PO P ULAR ACCOUNT OF THE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF INDIA.
THE late Mr. Acland quitted England in 1842, as an East India Com- pany's Chaplain ; which mean; the resident clergyman of an extensive district, and in his case the district was first Assam and then Cuttack, in the Presidency of Bengal. He was accompanied by Mrs. Acland, but several young children were left behind ; and to them the father con- stantly wrote such descriptions of the country and its productions, as well as of the manners and customs both of Natives and European; as he thought would at once interest and instruct. To these were added any incidents that betel their mother or himself; narratives of the different journies undertaken from motives of duty or pleasure, with sketches of the economy of an Anglo-Indian household and of Anglo-Indian habits. The volume before us consists of these letters, revised and thrown into the form of a journal, but generally omitting the religious remarks or devotional hortatives with which the original letters were interspersed. As the matter is minute but not trivial, and the style simple without sinking into feebleness or juvenility, the circumstances under which the book was written give it a novel and peculiar character. Notwitb. standing the number of works published on India, the greater porde*
fall under the description of historical or geographical—not in direct form, but their matter for the most part belongs to some branch or other of those two classes of literature. The late Miss Roberts, and some other writers, have published descriptions of Anglo-Indian society, in the form of social sketches, fictions, or sporting adventures ; but the best of these were generalized descriptions, not particular accounts ; while very many of them were "articles." In the first case, however able or observing the writers might be, they presented, so to speak, the writer's view of things—true and of a larger truth perhaps than mere matter of fact, but only embodied deductions of their own : the inferior writers either failed to do this, or did it badly. In the case of Mr. Acland, we mostly have particular facts presented as plainly as words can do; and his type is a particular instance. Moreover, he enjoyed an advantage over some writers, and over all lady writers, in his frequent journies, and his love of field-sports, which often took him into the jungles and about the country ; as professional and other exposure might con- duce to his last fatal illness, which terminated in May 1845. The great peculiarity of the Popular Account of the Manners and Customs of India, however, consists in the freedom of the choice and the handling of the topics. Writing to children, and without any idea of publishing, Mr. Acland entered into details of daily life which he might not have touched upon, or with such fulness, had he contemplated publication. The result is, that we have here a fuller and better idea of daily life in India than almost any other book will convey. We all knew, of course, about the heat, and the insects, and the number of servants ; that people rode in palanquins, and slept under mosquito-nets ; and even tale-mon- gers, who could do nothing else, could repeat the common words of the Hindoo attendants. But we rarely have had these things brought before us so minutely ; nor would Mr. Maud perhaps have done so had he been writing a book : the consequence is, that the information is fuller and more precise upon many points, especially connected with household economy or the comforts of daily life. To young readers, or persons who know little of India, we need scarcely say that the cheapness of this book renders it the book for them.
Mr. Acland's residence was usually in the country ; which may in some measure account for the manner in which be was beset by "all creeping creatures venomous and low." Still, with this allowance, the presence of insects seems to be a greater annoyance, and that of reptiles a greater risk, than one has been led to expect. Anecdotes like the following are numerous in his pages.
" The other day my servants brought me in a venomous snake which they said thq had killed in the compound: I took it up by its tail, and carried it into my wife's dressing-room to show it to her. I laid it down on the floor, and soon it be- gan to wriggle away, and, raising its head, turned at us. Fortunately there was a stick at hand, and, taking it up, I killed the animal with one blow. So great is the dread of them here, that no one ever sleeps without a light, lest, stepping out of bed at night, he should place his foot upon some venomous creature: most people keep a long bamboo in every room. We never put on our shoes without first i at examining well to see that there is nothing alive in them. * • • " We had a sad loss the night before last. I have already mentioned our beau- tiful little antelope, which used to come and lie at my feet while I was writing. The other night I heard him give a faint scream, and hastened to see what was the matter: he had been bitten by a cobra, and was dead in ten minutes. Poor little fellow! I could have cried: my wife did. I have seen many, but never knew one so tame before. I doubt whether any of the servants had dry eyes as its body was thrown into the river. The bite of the cobra causes the body to swell to a frightful size. " The other day my wife was walking in the garden, when a large cobra glided pest her: she called some of the men, who soon killed it; but it was too large to put into a bottle. A gentleman happening to call just then, asked me whether I Lad seen the poison. I said ' No.' He took the head between his fingers and squeezed it in such a way as to open the mouth. In the upper jaw were two very large white fangs, corresponding as it were to our eye-teeth. As he squeezed with more force, a tiny drop of perfectly transparent colourless fluid issued through the point of each fang—these were drops of venom that pass into the wound. The gentleman who showed me this was a medical man, and he said that he would not for a lac of rupees have the half of one of those drops get into a cut in his finger."
One source, probably, of the novelty in Mr. Acland's pages, is the fact that he went to India in mature life, when he was not only struck by the novelties, but was competent to analyze and describe them. The majority of Anglo-Indians go out little more than boys, when their impressions are poor and confined to the vulgarest externals : by the time they are able to observe with profit and describe with effect, the country and its customs are novelties no longer. This writer's years and his training directed his attention to the manner in which the lower class of Indians are maltreated, and the upper class insulted by the ignorant and hardened Anglo-Indian. The following, we suspect, might not have appeared had the author written for publication, or revised his writings himself.
TREATMENT OF SERVANTS.
I think I have told you how cruelly some of the people here beat their servants. I was standing with an officer in the porch of his house when I was last at Mid- napore, when his syce or groom brought his horse to the door. Captain L. turned to me, and said, " I have not given that fellow a thrashing for a long time, and he'll forget what it feels like, and grow lazy." Now the fact was, the man was so attentive and industrious that Captain L. could not possibly find any fault with .bim. However, he went down the steps, and, on the pretence that the man did not hold his horse properly, gave him several violent blows on the face and head, kicked him three or four times with all his force, and struck him on the back with a two-foot rule with such violence that the man was obliged to have his back plastered and bandaged up; and all this without the slightest fault on the part of the servant.
Much as has been said about slavery, I do not believe that any of the slaves in Jamaica were ever worse treated than are the servants of some of our officers here. The excuse is, that it is impossible to manage the Hindus without the whip: but I never use it, and I am certainly quite as well served.
BEHAVIOUR TO A RAJAH.
And now I must mention some circumstances which to me rendered our expe- dition to Neilghur very unpleasant: they relate to the manner in which our party
treated the Rajah. On the morning of our arrival, after our descent from the
bills, he came with a party of horsemen to call upon us. We were just sitting• to breakfast, when I observed the cavalcade approaching. I mentioned it, and proposed that, according to Indian politeness, we should go into the verandah of our tent to receive them. But the principal man of our party said, " Oh, bother the fellow! we can't see him now"; and he sent a servant out to tell him so.
In the afternoon, the Rajah sent his man, corresponding to our chief game. keeper in England, to ask when we should like the coolies to beat the jangle, and to say that he would join us in the hunt. We named the time, and started ac- cordingly; found the coolies in readiness, and saw the Rajah and his brother coming upon elephants. Our party began to move on, when I asked, " Will you not wait for the Ra- jah?" I should think not," was the reply; "we don t want the beastly Niggers with us." And yet these civilized men were glad enough to make use of these beastly Niggers' coolies and elephants. I staid behind and had some talk with them.
The next day the two Rajahs called at the tent; they entered as gentlemen, and made the usual Indian salutation. With the exception of myself, I do not think one of our party even rose from his chair. In the course of conversation we spoke of the badness of the water we got: the Rajah immediately offered to send a man six miles into the hills to fetch some from a mountain-stream. In little more than an hour afterwards, one of our party, feeling thirsty, sent a ser- vant to ask the Rajah whether he had not got that water yet. In India, in speak- ing to a servant you use the word " toom," which signifies " you "; in speaking to a gentleman you say " ab," which means " your honour." One or two of our party made a point of saying " toom" to the Rajah; which was in fact a great insult. The younger brother called upon us. The chief of our party spoke to him on the subject of the disturbances, although it had all been settled by the Commissioner, and gave him a regular blowing up. And now remember that all this was to a gentleman; an Indian, it is true, but still a gentleman, with a fine estate, and about 6,0001. a year, from whom we were receiving every kindness, and on whose land we were hunting. Can it be wondered at that the Natives do not like us so well as might otherwise be expected? The Rajah, I suppose finding me more civil than the others, gave me a great mark of honour. Ile took me on his elephant, while he acted as mahout; and whenever any roughness occurred on the ground, he turned to warn me of it. I own that I did not enjoy the honour much. The elephant was covered with a crimson cloth, so that there were no ropes to hold by. The only way in which I could manage was to sit astride. It was really most painful; and I almost doubted whether I should ever be able to get my legs together again. I had two brace of pistols with me; the Rajah appeared very much pleased with them; and, to make up for the rudeness of our party, I .gave him one of the pair. He was delighted; and I was sadly laughed at for giving anything to a Nigger: