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"DISTINCT VOCATIONS" AND THE ANGLO-INDIAN IN SHERLOCK HOLMES' ENGLAND USA J. FLUET Princeton University Sir, — I have been brought up in the belief that TAt? Times is the best possible medium for airing a grievance. I happen to have a grievance, rather a large one, and I venture to air it in your columns. My grievance is an Anglo-Indian's complaint of the opinions regarding him held by other people. After more than eight years' service in India, I have spent upwards of a year's furlough in England, and have often been astonished and amused at the general tone of criticism to which we Anglo-Indians are subjected . . . Some of my friends were surprised that I had not become copper-colored, though naturally I am of a light complexion; others, because I presented neither a bibulous nor a jaundiced appearance, had much difficulty in believing I had been to India at all . . . The Times September 25, 1891 (6) The "grievance" aired above is a portion of a letter to the editor of the London Times entitled "An Anglo-Indian's Complaint," submitted by a former Anglo-Indian civil servant who signs himself simply "An Indian Civilian." In this portion, as well as throughout his letter, he expresses anger over what he considers the "ignorant" opinions concerning Anglo-Indians held by lifelong British residents — opinions regarding changes in skin color, alcoholism, disease, and, as we read later in he letter, luxuriant, overpaid lifestyles while in India and suspected ill treatment of the native Indian population. The "Indian Civilian's" letter sparked several responses1, the lengthiest of which came from an editor of the Times, entitled "AngloIndians and English Opinions" and printed the same day as "An AngloIndian 's Complaint," on the very next page. The editor's response is divided over the justice of the Anglo-Indian's claim that he is perceived differently by his countrymen after his sojourn in India. On the one Victorian Review (24.2) Winter 1998 LISA J. FLUET131 hand, the editor mildly chastises the Anglo-Indian for feeling he is perceived as, in the editor's words, "a strange sort of animal" (7) by his fellow English countrymen; he writes "Well-conducted Anglo-Indians never have to encounter a prejudice in the formation or renewal of intimacies on their return . . ." (7, my emphasis) — implying that perhaps the Anglo-Indian who wrote this letter has not "conducted" himself appropriately and thus is subject to criticism. On the other hand, the editor repeatedly reveals that he, like the lifelong native British at the center of the Anglo-Indian's complaint, does indeed find the figure of the Anglo-Indian returned to Britain a "strange sort of animal." He attempts to turn the tables on the AngloIndian 's accusations by critiquing the "cynical" prejudices towards British middle- and upper-class society which he finds in the AngloIndian 's letter: [0]ur correspondent draws ... a picture of British middle and upper class society as it looks to a cynical Anglo-Indian on furlough. The view may in many respects be correct. Possibly it is the aspect in which ordinary society would present itself to a stranger who is not a stranger, who speaks apparently the same language and sees with the same eyes, though the words bear for him a different sense, and the perspective of the scene is absolutely unlike. (7, my emphasis) The Anglo-Indian emerging from the editor's critique sees "ordinary society" (i.e., metropolitan, middle-upper class British society) with an "aspect" fundamentally different from that of the lifelong British native — one arising from his uncanny, liminal position as the "stranger who is not a stranger" (echoing the "strange animal" of the editor's earlier description). Only "apparently" does he speak "the same language" and see "with the same eyes" as the "[p]ersons in his own rank of life, of the order to which he would have belonged had he not been drafted out to India" (7). In this editor's depiction, the Anglo-Indian's extended stay in India has altered irrevocably his perspective on British society, and subsequently has damaged his own ability to regain his original place...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 130-162
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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