Hartly House, Calcutta: A Novel of the Days of Warren Hastings

Hartly House, Calcutta: A Novel of the Days of Warren Hastings - Monica Clough . Both editors appear to agree, however, that the account - very much a woman's one, much society and little politics - is based on genuine experience and not hacked out from other books. It is slight enough - 280 pp. of largish print, much of it given over to explanation of Indian manners and customs, both those of the native-born peoples, and those of the English colony at Calcutta. Her interest in and general acceptance of the natives is one of Sophia's few really amiable traits; otherwise I find her rather tedious: her vanity, her constant exclamations over the price of things, and worst of all, that characteristically 18th-century habit of expanding at length upon the emotional / moral / spiritual effect of the scene, event or person she is describing, rather than describing it in any concrete way. This last, I grant you, is a fault that is hardly peculiar to Sophia. There is a romance-plot, fairly conventional, in which Sophia sets her liking on a young Englishman, eventually marries him, & later finds out her family & friends have been plotting to that end. Of more interest (because the character is expanded a bit more) is the apparently hopeless love of the benevolent Mrs. D-- for Sophia's recently widowed father. Sophia recognizes that her own clinging to the memory of her mother has put a stumbling-block in the way of her father's happiness, and pleads for Mrs. D--. Amidst all the general description of India, there is also a delicate and barely touched-upon portrait of a Brahmin, upon whom Sophia appears to have a bit of a crush. The ramifications are never explored, tho', for the Brahmin dies. Favourable to Hastings, this novel was published while he was still under a cloud in Britain. A piece of propaganda?