The reading world is hunger-bitten about Asia, and I often think I shall take three months’ leave and run up a precis of Sanskrit and Pali literature, just a few folios for the learned world. Max Mueller begs me to learn these languages first; but this would be a toil and drudgery, whereas to me the pursuit of literary excellence and fame is a mere amusement, like lawn-tennis or rinking. It is the fault of the age to make a labour of what is meant to be a pastime.
Telle est de nos
plaisirs la surface legere;
Glissez, mortels, n’appuyez pas.
The travelling M.P. will probably come to you with a letter of introduction from the last station he has visited, and he will immediately proceed to make himself quite at home in your bungalow with the easy manners of the Briton abroad. He will acquaint you with his plans and name the places of interest in the neighbourhood which he requires you to show him. He will ask you to take him, as a preliminary canter, to the gaol and lunatic asylum; and he will make many interesting suggestions to the civil surgeon as to the management of these institutions, comparing them unfavourably with those he has visited in other stations. He will then inspect the Brigadier-General commanding the station, the chaplain, and the missionaries. On his return—when he ought to be bathing—he will probably write his article for the Twentieth Century, entitled “Is India Worth Keeping?” And this ridiculous old Shrovetide cock, whose ignorance and information leave two broad streaks of laughter in his wake, is turned loose upon the reading public! Upon my word, I believe the reading public would do better to go and sit at the feet of Baboo Sillabub Thunder Gosht, B.A.
What is it that these travelling people put on paper? Let me put it in the form of a conundrum. Q. What is it that the travelling M.P. treasures up and the Anglo-Indian hastens to throw away? A. Erroneous, hazy, distorted first impressions. Before the eyes of the griffin, India steams up in poetical mists, illusive, fantastic, subjective, ideal, picturesque. The adult Qui Hai attains to prose, to stern and disappointing realities; he removes the gilt from the Empire and penetrates to the brown ginger-bread of Rajas and Baboos. One of the most serious duties attending a residence in India is the correcting of those misapprehensions which your travelling M.P. sacrifices his bath to hustle upon paper. The spectacled people embalmed in secretariats alone among Anglo-Indians continue to see the gay visions of griffinhood. They alone preserve the phantasmagoria of bookland and dreamland. As for the rest of us:—
Out of the day
A joy has taken flight:
Baboos and Rajas and Indian lore
Move our faint hearts with grief, but with delight
No more—oh, never more!