12 DECEMBER 1840, Page 16


A VOYAGE to India—a short stay at Madras and Calcutta—a pa- lanquin journey with a detachment of troops, by land—a subse- quent descent of the Ganges—and a few years' residence at the military station of Cawnpore—do not seem subjects of consider- able promise for journal-writing, especially when the composer is an officer's wife, tied to the movements of her husband and his re- giment, with the encumbrance of a young family and domestic cares. Yet is this Narrative for the most part an agreeable work. Mrs. Asumorts having a pleasant and unaffected style, with good natural powers of observation, she conveys a liti•like notion of daily existence at sea, on shore, in the city, on the journey, and in quar- ters, by detailing circumstances which the old traveller would pass as things of course, or the scientific prowler consider beneath him. As the wife, too, of an officer in the King's service, she made her observations from a different point of' view from that which many take. Quitting England early, and making up the mind to pass many years in the country, the servants of the Company take to Anglo-Indian habits as fast as they can, and fall into the usages around them : persons who go out on speculations matrimonial, commercial, or otherwise, also contemplate permanent residence, prepare themselves to acclimate as quickly as may be, and get a kind of second nature as regards manners and modes of life :, but those connected with his Majesty's service very often go to India in maturer years ; they are always strangers and sojourners in the land; and they can test its usages by other and probably better standards.

The reader must not, from these remarks, rate this volume too highly. It is not one necessary to be read, either from the novelty of its observations or the striking manner in which they are stated. Its staple matter is the common incidents of Indian life, varied by

Indian phamomena, and occasionally by Indian inflictions—as fit- mine and the cholera. The feminine character of the volume, which gives the attraction to its better portions, also imparts some- what of' slightness to the commonplace details, of which it has its full share.

One of the most agreeable parts of the Narrative, strange to say, is the voyage : it is indeed the only pleasant account of a mere pas-

sage to India we have read for a long time ; nor did we think it possible for any one, without considerable skill in the «rs scribendi, to have rendered so common a trip readable. Passing this, how- ever, we will commence with the Governor-General's ball at Cal-

cutta, for a criticism on •


The ladies, like those in Madras, struck me as wearing most lugubrious countenances; and two classes only boasted a shade of love's rosy hue, viz. those who had very newly arrived, with health still sparkling in thew eyes and blooming on their cheeks, and those who had been constrained to seek a re- newal of youth's tinge frotn Doleroix's depot or similar emporiums. Their *Vie of dress was generally expensive, but in bad taste' and their languid and indifferent manner forcibly impressed one with the idea of debility and had health. There are many peculiarities which mark the Anglo-Indian 'heir steps in promenading even the ball-room are uncertain and irregular, notwithstanding that they almost invariably rest upon the arms of two gentlemen. When you advance towards them in a morning visit t,lceremony, they rarely rise from the sofa or easy chair on which they recline, until you are quite close to them, and never advance a single sten to give cordiality to the reception ; whilst their Ian_ old motion to the servant who has ushered in the visiter, and the half.tatered " Sahib," or " Mem Sahib ke chttokee do," (" give the gen- tleman, or lady, a chair,") as the case may he, precedes time most local and trifling conversation that can be imagined. I do not assert that all are thus inert ; a few I have seen who retain something of the vivacity of an intelligent Englishwoman ; but such are indeed rare, stud the generality of female a in India talk of little beyond the last new style of dress, their children, or their Ayahs.

Our fair writer's estimate of life in India is not much more fa- vourable than her criticisms on the ladies. Iler judgment on their

customs is doubtless traceable to the causes we have already men-

tioned: but the insects, the climate, and the excessive heat, are all positive evils,—the last so great as to keep most people from church ; to wear out those who go, in despite of a curtailed service; to overcome even the spiritual zeal of the clergy, and destroy the eloquence of the Bishop of Calcutta! Here is


On entering the dining-room, one is struck with the load of viands which crowd the table, over which a huge punkah noiselessly waves to and fro. 'Until the family approach, its motion is srarcly perceptible; but no sooner is any one within its influence, than it is pulled in a more energetic manner ; and an immense relief is felt after the fatigue of walking from another apartment and being for a few moments without this important requisite. Behind each chair, stands a whiskered, moustached, and turbaned domestic, with his arms closely folded across his bosom, or opened only to adjust the chair most con- veniently as his master or mistress becomes seated, and to arrange a napkin, which be then places in time hands or upon the knee. A footstool is before each chair, and is an indispensable comfort to the Anglo-Indian. The lamp or candle-shades upon the table arc all provided with perforate( covers, to protect them from the effects of the punkah ; and over each wine glass or tumbler (of which there are generally several to each person) are silver covers, as a precaution against flies and insects. 1 have seen a table covered with little brown grasshoppers, or perhaps with what more closely resembled crickets, to such an extent that, being unaccustomed to the sight, it WAS difficult to touch any thing, as the plate was immediately invaded by them, and their !notions were far too quick to be calculated upon. Occasionally the fire-fly will cause some alarm to the stranger, when its bright glow is discovered amidst the folds of a delicate white muslin garment ; lint at the season when the white ants take wing, and are attracted by the lights, can be more annoying than their intrusion. The flying bins, too, are objects of abhorrence, both within doors and in the open air : their odour is most noxious ; and if accidentally crushed in a handkerchief, or any article of dress, the scent can scarcely be got rid of. In driving, they are very apt to settle in the flair; than which Mw things can he more intolerable.

At Indian dinners each person eats from a Lot-water plate. * 'Flue English holy is surprised to see so much beer consumed by females in India; but 1 have be: n told dint such is more 0,111!Ilonly the ease tip the country than in Calcutta ; and sane residents in the latter Mare remark, that a ":11DRISSilite" is li.DMVD by a partiality for this beverage. Ilmii..ever this may be, it is quite allowable and usual for a gentleman to request the "pleasure of taking beer or wine with a lady,"—which would certainly have a droll effect in England. 1 have heard of a lady in Calcutta who used to restrict herself to a dozen bottles of Alisop's or .13,,r'A ale per diem ; but i cannot vouch for the ac- curacy of this statement, being totally unacquainted with the person in question. I was, however, very much astonished to see four, five, or six glasses of light but exItilirating eh:imp:me quietiy disposed of, in addition to other wines, by some ladies at dinner., or ball-suppers; and I bar it is too true that many of them seek by such means to remove the extreme depression of spirits and lassitude which are superinduced by the climate.


'We chanced to arrive in India almost simultaneously with one of the first importations of ice fruni America: it was most amusing to see the anxiety with which it was sought after. The depwits were otilym open for a short time be- fore sunrise, when crowds of coolies were in attendance to carry MI' the portions required by their employers : these portions were immediately enveloped in thick blankets and enclosed in bitsIsets, which were carried mull with all speed; but a very considerable quantity invariably dissolved before they could reach their respective destinations. I watched two or three Ayalis (Tor, ding rotund a basket which had just ar- rived : they were all eager to touch the novelty ; but immediately On 'Ceding its extreme coldness, ran away exclaiming that it. was " burnt '.rurram"—very hut. A child, too, cried violently, and told his mamma that the " English !Ass had burnt his fingers." I was not it little surprised, too, on several occasions, to see the ice brought to table as the greatest possible luxury, and handed round to persons to mix with their wine ; which, although cooled with saltpetre and Glauber salts, had not attained a much lower temperature than that of new milk. The ice in question was brought out as a means of preserving a large quantity .of Ame- rican apples in good condition for the Calcutta unarket ; when the tee unex- pectedly proved a more lucrative species of merchandise than the fruit.

Let us turn from social life to nature.


No sooner had the lint winds completely set in, than we bad a splendid spe- cimen of a genuine Nor-wester in full force. These tuffauns, as they arc here called, know no half-measures ; on they come, wrapping the whole lace of the country in darkness, and spreading alarm turd des; rum ion for and near.

On this, the first occusion of our witnessing the visitation, our attention was

drawn to it by time appearance of mountains sand, which occupied nearly one- third of the horizon : rot awhile they seemed stationary, although, in Met, they were advancing with tremendous rapidity: the edges reflected the rays of the de- clining sun, and exhibited every variety of tinge. We gazed in astonishment; nor could we easily believe that what we saw was not it range of solid mountains newly sprung up at the command of that Almighty 13eing who a' the first had created the world. Soon they evidently drew nearer, awl appeared like it roll- ing mass, which threatened to entomb us : we lingered as long its we dared. the pluenomenon was new to us, and we were scarcely aware of its power. The doors and windows of the bungalow had already been seemed by the servants, one only being held open in readiness fur our ingress : the storm approached, and we ran Mr shelter into the house : at that moment I recollected that a tame but imprisoned jachall, with which 1 Lad often amused myself, was ex- posed to the violence of the storm and unable to escape; I hastened to secure it, but had well nigh fallen a victim to my inexperience : the tempest haul alp ready reached the compound, when I ivies literally 'Mika into the liomc by the servants : iu all instant we were in total dad:tit:sit ; the monstrous clouuh was

passing over and around us, driven oil by an irresistible wh!, .aliicit sounded

like a continued peal at thunder. It was truly owl al Not at ereat aro stirred within the house : the Ayala was seated on the ground, with our itititnt on her lap, whilst I clung to the arm of my husband : had the last dread day arrived, my bewilderment could scarcely have been greater. The total darkness lasted on this occasion Mr about five minutes; the blackness then changed to a smtmly yellow which gradually died away. The compound presented the appearance of destitution : the trees were covered. witlt sand, and many of (lain" houghs were broken, while every article of furniture in the house bore witness to the visitation.

We will close our extracts with a sad picture. If' ever the native population gain intellectual strength and energy, there will pro- bably be a full staff of agitators, and plenty of agitation ; and then those who have been so accustomed to the starvation of the poor as to consider it part of the order of nature, will point to the popu- lar discontent as the effects of giving the people liberty and educa- tion.

AN INDIAN SCARCITY. 1 never saw time ravages of famine so dreadfully. displayed as lit Cawnpore. A great scarcity having occurred in the interior, the poor Hyoft, or farmers, were unable to support themselves and their families : the multi, tide of linings who had been able to earn a scanty subsistence in the (luring other years, were at this time thrown out- of employment ; provisions became extravagantly dear ; the failure of so many crops deprived them of subsistence, and wretch- edness succeeded : it was then that thonsands of these ;lour creatures sought the towns, and Were. seen crunvmling every avenue to the cantonments, Caw n- pore was filled with them : those who had youth and health brought in their aged and infirm relatives—poor disabled creatures, who had for many years never left their hovels ; disease and famine rendered them scarcely able to

crawl along the parched roads, under ahnost vertical sun ; mid when arrived they depended entirely upon charitable contributions for support. 1. limier every wall, they assembled ill crowds, taking up their position, mid merely changing

from one side of the road to the other, as the trifling shade afforded relief; and, thus established, they kept up a constant moaning and crying, or, as pas- - Isengers drew near, raised an urgent clamour liar alums; their miserable appear- twee setting forth a claim which few could resist,

On three or four occasions, we passed the dead and dying stretched on the road-side : their attenuated frames bore but too certain testimony of the im- mediate cause of their destruction. One morning we saw a poor wretch on the public road, who was still breathing, but so feebly that it was evident his troubles were nearly over : a few miserable rags hung around him ; but no one bad lingered to see life depart, or to pay the last sad offices to the dead: he was only about half a mile from the cantonment, whither, doubtless, his fel- low-travellers had passed forward totally unmindful of his condition, but anxious to ameliorate, if it were possible, their own misery. Another morning, we saw a human body slung across a bamboo, which two men carried on their shoulders ; the head and arms were dangling on one side, while the legs hung down on the other, and her long hair (for it was the hotly of a female) descended, filthy and matted, front her head. She was being con- veyed to the river, into which the inanimate form would he carelessly thrown.

On each occasion that we saw the dead or dying on the roads, Pariah dogs and birds of prey were lingering near : they were, however, scared away by those employed by the authorities to convey the corpses front public view ; for none others would approach them, as only those of the lowest caste would touch the body of the pour emaciated wanderer.