UP THE COUNTRY.*
IT is astonishing how refreshing a really good laugh is, says Miss Eden. We entirely agree with her, and are infinitely obliged that she has given us not only the prescription, but the material for acting upon it. Anything more refreshing, genial, and laughter- provoking than these letters it would be difficult to find. And it is no slight merit that in two volumes filled with the incidents and gossip of an Indian life, made to sparkle with the humour of the writer, there is not one unkindly word. It certainly destroys somewhat of the artistic perfection of the book, that in her natural anxiety to avoid giving unauthorized publicity to the names of those of whom she writes she declines even to give their initials (probably easily recognizable by an Indian public), but, beginning at the first letter of the alphabet, goes on to the end, quaintly reminding us of the old nursery rhyme, " A, apple pie ; B, bit it ; C, cut it." It involves a slight mental struggle on the part of the reader before he can take an interest in these A's, and Y's, and Z's. Nevertheless, it is perhaps on the whole a blemish which heightens the general effect of the picture. It suggests truthful- ness, and gives an a priori certainty that naught is set down in malice
The Hon. Emily Eden, who was with her brother, George, Lord Auckland, during the entire five years during which he was Governor-General of India, accompanied him in 1838 in his tour through the Upper Provinces, which occupied hint on the whole more than two years. These letters were written by her during this time to a sister in England, written almost always on the spur of the moment, as she says, " I always have my portfolio carried on in my palanquin, which comes on early, because then if I have anything to say to you before breakfast I can say it, and I daresay it would be unwholesome to suppress a thought before breakfast." The slight sketches she thus throws off are pictures of a life which, on its European side, has ceased for ever. Thirty years have not elapsed since then, but the railway has broken up the romance of travel, and the telegraph has killed the monotony of life even in Simla. By the way, Miss Eden gives a curious account of a visit to a doctor at some station who had evidently grasped the idea of the telegraph, but as he possessed eccentric ideas about the North Pole and Solomon's Temple, they quietly set down his " galvanic tricks as very amusing " and himself as. a
* Up the Country. By the Hou. Emily Eden. Lonlon: Bentley. 1836. little mad. Possibly he was—but it's an old. story. " Paul, thou art beside thyself." But to return. Men now take "a run up Simla" for their autumn holiday. Then it was a far more serious affair, and Miss Eden's description of leaving Calcutta is sufficiently amusing:—" The great hall [of G-overnment House] full of gentle- men who had come to accompany his Lordship to the Ghaut"— " even Mr. Macaulay had turned out for it"—" the band playing the march in the Puritani, which when we were at the Admiralty used to be played every morning by the Guards' band, and which consequently always carries me back to the horrid time of our preparations for leaving England ; so I can always cry it all over again to that tune "—and then Major J. observing, in " a gentle, ill-used voice," " I think Captain K behaved very ill to us. He said that between both steamers and the flat, he could lodge all the servants that were indispensably and absolutely necessary to us ; so I only brought one hundred and forty, and now he says there is not room even for them "—and the boat reeling till she wishes that she had a cork jacket on, and their running aground soon after starting, and " touching several times after the/ were again afloat," and after ten days' hard steaming finding themselves just 200 miles from Calcutta, is all given with the lightest imaginable stroke. So are her descrip- tions of people who nevertheless live before us. "A dull dinner, very ! but Mr. — is in himself a jewel, and he looks like that man in Matthews's At Home, who usad to say, with a melancholy look, that he was fond of fun,' but still in that melancholy way he is very pleasant. His eyebrows keep me in a continual state of wonderment. They are thick masses of very long hair, and if they were my eyebrows, or he were my Mr. T., I should, with a small pair of curling irons and a great deal of huile antique, make them up into little ringlets, like a doll's wig. I think they would have a very original and graceful effect. Then here is a young greenhorn, fresh from home ; shy and self-conscious, and just a little underbred. " Mr. T is such a prim boy ; he is very gentlemanlike-looking, and seems very amiable, but he is certainly prim. His uniform is so stiff he can- not turn his head round, and he talks poetically whenever he does speak. F declares he quoted to-day something from Mr. Thom- son's Seasons. I wish when he gives us his arm that he would -shut it up again. He sticks it out almost akimbo, so that it is impos- sible to hook on with any certainty." We have little doubt that from these pages Lord Auckland will be known as his own family knew him, better than from ten histories. And so will the officer who figures under the initial J." Here is a sketch of him when roused to indignation by hearing of some act of wanton oppression on the part of the camel-drivers. " J always throws out more legs and arms when he talks Hindustani than any other human being, and he looked like an enraged centipede." But after all it is in her description of native scenes, as she witnessed them, that her chief power lies. Much of the magnificence of these Oriental dur, bars, &c., has passed away, or no longer dazzles the accustomed eye, but Miss Eden's tapestry is positively stiff with gold and pearls and costly array. We cannot resist quoting an instance or two.
"The first show of the day was Runjeot's private stud. I suppose fifty horses were led past us. The first had on its emerald trapping; necklaces arranged on its neck and between its ears, and in front of the saddle two enormous emeralds, nearly two inches square, carved all over and set in gold frames, like little looking-glasses. The crupper was all emeralds, and there were stud-ropes of gold put on something like a martingale. Heera Singh said the whole was valued at 37 lees (370,0000; but all these valuations are fanciful, as nobody kuows the worth of these enormous stones ; they are never bought or sold. The next horse was simply attired in diamonds and turquoises, another in pearls, and there was one with trappings of coral and pearl that was very pretty. Their saddle-cloths have stones woven into them. It redness European magni- ficence to a very low pitch. . . . Behind us there was a large amphi- theatre of elephants, belonging to our own camp, or to the Sikhs, and thousands of Runjeet's followers, all dressed in yellow or red satin, with quantities of their led horses trapped in gold and silver tissues, and all of them sparkling with jewels. I really never saw so dazzling a sight.'
In the midst of all this magnificence comes one of the sharp con- trasts so marked in Oriental life. Runjeet is ill, Dr. D. goes to him, and this is his room : —" A little glass closet, in a corner of his palace, with a common charpoy to lie on ; no other furniture what- ever, and hardly room for any." Then fancy this, not thirty years Ego. The Governor-General invites Runjeet Singh, and " we had prepared our fete," &c. " The large tent opened into a long ,shemiana, a tent without sides, merely a roof supported by pillars. This looked out into the compound, only instead of flowers there were little lamps laid out as thickly as they could be placed, in the shape of flower borders. On the ground alone P said there were 42,000, and the garden was railed in by an espalier of lamps." And yet in the midst of this Arabian Nights' style of living there was the greatest possible amount of personal discomfort, discomfort such as a third-class passenger would now pronounce altogether intoler- able. Tents pitched in wet or sandy plains, drenched with rain or thick with dust. Native servants sleeping between the inner and the outer covering, keeping up an incessant sound of coughing. Miss Eden named her tent " Misery Hall," on which Lord Auck- land remarked, "Mine is not exactly that ; indeed I call it Foully Palace, it is so squalid-looking." After a severe storm, which beat down many of the tents, and occurred while she was suffering from ague, Miss Eden writes :—" You know I never could quite under- stand the Psalms, but I see what David means when he says, Woe is me that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech, and to have my habitation in the tents of Kedar ! Mesech I think he was wrong about. I should have no objection to dwell with him in a good house of his own, but the tents of Kedar are decidedly very objectionable and woe-is-me-ish.' Doubled-poled tents, I have no doubt, and lined with buff and green," and, as she adds else- where, " with mistakes in the pattern." The following exquisite
touch is irresistible :—
" Roopur, Tuesdv, Noventier 13.
"This is the memorable place where Lord William and Runjeet had their meeting, 'where those sons of glory, those two lights of mon, met in tho vale of Roopur. You lost the view of earthly glory. Men might say, till then true pomp was single, but now was married to itself,' etc. What is that quoted from ? You don't know—you know nothing. But as touching this scene of glory, it is a large plain—in short a slice of India—with a ruinous fort on one side and a long, narrow bazaar of mud huts on another, the Sutlej running peacefully along about a mile from our encampment. We have the same tents Lord W. had, at least fac-similes of them ; therefore we are quite up to the splendid meeting. Perhaps our tents are a shade handsomer, being a very deep chocolate colour, owing to the rain of yesterday. They were of course let down into the mud, and have acquired that rich, brown hue. Moreover, it occurred to me that my feet wore very cold to-day, and at last I discovered that the wet oozed out of the setringees (an Indian excuse for a floor cloth) at every step; and I had them taken up, and the teat is littered profusely and handsomely with clean straw, giving the whole the air and odour of a rickety hackney coach."
But they bore it all good-temperedly enough. Dickens, then in the zenith of his fame, seems to have saved them all from dying of the monotonous sense of exile, which is, or was, the curse of Indian life. He seems to have been to them like a breath of English air, reassuring them that they were not so far off after all, that it was still possible to see Pickwick mentally, and to laugh till they cried over " it is like a dream, a horrid dream, to go about all day with a horrid horse we cannot get rid of." Oliver Twist they had to read in monthly parts, but they liked Nicholas Nicicleby still better. " We have left off [says Miss Eden] at Miss Petowker's marriage, and Mrs. Crummle's walking tragically up the aisle with a step and a stop,' and the ' infant covered with flowers.' There never was such a man as Dickens ! I often think of proposing a public subscription for him,—' A tribute from India,' and everybody would subscribe. He is the agent for Europe fun, and they do not grow much in this country."
We commend these letters most heartily to all who care to see something of the Upper Provinces from an unofficial point of view, to all who care to enjoy a good laugh over scenes which to some may be mingled with their own reminiscences of a time (how long ago it seems !) when India was six months' distance from London. Nor are these pages, though intended only to amuse, altogether unsuggestive ; but we scarcely care to point a moral sufficiently obvious to all readers familiar with India, un- interesting to everybody else.