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THE ENGLISH IN INDIA.
THE CALCUTTA REVIEW.
THE second number of the Calcutta Review confirms the favourable opinion we formed of the work from the contents of the first. The articles are six (besides a miscellaneous head), and all are written with a vigour and ability which, if kept up, will soon place this Review upon a level with the best works of the same kind at home.
From the titles of the articles it will be seen that they embrace subjects of importance, and some of them of much present interest :1. “Astronomy of the Hindus," including an inquiry into the fitness of the Siddhantas for the purposes of native education. 2. “The English in India- mour Social Morality," a copious and lively history of English manners in India. 3. “Lord William Bentinck's Administration,” a review of Mr. E. Thornton's History of India, with reference to that portion of it which treats of that administration, and, as the Review contends, unfairly. 4. “ Female Infanticide in Central and Western India," a thorough investigation of this mysterious and melancholy trait of Indian manners. 6. “Recent History of the Punjab,” which, besides giving the true character of thirteen works upon the Punjab, presents a lucid connected narrative of the recent events there. 6. “ The Administration of Lord Ellenborough,” understood to have been written by the able editor of the Friend of India, and which, of course, takes the same unfavourable view of his lordship’s measures as that paper has done.
From the second paper, on the social character of the English in India, we borrow the concluding portion :
In considering this interesting subject, of the social character of the English in India, there are few points of greater importance than that touched upon above-the influx of European ladies into the country, and the facilities thus afforded for the formation of honourable connections. Capt. Williamson says, that, in 1810, the entire number of European women did not exceed 250, and that the difficulty of forming matrimonial engagements drove men into licentious connections. We are greatly inclined to suspect that there is some mistake in this assertion. Writing fourteen years before Capt. Williamson, the Rev. Mr. Tennant says, “Formerly female adventurers were few, but highly successful. Emboldened by this success, and countenanced by their example, such numbers have embarked in this speculation as threaten to defeat its purpose. The irregularities of our Government, which formerly afforded an oppor- . tunity to some of rapidly accumulating wealth and enabling them to marry, are now done away. Few in comparison now find themselves in circumstances that invite to matrimonial engagements : hence a number of unfortunate females are seen wandering for years in a single and unconnected state. Some are annually forced to abandon the forlorn hope, and return to Europe, after the loss of beauty, too frequently their only property." This was written in 1796; and, although it is highly probable that the great activity here spoken of was followed by a corresponding period of torpor, we can hardly bring our
selves to believe, that, a few years later, the difficulty of forming honourable connections really presented any admissible excuse for the profligate concubinage which Capt. Williamson considered no “ deviation from propriety." There is no room to doubt that the supply would, at all times, have been equal to the demand, if the gentlemen had been willing to avail themselves of the opportunities, thus afforded to them, of forming respectable alliances. Long before the time when Capt. Williamson wrote his Vade Mecum, there must have sprung up in India a new class of female members of society-the legitimate daughters of Indian residents. During the administration of Warren Hastings there was no lack of niarried women in Bengal, and the daughters of at least some of these women must have found their way to India before the century had died out.
When the first English lady made the voyage round the Cape, and who the adventurous heroine may have been, is more than we are capable of determining, necessitated as we often are to grope about darkling in these our antiquarian researches. The first European ladies who made the voyage to India were Portuguese. The earliest mention of the residence of fair strangers from the West, which we have been able to find in any work open to our researches, is contained in the travels of Pietro Della Valle, an Italian gentleman, or, as he describes in the translation, “a noble Roman,” who visited the country in 1623. According to this authority, the King of Portugal took upon himself to send a small annual investment of female orphans to India, for the especial use of the settlers on the western coast. We are no sooner come to the Dogana," says the noble Roman, after describing his voyage to Surat, “but the news of our arrival was, I think, by Sig. Alberto's means, carried to the house of the Dutch, many of whom have wives there, which they married in India purposely to go with them, and people a new colony of theirs in Java Major, which they call Bataviu Nova ; where very great privileges are granted to such of their countrymen as shall go and live there with wives and families; for which end many of them, for want of European, have taken Indian, Armenian, and Syrian women, and of any other race that falls into their hands, so they be or can be made Christians. Last year, the fleet of the Portugals which went to India was encountered at sea, and partly sunk, partly taken by the Hollanders; amongst other booty, three maidens were taken of those poor but well descended orphans, which are wont to be sent from Portugal every year, at the king's charge, with a dowry, which the king gives them, to the end they may be married in India, in order to further the peopling of the Portugal colonies in those parts. These three virgins falling into the hands of the Hollanders, and being carried to Surat, which is the principal seat of all their traffic, the most eminent merchants amongst them strove who should marry them, being all passably handsome. Two of them were gone from Surat, whether to the above-said colony or elsewhere I know not. She that remained behind was called Donna Lucia, a young woman, fair enough, and wife to one of the wealthiest and eminentest Hollanders." We may think ourselves fortunate to have alighted upon this passage; for it is probable that in no work of an equally remote date is there to be found, in a few sentences, so much information relative to the domestic condition of the earliest European settlers; and the intel. ligent reader cannot fail to gather from it much more an expressed. Of English ladies we can find no mention in the “noble Roman's ” book. Signor Della Valle, who, it appears, was accompanied by his wife and a young Italian
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lady, his adopted daughter, tells us, that though, on landing at Surat, he was immediately invited to the house of the English president, he declined the invitation, "for that it was requisite for Signora Mariuccia to be amongst women, of which there was none in the English house.” Of the evils resulting from the scarcity of women, even amongst the Portuguese, he gives us, in another place, a somewhat distressing picture. Incestuous intermarriages were by nó means uncommon. “ The Portugals," he writes, “ who, in matters of government, look with great diligence upon the least motes, without making much reckoning afterwards of great beams, held it inconvenient for the said Mariam Tinatim to live with me in the same house, although she had been brought up always in our house, from a very little child, and as our own daughter. For, being themselves in these matters very unrestrained (not sparing their nearest kindred, nor, as I have heard, their own sisters, much less foster-children in their houses), they conceive that all other nations are like themselves.” A French traveller, “Monsieur Dillon, M.D." who published his voyage to the East-Indies, towards the close of the seventeenth century, does not give us a much more favourable account of the Portuguese ladies. few," he says, “but what are sufficiently sensible that the Portuguese in general have these three qualities belonging to them: to be zealous, to the highest degree of superstition; to be amorous, to a degree of madness; and jealous beyond all reason. Neither will it appear strange, if the ladies of Goa are as tractable and obliging to handsome men as those of Lisbon. 'Tis true they are watched as narrowly as is possible to be done; but they seldom want wit to deceive their keepers, when they are resolved to taste of the forbidden fruit; and they are the most revengeful creatures in the world, if they happen to be disappointed in the expectation !" Monsieur Dillon supports this assertion with some anecdotes, which we have no desire to transfer to our pages. What we have set down is sufficient for our purpose. We wish that it had not been necessary to have set down so much; but we have deemed it of some importance to shew the fearfully lax state of morality among the first European settlers--to shew what sort of example was set by their predecessors to the English in India. The subject is not a pleasant one; but without such allusions as these, it were impossible to fulfil the task we have set ourselves to trace through all its changes the progress of the social morality of our countrymen in the East,
We have shewn, by an incidental quotation in an early part of our article, that, at the commencement of the present century, there were French and Dutch women in Bombay, and that the English governors sometimes took out their wives and families. At the time of the black hole affair (1756), there were several ladies in Calcutta. One, an East-Indian, was among the sufferers; but we know not what the others, who were carried safely off to the shipping, may have been. Mr. Ives, in 1757, tells us that the supercargo of the Fulta Salaam died at Galle, his “illness being occasioned by a cold he caught in dancing with some ladies who were just arrived from Europe.” At Tellicherry, he tells us that he dined with "the Company's chief,” Mr. Hodges, a married man, who introduced him and his companions
to every gentleman and lady in the settlement.” We learn from Captain Stavorinus, that when he visited Bengal in 1771, there was a moderate supply of ladies both at the English and Dutch factories. He was necessarily more competent to speak of the character of the latter than of our British fair ones; but we fear that there is not much reason to believe that we very much excelled our neighbours. “Domestic peace and tranquillity," he writes, with reference to the Dutch at Chinsurah, “must be purchased by a shower of jewels, a wardrobe of the richest clothes, and a kingly parade of plate upon the sideboard; the husband must give all of these, or, according to a vulgar phrase, the house would be too hot to hold him, while the wife never pays the least attention to her domestic concerns, but suffers the whole to depend upon her servants or slaves. The women generally rise between eight and nine o'clock. The forenoon is spent in paying visits to their friends, or in lolling upon a sofa with their arms across. Dinner is ready at half past one ; they go to sleep till halfpast four or five; they then dress in form, and the evening and part of the night is spent in company, or at dancing-parties, which are frequent during the cold season. There is more of this; but we have quoted enough. Of the English ladies he tells us little, except that they wore very fine dresses. He attended a ball at the governor's, which was opened by the governor's lady (Mrs. Cartier) and the Dutch director; and at which we are told the “com. pany were very numerous, and all magnificently dressed, especially the ladies, who were decorated with immense quantities of jewels.". A few years afterwards, when the elegant Marian held her court at Belvedere, Calcutta seems to have rejoiced in a sprinkling of the fair sex, if not sufficiently profuse to blunt the devoted gallantry of their knights, quite enough to humanise society. Thus a Madras correspondent writes to “Mr. Hicky," in July, 1780: “In my last I sent you an account of the number of ladies which has arrived in the late ships; there came eleven in one vesseltoo great a number for the peace and good order of a round-house. Millinery must rise at least twenty-five per cent. ; for the above ladies, when they left England, were well stocked with head-dresses of different kinds, formed to the highest ton. But from the unfortunate disputes which daily arose, during the space of the three last months of the passage, they bad scarce a cap left when they arrived." And describing a grand Christmas dinner-party, at government-house, in a later number, we find it set down, that “ The ladies were all elegant and lovely, and it was universally allowed, that Calcutta never was decorated by so many fine women as at present.” We find, on referring to the journals of the day, that few ships arrived without bringing a little knot of spinsters ; and that many of these very soon threw off their spinsterhood. The marriage announcements raise a smile. The bride is always duly gazetted as “a young lady of beauty and infinite accomplishments, recently arrived by the Minerva ;" or "an agreeable young lady who lately arrived in the Ceres from England.” M. Grand, in his interesting narrative of his residence in India, gives an amusingly naive picture of the knightly devotion with which some young ladies were regarded : “In the enjoyment of such society,” he writes, “which was graced with the ladies of the first fashion and beauty of the settlement, I fell a convert to the charms of the celebrated Miss Sanderson ; but vainly, with many others, did I sacrifice at her shrine. This amiable woman became, in 1776, the wife of Mr. Richard Barwell, who well may live in the remembrance of his numerous friends. Of all her sex, I never observed one who possessed more the art of conciliating her admirers, equal to herself. As a proof thereof, we met sixteen in her livery, one public-ball evening, viz. a pea-green French frock, trimmed with pink silk and chained lace with spangles, when each of us to whom the secret of her intended dress had been communicated buoyed himself up with the hope of being the favoured happy individual. The innocent deception which had been practised soon appeared evident, and the man of most sense was the first to laugh at the ridicule which attached on him. I recollect the only revenge which we exacted was, for each to have the honour of a dance with her; and as minuets, cotillons, reels, and country-dances were then in vogue, with ease to herself, she obligingly complied to all concerned ; and in reward for such kind complaisance, we gravely attended her home, marching by the side of her palankeen, regularly marshalled, in procession of two and two." The lady who could dance sixteen reels, country-dances, &c. “ with ease to herself,” must have possessed an enviable stock of strength and elasticity. Our Indian ladies appear never to have lacked energy sufficient to go cheerfully through an amount of labour in the ball-room, one-half of which they would deem it, anywhere else, the utmost hardship to be called upon to endure. In 1793, we find them described as dancing from nine in the evening till five o'clock in the morning- and at the beginning of the present century, the ladies, according to Lord Valentia, were in the habit not unfrequently of dancing themselves into their graves.
Consumptions," he writes, are very frequent among the ladies, which I attribute, in a great measure, to their incessant dancing, even during the hottest weather. After such violent exercise, they go into the verandahs, and expose themselves to a cool breeze and damp atmosphere." Victim after victim was consigned to the tomb; but the warning lesson was unregarded; and still the history of each new sacrifice might be fittingly told in the language of Ford's noble drama, The Broken Heart:
When one news straight came, huddling on another,
of death, and death, and death, still I danced on. The temptation was not to be resisted. See what was the state of society in those days, and judge if it was not really something worth dying for : The society of Calcutta is numerous and gay; the fêtes given by the GovernorGeneral (Marquess of Wellesley) are frequent, splendid, and well-arranged. The chief justice, the members of council, and Sir Henry Russell, each open their houses once a week for the reception of those who have been presented to them. Independently of these, hardly a day passes, particularly during the cold season, without several large dinner parties being formed, consisting gene. rally of thirty or forty. A subscription assembly also exists, but seems unfashionable." Now here, indeed, was work for a delicate spinster, calling loudly for a Limitation of Labour Bill, to prevent young English women, in a foreign land, from killing themselves by inches. No wonder that unsophisti. cated natives asked why the English did not follow their custom, and hire people to dance for them ?
And here we may not disadvantageously digress to offer a few remarks on a subject peculiarly illustrative of the progress which the English have recently made in social morality. No one who is familiar with descriptive works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can have failed to observe the very prominent place which the nautch occupies in every picture, not only of native, but of European social life in India. A traveller, on first landing on our Eastern shores, was sure to be entertained with a nautch ; and a nautch, too, somewhat different from the dull and decent affairs of the present century. Even European gentlemen sometimes entertained troops of nautch-girls, and thought it no discredit to possess such appanages to their domestic establishments. Indeed,