Hindoo Stuart and the pallid European ladies

Watching Dan Snow present The Birth of Empire: The East India Company is a very pleasant experience. He is a good looking man, knowledgeable in all the right ways and able to emphasise all the bits that need pointing out. For example, his flourish as he points out the vast Government House in Kolkata, a structure built by orders of Richard Wellesley and says, ‘It is not much, but it is home!’

But the real pleasure is in the details he lets slip through the course of the program.

Mention of men such as Hindoo Stuart, Major General Charles Stuart who prayed to an army of Hindu gods and idols and bathed each morning in the Ganges. He lived in both worlds, living not only an Indian life (clothes, shoes, spittoons, hookahs) but also making sure that he did not lose the British tastes (sugar tongs, billiard cues, camping tables, map cases, shikar equipment and so on…, travelling in a buggy with his bibi and children’s carriages in tow according to Dalrymple. He was an outspoken critic of the missionaries who attempted to convert the Indian population. He even wrote a booklet titled, and I am not joking, ‘The Ladies Monitor, Being A Series of Letters First published in Bengal on the Subject of Female Apparel Tending to Favour a regulated adoption of Indian Costume And a rejection of Superfluous Vesture By the Ladies of this country With Incidental remarks on Hindoo Beauty, Whale-Bone Stays, Iron Busks, Indian Corsets, Man-Milliners, Idle Bachelors, Hair-Powder, Waiting Maids, And Footmen,’ in which he said that the iron in their corsets made white women prone to lightning strikes! He also thought that the iron that would be freed up could then go towards making ploughs for the farmers of Bengal. He was a firm believer in the beauty of Indian women above the pallid and sickly hue of the European woman. Not completely insane then!

stuarts tomb

When he died he was buried in what is now South Park Street cemetery in Kolkata with most of his 180 idols in a mausoleum that looks for all the world like a Hindu temple. The British would not agree to his wish for a cremation like the Hindus as he was an officer in the British army but I suppose the mausoleum had already been paid for.

Photo: Maddy’s blog.
Information: Wikipedia and net.

This entry was posted in British Raj, Calcutta, History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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