To the Lord William Godolphin Osborne
My dear William,
I know no one but yourself who can now take any lively interest in these Letters.
She to whom they were addressed, they of whom they were written, have all passed away, and you and I are now almost the only survivors of the large party that in 1838 left Government House for the Upper Provinces.
Many passages of this Diary, written solely for the amusement of my own family, have of course been omitted; but not a word has been added to descriptions which have little merit, but that they are true and that they were written on the spot.
Now that India has fallen under the curse of railroads, and that life and property will soon become as insecure there as they are here, the splendour of a Governor-General’s progress is at an end.
The Kootûb will probably become a Railway Station; the Taj will, of course, under the sway of an Agra Company (Limited, except for destruction), be bought up for a monster hotel; and the Governor-General will dwindle down into a first-class passenger with a carpet-bag. These details, therefore, of a journey that was picturesque in its motley processions, in its splendid crowds, and in its ‘barbaric gold and pearl,’ may be thought amusing. So many changes have since taken place in Indian modes of travelling, that these contrasts of public grandeur and private discomfort will probably be seen no more, on a scale of such magnitude.
Ever your affectionate Aunt,
Eden Lodge, Kensington Gore:
Up the Country
On board the ‘Megna’ flat, Saturday, Oct. 21, 1837.
‘ONCE more upon the waters, yet once more,’ and so on. We are now fairly off for eighteen months of travelling by steamers, tents, and mountains—and every day of a cabin seems to me like so much waste. They ought all to go to the great account of the long voyage that will, at last, take us home again. And this cabin looks so like my ‘Jupiter’ abode, in all its fittings and appointments, that it is really a pity so to throw its discomforts away in going farther off. Well, I am sure it is all for the best—I make no objection—I like to see things take their course; but still I do say, that for a person who required nothing but to be allowed the undisturbed enjoyment of that small Greenwich house and garden, with all its little Cockney pleasures and pursuits, I have been very hardly treated and rather overworked. We got up at five this morning; the servants were all in a fuss, and Wright was in all the delusions of carpet-bags and nice bandboxes, in which she may be indulged till we leave the steamer, and then she will be obliged to wake from them, as the coolie is yet to be discovered who would carry a carpet-bag, and a bandbox does not precisely meet the views of a camel.
When we came down for some coffee, the great hall was full of gentlemen who had come to accompany his lordship to the ghaut—even Mr. Macaulay had turned out for it. F. and I, with Captain P., soon took ourselves off, and drove down to the landing-place. There were two lines of troops from the door of Government House to the river, and the band was playing that march in the ‘Puritani’ which, when we were at the Admiralty, used to be played every morning by the Guards’ band, and which, consequently, always carries me back to the horrid time of our preparations for leaving England, so I can always cry it all over again to that tune. The road was covered with carriages and riders; and, at the ghaut, a large set of our particular acquaintances were waiting for us, so we got out and stood with them while G. made his progress on foot. It was really a very pretty procession: such crowds of people and such diversities of dress. He is not so shy as he used to be at these ceremonies, though I think a long walk through troops presenting arms is trying to everybody. The instant he arrived at the ghaut, he gave a general goodbye, offered me his arm, and we walked off to the boats as fast as we could. The guns fired, the gentlemen waved their hats, and so we left Calcutta. It has really done handsomely by us, and we ought to be obliged to them for saying—if it is no more—that they are sorry we are going. But I daresay we are an amusement to them. They liked our balls and parties, and whatever we did or said was the subject of an anecdote; and if we said or did nothing they invented something for us—and it all served to wonder at—which, in a country where there is little society and few topics, was an advantage.
The Sunderbunds, Monday, Oct. 23.
We came into these lovely riant scenes on Sunday morning. They are a composition of low stunted trees, marsh, tigers and snakes, with a stream that sometimes looks like a very wide lake and then becomes so narrow that the jungle wood scrapes against the sides of the flat—and this morning scraped away all G.’s jalousies, which are a great loss. I never saw such a desolate scene: no birds flying about—there is no grain for them to eat. We have met only one native boat, which must have been there since the Deluge. Occasionally there is a bamboo stuck up with a bush tied to it, which is to recall the cheerful fact that there a tiger has carried off a man. None of our Hindus, though they are starving, will go on shore to cook—and, indeed, it would be very unsafe. It looks as if this bit of world had been left unfinished when land and sea were originally parted. The flat is dreadfully hot at night; but not more uncomfortable than a boat must necessarily be in this climate.
I must make you acquainted with the other flat, because then, once for all, you will understand our prospect of travelling companions. You know all about Mr. and Mrs. A. and their two children. Mr. and Mrs. B. are our next couple. He is one of the Government secretaries, clever and pleasant, speaks Persian rather more fluently than English; Arabic better than Persian; but, for familiar conversation, rather prefers Sanscrit. Mr. and Mrs. C. (belonging to Mr. B.’s office) are a very pleasant couple; he acts and sings, and knows most of the people we know, and she sings and plays on the harp like an angel; and they have a small child, the least little sick thing possible, which I affection, and I mean to borrow it when we are in camp to play in my tent. I often weary for a child to talk to. Captain and Mrs. D. are our commissariat couple—she is very pretty. General E. is the public military secretary—an astutious oldish man. The two steamers generally anchor together at night; but the other comes in later than ours, and so we have seen none of the other party but Mr. A., who says they do very well together, all things considered. General E. is suspected of not being partial to the small D., A., and C. children—there had been rather an angry controversy about some apple and pear jam; and, in general, they were all, like our noble selves, so much bored that they went to bed at eight. Otherwise, they were all perfectly happy.
Wednesday, Oct. 25.
We stopped at Koolna yesterday for coals, and stayed an hour to let the Hindus cook their dinner. We are out of the Sunderbunds now, and steaming between two banks not quite so elevated, nor nearly so picturesque as those flat marshes between Eastcombe and the river; and, they say, we shall see nothing prettier, or rather less hideous, between this and Simla, except at Raj Mahl. G. is already bored to death with having nothing to do. He has read two novels and cannot swallow any more, and is longing for his quiet cool room at Government House. The nights are dreadful—all for want of a punkah—and hardly any of us get a wink of sleep. However, we shall soon overtake cooler weather. The six gentlemen passed the three first nights on deck, owing to the heat below, and I sat up in bed fanning myself. The native servants sleep any and everywhere, over our heads, under our feet, or at our doors; and as there are no partitions but green blinds at the sides and gratings above, of course we hear them coughing all night.
Thursday, Oct. 26.
They are steering us very badly; we go rolling about from one side of the river to the other, and every now and then thump against the bank, and then the chairs and table all shake and the inkstand tips over. I think I feel a little seasick. Our native servants look so unhappy. They hate leaving their families, and possibly leaving two or three wives is two or three times as painful as leaving one, and they cannot endure being parted from their children. Then they are too crowded here to sleep comfortably. Major J. observed in a gentle, ill-used voice: ‘I think Captain K. behaved very ill to us; he said that between both steamers and the flat he could lodge all the servants that were indispensably and absolutely necessary to us, so I only brought one hundred and forty, and now he says there is not room even for them.’ Certainly this boat must be drunk, she reels about in such a disorderly fashion. I wish I had my cork jacket on.
I am glad that in your last letter you deigned for once to comment on the ‘Pickwick Papers.’ I collected all the stray numbers, and began reading them straight through to-day, because hitherto I have never had time to make out exactly what they were about, delightful as they were. I wish you would read over again that account of Winkle and the horse which will not go on—‘Poor fellow! good old horse!’—and Pickwick saying, ‘It is like a dream, a horrid dream, to go about all day with a horrid horse that we cannot get rid of.’ That book makes me laugh till I cry, when I am sitting quite by myself. —— There! I thought so. We are aground, and the other steamer is going flourishing by, in grinning delight.
Friday, Oct. 27.
We remained aground for two hours, and touched several times after we were afloat. Some of the other party visited us in the evening, and I lent General E. a novel to help him on. I have been reading ‘Astoria,’ out of that last box you sent us, and that great fat ‘Johnsoniana.’ The anecdotes are not very new, but anything about Johnson is readable. G. has got some Bridgewater Treatises, which he likes.
Beanleah, Saturday, Oct. 28.
We stopped at Surder yesterday, to take in some sheep. We ought to have been there two days ago, if we had had better pilots and fewer groundings. G. said, last night, when we again failed in landing there, that it seemed to him Absurder rather than Surder. He made another good pun to-day. How our intellects are weakened by the climate!—we make and relish puns! The A.D.C.s are very apt to assemble over our cabins at night, to smoke and to talk, and we hear every word they say. When it is really time to go to sleep, I generally send old Rosina up to disperse them, in her civilest manner. I was telling W. O. that they were like so many old Chelsea pensioners; they go on prosing night after night exclusively about the army, the King’s army and the Company’s army; and that, if there were only a little levity in their talk, I should not so much mind being kept awake by it. He said, ‘Ah, yes, we were very animated last night about the Company’s army, and your old Rosina came creeping up with “O sahib, astai bolo” (gently speak); upon which G. observed, “Ah, if she had said, O sahib, nasty bolo!” that would have satisfied Emily much better.’ This joke being founded on Hindustani, and coming from the Governor-General, kept the whole suite in a roar of laughter for half an hour. They really relished it.
Two young writers whom we had known at Calcutta came to Surder to meet us, and we took them on board and took them back to Baulyah. How some of these young men must detest their lives! Mr. —— was brought up entirely at Naples and Paris, came out in the world when he was quite a boy, and cares for nothing but society and Victor Hugo’s novels, and that sort of thing. He is now stationed at B., and supposed to be very lucky in being appointed to such a cheerful station. The whole concern consists of five bungalows, very much like the thatched lodge at Langley. There are three married residents: one lady has bad spirits (small blame to her), and she has never been seen; another has weak eyes, and wears a large shade about the size of a common verandah; and the other has bad health, and has had her head shaved. A tour is not to be had here for love or money, so she wears a brown silk cushion with a cap pinned to the top of it. The Doctor and our friend make up the rest of the society. He goes every morning to hear causes between natives about strips of land or a few rupees—that lasts till five; then he rides about an uninhabited jungle till seven; dines; reads a magazine, or a new book when he can afford one, and then goes to bed. A lively life, with the thermometer at several hundred!
Raj Mahl, Monday, Oct. 30.
We are now, after ten days’ hard steaming, only 200 miles from Calcutta. G. sighs for the Salisbury ‘Highflyer’ and a good roadside inn; but to-day we have come to some hills, and a pretty bit of country. We landed at four, saw the ruins, which are very picturesque, gave Chance a run on shore, and we had time for one sketch. But the real genuine charm and beauty of Raj Mahl were a great fat Baboo standing at the ghaut, with two bearers behind him carrying the post-office packet. There were letters by the ‘Madagascar,’ which left London the 20th July, and was only three months on her passage. I had your large packet, and ten letters. Altogether it was a great prize, was not it? and just at such an interesting period. I think the young Queen a charming invention, and I can fancy the degree of enthusiasm she must excite. Even here we feel it. The account of her proroguing Parliament gave me a lump in my throat; and then, why is the Duchess of Kent not with her in all these pageants? There is something mysterious about that. Probably nothing is more simple, or obvious, but still I should like to know what the mother and daughter say to each other when they meet in private. To return to your letters. There must have been one missing, because Newsalls suddenly burst upon me as your actual residence, whereas I did not know that there was such a place, that it had ever been built, or that you ever thought of taking it.
Wednesday, Nov. 1.
We expect to be at Monghir to-morrow morning, whence I can send this. We passed through some pretty scenery yesterday; but it is all over now, I am afraid, and we shall see nothing but flat plains till we arrive at Simla.
The Ganges, Saturday, Nov. 4, 1837.
I SENT off my Journal to you the day before yesterday from Monghir. We arrived there early on Thursday morning, and G. found there were so many people there whom he ought to see, and we saw so many objects that were tempting to sketch, that he agreed to remain there all day. All the English residents, six in number (and that is what they call a large station), came on board immediately, and amongst them Mr. D., Lord S.’s son. I thought he had been married a month ago, but it appears he prefers being married in a regular clerical fashion, and is waiting for the bishop, who is travelling about marrying and confirming and christening, and who is to be at Monghir in ten days.
We landed at half-past three, in a covered boat, with umbrellas, &c., and went straight to a tent, where the Resident had collected all the Monghir manufactures for our inspection; but it is impossible to buy anything, as what is to become of it in camp? Otherwise, the inlaid tables and boxes were tempting, and there was the prettiest dolls’ furniture possible, tables, and cane-chairs, and sofas, and footstools, of such curious workmanship. The vehicles of the place, amounting to four buggies (that is a foolish term for a cabriolet, but as it is the only vehicle in use in India, and as buggy is the only name for said vehicle, I give it) and a bullock cart, were assembled for our use.
We drove off to Seetakund, where there is a hot spring—a thing I never believed in; I thought the water might be a little warm, just the chill taken off, but it was impossible to keep one’s finger in this even for a moment, and it was the most beautiful, clear-looking basin of water, so blue and bright. The drive there was a real refreshment; it is the first time for two years I have felt the carriage going up hill at all, and this was not a simple slope, but a good regular hill. Then we came to some genuine rocks—great bleak, grey stones, with weeds growing between them, and purple hills in the distance. I felt better directly.
We all sketched away, and did not come back till it was dusk. Altogether, it was a nice scrambling, homelike expedition, if I had not come back with such a bad headache. But, though I did, I liked Monghir, and respect J. for having organised such a good day.
Patna, Sunday, Nov. 5.
Here we are, in such a comfortable house, I never saw the like, and very cool and pleasant it is.
We anchored last night within sight of the town; but Patna is six miles long at least, and Mr. T. lives at Bankipore, a sort of Battersea to Patna; so we got up at six this morning, and went on deck to see the town. There never was anything so provokingly picturesque, considering that the steamer goes boring on without the slightest regard for our love of sketching.
It was a Hindu holiday. I must do the Hindus the justice to say that they make as many holidays out of one year as most people do out of ten; and I am not at all sure whether a small importation of Hindus would not be acceptable to you, to accompany your boys to school as regulators to their school-days. It would be a safeguard against their being overworked. The whole bank was lined with natives bringing immense baskets of fruit for ‘the Ganges to look at,’ as the Nazir expressed it; and they were dipping their baskets into the river with their graceful salaams and then bowing their heads down to the water. They are much more clothed here than in Bengal, and the women wear bright crimson veils, or yellow with crimson borders, and sometimes purple dresses with crimson borders, and have generally a little brown baby, with a scarlet cap on, perched on their hips. I wish you would have one little brown baby for a change; they are so much prettier than white children. Behind these crowds of people, there were old mosques and temples and natives’ houses, and the boats of rich natives in front with gilded sterns, and painted peacocks at the prow. In short, just what people say of India; you know it all, but it is pretty to see; and I mean the ‘moral’ of my Indian experience to be, that it is the most picturesque population, with the ugliest scenery, that ever was put together.
We breakfasted at eight, and just as we had finished, Mr. T. came with all the English resident gentlemen to take us on shore—Mr. G. amongst the rest. Such a pleasure for Miss H. I think that little iron is coming well out of the fire.
There were carriages without number at the ghaut; a regiment, brought from Dinapore to receive his lordship, which lined the way up to Mr. T.’s house; a band to play; a second breakfast to be eaten, and the most comfortable house possible.
My room is lined with idle books, and these up-country houses all have fire-places and carpets; and though it is still very hot, the idea that it ever may be cold is reviving. G. and F. went to church, where Mr. T. read prayers and another gentleman read a sermon, and they said it was one of the best-performed services they have heard in this country. We have taken a hideous drive this evening over some brown plains, and have twenty-six people at dinner, I grieve to say. I am as stiff as a poker with the fall into the hold of the flat, and was obliged to stay at home all day.
Monday, Nov. 6.
A dull dinner, very! but Mr. —— is in himself a jewel; and he looks like that man in Matthews’s ‘At home’ who used to say, with a melancholy look, that he was ‘fond of fun;’ but still, in that melancholy way, he is very pleasant. His eyebrows keep me in a continual state of wonderment. They are thick masses of very long hair, and if they were my eyebrows, or if he were my Mr. T., I should with a small pair of curling-irons and a great deal of huile antique, make them up into little ringlets, like a doll’s wig. I think they would have a very original and graceful effect. We have had such a fatiguing day—just what we must have at every station—but still it is fatiguing. There were about forty people at breakfast; then, from eleven to one, F. and I received the ladies of the station, and most of the gentlemen came again, even those who had been at breakfast. G.’s audiences went on for four hours; so the aides-de-camp had a pleasant day of it.
Then there was company at luncheon; and, at half-past three, G. held a durbar. Some of the rajahs came in great state—one with a gold howdah on his elephant; another had a crimson velvet covering to his carriage, embroidered with gold, and they all had a great many retainers. To some of them G. gave gold dresses and turbans, and we went behind a screen to see Mr. T. and the other gentlemen help the rajahs into their gold coats. The instant the durbar was over we set off, an immense party, to see Patna, and we saw the Durgah, one of the largest Mussulman temples there is, and then went to a part of the town where the streets are too narrow for a carriage, and where they had provided tonjauns and elephants for us, and we poked along, through herds of natives, to a curious Sikh temple, which is kept up by contributions from Runjeet Singh. The priest read us a little bit of their Bible (not the Koran), very much to our edification, and they brought out a sword in a red scabbard, which they worship, and they gave George some petitions, and then we went home to another great dinner.
Tuesday, Nov. 7.
We have had a much quieter day. In the morning the rajahs of yesterday sent G. his presents—shawls, kincobs, &c., three very fine elephants, and two horses. There was nothing very pretty in the presents, except an ivory arm-chair and an ivory tonjaun inlaid with silver. F. and I had two very picturesque camels and camel-drivers to sketch in the morning, and the rajah to whom they belonged sent in the afternoon to beg we would accept both camels and riders. Such nice little pets, in case of anything happening to Chance or to F.’s deer. However, we returned them, and I heard last night that he was quite puzzled and annoyed that we would not keep them.
- went to see the jail and the opium godowns, which he said were very curious. There is opium to the value of 1,500,000l. in their storehouses, and Mr. T. says that they wash every workman who comes out; because the little boys even, who are employed in making it up, will contrive to roll about in it, and that the washing of a little boy well rolled in opium is worth four annas (or sixpence) in the bazaar, if he can escape to it.
We took a quiet drive with W., and then went to a large granary that was built years ago, and then found to be useless, and now it is only curious for the echo in it. There we found Mrs. A., Mr. G., and Miss H. and some others; and Mr. G. had brought his flute, and Miss H. observed that the echo repeated the notes of the flute better than anything else. But then Mr. G. clapped his hands, and that was better still. He gave her his arm as we came out, and she looked very shy; and we all tried to look very stupid and unobservant. I have not seen such a promising attachment for a long while. Half our party went on board to-night, and G. goes at seven to-morrow morning; but F. and I are going to stay with Mr. T. till the evening, and then drive straight to the ball at Dinapore, only five miles, and A. stays for us. All the others go, as G. has a levée in the morning.
Dinapore, Thursday, Nov. 9.
We arrived in excellent time for our ball, and to see G.’s landing, which by moonlight and torchlight was a very pretty sight. The whole way from the ghaut to the house where the ball was given was carpeted, and there are plenty of troops here to make a street, and our own people turned out in great force.
There were some very pretty people at the ball, which went off remarkably well. Mr. G. danced three times with Miss H., which is considered here equal to a proposal and a half. Dear stern old Mr. T. is quite interested in that novel, and came two or three times in the course of the evening with a melancholy face of fun, to say—‘The little affair is going on remarkably well: he is dancing with her again.’ We are now going to a review, and then to a dinner given to us by the Queen’s 31st regiment, which is to end in another ball and supper.
Well! it is lucky that anybody can do anything they ought to do, but I had only four hours’ sleep last night.
Friday, Nov. 10.
The dinner went off well, and so did the review. The 31st is J.’s regiment, so he was extremely anxious that they should do a great deal to our honour and glory. We sat down seventy-four to dinner, Colonel B. between G. and me, and the chief lady and the senior captain of the regiment on our other sides; the old bishop, whom we met here, took F. to the opposite side of the table. It was a less formal dinner than I expected. G. had to make another speech, and longer than last night’s, and it was very original and neatly turned, and gave great satisfaction. We stayed through part of the ball, and came away before supper, on pretence of fatigue. Both Patna and Dinapore have distinguished themselves, and it has really been all done so cordially and handsomely that we can bear a little fatigue for the sake of the goodnature of the people who entertain us. And, at all events, it makes a gay week for the station. Some ladies came sixty miles to these balls. At the ball there were some rajahs in splendid dresses; such magnificent jewels, and some of them had never seen an English ball before. They think the ladies who dance are utterly good for nothing, but seemed rather pleased to see so much vice.
Such jewelry as we saw yesterday morning! A native was sent by one of the gentlemen to show us some really good native jewelry. There is an ornament called a surpéche, which the rajahs wear in their turbans, but there is seldom such a handsome one as this man had for sale. It was a diamond peacock holding in his beak a rope of enormous pearls, which passed through an emerald about the size of a dove’s egg; then there came the tassel—the top was of immense diamonds, with a hole bored at one end of them, and they were simply drawn together into a sort of rosette, without any setting. Then there came strings of pearls each ending in three large diamonds. These ornaments are often made with discoloured pearls and diamonds with flaws, but this was quite perfect. The man asked 8,000l. for it, but will probably sell it to some native for 6,000l. They stick it into their turbans by a gold hook, and the tassel hangs over one ear. We have steamed quietly along to-day, and I have been asleep half the afternoon.
Buxar, Saturday, Nov. 11, 1837.
AS we were passing a place called Bullhga this morning, we saw an enormous concourse of natives, and it turned out to be a great fair for horses. So we stopped the steamer, and persuaded G. to go on shore, just ‘to go to the fair,’ as we should have done at home, only we sent all the servants with silver sticks, and took our own tonjauns and two of the body-guard, and went in the State barge and with all the aides-de-camp. In short, we did our little best to be imposing, considering that we have only the steamboat apparatus to work with; but we had hardly landed when A. came breathless from the other steamer to say that Mr. B. and Mr. C. were both half mad at the idea of a Governor-General going on shore in this way, and that C. was actually dancing about the deck with rage; and A. wanted us to turn back and give it up. Luckily, G. would not be advised to do this. They said we should be murdered amongst other things; but in my life I never saw such a civil, submissive set of people. Our people and the police of the place walked on first, desiring the crowd to sit down, which they all did instantly, crouching together and making a lane all through the fair. They are civil creatures, and I am very fond of the natives. There were a great many thousands of them, and some beautiful costumes; the bazaars were full of trinkets, and pretty shawls and coloured cottons. We went in our tonjauns, and G. walked till he was tired, which is soon done; and A. left us quite satisfied as to our safety, and almost persuaded it was a dignified measure. We wanted him to tell C. that he had left G. in one of the ‘merry-go-rounds,’ of which there were several, but it was not a subject that admitted of levity. —— said the Governor-General should never appear publicly without a regiment, and that there was no precedent for his going to Bullhga fair. I told him we had made a precedent, and that it would be his duty to take the next Governor-General, be he ever so lame or infirm, to this identical fair.
We went this evening to see the Government stud. It was rather fine to see five hundred young horses rush at once out of their stalls, and all kick each other and then run away; but, barring that little incident, both studs on each side of the river are rather tiresome sights—such ugly places!
Ghazeepore, Sunday, Nov. 12.
We arrived at three. Mr. T., the brother of our late dear T., is the Resident here, and lodges us. He had made a ghaut with a flight of steps to his house for our landing, and the 44th Regiment, with their band, were drawn up all round his lawn.
There were two women on the landing-place with a petition. They were Hindu ladies, and were carried down in covered palanquins, and very much enveloped in veils. They flung themselves on the ground, and laid hold of G., and screamed and sobbed in a horrid way, but without showing their faces, and absolutely howled at last, before they could be carried off. They wanted a pardon for the husband of one of them, who, with his followers, is said to have murdered about half a village full of Mussulmans, and these women say he did not do it, but that the Nazir of that village was his enemy, and did the murders, and then laid it on their party. These little traits are to give you an insight into the manners and customs of the East, and to open and improve your mind, &c. After we had made our way through all these impediments, we rested for a time, and then went to see the cantonments, and to evening service, which was read by two of the gentlemen remarkably well. Then we came back to a great dinner, and one of the longest I ever assisted at. I quite lost my head at last, and when second course was put down, asked Mr. T. to give me some wine, thinking it was dessert, and that we might get up and go.
The dinners certainly are endless, and I do not wonder they think us very rapid at Government House. There is sometimes half an hour between the courses. A Mr. S., the judge, sat on one side of me, and after some discourse the man seemed to know his Kent! and I discovered he was one of the George S.’s of E. Visions of country balls and cricket matches came back. He knew Eden Farm and Penge Common; in short, I liked him very much, and I think he too was refreshed with the reminiscences of his youth.
Monday, Nov. 13.
- went in the morning to see the stud. At eleven we received all the station.
In the afternoon we went to see the opium godown, and then F., B., and I went in the band boat along the shore to sketch some of the old buildings, which are very picturesque here.
All the party out of both steamers dined at Mr. T.’s, and moreover a third steamer came up from Calcutta this morning, containing, amongst other passengers, a Mrs. P. and her pretty little daughter, who are great favourites with all our gentlemen, and they dined and went with us to a ball given by the regiment.
There were great doubts whether a ball could be made out, as the want of ladies in the Mofussil makes dancing rather difficult. However, we took a large party, and the ladies we had seen in the morning all assembled and had raised two or three extras. The mess-room was very prettily illuminated, with G.’s arms painted on the floor, and they gave us a grand supper, so it all did very well. I wish you could have seen the dancers. A Mrs. ——, something like Mrs. Glover the actress, only much fatter, with a gown two inches shorter then her petticoat, bounding through every quadrille, with her three grown-up sons dancing round her. She is an exemplary mother, and has been a widow many years, and a grandmother many more; but she never misses a dance!
Tuesday, Nov. 14.
We did not get home last night till half-past one, and were up at seven to go on board, and we had to go smirking and smiling through all that regiment again, with all the other gentlemen to go to the boat with us; but we may have a rest to-day. It certainly is a hard-working life, is not it? I never get ‘my natural rest,’ as Dandie Dinmont says, in the steamer for noise, and on the shore for work.
I wonder how you would be in this state of life. I often try to fancy you. Sometimes I think you would be amused for about five minutes, but generally I opine you would go raving mad! I constantly long to be in an open carriage with four post-horses, along with G., and that we might drive through a pretty country, and arrive at an inn where nobody could dine with us or ask us to a ball. However, to-morrow we are to get into double state, when we reach our tents, as it is of more importance with the up-country natives; so it is of no use to think of bettering ourselves.
Camp, Benares, Wednesday, Nov. 15.
We arrived at Benares at ten, lay to all through the heat of the day, whilst the servants unloaded the flat, and then steamed up within view of the city, as far as the rajah’s country-house, Ramnuggur, and then dropped down again, thereby seeing the whole of the city. The glare was horrible, but the buildings were worth all the blindness that ensued. Such minarets and mosques, rising one above the other to an immense height; and the stone is such a beautiful colour. The ghauts covered with natives, and great white colossal figures of Vishnu lying on the steps of each ghaut. Benares is one of their most sacred places, and they seem to spare no expense in their temples. We mean to keep our steamer here, and to go out sketching in it. But it would take a whole week to draw one temple perfectly; the ghaut where we landed was as pretty a sight as any. All our elephants, two or three hundred baggage camels (they are much larger beasts to live with than I thought), bullock carts without end, and everybody loading every conveyance with everything. There are twenty shooter suwars (I have not an idea how I ought to spell those words), but they are native soldiers mounted on swift camels, very much trapped, and two of them always ride before our carriage. This looks more like the ‘land of the east,’ in all its ways, than anything we have seen.
We landed at five, and drove four miles through immense crowds and much dust to our camp. The first evening of tents, I must say, was more uncomfortable than I had ever fancied. Everybody kept saying, ‘What a magnificent camp!’ and I thought I never had seen such squalid, melancholy discomfort. G., F., and I have three private tents, and a fourth, to make up the square, for our sitting-room, and great covered passages, leading from one tent to the other.
Each tent is divided into bed-room, dressing-room, and sitting-room. They have covered us up in every direction, just as if we were native women; and, besides that, there is a wall of red cloth, eight feet high, drawn all round our enclosure, so that, even on going out of the tent, we see nothing but a crimson wall.
Inside each tent were our beds—one leaf of a dining-table and three cane chairs. Our pittarrahs and the camel-trunks were brought in; and in about half an hour the nazir came to say they must all, with our books, dressing-cases, &c., be carried off to be put under the care of a sentry, as nothing is safe in a tent from the decoits; so, if there were anything to arrange, there would be no use in arranging it, as it must all be moved at dusk. The canvas flops about, and it was very chilly in the night, though that is the only part I do not object to, as when we get our curtains that will be merely bracing; but it feels open-airish and unsafe. They say everybody begins by hating their tents and ends by loving them, but at present I am much prepossessed in favour of a house. Opposite to our private tents is the great dining-tent, and the durbar tent, which is less shut up, and will be less melancholy to live in. God bless you, dearest! When I am tired, or tented, or hot, or cold, and generally when I am in India, I have at least the comfort of always sitting down to tell you all about it, and ‘There is no harm in that,’ as the man says in ‘Zohrab.’
Camp, Benares, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 1837.
I HAVE been obliged to give up the five last days to other letters, to the manifest disadvantage of my Journal, your unspeakable loss, and my own deep regret; but what can be done? It is just possible to do all we have to do—just not impossible to write it down once, but quite impossible either to live, or to write it over again; and I have had a large packet of very old English letters since we came here, which set me off answering them.
The résumé of our proceedings, since I sent off my Journal to you last Thursday, Nov. 16, is shortly and longly this:—Friday, we went a large party to the town in carriages; when the streets grew too narrow for carriages, we got on elephants; when the elephants stuck fast, we tried tonjauns; and, when the streets contracted still further, we walked; and at last, I suppose, they came to a point, for we came back. We saw some beautiful old temples, and altogether it was a curious sight. Prout would go mad in a brown outline frenzy on the spot—the buildings are so very beautiful for his style. I forgot to mention that at half-past six on Friday morning we went to a review on horseback. Saturday, we again got up at six, and F. and I went in the open carriage to sketch a tempting mosque. At eleven we received many more visitors than the tent would hold—the aides-de-camp could hardly come in with them.
- held a durbar in the afternoon, at which seventy of the native nobility appeared. The Rajah of Benares came with a very magnificent surwarree of elephants and camels. He is immensely rich, and has succeeded an uncle who adopted him, to the great discomfiture of his father, who goes about with him in the capacity of a discontented subject. We had thirty-six people at dinner. Sunday, we went to church, and underwent the worst reading and preaching I ever heard from Mr. ——, who in general preaches to his clerk; but this time the church was very full, and the congregation were all hoping to hear a little something that might do them good from our dear Y. In the afternoon G. and I went out on an elephant, and, in an attempt to make a quiet and rural cut home, nearly drowned one of our outriding camels and his rider; so we came home, much ashamed of ourselves, by the common dusty road. Monday, we got up early, and set off at seven, to pay a visit to the old Delhi Begum. The particulars I narrated with wonderful accuracy, bordering on tediousness, to M., and I am confident you would not wish me to repeat them.
- positively declared against any more dust or any more drives, so we stuck to the tents in the afternoon. He cannot endure his tent, or the camp life altogether, and it certainly is very much opposed to all his habits of business and regularity.
On Monday evening we went to the ball again, given to us by the station. They have a theatre here, and had boarded over the pit, and by leaving some forest scenery standing on the stage, with our band playing from under the pasteboard trees, they made out a very pretty ball-room, much the best we have seen in ‘the Mofussil,’ and there were plenty of ladies, old and young, who seemed to be very glad of a dance. We got home at one.
There! W. has heard that Mr. G. has proposed. I am so glad; for Miss H. has left in England everybody that cared for her. I know that she has long liked Mr. G. I feel, too, that it is a triumph for our camp that at our very first station we should have married off our only young lady.
Yesterday we had a grand expedition, which I am going to give you and the children, once for all, at great length, and then you will for the future take it for granted that all native fêtes are much alike.
The Rajah of Benares asked us to come to his country-house, called Ramnuggur (how it is spelt, I cannot say; probably with none of those letters). It is on the other side of the Ganges. We drove down to the river-side through a dense cloud of dust. I asked one of our servants to dust me gently with my pocket-handkerchief, and without any exaggeration a thick cloud came out of my cape.
Mrs. C.’s black bonnet was of a light brown colour.
We found the rajah’s boats waiting for us—a silver armchair and footstool for his lordship in the prow, which was decorated with silvered peacocks, and a sort of red embroidered tent for ‘his women,’ where we placed ourselves, though there was another boat with two inferior silver chairs for F. and me. All these things are grandly imagined, but with the silver chairs there are boatmen in dirty liveries or no liveries at all!—and it is all discrepant, or generally so.
This rajah is immensely rich; he had a great many handsome things. I enclose a sketch to illustrate for the children ‘their dear devoted creature,’ G., first in the silver tonjaun which took him down to the boat, then in the other State silver tonjaun that took him up from the ghaut, and then a back view of him on his elephant. I often wonder whether it really can be G., the original simple, quiet one. He does it very well, but detests great part of the ceremonies, particularly embracing the rajahs!
The rajah met us at the ghaut, and we were all carried off to the elephants, and got on them to go and see his garden, though it was nearly dusk. But the first sight was very striking.
Eighteen elephants and crowds of attendants, and then crowds as far as we could see of natives, going on ‘Wah! wah! Hi Lord Sahib.’ We rode about till it was quite dark, and then the rajah proposed we should return; and when we came to the turn of the road, the whole of the village and his castle, which is an enormous building, was illuminated. Wherever there was a straight line, or a window, or an arch, there was a row of little bright lamps; every cross of the lattices in every window had its little lamp. It was the largest illumination I ever saw. We went on the elephants through the great gateway, in a Timour the Tartar fashion, into the court. Such torches and spearmen and drums and crowds, like a melodrama magnified by a solar microscope; it was the sort of scene where Ellen Tree would have snatched up a doll from under Farley’s sword, and said, ‘My boy, my boy, my rescued Agib!’ or words to that effect, while the curtain fell slowly. We got off at the door of an immense hall, a sort of court, and the rajah’s servants spread a path of scarlet and gold kincob from the door to the seat at the farthest end, for us to walk on. Considering that it is a pound a yard, and that I have been bargaining for a week for enough for a wadded douillette and was beat out of it, it was a pity to trample on it, and it led to a catastrophe, as you will see if you read on. The rajah put us three on a velvet sofa, with a gold gauze carpet before it. He sat on one side of us and his father on the other, and Mr. B. and Mr. C. on each side to interpret, and then the aides-de-camp and the other ladies; and then the nautch-girls began dancing. He had provided an immense troop of them, and they were covered with jewels and dressed in gold brocades, some purple and some red, with long floating scarfs of gold gauze. Most of them ugly, but one was I think the prettiest creature I ever saw, and the most graceful. If I have time I will send a little coloured sketch of her, just to show the effect of her dress. She and another girl danced slowly round with their full draperies floating round them, without stopping, for a quarter of an hour, during all which time they were making flowers out of some coloured scarfs they wore, and when they had finished a bunch they came and presented it to us with such graceful Eastern genuflexions. The whole thing was like a dream, it was so curious and unnatural. Then the Ranee sent for us, and F. and I set off in tonjauns for the women’s apartments, with the ladies who were with us. They carried us through a great many courts, and then the rajah gave me his cold, flabby little hand, and handed us up some narrow, dirty stairs, and came in with us behind the purdah and introduced us to the Ranee his mother, who was very splendidly dressed, and to some of his sisters, who were ugly. Then they asked us to go and see an old grandmother, and the Ranee laid hold of my hand, and one of the sisters took F., and they led us along an immense court on the roof, to the old lady, who is blind and very ill; but they had dressed her up for us, and we had to kiss her, which was not very nice. There was another immense nautch provided, which we had not time to look at. We gave our rings, and they brought the trays of presents which are usually given, a diamond ring and drops for earrings, two necklaces (very trashy), some beautiful shawls and kincobs, and some muslin; then they put immense skipping-ropes of silver braid, bigger than a common boa, round our necks, and small ones on the other ladies, and then poured attar of roses on our hands, and we left the old lady. When we came back to the Ranee’s room, she showed us her little chapel, close to her sofa, where there were quantities of horrid-looking idols—Vishnu, and so on. Several native girls were introduced to us, but only one who was pretty, and who has just been betrothed to the father of the rajah. The young Ranees, or whatever they are called, are very shy, and stand with their eyes closed, but the older ones had great fun when we were going away in pouring the attar over our gowns, and utterly spoiled mine, which was silk: next time I shall go in muslin. When we came down, the trays for G. were brought in; they covered what would be called a very large room, and some of the gold stuffs have turned out to be very beautiful. It is a stupid etiquette, that we are not to appear to see these presents. It is a tribute, and the superior is to be too grand to see what the inferior offers. When that was done, we went to the illumination, which was done on a very large scale, but not so neatly as at home; then to the boat, where the rajah accompanied us, and there was a second illumination on the river, much more beautiful than the first—and the blue lights, and the crowds, and the great pile of buildings made a grand show. We got back at eleven, very tired and starving hungry, but it was a curious sight and much to be remembered. There! now you have borne all that so well, you shall not have any more of it, though probably we shall have more than enough. The kincob catastrophe was, that some of our servants were so over-tempted by it, that without the slightest respect for time or place, the instant we had walked over it they snatched it up and carried it off. It would have been sent to them to-morrow from the rajah, but it was a shameful thing to do; and as the Government House servants fancy they may oppress any and everybody during their journeys, Captain J. assembled all who went with us, and the chief culprits were picked out and discharged. There are five victims, but luckily only one who is a very old servant. It is a great bore, as we have brought them a great way from their homes, and it is difficult to replace them here.
Mohun ke Serai.
WE made our first march. The bugle sounds at half-past five to wake us, though the camels perform that ceremony rather earlier, and we set off at six as the clock strikes, for as nobody is allowed to precede the Governor-General, it would be hard upon the camp if we were inexact. The comfort of that rule is inexpressible, as we escape all dust that way. G. and F., with Captain N. and Captain M., went in the carriage towards Chumar, and I went with Captain J., Captain D., and W. the regular route, each on our elephant half-way, and the other half on horseback.
It is very pleasant and cool at that time, really nice weather, and we had a short march—only seven miles and a half. It seems somehow wicked to move 12,000 people with their tents, elephants, camels, horses, trunks, &c., for so little, but there is no help for it. There were a great many robberies in the camp last night. Mrs. A. saw a man on his hands and knees creeping through her tent, but she called out, and he ran away without taking anything. Mr. B. says, when he and his wife were encamped last year on this spot, which is famous for thieves, they lost everything, even the shawl that was on the bed, and the clothes Mrs. B. had left out for the morning wear, and he had to sew her up in a blanket and drive her to Benares for fresh things. W. and I went out on the elephant in search of a sketch in the afternoon, and G. and F. came back to dinner very much pleased with their expedition. Those unfortunate men who were parted with yesterday have plagued my heart out all day. Of course, Captain J.’s soft heart was melted early in the morning, and he came to beg to have them back again, but he owns it was a shocking atrocity according to the customs of the country, and if we were too easy about it, of course it would be said that G. despised and affronted the native princes, and even that our servants would think so; but still it was difficult to be firm. There is something so very imploring in these people. Three times they contrived to get into my tent with their relations, and some of the old servants to help them, and they cry, and lay hold of one’s feet, and somehow it seems so odd not to forgive anybody who wishes it even less humbly than they do.
My jemadar was interpreting for them, with tears rolling down all the time, and it shocked me when he said: ‘They say that they have followed lordship and ladyship great way from their own homes; they made one fault, one very bad one, but God Almighty even forgive everybody once, else what become of us all?’ I could not help thinking of the ‘seventy times seven;’ and if we were forgiven only once, what, as he says, would become of us? However, I pacified them to a certain degree by giving them money enough to take them back to Calcutta, and explained that if it had been any offence against our customs we should have overlooked it directly, but as it was a great disrespect to one of their own princes we could not, out of regard to their own country, forgive it; and any compliment to India goes a great way. My men told me afterwards, that it was very true one native would tell the other that the rajah had been ill-treated, and that they would say this Governor lets even his servants hurt the people. W. said the Sepoys were all talking it over, and were glad the men were punished.
Tamarhabad, Friday, Nov. 24.
We marched ten miles to-day. These moves are the most amusing part of the journey; besides the odd native groups, our friends catch us up in their déshabille—Mrs. A. carrying the baby in an open carriage; Mrs. C. with hers fast asleep in a tonjaun; Miss H. on the top of an elephant, pacifying the big boy of the A.s; Captain D. riding on in a suit of dust-coloured canvas, with a coal-heaver’s hat, going as hard as he can, to see that the tent is ready for his wife; Mrs. B. carrying Mr. B.’s pet cat in her palanquin carriage, with her ayah opposite guarding the parroquet from the cat. Then Giles comes bounding by, in fact, run away with, but apologises for passing us when we arrive, by saying he was going on to take care that tea was ready for us. Then we overtake Captain D.’s dogs, all walking with red great coats on—our dogs all wear coats in the morning; then Chance’s servant stalking along, with a great stick in one hand, a shawl draped over his livery, and Chance’s nose peeping from under the shawl. F.’s pets travel in her cart. We each have a cart, but I can never find anything to put in mine. There are fakeers who always belong to a camp, and beat their drums just by the first tent, and the instant this drum is heard everybody thinks of their breakfast and hurries on; and the Sepoys and servants are so glad to get to the end of the march, that they throw the fakeer a cowrie, or some infinitely small coin, by which he lives.
Mr. A. came over yesterday evening. They brought Mr. G. as far as Chroppra, his station, and he is to follow us to Allahabad, when the wedding will take place.
Goofrein, Sunday, Nov. 26.
We came another ten miles yesterday, and always halt on Sunday. All these places are so exactly like each other—a mere sandy plain with a tank and a little mosque near at hand—that I never can make out why they have any names; there is nothing to give a name to. The Rajah of Benares marches with us till we come to his frontier, and he always encamps within half a mile of us. He expressed a wish yesterday to see our horses, so Captain M., who takes charge of the stables, went himself this morning with all the whole concern. There are sixty horses altogether in our stables—as the aides-de-camp keep theirs with ours, and the syces are all dressed alike—so it made a very good show; and there were 140 elephants. Captain M. and the rajah sat on two ivory chairs, in front of the rajah’s tent, and the horses and carriages and elephants were all led round, and he asked the name of every animal, and which each of us rode, and any that he admired he had brought round a second time. It is one of the few civilities that amuse a native, so we were glad it answered so well. Soon after the horses returned, the nazir and three or four of the native servants came into my tent in great perturbation: the rajah had sent the nazir a pair of shawls, one shawl to the elephant jemadar, and another to G.’s mahout, and 300 rupees in little bags for the syces and elephant coolies. And after the fuss that was made a few days ago, about the servants taking no presents, the nazir clearly thought he was in danger of losing his place for having one offered to him. ‘My shawls are a present, therefore, I fear,’ he said in his most timid tone. I sent for Mr. B., who said there was no doubt that, as it was a private civility from the Governor-General to the rajah, sending his own horses, &c. &c., that the servants might keep their presents. I never saw people so happy as they were. Mr. Y. read and preached so well to-day: it was the first Sunday in tents, and the largest one was very well arranged, like a chapel. We had a larger congregation than I expected, nearly sixty; amongst them some old European soldiers, who looked very respectable. It was odd and rather awful to think that sixty Christians should be worshipping God in this desert, which is not their home, and that 12,000 false worshippers should be standing round under the orders of these few Christians on every point, except the only one that is of any importance; the idolaters, too, being in their own land, and with millions within reach, who all despise and detest our faith.
Tuesday, Nov. 28.
Yesterday we made an expedition to Mirzapore, the great carpet manufactory. We left the camp at a quarter before six, by torchlight, and went nine miles across the country to Mirzapore, leaving the camp to pursue its own straight road. We found the usual assortment of magistrates, judges, collectors, &c. &c., with boats, carriages, and tonjauns: crossed the river; landed G., who went off to see the jail and manufactories. We stuck to the boat to draw a most beautiful ghaut, a mass of temples and carving. When that was done, we went to see the house of a rich native, every inch of which is painted in arabesques, all done by native artists, and very curious. Then we saw the town, and then went to the house of Mr. K., the magistrate, where there was all the society of the place—thirty gentlemen and one lady—and we got some breakfast at ten, when we were on the point of perishing. The excellent Mr. K., like an upright judge as he is, had made out a dressing-room with two sofas and books, and every comfort, for F. and me. Major L. was at luncheon: he is the man who has taken most of the Thugs, and he told me such horrid stories of them. The temple at which they dedicate themselves to the goddess of destruction is in this town. The Thugs offer human sacrifices there whenever they can procure them. We left Mirzapore at four, and overtook our camp at six. It looked pretty by torchlight. We moved on another ten miles this morning, but, where we are, I cannot precisely tell you. I think it sounds like Gugga Gange; at all events, that is as good as the real word.
Camp near Allahabad, Nov. 30, 1837.
I SENT off one journal to you two days ago from a place that, it since appears, was called Bheekee. Yesterday we started at half-past five, as it was a twelve miles’ march, and the troops complain if they do not get in before the sun grows hot, so we had half an hour’s drive in the dark, and F. rode the last half of the way. I came on in the carriage, as I did not feel well, and one is sick and chilly naturally before breakfast. Not but that I like these morning marches; the weather is so English, and feels so wholesome when one is well. The worst part of a march is the necessity of everybody, sick or well, dead or dying, pushing on with the others. Luckily there is every possible arrangement made for it. There are beds on poles for sick servants and palanquins for us, which are nothing but beds in boxes. I have lent mine to Mrs. C. G. and I went on an elephant through rather a pretty little village in the evening, and he was less bored than usual, but I never saw him hate anything so much as he does this camp life. I have long named my tent ‘Misery Hall.’ F. said it was very odd, as everybody observed her tent was like a fairy palace.
‘Mine is not exactly that,’ G. said; ‘indeed I call it Foully Palace, it is so very squalid-looking.’ He was sitting in my tent in the evening, and when the purdahs are all down, all the outlets to the tents are so alike that he could not find which crevice led to his abode; and he said at last, ‘Well! it is a hard case; they talk of the luxury in which the Governor-General travels, but I cannot even find a covered passage from Misery Hall to Foully Palace.’
This morning we are on the opposite bank of the river to Allahabad, almost a mile from it. It will take three days to pass the whole camp. Most of the horses and the body-guard are gone to-day, and have got safely over. The elephants swim for themselves, but all the camels, which amount now to about 850, have to be passed in boats: there are hundreds of horses and bullocks, and 12,000 people.
I am sure it would have done Mrs. Trimmer’s heart good to see them all on the beach this evening. I thought of her print of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea—a skimpy representation, but it was the first idea we had of that event. The picture at Stafford House enlarged my notions, and now I think I have come to the real thing, and indeed am a Red Sea Israelite myself.
Allahabad, Dec. 2.
We crossed the river at seven yesterday morning. The Ganges and Jumna join each other here, and this junction makes the water so uncommonly precious and sacred, that Hindus come here from all parts of the country on pilgrimage. The rich Hindus at a great distance buy the water, and we met strings of pilgrims yesterday carrying jars of it, with which they will travel farther south than Calcutta.
We were met at the ghaut by a large collection of residents. I hate a great station, and Allahabad has a very modern, uninteresting, sandy look about it.
Foully Palace looked particularly unhappy this morning. G.’s furniture, somehow, was deluged, and his whole stock of comfort amounted to one cane chair and a table, and he called us all in to see his eastern luxury. I handsomely offered to lend him the armchair Mr. D. gave me, and which is so continually my companion, ‘my goods, my chattels, my household stuff,’ that I had no doubt it was in ‘Misery Hall.’ I told my little ameer to give it to the Lord Sahib, but he told me afterwards, ‘Ladyship’s chair in river too, but me find arm-chair in other tent, and me put Lord Sahib in it.’ I think I see him fixing G. in his chair. Mine is quite safe, I am happy to say.
In the afternoon G. and I, and a Mr. B., rather a clever man, went to see some tombs about three miles off. You know the sort of people who have tombs worth seeing—‘Shah Houssein,’ or ‘Nour Jehan,’ or words to that effect.
However, the tombs were there, and F. and I stayed there sketching till it was quite dusk, and kept the carriage, and G. and Mr. B. and Captain M. rode home such a roundabout way that dinner was cold before they got back.