Poets of John Company/Preface


THE original plan of this book provided for a collection of verse written in India by Englishmen from the earliest days of the British occupation up to our own time; and such a collection was actually made. To all who expressed their willingness to allow specimens of their work to appear, I would take this opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks. Two main difficulties—the trouble and expense of copyright, and the impossibility of producing a large work at a reasonable rate under post-war conditions of publication—have compelled the limitation of the scope of this anthology.

The poems here reproduced illustrate Anglo-Indian life (old style) from the close of the eighteenth century up to and including the period of the Mutiny: but sharp chronological limits have not been observed. The Leviora would fall beyond this period; but in spirit and in form this famous production is so reminiscent of the age of John Company that it makes an adequate conclusion to all the preceding verse. Unfortunately the law of copyright forbids the reproduction of any of Sir Edwin Arnold's work; but an attempt has been made in the introduction to recognize the range and quality of his poetry of oriental life.

For permission to include the three poems of Sir Alfred Lyall I am indebted to Messrs. Routledge. Mr. Ernest Bignold has been generous in permitting me to draw upon the Leviora; and Messrs. Lahiri have kindly allowed me to reprint Colman Macaulay's Lay of Lachen, which appeared originally in Indian Pandits in the Land of Snow, a pamphlet by Sarat Chandra Das. Lovers of the Himalaya will welcome this reproduction of an oft-quoted but rarely procurable poem. The omission of verse written by Indians is due to the fact that the modern school of poetry in India, heralded by the promise of Toru Dutt's genius, lies wholly outwith the scheme of this book. All the best of this poetry that belongs to the period of John Company I have already reproduced in The Bengali Book of English Verse published by Messrs. Longman.

In dealing with the periodical literature of the first half of last century, Mr. S. C. Sanial, the Secretary of the Calcutta Historical Society, has freely put his wide and accurate knowledge at my disposal. Mr. J. A. Chapman of the Imperial Library has given much assistance in looking out forgotten volumes, and has helped with references to the catalogues of libraries outside of Calcutta. Mr. W. I. Keir has generously provided the anthology with its artistic cover; and Mr. C. F. Hooper has taken the responsibility of publishing a book that, from a commercial point of view, may not be considered much of a venture. To his enthusiasm for the literature produced in India by our countrymen, the "Poets of John Company" are indebted for their present resurrection.

T. O. D. D.

United Service Club,
Calcutta, November, 1921.