Saturday, December 20, 2008
A few months ago I acquired, quite by chance, the Madras Hunt Map of 1911 & 1913. It is a big map, some three and a half by two feet and is drawn on a generous scale of two inches to the mile. The scale is thus better than most Ordnance Survey maps issued in the UK. Being a hunt map it is mounted on linen backing and dissected, i.e cut into rectangular strips to fit the folds of the linen backing. The folded map has an integral cloth case and is thus a pocket map for use in the field.
There are some other interesting features about this map. It was printed at the Govt Survey Office, Madras, the map having been drawn by a government surveyor and issued by the Survey. It must be very unusual for a hunt club map to be officially produced in this way and the explanation must be that many senior civil servants of the Madras Government were active members of the Madras Hunt Club. Still, it shows the privilege that goes with seniority, something that is not available to low men on the totem pole. I have a good idea who in the Government got the Survey to bring out the Hunt Map, as you will see below.
Next, the map was printed in only 50 copies in each of its two editions (mine being the latter one). This is not surprising as the hunt club was exclusive and limited in its membership.
The map is printed as a helio zincograph. That is to say, it is a sort of photogravure from which a print or a lithograph is made. A faithful trace of the original map is made and the traced outline is laid on a plate of zinc on which a bed of light sensitive gelatin has been applied. When exposed to light, the gelatin beneath the blank areas of the trace will harden while remaining soft under the outlines and the text of the map. In this way an etched outline of the map is transferred to the plate which can then be made ready for inking, printing and so on. The process is a zincograph because zinc plates were preferred for this purpose as touch-ups, corrections or highlights could be easily added to the zinc plate by hand in case the image transfer or light exposure was less than perfect. And helio, of course stands for light.
Zinc plates prepared in this way are printed off as lithographs. The interesting thing, again, is that the map is a tinted lithograph or, more properly, a colour lithograph. Multiple zinc plates were prepared, one for each colour and there are at least four colours in this map, so three or four plates must have been used. And the printing has perfect register, which means that there is no overlap of one colour into the domain of another even when printing from a series of separate plates. Nothing really special about all that since many helio zincographed maps from 1850 odd were printed thus. But this map was printed in the Madras of 1911 which is what makes me swell with pride!
Madras As It Was in 1911
The really singular thing that struck me about this map was its value as a record of landscape history - the open aspect of Madras in 1911, the number of water bodies, coconut, banana and casuarina gardens and paddy fields. There were bush and bramble, woody patches, hillocks and wide open fields and that is how it came to be an ideal terrain to hunt the jackal and the silver haired fox. The map, being doubtless based on a cadastral survey, has legends for all the landmarks, water bodies, gardens and cart tracks. Many landmarks are sign posted as also long forgotten monuments and houses of people prominent then. The extent and number of water bodies in the 12 x 20 mile area of the map is remarkable for a city that is now known for its shortage of potable water.
The number of Shrotrium gramams or villages is also remarkable. The Shrotrium was a type of privileged land grant made mostly between 800 to 1500 A.D by Hindu rulers to Brahmins. Shrotrium means learned in the scriptures and Shrotrium grants of entire villages were awarded in perpetuity to the Brahmins rent free. Thus Tiruvanmiyur, Tiruvottiyur and other well known suburbs of Madras were all Shrotriums. The Madras Estates Act of 1945 did away with Shrotrium rights and the Govt resumed the lands, thus bringing to an end a thousand years and more of privileged land holdings peaceably enjoyed. Be that as it may, the Madras of 1911, with its water bodies, paddy fields and Shrotriums detailed in the map, must have been a truly pastoral country.
The Madras Hunt
The Madras Hunt is the oldest of the British Hunts in India. Says Somerset Playne in his Southern India published 1914 : "Hunting in Madras is a sport of some antiquity. No detailed records of the Madras Hunt exist prior to 1868, but the hunting of the jackal has apparently been carried on from a very remote date, the earliest record available being a letter dated 1776 from a gentleman then resident in Madras to his relatives at home on behalf of the then so called "Madras Hunting Society", asking them to try and arrange for a yearly draft of twenty couples of hounds to keep up the local pack. It may be presumed that the Madras Hunt is entitled to the distinction of being the first hunt established in India. Hounds are out two days a week and the jackal is the quarry hunted. The small Indian silver fox is occasionally found, but it usually affords little sport, as he leaves very little scent. Jackals are plentiful, and there is seldom much difficulty in finding at once, a point of some importance, as hounds throw off at daylight, about six o'clock, and hunting men have to be at their offices some four hours later. This does not leave much time, so that a quick find is indispensable.
The country hunted is not an ideal one, as it lies to the south and west of the city of Madras, and is very soft and often very false at the commencement of the season when the north-east monsoon is prevalent. The paddy fields, which are flooded with water, are deep in mire, and treacherous ground causes a lot of unseating of riders. The ground gradually dries up, until about the end of the season, February or March, it is nearly as hard as the high road, and dust is flying. It, however, usually carries a good scent, but its greatest drawback is the prickly pear, which is found nearly everywhere, and is very sore on hounds and horses. There is practically no fencing beyond an occasional "double bund". The coverts are large and very strong; almost everything that grows has thorns on it; and it is a tribute to the dash of the foxhound that he will face it at all. The "wild jack", as hunted in Madras is, contrary to usual conviction, by no means an unworthy substitute for the fox, and he usually takes a lot of bringing to hand".
In fact H.H.Dodwell in his The Nabobs of Madras, published in 1926, traces the existence of the Madras Hunt in 1751, citing a case concerning a horse that Governor Pigot rode ina "fox chase" in that year.
What Do We Know of the Madras Hunt
I am sorry to have to say that little or no archival material relating to this premier hunt club in India survives today. All the records and proceedings of the Madras Hunt Club, including much visual material, were held by the Adyar Club which, in the 60's, merged with the Madras Club. And S.Muthiah, who has been digging deep into the local history of Madras for the last two decades, tells me that the worthies directing the affairs of the Madras Club decided to junk all, I mean all, of the hunt club records and that was the end of that. I guess they decided that there was not enough room in the club library to house all the pulp fiction they were buying up. Surely this is what is meant by "exchanging a priceless heritage for a mess of potage".
At the risk of a digression and worse, of swanking online, I am tempted to quote the following passage from the Tempest because it seems relevant in context :
Which any print of goodness wilt not take,
Being capable of all ill. I pitied thee,
Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
One thing or another. When thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endowed thy purposes
With words that made them known. ....
You taught me language, and my profit on't
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!
So much for how well we learnt club traditions from the British!
So, what do we know of the Madras Hunt, besides the fact that it was the oldest British hunt in India, the only one to have a hunt map issued and the one whose papers are irretrievably lost?
The Hunt Club met twice a week in the season, which was about November to March. Whilst hounds were imported from England in the early years, they did not adjust well to the hot weather and so began a collaboration with the Ootacamund Hunt, established in 1844, and the beasts were sent off to the cooler climes of the Nilgiri hills for the summer. There were also attempts at cross breeding the English hounds with the native Poligar hounds, hardy beasts which were entirely at home in Madras conditions. I have also included above a picture of the Assembly Rooms at the Madras Race Course draawn by the Daniells in about 1790 odd. Hunt meetings of the Madras Hunt Clubinvariably started at this spot before gallivanting off in pursuit of its quarry.
Besides the jackal and the silver fox, the hunt sometimes also went after the wild boar, a more exciting and dangerous sport. I have two visuals of a Wild Boar Hunt here, the first being "Beating for A Boar" by Hnery Alken and the second, "Hog Hunting : the Find" by John Platt, neither of them being mine but filched from an online site :
We know the Madras Hunt was in existence as early as 1750 but when did it fold up? By about 1925 hunting activity was on a reduced scale, given the changing urban scape of Madras. Anyhow, of the twelve hunt clubs extant in India before partition, namely Delhi, Meerut, Nerbudda Vale, Jaora, Poona, Bombay, Bangalore, Ooty, Madras, Peshawar, Lahore and Quetta, only a few had survived by the early 1950's. These were the Bombay - Kirkee (an amalgamation of the Bombay and Poona clubs), Meerut and Ooty. So, the Madras Hunt was not one among the survivors.
So, who got the Govt of Madras to publish the hunt map? Top of my list of suspects is Sir Arthur Lawley (1860 - 1932), later 6th Baron Wenlock. He was Governor of Madras in 1906 - 11 but seems to have had a prior stint in Ootacamund as Captain Lawley of the Hussars. During this period in Ooty ( about 1891 - 95, which coincided with the Governorship of his elder brother, the 3rd Baron) he held the Mastership of the Ootacamund Hunt, which he did a lot to revive. In fact, the Wenlock Downs in Ooty, a 40 square mile area ideal for jackal hunting, is named after him. (It was said of the Wenlock Downs by Sir Frederick Price that the life of the jackal within this space is : "as that of the Grand Lama, except for the high privilege of dying in the course of nature or by the jaws of a pack of fox hounds").
I think we have established the motive and all that remains to be said is that he was Governor at the period of the crime : remember the first printing of the hunt map, it was 1911. I don't think a mere Chief Secretary to the Government, high placed though that office is in the civil service ranks, would have been able to pull it off but a Governor was quite a satrap within his province. It would have been an easy matter for Sir Arthur Lawley to have oredered the printng of the map. My case rests there.
I will be adding more visuals from my collection of field sport engravings in a post on this topic to be written by Swati. I am also hoping Swati will tell us exactly when women joined up in the meets of the Madras Hunt. It should have been post 1850 or even as late as the final decades of the 19th Century. Military men were certainly part of the hunt meets even though the civilians dominated the membership rolls. Being billeted from time to time in different parts of the country, the soldiers appear to have had membership rights to the Hunt Clubs wherever they went. Swati doesn't think so but I will let her explain why in her forthcoming post.
Enter Swati Shresth (not to Forget Nick Balmer)
Whatever I have said above was already known to me when I acquired the Madras Hunt Map. In ferreting around for more info, it was suggested to me by Theodore Baskaran, a keen wildlifer among other things and a longtime friend, that I contact Swati Shresth. When she met Baskaran a few years ago, Swati was a graduate student at Jawaharlal Nehru Univ in Delhi and working on hunting in British India. But the last five years and more she is enrolled at Duke Univ in the U.S working towards her Ph. D on Hunting in the Madras Presidency in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Just the person I needed, there could be none more qualified to report on the topic.
On e-mail contact, Swati was gracious enough to agree to do a post on the topic for me in this blog but went on to explain that she was, just then, on her way to London to look up archival material in the British Library. But so was I going to be in England at the same time and we lost no time in setting up a meeting at the library itself. I roped in Nick Balmer whose blog "Malabar Days" is one that I keenly follow. We spent an engrossing four hours on a Saturday morning at the British Library and here are a couple of pics I took of Swati and Nick :
Nick Balmer is keen as mustard about a number of things, the time his three ancestors spent in India, gunpowder, guns and hunting in British India. I always talk nineteen to the dozen on at least some of these topics, so young Swati and us fogeys had plenty to discuss. The upshot is that Nick will be providing Swati with tons of first hand, first person accounts by his ancestors on their own hunting experiences in India and Swati will be using all of that plus her own vast store of background info to write up an interesting guest post for this blog. And I will be taking the credit. Watch this space!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
No, I am not usually a very busy fellow at work, rather, I like to be on the ball and avoid the necessity to work late. But exigencies do arise and I have not been able to publish any new posts in the last four weeks or more. And there are many posts in the making, quite a few almost done. I want to be out soon with the Madras Hunt Map and then with a post on the wonderful views of the Neilgherries by Stephen Ponsonby Peacocke. Then thre is Mukund Murty returning with a Vengeance in addition to quite a few more that I have partly or mostly written.
And now I am travelling, for the next two weeks or so. Hope to catch up around or after Christmas. Meanwhile, here is a lovely litho by Stephen Peacocke, of the Bearer's Godown at the Avalanche ( a place, not a landslide) in the Neilgherry Hills of South India, drawn between 1835 - 40 and published in London 1847. One of sixteen such riveting views by this artist.
More on Peacocke and his Neilgherry views later, let me now extend to you all the compliments of the Season.
And now I am travelling, for the next two weeks or so. Hope to catch up around or after Christmas. Meanwhile, here is a lovely litho by Stephen Peacocke, of the Bearer's Godown at the Avalanche ( a place, not a landslide) in the Neilgherry Hills of South India, drawn between 1835 - 40 and published in London 1847. One of sixteen such riveting views by this artist.
More on Peacocke and his Neilgherry views later, let me now extend to you all the compliments of the Season.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I very well remember the date, it was October 1, 1996 in London.I had just stepped out of the hotel but remembered that I had left some papers behind in the room. When I ran up to the room the telephone was ringing . Could it be Christies calling so soon? The lady at the catalogue counter had promised to look for those two exhibition catalogues and get back. Yes, she had found the two catalogue I wanted – one of the recently held sale of Daniell Oils by the P&O Company and the second,relating to an earlier sale, the “Visions of India” exhibition of the Paul Walter collection. Moreover, she had found a copy of the 1995 Paul Walter sale catalogue as well.
I had appointments to keep but Christies was round the corner from my hotel. Moreover, one could keep appointments all one’s life but never again find these catalogues (there was no E-bay then, I think). So, to Christie’s I went first, thanked the lady and pocketed the catalogues. As I was leaving, she implored me, “ don’t breathe a word about the Daniell catalogue until you leave the building, there are many people wanting one and you will start a stampede”.
Later that day, I managed to pick up “Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon” by Peter Washington, a book I had been looking for, for over a year. It is the story of the Theosophical Society at Adyar in Madras, a short distance from my permanent home. Back home in Dubai, where I was living then, I looked through the catalogues at leisure. Item No. 173 in the 1995 Paul Walter catalogue had me sitting up. It was a watercolour view of Brodie Castle in Madras and the catalogue description read :
Justinian Gantz (1802 - 62)
“View of Brodie’s Castle, from Mr Hudleston’s Garden, Madras, signed and dated ‘Just Gantz, ‘52’ (lower centre) and inscribed ‘Brodie Castle from Mr Hudleston’s Garden’ (on the reverse). Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour, unframed 10 3/8 x 16 ½ inches”.
The accompanying visual in the catalogue was only printed in monochrome.
I knew the item had been sold (it was the previous year’s catalogue) but couldn’t put the picture out of my mind. Christies were good enough to put me in touch with the successful bidder but he responded with a price that was four times his winning bid, way too high compared to my budget. The only course was to wait, there was a good chance that buyers may not offer his price as the Christie’s catalogue surprisingly gave no information about the picture except what is quoted above ( I was later to find out why). A good chance but only a chance, not a certainty and I had no option except to wait in faint hope. And I could not put the drawing out of my mind.
The Gantz Trio of Madras
Now, for someone from Madras with an interest in period drawings of the city, any drawing by one of the Gantz family, father and two sons, is rather special. Madras alone of the Indian cities had this distinction that it could boast of three fine local artists in residence over a 75 year period ( roughly 1800 - 1875). John Gantz (1772 - 1853) is thought to be of Austrian extraction and he and his two sons, Justinian (1802 -62) and Julius Walter (1816 - 75), ran a lithographic press in the city besides being extremely accomplished artists. A little digging into the history of lithography in India leads me to believe that the Gantz press was the first private, i.e commercial litho press in the country.
Drawings of the Gantzes decorate many of the posts in this blog, including this one. You can judge for yourselves the quality of their output. And let me add that Justinian and Julius Walter were both christened at St Mary's, Madras (as were all the other children of John Gantz).
Our Outings on the Adyar Flats
Brodie Castle form Hudleston’s Garden ! This is a lovely Madras view very familiar to me and one associated with many a pleasant outing to the spot with my friend Shivakumar. That is another reason I hankered after this watercolour. I have enjoyed this beautiful view on many a Saturday and Sunday morning between 1989 and 92when I lived even nearer to the Theosophical Society than I do now. Here are two visuals of the front of Brodie Castle, a photograph published by the Hindu and a beautiful contemporary etching in my collection by Bruce Peck, presumably based on the photograph.
If Madras had its Gantzes in the 19th Century, it can boast of Bruce Peck in the 20th and 21st Centuries, again a distinction that few other cities can claim. I have quite a few of his beautiful views of Madras and Kodaikanal dating from 1988 to 95. I see from his website that he went to school in our South Indian hills, still visits India annually and produces landscape etchings of Madras, the Western Ghats and of Benares.
I said I lived very near the Theosophical Society (or Theo Soc, as abbreviated in my bird notes) and most Sunday mornings would find Shivakumar and self, equipped with binocs, telescope (mine) and tripod (his), trooping into its extensive estate of nearly 300 acres on the banks of the Adyar. The idea was to do a checklist of the birds in the Theo Soc gardens and in the Adyar mudflats alongside. Oftentimes we came across Radha Burnier, the Society’s handsome President, inspecting her demesne. As we loped past, we must have looked to her a most un-theosophical minded pair of fogeys, if not downright blots on the landscape.
After a quick ramble through the Society's gardens we would move on towards the south bank of the Adyar. It was a moment's work to slip through the barbed wire and on to the relatively drier mudflats of the Adyar estuary and a couple of hours could be spent watching water birds and birds of prey. Mind you, the river is tidal at his point, being less than a Kilometre from the Bay of Bengal. So, one had to be mindful of the odd sea snake as a bite by one of these babies is always fatal(that there is no anti venom for sea snake bite makes no difference as the poison is said to kill in a very few minutes). Not there had been any reported incidents in recent times, sea snakes seldom venture inshore but still : the sea snakes were around, we are not terribly adventurous types, we only wanted to record the birds, so we had to be careful.
The bird watching on the estuary was actually a couple of hours of hard grind with little or no ease, wading around in knee deep water at times, the sharp morning sun beating down on us . But we enjoyed ourselves for there were waders by the thousands and birds of prey soaring overhead, especially the magnificent White Bellied Sea Eagle and some Harriers. And the wind in the face always gave us enthusiasm for the vigil. Above all else was the view : a sheet of water with the rivermouth and the Bay of Bengal to the right, Chettinad Palace, a Rajah's palace on the north bank, shimmering in the haze. Also, an unbelievable calm in the midst of an urban setting, something one can find only on the Adyar flats, with the bridge and the traffic nearly 2 KM's to the left. George Arundale, a past president of Theo Soc who no doubt had enjoyed this view, wrote : "One touch of Adyar changes us forever ". By Adyar, he surely meant the Society but I always thought those words equally described this riverine idyll.
Looking across the river, Brodie Castle is the first landmark to the left followed, to the right, by a temple, the Chettinad Palace, the Quibble Island Cemetery and so on with the view merging inot the distant Forshore Estate, an old housing development.
The House that James Brodie Built
James Brodie was a civil servant of the East India Company in Madras from the year 1784 and was Garrison Storekeeper in about 1800. In 1796 the Company gave him a grant of 11 acres of land on the North Bank of the Adyar river on which he quickly built himself a large house. In fact, a survey of 1798 has been found with the house marked on it. Brodie is described as : "tall and slender; with a calm and placid countenance .... wore powdered hair with a queue behind, a sky blue coat, with two or three large buttons .... in the fashion of the close of 1790 - odd". He married Miss Ann Storey in 1785 and got into some trouble with the East India Company in 1800 for trading on his own account, being asked either to resign his position with the Company or to desist from such trading.
Brodie built himself a grand, classical house with a colonnaded and pedimented portico but added a medieval or Scottish touch in the form of two castellated turrets. Brodie suffered a reversal in his fortunes sometime after the construction of the house and had to let it to a succession of civil servants. He did manage to resume the property sometime before his death by drowning in 1802. Brodie was fond of boating and the house backs on to the Adyar with steps leading down to the river. Ann Brodie apparently had a dream about her husband drowning in the river and cautioned him against going to the river. But he did and was drowned in the Adyar.
The glory days of Brodie Castle were by no means over with the death of its owner. For the next 150 years it housed the senior civil servants of Madras, the property having reverted to the Company . "Brodie Castle, the most imaginative of the merchants' palaces, with its long drawing-room jutting out into the Adyar river and catching every breeze, was occupied in 1930 by Charles Cotton, then Chief Secretary to the Madras Government, who had furnished it with a fine collection of 18th Century furniture and china made in or for South India and the Daniell brothers' paintings and prints of local scenes. .... I remember well the scene one morning as the great man, a spruce little figure in his white topee, silk suit, monocle and Old Etonian tie, emerged on the steps of the portico, while his car and attendants waited below". Thus Humphrey Trevelyan in 'The India We Left'.
The building is now in use as the College of Music and is still in good overall condition, in spite of being subjected to the TLC of the state public works crew (for example, a mini temple has been installed in the main drawing room which still catches every nuance of the Adyar breeze). An entire three KM stretch of road leading up to the castle was called Brodie's Road but was renamed i the 1960's. Happily, the final short spur or home stretch of some 200 Metres leading to the building is still called Brodie Castle Street.
Hudleston's Garden from the North Bank
Hudleston's Garden is in the Theo Soc estate on the south bank of the Adyar. John Hudleston was a civil servant of the East India Company of about the same period as Brodie and it is likely they new each other.
I found this pic from a past auction listing on the Christie's site. It is a watercolour by one F.J.Delafour of a view across the Adyar which is taken from the north bank.
The Christies notes to the listing state :
"Delafour was an artist from the circle of Justinian Gantz, eldest son of John Gantz. A signed, inscribed and dated watercolour of the same subject is now in the India Office Library, see fig. 1. The inscription reads 'West View of the Adyar River from the Terrace of the Adyar Villa. Just Gantz, Madras. 1836'.
Justinian Gantz is described in the East Indian Register as a 'Miniature Painter'. He helped his father with the family's lithographic press and specialised in making drawings of the houses of his European clients.
In the early, turbulent days of Madras, the Adyar River was the scene of many violent incidents, but by the time of the present picture it had become a tranquil and elegant suburb, as indeed it remains today. At the extreme right of the picture can be seen a part of the famous Marmalong Bridge, built by an Armenian in 1726 but now replaced by a modern bridge. The bungalow seen across the river became the home of the Theosophical Society of Madras".
Christies topographic description is wrong in that the bridge at the extreme right of the drawing is not Marmalong bridge which is at least another 4 or 5 KMs to the south west on the river's winding course (and, because of many bends in the Adyar, has never been visible from this point at any time). The bridge depicted by Delafour is the Elphinstone Bridge, also called now the Adyar bridge, which was in use till 1973 and which, though unused now, still stands. The Elphinstone Bridge in the pic was built in 1840, in the Governorship of Lord Elphinstone, so the dating for the picture, 1836, is wrong. I suspec it was drawn in 1856 but that the handwritten 5 was a bad 5 and mistaken for 3.
I was dumbstruck on seeing this listing and the picture for more reasons than one but, to understand why, you must see it in its virtual full size state so let me send you to the Christies web page of the listing. You can enlarge and zoom in then.
Firstly, was Delafour just another lazy fellow who preferred to draw from the comfort of the shade, as it would seem, or was he, in fact, trying to take the view from an unusual, remarkable perspective. The vista from the set back position of the artist is neatly bisected by one of the columns of the terrace. And, moreover Delafour from this set back, has given us a wide angle view of the river,his detailing of theforeground in no way detracting from the sweep of the Adyar and the grand setting of the houses on the south bank.
Next, I realised I was probably looking at Hudleston's Garden on the far bank. It is the building on the left, the spot from which Just Gantz had drawn his view of Brodie Castle across the river. So these two watercolours could be a matching set of views across the Adyar river, one of Brodie Castle and the other of Hudleston's Garden.
I was actually in London on the 22nd May, 2008, the date of the Christies auction. It was an extended visit of 8 weeks from the middle of April, the company I work for was getting listed on the London Stock Exchange and the listing came through by the end of May. So although I knew about the auction I had no time for it, not being able to look left or right at that juncture. In any case, I would not have been able to match the winning bid and yet .... and yet .... . I eat my heart out when I think of this picture that I can not own, a companion piece to Brodie Castle. But I compliment whoever bought it because he or she had the good sense to be able to spot a remarkable drawing. I only hope the buyer knows the background and has a Madras connection.
Of the many Hudlestons who served in Madras over two centuries plus there are three from a distinguished branch who are our men. John Hudleston (1749 - 1835) entered the Madras Civil Service in 1766 and probably knew his contemporary, James Brodie. By 1782, he was Military Secretary to the Madras Government and a member of the Council by 1790. As Military Secretary, he was instrumental in negotiating a treaty of peace with Hyder Ali in the first Mysore War and retired to England around 1800, becoming a Memeber of Parliament and a Director of the East India Company. He was the one who got a grant of the 28 acre property from the Company and most likely built the house - a garden house as the English termed such houses - as the style of the building accords with that of many others built in Madras around 1800.
John's son, Josiah Andrew (1799 - 1865), also entered the Madras Civil Service and retired as Chief Collector of Madras in 1855. Josiah Hudleston was also a famous guitar musician and composer. His son, also Josiah (1826 - 92), was a Colonel in the Madras Army and probably retired in the mid to late 1870's when the house was sold to an Indian. In 1882, Col Olcott and Madam Blavatsky, the founders of Theo Soc, bought the property from one Muthiah Pillai for a down payment of Rs 1000 with a mortgage of Rs 7500 on it which they assumed. For the full story, including intimations to Madam Balvatsky from the "Master", let me send you here. For the money they paid, what the Theosophists got was about 28 acres, the main house, a tank (which was converted to a tennis court), a swimming pool, stables and two substantial out-buildings -one, a grand octagonal house which Col Olcott took for his residence, and the other, a still more spacious structure which is used as a guest house today. As you can see, the Octagon House is washing its face at the present time (and seems to need no help in this from Shivakumar or me) .
The theosophists exulted over their acquisition. Col Olcott wrote that it is "hard to imagine our pleasure in sttling in a home of our own, where we should be free from landlords, changes, and the other worries of tenancy. Our beautiful home seemed a fairy place to us". And Madam Blavatsky : "It is simply delightful. What air we have here; what nights! And what marvellous quiet! .... I am sitting quietly writing, and now and then gaze over the ocean, sparkling all over as if a living thing really .... The moon here against the deep dark blue sky seems twice as big and ten times brighter than your European mother-of-pearl ball".
I was lucky to be able to contact David Hyde, 3 x great grandson of John Hudleston, courtesy that wonder engine, the internet and by Dave's kind permission the pics of John and Josiah Andrew Hudleston are borrowed from Joan Hyde's Scrapbook. For the full fascinating history of this family's life in New Zealand,written by Dave and his twin sister Audrey, please go to Dave Hyde's site here. The Hudleston family crest has been borrowed from here. Finding in Dave Hyde a descendant of the Huddlestons of Madras made the day for me. He has plans to visit Madras in a year's time and I am looking forward to taking him round to the Theo Soc!
Reciprocal Views of Brodie & Hudleston's : A Topographic Reconstruct
I needed to wait for the monsoon to let up a bit before I could go into Theo Soc and Brodie Castle again to shoot some of the pics here and I was able to do that today (more pics hoisted on Picasa). I hauled Shivakumar, who lives right next door to Theo Soc, out of bed bright and early this A.M and we were outside Hudleston's by half past six. There were two other reasons I wanted to visit the spots : firstly I remembered that there were two other Gantz watercolours in the British Library collection and it suddenly struck me that they might be of Brodie Castle. The BL descriptions in each case simply state "A European House in Madras" etc but I went back to the site and Bingo! they are Brodie views by Just Gantz!! The first one below is a frontal view, and the third is of the house taken from Adyar mudflats, mid river (both drawn in 1841). I have interposed the other Brodie watercolour (from Hudelston's Garden) between the two for comparison.
Simple enough but, without the British Library going to the trouble and expense of hoisting all those wonderful images online, where would I be? But there was another question that was troubling me and that is with reference to the striking watercolour view by Delafour from the north bank. I was sure the building to the left of the column was Hudleston's but I had to go to the north bank of the river to make sure. And, was the view taken from Brodie's? Bingo again! First below is the pic I took today from the first floor terrace or verandah of Brodie's and below that is the Delafour again in all its glory :
There are a couple of things to be explained : firstly, you will see that I had to cheat a bit in that I took the pic from the first floor of Brodie. Given the overgrowth and the dense treeline there wa nothing for it but to go upstairs. But Delafour took his view from the ground level terrace or verandah (in his drawing, you can make out the stockade at the river bank).
Second, you will see that the hocus-pocus or superstructure in my digicam shot, additions by the Theosophists to provide rooms for Annie Besant, is missing from the Delafour view of the 1840's. But if you can visualise the pile minus the superstructure, it is Hudleston's and the angles are about right. Here is a fuller view of Hudleston's from Brodie's across the river :
So, the Gantz of Brodie from Hudleston's and the Delafour of Hudleston (from Brodie) are reciprocal pictures of the sisters facing each other across the river. Because some important people lived in the two houses : a succession of Hudlestons in the eponymous house and, in Brodie's, a succession of senior civil servants. I am trying to find out who lived in Brodie Castle in the 1840's if the Madras Archives can dig out the details for me.
And, there are three Gantz views of Brodie Castle, reflecting its importance in 19th Century Madras, and a delectable one of Hudleston's by Delafour. I am glad I own at least one of them (yes, that Brodie watercolour by Gantz was put up for auction again at Christies, I came to know of it on 1st Oct '99, exactly 3 years to the day I first learnt of its existence and mine was the winning bid at a price below my original offer to the seller!): but I know I will never get to own the two with the Brit Lib. And what makes me eat my heart out is the Delafour because another individual has it and I don't know if it will ever come up for sale and, if it does, whether or not I can afford it!!
But I console myself that the Gantz watercolour that I have is a picture that neither the BL nor the Delafour owner will get to have. And that, being a local, I have been able to figure out what neither Christies nor BL knew about the Delafour and the Gantz drawings : why, they didn't even know which buildings those were!
The Theo Soc
In a post about the two houses, something must be said about the Theo Soc which has been using Hudleston's house for its headquarters for the last 126 years. The Society may also be expected to hold the property in perpetuity. I am totally ignorant about philosophy and theosophy but I am proud of this old society which provides us so much lung space. I am very fond of George Arundale's words about the Adyar; to quote them more fully : " Adyar touches each one of us here .... .... . While we are here we are changed, little or much. When we go away, something of Adyar goes with us, for one touch of Adyar changes us forever".
The Society, in the past, had many outstanding and colourful characters associated with it : Col Henry Steel Olcott, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater, J.Krishnamurti, Rukmini Arundale. As Peter Washington demonstrates in his "Madam Blavatsky's Baboon", some were colourful rather than outstanding. There is the 'conjuring trick' phase of Madam Blavatsky's time and then there is Charles Leadbeater whose tastes, Washington reports, "ran to small boys and tapioca pudding, in that order".
Today, the Theo Soc is a highly respectable institution, almost stodgily so, a good neighbour to all of us that goes about its business quietly. Only, I suspect its memebership is not growing as it should and I am reminded of Stan Laurel's words to Oliver Hardy in the movie, Chump at Oxford : " You think they would advertise this place, to let people know it was on the map". But I am told there is a membership drive on at present.
I will always remember Col Olcott as Shivakumar and I walk about the Theo Soc's sprawling estate, watching the odd bird or the huge colony of fruit eating bats that inhabits its trees. Col Olcott's vision for the Society recalls to my mind the threnody of Mark Antony to the forum :
"Moreover he hath left you all his walks,
His private arbours and new-planted orchards,
On this side Tiber. He hath left them you
And to your heirs forever - Common Pleasure
To walk abroad and recreate yourselves".
The fruit bats, committed and resident theosophists that they are, would surely agree - even if one of them deposited a gooey heap on my sleeve this morning in token of its contempt at my puerile blog posts.
As I complete and publish this post on Diwali eve, I wish you all a Happy Diwali.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
There were three Delhi Durbars, the one of 1877, then the 1903 Curzon's Durbar and lastly the 1911 Durbar. The notable thing about them is that they were all held in Delhi. British India may have been ruled from Calcutta upto the time of the 1911 Durbar, Bombay might be Kipling's urbs prima in indis and Madras the oldest of the three Presidency cities but Delhi was rightfully the imperial city. Delhi has a three thousand year history, some of its old buildings boast of a 1200 year vintage and it was the capital of the Moghul empire. In comparison the three hundred plus years old Madras, Calcutta and Bombay are mere upstarts.
The first two Durbars were not graced by the presence of the Sovereign but King George V and Queen Mary were present at the 1911 Durbar. The absence of the Sovereign notwithstanding, Curzon's Durbar seems to have been the grandest, the most colourful and entertaining, not to mention widely acclaimed.
The British considered a Durbar a distinctly Indian idea, exemplifying the Indian love of fanfare and ceremonial. In fact, a Durbar is no different from a Coronation or Investiture and such ceremonies are universal. For who in the world does not like a little tamasha or fanfare and ceremony with a free banquet or two thrown in. Durbars in India were traditionally held to celebrate the accession to the throne of a King or the marriage of a Prince and similar milestones. So, the 1903Durbar, held on New Year's Day, was to proclaim the accession of King Edward VII. It was intended both as a celebration and as a reinforcement of the idea of Empire and of India's place in it. We kick off with a watercolour, of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and the Curzons astride their respective elephants, by Sheldon Williams :
Th e moving spirit behind the 1903 Durbar was the Baron Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy between 1898 - 1905. What makes Curzon's Durbar so interesting, apart from its colourful and grand pageantry, is the personality of Curzon himself. And then there is the pictorial record of the proceedings left for us by the artist Mortimer Menpes.
Curzon loved any form of public display of imperial power. Having initiated the Victoria Memorial project in Calcutta, he was not one to let go of the opportunity to grandstand once again by staging a Durbar. Extremely able and scrupulously fair minded, Curzon's chief shortcoming was to consider as a personal affront, any criticism, modification or veto of his proposals by his superiors.
So, the undercurrents were there from the beginning, two of which involved the India Office and the British Cabinet. And the third notable cause of aggravation was Curzon's handling of the 9th Lancers, a British regiment then stationed in India.
The India Office
The India Office in London had always been a body for the status quo insofar as management of Indian affairs was concerned. The Secretary of State for India was a minister in council, just as the Viceroy in India was a proconsul in council.
And the council of the India Office was made up of retired Indian Civil Service officers. They had served out their time in India, retired as Governors or Lieutenant Governors or as members of the Viceroy's council and the India Office appointments were sinecures for just such loyal and senior retired civil servants. John Maynard Keynes, the economist, worked for the India Office at the beginning of his career (1905) and left in disgust after about a year. Keynes described the functioning of the India Office council as "government by dotardry", observing of its members that "a little over half showed manifest signs of senile decay and the rest did not speak".
The British cabinet was little better. Arthur James (Bob's your Uncle) Balfour had just become Prime Minister.As Curzon watched in amazement, Balfour populated the cabinet with his cronies and schoolchums. While some of them were able men many, like St John Brodrick, were completely out of their depths in the cabinet roles they were given. Curzon knew many of the ministers, inluding Balfour, Brodrick and Lord George Hamilton at the India Office, intimately.
Curzon & the Cabinet Lock Horns
The bone of contention was firstly about a party given at the India Office to the Indian Princes or, more properly, Maharajahs who had attended the 1902 convocation of King Edward. The dotardry of the India Office council decided that the cost of this reception, about Sterling 7000, should be paid by India. Curzon protested : India had contributed handsomely towards the just concluded Boer war, the expenses of the Duke of Connaught's attendance at the Durbar were to be paid by India; so, why could the British Treasury not pay for the reception of the Maharajahs instead of foisting the charge on India?
Curzon had in mind that the Indian press, both English and vernacular, was voluble and alert to such iniquities. The Congress party could, moreover, make political capital out of such a decision. But, above all else, the Viceroy was being totally fair in insisting that India alone, of the colonies, should not be discriminated against in this way.
This protest by Curzon ruffled feathers at the India Office. The normally gentle and placid Lord George Hamilton, cabinet minister for India, took the knuckleduster out. He did not want the Viceroy's protest to go forward to the cabinet and asked that Curzon withdraw his letter. Hamilton wrote to Curzon : " the Secretary of State in Council, who has, by law, exclusive control of Indian revenues, decided, after full consideration .... ...., to incur this charge ....in my judgement the expenditure on the Delhi Durbar and the cost of the India Office ceremony stand or fall together. The greater cannot be justified by impugning the lesser. I have sanctioned both and am ready to defend both". Impugning the lesser - these guys certainly knew how to write a letter!
Curzon refused to back down. The Viceroy's council supported him fully and he wrote back that he was not questioning the authority of the Secretary of State but the fairness of asking India to pay for the entertainment, by the British government, of the Princes in London . Since the expenses of the Duke's Durbar visit would be paid by India, the inequity would be noticed and viewed unfavourably by the Indian press and nationalist circles. The protest now had to be put forward to the cabinet who were unhappy to be pressured in this way by the Viceroy. But there were no logical grounds for turning down Curzon's demand; there simply was no case for the entertainment of the Maharajahs to be passed to India. Curzon won the battle but surely lost goodwill with the cabinet.
A second run in with the cabinet was over the announcement of a fiscal relief as customary in India on the occasion of a Durbar. Curzon wanted to announce a reduction in the tax on salt. The worthies in the India Office demurred insisting that such a measure would be associated with the Sovereign as, after all, the Durbar was in his honour.
Being people who lived by precedent,they were naturally against the creation of a new one. More wrangling and acrimony with the cabinet resulted before a compromise was reached and it was agreed that Curzon, as head of government in India and without taking the King's name, would announce a promise of early fiscal relief.
The 9th Lancers
There was also the incident of the 9th Lancers : two of its soldiers had clubbed an Indian cook to death and the victim had identified them before dying. There were also some other witnesses but the matter was hushed up by the regiment without even a court martial. Curzon was livid when word of the incident reached him and wanted the culprits to be brought to book. Some 84 Indian menials, cooks, batmen etc, had been killed in this way in the previous 20 years by the British other ranks and only two of the culprits had been sentenced. Curzon, understandably, was outraged and demanded exemplary punishment.
But the regiment closed ranks and the chief of the local command, Gen Sir Bindon Blood, supported them.
In the face of this bland insistence that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, the Commander in Chief and Curzon decided to withdraw leave privileges for the entire unit for a six month period, sufficient stricture and indictment for such a proud regiment.(Curzon minuted : " if it be said that dirty linen should not be washed in public, I say'let there be no dirty linen to wash' ".) Because the 9th Lancers was a socially well connected regiment Curzon became unpopular with influential circles in England. It was also at about this time that the scheming and self seeking Kitchener was appointed, at Curzon's request, commander in chief of the army in India. From the outset, Kitchener began fishing in troubled waters and an incident like this was right up his street. He had influential connections back home and spread much calumny about Curzon's treatment of the Lancers.
It was put to Curzon that, given this background, the 9th Lancers need not be part of the review at the Durbar. But Curzon, ever magnanimous, would have none of it believing that the regiment should not be disgraced in that way.
The Coronation (aka Curzonation) Durbar
There were two weeks of festivities, parades, firework displays, banquets and balls centered around the New Yaer's Day Durbar. Curzon personally planned and oversaw the arrangements which included the rigging up of a temporary city : electric lighting, telephony, a light railway, medical services were all provided. There were luxurious, colourful tents and Maharajahs by the drove complete with retainers and campfollowers.
All this in addition to the Duke's party and the British civilians and army officers and their families, the British, Indian and Princely states regiments, elephants, camels, dancers and so on, not to mention the amorphous Indian public which was known to love a grand spectacle.
There were exhibitions of the finest handicrafts from all parts of India, sales of which actually helped recoup a good deal of the expenses of the Durbar. Modern marketing and sponsorship also arrived in India with British companies paying for the right to be the official travel agents, tent suppliers or beverage dispensers.
But I was not there and I had better let Mortimer Menpes bring you the colour and appeal of the Durbar through his eloquent pictorial record. But one incident I must mention is the one about the fox terrier which took it into its head to take centre-stage in the proceedings. On Durbar Day proper, January 1st 1903, the little fellow became so excited as the elephant mounted Curzons rode into the Durbar arena that he cut across to the dais and sat on the Viceroy's throne, barking excitedly.
But a lesser man than Curzon would have faced a greater embarrassment when the 9th Lancers marched past. In the words of Mortimer and Dorothy Menpes : "Just before the 9th Lancers passed, the atmosphere was electric. As the regiment came into view the whole stand rose and cheered itself hoarse; women waved their handkerchiefs .... men flourished their sticks and shouted bravados. .... There is no doubt about it : the fact of the Viceroy's guests standing up and cheering showed exceedingly little tact. .... this was hardly a fitting moment to give vent to their feelings. It was a distinct stab at the Viceroy .... He did what from his standpoint he knew to be absolutely right. For his own guests to choose that moment to insult him seemed hard and ungenerous". Let me add that Curzon had spent Sterling 3000 of his personal money to host these low people at the Durbar.
Menpes (1855 - 1938) was born in Australia, came to England when about 20 and apprenticed under James Mcneill Whistler the famous American artist who lived in England then. Menpes seems to have been a man of many parts, wrestler, cook, crack pistol shot and interior decorator besides being a highly rated artist and portrait painter. He became prosperous through his art, much of which was published in illustrated book form by A &C Black in London with text by his daughter Dorothy, and from fruit and carnation farming. Menpes also drew some criticism for not being able to draw except from photographs. This is patently untrue or at best true only so far as it goes in that he also sometimes drew from photos. A look at the chromolithographs and portraits in this post will show that at least some of them are based on photogravure. But a look at the Balfour portrait will suffice to understand that Menpes could draw freehand with ease and great skill. He was a truly outstanding artist of his time and was also one of the most innovative in that he also did draw from photographs besides being a highly proficiente etcher and engraver as well as lithographer. Menpes had his own printing press in London which produced all the prints for his illustrated books.
Menpes and Dorothy came out to India for the Durbar of 1903 and the book The Durbar, published by A & C Black, followed later that year with text by Dorothy and a hundred chromolithographs by Mortimer Menpes.
The plates were produced in the Menpes Press under the personal supervision of the artist. Menpes's Durbar drawings are perhaps one of the last instances of the handmade print or engraving making a brave last stand against the advent of photography and photo offset. Menpes is on record about his Durbar and other Indian drawings : "his wish was to capture the brilliancy of Indian sunlight, the dazzling luminosity of atmospheric effects, rather than to make studies of local colour and native types". Judge for yourselves how well he succeeded.
My favourite is this one, titled 'After the Show', a common enough scene even today in our villages and cities. It is night time and the only thing missing from the picture is the chillum pipe but one can imagine that for oneself. The conclave is evidently taking place after dinner and this is where Kipling comes in :
In a turquoise twilight, crisp and chill,
A kafila camped at the foot of the hill.
Then blue smoke-haze of the cooking rose,
And tent-peg answered to hammer-nose;
.... .... ....
The lid of the flesh-pot chattered high,
The knives were whetted and -- then came I
To Mahbub Ali, the muleteer,
Patching his bridles and counting his gear,
Crammed with the gossip of half a year.
But Mahbub Ali the kindly said,
"Better is speech when the belly is fed."
So we plunged the hand to the mid-wrist deep
In a cinnamon stew of the fat-tailed sheep,
And he who never hath tasted the food,
By Allah! he knoweth not bad from good.
We cleansed our beards of the mutton-grease,
We lay on the mats and were filled with peace,
And the talk slid north, and the talk slid south,
With the sliding puffs from the hookah-mouth.
I bought my copy of Durbar sometime ago for well under a hundred dollars. I see copies now offered online for prices ranging from $ 500 to 2000 but there are still a very few going at about a hundred bucks. If you wish to own a copy, let me send you here to access the online version and you can decide then.
I have included a selection my favourite Durbar views of Menpes but there are more online : evocative of early 2oth Century India with a feel and immediacy for the costumes, the "brilliancy" of the dazzling Indian light, the colour and the splendid animals. There is also the ugly bear portrait of Kitchener, probably cheering the loudest when the 9th Lancers gave the eyes right to Curzon.
But this post is as much to bring to attention the highminded and fair character of Curzon, possibly the best of our Viceroys, as it is to display the images of the Durbar that Menpes has given us. The Viceroy made sure that over three hundred veterans of the Mutiny were invited to the Durbar and honoured. One of them, long bearded with sword in hand, is shown above. Menpes gave the fanciful title "Akalis Fanatical Devotee" to the picture but he is no fanatic and what is more, a brave veteran of the Mutiny who fought loyally for his British masters.
I have used throughout the pics of Menpes online at the internet archives, not wishing to break up my precious copy. In the hand the pics look even grander since the touch and feel and 'see with the real eye' are everything when it comes to colour visuals.
The Durbar excited the popular imagination in England but the incomparable Saki (H.H.Munro) brought to the proceedings his own uniquely lopsided view which is all about the Durbar and also really nothing to do with it at all. Can not resist including, as a tailpiece, this story by one of my favourite authors. Enjoy!!
Clovis sat in the hottest zone but two of a Turkish bath, alternately inert in statuesque contemplation and rapidly manoeuvring a fountain-pen over the pages of a note-book.
``Don't interrupt me with your childish prattle,'' he observed to Bertie van Tahn, who had slung himself languidly into a neighbouring chair and looked conversationally inclined; ``I'm writing death-less verse.''
Bertie looked interested.
``I say, what a boon you would be to portrait painters if you really got to be notorious as a poetry writer. If they couldn't get your likeness hung in the Academy as `Clovis Sangrail, Esq., at work on his latest poem,' they could slip you in as a Study of the Nude or Orpheus descending into Jermyn Street. They always complain that modern dress handicaps them, whereas a towel and a fountain-pen---''
``It was Mrs. Packletide's suggestion that I should write this thing,'' said Clovis, ignoring the bypaths to fame that Bertie van Tahn was pointing out to him. ``You see, Loona Bimberton had a Coronation Ode accepted by the New Infancy, a paper that has been started with the idea of making the New Age seem elder and hidebound. `So clever of you, dear Loona,' the Packletide remarked when she had read it; `of course, any one could write a Coronation Ode, but no one else would have thought of doing it.' Loona protested that these things were extremely difficult to do, and gave us to understand that they were more or less the province of a gifted few. Now the Packletide has been rather decent to me in many ways, a sort of financial ambulance, you know, that carries you off the field when you're hard hit, which is a frequent occurrence with me, and I've no use whatever for Loona Bimberton, so I chipped in and said I could turn out that sort of stuff by the square yard if I gave my mind to it. Loona said I couldn't, and we got bets on, and between you and me I think the money's fairly safe. Of course, one of the conditions of the wager is that the thing has to be published in something or other, local newspapers barred; but Mrs. Packletide has endeared herself by many little acts of thoughtfulness to the editor of the Smoky Chimney, so if I can hammer out anything at all approaching the level of the usual Ode output we ought to be all right. So far I'm getting along so comfortably that I begin to be afraid that I must be one of the gifted few.''
``It's rather late in the day for a Coronation Ode, isn't it?'' said Bertie.
``Of course,'' said Clovis; ``this is going to be a Durbar Recessional, the sort of thing that you can keep by you for all time if you want to.''
``Now I understand your choice of a place to write it in,'' said Bertie van Tahn, with the air of one who has suddenly unravelled a hitherto obscure problem; ``you want to get the local temperature.''
``I came here to get freedom from the inane interruptions of the mentally deficient,'' said Clovis, ``but it seems I asked too much of fate.''
Bertie van Tahn prepared to use his towel as a weapon of precision, but reflecting that he had a good deal of unprotected coast-line himself, and that Clovis was equipped with a fountain-pen as well as a towel, he relapsed pacifically into the depths of his chair.
``May one hear extracts from the immortal work?'' he asked. ``I promise that nothing that I hear now shall prejudice me against borrowing a copy of the Smoky Chimney at the right moment.''
``It's rather like casting pearls into a trough,'' remarked Clovis pleasantly, ``but I don't mind reading you bits of it. It begins with a general dispersal of the Durbar participants:
`` `Back to their homes in Himalayan heights
The stale pale elephants of Cutch Behar
Roll like great galleons on a tideless sea---' ''
``I don't believe Cutch Behar is anywhere near the Himalayan region,'' interrupted Bertie. ``You ought to have an atlas on hand when you do this sort of thing; and why stale and pale?''
``After the late hours and the excitement, of course,'' said Clovis; ``and I said their homes were in the Himalayas. You can have Himalayan elephants in Cutch Behar, I suppose, just as you have Irish-bred horses running at Ascot.''
``You said they were going back to the Himalayas,'' objected Bertie.
``Well, they would naturally be sent home to recuperate. It's the usual thing out there to turn elephants loose in the hills, just as we put horses out to grass in this country.''
Clovis could at least flatter himself that he had infused some of the reckless splendour of the East into his mendacity.
``Is it all going to be in blank verse?'' asked the critic.
``Of course not; `Durbar' comes at the end of the fourth line.''
``That seems so cowardly; however, it explains why you pitched on Cutch Behar.''
``There is more connection between geographical place-names and poetical inspiration than is generally recognized; one of the chief reasons why there are so few really great poems about Russia in our language is that you can't possibly get a rhyme to names like Smolensk and Tobolsk and Minsk.''
Clovis spoke with the authority of one who has tried.
``Of course, you could rhyme Omsk with Tomsk,'' he continued; ``in fact, they seem to be there for that purpose, but the public wouldn't stand that sort of thing indefinitely.''
``The public will stand a good deal,'' said Bertie malevolently, ``and so small a proportion of it knows Russian that you could always have an explanatory footnote asserting that the last three letters in Smolensk are not pronounced. It's quite as believable as your statement about putting elephants out to grass in the Himalayan range.''
``I've got rather a nice bit,'' resumed Clovis with unruffled serenity, ``giving an evening scene on the outskirts of a jungle village:
`` `Where the coiled cobra in the gloaming gloats,
And prowling panthers stalk the wary goats.' ''
``There is practically no gloaming in tropical countries,'' said Bertie indulgently; ``but I like the masterly reticence with which you treat the cobra's motive for gloating. The unknown is proverbially the uncanny. I can picture nervous readers of the Smoky Chimney keeping the light turned on in their bedrooms all night out of sheer sickening uncertainty as to what the cobra might have been gloating about.''
``Cobras gloat naturally,'' said Clovis, ``just as wolves are always ravening from mere force of habit, even after they've hopelessly overeaten themselves. I've got a fine bit of colour painting later on,'' he added, ``where I describe the dawn coming up over the Brahmaputra river:
`` `The amber dawn-drenched East with sun-shafts kissed,
Stained sanguine apricot and amethyst,
O'er the washed emerald of the mango groves
Hangs in a mist of opalescent mauves,
While painted parrot-flights impinge the haze
With scarlet, chalcedon and chrysoprase.'' '
``I've never seen the dawn come up over the Brahmaputra river,'' said Bertie, ``so I can't say if it's a good description of the event, but it sounds more like an account of an extensive jewel robbery. Anyhow, the parrots give a good useful touch of local colour. I suppose you've introduced some tigers into the scenery? An Indian landscape would have rather a bare, unfinished look without a tiger or two in the middle distance.''
``I've got a hen-tiger somewhere in the poem,'' said Clovis, hunting through his notes. ``Here she is:
`` `The tawny tigress 'mid the tangled teak
Drags to her purring cubs' enraptured ears
The harsh death-rattle in the pea-fowl's beak,
A jungle lullaby of blood and tears.' ''
Bertie van Tahn rose hurriedly from his recumbent position and made for the glass door leading into the next compartment.
``I think your idea of home life in the jungle is perfectly horrid,'' he said. ``The cobra was sinister enough, but the improvised rattle in the tiger-nursery is the limit. If you're going to make me turn hot and cold all over I may as well go into the steam room at once.''
``Just listen to this line,'' said Clovis; ``it would make the reputation of any ordinary poet:
`` `and overhead
The pendulum-patient Punkah, parent of stillborn breeze.' ''
``Most of your readers will think `punkah' is a kind of iced drink or half-time at polo,'' said Bertie, and disappeared into the steam.
The Smoky Chimney duly published the ``Recessional,'' but it proved to be its swan song, for the paper never attained to another issue.
Loona Bimberton gave up her intention of attending the Durbar and went into a nursing-home on the Sussex Downs. Nervous breakdown after a particularly strenuous season was the usually accepted explanation, but there are three or four people who know that she never really recovered from the dawn breaking over the Brahmaputra river.