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Nineteenth Century Indian English Prose
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Nineteenth Century Indian English Prose
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About The Book

Nineteenth Century Indian English Prose: A Selection is an attempt to represent the facility with which Indians used the English language in the nineteenth century. It also represents the various ways in which Indians wrote or spoke of their country and as such it is a selection of statements about India and the idea of the Indian Nation. It includes political, cultural, religious and literary pieces and everywhere the preference has been for pieces which show Indian eloquence in English. The figures included are Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dadabhai Naoroji, Keshab Chandra Sen, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Woomesh Chandra Bannerjee, Badruddin Tyabji, Sir Ferozeshah Mehta, Romesh Chunder Dutt, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Swami Vivekananda, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri, Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. There is a general introduction outlining the relevant contexts of the period and each author selected is also introduced briefly. The collection is reader friendly but the reader will have to engage actively with the authors and make the necessary connections of themes and ideas to benefit fully from the anthology.

About The Author

Mohan Ramanan was born in 1949 and had his education in Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Pilani. He has been teaching for over three decades and is currently Professor of English at the University of Hyderabad. He has held the British Council Fellowship for 1982-83 at Oxford University and was Fulbright Scholar in Residence at Amherst College, Massachusetts, in 1989-90. He is the author of two books of criticism of Modern British and American Poetry, and has edited several volumes besides publishing over a hundred articles in forums both in India and abroad. He was Deputy Director of the Indo-American Centre for International Studies (formerly ASRC) in 2001 and a regular columnist for the Kuala Lumpur newspaper The New Straits Times for over ten years, publishing several articles on Indian Letters there. Ramanan is deeply involved with music and philosophy and his attempt has been to integrate these interests with literary studies.

Preface

This selection is frankly a personal one. I have attempted to give an account of the context of Indian eloquence in English drawing large brush strokes. Inevitably some subtle nuances and minute details would take a back-seat. I thought the risk worth taking. The selections are by no means exhaustive and I have always kept prose. style and good English as a criterion for inclusion. Also I have tried to represent as far as possible the development of thought of a particular personage and not hesitated to give more space for the purpose. The people represented in this volume are listed chronologically by date of birth and I have left it to the reader to make connections and draw parallels. My selection, while it is reader-friendly, is in many ways a writerly text, and that should ensure an engagement of the reader with my authors.

Introduction

The present volume comprises a selection of the prose written by English educated Indians in the nineteenth century. Prose came naturally to these Indians and one notices both facility and felicity of expression, wide knowledge and depth of penetration, a staunch *rootedness in Indian values but also intelligent awareness of the West as an agent of modernity. Modernity, one hastens to add, meant for some an interrogation of the Indian past, even a negation of it, but on the whole, the Indo-British encounter enabled a syncretic. culture to emerge, at least among the leaders of society—the Bhadralok of Bengal. Thus we see among the progressive sections of the society, an attitude of scepticism touched even with disdain for native customs, usages, rituals and religious practices. Wine, for example, was deliberately served at the conclaves of the elite and beef was freely consumed provoking Sanatanist Hindus no end. But this mind-set against super-stition and obscurantism provided the much needed support for Lord Bentinck's efforts to put an end to widow burning, child marriages, Thugee and so on. It was also this mind-set that facilitated the introduction of English in India after Lord Macaulay's famous intervention through his Minute on Indian education. But even before the English Education Act of 1835, the entry of missionaries into India, facilitated by an Act of the British Parliament, the activities of the Orientalists, encouraged by Warren Hastings, the setting up of the Hindu College, where the upper classes sent their children in order to get an English education without prejudice to their Samskara and religious injunctions, had provided a foundation for English in India to be the major element in the modernization of the people. We shall deal with the introduction of English education a little later, but here it would be appropriate to say that the introduction of English had far-reaching implications for this country and its effects are still felt. While English was steadily making progress, the Orientalists and Vernacularists were retreating but what they stood for continues to inform contemporary debates about the place of English in our society. The Orientalists were partisans of the classical Persian and Sanskrit and Arabic, while the Vernacularists were proponents of the Bhashas. Today Bhasha literature is back in focus and we hear of how amnesia has affected that literature, giving an advantage to Sanskrit and English. The contours of this contemporary debate can be traced back to the debates centering around Macaulay's decisive intervention. These debates form an interesting chapter in our national history. Macaulay's minute and the 1835 Act, followed by Wood's Dispatch of 1854 on the need to set up Indian universities, and indeed the setting up of these universities in Madras, Calcutta, Bombay and other places, underscored the impor-tance of English not only as a language of communication, but also as a vehicle for intellectual discourse. McCully (1942) has shown the links between English and Indian nationalism and there is no doubt that the process of modernization, the process of forming ourselves into a nation, was facilitated by English. In the prose of our nineteenth century we see the dramatisation of these elements of our culture. What we see. here is a people captivated by English and even forgetful of their own languages. On the other hand we have a feeling of guilt about these matters and that guilt informs the writings of a Raja Ram Mohun Roy, a Gandhiji and a Tilak. But the positive aspect of this matter is that in such situations of conflict, the creative potential could not be suppressed and and religious injunctions, had provided a foundation for English in India to be the major element in the modernization of the people. We shall deal with the introduction of English education a little later, but here it would be appropriate to say that the introduction of English had far-reaching implications for this country and its effects are still felt. While English was steadily making progress, the Orientalists and Vernacularists were retreating but what they stood for continues to inform contemporary debates about the place of English in our society. The Orientalists were partisans of the classical Persian and Sanskrit and Arabic, while the Vernacularists were proponents of the Bhashas. Today Bhasha literature is back in focus and we hear of how amnesia has affected that literature, giving an advantage to Sanskrit and English. The contours of this contemporary debate can be traced back to the debates centering around Macaulay's decisive intervention. These debates form an interesting chapter in our national history. Macaulay's minute and the 1835 Act, followed by Wood's Dispatch of 1854 on the need to set up Indian universities, and indeed the setting up of these universities in Madras, Calcutta, Bombay and other places, underscored the impor-tance of English not only as a language of communication, but also as a vehicle for intellectual discourse. McCully (1942) has shown the links between English and Indian nationalism and there is no doubt that the process of modernization, the process of forming ourselves into a nation, was facilitated by English. In the prose of our nineteenth century we see the dramatisation of these elements of our culture. What we see. here is a people captivated by English and even forgetful of their own languages. On the other hand we have a feeling of guilt about these matters and that guilt informs the writings of a Raja Ram Mohun Roy, a Gandhiji and a Tilak. But the positive aspect of this matter is that in such situations of conflict, the creative potential could not be suppressed and I believe that in nineteenth century Indian prose in English we see both mastery of that language and a creative tension in discursive expressiveness, because even then the Bhasha, in most cases Bengali, was an ever-present challenge to English. This creative tension surely accounts for much of the literature of eloquence which this selection attempts to represent.

Contents

  Preface vi
  Acknowledgements ix
  Introduction by Mohan Ramanan 1
1 Raja Ram Mohun Roy (1722-1833) 31
2 Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) 65
3 Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-1884) 77
4 Mahadev govind ranade (1842-1901) 84
5 Woomesh Chandra Bannerjee (1844-1906 91
6 Badruddin Tyabji (1844-1906) 94
7 Sir pherozeshah M. Mehta (1845-1915) 99
8 Romesh Chander dutt (1848-1909) 104
9 Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856- 1909) 132
10 Swami Vivekananda ( 1863- 1902) 143
11 Gopal Krisha Gokhale (1866-1915) 167
12 V.S. Srinivasa Sastri (1869-1944) 190
13 Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) 207
14 Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) 229


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Nineteenth Century Indian English Prose

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About The Book

Nineteenth Century Indian English Prose: A Selection is an attempt to represent the facility with which Indians used the English language in the nineteenth century. It also represents the various ways in which Indians wrote or spoke of their country and as such it is a selection of statements about India and the idea of the Indian Nation. It includes political, cultural, religious and literary pieces and everywhere the preference has been for pieces which show Indian eloquence in English. The figures included are Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dadabhai Naoroji, Keshab Chandra Sen, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Woomesh Chandra Bannerjee, Badruddin Tyabji, Sir Ferozeshah Mehta, Romesh Chunder Dutt, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Swami Vivekananda, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri, Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. There is a general introduction outlining the relevant contexts of the period and each author selected is also introduced briefly. The collection is reader friendly but the reader will have to engage actively with the authors and make the necessary connections of themes and ideas to benefit fully from the anthology.

About The Author

Mohan Ramanan was born in 1949 and had his education in Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Pilani. He has been teaching for over three decades and is currently Professor of English at the University of Hyderabad. He has held the British Council Fellowship for 1982-83 at Oxford University and was Fulbright Scholar in Residence at Amherst College, Massachusetts, in 1989-90. He is the author of two books of criticism of Modern British and American Poetry, and has edited several volumes besides publishing over a hundred articles in forums both in India and abroad. He was Deputy Director of the Indo-American Centre for International Studies (formerly ASRC) in 2001 and a regular columnist for the Kuala Lumpur newspaper The New Straits Times for over ten years, publishing several articles on Indian Letters there. Ramanan is deeply involved with music and philosophy and his attempt has been to integrate these interests with literary studies.

Preface

This selection is frankly a personal one. I have attempted to give an account of the context of Indian eloquence in English drawing large brush strokes. Inevitably some subtle nuances and minute details would take a back-seat. I thought the risk worth taking. The selections are by no means exhaustive and I have always kept prose. style and good English as a criterion for inclusion. Also I have tried to represent as far as possible the development of thought of a particular personage and not hesitated to give more space for the purpose. The people represented in this volume are listed chronologically by date of birth and I have left it to the reader to make connections and draw parallels. My selection, while it is reader-friendly, is in many ways a writerly text, and that should ensure an engagement of the reader with my authors.

Introduction

The present volume comprises a selection of the prose written by English educated Indians in the nineteenth century. Prose came naturally to these Indians and one notices both facility and felicity of expression, wide knowledge and depth of penetration, a staunch *rootedness in Indian values but also intelligent awareness of the West as an agent of modernity. Modernity, one hastens to add, meant for some an interrogation of the Indian past, even a negation of it, but on the whole, the Indo-British encounter enabled a syncretic. culture to emerge, at least among the leaders of society—the Bhadralok of Bengal. Thus we see among the progressive sections of the society, an attitude of scepticism touched even with disdain for native customs, usages, rituals and religious practices. Wine, for example, was deliberately served at the conclaves of the elite and beef was freely consumed provoking Sanatanist Hindus no end. But this mind-set against super-stition and obscurantism provided the much needed support for Lord Bentinck's efforts to put an end to widow burning, child marriages, Thugee and so on. It was also this mind-set that facilitated the introduction of English in India after Lord Macaulay's famous intervention through his Minute on Indian education. But even before the English Education Act of 1835, the entry of missionaries into India, facilitated by an Act of the British Parliament, the activities of the Orientalists, encouraged by Warren Hastings, the setting up of the Hindu College, where the upper classes sent their children in order to get an English education without prejudice to their Samskara and religious injunctions, had provided a foundation for English in India to be the major element in the modernization of the people. We shall deal with the introduction of English education a little later, but here it would be appropriate to say that the introduction of English had far-reaching implications for this country and its effects are still felt. While English was steadily making progress, the Orientalists and Vernacularists were retreating but what they stood for continues to inform contemporary debates about the place of English in our society. The Orientalists were partisans of the classical Persian and Sanskrit and Arabic, while the Vernacularists were proponents of the Bhashas. Today Bhasha literature is back in focus and we hear of how amnesia has affected that literature, giving an advantage to Sanskrit and English. The contours of this contemporary debate can be traced back to the debates centering around Macaulay's decisive intervention. These debates form an interesting chapter in our national history. Macaulay's minute and the 1835 Act, followed by Wood's Dispatch of 1854 on the need to set up Indian universities, and indeed the setting up of these universities in Madras, Calcutta, Bombay and other places, underscored the impor-tance of English not only as a language of communication, but also as a vehicle for intellectual discourse. McCully (1942) has shown the links between English and Indian nationalism and there is no doubt that the process of modernization, the process of forming ourselves into a nation, was facilitated by English. In the prose of our nineteenth century we see the dramatisation of these elements of our culture. What we see. here is a people captivated by English and even forgetful of their own languages. On the other hand we have a feeling of guilt about these matters and that guilt informs the writings of a Raja Ram Mohun Roy, a Gandhiji and a Tilak. But the positive aspect of this matter is that in such situations of conflict, the creative potential could not be suppressed and and religious injunctions, had provided a foundation for English in India to be the major element in the modernization of the people. We shall deal with the introduction of English education a little later, but here it would be appropriate to say that the introduction of English had far-reaching implications for this country and its effects are still felt. While English was steadily making progress, the Orientalists and Vernacularists were retreating but what they stood for continues to inform contemporary debates about the place of English in our society. The Orientalists were partisans of the classical Persian and Sanskrit and Arabic, while the Vernacularists were proponents of the Bhashas. Today Bhasha literature is back in focus and we hear of how amnesia has affected that literature, giving an advantage to Sanskrit and English. The contours of this contemporary debate can be traced back to the debates centering around Macaulay's decisive intervention. These debates form an interesting chapter in our national history. Macaulay's minute and the 1835 Act, followed by Wood's Dispatch of 1854 on the need to set up Indian universities, and indeed the setting up of these universities in Madras, Calcutta, Bombay and other places, underscored the impor-tance of English not only as a language of communication, but also as a vehicle for intellectual discourse. McCully (1942) has shown the links between English and Indian nationalism and there is no doubt that the process of modernization, the process of forming ourselves into a nation, was facilitated by English. In the prose of our nineteenth century we see the dramatisation of these elements of our culture. What we see. here is a people captivated by English and even forgetful of their own languages. On the other hand we have a feeling of guilt about these matters and that guilt informs the writings of a Raja Ram Mohun Roy, a Gandhiji and a Tilak. But the positive aspect of this matter is that in such situations of conflict, the creative potential could not be suppressed and I believe that in nineteenth century Indian prose in English we see both mastery of that language and a creative tension in discursive expressiveness, because even then the Bhasha, in most cases Bengali, was an ever-present challenge to English. This creative tension surely accounts for much of the literature of eloquence which this selection attempts to represent.

Contents

  Preface vi
  Acknowledgements ix
  Introduction by Mohan Ramanan 1
1 Raja Ram Mohun Roy (1722-1833) 31
2 Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917) 65
3 Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-1884) 77
4 Mahadev govind ranade (1842-1901) 84
5 Woomesh Chandra Bannerjee (1844-1906 91
6 Badruddin Tyabji (1844-1906) 94
7 Sir pherozeshah M. Mehta (1845-1915) 99
8 Romesh Chander dutt (1848-1909) 104
9 Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856- 1909) 132
10 Swami Vivekananda ( 1863- 1902) 143
11 Gopal Krisha Gokhale (1866-1915) 167
12 V.S. Srinivasa Sastri (1869-1944) 190
13 Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) 207
14 Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) 229


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