THE INVASIONS OF INDIA FROM CENTRAL ASIA.* THE title of
this book is most deceptive. Let us start by say- ing that it is written neither by a Russophobist nor by a Russo- phil ; that, although published at the present juncture, it is entirely without political bias, and that it does not profess to draw any lesson from past experience as to the present state of affairs in Afghanistan. The reader may, no doubt, do so for himself; and it is, perhaps, on the whole, something to be thankful for that the anonymous author of the Invasions of India from Central Asia has contented himself with a record of facts, and has not further laid before us any of his theories or conclusions.
But gum quam ita sint, as we used to say at school, we are somewhat puzzled to underetand the author's object in publish- ing the book. It cannot be for fame, for he conceals his identity. It cannot be to put forward certain theories which he may conceive to be of value to the world, for he puts forward • The Dwasion of lisdia from Caning; Ada. London: B. Bentley and Sens. no theories at all. Finally, we do not think it can be for pro.- fit; and as of the ordinary reasons for publishing a book this threefold division seems to us to be fairly exhaustive, we are forced to the conclusion that the author of the Invasions of India from Central Asia, having written the book in his leisure moments, with a view of teaching himself something about Indian history, was loth to allow so much good work to be entirely thrown away, as far as his fellow-creatures were concerned, and accordingly delivered over his MS. to Mr. Bentley for publication. There is, perhaps, no better way of mastering a subject than by committing the result of one's reading in a complete form to paper ; but the publica- tion of what is, after all, but a fair copy of a student's note- book is not, as a rule, calculated to be of any great advantage to the ordinary reading public. In the present instance, Mr. Bentley has done his part so well, that the appearance of th book is almost as deceptive as the title, and the outward pre sentment is disappointingly superior to the contents of th volume.
The first invasion of India from the North-West of which we have any historic record is that of Alexander the Great, three centuries and a half before Christ. Over thirteen hundred years elapsed before Mahmud of Ghazni, a " Turk " of Central Asia, marched through the Khurum Valley, and ravaged' the rich and fertile plains of Hindustan. Two hundred years later the Moghals, under Genghis Khan, invaded, con- quered, plundered, and colonised the- North-West and North of India. Another hundred years elapsed before Tamerlane fol- lowed in the footsteps of his great ancestor, and at length, in 1525, India passed completely into the sovereignty of the Mahommedans, under BAbar. India was again invaded, and Delhi was sacked by the Persians under Nadir Shah in 1739, and again in 1761; but India remained under at least the nominal sove- reignty of the Moghal Emperors, successors of Mbar, until the capture of Bahadur Shah at Delhi in 1857. Of these seven successful "invasions of India from Central Asia," our author only notices two,—that of Mbar in 1525, and that of Nadir Shah in- 1739. On the other hand, he gives a brief sketch of the history of India from 1525 to 1842, the invasion by Nadir Shah being really only an incident in this historical sketch, and very much less fully treated than the English invasion of Afghanistan, certainly not "from Central Asia," which is indeed one of the best and most interesting parts of the book. The characters of Burnes and of Macnaghten, of Elphinstone and Shah Sujah, are clearly and accurately sketched, and the miserable policy which brought about the first Afghan expedi- tion in 1839 is made abundantly plain to the reader of to-day. Still, as a whole, the book appears as much without object as it is without form, and has really little or nothing in common with its title. Had it been called "An Historical Sketch of the Moghal Emperors, from 1525 to 1857, with some account of the rise of the English power in India, and their invasion of Cabnl in 1839,' the title, though long and somewhat cumbersome, would, at least, have informed an intending reader what to expect. That no shorter title would exactly fit the book is only an illustration of the vagueness of the work itself. It is called the Invasions of India from Central Asia, and we have a full account of the battle of Plessey, the romantic history of Nur Mahal, the long and prosperous reign of Aurnngzebe, the Black Hole of Calcutta, and the British retreat from Cabal.
Each chapter, taken by itself and without reference to the plan—if there be a plan—is decidedly interesting, pleasantly written, though the style is somewhat loose and unfinished, and, generally speaking, accurate as to facts. It is true, the author speaks of the Mahrattas as Rajputs, calls the Moghal Emperors at Delhi "Sultan," and speaks of the Sikh religion as a compromise between Mahommedanism and Brahmanism. On such minor inaccuracies we do not desire to dwell ; but of one fault—a fault only too common in all the hastily-prepared books on India of the present day—we cannot speak too severely, and that is the absolute and almost daring disregard of anything like system in spelling the Indian names. We do not wish to bind an author to any particular system, though that adopted by the Indian Government is not only perhaps the best, but certainly the most appropriate for use in writing about India;. but when we find the same word spelt in five or six dif- ferent ways in the same chapter, we are tempted to ask why the author should not have taken the trouble at least to reduce them all to one common form of spelling, rather than puzzle the inexperienced reader and annoy the Oriental
scholar by what is really only carelessness. We confess we were sometimes puzzled ourselves. We presume that Rochenara
is an Indian, and not an Irish name, as its form would rather suggest. The context makes us guess that Iutin&s Dooub stands for the district of the Punjab called the Icilandhar Dab, and the etymology of Kuzzlebash and Collindor is certainly con- cealed in their present forms. " Sindh," again, is spelt" Scinde "and
" Sinde " on the same page ; a " lack " of rupees is spoken of, not as meaning a deficiency of those coins, but a lakh, or 100,000; " gaz " is written " gez ;" Udipur and Udipore occur in two con- secutive lines, and hundreds of other such inconsistencies and inaccuracies abound.
We have already said that the chapters upon the invasion of Cabul, in 1839, are very good. Those on the rise of the English power in India and the early history of Cal- cutta are also remarkably clear and succinct, and may be read with pleasure and advantage by any one who wishes to "rub up" his acquaintance with early Anglo-Indian history, derived probably from Macaulay's essays on Clive or Warren Hastings. But the romantic history of Nur Mahal is, perhaps, the most striking chapter in the book. Her beauty and her early ambition, the murder of her brave husband—another Uriah the Hittite — by her royal lover, her marriage with Prince Mira, and his neglect of her for so many years ; his accession to the Empire, under the title of Jehangir ; the accident by which the old lovers were brought together once more, and the unbounded sway which Nur Mahal immediately ac- quired, not only over the Emperor, but over the Moghal Empire, the wisdom and glory of her rule, her jasmine bower in the palace-castle of Agra, her fall, and her splendid tomb at Shah- dera—now, alas ! the home of the engines and workshops of an Indian Government railway—these are things which would
make any history romantic, and which the author appears to have fully appreciated, though the sublimity of his own lan- guage occasionally gets the better of him ; as, for instance, in the following passage (p. 117) :—" It was a minute too absorb- ing for words ; the past was all before Noor Mahal. • It is reported that in. death your past life rises before you like a panorama ; there are such minutes in life also." To give any point to the antithesis, this strange " report " must be to the effect that the panorama is seen by those who are dead, a fact regarding which we opine no human reporter is entitled to speak positively. On the next page (118), the author says :— "Noor Mahal was dressed in the plainest, simplest way ; she was a woman who never looked inelegant ; her dress of plain, white muslin enhanced her loveliness, showed off her tall, slight, statuesque figure, her small head, the straight-cut, perfect face, the sad, refined, pensive air ; age could not stale nor custom change her infinite variety." Now, considering that Noor Mahal was quite young, that her husband had never seen
her since she had been married to him by proxy some time before, and that she had not changed since he had seen and loved her as a girl, we have perhaps never met with so com- pletely inappropriate a quotation as this line from the gorgeous Egyptian play. The following is much better :— •
"The King seated himself on a sofa, and requested Noor Mahal to be seated by him. This one interview was sufficient to establish with greater power than ever her influence over Jehang,ire. When he rose to depart, with tears in his eyes, he begged her forgiveness for his long unkindness, and threw round her neck a necklace he wore, con- taining forty pearls, each pearl, being valued at 24,000. From the wretched quarter that had been allotted to her, Noor Mahal was removed next day to those of the favourite Sultana, which she never left. For twenty years she ruled the King and the kingdom. No important offices of State were given away without her consent ; no treaties with foreign States were concluded without her knowledge. She was given the very unusual honour of being called Shahi, Empress.' Money was coined in her name, and Jehangire said, Gold had gained a new value since it bore the name of Noor Mahal.'"