The Spasm of the Familiar
The Spasm of the Familiar
Indians in Late Nineteenth-century London
Abstract and Keywords
Chapter 2 considers the Indian encounter with the imperial metropolis and its city networks, the primary destination of their travels. The 1880s, the heyday of Liberal Britain, is the dominant focus, though examples are chosen from across the final thirty years of the nineteenth century. How did the city strike Indians in this period, and how did their presence on its streets strike the city? The chapter contends that though Indian travellers, students, and businessmen were perceived—and perceived themselves—as foreigners in London, many were also longstanding city-dwellers and bore a keen awareness of what it was to inhabit an industrialized modern world and its various elite formations. Many Indian writers and commentators in this period—including B. M. Malabari, T. N. Mukharji, M. K. Gandhi, and Dadabhai Naoroji—pictured Indians as forming an intrinsic part of the energy and modernity of London’s crowded streets, and found some of their views corroborated in the work of British counterparts, such as Wilkie Collins and George Meredith..
But the passenger, looking at the city in the morning haze, seeing the unremarkable city debris floating out on the sea, unremarkable though the city was so famous—rotten fruit, fresh branches, bits of timber, driftwood—the passenger had a spasm of fear…he didn’t want to leave the ship… [there was] no route back to the home left behind… [he would] continue to travel versions of [his] old route.
V. S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival (1987)
Nehru had to go to England to discover India. Things are clear only when looked at from a distance.
A. K. Ramanujan, ‘Annayya’s Anthropology’ (1992), p. 441
I ‘…To England To Discover India’
The compendious late nineteenth-century glossary of Anglo-Indian English, Hobson-Jobson (1886), compiled by the lexicographer Henry Yule, records under the entry for bandow a nicely turned anecdote. Yule’s informant Keatinge heard the imperative bandow! (meaning ‘tie’ or ‘make fast’) used by two London lighter-men on the Thames docks as they shouted instructions to each other while working.2 In that setting, the word bandow is likely to have been an expression brought to the East End by Indian lascars or seamen, and then naturalized as English speech on the London riverside. It is as telling an instance as might be found of how towards the end of the nineteenth century India was in myriad forms brought over to England, carried by both Indian visitors and British travellers moving along multiple different routes.
The incident is far from a one-off case, however. In East in the West, the reformer Joseph Salter of the London City Mission described the late 1800s east of the city as ‘an Asiatic jungle of courts and alleys’, so many Indian sailors and mendicants did he find milling in the streets.3 In the (p.74) same area, the Strangers’ Home, a repatriation centre for ‘Asiatic, African and South Sea islander’ sailors, part-funded by the Maharaja Duleep Singh, processed around 4,000 cases a year. So, too, 1886 parish reports observed the presence of East Indians or ‘Hindoos’ in workhouses in St George’s, Kensington, and Whitechapel, noting, for example, most Indians’ refusal to eat anything ‘but what he cooked himself’.4 In the preface to his 1890s Three Years in Europe, R. C. Dutt wrote in matter-of-fact terms: ‘It is an old story now…many of my country men have travelled in Europe.’5 ‘It is quite a common sight to meet Indians in all the principal thoroughfares of London’, the Anglican clergyman S. Satthianandhan concurred in 1897, while other visitors to London noticed the number of Asian and African faces looking out of the windows of Bloomsbury boarding houses.6 In his memoir Father and Son (1907), Edmund Gosse recalls being introduced as a child in the late 1850s or early 1860s to an Irish member of the Plymouth Brethren and his wife, an ‘Asiatic’ ‘lady of colour’ (to him somewhat unfamiliar and alarming).7 And the 1901 census reveals numerous more and less anglicized Indian names, both Lalls and Lals, Alis and Allys, Das and Dasses, living around the London docks.8
‘Asiatic’ London comprised a multilayered urban underworld, the novelist Wilkie Collins agreed—one that interpenetrated the entire greater city. His prescient The Moonstone (1868), a sensation-cum-detective fiction, offers probably the most insightful observations of any novel of the period on the ways in which Indian presences thus wove through the great imperial metropolis. The Moonstone examines in detail how the intrigues and complications of empire impinge on domestic relations both in London and in Britain more widely, in such various forms as a gifted jewel, opium consumption, and the prevalence of musky odours, decorated manuscripts, and tell-tale stray gold threads, as well as in the shape of travelling Indian mendicants. Throughout, the novel is also deeply preoccupied with the gathering and decoding of information, sifting through a series of different possible interpretations for the disappearance of the eponymous South Asian stone. As the reader traces ‘the devil’s dance of the [mysteriously stolen] Indian diamond [that weaves] its way’ through the plot, between India and Britain, but also between Yorkshire and London, repeated interpretative links are made between Indian presences and British domestic space—links that will prove pre-emptive and diagnostic also for this chapter’s reading of India in metropolitan Britain in the late nineteenth century, as reflected in the writing and scholarship of Charles Dickens, Edwin Arnold, and F. Max Müller, as well as Swami Vivekananda, B. M. Malabari, and K. C. Sen, amongst many others.9
(p.75) The chapter’s four sections—of metropolitan scene setting, including literary mapping; India-in-Britain overview; contextual investigation, especially of cultural networks; and finally case study—take as their focus peripatetic Indians’ cultural, political, and textual embedding, and, where salient, as in the section on metropolitan scene setting, British responses to them. Throughout, as in other chapters, the informing context is comprised of the networks, institutions, groupings, and partnerships by way of which Indian visitors and their British hosts and mentors drew closer together in this period. A key part of the Indians’ process of embedding was the fact that they were in many cases self-conscious and articulate observers of their arrival, noting the subtle interplay of perceptions of difference and sameness that Britain presented. Their writing, whether published or private, gave them an important interpretative grasp of their experience. It allowed them to negotiate serviceable pathways through the frenetic modern world and to gain a critical distance on its social fluidities and cross-cultural intersections. Though they were by no means the first Asian visitors to visit England, or to write up their observations of European cultural and religious life as amateur ethnography, they did so in far greater numbers, and arguably with greater mutual awareness, than before.10
The important backdrop to these readings of Indians in Britain in the final decades of the nineteenth century is provided, first, by the Liberal ‘Grand Old Man’ W. E. Gladstone’s four phases of premiership, beginning with his so-called ‘Great’ Liberal Ministry of 1868–74; and, second, by the large-scale imperial celebrations and festivals held in the metropolis in these and subsequent years, designed to demonstrate the penetration of British imperial power around the world. In his letters, the economic historian R. C. Dutt fondly evoked his early years in England as marking the highpoint of Liberal Britain. Not long after Dutt’s first visit to Britain, his distant cousin the poet Toru Dutt and her father arrived and saw their poems published under the domestic-sounding and anglicizing title, The Dutt Family Album (1870), reflecting their sense that their creative productions as a family were accessible to a British readership.11 Some twenty years later, in 1889, the same year that T. N. Mukharji published his lavish report on the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, with Gladstone still a force in Westminster, and Queen Victoria still on the throne, the ‘Indian’ Kipling arrived in London.12 Like Mukharji or Malabari in their different milieus, Kipling styled himself as a modern citizen of several cultural worlds; and his work, too, like Mukharji’s, would serve as a dynamic conduit of cultural perceptions between Britain and India, once again increasing the latter’s visibility.13 Throughout these years, the warp and weft of Indian–British (p.76) networks was thickened by the many repeated east–west journeys of Indian as well as Anglo-Indian scholars, businessmen, lawyers, and civil servants, whose careers demanded such shuttling. ‘Native’ Indian Civil Service officers such as Dutt and W. C. Bonnerjee, like their British counterparts, were entitled to periodic ‘home leave’ with their families in London.
Particularly persuasive evidence for the involvement of Indians in London’s social and political life came with the Liberal landslide election of 1892 when, after a concerted campaign waged by a group of British Liberals, Dadabhai Naoroji was elected as Liberal MP for Finsbury Central, albeit by a narrow margin.14 He had stood for the first time in the 1886 election, for Deptford, along with Lal Mohun Ghose for Holborn, on which occasion the Tory Prime Minister Lord Salisbury had remarked that the English were not ready to elect a ‘Blackman’. In 1895, Mancherjee Bhownaggree followed Naoroji’s success with a Tory election win in Bethnal Green. Naoroji, an inveterate networker, also sometimes called the ‘Grand Old Man’, thus became the first Indian to represent a predominantly white constituency, yet, while doing so, persistently raised questions in Parliament pertaining to injustices meted out to India, as well as to Ireland. Across the years leading up to his election, Naoroji had been instrumental in the establishment of several interlinked proto-nationalist Indian groupings in London, including the East India Association, as will be seen later. The late 1880s also saw the formation of the Anjuman-e-Islam, a society for educated Indian Muslims (which became the Pan-Islamic Society from 1903).15 It was on the shoulders of these organizations, their publications, and campaigns for Indian social and political reform that the rising prominence of India in Britain rested, as Section III of this chapter discusses.
With their way smoothed by such developments, various soon-to-be-prominent Indian students began to arrive in Britain from the 1880s, to follow the pathways laid down by pioneers like Dutt, Surendranath Banerjee, and Rabindranath Tagore (who briefly studied law at University College London in the late 1870s). The social reformer Pandita Ramabai attended Cheltenham Ladies College in 1883. M. K. Gandhi studied at the Bar from 1888 to 1891. From 1889, Cornelia Sorabji read first English and then law at Somerville College, Oxford, where she could well have bumped into Manmohan Ghose the poet, a student at Christ Church in the same period. She was certainly photographed with the Duleep Singh sisters, who also studied at Somerville. K. S. Ranjitsinhji, the gifted cricketer, attended Trinity College, Cambridge in 1892–93, neglecting his studies in favour of the sport at which he excelled.
Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, with its prescient focus on India’s pervasive presence in Britain, is probably one of the first Victorian novels to expose the complicated involvement of imperial capital in the empire, and of metropolitan with colonial wealth.16 From the opening scenes, which take place in late eighteenth-century India, the novel sets about undermining the conventional separation of capital and colony, where the one signifies order and control, and the other disorder and violence. In quest of the precious looted diamond, Collins’s juggling Indian mendicants (in fact temple guardians) travel to Britain and manage English railway timetables and the geography of inner-city rooftops and hansom cab chases in London with a confidence and alacrity that is the marvel of the British characters, as are their ‘elegant manners’. They are masters, too, of the social mores of London, ‘employed in ministering to some of the multitudinous wants of this great city’.17 Their being au fait in these ways powerfully offsets the standard-issue orientalist vocabulary with which they are, however, also represented, ‘jabbering’ in their own language.
Not insignificantly, it is given to Ezra Jennings, the opium-addict doctor, ‘brought up in one of our colonies’ with ‘the mixture of some foreign race in his English blood’, to unravel the mystery of how the moonstone, given as a birthday gift, disappears for a second time. And he is able to do so precisely because he understands how deeply British cultural and emotional life is imbued with the tincture of Indian ideas and dreams.18 Like Yeats, and Dickens to an extent, as we will see, Collins thus demonstrates a clear awareness of the transformative potential of hosting Indians in Britain’s midst. The Indians’ presence in the novel encodes what was for the time a boundary-shifting world-view in which India is no mere satellite to the British centre but part, if not yet a major part, of the world-spanning network of Greater Britain.19
It was the India-interpenetrated world of Collins’s The Moonstone that, some twenty-five years later, the peripatetic Indian seer Swami Vivekananda (Narendranath Datta), too, would map and help to mould—once again in indicative and form-giving ways for this chapter. Visiting Europe and America in the 1890s in order to propagate his doctrine of the Unity of the Divine, above and beyond the social divisions which empire embedded, the Swami, much like Collins’s jugglers—indeed enabled by such earlier travellers—capably managed the metropolitan public world of lecture timetables, train and boat schedules, and publication deadlines, as his travel plans of the time show.20 At the same time, in his talks to a range of audiences, including free-thinkers, ‘orientalists’, ‘sceptical intellectuals’, (p.78) theosophists, and ex-colonial officers, on such subjects as ‘The Eastern Doctrine of Love’ and ‘Indian Philosophy’, he opened out, within the homes and the meeting halls of the capital, a widened, more ecumenical and integrated understanding of religious belief as interconnecting rather than dividing cultures. He propagated a vision of the world in which India, far from being in a subsidiary position, had a key role to play, due in part through its representation in the metropolis by individuals such as himself.
Sharing Collins’s and to an extent Vivekananda’s vision of the intricate relations that interlaced London, wider England, and the rest of the world, Charles Dickens in his last, unfinished, novel, the would-be twelve-part The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), also draws far-sighted attention to the multiple ways in which that wider British world, and in particular greater India (the entire subcontinent and Ceylon), had, in the final decades of the century, started to infiltrate English domestic worlds.21 Arguably more so than in his other empire-aware novels, such as Dombey and Son, in Edwin Drood Dickens focuses on the fine material detail and the mutuality of this involvement. (That Edwin Drood was, like The Moonstone, a noir-ish mystery also suggests that gothic forms encouraged a more ambitious, if still coded, interrogation of colonial discourse than did the realist novel.) Although Cloisterham, the novel’s primary setting, not unlike Dickens’s native Rochester, is repeatedly represented as secluded from ‘the noisy world’, an ancient city where the express train does not stop, the shock-waves that move through the community with the disappearance and presumed murder of the young orphan–heir Edwin Drood mingle ties of blood, inheritance, business, habit, and life-style that nevertheless link the ‘drowsy’ town to that wider world.22 Moreover, this wider world does not stop at London, but extends outwards to embrace China and Ceylon, the former home of Cloisterham’s mysterious and aptly named orphan arrivants, Neville and Helena Landless: ‘tigerish’ and ‘very dark…almost the gipsy type’ (and strongly reminiscent of Ezra Jennings).23 Though the novel’s resolution must remain for ever obscure to its readers, the murder plot, driven by addiction, obsession, and betrayal, involves a constant mixing of English and eastern individuals, object-agents, and substances.24
A particularly significant aspect of this eastern-and-English mixing in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, at least in relation to this study, is that, as in The Moonstone, Indian persons and products in the novel are represented at one and the same time as out-of-the-ordinary and yet in the thick of public life. During the complicated goings-on on the night of the murder and in its aftermath, the exotic characters are interestingly regarded as neither more nor less threatening than the locals. Setting aside the bigoted (p.79) Mr Sapsea’s association of ‘un-English’ darkness with danger, the narrative desists from attributing a greater blame to these conventionally less trustworthy presences than to the homegrown English.25 Far greater suspicion is in fact directed at the Choir Master, John Jasper, the frequenter of Princess Puffer’s opium den, than at the outsider Neville. It is an important new departure even for the author of Great Expectations—one that in part reflects the deep impression that Collins’s mystery work had made on Dickens, but in part also conveys Dickens’s deepening sense of the metropolis of London as a space accommodating the many varied journeys of both ‘land customers and water customers’, in Princess Puffer’s words.26 Both the migrant and the visitor in the two novels are, if not ‘one of us’ then ‘one among us’, and if not in place then certainly proximate to what is native and English.27 If anything, in Edwin Drood, the tigerish and the gipsy are domesticated more thoroughly than they are in Collins.
In this context, perhaps the most symptomatic foreign object in the novel, far from being anything to be found in the Tartar’s apartment with its many exotic wonders, is Neville Landless’s heavy ‘iron-shod’ walking-stick, the weight and aspect of which lead his accusers to regard it as incriminating evidence.28 Bearing no overt eastern connotations, the stick is an ordinary British walking accessory, which, by Neville’s own admission, looks out of place on his person, yet it is exactly this lack of fit which is indicative. Most South Asians in Britain at this time would have been not only city residents but also city-dwellers by background, metropolitans who might not have been immediately comfortable in those areas that extended beyond Greater London—despite the evidence that exists, for instance, of Gandhi’s country walks or Dutt’s cross-Britain travels. Julian Barnes’s novel Arthur & George (2006), discussed in Chapter 4, explores some of the deeper contradictions of Indians’ relative unfamiliarity with the English countryside.29 Or, as Neville himself remarks: ‘I have not lived in a walking country, you know.’ Neville’s plans to go walking therefore represent an interesting attempt to take on a more English way of life than city-dwelling allowed, and his walking stick, though considered incongruous by his accusers, emerges as a metonym of his laying claim to England or of ‘going native’, in part by virtue of that very incongruity. The stick becomes a means for this allegedly ‘tigerish’ South Asian to plot a route both unexpected and determined along English cart-tracks and rutted paths, and hence provides a measuring rod for his seemingly ‘un-English’ yet self-anglicizing entry into England—that is, for the enigma of his arrival.30
Further literary elaboration of the economic and cultural proximity of India to London comes from the perhaps unlikely source of Anthony (p.80) Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds (1873).31 Though the novel again carries echoes of Collins’s The Moonstone, whose plot concerning disappearing jewellery it to some extent mimics, Trollope is not overtly interested, unlike Collins, in the presence or palpability of India and Indians in Britain. Even the precious jewels of the title, family diamonds ‘worth £10,000’, though they would have carried Indian connotations to most British readers, are not explicitly given Asian provenance. And when they disappear, irrevocably, it is to the diamond dealers of Vienna or Paris, not back to India. Yet Indian and colonial associations, including references to Irish estates, swirl between the characters of The Eustace Diamonds in at once binding and divisive ways, while the value of possessions with colonial provenance is repeatedly discussed. The difficult but sparky heroine Lizzie Eustace, who determinedly fights to keep hold of the precious diamond necklace her late husband gave her, turns into a magnet for ‘all those evidences of a world beyond England’, in particular when the ‘Sawab of Mygawb’s’ official complaint concerning the restoration of his family fortune becomes the source of a dispute between Lizzie’s love interests, Frank Greystock and Lord Fawn. Their differences reflect certain of the difficult arrangements in the late 1850s that accompanied the transfer of the government of India from the Company to the Crown, and the many land settlements this involved. The Sawab’s ‘question’ itself, which is raised in Parliament, is especially reminiscent of the Maharajah Duleep Singh’s grievances concerning the restoration of his vast Punjabi inheritance, including the priceless Koh-i-Noor diamond, as we will see, from which he was, however, to remain permanently alienated.32 On this reading, Lizzie Eustace’s failure to keep hold of her treasure to some extent equates with the Maharajah’s, especially considering that she is the novel’s catalyst of all that is invasive and disruptive.33 In this least political of Trollope’s political novels, therefore, imperial references not only form an intrinsic part of the fabric of everyday domestic life, but are also encoded in ways that suggest a significant extraction of wealth from India (and Ireland) to England.
Yet the novel was not the only literary genre to register the impact of Indian ideas, beliefs, and presences on British cultural life in this period. Here another Edwin steps into the mix—one who, like Rosa Bud’s friend Tartar in Edwin Drood, was a British expatriate, a returnee from India (in which incarnation he appeared in Chapter 1). In 1879, the poet and translator Edwin Arnold made a particularly influential contribution to the India-infused networks already ramifying through the imperial metropolis with his remarkable epic poem The Light of Asia, a respectful rendition of the life of the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha: in the words of its preface, the ‘noble hero and reformer, Prince Gautama’ to whom ‘a third (p.81) of mankind’ owes allegiance.34 Throughout his time as principal of Government College in Poona in the late 1850s, Arnold had retained, like many British in India, ‘an exile’s sympathies’ for his English home, even as he made an in-depth study of the languages of India and the Middle East.35 Yet, on his return to England to embark on a new career as editor of the London Daily Telegraph, he experienced an equally characteristic switchback of emotions, pouring his nostalgia for his second home into several translations from Sanskrit and Pali.
Of these works, the most notable was Arnold’s epic-scale life of the Buddha, which went into multiple editions, both tapping into, and itself nurturing, the widespread new interest in eastern texts and learning that the orientalist scholarship of the period had encouraged, as had the ongoing popularity of the Arabian Nights.36 To Edwin Arnold can be attributed the first credible creation in English poetry of a timeless yet humanly conceived India, assimilated from different spiritual and aesthetic traditions. Plausibly cast in the voice of a ‘Buddhist votary’, The Light of Asia helped to shape the late nineteenth-century British and American understanding of Buddhism, to the extent that Arnold was charged with proselytizing for the religion, but the book also underpinned the increasing new openness to eastern wisdom in metropolitan culture at large, on the part of Britons (as exemplified also with the emergence of theosophy, as Section III will show).
III ‘Versions Of Our Old Route’: India-In-Britain
Asiatic alleys threaded with a thin gold weave:37 if these were the views of the British host—the novelist or poet—what of the Indian incomer? How did he—in those days rarely she—negotiate their way through England’s, especially London’s, streets? The 1890s metropolis, the social reformer B. M. Malabari magisterially observed in his The Indian Eye on English Life (1893), constituted a ‘vortex of high-pressure civilization’ that subjected everyone to ‘the law of the survival of the fittest’.38 M. K. Gandhi, a law student at the Inner Temple from 1888, was not so judgemental, finding the capital cold in temperature, but not inhospitable.39 Moving within the spectrum described by these countervailing responses, this section traces some of the pathways Indian visitors to London forged, and explores their interaction with the city’s streets and inhabitants. It considers, in other words, their incremental making of India-in-Britain.
In the final decades of the nineteenth century, travelling Indians—including traders, princes, political activists, ethnographers, students, (p.82) entrepreneurs, curators, gurus, and artists of different descriptions—expressed a noticeable sense of cultural connection and even familiarity with the metropolis’s meeting halls, salons, universities, parks, hostels, and eateries, as the records they left show. Their English addresses included places as far as apart as the Strangers’ Home in West India Road, which is now in the London Docklands, through the Grosvenor Hotel and lodgings in Brompton Road and Oakley Street, among Toru Dutt’s places of residence in central London, to Professor F. Max Müller’s leafy Norham Gardens home in Oxford, through which Swami Vivekananda, K. C. Sen, and many other Indian visitors passed while in England. In their daily comings and goings between and around these spaces, and in their writing about their activities, these Indian travellers, as we will see, shaped their identities in response to the demands of metropolitan life.
To expand the concept of anticipatory familiarity introduced in Chapter 1, it is important to remind ourselves at this point that late nineteenth-century Indian travellers, in encountering the capital of the modern world, did not tend to see themselves as secondary or belated in relation to it. Rather, they mapped and decoded the city’s streets with reference to a ready-made index of pre-existing images, geographical co-ordinates, and spatial terms acquired as part of a colonial education and from the pages of colonial newspapers. Urban dwellers themselves, citizens of Bombay, Calcutta, Lahore, or Delhi, self-consciously modern inhabitants of a rapidly expanding imperial world, they met the world’s largest metropolis on relatively equal terms, even while conceding (as did Pandian and Dutt) that its bustle, traffic, and sheer scale were matched nowhere else on the planet. Far from being unintelligible, London to these colonial travellers was comprehensible and readable, in some cases déjà vu, even if those feelings of familiarity went along with a Naipaul-like ‘spasm’ of fear at the irretrievability, therefore, of origins or ‘home’.40
In many 1880s and 1890s Indian travelogues, the writers explicitly style themselves as ethnographers of the capital, approaching the city as a site available for commentary and critique, and pronouncing authoritatively on its social and economic conditions.41 As Antoinette Burton contends, nineteenth-century Indian visitors to the British heartland became ‘exhibitors of Western mores’.42 In some cases indeed, their travelogues were openly intended to serve as guides to the metropolis for the next generation of Indian visitors, and catered to an already established market in tourist guidebooks.43 Though these writings may initially have been compiled in a haphazard way out of letters home and journalism, they were nonetheless seen as useful for Indian students of the future, by pointing out potential pitfalls, as well as sources of support and reassurance. Overall, even as travelling Indians’ dress and manners inevitably (p.83) remained objects of public scrutiny, in their writing they produced a spectacle of London that was a riposte to the city’s own ‘spectacular [imperial] gestures’.44 The ocular references in the titles of several of these travelogues testify to the Indians’ confident assumption of the city’s visibility and legibility to their eyes (consider: The Indian Eye on English Life; London and Paris Through Indian Spectacles; England to an Indian Eye).
It is true, of course, that cross-empire exchange was not conventional for this period. Even as scholars make the case for intercultural encounter, it remains an incontrovertible fact of Indian–British relations at the end of the nineteenth century that considerable wariness beset attempts at reaching across the cultural divide, outside the privileged islands of hospitality provided by universities and literary salons. Imperial cosmopolitanism, we remember, was not cosmopolitanism tout court: it was always inflected by complex orientalist configurations; by a simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from those perceived as racially different and exotic. Therefore, no matter how determined the approaches of travelling Indian poets or politicians were to their British counterparts, and no matter how interested were their often liberal, open-minded hosts in reciprocating their overtures in principle—in practice, within the public arena, racial and cultural divisions pertained in the capital as they did on the colonial periphery, though not as starkly. In India, certainly, the 1857–58 Sepoy Rebellion (or Indian Mutiny) still cast a long shadow over opportunities for Indian–British interrelationship. Anglo-Indians in particular continued for decades to harbour a virulent hostility and mistrust towards Indians.45 The matching of Indian with British cultural horizons that was to an extent possible in London, therefore, was in sharp contrast to the separation of the races in India.
Moreover, across mid-to-late nineteenth-century Europe, including Britain, as free trade idealism gave way to competitive efforts to secure colonial power through territorial possession, new theories of racial difference and superiority became more widely prevalent, underpinning and elaborating the already existing ethnographic vocabularies through which other races and cultures were categorized.46 As colonial rivalries between Europe’s great nations mounted, fears of invasion affected the wider British public for perhaps the first time since Napoleon. Individuals who looked other than English, whether in skin colour or physiognomy, were, as the century turned, increasingly singled out as subversive elements, forerunners of the ill-disciplined hordes who might at any point overrun the British Isles (as we will see in Chapter 4). This meant that, like Africans and South Sea Islanders, Indians in the press and popular literature, as well as in exhibition spaces, were often indiscriminately objectified, (p.84) represented as either weird strangers or decadent Orientals.47 Even as the empire was propagated through the outflow from Britain of manufactured goods, systems of administration, and technology, as well as settlers, at home empire operated in comparable ways to diversify the available sources of knowledge, information, entertainment, and bodily stimulation under a variety of exotic labels.48
Yet, in spite of these prevailing prejudices, late nineteenth-century Indian arrivants in various ways succeeded in making a place for themselves in the capital as well as in smaller British cities, especially university cities and towns—or, at worst, did not feel entirely out of place. In a word, as Ranajit Guha writes of this period: ‘the Englishman in England was less prejudiced than the Englishman abroad’.49 As travelling colonials from around the world tended to discover, the interaction of Britain with its colonies on home ground, not least with its richest and most glamorous colonial possession, was livelier and more open than colonialist attitudes in the empire might have allowed them to expect. In nearly all cases, Indian visitors were welcomed and made to feel at home by one or more British mentor or friend: the UCL Professor Henry Morley in the case of R. C. Dutt, say, or Friedrich Max Müller in respect of K. C. Sen and a host of others.50 On the British side, showing hospitality to Indians was regarded in both liberal and more radical circles as an important part of the work for social and religious reform.51 Corroborating these overtures, racialized ideas concerning the hierarchical development of civilizations encouraged a view of South Asians as representatives of fallen yet ancient and sophisticated cultures and therefore as more culturally proximate to Europeans than other colonized races.52
In The Indian Eye on English Life, B. M. Malabari powerfully turns the tables on the orientalization of his countrymen with his observations that the city’s ‘feverish’ mania for novelty and commercialism transformed its citizens into little more than primitive fetish worshippers, bowing themselves before their idols of ‘Emperor Coal and King Iron’. This device of the knowing or ‘civilized’ put-down—a colonial judgement of others aimed to forestall judgement by them—is a trademark of the urbane Malabari’s travelogue, one that he repeatedly uses to testify to his insider position in the metropolis, and which invites comparison with Collins and Dickens. Published in Bombay and London, Malabari’s bullishly authoritative commentaries on English society were written up after an 1890 visit on a mission of social reform relating to Indian child marriage, and soon became paradigmatic for the many other Indian travelogues that appeared in the wake of the 1887 Golden Jubilee. The Reverend T. B. Pandian, in his England to an Indian Eye, subtitled English Pictures from an Indian Camera, published later in the same decade, for example, wrote in evident (p.85) emulation of Malabari’s commanding and judgemental stance, as his title reflects.53 Gandhi, too, began in 1893 a ‘Guide to London’, ‘the very centre of civilization’, which was conceived as a way of assisting the many young Indians who bombarded him with requests for travel advice after his return to India.54
Throughout Malabari’s now investigative, now ethnographic travelogue, he deftly styles himself as a perceptive eastern ‘eye’ within the west, playing the role of both observer and observed ‘rambling in the field of [British] Humanity’.55 As Burton persuasively suggests, he is particularly concerned to ‘consolidate his position as the authoritative manly voice of Indian social reform’, and, to do so, subscribes to several interrelated genres of self-fashioning, now as a metropolitan flâneur, now as a confident colonial traveller directing his masterful gaze across the city.56 In the chapter ‘Sex’, for instance, this urbane self-fashioning, motivated always by his social crusade in the name of Indian women, is put to the test in public encounters with English women of different classes, so giving Malabari the opportunity to enlist those women who meet his standards of respectability to his reformist vision for India. As with Malabari, Pandian’s travelogue, too, predicates its authority as a London guidebook above all on the writer’s experience of seeing the city as an urban rambler or flâneur, and, relatedly, on his awareness of participating in a live tradition of writing about the metropolis from a campaigning (in this case, Christian) Indian’s point of view.
One of the outstanding features of Malabari’s self-projection as the Indian abroad, which Pandian amongst others emulates, is the supercilious tone he assumes in relation to his main subject, London life, which is expressive of his defensive concern to demonstrate competence in decoding the city. Standing back from the crowd ‘at a safe distance’ from ‘the noise and bustle’, sometimes in the elevated position the omnibus provides, he reports on matters ranging from the city’s poor to ‘British Pluck’ with a brusque savoir faire, distilled into cutting put-downs.57 A comparable claim to know-how from a distance marks the pages of a much earlier work of Malabari’s, a collection of occasional verse, An Indian Muse in English Garb (1876), which is underscored in the parallelism of the two titles. Published to mark a visit of the Prince of Wales to India, the collection throws light on the tension Malabari maintained between two simultaneous but countervailing assertions in his work, that of his cultural difference (reflected in his ingratiating deference to the ‘Heav’n-directed Sovereign’), and that of his familiarity with English poetry and the English language (‘the current language of India—the soft, insinuating English’, which ‘bids fair, at no distant date, to be a world language’).58 In the same way as Malabari endeavoured with these (p.86) poems to establish himself as an English-language poet, so, too, in The Indian Eye on English Life, did he subscribe to the ethnographic genre of investigative reportage, such as propagated in England by Henry Mayhew and others, a genre predicated on the all-seeing perspective of the reporting citizen-subject.
Yet, despite this more or less achieved magisterial position, the dominant impression Malabari’s compressed prose style ultimately creates is of the ceaseless traffic of the London street, the ‘hurry-scurry’ and ‘permanent motion’ in which divisions and borderlines are constantly breached—between inside and outside, and east and west, certainly, but also between sexes and classes. Moreover, Malabari observes, Indians in London are not excluded from the endless mingling and moving. Far from it: Indian presences crop up in the text at various random intervals, as if whirled pell-mell into the Brownian motion of the crowd. There is, for instance, the ‘[Indian] stranger’ or ‘pilgrim from the East’ ‘rigged out’ in English dress, who Malabari sees knocked down by weather and hurry. There are also the ‘Indian dishes, rice and curry’ that he notices feature on English menus; as well as his repeated recommendation to Indian students in London and Oxbridge to live in respectable family lodgings, which is presented as a not unattainable goal.59 Even the scenes that do not include Indians elicit comparative remarks from Malabari, which switch deftly between British and Indian urban perspectives, as when he mishears London street cries as being spoken in Indian vernaculars. As this might suggest, Malabari’s double-voiced point of view as an insider–outsider can itself be viewed, and used, as an interpretative measure of Britain’s intercultural hodge-podge at this time—‘great in varieties, great in contrarieties, unequalled in the power of contrasts and the wealth of extremes’—a hodge-podge which included Indian infusions, amongst many others.60
The form-giving influence of Indian travelogues like Malabari and Mukharji’s is tellingly registered in an English novel of the same period, George Meredith’s One of Our Conquerors (1891). One scene in particular in One of Our Conquerors underscores the involvement of India in British public life, confirming from a British point of view the knowledgeable and knowing position of the Indian abroad. The somewhat tortuous ‘political jeremiad’ of Meredith’s late novel is directed at Britain’s restrictive divorce laws and accompanying social hypocrisy, though satirical sideswipes are taken at nationalist bombast also.61 The flawed hero Victor Radnor, a City of London speculator, is ‘one of our conquerors’, though not in a straightforward colonial sense, but rather of ‘Old England’s’ economic sphere. Married in his youth to a moneyed older widow, Radnor wishes now to marry his mistress of twenty years’ standing, Nataly, in order that their daughter Nesta might gain legitimacy. However, the novel’s various (p.87) frustrations concerning the ills of the English establishment, including its overtly anti-semitic aggravation at ‘Hebrew’ competition for ‘the fruits of Commerce’, are not directly at issue here.62 For our purposes, One of Our Conquerors instead makes a single powerful contribution to the period’s conceptualization of India-in-Britain with, close to its start, its remarkable view of the city of London, styled as if observed by a travelling Rajah.
Entitled ‘The London Walk Westward’, chapter 5 self-reflexively describes the London rush-hour—‘the march of London citizens Eastward at morn, Westward at eve’—as Zoroastrian-type sun-worship, in the manner of a satirical ethnographic travelogue. The salient text is in fact named in the opening sentence as ‘The Rajah in London (London, Limbo and Sons, 1889)’.63 Though the passage developing the travelogue conceit comprises a mere fraction of the novel, still it vividly conveys the extent to which, by the final decade of the nineteenth century, the Indian abroad had turned into something of a stock figure in guidebook-type overviews of city life. Even though the tone of Meredith’s précis is sardonic, interspersed with tendentious quotations from a so-called ‘Indian story’ in verse, the rajah visitor is nonetheless regarded as a reliable vehicle for a description of ‘this London, this England, Europe, world, but especially this London’, in both its material ‘immensity’ and its moral ‘hideousness’—one to rival Thomas Babington Macaulay’s by now established trope of the future New Zealander’s contemplation of London in ruins.64 In contrast to the proverbial New Zealander, the Indian observer in this scene sees London in a state of sun-burnished splendour, even if raddled in many places: as the capital of his not yet ruined, yet clearly inadequate conquerors (the novel’s titular irony thus becoming starkly apparent).
London is also a city the ‘mysterious contrarieties’ of which the Indian visitor is easily equal to analysing. Several of Meredith’s devices in the passage—the framing of the Rajah’s satire as a dialogue with ‘his Minister’; their situation ‘on board a departing vessel’, tracing ‘versions of the old routes’, as Naipaul might say; and the self-reflexive references to their position as objective observers, including the ostentatious bibliographical reference already cited—suggest that the novelist had some knowledge of the emergent genre of the ‘Indian abroad’ travelogue, most probably of Mukharji’s influential 1889 A Visit to Europe. But it also suggests, as powerfully, that the metropolitan overview delivered by the high-status Indian was one that by 1890 carried a certain literary recognizability, even a cultural caché. This quality of authoritativeness, couched in a spirit of ‘sympathetic Conservatism’ (associated in particular with the Rajah’s Minister), would have been thrown into particular relief within the context in which the chapter was first published. One of Our Conquerors was first serialized in the Fortnightly Review, beginning in 1890. Appearing (p.88) in the form of a lone-standing essay, ‘The London Walk Westward’ could very likely have struck a casual browser as an actual citation from an Indian travelogue. Therefore, if we accept, along with Edward Said, that literary texts were deployed in the management of colonial relationships, then the appearance of Meredith’s Rajah and his Minister on the Thames in the pages first of the Fortnightly Review and then of the published novel, can be seen to underpin the legitimacy of the Indian visitor’s role and perspective in pronouncing on London society.65
As the symptomatic link between the well-to-do Lizzie Eustace and the fabulously wealthy Maharajah Duleep Singh already anticipated, a key factor accounting for this relative acceptance of visiting Indians in late nineteenth-century imperial Britain was that, in sharp contrast with the racially stratified periphery, in the metropolis differences of race and ethnicity were mediated and to an extent suspended within a more dominant hierarchy of class (and to some extent of religious heterodoxy, as will be seen). This was especially the case when it came to encounters with Indians perceived to be of high status, as Martin Wainwright submits.66 Apart from lascars, most travelling Indians from the 1870s tended to be members of elites, and hence educated in the colonial system. They were also by and large male, with the fellowship of gender in such cases also overriding, or in part bridging, racial distinctions. Far distant from the places in which authority was often brutally imposed, the British metropolis provided these male elites with a ‘unique zone of encounter’ where, in accordance with the ideals of the civilizing mission, British subjects of most ethnicities were given relative freedom to manipulate their status and secure recognition within an alternative hierarchy of class.67 So it is no accident that a number of the Indians who feature in this study, including Mohini Chatterjee, Manmohan Ghose, the cousins Toru and R. C. Dutt, and Cornelia Sorabji, were either high-ranking Bengali Brahmins or Bombay Parsis, that is, stemmed from ethnic groups that had long since positioned themselves as imperial go-betweens.68 Though a measure of racial and religious prejudice would have continued to mark their daily encounters with Londoners, as we saw, at the same time these individuals experienced the city’s streets, hotels, lecture halls, and meeting rooms as relatively open and accessible public spaces, through which they were able to negotiate their way with relative confidence. With their social status effectively eliding or muting their racial difference, such travellers were, from the moment of arrival, in a reasonably good position to build bonds of amity and common purpose with their British interlocutors and hosts.69
Indian rajahs or princes in particular were not shy of standing upon their ceremonial rights and privileges in relation to their aristocratic (p.89) counterparts in Britain. In a special case of shared status facilitating horizontal interaction, maharajahs and rajahs were received by Queen Victoria at court, with Indians from other high-ranking families also being welcomed. On such occasions, the wealthy rajahs played on and manipulated to their advantage in their dress, bearing, and manner, perceptions current in British culture of the fabulously opulent east. In related ways, T. N. Mukharji, as Government ethnographic assistant at the 1886 Indian and Colonial Exhibition, used extravagant displays of Indian arts, crafts, and traditional performances to showcase India as exotic and eastern, in this way corroborating British preconceptions of the subcontinent while also transmitting images of a unitary, culturally coherent India back to audiences at home.70 As for the Queen, she delighted in her position as the Empress of the fabulous Raj. Arranging her décor to match her station, in 1890–91 Victoria oversaw Bhai Ram Singh’s construction of the durbar room in the main wing of her private residence, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, in an intricate Mughal style. In 1887, the year of her Golden Jubilee, as if to consolidate this domesticated Indianness (and to make up for the fact that she herself had never visited India), she took on two Indian servants, Abdul Karim and Mohammed Buksh. She famously grew particularly fond of Abdul Karim, promoting him from table waiter to clerk, taking lessons in Hindustani from him, building him a cottage, and spending much time with him in conversation.71
It is in one sense indubitably true, therefore, that a part-orientalized Crown presided over imperial Britain across its jubilee years, even though the rajahs’ court appearances continued to pit the hierarchical differences contingent upon colonial defeat in subtle ways against the claims of aristocratic status held in common. For all the Indians’ vaunted nobility, their submission to the mighty monarch at such ceremonies was always sharply dramatized by contrasting visual effects (as it also was at coronation durbars in India). One of the most pre-eminent among the later nineteenth-century Indian aristocrats, the Maharajah Duleep Singh, who arrived in Britain as a teenager after the 1849 annexation of the Punjab, lived the life of a British aristocrat at his orientalized country estate Elveden on an India Office pension, and was a frequent guest at Osborne House. However, the situation of seeming fellowship he enjoyed with his royal patron was always premised on asymmetrical power relations, as was clear from the moment when, in 1850, the young Maharajah was put under pressure to present the legendary Koh-i-Noor diamond, allegedly freely, to the Queen as a gift. (It is now set in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth II.) It was as emphatic a mark as could be of the Punjab’s subservience to the British throne.72
(p.90) As for the period’s other, somewhat less privileged, though still elite, Indian arrivants, they negotiated their way through London and claimed their place in city life both through their actual exchanges with Britons on the street, in the university or meeting hall, and through various forms of cultural and literary expression, in exhibitions and performances, certainly, but also in writing, including in journalism. Across the 1880s, and until after the First World War, high-ranking Indian appearances were cited in such channels as published itineraries, court circulars, and a range of newspapers and periodicals: The Times, predictably, but also the Indian Magazine and Review and the Illustrated London News.73 These channels worked in tandem with less ephemeral forms of expression such as published letters home and guidebooks (as we saw), political commentaries, and, eventually, literary sketches and poems. Embedding India-in-Britain in these different ways, the Indian writers along with English commentators like Collins or Meredith echoed and amplified the Indian comings and goings already on record elsewhere and, in so doing, at once invoked and modified some of the standard images of an exoticized India put about by the grand exhibitions. Willy-nilly they contributed to how cosmopolitan London would be viewed not only by Indians but also by its many other intercontinental visitors (as Meredith, for one, archly acknowledges).
Writing their way into the metropolis, peripatetic Indians joined in with an emergent discussion of what it meant to be a British (as against ‘merely’ an Indian) subject, that is, a part of Greater Britain and a citizen of empire, possessing certain political rights. At a time when a fully independent Indian nation was barely conceivable and Indian citizenship unobtainable, Indians in Britain became increasingly more involved in exploring, defining, and asserting what their broader citizenship might entail. Queen Victoria’s 1858 Proclamation, and perhaps as powerfully the 1877 Proclamation of the Queen as Empress of India, energetically promoted at the time by Prime Minister Disraeli, had granted her Indian subjects, in principle, citizenship of the empire alongside and in equal measure to Britons. It was a political architecture designed to bridge the rigid bifurcation of Britain versus India following the 1857 Great Rebellion.74 In the same period, historians and other commentators from the white ‘brotherhood’ of colonies used the pages of periodicals like the illustrated weekly The Graphic, W. T. Stead’s Review of Reviews or the Pall Mall Gazette to explore the make-up of a ‘Greater Britain’ across the globe—one of the pre-eminent imperial topics of the day.75 Greater Britain, as a global federal system linking Anglo-Saxon people, propagated in the work of Oxbridge historians like J. R. Seeley and J. A. Froude, was conceived especially by Liberals such as Seeley as a finely balanced political (p.91) system, in which the lack of political representation for imperial citizens in one area, such as in India, was perceived to reduce the quality of freedom for all Greater Britain subjects.76
Indian opinion makers of the time took part in a linked set of discussions concerning the status of India in relation to a largely white Greater Britain; the concept of imperial citizenship ‘in principle’; and, by extension, the nature of their Indian identity. These individuals included the entrepreneur Dadabhai Naoroji and the political economist R. C. Dutt, both of whom used the influential media of the pamphlet and specialist newspaper, like India. Logically projecting the implications of the Proclamations on to their being in Britain, they developed ideas of belonging to an expanded imperial community, a more ecumenical Greater Britain that would include both India and Britain—as opposed to Britain standing at the centre of the Greater British system.77 For them, the Proclamations, informed by the underlying Roman concept of citizenship regardless of nationality or ethnicity, had created the sense of participating in a shared imperial subjectivity with Britons. This once again allowed them to put in suspension, at least for the period of their sojourn, certain burdens of colonial representation—as native, exotic, oriental, effeminate—and deploy the more fluid language of citizenship, and of the colonial cosmopolitan at large in the modern world, to describe themselves and their relations with the metropolis. It could even be said that their position as outsiders within, and as intercultural travellers around the empire, contributed to the production of a self-conscious ‘Greater British’ imperial culture. Staging their encounter with the imperial heartland, Indians’ political writings and travelogues considered what it meant to be at once an Indian and a citizen of the British world.
Drawing from his knowledge as an entrepreneur in the worldwide cotton trade, the businessman-activist Dadabhai Naoroji was a particularly strong advocate for how Indian and British cultural horizons, already complicatedly knotted together by history and economics, might be more constructively interrelated, to the mutual benefit of both parties.78 In his efforts to push Indian affairs to the centre-stage of British politics, and to protest against India’s economic exploitation, Naoroji from the 1860s made contact with some of the leading Liberals and radical figures of the day, from Gladstone and Charles Dilke, through to more left-wing contacts such as Charles Bradlaugh, John Bright, and H. M. Hyndman. In tandem with Irish and radical British politicians like Michael Davitt and Wilfred Scawen Blunt, a central tenet of Naoroji’s argument, expressed in work like Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, was that the lack of Indian political representation qualified the freedom of all imperial citizens, a claim that again highlighted the interdependence of Britain and (p.92) India.79 M. K. Gandhi, too, drew on ideas of ‘impartial’ admission to ‘office in our service’ in the 1858 Proclamation to campaign for freer and more equal interaction between the Queen’s Indian and English subjects, and the unfettered entitlement of Indians to imperial citizenship (despite legal restrictions on such entitlement).80 Himself too shy to visit the ‘Grand Old Man of India’ while a student in London, Gandhi, like Naoroji, used the tool-kit of his colonial education—its language and liberal principles—in a lifelong struggle to plead for citizens’ rights for diasporic Indians.81 Some twenty years later, Jawaharlal Nehru, a student in Harrow and Cambridge (1905–12), would embark in turn on a path moulded by Gandhi’s example.
In sum, the early decades of Indian migration to Britain forged ‘Indian identity’ from afar, positioned in relation to ‘the ocean of human-life called London’, as a British-made yet cosmopolitan and always open-ended concept.82 As Wilhelm Halbfass wrote of Roy: ‘in the act of presenting himself and his tradition to the foreigners, [the Indian] learns, as it were, to see himself with foreign eyes’.83 Indianness, as well as Britishness, became something acquired and developed through the encounter with British society, both its inclusions and its discriminations, as an expression of what Ranajit Guha calls diasporic nationalism.84 It is small wonder therefore that the list of names of those who studied in Britain from the 1880s to the First World War read as a Who’s Who of the nationalist movement in India.85 At a time when most Britons failed to see any future possibility for a united India, Indians, even as they experienced England or Scotland as a unified cultural terrain, were able to transfer this field-vision of a nation eastwards, and project it onto the whole subcontinent.
IV City Networks: ‘No Route Back’
Fundamental to an understanding of British–Indian relations in southern England in the later decades of the nineteenth century is the fact that the social and cultural worlds of both parties to the encounter had already undergone significant convergence in relation to one another. By the time they met, a degree of migration into one another’s cultural zones had already taken place. To begin with, Indian visitors to Britain tended to come from cosmopolitan milieus and other in-between contexts in India, sewn together whether loosely or tightly by cross-regional and intercity groupings, movements, and organizations—which some worked to replicate abroad. This meant that they held cultural vocabularies in common with their British hosts—of citizenship, say, or civilized status, or theistic (p.93) belief. Even at the time of initial contact, therefore, British hosts and their Indian guests were in a position to make a series of scalar adjustments to accommodate one another’s perspectives, despite the exotic preconceptions they may mutually have entertained. For the Indian visitors, this meant that the direction of their travel was always towards Europe, as well as within the west: there was in this sense, too, as Naipaul writes in The Enigma of Arrival, ‘no route back’ to the India left behind.
Education represents an especially key factor in conceptualizing this Indian–British convergence, on both sides. Elite Indians in the period were in educational terms certainly already relative insiders to British culture. All who had passed through colonial schools and colleges had gathered an extensive knowledge of English literature and history. Nehru had read widely in the English classics by the time he came to England, as we saw earlier, and R. C. Dutt in India read out loud to his family from Walter Scott.86 As Tapan Raychaudhuri observes in respect of the Bengali bhadralok, contrary to colonialist views of this intelligentsia’s cultural cringe before the assumed superiority of the west, in fact Bengal’s travelling intellectuals demonstrated ‘a measure of self-confidence in relation to Europe’, based on several decades of accumulated contact.87
Britons, for their part, had a more than rudimentary understanding of India due, of course, to India’s longstanding colonial involvement with Britain. Radhika Mohanram writes in Imperial White that the interweaving of British culture by colonial cultures in this period changed how Britons saw themselves in relation to the rest of the world, shifting that self-image from an axis of separation to one of greater proximity.88 And this meant that British cultural and spiritual departures for other shores, even if sometimes only in the imagination, in many cases moved in consort with, while also facilitating, Indian arrivals. On both sides, therefore, stood individuals who even before they encountered one another were median figures—middle men or cultural interpreters—and hence active participants in the process of making contact across the colonial divide. The Indian travellers in particular, distant from their home environments, often cut off, even if only temporarily, from their caste backgrounds, were in several ways receptive to new ideas and experiences. They were, by definition, modern in outlook.89
Gandhi’s ‘Experiments in Dietetics’, chapter xiv of his Autobiography, offers a metonymic account of the reciprocal in-tandem exploration of the modern that characterized India-in-Britain. In his case, the convergence of his interests and perspectives with those he met in the metropolis grew out of the fortuitous coincidence of the ‘new cult’ of vegetarianism (in particular, a vigorous outreach campaign by the London Vegetarian Society), with his own concerted efforts to maintain caste conditions in (p.94) respect of food.90 The Autobiography’s sketch of Gandhi the questing vegetarian gives a vivid picture of the myriad pathways he traced through London searching for appropriate food and a suitable way of being:
I would trot ten or twelve miles each day, go into a cheap restaurant and eat my fill of bread, but would never be satisfied. During these wanderings I once hit on a vegetarian restaurant in Farringdon Street. The sight of it filled me with the same joy that a child feels on getting a thing after its own heart. Before I entered I noticed books for sale exhibited under a glass window near the door. I saw among them Salt’s Plea for Vegetarianism. This I purchased for a shilling and went straight to the dining room. This was my first hearty meal since my arrival in England.91
As the movement of Gandhi’s syntax suggests, to this hungry Indian vegetarian the discovery of the book felt tantamount to being given a meal. From this point on, with Salt’s scientific and moral manifesto in hand to guide his eating, he became certain he would be able to cope in England.
As Gandhi makes clear, it is England and not India that therefore ‘converts’ him into being a convinced vegetarian. And it is vegetarianism that gives him access to the energetic group of English reformers who would henceforth shape his political views, as well as providing him with reading materials, restaurant listings, and journalistic opportunities. Setting a seal on these new vegetarian associations, Gandhi would later become a member of the London Vegetarian Society Executive, and even went on to establish his own vegetarian club, with Sir Edwin Arnold as Vice-President. Vegetarianism provided him with a mode of ethical communion with the English that would foster deeper sympathies with India, while also ‘facilitating the way of other Indians to England a great deal’, as he wrote in The Vegetarian in 1894.92 As his experience of theosophy also demonstrates, his exposure to eastern and western books standing side-by-side on the shelves of London’s bookshops allowed him to develop a consolidated and increasingly radical sense of himself as an Indian as well as a citizen of the empire, as Hindu as well as cosmopolitan. Metropolitan London at once allowed him to reach beyond the confines of his provincial point of view, yet returned him to himself as an Indian. The same process of simultaneous opening out and self-consolidation was to be experienced by many other travelling Indians—students, poets, doctors, gurus—when they visited the capital.
Gandhi’s picture of the dovetailing between English and Indian life-style choices and cultural interests is reflected in other contemporary reports on Indian–British encounters in the metropolis. The following short account in the London Daily News by an anonymous Ceylonese (p.95) visitor to the 1886 Indian and Colonial Exhibition once again underlines in precise terms the perception on the part of visiting South Asians that their approach to Britain was on the basis of cultural proximity and recognition, even a perceived unique status. The Ceylonese correspondent registers his awareness of a new, yet not entirely unfamiliar or remote, cosmopolitan diversity, one which would be echoed in the slightly later travel writings of Lala Baijnath, B. M. Malabari, and others.93
The Englishman here is very common. When he comes to Ceylon he is a great man; but a black man is a great man in England…
Still a large number of people come to the Exhibition… Who thought when I first said I would come to England on account of the sea, that I would see peoples of all the world [‘Africans, Maoris, Fijians, Cypriots, Rajpoots, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, French, Americans’, he glosses elsewhere]?…It must be owing to this that everyone likes to see England.94
An immediately striking aspect of these lines is the way in which the Ceylonese participant draws explicatory analogies between home and abroad, Ceylon and London, while at the same time cross-hatching these with shifting ideas of relative scale: ‘A black man is a great man in England.’ As his remarks imply, social configurations existed whereby a South Asian traveller, who may well have experienced colonial discrimination on the subcontinent, might be made to feel welcome in the capital. Indeed, as when high-ranking Indians were presented at court, in certain cases his or her presence could be regarded as an enhancement of the high imperial and Greater British (even ‘world’) status of the host city.
The Ceylonese reporter’s remarks make for an interesting comparison with B. M. Malabari’s pointed response to London’s at once enjoyable and enervating ‘modern civilization’ in The Indian Eye on English Life, introduced earlier—despite the obvious contrasts between the one’s plain-spoken reportage, and the other’s educated literary and biblical references. Reflecting on London’s ‘high pressure material progress’, Malabari comments:
Anyhow it is hopeless to stem the tide of this modern civilization. If it shortens life, does it not make it more enjoyable? Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay. This artificial civilization, dominated by King Coal and Emperor Iron, and typified as Kaliyuga by the wise men of the East, has its price, which is paid every day in disease and death, in accident and crime. (p. 46)
There is in these lines, as before, a rapid shuttling between different scales of value, though the graduations of tone are more sophisticated than in the Ceylonese example, especially in so far as Malabari’s admiration for the progress London embodies is cut across by his distress at its deleterious (p.96) social consequences, as it is throughout The Indian Eye on English Life.95 The weight of his indictment rests on the highlighted quotation from Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’, which at one level he uses to vaunt the achievements of the west (and his own cultural knowledge), in the tone of Thomas Babington Macaulay’s praise for western books in his 1835 Minute. Yet, in relation to the juxtaposed references to poverty and crime, the knowing citation from Tennyson is simultaneously also undercut and exposed for the vainglorious cultural boasting it is. It is a notable instance of Malibari’s double-voicing: fifty years of Europe resemble nothing so much as the dark period of civilizational chaos called the Kaliyuga in the Hindu scriptures. The convergence of bicultural reference points and actual geographical pathways that he accomplishes is extremely subtle. An Indian commentator here deploys his copious knowledge of English poetry, acquired as part of his colonial upbringing, in order to pronounce on the state of England, yet also to withdraw into a removed, if not countervailing position, that is sympathetic to India.
A key point of agreement between the extracts from Gandhi, the Ceylonese, and Malabari concerns their relative familiarity with city life. Despite predictable differences of context and perspective, it is evident that all three South Asian travellers came from similar urban domains, the great and growing cities of India, worlds that in many ways stood closer to metropolitan Britain than did England’s towns and villages, and so could be conceptualized—and were experienced as—converging spaces. As was seen also with travellers’ responses to the Suez Canal, their reports on their encounter with the west were profoundly informed by this relative cultural proximity—a proximity that intensified with colonial expansion and the ramification of the empire’s communication networks. Indian cities like Calcutta and Bombay, which had grown up as trading ports, or Delhi, from 1911 the new imperial capital, were in many respects therefore not merely colonial, but transregional and intercultural environments, distinguished by their cosmopolitan character and heterogeneous social relations.
As Malabari’s comparative remarks suggest, the large Indian cities, even when viewed in relation to a significantly larger London, could be regarded in this period not so much as extremes, but as points on a sliding scale of urban complexity. To some extent, these cities’ structures—their civic architecture, market place layout, maidans and esplanades, and other aspects of urban planning—replicated one another, having been designed and built by similarly trained and educated planners and architects, in some cases as if in one another’s image. So London may have been as familiar or unfamiliar to peripatetic Bombay or Calcutta citizens as their own home cities, not because these had been modelled on London per se, (p.97) but because of the serial formation of social spaces and structures under empire famously described by Benedict Anderson.96 Theorizing the multisited emergence of global modernity, Partha Mitter in The Triumph of Modernism explores in related terms how the ‘hybrid cosmopolises’ of the Indian colonial world, Bombay and Calcutta, operated as crucibles for peripheral or lateral modernist formations.97 As his examples suggest, the vectors of such global city formations ran in multiple different directions, and did not merely radiate out from London: indeed, it was their complex seriality that shaped their modernity.98
By the time of Victoria’s two Jubilee celebrations of 1887 and 1897, therefore, during that period when Indians were arriving in Britain in more significant numbers than had previously been the case, the interactive cultural worlds of the global city were being created and recreated across the empire on a daily basis, mainly through the operation of the print media, but also through the not unrelated spread of the imperial lingua franca, English. The unchanging format of the daily newspaper, in particular, whether produced in Bombay or London, often though not exclusively in English, replicated social imaginaries from one city to another, wherever in the world it was produced. A telling example of this at once formal and imaginary replication can be found in the way in which Malabari used the Bombay newspapers, in particular his own Indian Spectator, to agitate for sexual reform in India at more or less the same time that the journalist campaigner W. T. Stead was writing for the London media to the same ends—and no doubt with a sideways glance at the influential Stead’s work.99 Through their participation in the empire’s burgeoning print cultures, therefore, elite inhabitants of Bombay, Calcutta, and London, amongst other colonial cities, can be seen to have shared in a loose corpus of ideas of the modern and the cosmopolitan that drew them into a global virtual community—a community that was in part fostered within the precincts of their own cities.
Equipped with these powerful city imaginaries, late nineteenth-century Indian travellers, when they reached the imperial metropolis, inevitably read its public spaces through a standardized vocabulary of the urban everyday acquired as part of their city experience in India, which included their newspaper reading. And though London was generally seen to be far larger and more crowded than their home cities, still it was the case that the features these travellers singled out for comment had already been formalized as synecdoches or codes of a global city life drawn from what they knew of Indian cities, or what Mitter might term their ‘virtual cosmopolitan’ know-how. So when Malabari in his travelogue picks out such noteworthy features of London life as its many modes of public (p.98) transport, or its ‘circulars and advertisements’, he is reading these not ex nihilo, but against an already existing index of city experience.
The replication of an urban imaginary through print technology is persuasively illustrated in the example offered by the relatively unknown, yet for all that representative provincial paper, the Indian Mirror, the weekly journal of the Calcutta Brahmo Samaj.100 Like the later Modern Review (1907), the Calcutta monthly associated with Bengal’s modernist art movement, the Indian Mirror was broadly liberal nationalist and reformist, much concerned with the measure of ‘Indian loyalty to the Crown’. Its four-page broadsheet featured short reports on foreign news (often relating to India, such as Irish Home Rule developments) and civic notices (concerning temporary closures of the Hooghly Bridge, for example), alongside reviews of local cultural events: a performance of the Mahasheta at the Opera House, for instance, where ‘a well-written English synopsis of the piece’ was ‘placed into the hands of those who could not follow it in the original’. As in other metropolitan as well as regional newspapers of the day, these notices and reviews were juxtaposed with advertisements concentrated in the side columns and on the back page. Some of the advertisements interestingly featured businesses (publishers, opticians) with outlets in London and Bombay, as well as Calcutta. Lawrence and Mayo opticians, who advertised their ‘perfect pebble’ spectacles in the Indian Mirror’s pages, boasted of offices at 1A Old Bond Street in London, Rampart Row, Bombay, and 3–4 Hare Street, Calcutta.101
In respect of virtual cosmopolitanism, perhaps the most interesting articles in the 1886 Indian Mirror were its almost daily reports on the Government of India’s Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London, which highlighted both insignificant and important features and events. The detail lavished on a description of the installation of the display cases, or an address by the Prince of Wales, created a striking effect of close yet transnational focus, certainly when compared to the same paper’s far briefer, broad-brush reports on Calcutta-based events. From the point of view of the Indian Mirror (or indeed other of India’s regional newspapers, such as the Bombay Gazette), it is as if the Exhibition were taking place, not thousands of miles away, but in a parallel world proximate to Calcutta. As this suggests, the imperial communications networks that sustained the newspapers created so dynamic a connectivity between the empire’s cities that, in local readers’ imaginations at least, the peripheries could be regarded as less distant from the metropolis than the latter’s elevated status implied. Within these lively networks, Indian tourists writing on the Exhibition in London might overnight convert their travel notes into newspaper columns for Calcutta or Colombo newspapers (and subsequently, as we saw, into guidebooks (p.99) for later travellers), and Thomas Cook and Sons set out to reinforce existing intercultural links by arranging regular tours from India to the Exhibition via the Suez Canal. Within the ‘mirror’ worlds of the Indian Mirror, therefore, the India being staged abroad could be placed cheek-by-jowl with the India being lived at home, within the time frame of a single day. The interconnected narrative world implied in the repackaged and juxtaposed reports found no suture between these different Indias, just as the London-based newspapers, too, were conjuring into being an increasingly globalized world through intersplicing stories from the colonies with reports on Britain.
From the perspective of the individual Indian traveller, somewhat smaller-scale channels also facilitated important interactions between the distant geographies he or she straddled. Another vital element within the networked landscape that connected Indians and Britons in this period, which served as the underlay or infrastructure, as it were, to its intercultural relations, comprised the many organizations and fraternities in which they were involved. Indians abroad often belonged to a number of these at times overlapping political and religious, nationalist and philanthropic, reformist and cosmopolitan groupings. For those who were students, the institutions and colleges they attended also formed an important part of this underlay, especially as these educational sites were relatively small in number, which meant that their pathways there often crossed. The opportunities for fostering social relations and moulding reading experiences that these groups and institutions created were extremely significant, as were the meeting- or crossing-points that existed within the networks, sites where Indians and their British hosts could meet and socialize. These ranged from places of worship such as temples, mosques, Unitarian meeting halls, and Theosophical Lodges, to Tottenham Court Road curry houses, hotel lobbies, and private homes, including Naoroji’s Bloomsbury home or ‘Kidderpore’ in Croydon, home of the prominent Indian advocate W. C. Bonnerjee. As did the newspaper, but in more concrete, immediate ways, these political groups, religious organizations, educational institutions and weekend ‘at homes’ drew Indian visitors to Britain together, and drew them closer to their British hosts. Through these networks they were able to juxtapose English and Indian cultural worlds, as well as different ideas of India and ways of being Indian. It is this pell-mell and interwoven sense of the world that Meredith’s travelling Rajah represents in One of Our Conquerors. And it is a related syncretic view of the world or ‘Anima Mundi’ that W. B. Yeats’s 1880s involvement with the Theosophical Society in Dublin and the Hermetic Society of the Golden Dawn in London allowed him to create in order to begin to shape a mythology for his poetry.
(p.100) One of the more prominent and long-lasting formal organizations set up in Britain for Indians was probably the National Indian Association (NIA). First founded in 1867 in Bristol by Mary Carpenter, a friend to Rammohan Roy and K. C. Sen, the organization operated from 1877 out of the Maida Vale home of the social reformer Elizabeth Adelaide Manning. The NIA offered pastoral care and advice to Indian students, and organized lectures and soirées where they could meet. Its monthly, the Indian Magazine and Review, along with its Handbook of Information, served as a useful information hub for most, if not all, Indian visitors to London. In the early twentieth century, the NIA re-formed as the aptly named, apparently apolitically constituted Bureau of Information for Indian Students. Though prominent however, the NIA was by no means the only organization dedicated to superintending and connecting Indians in Britain. Anjuman-e-Islam, a related group with a Muslim focus, was formed in 1886 by Abdullah Al-Mamoon Sohraworthy, and its meetings were attended by Gandhi. In the political sphere, the London India Society, first established in 1865, was in 1867 formally reconstituted as the East India Association (EIA) by influential Indians including Naoroji and W. C. Bonnerjee. Its campaigning agenda brought Britons and Indians together to seek political reform within the Raj. In 1889, the British Committee of the Indian National Congress (BC INC) emerged out of the EIA, once again steered by Naoroji. Its journal India (1900) aimed to put the Indian point of view on responsible government and self-determination before an interested British public. In contrast to the EIA and the BC INC’s political focus, the Northbrook Indian Society followed a pastoral programme of guardianship especially for Indians boarding with English families, not unlike the NIA. Established in 1879, the Northbrook Society met first in Bedford Row and then at 3 Whitehall Gardens, and endeavoured to involve both Indian and English gentlemen in welcoming Indians to London, using funds drawn from India. As this strongly suggests, the underlying connective tissue of these groups, their make-up, agendas, and wider support networks, repeatedly crossed, diverged, and again intertwined, returning always to an ongoing concern with Indian well-being, identity, and citizenship. When, some decades later, as will be seen, the India Society (1910) was founded, its interest in questions of Indian art and self-definition overlapped with the aims of these early organizations, though the India Society’s agenda in respect of self-representation was explicitly cultural rather than political.
From the mid-1800s, Britain’s older established universities, Cambridge and Oxford (despite continuing confessional and subject-area restrictions), and Edinburgh and University College London (secular and non-sectarian to varying degrees), were the preferred institutions of (p.101) higher learning for Indian students, as were London’s Inns of Court for would-be lawyers.102 Where universities like Oxford and Cambridge had long looked to India for philological and historical understanding, India now, in its turn, approached these institutions in pursuit of higher learning and a deeper knowledge of the west, as well as professional qualifications and career advancement. By the final third of the nineteenth century, therefore, these bedrock British institutions were variously marked by their contact with India—by the presence of Indian students first and foremost, but also of Indian studies (philological, legal, and religious), as well as of forums for political debate, most notably the Cambridge and Oxford Majlis societies. Founded in 1891 and 1896, respectively, and modelled on the University Unions, the Majlis societies gave the opportunity to Indians from different regional, political, and cultural backgrounds to come together to debate and socialize, encouraging its members to see themselves, perhaps for the first time, as Indians first and foremost (and so to begin to imagine how India might be constituted as a nation).103 When the number of Indians at Oxford in the first half of the twentieth century peaked in 1922, with 149 students enrolled, nearly all were in the Majlis. In 1887, a University of Oxford statute allowed a number of named universities within the empire ‘affiliated status’, which gave exemption from matriculation requirements, permitting students from these universities to take the three-year Oxford undergraduate degree in just two years. This immediately increased the number of Indians able to study at Oxford, though academic positions in ‘Indian’ subjects like Sanskrit tended until later on to be held by Europeans. As for London’s Inns of Court, including the Inner Temple, where both Gandhi and Nehru studied for the Bar, from the 1880s these formed a destination of choice for Indians, as well as other colonial students seeking entry into this most prestigious branch of the legal profession. A 1907 India Office study reported that of the 700 Indian students then in Britain, nearly half were enrolled in the Inns of Court.104
Oxford, with its Indian Institute, formed a particularly important lodestone for Indian students throughout the period in question, over and above even Cambridge. Though Oxford University retained the requirement that all students affirm the Church of England’s 39 Articles of Faith on matriculating and graduating longer than did Cambridge, under the Vice-Chancellorship of Benjamin Jowett (from 1883), a number of the more prominent colleges, including his own Balliol, began to build stronger imperial links and to show a new openness to colonial, and specifically Indian, interests and concerns. In Jowett’s view, the university should rise to and consolidate its central position as a place of imperial knowledge gathering and dissemination, and do so in particular by (p.102) educating its administrative elites. The ICS examinations were accordingly reshaped to attract graduates in the Literae Humaniores or ‘Greats’, with the result that the study of the Classics at Oxford was turned into a secular training ground for colonial officers. Already, in the 1860s, a teacher of Hindustani and a Reader in Indian Law and History had been appointed to stand alongside the Boden Professor of Sanskrit in training up ICS officers. In the period 1892–1914, Oxford duly produced more ICS officers than any other university, a small proportion of whom were Indian.105 Between 1871 and 1893, forty-nine Indian students matriculated at Oxford, including Manmohan Ghose. Thirty-two were present in 1907.106
Many Indian students were especially attracted by Oxford because of its Indian Institute (1884), the brainchild of Sanskrit Professor Monier Monier-Williams, which rapidly turned into a dynamic and influential zone of encounter between Indians and Britons. From the 1870s, all ICS candidates, both British and Indian, were required to take a probationary year of language learning and general administrative training after passing their final university examinations. It was Monier-Williams’s idea that these activities best be housed in a properly constituted study centre, with its own library and museum, which could become a place of interaction for all who were engaged in Indian and Oriental Studies. With an Indian Institute in place, he believed, Oxford would assume the vital role not merely of bringing eastern knowledge to the west but, as part of the imperial civilizing mission, of representing western knowledge to the east. To give concrete shape to this idea he travelled several times to India to secure moral and financial support for the centre from among the Indian Princes. Opened by Vice-Chancellor Jowett, the Institute over the years played host to a wide range of students, visiting scholars, and academics, one of the first and most prominent of which was the later radical nationalist Shyamaji Krishnavarma (1857–1930), who worked as Monier-Williams’s assistant from 1879 to 1883.107 Founded on assumptions of western cultural superiority, the Institute turned into an interesting example of a colonial structure that in practice produced levelling and even radicalizing effects, especially within the dimension of interpersonal relations. Within the four walls of the Indian Institute, Indian students and their British counterparts, many among them future civil servants of the empire, came together in a wide-ranging discussion about the make-up of a Greater Britain across the globe, and the place of India within that imagined federation. The traffic of Indians and friends to India through the Indian Institute continued across the ensuing decades to feature many prominent names, from the visitors that Professor Max Müller hosted in the 1880s and 1890s, as will be seen, to the visit of a garlanded Rabindranath Tagore in 1913.
(p.103) Yet the Institute was not the only venue for Indian–British interaction within the universities, though it may have been one of the best known. The college environment, too, with its clubs, societies, and sports teams, created strong and lasting bonds between Indian and British students, tutors, and alumni. From this period, the pages of College Registers unostentatiously, if indelibly, list Indian names alongside their British counterparts: they are seen to participate side-by-side in the matriculation ceremony and to take their tutorials together.108 In due course, Indian students were also invited to take part in the different societies, or at least befriended British students who were members, as is instanced in the 1910s collaboration between the Cambridge Apostle and mathematician G. H. Hardy and the Indian mathematical genius Ramanujan (see the Coda). Outside tutorial and society hours, the university context, whether in Oxbridge or elsewhere, fostered many other informal, extra-curricular relations, such as the friendship between Jowett, then Master of Balliol, and the Parsi law student Cornelia Sorabji, and between Sorabji and the Sanskrit scholar Professor Max Müller, which developed while she was a student at Somerville College.
Victorian interests in alternative forms of religious belief provided other important stimuli to late nineteenth-century British webs of interconnection, not only with India or other parts of the wider British world, but also between different social groups in Britain. Indeed, the reception of India and Indians in the late 1800s is hardly explicable without reference to the ongoing crisis of established faith and the new climate of religious seeking and experimentation for which Hinduism and Buddhism both supplied rich treasure troves. The popular acclaim and interest that greeted Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia offers a particularly strong indication, as was seen, of the new appeal in western society at large of eastern religious ideas. To the same extent that spiritualist, revivalist, and evangelical groups offered vocational and status opportunities to women, so too were visitors from other cultures made to feel welcome within these groups’ progressive and relatively democratic structures. It is no accident therefore that the receptivity of Britons to Indian philosophy and beliefs from the late 1870s onwards, and at an everyday level the influx of Indians into British boarding houses and guest homes, coincided with what Alex Owen calls the golden age of spiritualism.109
Unitarianism and theosophy in particular stand out in these years as religious or spiritualist formations that provided important intellectual zones of encounter for Indians with Britain, where they were assured of hospitality and had access to a relatively free and open exchange of ideas. The pioneering utopian poet and socialist philosopher Edward Carpenter, for example, was one of those strongly drawn to the Hindu ideas of (p.104) spiritual enlightenment that had in part been introduced to western audiences by theosophy, though he would remain dubious about theosophy’s exclusive claims to eastern truth. Capturing these complexities of allegiance, he observed in his memoir My Days and Dreams (1916):
…during the years ’80 to ’90 there was a great deal of Theosophy and Oriental philosophy of various sorts current in England and much talk and speculation, sometimes very ill-founded, about ‘adepts’, ‘mahatmas’ and ‘gurus’. I too felt a desire to see for myself one of these representatives of the ancient wisdom.110
Carpenter’s quickened interest in the ideas brought to Europe by visiting Indian seers, who themselves moved within the travelling belief-system that was theosophy, is highly characteristic of Indian–British contact in this period: a search for authenticity by way of an ‘ancient wisdom’ that was already transplanted and reinvented.111 Just as the Theosophical Society opened avenues of spiritual exploration to Indians like Gandhi, so, too, for Britons, the Indian mystical and philosophical ideas to which theosophy exposed western seekers offered ways of conceiving a more egalitarian society.
Edward Carpenter first came into contact with Buddhist and Hindu religious thought as a student at Christ’s College, Cambridge, in the late 1860s, beginning with his reading of the Bhagavad-gita, a text that his Ceylonese friend and fellow Cambridge student Arunachalam had recommended.112 Arunachalam, the first from his island to pass the Civil Service examinations and later a District Judge and social reformer, worked hard, like many of his South Asian counterparts, to keep his admiration for the west’s modern energy in balance with his Hindu beliefs, and frequently dispensed advice to his friend in England from his vantage point in Ceylon.113 Yet the Vedantic ideas Carpenter derived from his reading, in particular of the soul’s passionate encounter with God, were also ignited by his close study of both the American transcendentalists and the radical poet Walt Whitman, who likewise acknowledged Indian influences on their thinking.114 In Carpenter’s view, Whitman’s celebration of the interconnection of body and spirit, and of nature and engineering, laid down possibilities for a transformation of consciousness without which social and political change could not be achieved. Through this mix of Whitman and ‘theosophized’ Vedantic philosophy, Carpenter charted his own ‘passage to India’, in Whitman’s signature phrase, advocating ideas of comradeship, brotherhood, and cultural interrelationship that fostered his disaffection with colonialism, and extended an eastern gloss across his oeuvre. Though he never entirely lost his Eurocentric cultural preconceptions regarding the natural hierarchy of civilizations, Carpenter enlarged (p.105) his faith in ‘the essential oneness of humanity everywhere’ by travelling through Ceylon and the Indian subcontinent in 1890, a journey described in From Adam’s Peak to Elephanta (1892).115 Believing in a radical simplification and purification of life, he was an advocate for vegetarianism and naturalism, and had links with Henry Salt of the Humanitarian League, whom Gandhi also knew, as well as with the reformers Annie Besant, Olive Schreiner, and Sarojini Naidu. In a vivid illustration of the conceptual feedback loop or ‘world-wide circle’ in which some of the alternative thinkers of the day, both Indian and British, were engaged, Carpenter’s view of western ‘civilization’ (or, to him, capitalist competition) as a pollution to be abandoned, that he expounded in Civilization: Its Cause and Cure (1889), imprinted noticeably on Gandhi’s 1910 Hind Swaraj, the Indian leader having read Carpenter while a student in London.
The Unitarian movement, a denomination of Christianity based in Bristol and the West Country, enjoyed an especially longstanding bond with India, one that stemmed from the 1830s, when it hosted the Indian theist Rammohun Roy (1772–1833), and from its subsequent custodianship of his grave. Following the appointment of the Reverend James Drummond as Principal in 1885, Manchester College in Oxford offered an institutional home to Unitarian and other free religious thought, and welcomed a long line of Indian visitors and students through its doors.116 The Unitarians’ rational approach to religion, and view of Jesus Christ as a messenger, not God incarnate, rested on a commitment to civil and religious liberty, and an effort to accommodate the discoveries of science to religious belief. Even in Roy’s time, its monotheistic tendency, which involved a rejection of the Anglican doctrine of the Trinity, provided a particularly hospitable venue for reformist Hindu groups as they developed their own forms of monotheism—most notably, the Brahmo Samaj.117 Roy’s death on his visit to the Bristol Unitarians in 1833 if anything embedded such patterns of intellectual exchange more deeply in the future development of Unitarian thought.118 Many of Roy’s successors on his journey into the west, not least K. C. Sen, discussed at the end of this chapter, had the sense of walking in Roy’s spiritual company. He was the first, wrote Professor Max Müller, deploying a striking image of circuitry, ‘who came from East to West, the first to join hands and to complete that world-wide circle through which henceforth, like an electric current, Oriental thought could run to the West and Western thought return to the East’.119 Acting always with the example of Roy in mind, the Unitarian group around Mary Carpenter, Sen’s Bristol host, developed those strong and lasting links between British feminists and Indian social reformers that were to prove binding in other related groups also, including the Theosophical Society.
(p.106) The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York by the Russian clairvoyant Madame H. P. Blavatsky and her collaborator Colonel Olcott, and provided the first, and certainly one of the most influential, western platforms for the exploration of eastern mysticism and the study of the Sanskrit classics. Within the wider landscape of nineteenth-century religious seeking, where Christianity was coming under pressure from new explorations in evolutionary science, the Theosophical Society’s esoteric philosophy accommodated Hindu and Buddhist motifs to western religious expectations in spiritually compelling and emotionally convincing ways. Theosophy not only addressed prevalent concerns and questions about the nature of god and the godliness of man; it also projected topical ideas of human evolution on to the plane of consciousness, rather than biology alone.120 Though theosophy rested on orientalist underpinnings that represented the east as fallen from a Vedic golden age (and so bears the imprint of Max Müller’s scholarship), theosophical allegiances at the same time involved a respectful consideration of non-western religious and cultural traditions and, as such, laid the ground for a countervailing critique of western society—something that Annie Besant, for example, achieved in her life and work. With its emphasis on scientific system and method, and its harmonization of religious ideas with the claims of modern science, the Society excited interest among many different alternative thinkers, and rapidly branched into several European cities. An eastern headquarters was set up in Adjar, in Madras, thus linking this Indian city, as the European cities had also been, into theosophical networks.
Even though its interpretation of Hindu spirituality always retained recognizable western aspects (not least in linguistic terms), the Theosophical Society supplied a rich context in the late nineteenth century for the exploration and cross-fertilization of religious, mystical, philosophical, and philological ideas. Especially from the vantage point of Indian visitors to the west, the Theosophical Society was of crucial importance for situating ancient India as the heartland of ancient wisdom, rather than the more conventional occult centre of Egypt, and therefore provided opportunities for Indians to reconcile their modern aspirations to scientific understanding with traditional ideas of the soul (as in Vivekananda’s thinking). Moreover, predicated on an ideal of universal brotherhood as it was, the Society saw no barrier to integration and exchange in other domains also, including the social. As such, theosophy opened an inviting door to many individuals seeking new ways of being in an interconnected modern society, not least travelling Indians new to Britain. Nationalists and New Women, socialists and aesthetes, celebrity gurus from India, as well as more everyday voyagers found in the Society open avenues through (p.107) which to articulate new questions about the world and the self that bore little relationship to the hierarchies of the past. With the conversion to theosophy in May 1889 of the prominent feminist and socialist Annie Besant, who rapidly established herself also as a friend to Indians, the ‘new message’ of the Society became firmly embedded in the migrant Indian imagination.
As the pages of the theosophical magazine Lucifer (1887–97) record, by the late 1880s, the time when Gandhi first came into contact with the Society, theosophical meetings in London had already become a lively hub of traffic between India and Britain.121 At these meetings, Indian spiritual experts, gurus, and seers socialized, gave addresses, and dispensed advice. In many cases, they then went on to perform similar functions elsewhere, in America or Europe, such as, most notably, at the vast junction of spiritual exchange that was the 1893 Chicago World Parliament of Religions. On 4 August 1889, for example, Lucifer reported that Besant gave the first of two lectures at the Hall of Science, Old Street, about the process of truth seeking that led her from free-thinking Fabianism to theosophy, and met with ‘vociferous and prolonged applause’ from the audience of Free Thought Party members, while ‘the Hindu gentlemen who were present, conspicuous by their quiet mien, nodded their frequent approval in silent but significant manner’.122 These guru-figures, regarded as tantamount to theosophical VIPs, contrasted in powerful ways with the stereotype of the exotic oriental, the standard-issue snake charmer, current in the British media, including periodicals like the Strand Magazine or the Nineteenth Century.123 Gandhi, who is known to have heard Besant speak, can be imagined as part of this company. In October 1889, a couple of months after Besant’s talk, another Society lecture, ‘The Theosophical Society and its Work’, given by the President Colonel Olcott at the South Place Institute, once again drew an audience of ‘all sorts and conditions of men,’ including: ‘the dark-skinned children of India and of Japan. Keen-eyed thinker jostled against dreamy-eyed enthusiast, poet rubbed shoulders with doctor, and women were as eager and earnest as men.’124 As these examples suggest, the Theosophical Society’s many lectures, meetings, and charity events (including a November 1892 ‘Indian bazaar’ exhibiting ‘the best of Eastern art and industry’), held in community halls and institutes, as well as at its base at 19 Avenue Road, brought Indians and Britons together in a constantly shifting and amiable proximity.125 Yeats, too, as we will shortly see, first encountered both Indians and Indian philosophy at theosophical meetings in Dublin.
In assessing the almost immeasurable influence of theosophy on the reception of Indians in Britain, Gandhi’s example is instructive. For Gandhi, theosophy served as the ecumenical umbrella under which he (p.108) felt able to approach certain aspects of Hindu as well as Christian belief, in both cases for the first time. As he narrates in his Autobiography, he traced a pathway back from London to Hindu and then Buddhist thought via his reading of Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia (1879), his life of the Buddha, and The Song Celestial, Arnold’s translation of the Bhagavad-gita, books that were introduced to him in 1891 by ‘two Theosophist brothers’, most likely Bertram and Archibald Keightley (in fact uncle and nephew), whose Notting Hill home was placed at the Society’s disposal. Though Gandhi may have become an associate member, he did not himself formally join the Society, partly because he believed his meagre knowledge of Hinduism would be shown up if he did so. At the same time, he openly acknowledged that Blavatsky’s syncretic The Secret Doctrine (1888), along with Arnold’s work dismantled many of his long-held prejudices about Hinduism. Reading The Light of Asia, like reading Salt, in effect helped Gandhi to become, while in London, more of an Indian. So, too, Arunachalam, the Ceylonese mystic and friend to Edward Carpenter, found his way to Buddhism through theosophy while a student in Cambridge. For these and many other South Asians, as the nationalist B. C. Pal was later to write, theosophy played the crucial role of overturning stereotypes of Indian degradation and so ‘[raising Indians] in their own estimation’.126 It was in this way that the Society laid the ground for the Hindu religious revival that from the 1890s brought a new wave of Indian visitors to Britain, including the Swami Vivekananda. Not surprisingly, as the Swami’s itineraries show, many of his talks and presentations in England were facilitated and hosted by the Theosophical Society.127
V A Poetics Of Crossing: ‘That World-Wide Circle…Like An Electric Current’
The connectivity or call-and-response between India and Britain, here necessarily including Ireland, that had such diffuse and intriguing effects on metropolitan letters and culture in the decades from 1870 can be reconnoitred not only through encounters recorded in diaries and memoirs. Interconnectedness also imprints on the textual matter itself, the correspondence, poetry, and other writing that emerged out of these Indian–British relations. In some cases—as here with the letters from the Brahmo Samaj reformer K. C. Sen to Professor Friedrich Max Müller—the correspondence remained private and remote from the public record, though the correspondents’ public lives and interests shaped its contours. In other cases—as with W. B. Yeats’s early poems (p.109) infused with images from Indian legends—the interaction with India was deliberately attention seeking, an expression of the poet’s quest for an authoritative esoteric voice—though one that in due course led him back to developing closer connections with a mythologized ancient Ireland. In both instances, however, the wrought expressions of interest in and identification with India that emerge from these writings highlight once again the convergence of social, cultural, and formal perspectives that Indian visits to Britain brought about, and begin to outline the dimensions of what might be called a poetics of intercultural crossing.
An eloquent instance of late Victorian inscription linking India and Britain may be found in the many papers held under the name Friedrich Max Müller in Oxford’s Bodleian library—which also throws light once again on Oxford’s special position as a zone of Indian–British encounter. Unlike the many published books and lectures on ancient Hindu texts and religious traditions the great Indianist produced across his career, this document is a bound book of letters from Indian friends and contacts in India, addressed to the eminent Professor of Comparative Philology in Oxford.128 Collected by him across the 1880s, the ‘text’, such as it is, is marked throughout by that ‘vast and sincere regard’ for Hinduism (his phrase) that the Professor evidently shared with his Indian correspondents, many of them linked to the reformist Brahmo Samaj. This regard is palpable from the letters’ content: from the professional approval they seek, or the advice they either offer or solicit on questions of philological or religious interpretation—questions which, significantly, are often picked up from reports in the Indian press, as well as from the scholar’s own publications. But the sense of mutual regard for each other’s traditions is palpable, too, in Max Müller’s marginal instructions to himself, mainly in pencil, to keep certain letters, marking them up for binding in book form (as they then were by his wife after his death, though his own letters to his Indian friends have been lost).
Though F. Max Müller himself never visited India, he made a career of his study of the ancient Indo-European languages, especially Sanskrit, believing these tongues to be closely tied to the cultural and religious systems of the peoples from which they sprang. Though his comparative Romantic approach to the study of religion (as nature worship rather than divine revelation) created controversy both within Oxford and far beyond, he persisted in his advocacy of a greater openness towards Indian religious and mythic traditions on the part of the university’s orientalists, and consistently sought a deeper understanding of Indian thought through his intercourse with Indian scholars. As he asserted in Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings: ‘behind such strange names as Indian Theosophy, and Esoteric Buddhism and all the rest, there was something real, something (p.110) worth knowing’.129 Even in their heterogeneity and inadvertent juxtapositions, therefore, these letters, or traces of contact, can be read both as symptomatic of the connectivity in which the circle of interlocutors was engaged, and, more broadly, as metonymic of the shaping of British intellectual and cultural life by translated and migrant Indian presences.
The letters in the book are from divers hands, including from Indians who had physically met the great Oxford Sanskritist, and those who had never travelled to Britain, yet who sought contact or offered information because of his reputation as a scholar of ancient India. However, one hand or voice in particular stands out, as its primary objective is not to solicit advice. Instead, it records in fond, if not nostalgic terms, time spent together in Oxford, the views that were exchanged, the communion enjoyed. The voice is that of the social reformer, universalist thinker, and friend to Unitarians, Keshab Chandra Sen, who toured in England in the summer of 1870 as a representative of the Brahmo Samaj. Widely acclaimed as a worthy successor to Rammohan Roy, Sen became for a brief period, in Max Müller’s words, a ‘household name’ in England, and was recognized to be, in his monism, a dynamic crosser of boundaries, as is captured in the quotation from Max Müller’s pen-portrait cited in the subheading above.130
As for Friedrich Max Müller himself, the reputation of the German-born, Paris-educated Professor of Philology rested in particular on his multivolume translation of the Rig Veda, the ancient Vedic scriptures, published by Oxford University Press, to which he devoted many years of his working life. Arriving in Oxford in 1851, first as a member of Christ Church, then as Fellow of All Souls (1858), he held various positions in the university including the Taylorian Professorship of Modern European Languages. Losing out to his conservative rival Monier-Williams, later founder of the Indian Institute, in the election to the Boden Professorship of Sanskrit in 1860, Max Müller continued to pursue his studies in the Vedas, and in 1868 became Oxford’s first Professor of Comparative Philology. Across his career, he cultivated friendships with Indian scholars both directly and through correspondence, and invited many Indian visitors to the university, the loss of the Boden election if anything driving him more energetically in the direction of his Indian interlocutors, while also drawing India more closely into his own scholarly purview.
Keen to build bridges of religious understanding between Hinduism and other religious traditions, K. C. Sen made his 1870 trip to England at the invitation of the British and Foreign Unitarian Association and was frequently hosted by Unitarian groups while in England.131 He was first introduced to an English audience by James Martineau at a Unitarian ‘welcome soirée’, held in London’s Hanover Square Rooms on 12 April (p.111) 1870, and in Bristol encouraged Mary Carpenter to found her National Indian Association for the promotion of women’s education in India. A young assistant, Pratap Majumdar, accompanied Sen on the trip: along with Vivekananda, he would later represent Indian religious thought at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.132
Firing English imaginations with visions of Indian social change, Sen’s visit was a public relations success in circles far above and beyond the Unitarians. Though his period of stardom was to be short-lived, ending a few years later when he sanctioned the marriage of his thirteen-year-old daughter to the Maharaja of Cooch Behar (though in the same period ensuring the passage of the Native Marriage Bill), the more diffuse social impact of his visit did not so easily wash away. Sen addressed many different groups across southern England, including temperance societies, and theistic and philosophical societies, as well as the Unitarians. He visited the Queen at Osborne House and met Gladstone, the Dean of Westminster, and Prince Leopold, one of Victoria’s sons, among other well-known Britons. In Oxford, as well as speaking to Unitarians and attending the boat races, as the letters show, he memorably conversed with Professor Max Müller in the summer shade. Wherever he went, posters and handbills publicized his tour route, prominently marking his pathway through Britain. Audience numbers at his talks suggest that he was seen and heard by thousands of people.
By the time K. C. Sen and Max Müller met in 1870, word had already got through from England to India that Indian scholars and scholarship might find a particular welcome in the eminent philologist’s study. Many philosophical and epistemological bridges had been, and continued to be built between India and England in the second half of the nineteenth century on the back of Max Müller’s open-minded and generously framed comparative work, not least in the form of his links with the monotheistic Brahmo Samaj. Though he continued throughout his career to find points of resolution for his cross-cultural investigation of divinity in his own Lutheran Christianity, his work in this era of religious crisis was of keen interest to non-Christian seekers such as Madame Blavatsky and the folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland. As Sen observes in one of his letters, Max Müller’s family home at 12 Norham Gardens was a fixed destination on the map of any Indian visiting Oxford. South Parks Road and Banbury Road became well known as ‘Indian’ thoroughfares where gurus of different stripes and other learned men (and some women) might be seen plying back and forth to enjoy his legendary hospitality. Cornelia Sorabji regularly dropped in as a student in the late 1880s, and Swami Vivekananda visited in 1896. In a 1900 memorial address, R. C. Dutt, another Norham Gardens pilgrim, observed that: ‘For a period of half a century, my (p.112) countrymen have looked upon Professor Max Müller not only as the best interpreter of ancient Indian literature and philosophy and thought in Europe, [but] also the truest friend of the people of modern India.’133 Had the Professor still been alive when Rabindranath Tagore visited Oxford in 1913, the poet, too, would certainly have been a guest at Norham Gardens.
The sense of communion that Max Müller felt with India was thus imprinted in a very real, physical way on university life while, at another level, his correspondence, as reflected in the rough-edged Bodleian book of letters, reiterated and reinforced these Indian exchanges. In its woven-together form, the book tangibly captures how Indian and British scholars were tied by common religious, cultural, and political interests and energies into forging now close and now transitory cross-continental relations. These interests rested in particular on ideas of underlying religious unity and the sense of an ‘all-ruling Providence’, as Brahmo Samaj founder Debendranath Tagore writes in his letter in the correspondence book—ideas which had, of course, been substantially fostered by Max Müller’s translation work. As Debendranath Tagore’s letter has it:
By the publication of the Rg Veda and the Upanishads you [Max Müller] have brought within easy reach of European scholars the thoughts and aspirations of our ancient Ritchis, hitherto hidden in inaccessible manuscripts, and it is to be hoped that the dissemination of the knowledge of our ancient literature will help to cement the bonds of union between the two people who, brought up under a common roof, parted from each other and scattered over distant quarters of the globe, [are] again to be brought together under the mysterious decree of an all-ruling Providence.134
As Tagore’s words suggest, there was that in Max Müller’s work which prompted some Indians to view this friend to India as himself an embodiment of the ideal of spiritual oneness, similar to how figures such as Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, both promoted by Max Müller, were also regarded. The correspondent V. S. Mitra in an 1887 letter, for example, speaks of MM’s ‘genial sympathy with the natives of this land in every matter connected with their welfare’.135
Regardless even of the inevitable one-sidedness of the letters book, it is clearly apparent from the correspondence that both Max Müller and K. C. Sen were animated by their concern to find points of synthesis between the different religions of the world—a synthesis that had been actively promoted by the Brahmo Samaj movement and which they both in their different ways supported. Meeting Max Müller for the first time in London, at the gathering with the Dean of Westminster, Sen soon thereafter came to Oxford to engage in a public debate about salvation (p.113) with Dr Pusey of the Oxford Movement and to stay with the Müller family. In their later correspondence, Sen and Max Müller, while discussing controversies within the Brahmo Samaj, hark back to these happy summer days. As a later pen-portrait the Professor made of Sen shows, his hope in meeting and hosting him was that the Indian’s belief in love as an underlying spiritual culture connecting societies might bring him in time to convert to Christianity. Sen’s views on that religion were in fact far more ambivalent than Max Müller’s hopes gave him credit for, yet a preoccupation with what might be termed intercultural spiritual communion streams through Sen’s three letters in the correspondence book. Perhaps the most suggestive letter is that of 2 May 1881, in which the writer refers obliquely to the controversy unleashed by his daughter’s marriage, yet expresses at the same time his appreciation of Max Müller’s friendship and his own openness to everything his correspondent might have to say to him, including reproof. Sen’s memory of the time spent with the Professor in Oxford has not faded with the passing years, he urges:
In writing to me you need not conceal your real feelings. Discriminating criticism cannot pain me. Even the reprimands of a true friend are acceptable and must prove beneficial. I have read your letters with the deepest interest, and I only wish I could sit with you under one of those shady trees in Oxford which I saw during my short visit, and talk over the many important subjects referred to therein, for hours together. My heart is full.
If the amity between Sen and Max Müller that is captured in this letter grew out of mutual efforts of cultural identification, W. B. Yeats’s experimental citation of figures from Indian myth in some of his early poems, represents by contrast a more transient and uneven exchange of influence. Yet, as with Max Müller, the Irish poet’s precocious interest in the east was quickened both by his actual contact with Indians, and by his spiritual involvements, most notably with theosophy (especially one of its inner circles, the Society of the Golden Dawn).136 Though these contacts may now come across as somewhat opportunistic and even self-aggrandizing on the part of the career-driven young poet, his studies in eastern lore were, for all that, remarkably intense and serious. His interest illustrates in a vivid way the degree to which theosophy served not merely as a channel of contact but also as a transcontinental network opening out new perceptions and understanding between Britain and Ireland, on the one hand, and India on the other.
By the mid-1880s, Yeats’s spiritual seeking had led him into an involvement with the Dublin Hermetic Society, the first Irish incarnation of the Theosophical Society, founded in June 1885. He would retain connections (p.114) with the group until at least 1889. For a young man who had not had a formal education, his biographer Roy Foster observes, theosophy, as a western amalgam of eastern ideas, became the equivalent of Yeats’s ‘university’, introducing him to ancient Indian philosophy, books, and beliefs which ‘confirmed [his] vague speculations and seemed at once logical and boundless’.137 Even in 1886 he was reading Kalidasa.
But Yeats’s involvement in the Society was not confined to esoteric contact alone. It also brought the Irish poet into contact with visiting and migrant Indians, one of the first being theosophy’s charismatic envoy to the west, Mohini Chatterjee, whom Yeats in his Autobiographies calls ‘a Brahmin philosopher’.138 Chatterjee was at the time, in the Theosophical Society’s early heyday, among the more publicly feted Indian travellers in the west. Indeed, Yeats was intrigued by his contact with Chatterjee to the extent that he developed a lasting receptiveness to Indian contacts and acquaintance, also befriending across his long career Sarojini Naidu, Rabindranath Tagore (as will be seen), and Shri Purohit Swami. Yeats himself never made it to India, despite being keen to visit (Tagore, amongst others, later encouraging him139), but, in the first flush of his newly awakened sympathy for its beliefs and ideas, he did set about evoking in his early poems something of the dynamic intercultural circuit with India to which theosophy had exposed him.
From this vantage point it is almost impossible to speculate on the nature of the encounters that took place in Dublin in 1885 between the two young theosophists, Mohini Chatterjee and W. B. Yeats, the one a travelling teacher and guru, the other a self-proclaimed seeker. Theosophical Society meetings were necessarily veiled in secrecy, and Chatterjee, for his part, left no written travelogue of his time in England and Ireland helping to establish the still-emergent transcultural hub of the Theosophical Society. In both cases, as for all the encounters examined in this book, there was perhaps some mutual stereotyping, the predictable perceptions of us-against-them that the public spectacles and media of the period made available. Even so, eyewitness reports from fellow theosophists suggest that Chatterjee found European society congenial and made himself amenable especially to European women in ways that would have helped to allay the racial or cultural concerns that might otherwise have obtained. As for the shy and socially gauche Yeats, he was no doubt intrigued by Chatterjee’s easy manner, charming talk, exotic looks, and (to Yeats) dynamic Vedantic message, to the extent that he recalled some of these features in his much later 1929 poem ‘Mohini Chatterjee’.140 Yet, even in the early poems, as Foster recognizes, these different powerful elements, in particular the tenets of Chatterjee’s Hindu beliefs, mediated through theosophy, were powerfully ‘recapitulated’ by Yeats. To effect the (p.115) recapitulation he took on, remarkably for the time, Chatterjee’s perspective as ‘the Indian’.141
Yeats’s three most distinctive Indian poems, ‘Anashuya and Vijaya’, ‘The Indian upon God’, and ‘The Indian to his Love’, were among the first poems he published. They were later brought together in the opening section of his Collected Poems, (significantly) entitled ‘Crossways’.142 The majority of these early poems, including the long poem ‘The Wanderings of Oisin’ with which they were first published, are characterized by a running together or zigzagging between different cultural and mythic resources (Irish and Indian, especially), as well as by a striving for a heightened poetic emotion concocted out of this mix—something that in retrospect can be seen to anticipate the decadent mood associated with 1890s verse. India was in some sense then the catalyst for an attitude that would soon become highly characteristic of Yeats. All three poems stage an exhibition of faraway sites and exotic landscapes, through which the poet tests his belief, as expressed in another poem of the time, ‘The Song of the Happy Shepherd’, that language and the images conjured by language alone have imaginative conviction.
In ‘Anashuya and Vijaya’, the main speaker, the temple attendant Anashuya (or the Uncomplaining), engages in a dialogue about fidelity with her love, Vijaya, who, it appears, has another lover, one who sleeps when she is awake. Pleading with Vijaya to swear his fidelity upon ‘the parents of the gods’ ‘who dwell on sacred Himalay’ (and bear some similarity with Keats’s Titans), Anashuya offers the first articulation in Yeats’s poetic work of what would become his theory of antitheses, of the self defined in contradistinction to its anti-self. In the second poem, ‘The Indian upon God’, godhead or divinity is conceived by the speaker, a wandering Indian, in a highly personal Vedantic way. In this poem, it is as if Chatterjee’s ideas had been channelled, more or less unprocessed, into Yeats’s thought. In the third and most ambiguous of the poems, ‘The Indian to his Love’, a pair of lovers seek a refuge away from ‘unquiet lands’ on an island featuring verdant grass, peahens, and a parrot, a shadowing forth of Yeats’s later isle of Innisfree. Their coming together is represented in the image of an ‘Indian star’ or meteor approaching its reflection in the tide. The Indianness of the ‘star’ perhaps refers to its paisley shape as well as its evanescence, but is then embosomed within the poem as a symbol of mutual love. Indianness, therefore, is acknowledged as being both exotic and proximate. Although by the decade’s turn Yeats was to return to Irish mythic materials as more immediately credible ingredients for his work, the most notable feature of these early poems is how images drawn from Indian story and legend, transmitted to Dublin and London by Chatterjee, allowed Yeats to begin to test out some of his core ideas and (p.116) techniques at this formative stage; in short, to explore the theme of cultural interconnection with India.
When read in the context of his oeuvre, even its early phases, there is that in Yeats’s adoption of an Indian persona in ‘The Indian upon God’ that is extremely unusual and anomalous, and hence the more culturally remarkable, even if at the same time recognizably orientalist. It demanded an effort of imaginative sympathy to make the poetic leap into the remote mythic world of India that he forges with these lyrics, even if references to such worlds may have been introduced to Dublin’s streets on a regular basis by theosophical talks and activities. The only immediately comparable instance of such sympathy is found in the slightly later 1890s friendship between the poets Laurence Binyon and Manmohan Ghose, though in their case the contact was mutual and more lasting (as Chapter 3 explores). In both situations, a transformative energy emerges from the willingness to reach across the cultural gulf and forge a cross-border poetics. Granted, the poets’ generative sympathy bore all the complex marks of orientalism (even in respect of Binyon), its simultaneous objectification and sense of ownership of the east. Yet, as we will see, that reaching across also offered something more again: a genuine openness in spite of such distance; a desire not only to embrace but to internalize the other; an ambition on the part of the westerner to assume the voice of the east as being in some sense more spiritually true than his own.
Late nineteenth-century Indian visitors in London, ranging from students to politicians, and servants to maharajahs, not only responded to but also integrated with its frenetic modernity, as the examples given in this chapter suggest. Though they may at times have felt apprehensive or unnerved, they were by and large city-dwellers, and therefore represented themselves in their memoirs and letters as adaptive participants in the city’s hubbub, as Wilkie Collins, for one, depicted them. In these various ways, all the Indian figures cited here interrogated the east–west divides that organized the British metropolitan imagination. A traveller like Malabari felt au fait enough with London city life to criticize its more socially derelict aspects, while Mukharji self-consciously choreographed an Indian oriental identity for metropolitan consumption. After R. C. Dutt’s early retirement from the ICS he confidently envisaged that the next stage of his career, whether as scholar or academic, would be set in southern England—and he did in fact return to London to take up a lectureship in Indian history and to write.143
If, as Joseph McLaughlin argues, many late nineteenth-century writers, including A. Conan Doyle in A Study in Scarlet, saw the imperial metropolis (p.117) as dangerously contaminated and reshaped by its peripheries, Indian visitors to London, by contrast, on several levels related to its crowdedness, noise, and heterogeneous traffic. Far from seeing the city as an uncivilized periphery or jungle (though they were not immune from such representations), London to them appeared in the main as a space of global interchange, ‘an amalgam of multiple frontiers’, whose heterogeneity in several ways anticipated the cityscapes of Eliot’s great modernist poem The Waste Land.144
(1) A. K. Ramanujan, ‘Annayya’s Anthropology’, trans. Narayan Hegde, in Ramachandra Sharma, ed., From Cauvery to Godavari: Modern Kannada Short Stories (New Delhi: Penguin, 1992), p. 44. For the Naipaul epigraph, see again The Enigma of Arrival: A Novel (London: Penguin, 1987), pp. 156, 162.
(2) The entry reads: ‘BANDO! [Hindustani] imperative bāndho, “tie or make fast.” “This and probably other Indian words have been naturalised in the docks on the Thames frequented by Lascar crews. I have heard a London lighter-man, in the Victoria Docks, throw a rope ashore to another Londoner, calling out, Bando!”—(M.-Gen. Keatinge.)’ See Henry Yule, Hobson-Jobson, ed. Kate Teltscher (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 78. In a personal communication, Hobson-Jobson editor Kate Teltscher observes: ‘The entry is unusual in that it has no gloss from Yule, just the note from Keatinge.’ Major-General Richard Harte Keatinge (1825–1904) was a friend and correspondent of Yule’s, and a former Chief Commissioner of Assam (1874–78).
(3) Antoinette Burton, At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late Victorian Britain (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998), p. 55.
(4) IOR: L/PJ/6/209, f.1299. ‘Pauper Natives of India and Other Countries Relieved by Certain Workhouses’ (6 August 1887). Relatedly, in her In Darkest London, the reforming journalist Margaret Harkness reported seeing on Whitechapel Road, Polish Jews and German Gentiles mingle with the ‘grinning Hottentot’ and an ‘Algerian merchant [walking] arm-in-arm with a native of Calcutta’. See Joseph McLaughlin, Writing the Urban Jungle: Reading Empire in London from Doyle to Eliot (Charlottesville, VA, and London: University Press of Virginia, 2000), in particular pp. 2–6, 176; Jonathan Schneer, London 1900 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), especially pp. 184–7, 197–201; Rozina Visram, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002), especially pp. 54–62.
(5) Meenakshi Mukherjee, An Indian for all Seasons: The Many Lives of R. C. Dutt (New Delhi: Penguin, 2009), p. 47.
(6) S. Satthianandhan, A Holiday Trip to Europe and America (Madras: Srinivasa, Varadachari & Co., 1897), p. 61; cited in Antoinette Burton, ‘Making a (p.118) Spectacle of Empire: Indian Travellers in Fin-de-siècle London’, History Workshop Journal 42 (1996): 131.
(7) Edmund Gosse, Father and Son, ed. and intr. Michael Newton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 30–1.
(8) <http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/group/1901uki> (accessed 7 January 2015). Also see Herman Melville’s semi-autobiographical novel Redburn, in which he describes the globalized port of Liverpool and an illuminating conversation with a lascar seaman from the Irrawaddy, a ‘country ship’ crewed by ‘Malays, Mahrattas, Burmese, Siamese, and Cingalese’. Herman Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1850), p. 217.
(9) Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, ed. and intr. Sarah Kemp (1868/1871; Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2008), pp. 83, 206.
(10) This privilege is reserved for travellers like the 1820s political and social commentator Rammohun Roy earlier in the century. See Michael H. Fisher, Counterflows to Colonialism: Indian Travellers and Settlers in Britain, 1600–1857 (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004). It is worth noting that the Regency ‘Good Food Guide’ to London, by Ralph Rylance (1815), points to what may have been the first Indian eatery in the capital, the Hindoostanee Coffee House, in George Street, on the Edgware Road, where the dishes were notable for being ‘dressed’ with spices and rice. See Ralph Rylance, The Epicure’s Almanac: Eating and Drinking in Regency London—The Original 1815 Guidebook, ed. Janet Ing Freeman (1815; London: British Library, 2012); Norma Clarke, ‘Excellent Larders’, Times Literary Supplement 5705 (3 August 2012): 3–4.
(11) These included the extravagant 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition, held in South Kensington, the events surrounding Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, and the Glasgow Exhibition in 1888. Studded with displays of Indian wares, industry, wealth, and finery, the exhibitions were widely reported in the press and massively enhanced India’s visibility in the British public sphere, as they did that of other cultures. See, for example, Burton, ‘Making a Spectacle of Empire’, pp. 126–46; Anonymous, ‘India in London’, Pall Mall Gazette (6 Feb 1888); Anonymous, ‘A Lady’s Day at the Glasgow Exhibition’, The Indian Magazine 214 (October 1888): 540–6.
(12) Kipling’s striking short-story portraits of Anglo-Indian life, as we find in Life’s Handicap (1891), were introduced by literary impresarios like Andrew Lang and Edmund Gosse (Dutt’s advocate as well as Naidu’s). See Robert H. MacDonald, The Language of Empire: Myths and Metaphors of Popular Imperialism, 1880–1918 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), pp. 145–73.
(13) N. N. Ghose, in his preface to Mukharji’s A Visit to Europe, styles the work as ‘an interpreter, of the government [of India] to the people’. See N. N. Ghose, ‘Preface’, in T. N. Mukharji, A Visit to Europe (Calcutta: W. Newman, 1889), n. p.
(14) Schneer, London 1900, pp. 186–9.
(p.119) (15) In the same year, the Woking Mosque, Britain’s second mosque after Liverpool, was built by Dr Gottlieb Leitner, who in 1883 had also established the Woking Oriental Institute.
(16) As it is, though not as disruptively, in Anthony Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds (1873; Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 1982), which, as will be seen, reads as a partial response to The Moonstone. See also Pablo Mukherjee, Crime and Empire: The Colony in Nineteenth-Century Fictions of Crime (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), especially the discussion of ‘destabiliz[ing] messages’ of ‘British moral and ideological supremacy’, pp. 15–16, 158–87.
(17) Collins, The Moonstone, pp. 83, 289.
(18) Collins, The Moonstone, pp. 31, 371, 441, 461. Mukherjee, Crime and Empire, p. 180, writes: ‘The solution to the mystery of the theft…is only achieved by recognizing the oppressive structure of the metropolitan society that marginalized a figure [like Ezra Jennings].’ Interestingly, Jennings dies saying ‘Peace! Peace! Peace!’, which is reminiscent of the devotional invocation ‘Shantih! Shantih! Shantih!’
(19) This reading takes a significantly different direction to Deirdre David’s influential account in Rule Britannia (1995) of the ‘foreign Indians’ as invaders who ‘fracture the domestic social harmony secured by half a century of British colonial conquest’, and of the ‘gipsy dark’ Jennings as a fully assimilated subaltern figure. As is seen in Jennings’s greater appreciation of the English countryside (and English psychology) than anything found among the English, Collins allowed a far more mobile, uneven set of exchanges between India and Britain than David’s tidy description admits. The babu-figure or mimic man, like Jennings, or like the many Indian visitors reviewed in this chapter, was not so acquiescent or passive an observer of English life. See Deirdre David, Rule Britannia: Women, Empire and Victorian Writing (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1995), pp. 17, 143–7.
(20) Terrance D. Höhner and Carolyn B. Kenny, Chronology of Swami Vivekananda in the West (Portland, OR: Prana Press, 2000). A pioneer of neo-Hinduism, Swami Vivekananda was a member of the Brahmo Samaj as a young man, later becoming a follower of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, founder of the Ramakrishna Mission.
(21) Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, ed. Margaret Cardwell (1870; Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 1992).
(22) Dickens, Edwin Drood, pp. 12, 41, 107.
(23) The Landless twins also bear a certain air of ‘being objects of the chase’. Predictably, therefore, suspicion for the murder of Edwin Drood falls straightaway on the ‘inflammable’ Neville. Dickens, Edwin Drood, pp. 43, 61, 128.
(24) This is to the extent that the orientalist associations of eastern characters and substances in the novel are, as in Collins, subtly questioned, in a way that contrasts with their more stereotypical representation in work from earlier in the century, such as Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium (p.120) Eater (1821). So Cloisterham’s residents are referred to as ‘natives’, according to convention yet resonantly, in the same scene as Neville and Helena Landless, recently arrived, are described as ‘untamed’ ‘barbaric captives’ (Dickens, Edwin Drood, pp. 42–3, 146). The mysterious stranger Mr Datchery, by contrast again, is called a ‘settler in Cloisterham’.
(25) Dickens, Edwin Drood, p. 128.
(26) Dickens, Edwin Drood, p. 206. The opium den scene on which the novel opens (and, in its unfinished state, closes), with the Chinese, ‘Lascar’, and English bodies lying side-by-side on a ‘large unseemly bed’, vividly sets the scene of confused and confusing closeness which is then developed throughout (see pp. 1–2).
(27) The novel’s intercutting of the foreign and the familiar shapes Edwin himself, written down for a career as an engineer ‘waking up’ ‘undeveloped’ Egypt (Dickens, Edwin Drood, pp. 19, 54); Rosa Bud, his fiancée, an English-rose lover of Turkish delight; and the xenophobe Mr Sapsea, who boasts: ‘If I have not gone to foreign countries…foreign countries have come to me’ (p. 26). Other examples of cultural syncretism include Jasper’s opium ‘Spectres’ (p. 36), Reverend Crisparkle’s Souchong tea-drinking habit (p. 40), his mother’s dining-room closet with its ‘luscious lodgings of preserved tamarinds and ginger’ alongside English pickles and jams (p. 78), and the tanned sailor Tartar’s apartment full of curiosities (pp. 188–9).
(28) Dickens, Edwin Drood, pp. 122–3, 146.
(29) The higher concentration of Indian visitors in Britain’s cities as compared to towns and the countryside should not be taken to imply, however, that Indians were simply absent from the quintessentially English domain of the countryside, or from the Scottish hills. Gandhi, by his own admission, regarded walks with his landladies’ daughters as excellent opportunities for flirtation, as they seem also to have done. And many Indian scholars and seers at least travelled between Britain’s cities, on the London–Bristol route first plied by Rammohan Roy, for instance, or between Cambridge and London, as well as between England and Scotland, on their way to the University of Edinburgh, at whose medical school many Indians studied in these years. R. C. Dutt was a particularly energetic student traveller, going as far afield as Devon and the West County, as well as Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, as he describes in Three Years in Europe 1868–71, 4th edn, (1872; Calcutta: S. K. Lahiri, 1896), pp. 27–50, 69–78 and 78–80, respectively. Tamson Pietsch, Empire of Scholars (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), p. 48, notes that already in 1868 16% of students at the Edinburgh Medical School came from the different regions of the Empire.
(30) Dickens, Edwin Drood, pp. 132–3.
(31) Trollope, The Eustace Diamonds. The references that follow are to pp. 66, 15, and 25, respectively.
(32) Trollope, The Eustace Diamonds, p. 66.
(33) When Lizzie wears the necklace in public, she is equated with her diamonds: ‘She was made to sparkle, to be bright with outside garniture’ (The Eustace (p.121) Diamonds, p. 159). Along with her feminine wiles, Romantic interests and remote Scottish castle, Lizzie also has the tendency to consort with various disreputable characters (including uncultured Americans and untrustworthy Jews, especially the jeweller Mr Benjamin and her second husband the Christianized Mr Emilius). Unlike in The Moonstone, in The Eustace Diamonds the establishment loses its diamonds, due in part to Lizzie’s machinations.
(34) Edwin Arnold, Preface, in The Light of Asia (1879; London: Senate, 1998), pp. vii–xi.
(35) Mukherjee, An Indian for All Seasons, p. 40.
(36) Rosinka Chaudhuri, Gentlemen Poets in Colonial Bengal: Emergent Nationalism and the Orientalist Project (Calcutta: Seagull, 2002), pp. 170–3.
(37) Zerbanoo Gifford, The Golden Thread: Asian Experiences of Post-Raj Britain (London: Pandora, 1990), develops a similar Collinsesque metaphor in relation to post-1948 South Asian migration to Britain.
(38) B. M. Malabari, The Indian Eye on English Life; or, Rambles of an Indian Reformer (London: Archibald Constable, 1893); 2nd edn (Bombay: Apollo Printing Works 1895), pp. 41, 46.
(39) Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi Before India (London: Allen Lane, 2013), pp. 38–47.
(40) See Sumit Sarkar, ‘Rammohun Roy and the Break with the Past’, in V. C. Joshi, ed., Rammohun Roy and the Process of Modernization in India (New Delhi: Vikas, 1975), p. 63.
(41) Burton, At the Heart of the Empire, pp. 128–31, 133.
(42) Burton, At the Heart of the Empire, pp. 3, 10. In terms of Michel de Certeau’s theory of modern urban space, as Burton also recognizes, late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Indian commentators subscribed, though with local modifications, to the quintessentially modern position of the ‘subject who sees’: the shifting viewpoint of the indubitably masculine ‘practitioner of everyday [city] life’, viewing the city both as cosmopolitan traveller, and as Indian. See Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven F. Rendall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984), pp. 92–3; Deborah Epstein Nord, Walking the Victorian Streets (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1995). In respect of Afro-Caribbeans in colonial London, see also Mary Lou Emery, Modernism, the Visual, and Caribbean Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 10 and 15.
(43) See Burton, ‘Making a Spectacle of Empire’, p. 128.
(44) Paul Greenhalgh, Ephemeral Visits: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World’s Fairs, 1851–1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), p. 1.
(45) See Bill Schwarz, The White Man’s World, vol.1: Memories of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press), especially pp. 73–4 and 86, in which Schwarz notes that it was after the Sepoy Rebellion that the word ‘nigger’ became common currency on the streets of London.
(46) See Robert Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, and Race (New York and London: Routledge, 1995). As scientific racism became (p.122) compounded by commodity racism, advertising, photography, museums, and imperial exhibitions all took the imprint of racialized ideas and became saturated with nationalist and imperialist conceit, as Anne McClintock, Robert H. MacDonald, and John MacKenzie have variously observed. In Britain, Indians encountered a world inflated with a sense of its own self-importance and on many levels closed to them. It is indicative, for example, that Monier Monier-Williams, Oxford Professor of Sanskrit in the 1880s, pursued his academic interests in India for explicitly imperialist reasons, to promote the better governance of the Raj. See Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), p. 33; MacDonald, The Language of Empire, especially pp. 2–17; John MacKenzie, Imperialism and Popular Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), especially pp. 3–9. See also Patrick Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830–1914 (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1988); Joseph Plotz, Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008).
(47) Tellingly, two of the first four Indians to sit the Indian Civil Service examination in the 1870s were at first disqualified, on dubious and possibly racist grounds. See Mukherjee, An Indian for All Seasons, pp. 10–11.
(48) As Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993) famously recognizes. See also McClintock, Imperial Leather. In this period of high imperialism, not only public thoroughfares, but also more secluded domestic spaces, were infused with Indian cultural influences in the form, first, of commodities like furnishings, fabrics, shawls, spices, and tea, as was predictable in an age of commodity capitalism, but also, as is seen again in Chapter 3, of more numinous presences like Indian images, designs, and religious ideas, not excluding also the colouring and arrangement of domestic interiors. For John Jasper in Edwin Drood, as for Franklin Blake and Ezra Jennings in The Moonstone, the frontiers of the everyday world of the senses dramatically dissolve under the influence of such colonial stimuli.
(49) Guha, Gandhi Before India, p. 47.
(50) On Indian unfamiliarity with the English life-style, see James D. Hunt, Gandhi in London, rev. edn (1978; New Delhi: Promilla and Co., 1993), pp. 9–10.
(51) Shompa Lahiri, Indians in Britain: Anglo-Indian Encounters, Race and Identity, 1880–1930 (London: Frank Cass, 2000), p. 194, makes the assessment that compared to the hostility that ‘the host population’ showed Indians some five decades later, Indians in Britain at this point in time were made relatively welcome. Satadru Sen, Migrant Races: Empire, Identity and K. S. Ranjitsinjhi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005), p. 4, suggests that when the Indian minor aristocrat and world-class cricketer Ranjitsinjhi played for England, his exceptionality in many ways endeared him to ‘the metropolitan observer’.
(p.123) (52) See Young, Colonial Desire; and The Idea of English Ethnicity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008). The perceived cultural proximity of South Asians to Europeans was further reinforced by newly ascendant philological and ethnographic theories concerning the Indo-European or Aryan continuum of language and civilization that was held to connect the Indian subcontinent to Europe. The philological research of Oxford Professor Friedrich Max Müller, amongst others, was instrumental in developing these ideas: see, for example, his Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryas (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1898). As Indian travellers in Britain combined in their own person the antonymic connotations of the exotic and the familiar, they provide important countervailing instances with which we might interrogate Fredric Jameson’s controversial contention that the life worlds of the empire remained ‘unimaginable for the [metropolitan] subjects of the imperial power’, given how far they were located from ‘the daily life and existential experience of the home country’. See Fredric Jameson, ‘Modernism and Imperialism’, in Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), pp. 60–4.
(53) Rev. T. B. Pandian, England to an Indian Eye or English Pictures from an Indian Camera (London: Elliot Stock, 1897). Malabari’s influence is apparent both in Pandian’s choice of title and his dedication to the women of England who supported him in his own proselytizing work for social reform: the ‘Enlightened Daughters of Great Britain’. Malabari’s campaign on child marriage and widow remarriage culminated in the successful passage of the Indian Age of Consent Bill in 1892: it is a clear illustration of how India-specific debates were often resolved in London.
(54) Hunt, Gandhi in London, pp. 6–7.
(55) Malabari, The Indian Eye on English Life, p. vii.
(56) Burton, At the Heart of the Empire, pp. 152–87, especially p. 165.
(57) Malabari, The Indian Eye on English Life, p. 245.
(58) B. M. Malabari, The Indian Muse in English Garb (Bombay: Merwanjee Nowrojee Daboo/Reporters’ Press, 1876), pp. iv, 4. Malabari had hoped to dedicate the book to the Prince of Wales, but, in the event, laid it at the feet of the social reformer and Unitarian, Mary Carpenter. Though most of the verse is unmistakenly colonialist in manner and subject, fulsomely hailing ‘the Lord’s elect’ (the representatives of British power in India), some of the later poems mark the splendours of ancient Indian history also.
(59) Malabari, The Indian Eye, pp. 38–9, 47–9, 61–5, 239–40.
(60) Malabari, The Indian Eye, p. 245.
(61) Gayla S. McGlamery, ‘“The Malady Afflicting England”: One of Our Conquerors as Cautionary Tale’, Nineteenth-Century Literature 46.3 (December 1991): 327–50, especially p. 327.
(62) George Meredith, One of Our Conquerors (London: Chapman and Hall, 1892), pp. 5, 7.
(63) Meredith, One of Our Conquerors, pp. 30–4.
(p.124) (64) Thomas Babington Macaulay, ‘Von Ranke’s History of the Popes’, in Critical and Historical Essays (1840: London: Dent, 1907), p. 65.
(65) David, Rule Britannia, p. 4.
(66) Martin Wainwright, ‘The Better Class of Indians’: Social Rank, Imperial Identity, and South Asians in Britain, 1858–1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008). See also David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw their Empire (London: Allen Lane, 2001). Wainwright’s analysis of differences of race trumping those of rank within Britain’s idealized hierarchy of class complicates some of the homogenizing implications of David Cannadine’s thesis of class-to-class bonding or ‘ornamentalism’ across cultural borders.
(67) Wainwright, ‘The Better Class of Indians’, pp. 5–9.
(68) See Peter Marshall, Bengal: The British Bridgehead: Eastern India, 1740–1828 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).
(69) Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, trans. John and Doreen Weightman (New York, NY: Atheneum, 1973), p. 85, proposes that travel be held to mean also movement within social hierarchies, or, we might add, movement between and across social hierarchies. See Nile Green, ‘Among the Dissenters: Reciprocal Ethnography in Nineteenth-century Inglistan’, Journal of Global History 4 (2009): 293–395, especially pp. 313–14.
(70) The 1886 Exhibition, with its Jaipur, Punjab, and Bombay courts, and displays of India’s ‘ancient arts’, viewed by 4 million visitors, categorized and interpreted the lives of others, whether metropolitan or Indian, in much the same way as Britons were doing in India. See Burton, At the Heart of the Empire, pp. 44–6; Paul Greenhalgh, Ephemeral Visits: the Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World’s Fairs, 1851–1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988); Peter H. Hoffenberg, An Empire on Display (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001); and Mukharji, A Visit to Europe. Hoffenberg, An Empire on Display, pp. 55–6, helpfully enlarges: ‘Mukharji’s activities at the exhibitions contributed to the development of Indian national institutions and public culture. By participating in these shows as commissioners, experts, and exhibitors, [South Asian experts like] Mukharji and the Indian princes became active agents in the invention of Indian art, and in its systematic classification, promotion, and public presentation… To some degree, Mukharji’s exhibition projects nationalised Indian arts.’ For the 1886 exhibition, as well as other exhibitions on which he worked, such as the Calcutta International, Mukharji prepared ‘Indexes’ ‘to the manufactures and raw materials of the great continent of India’. His descriptions laid emphasis on both raw materials and cultivated design, showing how these together might produce an intellectual and commercial rebirth for India.
(71) A. Martin Wainwright, ‘Royal Relationships as a Form of Resistance: The Cases of Duleep Singh and Abdul Karim’, in South Asian Resistances in (p.125) Britain, 1858–1947, ed. Rehana Ahmed and Sumita Mukherjee (London: Continuum, 2012); Michael Alexander and Sushila Anand, Queen Victoria’s Maharajah: Duleep Singh 1838–93, 2nd edn (1980; London: Phoenix Press, 2001).
(72) See Anand and Alexander, Queen Victoria’s Maharajah; Visram, Asians in Britain, pp. 99–103. Queen Victoria later became the godmother of several of the Maharajah’s children.
(73) Burton, At the Heart of the Empire, pp. 32, 189.
(74) The 1 January 1877 Proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India, as engraved into a marble tablet inset within the central domed rotunda of the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, reads:
- that from the highest to the humblest,
- all may feel that under our rule the
- great principles of liberty, equity,
- and justice are secured to them; and
- to promote their happiness, to add to
- their prosperity, and advance their
- welfare, are the ever present aims and
- objects of our Empire.
Observed 24 March 2009.
(75) See Duncan Bell, The Idea of Greater Britain: Empire and the Future of World Order (Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007).
(76) Elleke Boehmer, ed., Empire Writing: An Anthology of Colonial Literature 1870–1920 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 72–9, 212, 493–4.
(77) See Sukanya Banerjee, Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in the Late Victorian Empire (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2010).
(78) On Naoroji, see Banerjee, Becoming Imperial Citizens, pp. 36–74; Visram, Asians in Britain, pp. 146–62. See also Burton, ‘Making a Spectacle’, p. 126; and, At the Heart of the Empire, p. 62.
(79) See Dadabhai Naoroji, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1901); and The Poverty of India (London: Vincent Brooks, Day and Son, 1878).
(80) Elleke Boehmer, Empire, the National, and the Postcolonial: Resistance in Interaction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 20.
(81) Hunt, Gandhi in London, p. 12.
(82) Pandian, England to an Indian Eye, p. 19; Dutt, Three Years in Europe, p. 132.
(83) Wilhelm Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding (New York, NY: SUNY Press, 1988), pp. 207–8.
(84) The nationalism of the Indian National Congress was distinctively ‘diasporic’. Due to this migrant understanding of Britain from within and India from without, for example, the potency of the INC’s message lay in its efforts to persuade the British into governing India in a more ‘British’ fashion. See, for example, Dadabhai Naoroji, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India.
(85) Burton, At the Heart of the Empire, p. 19.
(p.126) (86) Mukherjee, An Indian for all Seasons, p. 54. See also A. Rahman, ‘The Burden of Imagination: Mapping the Centre Through the Colonised Gaze’, SACS 3.1 (October 2011): 1–16: <http://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk/sacs/files/2012/05/Document-2-A.-Rahman-The-burden-of-imagination-FINAL.pdf> (accessed 7 January 2015).
(87) Tapan Raychaudhuri, Europe Reconsidered: Perceptions of the West in Nineteenth-century Bengal, 2nd edn (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 1.
(88) Radhika Mohanram, Imperial White: Race, Diaspora and the British Empire (London: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), pp. xiv–xx.
(89) As Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1997), p. 210, observes in relation to Walter Benjamin’s modernist dialectics, the modern emerges from the interplay of continuity and discontinuity; from what is ‘new in connection with that which has always already been there’.
(90) See M. K. Gandhi, An Autobiography; or the Story of My Experiments with Truth (1927; Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1958). Gandhi offers various different possible readings of the word ‘experiments’ in his title which are salient to the case being made here. Experimentation, he suggests, involves changes to life-style, as in the chapters on vegetarianism and his acquaintance with modes of religious thought. It also points to how one conducts oneself in society, as in the chapter ‘The Canker of Untruth’, in which he confesses to flirting with his landlady’s daughter without informing the family that he was married (pp. 45–8). See also Guha, Gandhi Before India, pp. 36–54.
(91) Gandhi, An Autobiography, pp. 35, 42.
(92) Quoted in Hunt, Gandhi in London, p. 28.
(93) Lala Baijnath, England and India: Being Impressions of Persons, Things, English and Indian (Bombay: Jehangir B. Karani & Co., 1893), p. 38; Malabari, The Indian Eye on English Life.
(94) Anonymous [Ceylonese participant in 1886 Exhibition], ‘A Stranger Within Our Gates’, Daily News (8 and 9 October 1886).
(95) As in the texts that followed it, like Pandian’s England to an Indian Eye. Pandian’s descriptions often coincide with Malabari’s in respect of the particular urban features the writer chooses to foreground: the relative cleanliness of the city; the reassurance provided by the bobby’s presence; the social malaise rising from widespread inebriation and prostitution; and, above all, the galvanizing yet also enervating effects of modernity, its commercialism, and its overpopulation. See Pandian, England to an Indian Eye, p. 43.
(96) As Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, rev. edn (London: Verso, 1991), p. 192, suggests. Under colonialism, the creole or colonial elites of the New World developed a ‘capacity to imagine themselves as communities parallel and comparable to those in Europe’—a thesis he further develops in The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, South-East Asia and the World (London: Verso, 1998).
(p.127) (97) Partha Mitter, The Triumph of Modernism (London: Reaktion, 2009), in particular pp. 10–11, 229. Indian cities, Mitter writes, were dynamic sites where western capital and the forces of global modernity most forcefully impacted on the subcontinent, and where, in consequence, fruitful interactions between near and far, global and local, the western avant-garde and home-grown anti-colonialists, took place. Bombay, in particular, was from its outset a cosmopolitan even more than an imperial city, its early settlement in the late 1660s having involved different diasporic communities seeking commercial opportunities, not least Gujerati Parsis, Malabari’s community, and Baghdadi Jews such as the Sassoon family. Bombay’s Sarasenic Gothic architecture, for example, drew influences from several different cultural sources, most prominently the Mughal empire and the Victorian neo-Gothic. See also Preeti Chopra, A Joint Enterprise: Indian Elites and the Making of British Bombay (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2011); Guha, Gandhi Before India, pp. 60–1.
(98) See Felix Driver and David Gilbert, eds., Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display and Identity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999).
(99) Burton, At the Heart of the Empire, pp. 60–1.
(100) The following commentary is based on the 1886 copies of the Indian Mirror held in the Sir Asutosh Collection, National Library of India, Kolkata, read in March 2009. With its Brahmo Samaj sympathies, the Indian Mirror was at the time of the 1911 Durbar still going strong, at which point Satyendra Nath Sen, sub-editor from 1886, became chief editor.
(101) The 4 May 1886 issue carried an advertisement for Thacker, Spink and Co., now perhaps better known as the publishers of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre in India. See Josephine McDonagh, ‘Rethinking Provincialism in Mid-nineteenth-century Fiction: Our Village to Villette’, Victorian Studies 55.3 (Spring 2013): 399–424.
(102) Sumita Mukherjee, Nationalism, Education and Migrant Identities: The England-Returned (London: Routledge, 2010), gives an in-depth account of the first generations of Indian students in England. See also Pietsch, Empire of Scholars on the fluid academic interchanges between British and colonial settler universities in the period from 1850.
(103) Mukherjee, Nationalism, Education and Migrant Identities.
(104) Hunt, Gandhi in London, pp. 15–16.
(105) Richard Symonds, Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? (New York, NY: St Martin’s Press, 1986), pp. 11, 306. Oxford Magazine in the period was consistently preoccupied with the entry of ‘Oxford men’ into the ICS. Across the period of formal imperialism, Oxford produced fifteen viceroys of India to Cambridge’s five.
(106) See Symonds, Oxford and Empire, in particular pp. 11–12, 27–9, 105–6.
(107) Though the Institute library has long since moved away, and no longer exists as a discrete collection, the Indian Institute building with its distinctive gold-coloured elephant-and-howdah weather vane, and its foundation stone in Devanagri script, remains a reminder of how a small piece of India was, as it were, embedded within Oxford at this early date.
(p.128) (108) J. M. Brown, Windows into the Past: Life Histories and the Historian of South Asia (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2009).
(109) Alex Owen, The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England (London: Virago, 1989), pp. 4–5.
(110) Edward Carpenter, My Days and Dreams (London: Allen and Unwin, 1916), pp. 45, 143.
(111) Sheila Rowbotham, Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love (London and New York: Verso, 2008), especially pp. 149–60.
(112) See Antony Copley, A Spiritual Bloomsbury: Hinduism and Homosexuality in the Lives and Writings of Edward Carpenter, E. M. Forster and Christopher Isherwood (Lanham, MD, and Oxford: Lexington Books, 2006), pp. 10, 22, 27, 40, 45.
(113) Arunachalam was also a cousin of the art critic Ananda Coomaraswamy (see Chapter 4), and shared with him a commitment to social reform and the preservation of traditional crafts, as well as a conservative position on women’s rights.
(114) Ralph Waldo Emerson, for example, translated the Upanishads and expressed interest in the work and career of Rammohan Roy.
(115) Edward Carpenter, From Adam’s Peak to Elephanta: Sketches in Ceylon and India (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1892), p. vi; Rowbotham, Edward Carpenter, pp. 50–7, 149–61, 350–1, 445.
(116) Victor Lal, ‘Encounter and Response: The British Unitarians and Brahmo Samajees at Manchester College, Oxford, 1896–1948’, Faith and Freedom: Journal of Progressive Religion, 2 parts, 68.1 (Spring/Summer 2015) and 68.2 (Autumn/Winter 2015) (forthcoming). I am grateful to Victor Lal for sharing his article MS with me.
(117) In 1843, the Brahmo Sabha became the Brahmo Samaj under Debendranath Tagore, Rabindranath’s father.
(118) Green, ‘Among the Dissenters’, pp. 312–13.
(119) Friedrich Max Müller, Biographical Essays (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1884), p. 13. See also Halbfass, India and Europe, p. 199.
(120) Owen, The Darkened Room; Ken Monteith, Yeats and Theosophy (London and New York: Routledge, 2008); Rudolf Steiner, Spiritualism, Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy: Lectures, ed. Christopher Bamforth (Great Barringon, MA: Anthroposophic Press, 2001). See also Gauri Viswanathan’s work on theosophy, particularly ‘The Ordinary Business of Occultism’, Critical Inquiry 27:1 (2000): 1–20.
(121) Lucifer was co-edited by Helena Blavatsky and Mabel Collins 1887–1889; by Blavatsky and Annie Besant from September 1889, and solely by Besant from June 1891, along with sub-editor G. R. S. Mead. In 1897, it appears to have been incorporated into The Theosophist.
(122) As Besant explained in the paper, published as Why I Became a Theosophist (London: Freethought Publishing, 1889), she turned to theosophy in the main because of the Society’s recognition of the material body’s spiritual powers.
(p.129) (123) ‘Annie Besant and Theosophy’, Lucifer iv.24 (15 August 1889): 486–99, in particular p. 487. The lectures were later collected and published as Why I Became a Theosophist. See Alex Tickell, Terrorism, Insurgency and Indian-English Literature, 1830–1947 (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 68–94. In contrast, a report ‘Theosophical Activities’, in Lucifer xiii.73 (15 September 1893): 71, is worth citing for what it records of the traffic of Indian seers between India, Britain, and the United States in this year of the World Parliament, and the enthusiasm with which contact with these men was sought by British theosophists:
During the last months the members have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Bros. Chakravarti and Dhammapala [at Blavatsky Lodge] who were staying in London for a short time on their way to attend the Parliament of Religions at Chicago. On each occasion of his presence at the Lodge, Br. Chakravarti spoke. The first time was when Bertram Keightley lectured on India and the Theosophical Society and again when Dr Archibald Keightley spoke on Devotion as Cause and Effect. It was with real pleasure that the members listened to their eloquent Indian brother, and it goes without saying that they will be glad to hear that there is every prospect of Bro. Chakravarti giving a lecture early in October, as he will be staying at Headquarters in the interval between his arrival from America and his departure for India. A pleasant evening was passed on August 22nd, when a good many members assembled at the Library, 17 Avenue Road, in order to avail themselves of the opportunity of making the personal acquaintance of our two Eastern visitors.
(124) Reported in Lucifer, v.26 (15 October 1889): 147.
(125) Lucifer xi.63 (15 November 1892): 257.
(126) Hunt, Gandhi in London, pp. 29–32.
(127) See Hӧhner and Kenny, Chronology of Swami Vivekananda in the West. Vivekananda’s classes and talks that took place in various ‘lodgings’ in November 1895, for example, or the lectures that ‘won disciples’ in June 1896, following his return from New York, which members of the royal household allegedly attended incognito, were all organized under the auspices of the Theosophical Society.
(128) MS. Eng. d. 2352. F. Max Müller, Correspondence book, Bodleian Library, Oxford. I am grateful to Sumita Mukherjee for first drawing this document to my attention.
(129) F. Max Müller, Ramakrishna: His Life and Sayings (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1898), p. 2.
(130) Meredith Borthwick, Keshub Chunder Sen: A Search for Cultural Synthesis (Calcutta: Minerva Associates, 1977), p. 100: quoted in Burton, At the Heart of the Empire, p. 37. Friedrich Max Müller, Biographical Essays (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1884), p. 74.
(131) Michael Collins, Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World: Rabindranath Tagore’s Writings on History, Politics and Society (London and New (p.130) York: Routledge, 2011), pp. 31–3, 62–4; Halbfass, India and Europe, p. 225; Keshub Chunder Sen, Keshub Chunder Sen in England: Diary, Sermons, Addresses & Epistles (Calcutta: Navavidhan Publication Committee, 1938), p. 79.
(132) Pratap Majumdar wrote to Max Müller on 29 August 1881, regarding the ‘science of comparative theology’, that ‘the unity of truth in all lands and nations’ depended on the ‘recognition of the services which the great peoples of earth have rendered unto each other’. See Max Müller, Biographical Essays, pp. 145–6.
(133) Mukherjee, An Indian for All Seasons, p. 165.
(134) Max Müller, Correspondence book, letter 27, n. d., p. 3.
(135) Max Müller, Correspondence book, letter 7.
(136) See R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, vol. 1: The Apprentice Mage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 45–8, 85, 99, 101–3, 306–73, 469–73; Monteith, Yeats and Theosophy, pp. 23–5.
(137) Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, vol. 1: The Apprentice Mage, pp. 47–8.
(138) W. B. Yeats, ‘Reveries Over Childhood and Youth’, in Autobiographies (1955; London: Macmillan, 1979), pp. 91–2. The Trinity College Professor of Persian, Mir Alaud Ali, too, was a member of the Society.
(139) But the First World War, in particular, withheld him from travel.
(140) In ‘Mohini Chatterjee’ the Brahmin seer is cast in a sympathetic light as an icon of reincarnation. See A. Raghu, ‘Yeats’s “Mohini Chatterjee”’, Explicator 51:3 (Spring 1993): 170–2.
(141) Open to Indian cultural influences across his career, Yeats cannot be regarded as an orientalist in any straightforward way, as he sometimes is represented. See, for example, Collins, Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World, pp. 120–1.
(142) W. B. Yeats, The Poems, ed. and intr. Daniel Albright (London: Everyman, 1992), pp. 36–41.
(143) Mukherjee, An Indian for All Seasons, pp. 128–9, 134–5.
(144) McLaughlin, Writing the Urban Jungle, pp. 2–6, 176.