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BY T. RAMAKRISHNA, B.A.
With an Introduction by the Hon. the Rev. W. MILLER, M.A., LL.D., C.I.E., and dedicated, by permission, to the late Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate.
They are interesting and remarkable.–_Lord Tennyson_.
It is a great pleasure to me to find that a native of South India has so distinguished himself.–_The Right Hon. Sir M.E. Grant Duff, G.C.S.I._
It is not often that natives succeed so well as you have done in English versification.–_H.H. Kerala Varma, C.S.I._
Krishnapore irresistibly reminds us of Auburn, the fortunes of Seeta are in many respects not unlike those of Evangeline, and some forms of expression seem to be coined in the mint of Tennyson…. These tales possess peculiar interest as first-fruits in poetic literature of that amalgamation of Eastern and Western thought that is going on before us at the present day in this country. They are tales of India, descriptive of Indian scenery, and marked by many traits both of custom and of feeling that are characteristic of India…. These tales–tales of woman’s constancy and woman’s heroism–are pleasing in themselves; and the language in which they are told is simple, imaginative, and marked by a well-sustained melody. The tales are dedicated to Lord Tennyson by “His Lordship’s ardent admirer in the Far East”; and certainly they move in the atmosphere of the Tennysonian idyll.–_Madras Christian College Magazine_.
Much of the versification is very pleasing, and where it is best, it has a decided ring of Tennyson in it…. The author possesses true poetical genius.–_Calcutta Statesman and Friend of India_.
SEETA AND RAMA:–The story is pretty, though simple. In parts, moreover, the author, who is anonymous, displays the true spirit of poetry, which he (or she) will do well to cultivate…. The tributes of respect for the heroism, purity, and constancy of women which are found in Mr.
Ramakrishna’s poems are in accordance with the teaching of the Mahabarata, as well as the spirit of the Laureate’s verse. Added to this very engaging feature of his work, there is a power of description that is very remarkable in a man to whom English is not his mother tongue.
For example, “Seeta and Rama” commences with the following vignette:–… “All this is in excellent taste. And the same may be said of his delineations of character. He is never wearisome or trite, and … he succeeds in enlisting the interest and sympathy of his reader and in proving that–as Mrs. Grant Duff lately said–there is ‘an indefinite amount of beauty and charm in everyday life’ in Southern India.”–_Madras Mail_.
SEETA AND RAMA:–A very pretty and pathetic, though simple little story, told in the true poetic vein, and possesses a deep melancholy interest…. They are simple tales, told in English verse, which is characterised by a purity and a simplicity that are very noteworthy in an Indian writer, and which show considerable acquaintance of the English language, especially of Tennyson’s writings. Indeed, of them all is true what was said of the first poem, not only according to the _Christian College Magazine_, that some forms of expression seemed coined in the mint of Tennyson, but, according to the _Statesman and Friend of India_, that where the versification is best it has a ring of Tennyson.–_Madras Times_.
The style is simple and natural, and reminds us more often of Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” than any other English poem that we can recollect now…. Throughout, the book is most finely written in rhyme, and the learned author has minted at the forge of Tennyson, to whom the book is most dutifully dedicated, the sentiments of Oliver Goldsmith, Parnell, and Byron.–_Hindu_.
We must congratulate Mr. Ramakrishna on the success which has attended his, no doubt, pleasing labours. He is the first Hindu graduate, so far as we know, who has come before the public as a poet, and well does he deserve every encouragement.–_Madras Standard_.
This little poem is an exquisitely finished, harmonious, well-written story of a pair of Hindu lovers…. Mr. Ramakrishna is extremely felicitous in the choice of his words, and his descriptions are so picturesque and vivid, and his narrative so stirring, that the reader feels as if spell-bound by the author’s great skill and power…. There can be no manner of doubt that the hand that wrote these poems is both strong and skilful, and was directed by a true spirit of poesy of a high order.–_People’s Friend_.
TENNYSON COMMEMORATION MEETING.–At the meeting held in the Christian College, Dr. Miller proposed that the chair should be taken by Mr. T.
Ramakrishna Pillai, an old student of the College, who, as many of our readers know, has himself won no small success in the field of poetry.–_Christian College Magazine_.
Mr. T. Ramakrishna Pillai is probably the only one in Madras, and certainly the only native of India in Madras, who had come into any kind of personal contact with Lord Tennyson.–_Speech of the Hon. the Rev.
Dr. Miller at the Tennyson Commemoration Meeting_.
LIFE IN AN INDIAN VILLAGE.
BY T. RAMAKRISHNA, B.A.
With an Introduction by the Right Hon. Sir M.E. GRANT DUFF, G.C.S.I.
(_London: T. Fisher Unwin_, 1891.)
The Occidentals led by Macaulay had too complete a victory for the good of India. Much that they said and did was wise, but their system has failed in many ways, and was, indeed, never intended to breed up men interested in the past of their own land. Nearly all that has been learned about it has been learned by the labour of Europeans, and yet natives trained to European methods of research have facilities of kinds for prosecuting research which we have not…. I had a great deal to say on that subject, and on many other cognate ones in an address which I delivered in my capacity of Chancellor of the University of Madras, shortly before I left the country, but I do not know that it has had much effect since, though an excellent little book by Mr. Ramakrishna on the village life of South India is a step in the right direction. We want, however, quite a small library of works of that kind before the harvest that is ready for the sickle of intelligent native observers is gathered in.–_The Right Hon. Sir M.E. Grant Duff, G.C.S.I., in the Contemporary Review_.
The subject is interesting, and I do not doubt from the specimen which I saw that you would treat it in a fresh and agreeable way. What we need in Europe is to have the reality, the actual working of these Indian inst.i.tutions which we have so often mentioned brought home to us, and probably such a writer as yourself may do this better than a European could do.–_The Right Hon. James Bryce, D.C.L_.
Ramakrishna,–a literary gentleman belonging to Madras, who has written a charming book called “Life in an Indian Village.”–_Professor Eric Robertson in Macmillan’s series of Orient Readers_.
I can name more than a dozen Indian authors whose works can fairly rank with some of the best productions of Englishmen. The well-known author of “Maxima and Minima,” viz., the late Professor Ramachundra, was considered by no other than De Morgan, the famous mathematician, as an original genius of a remarkable order. A celebrated Cambridge Mathematician once told me that he set a problem for the Mathematical Tripos, basing it upon Ramachundra’s “Maxima and Minima,” and with the exception of a few that headed the list, none were able to solve the problem. In the late Toru Dutt, a young Bengali native Christian lady, some of the leading literary men of England found a poet of no mean powers. Mr. Edmund Gosse writes as follows in the preface to her poems that have been published by an English firm: “It is difficult to estimate what we have lost in the premature death of Toru Dutt.
Literature has no honours which need have been beyond the grasp of a girl who, at the age of twenty-one, and in languages separated from her own by so deep a chasm, had produced so much of lasting worth…. When the history of the literature of our country comes to be written, there is sure to be a page in it dedicated to this fragile exotic blossom of song.” Dr. Bandarkar of Bombay is considered to be one of the best Orientalists of the day. A number of Bengali gentlemen have earned a lasting fame by literary productions in English, among whom I may mention the Rev. Lal Behari Day, late Professor in the Hooghly College, and Mr. Dutt of the Bengal Civil Service. In our own Presidency Mr.
Ramakrishna Pillai has produced a work in English–“Village Life in India”–that has won the praise of Sir Grant Duff.–_Professor Satthianadhan’s Lecture on Intellectual Results in India_.
Mr. Ramakrishna takes a typical village in the Madras Presidency, “the most Indian part of India,” and shows us in half a dozen lucid chapters that the wants of the villagers are all material–wells, roads, better breeds of cattle, and so on–and that they do not, and will not for a long time, care one cash for anything which happens, or which might be made to happen, in the great outer world beyond their palm-groves and rice-fields. There is nothing political in this pleasant little book, we are pleased to say, although we have drawn this political moral from it.
It is a truthfully written account of native life in one of those 55,000 villages which dot the great district–a tract much larger than the British Isles–the daily existence of whose peaceful, and not altogether unhappy, population it is intended to ill.u.s.trate; and it can be dipped into, or read through, with equal satisfaction and advantage,–_Daily Telegraph_ (London).
“Life in an Indian Village” is an amusing and clear portrayal of the manners and customs of the inhabitants of a village in the Madras Presidency. The author first depicts his little community, and then proceeds to describe the avocations of all the leading personages. As Kelambakam may be taken as a type of thousands of such villages, the book will be found particularly interesting to those who are likely to be brought into contact with the natives of India. Sir M.E. Grant Duff has written an Introduction, in which he suggests how the simple villagers can be benefited by their European neighbours.–_Morning Post_ (London).
The book itself is excellent, and gives a sketch of Indian village society from inside. It is possible, however, that the ordinary English reader will prefer to take his view of “the black men” from Mr. Kipling rather than from a representative of the natives themselves. If he wishes to have a native view of native life he will find it in this work.–_Athenaeum_ (London).
India is always fertile in surprises for English readers. We know something of those among its peoples which have given us trouble; but here is a “dim population” of which many Englishmen will scarcely have heard the name–the Dravidians of the Madras Presidency, and we learn with something like astonishment that they number more than the inhabitants of England. The village which Mr. Ramakrishna describes for us is one of more than fifty thousand, averaging about five hundred inhabitants apiece. The first thing that strikes us in his account is its highly organised condition. It is a self-sufficing little commonwealth, in which a quite surprising variety of professions or occupations are represented.–_Pall Mall Gazette_ (London).
We welcome this little book as a much truer picture of Indian life than many more ambitious works.–_St. James’s Gazette_ (London).
The work is written in admirable English–even the blank verse is perfect. The story of Harichendra alone is worth the cost of the volume.–_Literary World_ (London).
We have read with great pleasure the book, “Life in an Indian Village,”
as it deals with an interesting and not at all unimportant subject in a plain and unpretending way. Simplicity has a powerful charm of its own; and we recommend the book to all whose heart can still be touched by inartificial descriptions of idyllic, gently flowing, country life. He who does not a.s.sume the tone of “India, what can it teach us?” but cares to profit by teaching, will learn a great deal even from these simple village tales.–_Asiatic Quarterly Review_ (London).
What more England can do for India is admirably and tersely set forth in the Introduction, which, with Mr. Ramakrishna’s pleasant description of Indian village life, deserves to be widely read.–_Mr. J.B. Knight, C.I.E., in the Indian Magazine_ (London).
Books about India by intelligent travellers have their uses, and books by Europeans who have lived for years in the country and studied the people are still more valuable, but it is only a native of India who can really show us Indian life as it is. There are already several books in English, by educated Indians, which give us valuable insight into what was once the unknown of Indian domestic and social life. Mr. T.
Ramakrishna, whose “Life in an Indian Village” is introduced to the notice of the British public by Sir M.E. Grant Duff, has produced a series of very interesting sketches of the more important features of village life in the South of India. They will be found to be very readable, sometimes amusing, always interesting and instructive. Any one who reads this book with intelligence and care will be able to form for himself a very accurate picture of a Madras village, and to understand the composition of the village community, which is the basis of the whole framework of Indian social life.–_Scotsman_ (Edinburgh).
Mr. Ramakrishna’s book is picturesque and sympathetic.–_Manchester Guardian_.
A well-written book, and one which gives a realistic description of a condition of life which is the outcome of centuries of isolation,–_Leeds Mercury_.
It is not an easy thing to acquire a clear conception of a life and a civilisation other in every respect to our own, and it may be reasonably questioned if one Englishman in a thousand has more than a very vague idea of what life in an Indian village is like. Here is a pleasant and graphic little volume. He may acquire that knowledge from the sketches of an Indian gentleman who knows the subject through and through, and has, moreover, so much of European culture that he is able to present the facts in a form that will not seem strange or incredible.–_Birmingham Post_.
A volume issued by Mr. T. Fisher Unwin, “Life in an Indian Village,” is a sample of the kind of book relating to our Eastern Empire that we should like to see multiplied. It is the production of a scholarly native, T. Ramakrishna, B.A., who writes excellent idiomatic English without the slightest tendency to Johnsonian eloquence.–_Christian Leader_ (Glasgow).
The manners and customs of the people are vividly reflected in these pages, and a picturesque account is given of a number of notabilities, such as the physician, &c.–_Speaker_ (London).
The book cannot fail to fulfil the author’s desire in exciting a deeper interest in the people whom he so sympathetically introduces to the British public.–_Independent_ (London).
Written with much navete.–_British Weekly_ (London).