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on leaving the railway station, read in gigantic characters over the gateway the inscription :
Good Lord! deliver us!
But at Malda I was welcomed by the words :
while at Burdwan the local scholar had even dipped into the Vulgate :
Welcome our Lord
Nisi Dominus frustra.
Elsewhere, an inscription in the vernacular must, I think, have been a quotation from one of the Indian Sacred Books, for it ran when translated:
Rejoice, O Heart, in the advent of Messiah-like being,
At Chittagong, my dress, which so far as I remember was ordinary mufti, received an ambiguous but wholly unmerited compliment :
He cometh as a bridegroom
Clad in the garment of love.
Sometimes the Sovereign would be acclaimed in the same breath as his representative. For instance, Murshedabad thus addressed me :
Vive l'Empereur and Viceroy.
Hail gracious Lord.
On the other hand, at Trichinopoli I drove under the following:
Welcome, our future Emperor.
Any alarm that I might have felt at being regarded as a pretender was, however, removed by the assur
ance that this particular inscription had been prepared many years before for the Duke of Clarence when he visited Southern India, and that it was pulled out again from time to time, if ever the Viceroy appeared upon the scene. At Jeypore an accidental misspacing of the words converted A Gala Day
A Gal a Day,
which sounded rather naughty.
But it was when, in deference to my assumed academic reputation, resort was had to the classics, that some of the best efforts were forthcoming. Thus at Azimgunje I was welcomed by :
At Manipur there was a fine combination both of language and sentiment:
Bonjour! Bon Soir !
This reminds me of a dinner I once gave in London to an Oriental potentate who knew a little French but no English, and who, as I parted with him at the door, exclaimed: "Bon Soir, Bien, Merci, Très fatigué ".
At Sivasamudram a more practical turn was given to the exhortation :
Gloria in excelsis
Be ever healthy.
At Madura, where I was welcomed on one archway to
The Athens of Southern India,
Adieu the successful Fighter of Famin.
But the salutation which struck the homeliest note and gave me perhaps the greatest pleasure was that of Karachi :
Hail Overworked Viceroy,
Karachi wants more Curzons.
It is, however, in letters, appeals, and petitions, of which the Viceroy receives many scores weekly, that some of the greatest triumphs are achieved. My private secretaries used to paste the best of these into an album, which I still possess, and a few of the gems of which I will here extract. It must not be supposed, if I, or any one else, quote amusing specimens of what is commonly known as Babu English, that we do it with any idea of deriding the native intelligence, or of poking fun at its errors. On the contrary, one of the most remarkable experiences in India is the astonishing command of the English language to them a foreign tongue-that is acquired by the better-educated Indians, enabling them not merely to write, but to speak it with an accuracy and a fluency at which I never ceased to wonder. The blunders and absurdities that find a frequent place in the Indian Press are cited both because they strike a note of gaiety in the rather dull routine of Indian official life, and, still more, because they often reveal a sense of humour on the part of the writers that is both quaint and refreshing. It is in this spirit only that I reproduce a number of extracts from my own collection.
The cause of education seemed to spur the inscription writers to their best efforts. The High School at Bikanir thus addressed me in language the sentiment of which was unimpeachable even if the expression was somewhat obscure :
Fulls wells the fountain of true fealty here
To hail Your Excellencies' advent dear.
Live I so live I
To my King faithfully.
Live I so live I
To my Lord heartily.
On one of the walls at the High Schools at Dhar I read the rather enigmatic gloss on a familiar precept: Spare the rod-spoil the child.
Sometimes the universal Anglo-Indian custom of condensing composite official titles into initials (for instance "Agent to the Governor-General " became A.G.G.) operates as a snare, for on one occasion a very popular Political officer, on returning from leave to the state to which he was accredited, found the welcome extended to him on a triumphal arch expressed in the following abbreviated form:
Let us give a big W.C.
To our popular A.G.G.!
I had one correspondent, who claimed to be the legitimate heir to the Native State of which his ancestors had been dispossessed, and to which he apparently expected to be restored. He always addressed me as your afflicted and distressed or as "your affectionate, humble, and beloved child”. He would always inquire kindly after my own
family, who were quite juvenile, but whom he persisted in describing as my "venerable children ". Perhaps the best among his many productions was one in which he explained his apparent failure to see me when I visited the town in which he resided.
I wrote to Mr. A- to procure me interview with your Sublime Lordship. Although he is very aptitude, theological, polite, susceptible, and temporising, yet he did not fulfil the desire of the Royal blood. When your susceptible Lordship was at the Judge's Bungalow, I wrote again. What I heard of your superfine Lordship's conduct, the same I have seen from the balcony of my liberal Highness father. Your inimitable Lordship returned the complements of thousands of people that were standing on the street, but my fortune was such that I could not play before your sumptuous Lordship upon my invaluable lute, which will be very relicious to the ear to hear. . . . I hope that your transident lordship will keep your benevolent golden view on the forlorn royal blood to ennoble and preserve the dignity of His Highness father in sending the blessing letter of the golden hands.
This correspondent had indeed a richer vocabuthan any one I have ever come across, and the epithets with which he honoured me in a correspondence extending over nearly seven years would have surprised even the compilers of the new Oxford Dictionary. I find that in addition to the adjectives already quoted, he described me at one time or another as parental, compassionate, orpulent, predominant, surmountable, merciful, refulgent, alert, sapient, notorious, meritorious, transitory, intrepid, esteemable, prominent, discretional, magnanimous, mellifluous, temperate, abstemious, sagacious, free