Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Life of John Wilson
Chapter II. Old Bombay and it's Governors


1829.
OLD BOMBAY AND ITS GOVERNORS.

The Tyre and Alexandria of the Far East—Early History of Bombay—Cromwell, Charles II., and the East India Company—The first Governors—A Free City and Asylum for the Oppressed—Jonathan Duncan—Mountstuart Elphinstone—Sir John Malcolm—Cotton and the Cotton Duties— India and the Bombay Presidency Statistics in 1829—The Day of Small Things in Education—First Protestant Missionaries in BombayI—English Society in Western India—Testimony of James Forbes—John Wilson’s First Impressions of Bombay.

Bombay, with the marvellous progress of which, as city and province, Wilson was to be identified during the next forty-seven years, has a history that finds its true parallels in the Mediterranean emporia of Tyre and Alexandria. Like the Phoenician “ Eock ” of Baal, which Hiram enlarged and adorned, the island of the goddess Mumbai or Mahima, “ the Great Mother,” was originally one of a series of rocks which the British Government has connected into a long peninsula, with an area of 18 square miles. Like the greater port which Alexander created to take the place of Tyre, and called by his own name, Bombay carries in its ships the commerce of the Mediterranean, opened to it by the Suez Canal, but it bears that also of the vaster Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. Although it can boast of no river like the Nile, by which alone Alexandria now exists, Bombay possesses a natural harbour, peerless alike in West and East, such as all the capital and the engineering of modern science can never create for the land of Egypt. Instead of the “ low ” sands which gave Canaan its name, and the muddy flats of the Nile delta, Bombay presents ridge after ridge intersecting noble bays, and hill upon hill, rising up into the guardian range of the Western Ghauts. From their giant defiles and green terraces fed by the periodic rains, the whole tableland of the Indian peninsula gently slopes eastward to the Bay of Bengal, seamed by mighty rivers, and covered by countless forts and villages, the homes of a toiling population of millions. On one fourth, and that the most fertile fourth, of the two centuries of Bombay’s history, John Wilson, more than any other single influence, has left his mark for ever.

From the Periplus, and from Marco Polo, we learn the commercial prosperity and ecclesiastical activity, in the earliest times, of the kingdoms of Broach, Callian, and Tanna, on the mainland and around Bombay. But, as an island, Bombay was too exposed to the pirates who, from Abyssinia, Arabia and India alike, scoured these Eastern seas, to be other than neglected. Even the Portuguese despised it, although, as a naval power, they early made a settlement there, seeing that it lay between their possessions in the Persian Gulf and their capital of Goa. But they still held it against the East India Company, whose agents, exposed to all the exactions of a Mussulman governor in the factory at Surat, coveted a position where their ships would make them more independent. Twice they made ineffectual attempts to take the place, and, in 1G5I, when Cromwell had given England a vigorous foreign policy, the Directors represented to him the advantage of asking the Portuguese to cede both Bombay and Bassein. But although the Protector had exacted a heavy indemnity for all Prince Rupert had done to injure English commerce, he took hard cash rather than apparently useless jungle. And, although he beheaded the Portuguese ambassador’s brother for murder on the very day that the treaty was signed, there is no evidence that he took any more interest in the distant and infant settlements in India than was involved in his general project for a Protestant Council or Propaganda all over the world. It was left to i Charles II., in 1661, to add Bombay to the British Empire as part of the Infanta Catherina’s dowry; and to present it to, the East India Company in 1668, when the first governor, Sir Gervase Lucas, who had guarded his father in the flight from Naseby, had failed to prove its value to the Crown. For an annual rent of “£10 in gold” the island was made over to Mr. Soodyer—deputed, with Streynsham Master and others, by Sir George Oxenden, the President of Surat—“ in free and common soccage as of the manor of East Greenwich,” along with all the Crown property upon it, cash to the amount of £4879 : 7 : 6, and such political powers as were necessary for its defence and government. Among the commissioners to whom the management of the infant settlement fell on Oxenden’s death, is found the name of one Sterling, a Scottish minister, and thus, in some sense, the only predecessor of John Wilson. With the succession of Gerald Aungier, as President of Surat and Governor of the island in 1667, the history of Bombay may be said to have really begun. It is a happy circumstance that the beginning is associated -with the names of the few good men who were servants of the Company, in a generation which was only less licentious than that of the Stewarts at home, if the temptations of exile be considered. Oxenden, Aungier, and Streynsham Master ivere the three Governors of high character and Christian aims, who, at Surat, Bombay and Madras, sought to purify Anglo-Indian society and to evangelise the natives around.

Bombay, which grew to be a city of 250,000 inhabitants when Wilson landed in 1829, and contained 650,000 before he passed away, began two centuries ago with 600 landowners, who were formed into a militia, 100 Brahmans and Hindoos of the trading caste who paid an exemption tax, and the Company’s first European regiment of 285 men, of whom only 93 were English. The whole population was little above 5000. A fort was built and mounted with twenty-one guns, and five small redoubts capped the principal eminences around. To attract Hindoo weavers and traders of the Bunya caste, and to mark the new regime as the opposite of the intolerant zeal of the Portuguese, notice was given all along the coast, from Diu to Goa, that no one would be compelled to profess Christianity, and that no Christian or Muhammadan would be allowed to trespass within the inclosures of the Hindoo traders for the purpose of killing the cow or any animal, while the Hindoos •would enjoy facilities for burning their dead and observing their festivals. Forced labour was prohibited, for no one was to be compelled to carry a burden. Docks were to be made; manufactures were to be free of tax for a time, and thereafter, when exported, to pay not more than three and a half per cent. The import duties were two and a half per cent with a few exceptions. Transit and market duties of nine per cent, that indirect tax on food and clothing which the people of India in their simplicity prefer to all other imposts, supplied the chief revenue for the fortifications and administration. And it was needed, for “the flats,” which still pollute Bombay between the two ridges, were the fertile seedbed of cholera and fever, till in 1864, the first of the many and still continued attempts at drainage were made. The result of the first twenty years of the Company’s administration was that Bombay superseded Surat. One half of all the Company’s shipping loaded at London direct for the island, where there was, moreover, no Nawab to squeeze half of the profits. The revenues had increased threefold. The population consisted of 60,000, of whom a considerable number were Portuguese, and the “Cooly Christians,” or native fishermen, whom they had baptized as Boman Catholics. In and around the fort the town stretched for a mile of low thatched houses, chiefly with the pearl of shells for glass in their windows. The Portuguese could show the only church. On Malabar/ Hill, where Wilson was to die, there was a Parsee tomb. The I island of Elephanta was known not so much for the Cave Temple which he described, as for the carving of an elephant which gave the place its name, but has long since disappeared. At Salsette and Bandora the Portuguese held sway yet a little longer. From Tanna to Bassein their rich Dons revelled in spacious country seats, fortified and terraced. The Hidalgos of Bassein reproduced their capital of Lisbon, with Franciscan convents, Jesuit colleges, and rich libraries, all of which they carefully guarded, allowing none but Christians to sleep in the town.

The tolerant and liberal policy of the English government of Bombay soon caused all that, and much more, to be absorbed in their free city, and to contribute to the growth of the western portion of the new empire. If to some the toleration promised by Aungier, and amplified by the able though reckless Sir John Child, seemed to go too far, till it became virtual intolerance because indifference towards the faith of the ruling power, the growing public opinion of England corrected that in time. For the next century the British island became the asylum not only of the oppressed peoples of the Indian continent, during the anarchy from the death of Aurungzeb to the triumph of the two brothers Wellesley and Wellington, but of persecuted communities of western and central Asia, like the Parsees and Jews, as well as of slave-ridden Abyssinia and Africa. Made one of the three old Presidencies in 1708, under a later Oxenden, and subordinated to Calcutta as the seat of the Governor-General in 1773, Bombay had the good fortune to be governed by Jonathan Duncan for sixteen years at the beginning of this century.

What this Forfarshire lad, going out to India at sixteen, like Malcolm afterwards, had done for the peace and prosperity, the education and progress of Benares, and the four millions around it, he did for Bombay at a most critical time. Not less than Lord William Bentinck does he deserve the marble monument which covers his dust in the Bombay Cathedral, where the figure of Justice is seen inscribing on his urn these words, “He was a good man and a just,” while two children support a scroll, on which is written, “Infanticide abolished in Benares and Kattywar.” Between the thirty-nine years of his uninterrupted service for the people of India, which closed in 1811, and the forty-seven years of John Wilson’s not dissimilar labours in the same cause, which began in 1829, there occurred the administrations, after Sir Evan Nepean, of the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone and Sir John Malcolm, both of the same great school. Since the negotiations of the Peshwa Baghoba, in 1775, with the Company, who sought to add Bassein and Salsette to Bombay and so make it the entrepot of the India and China Seas, the province of Bombay had grown territorially as the power of the plundering Marathas waned from internal dissension and the British arms. The first part of India to become British, the Western Presidency had been the last to grow into dimensions worthy of a separate government in direct communication with the home authorities though, in imperial matters controlled by the Governor-General from Calcutta. Bombay had long been in a deficit of a million sterling a year or more. But the final extinction of the Maratha Powers by Lord Hastings in 1822 enabled Bombay to extend right into Central India and down into the southern Maratha country, while Poona became the second or inland capital of the Presidency. The two men who did most to bring this about, and to settle the condition of India south of the Vindhyas territorially as it now is, were Mountstuart Elpliinstone and John Malcolm. What they thus made Bombay Wilson found it, and that it continued to he all through his life, with the addition of Sindh, to the north, in 1843, and of an exchange of a county with Madras in the south.

Mountstuart Elpliinstone had no warmer admirer than Wilson, who wrote a valuable sketch of his life for the local Asiatic Society. A younger son of the eleventh Lord Elphinstone, and an Edinburgh High School boy, he went out to India as a “writer” with his cousin John Adam, who was afterwards interim governor-general. Having miraculous^ escaped the 1799 massacre at Benares, he was made assistant to the British Besident at Poona, then the Peshwa’s court. He rode b}r the Duke of Wellington’s side at the victoiy of Assye, as his interpreter, and was told by the then Colonel Wellesley that he had mistaken his calling, for he was certainly born a soldier. Subsequent^, after a mission to Cabul, on his way from Calcutta to Poona to become Resident, he made the friendship of Henry Martyn. The battle of Kirkee in 1817 punished the Peshwa’s latest attempt at treachery, and it became Elphinstone’s work to make that brilliant settlement of the ceded territories which has been the source of all the happiness of the people since. His report of 1819 stands in the first rank of Indian state papers, and that is saying much. When, after that, he discovered the plot of certain Maratha Brahmans to murder all the English in Poona and Satara, the man who was beloved by the mass of the natives for his kindl}T genialit}^ saved the public peace by executing the ringleaders. His prompt firmness astounded Sir Evan Nepean, whom he afterwards succeeded as governor, into advising him that he should ask for an act of indemnit}'. The reply was characteristic of his whole career—“Punish me if I have done wrong; if I have done right I need no act of indemnity.” The eight years’ administration of this good man, and great scholar and statesman, were so marked b}T wisdom and success, following a previous^ brilliant career, that on his retiring to his native country he had the unique honour of being twice offered the position of Governor-General. What he did for oriental learning and education, and how his nephew afterwards governed Bombay, and became Wilson’s friend in the more trying times of 1857, we shall see.

Sir John Malcolm, too, had his embassage to Persia, and his ; victory in battle—Mahidpore; while it fell to him to complete that settlement of Central India in 1818 with Bajee Rao, which the adopted son, Nana Dhoondopunt, tried vainly to upset in 1857. Malcolm’s generosity on that occasion has been much questioned, but it had Elphinstone’s approval. His distinguished services of forty years were rewarded by his being made Elphinstone’s successor as governor of Bombay in 1827. In the ship in which he returned to take up the appointment was a young cadet, now Sir H. C. Rawlinson, whose ability he directed to the study of oriental literature. He had been Governor for little more than a year when he first received, at his daily public breakfast at Parell, the young Scottish missionary from his own loved Tweedside. Even better than his predecessor, Malcolm knew how to influence the natives, by whom he was worshipped. He continued the administrative system as he found it, writing to a friend—“ The only difference between Mountstuart and me is that I have Mullagatawny at tiffin, which comes of my experience at Madras.” The Governor was in the thick of that collision with the Supreme Court, forced on him by Sir John Peter Grant’s attempt to exercise jurisdiction all over the Presidency—as in Sir Elijah Impey’s days in Calcutta. He had just returned from one of those tours through the native States, which the Governor, like Elpliinstone before him and the missionary after him, considered “of primal importance ” for the well-being of the people. The decision of the President of the Board of Control at home, then Lord Ellenborough, was about to result in the resignation of the impetuous judge. Such was Bombay, politically and territorially, when, in the closing weeks of the cold season of 1828-9, John Wilson and his wife landed from the “ Sesostris ” East Indiaman.1

Our readers will find it useful to refer to this list of the Governors of Bombay just before and during Dr. Wilson’s work there—

Governor. Years.

Jonathan Duncan . . . . . .1795
Sir Evan Nepean, Bart. . . . . . 1812
The Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone . . . 1819
Sir John Malcolm, K.C.B. .... 1827
Earl of Clare......1831
Sir Robert Grant ...... 1835

Economically the year 1829 was marked by the first serious attempt on the part of the Directors at home, and the Government on the spot, to extend the cultivation and improve the fibre of the cotton of Western India, which was to prove so important a factor alike in the prosperity and the adversity of Bombay in the coming years. In that review of this three years’ administration to 1st December 1830, which Sir John Malcolm wrote for his successors, and published to influence the discussions on the Charter of 1833, under the title of The Government of India, this significant sentence occurs :—“ A cotton mill has been established in Bengal with the object of underselling the printed goods and yarns sent from England; but there are, in my opinion, causes which, for a long period, must operate against the success of such an establishment.” The period has not proved to be so long as the conservative experience of the Governor led him to believe. In this respect Bombay soon shot ahead of Bengal, which afterwards found a richer trade in jute and tea. But the withdrawal of' the last restriction on trade was, when Wilson landed, about to co-operate with a consolidated administration to make Bombay the seat of an enriching commerce, of which its varied native communities obtained a larger share than elsewhere. A society composed of Hindoo, Parsee, Jewish, and even Muhammadan merchant princes, was being brought to the birth, side by side with the great Scottish houses, at the head of which was Sir Charles Forbes. And the man had / come to lift them all to a higher level; to purify them all, in I differing degrees, by the loftiest ideal.

Sir W. H. Macnaghten was massacred in 1841 when about to leave Gabul to join his appointment as Governor of Bombay. The Honourable Messrs. George Brown in 1811; John Romer in 18-31 ; James Farish in 1838 ; G. W. Anderson in 1841; and L. R. Reid in 1846, were senior members of council, who acted for a short time as interim governors.

At this time our Indian Empire was just one third of its present magnitude, but its native army was 186,000 strong, a fourth more than since the Mutiny. Including St. Helena, the area was 514,238 square miles, the population 89J millions, and the gross revenue £21,695,207. The whole was administered in 88 counties by 1083 British civil officers, and defended by 37,428 white troops. Of the three Presidencies the Western was by far the smallest, but its geographical position gave it an advantage as the centre of action from Cape Comorin to the head of the Persian Gulf, and from Central India to Central Africa. Its area was 65,000 square miles, not much more than that of England and Wales. Its population was 6j millions in ten counties, and its gross annual revenue 2J millions sterling. The whole province was garrisoned by 7728 white troops and 32,508 sepoys, under its own Commander-in-Chief; and it had a marine or navy, famous in its day and too rashly abolished long after, which was manned by 542 Europeans and 618 natives.

Notwithstanding the enlightened action and tolerant encouragement of Mountstuart Elphinstone and Malcolm, public instruction and Christian education were still in the day of small things in Bombay, although it was in some respects more advanced than Bengal, which soon distanced it for a time. In the Presidency, as in Madras and Calcutta, a charity school had been, in 1718, forced into existence by the very vices of the English residents and the conditions of a then unhealthy climate. Legitimate orphans and illegitimate children, white and coloured, had to be cared for, and were fairly well trained by public benevolence, for the Company gave no assistance till 1807. In the Charter of 1813, which Charles Grant and Wilberforce had partially succeeded in making half as liberal as that granted by William III. in 1698, Parliament gave India not only its first Protestant bishop, archdeacons, and Presbyterian chaplains, but a department of public instruction bound to spend at least a lakh of rupees a year, or £10,000, on the improvement of literature, and the promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the people. In 1815 the Bombay Native Education Society was formed, and opened schools in Bombay, Tanna, and Broach, with the aid of a Government grant. Immediately after Mountstuart Elphinstone’s appointment as Governor it extended its operations to supplying a vernacular and school-book literature. It recommended the adoption of the Lancasterian method of teaching, then popular in England, and it continued its useful -work till 1810, when it became in name, what it had always been in fact, the public Board of Education. Since it failed to provide for the Southern Konkan, or coast districts, Colonel Jervis, R.E., who became an earnest coadjutor of Wilson, established a similar society for that purpose in 1823, but that was affiliated with the original body. When Poona became British, Mr. Chaplin, the Commissioner in the Dekhan, established a Sanskrit college there, which failed from the vicious Oriental system on which it was conducted, in spite of its enjoyment of the Dukshina, or charity fund of Rs. 35,000 a year, which the Peshwas had established for the Brahmans’ education. The Society’s central school in Bombay was more successful, and is still the principal Government High School. When Mountstuart Elphinstone left Bombay in 1827, the native gentlemen subscribed, as a memorial of him, £21,600, from the interest of which professorships were to be established “ to be held by gentlemen from Great Britain, until the happy period arrived when natives shall be fully competent to hold them.” But no such professors landed till 1835, when they held, in the Town Hall, classes which have since grown into the Elphinstone College. In that year, out of a population of more than a quarter of a million in the Island of Bombay only 1026 were at school; in the rest of the province the scholars numbered 1864 in the Maratha, and 2128 in the Goojaratee speaking districts, or 5018 in all. In the four years ending 1830, just before and after Wilson’s arrival, the Bombay Government remarked, “with alarm,” that although it had fixed its annual grant to public instruction at £2000 it had spent £20,192 in that period. So apathetic were the natives that they had subscribed only £471, while the few Europeans 1 had given £818 for the same purpose. Truly the system of a vicious Orientalism was breaking down, as opposed to that of which Wilson was to prove the apostle—the communication of Western truth on Western methods through the Oriental tongues so as to elevate learned and native alike. The almost exclusively Orientalising policy of the Government previous to 1835, left Bombay a tabula rasa on which  Wilson soon learned to engrave characters of light and life that were never to be obliterated.

Nor had the few missionaries then in Western India anticipated him. Self-sacrificing to an extent for which, save from their great successor, they have rarely got credit, they were lost in the jungle of circumstances. The American missionaries were the first Protestants to take up the work which, in the early Christian centuries, the Nestorians had begun at the ancient port of Kalliana, the neighbouring Callian, which was long the seat of a Persian bishop. In 1813, Dr. Coke sailed for Bombay with the same Colonel Jervis, RE., who did so much for the Konkan. His successors, for he died at sea, began that work of primary importance in every mission, an improved edition of the New Testament in the vernacular Marathee, for which Mr. Wilson expressed his gratitude soon after his arrival. But when, at a later period, one of their annual reports ignorantly represented the Americans as having been the first to evangelise the Marathas, he felt constrained to publish this statement of the facts.

The American missionaries first came to Bombay in 1813; but the whole of the New Testament in Marathee had been published by the Serampore missionaries in 1811. Dr. Robert Drummond published his grammar and glossary of the Goojaratee and Marathee languages at the Bombay Courier press in 1808. Dr. Carey published his Marathee grammar and dictionary at Serampore in 1810. All these helps were enjoyed by the American missionaries; and though they are by no means so important as those which are now accessible to all students and missionaries, we would be guilty of ingratitude to those who furnished them were we to overlook them. Suum cuique tribue should ever be our motto. The Romish Church we know to be very corrupted; but. I have seen works composed by its missionaries about two hundred years ago, which could ‘ give the Marathas the least idea of the true character of God as revealed in the Scripture/ It is too much when the labours of the Romish missionaries are considered, to affirm that ‘not a tree in this forest had been felled’ till the American missionaries came to this country. There have been some pious Roman Catholics in Europe, and why may there not have been some amongst the eight generations of the 300,000 in the Marathee country? The Serampore missionaries admitted several Marathas to their communion before 1813.”

The first American missionaries had their own romance, like all pioneers. They were driven from Calcutta by the Government in 1812, and told they might settle in Mauritius. Judson happily was sent to Burma by Dr. Carey. Messrs. Hall and Nott took ship to Bombay. Thence the good but weak Sir Evan Nepean, who had been shocked by Elphinstone’s firmness in the Poona plot, warned them off; but an appeal to his Christian principle led him to temporise until Charles Grant and the charter of the next year restrained the Company. In 1815 the London Missionary Society repeated at Surat, and afterwards in Belgaum, an effort to found a mission, which in 1807 had failed in the island of Bombay. In 1820, the Church Missionary Society began in Western India that work which in time bore good fruit for Africa also. In 1822 the increase of British territory, caused by the extinction of the Maratha power, led the Scottish Missionary Society, which since 1796 had been working in West Africa, to send as its first missionary to Bombay the Kev. Donald / Mitchell, a son of the manse, who, when a lieutenant of in-1 fantry at Surat, had been led to enter the Church of Scotland. He was followed by the Revs. John Cooper; James Mitchell; Alexander Crawford, whose health soon failed; John Stevenson, who became a chaplain; and, finally, Robert Nesbit, fellow student of Dr. Duff at St. Andrews University under Chalmers, and Wilson’s early friend. “Desperately afraid of offending the Brahmans,” as a high official expressed it, the authorities would not allow the early Scottish missionaries to settle in Poona, which had too recently become British, as they desired. Had not a native distributor of American tracts just before been seized, by order, and escorted to the low land at the foot of the Ghauts'? So there, on the fertile strip of jungly coast, in the very heart of the widow-burning, self-righteous, intellectually able and proud Maratha Brahmans, the Scottish evangelists began their work, of sheer necessity, for they considered that Bombay was already cared for by the American and English missions. The Governors, Elphinstone and Malcolm, however, although they would not allow the good men to be martyred in Poona, as they supposed, with all the possible political complications, subscribed liberally to their funds, a thing which no Governor-General dared do till forty years after, when John Lawrence ruled from Calcutta. In Hurnee and Bankote, from sixty to eighty miles down the coast from Bombay, these missionaries had preached in Marathee and opened or inspected primary schools, with small results. So terrible was the social sacrifice involved in the profession and communion of Christianity, that the first Hindoo convert, in 1823, some weeks after his baptism, rushed from the Lord’s Table when Mr. Hall was about to break the bread, exclaiming, “No, I will not break caste yet.” Long before this the good James Forbes, father of the Countess de Montalembert, had given it as his experience of Anglo-Indians at all the settlements of Bombay, from Ahmedabad to Anjengo, and dating from 1766, “ that the character of the English in India is an honour to the country. In private life they are generous, kind, and hospitable; in their public situations, when called forth to arduous enterprise, they conduct themselves with skill and magnanimity; and, whether presiding at the helm of the political and commercial department, or spreading the glory of the British arms, with courage, moderation, and clemency, the annals of Hindostan will transmit to future ages names dear to fame and deserving the applause of Europe. . . . With all the milder virtues belonging to their sex, my amiable countrywomen are entitled to their full share of applause. This is no fulsome panegyric ; it is a tribute of truth and affection to those worthy characters with whom I so long associated, and will be confirmed by all who resided in India.”1 Mr. Forbes finally left India in 1784, when only thirty-five years of age, but after eighteen years’ experience.

The successive Governors had given an improved tone to Anglo-Indian society, and the few missionaries and chaplains had drawn around them some of the officials both in the Council and in the ordinary ranks of the civil and military services. But the squabbles in the Supreme Court, and the reminiscences of a Journalist,2 who has published his memoirs recently, show that here also the new missionary had a field prepared for him, which it became his special privilege to develop and adorn with all the purity of a Christian ideal and all the grace of a cultured gentleman. What in this way he did, unobtrusively and almost unconsciously, in Bombay * for forty years, will hardly be understood without a glance at this picture of Bombay in 1830, as drawn by the editor of the Bombay Courier:—

“The opportunity of leaving Bombay was not to be regretted. ‘ Society’ on that pretty little island had a very good opinion of itself, but it was in reality a very tame affair. It chiefly consisted of foolish burra sahibs (great folks) who gave dinners, and chota sahibs (little folk) who ate them. The dinners were in execrable taste, considering the climate. . . . But the food for the palate was scarcely so flavourless as the conversation. Nothing could be more vapid than the talk of the guests, excepting when some piece of scandal affecting a lady’s reputation or a gentleman's otticial integrity gave momentary piquancy to the dialogue. Dancing could hardly be enjoyed with the thermometer perpetually ranging between S0° to 100° Fahrenheit, and only one spinster to six married women available for the big-wigs who were yet to be caged. A quiet tiffin with a barrister or two, or an officer of the Royal Staff who could converse 011 English affairs, with a game of billiards at the old hotel or one of the regimental messes, were about the only resources, next to one’s books, available to men at the Presidency endowed with a trifling share of scholarship and the thinking faculty.”

Such was Bombay, the city and the province, when John Wilson thus wrote to the household at Lauder his first impressions of the former:—“Everything in the appearance of Bombaj” and the character of the people differs from what is seen at home. Figure to yourselves a clear sky, a burning sun, a parched soil, gigantic shrubs, numerous palm trees, a populous city with inhabitants belonging to every country under heaven, crowded and dirty streets, thousands of Hindoos, Muhammadans, Parsees, Buddhists, Jews, and Portuguese; perpetual marriage processions, barbarous music, etc. etc.; and you will have some idea of what I observe at present. In Bombay there are many heathen temples, Muhammadan mosques, and Jewish synagogues, several Roman Catholic chapels, one Presbyterian Church, one Episcopal Church, and one Mission Church belonging to the Americans. I preached in the Scotch Church on the first Sabbath after my arrival, and in the Mission Church on Sabbath last.”


Return to Book Index Page


 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast