable travellers at times. During the later part of the century travel by railway gained in popularity, thanks to the network of railroads criss-crossing India that the British had constructed. Mary Carpenter sees a pedagogical function in this mode of travel and voices the hope that the natives will be brought to see the importance of virtues like punctuality. A common lament by British residents in India was that visitors from home were spoiling the Indians by displaying a far more liberal attitude than the Anglo-Indians on the spot. In particular influential travellers from home were the focus of this complaint. Mrs King’s words echo the Kipling poem on ‘Pagett, M.P.’—who, however, is taught a lesson. The last section deals with the experience of ladies travelling alone or without male company. While Emma Roberts praises the hospitality of the Indians, Isabel Savory focuses on the change in women travelling to India: while at the beginning of the century they were derided as a ‘fishing fleet’ determined to angle for a husband, by the end of the century the new type of adventurous

woman traveller (like herself) dominated the scene. Fanny Parks, however, had always been that kind of traveller, as she proves in

her paean to roaming alone. She styles herself as a pilgrim in India in search of the picturesque and displays real regret at ending her journey of twenty-four years.

Anne Katherine Elwood

The First Lady on the Overland Route I believe I may safely say, that I am

the only Lady who


travelled thither overland, by this, or perhaps by any other route; and probably mine was the first Journal ever kept by an Englishwoman in the Desert of the Thebais, and on the shores of

the Red Sea. Instead of the Popes and Cardinals who grace the

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Diaries of other migratory damsels, you will meet with Agas and Cacheffs, and hear of Pashas and Rajahs; and for the ceremonies of the Holy Week, you will have the initiatory rites of the Mahometan Hadje, the Mohurrum, and the Hindoo Hoolie. You must ascend the pyramids, and descend into Joseph’s well,

penetrate into the tomb of King Sesostris, and explore the caves of Elephanta.



and tropical heat; you will sail in Egyptian Cangias,

Arab Dows,

will be exposed

to Camseens

and Indian Pattemars;


Siroccos; to

travel in a Tacktrouan


Palanquin; take up your abode in tents, Caravanserais, and Durrumsallahs; hear of places seldom or perhaps never before visited by any of our countrywomen; and I shall have the pleasure of introducing you to a Turkish Divan at Djidda, an Arab Haram at Hodeida, a jahrejah’s Zenana at Bhooj, and a Bramin’s Pinjrapole at Broach. Have you the courage to accompany me? Allons done. When we first started our idea of travelling to India by way of Egypt, our project was treated as visionary by several, and numbers considered it as impracticable for a Lady. Some kind friends sought to deter us by magnifying the dangers of the expedition, and others recommended ‘a comfortable China ship’ in preference; but though we were fully aware this was a route hitherto but little frequented even by gentlemen, and that no lady

had ever attempted the outward overland journey to Bombay, we were not to be deterred by imaginary difficulties. We resolved, at least, to try whether our plans were feasible, and we found in the variety of the interesting countries through which we passed, sufficient amply to compensate for the fatigue and inconveniences we encountered on our journey. (1: 1-3)

In the Footsteps of Lalla Rookh First of all, several heavy carts, drawn by bullocks, preceded us, which were such things as absolutely necessary for our accommodation

on the road—tents

and tent furniture, couches, chairs,

tables, cooking utensils, and other articles—then



retinue, and their numerous families-—C~’s [her husband] horses and grooms,—and lastly ourselves, as we remained till everything

96 @ Memsahibs Abroad was fairly off, at the tent of a friend, with whom we dined. C-rode on horseback,—some of our attendants on camels,—others were on foot, —and I travelled in my palanquin, which was carried and

attended by an extra number of Hamauls,—and we were escorted by some

Russulda horse, and by a Haveldar, Naig, and twelve

Sepoys [different ranks of native soldiers]; so that though my first Indian march might not quite equal the celebrated expedition of Lalla Rookh in splendour and magnificence, we formed a tolerably large party; and the wildness of the country, the half-savage look of the natives, and the reports of, and the apprehensions of meeting with the marauding Meyannas, all tended to give an air of novelty and originality to the journey. (2: 178)

Emma Roberts A March At day-break, on the morning appointed for the commencement of the march, the bustle and confusion of departure begin; the cortége

of every family spreads itself wide over the plain, presenting motley groups of various kinds. Chests and other heavy goods are packed in hackerys (small carts drawn by bullocks), and where there are ladies, a conveyance of this nature is secured for the female attendants: other bullocks have trunks, made purposely for this mode of transportation, slung across

their backs; the tents become

the load of camels,

or an

elephant, and light or fragile articles are carried either on men’s heads or over their shoulders: nothing that will not bear jolting being entrusted to four-footed animals. The china and glass are packed in round baskets, and conveyed by coolies on their heads;

looking-glasses, chillum-chees (brass wash-basins), and__toilettefurniture, are tied upon a charpoy or bedstead, and carried by four men, and cooking-pots, gridirons, frying-pans, chairs, tables, stools, and bird-cages, are disposed of in a similar manner. The meter appears with his dogs on a string or strings; the shepherd drives his _ sheep before him, and cocks crow and hens cluck from the baskets in which they are imprisoned; spare horses are led by their syces or

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grooms, who never mount water-carriers

them, and the washermen

and the

are there with their bullocks. The head-servant,


khansamah, seldom compromises his dignity by marching on foot, but is generally to be seen amid the equestrians, the steed being some ragged, vicious, or broken-down tattoo, caparisoned a la Rozinante: the other domestics, khidmutghars, bearers, &c. either

walk, or get on in any way that happens to present itself. All are well accustomed to the mode of travelling, and proceed with cheerfulness. The master of the family, if with his regiment, must be on horseback, unless the commandant should be sufficiently indulgent to permit him to drive his wife in a buggy. The lady sometimes rides an Arab steed, and sometimes travels in a close carriage, or a

palanquin, according as inclination or convenience may direct; the children, if there be any, are usually inclosed with their attendants in a peculiar kind of vehicle, called a palanquin-carriage, but different from those used by adults, and not very unlike the cage of a wild beast placed upon wheels. The nurse sits on the floor of this machine, with a baby upon her knees, and the larger fry peep through the prison-bars of the clumsy conveyance, which is drawn

by bullocks, and moves slowly and heavily along, floundering over the rough roads, and threatening to upset at every jolt. The passage of such a cavalcade through the country is very amusing, but griffins only are seen to laugh at the droll appearance made by this gipsy mode of travelling; the natives are accustomed to it, and

the immense multitude (the regiment itself scarcely forming a third part) move along without molestation, and with comparatively little difficulty, in consequence of the few enclosures which impede their

progress. The train of a family, amounting to three persons, will not consist of less than a hundred individuals, the wives and children

of the servants included, who not unfrequently carry their aged along with them. The native officers belonging to sepoy regiments have their zenanas to convey, and few of the sepoys themselves are entirely destitute of attendants. Then there is the bazaar, which is invariably attached to a camp, to supply it with all the necessaries of life, and men, women, children, and animals abound in this

ambulatory market for gram, ghee, flour, tobacco, spices, &c.

98 e Memsahibs Abroad

When spare tents have been sent on, the family of an officer, on arriving at the encamping ground, find every thing ready for their reception; but if any accident should have retarded the route of the

people, a tree must be the resource.

Parties may be seen on

horseback, or on foot, or in palanquins, grouped under the shade

of some friendly bough, waiting while their canvas abode is preparing for them. The rapid manner in which the multifarious materials which are to compose the temporary tity are reduced to order, and arranged in their proper places, is truly astonishing. It is both curious and interesting to watch the progress of the formation of a camp, from some neighbouring bungalow, when it occurs in the vicinity of cantonments.


desert appears

to be peopled

as if by magic;

men and animals crowd upon the scene; the earth in every direction is strewed with uncouth packages and bundles; these amid much


and so small expenditure

of lungs, assume

graceful forms, and arise glittering in the sun like the pavilions of some fairy princess. Long lines of penthouse streets appear; banners are floating in the air; the elephant, who has trodden out the ground and smoothed it for his master’s tent, retires to his bivouac, and spacious enclosures, formed of kanauts secure the utmost privacy to the dwellers of the populous camp. The exertions of a little army of followers have succeeded in imparting comfort and even elegance to interiors fitted up in haste in the midst of the wildest jungle. Palanquins and carriages begin to arrive; the ladies find their toilette-tables laid out; the gentlemen

are provided with a bath; the khidmutghars are preparing breakfast, and the hookahbadars are getting the chillums in readiness; while camels, bullocks and their drivers, tent-pitchers,

coolies, and all

those who have been employed in fatiguing offices, are buried in profound repose. The sheep are lying down to rest, and the poultry are more peaceable than usual. (1: 141-5)

Meals in Camp The dinner in camp is usually as well supplied with the products of the larder, as the repast served up in a settled establishment. Several very excellent dishes have been invented, which are

Travel « 99

peculiarly adapted to the cooking apparatus suited to a jungle or some unreclaimed waste hitherto unconscious of culinary toils. A Burdwan



high amongst





sauces which go under the name of shikarree (hunters) and campsauce, are assuredly the most piquant adjuncts to flesh and fowl which the genius of a gastronome has ever compounded. Immediately after dinner, the khidmutghars,

pack up the utensils belonging forward



tent, which

cooks, and mussaulchees,

to their department,

is to be the morrow’s




leaving the bearers to attend to tea, or to furnish the materials for a stronger beverage for the evening’s refreshment ... . (1: 151-2)

Emily Eden ‘I am much prepossessed in favour of a house ...’ We landed at five, and drove four miles through immense crowds

and much dust to our camp. The first evening of tents, I must say, was more uncomfortable than I had ever fancied. Everybody kept saying, ‘What a magnificent camp!” and I thought I never had seen such squalid, melancholy discomfort. G., F., [her brother George and sister Fanny] and I have three private tents, and a fourth, to

make up the square, for our sittingroom, and great covered passages, leading from one tent to the other. Each tent is divided into bed-room, dressing-room, and sittingroom. They have covered us up in every direction, just as if we were native women; and, besides that, there is a wall of red cloth, eight feet high, drawn all round our enclosure, so that, even on

going out of the tent, we see nothing but a crimson wall. Inside each tent were our beds—one leaf of a dining-table and three cane chairs. Our pittarrahs and the camel-trunks were brought in; and in about half an hour the nazir came to say they must all, with our books, dressing-cases, &c., be carried off to be

put under the care of a sentry, as nothing is safe in a tent from the dacoits; so, if there were anything to arrange, there would be no use in arranging it, as it must all be moved at dusk. The canvas

flops about, and it was very chilly in the night, though that is the

100 e Memsahibs Abroad

only part I do not object to, as when we get our curtains that will

be merely bracing; but it feels open-airish and unsafe. They say everybody begins by hating their tents and ends by loving them, but at present I am much prepossessed in favour of a house. Opposite to our private tent is the great dining-tent, and the durbar tent, which is less shut up, and will be less melancholy to live in. (22-3)

Fanny Parks The Governor-General’s Camp They say there are about eleven thousand people with the camp, and elephants and camels innumerable, which, added to the Body guard, Artillery, and Infantry, form an immense multitude. It is said his Lordship’s marching about the country costs the Government 70,000 rupees a month; the encampment encroaching on fields of grain often costs from 300 to 400 rupees a day to make up the loss sustained by the peasants. (2: 183)

Emma Roberts

Travelling by Dék The three modes of travelling in India are, by dak (post), by marching, and by water in a pinnace or budgerow. The cold season is the only period of the year in which a march can be performed without great inconvenience. The rains offer the most favourable time for a voyage, the rivers being very low in the dry weather, while it is generally practicable to travel by dak, except when the country is completely under water, in which case this method is subject to much discomfort and considerable delay. In a dak journey, the traveller must apply to the postmaster of the place of his residence to furnish him with relays of bearers to a given point, a preliminary which is called ‘laying the dak’: the time of starting is specified, and the different places at which it may be expedient to rest. Three or four days’ notice is usually required to

Travel e 101

enable the dék-master to apprise the public functionaries of the different villages of the demand for bearers: the traveller must be provided with his own palanquin, and his own banghies (boxes), ropes, and bamboos. Will it be necessary, in these enlightened times, to describe a

palanquin? It would be an affront to the reading public to suppose it ignorant of the shape and construction of the conveyances employed in Lapland, Greenland, Kamschatka, or Timbuctoo, but it is content with very superficial information respecting the EastIndies, which usually presents itself to the mind in an indistinct and gorgeous vision, seas of gold and minarets of pearl, or shining in all the variegated hues of Aladdin’s gem-decked garden. Some writer of an Eastern tale, in an Annual, has represented a native prince travelling with his daughter in her magnificent palanquin, a vehicle in which there is scanty accommodation for one, even when formed upon the most roomy plan. An oblong chest will convey the truest idea which can be given of this conveyance; the walls are of double canvas, painted and varnished on the outside, and lined within with chintz or silk, it is

furnished on either side with sliding wooden doors, fitted into grooves, and when unclosed disappearing between the canvas walls, the roof projects about an inch all round, and is sometimes double, to keep off the heat of the sun. In front, there are two small windows furnished with blinds, and beneath them run a shelf

and a shallow drawer. The bottom is made of split cane interwoven like that of a chair, and having a mattress, a bolster, and

pillow covered either with leather or chintz: some are also supplied with a moveable support for the back, in case the traveller should prefer sitting upright to reclining at full length. The poles jut out at each end near the top, they are slightly curved, and each is long enough to rest upon the shoulders of two men, who stand one on each. side, shifting their shoulders as they run along. Could the palanquin be constructed to swing upon springs, no conveyance would be more easy and agreeable; but mechanical art has made little progress in India; no method has yet been struck out to prevent the vehicle from jolting. It is said that the pendulous motion,

which would

be the least unpleasant to the travellers,

102 © Memsahibs Abroad would distress the bearers, but when the makers shall be men of science, this difficulty will vanish.

The preparations for a dék journey are simple. The necessary baggage is packed into petarrahs or banghies, which are sometimes square tin boxes of a particular size, fitted for the mode of conveyance

with conical tops; at others, round



sewed up in painted canvas. These are slung with ropes to each end of a bamboo, which is carried across a man’s shoulder, two

banghie-bearers being usually attached to the dak. A desk may be placed upon the shelf before-mentioned, and other small packages stowed in the palanquin, which should be supplied with biscuits, a tumbler, a bottle of wine or brandy, and a serai (a long-necked porous jar) of water wrapped in a wet cloth, which may be tied to one of the poles outside. Eight men attend to carry the palanquin, who relieve each other by turns, the four off duty running by the side of the vehicle. At night, two mussaulchees (torch-bearers) are

added. These men are all Hindoos, and belong to poorest, though not the lowest castes, they bring with cloths, lotas (drinking-vessels), and provision for a meal, pack upon the top of the palanquin, and retaining a

one of the them their which they very scanty portion of drapery upon their persons, present an exceedingly grotesque appearance. When all is ready, they take up their burthen and set off at a round pace, going, when the road is good,

at the rate of from three miles and-a-half to four miles an hour. The stages vary from ten to fourteen miles, and a change of bearers is often effected in the midst of a wide plain. The relay, which is generally in waiting for some time, kindle a fire, group themselves around it, and beguile the interval with smoking or sleeping. When drawing near to the appointed spot, the traveller is made aware of the circumstances by the shouts of his own people, who exclaim, in loud but musical accents, ‘dék wallah, dak wallah,

tiar hi?’ (dak men or fellows, are response is joyfully received, and palanquin is put down amid the expression which, when thus used,

you ready?). The welcome in a few minutes more the cries of ‘Ram! Ram!’ an conveys both salutation and

A contraction of Rama, one of the numerous gods of the Hindu mythology (author’s note).

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thankfulness. The tired traveller will often echo the ‘Ram! Ram!’ of his weary bearers, who, if they have received the customary buxies (present) of an eight-anna piece, take leave with shouts of ‘salaam, Saib.’ In preparing for a dék journey, care should be taken to secure a halt of eight or twelve hours, at stated distances, certainly not exceeding a hundred miles, while a lady will find it expedient to rest after she has traversed fifty or sixty. On the great road, from Calcutta to Cawnpore, there are government-bungalows at the end of every stage, built purposely for the accommodation of travellers, but on other routes, they must depend upon the hospitality of individuals. It can always be previously ascertained when and where it may be advisable to rest, and notices to the persons whose houses lie in the road can be conveyed at the time that the bearers are summoned, though in no instance would a dak traveller be refused admittance, and it is only necessary to go up to the gate and ask for shelter. In the hot season, persons who brave the heat of the day in a palanquin, venture at the risk of their lives: they should always take care

to be housed

by twelve



a few, who


unadvisedly set out upon a long journey without the necessary precaution of breaking it by remaining under some friendly roof during the sultry hours, have been found dead in their palanquin, and others have escaped with very severe fevers. In the cold weather, it is more agreeable to travel by day, the nights being very piercing. As the doors can only be partially open until after sunset, very little of the country is to be seen from a palanquin, however, the eye may still find amusement in contemplating the passing objects, and, particularly in Bengal, the gambols of the monkeys crashing amid the boughs of the trees above, and the fireflies irradiating the leaves of whole groves, shooting in and out in coruscations of emerald light, afford gratification to those who are willing to be amused. A journey by dék is the only rapid method of travelling which has yet been devised in India, and the rate, compared with that in European countries, is slow indeed. (1: 203-9)

104 @eMemsahibs Abroad

Christina Sinclair Bremner

Dak Bungalows: The Saheb’s Remedy At a dak bungalow people pay for the use of rooms; meals and

service are provided for a further consideration, the tariff being fixed. The bungalows are government property and a great convenience to the traveller. In India government has to undertake many branches that European governments leave to private enterprise; our Aryan brother is speculative, but mostly from a metaphysical point of view; educated and ignorant alike may be heard complaining that they are neglected or poor because government will not do anything for them. The management of these bungalows is on the whole fairly effective by means of a simple arrangement. When you arrive, the khansamah brings you the manager, an oblong book in which you enter the date and hour of your arrival. On departing the book is again produced and you inscribe the date and hour of your departure, how many rupees you paid to the khansamah for the use of your rooms, and any remark you choose to make on the state of the bungalow and the service. An inspector goes round to receive the money and inspect the book. To have many complaints would cost a man a fine or dismissal,

and as these servants

are pretty well paid, the latter

punishment is a severe one. Faithful to the traditions of Indian service the housekeeper would usually receive back the book with a profound Oriental salaam. He could not of course read English, and I could not help being amused on reading the uncomplimentary remarks that were occasionally made about their dinner by facetious sahebs, who must have received similar salaams as if they had placed a handsome compliment on record. ... Every bungalow had that indispensable requisite of an Indian house, a verandah, and here the traveller may sit enjoying the evening breeze, sandflies and his dinner. Occasionally the leading inhabitants of the village including the lambardar, bunniah and a

Brahman would come up to the bungalow and watch me partake of my evening meal with unaffected interest. ‘Where is the Saheb?’ I heard one inquire of my servant. When he heard he was at Dehlie, he would probably put a little more down to the account

Travel e 105

of English eccentricity. They seemed pleased when I tried to speak to them, and were so ready to pour torrents of talk into my ear, that I much regretted that I did not know their language. Some of the bungalows had no windows, but this is no great lack as many of the doors have the upper half glazed. Nearly all had fireplaces, for even in summer the evenings are chilly in most places. The fireplace is a very simple hole in the mud wall. Sometimes a coarse wooden fender protects the floor; more usually there is none. A rough wooden plank serves as chimney-piece, but this betokens no desire on the part of the architect to dissipate his resources in unnecessary decoration. Frequently it is adorned with tins, packets and bottles from the traveller’s stores, which give the room a cheerful and homely appearance. If a road Saheb who was new to his profession had built the bungalow, it lacked shelves and pegs—pots,









bestowed on the floor till the next march began, and a very sorry jumble it made. However only one or two were so ill-provided as this. The planking of the floor was usually exceeding rough; the modern mind, almost bred by machinery, hardly ever thinks of such a degree of roughness. Occasionally the floor was mud, and then it was covered with a coarse cotton dhurri. The woodwork of the doors, windows, roof, the deal table, the rough charpoy, all matched the floor. Occasionally there were no door or window curtains, and it was a regular part of my servant’s work at night to drape the windows and doors with my waterproof, rugs, and so forth. When a dressing-room was provided, it generally contained nothing. For three weeks I never saw a looking-glass nor a hand basin, except when the chaukidar lent us a brass one. One of the many lessons I learned was that I should have taken these things with me. Plain as the road-bungalow usually is, and _ plainly furnished, yet it is a palatial residence compared with the surrounding huts and hovels. The natives look upon it as such; after a fortnight, when I had insensibly lowered the standard of comfort, I was entirely of their opinion. The difference in our dwellings was typical of the unnumbered steps that separate our civilisation from theirs. ... Dak and road-bungalow life grew to be very wearisome: unpacking everything you possess at two o’clock in the afternoon

106 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

and re-packing it all by seven or eight in the morning becomes most hateful work. To arrive every day at a bungalow where you

are not expected and only wanted from the buckshish point of

view, to have to point out every day to a careless chaukidar the

dirty state of that bungalow, to insist on it being cleaned, and inspect the operation, it all grew to be very harassing. Then the visit of the lambardar and bunniah. ‘Bring milk, butter, eggs, a fowl.’ Always the same fight over skim and watered milk, rancid

butter, rotten eggs, fleshless poultry, if any at all. For the first three the Saheb holds a remedy, he carries a walking-stick, and with it in

hand he insists on a fair article for a fair price. Iknow some people make a considerable outcry against treating the natives differently from what we treat people of our own nation, and I deprecate the cane when any other sort of redress can be obtained. But in a remote village, far from any court or judge, how are you to deal with persons whose notions of trade are founded on cheating? To boycott them is quite useless. Indeed headmen of villages are bound to supply at a fixed price whatever supplies a village can afford, and also to furnish coolies to pass travellers on from one stage to another. (71-6)

The Dak Bungalow Menu: ‘Roast, boil or curry’ Khansamah ji always appeared and went through the farce of asking what I would have for dinner. Usually I said I would take roast

beef, mutton,



etc., knowing



before the man spoke that he would have none of these things. The end of the matter was one I had long foreseen: a small, tough, fleshless, flavourless, Indian chicken, resembling an English one

mainly in being also a feathered biped. The matter thus simplified resolved itself into a question of roast, boil or curry. With the most simple fire and cooking utensils, I discussed chicken broth, chicken curry, or chicken roast, jam fritters or some such dainty, and perhaps English cheese and biscuits if an exacting Saheb had recently passed that way. (96)

* The suffix ji denotes respect; here used ironically.

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The dress of the hill coolies is always wool, home spun and often raggy. Sometimes the wearer darns his rags, often they hang down in picturesque tatters, reminding one of the shaggy costume of Robinson Crusoe. It is said, and I found no difficulty in believing it, that a hillman never had his garments washed by any chance.

They are hardly ever dyed, being the colour of natural wool. Faces I was informed are washed perhaps twice a year, the rest of the body never. ‘Why don’t you wash yourself, Goompat?’ ‘Saheb’, was the answer, ‘water is very far from my house.’ (79) Strange to say the hill folk are not nearly so frightened at the sight of a white face as are those of the plains; they seemed trustful and disposed to believe in English amiability. Even the children were not alarmed beyond measure when spoken to. At a village near Dehlie, I remember speaking to a handsome little dark boy and patting his olive cheek. The scream of terror with which he responded made me wonder if the natives depict the white to their children. The fact that they feel at home in our society has a bad side: they chatter unceasingly and this becomes wearisome to the listener who cannot understand their babble. A philosopher has remarked that he knows of no one attribute or quality distinctive of sex; certainly courage, physical or mental, is not so. Some, not distinguished by the philosophic temperament it is true, have been heard to single out talkativeness as an almost purely feminine characteristic. A day amongst the hill coolies would probably convince such persons that their inference is drawn from insufficient data, The stream of incessant talk which coolies will pour forth when toiling uphill heavily laden, panting and almost

sobbing for breath, speaks to a surprising amount of lung power. Nor is this devotion to conversation confined to the hillmen. ... Like small boys my coolies varied their conversation with much giggling. To get out of step, sit violently on the ground when mud made the path slippery, to change the dandi pole, which often creates a painful swelling on the shoulder, on the outer edge of the precipice, causing great alarm to the occupant, or worse still to bump the dandi against the solid rock thereby endangering the

108 e Memsahibs Abroad

lives of five persons, any of these mishaps would amuse a coolie and make him laugh violently for ten minutes. Words always forsook me


the last mentioned



but I

retained enough presence of mind to rebuke the malefactor with my umbrella, so that there might be no mistake on the part of the most stupid. ... I found that the coolies, though they would hardly ever touch my food, unless it were fruit, had an inordinate liking for my old tins, bottles, empty boxes, or buttons. Resting one afternoon in the verandah at Rampoor bungalow, a coolie returned from the city where I had sent him on an errand. I paid him his day’s wage but he remained eagerly looking in at the door and muttering some words of which I only caught chhota botell [little bottle’]. “You want that little bottle?’ I said, as my eyes fell on the object of his desire. He most certainly did and his eyes glistened on receiving it. Then with hands upraised in a beseeching attitude he mentioned that he had three children and that his little girl would be ill pleased if her brother had a bottle and she had none. Feeling that this was a wrong I could and should avert from one of my own sex, I rose and emptied a bottle on purpose, placing it in the coolie’s hands. He went through the same gesticulation and entreaty for a bottle for the third child, but I had to decline, and when I last saw his swarthy face, it was turned on both the bottles

with a glance of fond affection. (84-90)

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming For the Price of a Bottle of Beer The pay of each coolie is sixpence per diem; in other words eight men will work all day to earn the same sum as an Englishman pays for one great bottle of beer—for the bottle which at Calcutta costs you one rupee, has just doubled in price ere it reaches Simla—not that the consumption of Bass or Allsopp is thereby one whit diminished! The notion of paying a man sixpence for his day’s labour strikes the new-comer as being decidedly mean, as, of course, he has to feed himself and his family. It is, however, the

Travel e 109

regular wage of the country, and the poor creatures not only contrive to, exist on it, but even lay aside a fraction as an offering for their gods. The only objection of the hill-men to act as coolies is that they are often obliged to neglect their own fields just when their presence is most required. Their attendance is, however, compulsory; that is to say, the headman of each village is obliged to furnish any reasonable number required by travellers. Our regiment of thirty was about the minimum with which it is possible for a party to travel. (324)

Emma Roberts

Revenge of the Coolies In most cases where complaints are made of the bearers, the fault, upon investigation, will be found to lie with the traveller. Raw young men, and sometimes even those who have not the excuse of youth and inexperience, are but too apt to amuse themselves by playing tricks with, or beating, their luckless bearers, who are not unfrequently treated like beasts of burthen. They have it in their power to retaliate, and when provoked to excess, punish the offender, by putting the palanquin down, and making off to the jungles. A three or four hours’ detention upon the road, perhaps under a burning sun, is the consequence, and it would require a very vivid imagination to conceive a more disagreeable situation, especially to a person wholly unacquainted with the country, and the means of procuring a new set of bearers to carry him on. The chance of falling in with a European is very small indeed, and few of the passers-by would consider it to be their duty to offer their assistance. Natives do not trouble themselves about the affairs of strangers, and they would consider it to be the will of heaven that a Sahib should lie upon the road, and would not think of interfering unless especially called upon to do so. As there is only one particular caste who will carry burthens upon their shoulders, the palanquin would remain in a quiescent state for ever, before men

who were not bearers by birth and profession would lift it from the ground: they would ejaculate upon being hailed, and pass on,

110 © Memsahibs Abroad

confining their services to the report of the affair to the cutwal or jemadar of a neighbouring village, who would send bearers if they could be procured, which is not always the case under several hours’ notice. (1: 210-11)

Mary Carpenter The Railway: ‘An excellent training’ Habits of punctuality and attention to duty are also taught, both directly and indirectly, by the railway. At first, passengers were constantly too late, or arrived just as the train was starting, and being thus unable to take their tickets, had the mortification of seeing it go off without them. Persons of consequence were at first very indignant on the occasion, but soon learnt that they, too, must submit to the inexorable law of railroads, which, like time and tide,

wait for no man. The railway officials, who are chiefly natives, are here obtaining unconsciously an excellent training, of more value to them than any pecuniary recompense. While, then, we were frequently annoyed by many inconveniences and discomforts on this journey, we could not but feel that under the circumstances the Indian raliways are very wonderful, and show the possibility of improving even the inferior portions of the native races, under judicious government and proper training. (1: 29-30)

E. Augusta King ‘A good deal of mischief’ It is said that a good deal of mischief fashionable visitors who now flock to India delighted and flattered by the novelty courtesy, and often servility, and to whom

is being done by the in the cold season, are of native hospitality, the English officials are

of course in no way either novel or interesting, and who then return home and spread the idea that the English in India require snubbing and the trusty natives exalting. It may be so but these passing visitors are not in a position to be good judges. A visitor

Travel @ 111

can only see things very superficially, he is wholly irresponsible, and he finds it pleasant to pose as a kind of champion, and be lavishly gracious to the natives and studiously cold to his fellowcountrymen. If his life were cast, as theirs is, among these same natives, he would find this enthusiasm and novelty wear off. He would find that a gulf was fixed between him and men who, however long their acquaintance, would never admit him into their home life, would consider their wives and daughters insulted if he so much as alluded to them, would sooner die than eat at his table,

and who in their inmost heart would not sorrow if every Christian were driven into the sea. (1: 47)

Emma Roberts Travelling Ladies After a tedious sojourn in the jungles, an invitation to spend the season at a large station induced the writer and another lady to make an attempt to cross the country in the midst of the rains, escorted only by servants, and a guard of sepoys. We took twelve camels with us, and loaded them lightly with a couple of tents, it being necessary to make their burthens as little oppressive as possible. In order to guard against the uncomfortableness of sitting on damp earth, we had a wooden platform constructed, raised two

inches from the ground, which our dobee afterwards secured for an ironing-board, and we took care to be well supplied with setringees and small mats. Our train consisted of a khansamah, who had the direction of the whole journey, three khidmuighars, a sirdar-bearer, the tailor, the washerman, the water-carrier, the cook and mussaulchees, twelve bearers for each palanquin, and claishees (tent-

pitchers), banghie-bearers and coolies almost innumerable. Our two female attendants travelled in a hackery, with a favourite Persian cat, which seemed to be the most discomposed of the whole party by the journey. Our cortége preceded us by a day, and were directed to push on to a place about six-and-twenty miles distant. We followed before day-break the next morning, and, though many parts of the country were flooded, and our progress was necessarily slow, reached our little encampment before one in the

112 e Memsahibs Abroad

day, having had no rain, and experiencing only trifling inconvenience from the heat. ... During the whole of this journey, we were strongly impressed with a feeling of gratitude and good-will towards the natives of India, who, upon

an anxious

all occasions, manifested

desire to

assure us of their respect and attachment. The highly civilized state of the country, and the courteous manners

of all classes of the

people, render travelling both easy and agreeable to those persons who are contented with the performance of possibilities, and who are not inclined to purchase an ill name by acts of tyranny and oppression. (1: 156-7; 163)

Isabel Savory ‘Time has changed the Mem-sahib, too. ...’ It is unkindly said that the gentler sex are shipped across to the East, provided with costly trousseaux, for the mere purpose of meeting gallant captains and prosperous chief commissioners, noble Benedicts who for many years have run the gauntlet of the pick of the very limited ladies’ society up country, coming unscathed out of the fire, and are only destined now to fall before

the latest coiffure from home. I am afraid this old wives’ tale no longer holds water, and that the palmy days for the women have followed in the wake of other ‘good old days’. It is so easy to run home on three months’ leave—every


England—every pass that there cannot pose as familiarity and Sheffield plate. But time has


it; it is so

easy to run



wife and every sister does it; and thus it comes to is nothing new under the sun; that matrimony an unknown and intoxicating Paradise; in short, close inspection betray the copper through the changed the Mem-sahib, too ... suffice it to say that

there are, every year, women who come out, and who travel over

the globe, with the object of seeing other sides of that interesting individual, man, other corners of the world, other occupations, and

other sports—women, in short, who will enjoy a little discomfort for the sake of experience.

Travel ¢ 113

To rove about in gipsy fashion, meeting with trifling adventures from time to time, is a complete change for an ordinary English girl; and it is very easy to find every scope for developing selfcontrol and energy in many a ‘tight corner’ if such occasions are sought for. Englishmen are supposed to possess an insatiable desire for slaying something; a healthily minded woman has invariably a craving to do something. She is fortunate if she satisfies it. (201-2) -

Fanny Parks

‘Roaming about one might be happy for ever in India’ How much there is to delight the eye in this bright, this beautiful world! Roaming about with a good tent and a good Arab, one

might be happy for ever in India: a man might possibly enjoy this sort of life more than a woman; he has his dog, his gun, and his beaters, with an open country to shoot over, and is not annoyed with—T'll thank you for your name, Sir.’ I have a pencil instead of a gun, and believe it affords me he oN equal if not greater than the sportsman derives from his Manton.” (2: 191)


And now the pilgrim resigns her staff and plucks the scallop-shell from her hat,—her wanderings are ended—she has quitted the East, perhaps native land

for ever:—surrounded

by the curiosities,

in the quiet home

the monsters,


of her

the idols that

accompanied her from India, she looks around and dreams of the days that are gone. The resources she finds in her recollections, the pleasure she derives from her sketches, and the sad sea waves,’ her constant companions, form for her a life independent of her own life. ‘The narration of pleasure is better than the pleasure itself”.” (2:496) * Joseph Manton (1766-1835) was a famous gunmaker in London. * Written at St. Leonard’s-on-Sea (author’s note). ” Oriental Proverbs, No. 144 (author’s note).

Encounters with ‘Natives’

What is remarkable about most women travellers’ accounts is the fact that the only Indians they have close dealings with are servants. This is increasingly the case as the century progresses and the policy of racial segregation becomes more and more stringent. Constance Gordon Cumming, a famous globe-trotter in the later part of the century, for instance, is vocal in her disapproval of the racism towards Indians of which she is a witness. But she herself never describes an encounter with an Indian—apart from coolies. The most famous exception to this rule is, of course, Emily Eden, who accompanied her bachelor brother on his political good-will tour up country and acted as his hostess. Her letters abound in social encounters with Indian princes—the most notable being Ranjeet Singh, the ‘Lion of the Sikhs’, whom she views with a certain amused respect.’ Reading her text transports one into the glamorous world of high politics and Oriental pomp: most of the figures she so frivolously mentions are the stuff that British India was made of at the time—their biographies would fill several history books. Eden retains an ironical detachment from all the politics surrounding her, and her mordant wit debunks imperial myths. A few samples are given below: in the passage where Eden abruptly shifts gears to fantasize about a black governor-general (and his sister) taking their place at some point in the future, tenets of imperial ideology such as the racial superiority of the British are parodied. In another justly famous passage, Eden shifts the focus from colonial society to the viewpoint of the surrounding natives. ' Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) disintegrated after his death.


a powerful




Encounters with ‘Natives’ @ 115

The colonial presence appears not only slightly absurd but simply irrelevant. Against Eden’s text others pall. However, there is an interesting reflection

on the ‘inscrutable

Hinduw’ by Marianne



Flora Annie Steel gives us Aer version of how to deal with natives: her hero is General Nicholson, who gained fame for quelling the Mutiny by means of violent reprisals. Anne Wilson describes an unusual encounter in her meeting with an Indian poet at a time when social contacts between Indian men and English women had virtually dwindled to a standstill. Accordingly, her text is suffused with a sense of repressed excitement. A more typical description is Emma Roberts’ caricature of Eurasians, the laughing-stock of British society (said to retain all the vices and none of the virtues of either race). Where this group originally came from is usually conveniently passed over in silence. This is what makes the incident Lady Falkland describes during a visit to an orphange for Eurasian children so remarkable. Uncannily the | tle foundling hits upon the historical truth when he focuses on an Englishman as his father. Apart from Eurasians, the educated native was a further object of ridicule in colonial eyes. A typical comment on educated natives is how they get it all wrong in their efforts at mimicry, as the excerpt from Lady Falkland’s text shows, where the indiscriminate jumble of European artifacts in a native living-room is derided. Constance Gordon Cumming for once turns the tables by showing how British taste might not stand the test in native eyes, either. Another common target of colonial derision is the stilted English spoken by natives. Once again, it is Lady Wilson who shows an awareness of the fact that the execrable Urdu spoken by the British in India might sound just as strange to Indian ears. A reverberation of future encounters with natives is audible in Wilson’s description of an ominous train journey on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the Indian Mutiny: the next century was to be marked above all by the struggle for Indian independence from

British rule.

116 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

Emily Eden A Black Governor-General

This is a great place for ruins, and was supposed to be the largest town in India in the olden time, and the most magnificent. There are some good ruins for sketching remaining, and that is all. An odd world certainly! Perhaps two thousand years hence, when the art of steam has been forgotten, and nobody can exactly make out the meaning

of the old English word


of England


will be marching





southern provinces, and will go and look at some ruins, and doubt whether London ever was a large town, and will feed some whitelooking skeletons, and say what distress the poor creatures must be in; they will really eat rice and curry; and his sister will write to her

Mary D. at New Delhi, and complain of the cold, and explain to her with great care what snow is, and how the natives wear bonnets, and then, of course, mention that she wants to go home.


Visit to a Rajah

Yesterday we had a grand expedition, which I am going to give you and the children, once and for all, at great length, and then you will for the future take it for granted that all native fétes are much alike. The Rajah of Benares asked us to come to his country-house, called Ramnugger (how it is spelt, I cannot say; probably with none of those letters). It is on the other side of the Ganges. We drove down to the river-side through a dense cloud of dust. I asked one of our servants to dust me gently with my pockethandkerchief, and without any exaggeration a thick cloud came out of my cape. Mrs. C.’s black bonnet was of a light brown colour. We found the rajah’s boats waiting for us—a silver armchair and footstool for his lordship in the prow, which was decorated with silvered peacocks, and a sort of red embroidered tent for ‘his

women’, where we placed ourselves, though there was another boat

Encounters with ‘Natives’ ¢ 117

with two inferior silver chairs for F. [her sister Fanny] and me. All these things are grandly imagined, but with the silver chairs there are boatmen in dirty liveries or no liveries at all!—and it is all discrepant, or generally so. This rajah is immensely rich; he had a great many handsome

things. I enclose a sketch to illustrate for the children ‘their dear devoted



[her brother


first in the silver

tonjaun that took him up from the ghaut, and then a back view of him on his elephant. I often wonder whether it really can be G., the original simple, quiet one. He does it very well, but detests great part of the ceremonies, particularly embracing the rajahs! The rajah met us at the ghaut, and we were all carried off to the

elephants, and got on them to go and see his garden, though it was

nearly dusk. But the first sight was very striking. Eighteen elephants and crowds of attendants, and then crowds as far as we could see of natives, going on ‘Wah! wah! Hi Lord

Sahib.” We rode about till it was quite dark, and then the rajah proposed we should return; and when we came to the turn of the road, the whole of the village and his castle, which is an enormous building, was illuminated. Wherever there was a straight line, or a window, or an arch, there was a row of little bright lamps; every cross of the lattices in every window had its little lamp. It was the largest illumination I ever saw. We went on the elephants through the great gateway, in a Timour the Tartar fashion, into the court. Such










melodrama magnified by a solar microscope; it was the sort of scene where Ellen Tree” would have snatched up a doll from under Farley’s sword, and said, ‘My boy, my boy, my rescued Agib!’ or words to that effect, while the curtain fell slowly. We got off at the door of an immense hall, a sort of court, and the rajah’s servants spread a path of scarlet and gold kincob from the door to the seat at the farthest end, for us to walk on. Considering that it is a pound a yard, and that I have been bargaining for a week for enough for a wadded douillette and was beat out of it, it was a pity to trample on. ... The rajah put us three on a velvet sofa, with a gold gauze carpet before it. He sat on one side of us and his father * Ellen Tree (1805-88), well-known actress.

118 e Memsahibs Abroad on the other, and Mr B.. and Mr C.‘ on each side to interpret, and

then the aides-de-camp and the other ladies; and then the nautchgirls began dancing. He had provided an immense troop of them, and they were covered with jewels and dressed in gold brocades, some purple and some red, with long floating scarfs of gold gauze. Most of them ugly, but one was I think the prettiest creature I ever saw, and the most graceful. If I have time I will send a little coloured sketch of her, just to show the effect of her dress. She and

another girl danced slowly round with their full draperies floating round them, without stopping, for a quarter of an hour, during all which time they were making flowers out of some coloured scarfs they wore, and when they had finished a bunch they came and presented it to us with such graceful Eastern genuflexions. The whole thing was like a dream, it was so curious and unnatural. Then the Ranee sent for us, and F. and I set off in tonjauns for the women’s apartments, with the ladies who were with us. They carried us through a great many courts, and then the rajah gave me his cold, flabby little hand, and handed us up some narrow, dirty stairs, and came in with us behind the purdah and introduced us to the Ranee his mother, who was very splendidly dressed, and

to some of his sisters, who were ugly. Then they asked us to go and see an old grandmother, and the Ranee laid hold of my hand, and one of the sisters took F., and they led us along an immense

court on the roof, to the old lady, who is blind and very ill; but they had dressed her up for us, and we had to kiss her, which was not very nice. There was another immense nautch provided, which we had not time to look at. We gave our rings, and they brought the trays of presents which are usually given, a diamond ring and drops for earrings, two nécklaces (very trashy), some beautiful shawls and kincobs,

and some

muslin; then they put immense

skipping-ropes of silver braid, bigger than a common boa, round

* Emily Eden uses initials for all the members of her brother’s entourage and pokes fun at their sense of self-importance. In the following I draw on the invaluable notes by Edward Thomson in the 1930 edition of the letters. B. refers to Sir William MacNaghten (1793-1841), British Envoy at the Kabul Court from 1838 until his murder in 1841. i Henry Whitelock Torrens (1806-52), Bengal Civil Service.

Encounters with ‘Natives’ « 119

our necks, and small ones on the other ladies, and then poured attar of roses on our hands, and we left the old lady. When we came back to the Ranee’s room, she showed us her little chapel, close to her sofa, where there were quantities of horrid-looking idols—Vishnu, and so on. Several native girls were introduced to us, but only one who was pretty, and who has just been betrothed to the father of the rajah. The young Ranees, or whatever they are called, are very shy, and stand with their eyes closed, but the older ones had great fun when we were going away in pouring the attar over our gowns, and utterly spoiled mine, which was silk; next time I shall go in muslin. When we came down, the trays for G. were brought in; they covered what would be called a very large room,

and some

of the gold stuffs have turned

out to be very

beautiful. It is a.stupid etiquette, that we are not to appear to see these presents. It is a tribute, and the superior is too grand to see what the inferior offers. When

that was done, we went to the

illumination, which was done on a very large scale, but not so neatly as at home; then to the boat, where the rajah accompanied us, and there was a second illumination on the river, much more

beautiful than the first—and the blue lights, and the crowds, and the great pile of buildings made a grand show. We got back at eleven, very tired and starving hungry, but it was a curious sight and much to be remembered. There! now you have borne all that so well, you shall not have any more of it, though probably we shall have more than enough. (26-30)

Ranjeet Singh: ‘He looked exactly like an old mouse’ Yesterday was the day of the great meeting. All the ladies (only ten with the whole army) came to breakfast at half-past seven, and so did ‘the great Panjandrum himself’. I have not been to any meal, and have hardly seen anybody, for the last three weeks, so I did not join them till it was nearly time for Runjeet to arrive; when he was at the end of the street, G. and

all the gentlemen went on their elephants to meet him. There



a number

of elephants,

that the clash at

meeting was very great, and very destructive to the howdahs and

hangings. G. handed the Maharajah into the first large tent, where

120 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

we were all waiting; but the Sikhs are very unmanageable, and they rushed in on all sides, and the European officers were rather worse, so that the tent was full in a moment, and as the light only comes in from the bottom, the crowd made it perfectly dark, and

the old man down



for a few minutes


and bothered.


the sofa between

he sat

G. and me,


recovered. He looked exactly like an old mouse, with grey whiskers and one eye. When they got into the inner tent, which was to have been quite private, the English officers were just like so many bears; put aside all the sentries, absolutely refused to listen to the aides-de-camp, and filled the room; so then, finding it must be

public, G. sent us word we might all come there, and we had a good view of it all. Runjeet had no jewels on whatever, nothing but the commonest red

silk dress.






at first, which


considered an unusual circumstance; but he very soon contrived to slip one

off, that



sit with






comfortably. B. was much occupied in contriving to edge one foot of his chair on to the carpet, in which he at last succeeded. Next to him sat Heera Singh, a very handsome boy, who is Runjeet’s favourite, and was loaded with emeralds and pearls. Dhian Singh his father is prime minister, and uncommonly goodlooking: he was dressed in yellow satin, with a quantity of chain armour and steel cuirass. All their costumes were very picturesque. There were a little boy and girl about four and five years old, children of some of Runjeet’s sirdars who were killed in battle, and he always has these children with him, and has married them to each other. They were crawling about the floor, and running in

and out between Runjeet and G., and at one time the little boy had got his arm twisted round G.’s leg. I sent to ask B. for two of the common

pearl necklaces that are given as khelwuts, and sent

them with a private note round to G., who gave them to the children, which delighted the old mouse. After half an hour’s talk, Sir W.C.,° with some of our gentlemen,



the room




° Sir Willoughby Cotton (1783-1860), army commander.

of the



Encounters with ‘Natives’ ¢ 121



Maharajah Ranjit Singh



122 © Memsahibs Abroad

a green and gold cushion; all the English got up, and a salute of twenty-one guns was fired. Runjeet took it up in his hands, though

it was a great weight, and examined it for at least five minutes, with his one piercing eye, and asked B. for an explanation of the orb and sceptre, and whether the dress were

correct, and if it were

really like; and then said it was the most gratifying present he could have received, and that on his return to his camp, the picture would be hung in front of his tent, and a royal salute fired. When all the other presents had been given that could come in trays, 200 shells (not fish, but gunpowder shells) were presented to the Maharajah, and two magnificent howitzers, that had been cast

on purpose for him (as I think I told you), which seemed to please him; and outside, there was an elephant with gold trappings, and

seven horses equally bedizened. His strongest passion is still for horses: one of these hit his fancy, and he quite forgot all his state, and ran out in the sun to feel its legs and examine it. Webb (the coachman) went down in the afternoon to take the Mizzur horses to Runjeet, and gave us such an amusing account of his interview. He talks a sort of half-Yorkshire, half-Indian dialect.

‘Why, you see, my lord, I had a long job of it. The old man was a-saying of his prayers, and all the time he was praying, he was alooking after my horses. At last he gets up, and I was tired of waiting in all that sun. But law! Miss Eden, then comes that picture you've been a-painting of; and then the old man sends for his sirdar and they all go down on their knees, a matter of sixty of them, and first one has a look and then the other, and Runjeet he asked me such a many questions, I wished the picture further. He talked about it for an hour and a half, and I telled him I never

seed the Queen. How should I? I have been here with two Governor-Generals, and twelve years in India above that. So then he says, says he, “which Governor-General do you like best?” And I says, “Why, Maharajah, I haint much fault to find with neither of them.” So then we had out the horses, and there the old man was

arunning about looking at ‘em, more like a coolie than a king. I never see a man so pleased, and he made me ride ‘em. So, when I had been there four hours a’most, all in the sun, he give me this

pair of gold bracelets and this pair of shawls; and he says, says he, “Go and show yourself to the Lord Sahib, just as you are: mind

Encounters with ‘Natives’ e 123

you don’t take them off.” But law! I did not like to come such a figure, so here they are!’ B. was standing by, so I had the presence of mind to say, ‘Of

course Lord A. should let Webb keep those’; and he said directly, that for any actual service done, it was only payment, and they would hardly pay Webb for all the trouble he had with the young horses. So Webb

went off very happy, and I suppose when we

return to Calcutta Mrs Webb will be equally so. (198-201)

A Féte for Ranjeet: Talking Friendship We had prepared our féte at the end of the street—a large compound enclosed on three sides with a large tent for us, and a small one for Runjeet filling up the fourth side, guards all round to prevent anybody who had not an invitation from going in. The large tent opened into a long shemiana—I hardly know how to explain that, but it is, in fact, a tent without sides, merely a roof

supported by pillars; this looked out into the compound, which was laid out like a flower garden, only instead of flowers there were little lamps laid out, as thickly as they could be placed, in the shape of flower borders. On the ground alone, P.° said, there were

42,000 lamps, and the garden was railed in by an espalier of lamps. It was really very pretty and odd. G. and Runjeet had their great chairs in the centre, with B. on the other side of G., F. next to B.,

then Sir G.R.’ and a long row of ladies. I sat by the side of Runjeet, and next to me Kurruck Singh, his son, and then another

long row of his sirdars. The instant Runjeet sat down, three or four of his attendants came

and knelt down

before him—one,

the Fakeer Uzeez-ood-

deen, who is his interpreter and adviser and the comfort of his life. We all ought to have Uzeez-ood-deens of our own, if we wish to be really comfortable. The others arranged his gold bottle and glass, and plates of fruit, and he began drinking that horrible spirit,

which he pours down like water. He insisted on my just touching it, as I had not been of his party on Saturday, and one drop g Captain Ponsonby, A.D.C.

” Sir Henry Fane (1778-1840), Commander-in-Chief from 1835 to 1839.

124 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

actually burnt the outside of my lips. I could not possibly swallow it. Those two little brats, in new dresses, were crawling about the floor, and he poured some of his fire down their throats. We had two bands to play; and when the fireworks were over, a large

collection of nautch-girls came in front of Runjeet, and danced and sang apparently much to his satisfaction. They were a very ugly set from Loodheeana. I could not help thinking how eastern we had become, everybody declaring it was one of the best-managed and pleasantest parties they had seen. All these satraps in a row, and those screaming girls and crowds of long-bearded attendants, and

the old tyrant drinking in the middle—but still we all said: “What a charming party!’ just as we should have said formerly at Lady C.’s or Lady J.’s. I could not talk with any great ease, being on the blind side of Runjeet, who converses chiefly with his one eye and a few signs which his fakeer makes up into a long speech; and Kurruck Singh was apparently an idiot. Luckily, beyond him was Heera Singh, who has learnt a little English, and has a good idea of making topics, and when C. came and established himself behind the sofa I got on very well with Runjeet. After the conversation had lasted nearly an hour, there was, I suppose, a little pause between G. and him, for he turned round

and said something which C. translated in his literal way, “The

Maharajah wishes your lordship would talk a little more friendship to him.’ G. solemnly declared he had talked an immense deal of friendship, but, of course, he began again. Another of Runjeet’s topics was his constant praise of drinking, and he said he understood that there were books which contained objections to drunkenness, and he thought it better that there should be no books at all, than that they should contain such foolish notions. He is a very drunken old profligate, neither more nor less. Still he has made himself a great king; he has conquered a great many powerful enemies; he is remarkably just in his government; he has disciplined a large army; he hardly ever takes away life, which is wonderful in a despot; and he is excessively beloved by his people. I certainly should not guess any part of this from looking at him. (207-9) I had only time to tell you of our arrival at Umnritzir on Wednesday, and not of the show, which was really surprising. F.

Encounters with ‘Natives’ ¢ 125

and I came on in the carriage earlier than the others, which was a great advantage; for the dust of fifty or sixty elephants does not subside in a hurry, and they spoil the whole spectacle. We met the old man going to fetch G. That is one of the ceremonies, naturally tiresome, to which we have become quite used, and which, in fact,

I shall expect from you, when we go home. If the Maharajah asks G. to any sight, or even to a common visit, G. cannot stir from his tent, if he starves there, till an ‘istackball’, or embassy, comes to

fetch him. So this morning we were all dressed by candle-light, and half the tents were pulled down and all the chairs but two gone, while G. was waiting for Kurruck Singh to come seven miles to fetch




Singh was


till the


General’s agent came to fetch him, and then the Maharajah was waiting till they were half-way, that he might fetch them all. Then, the instant they meet, G. nimbly steps into Runjeet’s howdah, and they embrace French fashion, and then the whole procession mingles, and all this takes place every day now. If the invitation comes from our side, B. and the aides-de-camp act Kurruck Singh, and have to go backwards and forwards fifteen miles on their elephants. So now, if ever we are living in St. John’s Wood, and you ask me to dinner in Grosvenor Place, I shall first send Giles down to your house to say I am ready; and you must send R., as your


to fetch me,

yourself, somewhere


I shall expect

near Connaught

to meet


Place, and then we will

embrace and drive on, and go hand-in-hand in to dinner, and sit

next to each other. If I have anything to say (which is very doubtful, for I have grown rather like the Hinda Rao’), I will mention it to Giles, who will repeat it to Gooby, who will tell you,

and you will wink your eye and stroke your hair, and in about ten minutes you will give me an answer through the same channels. Now you understand. (212-13)

* Hindu Rao was a Maratha prince with a claim to the throne of the state of Gwalior. His claim was not admitted; instead, he was settled in Delhi with a large pension. Eden describes him as ‘not quite an idiot, but something like it,

and in appearance like a plump feather-bed’ (212).

126 © Memsahibs Abroad

Ranjeet’s Féte: A Surfeit of Diamonds In the evening we went to a garden half a mile off, where Runjeet is living, and where he was going to give us an evening féte. He had had the house actually built on purpose, and it was beautifully painted in an arabesque fashion, with small pieces of looking-glass let in, in various patterns. The walks of the garden were all lined with those splendid soldiers. I whispered to Major E., who was sitting on the other side of me, to ask if it would be wrong to step out of the house to look at

these gorgeous people, as I had missed all the other opportunities of seeing them, and the old Maharajah did not wait to have the question explained—he delights to show off his soldiers. He jumped up, and took hold of my hand, and ambled out into the garden, and then made all ihe guards march by, and commented

on their dresses, and he looked so fond of the old grey-bearded officers. When we _ had sufficiently admired the golden men, we all ambled back to our silver chairs, and

the drinking and nautching _—_began. Nothing can be more tiresome! But he asked some very amusing questions of G., which

I believe

C. softened in the translation. If he had a wife? And when satisfied



how many children he had? Then he asked why he had no wife? G. said that

Raja Heera Singh f





Encounters with ‘Natives’ ¢ 127 allowed in England, and if she turned out a bad one, he could not

easily get rid of her. Runjeet said that was a bad custom; that the Sikhs were allowed twenty-five wives, and they did not dare to be bad, because he could beat them if they were. G. replied that was

an excellent custom, and he would try to introduce it when he got home. Then Runjeet asked if there was anybody present who

could drink wine as well as Sir W.C., and I said, for fun, ‘Mr A.”

could’; upon which there was a general cry for Mr A., and poor Mr A. was accommodated with a chair in front of all the circle,

and Runjeet began plying him with glasses of that fiery spirit he drinks himself. Mr A. is at present living strictly on toast and water! However, he contrived to empty the glass on the carpet occasionally. That carpet must have presented a horrible scene when we went. I know that under my own chair I deposited two

broiled quails, an apple, a pear, a great lump of sweetmeat, and some pomegranate seeds, which Runjeet gave me with his dirty fingers into my hand, which, of course, became equally dirty at last. F. and I came away before the others. He gave me the presents which were due, as I had never been at one of his parties before. They were very handsome; the best row of pearls we have had in this journey, with a very good emerald between every ten pearls; a magnificent pair of emerald bracelets, and a shabby little ring. ... I believe now in the story our governess used to tell us, of grocers’ apprentices who, in the first week of their apprenticeship, were allowed to eat barley-sugar and raisins to such an amount that they never again wished to touch them. We thought that a myth; but I have latterly had such a surfeit of emeralds, pearls, and diamonds, that I have quite lost any wish to possess them. (217-20)

Review of Horses The first show of the day was Runjeet’s private stud. I suppose fifty horses were led past us. The first had on its emerald trappings, necklaces arranged on its neck and between its ears, and in front of the saddle two enormous emeralds, nearly two inches square, ” John Russell Colvin (1807-57), Private Secretary to the Governor-General.

128 @ Memsahibs Abroad and carved all over, and set in gold frames, like little looking-

glasses. The crupper was all emeralds, and there were stud-ropes of gold put on something like a martingale. Heera Singh said the whole was valued at 37 lacs (370,000/.); but all these valuations are

fanciful, as nobody knows the worth of these enormous stones; they are never bought or sold. The next horse was simply attired in diamonds and turquoises, another in pearls, and there was one

with trappings of coral and pearl that was very pretty. Their saddlecloths have stones woven into them. It reduces European magnificence to a very low pitch. (227) On the Hillside Twenty years ago no European had ever been here, and there we were, with the band playing the ‘Puritani’ and ‘Masaniello’, and eating salmon from Scotland, and sardines from the Mediterranean, and observing that St Cloup’s [the cook] potage a la Julienne was perhaps better than his other soups, and that some of the ladies’ sleeves were too tight according to the overland fashions for March, &c.; and all this in the face of those high hills, some of which have remained untrodden since the creation, and we, 105 Europeans, being surrounded by at least 3,000 mountaineers, who,

wrapped up in their hill blankets, looked on at what we call our polite amusements, and bowed to the ground if a European came near them. I sometimes wonder they do not cut all our heads off,

and say nothing more about it. (293-4)

Marianne Postans

‘A most perfect and enviable command of countenance’ It is remarkable, to find a people so commonly sedate, as the Hindoos appear in their intercourse with strangers, capable of enjoying such “quips, and cranks, and wanton wiles,’ as mark the celebration of the Hooli. The Hindoo character is highly deserving minute study; for I know no other people who resemble them, or any known principles to which their peculiarities can be referred.

Encounters with ‘Natives’ ¢ 129

The Hindoo has a most perfect and enviable command of countenance: whether in joy or sorrow, he never betrays feelings he may desire to conceal; and the calm and serene appearance of his features, would induce an observer to believe him an apathetic being, whom the ordinary passions of our nature could not assail. Yet, how

superficial is this judgement!

See him in his temples,

joining in some of the wild and startling ceremonies of his idol worship, his eye kindling with enthusiasm, and his form writhing

with excitement before the altars of his gods; see him at his festivals, garlanded with flowers, covered with unguents and perfumes, half mad with mirth, shouting and feasting in these joyous saturnalia; and then wonder, as we must, at the calm eye, and quiet aspect of the Hindoo, in his usual and public bearing. European countenances are observed to retain the impression of highly-excited feeling long after the exciting cause has ceased; and it is by a triumph of practice, which men

of the world well

know the value of, that true expression may be supplied by a feigned one of the moment; but it would be found, even by a master in the art of physiognomical expression, an easier task to

veil one passion, by the semblance of another, than to smooth the features into a cloudless mirror, of mere placidity. The Hindoo possesses this valuable power as the gift of nature, which, while it costs him nothing, is available for both small and great occasions. Often have I been amused to see a servant, who has passed night after night, during the Hooli, in the maddest abandonment to mirth, return to his duty in the morning, with a countenance


sedate and unmoved, as if he had passed the hours in sleep, or in abstract meditation on the attributes of his gods. It is this skilful ease, with which a Hindoo countenance baffles

the closest scrutiny, that renders it so difficult to decide in a criminal case among them; the offender never fails to look so placidly innocent, that the inexperienced judge is often disposed to question the truth of evidence, which militates against the character of any individual, who displays so much concientious selfpossession. (2: 205-7)

130 e Memsahibs Abroad

Flora Annie Steel The Native Desire for Authority It was in my work in the city close to a big military cantonment that I had my first and only experience of insult. A lewd woman, in a street through which I would not have gone had I not been a stranger to the town, cast a bad word at me. Within ten minutes I had her bound over for using language calculated to cause a breach of the peace, in the Indian magistrate’s court hard by. I have very grave doubts as to whether the action taken was legal; but it was singularly effective. I was never disturbed again. This little incident again shows an important truth—the absolute necessity for high-handed dignity in dealing with those who for thousands of years have been accustomed to it. They love it. It appeals to them, they know—or they did know—that authority has to be justified. At any rate I never found, and Heaven knows I was autocratic enough, that my insistence on obedience where I had a right to command ever roused the very slightest antagonism. We were great friends even in the neighbourhood of camps where one meets with the very outcasts of servants and dependants. (133)

‘T know it is unladylike ...’ As this reminds me of the only occasion on which, literally, I had recourse to physical violence, I may as well recount it. On our third visit to Kashmir we had more luggage, being a party of five. At one change of mules a beast was brought up with a terrible wither-gall. My husband refused it in consequence, and the contractor promised another; in fact, took away the mule to bring a better one. As luck would have it we arrived at our destination before the luggage and tents, and I found the very same mule staggering under the heaviest load. I kept my temper, I took out a pocket handkerchief, dipped in salt and water, and I bandaged that mule. After lunch, the men-kind having gone shooting, I went down to see the patient. There was no handkerchief, no bandage, the poor creature was covered with flies. Then my temper gave

Encounters with ‘Natives’ @ 131

way; I sent for the mule man. I seized him by the scruff of the

neck—I was still in my habit with my whip—and I belaboured him with it till I nearly dropped, he shrieking with terror, thinking a female demon had got him, the surrounding coolies and servants, however, saying, Shahbash, mem-sahiba, shahbash'! which,

being interpreted, is “Well done, madam, well done!’ I don’t know if it was, but it was done, and if anyone blames me

for having horse-whipped a man, I don’t blame myself. I confess that I never do get angry without an intense desire to hit, but I know it is unladylike, and I condemn myself, as a rule, to inaction.

(154-5) His Master’s Voice

I remember in Delhi, once, being taken to examine a purdah class in the house of a Nawabin. She was of the late King’s family, and I was prepared, of course, for all sorts of ceremonials. Luckily I knew them, for I had carefully learnt the necessary etiquette. The arched doorway and entrance was, however, to my surprise, full of young rakes—by the look of them—engaged in dicing, cards, and fighting quails. I passed this over, since, at any rate, they did not

leer, or make insulting remarks. But inside, the Nawabin, in a dirty dress, received us chewing and spitting pan in a most unceremonious style, and after a while actually had the cheek to tell a woman, whose look betrayed her sweeper caste, to sit down beside

me and read her lesson. Then I rose and employing every highfalutin’ Persian phrase I knew thus addressed the mission lady—not the Nawabin: ‘Will you kindly inform that person that since I came in she has treated me as she would not dare to treat her youngest sister-in-law (the height of rudeness), and that I take my leave.’

‘Who, who is this mem?” faltered the big lady. Half-an-hour afterwards she, taking two steps on the striped carpet, was calling down the blessing of Heaven on my head, and I taking two steps also, was reciprocating her wishes. We were the best of friends, and what is more there were no young rakes in the

entrance courtyard as we went out!

132 e Memsahibs Abroad

Once outside the ladies were profuse in thanks. The Nawabin had given them much trouble, but they had been afraid to resent her treatment for fear of their mission report suffering by her refusal of admittance. Perhaps my insistence on the value of dignity

and prestige gained support from the fact, of which the ladies informed me next morning, that the Nawadin had sent a servant round with a basket of fruit and flowers in the evening, and a hope

that we were not tired! ‘She never did it before’, they said half ruefully.

I think this story shows indubitably the value of etiquette in dealing with high-class Indians. We all know the story of Mutiny Nicholson” at Jullundhur, the youngest of three generals who were

holding a durbar of native notables to test, if they could, their possible loyalty or disloyalty. How the first of the chiefs came in with his shoes on and two generals said nothing, but Nicholson thundered: ‘Back to the door and take the shoes off you fellows.’ It was enough. The ruler had spoken. (165-7)

Anne Wilson

‘A very remarkable man’ Calcutta, 1904.

Dearest G.,—Calcutta has the good fortune to possess a Bengali writer of plays, who is a very remarkable man. I met him by the merest chance in the course of a round of visits which I paid to Bengali ladies in their zenanas, a genial little Scotch lady, who is

attached to the Scotch Mission College, having asked me to give prizes to the little Hindu girls who are taught in their own homes. The general impression left on one’s mind by our other visits was of whiteness and greenery, of spotless rooms, plants in flower, birds


in their



of idol-chambers,


grotesque brass figures in a row on the planked floor, and benign hostesses

of ample

outline, who



of the bovine

mildness of the cows they worship in their own placid expression. It was pleasant to see the kindly relationship which exists between General John Nicholson (1821-57), hero of the Mutiny, was noted for his violent retributions against native mutineers.

Encounters with ‘Natives’ ¢ 133

them and my cheerful little companion. There was always some history of the different members of the family, which had to be told by our hostess, and a present of fruit or flowers awaiting the family friend. Miss S. was greatiy disappointed that our host was not at home in the last house



as she told me

he was

a most

interesting man, and one of the best-known writers of plays in Bengal. We were taken to his private room, which was almost furnished with books. They lay on the table, sat on the chairs, and crowded the bookcases which lined the walls. There were books of travel, history, biography, poetry, philosophy, science, but above

all numerous specimens of dramatic literature. I was studying their varied titles when my little friend: exclaimed, ‘Ah, here he comes’, and I heard swift steps traversing the corridor, which ran round the central courtyard of the house. Even the steps would have arrested my attention, because an

Indian’s step is usually noiseless, as if he did not lift his foot from the ground. These were rapid, impetuous, resolute. Then our host entered, and I saw he was quite unlike any type of Indian I had ever met. He was tall and slight, with silvery, straight hair, which fell back from his lofty, narrow forehead to his neck. He had a

hooked nose, a sensitive, mobile mouth, and piercing, dark eyes, intent and mournful in their expression. He might have been a lawyer-poet, if you can imagine such a conjunction of opposites, and he reminded me of some portrait of Moliére or Racine, or of a

dramatist belonging to that period. I felt as if I had known him always, and as if we began as old friends. We sat down opposite to each other, and talked for an hour! Yet I can only remember bits of our conversation. It began about his books: then it branched off to his plays. “There are so few subjects with which I can deal’, he said, speaking very quickly and intensely. ‘We are a conquered race. War I cannot deal with. You know our customs and our marriage laws. Love stories are out of the question. Sometimes I like to write a satire.’ He threw back his head and his eyes blazed. ‘I like to show up those creatures of my race, who go to England and forget their own traditions, and come back dressed like foreigners, monkeys,

beef-eating rascals. I like to hold them up to ridicule, their clothes,

134 © Memsahibs Abroad their habits, and all their tomfoolery. But, best of all, I like to write

about our religion. I adore Krishna’, and he bent forward and looked as if he were speaking to a disembodied spirit. I asked him if he really adored him in all his aspects and incarnations, or adored the customs which had become a feature

of his worship, and which could hardly be even discussed? ‘These are human weaknesses, human mistakes.’

‘Yet they came into his life, and are borrowed from that.’ ‘Still I flatter myself, Memsahib, I have the vanity to think, that

our national gods—’ ‘Forgive me for interrupting you, but I would like to know if you really think we can be vain about God, and if you really believe that different nations can have different gods and that such things can be geographical? May we not trust and believe that we have all one God and Father, who loves each one of His children? Why should

we not all love Him too? What has nationality to do with that?’ Then I told him that the old Pundit in the Benares College had said that if the English Raj were here for a hundred years longer, the country would be Christian. ‘If these English are here? Memsahib, may I say something? Do you know what we call your race? We call you the Vaishyas, the merchant class. You are interested in our fields and canals, in material improvements, but in us, in ourselves, in our homes, you

are not interested.’ ‘But you must remember we promised after the Mutiny—and we have kept that promise—that we would never interfere with you in your personal life, or in your racial idiosyncrasies. As long as you kept the law, we promised we would never interfere in your private life, within the four walls of your home.’ ‘I think, Memsahib, that promise has been carried too far.’

‘Well, you and I cannot perhaps alter that. But tell me what you think of what the old Pundit predicted.’ Then he folded his hands, as we fold them in prayer, and said, ‘If you mean by it, not that we should forget our own history, our own race, not that we should dress like monkeys in the hope of becoming like Englishmen, but that we should worship Christ, that great Being about whom I cannot read without tears, then all I can say from my heart is Amen and Amen.’ (315-19)

Encounters with ‘Natives’ @ 135

Emma Roberts Eurasians

Rich Indo-British ladies attire themselves in the latest and newest fashions of London and Paris, greatly to their disadvantage, since the Hindostanee costume is so much more becoming to the dark countenances and pliant figures of Eastern beauties. Those of an inferior class content themselves with habiliments

less in vogue,

caring little about the date of their construction, provided the style be European. At native festivals, the wives of Portuguese drummers, and other functionaries of equal rank, are to be seen amid the crowd, arrayed in gowns of blue satin, or pink crape, fantastically trimmed; white satin slippers on their feet, their hair

full-dressed, and an umbrella carried over their heads by some ragged servant, making altogether an appearance not very unlike that of Maid Marian on May-day. (3: 20)

Amelia Cary Falkland An ‘Amusing incident’ at a School for Half-Caste Orphans As we descended into the hall, a ridiculous incident occurred, and

one of the gentlemen of the party, who had just arrived from England, found himself in a very unforeseen position. A very little child, an inmate of the institution, with large black eyes, a flattish

nose, and a complexion shading off from bistre into yellow ochre clung round his legs; and looking up most imploringly into his face, cried out, ‘Pa-pa! Pa-pa!’ All the efforts of our friend


disentangle himself from the affectionate embraces of the poor little innocent were useless. It only clung closer and cried ‘pa-pa! pa-pa!’ more vehemently. How long the struggle lasted I know not, for I

hastened to escape from a scene which was much too laughable. But the victim having never been in India till within a month previous, had no reason to be annoyed at this small episode in his eastern career. (1: 26)

136 © Memsahibs Abroad

Native Lack of Taste

There were numerous examples of the Hindoo taste for decorating the walls of their dwellings with pictures, and engravings, most frequently of the commonest sort, as they do not know the difference between a Claude and a one-shilling wood-cut. In one instance, the walls were covered with paintings, apparently copied from common English prints. They were on glass, and done in china, so crowded, that the frames touched each other; and were

placed with little or no reference to the subject. Modern kings and heroes, ancient gods and goddesses of Greece or Rome, and Hindoo deities, all being mixed together. (1: 37-8)

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming Native Lack of Taste II The same incongruities are remarkable in the internal arrangements of a native house, of which the family rooms are furnished

only with carpets and cushions, but the show room in which they receive Europeans is generally crammed with heterogeneous foreign articles—perhaps a dozen English clocks of divers pattern, all going, priceless vases and the most trumpery English toys; the cheapest framed prints of French damsels, and of sacred subjects (not cheap to their purchaser, you may be very sure!) Perhaps as a treasure beyond price, an old band organ, and some of the commonest statuettes side by side with exquisite jewelled cups. I am not sure however that a Hindoo gentleman might not be equally astonished to find our rooms decorated with the brooches and anklets of the poorest Indian women, betel plates, brass inkhorns, and beautiful metal plates and bowls—nay, even funny little gods and goddesses surrounded by brazen lamps and bells, and sacrificial vessels intended for use in their temples, rosaries also

and prayer-wheels, and hubble-bubble vases—no longer used for smoking, but filled with roses!—nay, even bathing-slippers of inlaid wood, and ridiculous Indian playthings. (112)

Encounters with ‘Natives’ ¢ 137

Isabel Savory

Samples of Indian English An Englishman in the Civil Service, who was for some years a Commissioner in the Bombay Presidency, has forwarded me some specimens of letters which he received from time to time from | natives, soliciting his favour in various ways. Some idea of the native mind may be formed from them.

Application from office subordinate for promotion. MOST RESPECTED AND BENEVOLENT SIR, As a calf seeks earnestly its Mother when strayed in the Forest, so we seek for you. As Your Honour attain a high position now, I

humbly beg that my case for a promotion be considered, etc., etc.

From my butler, bringing up my heavy kit by sea on my transfer from Ratnagiri to North of Bombay. MY MASTER, I beg to inform that I have just reached to Bombay from Ratnagiri from where I have sailed to a [native boat] on the 29" last, but owing the storm and heavy rains I was obliged to make different ports: your furniture are on good terms, but two Boxes unimportants are little wet, etc., etc.

Petition for an appointment. ... By your graciously extending this humane bounty towards a fallen, crushed and miserable young man, you will bestow on him a marked and substantial boon. Boon which will always be vivid on the tablet of your insignificant servant’s heart, and will fail not of gratitude to elicit constant and unceasing prayers to the Divine majesty for your and family’s longevity and prosperity, until he is a guest of this nether world, etc., etc.

138 e Memsahibs Abroad

Bill offare written out by my butler for a dinner party with translation of the same. BLIF.


Lakes Kroot befour soop.

Lax crott before soup.

Kaleer Mullochdani. Amen soop.

Clear mulligatawny. Almond soup.

ENTRES. Chiken oleef frengee wit musrom. Pigan patees cold

ENTREES. _—Chicken olives fringed with mushrooms. Pigeon patties.

JANT. Rosht gunifool and Sausit.

JOINT. Roast guinea-fowl and sausages.

Motton rost alla Soobi. Hami.

Mutton roast a la Soubise. Ham.



Paregras. Klear sace.

Asparagus. Clear sauce.



Espises Quil.

Spiced quail.

Hort Plampteen nice.

Hot plum-pudding. Nice!

Appal Sufli.

Apple souflée.

Clarat Jaley wi Krim.

Claret jelly with cream.

Chakelet Krim ice.

Chocolate cream ice.


Encounters with ‘Natives’ ¢ 139

Anne Wilson

Further Samples of Indian English From all this you may gather that I don’t find Hindustani by any means easy. But when one remembers how marvellously educated Indians have mastered our complicated language, with its arbitrary differences, in the pronunciation of words spelt in the same way, and its many idioms, so entirely unlike their own, one is ashamed

of one’s own stupidity, and renews the attempt to learn their language for the pleasure of being able to talk to them in their own tongue.

My teacher ‘is ‘such a quaint little man ... But although I can guess what he means, as far as talking myself is concerned, I fancy I am not a bit further advanced than a young Hindu, whom IJ met in my evening walk yesterday, is in his English. There is a beautiful glen in the hills which looks down on our bungalow. Through the glen runs a burn, overshadowed by boulders like sphinxes, adorned by deep-red rhododendrons and tufted lichen and ferns. Here we sometimes amuse ourselves fishing. I had gone ahead to enjoy the sunset, while Jim added a

tale to his file, when I was joined by a Hindu youth, who was lying in wait for Jim, and began his appeal to me, when we had the following conversation:— ‘Good evening.’ ‘Good evening. So you can speak English?’ ‘Perhaps.’ ‘Where did you study it?’

‘Middle School examination.’ ‘Have you passed the Middle School examination” ‘No sir, I am of the Bhera old family best. I beg you tell sahib,

Mussulmans kill my brothers here. I beg sahib send me speaking

English Lahore. I am lazy here.’ “You must speak to the sahib yourself. It is against orders to make any request through me. How old are you?” ‘Seventy.’ ‘What does your father do?”

140 e Memsahibs Abroad

‘My father is eating his pay.’ At this point Jim came up with us and concluded an interview which left me pondering on the marvellous manners of Indians, who never betray by a shade that one has probably tampered as much with their language as the scion of the ‘Bhera old family best’ did with ours. (42-5)

A Serpent in the Garden of Eden Simla, 1907.

Dearest M.,—Safely arrived in Simla after a slightly adventurous journey. I reached Bombay on the morning of the 10” of May, and started at noon on my two days’ journey. The only other occupant of the single long corridor-carriage was a nice little chaplain, bound for Rawal Pindi. On the following morning the Eurasian waiter came to tell me that there was no more food nor ice in the restaurant-car

and that the car itself, with its meagre

supply of

boiling-hot soda-water, would be cut off that evening at Delhi. Fortunately I had replenished my luncheon-basket in Bombay. My only regret was that the kind chaplain refused to abandon his own box of biscuits and chocolate, and share supplies. He reminded me of the vicissitudes of food upon all Indian journeys, and advised me to husband my stores. So we went on half rations. ...


sped into the Punjaub in the afternoon,

and here we

noticed, at each railway station we passed, little batches of Indians

who roused our idle curiosity. Why were they there in groups? Why did they seem to wish to catch a glimpse of us as we passed? What was the meaning of a certain excitement in their general air? At Delhi the crowd was greater, the excitement more evident.

At first we were too intent upon ordering dinner and having it brought to our carriage to ask what it meant. Dinner over, we wandered along the corridor. At one end of it

was the mail van, filled with bags of letters and Indian postmen; at the other, through the open door, we saw quite a number of engine-drivers but never a European amongst them.

Encounters with ‘Natives’ @ 141

Our Eurasian waiter was awaiting his tip. ‘What was the meaning of this crowd?’ I asked him. ‘It was the day the Mutiny broke out, fifty years ago’, he replied, with his vague and indefinite smile. “Was it usual to have only Indian engine-drivers on a mail train?’ ‘No, Memsahib, but all Eurasians had gone to their homes,

to protect their wives and families, because of the riots in Lahore. But it was all right, Memsahib, because the ringleaders had been caught.’ ; All this was practically Greek and Latin to me. I had read about the riots in Lahore and Rawal Pindi in the Bombay newspaper. I knew they had followed on the conviction of a newspaper editor. I remembered he had tried to rouse disaffection in the Indian Army. But what had all this to do with the Indian Mutiny? Every newspaper was sold out. Jim had written to say he would meet me at Umballa, where I had to change trains at midnight. So I must wait for his explanations of this vague situation. Alas, at Umballa only a red-coated chaprassi brought me a letter which said he had been ordered to draft an immediate despatch, which made it quite impossible for him to leave Simla. I had not a pleasant hour in the dark, for it was now past midnight, my little chaplain had gone on to Rawal Pindi, and I was both cold and hungry. However, ‘good times, bad times, all times pass over’, and

next afternoon found me at last in the old beloved surroundings; and then I heard all that had happened. Do you remember my telling you of a visit we paid to a widespreading tract of country which we had known in Shahpur days as a desert and saw transformed into the home of a million peasants? A serpent had entered that Garden of Eden and threatened


and Eve with eviction, with the most woeful

results and a hubbub which has barely subsided. (352-5)

Encounters with Indian Women

This key section in the anthology covers the visits of English women to zenanas or harems. This was a field where women travellers were endowed with exclusive rights—no European man was permitted entrance in a zenana. Accordingly, there was a keen demand for eyewitness accounts in the domestic market. Virtually all women travellers incorporate a description of a visit to a zenana in their travel accounts, even though visit after visit tend to resemble each other tediously. Real communication or reciprocity rarely took place: both parties were far too firmly rooted in their own

beliefs. In fact, encounters

with Indian women



used as an opportunity to confirm one’s own ideology. Wives of colonial officials like Mrs Elwood or Lady Falkland tend to make political visits in the name of the ruling power, often to queens whose husbands were deposed or whose territories were declared lapsed. Their accounts are suffused with a sense of hostility to these troublesome political figures. While for Mrs Duberly no such high stakes









- adventurer requires an audience of aristocratic ladies filled with envy. A different perspective is apparent in the accounts of Marianne Postans and Helen MacKenzie. Postans describes the harem of a prince as an airy, tasteful set of rooms and the princess as a hardboiled woman of business. An excursion to the royal gardens takes on an Arcadian glow. One of the greatest surprises in reading these texts is to find in the book by the evangelical Mrs MacKenzie an account of life in the harem that is imbued with a sense of sympathy and affection for its inmates—without portraying them as oppressed victims. In fact, the scenes she depicts are those of a

Encounters with Indian Women @ 143

loving husband and boys who are no less manly than English children. She is even willing to adapt certain customs that appeal to her. Fanny Parks’ ‘revelations’ from the zenana are what have gained her fame. Through her friend Colonel Gardner she acquires access to the zenana of his son James, who is married to a niece of the reigning emperor, Akbar Shah. She presents the readers with a string of encounters in the zenana—ranging form the stereotypical supine, opium-drugged Oriental beauty (her management skills are only mentioned in an aside) to the decadence in the palace of the reigning emperor of Delhi. Parks is anxious to model herself on the famous Oriental traveller Lady Mary Montagu, who became famous in the eighteenth century for her descriptions of life in a Turkish harem. ‘The analogies between both accounts are striking and extend to details such as the native women’s curiosity about Western women’s clothing. Parks seems far more in character when she describes her friendship with the deposed Maratha queen, the Baiza Bai, and her granddaughter, the Gaja Raja—nominally in purdah, too, but far more active and as fond of horses as Parks. To the Baiza Bai she shows

off her horsewomanship, reflecting on the disadvantages of riding side-saddle as compared to the Maratha style of riding, and holds a woman-to-woman conversation about the oppression of women. For Parks is filled with a fervent desire to point up the wrongs of women, and even draws an analogy between widow-burning in India and the treatment of women in England. These encounters, described with zest and colour, are some of the best passages in Fanny Parks’ book. For conservative travellers like Mary Billington at the end of the century, Indian women were a laudable example to hold up to their feministminded compatriots at home. A_ professional journalist who toured India to research the state of Indian womanhood, Billington’s main quest is to put ‘the new woman’ and the working class (both of whom were sending shock waves through English society at this time) back into place. Anne Leonowens, finally, is particularly fascinated by Parsee women (Zoroastrians from Persia had been settled in western India

144 @ Memsahibs Abroad

for several centuries). She is also one of the few travellers to put the role of Hindu women in a historical perspective. . *

‘rine Katherine Elwood

A Visit to the Royal Zenana I have already given you an account of an Arab Hram at Hodeida, and perhaps, you will not object to a description of a Jahrejah’s' Zenana at Bhooj, to which, by express invitation, I paid a visit on the third of January 1826. We were received on our arrival at the gates of the palace by Ruten Sie, who attended C. [her husband] and his staff (he then being in command of the cantonment) to the Rao’s Durbar; whilst

the ladies of the party were handed over to the women’s attendants, by whom we were escorted through several courts, till we reached a flight of steps which led to an apartment, at the door of which, surrounded

by her attendants,

wife of the ex, and the most courteously, and could have done. She eyes, very white teeth,

mother of the present Rao. She received us with as much grace as an English princess was a pretty woman, with soft languishing and an agreeable and expressive counten-


Her costume


a handsome

stood the Rannee,

sarree, much




gold, and her arms, ankles, and throat were loaded with gorgeous bangles and necklaces of pure gold; a number of handsome pearls were in her hair, and massy rings in her nose and ears, but her

ornaments were rather heavy than elegant, and more valuable than brilliant. After mutually exchanging salaams, she took her seat in a low silver armchair, supported by cushions, whilst common chairs were placed for us, and the attendants, dressed in the heavy red

sarree of the country, sat down on the ground, gazed at us with insatiate curiosity, and talked an immense deal, but respectfully.

' Jahrejahs were a community who combined Hindu and Muslim elements of faith.

Encounters with Indian Women e 145 This Zenana, of which so much has been said, and of which

Burke,’ I think, gives so flowery and poetical a description, was a small dark apartment, with unglazed windows closed by wooden shutters. Its furniture consisted of a four-poster bed and a small couch—a very handsome carpet—the Rannee’s _ silver chair—another of a similar description, probably for her lord and master,—and, with our seats, the inventory is completed. The manners of the Rannee were dignified, yet extremely soft,

gracious, highly pleasing, and very superior to those of her attendants. Though from etiquette never allowed to leave her Zenana, yet she appeared quite au fait at all the gossip, and even scandal of the English camp, and seemed intimately acquainted

with the particulars of a matrimonial fracas which had taken place there some time before. She put a number of questions to us, and after we had satisfied her curiosity, on our asking her whether she.

had any family, she told us she had one son (the young Rao), and, poor thing, it was with a melancholy sigh that she added, and ‘two daughters, both dead’. Probably they had ‘had milk given them’, the barbarous custom of the Jahrejah tribe. As I was not sufficient Hindoostanee scholar at this time to carry on the conversation fluently myself, my Ayah assisted as interpreter, and with all my respect for Majesty, it was with difficulty I kept my countenance, when, after hesitating a little at the English term for Rannee, she interpreted the dignity into ‘Mrs King’. On our receiving the summons from the gentlemen, ‘Mrs King’ seemed duly impressed with the necessity of obeying the behests of a husband, and after presenting us with betel-nut wrapt up in a leaf, termed paung, inundating us with rose water, and pouring sandal-wood

oil over us, we made

our salaams and retired, she

requesting us to repeat our visit at least, once a fortnight, and I flatter myself, that in the sameness and tedium of a Zenana life, we must indeed have been a considerable amusement, and have

afforded the fair inhabitants topics for conversation for a long time afterwards. ? Edmund Burke (1729-97), Whig statesman and orator, was instrumental in the parliamentary impeachment of Warren Hastings (1732-1818), Governor-

General of Bengal, on charges of corruption.

146 e Memsahibs Abroad

‘Mrs King’, or the Rannee of Cutch, is said to be very much attached to her husband, and the ex-Rao Bharmuljee, notwithstanding he has three or four other wives; and she has even built a tomb to some relation whom he murdered, in expiation of the offence. She is very fond of narrating the particulars of his deposition to all those who will give her a patient hearing, which she considers as very hard and unjust, and, very naturally and properly, does all she can to procure him friends. She was, at this time, very anxious that her son should marry; for, to the disgrace of the












circumstance which had never occurred to any of his predecessors before! and unfortunately, on account of the expenses, there seemed to be some difficulty in procuring him one.’ (2: 222-5)

Amelia Cary Falkland

‘Like a procession on the stage’ Besides the two adopted boys, the raja left three widows, to whom I have already alluded, as making a yearly pilgrimage to Pertabguhr, when with hundreds in their train, they encamped on

the hills, where they remained some time, and never failed to visit the governor, if he happened to be there. On the first of these occasions, as our cottage was on rising ground, we could see the

approach of the ranees,’ and their numerous retinue at a distance, as they wound their way up the hill. It looked like a procession on the stage. There were flags flying, banners streaming, prancing horses, stately elephants, tall camels with their heads towering over everything;








becoming louder every minute. Then as the ranees came near, we

saw maids of honour running by the side of the closed palanquins in which the princesses were, and as each one arrived at the entrance * The Morning Post, (July 1830,) announces that the young Rao of Cutch has just married FOUR WIVES! It is to be hoped that the ex-Rannee will now be satisfied (author’s note). * The ranis of the Raja of Sattara, whose territories had been declared lapsed and annexed by the British.

Encounters with Indian Women e 147

of the bungalow, crowds of attendants rushed on, and pressed round the palanquin screaming out their mistresses’ titles. In the background were the elephants waving their trunks over the crowd, horses rearing and neighing, and a band of native musicians straining their lungs in blowing wind instruments, and nearly breaking their arms in beating the drums. Arrived at the door, the poor ladies were still kept shut up, till a wall of red cloth could be held up on each side of the entrance to prevent their being exposed to the vulgar gaze of mankind. When all was ready, they crept out of the palanquins, and were received by the governor. They were concealed in splendid sarees, which covered them from head to foot—not even the tip of a finger was visible. They were conducted, one by one, into an inner room, and to sofas, by the

governor. ... I saw the arrival from my window. The maids of honour, when the ranees entered the bungalow, hastened into a verandah, where they squatted down, beginning to dust their legs and feet, which operation was very requisite. (1: 168-70) A few days after, I visited these royal dames, and had an opportunity of seeing them unveiled. Their camp covered a considerable space of ground near a tank, to which the elephants went to bathe every evening. From a distance the scene was imposing; on nearer inspection it was little

else but a gigantic gipsy camp—not, however, the less picturesque for that. There were tents of all shades of red, and brown, and blue, and

dirty white. Hundreds of the followers of the ranees were busy with elephants or camels; all the animals were picketed about. Many people were cooking—all occupations being carried on in the open air.

The tents of the three ladies were inclosed within walls of canvas, painted red at the top. ... As I was unaccompanied by any gentleman, the ranees met me inside unveiled. They had on velvet jackets, the usual saree, worn by all Hindoo women (which is of such a length as to serve for petticoat and head-veil in one), and wore quantities of jewels, besides toe-rings! Over the back of the sofas were thrown

148 e Memsahibs Abroad handsome sarees, embroidered in gold, near at hand, and ready to

be put on instantly, should any strange man enter suddenly. This time I could see the ladies, although the tent was dark. One was more ugly than another; they had small, black, lifeless eyes, flattish noses, large mouths, teeth discoloured by chewing paun, and on their foreheads a red sectarian circular spot; behind the sofas, rows of maids of honour were standing waving over their mistresses’






silver handles;

these attendants were as plain as the ladies. There were some children belonging to the ranees’ family. The poor things were perched on chairs, looking anything but amused; their little bangled royal feet fidgeting about, a long protracted yawn occasionally confirming my suspicions that they wished me gone. In the tent were also about twenty men, relations of the ranees,

and before whom they could unveil. The father of the elder widow sat in a chair; her mother stood. I inquired the cause. It was because her husband was there, and wives in India do not sit in

the presence of their husbands. However, a chair was given her behind the maids of honour, so that her husband could not see her

when she sat down. Presently, a very aged and ugly woman crept out of a corner; she also was a relative of her highness, and looked

as if she had just risen from the lower world, where ‘Yama’,’ judge of departed souls, resides. The interpreter was a Portuguese woman, who translated the no doubt high-flown eastern speeches of the ranees, into very plain, simple English. The woman said to me, ‘Her highness say, she hopes master and misses will take care of her, and give her bread to eat, for else “she will have none.”

This meant neither more nor less than that her highness was not contented with the pension given her by the E.I. Company, but which was, in fact, I understand from those competent to judge, an ample one. When the conversation flagged, the ranee’s jewels were brought on silver trays for me to look at. Then her copy-book was shown, for she had just began to read and write; and one little ” Yama is represented with dreadful teeth, as having a grim aspect and terrible shape. A very ugly old woman is sometimes called by the Hindoos, ‘the Mother of Yama’ (author’s note).

Encounters with Indian Women @ 149 child recited a Sanscrit prayer, and having finished it, began over

again, and was with difficulty silenced. During all the tine I was in the tent, a natch girl was going through different movements with her feet and hands, for dancing it cannot be called in any sense of the word. She scarcely moved away from the place where she stood at first. Some of the positions were graceful, but at times she seemed to distort her limbs; meanwhile the band outside played slow and monotonous airs. The girl had a very full petticoat, of a rich material, in which

gold thread was interwoven, a large velvet jacket, trowsers tied round the ankles, and a handsome shawI twisted loosely round her waist; of this she sometimes

once spreading it behind peacock’s tail.


use in her different attitudes,

her head, intending to represent a

The visit was now drawing to a close; sweetmeats were laid at my feet in silver dishes, jessamine chains put around my neck, and

after the usual offerings of betel-nut and paun, the sprinkling of the pocket-handkerchief with rose-water took place. I then took leave of the three widows, and was not sorry all was over. The heat in the tent was almost stifling. (1: 171-5)

Frances Isabella Duberly ‘A profusion ofjewellery’ ... Mrs Jervis, the wife of the resident chaplain of Booj, kindly accompanied me as interpretess. ... We saw six of the Ranees, and the wife of the Rao’s eldest son. The ladies, who received us in the durbar room, were seated on chairs in a row, surrounded by

female attendants and musicians. They rose as we entered and extended their hands; seats were then placed opposite them. The eldest lady conversed: the rest sat in silence. I never saw such a profusion of jewellery in my life. The forehead of each was hidden by a circular ornament of precious stones, and even their eyelids were fringed with diamonds; nose jewels, the size and weight of which distorted the nostril, completed the decoration of the face.

150 © Memsahibs Abroad

Several necklaces, some apparently of solid gold, others of strings of pearls, covered the neck and bosom; while massive bracelets, blazing with rubies and emeralds, encircled their arms from elbow

to wrist. One bracelet I particularly remember; it was a thick and heavy circlet of gold, studded with about thirty emeralds the size of

peas. On their ankles they wore three or four chains and anklets of different patterns, and each toe was covered with an ornament

resembling enamelled leaves. The Ranee who conversed appeared to be an unusually intelligent woman. She was well informed as to everything relating to the royal families of Europe, and listened with interest for my answers to her various questions. Mrs Jervis mentioned that I was the Englishwoman whom the Ranee had heard of as having been with the army during the Crimean war; and her inquiries proved that she was familiar with the leading events of the campaign. Her information was, I believe, acquired from a Persian newspaper, which she receives once a week. She was very desirous to ascertain whether the men of the regiment entertained hostile feelings towards the native population, or only towards such as had revolted. ... One thing struck me: when in conversati»n with the Ranee, she asked rather eagerly if I had ever been actually present at a battle. And on being answered in the affirmative, she fell back in her chair and sighed. A whole lifetime of suppressed emotion, of crushed ambition, of helplessness, and weariness, seemed to be comprehended in that short sigh! (39-41)

Marianne Postans A ‘Woman of business’

Emerging from the verandah into the open courtyard, a slave conducted me up a flight of steps, into a room, fitted up to resemble a tent, and from thence into the apartments appropriated to the harem. The first, was a spacious hall, surrounded with lights,

but otherwise unfurnished, and from this, I was ushered spacious terrace prepared for my reception. The floor was with fine scarlet cloth, and the low parapet wall hung with carpets. Chairs were ranged along the centre, and slaves

upon a covered Persian bearing

Encounters with Indian Women ¢ 151

torches, stood upon the edge of the carpet. The wives of his Highness’ advanced to meet me, magnificently dressed, and blazing with innumerable jewels. Seating me upon the centre chair, they drew the others round, and began to chat on various subjects, with great good nature, and much courteousness of manner. The principal wife, the Rahit Buckté, was good-looking, and about four-

and-twenty years of age; her manner was lively, her conversation unusually intelligent, and her round fat face irradiated with good humour.

The second lady, the Dosie Beebee, had the airs of a

coquettish and spoilt beauty, her dark languishing eyes rendered still more attractive by a very judicious application of the radiancegiving Soormay,’ and her henna tinted, and delicate little feet, appearing to sustain with difficulty, the weight of her pearlembroidered slippers. The Ameer Buckté was a staid person, richly dressed, but without any personal attractions; and the Beebee Bhoe, was absolutely frightful. The ladies were attired in a similar costume, of Kincaub trowsers, tight at the ancle; a full, richly embroidered satin petticoat, with a little cholah or boddice, and a saree of coloured

gauze, embroidered with gold flowers. Their glossy hair, simply braided across the forehead, was adorned with strings of fine pearl: about a dozen costly necklaces hung over the cholahs of each, and the ear-rings, toe-rings, nose-rings, bracelets, and anclets, were

innumerable. The










European lady, and they perplexed me with questions upon our manners and habits of passing time. They expressed particular interest about our fancy works, of which Mohammedan

ladies are

great admirers. The Rahit Buckté desired her slave girls to bring some cholahs of her own embroidering, which displayed great

ingenuity, neatness and taste. After suggested the necessity of a return to were weary of the Nuwaub’s method On this hint, pan suparree appeared,

chatting for some time, I my party, who I concluded of shewing them attention. upon superbly chased silver

° The Nawab of Junagarh, ruler of an independent Muslim state. i Antimony (author’s note).

152 @ Memsahibs Abroad









embroidered with gold, and edged with a deep gold fringe. The usual quantity of dry suparree nut, pan leaves, and spice, having been deposited on my lap, and my luckless apparel deluged with sandal oil and rose water, each of the ladies threw a wreath of Mogree flowers on my neck, and pressed me to visit them on the following day, proposing to accompany me to the Nuwaub’s favourite garden, at the foot of the Girnar. Anxious of course to cultivate the acquaintance of my gentle friends, I readily acquiesced, and descending to join my party in Durbar, we all returned, gratified, and fatigued, to the Serai.




at eleven,




favourite Chelah [attendant] of his Highness, summoned me to the harem, and was accompanied by an attendant, laden with fine

mangoes, as an offering from the Nuwaub. On entering the palace, I did not as before visit the public reception rooms, but was received by the Rahit Buckté at the door of her own apartments. Her attire was little less splendid than that worn in the evening, for the ladies of the east, only happy in being well attired, have not any nice distinctions between the fitness of particular toilettes; the ease,









distinguishes our English taste, is unappreciated; and a mid-day sun, whose beams pierce the jalousies of an eastern harem, blazes on glittering jewels, which with us, are considered fit only for. the glare of festal lamps. Surrounded by slave girls, all chatting merrily together, and some with their infants in their arms, we proceeded through a suite

of several apartments to the Beebee’s sitting room. There was an air of privacy and quietness, about this little Mohammedan boudoir, particularly inviting; and while its arrangement promised an unusual degree of comfort, a free circulation of air was insured by its height. Numerous windows of wrought stone work which surrounded

it, afforded the fair inmate

a charming view of the

sacred mount, and the fine minarets of the neighbouring musjids, towering above the majestic trees which skirt the town. Seated next to the Rahit Buckté, I had full opportunity for

admiring the taste with which her apartment was adorned. The floor was covered with crimson cloth, over which was tightly

Encounters with Indian Women e 153

strained linen of spotless purity; and the ceiling concealed by a fine white cloth, embroidered with gold stars, the produce of the celebrated looms of Ahmedabad. A rich border wrought in gold represented a cornice, to the edge of which was attached a flounce of crimson and green silk. From the corners depended green glass lamps; and on one side of the floor, rested a pile of cushions, covered with a Palampore, or coverlid, of Tyrian purple, broidered


fringed with gold. The


though so varied, were

harmonious, and the combined effect was one of richness, rather




display. The



walls of the apartment, with Chinese


beautifully and looking-

glasses in gilt frames, while the spaces were occupied with little gold and silver Golaubdanis,” and enamelled lotahs, suspended in bead nets. As the Beebee’s Mehtah or steward was present, a fine greybearded intelligent looking man, I ventured to enquire what were her pecuniary resources, as I felt a little anxious on the matter of Mohammedan husbands’ generosity, and the weighty affair of pin money. The Rahit Buckté most unreservedly explained, that on her marriage, the Nuwaub had bestowed on her a gras or estate, consisting of eight villages, which she farms on her own account. The chief produce consisted of mangoes, but the value of the villages varied; the whole seemed to average, about three hundred rupees, or thirty pounds, a month. The Rahit Buckté proved herself during our conversation, to be a good woman of business, quite au fait on the subject of grain, ploughs, mangoe trees, et cetera, from which her revenue is - derived; large ledgers, written in the Guzzeratee character, were

produced, and particular pages readily referred to, in explanation of the subject. Her estate, the Beebee told me, was situated between Junagarh and the sea, where the country, from its natural fertility, was called the Neil Nagir, or land of the blue waters. The

Rahit Buckté is considered a miracle of learning by the inhabitants of the harem;

she reads


writes Persian,



Hindostanee, which she acquired from her father’s priest or peer, 8

4 Rose-water sprinklers (author’s note).

154 © Memsahibs Abroad when a little girl. The Nuwaub had married her as a widow, which

is a very unusual circumstance in Mohammedan families. Fully aware of the strict system of seclusion which forms the etiquette of the harem, I was surprised to find her Mehtah admitted to her presence; but she said, with the Nuwaub’s family, it was usual to receive persona! attendants of either sex; but that the servitors of one Beebee, were excluded from the apartments of the rest, if of the forbidden sex. ...

The Rahit Buckté accompanied me to the apartments of the languid, but pretty, Dosie Beebee. It is well arranged that the wives of the Nuwaub have all separate apartments, which prevents domestic bickering, and the exhibition of many of those little arts, practised by ladies, whose leisure affords them abundant time to become proficient in the science of ingeniously tormenting. Here the fair rivals never meet, or even hear of each other, unless from

the prattling of slaves. I asked the Rahit Buckté, on our way to the Dosie Beebee’s apartments, whether she liked, or was intimate with, any of the other ladies; but she said, ‘No; they were too idle

and illiterate to be agreeable friends.’ On our entrance, we found the beauty seated upon a silver swing, in the centre of her apartment, reclining on a pile of cushions, and smoking a rich silver hookah. The swing was suspended by silver chains to the ceiling, and an old slave, squatted on the floor, kept it in gentle, but perpetual motion. The Beebee’s attire, was composed of a petticoat of fine Dacca muslin,

embroidered with gold flowers; a crimson gauze saree shaded her soft cheeks; and a row of large pearl was entwined with the knot of glossy, black hair, gathered low, in the Greek style. From this, a

double line of smaller pearls fell over the parting of the front hair, and supported a dazzling jewel, called a Tika, formed with large diamonds composed

and uncut pearls. The Nutt, or nose jewel, was of gems of the finest water, to match the Tika, and

beautifully set in fine Venetian gold. A string of pearls was attached to this ponderous ornament, which, crossing the left cheek, hooked

into the hair by means

of a small golden hook

above the ear, and relieved the wearer from its unpleasant weight. When this jewel is withdrawn, a small peg of black wood is placed in the aperture of the nose, to prevent its closing. (2: 91-100)

Encounters with Indian Women @ 155

An Excursion to the Royal Gardens

Sheik Mahmoud having informed us of the readiness of the escort to accompany us to our /féte champétre in the royal garden, we descended to the court-yard; the Rahit Buckté, the Dosie Beebee,

and Dada Bhoe, all scuffling along, as rapidly as the prospect of an agreeable visit could induce them to do, despite the inconvenience of toe-rings, anclets, and high-heeled slippers. Awaiting us, was a Rutt, and a gaily-painted Release Dada Bhoe, with her infant, occupied the palkee; and the Beebees, with Bhawamere, took possession of the Rutt, bestowing themselves upon piles of cushions. The Rutt is a small description of cart, without springs, commonly used by native women in travelling. The Beebees’, however, was an unusually splendid equipage. Its covering was of crimson cloth, embroidered in white silk. The bullocks, pure white, and of the gigantic Guzzerat breed, were in

the highest order; and the already enormous horns of each, lengthened by silver tips, from which depended bunches of silver bells. Silver peacocks surmounted their broad foreheads, and their bridles were bossed with plates of the same metal; each leg was surrounded by a bangle of silver bells, and large sheets of crimson satin, embroidered with gold, covered them from the shoulders to

the tail, and descended nearly to the ground. ... Arab guards, horsemen, chob-dars, and musicians, formed our escort, and glad, indeed, was I, when etiquette forbade the

advance of these people farther than the entrance of the garden. The Rutt and palankeen entered, and were received by the chief eunuch, a handsome African, richly dressed, who is said to enjoy,

to an eminent degree, the favour of his prince. Beautifully situated, the garden is laid out, with fine mangoe and guava trees, vines, and pomegranates; the sweet mogree uniting with roses and the fragrant chumpa, to give sweetness to

the air. Streams of water, flowing through the garden, afford to the eye a sense of delightful coolness, and, by constant irrigation, preserve in perpetual freshness the rare plants of the parterre. Beneath a widely-spreading mangoe tree, laden with its goldenlooking fruit, was spread a crimson cloth, on which were placed

baskets of the finest fruits. Pomegranates, with their rough and

156 e Memsahibs Abroad

ruddy skin, guavas of a pale and tender green, bursting from excess of ripeness, plantains, in large and heavy bunches, water melons, and the dark and glossy jambu, surmounted by wreaths of

the pure white mogree, linked with the jonquil-coloured chumpa, and the gaudy blossom of the red pomegranate. Interspersed with these choicely-laden baskets, were jewelled cushions, silver ewers, and drinking cups.



The Beebees, enchanted with the freedom they enjoyed, amused themselves with wreathing blossoms, which they threw on my neck, and twined in their own dark and glossy hair. Wearying of this simple pastime, they chatted playfully together, adorned me with their jewels, and then laughed heartily at my encumbered looks; listened to the songs of a slave, accompanying herself on the vina,




the smoke

of richly-adorned


whose delicately-scented goracco was tempered by the finest rose water. An oriental Boccaccio would have been inspired, by the luxurious beauty of the scene. (2: 103-7)

Helen MacKenzie

‘Much as an English wife’ From my frequent visits to Hasan Khan’s family, where I can go en it is cool, I see, as you may suppose, a good deal of ‘Life in the Harem’, and would undertake to refute authoritatively, as I always

felt inclined to do on prima facie grounds, the fine theories. ... regarding the superior happiness of Mahammadan women. What can a man know of the matter? Did he go about visiting in the form of an old woman? Had he friends and acquaintances in half a dozen Zenanas? Would any Mussalmani woman speak freely to a Feringhi, even if he did obtain speech with her, or are the Turks to be taken as competent and impartial witnesses as to the relative happiness of their wives. I do not think their secluded life makes them objects of pity. They are hardly more devoid of excitement than I am myself; they see their female friends and their dearest male relations, and the tie between brother and sister seems to be

very strongly felt by them; but it is not in human nature to be

Encounters with Indian Women ¢ 157

content with being only the fourth part of a man’s wife. They are far from viewing the matter as we do, and I should suppose Hasan Khan’s Zenana a favourable specimen, as both Leila Bibi and Bibi

Ji seem very good tempered and very friendly to one another. Still, as no





love two



or more




equally, and



as no


affections, I plainly see there are heartburnings innumerable, even

in this family. Leila Bibi is the favourite: she is a very pretty, merry, clever little creature, who laughs and talks with Hasan Khan much as an English wife would do. He is evidently very fond of her, but he takes not the’smallest notice of poor Bibi Ji, who says nothing,

but has an expression sometimes in her face which pains me to see. Luckily for her, she does not seem at all a sensitive person; she is a good, warm-hearted creature, who is very much obliged for

any little kindness, but not very bright. But then she has a little girl, and Leila Bibi, who has been married four years, has none. It is the old story of Hannah and Peninnah over again: the one is so anxious for children, and the other indirectly boasts of hers, by always talking of children and pitying people who have none. It is surprising how we manage to talk, considering my want of

knowledge of Hindustani. The other morning I was alone with Leila Bibi and a servant. Leila Bibi asked me about marriages in our country; I explained the ceremony to her, and then she said,

‘Only one Mem Sahib to one Sahib!’ ‘Of course only one.’ The servant loudly applauded so excellent a plan, and Leila Bibi said, with a little pout and in a pitiful tone, ‘My Sahib has got six! four at Kabial, and the Governor-General has promised to apply for them!’

I fear when they come there will be great difficulty in reconciling the claims of the ‘auld love’ and the new, the one of noble birth,

whose wisdom and prudence her husband extols so highly, and the young pretty creature, who now has things all her own way, as much, at least, as any one can have under such a disciplinarian as Hasan Khan—for, with all his warm feelings, the savage nature of the lion peeps out whenever he is in any way provoked. (79-80) You may imagine I watched Hasan Khan very closely to see

how Muhammadan husbands behave [Leila Bibi was ill]. He was most attentive to his poor wife, raising her up, giving her water every few minutes, and holding her head. ... He is well obeyed; he

158 © Memsahibs Abroad told his little child to go to me, and it came instantly, for the first

time. He seems very fond of her. He gave his little wife some sago, and though she made a wry face, he caused her to take the whole, just as if she had been an infant. (76)

‘One of the most manly races of the world’ Leila Bibi’s brother, a very nice polite boy of eleven years old, who is very kind to little ‘Fatima’ (whom he coaxes and pets as if he were her nurse), and as gentle and quiet as a tame mouse, let one

of my books fall this morning: Hasan Khan picked it up, and then deliberately gave the poor boy a slap on his cheek as hard as he could. The child said nothing, though I am sure any English boy of his age would have roared. I was so angry that I shook the Khan by the sleeve, and only wished I could have spoken Persian enough to have ‘flyted’ him. By-the-by, every Afghan is a living refutation of the favourite English idea, that boys must be sent away from home to make them manly. All the great men of our own country in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries were brought up at home; and here, under our own eyes, we see one of the most manly races of the world brought up in the Zenana almost exclusively among women, and therefore as boys wholly devoid of the bearishness and odious manners which characterize most English boys from ten to twenty. The only bad result of the presence of the boy in the gynaecium is, that they talk of everything before him just as if he were not there; and, although very modest

in behaviour, they are much more unrestrained in speaking of many subjects than any of our own countrywomen I have ever known,

though I have heard wonderful

stories of what ‘Indian’

ladies will say. (80) Little Padimah (properly Fatimah) is quite fond of me, and sits on my side as she would on her mother’s. It is much the easiest way of carrying a child: just try it. (118)

Encounters with Indian Women e 159

Fanny Parks ‘The loveliest creature in existence’

Was not this delightful? All my dreams ... were to be turned into reality. I was to have an opportunity of viewing life in the zenana,

of seeing the native ladies of the East, women of high rank, in the seclusion of their own apartments, in private life: and although the emperors of Delhi have fallen from their high estate, they and their descendants are nevertheless Timoorians and descendants of

Akbar Shah.”

I know of no European lady but myself, with the exception of one, who has ever had an opportunity of becoming intimate with

native ladies of rank. ... The Begam was sitting on a charpai when we entered the apart_ ment; when Mrs B. presented me as the friend of Col. Gardner, she shook hands with me, and said, ‘How do you do,

kurow?’—this was all the English she could speak. The Begam appeared ill and languid: perhaps the languor was the effect of opium. I had heard so much of Mulka’s wonderful beauty, that I felt disappointed. ... Some opium was brought to her; she took a great bit of it herself, and put a small bit, the size of half a pea, into the mouth of each of her young children; she eats much opium daily, and gives

it to her children until thay are about six years old. Native ladies, when questioned on the subject, say, ‘It keeps them from taking cold; it is the custom; that is enough, it is the

custom.’ If a native lady wish to keep up her reputation for beauty, she should not allow herself to be seen under the effect of opium by daylight. (1: 378-81)

In the evening we returned to the zenana, and were ushered into a long and large apartment, supported down the centre by eight double pillars of handsome native architecture. The floor of the room



with white cloth; several lamps of brass

” Akbar Shah (1756-1837), Mughal emperor.

160 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

(chiragh-dans) were placed upon the ground, each stand holding, perhaps, one hundred small lamps. In the centre of the room a carpet was spread, and upon that the gaddi and pillows for the Begam; the gaddi or throne of the sovereign is a long round pillow, which is placed behind the back for support, and two smaller at the sides for the knees; they are placed upon a small carpet of velvet, or of kimkhwab (cloth of gold); the whole richly embroidered and superbly fringed with gold. Seats of the same description, but plain and unornamented, were provided for the visitors. A short time after our arrival, Mulka Begam entered the room,

looking like a dazzling apparition; you could not see her

face, she having drawn her dopatta (veil) over it; her movements were graceful, and the magnificence and elegance of her drapery were surprising to the eye of a European. She seated herself on the gaddi, and throwing her dopatta

partly off her face, conversed with us. How beautiful she looked! how very beautiful! Her animated countenance was constantly varying, and her dark eyes struck fire when a joyous thought crossed her mind. The languor of the morning had disappeared; by lamplight she was a different creature; and I felt no surprise when I remembered the wondrous tales told by the men of the beauty of Eastern women. Mulka walks very gracefully, and is as straight as an arrow. In Europe, how rarely—how very rarely does a woman walk gracefully! Bound up in stays, the body is as stiff as a lobster in its shell; that snake-like, undulating movement—the poetry of motion—is lost, destroyed by the stiffness of the waist and hip, which impedes the free movement of the limbs. A lady in European attire gives me the idea of a German mannikin; an Asiatic, in her flowing drapery, recalls the

statues of antiquity. I had heard of Mulka’s beauty long ere I beheld her, and she was described to me as the loveliest creature in existence. Her eyes, which are very long, large, and dark, are remarkably fine, and appeared still larger from being darkened on the edges of the eyelids with soorma: natives compare the shape of a fine eye to a mango when cut open. Her forehead is very fine; her nose delicate, and remarkably beautiful——so finely chiselled; her mouth

appeared less beautiful, the lips being rather thin. According to the

Encounters with Indian Women e 161 custom of married womenin the East, her teeth were blackened,

and the inside of her lips also, with missee (antimony); which has a

peculiarly disagreeable appearance to my eye, and may therefore have made me think the lower part of her countenance less perfectly lovely than the upper: in the eye of a native, this application of missee adds to beauty. Her figure is tall and commanding; her hair jet black, very long and straight; her hands and arms are lovely, very lovely. On.the cloth before Mulka were many glass dishes, filled with sweetmeats, which were offered to the company, with tea and coffee, by her attendants. Mulka partook of the coffee; her hooqu was at her side, which she smoked now and then; she offered her

own hooqu to me, as a mark of favour. ... Mulka’s dress was extremely elegant, the most becoming attire imaginable. A Musalmani wears only four garments: Firstly, the angiya: a boddice, which fits tight to the bosom, and

has short sleeves; it is made of silk gauze, profusely ornamented. Secondly, the kurti: a sort of loose body, without sleeves, which comes down to the hips; it is made of net, crape, or gauze, and

highly ornamented. Thirdly, pajamas: of gold or crimson brocade, or richly-figured silk; made tight at the waist, but gradually expanding until they reach the feet, much after the fashion of a fan, where they measure

eight yards eight inches! A gold border finishes the trowser. Fourthly, the dopatta: which is the most graceful and purely feminine attire in the world; it is of white transparent gauze, embroidered with gold, and trimmed with gold at the ends, which

have also a deep fringe of gold and silver. The dopatta is so transparent it hides not; it merely veils the form, adding beauty to the beautiful, by its soft and cloud-like folds. The jewellery sparkles beneath it; and the outline of its drapery is continually changing according to the movements or coquetry of the wearer. Such was the attire of the Princess! ... Mr Gardner has a fine estate at Kutchowra, with an indigo plantation: his establishment is very large, and completely native. I imagine he is greatly assisted in the management of his estate by the advice of the Begam: with the exception of this, she appears to have little to amuse her. Her women sit round her working, and

162 © Memsahibs Abroad

she gives directions for her dresses. Eating opium and sleeping appear to occupy much of her time. ... To the slave girls I was myself an object of curiosity. They are never allowed to go beyond the four walls, and the arrival of an English lady was a novelty. I could never dress myself but half a dozen were slily peeping in from every corner of the pardas (screens), and their astonishment at the number and shape of the garments worn by a European was unbounded! ... When I retired to my charpai, my dreams were haunted by visions of the splendour of the Timoorians in former days; the palace at Agra, and the beautiful Begam with whom I had spent the evening. (1: 382-8)

‘Never was any place so full of intrigue, scandal and chit-chat’ Musalmani ladies generally forget their learning when they grow up, or they neglect it. Every thing that passes without the four walls is

reported to them by their spies: never was any place so full of intrigue, scandal, and chit-chat as a zenana. Making up marriages is their great delight, and the bustle attendant on the ceremonies. They dote upon their children, and are so selfish they will not part from them to allow them to go to school, if it be possible to avoid it. The girls, of course, never quit the zenana. Within the four walls

surrounding the zenana at Khasgunge is a pretty garden, with a summer-house in the centre; fountains play before it, and they are fond of spending their time out of doors. During the rains they take great delight in swinging under the large trees in the open air. ... The old Begam said to Colonel Gardner, ‘They are curious creatures, these English ladies; I cannot understand them or their

ways,—their ways are so odd!’ And yet the Begam must have seen so many European ladies, I wonder she had not become more reconciled to our odd ways. The conduct that shocked them was our dining with men not our relations, and that too with uncovered faces. A lady’s going out on horseback is monstrous. They could not comprehend my galloping about on that great English horse, just where I pleased, with one or two gentlemen and the coachmen as my attendants.

Encounters with Indian Women e 163

My not being afraid to sleep in the dark without having half a dozen slave girls snoring around me, surprised them. My remaining alone writing in my own room; my not being unhappy when I was alone,—in fact, they looked upon me as a very odd

creature. It was almost impossible to enjoy solitude, the slave girls were peeping under the corner of every parda. Some one was always coming to talk to me; sometimes asking me to make up a marriage! (1: 450-1)

Her Highness the Baiza Bat: ‘There is a freedom and independence in her air’ 1835, April 6th ... Her highness the Baiza Ba’i, the widow of the late Maharaj Daolut Rao Scindia,"” was in camp at this place, under the care of Captain Ross. Daolut Rao, the adopted son and grand-nephew of Mahadajee Scindia, contested with the Duke of Wellington,

then Sir Arthur


the memorable

field of

Assaye. On the death of Scindia, by his appointment, the Baiza Ba’i, having become

Queen of Gwalior, ruled the kingdom


nine years. Having no male issue, her Highness adopted a youth, called Jankee Rao, a distant relative of Scindia’s, who was to be

placed on the masnad at her decease. A Rajpoot is of age at eighteen years, but when Jankee Rao was only fourteen years old, the subjects of the Ba’i revolted, and placed the boy at the head of the rebellion. Had her Highness remained at Gwalior she would have been murdered; she was forced to fly to Fathighar, where she put herself under the protection of the Government. ... The Ba’i, although nominally free, is in fact a prisoner; she is

extremely anxious to return to Gwalior, but is prevented by the refusal of the Government to allow her to do so. This renders her very unhappy.

'° The Marathas were the last major native force in India to be defeated by the British. Mahadaji Sindhia of Gwalior was the most powerful chief till his death in 1794. It was Marquis Wellesley (1776-1842) who laid the foundations for the consolidation of British rule as Governor-General of Bengal from 1797 to 1805, when he seriously weakened Maratha power.

164 e Memsahibs Abroad

8th—The Brija Ba’i, one of her ladies, called to invite the lady with whom J am staying to visit the Maharaj in camp; and gave me an invitation to accompany her. 72th.—When the appointed day arrived, the attendants of her

Highness were at our house at 4 p.m., to escort us to the camp. ... We found her Highness seated on her gaddi of embroidered cloth, with her grand-daughter the Gaja Raja Sahib at her side; the ladies, her attendants, were standing around her; and the sword of

Scindia was on the gaddi, at her feet. She rose to receive and embrace us, and desired us to be seated near her. The Baiza Ba’i is

rather an old woman, with grey hair, and en bon point; she must have been pretty in her youth; her smile is remarkably sweet, and her manners particularly pleasing; her hands and feet are very small, and beautifully formed. Her sweet voice reminded me of the

proverb, ‘A pleasant voice brings a snake out of a hole”. She was dressed

in the plainest red silk, wore



with the

exception of a pair of small plain bars of gold as bracelets. Being a widow, she is obliged to put jewellery aside, and to submit to numerous privations and hardships. Her countenance is very mild and open; there is a freedom and independence in her air that I greatly admire;—so unlike that of the sleeping, languid, opiumeating Musalmanis. Her grand-daughter, the Gaja Raja Sahib, is very young; her eyes the largest I ever saw; her face is rather flat, and not pretty; her figure is beautiful; she is the least little wee creature you ever beheld. The Mahratta dress consists only of two garments, which are, a tight body to the waist, with sleeves tight to the elbow; a piece of silk, some twenty yards or more in length, which they wind around them as a petticoat, and then, taking a part of it, draw it between

the limbs, and fasten it behind, in a

manner that gives it the effect both of petticoat and trowsers; this is the whole dress, unless, at times, they substitute angiyas, with short

sleeves, for the tight long-sleeved body. The Gaja Raja was dressed in purple Benares silk, with a deep gold border woven into it; when she walked she looked very graceful, and the dress very elegant; on her forehead was a mark like a spear-head, in red paint; her hair was plaited, and bound '' Oriental Proverbs, No. 102 (author’s note).

Encounters with Indian Women e 165

into a knot at the back of her head, and low down; her eyes were edged with surma, and her hands and feet dyed with hinna. On her feet and ancles were curious silver ornaments, toe-rings of peculiar form; which she sometimes wore of gold, sometimes of red coral. In her nostril was a very large and brilliant n’hut (nosering), of diamonds, pearls, and precious stones, of the particular shape worn by the Mahrattas; in her ears were fine brilliants. From her throat to her waist she was covered with strings of magnificent pearls and jewels; her hands and arms were ornamented with the same. She spoke but little,—scarcely five words passed her lips; she appeared timid, but was pleased with the bouquet of beautiful flowers, just fresh from the garden, that the lady who presented me laid at her feet on her entrance. These Mahrattas are a fine bold race; amongst her ladies in waiting I remarked several fine figures, but their faces were generally too flat. Some of them stood in waiting with rich Cashmere shawls thrown over their shoulders; one lady, before the Maharaj, leaned on her sword, and if the Ba’i

quitted the apartment, the attendant and sword always followed her. The Ba’i was speaking of horses, and the lady who introduced me said I was as fond of horses as a Mahratta. Her Highness said she should like to see an English lady on horseback; she could not comprehend how they could sit all crooked, all on one side, in the

side-saddle. I said I should be too happy to ride into camp any hour

her Highness





her the style of

horsemanship practised by ladies in England. The Maharaj expressed a wish that I should be at the Mahratta camp at 4 p.m., in two days’ time. Atr, in a silver filigree vessel, was then presented to the Gaja Raja; she took a portion up in a little spoon, and put it on our hands. One of the attendants presented us with pan, whilst another sprinkled us most copiously with rose-water: the more you inundate your visitor with rose-water, the greater the compliment. This being the signal for departure, we rose, made our bahut bahut adab salam [most respectful obeisance], and departed,

highly gratified with our visit to her Highness the ex-Queen of Gwalior. (2: 2-5)

166 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

‘The English lady who would ride crooked’ 14th—My relative had a remarkably beautiful Arab, and as I wished to show the Ba’i a good horse, she being an excellent judge, I requested him to allow me to ride his Arab; and that he

might be fresh, I sent him on to await my arrival at the zenana gates. A number of Mahratta horsemen having been despatched by her Highness to escort me to the camp, I cantered over with them on my little black horse, and found the beautiful Arab impatiently awaiting my arrival. ... I mounted him, and entering the precincts of the zenana,

found myself in a large court, where all the ladies of the exQueen were assembled, and anxiously looking for the English lady, who would ride crooked! The Ba’i was seated in the open air; I rode up, and, dismounting, paid my respects. She remarked the beauty of the Arab, felt the hollow under his jaw, admired

his eye, and, desiring one of the ladies to take up his foot, examined it, and said he had the small, black, hard foot of the

pure Arab; she examined

and laughed at my saddle. I then

mounted, and putting the Arab on his mettle, showed her how

English ladies manage their horses. When this was over, three of the Baiza Ba’i’s own riding horses were brought out by the female attendants; for we were within the zenana, where no man

is allowed to enter. The horses were in full caparison, the saddles covered with velvet and kimkwhab [cloth of gold] and gold embroidery, their heads and necks ornamented with jewels and chains of gold. The Gaja Raja, in her Mahratta riding dress, mounted one of the horses, and the ladies the others; they cantered and pranced about, showing off the Mahratta style of riding. On dismounting, the young Gaja Raja threw her horse’s bridle over my arm, and said, laughingly, ‘Are you afraid? or will you try my horse?’ Who could resist such a challenge? ‘I shall be delighted’, was my reply. “You cannot ride like a Mahratta in that dress’, said the Princess; ‘put on proper attire’. I retired to obey her commands, returning in Mahratta costume, mounted her horse, put my feet into the great iron stirrups, and started away for a gallop round the enclosure. I thought of Queen Elizabeth, and her stupidity in changing the style of riding for women. En

Encounters with Indian Women e 167

cavalier, it appeared so safe, as if I could have jumped over the moon. Whilst I was thus amusing myself, ‘Shah-bash! shah-bash!’

[bravo!] exclaimed some masculine voice, but who pronounced the words, or where the speaker lay perdu, I have never discovered. ‘Now’, said I to the Gaja Raja, ‘having obeyed your commands, will you allow one of your ladies to ride on my side-saddle?’ My habit was put on one of them; how ugly she looked! ‘She is like a black doctor!’ exclaimed one of the girls. The moment I got the lady into the saddle, I took the rein in my hand, and riding by her side, started her horse off in a canter; she hung on one side, and

could not manage it at all; suddenly checking her horse, I put him into a sharp trot. The poor lady hung half off the animal, clinging to the pummel, and screaming to me to stop; but I took her on most unmercifully, until we reached the spot where the Baiza Ba’i was seated; the walls rang with laughter, the lady dismounted, and

vowed she would never again attempt to sit on such a vile crooked thing as a side-saddle. It caused a great deal of amusement in the camp. ... The Mahratta ladies live in parda, but not in such strict seclusion as the Musalmani ladies; they are allowed to ride on horseback veiled; when the Gaja Raja goes out on horseback, she is attended by her ladies; and a number of Mahratta horsemen ride at a certain distance, about two hundred yards around her, to see that the kurk is enforced; which is an order made public that no man may be seen on the road on pain of death. The



kept their women

in parda, until their

country was conquered by the Muhammedans; when they were induced to follow the fashion of their conquerors, most likely, from their uriveiled women being subject to insult. (2: 5-7)

‘The fate of women and melons’ Speaking of the privations endured by Hindoo widows, her Highness mentioned that all luxurious food was denied them, as well as a bed; and their situation



possible. She asked me how an English widow fared?

as painful as

168 © Memsahibs Abroad

I told her, ‘An English lady enjoyed all the luxury of her husband’s house during his life; but, on his death, she was turned

out of the family mansion, to make room for the heir, and pensioned off; whilst the old horse was allowed the run of the park, and permitted to finish his days amidst the pastures he loved in his prime.’ The Hindoo widow, however young, must not marry again.

The fate of women and of melons is alike. ‘Whether the melon falls on the knife or the knife on the melon, the melon is the

sufferer.” We spoke of the severity of the laws of England with respect to married women, how completely by law they are the slaves of their husbands, and how little hope there is of redress.

You might as well ‘Twist a rope of sand’,’’ or ‘Beg a husband of a widow’, as urge the men to emancipate the white slaves of England. “Who made the laws?’ said her Highness. I looked at her with surprise, knowing she could not be ignorant on the subject. “The men’, said I; ‘why did the Maharaj ask the question?’

‘I doubted it,’ said the Ba’i, with an arch smile, ‘since they only allow themselves one wife.’ ‘England is so small, I replied, ‘in comparison with your Highness’s Gwalior; if every man were allowed four wives, and obliged to keep them separate, the little island could never contain them; they would be obliged to keep the women in vessels off the shore, after the fashion in which the Chinese keep their floating farmyards of ducks and geese at anchor.’ (2: 8-9) ‘Tt is the same all over the world’

On the rising of the moon I went on shore to take the sketch, and was attracted by what appeared to be the figure of a man watching from under a tree on a high cliff. On going up to it I found a sati, which had fallen to ruin; the remains were whitewashed,

‘ Oriental Proverbs, No. 103 (author’s note). '? Oriental Proverbs, No. 104 (author’s note).

'* Oriental Proverbs, No. 105 (author’s note).

and a

Encounters with Indian Women @ 169

large kalsa [ornament on top of the cenotaph] had been placed on the top, which being also whitewashed, at a distance produced the deception. ... Peeping over a high bank, I saw an open space of ground, on which were some fine trees, and I could scarcely believe the number of mounds that met my eye were those of victimized women. By a little détour I found the entrance to this place of cenotaphs, and was shocked on counting eight-and-twenty Satis. ...

One was large and somewhat in the shape of a grave, after the form of the sati of the Brahman at Barrah. ‘The others were of various forms, the richer ones were of stone, of an octagonal shape,

and surmounted by a dome; some were so smail and low, they were not higher than one foot from the earth, like a little ant hill ...

One very old sati tomb, in ruins, stood on the edge of the high cliff above the river, shaded by a clump of bamboos. The spot interested me extremely. It is very horrible to see how the weaker are imposed upon; and it is the same all over the world, civilized or uncivilized—perhaps some of these young married women, from eleven to twenty years of age, were burnt alive, in all the

freshness of youth; it may be with the corpse of some decrepit sickly old wretch to whom their parents had given them in marriage.

The laws of England relative to married women, and the state of slavery to which those laws degrade them, render the lives of some few in the higher, and of thousands in the lower ranks of life, one perpetual sati, or burning of the heart, from which they have no refuge but the grave, or the cap of liberty,—i.e. the widow’s, and either is a sad consolation. (2: 419-20) Farewell to the Baiza Bai

I mentioned my departure was near at hand; the Ba’i spoke of her beloved Gwalior, and did me the honour to invite me to pay my. respects there, should she ever be replaced on the gaddi. She desired I would pay a farewell visit to the camp three days afterwards. After the distribution, as usual, of betel leaves, spices,

170 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad atr of roses, and the sprinkling with rose-water, Were I an Asiatic, I would be a Mahratta.

I made my salam.

The Mahrattas never transact business on an unlucky day; Tuesday is an unfortunate day, and the Ba’i, who was to have held a durbar, put it off in consequence.

She sent for me, it being the

day I was to take leave of her; I found her looking grave and thoughtful, and her sweet smile was very sad. She told me the Court of Directors had sent orders that she was to go and live at Benares, or in the Deccan; that she was to quit Fathighar in one month’s

time, and


she refuse

to do so, the Governor-

General’s agent was to take her to Benares by force, under escort of troops that had been sent to Fathighar for that purpose. The Ba’i was greatly distressed, but spoke on the subject with a command of temper, and a dignity that I greatly admired. ‘What must the Maharaj do? Cannot this evil fate be averted? Must she go to Benares? Tell us, Mem sahiba, what must we do?’ said one of the

ladies in attendance. Thus called upon, I was obliged to give my opinion; it was an awkward thing to tell an exiled Queen she must submit,—‘The cudgel of the powerful must be obeyed.””” I

hesitated; the Ba’i looked at me for an answer. Dropping the eyes of perplexity on the folded hands of despondency, I replied to the Brija, who had asked the question, ‘Jiska lathi ooska bhains’—.e. ‘He who has the stick, his is the buffalo!” The effect was electric.

The Baiza Ba’i and the Gaja Raja laughed, and I believe the odd and absurd application of the proverb half reconciled the Maharaj to her fate. I remained with her Highness some time, talking over the severity of the orders of Government, and took leave of her with great sorrow; the time I had before spent in the camp had been days of amusement and gaiety; the last day, the unlucky Tuesday, was indeed ill-starred, and full of misery to the unfortunate and amiable ex-Queen of Gwalior. (2: 38-9)

> Oriental Proverbs, No. 111 (author’s note). '° Oriental Proverbs, No. 112 (author’s note).

Encounters with Indian Women @ 171

The Princesses of Delhi: ‘A plainer set I never beheld ...’ During my visit at Khasgunge, Mr James Gardner gave me an introduction to one of the princesses of Delhi, Hyat-ool-Nissa Begam, the aunt of the present, and sister of the late king. Mr James Gardner is her adopted son. The princess sent one of her ladies to say she should be happy to receive me, and requested me to appoint an hour. The weather was excessively hot, but my time was so much employed I had not an hour to spare but one at noon-day, which was accordingly fixed upon. I was taken in a palanquin to the door of the court of the building set apart for the women, where some old ladies met and welcomed me. Having quitted the palanquin, they conducted me through such queer places, filled with women of all ages; the narrow passages were dirty and wet,—an odd sort of entrance to the apartment of a princess! Under a verandah, I found the princess seated on a gaddi, of a green colour. In this verandah she appeared to live and sleep, as her charpai, covered with a green raza’i, stood at the further end. She is an aged woman; her features, which are good, must have been handsome in youth; now they only tell of good descent. ...

I had the greatest difficulty in understanding what the Begam said, the loss of her teeth rendering her utterance imperfect. After some time, she called for her women to play and sing for my amusement. I was obliged to appear pleased, but my aching head would willingly have been spared the noise. Her adopted son, the son of the present king Bahadur Shah,” came in; he is a remarkably fine, intelligent boy, about ten years old, with a handsome countenance. Several other young princes also appeared, and some of their betrothed wives, little girls of five and

six years old: the girls were plain. The princess requested me to spend the day with her; saying that if I would do so, at 4 p.m. I should be introduced to the emperor (they think it an indignity to call him the king), and if I would stay with her until the evening, I ” By this time the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah (d. 1862), was merely a puppetruler. The Mughal emperors had been pensioners of the British since 1803.

172 @ Memsahibs Abroad

should have naches for my amusement all night. In the mean time she desired some of her ladies to show me the part of the palace occupied by the zenana. Her young adopted son, the heirapparent, took my hand, and conducted me over the apartments of the women. The ladies ran out to see the stranger: my guide pointed them all out by name, and I had an opportunity of seeing and conversing with almost all the begams. A plainer set I never beheld: the verandahs, in which they principally appeared to live, and the passages between the apartments, were mal propre. The young prince led me through different parts of the palace, and I was taken into a superb hall: formerly fountains had played there; the ceiling was painted and inlaid with gold. In this hall were three old women on charpais (native beds), looking like hags; and over the marble floor, and in the place where fountains once played, was collected a quantity of offensive black water, as if from the drains of the cook rooms. From a verandah, the young prince pointed out a bastion in which the king was then asleep, and I quitted that part of the palace, fearing the talking of those who attended me, and the laughing of the children, might arouse his majesty from his noon-day slumbers. On my return to the princess I found her sister with her, a goodhumoured, portly-looking person. They were both seated on chairs, and gave me one. This was in compliment, lest the native fashion of sitting on the ground might fatigue me. The heat of the sun had given me a violent headache. I declined staying to see the king, and requested permission to depart ... I had satisfied my curiosity, and had seen native life in a palace; as for beauty, in a

whole zenana there may be two or three handsome women, and all the rest remarkably ugly. I looked with wonder at the number of plain faces round me. (2: 213-15)

Mary Frances Billington Woman in India

The longer I was away from home the more fully did I appreciate the spirit of that line:

Encounters with Indian Women e 173

‘What should they know of England who only England know?” And if I can only convince some of those who vote away

blithely, in a confidence profound as their ignorance, upon matters which are grave as issues of life and death to our Eastern fellowsubjects of the Crown, that Indian women are not altogether in such pitiful plight as some of their so-called friends come and tell Zenana Talk

Purdah nashin ladies [living in seclusion} have, however, almost a language of their own in the chota boli [baby talk] that they talk to their own children or to one another. One soon learns the long drawn out ‘oui-i-7” of assent or exclamation, but it is a little puzzling to the ordinary student of Hindustani, whether this has been studied under a tutor and with books and paper in London or picked up from the everyday talk to be heard around, to find that even the names of the months have synonyms peculiar to feminine phrase. On women’s lips, the eleventh month of the Moha- | mmedan year (Zikad) becomes Thali, or ‘empty’, it being the month that comes between the religious fast and feast of Shawwal and the rejoicings of Aijja, and similarly the second month, Safas,

is changed to Terah tizi, from a superstitious belief in the ill luck of its opening fortnight. A child born during these days is believed to be doomed

to a life of misfortune,

and save


the direst

emergency no wedding or family festivity is ever held upon them.


The Wit of the Zenana There are plenty of Mahommedans yet to be found whose educational views are expressed in the idea that women may be taught to read with benefit, since they can improve their minds by the study of the Koran, but it is not wise to allow them to learn to write, lest they should communicate with unadvisable acquaintances, and even be able to make assignations of deceitful purpose. Over the latter disability, the wit of the zenana has triumphed by

attaching meanings that are unmistakable to the initiated to the

174 © Memsahibs Abroad

most innocent of everyday things. It was discussing Rudyard Kipling with an educated Ranee, that I learnt first that the ‘object letter’ described in his story ‘Beyond the Pale’, in which a broken glass bangle, a red dhak flower, a pinch of cattle food, and a number of cardamoms was intended to be construed into a wid-

ow’s request for a visit at eleven o’clock, was a perfectly probable missive. (21-2)

The Morality of the Zenana: ‘Woman for woman upon quite as high a platform as ourselves’ The view commonly obtains that a vast amount of immorality and intrigue is fostered by the zenana system, but I am not at all prepared myself to endorse this hastily-passed verdict as a fair one towards the average standard of native female rectitude. The zenana system per se is, I take it, rather a survival in idea of the

protection that men gave to their women-folk in days when every man’s hand was against his neighbour’s, and a woman was quite lawful prey to her captors. Men have inherited a tendency of mind which leads them to mistrust one another’s honour and good faith where women are concerned, and this I think is more the basis of

the theory of rigorous purdah nashin than a fear of infidelity on the part’ of the women


It is at least a fact, that while a

native gentleman will talk freely about the women of his family to English ladies, and admit them gladly enough to the zenana, he would regard it as a personal insult for even an English gentleman to make the slightest inquiry upon the subject. No man, according to strict native idea, has any legitimate right to desire information concerning another man’s wife, daughter, or sister, and if he seeks

it the inference is that he has unlawful reasons for doing so. Several causes contribute towards maintaining a very fair level of feminine morality. To say that the lack of opportunity is a factor of leading importance in the result may be taken to imply that, were the conventions of seclusion relaxed, there would be a revolt

against chastity; but this is, I think, a very unfounded and unworthy conclusion to draw. I am quite certain that if all present zenana restrictions were withdrawn, the Indian female population

Encounters with Indian Women e 175

would stand woman for woman upon quite as high a platform as ourselves in this direction. (122-3)

The Legal Status of Muslim Women This perhaps is not an inopportune place to interpolate a few facts as to the legal status of Mahommedan women, on which home views are especially hazy, but which, I venture to consider, are

another point over which comparison continues rather in favour of the East. As with ourselves, as long as a girl is under age and remains unmarried under the paternal roof, her father or appointed guardian constitutes a controlling power. Directly, however, that she has attained her majority, the law, as laid down

by the Muslim legists, recognizes fully her individual rights. She is entitled to a share in her father’s or mother’s property, not, it is true, in as large a proportion as her brothers, but still in a strictly defined and well-understood ratio. A woman sui juris can under no circumstances be married without her full and expressed consent. Nor does she on her marriage lose her personal rights, or merge them in those of her husband. An ante-nuptial settlement in favour of the wife by the husband is a necessary condition among all save the very poorest; and, failing this, the law presumes one in accordance with the social position of the woman. A Muslim marriage is a civil act in itself, and all that is binding can be done with neither priest nor ceremonial. After it the man possesses no powers over the wife’s person that the law does not define, and none whatever over her goods or property. The rights she possesses as a mother are, moreover, clearly laid down, and are not subject to individual caprice. Her person is protected against ill-treatment or brutality, while any earnings of her own belong strictly to herself, and cannot be touched by an extravagant husband. In the courts she can sue a debtor or bring any civil action without cover of her husband’s name, or the necessity of joining a next


and, in short,

acts, if sud juris, absolutely

as an

individual. All these ordinances are plainly enjoined by the Muslim authorities on the law, who may be said to recognize no disabilities arising from sex.

176 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

I have alluded before to the conditions of divorce or separation, but unless the causes for demanding this were unusually grave, a woman usually has to sacrifice her dowry, or anything she brought into settlement. Should it, however, be the husband who seeks this,

he has (except where the ground of complaint was proved infidelity) to make over to her the whole sum of money, with any jewels that he settled upon her at marriage. A woman, therefore, who works (for the Hindu rights are no less clear) does not do so as the chattel of her husband. If her earnings go, as they probably do, to swell the family purse, it is not because she has no other lawful method for their disposal, since they are her own to help her

broaden her horizon if she so willed. (174-5)

Working Women in England and India: No Cause for Envy The true economic position of woman in India has generally been judged under the dazzling glamour of a cloud of sentiment. The bare suggestion of working for three halfpence or twopence a day has sent well-meaning enthusiasts into frenzies, they have drawn imaginary pictures of ryots’ grievances, they have bidden us think of all capitalists, whether British or native, as so many grinding slave-drivers, against whom no legislation could be too severely aimed, and in short the general idea that has been fostered has

been that life among the Indian working classes, and of their women in particular, is simply the hardest work and semistarvation. All qualifications as to differing standards of comfort and domestic surroundings are ignored, but when these are taken into





of labour



passionately, I am very far from being prepared to admit that the average Indian woman has any cause to envy her European sister. Let me take two extreme cases. The Englishwoman in my mind, whom I have actually seen, is a woman aged before her time (for, relatively, child-marriage exists in our own country) and burdened with two or three young children to support. She lived in the East End of London, occupying one small room up a steep and rickety flight of stairs, for which she paid two shillings a week, and considered herself fortunate in being able to earn regularly five shillings and sixpence a week in a cardboard-box factory. And

Encounters with Indian Women @ 177

there are thousands of women in London whose weekly wage is not only no more, but often considerably less, as must be the case

when matchbox-making is paid at the rate of twopence-halfpenny a gross, the workers finding their own paste, or mantles with elaborate trimming at sixpence each. Out of wages as scanty as these, the Englishwoman in winter must find fuel enough to keep something of the cruelly penetrating fog and frost out of her poor apartment; her food, even in its elementary simplicity of tea and bread, is to be bought; her own and her children’s clothes and

boots have to be provided,



and bedding are a

necessity—yet the slender pittance must suffice to purchase all. Then turn we to the other instance—a poor widow whom I saw at Berhampore. With industrious labour she could earn at reeling the pierced cocoons of silk from half to three quarters of an anna a day, which far more than sufficed for the simple diet of rice, grain, and vegetables which satisfied her. There was a corner for her to sleep in the family hut; she had nothing to provide towards the feeding and clothing of the children; the cost of firing was infinitesimal; except her simple vessels of cooking and eating, her furniture was a negligiable quantity, for among the points in which

the balance of advantage distinctly lies on the side of the Indian woman

is that of climate.

It saves

her in house-rent,

fuel, and

clothes. If she lives outside a town her palm-leaf hut costs her nothing save the labour of her men-folk in building it and keeping it in repair; if she be within the city walls, the mud

walls and

thatched roofs of the native quarter are far less costly than ‘two-pair backs’ or even garrets or cellars at home. A few sticks or the slowly smouldering cake of dried cow-dung—the preparation of which is among the minor industries of the community—suffices for the cooking of the simple meal, and a pie or two buys a week’s supply of this. Thin wheaten cakes in the North-west Provinces, or rice generally elsewhere, form the staple of the food, which becomes an almost luxurious meal if some curry, or a chili, an onion, or a little

ghi (clarified butter) can be added. The desire for meat, which makes it almost a necessity in our own working people’s existence, she knows not, and, indeed, many castes may not touch it at all. Even tea she does not want, while any form of intoxicating drink

she never dreams of taking. If her cloth and sari were coarse they

178 e Memsahibs Abroad

were clean, and she could dispose them with folds as graceful as the wealthiest ranee or begum of the East; and while she draws them


her for her midday

rest and ease,

she realizes the

indefinable pleasure of the dolce far niente that the more energetic races rarely attain unto. Yes, for all her three farthings a day, I think that poor old Hindoo woman might sometimes have been envied by her who nominally was making twelve times that sum. (135-8) Time and great distances unfortunately prevented my going to ‘Darjeeling and Assam, so that I am unable to speak from personal knowledge of this department of work. It is perhaps unnecessary, however, that I should adduce any further specific information and

to those who would turn upon me and say, ‘Yes, possibly in these material points the lot of the Indian working woman is less hard than it is often made out to be, but see how narrow are her ideas,

and how much is sealed to her through her want of education.’ I would


that at home,

with all our vaunted



standards, I very much doubt if relatively we have added much to the English working woman’s range of thought, if one looks at the facts as they are. The London factory girl leaves school so soon as she has crammed enough knowledge to pass her fourth standard, or when she has turned fourteen years at the latest. Though cookery, and very lately laundry-work and housewifery, have been added to her curriculum, she is generally most lamentably ignorant of the domestic arts, while her utter incompetence with her needle,

is not one of the least factors in contributing to impose what Mr Walter Besant'’ calls the ‘inexorable law of eleven-pence halfpenny’, and its provision of the cheapest shoddy and sweated labour upon us. Her reading is confined to halfpenny novelettes,

save on the rare occasions that she takes up one of those hateful hotch-potches of vulgar jokes and irrelevant sniping which are served out in periodicals of the ‘bits’ order. Of the movements of the world in politics, commerce,

art, or literature she knows and

'® Walter Besant (1836-1901) was a novelist and philanthropist who supported the trade union movement and initiated the project of a ‘People’s Palace’ for working class recreation in East London. Opened in 1887, it later developed into the East London College.

Encounters with Indian Women e 179

cares nought. Her recreations savour more of horse-play than of refinement; the inside of the public-house is not by any means a sealed book to her, and she marries with reckless improvidence. It

is not a pretty picture, but it is a true one. Now in India the intense strength of the family tie and the hereditary traditions of woman’s selfeffacement seem to me to have imparted a kind of compensating mental attribute, that perhaps is not very much less valuable a possession than a power to read without the discriminating faculty what to read. According to modern ‘emancipated’ lights, the answer of a poor Mahommedan woman in Calcutta to my question as to what she regarded as the chief happiness she would desire for herself might seem a contracted one. ‘To see my husband happy, and to know that what I have cooked and done for him has helped to make him so; to see my sons grow up as men, honest and strong, and to know that my daughters are well married’—is, in my view, a praiseworthy domestic ideal, enough even when set beside the possibilities of a bank holiday on Hampstead Heath. Thought may not be subtle, and talk may not rise much beyond pice and marriage, with these poor women; but relatively it does no more than that with their white sisters. Moreover, it is to be remembered that the binding laws of caste, which have come down through the centuries, have induced an attitude of submission to things as they are, that it is difficult sometimes for the Western mind to grasp how complete the sentiment of resignation becomes. That a sweeper woman should always be a sweeper woman, and should marry a sweeper of some equivalently low-caste man, seems to them even as a decree of nature which it were useless to attempt to overthrow. Consequently there is a feeling of content which checks the wild yearnings of ambition, if indeed in the humbler castes this has not been wholly lost from the mental faculties, even as the body in time loses power in muscles or limbs never exercised. Traditions, unimpaired in strength, are handed on from mother to daughter, and thus, with

her lack of aspiration and her simple standards of comfort and necessity, I do not think that the working woman of the East is in such bad case when set beside her European sisters. (171-4)

180 e Memsahibs Abroad

Anna Harriette Leonowens Parsee Women

The Parsee women that I met and visited in Bombay were on the whole, remarkably good-looking as girls; before they conceal their fine curly hair they are really beautiful, and the children among the loveliest and happiest to be found in the East. The


are fair-complexioned,

with a delicate


tinge, with large eyes and regular features, often exquisitely formed, owing to their dress being freed from anything like pressure on the body; but they rob themselves of a part of their beauty by the custom of concealing their beautiful hair under white linen bands bound around the brow. They wear very wide silk trousers, gathered and fastened at the ankles, over this a silk

tunic, often descending in graceful folds to the feet and bound at the waist, while a deep, wide scarf of silk or some other light texture gracefully drapes the whole person and serves at once the double purpose of a head-dress and a veil. They occupy in their homes a much more honourable position than either the Hindoo or Moslem women. I used to meet them in the streets and bazaars, driving in their open carriages, surrounded by their bright, happy-looking children. (121-2) The Parsee woman is as independent in her home and marriage relations as the European, although the universal seclusion of highborn Hindoo and Mohammedan woman has not been without its influence on her domestic life. The first use of the veil among the Persian women was as a symbol of dignity and honour rather than of concealment from motives of modesty. In the early days of the Zoroastrians woman was held not so much as an equal, but as something superior in the home. In social rights and home-duties

the husband and wife shared alike, and side by side they ministered to the holy fires on their household hearths. ... [T]here are among the Parsees even to-day a few old-fashioned observances which might be introduced with great advantage to

the wife and mother among the labouring and even richer classes of European nations. For instance,


in the poorest families

Encounters with Indian Women @ 181 there are certain days when the woman is considered unfit to cook, wash, bake, sweep the floor, or light the house-lamp. So strenuous

are the laws against her working at these times that among certain persons her touch is held to pollute the thing or person that comes into close contact with her. She is forbidden to perform even the lighter offices which may fall to her share in the house. She separates herself from the family on such occasions. If she is too poor to keep a servant, her husband is enjoined to do her part of the housework in addition to his own

outdoor labour, whatever

that may be. The same rules apply to all female servants. (107-8) Hindu Women

There is a marked difference between the moral and social character of the Hindoo and the Mohammedan women of India. The Hindoo woman does not occupy that position in society which she is so eminently fitted to grace, and which is accorded women in Europe and America; but she is by no means

to as

degraded as is so frequently represented by travellers, who are apt to mistake the common street-woman with whom they are brought into contact for the wife and mother of an ordinary Hindoo home. It is difficult for a stranger to find out what an Indian woman is at home, though he may have encountered many a bedizened female in the streets which he takes for her. The influence of the Hindoo woman is seen and felt all through the history of India, and is very marked in the annals of British rule. Though the political changes, the invasion, and despotism of Mohammedan rule may have forced upon them the seclusion now so general, it is evident that they once occupied a very different position in society, from the testimony of their earliest writers and the dramatic representations of domestic life and manners still extant.

One of the most startling facts is, that among the Asiatic rulers of India who have heroically resisted foreign invasion the women of Hindostan have distinguished themselves almost as much as the

182 e Memsahibs Abroad men. Lakshmi Baiee, the queen of Jahnsee,” held the entire British

army in check for the space of twenty-four hours by her wonderful generalship, and she would probably have come off victorious if she had not been shot down by the enemy. After the battle Sir Hugh Rose,” the English commander, declared that the best man

on the enemy’s side was the brave queen Lakshmi Baiee. Another courageous and noble woman, Aus Khoor, was placed by the British government on the throne of Pattiala, an utterly disorganized and revolted state in the Panjaub. In less than one year she had by her wise and effective administration changed the whole condition

of the country,


the rebellious



villages, increased the revenues, and established order, security, and peace everywhere. Alleah Baiee, the Mahratta queen of Malwah, devoted herself for the space of twenty years with unremitting assiduity to the happiness and welfare of her people, so that Hindoos,

Buddhists, Jains, Parsees,

and Mohammedans

united in blessing her beneficent rule; and of so rare a modesty was this woman that she ordered a book which extolled her virtues to be destroyed, saying, ‘Could I have been so infamous as to neglect the welfare and happiness of my subjects?’ In the historical notices of the rule of Hindéstanee women nothing is more conspicuous than their fine, intuitive sense of honour








governors-general of India, have all acknowledged their high appreciation of the character of the Hindoo women they have known, declaring that in many instances, under the administration

of Ranees and Begums, India has been more prosperous better governed than under the rule of the native rajahs. The present ruler of Bhopal is a lady of high moral

and and

intellectual attainments; both she and her mother, who preceded

her as head of the state, have displayed the highest capacity for administration. Both have been appointed knights of the Star of


The Rani of Jhansi (1835-58) was a rebel leader in the Mutiny. She reportedly fought disguised as a soldier and died on the battlefield. Sir Hugh Rose (1801-85), was commander of British forces during the Mutiny.

Encounters with Indian Women e 183

India by the empress of India, Queen Victoria, and their territory is the best governed state in India. Very recently the queen of England created her Asiatic sisters, the queens of Oude and Pattiala, knights of the Star of India in appreciation of their wise and beneficent rule over their respective kingdoms. (200-2)


The main point of contact between English women in India and Indians were servants—indispensable for tourists and memsahibs alike. Fanny Parks lists fifty-seven servants as the minimum required by ‘quiet people’ (this number decreases in the course of the century). The pros and cons of Indian servants were hotly debated and while observers like Emma Roberts point out their honesty, other memsahibs stress the superiority of English servants. Like natives in general, servants were seen to be both stupid and devious. The laziness so often attributed to servants and their insistence on keeping ‘caste-———which necessitated a host of different servants for different offices—was, of course, a classic strategy

of native resistance against exploitation. What also emerges from these texts is a confirmation of the fact that beating servants was widespread amongst the British. As Emma Roberts points out, the behaviour of servants was a reflection of their treatment by their masters.

The emotions evoked by wet nurses reveals one of the cracks in the smooth facade of colonialism. Received opinion decreed that an Englishwoman was not to nurse her child herself. Instead, native wet nurses were recommended (as were working class nurses at home). These were accused of emotional blackmail as well as other iniquities—a reflection of the anxiety provoked both by the dependence on these women as well as the fear of contamination of the children by the close contact to depraved natives. Mrs Sherwood names quite clearly what is at stake in this classic colonial constellation: the life of the Indian baby of the wet nurse. Colonial guilt is projected back onto the native by accusing the wet nurse of deliberately sacrificing her child.

Servants e 185 How close the relationship among English women and their servants could be at times is shown in the touching incident related by Anne Wilson.

Fanny Parks

A List of Servants in a Private Family Wages. Rupees per month. A khansaman, or head man; a Musalman servant who

purchases the provisions, makes the confectionery, and superintends the table


The abdar, or water-cooler; cools the water, ices the wines,

and attends with them at table The head khidmatgar; he takes charge of the plate-chest, and waits at table A second khidmatgar, who waits at table A bawarchi, or cook


Mate bawarchi Mashalchi; dish-washer and torch-bearer Dhobee, or washerman

Istree wala, washerman for ironing A darzee, or tailor

A second An ayah, An under A doriya;

tailor or lady’s maid woman a sweeper, who also attends to the dogs

Sirdar-bearer, a Hindoo servant, the head of the bearers,

and the keeper of the sahib’s wardrobe; the keys of which are always carried in his kamarband, the folds of cloth around his waist The mate-bearer; assists as valet, and attends to the lamps

Six bearers to pull the pankhas and dust the furniture, &c. A gwala, or cowherd


186 e Memsahibs Abroad


A bher-i-wala, or shepherd



A murgh-i-wala, to take care of the fowls, wild-ducks, quail, rabbits, guinea-fowls, and pigeons


26 A malee, or gardener


27 28 29

3 a

A mate, do. Another mate, or a cooly A gram-grinder, generally a woman who grinds the chana

for the horses 2 30 A coachman 10 38 Eight sa’ises, or grooms, at five rupees each, for eight horses 40 46 Eight grass-cutters, at three rupees each, for the above 24 47 A bhishti, or water-carrier 5 49 A barha’i mistree, a carpenter 8


Another carpenter



Two coolies, to throw water on ‘the tattis


54 55

Two chaukidars, or watchmen A durwan, or gate-keeper

8 4


Two chaprasis, or running footmen, to carry notes, and be in attendance in the verandah 10

57 total

Rupees per month


or about £ 290 per annum. During the hot winds, a number of extra coolies, twelve or fourteen, are necessary, if you have more than one thermantidote,

or if you keep it going all night as well as during the day; these men, as well as an extra bhishti, are discharged when the rains set in.

We, as quiet people, find these servants necessary. Some gentlemen for state add an assa burdar, the bearer of a long silver staff, and a sonta burdar, or chob-dar, who carries a silver club,

with a grim head on the top of it. The business of these people is to announce the arrival of company. If many dogs are kept, an extra doriya will be required. The above is a list of our own domestics, and the rate of their


Servants @ 187

The heat of the climate, added to the customs and prejudices of the natives, oblige you to keep a number of servants; but you do not find them in food as in England. One man will not do the work of another, but says, ‘I shall lose caste’, which caste, by the

bye, may be regained by the expenditure of a few rupees in a dinner to their friends and relatives. The Mohammadan servants pretend they shall lose caste, but in fact, they have none: the term

is only applicable to the Hindoos. If your khansdman and sirdar-bearer

are good and honest

servants, you have little or no trouble with an Indian household;

but, unless you are fortunate with your head servants, there is great trouble in keeping between fifty or sixty domestics in order. (1: 209-10)

Emma Roberts

‘Persons who domestics’

will never succeed in retaining respectable

... Servants, those fruitful sources of plague in all civilized countries, sometimes contrive, in India, to occasion an infinity of trouble. In justice, however, to this maligned race, it must be admitted, that

reasonable people, acquainted with the customs of the natives, or willing to be instructed in them, may escape many of the pains and penalties usually connected with a large establishment. It is astonishing how easily the multitude of domestics, necessarily attached to an Anglo-Indian household, may be managed, and in almost every instance it is the fault of the master or the mistress if the servants be disreputable or inattentive to their duties. Kind treatment, and the accurate payment of wages at stated periods, are. alone necessary to secure the attachment of numerous dependants;

and it is much to be regretted, that illtemper, and

disregard of prejudices, should, in so many instances, produce a contrary effect. ... In India, we may almost invariably read the character of the master in the countenances and deportment of his servants. If they be handsomely, but not gaudily dressed, respectful but not servile

188 e Memsahibs Abroad

in their demeanour, quiet, orderly, and contented, they bear evidence of the good qualities of their superiors; but where

servants exhibit any signs of terror or of absurd obsequiousness, where they never approach without their hands folded as if in prayer, and almost touch the earth in their salaams; where they are dirty, ragged, noisy, and constantly changing, the head of the house may safely be pronounced tyrannical, unreasonable, or a bad paymaster,—a description of persons who will never succeed in retaining respectable domestics. A very short residence in the country is sufficient to render the natives well-acquainted with the characters of the Europeans round them; and if once a disgraceful notoriety be obtained, none save thieves and outcasts will take service where ill-treatment is sure to follow: hence the origin of the too numerous complaints of persons, who never can meet with a domestic to suit them, who refuse to yield to the customs of the

country in which they are doomed to dwell, and consequently are attended only by those who are indifferent to loss of caste or of character. (1: 82; 91-2)

‘No set of persons are more calumniated’ There is scarcely a servant in any establishment who could not, if he pleased,

make himself master of what would be wealth to him;

for there are very few things which are not left open and at the mercy

of the domestics,





for escape

beyond the reach of justice: but it is seldom that the poorest and lowest abuse their employer’s confidence; nothing but ill-treatment, and, in many cases, not even that, will induce a servant to rob his

master; frequently the whole household will abscond in the night, but they do not often carry any thing away with them, though there may be arrears of wages due, which they dare not return to claim. Yet notwithstanding facts of this nature, which are notorious, and the unlimited confidence which the greater number of Europeans repose in their servants, no set of persons are more calumniated or reviled. There are certain perquisites to which they think themselves entitled, and which, if they are not very sharply

looked after, they will appropriate; but, excepting where great carelessness and extravagance on the part of the heads of houses

Servants ¢ 189

encourage similar waste in their inferiors, their peculations are very trifling, and by no means deserve to be designated by the opprobrious terms which people, unaccustomed to the tricks and frauds practised by European domestics, are wont to use in descanting upon the knaveries of those in India. Were the same power to be placed in the humble classes of England, it would be much more frequently abused; but persons who have come out young and inexperienced to India, and who, in too many instances, entertain a prejudice against the colour of those with whom they are surrounded, are apt to fancy excellencies and perfections in servants at home, which only exists in their own imaginations: a truth of which, upon their return to Europe, they are soon painfully convinced. Extraordinary examples of honesty are of perpetual occurrence in India; large sums of money, accidentally left upon tables, have been carefully secured by the first servant who espied them, and produced without any ostentation, as a matter of course, at the

owner’s return. The sirdar-bearer has usually the care of his master’s purse, and when these men are judiciously selected, they may be entrusted with untold gold. The poorest class of labourers, coolies, are often employed to convey a box or parcel, containing valuable property, from Calcutta to the Upper Provinces, receiving an advance of pay at the period of their setting out, as they have no


of maintaining



the road; fifteen or

twenty rupees, if the journey be a long one, are often given for this purpose, and always without the slightest danger of the sum being misapplied. Nothing could be more easy than the appropriation of box and money to the use of the person who carries his load over many weary miles for scanty pay, and who, by diverging into a neighbouring district, might defy the pursuit of justice; but such things never occur; the only danger to be apprehended is the murder of the cooly by those prowling bands of robbers by profession which infest every part of Hindostan. (3: 57-60)

The Power of Servants Where the head of the house has failed to secure the attachment of

his dependants, he is made to feel how completely it is in their

190 © Memsahibs Abroad

power to avenge themselves. They can always invent some excuse for the carelessness and neglect which are productive of serious annoyance to him. He has no remedy; for, accustomed to beating and abuse, they are not deterred, by fear of the consequences of his displeasure, from preferring their own ease to his comfort. They have little hope of good treatment, and are determined not to allow any opportunity for retaliation to escape them. He may awake in the morning and find that the whole set have abandoned him in the night, and in this event he is left in the most charming predicament imaginable, and can only vent his rage upon the awkward substitutes, which the neighbouring village will supply, who, in turn, run away so soon as they can take their departure without danger of pursuit. (1: 146-7)

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming ‘Quite the most painful sight’ They certainly are a curious race. So strange a mixture of childishness and cunning, delighted by the simplest pleasures, children with children, unwearied in their devotion to the delicate white-

faced little ones whom the climate renders so terribly fractious; great solemn men walking up and down for hours with unruffled patience, trying to soothe shrieking babies, and probably getting a good dose of the same sort at night in their own little hovels—hovels,

by the way, from which

I doubt whether


European could come in such spotless white robes. As attendants they are wonderfully good. Quick, noiseless, detecting in a moment what is wanted, patient and ‘answering not again’ to an extent that might sometimes shame their masters, who certainly have no more claim to faultlessness than ‘the niggers’ of whom they think so lightly; for to see an Englishman fly into a passion with a native, and strike a man

back, is humiliating indeed. If not derogatory to British dignity, and are likely to witness. Happily the the aggrieved servant to summon

who dares not hit him

cowardly, it certainly is horribly quite the most painful sight you present state of the law enables his master before a magistrate,

Servants ¢ 191

when a tolerably heavy fine may be exacted. On the other hand, the master will then probably refuse to give the man a chit, or note of character, without which he may wait long enough for a reengagement. (252-3)

E. Augusta King The Stupidity of Servants She is a regular villager, of bucolic intelligence but improving. has lately begun to notice the various strange ornaments furniture, and even ask simple questions. I pointed out a large of Herring’s' three horses’ heads, and asked her what animals _ were. She studied them attentively for some

She and print they

time, and then said,

‘Perhaps they were camels.” You must remember that never in her life had she seen a picture, which is a state of mind we are hardly able to realize. Most of the servants in hanging a picture would hang it upside down, so little can they see any meaning in it. I suppose it is chiefly a matter of education. I wonder if a dog would be taught to recognize a portrait? (1: 114-15)

Indian Servants vs. English Servants I am only speaking of the average servants of both countries; and I do not say any Indian servant can equal a thoroughly excellent,

devoted, well-educated English one, for, owing to the different national characteristics, I think they hardly could. It is not that these are less faithful or devoted, for as a rule they are far more so,

and many an ayah in the Mutiny proved her devotion at the cost of her life, and many would do so again. But there is not the same

high moral standard, especially with regard to truth; and this is where a first-rate Indian servant would stand a step lower than a

first-rate English one. In fact, the conclusion I have come to is that an





be more


as an

' John Frederick Herring (1795-1865), animal painter who gained fame for his portraits of race horses.

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individual here can be, but that the average servants here are better than the average at home. (1: 130-1)

Florence Marryat The Viciousness of Servants

Whether the bungalow water had been rendered thus noxious by the decomposition

of the





poison had been mixed in what they drank by the natives, will never be ascertained; but knowing what I do of the eastern character, I should never feel satisfied, when losing friends in so

mysterious a manner, that they had not been murdered. The natives are in possession of several medical secrets which the English faculty in India have tried in vain to wrest from them. Servants whose employers linger on the Neilgherry” Hills, after it is their own desire to return to the plains, have been known to wash the cups and plates from which their master’s children take their food, in so subtle a juice or distillation that everything they took disagreed with them, until the parents, laying the effects to the mountain climate, have hastened back to where the natives would be. (164-5)

Emma Roberts

The Ayah or Lady’s Maid The difficulty regarding female domestics is certainly very great. It is generally considered essential for the ayah to be a Moosulman woman,

as none but a low Hindoo would take the office; and it

may safely be averred, that not one respectable woman out of a hundred is to be found in this class. The single circumstance of her mingling unveiled with the male domestics, is sufficient to shew that she has lost all claim to reputation; she has seldom any good * The Nilgiris are a hill range in South India. The best-known hill resort in the Nilgiris is Ootacamund

(Ooty), now named Udazamandalam.

Servants @ 193

Our magistrate’s wife quality left, excepting honesty; she is idle, slatternly, and dissipated, and frequently even too lazy to see that her assistant performs her duty. Few ayahs are at the slightest pains to make themselves acquainted with the mysteries of the European toilette; they dress

their ladies all awry, and martyrdom is endured whenever they take a pin in hand: they have no notion of lacing, buttoning, or hook-and-eyeing, and only shew themselves skilful in the bathingroom, and in brushing and braiding the hair. Folding up dresses is an art wholly unknown, and Griselda herself would find it difficult to keep her temper in the midst of crushed flounces, broken feathers, and gauzes eaten through and through by cockroaches.

European women, if attainable, demand enormous wages; they soon learn to give themselves airs, and require the attendance of natives during the hot weather: the Moosulman ayah is usually found the lesser evil of the two, and when she happens to be clever and active, she is a treasure beyond price. (1: 92-3)

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Julia Charlotte Maitland ‘T inquired whether the cat had any servants ...’ There is one great convenience in visiting at an Indian house, viz.—every visitor keeps his own establishment of servants, so as to give no trouble to those of the house. The servants fend for themselves in a most curious way. They seem to me to sleep nowhere, and eat nothing,—that is to say, in our houses, or of our

goods. They have mats on the steps, and live upon rice. But they do very little, and every one has his separate work. I have an ayah (or lady’s maid), and a tailor (for the ayahs cannot work); and A— [Maitland’s husband] has a boy: also two muddles—one to sweep my room, and another to bring water. There is one man to lay the cloth, another to bring in dinner, another to light the candles, and

others to wait at table. Every horse has a man and a maid to himself—and every dog has a boy. I inquired whether the cat had any servants, but found that she was allowed to wait upon herself; and, as she seemed the only person in the establishment capable of so doing, I respected her accordingly. Besides all these acknowledged and ostensible attendants, each servant has a kind of muddle or double of his own, who does all the work that can be

put off upon him without being found out by the master and mistress. Notwithstanding their numbers, they are dreadfully slow. I often tire myself with doing things for myself rather than wait for their dawdling; but Mrs Staunton laughs at me, and calls me a ‘griffin’ and says I must learn to have patience and save my strength. (N.B. Griffin means a freshman or freshwoman in India.) The real Indian ladies lie on a sofa, and, if they drop their hand-

kerchief, they just lower their voices and say, ‘Boy!’ in a very gentle tone,




in, perhaps,





brownie, looking like a superannuated thread-paper, who twiddles after them for a little while, and then creeps out again as softly as a black cat, and sits down cross-legged in the verandah till ‘Mistress

please to call again.’ ...

These natives are a cringing set, and behave to us English as if they were the dirt under our feet, and indeed we give them reason

Servants e 195

to suppose




as such. Their

servility is dis-

agreeable, but the rudeness and contempt with which the English treat them are quite painful to witness. Civility to servants especially seems a complete characteristic of griffinage. One day I said to my ayah (a very elegant lady in white muslin), ‘Ayah, bring me a glass of toast-and-water if you please.’ She crept to the door, and then came back again, looking extremely perplexed, and whined out, ‘what Mistress tell? I don’t know.’ ‘I told you to bring me




I know


well, but

mistress tell ifyou please; I don’t know ifyou please.’ I believe the phrase had never before been addressed to her. (37-40)

Emma Roberts

The Wet Nurse: ‘Expensive and troublesome’ Infant life in the torrid zone hangs upon so fragile a thread, that the slightest ailment awakens alarm; the distrust of native attendants, sometimes

but too well-founded,

adds to maternal terrors, and

where the society is small, the social meetings of a station are suspended, should illness, however slight, prevail amongst the baba logue. Where mothers are unable to nurse their own children, a native woman, or dhye, as she is called, is usually selected for the

office, Europeans being difficult to be procured; these are expensive and troublesome appendages to a family; they demand high wages on account of the sacrifice which they affect to make of their usual habits, and the necessity of purchasing their reinstatement to caste, forfeited by the pollution they have contracted, a prejudice which the Mussulmans have acquired from their Hindoo

associates. Their diet must be strictly attended to,

and they are too well aware of their importance not to make their employers feel it: in fact, there is no method in which natives can so readily impose upon the European community as that in which their children are concerned. The dearest article of native produce is asses’-milk, in consequence of its being recommended by medical men for the nutriment of delicate children; the charge is never less than a rupee per pint, and it frequently rises much

196 © Memsahibs Abroad

higher. It is useless to add a donkey to the farmyard belonging to the establishment, in the hope of obtaining a regular and cheaper supply; the expense of the animal’s keep is enormous, and it is certain to become dry or to die in a very short time. Few servants refuse to connive at this knavery, and the same donkey may be purchased two or three times over by its original proprietor, and not an individual in the compound, though the fact may be notorious to all, will come forward to detect the cheat. It is a point of honour amongst them to conceal such delinquencies, and they know

that if asses’milk

be required

for the


it will be

purchased at any price. (2: 121-2)

Julia Charlotte Maitland ‘So careless about their own children’

The amah is a caste woman, and her whims are the plague of my life: I am obliged to keep a cook on purpose for her, because her food must all be dressed by a person of her own caste; and even then she will sometimes starve all day rather than eat it, if she fancies anybody else has been near it: she has a house built of cocoa-nut leaves in the compound, on purpose to cook her food in. I am also obliged to keep a separate nurse for her baby, and see after it regularly myself, because they are so careless about their own children when they are nursing other people’s, that she and her husband would let the poor little creature die from neglect, and then curse ys as the cause of it. (106-7)

E. Augusta King Neglect and Opium There has been a good deal of trouble about the dhaie’s child, which, since we left the station, has been brought to a very low ebb through neglect and immense doses of opium. So in spite of the parents I have dismissed the woman who had charge of it, and have at last found another who, I hope and think, will do well. She

Servants @ 197

is now living here in the compound, that I may have the child under my own eye till we see it make a fair start again, poor little soul. If it were a boy they would take enough care of it, but it is ‘only a girl’. (1: 218)

Florence Marryat

The Revenge of the Wet-Nurse An ‘amah’ also, or native wet-nurse, offended by some word or

action of her mistress, will revenge herself by causing her milk to dry up, or ‘backen’, as it is technically termed, in a few hours, and

what is more extraordinary, will, when perhaps in possession of the dismissal she coveted, bring the draught back again almost as quickly. ... one can scarcely blame the maternal instinct of the animal which prompts her to retain all her milk for the little one for whose use it was given her: but it is not so easy to feel amiable towards a reasoning creature who undertakes to perform the part of mother towards a helpless infant, and will then deprive it of its nourishment without the least regard to its health, in order to gratify her own caprice. (165-6)

Mary Martha Sherwood

‘White child is good, black child his slave’ To learn how these little ones are managed was so important to me that I would have borne any insolence to obtain information. Each person who had anything to do in the nursery was agreed that wetnurses must be had for delicate children in India, even if the white

mother was able to nurse her children for a time. ‘But the wetnurse’s baby’, I remarked; ‘what can be done for the little black

infant?’ ‘Oh!’ replied the amiable white woman, ‘something handsome is always paid for their being reared; but they commonly die.’ ‘My lady’, she added, ‘has had six nurses for different children, and the babies have one and all died.’ ‘Died!’ I remember I exclaimed, ‘but this is murder.’ She answered coolly,

198 e Memsahibs Abroad

‘But this can’t be helped; the mothers never fret after them. Whenever they nurse a white baby they cease to care for their own; they say, “White child is good; black child his slave.”

I still inquired ‘whether this might not be avoided?” ‘Only’, she answered, ‘by a lady taking the trouble of keeping the infant within her compound, and seeing it daily.’ (402)

Anne Wilson

The Mistress and her Ayah Miss M. tells me that the most beautiful feature in Indian home-tife is the passionate love given and returned by mother and son. ... I have seen myself, in my limited experience, what her love means.

My ayah asked for a month’s leave not long ago, and left me for that period. When she came back I literally did not know her. She was an old, bent, toothless woman, her smile dead, and with such

a look of ‘helpless, hopeless, broken-hearted grief’, that I took her at once to my room to hear what had happened. ‘My son, my son, oh! Mem Sahib, my boy’, she said with tears

pouring down her poor old shrunken face, ‘My son, my boy is dead. He was so big, so strong, so beautiful. But he took ill, he died. There are terrible words which we mothers must say to our sons when they are dying. We must say them thrice. He was my only boy. I had to say them thrice. “I your Mother who bore you, I your mother who fed you from my breast, it is I who bid you

good-bye.” I had to say these terrible words while he looked at me, and when I was saying for the third time “It is Iwho bid you goodbye”, he died. His wife could stay in that place, she could look at the things he had looked at, she could smile. I sent her away. I sent her home. As for me, Mem Sahib, I am still raw inside.’

Ah yes, when all is said and done, the same heart beats in every human breast, and we wept together. (95-7)

The Mutiny The aftermath of the Mutiny in 1857 produced a plethora of survival sagas that was eagerly received by the home readership. I have focused on only one paradigmatic text that recounts a lady’s escape from Gwalior to Agra and her life in the fort under conditions of siege. Mrs Coopland builds up tension skilfully in her narrative, beginning with the forebodings of impending doom and

the awful sense of suspense while the rebels bide their time. The attack, when it does occur, is by a wild horde of sepoys who murder her husband but allow the ladies to escape unharmed to seek safety in the nearby fort of Agra. Here begins the long weary wait for relief. Nevertheless, a semblance of everyday life is kept up. After the relief arrives, Coopland travels with the army to Delhi on her way back to England. Here she meets the former emperor Bahadur Shah II, now prisoner of state. Perhaps the violence of her feelings towards Indians is not surprising in the light of her experiences.

A second text quoted here is the forgotten account by the

‘Crimean heroine’, Mrs Duberly, an_ officer’s wife who accompanies her husband’s regiment, the 8th Royal Irish Hussars, on a punitive expedition to India. She is clearly exhilarated by the feeling of battle, but unfortunately the greater part of military operations is taken up by a weary track of 2,000 miles in Indian rain and sun on the trail of rebel forces. She does, however, meet another old warrior, the Maratha princess Baiza Bai, with whom

she immediately feels a bond of solidarity. Her attitude to the famous Mutiny leader, the Queen of Jhansi, is more ambivalent.

200 « Memsahibs Abroad

Duberly’s text is one of the few women’s accounts to hint at what the war looked like from the Indian point of view. *

Ruth M. Coopland ‘Gloomy forebodings’ The shadows of the ‘coming events’ now began to cast a gloom over us, and our calm was

slightly ruffled by hearing of some

disturbances at Dumdum and Barrackpore, about the cartridges for the Enfield rifle. Government had ordered mutton fat to be supplied by the contractors; but as they used pig’s and bullock’s fat, the sepoys soon found out the cheat, and made a ‘row’ about ‘caste;’ however, after a speech from the Brigadier, they quieted

down, and we soon ceased to be interested in the affair, thinking it only some trifling explosion about that bugbear, caste. Then we heard about some chupattis. It seemed that a chowkedar of Cawnpore gave to a chowkedar of Futteghur two chupatties, with an order to make ten more, and give two to each of the nearest chowkedars to distribute in like manner. In this way they spread from village to village, and from province to province. Government was quite nonplussed. Some thought it was a ceremony to avert cholera, which had been frightfully prevalent in the North-

West Provinces the year before; others said it was of superstitious origin; and some hinted at treason. But like everything connected with the natives, it was wrapped in mystery: certainly they were veiled under a marvellous cloak of caution, considering the deep and sanguinary plot they were hatching. ... The first warning we had of the coming heat was a curious phenomenon in the shape of a dust-storm. Suddenly one afternoon a violent wind came on, filling the air to a great height with fine dust, rendering

it almost




a lurid

light over

everything. The servants said it was the ‘tufan’. The trees bent and shook, and the storm came on in all its fury. It grew darker and darker, and felt quite suffocating; everything was covered with fine

sand, and the doors and windows shook and rattled. After lasting

The Mutiny ¢ 201 ‘half anhour it grew lighter, and the servants opened the doors and began dusting the sand off the furniture. ... We went to a musical party given by Captain Pearson, one of the few unmarried officers. His house was one of the two pucka houses, built in the Elizabethan style, by the architect of the church. The evening passed very pleasantly in singing and playing the piano, concertina, violin, flute, &c. It was the last pleasant panty we had; after that, all was gloom and misery.. The last grand military display we had was wile blowing up of a mud fort; it was a very striking sight. Who could believe these suave, respectful sepoys were cherishing a diabolical plot! ...

The tempest had been brewing at Meerut for some time; bungalows and houses were burnt, and no one knew who had perpetrated these flagrant acts of revolt ... All went on as usual till Sunday (the fatal day), the 10th of May. | The news, by means of the telegraph, was all over India by the 13th; but we

then hoped it was

cautions having been burst on us at Gwalior horror. We could not many thousands, could quietly as ever. We did

not known

to the natives, pre-

taken to prevent them corresponding. It like a thunderclap, and paralysed us with help wondering how a plot, known to so so long remain secret, and all things go on not see the terrible details till a day or two

afterwards, when we were dining with the Stuarts: I remember our

gloomy forebodings, and how we talked of what had happened. Little more


a month

after, of the nine



together that night, there were only three survivors. ... (69-82)

‘How awful it is to wait quietly for death’ I was much struck with the conduct of our servants—they grew so impertinent. My ayah evidently looked on all my property as her share of the plunder. When I opened my dressing-case, she would ask me questions about the ornaments, and inquire if the tops of the scent-bottles were real silver; and she always watched where I

put my things. One evening, on returning from our drive, we heard a tremendous quarrelling going on between the sepoys of our guard and the ayah and kitmutghar. They were evidently disputing about the spoil; and it afterwards turned out that the

202 @ Memsahibs Abroad sepoys got quite masters, and would not let the servants share any

of the plunder, but kept them prisoners, and starved and ill-treated them. They had much better have remained faithful to us, and have helped us to escape; instead of which, at the first shot, they

vanished, and began to plunder what they could. My husband overheard the punkah coolies outside talking about us, and saying that these Feringhis would soon have a different home, and they would then be masters, and that the Feringhis were quite different in the cool weather, but were now such poor creatures as to require to be punkahed and kept cool. I could not help fancying they might have made us punkah and fan them, so completely were we in their power. ... On Friday and Saturday we heard nothing; and we lived in a state of dread uncertainty. My husband seldom undressed at night, and I had a dress always ready to escape in. My husband’s rifle was kept loaded (I learnt to load and fire it), as we were determined not to die without a struggle. ... I hope few will know how awful it is to wait quietly for death. There was now no escape; and we waited for our death-stroke. The dread calm of apprehension was awful. We indeed drank the cup of bitterness to the dregs. The words ‘O death in life, the days that are no more’, kept recurring to my memory like a dirge. But God helps us in all our woes; otherwise we could not have borne the horrible suspense. ... After dinner the poor clerk, Collins, came in to know about service: he was dreadfully agitated, and my husband had to wait

some time before he was sufficiently composed to speak. He said that he was quite sure the sepoys intended to rise that night and murder us all. Poor man! I shall never forget his look of distress: he was the first to be shot that night. My husband advised me to put on a plain dark dress and jacket, and not to wear any ornaments or hide anything about me, that the sepoys might not kill me for the sake of my dress or trinkets; we then selected one or two trifles

that we prized and some valuable papers, which we made into small packets, and again sat down in silent suspense. ...

My husband now sent for all the servants and gave them each handsome presents in money: to his bearer and my ayah he gave double; he also rewarded the guard of six sepoys, who had come to guard our house when the fire broke out. We then drove out.

The Mutiny © 203 We saw scarcely any one about, everything looked as it had done for days past; but as we were returning we passed several parties of sepoys, none of whom saluted us. We met the Brigadier and Major Blake,



just going to pass

a party of sepoys,



remember saying to my husband, ‘If the sepoys don’t salute the Brigadier the storm is nigh at hand.’ They did not. The Brigadier and Major Blake turned and looked at them. We found our guard still at our house, but they took no notice of us. We then had tea, and sat reading till gun-fire; and at 9 we retired to rest, as my husband was much exhausted. (109-16)

‘Have you no feringhis concealed?’ My husband went into his dressing room, and I, after undressing and dismissing my ayah, arranged my dress for flight, and lay

down. A single lamp shed a ghostly glimmer in the room. Soon afterwards the gun fired—instantly the alarm bugle rang out its shrill warning on the still night. Our guard loaded their muskets, and I felt that our death knell had sounded when the butts went down with a muffled sound. My husband opened his door and said, ‘All is over with us! dress immediately.’ The ayah and bearer rushed in, calling out, ‘Fly! the sepoys have risen, and will kill you.’ The ayah then quickly helped me to dress. I put on a morning wrapper, cloth jacket, and bonnet, and snatched up a bottle of aromatic vinegar and another of opium from the dressing table, but left my watch and rings. My husband then came in, and we opened my bath-room door, which led into the garden, and rushed out. Fortunately it was very dark. .... After a short time, passed in terrible suspense, the guard of the

house suggested that we had better hide in the garden, as the sepoys would soon be coming to ‘loot’ [to plunder] the house, and would kill us. It was only postponing our deaths, as we knew that escape was hopeless; but as life is dear to all, we did what we

could to save it. ... Mrs Blake’s kitmutghar, Muza, who remained faithful, now took

us to a shady place in the garden, where we lay concealed behind a bank, well covered with trees. He told us to lie down and not to

204 @ Memsahibs Abroad

move, and then brought a large dark shawl for my husband, who was in a white suit. ... At last about a hundred sepoys came to attack Mrs Campbell’s house, which was close to our hiding place. We heard them tearing down the doors and windows, and smashing the glass and furniture; they even brought carts into the garden to carry off the plunder; then they set fire to it, and the flames shot up into the clear night air. They seemed to take pleasure in their mad work, for their wild shouts of laughter mingled with the crackling of the flames. The moon (which had now risen) looked calmly down on our misery, and lighted the heavens, which were flecked with myriads of stars, only occasionally obscured by the smoke of burning houses. Oh the sight of that moon! how I longed that she would hide her brightness behind some cloud, and not seem to look so serenely down upon our misery. ... We heard them looking for us: but not finding their victims there, they came into the garden and made a diligent search for us. I saw the moonlight glancing on their bayonets, as they thrust aside the bushes, and they passed so close by us that we might have

touched them. But God baffled their malice for a time; though they sought us with a deadly hatred, they were unsuccessful, and

we were again left to wait a little longer in bitter suspense. ... Our faithful Muza now crept to us, and said we were no longer safe where we were, but that he might hide us in his house, and

perhaps get us some native dresses to disguise ourselves in; and gratefully we hurried after him during a lull in the storm. ... After half an hour the sepoys returned, more furious than before; they evidently knew we were somewhere about. We heard them disputing, and the clang of their guns sounded as though they were loading them. They entered the kitchen of the house, which was only separated from the room we were in by a thin wooden partition. Muza then went out; we did not know what for. Had he deserted us? The sepoys talked and argued with him; we heard them count

over the cooking vessels and dishes, and distinctly say, ‘do, tien, char, awr eck nai hai?’ [Two, three, four; is there not another?|

After dividing the spoil, we heard them again ask Muza if we were in his house, and say they must search; but he replied that his

The Mutiny e 205 mother was ill, and that they might frighten her. They asked him, ‘Have you no Feringhis concealed?” and he swore the most sacred oath on the Koran, that there were none in his house: but this did

not satisfy them, and we heard them coming in; they forced open the door with the butts of their muskets, the chain fell with a clang, and as the door burst open, we saw the moon glistening on their fixed bayonets. We thought they were going to charge in upon us: but no; the hut was so-dark that they could not see us. They called for a light; but Muza stopped them, and said, ‘You see they are not here: come, and I will show you where they are.’ He then shut and

fastened the door, and they again went away. ... It was now nearly six o’clock, and grew gradually lighter, when

the sepoys again returned howling and raging like wild beasts. ... We all stood up close together in a corner of the hut; each of us took up one of the logs of wood that lay on the ground, as some means of defence. I did not know if my husband had his gun, as it was too dark in the hut to see even our faces. The sepoys then began to pull off the roof: the cowardly wretches dared not come in, as they thought we had weapons. When they had unroofed the hut, they fired in upon us. At the first shot we dropped our pieces of wood, and my husband said, ‘We will not die here, let us go outside.’ We

all rushed out; and Mrs Blake, Mrs Raikes, and I,

clasped our hands and cried, ‘Mut maro, mut maro’ (do not kill us). The sepoys said, ‘We will not kill the mem-sahibs,

only the

sahib.’ We were surrounded by a crowd of them, and as soon as they distinguished my husband, they fired at him. Instantly they dragged Mrs Blake, Mrs Raikes, and me back; but not into the bearer’s hut; the mehter’s was good enough for us, they said. I saw

no more; but volley after volley soon told me that all was over. Here we again lay crouched on the ground; and the stillness was such, that a little mouse crept out and looked at us with its bright eyes, and was not afraid. Mrs Campbell came rushing in with her hair hanging about her; she wore a native’s dress, her own having been torn off her: she had been left alone the whole night. Then poor Mrs Kirke, with her little boy, joined us: she had that instant seen her husband shot before her eyes; and on her crying

‘Kill me too!’ they answered, ‘No, we have killed you in killing him.’ Her arms were bruised and swollen; they had torn off her

206 © Memsahibs Abroad

bracelets so roughly, even her wedding ring was gone. They spared her little boy saying, ‘Don’t kill the batcha [child], it is a missie baba [little girl].’ Poor child! His long curls and girlish face saved his life! He was only four years of age. I was very thankful to see Mrs Campbell, after the frightful report we had heard; for till then we had thought her to be safe under Major Macpherson’s protection. The sepoys soon returned, and crowded in to stare at us. They made the most insulting remarks, and then said, ‘Let us carry them to our lines’; where-

upon they seized our hands, and dragged us along very fast. It was a beautiful morning, and the birds were singing. Oh! how could the bright sun and clear blue sky look on such a scene of cruelty! It seemed as if God had forgotten us, and that hell reigned on earth. No words can describe the hellish looks of these human fiends, or

picture their horrid appearance: they had rifled all the stores, and drank brandy and beer to excess, besides being intoxicated with bhang. ... Hundreds of sepoys now came to stare at us, and thronged round us so densely we could scarcely breathe. They mocked and laughed at us, and reviled us with the most bitter language, saying: ‘Why don’t you go home to your houses? Don’t you think it is very hot here? Would you like to see your sahibs now?” ... After keeping us for some

time, as a spectacle on which


wreak their contempt, when they had tired themselves with using insulting language, they said we might go where we liked; but when we asked how? they demurred at giving us one of the carriages, till some,


merciful than the rest, at last said we

might have one. ... We proceeded on our way, the people yelling and shouting after us, and we expected every instant to be stopped and torn out of our carriage and given up to be killed by them; for nothing could exceed their savage looks and language. ...

We had now almost lost the power of thinking and acting, for we had been from nine the preceding evening without food, water, or rest; and our minds were on the rack, tortured by grief and suspense. Here we were, about eight miserable women, alone and unprotected, without food or proper clothing, exhausted by

208 © Memsahibs Abroad

fatigue, and not knowing what to do; some had no shoes or covering for their heads. At last Muza said we had better get into our carts and push on; for the natives of the Lushkur, hearing we ‘were here, would follow and kill us. The bullocks went very slowly, and we could not make them move faster. The sensation of horror and helplessness oppressed us like a nightmare: for all this time we were only a few miles from Gwalior, and could even hear the shouting and crying there. (117-32) Life at the Fort

Shortly after our occupation of the fort it was divided into ‘blocks,’ our quarters, as I have before said, were in ‘block F’, and each

compartment was numbered: thus letters were directed to Captain M—Block F, No. 3, or whatever letter and number it might be. ... After we had been settled there, and had learnt to look on it as

our home for some time to come, everything was arranged. A staff of sweepers to keep the interior clean were paid by the authorities, and bheesties, coolies, and other satellites necessary for order and comfort, were hired; butchers, bakers, dhobies, and others carried on their trades within the fort; walls were built and others thrown

down; gardens were laid out, and all the daily offices of life attended

to and

thought of; nor was

death forgotten,

for even

coffins were made. The fort was divided as follows: the Agra civilians occupied comparatively comfortable quarters in the palace gardens; the large marble hall there being employed by the head civilians as a ‘cutcherry’, and on Sundays for service: one officer’s marriage even was celebrated in it. The officers and their families lived in tents, pitched on a large green opposite the Delhi Gate, and near

the Motee Musjid. Here also was a row of small tiled houses, formerly the officers’ quarters when the fort was garrisoned, and now occupied by some of the head military officers, Colonel Grassford, Colonel Fraser, and others, with their families. There were also some other houses, in one of which Lady Outram lived,

and the rest were inhabited by officers and their wives. ... The chaplains, Mr Hind and Mr Murray, had comfortable quarters, and Mr French and the other missionaries lived in the palace

The Mutiny ¢ 209

garden. The unmarried soldiers lived in one set of barracks, and the married with their families occupied another set. The latter

were much more comfortably off than we were, and had brought in some

of their furniture; indeed some of the married soldiers’

quarters were really very snug. The places where the shopkeepers and merchants lived were very wretched. On the archways and tops of buildings they made small thatched huts, of the same grass Our jamps were made of. But it would be a waste of words to describe all the extraordinary places people inhabited: sufficient to say, every


place was


either with



chopperwork, or rude sorts of shanties, huts, and tents; and the

casemates and barracks were all crowded with occupants, almost as closely packed as bees in a hive. The confusion of tongues was such as to give one some idea of the confusion at the Tower of Babel. The half-castes, or ‘Kala-Feringhis’ [‘black foreigners’], as the natives call them, who are uncharitably said to have the vices of both different races, and the virtues of neither, were in immense

swarms, and had to accommodate themselves anywhere. A large number of them lived in our ‘square’, just beneath our balcony: the rest lived in holes, tyrconnels, or on the tops of the buildings all

over the fort. Poor creatures! they must have had a miserable time of it; for their habitations were very wretched. The census of all the persons in the fort, which was taken on the 26th of July, amounted to no less than 5845; of which 1989 were Europeans, consisting of 1065 men and 924 women and children: the whole of the rest being natives and half-castes. ... Our furniture consisted of two narrow soldier’s cribs, with very hard mattresses and but scanty bedclothes, a small camp table, two

or three chairs, and boxes to contain our stores and meagre wardrobe;


in one







earthen pots for water. Our toilette apparatus consisted of a small ‘chillumchie’, and a cracked looking-glass. A lamp, a few cups and saucers, plates, knives and forks, completed the ménage. This ‘den’

and its furniture I shared with Mrs Innes; and it is a sample of all the others. ... | The next day all my friends went to pass their day in cantonments, so I had a dreary day alone; and having no books I occupied myself watching the people coming to take possession of

210 © Memsahibs Abroad

their allotted ‘quarters’. The noise and confusion was deafening; coolies running backwards and forwards with furniture, boxes, &c.,

bringing large supplies of wood and other useful things, removing old things from their places to make room for the future occupants, and piling things on the roof of our balcony, which surrounded the court-yard on three sides. Some were making the jamps, and all were






for a native

thinks no work can be done without a great amount of gesticulation and shouting. At last came a lull in the storm, when they were all occupied in eating and sleeping; but this silence, after the terrible noise, only lasted for an hour.

I overheard the natives in the next compartment to mine talking of the Gwalior mutiny; one of the servants who had come in from Gwalior was giving his companions a detailed account of all that happened that fatal day: how this ‘sahib was killed’ and where another was shot. It was harrowing to my feelings to hear all this,

for I now knew quite enough of Hindoostanee to understand what they said, and I distinctly heard them go over the whole account with minute

exactness, gloating and dilating on the horible facts,

and then laughing with savage glee over the number that had been killed: I heard them repeatedly speak of the ‘padre sahib-—my dear husband. Strange to say they had actually placed a guard over the cemetery on that night (the 14th) to prevent the graves being desecrated, for fear the spirits should haunt them; but afterwards they grew more hardy and reckless, and it is said they frequently opened the graves. ... The heat was frightful, and in consequence of our servants’ desertion, we had to do everything for ourselves: this was parti-

cularly trying to us, as the climate tends to enervate people, and make

them less active and energetic; and the hosts of servants

every one keeps, renders people dependent on them. A lady’s life in India, however, though very luxurious, is not so useless and frivolous as some imagine. We had to cook, wash our clothes, and clean out our ‘dens,’ and those who had children had the double

task of attending to them and keeping them inside the ‘dens,’ as it was dangerous to let them be outside on the stone walk alone, the

parapet was so low: little Archie Murray did fall over into the court

The Mutiny © 211 below, a distance of twelve or fourteen feet, but happily escaped uninjured. ... After

a time, some

of the servants


to return.

... The

manners of the servants were most insolent and contemptuous; they often said our ‘rajh’ was over, and considered us doomed; fully expecting that when their brethren had defeated us at Delhi, which they never doubted would be the case, they would march to Agra and cut us all to pieces with little trouble. Formerly they used to address us as ‘your excellency, protector of the poor,’ and say, ‘Will it please your highness to let your slave do such a thing?’ and use such hyperbolical expressions, but now they dropped even the customary ‘Sahib’ and ‘Mem sahib,’ and often addressed us as ‘Tum’ [thou] instead of, as formerly, ‘Ap’ [your honour]. ‘Tum’ in Hindoostanee is considered as familliar as ‘tw’ in French. They would also often lie down in our rooms, and when we spoke to them, did not get up. ... Our daily life dragged on very wearily. We rose early in order to get a little air ‘on the tower’, which was free from the noise and disorder of the half-castes. Our fare began to be a little better now, for some of the natives ventured in, by means of passes, to sell eggs, butter, fowls, &c. After breathing a little fresh air from the river, we returned to breakfast on tea, ‘kidgeri’, and ‘chupatties’

which the servants had brought from the bazaar. We often sat several hours on ‘the tower’ and took our chairs into the kiosk for shade. The pontoon bridge across the Jumna was now removed, for fear of the insurgents crossing the river. It was an amusing sight to see the natives throwing themselves from the ghats into the river, or washing their clothes, and saying their prayers, kneeling with their faces towards the east, and no doubt praying most fervently for the annihilation of the ‘Feringhis.’... Shortly after, a young lady was married to a gentleman in the Uncovenanted Service, in our hall (the dewan-i-am). It was a very gay wedding considering the circumstances: the bride was in a veil and lace dress, attended by brides’-maids in pretty bridal attire; and after the ceremony, they pitched a tent on the terrace, and had a dance and supper, to which they invited all the officers.

212 © Memsahibs Abroad

In the cold weather, when people had become more reconciled to their confinement, they had balls and musical parties in the arsenal. ... The ‘Mofussilite’ was printed in the Fort, the printing press being now in use, so we received detailed accounts of what was going on. (168-203)

Delhi: the ‘City of Horrors’ Early in the afternoon we reached the bridge of boats, where we paid toll to a native; which rather astonished us, for we thought all

natives were now excluded from public offices. After crossing the bridge, which swarmed with natives, bullocks, and flies—the latter

attracted by the scent of sweet-meats, of which large amounts are made in Delhi—we thundered through the Calcutta gate into the ‘City of Horrors’: every spot of which is consecrated as the deathplace of some hapless victim, or brave soldier. Passing through one or two deserted looking streets, we entered the ‘Chandney Chowk’ (the principal street of Delhi), which quite astonished us by its gay appearance: for Delhi was in our minds associated with nothing but gloom and desolation. The natives either mingled in crowds or sat before their shops on pieces of carpet, with raised trays before them, on which they displayed embroidered shawls, skull caps, toys, shell, and sugar cane; here and there brilliant pieces of calico,

just dyed, were hung to dry across the street. The natives were all gaily dressed with bright turbans; and they had an impudent, selfsatisfied expression on their faces, very irritating to us, when we

remembered the merciless and cruel deeds so lately enacted here by their brethren. This street was the bazaar, and far more eastern in its aspect than any I had yet seen. ... The street was crowded with English soldiers in their bright uniforms,









Ghoorkahs, European ladies riding on immense elephants, and gentlemen on camels, horses, and ponies. Altogether the gay crowd, the green trees, the bright pieces of calico, and the azure

blue sky, formed an enlivening scene; and one might have forgotten the fearful things that had so lately taken place, but for two large gallows in the middle of the street. (252-4)

The Mutiny ¢ 213

A Visit to the Emperor of Delhi In the afternoon Captain and Mrs Garstone

and myself, with

another officer and his wife, went to see the King of Delhi. drove

down the Corridor into a dirty street. ... We then came to a large ruined, broken-up garden, where we were joined by Mr Omanney, a young civilian, who had charge of the king. We climbed some steep steps on to the terrace, where some more guards were walking before the door, and entered a dirty-looking house, then the abode of the ‘king of kings’, the descendant of a long line of Moguls, including Shah Jehan, Aurangzebe, and Timour. Pushing aside the purdah, we entered a small, dirty, low

room with white-washed walls, and there, on a low charpoy, cowered a thin small old man, dressed in a dirty white suit of cotton, and rolled in shabby wraps and rezais, on account of the cold. At our entrance he laid aside the hookah he had been smoking, and he, who had formerly thought it an insult for any one to sit in his presence, began salaaming to us in the most abject manner, and saying he was ‘burra kooshee’ (very glad) to see us. As we looked at him we thought how strange it was that this

frail old man, tottering on the brink of the grave, could harbour such a plot and such deep revengeful feelings against us. His face was pale and wan, and his eyes weak and uncertain, seeming to shun our scrutiny; but an aristocratic expression of face reminded us of his noble descent. He had a venerable-looking white beard, and he swayed about in a frail decrepit way, exciting feelings that were a mixture of contempt, abhorrence, and pity: contempt, for the degraded position to which he had brought himself by his wild scheme of reinstating himself on a throne which he could only hope to enjoy for a passing year or two; abhorrence, that he could

give -up our poor countrymen to be brutally murdered, and even, it is said, feast his eyes and ears on their dying anguish; and pity, that he should have so short a time for repentance, and that the

descendant of a line of kings, whose splendour and power were boundless, should be thus degraded.

We ladies, after gazing at the king and his son, Jumma Bukh, son of Zeenat Mahal, the king’s favourite wife, who had a shrewd

clever face for a boy about fourteen, were allowed to see the

214 e Memsahibs Abroad

queen, Zeenat Mahal,—a favour not granted to the gentlemen. It seemed absurd to humour thus their silly prejudices, when they had spared no European in their power any indignity or insult.

However, we raised the ‘chick’ which separated the queen’s room from the king’s, and entered

a very small bare, shabby room.

Seated on a charpoy we beheld a large bold-looking woman, with not the least sign of royalty or dignity about her. She seemed about forty, her complexion was tawny, and her face large and coarsely featured, with daring black eyes and wide mouth, and dark hair

partially concealed under her white cotton chudda [veil]. She wore a cotton dress of black print and but few ornaments; her small and

well-shaped hands and feet were bare. Judging from her looks, she seemed capable of inciting the king on to deeds of blood, which

she was accused of having done. She began asking Mrs Garstone and the other lady about their husbands, and why Mrs Garstone had not brought her children, as she wished to see them; then,

looking at my black dress, she sneeringly asked me what had become of my ‘sahib’. I was so angry at her look and tone of heartless contempt, that I said, ‘Chupero’ (silence), and walked out of her presence. ... I afterwards heard that the king and queen did not live on very good terms. She said that he would still consider himself a king, and when she sent for things from the bazaar, he pronounced them not good enough for him; and that he would not smoke the tobacco when it came, because he did not consider it nice enough.

He complained that she had plenty of concealed jewels, which

she would


not sacrifice’ to his comfort;


so that

Mr Omanney was obliged to allow him four annas a day,—about sixpence. (274-7)

A Call for Revenge We soon took a last view of the ‘City of Horrors’. I could not but think it was a disgrace to England that this city, instead of being rased to the ground, should be allowed to stand, with its bloodstained walls and streets,—an everlasting memorial of the galling

insult offered to England’s honour. Many would forget this insult;


216 @ Memsahibs Abroad but it cannot, and ought not to be forgotten. Yet the natives are actually allowed to ransom back their city, street by street; whereas, if it were destroyed, being their most sacred city, and one that reminds them of their fallen grandeur, it would do more to manifest our abhorrence of their crimes, and our indignation

against them, than the hanging of hundreds. Delhi ought to be rased to the ground, and on its ruins a church or monument

should be erected, inscribed with a list of all the

victims of the mutinies,—if it be possible to gather the names of ALL those who were massacred,—and the funds for its erection

should be raised by a fine levied on every native implicated in the mutinies, but not openly accused of murder. (278-9)

Frances Isabella Duberly The Experience of Battle’ It then became necessary to scour the plains, lest any should be found lurking in houses or under topes of trees. The impulse to accompany the cavalry and artillery was irresistible; and I never, never shall forget the throbbing excitement of that short gallop, when the horse beneath one, raging in his fierce strength, and mad with excitement, scarcely touched the ground. (135) The streets’ were so strewn with plunder, that our horses positively walked over cushions, garments, bedsteads, sofas, and

Persian MSS. We had difficulty to induce them to follow such a gaudy path, and they proceeded with many snorts and shies until they gained a clearer thoroughfare. A few wailing old men and women were alone left to mourn for the city; and starving dogs and bullocks roamed about—gaunt, hungry, grim. We went into

some of the temples, but found nothing of interest. The streets are narrow and ill-paved, and the town was pervaded by that strong and pungent smell peculiar to the whole of the East. As we were ' The battle at Gwalior on 17 June 1858, when the rebels were routed and the Rani of Jhansi was struck down by a soldier of the 8th Hussars. * The streets of the rebel city of Kotah, which fell to the British on 31 March 1858.

The Mutiny @ 217 riding out of town we met with an enormous boar, who had come in scenting future feasts of ‘all uncleanliness’. His tusk gleamed by his dusky upper lip, and when he saw us he gave a grunt and began to increase his speed. Fortunately we were riding in single file, and he passed me and Lieutenant Hayes without notice. He made a dart at the Rajah (ridden by Henry), who avoided him by springing up a side street. He then charged the last horse of our party. The ill-paved street was so slippery that I feared the horse must lose his footing, but he wheeled sharp round and darted off at a rate which showed that he appreciated the tusks of his foe. ... Large trees added to the beautiful effect of this secluded spot, after passing which we came to the deep, wide lake, in itself a fortification. As we neared the massive walls, flanked by towers and bastions, with buttress and moat, we saw revolting evidence of

‘the work of death. The dogs and pigs were busy at their work, and it was frightful to see them tearing the limbs of the dead. ... We scared away the unwilling dogs, and I could not help noticing that where men and horses lay together, the men were devoured before the horses were touched. We returned home through the

gardens (needing the fragrance of the flowers), and watered our horses at an irrigated rose-bed. (82-5)

Baiza Bai: ‘I, too, have ridden at a battle’ The Bhae-si-bhae” sat in the place of honour next to the purdah, and arrested my attention at once, both by the simplicity of her toilette and the great dignity and self-possession of her deportment. The lustre of her still glorious eyes reminded me of the light which shines through port wine when held against the light. She is over seventy years of age, but apparently as energetic as in the days’ of her fiery and intriguing youth. ... ‘Was I the Englishwoman who had gone with the armies to

make war upon the Ruski? ‘She thought I was a much older person.’ ‘Could I ride on horseback? ‘Had I seen a European battle between the English and the Ruski?’ ‘Ay,’ she said, her dark eyes dilating as she spoke, ‘I, too, have ridden at a battle: I rode * Her son, the Maharajah Sindhia of Gwalior, remained loyal to the British.

218 e Memsahibs Abroad

when Wellesley Saib drove us from the field, with nothing but the saddles on which we sat.’ (154-7)

The Rani of Jhansi With regard to the Ranee of Jhansi, nothing is known with certainty, except that she was killed. Various stories got afloat; amongst others, that she was run through the body by a private of the 8th Hussars, who, as she was dressed as a man in a white turban and crimson tunic and trowsers, had no idea that his sword

was pointed at the breast of a woman. Another story had it that she died, not from a sword-thrust, but from two shot wounds.

Sir Hugh Rose told me, that although mortally wounded she was not actually killed on the field, but was carried off the ground, and ordered a funeral pile to be built, which she ascended and fired with her own hand while almost in the act of dying; an instance of

fierce and desperate courage thatI can only listen to with wonder. At all events, on the 17th of June her restless and intriguing spirit passed away: a subject of regret perhaps to those who admired her energy and courage, but of congratulation to all who are concerned in endeavouring to settle the intricate and disturbed affairs of this unhappy country. (145)

Attack on a Rebel Camp*: unsatisfactory work’ Some


that came

‘All this Indian

warfare is

under my notice were

very dis-

tressing. A man shot in the head, and who was bleeding profusely from his wound, was tended by his little daughter, apparently about twelve years old, who held up her hands imploring mercy and pity as we passed. Nor was I the only one who tried to reassure and comfort her. One of our servants, when he joined us later in the day, brought with him a little boy, about seven years

old, who he found standing by his dead father, who had been shot and fallen from his horse. The man, the child and horse were in a

* Near Mongoulee on 20 November Duberly’s life.

1858. It was to be the last battle of

The Mutiny ¢ 219 group, and our servant charitably took the child and placing him on his own horse, brought him into camp. I became possessed too of a small white dog, which, together with a baby of six or seven months old, was found lying on a bed when the mother, frenzied, I suppose, by terror, had fled, and left her child behind! The little

one was sitting up and laughing, pleased at the horses and soldiers as they passed. ... It seems to me that all this Indian warfare is unsatisfactory work, and although it may be true that in this rebellion severity is mercy, yet, on the other hand, there have been cases of ruthless slaughter,

of which perhaps the less said the better. (231-2)

Heat and Dust Everyday life in India was perceived by the British to be one long battle against the insidious climate and its infectious diseases.

While life in the tropics no doubt took its toll, particularly during the early part of the century, this was also part of the myth the British had fashioned for themselves: they were there because they had a duty to fulfil, not for pleasure (and certainly not for financial profit). India was the Land of Exile. Accordingly, strength of character was displayed by adapting as little as possible to the surroundings. Like the women travellers who marched through the swamps of Africa laced up in corsets, Englishwomen in India retained the mounds of clothing they wore at home (two kilograms, Julia Maitland revealed), reserved the hottest part of the day for visiting, and insisted on an English diet. This rigidity was not without its price; colonial neuroses about malignant insects and the morally undermining effects of the climate manifest themselves in a touch of hysteria in many of the texts. At the same time, the memsahib herself draws flak from these

women writers, particularly for her frivolous and indolent lifestyle (see in particular the chapter on social life). But as other writers remind us, there is a tragedy lurking beneath the surface of superficiality—the separation of English women in India from their children.

One of the tenets of colonial thought decreed that the

climate, and particularly Indian servants, had a baleful influence

on the children of the Raj. Accordingly, it was imperative for them to leave the shores of the country as soon as possible and attend boarding school in England. They were often delivered into the hands of paid foster parents. The trauma of this practice is delineated in Kipling’s story ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’, which he

Heat and Dust © 221

admitted to be autobiographical in gist. The implications of this pattern of desolation on generations of colonial rulers is something these women

do not reflect on. Emma Roberts, however, astutely

puts her finger on one of the roots of the problem: she points out that English children in India were often closer to their native servants than to their parents—so much so that they often spoke a native language better than English. What we find here is also a battle for the allegiance of the children. Interestingly, hers is one of the few voices in the wilderness advocating the education of British children in India to avoid tearing apart the family. Once acclimatised, the climate is no more harmful than elsewhere, she claims.

In fact, from the early travellers onwards there have always been voices making this point.

Fanny Parks ‘This vile Indian languor’ 70th.-O! Western shore! on which I have passed so many happy days; what would I not give for your breezes, to carry away this vile Indian languor, and rebrace my nerves? In front of the thermantidote, and under a pankha, still there appears to be no air to breathe! This easterly wind is killing; I have in general liked the hot winds, and have found my health good during the time; but this heavy, unnatural atmosphere overpowers me. ... 19th.-The air is so oppressive, it appears full of dust, so white,

so hot! the atmosphere is thick and dull,—no rain! This day last year a fine storm refreshed the earth. The leaves are all falling off the trees, dried up by the sun; numerous trees are dead, burnt up, not a blade of grass! every thing so dusty! I wish the rains would come; this easterly wind, with a thermometer at 91° at noon, is terrible! The pummelo-tree presents a curious appearance, the whole of the leaves are parched, and have fallen from the tree,

leaving sixty fine green branches! ...




the naked

222 e Memsahibs Abroad

June 1st-I have scarcely energy enough to write; an easterly wind renders the tattis, useless; the thermometer at 93°! The damp air renders me so heavy and listless, it is an exertion either to eat or drink, and it is almost impossible to sleep, on account of the

heat. At 7 p.m. I take a drive through the burning air, and come in parched and faint, eager for the only comfort during the twentyfour hours, a glass of English home-made balckcurrant wine, well-

iced, in a tumbler of welliced soda water; the greatest luxury imaginable. ... When shall I feel energy enough to mount my horse again? for three months I have been unable to ride. Nothing is going forward, stupid as possible, shut up all day, languid and weary: this India is a vile country! ... Woe is me that I sojourn in this land of pestilence, that I dwell afar from the home of my fathers! (1: 273; 275; 302-3)

E. Augusta King “Heat is felt more in India’ Every one who has been in India, and also in Africa and Australia, knows that, owing to some peculiarity of the atmosphere, heat is

felt very much more in India than the same degree of heat in Australia would be. Of this there is sufficient proof in the fact that, although the thermometer sometimes goes as high in Australia as it does here, yet the country can be colonised by English men, nor are punkahs or tatties required to keep people or dogs alive. Whereas it has always, been impossible to colonise the plains of India, as the second generation, or so many as survive childhood,

are weak miserable creatures, destroyed in body and mind by the heat. The heat, therefore, registered by the thermometer does not convey




of the


allowance must be made for this. (1: 104)



felt, and

Heat and Dust ¢ 223

Christina Sinclair Bremner

The Comfort of Servants What would the unhappy Saheb do in this trying heat, were it not for the imperturbable serenity and equanimity of Indian servants? The more irritable he is, the more gently sympathetic do they appear to be, watchful to anticipate his slightest wish, wishful to alleviate his sufferings. In their white garments and bare feet, they noiselessly minister to his wants, not even remarking that it is hot.

often felt grateful to a black-handed bearer who incited the punkahcoolie to renewed exertions, warned the bhisti to pour more water on the kus-kus kind tattie, and silently placed an iced

drink near my hand without bothering me with questions, when the afternoon sun grew unendurable. (42-3)

Julia Charlotte Maitland

The Green Bugs: “Oriental luxuries’ There are large snakes here, seven feet long, and as thick as my arm! not poisonous, but I always have them killed, nevertheless; for they are horrible creatures, and, even if they are not poisonous,

no doubt they are something bad: I have no respect for any snakes.

But, worse

than snakes,



or even

land-wind, are the GREEN BUGS. Fancy large, flying bugs! they do not bite, but they scent all the air for yards around. When there is no wind at night they fly round and get into one’s clothes and hair—horrible! there is nothing I dislike so much in India as those green bugs. The first time I was aware of their disgusting existence, one flew down my shoulders, and I, feeling myself tickled, and not knowing the danger, unwittingly crushed it. I shall never forget the stench as long as I live! The ayah undressed me as quickly as she could, almost without my knowing what she was doing, for I was nearly in a fit. You have no notion of anything so horrible! I call the land-wind, and the green bugs, the ‘Oriental luxuries’. (205-6)

224 @ Memsahibs Abroad

Christina Sinclair Bremner

Mosquitoes: ‘The real curse of India’ It is said by Anglo-Indians that mosquitoes only suck the sweet fresh blood of the last arrivals. A lieutenant in his second year is no more palatable to a mosquito than is a warmed up leg of mutton to a gourmand. ... For indeed, there seems strong reason to suppose that the mosquito and his kindred tribes do not attack man at all. Finding women possessed of a more tender epidermis, and disgusted by the peculiar flavour many whiskey pegs and much tobacco smoke impart to the blood of man, the mosquito devotes his fiendish energies to embittering woman’s life. Had I been by when the mosquito was created, I would have spoken: ‘Why add one more to life’s many ills?” or were this denied, I would have

prayed that his taste might be for native blood, and failing that, for man’s. They bit me in the winter when everybody said there were none. My face and person were bedecked with bumps raised by mosquito poison when all declared they could not bite. At night I crept to my room in the dark, and groped about with outstretched arms to find the bedstead, then stealthily insinuated myself beneath the mosquito curtains. All in vain. They accompanied me, or were hatched in the night to torture me ere morning. My bed was taken to pieces and washed in paraffin; the horrid odour overpowered me. But the mosquito inhaled it as a stimulant or tonic, and with joyful buzz fell on his prey. I grew wonderfully expert at killing the enemy. Whilst the more heavy-moving masculine animal was slowly gathering himself together preparatory to an onslaught, I

had laid a row of corpses on the table, victims of my agility. ‘I would not think of them if I were you’, said a mild young man, my partner at a game of whist which I had interrupted for a brief mosquito hunt. ‘Not think of them!’ I wrathfully rejoined. ‘Tell the weary not to think of rest, the drowning not to think of the water gurgling in their ears, the tortured not to think of painless ease, but don’t tell me not to think of mosquitoes, for they will think of me.

Nothing but ether and chloroform will prevent me thinking of

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them.’ Seeing he had spoken foolishly, the young man killed one, after much

effort, and silently added

it to the death roll as a

propitiatory offering. Oh India! thy curse is not the Congress-wallah, who wants to push his finger into the pie political, to the disgust of his proud rulers, not the bunniah who is said to enslave the whole village by providing food in times of dearth or scarce work at extravagant rates, not the Russian scare which possesses the mind and soul of Punjabi rulers, not the want of courage in the Bengali Baboo,' not

the disorganization of thine ancient arts and manufactures by the importation of machine-made British goods, not the salt and income taxes which thy sons do much detest, not child-marriage nor woman’s slavish position, no, the real curse of India is the mosquito. At least I found it so. At Dehlie, there are wondrous buildings: by the Jumna’s banks a mosque lifts two tall tapering figures to the sky ... tombs endless are there, but who can study to revive that strange past with calm and thoughtful mind when the mosquito fiend tortures and poisons him? (36-8)

E. Augusta King Sudden Death Things are so awfully sudden in India. On Tuesday she [Mrs Melville] had a tennis-party and was full of health, and as bright and gay as usual. Wednesday, she was at the flower-show, but came away early, not feeling well, and from that day there has been slight hope. She was always the picture of health, and able to undergo any amount of exertion. How often I have envied her health and strength! So fair and young-looking too, and kind and good. Every one will grieve for her if, as we fear, she is taken. (1:


' Babu was originally a term of respect; it later became a derogatory term for educated Indians or clerks.

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Julia Charlotte Maitland Memsahibs

It is wonderful how little interested most of the English ladies seem by all the strange habits and ways of the natives; and it is not merely that they have grown used to it all, but that, by their own

accounts, they never cared more about what goes on round them than they do now. ... I asked one lady what she had seen of the country and the natives since she had been in India. ‘Oh, nothing!’ said she: ‘thank goodness, I know nothing at all about them, nor I don’t wish to: really I think the less one sees and knows of them the better!’ (52-

3) Mary Martha Sherwood

‘A complete victim to languor and ennui’ The lady of the house ... appeared to be a complete victim to languor and ennui. She had not the bodily strength of controlling either children or servants; she seemed to have lost all motive of

action, all power of exertion. She had few books, and scarcely ever heard any news of her own people, of whom she saw scarce one in a year, and apparently she took little interest in the natives. ... There is no solitude like the solitude of a civilian’s lady in a retired situation in India. (405)

Emma Roberts

Children: ‘Spoilt and petted’ It is possible to penetrate into the drawing-rooms of a mansion in England without being made aware that the house contains a troop of children, who, though not strictly confined to the nursery, seldom quit it except when in their best dresses and best

Heat and Dust ¢ 227 behaviours, and who, when seen in any other part of the house,

may be considered in the light of guests. It is otherwise in India. Traces of the baba logue, the Hindoostanee designation of a tribe of children, are to be discovered the ‘instant a visitor enters the outer verandah; a rocking-horse, a small cart, a wheeled chair, in which

the baby may take equestrian or carriage exercise within doors, generally occupy conspicuous places, and probably—for Indian domestics are not very scrupulous respecting the proprieties in appearances—a line may be stretched across, adorned with a dozen or so of little muslin frocks, washed out hastily to supply the demand in some extraordinarily sultry day. From the threshold to the deepest recesses of the interior, every foot of ground is strewed with toys of all sorts and dimensions, and from all parts of the world—English, Dutch, Chinese, and Hindostanee. In a family blessed with numerous olive branches, the whole house is converted into one large nursery; drawing-rooms, ante-rooms, bed-

rooms, and dressing-rooms, are all peopled by the young fry of the establishment. In the first, a child may be seen sleeping on the floor, under a mosquito-net, stretched over an oval bamboo frame,

and looking like a patent wire dish-cover; in the second, an infant of more tender years reposes on the arms of a bearer, who holds the baby in a manner peculiar to India, lying at length on a very thin mattress, formed

of several folds of thick cotton cloth, and

croaking a most lugubrious lullaby, as he paces up and down; in a third, two or more of the juveniles are assembled, one with its only garment converted into leading-strings, another sitting under a punkah, and a third running after a large ball, with a domestic

trotting behind, and following the movements of the child in an exceedingly ludicrous manner. Two attendants, at the least, are attached to each of the children; one of these must always be upon duty, and the services

of the other are only dispensed with while at meals; an ayah and a bearer are generally employed, the latter being esteemed the best and most attentive nurse of the two. These people never lose sight of their respective charges for a single instant, and seldom permit them to wander beyond arms’ length; consequently, in addition to the company of the children, that of their domestics must be endured, who seem to think themselves privileged persons; and

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should the little master or miss under their care penetrate into the bed-chamber of a visitor—no difficult achievement, where all the

doors are open—they will follow close and make good their entrance also. It is their duty to see that the child does not get into any mischief, and as they are certain of being severely reprehended if the little urchin should happen to tumble down and hurt itself, for their own sakes they are careful to prevent such a catastrophe at any personal inconvenience whatever to their master’s guests. When the children are not asleep, they must be amused, an office which devolves upon the servants, who fortunately take great delight in all that pleases the infant mind, and

never weary of their employment. They are a little too apt to resort to a very favourite method of beguiling time, that of playing on the tom-tom, an instrument which is introduced into every mansion tenanted by the baba logue for the ostensible purpose of charming the young folks, but in reality to gratify their own peculiar taste. An almost constant drumming is kept up from morning until night, a horrid discord, which, on a very hot day, aggravates every other torment. The rumbling and squeaking of a low cart, in which a child is dragged for hours up and down a neighbouring verandah,

the monotonous ditty of the old bearer, of which one can distinguish nothing but baba, added to the incessant clamour of the tom-tom, to say nothing of occasional squalls, altogether furnish forth a concert of the most hideous description. Nevertheless, the gambols of children, the ringing glee of their infant voices, and the infinite variety of amusement



afford, do much towards dispelling the ennui and tedium of an Indian day. The climate depresses their spirits to a certain point; they are diverting without being troublesome, for there is always an attendant at hand to whom they may be consigned should they become unruly; and certainly, considering how much they are petted and spoiled, it is only doing Anglo-Indian children justice to say, that they are, generally speaking, a most orderly race. There

can scarcely be a prettier sight than that of a groupe of fair children, gathered round or seated in the centre of their darkbrowed attendants, litsening with eager countenances to one of those marvellous legends, of which Indian story-tellers possess so numerous a catalogue; or convulsed with laughter as they gaze

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upon the antics of some merry fellow, who forgets the gravity and dignity considered so becoming to a native, whether Moslem or Hindoo, in his desire to afford entertainment to the baba logue. In one particularly well-regulated family, in which the writer happened to be a temporary inmate, a little boy expressed a wish that we would go very early to a ball which was to take place in the evening, because, he said, he and his brothers were

to have a

dhole, and the bearers had promised to dance for them. A dhole is an instrument of forty-drum-power; fortunately, both children and servants had the grace to reserve it for their own recreation, and doubtless, for that night at least, the jackalls were scared from the

door. (2: 99-103)

Mary Martha Sherwood

‘A complete slave of idleness’ Wherever she had moved during these first years of her life, she had been followed by her Ayah, and probably one or two bearers,

and she was perfectly aware that if she got into any mischief they would be blamed, and not herself. In the meantime, except in the article of food, every desire, and every caprice, and every want

had been indulged to satiety. No one who has not seen it could imagine the profusion of toys which are scattered about an Indian house wherever the Baba-logue (children people) are permitted to range. ... She has never been taught even to know her letters; she has never been kept to any task; she was a complete slave of idleness, restlessness and ennut. (403-4) Servants’ Devotion to Children


here I must say one


on the wonderful

love and

devotion of the Indian bearer of my baby, for it must be understood she had not at that time a black nurse. For one long, weary night did Jevan, kneeling beside the cot whereon the infant lay, watch her with the most unfeigned interest, awaiting the critical

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moment when the fearful fever of the jungles might effect its most terrible purpose, or pass away, we hoped, without any consequences. He it was who waited on her as the tenderest mother; and never shall I forget his soft, musical cry of ‘Baba gee, baba gee,’ ‘The baby lives, the baby lives’, which he uttered as the dreadful symptoms of fever passed, one by one, away, and gentle sleep prevailed. (495)

Emma Roberts

A Children’s Outing: ‘One of the prettiest spectacles’ It is not often that parents accompany their children in the evening drive or walk; the latter are taken out by their attendants at least an

hour before grown-up people choose to exhibit themselves in the open air. The equipages of the baba logue are usually kept expressly for their accommodation, and of a build and make so peculiar as to render them no very enviable conveyances for their seniors: palanquin-carriages of all sorts and descriptions, drawn by one horse or a pair of bullocks, in which the children and the servants squat together on the floor; common palanquins, containing an infant of two or three years old, with its bearer; taun jauns, in which a female nurse is seated with a baby on her lap; together with miniature sociables, chaises, and shandrydans,—in

short, every sort of vehicle adapted to the Lilliputian order, are put into requisition. Many of the little folk are mounted upon ponies; some of these equestrians are so young as to be unable to sit upon their steeds without the assistance of a chuprassy on each side, and a groom

to lead

the animal;






scamper along, keeping their attendants, who are on foot, at full speed, as they tear across the roads, with heads uncovered


hair flying in the wind. One of the prettiest spectacles afforded by the evening drive in Calcutta, is the exhibition of its juvenile inhabitants, congregated on a particular part of the plain between the Government-house and the fort, by the side of the river. This is the chosen spot; all the

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Our band equipages, a strange grotesque medley, are drawn up at the corner,

and the young people are seen, in crowds, walking with their servants, laughing, chattering, and full of glee, during the brief interval of enfranchisement. For the most part, they are pale, delicate creatures; cherry-cheeks are wholly unknown, and it is only a

few who can boast the slightest tinge of the rose. Nevertheless, there is no dearth of beauty; independent of feature, the exceeding fairness of their skins, contrasted with the Asiatic swarthiness around them, and the fairy lightness of their forms, are alone

sufficient to render them exceedingly attractive. Not many number more than eight years, and perhaps in no other place can there be seen so large an assembly of children, of the same age and rank, disporting in a promenade. Before night closes in upon the gay crowd,

still driving





the juvenile

population take their departure, and being disposed in their respective carriages, return home. At day-break, they make their appearance again, in equal numbers; but their gambols are perforce confined to the broad and beaten path; they dare not, as in

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Europe, disperse themselves over the green sward, nor enjoy the gratification of rolling and tumbling on the grass, filling their laps with wild flowers, and pelting each other with showers of daisies.

Their attendants keep a sharp look-out for snakes, and though these reptiles are sometimes seen gliding about in the neighbourhood, there is no record of an accident to the baba logue from

their poisonous fangs. (2: 107-10)

Children’s Education: ‘Polite learning deemed indispensable by amibitious mothers’ Time in India is not much occupied by the studies of the rising generation; an infant prodigy is a rara avis amongst the European community;

for, soothe

to say,



of children


shockingly neglected; few can speak a word of English, and though they may be highly accomplished in Hindostanee, their attainments in that language are not of the most useful nature, nor, being entirely acquired from the instructions of the servants, particularly

correct or elegant. Some of the babas learn to sing little Hindostanee airs very prettily, and will even improvise after the fashion of the native poets; but this is only done when they are unconscious of attracting observation, for the love of display, so

injudiciously inculcated in England, has not yet destroyed the simplicity of Anglo-Indian children. The art in which, unhappily,

quick and clever urchins attain the highest degree of proficiency, is that of scolding. The Hindostanee vocabulary is peculiarly rich in terms of abuse; native Indian women, it is said, excel the females

of every other country in volubility of utterance, and in the strength and number of the opprobrious epithets which they shower down upon those who raise their ire. They can declaim for five minutes at a time without once drawing breath; and the shrillness of their voices adds considerably to the effect of their eloquence. ... With such examples before their eyes,—for there is not a woman, old or young, in the compound, who could not exert her powers of elocution with equal success—a great deal of care is necessary to prevent the junior members of a family from indulging in the natural propensity to scold and call names.

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Spoiled and neglected children abuse their servants in an awful manner, using language of the most horrid description, while those parents who are imperfectly acquainted with Hindostanee are utterly ignorant of the meaning of the words which come so glibly from the tongues of their darlings. In British India, children and parents are placed in a very singular position with regard to each other; the former do’ not speak their mother-tongue; they are certain of acquiring Hindostanee, but are very seldom taught a word of English until they are five or six years old, and not always at that age. In numerous instances, they cannot make themselves intelligible to their parents, it being no uncommon case to find the latter almost totally ignorant of the native dialect, while their children cannot converse in any other. Some ladies improve themselves by the prattles of their infants, having perhaps known nothing of Hindostanee until they have got a young family about them, an inversion of the usual order of things; the children, though they may understand English, are shy of speaking it, and do not, while they remain in India, acquire the same fluency which distinguishes their utterance of the native language. The only exceptions occur in King’s regiments, where of course English is constantly spoken, and the young families of the officers have ample opportunity of making themselves acquainted with their vernacular tongue in their intimate association with the soldiers of the corps. ... The sons of officers who cannot afford to send their children to England for their








regiments, having grown up into manhood without quitting the land of their birth, and without having enjoyed those advantages which are supposed to be necessary to qualify them for their station in society; yet these gentlemen are not in the slightest degree inferior to their brother officers in their attainments in classic and English literature; in the latter, perhaps, they are even more deeply versed, since thay can only obtain an acquaintance with many interesting circumstances relative to their fatherland through the medium of books; while they excel in Hindostanee, and are certain of being appointed to the interpreterships of the corps to which they belong. Clergymen’s sons, also, do infinite

credit to the instructions which they receive in India; and though it

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may be advisable for them to follow the general example, and finish






but without



it is scarcely

it is not

by the

enjoyed possible










education in India. The climate is usually supposed to be exceedingly detrimental to European children after they have attained their sixth or seventh year, but vast numbers grow up into men and women without having sought a more genial atmosphere, and when thus acclimated, the natives


do not


the heat with


inconvenience. When the pecuniary resources of the parents leave them little hope of returning to Europe with their families, the accomplishments secured to the daughters by an English or French education, are dearly purchased by the alienation which must take place between them and their nearest relatives. If interest be wanting to obtain commissions in the King’s or Company’s service for the sons, boys must be sent to seek their fortune at home, since there are very few channels for European speculation open in India. Indigo-factories form the grand resource for unemployed young


but, generally speaking,

family connexions

in the

mother-country offer better prospects. With the female branches of Anglo-Indian families it is different; the grand aim and object which their parents have in view is to get them married to men possessing civil or military appointments in India, and they consider the chances of so desirable a destiny materially increased by the attainment of a few showy and superficial accomplishments in some European seminary. In too many instances, the money thus bestowed must be entirely thrown away; young ladies, emancipated from the school-room at an early age, and perchance not acquainted with any society beyond its narrow limits, have only the name of an English education, and know little or nothing more than might have been acquired in India; others, who have

enjoyed greater advantages, are in danger of contracting habits and prejudices in favour of their own country which may embitter a residence in India; and as it frequently happens that men of rank choose their wives from the dark daughters of the land, or are guided wholly by the eye, the good to be derived scarcely counter-

Heat and Dust ¢ 235

balances the great evil of long estrangement from the paternal roof. ... : Notwithstanding the extreme terror with which attached parents regard the hour which is to separate them from their children, their greatest anxiety is to secure for them the advantages of a European education, and in almost every instance those who remain in India are only kept there in consequence of pecuniary embarrassments. The misery of parting with beloved objects seems even less severe than that of retaining them under so many circumstances supposed to be’ adverse to their advancement in life; and the danger of entrusting them to unamiable or incompetent persons in England, appears to be nothing compared to the wretchedness of seeing them grow up under their own eyes, without the means of acquiring those branches

of polite learning deemed

indispensable by ambitious

mothers: numbers, who are too completely the offspring of the soil to require change of climate, are sent to England, in order that in accomplishments at least they may vie with their fairer associates. ... Not unfrequently the mother accompanies her young family, leaving the father thus doubly bereaved; the husband and wife

are sometimes parted from each other for many years, where the latter is unwilling to relinquish the superintendence of her sons and


to other hands;

but, in many


the lady

spends the time in voyaging between England and India. Where there are funds to support the expense, the wives of civil or military residents seem to think nothing of making the passage half a dozen times before they settle finally in one quarter of the globe; establishments which appear to be permanent are often broken up in an instant; some panic occurs; the mother flies with her children to another land, or, should it be convenient for the

father to apply for his furlough, the whole family take their departure, leaving a blank in the society to which perchance they have contributed many pleasures. (2: 114-25)

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Helen MacKenzie

‘Tt is ruin to a child to be kept in this country’ It is, I believe, almost impossible to find a native who is either

truthful or pure-minded. How can they be so with their impure creeds? You know the tendencies of Muhammadanism, but you are



of the unspeakable


of Hinduism,

which are intertwined with all their religious rites. The ‘Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation’ shows that man can never be better than that which he worships, and if so, how thoroughly must the native mind be polluted by a faith which, I suppose, surpasses all others in depravity. On this account it is ruin to a child to be kept in this country, unless the mother can have it always with her. ... I could not repeat the dreadful stories I have heard of the early depravity and knowledge of wickedness acquired by children from their Ayahs, even under vigilant superintendence. I think it a plain duty for every one who can by any means afford to have a European nurse for their children as soon as they begin to speak. ... (70-1)

Florence Marryat ‘Too filthy to be imagined’ I have been told that the conversation of the natives, as a rule, is

too filthy to be imagined, which always gave me a great horror of permitting my children to pick up the Tamil language from their ayahs; for this reason I made a point of never engaging a woman to attend upon them who did not speak English. ... (55)

Maud Diver

‘That tragic shadow of separation’ Sooner or later—cruelly soon, it seems to most of us—comes the inevitable moment when the voice of conscience can no longer be

Heat and Dust ¢ 237

silenced; when the very love wherewith she loves her children is become a two-edged sword that shall pierce her heart; and she knows that they must go: knows that there is a limit of age beyond which she dare not keep them without risk of handicapping them, physically and morally, in the race of life. Physically, because the staple foods of childhood have far less nutritive value in India than in England, and the constant moving comes harder every year upon their sensitive nervous systems, to say nothing of the difficulty of obtaining pure and suitable food at Indian rest-houses and railway stations; morally, because


and discipline are not

easily enforced in a land where constant allowance must be made for the climate and the life; and because—let India’s champions say what

they will—it is still less easy to keep the eager,


observant little minds fearlessly upright and untainted in an atmosphere of petty thefts and lies, such as natives look upon as mere common-sense and good policy. Children are quick to discover this; and the idea is both inviting and infectious to some temperaments,—far more so than to others. For here, as elsewhere,

it is the fine-fibred nature—responsive, impressionable, capable of the highest development—that is most apt to suffer harm in body and mind. Thus, to the question ‘when’, as to that of ‘which’, no abstract

answer is forthcoming. It is a problem every solve for herself when her bad moment thoughtful mothers agree in fixing the limit and few will deny that the sooner after the

woman must face and comes; though most of age at seven years; fifth year a child can

leave India, the better for its future welfare. This is a hard saying;

and it is perhaps needless to add that it is rarely acted upon. For in the depreciated rupee human weakness finds an ally of the strongest; and more young lives have paid dearly for its supremacy

than those who cannot or will not face facts are ever likely to believe. But early or late the cruel wrench must come—the crueller, the longer deferred. One after one the babies grow into companionable children; one after one England claims them, till the mother’s heart and house are left unto her desolate. Empty nurseries, empty verandahs; only the haunting music of small

238 @ Memsahibs Abroad footsteps and clear voices still troubles and glorifies her dreams. Yet in all likelihood she will continue to dance and ride and entertain with undiminished zest. Heartlessness? Frivolity? In a few cases, possibly, but in most the sheer pluck of the race that has a

prejudice in favour of making the best of things as they are, and never whimpering over the inevitable. Consider the words of one who may be reckoned among these last: ‘Indian life is full of fears, which lie always in the background of the bravest minds, and which may at any moment start, fully armed, into the line of vision. Above and over all that tragic shadow of separation, which is the

keynote of Anglo-India—unavoidable always, and always a tragedy. And yet one laughs, and is as happy as circumstances will permit. One cannot always be shedding tears of renunciation. If we choose the lesser of two evils and stay with the man, we will not damn his life with sadness and recrimination. He has his anxieties too. We take life as we find it. It is ungracious, ungrateful, always to want what we have not got; and yet ... well, the ache is there!’ (42-6)

Anne Wilson

“Haunting baby faces’ Marseilles, 1900. Darling Mother,—It is over now. The channel has been crossed and sunny France traversed, and now the ship will soon be on her

way to take us to the other end of the world.

A dreadful thing happened to me the last night I was in England. I was sitting in a small inner room in the big London hotel, only one other woman there, and I meant to be so brave, when into the room there rushed a boy, just like my own boy, the same age, the same height, with the same radiant joyous face, the

same dear loving eyes. He came with arms outstretched, and calling “Mother’, threw himself into the arms of the other woman, and covered her happy face with kisses.

Heat and Dust ¢ 239

Then something touched those elemental depths which, thank Heaven, are not often moved. A sense of the anguish of a thousand mothers, who pay for India with their babies, like birds dropped from the parent nest before their wings have learnt to fly, swept over a lonely woman, and there, in the sight of all that happiness, she wept. One thing you must promise me. If you ever hear Anglo-Indian women Called shallow and frivolous, if they ever seem to others to be vain pursuers of the empty bubble of an hour, will you remember there may be another side to the shield? I know that there is an alternative, to shirk no suffering, which brings with it understanding, the strength to endure, and that strange possession,

peace. Only do not let any one be too hard on them. It may be cowardice, or it may be their own kind of courage, that makes them shut their ears to baby voices, or turn their eyes from haunting baby faces, to be resolutely gay. (203-4)

Anne Katherine Elwood The Unhealthiness of India

The disorders incidental to India did not appear to me to be worse than those peculiar to England. The complaints of the liver are not more terrible than those of the lungs, and fevers are as frequently produced by over exertion and improper exposures, as by local causes. ... Attention to diet and dress, regular hours, and exercise,

and a quiet life during the first year’s residence in India, would probably prevent much illness ... (2: 103)

Christina Sinclair Bremner Dietary errors

I then had minutely explained to me a favourite Anglo-Indian theory touching ability to endure heat, which I heard asserted on every side. It is said that people, English people of course, feel the heat least during the first year of exile, that every succeeding year

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finds them less able to support it, more open to the maladies that

are brought in its train. I could not help thinking, that if this is true, and many are to be found who assert it, it points to some errors in

diet that could be avoided with a certain amount of care. Take for instance the eating of flesh. It is fully recognized that meat is a diet suitable for a cold climate, and that even then it should be partaken of in moderation. The vast majority of English people of the middle classes in England only eat fresh meat once a day. Yet with one exception I never was in an Anglo-Indian household where people did not have fresh meat twice a day at least, and at dinner several kinds of it. In many ordinary households of no pretension the evening meal has half a dozen courses. Usually the cooking is good, undertaken by Muhammadans who serve out of a miserable little den a far better cooked meal than is placed on an average English table by a cook who has all kinds of ingenious appliances to assist her. Such a system is presumably a survival from the good old times, when every Englishman considered himself compelled to keep up a certain amount of state and dignity to impose upon the natives, or perhaps on himself, for many of us decline to strip off devices and delusions that a kind of inward self knows and recognizes as such. Many intelligent persons hold the opinion that the poverty of Indian meat, its lean, tasteless flabbiness requires redoubled effort on the part of the English exile in order to make up in quantity for wretched quality, and many persons do actually eat far more meat in India than they would consider advisable in England. (44-5)

Mary Carpenter

‘Much exaggerated’ The impression which prevails in England of the unhealthiness of India, and of the dangers and difficulties of the route, I have found

to be much exaggerated. Such impressions led to great apprehensions being entertained by my friends respecting my own undertaking the journey; yet I not only did not suffer any serious inconvenience on the voyage, or during my stay in the country,

Heat and Dust e 241

but found my health permanently benefited by the relaxation and change. Instead of finding the English resident gentlemen and ladies looking sallow, as it is usually supposed they are, there was among

them, generally, as great an appearance

of health as at

home. I found many who had been twenty or thirty years in the country without any injury to their health, and several preferred the climate of India, as well as the way of living, to that in England. I made






and _ ladies,

respecting the course they pursued thus to preserve their health. Their replies were always to the same effect—viz., they adopted regular and moderate diet, gave proper attention to sanitary precautions, and, above all, had full occupation of both body and

mind. Ladies who enjoyed excellent health, after a residence of a dozen years in India, spoke strongly on the importance of sustaining mental action, and avoiding the indulgence of sitting in dark rooms, and regular midday siestas. I did not hear of a single death of an English resident while I was in India. (2: 56)

Social Life With the increasing segregation in social life between the English and the Indians during the course of the century, travellers focus more and more on colonial society. This is held up to ridicule in numerous satirical passages. The petrified rituals of Anglo-Indian life—from the daily evening drive and the interminable dinner parties to the mania for ‘visiting——are all described in minute detail. What consistently strikes travellers to India is the philistinism of the Anglo-Indians, whose topics of conversation all seem to circulate around internal politics or gossip. At social events a strict code of precedence was cultivated, particularly by the memsahibs. Emma Roberts laments the loss of a women’s community in India and even puts the blame for the flourishing of gossip and scandal squarely on the men. The puerility of British social life in India is spotlighted in the description of social events given by Mrs King. The meccas for society life were, of course, the hill stations, where

whoever could do so retired as soon as the summer heat began to fry the plains. Simla, in particular, was known as a grave for marriages and morals. Reading of this self-absorbed little world one tends to overlook the fact that there were also other members of colonial society in India. One of these was Colonel Gardner and his clan, a soldier of

fortune who appeared as a somewhat tattered remnant from the freewheeling days of the former century. Gardner’s exploits are

detailed with interest by Emma Roberts and with enthusiasm by the irrepressible Fanny Parks, who promptly strikes up a friendship with him. While Gardner and his admirers pride themselves on his links to the Delhi royal family, for a later, less tolerant age, his

Social Life ¢ 243 children would be stigmatised as half-castes and thus outside the pale of good society. Definitely beyond the pale are the other British women living in India, soldiers’ wives who only very rarely make their way into the writings of their peers and who are castigated for their dissipated and depraved lives. Whereas Marianne Postans shows a certain understanding for their plight, this gives way to clear disapproval in Roberts’ text (though there is a sentimental passage on the nostalgia for home evoked by running into someone of this kind) and blank astonishment in the text by Mrs King. These other Englishwomen are almost as strange to middle-class writers as the natives are.

Florence Marryat ‘Roast and boiled’ When I first saw the English residents in Madras turn out for their evening drive, I mentally divided them into two classes—roast and boiled—for all those who were not as white as dough were as red as fire. ... I had not studied them long, however, before, putting

their looks on one side, I found they might be characteristically divided into three classes—the gay; the religious; and the inane ...


is the name of the highest god they worship; then ‘rank’ for the women ... ‘good blood? is left out of the category altogether; but doubtless some have excellent reasons for dropping the subject. (62)

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Anne Katherine Elwood

‘Killing reputations’ A particular spot at Breach Candy [in Bombay] is the general rendezvous of the English community, where they meet to settle the politics of the island, and to discuss the affairs of the day — ‘Who danced with whom, and who is like to wed, And who is hanged, and who is brought to bed.’

And here, whilst with monsoon

fury the surges of the Indian

Ocean hoarsely lash the coast, or when, in a more tranquil mood,

its waves gently ripple round the rocks on the shore, the English will sit for an hour at a time, talking over their neighbours, and—killing reputations. Dr Howison says, ‘that were the Genius of Scandal at a loss where to establish her headquarters, he would

recommend that their site should be Bombay, and that she should select her personal staff from the resident society of that island, for in no other part of the world where he has ever been, is the propensity for gossiping so unintermitting.’ (1: 378-9)

Amelia Cary Falkland

‘Topics of conversation’ The arrival of a cargo (if I dare term it so) of young damsels from England, is one of the exciting events that mark the advent of the cold season. It can be well imagined that their age, height, features, dress, and manners become topics of conversation, and as they

bring the last fashions from Europe, they are objects of interest to their own sex. Some come to their parents, from whom they have been separated, perhaps, for many years, having been sent to Europe to be educated; others visit relations and friends. Young cadets, destined for the military service, frequently come out in the

same ship with the young ladies; and it sometimes happens that, during the voyage, an attachment arises between a youthful pair, and they arrive at Bombay betrothed to each other. ...

Social Life ¢ 245

From the size of Bombay, it would be imagined that the drives would be circumscribed—far from it, they are very numerous and extensive, and they are besides very varied, and the roads are

excellent; the great charm of these drives is, that you rarely lose sight of the sea for long together, the breeze in the evening being very reviving after the heat of the day. There are two drives especial favourites with the Bombay fashionable world; one to the esplanade, the other to the ‘breach’

on the western side of the island. To one or other of these places, most people drive or ride every evening, when the latest news of the presidency is discussed. The topics of conversation are generally local in their nature. Those who have passed, perhaps twenty or thirty years in India, have lost much of their interest in the ‘courts, camps, and cabinets’

of Europe; and the younger members of society, have all their hopes and expectations centred in the country, to which their future belongs. It is, therefore, natural, that, who is to be the new councillor, or who has the vacant collectorate, or who is the newly-

appointed chief-secretary, should be subjects of greater interest, than whether Lord Palmerston’ will lose his election, or who is to

be the first Lord of the Admiralty. I knew in Bombay, an old officer, who had been at least forty years absent from Europe; during which time, he had served his country well in a military capacity; had been in many climates, and seen many countries. His face was like a map; here you could see a corner of Sierra Leone, there you could trace a bit of Canada, and here was Bermuda. His career was engraven on his face. I happened to mention to him a great event which had lately taken place in Europe. He stared at me, and said, ‘I know nothing at all about it.’ Not discouraged, I started another topic connected with public affairs in England, when I received a decided check by his answering, ‘I take no interest at all in it.’ I still hoped to rouse him

from such a state of apathy, and spoke of the admirable speech of

' Henry Lord Palmerston (1784-1865), British Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, noted for pursuing an aggressive foreign policy.

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some well-known politician, when to nothing at all about him.’ This person belonged quite to the home’, as it is called, oftener—get what is far better, bring out new ones

this he calmly replied, I know ‘old school’. People now ‘run their ideas brushed up, and, with them. (1: 94-9)

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming The Evening Drive Among the anomalies of Indian life in the stations is the hour of daily driving. After having devoted the two most dangerous hours (twelve to two) to the great business

of making calls, it is con-

sidered unsafe to venture out for mere pleasure till just at sunset, when

all beauty, animate

and inanimate,

is alike invisible, and

people drive up and down in the dusk like owls, hardly able to distinguish their dearest friends, still less to profit by the elaborate toilets that are considered essential for an appearance on the Mall. Then comes

the drive to dinner, and this also seems

curious at

first. Evening dress and wreath in an open carriage, in the months which we call winter, returning home in the clear moonlight, or by

the flashing sheets of lightning, while the air is fragrant with Eastern blossoms. As concerns the out-of-door varieties of so-called amusements in the various stations, they struck me, as an outsider, as being more

woefully dull than any phase of sad pleasure I ever witnessed in the mother country. The man who said that life would be endurable but for its amusements must certainly have had a good spell of India! The daily drive along the Mall, and the bi-weekly halt around the band-stand, when

all the people sit still in their

carriages without an attempt at amalgamating, looking unutterably bored; or the archery meetings, when each carriage-load marches with business-like precision direct to the spot assigned to it, never to move thence till the game is over; and worst of all, the deadlydull races, at which no one seems to get up any enthusiasm, except in the rare instance where the rider is so popular personally as to compel some interest! The chief excitement always seems to be

Social Life @ 247

among the native spectators, who dearly love anything in the shape of horse-racing. (237-8)

Emma Roberts

Dinner Parties: ‘An air of barbaric grandeur’ The receipt for an Indian dinner appears to be, to slaughter a bullock and a sheep, and place all the joints before the guests at once, with poultry, &c. to match. The natives are excellent cooks,

and might easily be taught the most delicate arts of the cuisine, but as their own recipes differ exceedingly from ours, they can only acquire a knowledge of the European style from the instructions of their employers: their hashes, stews, and haricots, are excellent, but

a prejudice exists against these preparations amidst the greater number of Anglo-Indians, who fancy that ‘black fellows’ cannot do

any thing beyond their own pillaws, and are always in dread of some abomination in the mixture: a vain and foolish alarm, where

the servants are cleanly, and where no one ever objects to curry. For these, or some other equally absurd reasons, made dishes form a very small portion of the entertainment given to a large party, which is usually composed of, in the first instance, an overgrown turkey (the fatter the better) in the centre, which is the place of honour; an enormous ham for its vis-a-vis; at the top of the table appears a sirloin or round of beef, at the bottom a saddle of mutton; legs of the same, boiled and roasted, figure down the sides, together with fowls, three in a dish, geese, ducks, tongues,

humps, pigeon-pies, curry and rice of course, mutton-chops and chicken-cutlets. Fish is of little account, except for breakfast, and can only maintain its post as a side-dish. In the hot season, fish caught early in the morning would be much


before the dinner hour, it is therefore eaten

principally at breakfast. There are no entremets, no removes; the whole course is put on the table at once, and when the guests are seated, the soup is brought in. The reason of the delay of a part of

the entertainment which invariably takes the precedence in England, is rather curious. All the guests are attended by their own

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servants, who congregate round the cook-room, and assist to carry in the dinner; were the soup to enter first, these worthies would rush to their masters’ chairs, and leave the discomfited khansamah

at the head of his dishes, without a chance of getting them conveyed to table by his mussaulchees under an hour, at least. The second

course is nearly as substantial as the first, and makes









delicacies, and smaller articles, such as quails or ortolans, are piled

up in hecatombs. At the tables of old Indians, the fruit makes a part of the second course; but regular desserts are coming, though slowly, into fashion.

There is always a mixture of meanness and magnificence in every thing Asiatic; the splendid appointments of silver and china, which deck the board, have not their proper accompaniment of rich damask,’ but appear upon common cotton cloths, the manufacture of the country. All the glasses are supplied with silver covers, to keep out the flies: but the glasses themselves

are not

changed when the cloth is removed. It will easily be perceived that there is an air of barbaric



these feasts, which

reminds a stranger of the descriptions he has read of the old baronial style of living; but, unfortunately, the guests invited to assist at the demolition of innumerable victims, want the keen




rendered The

their martial




burra khanas, as they are called, at Calcutta,

certainly afford a festal display, in which the eye, if not the palate, must take pleasure. In a hall paved with marble, supported by handsome stone pillars, and blazing with lights, sixty guests, perhaps, are assembled; punkahs wave above their heads, and

chowries of various kinds, some of peacocks’ plumes, others of fleecy cow-tails, mounted upon silver handles, are kept in continual agitation, to beat off the flies, by attendants beautifully clad in white muslin. At every third or fourth chair, the hookah, reposing on an embroidered carpet, exhibits its graceful splerdours, but unhappily the fumes of the numerous chillums, the steam of the * Tt is supposed that, as there are no mangles in India, damask table-linen would lose its glossy hue: but the heavy irons used by the dhobys answer all the purposes of those huge machines (author’s note).

Social Life « 249 dishes,

the heat

of the lamps,


the crowds

of attendants,

effectually counteract the various endeavours made to procure a free circulation of air. ... The delicacies of an entertainment consist of hermetically-sealed salmon, red-herrings, cheese, smoked sprats, raspberry jam, and dried fruits: these articles coming from Europe, and _ being sometimes very difficult to procure in a fresh and palmy state, are prized accordingly. Female taste has here ample room for its display; but a woman must possess the courage of an Amazon to attempt any innovation upon ancient customs, amid such bigoted

people as the Indians, Anglo and native. To abridge the number of dishes, or to diminish the size of the joints, would infallibly be imputed to the meanest of motives; the servants would be ready to

expire with shame at their master’s disgrace, and the guests would complain of starvation. Ladies who have passed five-and-twenty or thirty years of their lives in Europe, comprise so small a portion of an Indian circle, that they have not the means of effecting any important reform; the majority being merely supplied with schoolexperiences, or from old habit or example wedded to the old regime;


the whole

of the male




servants, are ready to raise a furious outcry against modern fashions and female dictation. The receipt of a celebrated wit, for dressing a cucumber, is unconsciously followed with great precision with respect to an Indian entertainment; for after all the pains and expense bestowed upon them, the dinners and suppers given by the Anglo-Indians are, literally as well as figuratively speaking, thrown away: not a fiftieth part can be consumed by the guests, the climate will not admit of keeping the remainder, for in the cold season it will get dry, and in the hot weather decomposition speedily takes place, while it is only the very lowest caste of natives who will eat any thing which comes from a European table. In Calcutta, there are multitudes of poor Christians to whom the remnants of the rich man’s feast are very acceptable, but in the upper provinces, even beggars would turn away from the gift. (1: 94-100) The gratification to be derived from these dinner-parties

depends entirely upon the persons who occupy the next chairs, for they are usually much too large to admit of general conversation,

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nor are there many topics of general interest. ... Nothing that occurs in India ever creates a sensation, at least in the same degree which is experienced in Europe at an elopement, a new appearance, a successful play, or the arrival of a distinguished stranger. Rammohun Roy” attracted more attention in London than Lord Wm.








Calcutta. Intelligence from the mother-country must be of a very stirring nature to excite the sobered feelings of an Anglo-Indian; and in any revolution occurring at home, the length of time which must elapse before an account of the events which have taken place can reach India, renders it doubtful whether a counteraction has not

produced some fresh change; a protracted period of uncertainty destroys interest, and confirmation or contradiction meet a cold reception: numbers are wholly indifferent to foreign events, and care nothing for the destinies of kings and ministers belonging to a distant quarter of the globe. New novels and new poems, those fertile subjects of discussion at parties in England, if spoken of at all, are mentioned coldly and carelessly; they come out to India unaccompanied by the on dits which heighten their interest in the land of their production; if anonymous, none know, or care to know, the name of the author; they do not elicit lively disquisitions upon their merits, nor are people ashamed, as in England, to confess that they have not read a popular work. Books meet a ready sale in India, and their perusal forms the chief amusement of leisure hours; but they are rarely made the

subject of conversation. The literature of the day finds its way to India at nearly the same time as the reviews which usher it into the world; but whole circles do not, as in England, run mad about

some new publication; there are only a certain number of copies to be procured; a new edition cannot be supplied upon demand, and it would be surprising indeed if enthusiasm were not subdued by

3 Raja Rammohan Roy (1774-1833) was a leading social and religious reformer who campaigned for the abolition of sati. * Lord William Bentinck (1774-1839) was Governor-General of India from 1828 to 1835. He was dedicated to the reform of Indian society and it was during his term in office that sati was finally abolished.

Social Life


so many chilling circumstances. There are no picture-galleries, no exhibitions, no opera to converse about; the musical and dramatic entertainments, being amateur, are scarcely legitimate subjects for criticism, and the observations they elicit too frequently degenerate

into personalities. In the dearth of native topics of description, Anglo-Indians are not willing to be enlightened on affairs of the same nature at home; and new arrivals, who fancy that they shall

gain the general ear by vivid accounts of the new wonder they have left in England, are woefully disappointed. Persons who rave about Paganini,’ Sontag,’ or Taglioni,’ are much in the same predicament as the narrators of tiger-hunts at home; they are voted bores, and soon discover that, unless they are prepared to fall into

the opinions and prejudices of their new associates, they will sink into nobodies. At the same time, such is the perversity of human nature, that people who are unable to furnish accounts of debutantes of eminence, new pictures, new music, or new books,

are subjected to very severe comments, and stigmatized immediately as springing from some obscure class in England. ... The strongest excitements

are necessary to arouse

an Anglo-

Indian into action; the sports of the field are reckoned tame and uninteresting, unless they are beset with danger and death, and

hence the difficulty of satisfying those who return after long absence to England: ‘what’, say they, ‘are the poor triumphs of the first of September, compared to the noble warfare which we carry on against the monsters of the wood, where the sharp roar of the tiger is followed by its deadly spring, where the steady rush of the buffalo is fraught with destruction, and the noble charge of the wild boar demands

that eye, and hand, and nerve, should be

equally steady and unfailing?’ Stimulants of inferior power have little influence over the mind of an Anglo-Indian, whose slumbering energies can only be called forth upon great occasions. (1: 100-4)

;Niccol6é Paganini (1782-1840), Italian violinist and composer. ° Henriette Sontag (1806-54), famous German soprano singer. ’ Filippo Taglioni (1777-1871), Italian ballet dancer and choreographer.

252 © Memsahibs Abroad

Maria Graham ‘Under-bred and over-dressed’ I found our fair companions like the ladies of all the country towns I know, under-bred and over-dressed, and, with the exception of one

or two, very ignorant and very grossiére. The men

are, in

general, what a Hindoo would call of a higher caste than the women; and I generally find the merchants the most rational companions. Having, at a very early age, to depend on their own mental exertions, they acquire a steadiness and sagacity which prepare their minds for the acquisition of a variety of information, to which their commercial intercourse leads. The

civil servants to government

being, in Bombay,

for the

most part young men, are so taken up with their “wn imaginary importance, that they disdain to learn, and have nothing to teach. Among the military I have met with many well-informed and gentleman-like persons, but still, the great number of men, and the

small number of rational companions, make a deplorable prospect to one who anticipates a long residence here. The parties in Bombay are the most dull and uncomfortable meetings one can imagine. Forty or fifty persons assemble at seven o’clock, and stare at one another till dinner is announced, when the ladies are handed to table, according to the strictest rules of

precedency, by a gentleman of a rank corresponding to their own. At table there can be no general conversation, but the different couples who have been paired off, and who, on account of their rank, invariably sit together at every great dinner, amuse themselves with remarks on the company, as satirical as their wit will allow; and woe be to the stranger, whose ears are certain of being regaled with the catalogue of his supposed imperfections and misfortunes, and who has the chance of learning more of his own

history than in all probability he ever knew before. After dinner the same topics continue to occupy the ladies, with the addition of lace, jewels, intrigues, and the latest fashions: or if there be any newly-arrived young women, the making and breaking matches for them furnish employment for the ladies of the colony till the arrival

Social Life ¢ 253 of the next cargo. Such is the company at an English Bombay feast. (28-9)

Anne Katherine Elwood

‘Every body made verses in Scotland’ General politics and literature, the beaux arts, and public amusements, are seldom touched upon, and in their place are substituted,





from the want of something more amusing, not unfrequently— scandal. The greater part of the community come out to India in their ‘musically-sounding teens’; a period, when the human mind

is, generally speaking, totally unacquainted with the world, and alike ignorant and unformed, and though there are, certainly, instances of persons who have subsequently taken the trouble to acquire that best of education, which

is the result of individual

exertion and application, yet, perhaps India is not the best place in the world to form either the character or the manners ... I was amused, one day, with hearing a lady just fresh from Edinburgh and its literary coteries, innocently asking a Bombay belle ‘whether she made poetry?’ Now, as there are but few, even of the lordly sex, guilty of trespassing on Parnassian ground in India, which since the days of Camoens” has inspired but few poets, the astonishment of the one at the question, and the consternation of the other at her surprise, were perfectly ludicrous. She observed to me afterwards with great naiveté, ‘every body made verses in Scotland,

and she thought they might do the same

Bombay.’ (2: 96-100)

* Luis Vaz de Camoens (1524-80), Portuguese epic poet.


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Julia Charlotte Maitland

‘The paradise of middle-aged gentlemen’ We have been to one or two large dinner-parties, rather grand,

dull, and silent. The company are generally tired out with the heat and the office-work all day before they assemble at seven o’clock,

and the houses are greatly infested by musquitoes, which are in themselves enough to lower one’s spirits and stop conversation. People talk a little in a very low voice to those next to them, but one scarcely ever hears any topic of general interest started except steam navigation. ...

After dinner the company all sit round in the middle of the great gallery-like rooms, talk in whispers, and scratch their musquito-bites. Sometimes there is a little music, as languid as everything else. Concerning the company themselves, the ladies are all young and wizen, and the gentlemen are all old and wizen. Somebody says France is the paradise of married women, and England of girls: I am sure India is the paradise of middle-aged gentlemen. While they are young, they are thought nothing of— just supposed to be making or marrying their fortunes, as the case may be; but at about forty, when they are ‘high in the service,’ rather yellow, and somewhat grey, they begin to be taken notice of, and called ‘young men’. These respectable persons do all the flirtation too in a solemn sort of way, while the young ones sit by, looking on, and listening to the elderly gentlefolks discussing their livers instead of their hearts. (47-50)

‘Military and civilian’ For the last few days we have been occupied with company again. A regiment passed through, and we had to dine all the officers, including a lady; now they are gone. I perceive the officers’ ladies are curiously different from the civilians. The civil ladies are generally very quiet, rather languid, speaking in almost a whisper,

simply dressed, almost always ladylike and comme-il-faut, not pretty, but pleasant and nice-looking, rather dull, and give one very hard work in pumping for conversation. They talk of ‘the

Social Life ¢ 255 Governor’, ‘the Presidency’, the ‘Overland’, and ‘girls’ schools at

home’, and have always daughters of about thirteen in England for education. The military ladies, on the contrary, are always quite young, pretty, noisy, affected, showily dressed, with a great many

ornaments, mauvdis ton, chatter incessantly from the moment they enter the house,

twist their curls, shake

their bustles, and


altogether what you may call ‘Low Toss’. While they are alone with me

after dinner, they talk about suckling their babies, the

disadvantages of scandal, ‘the Officers’, and ‘the Regiment’; and when the gentlemen come into the drawing-room, they invariably flirt with them most furiously. The military and civilians do not generally get on very well together. There is a great deal of very foolish envy and jealousy between them, and they are often downright ill-bred to each other, though in general the civilians behave much the best of the two. One day an officer who was dining here said to me, ‘Now I know very well, Mrs—, you despise us all from the bottom of your heart; you think no one worth speaking to in reality but the Civil Service. Whatever people may really be, you just class them all as civil and military—Civil and military; and you know no other distinction. Is it not so?’ I could not resist saying, ‘No; I sometimes class them as civil and uncivil.” He has made no more rude speeches to me since. (168-70)

‘They sit and conjugate ...’ I am, as usual, expecting several visitors to-morrow, to stay till the end of next week. ‘Missis don’t want, but no can help!’ ... You ask what our visitors say, ‘if ever they say anything?’ That, you know,

depends upon taste; there is anything, and anything— ‘fagots et fagots’. However, some of them are very sensible, and agreeable; and when I have them alone, they talk very well, and I like their

company, but as soon as three or four of them get together they speak about nothing but ‘employment’ and ‘promotion’. Whatever subject may be started, they contrive to twist it, drag it, clip it, and

pinch it, till they bring it round to that; and if left to themselves,

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they sit and conjugate the verb ‘to collect’: “I am a collector’-—He was a collector—We shall be collectors-You ought to be a collector—They would have been collectors’; so, when it comes to

that, while they conjugate ‘to collect’, I decline listening. (145-6)

Frances Isabella Duberly

‘Claims for precedence’ For on all questions of etiquette the Indian ladies are particular to a curious and amusing degree. The pertinacity with which claims for precedence are maintained, where there is not a shade of difference in the rank, or rather no rank, of the guests, is very entertaining to a new comer. J am told that it is often most difficult to give precedence to one without direfully offending all the rest. According to the custom here, the lady who takes precedence must be the first to break up the party, and until she leaves, no other guest can quit the room. I witnessed an amusing instance of the consequences of this stringent law. We were dining at a friend’s house, when a lady was taken suddenly ill. The ‘senior lady’ (in regimental phrase) had shown no symptom of departure. The case was urgent. The mistress of the house represented it; the difficulty was solved by the lady who took precedence rising and making her adieux; but as her carriage was not in waiting, she retired to the empty dining-room, where she sat in state in the dark until it arrived! Notwithstanding their strict obedience to etiquette, I cannot say that I found the manners of my fellow-countrywomen in India characterized by real politeness. On one occasion we were dining at the house of the highest person in the presidency, himself remarkable for his courtesy. The guests, about seventy in number, were nearly all strangers to me; and during that triste period after dinner devoted by the ladies to the exclusive enjoyment of their own society, I heard the question asked across the room, ‘Which is Mrs Duberly?’ and as loudly replied to by, ‘There she is, sitting on * Collector was the term for the head of a district in British India.

Social Life @ 257 the sofa, in pink’, with the comment from a third of, ‘Oh! is that the Crimean heroine?’—while two young ladies shifted their chairs in order to take an inventory of me at their leisure. (24—5)

Emma Roberts

A Plea for Women’s Solidarity Anglo-Indian ladies have not the same constant intercourse with each other, which prevails at home; the work-table does not bring parties of young people together, united by a similarity of pursuit, and emulous to outdo each other in some ornamental piece of stichery; they cannot watch the progress of their friends’ undertakings, and, excepting in some few cases, where the mind and the fingers are equally active, and where the heat of the climate is beneficial to the constitution, idleness is the order of the day. During the greater part of the year, the slightest exertion is a toil; and habits acquired in the sultry season, are not easily laid aside at the arrival of the brief period of cold weather. The punkah also is very inimical to occupation; there is no possibility of enduring existence out of the reach of the influence of this enormous


and while it is waving to and fro, weights are requisite to secure every light article upon the table: should they be unadvisedly removed, away flies the whole apparatus to different parts of the

room, and the degree of irritability produced by trifling circumstances of this nature, superadded to the excessive heat and the perpetual buzzing and stinging of musquitoes, can scarcely be imagined by those who have never experienced the difficulty of pursuing any employment under the infliction of so many annoyances.

Still, however, the grand cause of female listlessness

may be traced to the comparatively little communication which takes place between the ladies of different families. Morning visits, excepting those of mere ceremony, are left to the gentlemen, who proceed from house to house in their daily tour, with perseverance which defies the thermometer. This being the state of affairs, it might be supposed that conversation will assume a higher tone than when needles and

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supply the materiél:


where there are no old maids, to whom (where they abound) credit is given for the inventions of every gossip’s tale, it might be presumed that scandal would be wanting. It is grievous to be obliged to vindicate the tabby race at the expense of that part of the creation who are styled its lords; but, sooth to say, there is no

watering-place, country town, or village in England, which can match an Indian station, whether at the presidencies or in the Mofussil, for censoriousness; and it is equally matter of fact, that the male residents, young

and old, married

and single, if not

always the actual authors of the slander, are the purveyors, disseminators, and reporters. It is to them that the ladies are indebted

for all the news, private and public, at the place; they report the progress of flirtations, and hazard conjectures upon their probable issue. They are narrow observers of what is passing at every house,

and carry a detailed account to the neighbouring families: not failing, of course, to put their own colouring upon every thing which they relate, or to add (for the sake of heightening the effect) a few incidents necessary to give piquancy to their narratives. Nor do these gallant cavaliers disdain to attend to trifles which are generally deemed to belong exclusively to the feminine department; they condescend to report upon flounces and furbelows, descending to all the minutiae of plaits and puckering, and criticising the whole paraphernalia, from the crowning comb to the shoe-tie. Their descriptive powers are particularly called forth by the appearance of new arrivals. Woe to the unfortunate matron or spinster, who shall be the first to bring out any striking change of fashion! she is the mark for every witling; not a tongue is silent; it is an offence to the whole community to convict it of being behind the modes of London or Paris, and the attempt to instruct is resented as an imposition. Pretty girls often sit at their first balls without partners, none of the young men having nerve enough to

dance with persons, whom they and their associates have so unmercifully cut up. However exactly they may be dressed after the most approved costume of a leading milliner at home, they are considered outré by the old-fashioned figures with whom they are doomed to mingle; and though their patterns are gradually adopted, nothing can be more ungracious than the manner in

Social Life ¢ 259 which persons convinced against their will, conform to any thing new and strange. In all this the gentlemen are the ringleaders, it is the dread of their ridicule which influences the weaker sex. It may be said that their sarcasms are encouraged by their female friends,

and their gossiping tales well received; but as they are clearly the majority, it must be in their power to introduce a better system. Complaints are eternally made of the frivolity of the women, but persons well acquainted with society in India,.may be permitted to doubt whether they should be made to bear the whole burthen of the charge. A female coterie is a thing almost unknown; the dread of exposure to the heat of the sun prevents ladies from congregating together in the morning; and at dinner-parties and

balls they are wholly engrossed by the gentlemen. It is thought very extraordinary, and rather disgraceful, to see a lady enter a room without the arm of a male escort; the usual complement is two. At morning calls, the master of the mansion, as soon as it is announced that there is a Bibby Saib (a lady) coming, is expected to rush to the door of the house,

and hand

the fair visitor in,

though she may be accompanied by one or more gentlemen. Ladies are never seen walking together in a ball-room; and though the most elegant female can scarcely preserve a_ graceful appearance while supported on each side by a male arm, it is the custom in India, and the exhibition must be made, upon pain of incurring the imputation of desiring a ¢éte-a-téte. Attention and flattery will usually reconcile a woman to the loss of the society of her own sex—but by many the privation is severely felt; they miss the warm and cordial greetings, the delight of a reunion after brief absences, and the pleasing confidential chatting, to which they have been accustomed in their native land. On the score of gaiety, much is lost by the separation of the female portion of an assembly from each other, for nothing can be more formally decorous that the appearance of an Indian ball-room, where the promenaders move


in lugubrious order, and where

cold and distant

recognitions alone pass between intimate acquaintances. The handlings, and shawlings, and fannings, of male attendants, which

a lady must change perpetually if she would avoid the appearance of retaining regular cavalieri serventi, are poor substitutes for the groups of gay girls with whom she was wont to join in animated

260 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad converse. At length, perchance, estranged from her own sex by long habit, she acquires a distaste for female society, and, should

she return to England, will talk of India as a paradise, and feel neglected and miserable when no longer surrounded by a troop of gentlemen. In the Upper Provinces, this state of affairs is universal; but in Calcutta, a little change takes place; during the cold season, ladies spend their mornings with each other, and shop and visit together; those also who do not dance, occupy the same

sofas in a ball-

room: but there always appears to be a want of congeniality amongst them; a civil sort of indifference seems the prevailing feeling,” for there is less of rivalry and jealousy than is to be met with elsewhere:

a circumstance

easily to be accounted

for, since

the majority are married women, and, generally speaking, models of propriety of conduct. A few there are, certainly, as must be the case in all large communities, who afford food for scandal, either

by actual levity of demeanour, or a careless gaiety too closely approaching it; but all persons who have seen the world will acknowledge, that the strict rules of propriety are less frequently violated by the Anglo-Indian ladies than by those comprising the gay circles of society in Europe. (1: 74-80)

Julia Charlotte Maitland Writing ‘Chits’ I really believe the Madras ladies spend all their time in writing notes—‘chits’, as they are called. I do not know ten people now, and yet there never passes a day without my having one or two ‘chits’








finding my penknife, mending my pen, hunting for proper notepaper, which is always hidden in some scribbled foolscap '° The writer does not intend to insinuate that there are no such things as female friendships in India, or that instances of real and cordial affection, subsisting between individuals of the softer sex, are of rare occurrence: it is the

general tone and manner which is here described, and which is sufficiently obvious to surprise a stranger (author’s note).

Social Life


beginnings of tracts, or such-like, all my morning is hindered;— and their chits are how sorry they are they have not been able to call lately, that I must have wondered at it, and thought, &c. &c. Now, I never think about it ... and I would always rather they did

not call, because I must sit all day with my hair dressed and my best clothes on, waiting for them; and remember the thermometer

is at 92 . I am going to-morrow to Mrs W- E-. I have not been able to call on her yet, because we live so far off that I quite dread going out for a morning visit according to this horrid Madras fashion. If I see her I shall say that I cannot come in the morning, and beg her to come to me in the evening; but for the first visit there is no help:—just now the weather is cloudy, so I shall take advantage of it before it clears up. ... You can scarcely imagine such a life of inanity. A thorough Madras lady, in the course of the day, goes about a good deal to shops and auctions; buys a great many things she does not want, without inquiring the price; has plenty of books, but seldom reads—it is too hot, or she has not time—liking to ‘have her time her own’, I suppose, like old Lady Q-; receives a number of morning visitors; takes up a little worsted work; goes to tiffin with Mrs C-, unless Miss D- comes to tiffin with her; and writes some dozen of

‘chits’. Every inquiry after an acquaintance must be made


writing, as the servants can never understand or deliver a message,

and would turn every ‘politesse’ into an insult. These incessant chits are an immense trouble and interruption; but the ladies seem to like them, and sit at their desks with far more zeal and

perseverance than their husbands in their cutcherries. But when it comes to any really interesting occupation, it is pitiable to see the torpor of every faculty—worse than torpor: their minds seem to evaporate under this Indian sun, never to be condensed or concentrated again. The seven-years’ sleep of the Beauty in the fairy-tale was nothing to the seven-years’ lethargy of a beauty’s residence

in Madras,

for the fairy lady awoke

to her former

energies, which I should think they never can. (281-5)

262 ¢ Memsahibs Abroad

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming Visiting: A Peculiar Social Mechanism The social mechanism of India has one peculiarity in this matter of visiting, namely, that the new comer must call first. Hence the remark of an Anglo-Indian lady—‘country-bred’ as the phrase goes—about to visit Britain for the first time, that as soon as she reached London she ‘intended to invite all the station to dinner!’ The story reminded me of a certain dear old lady—one of my earliest friends—who drove her own carriage and horses all the way from Forres to London, and as she neared the city bade her coachman drive into town the back way, as she did not wish to

meet people that evening! In so fluctuating a society as that of India, this arrangement of first calls is really a very kindly institution, supposed to admit the stranger at once to the full swing of social life, or else, should he prefer solitude, to the full enjoyment thereof. It also allows people time to shake into their new houses before being molested by visitors, and this, in a country where a change of home is of such

frequent occurrence, is a decided advantage. On the other hand, it is very overwhelming to receive a list of the inhabitants, all utter strangers, and, without any knowledge of

their various peculiarities and endless ‘cliques’, to go the round of the station, knowing that should any one be accidentally omitted, it would be a cause of most dire offence. Of course, once this grand round has been accomplished, you are at liberty to select as

limited a circle of friends as you please out of the mass



The most absurd thing is, that the hours of calling are from twelve till two, the only time of the day, during the cool season, when it is unpleasant to leave the shade of your own verandah; and very few ladies have as yet found strength of mind to break through this custom, and institute undisturbed forenoons and social afternoons. Consequently the old definition of morning callers as ‘the pestilence that wasteth at noonday’ is rigidly true.

Social Life ¢ 263 After these


visits, some

of your more


friends will probably drop in to tiffin, and remain chatting till the hour for the evening drive; and as another batch of friends probably looked in after the early morning ride, it follows that the whole day is more or less cut up by perpetual small-talk; and some churlish spirits there are who, wearying of this pleasant, easy society, are sometimes tempted to wish that people would inflict less of their idleness on one another. The real grievance, you see, lies in the mid-day calls, a grievance kept up by the genuine old Anglo-Indian, who adheres so inflexibly to the old custom, that after 2 p.m. he considers your visit quite a matter of ignorance or incivility—if, indeed, he admits you at all. More frequently the white-robed attendants have orders to dismiss all comers with the curt announcement of ‘darwaza band’—“‘closed door’. The expenditure of pasteboard on these occasions is very great, as, owing to the native mispronunciation of names, it is always considered necessary to herald your entrance to the house even of intimate friends by sending in your card, which, having been duly inspected by the lady of the house, results in her either sending you her salaam, which is equivalent to a welcome, or else, by that

metaphorical closing of the door, you are dismissed, after waiting some minutes in an open carriage under a grilling sun.

.. aS we passed through the various large towns we found a curious social war raging here and there. It had occurred to the wives of a few men holding high offices that, as their husbands are

mentioned in the public services of the Church in the same clause as the governors, they were of course entitled to the same social homage. This being by no means the opinion of the other ladies of the community,

a ludicrous schism ensued, which, in the lack of

more worthy matter, proved a fertile subject for conversation and dispute. (230-2)

264 @ Memsahibs Abroad

Christina Sinclair Bremner

‘English courage and daring’ So in this hottest part of the Indian day, courageous woman, ever in the van

of social self-sacrifice,



her bechicked

[chick: reed blind] and bejayffreyed [jaffrey: wooden screen] bungalow, standing glaring white in the strong sunlight. Respectfully the bearer raises the chick, holding the white-covered umbrella over his mem-saheb’s head. Alas! even this poor protection is left behind if the vehicle be an open one, for now or never is the time to show off an insufficient parasol, and with this and the last sweet thing in lace and ribbons, instead of her

substantial topee to protect her head, madame goes forth to become acquaint with the other ladies of Murrumbidgee. Exhausted with cawing, the crows are gaping open-mouthed on the trees of the compound, the lizards have crept into shady comers, the terrier has moved off the spot in the verandah where the sun’s rays had found him out. His nose lying on extended paws, his blinking eyes and unwagging tail say, as plainly as if he

had selected one of Sir John Lubbock’s'' cards with the words printed on it: ‘I am determined to keep cool from twelve to two.’ The servants have gone to eat bread in their own little hovels. Everything that can rest means to do so till tiffin time, but poor mem-saheb, in her tight dress and kid-encased extremities, sallies out with more of a smile on her face than the crows, which are

perhaps gaping at her courage as much as at the heat. I never heard of any lady being struck by heat apoplexy, and would have you note that English courage and daring are not confined to one sex among Anglo-Indians. (17-18)

"' Sir John Lubbock (1803-65) was an astronomer and mathematician.

Social Life ¢ 265

E. Augusta King Games and Events

So many people are away at the hills that Meerut seems perfectly deserted. I think there are only nine ladies now here, no garden parties or entertainments, and one expects to see the Mall grassgrown. The

only rendezvous


is on Thursdays,


there are

public sports and races, tent-pegging, riding at the ring, and so on. One of the ‘events’ one week was the following: — .. ZOOLOGICAL STAKES. A HANDICAP FOR ALL ANIMALS EXCEPT HORSES, MULES, PONIES, OR DONKEYS. ANIMALS NOT SUITED FOR RIDING MAY BE ACCOMPANIED BY THEIR OWNERS ON FOOT.


the entries were

a bullock, a mongoose,

a camel, a

partridge, and some deer! The partridge came in first. (2: 118) To-day is the flower show, and as I am one of the judges I feel glad to be leaving the station so soon afterwards, as we are told that the envy, hatred, and malice caused by the judges’ award is

very great. (2: 47)

Maud Diver

Simla: ‘Here frivolity reaches its highest height’ Of the social atmosphere enough has been said. In a Hill station—more especially in Simla—it is irresistibly infectious. But the grass widow in the Hills has pitfalls more definite to contend with, and perhaps the two most insidious are amateur theatricals and the military man on leave. It is hardly too much to say that one or other of these dominant factors in Hill station life is accountable for half the domestic tragedies of India. The proverbial relation between Satan and idle hands is too often confirmed in the Himalayas; and for a woman who is young, comely, and gifted with a taste for acting, Simla is assuredly not the most innocuous place on God’s earth. Here frivolity reaches its

266 © Memsahibs Abroad highest height, and social pleasures are, to all appearance, the end and aim of every one’s existence. Yet here, in the midst of this

throng of busy idlers, the great task of governing the Empire must go forward, come what may. A correspondent, writing from the great Hill capital, makes special mention of this anomaly. ‘Simla’, he writes, ‘would be a far

more favourable seat for Government, and energies and faculties would find fuller development there, if the social current were far

less strong; and those leaders of society would be public benefactors who could find some means of stemming it. No doubt the greater part of the pleasure-seeking and holiday-making is done by the ladies, but a very large share in it is visibly taken by the men;

and we

are disposed

to believe

that the extreme


wardness of Anglo-Indian society in recognising the modern advance in the intellectual and social position of women is due to the frivolity of the overwhelming majority of the Ango-Indian women, who are not only devotees of fashion themselves, but do their utmost to divert the energies of the men from work (which they cannot share) to pleasure and frivolity likewise.’ A grave charge this—the graver since it comes from an AngloIndian, not from an English, pen. That the ‘Simla woman’ (by which is meant not all women in Simla, but the typical devotee of Simla society) is frivolous, and free and easy both in mind and manners, is a truth which her most ardent admirer could not deny. One plea, at least, may be put forward in her defence—namely, that if former generations of her type helped to make Simla what it is, the tables






it is Simla


makes—or rather mars—the woman of to-day. Moreover, in a country where men and women are constantly thrown together under conditions which tend to minimise formalism and conventional restraint, where leave is plentiful and grass widows— willing and unwilling—abound, it is scarcely surprising that the complications and conflicting duties of married life should prove appreciably greater than they are elsewhere. (23-7)

Social Life © 267

Christina Sinclair Bremner

‘A field for the display of Becky Sharpe’s social qualities.’ The immense expense caused by keeping up a household in the plains and another in the hills is as legitimate a grievance as any the Saheb can advance, and at least equal to the depreciation of the rupee. On however modest a footing the households may be placed, the double drain usually leaves a very slender margin to the credit account. Nor can much of a saving be effected by using the hill hotels for the season, for most preposterous prices are paid for board and rooms, even by persons who have arranged to stay the season. I found 140 rupees per month quite an ordinary price, a sum that in some cases did not include a private sitting-room and lights, and never included service and washing. ... Ladies who are good managers have of course the best of the game at Simla as elsewhere, and turn up many trump cards. Does the hotel management not allow of a private sittingroom? No matter, the managing madam will sleep in the dressingroom, the bullock-train will cart up furniture from her drawing-room in the plains; with hammer and tacks the whitewashed walls are draped with

artistic Indian


great curtains


the coarse

woodwork of the doors, carpets and rugs are laid down, pictures and objets de vertu are agreeably disposed. Last but not least, a blackboard with ‘Algernon Sydney’ painted on it in white is hung on a patriarchal tree near the approaches of the hotel. Beneath it is to be seen almost always a small tin box bearing the inscription ‘Mrs A. Sydney. Not at home’, into which it is said that ladies who must know each other, but do not want, make a point of dropping their cards. All things now are ready and the campaign begins with great briskness and spirit. Many of the excellent ladies at a fashionable hill station live in a very small station in the plains, so that their summer outing is the combined business and pleasure of the year,

for which their winter seclusion is mere rest and preparation. For the hills are reserved gay toilets, new Parisian hats, bottines,

ganterie, hautes nouveautes of all descriptions. ‘T to the hills will lift

268 « Memsahibs Abroad

‘Not-at-home box

mine eyes’ may be said to be the motto of many Anglo-Indian ladies. One of the first things to be obtained at Simla is a small vehicle called a rickshaw, said to be of Japanese origin. It resembles a bath chair with a hood and is propelled by coolies, two in front and two

behind. All ladies with the slightest pretensions to bon ton have their coolies dressed in neat knickerbockers, tunic and cap or turban, and there is much emulation as to who shall have the best

dressed ‘stud’. Just before my arrival there had been a show of jampanni costumes and prizes had been awarded; indeed our hotel boasted of sheltering the lady whose taste had thus been signally approved, and many of the inmates felt a kind of honour reflected on themselves by their connection with the house. Jampannis do not of course wear this elegant costume all day, only when they perambulate mem-saheb. They are engaged by the month and are expected to take madam out at all times and seasons.

Social Life ¢ 269 The great thing is to get up a good visiting list, to know nice people, nice being almost synonymous with those who give pleasant parties, have good tennis courts, can introduce you to a set you want to know, or advance some relative of yours. And ladies are said to be extremely powerful in India in advancing men in whom they have an interest. The usual plan at an Indian station is for a newcomer to call upon all Europeans who are acknowledged to be in society; but certain cities are too large for indiscriminate calling, and Simla ranks among them. Here you must select, aller aux informations, avoid the crass stupidity of calling on A if it will be to your detriment with B, who gives a capital dance, still less compromise yourself by knowing C, who is charming, but mixed herself up in that doubtful Bhaskaranand affair. It is not friendship, amity, or anything but pure calculation, and she who can do the longest sums in practice, who has studied the rules of proportion and social notation, is the one to come out dux. Anybody can get an invitation to Government House, only a slight censorship of morals

is observed there, but anybody can not have an invitation to a garden party, a dinner and a dance on the same day, and social

successes have been known to achieve triumphs as brilliant as this. I could not but admire the zeal and enthusiasm for the social cause visible in many directions. But for the devotion that now and then leavens it, society would be more dull or more rotten than it is. Simla struck me as a better field for the display of Becky Sharpe’s social qualities than for the ordinary virtues of guileless folk. (51-4)

Emma Roberts

Other Members of Society: Colonel Gardiner A few years ago, India presented a wide field for adventure. The distracted state of the country, the ambitious projects and conflicting interests of native princes, were highly favourable


to those who brought with them a competent

knowledge of the art of war and of military discipline, and who

270 © Memsahibs Abroad

preferred a wild, erratic, roving life, amongst the children of the soil, to the regular service of the India Company. ... individuals still living in the Bengal presidency, and occupying a distinguished,

though singular, position in society, whose




circumstantially related, could not fail to prove highly interesting.

... The writer of these pages does not pretend to know more of Colonel Gardiner than the tongue of rumour could tell, or a casual

meeting in society could afford; but so remarkable a person naturally made a strong impression, and the anecdotes extant concerning him were too singular to be easily forgotten. Colonel Gardiner’s tall, commanding figure, soldier-like countenance,


military air render his appearance very striking. When at his own residence, and associating with natives, it is said that he adopts the

Asiatic costume; but while visiting a large military station, in company with the resident of Lucknow, he wore a blue surtout, resembling the undress uniform of the British army, but profusely ornamented with silk lace. Colonel Gardiner, who

is a connexion

of the noble


bearing that name, came out to India in the King’s service, which he soon afterwards quitted. The cause of his resignation is variously related, and in the absence of an authentic account, it would,

perhaps, be wrong to give sanction to any one of the reports afloat concerning it. At this period, it was impossible to foresee that the tide of fortune would bring the British Government of India into actual warfare with the sovereigns of provinces so far beyond the

frontier, that human ambition dared not contemplate their subjugation. Many loyal men were, therefore, induced to follow the banners of native princes, under the expectation that they never could be called upon to bear arms against their own country; but fate decreed it otherwise, and, in the Mahratta war,

those officers who had entered into Holkar’s’” service found them-

selves in a very awkward predicament, especially as they were not permitted a choice, or even allowed to remain neutral, their new



to force them, upon

pain of death,


commit treason to the land of their birth, by fighting in the ranks of

a hostile force. The Holkar dynasty ruled the Maratha kingdom of Indore.

Social Life ¢ 271 In some of the native courts, the English were immediately put to death upon the approach of the enemy, or on the slightest suspicion of their fidelity. Upon more than one occasion, Colonel Gardiner,



of his military

skill, possessed


thorough knowledge of the native character and very considerable talent, penetrated the designs of his employers, and withdrew in

time from mediated treachery; but his escape from Holkar was of the most hazardous description, not inferior in picturesque incident and personal jeopardy to that of the renowned Dugald Dalgetty, who was not more successful in all lawful strategy than the subject of this too brief memoir. Anxious to secure the services of so efficient an officer, after all fair means had failed, Holkar tied his prisoner to a gun, and threat-

ened him with immediate destruction should he persist in refusing to take the field with army. The colonel remained

staunch, and,

perchance in the hope of tiring him out, the execution was suspended, and he was placed under a guard, who had orders never to quit him for a single instant. Walking one day along the edge of a bank leading by a precipitous descent to a river, Colonel Gardiner suddenly determined to make a bold effort to escape, and perceiving a place fitted to his purpose, he shouted out bismillah! ‘in the name of God!’ and flung himself down an abyss of some forty or fifty feet deep. None were inclined to follow him, but guns were fired, and an alarm sounded in the town. He recovered his feet, and making for the river, plunged into it; after

swimming for some distance, finding that his pursuers gained upon him, he took shelter in a friendly covert, and with merely his mouth above the water, waited until they had passed; he then landed on the opposite side, and proceeded by unfrequented paths to a town in the neighbourhood, which was under the command

of a friend, who, though

a native,

and a servant


Holkar, he thought would afford him protection. This man proved trustworthy, and after remaining concealed some time, the colonel ventured out in the disguise of a grass-cutter, and reaching the British outposts in safety, was joyously received by his countrymen. He was appointed to the command of a regiment of irregular horse, which he still retains; and his services in the field, at the

head of these brave soldiers, have not been more advantageous to

272 © Memsahibs Abroad the British Government,

than the accurate acquaintance


mentioned, which his long and intimate association with natives enabled him to obtain of the Asiatic character. It was to his diplomatic skill and knowledge of the best methods of treaty, that we owed the capitulation of one of those formidable hill-fortresses (Komulmair, in Mewar), whose reduction by arms would have been at the expense of an immense sacrifice of human life. ... The marriage of Colonel Gardiner forms one of the most singular incidents in his romantic story. In the midst of his hazardous career, he carried off a Mahommedan princess, the sister of one

of the lesser potentates

of the Deccan,




reduced to comparative insignificance, during the rise and progress of the Mahrattas, were personages of considerable consequence. Ever the first to climb a tower, As venturous in a lady’s bower,

the sacred recesses of the zenana were penetrated by the enterprising lover, who, at the moment in which his life was threatened by the brother’s treachery, bore away his prize in triumph, and

sought an asylum in another court. A European, of popular manners and military experience, could in those days easily place himself at the head of a formidable body of soldiers, ready to follow his fortunes, and trusting to his arrangements with the princes whose cause he supported for their pay, which was frequently in arrear, or dependent upon the capture of some rich province. In the command of such a troop, Colonel Gardiner was a welcome guest wherever he went, and, until the affair with Holkar, he had always contrived to secure his retreat whenever


was prudent to commence a new career in another quarter. It is difficult to say what sort of bridal contract is gone through between

a Moslem

beauty and

a Christian


but the

ceremony is supposed to be binding; at least it is considered so in India, a native female not losing the respect of her associates by

forming such a connexion.

The marriage of Colonel Gardiner

seems perfectly satisfactory to the people of Hindostan, for the lady has not only continued steadfast in the Mahommedan

faith, and in

the strict observance of all the restrictions prescribed to Asiatic females of rank, but has brought up her daughters in the same

Social Life ¢ 273

religious persuasion, and in the same profound seclusion;—points seldom conceded by a European father. They are, therefore, eligible to match with the princes of the land, their mother’s family connexions and high descent atoning for the disadvantage of foreign ancestry upon the paternal side. Educated according to the most approved fashion of an oriental court, they are destined to spend the remainder of their lives in the zenana; and this choice for her daughters shews that their mother, at least, does not consider exclusion from the world, in which European women reign and revel, to be any hardship. So little of the spirit of adventure is now stirring in India, that the Misses Gardiner, or the young Begums, or whatsoever appel-

lation it may be most proper to designate them by, have not attracted the attention of the enterprising portion of the European community. Doubtless their beauty and accomplishments are blazoned in native society, but, excepting upon the occasion of an announcement like that referred to in the Calcutta periodicals [of his daughters to the nephews of the Emperor of Delhi], the existence of these ladies is scarcely known to their father’s countrymen residing in India. We are ignorant whether their complexions partake most of the eastern or of the northern hue, or whether they have the slightest idea of the privileges from which their mother’s adherence to Mahommedan usages has debarred them. Their situation, singular as it may appear in England, excites

little or no interest; nobody seems to lament that they were not brought up in the Christian religion, or permitted those advantages

which the half-caste offspring of women of lower rank enjoy; and, acquainted with the circumstances

of the case, the editors of the

aforesaid periodicals do not enter into any explanation of intelligence of the most startling nature to English readers, who, in their

ignorance are willing Colonel and ideas portion of

of facts, are apt to fancy that European ladies in India to enter into the zenanas of native princes. Gardiner has of course adopted a great many opinions of the people with whom he has passed so great a his time, and in his mode of living he may be termed

half an Asiatic; this, however, does not prevent him from being a most acceptable companion to the European residents, who take

the greatest delight in his society whenever he appears amongst

274 @ Memsahibs Abroad

them. His autobiography would be a work of the highest value, affording a picture of Indian policy, with which few besides himself have ever had an opportunity of becoming so_ intimately acquainted. As he is still in the prime and vigour of existence, we may hope that some such employment of these ‘piping times of peace’ may be suggested to him, and that he may be induced to devote the hours spent in retirement at Khasgunje to the writing or the dictation of the incidents of his early life. ... In looking back upon past events, the colonel occasionally expresses a regret that he should have been induced to quit the King’s service, in which, in all probability, he would have attained

the highest rank; but, eminently qualified for the situation in which he has been placed, and more than reconciled to the destiny which binds him to a foreign soil, the station he occupies leaves him little to desire, and he has it in his power to be still further useful to society by unlocking the stores of a mind fraught with information of the highest interest. (3: 132-44) Letter: To the Editor of the ‘Mofussul Akhbar’,

a Provincial Paper (1835) ‘.. Allow me

to assure you, on the very best authority, that a

Moslem lady’s marriage with a Christian, by a Cazee, is as legal in this country as if the ceremony had been performed by the Bishop of Calcutta; a point lately settled by my son’s marriage with the niece of the Emperor, the Nuwab Mulka Humanee Begam; and that the respectability of the females of my family amongst the natives of Hindostan has been settled by the Emperor many years ago, he having adopted my wife as his daughter; a ceremony satisfactorily repeated by the Queen, on a visit to my own house in Delhi. I can assure my partial sketcher, that my only daughter died in 1804, and that my grand-daughters, by the particular desire of their grandmother, are Christians. It was an act of her own, as by

the marriage agreement, the daughters were to be brought up in the religion of the mother; the sons in that of your

‘Very obedient, humble servant, ‘W. L. G-.’ (Parks 1:414-5)

Social Life ¢ 275

Fanny Parks ‘That delightful man, Colonel Gardner’ ...

[ had that delightful man, Colonel Gardner, to converse with;

such a high caste gentleman! how I wish I had his picture! He is married to a native princess, and his granddaughter is betrothed to one of the princes of Delhi. The begam, his wife, is in Lucnow, but

so ill that I have been unable to pay my respects to her. Colonel Gardner has promised me, if we will visit Agra or Delhi next year, which we hope to do, he will give me letters of introduction to some of the ladies of the palace, under which circumstances I shall

have the opportunity of seeing Delhi to the greatest advantage. A very fine corps of men, called Gardner’s Horse, were raised by him; single-handed nothing can resist them, such masters are

they of their horses and weapons. I told him, I was anxious to see good native riding, and feats of horsemanship; he said; ‘An old

servant of mine is now in Lucnow, in the king’s service; he is the finest horseman in India. I gave that man 150 rupees a month (about £ 150 per annum) for the pleasure of seeing him ride. He could cut his way through thousands. All men who know any thing of native horsemanship, know that man: he has just sent me word that he cannot pay his respects to me, for if he were to do so, the king would turn him out of service.’ I asked why? He answered, ‘There is such a jealousy of the English at court: as for the king, he is a poor





like nor



Mehndie the minister rules him entirely, and he abhors the English... Being tired with writing, I will go down and talk to Colonel Gardner;




be in the room,

he will


respecting the zenana, but the moment a man enters, it is a forbidden subject. ... What a delightful companion is this Colonel Gardner! I have had the most interesting conversation with him, which has been interrupted by his being obliged to attend his poor sick wife, as he

calls the begam. She is very ill, and her mind is as much affected as her body: he cannot persuade her to call in the aid of medicine.

276 @ Memsahibs Abroad A short time ago, she lost her son, Allan Gardner, aged twenty-

nine years: then she lost a daughter and a grandson; afterwards a favourite daughter; and now another young grandson is dangerously ill. These misfortunes have broken her spirit, and she refuses all medical aid. That dear old man has made me weep like a child. I could not bear the recital of his sorrows and sufferings. He said, ‘You often see me talking and apparently cheerful at the Resident’s table, when my heart is bleeding.’ We had a long conversation respecting his own life, and I have

been trying to persuade him to write it. He says, ‘If I were to write it, you would scarcely believe it; it would appear fiction.’ He is gone to the sick begam. How I long for another tée a ¢éte, in the hope of learning his private history! He must have been, and is, very handsome; such a high caste man! How he came to marry the begam I know not. What a romance his love must have been! I wish I had his portrait, just as he now appears, so dignified and interesting. His partiality flatters

me greatly. (1: 183-5)

Colonel Gardner’s Wife This morning the Begam sent word she would receive visitors in the evening; Colonel Gardner took me over, and introduced me to her as his adopted daughter; she rose and embraced me, putting her cheek to mine on each side of the face, after the fashion of the French, and her arms around me. Having received her guests, she

sat down on her gaddi of purple velvet, embroidered with gold; and we seated ourselves on plain white gaddis on either side. The Begam is a very lively little old woman; she was magnificently dressed in pearls, diamonds, and emeralds,—as many as

it was possible to put on her little body; she wore a peshwaz, or very short full gown, with a tight body, made of red and gold Benares tissue; this is a dress of state; pijamas of silk; and, over all, a dopatta of red and gold Benares tissue, which, as she sat, covered

her entirely; and she looked more like a lump of glittering gold and crimson and pearls, than a living woman. ... Two English gentlemen, who were fond of native life, and fascinated with Khasgunge, requested to me to mention to Colonel

Social Life ¢ 277 Gardner

their wish to become

of his family; I did so. Colonel

Gardner replied, ‘Shubbeah is engaged to the Prince’: but, said I, ‘Do you think she likes him?’ ‘How little you know of the natives!’ he replied; ‘it would be considered the greatest indelicacy for a girl to prefer one man to another, or to have seen the man to whom

she is to be united. Tell Mr- I am flattered by his wish to be of my family, and would willingly give him my grand-daughter, but’ the

Begam is bent on this grand alliance, as she considers it: I have withheld my consent for years; “The house may be filled with the falling of drops”"’; i.e. continual dripping wears away stones. She has carried the point. I have been happy in my marriage, but I would not advise a European gentleman to marry a native lady. ...’ (1: 394-6) I was delighted to sit by my dear Colonel Gardner, and to hear his explanations. In conversation he was most interesting, a man of great intelligence, and in mind as playful as a child. I often begged him to write his life, or to allow me to write it at his dictation. The

description of such varied scenes as those through which he had passed would have been delightful; and he wrote so beautifully,

the work would have been invaluable. He used to tell me remarkable incidents in his life, but I never wrote them down, feeling that unless I could remember his language, the histories would be deprived of half their beauty. I have never described Mr James Gardner, his son. He is a remarkably shrewd, clever, quick man.

He has never been in England; he commenced his education at a school in Calcutta, and the remainder he received at home, from

Colonel Gardner and his friend Mr B-. Persian he reads and writes as fluently as a native, and transacts all his business in that language. He is very quick, and so deep, they say he even outwits the natives. He is very hospitable—expert in all manly exercises—a fine shot with the bow and arrow—excels in all native games and exercises. I fancy the Begam, his mother, would never hear of her son’s going to England for education; and to induce a native woman

to give way to any reasons that are contrary to her

own wishes is quite out of the power of mortal man.

A man may

induce a European wife to be unselfish and make a sacrifice to 'S Oriental Proverbs, No. 80 (author’s note).

278 @ Memsahibs Abroad

comply with his wishes, or for the benefit of her children. A native woman would only be violent, enraged, and sulky, until the man,

tired and weary with the dispute and eternal worry, would give her her own way. Such at least is my opinion from what I have seen of life within the four walls of a zenana. (1: 435)

Marianne Postans

British Soldiers’ Wives: ‘Habits of dissipated indulgence’ The heartless indifference, with which the wives of these men think

and speak of the conduct and probable fate of their husbands, is indeed sad. Deaths are too frequent among them to make much impression; they consider it with the same apathy that a Hindoo would talk of an affair of ‘Nuseeb’, (destiny) and speedily merging the remembrance of the past, in an anxiety for a fresh union, haste

to ‘furnish forth the marriage tables’. During the season above alluded

to, a gunner



of fever in the hospital, left a

widow, somewhat distinguished for her personal comeliness. An hour after her husband’s death, three of his comrades proposed to her, and before a week expired, her weeds were laid aside. The

woman’s second husband also died, and she again married with similar promptness. A third time, death severed, and Hymen retied the mystic knot; and last of all, but again a widow, ‘the woman

died also’. These speedy remarriages are far from uncommon; frequent cases occur, in which a wife engages herself to a suitor during her husband’s life, and trusts to the chances provided by arrack and climate, for the fulfilment of her contract. Disproportion in age, is

never considered in a soldier’s marriage; a grisly bombardier of forty, unites himself to a girl of twelve, with the full consent of her parents, who are probably present at the marriage. In remarking on the irregularities and vices of soldiers’ wives in India, it is only just to notice

the temptations,



miseries, to which this class of women are subject, in a country so little calculated to cherish their better feelings, or to provide them with necessary occupation, or common comfort. Unable, from

Social Life ¢ 279 extreme heat, to move out of the little room allotted to them in the

‘married men’s quarters’, during the day, and provided, for two rupees a month, with a Portuguese ‘cook boy’, who relieves them from the toil of domestic duties, the only resource of the soldiers’

wives is in mischievous associations, discontented murmurings, and habits of dissipated indulgence. Strolling in the evening through the dirty bazaars of a native town, probably under the auspices of an ayah, who may have picked up a smattering of the English language, these unhappy women purchase liquor, to conciliate their careless husbands. On returning late to the barracks, the truant wife frequently finds her partner already in a state of intoxication;

mutual recrimination follows, and then succeeds a scene for which


may well weep,

brutalities are common;

that humanity has such. But alas! these and knowing them as we do, can society

marvel, that with such circumstances around her, the European woman in India becomes their victim, or falls into the practice of that dishonesty, drunkenness, and debauchery, for which she is so

commonly and so severely upbraided. (1: 163-6)

Emma Roberts ‘Lazy, insolent, and overbearing’ The wives of soldiers in India are secured from all those laborious toils and continual hardships to which they must submit in countries where the pay of their husbands is inadequate to their support. If sober and industrious, they may easily accumulate a little hoard for the comfort of their declining years. Acquaintance with any useful art, dress-making, feather-cleaning, lace-mending, washing silk stockings, or the like, may be converted into very

lucrative employments, and the enormous wages demanded by European women, when they go into service as ladies’-maids, or wet nurses (from fifty to a hundred rupees per month), shews how indifferent they are to the means of acquiring money by personal exertion. Few officers’ wives attached to King’s corps can afford to have a white female attendant; and the unaccustomed


which these women enjoy, when domesticated in wealthy families,

280 e Memsahibs Abroad unfortunately, in too many instances, are apt to render them so lazy, insolent, and over-bearing, as to be perfectly intolerable, and

consequently it is not often that they are to be found out of the barracks. Soldiers are not in England very scrupulous in the choice of their wives, and amid the numbers who come out to India, a very

small proportion remain uncorrupted by bad example and the deteriorating influence of campaigns and long voyages. It is not absolutely necessary that they should undertake any thing beyond the care of their own family, and many prefer idleness to the slightest exertion. They and their children have regular rations served out for their daily food; while the regiment is upon a march,

they are provided with suitable conveyances; during the hot winds, their quarters are supplied with tatties; and in passing along the lines punkahs may be seen swinging in the serjeants’ barrackrooms, and curious scenes are displayed to view through the open doors. Some fat and unshapeable


lady, attired in a loose white

indulging in a siesta on an elbow-chair,

with a native

attendant, ragged and in wretched case, who, fan in hand, agitates

the air around her. (3: 48-50)

A nostalgic meeting Experience alone can tell how sad, and yet how dear, are the first meetings with country people of an inferior class in the jungles of India. A detachment of artillery, passing through a small out-post, whose



did not


a dozen


occasioned a burst of anguish, which revealed to a pining exile the full extent of that home-sickness which had preyed in secret on her mind. Returning from an evening walk, a soldier’s wife crossed the path, and at first, rejoicing to meet a countrywoman, the lady eagerly stepped forward and accosted her, but no sooner did the familiar sounds of by-gone days strike upon her heart, than she burst into a flood of tears. Aware that the person who had caused this violent emotion would be quite unconscious of the effect which her homely speech had produced, she stifled her feelings, and, inviting the poor woman to come to the bungalow, hastened

onward to order out the contents of the larder to form a little feast

Social Life © 281 for her comrades

in the camp;

but she dared not trust herself

beyond a few simple questions, and, unwilling to make a display of sensibility which might be misconstrued, and could not be understood, she did not indulge in the pensive gratification which a

protracted interview would have afforded. When accustomed to see and converse with the lower order of Europeans, the keenness

of the emotions produced by the reminiscences which they call up subsides, and the feelings they create are wholly of a pleasurable

nature. The evening drive is rendered doubly gratifying by the groups of healthy-looking, tidily-dressed English children, at play in front of their quarters, or bending their way in the train of their parents along the road, upon a Sunday evening, to the church, whose tinkling bell charms the ear as in the days of old, when the

peal from a village spire filled the heart to overflowing with delightful sensations. (3: 50-2)

E. Augusta King ‘Feelings, no doubt, they have ...’ It is curious to learn the views of love and marriage that exist among the English servant class, and when a person asks indignantly if servants have not feelings like us, he can only ask it in much ignorance. Feelings, no doubt, they have; but we cannot

gauge them truly by our own. As an instance: it is a positive fact that many of the married women in the regiment which left Meerut to go on active service are not only engaged to marry in the event

of their husbands dying in Cabul, but are engaged two and three deep! Now you have only to try and suppose the possibility of the officers’ wives doing the same, in order to see if it is true that the lower orders have the same feelings as we have. (2: 55) Such a curious set of people at table, and such a curious English to be heard; a few ladies (save the mark!) looking and behaving as much like barmaids as they could. The influence of fashionable manners in high places is not happy in its effect on the manners of those who are not in high places, however faithful they may try to make the imitation. (1: 141)

Criticism of the Raj An interesting feature of the British in India is the fact that they have always been critical of British rule themselves. Women travellers often cast a critical eye on the everyday running of the colonial machinery and are vocal in pointing up misconduct on the part of the rulers. The lament about the arrogance of the British is a consistent thread running through these accounts. Racist incidents, affecting servants as well as upper class Indians, are con-

sistently deplored. Emma Roberts is even able to get hold of a satirical native newspaper that lampoons the British deliciously. If these texts are a part of the literature of colonialism, they are also voices that exemplify the ambivalence and diversity of these writings.

For Mary Billington and Maud Diver it is the missionaries who are responsible for some of the abuses of British rule—in particular, the deterioration in the quality of traditional arts and crafts. These conservative critics echo the sentiments of the traditionalist school of British officials during the latter part of the century, who wish to

freeze India in a timeless Oriental tableau by preserving the traditional hierarchical society—with the British at the top of the ladder. One of the most remarkable scenes to be found in this collection of texts is the description of a dinner party by Anne Leonowens,


she seems

to feel the critical scrutiny of the

natives. It remains open to debate whether this scene ever took place—as a ‘poor white’ Leonowens hardly moved in the dazzling social cirlces she describes here. Nevertheless, the scene itself has a

dramatic intensity all of its own. The intellectual Christina Bremner,

finally, offers one

of the

most lucid analyses of British rule to be found in these texts. Quite

Criticism of the Raj © 283 systematically she sets out to explode the myth of the ‘white man’s burden’.

Emma Roberts

‘Hated wherever they go’ When there is no particular object of celebrity to attract attention, Anglo-Indians, either from contempt or apathy, rarely enter the native towns in their neighbourhood; few take any interest in the study of Eastern manners, and they are, generally speaking, so careless of pleasing or offending the people amid whom they reside, that however respected the government may be for its good faith and wise ordinances, its civil and military servants can scarcely fail to be exceedingly unpopular in their private and personal character. Intercourse with foreign nations has not yet had the effect of softening and polishing the manners of our proud and disdainful islanders, who usually contrive to make themselves hated wherever they go. The gracious example of a few distinguished individuals, whose courtesy has endeared them to all

ranks and classes, is unfortunately disregarded by the majority of British residents in India. (1: 187)

The British in the Kingdom of Oude’ Europeans have made complaints of the insolence which they have . sustained in passing through the city without a numerous train of attendants; their palanquin-doors have been rudely opened, and other marks of disrespect evinced; but, though such things may have happened, conduct of this nature is by no means general, and in most cases, upon investigation, it would be found that the

natives were not the first aggressors. The character of the com' Oudh was an independent Muslim state until 1856, when it was annexed by

the British on the grounds of mismanagement. This fuelled hostility to British rule and was one of the main causes for the outbreak of the Mutiny.

284 @ Memsahibs Abroad

plainant should always be taken into consideration; some Europeans are so imperious and exacting, that they see nothing but insolence and defiance upon the part of those who do not approach them with servility and homage; while others, who think less of their own importance, are struck with the urbanity and courtesy which seem almost innate in natives of any intellectual pretensions. Thus, at a party given by the king of Oude, very contradictory reports will be disseminated respecting the conduct of the native visitants towards the European guests. From one we shall hear a trizmphant account of his having succeeded in maintaining an upper seat in a struggle with some rude Mussulman, anxious to uphold his own dignity, and to lower the pride of the English; while another will dilate upon the polite attention he has received, and upon the gentlemanly manners and address, which, as a prevailing characteristic, exceeds that of more civilized

countries. No Frenchmen have better command over their countenance when conversing with persons ill-acquainted with their language; they betray no disgust at the ungrammatical, vulgar phrases introduced by those who are only accustomed to talk to their servants, though they themselves are choice in their expressions, having a vocabulary quite distinct from that of the lower orders, and deeming it the height of ill-breeding to deviate from the established rule. Unfortunately, this graciousness of demeanour, and tolerance of solecisms arising from an imperfect acquaintance with foreign manners and customs, is not very general amongst the English residents in India. They are glad to escape from society which is irksome to them, and it seems their endeavour to make their intercourse with the better classes of natives as brief as possible. (2: 146-8)

Native opinion is held in great scorn, and set at defiance by the European residents of India, who, with the solitary exception of a few, refusing to eat pork, out of deference to the prevailing prejudice, indulge themselves in every thing that appears to be most hateful to the surrounding multitude. But the excesses of which they are guilty would be excused or overlooked, were they more anxious to make themselves popular by affability and kindness of demeanour. In India, public admiration is not an evanescent feeling, or liable to the mutations which attend it in Europe. The

Criticism of the Raj ¢ 285 people of Hindostan have no caprice in their affections, nor do they forget the benefits they have received. Instances have been known at Delhi of natives flocking to condole with a Resident on his disgrace by the British Government, notwithstanding their hopes and expectations from his favour were at an end. And yet many persons, who have never for a single instant endeavoured to conciliate the people over whom they have been placed in authority, with power to render them happy, by accepting their services or courtesies with corresponding kindness, are loud in their invectives against native insincerity and ingratitude. It is precisely those, whose pride and insolence have rendered them objects of dislike, who thus animadvert upon the character of the people of Hindostan. (3: 190-1)

Lampoons of the British The horror with which even those Asiatics who adopt foreign fashions in equipages and household furniture regard the manners and customs of the Europeans brought in close contact with them, is sometimes openly displayed by urgent remonstrances to those for whom they have contracted a friendship; but this is nothing, compared to the expression of their disgust in private. In Delhi, the

opinions entertained upon the subject are widely, though secretly, circulated through the medium of the native ukhbars, scandalous chronicles, very much resembling a few of our English newspapers, except that they are in manuscript: the language is Persian, and the editors do not scruple to write at full length the names of those who are the subjects of the most atrocious libels. It is not very easy for a European to procure a sight of the animadversions passed upon the conduct of himself or his friends; some artifice is requisite

to obtain samples of the method employed to amuse the reading portion of the native community at the expense of persons differing so widely in the habits of their public and private life. As the writers are not very scrupulous in the language they use, there is not a little difficulty in making an extract, which will display the spirit of their comments, without shocking the eye by coarseness of expression. The following description of a European entertainment

286 @ Memsahibs Abroad

will convey some idea of the estimation in which such promiscuous

meetings are held. ‘The gentlemen of exalted dignity had a great feast last night, to which all the military chiefs and lieutenants were invited. There was a little hog on the table, before Mr—, who cut it in small pieces, and sent some to each of the party; even the women ate of

it. In their language, a pig is called ham. Having stuffed themselves with the unclean food, and many sorts of flesh, taking plenty of wine, they made for some time a great noise, which doubtless arose

from drunkenness.

They all stood up two

or four times,

crying ‘hip! hip!’ and roared before they drank more wine. After dinner, they danced in their licentious manner, pulling about each other’s wives.’ Here follows a bit of personal scandal: ‘Captain—, who is staying with Mr—, went away with the latter’s lady (arm-inarm), the palanquins following behind, and they proceeded by themselves into the bungalow: the wittol remained at table, guzzling red wine’. The uncourteous, ungracious manner, which too many Englishmen assume towards the natives, is touched off with truth and spirit in the following paragraph: ‘The Government has manifested singular want of sense in appointing Mr— to be — at—. The man is a capacious blockhead, and very hot-tempered;

he can do no business himself, yet he has the extreme folly to be angry when abler persons wish to do it for him. When the most respectable Hindoostanee gentlemen waited upon him yesterday, he just stood up, half-dressed, when they salaamed, and said, “well,

what do you want?” And when they answered “‘only to pay our respects”, he growled out “jow” (go).’ This sort of rudeness is, indeed, but too common,

and seems

to excite the native ire as

much as dancing, wine-bibbing, and eating the flesh of pigs. Even the highest person in the state is not exempt from the lampoons of these purveyors of scandal, as the following extract will attest: ‘The European king and his viziers, having heard that the GovernorGeneral is a fool, exceedingly slack in managing affairs, he is to be recalled, and a clever lord sent out to save Bengal.’ (3: 187-90)

Criticism of the Raj ¢ 287 Helen MacKenzie

‘As unpopular here as on the continent of Europe’ The conduct of the Europeans, in many instances, is such as make the natives despise and abhor them; for although worse themselves, yet they expect those above them to be better than they ... Besides which, the usual haughty and domineering manners of the English makes them as unpopular here as on the continent of Europe, and as they are almost all in stations of some influence or authority in this country, evil conduct on their part is the cause of injustice and suffering to those beneath them. (106)

Anna Harriette Leonowens ‘An undiscovered country’ The viceroy and the great English grandees are separated from the natives for whose interests they are there by law and custom which nothing can overcome, and the officials around whom the whole Indian empire revolves are often ignorant of the Indian languages, races, religious and social prejudices, and mode of life of the hundreds of provinces that lie within the railways, while those beyond


to them,

as the wilds

of Africa,



country. I have often heard gentlemen of great intelligence in other respects speak of the people of India with profound contempt, classing in one indistinguishable mass Brahmans, Hindoos, Parsees, Mohammedans, Arabians, Persians, Armenians, Turks, Jews, and

other races too numerous to mention. (321)

Helen MacKenzie

Samples of British Behaviour: ‘Ungentlemanly and unchristian’ Many Europeans treat the natives more like brutes than men: they seem to think a native is made to be abused and beaten, and the

288 @ Memsahibs Abroad

most vulgar parvenus treat native gentlemen as the dirt beneath their feet. I will give you two instances of the ungentlemanly and unchristian tone of Indian society and opinions in this respect. In some notes of a journey from Agra to Bombay, in 1841, now publishing in the ‘Delhi Gazette’, the writer says, ‘I managed a few peachicks, though the people do not like them to be shot, and at one place we met with some grey partridges, which the Zamindars (landholders) wished to be spared. As we had no occasion for their

good offices for supplies, but rather required the birds, there was little hesitation in bagging all I could.’ Again, the ‘Delhi Gazette’ announces that ‘an unfortunate accident has occurred to a young officer, who, of course, is a kind-hearted man and greatly beloved

in his corps.’ What do you think this accident is?’ When out shooting, he became enraged with his unfortunate Sais, and gave him a kick in the back, of which the poor man

died in a few

minutes, the spleen having been broken by the kick! Men can restrain their tempers when a stout hackney coachman or coal heaver is abusive, because they are afraid: they can even keep from striking their servants in England, because they would be punished by law; but here, because they know that they are the strongest, they are cowardly enough to tyrannize over every one who happens to thwart their childish humours. (135-6)

Julia Charlotte Maitland

‘A little politeness pleases them very much...’ We are reading Shore’s ‘Notes on Indian Affairs’,’—very clever, true, and amusing. He complains much of the English incivility to the natives; and I quite agree with him: it is a great shame. A—says he exaggerates, but I really do not think so. A—, being an old Indian, is grown used to things that strike us griffins. The civilians

behave better than the military, though all are bad enough. The

° Sir John Shore (1751-1834) was a leading Evangelical who was a founder member of the Clapham sect, an influential group advocating the missionising of India. He had served in the East India Company.

Criticism of the Raj ¢ 289 other day an old Bramin of high caste called on us while the Prices were in the house; Captain Price, hearing his voice, sauntered out of the next room with his hands in his waistcoat-pockets, and

planted himself directly before the poor old creature, without taking any other notice of all his salaams and compliments than ‘Well, old fellow, where are you going?’ in a loud, rude voice. The Bramin answered with the utmost apparent respect, but I saw such

an angry scowl pass over his face. A little politeness pleases them very much, poor things! and they have a good right to it. The upper classes are exceedingly well bred, and many of them are the descendants of native princes, and ought not to be treated like dirt. (157-8)

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming A Lesson in Racism

Here I received my first lesson in the antagonism of brown and white skins, a gentleman of our party suddenly insisting on my changing places with him, for what cause I could not divine, till he pointed out that a very handsome and beautifully formed native had taken the seat next to mine—a lad whose delicately-refined hands, well chiselled features, and large, thoughtful, velvety-black eyes, would have rejoiced the heart of an artist. He was the sort of

boy who, should he visit Britain, would be the petted darling of London drawing-rooms. I felt horribly annoyed at having moved, but the lad seemed to think it quite natural; his race gets accustomed to such humiliation at our hands. I remember my dismay when, speaking of a restive horse, whose prancing blocked the narrow road, I called to my friend to wait, as the beast would not

let me pass, whereupon his rider, just tinged with colour, at once thought I referred to himself, and explained apologetically and most courteously that indeed it was the fault of the horse, and not his!! (31)

290 © Memsahibs Abroad

Mary Frances Billington

Harmful Effect of Missionaries It is not the traveller who races through India, and then comes

back to talk with vague enthusiasm about the beauties of draping and colour of dress in the East, who can tell the variety and charm that there is about it; nor is it she, on earnest purpose of inquiry bent, who would convey a true idea of it from the inspection of schools, seminaries, and institutions. For it might happen to her, as

it did to me on more than one occasion, that my visit was expected, and the children had been bidden to put on their ‘best’ clothes. Horror of horrors upon Hindu heads, these included about a dozen bonnets as turned out in the native bazaar in a kind of travesty of the styles favoured at home some six or eight years © ago! They were worn turbanwise upon the very top of the head, and one that lingers in my mind was of flimsiest sky-blue satin with black velvet strings, and a cluster in front, formed of three illconditioned ostrich feathers and some vivid magenta flowers. Two pretty little sisters appeared in frocks founded upon English ideas, and of brilliant blue and yellow, with alarming bonnets of yellow satin and green leaves, and yet one more uncommendable innovation remains to be chronicled in light cotton stockings with coloured stripes passing around the leg. These worn with German made shoes much ornamented with white stitching and pearl buttons, with native heavy silver anklets duly put on also, are only laughable till one thinks what the change may portend. I have, however, almost as bad a quarrel with the missionary element in India concerning clothes as I have over embroidery and needlework, and there is something of cause and effect between them. With that extraordinary inability to recognize anything that is admirable unless it be of the most conventional and villa-residential character, which seems

a peculiarity of the

Englishman, and even more particularly the Englishwoman abroad, many of them profess to find the native dress ‘unseemly’, ‘indecorous’, or, as I have even frankly heard it called, ‘indecent’. Now, in Bengal and other parts of India, the tiny choli, or short

Criticism of the Raj ¢ 291 jacket, which fits very closely over the shoulders, is of fine net, and

the women have a very charming way of working and darning it in fine silks of delicate hues, which might have been borrowed in idea, save for the addition of colouring from our own needle-run

laces. There is an artistic and laudable vanity about these among the girls, but, alas! for readily offended and pious susceptibilities, these dainty little garments are not sufficiently opaque! Their production is discouraged in favour of Berlin woolwork tigers seated beside baskets of flowers, or the manufacture of comforters

in stripes of violet and scarlet. And then we get a draggled skirt and battered bonnet in place of the sari. ... One may admit that it is a little startling at Mangalore, Tellicherry, and Calicut, on the West Coast, when one meets the Nayar

and Tiyar women wearing not more than a single white cloth between their waists and knees. Only on a damp or chilly day do they throw anything over their shoulders and bosoms, for by a strange ‘reversal of ideas it indicates immodesty to be covered above the waist, as well as being distinctive of low caste. But one grows accustomed to it, and soon realizes that they are simply doing what has been customary with them through the centuries; while,


it is perfectly


that to themselves


suggests nothing that is improper or immodest. This, however, is the only part of India in which one sees anything that could bring a blush to the cheek of easily shocked

British matronhood,


even this need never do so to any save those who seem to find prurient suggestiveness in everything that is natural. (177-9) When I saw that display, however, I did not grasp what I have since, and that is, that in no branch of Indian art has British

influence been so mischievously detrimental as in needlecraft. The native women are quick to seize upon a small novelty that can be passed on from one to another, and the vulgar showiness and easy accomplishment of our Western woolwork, in all the worst hideousness of Berlin cross-stich and crewels, seems to have pleased some innate sentiment in them, for, unfortunately, they

have adopted and perpetrated these in the vilest form. The mission schools are to be held responsible for most of the evil that has been wrought in this direction. Drawn, as so large a percentage of their teachers are, from the lower middle classes, and imbued with

292 @ Memsahibs Abroad

the worst philistinism of their order, these instructors from outside were equally utterly unable to appreciate the wondrous beauties of form and colouring of indigenous embroidery, or to impart a knowledge of anything better than the decorative tastes of the back parlour. It is bad enough to find a table laid out with such monstrosities on exhibition when

one goes to visit a school, but it is a thous-

andfold worse to find that a wholesale acceptance of their horrors has run like a bad plague into the women’s domestic life in the large towns. One may go into a middle-class zenana and find a young wife crocheting an abomination in violet and yellow for her husband, who is employed on night railway duty, which he will

wrap about his pate and speak of in the vernacular as a ‘head comfort’. In fact, to take an Indian journey by night in mid-winter

suggests nothing so much as that a violent epidemic of acute toothache has broken out, so many are the heads swathed up in these woollen marvels of ugliness. One may go into the women’s quarters of a palace, and find an exquisite silver bottle all chased or repoussée, and filled with rose-water or some fragrant scent which will be sprinkled over the inevitable bouquet presented on leaving, and standing upon a mat of magenta and sky blue. For under such circumstances one realizes the painful truth that ugliness in these forms has become an everyday fact. Moreover, it is also true that girls come to school purposely to learn how to do crewel-work or how to make ‘water-lily’ mats, an illustration that would be comic, if it were

not also very sad, of the perverse

instinct of human

nature to learn what it had better not know. (189-90)

Anna Harriette Leonowens The Natives Gaze Back

At dinner dusky-hued attendants moved about us so softly that they did not seem to touch the floor with their feet ... Even those domestics who did not wait at dinner-table stood with arms folded across their breasts under the shadows of doors or pillars, waiting their turn to serve, and so still and motionless were they that they

Criticism of the Raj ¢ 293

might almost, save for the glitter in their eyes, have passed for bronze statues. They impressed me very unpleasantly, and that in spite of all the laughter and merriment,

the exaltation of British power


British supremacy in India. I had, somehow, a feeling of reserved force pervading those mute, motionless figures around us, and I involuntarily felt, for the first time, that it was a very solemn affair for the Briton to be in India, luxuriating on her soil and on her spoils. With those dark, restless eyes watching every turn, motion, and

expression of our faces, in vain were the delicious coffee and the sumptuous dinner, the music of the fountains playing before each window. I was anxious to escape. If I laughed or talked or moved,

those dark eyes seemed to observe me, even when they were seemingly fixed on vacancy. IfIhad dared, I believe I should have risen and gone away. But of course this would have been a shocking breach of etiquette, so I sat still, hushing secret perturbations and longing for dinner to end. The conversation continued in a lively strain. I noticed that every one seemed to have a pet theory about home government and how it could best be administered; all of which I was then too

young to comprehend, but I did comprehend, and that very painfully, that no one seemed to mind those dark, silent, stationary figures any more than if they had been hewn out of stone. On coming out of that house I drew a long deep sigh of relief and felt just as if I had escaped from some imminent danger. (35-6)

Christina Sinclair Bremner

A Rajah at the Club During my stay a certain noted Rajah came to the station. ... The Rajah-Saheb was young, important, governing his province wisely and well, and seemed to be a pet of the Government. Not being in the secret, outsiders could only surmise that some important personage at the station had received orders to admit His Highness to the club, and to see that things were made pleasant for him.

294 @ Memsahibs Abroad

Anyhow the unwonted sight of a native playing tennis with the saheb log could often be seen; most English people were transfixed by such an innovation, and confessed that in their part of the jungle things were done differently. It was certainly amusing to see the Rajah hold his own in the noble game, and more so to see the expression on the faces of the Englishmen playing against him. The surprise and pity of onlookers for a noble white man forced into so invidious a position was reflected in the players’ faces, plus a certain ‘Tis Allah’s will’ expression, resultant from the reflection that those who slighted the native prince might have a black ball put against their names in headquarters, or even receive a severe reprimand. The Rajah’s brother, a young man of portly mien, weighing some fourteen stones, and dressed in pink silk trousers and purple silk coat, excited much interest. Tall and very stout, he was alleged to be only sixteen, and many conjectures were hazarded as to what patent food for infants could have produced such startling results. The Rajah affected a more European style of dress, and but for his turban, might have passed for, let us say a

Frenchman. Our countrymen seemed enraged at their own condescension in permitting the native gentleman to associate in their playful gambols, and blamed his meanness and audacity in one breath. The dinner was made lively by loud recriminations against the Powers Above that had betrayed and wounded them. Would the fellow come to the dance, and dare to put his arm round an Englishwoman’s waist? It was mildly suggested that his arm might be as good as any one else’s, and as for his manners and morals they could not be much worse than some of the guests in—London ballrooms. London was 7000 miles distant, the Punjab

plains a day’s march nearer home. The military officer’s wife vowed she would consider it an indignity if the Rajah even asked her to dance with him, and trusted Heaven

had a better fate in

reserve for her, which pious wish was echoed on every side. All this time native servants, almost all of whom

understood English,

were listening to a conversation which breathed contempt and dislike of even the exalted ones of their race. They stood in their

usual impassive attitude, arms crossed, their eye attentive to their master’s slightest need or whim. Was it fancy, or did a gleam of anger shoot across the dark handsome face opposite? (28-30)

Criticism of the Raj ® 295

A Critique of British Rule: “Draining India’ [T]hough English rule in India is one of the noblest things in the world to-day, though its subversion would be a heavy blow to civilisation, yet it is impoverishing the country. Britain has secured peace for India, but compels her to pay a price so heavy for the service as to make the invasions and pillaging of all previous conquerors insignificant by comparison. ... The amount of wealth thus diverted from India to England is not £ 32,000,000, the sum with which Nadir Shah returned to Persia as his loot in 1739, in

what may be called a pool, but a stream of great volume, ceaseless in its flow, and one that may be draining India of her resources. (191; 196) Can it possibly be that Free Trade, the beloved Fetish of modern English Liberalism, by which alone England can maintain her vast population in a small country in unsurpassed wealth, does not suit India? Whilst musing how this could be, my eye fell on a portion of Mr Geddes’s report:—‘Exports are very largely compulsory.’ India has not Free but Compulsory Trade: England arranges it all for her, and India’s debts, charges, loss on trade, interest, flow out, not in money, but in wheat, indigo, opium, cotton, jute, tea, crops to some extent grown instead of necessary

food. ... Will any one pretend that that country trades freely whose grain leaves famine-stricken provinces where people are dying by millions, a country which only receives £ 70 in return for every £ 100 worth exported? No; England’s entire and irresponsible control over India has resulted in compulsory trade, conventionally styled free. More than one English governor of an Indian province has stood aghast and dumbfounded at his post to see shiploads of grain leave a famine-stricken province, wheat and rice streaming out, gaunt

living skeletons




assisting in its

removal. Was it the grain buyer’s business to feed the starving peasantry? And yet Anglo-India is greatly astonished that young India should make a demand for a moderate share in the govern-

ment of the country! (204-5) In all this is England seeking India’s good? The answer cannot be simple and direct; good and evil are blent in the results, for the

296 e Memsahibs Abroad main motor is self-interest. It is undeniable that by the Lawrences, the Malcolms, Knights, Edwards, Humes, Munroes, India has been

nobly served. They were men of a lofty type, who forgot self in their devotion to duty and their love for the people. Is it not possible that the prominence of their virtues alone catches the eye, overshadowing the low ideals and attainments of many of those who serve India as hirelings, and not as friends or lovers? It is well for us, and more particularly for these last, to have before our eyes high examples of conduct and character, well also to remember,

when estimating the success of our rule, that such men are far above the average, high as the average is, and that to millions in India that rule is known only by unjust land laws, an oppressive salt tax, and by the personality of an overbearing Englishman, whose mind could never grasp the notion of any civilisation but his own, and only the inferior fruits of that. Possessed of a considerable faculty for self-deception, lulled often by a deep ignorance of the facts of the case, the English people work themselves into an almost genuine belief in the loftiness and purity of their own motives. As the Hebrews


of old the chosen nation, as the

Egyptians were the sons of Isis, and destined to reunion with him, as the Greeks were the children of Hellas (light), and all other nations sons of darkness, even so the English are a Providence to nations with whom they come in contact. I cull almost at random from a writer in the National Review, who complacently swells the chorus of general laudation of English rule—‘We are factors in India for Providence and God.’... Would a searching examination of this Providence result in any thing but his complete identification observed



to coincide


at times





right and justice,


invariably, for their foundation is laid on expediency. (213-14)

been not

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MEMSAHIBS ABROAD Writings by Women Travellers in Nineteenth Century India Edited by Indira Ghose Of the many English women-travellers who came to India during the nineteenth century, there were some who, driven by a desire to ‘see the real India’, stayed on for lengthy periods of time, living the life of both travellers and memsahibs. This anthology comprises several fascinating excerpts from the writings of some of these women. This selection covers a variety of subjects that preoccupied these women: art, culture, religion, travel, encounters with ‘natives’, the Mutiny, and more interestingly, their visits to zenanas and ee encounters with Indian women. It also reflects the varied reactions of these women to a country they were curious to see — reactions that range from enthusiasm to disgust, and yet which reveal their intense involvement with the strange new world they found themselves in. Ghose’s introduction provides an overview of the context against which the excerpts should be read. While historians and students of literature will find the written record of the stay of British women in India of

immense historical significance, this book will also interest students of gender and culture studies, as well as the general reader. Indira Ghose is a lecturer in English Literature at the Free University of Berlin. ‘Ghose herself writes clearly and without jargon ... the vividness, elegance and fluency of the passages is strik[ing].’ — The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History









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