A Journey to India - Landed Estate Novel
Completing the final part of the Landed Estate Novel, it has brought me all the way to India, well not physically, but I needed to undertake research for the period of 1806 to 1826. Company rule or Raj was the time of British rule in India that began in 1757 following the battle of Plassey, when Nawab of Bengal surrendered his kingdoms. In 1773 the company established a capital in the region of Bengal called Calcutta. In Pitt’s India Act of 1784, the Company fell under the control of the British Government who set out to stop the mass corruption and develop new standards. The Company rule lasted until 1858 and was abolished following the Indian rebellion. The British Government continued to administer India, then under the new British Raj.
Prior to 1830 the only way to travel from Ireland to India was by sailing around the tip of South Africa and the journey could have taken six to eight months.
The best sources of what life was like during that period are from many known journals of men and women who were stationed in India. The journals are from the wives of the East India Company officials and soldiers along with journals from members sent out on diplomatic missions and east India company civil servants. The diaries of the women give great insight into life in India from a personal and family aspect, in addition to how they dealt with the difficulties of war.
Some of the best and well known diaries from the wives of the company officials and soldiers are:
Lady Florentia Sale (1790 – 1853), wife of Major General Sir Robert Henry Sale
Frances Eden (1801 – 1849), sister of George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland and Governor General
Mrs. M E Doherty, wife of Major Joseph Doherty
Sofia Elizabeth Prosser, wife of Richard Plowden of the Bengal Civil Service
Mary Fitzgibbon (1813 – 1862), wife of Richard Fitzgibbon, veterinary surgeon
Mary Ann Mac Farlan (1810 – 1873), wife of David Mac Farlan of the Bengal Civil Service
Lady Frances Chambers (1758 – 1839), wife of Sir Robert Chambers, Chief Justice of Bengal
Lady Lucretia West, wife of Sir Edward West, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Bombay
Diaries from members of the Diplomatic Missions:
George Paterson (1734 – 1817), secretary to a negotiation mission.
Captain (Lt Colonel) Allen Mac Pherson (1740 – 1816)
Sir Philip Francis (1740 – 1818)
William Parry Okeden (1800 – 1868)
The diaries give detailed accounts of life in India, from social life, tiger shooting, landscape descriptions, wars and local life. Truly magnificent insights that have helped me to get a little taste of what life must have been like during this period.
The opening chapter of part III in the Landed Estate finds Susanna in India with her husband William Camwell. She gives a short account of her first arrival to India as she prepares to depart for Ireland dreading the perilous journey ahead, fearing she might not make it home. The next account of her life in India is in a letter that she has sent to Ireland that her granddaughter Harriet reads prior to Susanna arriving at Point Pleasant Estate.
One can ask, why did I decide to have Susanna move to India? Is it something she would have done? Was her love for Point Pleasant so strong that she would ever leave? Not wanting to give too much away on the story, the thought came to me one morning on waking, my eyes rested on a large map of the world in the room I was staying in. India! It was a place where many people travelled to during this period and William Camwell was a legal magistrate whose legal experience was required. The move to India allowed the story to work well given that on her return to Ireland, Susanna still had to face the past she had left behind. For her it was an escape from the darkness and death that surrounded her and it allowed the story to progress in dealing with the unanswered questions and unresolved issues bringing a close to the novel.
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