Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Many-tinted, Radiant Aurora : George Chinnery's Kitty Kirkpatrick

I still rue the wanton passing up of a print after George Chinnery when, about 12 years back, I came across it in a print shop in London's Holland Park - Bernard Shapero.It had a crease down the middle and I stupidly passed up what should have been for me, a Madrasi, a priceless drawing that the shop wanted only fifty quid for. The shop has since moved to, I think, George Street W. 1, but the print after George Chinnery (1774 - 1852) is no longer to be had. A fortuitous discovery on the internet, perhaps E-bay, or in some print dealer's store is the only hope. That is fine by me, there's hope in this world and them as wants things gets to have things. But I kick myself for my lapse at that moment of truth in 1995 - will it ever come again?

This is the print, a mere etching, of Fort St George, Madras, by the sea. And, seeing it, you may well think it is nothing but a simple sketch with a few casual strokes of the pen But that is exactly what is special about George Chinnery - a few deft strokes of the brush or pen and he has left behind behind many a timeless image and compelling portrayal, celebrations of the ordinary and the everyday.
Now, there is the stupendous British Library collection (for which, read India Office) of over 14000 images of India, mostly prints and watercolours and more than a few stunning photographs : http://www.collectbritain.co.uk/personalisation/object.cfm?uid=019WDZ000000147U00000000&largeimage=1#largeimage . Here is what the British Library subtext has to say about a similar image :

"Madras, situated on the south-east coast of India, receives a double monsoon from the east between July and September and from the west between October and December. When Fort St George was established as the earliest fortified settlement of the East India Company in 1640 it was completely unprotected from the sea until the construction of a protected harbour in the late 19th century; ships had to anchor in the roads and land their passengers and cargoes by means of small boats. Simple wooden boats called masula were used to transport people and goods through the heavy surf and then boatsmen would carry the passengers ashore on their shoulders". (The provenance of this drawing in the British Library collection adds an interesting little tail piece to this post but we first need to wind our way through this story before we get there).



A more graphic description from a contemporaneous account, a period piece as it were. I wish I could remember the name of the book in Googlebooks I copied it from, but here it is :
"Madras has no harbour, and vessels of heavy burthen are obliged to moor in the roads -about two miles from the fort. A strong current runs along the coast, and a tremendous surf breaks on the shore, rendering it difficult to land even in the calmest weather. In crossing this surf the natives use boats of a peculiar construction, built of very thin planks laced together, and made as pliable as possible. The boats from the vessels often row to the outside of the surf, and wait for the masulah (or native boats) to take the passengers on shore. Fishermen, and others of the lower class employed on the water, frequently use a simple kind of conveyance for passing the surf, called a "catamaran," which they resort to when the sea is too rough for the masulah boats to venture out. These substitutes are formed of two or three logs of wood about ten feet long, lashed together, with a piece of wood between them to serve as a helm. Sitting astride this unique barque, two men, armed with paddles, launch themselves upon the surf to fish, or to convey messages to and from the ships in the roads, when no other means of communication is available. The Madras boatmen are expert swimmers; and when, as is frequently the case, they are washed from the catamaran by the force of the surging waves, they make no difficulty in regaining their perilous seats, and proceeding on their mission".

Forget graphic descriptions, here are a couple of true to life portrayals of the scene, engravings of 1856 by Charles Hunt after Sir James Buller East. These at least, I am happy to say, are not filched from any website but are beautiful, large aquatints in my possession : This one is "Madras Landing " and it has the added merit of a partial view of Bentick's Building named after Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, a Governor of Madras, that was sadly knocked down in 1989. Note the busy scene, the Mussoolah boats, the palanquin, the hand drawn rickshaw and Fort St George in the distance, Union Jack hoisted and with the steeple of St Mary's Church visible. St Mary's, consecrated in 1680, is the oldest Protestant church in India and it is where Robert Clive was married. And one of the principal characters in this post, James Achilles Kirkpatrick, was christened in this church.

And this one here is its companion piece, " Madras Embarking " : You can see the surf breaking on what is now the Tsunami coast and the scene portrayed by Chinnery, the boats and the boatmen but not the landing or embarking, is commonplace even today.

But we digress and are nearly forgetting George Chinnery. Very few of his Indian drawings were made into prints, I can not recall any other except some portraits. All the same he was the leading artist of his time in India and notable followers of the Chinnery school include Sir Charles D'Oyly, Bart, who served in India around the same period. George Chinnery was born in London 1774, proceeded to India in 1802, where he remained until 1825, when he sailed for Macao and lived there until his death in 1852. Why he chose to remain in the East when he could have earned greater fame and recognition in England is not entirely clear.

There is an excellent biography of Chinnery by Patrick Conner (George Chinnery, Artist of India & the China Coast) which makes a convincing case as to the reasons for this self imposed exile. Conner suggests that Chinnery was a proud and independent spirit with all the waywardness of genius - he surely would not have had the attitude of mind or the disposition to succeed in the England of his time in which the power of patronage could make or break artistic reputations. That he was more or less continuously in debt when in the East did not help matters either, nor the irascible temper he was reputed to have had. All this is clear from one of his self-portraits (accessible on the Courtauld Gllery site : http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk/search/results.html?n=11&_creators=ULAN12347&display=Chinnery%2c+George&ixsid=262OMBBxf1Y ). (The portrait in progress on the easel is of Sir Jamsetji Jeejibhoy, a Parsi philanthropist of India).

Note the belligerence and the hint of menace in the appraising stare, the petulant lips and in your face demeanour and all is clear. This man was not one to curry favour with patrons - not one, perhaps, with the social skills necessary for success in the England of his day, not a man to suffer fools gladly. That he had ample measure of success, at least in India is clear. He excelled in landscapes, portraiture and in court or durbar scenes. One durbar scene that didn't come off but, if it had, would have been an outstanding example of the genre is the one below (taken from the British Library collection). It didn't come off in that it was the working sketch from which a fullblown watercolour, or an oil perhaps, was to be made but I guess he probably couldn't agree terms with the patron or sponsor.


It has all the makings of a great durbar scene - the Nawab of the Carnatic, Azim ud Dowla seated on his throne, Arthur Wellesley, who was in Madras awaiting embarkation back to England, with outstretched arms and, behind Wellesley, Lord William Bentinck, Governor of Madras. By this time the Nawab was reduced to being a titular one, the British having, by a proclamation, annexed the Carnatic in 1801. But the pomp and circumstance and the praetorian guard, so to speak, are very much in evidence.

Here is the British Library's subtext for the scene :
"Pencil, pen-and-ink and water-colour drawing by George Chinnery (1774-1852) showing Major-General the Hon. Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) being received in durbar at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, by the Nawab 'Azim al-Daula of the Carnatic, 18th February 1805. Wellesley is being introduced by a languid Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, the Governor of Madras, both figures standing in front of the Nawab seated on his 'masnad,' while sitting on a sofa behind are Admiral Peter Rainier, Commander of the fleet in the East Indies, and General Sir John Caradoc, Commander-in-Chief Madras. Various wives are seated nearby, and other officers and officials of the court stand around. Inscribed in the artist's hand in ink on the drawing: 'Feby. 18, 1805'; and in pencil on the mount: 'A durbar at Madras.' And in William Prinsep's hand: 'By Chinnery.'

The subject is the original composition for a grand historical painting which Chinnery never seems to have begun. The inscribed date indicates that he was an eye-witness to the event. Caradoc had brought out to Madras a letter of congratulation from George III to the Nawab on his ascending the 'masnad' in 1801, an empty honour as the Company had stripped the new Nawab of all power. Chinnery, however, ignores the official occasion for the durbar and presciently concentrates on Wellesley, whose glittering career in India was about to end. Wellesley had arrived in Calcutta with his regiment the 33rd Foot in February 1797, had been given the command of the Nizam's forces in the Fourth Mysore War, and had been in charge of the reserve during the attack on Seringapatam in 1799. He was placed in charge of the captured city and restored it to order. In 1802 with the outbreak of the Maratha War he commanded the Army of the Deccan, and had recently won two of his greatest battles at Assaye and Argaum in 1803, which broke the Maratha power in the Deccan, and had concluded peace treaties leading to great cessions of territory to the Company. His award of the K.C.B arrived at Madras in March 1805. Having declined the Commander-in-Chiefship of Bombay, he had just decided at the time of this drawing to return to England, which he did the following month in Admiral Rainier's flagship. The drawing is possibly one of those which, as William Prinsep relates in his memoirs (Mss Eur D1160, pp. 352-3), Chinnery had left behind in 1825 when he ran away to China. Prinsep and a group of friends had rescued Chinnery from his period of enforced exile at Serampore in fear of his creditors: 'When he ran away to China we found ourselves joint losers of more than 30000Rs. and the public pictures were most of them never painted at all. I found a message left for me that I might realise if I would a few half finished portraits which the badness of his health rendered it impossible for him to do more to. By an accident I found that he had placed his most valuable sketchbooks in the hands of a Frenchman of the name of L'Emarque from whom I easily procured them upon explanation of the circumstances. Chinnery was told they would be sold by auction if he did not redeem them himself which he never did, but circulated a story in China, which of course was run behind, that I had stolen them from him. The sum they and the few pictures alluded to produced was a mere trifle."

Which meander brings us, at last, to what this Chinnery post is all about : Kitty or Katherine Aurora Kirkpatrick, which was her full maiden name. Her father, James Achilles Kirkpatrick (1764 - 1805), was an East India Company adventurer who became British Resident, or a sort of minder if not trainer and tamer, appointed by the Company to the Court of the Nizam of Hyderabad. He had secured appointment as translator to the Nizam, being skilled in languages. His elder brother, William, was at the time Resident to the Nizam but James's subsequent elevation to the post was not a case of "Bob is your uncle". James Kirkpatrick, educated in Eton among other schools, had the ability as well as savvy, dash and flamboyance to sufficiently impress his superiors to be appointed the Resident at the comparatively early age of thirtythree. One of his first tasks, on securing the appointment, was to proceed to build a stately Residency at Hydearabad. It is said that when the plan was submitted for approval the Nizam, not used to western scale plans, refused the request for the 60 - acre site as it seemed to him that the Resident was trying to appropriate a vast area of the Nizamate under the pretext of building a house for himself. Kirkpatrick then had the identical plan redrawn on a much smaller scale, not much larger than a postage stamp, and the request was approved! Here is a hand-colourred engraving of the Residency, from my own collection :

The house was designed and supervised by Lt Samuel Russell of the Madras Engineers, the son of the Royal Academician John Russell. A Palladian style house paid for by the Nizam, it bore a slight resemblance to Gov General Wellesley's then newly finished Govt House, Calcutta. The Nizam might have paid for it but the architecture and scale of the house, as conceived and built by Russell, was a form of deliberate grand-standing calculated to impress and to express manifestly the power and hegemony of the British in India. That is the popular 'construct' of Philip Davies and other architectural historians and it seems to me an entirely valid one.

Not quite the modest residence the Nizam must have thought he was approving the second time round but that is our James Achilles, he knew the mind of his potentate well enough. Kirkpatrick went on to marry the high born Khair-un-Nissa ("the incomparably beautiful"), a niece of the Vizier to the Nizam, in a marriage celebrated in Indian romance. Khair-un-Nissa, a young girl of fourteen in purdah, saw Kirkpatrick in the court and fell in love. Though confined to the zenana or ladies' quarter, she managed to evade the confinement one evening and presented herself before Kirkpatrick and pleaded her love . In a self-justificatory letter to his elder brother William, Military Secretary to the Governor General at Calcutta,Kirkpatrick (then 36 years old) wrote : "I, who was but ill-qualified for this task, attempted to argue this romantic creature out of a passion which I could not, I confess, help feeling myself something more than pity for. She declared to me again and again that her affections had been irretrievably fixed on me for a series of time, hat her fate was linked to mine .... ".


The marriage duly followed, the Nizam made Kirkpatrick his adopted son and elevated him to the ranks of nobility that went with such a relationship. Thus did the parvenu upstart make good in the cultured Hyderabad society of the times though this indiscretion was to get him in trouble with Company officialdom. British attitudes had changed by then and mixed marriages were no longer to be countenanced. But, ever the arch survivor, Kirkpatrick managed, with not a little support from the Nizam, to fend off the onslaught,the charges of corruption,of giving up his religion for Islam (which he did do) and moves of supercession and remain in office.

Khair-un-Nissa remained in purdah and a zenana was buil for her in the Residency grounds. As she never left her quarters, Kirkpatrick built for her a model of the Residency in the Zenana precincts (this model was damaged in a storm in about 1980). It would seem she never got to see the splendour of the Rseidency and its sta
ly interiors. There were two children of this marriage, William and his younger sister Kitty or Katherine Aurora. They were actually christened Sahib Alam and Sahiba Begum respectively and the English names were first used only when the children's passage to England was booked in 1805.I think the children, upto the time of their departure, would have known little or no English and only spoke Urdu, the language of their mother.

Kirkpatrick's career sailed into another air-pocket at about this time and that might have been one reason the children were sent off to England in September 1805. But not before a tearful Khair-un-Nissa had secured the settlement of ten thousand pounds each on William and Kitty, a substantial settlement in the early 19th Century. The Marquis Wellesley was now Governor General and he was not kindly disposed to Kirkpatrick's relationship with the Nizam. Wellesley was the Governor General who welded British India into an integral entity and the process necessarily involved gaining ascendancy and control over the Indian kingdoms, or Princely States as the British had begun to dismissively refer to them. Wellesley, having decided to dismiss Kirkpatrick, summoned him to Calcutta. Kirkpatrick, already perhaps terminally ill, arrived in Calcutta only to die on the 14th October 1805. He had lasted longer than the proverbial two monsoons allowed to the British in the India of those days but still died young, aged 41. And the prospect in store for Khair-un-Nissa, widowed, the children exiled away in England, can be imagined and further tribulations were in store for her. Her poignant story is best followed in William Dalrymple's acclaimed "White Moguls", a book that is principally about the Kirkpatrick, Khair-un-Nissa story in all its ramifications. It is an absorbing narrative with many a well described and substantiated historical "construct" on the theme of Anglo-Indian relations of the period.

But what of the kids, Kitty and William? Kirkpatrick had them portrayed prior to their embarkation from Madras by our friend Chinnery. It would seem the portrait was done in Madras because the children sailed on 10 September 1805 and Kitty who was born in 1802 looks about three years old in the picture. Here is that portrait, a memorable on that Chinnery has left for us : This image has captivated me ever since I first saw it and looked up the background. Note how Chinnery lights up the children's faces, the sallow complexion of William and the auburn hair of Kitty who is portrayed in all the guileless innocence and serenity of a not quite three year old. Does Kity take after her mother ? At least that is what the portrait suggests.

As far as I know, but only as far as I know, the oil is in the possession of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank and long may it remain with them rather than end up in the possession of some private collector. After Kirkpatrick's death the picture remained for sometime with Khair-un-Nissa but then fell into the hands of Henry Russell, former under-secretary to Kirkpatrick and himself to become Resident at Hyderabad, though the circumstances relating to why Khair-un-Nissa let go of the painting remain a mystery. Dalrymple uses circumstantial evidence to suggest, strongly, that Russell developed an intimacy with Khair-un-Nissa after her husband died, that she, in fact, became Russell's mistress for a while. It is true that the Hyderabad aristocracy were also suspicious of the reported liaison and Khair-un-Nissa was, for a while, banished to Masulipatam on the coast. (Not that it is very relevant but I add here, form my collection, a dramatic and stunning visual of Masulipatam in about the 1750's drawn by Nicolas Bellin, the French cartographer) :
The case is not entirely convincing but, in fairness to Dalrymple, the only evidence one has to go by in such cases is circumstantial and there seems clearly to have been some sort of "understanding", if not intimacy, between the two. It is also said Chinnery had hijacked the painting for a while,in order to exhibit it, and Rusell was trying, on Khir-un-Nissa'sbehalf, recover it from the "borrower". Anyhow, the painting came inot Henry Russell's possession and, in his retirement, was hung in his country home, Swallowfield in Berkshire.

William and Kitty, meanwhile, had reached England under the care of a Mrs Ure and a retinue of "black" servants. As the baggage included shawls, jewelry and valuables worth 2000 Pounds, the help of Captain George Elers, a fellow passenger, was sought. Elers at once took matters in hand, a bribe of twenty guineas to the customs officials at Portsmouth was handed out and the treasure was cleared unopened. The children went to live with their grandfather, Col William Kirkpatrick, in Kent and were to undergo many an emotional privation. The Colonel may have been kindness itself but the kids missed their parents and India. (Here is the Colonel, taken from "Tiger & the Thistle" : http://www.tigerandthistle.net/scots426.htm) Also, the Colonel did not allow any correspondence with their mother. Thus far, I have used my independent references for the story but I now have to, reluctantly, quote from Dalrymple who sources this from Edward Strachey's article on Kitty in the Blackwoods Magazine of 1893 : "in after years the daughter told her own children how long she and her brother had pined for the father and mother they remembered, and longed to get away from the cold of England to Hyderabad, and were sad at hearing that they were not to go there again, which was all they could understand of their father's death". Thus Strachey, paraphrasing Kitty.

The Colonel, Dalrymple's "Handsome Colonel", passed on in due course and so did brother William in his twenties. Kitty lived with a succession of aunts and had, no doubt, to endure and come to terms with the sense of deprivation and of total severence from her natal family and roots. But there were compensations if good looks and an inheritance that, by now, had swelled to fifty thousand pounds could be called that. Here is Kitty in the flower of her youth, taken from the U Penn archives of the Jane Carlyle letters :

Looks like a heroine out of a Jane Austen novel doesn't she? Fifty thousand pounds, a sizeable fortune in the early 1820's perhaps the equal of at least ten million today, good looks, an exotic pedigree and, now, a suitor to boot - none other than the writer Thomas Carlyle. Carlyle first met her at about this time through mutual friends and shortly thereafter had been appointed tutor to the children of the Strachey family at Shooters' Hill, near London. Followed a trip with the Stracheys to Paris in 1824 with Kitty among those present. And Carlyle seems to have fallen head over heels in love. Mind you, at his time he was also a suitor to Jane Baillie Welsh, whom he eventually married, but she had just then refused his suit.

Carlyle was besotted with Kitty at this time and his writings show ample evidence of this. I, having dutifully borrowed his Sartor Resartus and his Reminiscences from the British Council in Madras, found Carlyle dense and heavy going. Truth to tell, Carlyle had lost me after the first ten pages - dense philosophy delivered in purple passages, a lurid purple in fact, adds upto a rococo style of prose that I could not come to terms with. My sense of frustration at getting to know Carlyle's writing seems to be shared by a blogger, Jenny McKeel, in her Toe Blog .What follows is an excerpt from the Toe Blog about Sartor Resartus but, for a fuller account of the angst that a reading of Carlyle can bring on, I had better send you to her blog (http://thetoeblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/thomas-carlyle.html) : "The book was kind of my perfect nightmare because it was basically an experimental novel of the times. You can't tell what's going on. It's part narrative and part exposition, the writer is playing with the reader in various annoying ways and the book is this kind of dialectic between the character of the "editor" and the editor's "character" and full of self-reflexive, self-conscious exploration of what's going on in the book as it happens. I don't like experimental, postmodern novels now. So to read one that was published in 1833 and written by a stodgy ex-Calvinist was kind of like beating myself repeatedly on the head with a shovel". Well put Jenny, I couldn't have said it anywhere near as well.

But Carlyle wrote some memorable lines about Kitty both in Sartor Resartus and in the Reminiscences. I did dip into the two books and look up all those references and I am glad I did, my allergy to his writing notwithstanding. Kitty is the Blumine of Sartor Resartus, the 'Rose Goddess', a "many-tinted, radiant aurora", the "fairest of Orient Light bringers". Also "a strangley complexioned young lady with soft brown eyes and floods of bronze-red hair, really a pretty looking and amiable, though most foreign bit of magnificence .... that answers to the name of 'Dear Kitty'." Carlyle was also not above teasing Jane Welsh with references to Kitty, her looks and her money, in his letters : "Tho' twenty-one, and not unbeautiful, and sole mistress of herself and fifty thousand pounds, she is meek and modest as a quakeress; with a demure eye she surveys the extravaganzas of the Orator, laughing at him in secret, yet loving him as a good man, and studiously devoting herself with a diverting earnestness to provide for the household cares of the establishment. Good Kitty! It is like pitchy darkness between rosy-fingered morn and tallow candle-light, when I stroll with her, the daughter of Asiatic pomp and dreamy indolence, and the Fife Isabella, skilful in Presbyterian philosophy and the structure of dumplings and worsted hose; spreading my unrestful imaginations over these chalk cliffs and the far-sounding ocean and the distant coast of France, as I have done over other scenes as lovely. Would, you or I were half as happy as this girl! But her mother was a Hindoo princess (whom her father fought for and scaled walls for); it lies in the blood; and philosophy can do little to help us".

Nothing daunted, the feisty Jane Welsh replied, commenting on Carlyle's visit to Paris in the company of Kitty : "So you have been in France, Mr Thomas! in France without me—in the train of that everlasting Princess! How fortunate she is to have a carriage with a dickey!— Well, I am flattering myself that your residence on the Continent will have made you a bit of a Dandy" and "I congratulate you on your present situation. With such a picture of domestic felicity before your eyes, and this “singular and very pleasing creature” to charm away the blue devils, you can hardly fail to be as happy as the day is long. Miss Kitty Kirkpatrick— Lord what an ugly name! “Good Kitty!” Oh! pretty dear delightful Kitty! I am not a bit jealous of her—not I indeed—Hindoo Princess tho' she be! Only you may as well never let me hear you mention her name again—". (All correspondence excerpted from the Carlyle letters online at Duke Univ)

Well, it came to nothing finally - Carlyle was an impecunious tutor and aspiring writer, not the most suitable of matches for the the high-born, affluent Kitty, the world was a real world even in the 1820's. Carlyle went on to marry Jane Welsh, his intellectual equal which Kitty most certainly was not. I wonder if Kitty reciprocated Carlyle's sentiments towards her at all. Probably not though it is certain she flirted with him. Kitty in her turn married James Winsloe-Phillips, of an eminent west country family and a Captain in the 7th Hussars. It was a most happy marriage for Kitty, by all accounts.

Now Carlyle strikes, in his Reminiscences (posthumously published in 1887) : " Amiable, affectionate, graceful, might be called attractive (not slim enough for 'pretty', not tall enough for 'beautiful'); had something low-voiced, languidly harmonious, placid, sensuous, loved perfumes & c; a half-Begum in short; interesting specimen of the Semi-Oriental Englishwoman. Still lives, near Exeter (the prize of some idle ex-Captain of Sepoys), with many children, whom she looks after with a passionate interest". Mmmm ! that is the voice of unrequited and, dare I say it, embittered love; after all those years it clearly rankled still and the needless reference to Kitty as the "prize" of the idle ex-Captain of Sepoys is a give-away!

Kitty lived on to die of old age in 1889 at the Villa Sorrento in Torquay, Devon, having outlived her husband by 20 years. In 1846, Kitty, now Mrs Phillips, madea chance visit to Swallowfield, the home of Sir Henry Russell and thus connected with the Chinnery portrait. She was in floods of tears at the memory of her brother (who had died in 1828) and of her grand, but barely remembered mansion in Hyderabad. This moved Sir Henry, who neverhteless still held on to the portrait, to will it to Kitty after his time. And that is how the portrait came back to the family. How it subsequently ended up with the Hongkong Bank I don't know but I am sure they bought it at an auction.

Oh, the tailpiece. If you scroll up to the second Chinnery drawing from top, the Surf Boats, you will see that I have deliberately withheld the provenance of how the British Library came to have it. The Library's sub-text to the drawing reads thus : "Pen-and-ink and wash drawing of surf boats at Madras, dated c.1807. Inscribed on back in ink is: 'The Massoolee Boats going through the surf at Madras. A sketch by Mr Chinnery. To Mrs Phillips from her affec. Br. A.C.'; in pencil: 'Bought at H.W. Phillips' sale, Christie's. 8 April, 1869." Someone in her circle (who could 'A.C' have been?) had presentd the sketch to Kitty, the connection with Chinnery and India had continued in such ways and, after the death of her husband James Winsloe-Phillips in 1868, some of the family effects had been auctioned at Christie's.

That is one of the reasons for this longwinded post - apart from the obvious human interest in the story, it is an instance of how interest in a picture can often light up some by-way of history, reveal how things, people and events are connected and remind one what a small world it is after all!

There is the well documented book : 'The White Moguls' of William Dalrymple. Dalrymple's work is one of thorough, painstaking research, including consultation of original Urdu sources of the period, it is a scholarly survey of the James Kirkpatrick -Khir-un-Nissa story in all its ramifications and profound implications for the way Anglo-Indian attitudes were evolving. Kitty and Carlyle and Chinnery have their places in the book but only take brief bows on the stage, Dalrymple's focus is different.

I got interested in the story on first reading about the Kirkpatrick Residency in 1985, on reading Philip Davies's Splendours of the Raj and, shortly after, on seeing the storm damaged scale model of the building that James built for his wife. And the interest was fuelled by an admiration for Chinnery drawings and, especially, on first seeing the Chinnery portrait of the kids in 1993. The full story has been within me for nearly twelve , if not fifteen, years and I wrote this description first in 2001. Was about to offer it to a local daily for publication, but dithering over how to cut the prolixity out, by which time it was too late as the White Moguls was released in 2002.

Dalrymple's is a work of thorough scholarship and of a full consideration of all the attendant facts and it is a deservedly acclaimed and successful book. This post is that of the fly on the wall.

4 comments:

Dawn said...

What a fascinating story of Kitty Kirkpatrick and her family. I had heard of a Kirkpatrick fellow who had gone to India but had not yet followed up on him. I'm going to bookmark this one for future reference. Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

I am doing a bibliography on George Chinnery, and I was wondering if you could give me some good sources to use....

Sudarshan said...

Hallo, Anonymous! : Thanks for your interest, if you give me your mail ID (mine is in the Blogger profile) and I may be able to give you one or two Chinnery references. Best Regards.

Anonymous said...

Loved your article. Have just moved into a lovely apartment in a beautiful old house called Spa Court, in Torquay Devon UK. In 1861 it was called Warboro, and was the home of Kitty and her children. Loved the artwork.