MAST years ago, when Mr. Kipling was a junior member of the staff of the Allahabad Pioneer, he discovered that the amateur journalist in those days was a power in the land of India. As a zealous sub-editor be came into contact with "The Man who could Write," whom he has immortalized in Lis Departmental Ditties. He wrote with generous admiration of the " wicked wit of Colvin; irony of Lyon"; and recognized that there were soldiers and administrators in India who were masters of "something more than ordinary journalistic prose." Moat of the scribble of these men has gone the way of all periodical literature. Sir Alfred Lyall's essays survive, and have still a racy local flavour not so perceptible in the more elaborate work of his retirement. Aberigh Mackay's sketches may still instruct and amuse those who have the sense to perceive that wit and wisdom more often than not go together. But the veteran Sir George Birdwood won his titles end degrees and other recognitions of a remarkable career chiefly by learned monographs such as his Industrial Arts of India. The real Birdwood, as his intimates knew him, bubbling over with learning, with eloquence, with unforced and ready humour, was beat represented to the outer world in his inimitable contributions to the Press in India and else- where. In these his own ready pen recorded talk as wise as Dr. Johnson's, as whimsical and lovable as Goldsmith's, and, above all, filled with an exotic sentiment, due to his • Soo. By sir Georg& C. N. 'Redwood. C.S.I. Edited by P. H. Brows, Loudon: Philip Lee Warner. flee. BC wig
Indian birth and long exile, such as we find in no other Anglo-Saxon writer; not in Kipling, not in Lyall. It was a lucky circumstance (Ma Laksmi and Ma Sarasvati must both have had a hand in it) which led Mr. Leo Warner, himself the son of a distinguished Indian adminis- trator and writer, to urge Sir George Birdwood to let him publish a collection of the contributions to newspapers and magazines, whose bright vigour and vivacity of style have made them conspicuous, during many past years, in sober columns of professional journalism.
The whimsical title of Era (" Himself ") aptly fits this delightful handful of random writings on the most varied subjects. The book is a better record and memorial of one of the most attractive and original of Anglo-Indian personalities than any formal biography, however sympathetically and accurately compiled. What biography could do justice to the unflagging humour, the charming high spirits of one whose love of India is undiminished by the follies of half- educated conspirators in Poona or Calcutta slums, whose confidence in the Imperial destinies of Great Britain in her dealings with India is unchecked by the blunders of untravelled statesmen whose dingy outlook on the shining world beyond Bombay is that of Downing Street? Sir George Birdwood loves India as Byron loved Greece, as Shelley loved Italy, and more also. To him India is his motherland, adorably beautiful and august, and yet most lovably imperfect and human. There are many Anglo•Indians who feel towards the land of their happy and useful exile as Sir George feels. There are none now living who have his gilt of finding apt and adequate expression for the deep affection that fills them. "Injusta noverca" was the phrase that Sir Alfred Lyall once used of India in a moment of pique or disappointment. Amateur men of letters, as well as professionals, have their moments of depression. But to Sir George India has ever been the Svasuri, the typical Eastern mother-in-law, whose home has a warmer and sweeter welcome for her sons by marriage than their own birthplace offers. Anglo-Indians as a class are a little shy, a little clumsy in proclaiming their love and admiration for the land of their adoption. It grows upon them so gradually during their exile that they are not always conscious of it till they are dismissed to make the best of a frugal pension in commercial and competitive Europe. They may even, like spoiled children, grumble and " grouse." Even those who most consciously and candidly love India may resent the fact, hardly to be questioned, that the Westernized Indian frequently, and seemingly deliberately, misunderstands them ; mistakes shyness for coldness, reticence for insolence. Perhaps this is because our system of appointment by
examination excludes too many hereditary Anglo-Indians, such as Sir George Birdwood himself, men whose affection and comprehension were acquired in childhood, and have become habitual and instinctive. Sir George's book is a most powerful, because unintended, argument in favour of employ.
ing officials whose happy childhood was spent in Indian sunshine, those who have never had to use any effort of will to make them love Indian ways and appreciate the admirable qualities of Indian men and women.
It would be a waste of time to attempt a detailed examina- tion of the varied matters which make up this fascinating
book. Sir George Birdwood deals with history and ethnology, with art and meteorology, with medicine and polities, with dozens of other texts for discourses which are all expres- sions of the delightful "Sva" they so characteristically reveal. Throughout there is a rich and irresistibly attrac- tive style which, once more, supports Bnffon's aphorism.
" Ce style figure," we may well say, "sort du bon caractbre et de la verite." Everywhere there is the genial humour which comes of spiritual sanity and health. Everywhere are floods of learning, often in the form of an etymology which, if it is not always academically correct, is stimulating, suggestive, and, beet of all, amusing. A characteristic example is the derivation of the word Svastika in the author's preface. Sir George would have us believe that it is "composed of the words smug well-faring; and Ulm, 'ticket," mark,' 'sign,' 'token; &c.," from which hazardous identification the writer runs on to an amusing catalogue of other words beginning with so-, "the names of a hundred more good things." But
it is not the details but rather the spirit of one of the most charming books published in our time that marks its import- ance. The essay on " The Rajputs" may not be accurate i4
the academical sense, but it is a picture of Rajput life and civilization which is thrilling, inspiriting, and true. It displays not only the romance of Indian history, but the romantic affection which Indian character and Indian scenery awaken in the minds of Englishmen of the right temperament, the temperament which, vanity apart and by the common consent of foreign observers, makes Britons the beat colonists and administrators the world has known.
There are those who lament that after one hundred and fifty years of missionary effort India has not been converted to one or other of the dogmatic Churches of the Christians who have preached to so-called heathens. We do not sufficiently recog- nize bow Hindu society and Hindu ethics have come under the pervading influence of Western ideas. India is a very different place from what it was when George Birdwood returned, a very competent and alert young surgeon, to the land of his birth. Not all the transformation has been for good. Perhaps not all that we had to teach was beneficial. But on the whole the changes wrought in Indian life are good, because they tend to bring it into touch with the wide world without. India does owe us a debt of gratitude, and uncon- sciously she has paid us back nobly. For without the charm and the learning of India we should have missed the pride of possessing such men as Sir William Jones, and Colebrooke, and Elpliinstone, and Brian Hodgson, and E. B. Cowell, and, last but not least, the "shining and venerable name" of Sir George Birdwood.
One word in conclusion of Mr. F. H. Brown, the modestly efficient editor of this volume. His was not an altogether easy task, since, as Le rightly says, "with some of his [Sir George's] conclusions many of us may be unable to concur." Mr. Brown is a professional journalist belonging to a younger generation than that of which his hero is the respected survivor. But he has been long enough in India to know that such a career, such varied experiences and interests as those of Sir George Birdwood have a permanent value and deserve attentive and respectful study. He knows that such men (many of them unknown to the bigwigs at the India Office) manage to make themselves loved and trusted even at times of crisis and trouble, and by sheer force of personality do the work of many armed men. We can well believe that Sir George was glad to have the filial help of a aishya so devoted and unassumingly competent as Mr. Brown.