THE ANGLO-INDIAN'S IMPRESSIONS OF HOME.
AVERY distinguished Anglo-Indian, who had just returned to his place of exile after a short holiday spent in the old country, was asked one day what fresh impressions English life had made upon him, and replied, " Oh ! there's nothing new at home but underground railways and having your hair brushed by machinery." He who gave this answer was himself of course conscious that he spoke only in that half jesting, half cynical mood, which an Englishman who does not care to wear his heart upon his sleeve finds it convenient to affect in conversation, when- ever a too curious acquaintance urges him to reveal his most secret thoughts. But it is, nevertheless, true, that of all the outward impressions which the Anglo-Indian receives when he comes home, none surpass in intensity his sensations of delight on becoming a partaker of those luxuries of civilization—quick travelling and artistic hairdressing. Now that railways have superseded bullock carts in many parts of India, the toils and dangers of travelling in that country are greatly abated ; but whoever has felt the fatigue And discomfort of a journey in an Indian railway train at the rate of fifteen miles an hoar, across dusty plains, where nothing that has life can escape the fierce heat and blinding glare of a tropical sun, must find it an exquisite pleasure to repose in the tool, well-cushioned corner of a first-class carriage while the tidal train swiftly whirls him through the garden of England from Folkestone to London. English gentlemen who stay at home at ease are insensible of the blessings they enjoy in the way of locomotion. They grumble at the squalor of London four-wheeled cabs or the awkwardness of Hansoms, and find fault even if a lamp goes out and leaves them a moment in the darkness when they are going into the City by the underground railway. They have never had the misfortune to drive through an Eastern city in a Bombay buggy or a Calcutta shignam, or they would know that the " intolerable nuisances " of which they complain are but as the crumpled rose-leaf on the Sybarite's couch. Yet we are not Bare that even the pleasurable excitement of rapid travelling in comparatively clean and well appointed vehicles is so much enjoyed by the Anglo•Indian as his daily visits to his hair- dresser. Fancy what must be his bliss who, after having for years with noble fortitude struggled to maintain life while constantly immersed in a vapour-bath, is at last permitted by propitious Fortune to keep his head cool ! Heroes and states- men ought perhaps never to take an interest in anything so low as shampooing ; but the strongest discipline will not always avail to keep down human nature, and as the fugitives from licinig- gratz thought less in their retreat of the overthrow of the Austrian Empire than of finding for themselves quarters where they could get something to eat and drink and a soft plank to sleep upon, so Anglo-Indians are glad to forget tedious discussions about the efficiency of the native army and the financial pros- pects of India, while Mr. Truefitt renovates their youth, and pre- pares them for their afternoon stroll through the park in a climate
in which the sun is no longer the enemy, but the friend of man. Shall we be accused of making a further confession to the dis- credit of the men whose arms and civil worth uphold our Eastern Empire, if we declare that very many Anglo-Indians, when they return to this country, think more at first of the public than of public opinion? Byron, though by no means very fond of in- dulging in outbursts of sentimental patriotism, once owned that in exile the thought of British beer was sometimes too much for his feelings-
" And, when I think upon a pot of beer— But I won't weep—
and we see no reason why any honest Englishman should be ashamed to admit that to his taste the foaming pewter is not the
least of the charms of home. But even these attractions fade into nothingness for the Anglo-Indian in comparison with the fascina- tions of the funtum et opes strepitunique of the modern Babylon,— smoke, we say advisedly, for the sulphurous canopy of London is far preferable to the brilliant sky whose pitiless splendour drives men out of the streets, and compels them to take refuge from the scorching rays of the sun in darkened rooms, where all day long the monotonous swinging of the punkah alone provokes a languid circulation of the heated air. Then the bustle and animation of London life, the eager activity of the multitudes that throng the streets, the wealth and magnificence of the shops, and above all, the bright warmth and gaiety of the evening, when countless lamps irradiate the gloom, seem as it were to give renewed vitality to the returned exile who has lived for years in a land where existence is always passive, where the sombre listless look of the population has a depressing effect on the most buoyant spirits, where one never sees in the streets any outward display of riches, and where after sunset every large town sinks into a state of absolute rest that gives it the appearance of a city of the dead. If the Anglo-Indian has not made the mistake of stopping in Paris on his way home, the patriotic gratification with which the sight of London inspires him is unalloyed by the reflection that the English capital cannot now boast of being the best lit and best paved city in Europe. But even a preliminary tour on the Continent will not disqualify him for doing justice to the remarkable cheerfulness and vivacity of his fellow-countrymen. We are accustomed to speak of ourselves as if we were a grave, sedate people, meriting the old reproach that we take even our pleasures sadly ; but nothing, we believe, in our national character so often calls forth the praise of impartial foreign critics, as the hearty good humour of the English people. A Parsee who had lived for some time iu this country once assured us that what he had chiefly learnt in his travels to envy the English for was their genuine mirthfulness of disposition, and no one will doubt the sincerity of the remark who is aware that among Orientals (noisy as they can be in their amusements) " the delight of happy laughter " is, so far as Euro- pean observers can form a guess, practically unknown. At the first blush, then, the Anglo-Indian is strongly inclined to take the optimist view of English civilization ; and, if he have but a short furlough, his optimism probably endures to the end, and he carries away with him to India the comfortable conviction that this is the best of all possible countries. But when he has been a few months at home he begins, as a Scotchman would say, to have his doubts. He finds that he cannot settle down into his place and accommodate himself to English ways of life and habits of thought so easily as he would wish. Long absence has so altered the look of things for him, that he feels himself half a foreigner in his own country. He cannot indeed complain of London, as M. Victor Hugo does of the French capital in his lament over old Paris, that modern improvements have swept away all the familiar landmarks sanctified by history, tradition, and personal associations, and created a new city, in which the exile, returning after only ten years' absence, vainly seeks for traces of the London that he knew. The river is crossed by a dozen bridges instead of seven, and great hotels and railway stations here and there surprise the eye ; but the general aspect of the city is unchanged ; the narrow and tortuous streets fulfil as regularly as of old the main purpose for which they were mad-, of obstructing instead of facilitating traffic, the National Gallery continues to stand where it did, and Admiral Nelson is still looking anxiously from the top of his column in Trafalgar Square to descry the approach of Sir Edwin Landseer's lions. The London of 1866, in these and similar respects, does not differ greatly from the London of 1856. Nor is there any noticeable alteration in the English mode of life ; but the Anglo-Indian himself is not the man he was when he left the country ten years ago, and he soon discovers that the stiff yoke of English society does not now fit itself very pleasantly to his unconventional neck. One great advantage of an Indian career is, or perhaps we should say was, that it freed men from that perpetual anxiety about the means of living which to very many persons at home makes life itself a burden. Whatever other cares he might have, and however impatient he might be of the want of European luxuries and refinements, the Anglo-Indian at least never knew the misery of passing a sleepless night calcula- ting what he should do to earn his daily bread on the morrow. The general abundance of money of course led to that careless, extravagant way of living which in a barbarous state of society is mistaken for open-handed hospitality, and advanced political economists will be highly gratified to learn that the new regime of high prices and straitened means is already forcing our country- men in India to abandon their riotous propensities, and to believe in the perfect wisdom of those valuable maxims of Poor Richard and Mr. Micawber, " A penny saved is a penny gained," and " Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty, ought, six,—result, wretchedness," which regulate the outlay of every prudent household in England. When this revolution is fairly accomplished, it will be found that Hansom cabmen are the chief losers by it, for we never knew an Anglo-Indian of the good old school who could see the use of saving a shilling or two by- taking an omnibus when he could possibly get a cab. Nor is it only with regard to money matters that the Englishman from the East findshimself unconsciouslystraying far beyond the narrow bounds of social respectability. That great British institution, Mrs. Grundy, will not bear transplantation ; she only lives and flourishes in her native soil, within the borders of the United Kingdom, and Anglo- Indians, released from her awful influence, and having no bour- geoisie whose prejudices they can offend, fall into the bad habit of speaking their minds on all subjects with the utmost freedom, ridiculing dead beliefs, and disdaining decorous formalisms which have lost their meaning, but to which the dead weight of popular ignorance and bigotry at home compels us to pay a polite but insincere reverence. So also in politics the Anglo-Indian is more English than the insular English themselves, but the England which he loves is not their England. His patriotism is somewhat musty; it would have been more in place a century ago, when self- glorification was a national failing, than it is in this more enlight- ened and cosmopolitan age. Cowper might be supposed to have drawn his character in the famous lines :—
" Time was when it was praise and boast enough, In every clime, and travel where we might, That we were born her children ; praise enough To fill the ambition of a private man, That Chatham's language was his mother tongue, And Wolfe's great name compatriot with his own."
He has a profound conviction that the country to which he belongs is incomparably the first in creation ; and, having been Accustomed, like all dwellers beyond the Isthmus of Suez, to regard England as a great military and imperial power, he is puzzled and annoyed to hear, when he comes home, that the " spread-eagle " policy which he advocates is quite out of date, that England is really not strong enough to protect her own shores, and that she would act wisely in giving up the empire of which the poor Anglo-Indian has been so proud, and resolving to abstain from all intervention in foreign affairs, except when she can safely follow the lead of France. This contemptuous reception of our friend's cherished opinions does much to spoil his enjoyment of his holiday. He begins to talk with scorn and bitterness of English politicians contentedly working on from youth to age in their parochial grooves of thought, taking " the rustic murmur of their burgh for the wide wave that echoes round the world," and in their igno- rance despising and labouring to cast away the splendid inherit- ance bequeathed to them by their fathers. No doubt, like most -angry men, he is partly in the wrong ; he certainly overlooks the consideration that the activity and energy of political life at home may more than atone for its narrowness and want of versa- tility. This question it is not our province to discuss; we have only tried to point out how it is that the Anglo-Indian meets with so little congenial society at home, and is often persuaded, by the time his long vacation draws near its term, that a return to a life .of exile in India may not be without its compensations.