« AnteriorContinuar »
plicity, and inferences so natural and spontaneous and irresistible, that they seemed as it were borrowed from his audience, though none of that audience had arrived at them before.
Thornberry, of course, becomes a member of Parliament, and soon attains to distinction in this new sphere.
His place in debate was immediately recognised. The times favoured him during the first and second sessions (the Parliament was that elected in 1841), while the commercial depression lasted; afterwards he was always listened to, because he had great oratorical gifts, a persuasive style that was winning, and though he had no inconsiderable powers of sarcasm, his extreme tact wisely guided him to eschew for the present that dangerous, though most effective, weapon.
'Jorrocks,' the Radical member of 1835, invited by Mr. Sidney Wilton to shoot his preserves, is described with less good feeling. 'He was a pretentious, underbred, half-educated man, fluent with all the commonplaces of middle-class ambition, which are humorously called democratic opinion, but at heart a sycophant of the aristocracy.' It had been necessary to put a Radical in office in order to conciliate the Mountain, and yet the Mountain, who knew Jorrocks by heart, and felt that they had in their ranks men in every sense his superior, sulked over the promotion of their late companion.'
But we must bring our extracts to a close, difficult as it is to do so. There are so many bits of shrewd and clear and picturesque observation, and so many single sayings, sharp, incisive, and memorable. The author's pen in such matters has not forgot its cunning, whatever judgment may be pronounced upon the work as a whole. We do not offer such a judgment, fresh from the perusal of pages which have been kindly placed at our disposal, and which have never ceased to interest us, even where the incidents have verged on extravagance, or the writing has expanded into a descriptiveness suggestive of our own correspondent.' If satire, keen and to the point --vividly hitting even when most benignant-is the forte of the author, magnificence is his foible; and the strain of splendour into which he falls at times contrasts feebly with his more compact, vigorous, and living sentences. But the world of society and letters will read the book and judge it for themselves. Whether liked or disliked, condemned or approved, it will be read universally, and there is no class of readers who will not find in it something to instruct or amuse them. Were it less attractive than it appears to u as a novel of manners, and of the stirring incidents which preceded and followed the Reform movement, it would yet fascinate as an indirect revelation of one who has left the impress of his genius and ambition upon the age, and has long been a significant, if still veiled figure in that mingled drama of social and political excitement which he so well describes.
THE NATIVES OF INDIA.1
YASTING about in my mind how I could best occupy an hour to-night, it seemed to me that, as the principal part of my time since I have been engaged in politics has been given to Indian affairs, I might ask you to listen to some remarks upon the natives of India. Perhaps I may be able to induce some of you to spend the leisure which everyone, however hard he may work at his business or profession, more or less enjoys, upon the study of India; and at least for I confess that this is my principal object-I hope I may be able to enlist your sympathies in the natives of India. I must beg you to understand that it will be impossible for me to attempt to deal with the subject in any scientific or exhaustive manner. I shall not trouble you with statistics. I shall not attempt to describe the divisions of race, language, religion, and customs which are found in the Indian Empire of the Queen. I propose merely to place before you some of the many traits of Indian character which seem to me to be likely to interest you, and some of my own impressions of the native princes of India, and of the different classes of her Majesty's subjects with whom I have been brought into personal contact.
In the winter of 1875 I had a few weeks at my disposal, and I spent them in one of the most interesting tours that can be made in any country in the world. I travelled through a considerable part of Central India and Rajputana. I visited the Maharaja Holçar in his capital at Indore; and thence, passing through the States of Dhar, Rutlam, and Jowra, I was received by the Maharana of Odeypore, at the beautiful city of the same name, whose lake, with its islands, reminded me of the Lago Maggiore in Italy. I proceeded to Jodhpore, where the Maharaja's castle-in character and extent not an unworthy rival of Windsor--stands proudly in the midst of an extensive half-desert plain. I stayed for a few days at the British appanage of Ajmere; and, lastly, I was entertained at Jeypore by the Maharaja of that State, and re-entered British territory at Agra. I was the first Viceroy who had the opportunity of visiting the greater part of this most interesting country, and I have a lively and grateful recollection of the hospitality of my reception by the princes whose dominions I traversed."
Wishing to enlist your sympathy and interest in the natives of India, I can hardly do better than to begin by a few words upon the
An address delivered at Birmingham October 29, 1880, to the Birmingham and Midland Institute. A few passages, chiefly of detailed extract, have been here omitted. A full issue of the address, with notes and appendices, is in preparation. No. 612 (No. cxxxii. n. s.)
Rajputs. There is nothing in the story of Greece or Rome which exceeds the gallantry and devotion shown by these, the most noble and chivalrous of the Hindoos, in the defence of their country against the invasions of the Mussulmans, which lasted for more than two centuries. The defence of Thermopyla and the devotion of the Decii were equalled, if not surpassed, by the Rajputs at Chittore. As many here present may not even have heard the name of the city of Chittore, I will just explain to you that it is the ancient capital of Meywar, the oldest of the Rajput States, and was the last rampart of Hindoo independence against Mussulman invasion. The city occupies, or rather occupied-for it is now a mass of ruins-the summit of a long, flat hill, which rises some 500 feet above the plain. It was defended by a line of ramparts with large round towers along the edge of the cliff, which in some places is very steep. The Rajput records recount three and a half sacks of the city of Chittore. The most romantic occurred in the thirteenth century. The Regent, for the King was a minor, had married Pudmani, the most beautiful lady of the time. The Mussulman Emperor Alaoodeen, having heard of her beauty, laid siege to Chittore for the purpose of obtaining possession of her. Failing in his attempt to take the place, he prayed to be at least allowed to see the lady. The boon was conceded: he was admitted alone into Chittore, saw Pudmani through the medium of mirrors, and was allowed to return unharmed. The Regent, not wishing to show less confidence than the Emperor, accompanied him outside the fortifications. But the Mussulman was as treacherous as the Hindoo was confiding: an ambuscade was set, and the Regent was carried a prisoner into the Mussulman camp. Great was the despair in Chittore when the news arrived that their sovereign would not be restored excepting at the price of the surrender of the princess. The lady pretended to yield, but in the litters, which were supposed to convey her and her ladies, seven hundred of the bravest Rajput warriors gained an entrance into the camp of the Emperor, and made a sudden attack upon his guards. Hardly one of the Rajputs returned alive to Chittore, but the safety of the Regent was secured, as he escaped during the confusion on a horse kept in readiness for him. This event, in which so many brave men perished, is reckoned as the half sack' of the city. But the Mussulman Emperor was resolved to be revenged for his discomfiture, and again laid siege to Chittore. One after another, twelve princes of the royal race assumed the saffron robe, the sign that a Rajput intended to devote himself to death for the defence of his country, and, accompanied by the bravest of their followers, lost their lives in desperate sallies against the foe. But at last the condition of the defenders became hopeless; the men issued forth and sacrificed their lives beneath the walls of Chittore, while the women, with the beautiful Pudmani at their head, assembled in a subterranean chamber, which is now shown to the traveller, set fire to a mass of inflammable materials they had collected, and perished in the flames,
together with everything that was of value in the city. The Emperor indeed gained possession of Chittore, but he found nothing there but a desolate town, over which floated a cloud of horrible smoke. Another Rajput prince soon afterwards regained possession of the city; but a second, and again a third time was Chittore captured by the Mussulmans. The last siege was conducted by the Emperor Akbar in person. Again the Rajput women sacrificed their lives rather than fall into the hands of the foe; again the men in their saffron robes did all that men could do to defend their country. You will find an account of these extraordinary instances of valour and self-devotion in Colonel Tod's Annals of Rajasthan, one of the most interesting of the many interesting books which have been written by Anglo-Indian political officers upon the history of the country in which they spent their lives.2
But it is more to our purpose to turn to the present condition of Rajputana and the character of the native princes of the Rajput race. The disturbances which followed the decline of the Mussulman empire of Delhi brought terrible calamities upon Rajputana and Central India. It is not more than sixty years since the whole tract through which I passed was subject to the ravages of freebooters of different races, who pillaged the people, dethroned the ancient sovereigns of the country, and rendered life and property wholly insecure. They might then have been told, with literal truth, in the words of Isaiah, Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; your land, strangers devour it in your presence.'
It was about that time when, under the administration of the Marquis of Hastings, a series of treaties was entered into, under which the Rajput princes placed themselves under the protection of England, and peace and order have since taken the place of anarchy and rapine. The rights and dignity of the princes have been respected, and the interference of the Government of India has been confined to the cases when, for a time, either during a minority or from the incapacity or misconduct of an individual, the administration of a district or a principality has been temporarily conducted by British officers.
Once there was some doubt as to our intention of respecting the independence of these States. Actuated by no unworthy motives, but from the mistaken belief that the welfare of the people of India would be promoted by the extension of British territory, the rulers of India were inclined to embrace every legitimate opportunity of annexing independent States. But this error was soon discovered; and after the Indian Mutiny the Queen was advised to issue a solemn proclamation to the princes and people of India, in which her Majesty declared that she desired no extension of her territorial possessions,
2 A graphic description of Rajputana is given in M. Louis Rousselet's work, L'Inde des Rajahs. Paris: Hachette, 1875.
Isaiah i. 7.
and was determined to respect the rights, dignity, and honour of the native princes of India as her own.' This proclamation, which was accompanied by concessions with respect to the adoption of heirs in case of the default of lineal descendants, has given a solemn assurance that the native States will be maintained in their present condition of independence under the protection of the paramount power of England. The result of this policy has been that the feeling of the princes and chiefs in Rajputana and Central India is thoroughly loyal towards the British Government, and in no part of India did I find the feeling of the people for the British Government more cordial than in these independent States.
The Rajput princes of the present day retain many of the high qualities of their race, and I am proud to reckon some of them among my personal friends. I shall avoid to-night, for obvious reasons, as much as I can, allusions to living men, and I will give you as the type of a Rajput prince some account of the late Maharaja of Jeypore, who has died within the last few months. This prince governed his country well. He established an excellent college, which is affiliated to the Calcutta University, and a school for the education of the sons of his nobles, where I heard some of the boys recite Cowper's lines upon his mother's picture. Female education is not neglected, and some progress has been made in inducing the daughters of the higher castes to attend his girl schools. A school of art has been for some time in existence, and some of the art products of Jeypore, notably the enamel, are of great merit. The gaol is in good order. The Maharaja has established hospitals and dispensaries. Public gardens adorn the city of Jeypore, which, lighted with gas and well supplied with water, is one of the finest in India. There are many works of irrigation in the Jeypore State, and the Maharaja always promoted any public works likely to benefit his people. A few years ago the Customs' tariff was revised and the internal transit duties abolished. One of the official reports which I received when I was in India described the Maharaja's dominions in the following terms: The Jeypore State undoubtedly stands pre-eminent in Rajputana for civilisation and advancement. It would be impossible
4 Proclamation by the Queen in Council to the princes, chiefs, and people of India;' issued from Allahabad on November 1, 1858, on the assumption of the direct government of India by the Crown. The passage in full is: We hereby announce to the native princes of India that all treaties and engagements made with them by or under the authority of the Honourable East India Company are by us accepted, and will be scrupulously maintained; and we look for the like observance on their part. We desire no extension of our present territorial possessions; and while we will permit no aggression upon our dominions or our rights to be attempted with impunity, we shall sanction no encroachment upon those of others. We shall respect the rights, dignity, and honour of native princes as our own; and we desire that they, as well as our own subjects, should enjoy that prosperity and that social advancement which can only be secured by internal peace and good government. We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects; and those obligations, by the blessing of Almighty God we shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil.'