Written at the time of the Warren Hastings impeachment and set in the period of Hastings's Orientalist government of India, Hartly House, Calcutta (1789) is a dramatic representation of the Anglo-Indian encounter.
This novel represents a key document in the literary representation of India and the imperial debate, profoundly challenging pre-existent discourses of colonialism. At the time, it set out the achieve Hastings's reconciliation between 'the People of England' and 'the natives of Hindustan', in the belief that Hindu civilization had much to teach the West. Beyond offering a radical feminization of India, it introduced an open and sentimentalized version of the Indological scholarship, which facilitated Romantic Orientalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
The openness of Gibbes's heroine Sophia Goldborne to Hindu culture, and her determination to learn its fundamental tenets from a young Brahman Pandit are based upon the tolerance and pluralism of this brief period of sympathetic and syncretic admiration in Indo-British history.
From the standpoints of both materialist feminist scholarship and postcolonial theory, Hartly House, Calcutta problematizes the intricate relationships between mercantile capitalism, colonial trade, issues of race, religion and class, national identity, and British construction of gender within the colony and the metropolis. An informed introduction and notes on the text by the editor and included.
The novel about India was developed by women writers, and Phebe Gibbes's Hartly House, Calcutta is the first important example of this fascinating sub-genre which includes Elizabeth Hamilton's Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo Rajah (1776), and Lady Morgan's (Sydney Owenson's) The Missionary: An Indian Tale (1811).
The novel will be of interest to students and critics of Postcolonialism and gender studies, especially those who study Indology in revisionary analysis. It will also appeal to the general reader, and all those with a penchant for Raj literature.
Phebe Gibbes was a prolific writer of as many as twenty-two novels, written in the decades between 1764 and 1798. She was a widow with two daughters, her son having died in India, about whom very little is known.
Michael J. Franklin, the editor, teaches in the English Department of the University of Wales, Swansea, and has published widely upon representations of India.
Back Of The Book
'I saw the Nabob's eyes, sparkling with admiration, fixed on my face. His state palanquin followed. Four pillars of massy silver supported the top, which was actually encrusted with pearls and diamonds; and, instead of verandas, fine glass plates on every side, as well as the back and front, to shew his Mightiness's person to the greatest advantage. I would have given the world on the instant to have been a Nabobess and entitled to so magnificent a train. I am dying, Arabella, to have one of these very elephants at my command.
'An entertaining account of Calcutta. These letters indeed are written with a degree of vivacity which renders them very amusing.'
'One of the earliest British novels of India
of a transcultural love affair between the heroine Sophia Goldborne and a young Brahman. Although positively reviewed by Mary Wollstonecraft
it soon vanished from literary history; only recently has it begun to arouse the interest of students of eighteenth-century colonial literature
has done a splendid job editing the novel, with a full introductory essay and explanatory notes
making it available to researchers, students, and the general reader.'
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