One thing particularly interesting about the following article is that Anglo-Indian meant “Britons living in India’ rather than its later meaning of “an offspring of British and Indian parents.” In transcribing the following material from The Reader, an interesting, unfortunately short-lived intellectual magazine of the 1860s, I have used the Hathi Digital Library Trust web version of a copy in the Princeton University Library. The full-text version is generally accurate, and the most common OCR error here takes the form of turning the letter “e” as “o.” I corrected the scanning errors, and for ease of reading I have added a few paragraph breaks. If you come upon any errors I have missed, please do not hesitate to inform the editors of this site. — George P. Landow

Decorated initial T

he educated classes of our countrymen in India, condemned as they are, in most parts, and during the greater portion of the year, to pass many more hours under shelter from the sun than are demanded by their daily duties (this is more particularly the case as regards military men), have, as a general rule, only two resources against intellectual vacancy — to addict themselves to cheroots and brandy-panee [brandy and water], or take to their books and become ornaments to society. They may attach themselves to such "strenuous idleness" as is afforded by billiards and other games of skill, or to such stirring excitements as are derived from Blind Hookey, or other fascinating inventions for winning other people's money or losing their own. But these devices for killing time must soon give way; if for no other other reason, for the one that they are incapable of progress or development. A prisoner who turns a crank would work with comparative satisfaction if he knew he was grinding something; and the cultivators of idleness feel much the same, especially those who find the experiment attended by pecuniary loss. As for the brandy-panee resource, it is due to our countrymen in the East to say that it has gone quite out of fashion, its only representatives in the present day being, perhaps, some melancholy civilian who, in the solitude of the Mofussil, cultivates a morbid sentiment for home, or some subaltern officer who is too much in debt to be capable of interesting himself in ordinary affairs, so seeks relief in refreshment, does not find it, and gets cashiered instead — after which he drinks more than ever, and eventually dies, Heaven knows how!

It follows that the larger proportion of sane and sound men consent to become ornaments to society. (We here refer principally to those in civil or military employ, for the mercantile classes in India are too constantly occupied in making their fortunes to attend much to mere intellectual pursuits.) Some spend their long hours of leisure during the hot weather in learning a language or a science, studying the history of a country or a period, or making investigations of various kinds, which they probably contribute to the Government records. But many attach themselves to more direct literary pursuits, and, besides producing independent works in various departments, including, of course, fiction, contribute extensively to the periodical press, from Quarterly Reviews to daily newspapers.

It may be asked, Where are the fruits of all this literary activity? It must be admitted, in answer, that the best days of local publications, other than newspapers, are past — to judge by present appearances. But, before we advert to the causes accounting for this decline, a brief glance at the former state of periodical literature in India may not be unacceptable. Without going back to the earliest publications, which would carry us beyond the present century, a sufficient idea may be given by starting from times which most "old Indians" will remember — recognising the fact that "old Indians" remember more than most people, as they were more bound up with the country than residents of a later generation, and seldom troubled themselves about so insignificant a place as Europe.

There are many "old Indians" yet who remember the Calcutta Oriental Magazine and Quarterly Review, continued as the Quarterly Oriental Magazine and Review, reaching, from the first issue of the former in 1824, to eight volumes. These publications were under the editorship of Horace Hayman Wilson, and among the contributors were Dr. Tytier, Mr. Vans Kennedy, Mr. Ellis, and others known to more than local fame. Devoted particularly to Oriental matters, they were written with a high order of ability — as may be inferred from the names here cited, not to mention the others. The present Calcutta Review is also a generally well-written work. It has extended to many volumes, and has suffered several changes of proprietorship. Among its contributors may be noted the late Sir Henry Lawrence, Mr. Temple, and many of the best "Punjab men," Major D. L. Richardson, Mr. H. G. Keene, &c. The Bengal Sporting Magazine, starting in 1834, lived until 1841. It was followed by the Calcutta Sporting Review, which had a highly vivacious existence until it was killed by the mutinies of 1857 — nearly all its contributors being besieged somewhere or engaged in besieging somebody, and its editor, Mr. James Hume, the senior magistrate of Calcutta, not being able to find sufficient aid at hand to support it. People in Caloutta at that time would read nothing but politics; so the review was thrown over until happier times, and in its place appeared the Indian Field, which, between pigsticking and politics, enjoyed, for a time, a very vigorous existence. Of a necessarily different character was the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, a branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, which has branches also at Bombay and Madras. This is one of the most important publications which have appeared in India. It is still flourishing, and the number of its volume for the present year is thirty-three. Its first editor was James Prinsep. It was the successor to Gleanings of Science, edited also by Prinsep, among whose collaborators were Horace Hayman Wilson and B. H. Hodgson, a publication which had been preceded by Asiatic Researches. Without being precise to the date, we may next mention the Journal of Natural History, which reached four volumes, and the Indian Journal of Medical Science, edited by Dr. Norman Chevers, which achieved ten volumes. Of religious publications there were, and still are, a considerable variety. Thus we find, taking them at random, the Christian Intelligencer, which has been published between thirty and forty years, and is still alive; the Calcutta Christian Observer, which has appeared ever since 1832. We do not pretend to complete the list, but may refer to the Bengal Catholic Expositor and Bengal Catholic Herald as representatives of the Roman Catholic form of Christianity.

Among the periodicals published in Bombay may be noticed the Oriental Quarterly, an admirably written review. It is no longer in existence, but is well remembered for many able articles — one particularly on the travels of Bishop Heber, pointing out many important mistakes on the part of its learned author, which, however, do not seem to impair the confidence with which the work is still regarded in this country. The Bombay Quarterly Magazine and Review was a successor of the above. It reached three volumes, from 1850 to 1853. It was, in its turn, succeeded by the Bombay Quarterly, which commenced in 1855 and was concluded in 1858, being the victim of the mutinies, like more than one of its contemporaries. Among the productions of this Presidency, the Bombay Philosophical Transactions and the Journal of the Horticultural Society take a high place. But Madras, the North West, aud the Punjab warn us not to loiter. The Madras Journal of Literature and Science is one of the early productions of that which is too inconsiderately called "The Benighted Presidency." Started in 1833, the periodical is still published under the control of the Madras Asiatic Society. If we remember rightly, Madras has produced more independent works than the other Presidencies — in proportion, certainly, to her size; and we may notice a very able writer, Mr. George Norton, the Advocate-General at the Presidency, as having made most valuable contributions to its literature. At the present time the Presidency is very well represented in the newspaper-press. This department, however, as distinguished from general literature, it is not our intention to discuss in this article. Madras, as regards reviews and magazines, has not been so prolific in point of time as the North-West Provinces of Bengal and the Punjab, which are also in advance, as far as the official records of Government — themselves frequently literary productions of a high order — are concerned. The light literature of the latter has also been of a more vigorous kind. Who among the residents in any part of India during the last fifteen or twenty years — we really forget the date of its production, and have not the publication itself at hand — does not remember the Meerut Universal Magazine, familiarly called " M. U. M. "? Apart from the local and general knowledge which it contained, it is still regarded as the most brilliant periodical which Anglo-Indian literature has ever given forth. Its career was confined to four volumes; but these were replete with wit, humour, and fancy, conveyed in a tone of savage independence and contemptuous regard for its contemporaries, caught, perhaps, from the earlier tone of Blackwood, which were irresistible to its readers. Henry Torrens, Sir Henry Myers Elliott, and Henry Meredith Parker were among the most illustrious of its contributors; and it would be enough for the merits of the magazine to say that they did their best. Torrens's "Ancient Chaldsean Manuscript" (which was included in the Life and Remains, published in Calcutta by his loving friend James Hume, to whom we have already referred) will live in the recollection of all genuine lovers of satire to whom it may be known. It is, in fact, nothing but a squib upon a member of the Civil Service (the writers in the magazine were mostly of that distinguished body), who was severely reprimanded by Government for driving on the Calcutta "course," the Hyde Park of the Presidency, with a disreputable person of the other sex. The lady whose character was so much mistaken turned out to be the Civil Servant's aunt. The fun got out of the adventure by Torrens may, in the language of penny-a-liners, be more easily conceived than described.

The Benares Magazine, which started after "M. U. M.," had a reputation second only to that bold and brilliant periodical. Among its contributors may be mentioned Fitz-Edward Hall, then of the Educational Department, and now Chief Librarian to the India Office, whom we might have mentioned in connexion with more than one periodical named above ; the Rev. Mr. Quartley, the Rev. A. W. Wallace, and tho Rev. Julian Robinson; Major Stuart, Governor-General's agent at Benares, and George Wyatt of the Civil Service, who was killed at Benares at the outbreak in 1857, author of a celebrated satirical work called "Panch Cowrie Khan, or Recollections of an Orderly;" and John Walter Sherer, of the same Service, who was one of the chief lights of Indian literature in days past, though he appears now to have abandoned his pen. Mr. Oust, one of the best of the Punjab official officials, should also be mentioned as rendering his aid. Contemporary for part of its time with the Benares Magazine, which endured from 1848 to 1854, we find Saunders's Magazine, published at Delhi, and Leslie's Miscellany, published at Agra, the first under the editorship of Mr. Paterson Saunders, and the second of Mr. J. W. Sherer, already mentioned. They were both well written, but, perhaps, too much addicted to tho technicalities of the Civil Service. Among the contributors to Leslie were Bobert Spankie, C.S., a vigorous and otherwise admirable writer, Fitz-Edward Hall, whose connexion with the Benares we have already noticed, and Frederick Shaw, C.S., who, unhappily, died an early death. Both publications were stopped in 1854, after numbering several volumes.

After these speculations, which were suspended for the most part because the contributors tired of their work, we know of no production of the kind in the North-West. In the Punjab some creditable private works have been published, but the best are those included among the records of Govornment, and given forth from time to time in that form.

The reason why, in the present day, local publications have declined is easily accounted for. Men in India — especially in the Service — have less leisure on account of the greater demands made upon them by an altered system; and because, whatever be their confinement in the hot weather, they have so many more means of relaxation through the increased connexion with Europe, which has put an end to the old hearty Colonial feeling, found them an immensity of books to read, and loosened the bonds which endeared them to the country. In India Englishmen are now only visitors, striving to keep their health when in it, and seeking the first opportunity to get out of it with the money they have saved. What they do for literature they now principally publish at home, as may be observed by all readers of current publications, who can scarcely fail to notice that numbers of works continually issued by London publishers — scientific works, sporting works, and especially novels — must have come from Indian hands. The change may be better or worse; but it is worth noting, if only as refuting the assertion sometimes made that Anglo-Indians in the present day are less cultivated and less practically appreciative of literature than their predecessors.


Mofussil. According to various dictionaries and online reference sites, the word, which comes from Urdu, refers to regions outside urban areas. During the time of British East India Company and British India Mofussil meant the areas outside its three main presidencies — Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras.


“Anglo-Indian Literature.” The Reader: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Art. (November 1864): 663-64-98. London: “Published at 112, Fleet Street.” Hathi Digital Library Trust web version of a copy in the Princeton University Library. 25 July 2016.

Last modified 25 July 2016