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Art. I. - The Life of Robert, Lord Clive ; collected from
the Family Papers, communicated by the Earl of Powis. By MAJOR-GENERAL SIR John Malcolm, K.C.B. 3 vols. 8vo. London : 1836
E have always thought it strange, that while the history
to all the nations of Europe, the great actions of our countrymen in the East should, even among ourselves, excite little interest. Every schoolboy knows who imprisoned Montezuma, and who strangled Atabalipa. But we doubt whether one in ten, even among English gentlemen of highly cultivated minds, can tell who won the battle of Buxar, who perpetrated the massacre of Patna, whether Surajah Dowlah ruled in Oude or in Travancore, or whether Holkar was a Hindoo or a Mussulman. Yet the victories of Corles were gained over savages who had no letters, who were ignorant of the use of metals, who had not broken in a single animal to labour, who wielded no better weapons than those which could be made out of sticks, flints, and fish-bones, who regarded a horse-soldier as a monster half man and half beast, who took a harquebusier for a sorcerer,
able to scatter the thunder and lightning of the skies. The people of India, when we subdued them, were ten times as numerous as the vanquished Americans, and were at the same
Jan. time quite as highly civilized as the victorious Spaniards. They had reared cities larger and fairer than Saragossa or Toledo, and buildings more beautiful and costly than the cathedral of Seville. They could show bankers richer than the richest firms of Barcelona or Cadiz, viceroys whose splendour far surpassed that of Ferdinand the Catholic, myriads of cavalry and long trains of artillery which would have astonished the Great Captain. It might have been expected, that every Englishman who takes any interest in any part of history would be curious to know how a handful of his countrymen, separated from their home by an immense ocean, subjugated, in the course of a few years, one of the greatest empires in the world. Yet, unless we greatly err, this subject is, to most readers, not only insipid, but positively distasteful.
Perhaps the fault lies partly with the historians. Mr Mill's book, though it has undoubtedly great and rare merit, is not sufficiently animated and picturesque to attract those who read for amusement. Orme, inferior to no English historian in style and power of painting, is minute even to tediousness. In one volume he allots, on an average, a closely-printed quarto page to the events of every forty-eight hours. The consequence is, that his narrative, though one of the most authentic, and one of the most finely written in our language, has never been
very popular, and is now scarcely ever read.
We fear that Sir John Malcolm's volumes will not much attract those readers whom Orme and Mill have repelled. The materials placed at his disposal by the late Lord Powis, were indeed of great value. But we cannot say that they have been very skilfully worked up. It would, however, be unjust to criticise with severity a work which, if the author had lived to complete and revise it, would probably have been improved by condensation, and by a better arrangement. We are more disposed to perform the pleasing duty of expressing our gratitude to the noble family to which the public owes so much useful and curious information.
The effect of the book, even when we make the largest allowance for the partiality of those who have furnished, and of those who have digested the materials, is, on the whole, greatly to raise the character of Lord Clive. We are far indeed from sympathizing with Sir John Malcolm, whose love passes the love of biographers, and who can see nothing but wisdom and justice in the actions of his idol. But we are at least equally far from concurring in the severe judgment of Mr Mill, who seems to us to show less discrimination in his account of Clive, than in any other part of his valuable work. Clive, like most men who are born with strong passions, and tried by strong
youths whom the East India College now annually sends to the Presidencies of our Asiatic empire. The Company was then purely a trading corporation. Its territory consisted of a few square miles, for which rent was paid to the native governments. Ils troops were scarcely numerous enough to man the batteries of three or four ill-coastructed forts, which had been erected for the protection of the warehouses. The natives, who composed a considerable part of these little garrisons, had not yet been trained in the discipline of Europe, and were armed, some with swords and shields, some with bows and arrows. The business of the servant of the Company was not, as now, to conduct the judicial, financial, and diplomatic business of a great country, but to take stock, to make advances to weavers, to ship cargoes, and to keep a sharp look-out for private traders who dared to infringe the monopoly. The younger clerks were so miserably paid, that they could scarcely subsist without incurring debt; ihe elder enriched themselves by trading on their own account; and those who lived to rise to the top of the service, often accumulated considerable fortunes.
Madras, to which Clive had been appointed, was, at this time, perhaps ihe first in importance of the Company's settlements. In the preceding century, Fort St George had arisen on a barren spot, beaten by a raging surf; and in the neighbourhood a town, inhabited by many thousands of natives, bad sprung up, as towns spring up in the East, with the rapidity of the prophet's gourd. There were already in the suburbs many white villas, each surrounded by its garden, whither the wealthy agents of the Company retired, after the labours of the desk and the warehouse, to enjoy the cool breeze which springs up at sunset from the Bay of Bengal. The habits of these mercantile grandees appear to have been more profuse, luxurious, and ostentatious, than those of the high judicial and political functionaries who have succeeded them. But comfort was far less understood. Many devices which now mitigate the heat of the climate, preserve health, and prolonglise, were unknown. There was far less intercourse with Europe than at present. The voyage by the Cape, which in our time has often been performed within three months, was then very seldom accomplished in six, and was sometimes protracted to more than a year. Consequently the Anglo-Indian was then much more estranged from his country, much more an oriental in his tastes and habits, and much less fitted to mix in society after his return to Europe, than the Anglo-Indian of the present day.
Within the fort and its precincts, the English governors exercised, by permission of the native rulers, an extensive authority.
But they had never dreamed of claiming independent power. The surrounding country was governed by the Nabob of the Carnatic, a deputy of the Viceroy of the Deccan, commonly called the Nizam, who was himself only a deputy of the mighty prince designated by our ancestors as the Great Mogul. Those names, once so august and formidable, still remain. There is still a Nabob of the Carnatic, who lives on a pension allowed to him by the Company, out of the revenues of the province which his ancestors ruled. There is still a Nizam, whose capital is overawed by a British cantonment, and to whom a British resident gives, under the name of advice, commands which are not to be disputed. There is still a Mogul, who is permitted to play at holding courts and receiving petitions, but who has less power to help or hurt than the youngest civil servant of the Company
Clive's voyage was unusually tedious even for that age. The ship remained some months at the Brazils, where the young adventurer picked up some knowledge of Portuguese, and spent all his pocket-money. He did not arrive in India till more than a year after he had left England. His situation at Madras was most painful. His funds were exhausted. His pay was small. He had contracted debts. He was wretchedly lodged-no small calamity in a climate which can be rendered tolerable to an European only by spacious and well-placed apartments. He had been furnished with letters of recommendation to a gentleman who might have assisted him; but when he landed at Fort St George he found that this gentleman had sailed for England. His shy and haughty disposition withheld him from introducing himself. He was several months in India before he became acquainted with a single family. The climate affected his health and spirits. His duties were of a kind ill-suited to his ardent and daring character. He pined for his home, and in his letters to his relations expressed his feelings in language softer and more pensive than we should have expected, from the waywardness of his boyhood, or from the inflexible steroness of his later years.
I have not enjoyed,' says he, one happy day since I left my ' native country.' And again,' I must confess, at intervals, when • I think of my dear native England, it affects me in a very par* ticular manner. .... If I should be so far blest as to revisit again 'my own country, but more especially Manchester, the centre of • all my wishes, all that I could hope or desire for would be presented before me in one view.'
One solace he found of the most respectable kind. The Governor possessed a good library, and permitted Clive to have access to it. The young man devoted much of his leisure to