- The Raj in Fiction: A Study of Nineteenth-Century British Attitudes Towards India, and: Raja Rao and Cultural Tradition
Udayon Misra's book deals with Anglo-Indian literature of a selected period while Paul Sharrad writes on a well-known work of a celebrated Indo-Anglian (sometimes called Indo-English) writer. The Indian scholar looks critically at Englishmen and their attitudes toward India, and the Englishman (really an Australian) tries to understand the Indian novelist.
Misra's book interprets the writings of Englishmen during the period roughly from 1820 to 1870, a period generally neglected by critics. It is divided into seven chapters. In the first, introductory chapter the author concedes there were not great works of literature written during the period chosen for analysis, and most writings have only a historical and sociological value. Nevertheless, he is at pains to establish the importance of the works he analyzes. In the second chapter, he discusses what he calls "the crystallization of British attitudes towards India as they were evident during the early and middle parts of the nineteenth century," and most of his information is gleaned from nonliterary writings. As a historical analysis, the chapter is excellent for its clear perception and exposé of the British politics in India. In the third chapter, Misra analyzes the works of William Browne Hockley, especially his Pandurang Hari, and concludes that they clearly reflect British imperial attitudes and colonial prejudices toward Indians. The next chapter deals with Philip Meadows Taylor's works, especially The Confessions of a Thug, Tippoo Sultaun, and The Noble Queen. Misra engages in a detailed analysis of the novels and brings out unerringly the English view of Indians, especially of the Hindus, which, to say the least, is unflattering. He, however, credits Taylor with being a better novelist than others of his time.
The sixth chapter is devoted to a careful analysis of W. D. Arnold's Oakfield. Misra correctly evaluates Arnold as an Englishman with a better understanding of India than most of his compatriots. He comments on Arnold's techniques while providing information on the current political and historical events. In the final chapter, he deals with the works published after the Sepoy Revolt of 1857 and holds that the decade after 1857 marked a very low ebb in Anglo-Indian writing, The Chronicles of Budgepore being representative of the time. He concludes the book with an epilogue, containing a summary of his findings. On the whole, Misra's book is analytical, lucid, thorough, and scholarly. It covers a literary lacuna in the historical criticism of Anglo-Indian writing. Much of the writing of the period, although not edifying, is certainly educational, and Misra's book is an excellent study of the British attitudes toward India as reflected in the writings of the times. The book would have profited much if it had received careful revision and some editorial attention.
Paul Sharrad's book also would have profited by rigorous proof-reading and revision. It is a more sophisticated analysis of Raja Rao's challenging philosophical novel. In it, Sharrad takes an entirely new approach. The title of his work is somewhat misleading to those who expect to find in the book a discussion of the brahminic culture of the Kannada-speaking smartha brahmin family of Mysore State, a discussion that is essential to the understanding of the novel but is sorely [End Page 387] missing in Sharrad's book, although for understandable reasons. Instead, the author examines the novel on the basis of what he calls a universal framework of two contrary states of culture—the culture of the metropolitan and the culture of the provincial, a questionable basis. He implies incorrectly that Rao rejects Kannada because of its "provincial" nature, whereas the simple truth is that each language has its shortcomings.
In his introductory chapter, devoted to an explanation of what he calls the cultural complex, Sharrad admits that he...