The Anglo Indian Literature

Posted by Freddy on Oct-17-2010

The long rule of British in India quite naturally produced two types of literature called the “Indo Anglian” and “Anglo Indian”. In my last post I have discussed about the Indo Anglian Literature. This time I would like to through light on the early Anglo Indian Literature.

Anglo Indian literature comprises the works written about India. There is a large body of writing on Indian life and society, history etc by Englishmen including bureaucrats and missionaries. All these Anglo Indian writers were critical, in most cases of India and Indians. All what they wrote was primarily designed to influence opinion in Britain. In those times, it was from these works that the legislators, and that narrow section of the British people which made up public opinion, acquired their image of India. They preferred the evidence for India’s depravity and backwardness. The prejudiced views of these Anglo Indian writers helped to create a climate in Britain favorable to the consolidation and advance of western ideas of government and economics in India. But there were Englishmen, who favorably disposed to India like William Sleeman. In his ‘Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official’, he has uncharacteristically painted the picture of an India damaged by contact with the west.

The fiction and poetry written during the period also reflected more or less the same urges, priorities and prejudices. Much of the Anglo Indian literature represented a growing racial consciousness amongst the British and was without merit. But there were few exceptions like Mrs. Sherwood’s children’s book. ‘Confessions of a Thug’ is a kind of novel by Meadows Taylor. It is based on the author’s experiences in the suppression of ‘Thugs’, the robber cast of northern India. ‘Oakfield or Fellowship in the East’, a novel written by the poet William Delafield Arnold, is more of a tract than a novel. It is primarily an exposure of pettiness and wickedness of his countrymen in India.

One of the most important names that come up when we discuss Anglo Indian fiction is Rudyard Kipling. He became the laureate of Anglo India for a larger audience than it could ever have considered possible. Kipling explored the shallow lives of the British in India and reflected some, but by no means all, of their prejudices. The few Indians who appear in such work as was written in India are either servants or ‘incompetent’ educated Bengalis. It was only after leaving India Kipling was able o write ‘Kim’ what is undoubtedly the best work of fiction about India by an Englishmen. Several works of Kipling are still quite popular, especially ‘The Jungle Book’, which continues to be lapped up by our children. As a novelist Rudyard Kipling is valued even today. But with his sense of racial superiority Kipling also became notorious for his pro-imperialist opinions.

As an Anglo Indian novelist E.M. Foster, the author of ‘A Passage to India’, is more important than Kipling. Though hailed by Indians for its attack on Anglo Indian society and its prejudices, is just as offensive in its drawing of Indian character as its predecessors. Foster succeeds in capturing the tensions, ambivalences and contradictions of colonial rule in India as well as the doubts and frustration and ignorance of a number of English officials and their wives in remote Indian town. Two other note-worthy Anglo Indian novelists are Flora Annie Steel and E.M. Thomson.

When we come to Anglo Indian poetry we have say that it’s worse than their fiction. Much of what they wrote was extremely awful; some reached a fairy high standard of mediocrity.

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