Item 30b - Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence

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Circular letter by F. W. Lawrence


  • [c. 23 Dec. 1897–c. 25 Feb. 1898] (Creation)

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19 sheets, 17 of them folded (pp. 35–106). Pages 39–62, 63–70, and 71–90 each form a gathering.

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Account of a journey via Nellore, Madras, Calcutta, Muzaffarpur, Calcutta, Sahdol, Mozufferpore, Benares, Lucknow, Roorkee (with an excursion to Moradabad), Delhi, Agra, Gwalior, and Bombay.

(A continuation of 5/30a. Headed ‘Encyclical no. 2.’ This letter describes events from 14 Dec. onward, but it is clear that it was not begun till after the writer’s arrival at Muzaffarpur on the 23rd. It was completed by 23 Feb., when Lawrence enclosed the last section in a letter to his Aunt Edith (see 6/4). The contents may have been transmitted in as many as six instalments, comprising respectively pp. 35–8, 39–62, 63–70, 71–90, 91–4, 95–106.)



Encyclical no. 2.

Once more I take up the pen to write a little something of my doings; but I am rather at a loss to know where to begin. You all know that I could not bring myself to keep a diary, and I don’t believe that if I did, any of you would be in the least interested in what it contained. How would read a day spent up in Mozuffapore with my friend W. S. Adie? “Awakened at 7.15 by the native barber who shaves me in bed; 7.25 tea & toast; 7.35 get up assisted by Adie’s Chokra (lad) who does not know the proper way of putting on socks; 8 o’clock get on our bicycles, and go for a ride, perhaps with some other people in the station; 10 o’clock, or a little after, come back have a warm bath (ghusl with garum pani) {1} dress & have breakfast; lounge about, or go & see Adie try a case in his court, or go and pay calls, or so on; lunch at 2 or a little later; then lawn tennis or racquets; then back to tea at 5. 30, & then on to the club to play billiards till it is time to come back (& dress if we are going out) to dinner, & so to bed perhaps at 10.30.” Not much of a diary to write up when it is very similar from day to day. And perhaps you will say:—“If that is all you came out to India to do, you might just as well have done it at home.” I don’t know. I fancy somehow I got in this way to appreciate something of Anglo Indian life.

But, if I remember, I left myself, so to speak, at the end of my last encyclical, at Nellore, sitting disconsolate, with Campbell gone away, wondering how I am going to get up to Mozuffapore, getting up every now & again to gaze in silent contemplation of awe & doubt, at the vast accumulation of travelling goods & chattels which are contained in all my trunks, boxes, bags, rugs etc etc, & uncertain as to which of them it will be expedient to carry with me about India. Every now & again Campbell’s Hindustani servant comes along & after gesticulating for some time I discover what he wants, perhaps he opens his mouth & saying something (not mangez-moi) I gather he means, shall I be in to dinner? Or I have to tell him I want the things home from the wash.

So a day or two passes, I make my selection of clothing, & pack up. [16 Dec.] Then Ashworth comes back to the bungalow and with him his “chief” a Madras engineer; & I start off having with great difficulty encrated my bicycle for Madras, the engineer going by same train. I shall arrive in Madras early morning & propose to stop at the club & go on same evening by train probably 3 or 4 days journey to Mozuffapore. Mr Moore (the engineer) kindly looks after me & insists on my staying the day at his house instead of the club which I am very pleased to do. Meanwhile I have brought Campbell’s Hindustani servant along with me to send him back when I leave Madras.

On enquiry I find boat P & O S.S. Parramatta goes up from Madras to Calcutta leaving day after next. Much pleasanter journey; I decide to take it.

[17 Dec.] So I go back to the Moores’ & say that as I have altered my plans & have settled to stop 2 nights in Madras, I will of course go on to the club. But they (he & his wife) will not hear of it, and insist on my stopping with them till I go. So I spend the days in going to shops and making one or two arrangements, & in the afternoons I go to the club for tea, & meet Mr Moore who introduces me to some of his friends, among them Ellis to whom I had an introduction, & we play billiards & get home to dinner at 8. Friday evening we are by ourselves & have some music; [18 Dec.] Saturday a friend comes in to dinner & we all go on to a sort of variety entertainment which the Governor of Madras {2} is attending. What a business it is finding one’s carriage afterwards and in the rain too (for it has actually started raining & been going on for 24 hours or so); the plan is:—every one, who can, crowds into the doorway & then all the carriages drive past, and whenever anyone spots their carriage they hail it & get in. Somewhat primitive! but then you see they don’t as a rule get so many Europeans at the place. (Please excuse writing & style, as I am in a train with not too good illumination.) At last after waiting about ½ an hour we find our vehicle and get back about 1.30 A.M! For entertainments in this country don’t begin as a rule till 9.30 P.M.

Meanwhile I have had it explained to my servant that I want him to take all my luggage to the pier early in the morning; & I myself am to be called at 6 and follow on soon after. I found it always rather a difficulty telling my servant anything, I used to say to someone “Would you mind explaining to my boy such & such things”; it was really rather ludicrous; when I was out in a gari (cab) & thought the driver was not going where I wanted & could not explain, I used to stop in the street when I saw a white man (or more probably Eurasian) & ask him to make it clear; in this way I sometimes gathered quite a little crowd, & I have since heard other English people say they have done the same; for even if you know Hindustani I am not sure whether you will be able to make the Tamil-speaking people of Madras fully comprehend you.

[19 Dec.] Well, I got up Sunday morning bade goodbye with sincere gratitude for the most kind hospitality & arrived at the pier to find my boy there with all my baggage, & getting into a Mozaffee boat (I don’t think this is quite the right word; but they are marvellous craft, put together without any nails, the planks fastened to one another with string. They have about 15 men rowing & one man constantly bailing) I am rowed to the Parramatta. I settle up with my boy, & prepare myself for a quiet 3 days voyage. It is exactly a month since I left London & I find the Parramatta left London on the same day as I did {3}.

Not very much to describe of my life on board the ship. I found the people all very ready to be friendly, quite a small party only some 50 or 60, & I was not quite so much of an intruder as I had expected because a number of them had only come on at Colombo a day or so before.

I sit at meals next an American who is a thorough specimen of the globe trotting Yankee; & who succeeded in doing Madras during the few hours the boat stopped there, by just taking a trolly car from one end of the city to the other end and back again.

Though I got on board according to instructions, about 8 A.M. the boat has so much cargo to deal with that it does not get off till nearly 5 o’c in the afternoon.

[20–21 Dec.] Monday & Tuesday pass along easily enough with deck cricket in the afternoon, & Tuesday night we reach the mouth of the Hoogly (that branch of the Ganges Delta on which Calcutta lies) & remain till dawn, for the ascent of the river must be in daylight. [22 Dec.] Wednesday we slowly proceed up the river an operation which requires some care, as the bed of the river is constantly changing with the shifting sand {4}, & reach the landing stage about ½ past 3. The same night I go on by train to Mozufferpore [23 Dec.] reaching there about noon {5} & am glad to find Adie waiting for me on the platform.

Mozufferpore is a large station with perhaps 80 or a 100 Europeans but I don’t suppose they are ever there all at once, and at Xmas time, particularly, a number of them are away. When one speaks of the residents in an English town one would regard a person who had been there only a couple of years as quite a new comer; this is not at all the case with the stations in India; nearly all the Europeans are officials and they constantly are getting shifted on from one place to another; 2 years would represent an old inhabitant, a few months would cover a good number; and perhaps—I speak quite at random—only ½ the people would have been there over the year. Thus with the I.C.S people they get shifted about during their years in India all through a sort of division of their presidency, and get in time to know nearly everyone in it.

But of such general matters as these I shall be able to speak with more knowledge later on & I propose leaving a great number of them to write about in a final encyclical which I shall write on leaving India.

I may as well state here that I have booked passage (P & O) from Colombo in a boat which will probably leave April 29.

The last date to post letters to India for me will therefore be April 1 & up till then they should be sent | c/o Thos Cook & Son | Bombay.

It will probably be possible to post on to the Australian P & O by which I am going to be delivered to me ‘passenger from Colombo to Australia’, but I am not sure of the name of the boat. Afterwards letters should be sent | c/o Thos Cook & Son | 269 Collins St | Melbourne

As I said at the beginning I do not propose to say very much about my time spent at Mozufferpore because the actual incidents of it would read very much the same as those of easy life anywhere; except perhaps, you will say, the time of rising; well really in India one must get up early, because the hours just after sunrise, & the hour or two as the sun is setting are much the best of the day. But I consider we used to get up rather late at M—, I frequently get up at 6 or 6.30.

When I say ‘the hour or two as the sun is setting’ don’t imagine that we get anything to speak of in the way of twilight; probably at 4 o’clock it is still tremendously hot, & you have to wear your pith helmet against the heat of the sun, & by 6 o’c it is quite dark. When I was at Nellore there was only about an hour we could play lawn tennis; 50 minutes before sunset 10 minutes after.

[25 Dec.] On Xmas day we went to a dinner party at the Collector’s {6} (head Magistrate’s) house, & the whole party played a game of sort of dining room badminton afterwards; [27 Dec.] and on the following Monday we went there again to a jolly little dance. English Xmas fare was of course the order of the day at the dinner, & we pulled crackers & drank to absent friends. On the Monday I danced on into [28 Dec.] my birthday & went (cycled) home with the added weight of the 1st year of my second quarter century!

One day, an indigo planter {7} (there are a great many all round M—) came to stop a day with Adie and offered to take me back with him to spend a couple of nights at his “factory” (this term includes as well as the actual factory, his own house & grounds & I think all the land under indigo cultivation) & this I was pleased to do.

(This letter reminds me of the report of one [of] my speeches in the C. Union, given by the Review “Mr Lawrence with a halting delivery & lame sincerity spoke in contemptuous footnotes” The similarity refers to the footnotes, because I have put into the letter so many parentheses; the halting delivery too probably about hits the mark.)

There was not very much going on at the factory as the growing is in the spring and the manufacture in the summer, and at these times they are very busy; but there were large numbers of coolies at work in the fields & we rode round them inspecting; this the planter does every morning, because if there is no inspection work will be shirked, or the foreman will pretend to have employed more men than he actually has done.

I was interested in the sort of wages received; all the family seem to work, the man gets perhaps 10 pies a day, the woman 8 & the children 4 or 6; and 12 pies make one anna ie one penny! So that one is reminded of the workmen who worked for a penny a day. At the same time the man probably owns some little private land on which he can grow a few things for himself.

The planter is generally landlord as well as employer, and has the people under his thumb; & no doubt he drives a pretty good bargain for himself in many cases by methods which seem somewhat doubtful to English bred ears, but the people are probably surprised that being all powerful he does not make greater use of his opportunities; they would be worse treated under native rulers, & but for the feeling of subservience to a foreign race would prefer the present régime. (Of course you must remember in all these statements of native opinion I only speak from what I have been told, it would be quite impossible for me to get any idea of it direct from the people themselves).

I was also interested in the sort of life the planters lead, far far away from anyone but this extraordinary race of cringing people. A desolate sort of life, & my friend thoroughly disliked it; he seemed to regard India as a sort of trap into which people fell when they were young, & being once out here, found it too late to go back again & start life at home. I have found some other people who have held somewhat ths view and a great many who have held quite the opposite.

For my own part I don’t think I should care to live out here permanently; there is a spirit of unrest about the place which would be very trying.

It seemed funny out in such a lonely spot, to spend the afternoon in putting out & playing a game at croquet, with a set made by Ayers & Son of London.

My friend, the planter, was an old Cambridge man of the same year as myself, but as he belonged to Pembroke we did not find we had very many friends in common.

Adie was very kind to me & took me round to call upon all the people at M—; I think I have said that when a new person comes to a station, it is the custom for him to go round & call upon all the ladies of the station; the proper time to do this is between 12 and 2, as after that hour a great many ladies retire to sleep; the proper length of a call (this would suit Carry) is ten minutes; so every day—or a good many days—Adie & I were to be seen on bicycles performing a round.

One morning I went to see a village industry, blanket making; everything was done from the raw wool to the finished article—not very finished—& all the apparatus was of the most primitive kind: the weaving machine had only 1 beam & no comb, the man using a piece of bamboo cut like a large paper knife & thrusting alternately between the threads instead.

Another morning I went to see the jail, where the prisoners were engaged in various works, among others in making Persian Carpets.

[About 3 Jan.] {8} At the beginning of Jany I returned to Calcutta & one of the first things which I did was to engage a servant from Cooks. Specifically he is a “travelling boy” & speaks English very well; up to this point I had been studying up Hindustani, but now I am afraid I have left off learning it as I require it so little. The man I have got (for though he is called a “boy” he is old enough to be my father) is a Mussulman & seems extremely capable & so far as I can judge honest. He gets what is viewed out here as a fabulously large salary 2 or 3 times as much as most servants get; yet what seems very small from a European point of view. His wages are 35 rupees a month, and it appears all travelling boys of this kind get the same. For this he “finds” himself. He waits on me at table, looks after my clothes & is generally useful, but of course he is not prepared to do nearly as much as an English servant. He also dresses me, but this I think I could do as well without. His principal use is when I am travelling or stopping in hotels, as then nothing is safe from the hand of the despoiler. Later on I shall probably be able to give you a better description.

I spent about a fortnight in Calcutta, & while the first part of my time I found rather slow, leaving my letters of introduction etc, at the end I had so much to do it was difficult to get it all in: I suppose this must always be so more or less when one goes to a strange place, but I think it was partly my own fault, as I did not go & call upon all the people I might have done, at first.

Altogether I met a number of Old Caledonians & old Parramattans & they were a great help to me, & were very kind.

One day I went to tea with Babington Smith the Viceroy’s secretary who is a fellow of Trinity {9} & to whom I had a letter of introduction from the Master of Trinity {10}. [6 Jan.] Then I went to the large ball at the Government House where only Europeans came {11}, almost every one in Calcutta; [11 Jan.] & another evening to a party to which natives also were invited {12}; [13 Jan.] then another day there was the ceremony of the Investiture of different orders Commander of the Indian Empire (C I E) etc. {13} It is difficult for me to say very much in description; some of the costumes of the Indian princes were very magnificent & their jewels were superb. Those whom you have seen, & the pictures of them will probably enable you to get some idea.

Then one evening I went down to the Seaman’s Institute where there was a sort of social gathering and a little dance; it seemed quite like a workman’s club in England, & so funny to find it out here, so many English sailors; I enquired for any from Victoria docks way, but I could not find any.

[12 Jan.] Then one day I spent with a man of the Oxford Mission Rev F W Douglas† who took me round among the slums {14}; we saw the extraordinary images, they do poojah (worship) to; also we saw the place where they burnt their dead. Then too he took me to a Rajah’s palace, full of some really beautiful things & with magnificent floors; but everything lumped about just anyhow, mixed up with any amount of rubbish; on the outside a number of sort of scaffold poles were lying about, looking as though the house was just being done up; but I was assured that it was always so.

Douglas† himself looks after what is known as a “mess”, that is a place where a number of students who are working for their university exams, live together. His place was kept fairly in order & clean, but the places he took me too† where the students ran their messes on their own account might better be described by saying they “pigged” together. The cost for board & lodging is about 12 rupees a month (ie 4/– a week)! Then lectures etc cost them some small sum, & these are their total expenses; rather different from what we have to pay at the Varsity!

Then one day I was taken round the Opium dens by one of the Commissioners. He told me when I started that I might say anything I liked about them to friends, but I must not make use of what I saw to speak or write against government; it seems they have been bothered with a lot of people who have gone prying into the matter, knowing little or nothing, & have made a lot of trouble. These dens used to be licensed & then he could inspect them & see they were kept respectable; now these busybodies had stirred up sentiment & refused to license them any longer, so that unlicensed places grew up quite as numerous as before & much worse kept. Of course every now & then he comes down & catches them & has them fined; so they keep a man on the look out, who gives a note of warning & all the people in the den hurry out of the way. On this occasion my friend was only taking me round, & so he just said “he didn’t intend to catch them” & they seemed quite to trust him in a great number of cases, & remain just as they were. We saw first one class of dens where opium is mixed with a black powder & rolled up into little balls to smoke, and secondly the real opium smoking when the man gets a little opium melted in a flame, & puts it in his pipe, & then still holding his pipe over the flame, just has his 3 or 4 wiffs, & then begins again. My friend made me a present of one of these pipes which I shall show you one day.

Of course you must not confuse the selling of opium & the keeping of smoking dens; the 2 things are quite distinct, the former is allowed in licensed shops, the latter is now forbidden.

One day I went to call upon Mr Whitehead who is a brother of one of the fellows of Trinity {15}; he himself is head of the Bishops College, a school for instructing native Christians; I went to lunch there & was shown over the place; I also had some talk with him about the whole question of native Christianity, but it is a very difficult subject; at any rate it would seem that the work of soundly educating the children of native Christian parents cannot be anything but good. All the missionaries of the College & of the Oxford mission belong to the high church party, & there was staying with them an army man who was more or less of their way of thinking. I was interested in hearing his position, especially as I have known well several low church men in Cambridge. He also took me to his Church. As he had a good deal of time upon his hands I went about with him, sometimes cycling, sometimes going [in] the quaint little boats upon the river. One day we cycled and trained to Chandinagore which is one of the towns under French Jurisdiction. Another day we went across to the botanical gardens, where there are magnificent avenues of tropical trees, a splendid place for cycling. The French station was curious, it looked so funny to see “Rue de la Gare” stuck up and such like.

There was also a zoological gardens which I went to see, but our London Zoo rather spoils us for all other entertainments of a similar kind.

I went several times to the theatre while I was in Calcutta & saw among other things the Liliputian troop performing in Robinson Crusoe; one evening I made up a party of old Caledonians & we all went together and took a box.

Every afternoon as soon as the sun ceases to be hot, there is a special road where every body drives, known as the red road; then when it is dark the band plays in the Eden Gardens some people getting out of their carriages & walking about; but the great majority just have their carriages stop & sit in them, for people are very lazy about walking.

Another afternoon I went to play lawn tennis with some boat friends & spent a pleasant time.

Then I went to call upon Mr Mozoomdar who is one of the leading lights of the Bramo Somaj movement {16}; he insisted upon getting up a meeting of Bramo Somaj students for me, [16 Jan.] & I went there Sunday afternoon, & described to them, as I was requested, a little about Cambridge life. Our whole idea of a Varsity is very different from theirs; they merely look upon it as an institution for giving lectures & for examining. All the students work very hard, principally cramming; so far as I could judge there is very little real interest in the work. They were very much amused at the idea of some of our men going up to Cambridge mainly for the rowing or the cricket, and some of them asked questions. There were, besides students, several other Bramo Somaj people to whom Mr Mozoomdar introduced me, among them I met a man who had been up at Cambridge (a native I mean) & whom I knew slightly when I was there {17}. Then when the meeting was over they put a garland of flowers round my neck(!) which they say is an oriental custom, & gave me to taste of all kinds of native fruits & sweets. I was very glad to have the opportunity of tasting but I can’t say they were highly delectable; while I was going in for these things they didn’t eat but remained looking on & watching my face as I tried each new thing, a little embarrassing to say the least of it. I had come on my bicycle, & they almost wanted to me† wear my garland to ride home in, but I couldn’t quite swallow that, so I got them to do it up in a piece of paper & I hung it in my room at the hotel.

Altogether I enjoyed my stay in Calcutta very much; & was very glad to have the opportunity of studying native life. What with the Opium dens, the slums, the streets of the bazar† (one I drove through was so narrow that the vehicle almost touched both side houses at once) & my visit to the Bramo Somaj I felt I had really got just a little bit behind the scenes, & had ideas of some sides of Indian life of which many Anglo Indians even are ignorant.

One thing my friend Mr Douglas of the Oxford Mission said to me, which impressed me very much, while he was showing me the Students† messes. He said “These Hindoos have beautiful manners; now you would think from this apparent pleasure at seeing us, & the glad welcome they accord, they really liked our coming to see them. On the contrary they hate & dislike us. It is not altogether (or even mainly) fear which make[s] them treat us here as they do, it is simply their manners”. Of the country as a whole he said “We merely govern it by the sword & but for the impossibility of the people acting together we should not succeed; yet mark the marvellous order we are able to keep in the streets; & moreover remember a native would always prefer an Englishman to judge his quarrel”.

All these statements seem somewhat contradictory but I have found other people say almost exactly the same. I don’t know that they are really quite true, & of course you must not include people like the Bramo Somaj. One word more:—The Hindoo is exasperatingly dilatory & the Englishman curses him for it & treats him as a fool! (This is my own.)

{18} But I expect you will be most of all anxious to hear about the eclipse, so I write this at once in case I should not have another opportunity of writing. [17 Jan.] I left Calcutta on Monday evening 17th Jany & travelling continuously [18 Jan.] I arrived at Sahdol at eleven o’clock on Tuesday night. That is what I should call a nice easy pleasant journey, because I only had one change, & no time to wait at the changing station; whereas now on my way back to Mozuffapore, I am stranded here (Bankipore) with 7 —— hours to wait because the trains have just missed. One thinks a good deal in England of having to wait an hour or so at a station; here one just accepts the inevitable. The native sitting & waiting, is in his element & is perfectly happy. When I arrived at Sahdol I was met by a servant, who sent on my bedding with a coolie & a “peon” {19} showed me my way to a tent where my bedding was unfolded and I slept soundly till morn; when I awoke I saw no sign of my other luggage or my boy, till about 8 o’clock Campbell came & said I had really gone to the wrong tent. He himself had only just arrived as he had missed trains somewhere along the route & had been delayed a day; he had wired to the chief to have me met at the station. The tent I had slept in, belonged to a man who was coming up next day, so it was all right.

There were two parties in the Astronomical camp at Sahdol, 1stly the English party consisting of The Astronomer Royal (Christie), Turner & others, unfortunately Dr Common had decided at the last not to come {20}; & 2nd the Madras Party, with Michie Smith the Government Astronomer as chief, & several others among whom Campbell was one; it was this party which I joined, & as soon as I was introduced to Michie Smith he said he would like to make use of me during the eclipse as he was rather short of hands; I had not really quite wanted to be employed, as I had intended to get a good view of the phenomenon; still of course I could hardly refuse, especially as he added ‘you will be able to see the eclipse all right’; further, I was a little pleased at taking a real part (so to speak) in the observations.

During the days which elapsed before the eclipse we lived a rough & tumble sort of life, sleeping in our tents at night under a great pile of blankets, for it was very cold, & wearing thin clothes during the day because of the great heat. The range of shade temperature was from 80 to 30 and this hardly really gives an idea of the heat in the middle of the day, because it is the sun itself which makes it seem so warm. Hot at 5 PM at 5.30 the sun would set, at 6 one wanted a small coat & before 6.30 one needed an ulster, & we often dined in our ulsters in the evening.

We saw something of Christie & Turner & the others of their party; their instruments were especial eclipse instruments, & were similar to the ones I had seen in Norway the summer before last {21}. Our instruments, on the other hand were all general observatory instruments & had to be adapted for eclipse work.

M. Smith himself used a heliostat which was erected on a mound he had had made, some 15 ft high which went by the name of “Mount Sahdol” in the camp. I don’t propose to give a detailed description, but the heliostat is in the main a revolving mirror, & this one reflected the sun down a long 40 ft tube & so by means of lenses to an image on a photographic plate. M Smith & several of the party worked at this; & Campbell was put in charge of another instrument with your humble servant to assist him. This instrument consisted of an ordinary equatorial telescope, with an apparatus (at the end, where the eye would usually be placed) for photographic plates. An “equatorial” I may describe as an ordinary telescope which can be turned towards the sun or a star, & which by means of clock work is made to move so that it continually points towards the same object while the earth goes round its axis during the day. The photographic arrangement was made so as to enable a number of plates to be exposed in succession.

[Alongside the following words is a rough sketch of the telescope and case.] I am afraid my powers of drawing are quite unequal to making you understand even the principle of the thing. The first picture is intended to be a diagrammatic sketch of the telescope & case for the plates {22}. [Alongside the following words is a rough sketch of the case.] The second to show the case for the plates alone. In this the telescope is supposed to be pointing through the paper, with the eye piece end in contact with the plate marked A; then by turning the case round by means of the handles B, each of the plate† successively could be brought into the same position.

Campbell’s business it was to turn the case round, & call out to me the times of exposure, while I stood on a couple of packing cases, & did the exposures by taking off & on my straw hat (!) at the end C.

During the days before the eclipse I was given a good many calculations to do, & worked out from formulae the times of 1st 2nd 3rd & 4th contacts [Alongside the following words are diagrams of the four contacts between sun and moon] ie, the times of commencement of eclipse, commencement of totality, end of totality, & end of eclipse. These times seem to have been verified pretty closely by observation, but they could not be very accurate, as we were not quite certain of our longitude. The totality was about 103 seconds; and the whole eclipse began about 0h–13m–9s & ended 3h–1m–46s local time. The last day before the eclipse we had several practices of the work we had to do. The programme for our instrument was as follows: A few seconds before totality I take off the real cap of the instrument & replace it by my straw hat; then totality having begun, Campbell opens the shutter & calls out “½” whereupon I expose for a guessed ½ second, Campbell rotates the case & calls out “1” & I expose for about a second; then 2, 4, 8, 16, 8, 4, 1, in succession, the longer times I count with a bell which is ringing out seconds. And during the longer exposures I am to have time to look at the eclipse. We find that we have just nice time to get through these 10 exposures during the 103 seconds. After that, Campbell shuts the shutter, I put on the real cap, & afterwards ½ a minute after totality is over, give a very rapid exposure of the partial phase by means of a slit (Campbell raising the shutter meanwhile).

I have not mentioned that the place where we were encamped was in a clearing which had been made right in the middle of the jungle; one day a man brought home a tiger which he had shot less than 2 miles from the camp!

[22 Jan.] Saturday all is ready; & about the calculated time the eclipse begins in a cloudless sky.

During the partial phase I noticed several things the exact opposite of what I saw in Norway; in the first place whereas there the light seemed to remain about the same up to within a minute or two of totality & then to get rapidly darker, here the light seemed to get gradually less all the way through; secondly whereas there the horns of the solar crescent were particularly pointed I noted here that they appeared cut off—no doubt an optical effect.

Thus at Vadsö phases were [There follow sketches of three phases of the solar crescent] here they seemed to be more like this [There follow sketches of five phases, the first and last crossed through.]

It is getting darker, only a few seconds remain to totality.

“There’s Venus!” cries M. Smith.

“There’s the Corona.”

Our work begins.


It’s all over & it’s getting light again.

What have we seen? In the first place let me say that our work somewhat interfered with our appreciation of the phenomenon as a whole; but—though this has to be borne in mind—I am compelled to admit (& I know that I am open to the charge of want of artistic sense in saying it) I was disappointed! I think that was probably because I had been led to expect so much. This feeling of mine was shared by a good many of those observers who were seeing an eclipse for the first time.

To begin with, it never got really very dark, I don’t think it was as dark even as totality in Norway; in the second place there was no shadow to be seen; & thirdly there were hardly any colour effects.

Having said all this, I have probably said too much. We saw the corona, we saw at least one prominence, & we saw Venus & I think Mars & Mercury. The Corona itself is somewhat less tangible or real than one is led to imagine, & looks really much more like the extending rays of the sun which one sometimes sees in England. It is very often drawn like this [There follows a sketch of the sun with rays, or streamers, radiating from it] which gives you an idea that the lines of the streamers go in the directions of the lines drawn. In reality what is shown above is only intended as an outline of all the streamers that there are; I should attempt to draw it as below. [There follows another similar sketch, with a greater number of radial streamers.] all the streamers appearing radial.

The picture I have just drawn represents somewhat the corona of the present eclipse. Out in the direction A was to be seen Venus shining very brightly; & somewhat further on & a little above were Mercury & Mars. When the sun’s disc was covered, a very bright spot could be seen at B. To some this appeared of the same colour as the sun itself, & it flashed through their mind that it might be Vulcan, the conjectured inner planet, but for my own part at any rate this idea was immediately dismissed, 1stly because it was much too bright, 2nd because it was much too big. Other observers saw the spot a brilliant red. It was in fact an exceptionally fine prominence. It comes out well in the 2 photographs which I saw developed, before I left Sahdol; & there are a number of other mushroom shaped prominences to be seen in them as well.

The colour of the corona was, as one is always told, a sort of milky white, & objects on the earth were a dull slate colour.

The horizon, or parts of it, appeared to be bright all through the phenomenon, but some people saw cloudlike shadows on distant hills.

Altogether it was a very fine eclipse, & I was very pleased to have an opportunity of seeing it & taking part in the observations. It was only as a stupendously grand phenomenon, which should indelibly imprint itself upon the mind, & remain there as the most wonderful thing ever seen, that it seemed to me not to fulfil one’s expectation. This impression appears to be shared by the great majority (from what I hear now) of those who saw it.

The fact that we never saw the shadow moving is perhaps to be accounted for by the fact that we only commanded a very limited horizon; but I was given to understand than† one man who had gone up a hill, had not observed it either. Perhaps it is to be connected with the gradual withdrawal of light; but this term is only relative. Moreover people viewing it from other places seem to have observed a sudden withdrawal {23}. Lastly as to colour effects, I suppose it would always be difficult to account satisfactorily for their appearance or non-appearance. Some people apparently saw changes of colour of the inner corona; these I had no opportunity of observing; but in any case I don’t believe they can be seen well unless one deliberately shuts or covers one’s eyes for several minutes before totality begins.

{24} This sheet is by way of being a sort of postscript to my second encyclical. A few pages back I described to you how I had to wait 7 hours at Bankipore; at the present moment I am in a still worse predicament, because I am stranded here (Bankipore again) till my luggage turns up. I saw it booked & labelled at Mozuffapore, but even so it never seems to have been put into the train; & I dare not go any further without it lest I should be divorced from it altogether. Rather hopeless! but I keep the official busy telegraphing & it may ultimately turn up. You can perhaps imagine that the frame of mind I am in is not very conducive to letter writing, & especially is delay disagreeable to me as just at the present, I want all the time I can get, in order to put in everything that I ought to do up here, before going down to join Booty {25} by Feby 26. As you know he lives in S. Canara & in order to avoid the possibility of plague quarantine I shall probably have to go all round by Calcutta Madras & Calicut.

I have just spent a very jolly 2 or 3 days with Adie {26}, coming in for the tail of Mozuffapore week. Sports, tournaments, races, dances all formed part of the programme, & crowds of people as one thinks out here (perhaps 3 or 4 hundred) had come into the station from the surrounding country. [26 Jan.] The last evening, Wednesday, we had a delightful fancy dress ball; of course having stopped 10 days at M— at Xmas time I knew quite a number of people & enjoyed myself immensely. A Pierrot costume is very much more pleasant to dance in than dress clothes. [27 Jan.] I stayed over Thursday & went out to dinner that night, & left by train 1.30 A.M, intending to get on to Benares this morning; but alas man proposes and ——. Every now & again I take train down to the river & take steamer across to meet the trains coming from Mozuffapore, but so far I have met with no success.

[2 Feb.] Roorkee Feby 2. Well you see here I am & not without my luggage! The last occasion of my crossing the river, for which this description was broken off, ended in my finding my luggage come by the Mozuffapore train; I returned with it in triumph, went & looked up a man in Bankipore whom I had met at M—, had dinner with him & caught night train on to Benares. Now I expect you will want a detailed description of what I saw in Benares, and this is just what you won’t get. The really fine thing is the view of the city from the Ganges. I got on to a small boat & was paddled very slowly down. You see the banks are high & slope down into the water; all the temples and Rajahs’ palaces are built at a normal height on the side away from the river; then they have a great wall & steps down on the river side, so that from the water they stand up perhaps 100 feet or more. Then there are a great number of people bathing & washing clothes in the Ganges because it is the sacred river, though you may be sure it is dirty enough really. I am afraid I have made this really grand & impressive Oriental sight only appear ridiculous.

I think in the last page I was speaking of Benares {27}, the great feature of which is the view of the city from the river. Of course there are temples without number, & among them is the monkey temple, where monkeys roam about at their pleasure & issue forth to steal from the surrounding suburb. Then there is the learned holy man who alone of all the holy men one comes across is not prepared to receive a gratuity; he shakes hands with you & presents you with a copy of his commentary on the Vedas.

Lucknow must always be memorable for the successful defence of the Residency during 5 months of siege. I was shown all over the Residency compound & received instruction from the native who is in charge, & who frequently brought his sentences to a close with “and outside there were 50,000 & inside but 2000 men”. And then I went into the grave yard where are buried those who fell during the siege; into this none but Europeans are allowed to go. There I found the famous tomb with the inscription

Here lies
Henry Lawrence
Who tried to do his duty

Altogether the graves were very simple, & the whole effect very impressive.

At Lucknow I also saw the great palace of the king of Oudh; a huge quadrangle all coloured with saffron, not really very fine art, but a thing not to be forgotten.

And so I went on to Roorkee & arriving 4.50 A.M found my friend Tipple awaiting me at the railway station; awfully good of him I thought, especially as it was quite dark & I subsequently found he didn’t as a rule get up till 7.30. “But” said he “it isn’t everyday I get a visitor come & see me, in fact you are the first & I have been out here nearly a year.” Tipple is Professor at Roorkee Thomason College, & during the day while he was occupied, I went also to the labs and spent my time in trying without much success to arrange an apparatus for distilling some very dirty mercury. Then when work was over we played lawn tennis or rowed or rode; & in the evening we either dined alone & talked of old times or we went around to the R.E officers’ mess of which I was courteously made an honorary member during my stay at Roorkee. Altogether a quiet time but very pleasant.

One day Tipple was talking & said that one of the disadvantages of the place was that there was nowhere to get away to from Saturday to Monday. The next day I got a letter from Hutchinson—who came out with me on the Caledonia—saying he was assistant magistrate at Moradabad & his chief was H. S. Rix another old friend of mine. Now Moradabad is quite close to Roorkee, & I found Tipple knew both the men too; so we at once settled to make a Sat–Mon trip over there. [5–7 Feb.] You will perhaps modify your idea of what I call “quite close” when you hear that it took us 7 hours to get over there, & 4 hours in the middle of the night, to come back; the distance was in fact 100 miles, but to a globe trotter who has covered some 2000 miles in the previous 3 weeks c’est une bagatelle. It was rather a relief to be travelling without all my baggage, for my boy by careful subdivision of packages has brought the number up to 14 in all including two of his own. And we spent an extremely pleasant little week end, & it seemed quite like dear Old Cambridge again. {28}

And so I went back to Roorkee, & finished out my stay there & started for Delhi having spent a very pleasant week.

(Before I forget, did I tell you that one day at Calcutta when I was driving through a very narrow street of the bazaar, it got so bad that the driver had to take the horse out to get the small victoria round one of the narrow corners?)

I had a letter of introduction to one of the members of the Cambridge Mission to Delhi, from the Master of Trinity; so when I went to Delhi I stopped at the Mission House, which was once a Rajah’s palace & is a fine old place in a quaint compound.

I do not propose to say anything—at any rate now—on the subject of Mission work, but it was very jolly meeting so many old Cambridge men. I found one man who was up in Trinity in my year. And there was also a layman there who was able to go about a bit with me as he had not much to do.

But my sight seeing in Delhi was somewhat spoilt by the rain, & I am afraid my recollections of the town will always be mixed up with mud & slush. Of course in reality Delhi is not more favoured with rain than other places, & that which they had when I was there was the only rain since October. Arrangements in India are not intended for rain—at any rate in the winter—the interiors of bungalows become very dark, & of course there is little or nothing to be done outside. I suppose however that rain is always “the deluge!”—so to speak—to an idle globetrotter.

The interest of Delhi is of 3 kinds:—1st reminiscences of the mutiny 2nd buildings of the town 3rd the ruins to the south & the Kutb.

Of the reminiscences of the mutiny I do not propose to say anything because no short words of mine can bring them vividly before you. A mixture of sadness & pride must always fill the mind whenever they are exhibited, & these cannot be conveyed in words.

Of the buildings of the town, the fort or palace, & the great wall which runs all round Delhi are relics of the past, while the Jumna Musjid (or Friday Mosque) is used still by Mohammedans; [11 Feb.] I went there Friday morning & at 1 o’clock the mosque itself & the great open court yard which faces it was crowded with worshippers. {29} All men. At a signal they stood up. At a signal they knelt upright. At a signal they knelt with their foreheads touching the ground. A wonderful sight 2 or 4 thousand men all taking part in worship, all acting together. Rather a different thing from the way people get up to sing a hymn in our churches at home.

Some 10 miles south of the city is the great Kutb {30}, a monument some 240 ft high, built of red sandstone with a little marble in places & wonderfully carved. Truly a fine sight & worth coming 10 miles to see; it is in 5 storeys, & there is supposed to be some arithmetic relation between the height of the separate storeys. (I have just read through what I have written & have come to the conclusion that it is utterly fatuous & futile to attempt to describe—at least for me—& the only thing to do would be to copy out the guide book & this I don’t intend to do.)

Between the city & the Kutb are ruins of former cities & tombs, ruins & tombs, tombs & ruins. Some of the tombs are stately marble buildings, some are of the universal red sandstone, all have the dome of the mosque, being tombs of Mohammedan rulers. (an unintentional hexameter)

Of ancient appearance: one dreams of pyramidal antiquity, & it is rather a surprise to learn that they don’t date back as many hundreds as the pyramids† thousands of years.

But if Delhi was perhaps a little disappointing (that was no doubt due partly to the weather), Agra I felt to be most beautiful. And of all things the Taj. The tomb erected by Shah Jehan for his favourite wife. Wondrous structure of white marble of colossal dimensions, of perfect proportions, of the most delicate workmanship. Exquisite carving, labour of years of thousands of skilled men.

The Taj gardens surround it & there in the shade it is possible to sit & gaze & gaze upon the sublime structure.

Many other beautiful things I saw in Agra, & one day I cycled out to a wonderful old Palace at Fatehpur Sikri, sleeping the night there. The next day I wandered about among the ruins & inspected the tomb surrounded by marble screens of beautiful trellis work; & in the evening I returned home.

I was fortunate in coming across several old Varsity men, also globe trotting; 2 Cambridge men & an Oxford man; none of them I knew before, but of course I found we had many friends in common.

From Agra I went to Gwalior where I slept a night. Gwalior is in a Native State, but there is an English Resident there & the whole place seemed to me quite as English if not more so than the English territory. I stayed at the Guest House which is a kind of Hotel, but more like an English Country house than the ordinary Indian Hotel; & I was the only person there.

I drove out to the foot of the fort, & then I rode on an elephant up to the top & was shown all round. It is a grand place & looks quite impregnable, but I am told that at the present day it can be reached by artillery from the distant hills. I also drove to the Palace. The Maharajah is very fond of trains, & has a little private line which runs right into the palace.

Now here I am at Bombay {31} (did I mention before that some of the tram horses here wear hats!) & I sail for Mangalore to see Booty on Friday Feb 25


Square brackets in the MS have been replaced in the transcript by round brackets.

{1} ‘Ghusl’ is, strictly speaking, a form of Islamic ritual washing; ‘garum pani’ is Hindi for hot water.

{2} Sir Arthur Havelock.

{3} Friday, 19 November. See The Times, 15 Nov. 1897, p. 6.

{4} In his autobiography Lawrence added: ‘“All passengers on deck” was called out at the danger point where a former ship, the William and Mary, had been sunk with passengers trapped below. But we encountered no trouble and arrived safely in port.’ (Fate Has Been Kind, p. 38.)

{5} Lawrence apparently crossed the Ganges by steamer at Bankipore (Patna) earlier in the day. See 6/11.

{6} Not identified.

{7} This man has not been identified, though Lawrence later recorded (see p. 53) that he was a Cambridge man of the same year as himself who had been at Pembroke College.

{8} Lawrence probably left Muzaffarpur on 3 or 4 January, which was the intention he expressed in a letter to his sister Ellen on 27 December (6/16), but it does not appear possible to be precise. His letter from Calcutta to his father on 5 January (6/11) gives the impression that he had only just arrived there, and he later recorded (p. 56) that he stayed at Calcutta for ‘about a fortnight’ (he left on the 17th). This evidence cannot be reconciled precisely with his statements elsewhere (6/11; p. 93) that he was at Muzaffarpur for only ten days (this would indicate that he left on the 1 or 2 January), but perhaps these were simply rough estimates.

{9} Henry Babington Smith. He had been elected a fellow of Trinity in 1890 and was in India from 1894 to 1899 as private secretary to the Earl of Elgin.

{10} H. M. Butler.

{11} See 6/11.

{12} See 6/11, 6/3. This party too was held at Government House.

{13} See 6/3 and the Times of India, 17 Jan. 1898, p. 5.

{14} See 6/3. Douglass (sic) had been at the Oxford Mission in Calcutta since 1892. See The Times, 25 July 1949, p. 7.

{15} Henry Whitehead, Principal of Bishop’s College and Superior of the Oxford Mission, Calcutta; afterwards Bishop of Madras. He was brother of the mathematician and philosopher A. N. Whitehead, a Fellow of Trinity.

{16} This visit was made before Lawrence wrote to his aunt on the 12th. See 6/3.

{17} This man has not been identified.

{18} A new gathering (pp. 71–90) begins here, the contents of which were evidently written during Lawrence’s seven-hour wait at Bankipore station during his journey from Sahdol to Mozuffapore, about 26 January. This section contains a number of later annotations in pencil, evidently made in the process of producing an edited report of the eclipse, but the purpose for which this was done is not known.

{19} An attendant or messenger.

{20} The report of the expedition led by Sir William Christie, with a plan of the site, was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, lxiv (17 Nov. 1898–16 Mar. 1899), 1–21, and as an appendix to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. lviii (1898). See also Christie’s papers in the Cambridge University Library (RGO 7/198).

{21} At Vadsö. See Fate Has Been Kind, pp. 36–7.

{22} ‘telescope … plates’ written above ‘whole without showing the supports or the clock’, struck through.

{23} ‘a sudden withdrawal’ written above ‘the opposite’, struck through.

{24} A new folded sheet (pp. 91–4) begins here. The first two paragraphs were written on 28 January, while Lawrence was at Bankipore waiting for his luggage.

{25} Percy Abbey Booty, a friend of Lawrence’s from Trinity. He had entered the ICS in 1894, and at the time of Lawrence’s tour was Head Assistant Magistrate and Collector at Mangalore.

{26} Lawrence probably arrived at Mazuffapur about 25 January. In a letter to his Uncle Edwin on 5 January Lawrence had written that he would probably return there from the 23rd to the 28th, ‘when the special Mozuffapore week is on’. But it would appear that his stay was not as long as he had intended, perhaps owing to his delay at Bankipore. He left for Benares very early on the morning of the 28th (p. 94).

{27} This suggests that the previous part of the letter was despatched before this one was begun.

{28} The ink changes here.

{29} The ink changes here.

{30} Lawrence drove out to the Kut’b on 11 February. See 6/17.

{31} Lawrence arrived at Bombay some time between 20 February, when he was still in the train from Agra (p. 140), and the 23rd, when he wrote from Bombay to his aunt enclosing the conclusion of this encyclical (6/4). For some of his activities there see 6/21.

† Sic.

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Parts of the instalment comprising pp. 71–90 were quoted in Fate Has Been Kind, and the MS was marked up in pencil in the process of preparing the text.

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