Tales of Bengal (S. B. Banerjea)/Introduction
That "east is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet," is an axiom with most Englishmen to whom the oriental character seems an insoluble enigma. This form of agnosticism is unworthy of a nation which is responsible for the happiness of 300,000,000 Asiatics. It is not justified by history, which teaches us that civilisation is the result of the mutual action of Europe and Asia; and that the advanced races of India are our own kinsfolk.
The scene of Mr. Banerjea's tales has been won from the sea by alluvial action. Its soil, enriched by yearly deposits of silt, yields abundantly without the aid of manure. A hothouse climate and regular rainfall made Bengal the predestined breeding-ground of mankind; the seat of an ancient and complex civilisation. But subsistence is too easily secured in those fertile plains. Malaria, due to the absence of subsoil drainage, is ubiquitous, and the standard of vitality extremely low. Bengal has always been at the mercy of invaders. The earliest inroad was prompted by economic necessity. About 2000 B.C. a congeries of races which are now styled "Aryan" were driven by the shrinkage of water from their pasture-grounds in Central Asia. They penetrated Europe in successive hordes, who were ancestors of our Celts, Hellenes, Slavs, Teutons and Scandinavians. Sanskrit was the Aryans' mother-tongue, and it forms the basis of nearly every European language. A later swarm turned the western flank of the Himalayas, and descended on Upper India. Their rigid discipline, resulting from vigorous group-selection, gave the invaders an easy victory over the negroid hunters and fishermen who peopled India. All races of Aryan descent exhibit the same characteristics. They split into endogamous castes, each of which pursues its own interests at the expense of other castes. From the dawn of history we find kings, nobles and priests riding roughshod over a mass of herdsmen, cultivators and artisans. These ruling castes are imbued with pride of colour. The Aryans' fair complexions differentiated them from the coal-black aborigines; varna in Sanskrit means "caste" and "colour". Their æsthetic instinct finds expression in a passionate love of poetry, and a tangible object in the tribal chiefs. Loyalty is a religion which is almost proof against its idol's selfishness and incompetence.
Caste is a symptom of arrested social development; and no community which tolerates it is free from the scourge of civil strife. Class war is the most salient fact in history. Warriors, termed Kshatriyas in Sanskrit, were the earliest caste. Under the law of specialisation defence fell to the lot of adventurous spirits, whose warlike prowess gave them unlimited prestige with the peaceful masses. They became he governing element, and were able to transmit their privileges by male filiation. But they had to reckon with the priests, descended from bards who attached themselves to the court of a Kshatriya prince and laid him under the spell of poetry. Lust of dominion is a manifestation of the Wish to Live; the priests used their tremendous power for selfish ends. They imitated the warriors in forming a caste, which claimed descent from Brahma, the Creator's head, while Kshatriyas represented his arms, and the productive classes his less noble members.
In the eleventh century B.C. the warrior clans rose in revolt against priestly arrogance: and Hindustan witnessed a conflict between the religious and secular arms. Brahminism had the terrors of hell fire on its side; feminine influence was its secret ally; the world is governed by brains, not muscles; and spiritual authority can defy the mailed fist. After a prolonged struggle the Kshatriyas were fain to acknowledge their inferiority.
When a hierocracy has been firmly established its evolution always follows similar lines. Ritual becomes increasingly elaborate: metaphysical dogma grows too subtle for a layman's comprehension. Commercialism spreads from the market to the sanctuary, whose guardians exploit the all-pervading fear of the unknown to serve their lust of luxury and rule.
Brahminism has never sought to win proselytes; the annals of ancient India record none of those atrocious persecutions which stained mediæval Christianity. It competed with rival creeds by offering superior advantages: and the barbarous princes of India were kept under the priestly heel by an appeal to their animal instincts. A fungoid literature of abominations grew up in the Tantras, which are filthy dialogues between Siva, the destroying influence in nature, and his consorts. One of these. Káli by name, is the impersonation of slaughter. Her shrine, near Calcutta, is knee-deep in blood, and the Dhyán or formula for contemplating her glories, is a tissue of unspeakable obscenity. Most Hindus are Saktas, or worshippers of the female generative principle: happily for civilisation they are morally in advance of their creed. But it is a significant fact that Káli is the tutelary goddess of extremist politicians, whose minds are prepared for the acceptance of anarchism by the ever-present ideal of destruction.
It was Bengal's misfortune that its people received Brahminism in a corrupt and degenerate form. According to legend, King Adisur, who reigned there in the ninth century of our era, imported five priests from Kanauj to perform indispensable sacrifices. From this stock the majority of Bengali Brahmins claim descent. The immigrants were attended by five servants, who are the reputed ancestors of the Kayasth caste. In Sanskrit this word means "Standing on the Body," whence Kayasths claim to be Kshatriyas. But the tradition of a servile origin persisted, and they were forbidden to study the sacred writings. An inherited bent for literature has stood them in good stead: they became adepts in Persian, and English is almost their second mother-tongue to-day. Kayasths figure largely in Mr. Banerjea's tales: their history proves that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Economic necessity was the cause of the first invasion of India: the second was inspired by religion. The evolution of organised creeds is not from simple to complex, but vice versa. From the bed-rock of magic they rise through nature-worship and man-worship to monotheism. The god of a conquering tribe is imposed on subdued enemies, and becomes Lord of Heaven and Earth. Monotheism of this type took root among the Hebrews, from whom Mohammed borrowed the conception. His gospel was essentially militant and proselytising. Nothing can resist a blend of the æsthetic and combative instincts; within a century of the founder's death his successors had conquered Central Asia, and gained a permanent footing in Europe. In the tenth century a horde of Afghan Moslems penetrated Upper India.
The Kshatriya princes fought with dauntless courage, but unity of action was impossible; for the Brahmins fomented mutual jealousies and checked the growth of national spirit. They were subdued piecemeal; and in 1176 A.D. an Afghan Emperor governed Upper India from Delhi. The Aryan element in Bengal had lost its martial qualities; and offered no resistance to Afghan conquest, which was consummated in 1203. The invaders imposed their religion by fire and sword. The Mohammadans of Eastern Bengal, numbering 58 per cent. of the population, represent compulsory conversions effected between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. Eight hundred years of close contact have abated religious hatred; and occasional outbursts are due to priestly instigation. Hindus borrowed the Zenana system from their conquerors, who imitated them in discouraging widow-remarriages. Caste digs a gulf between followers of the rival creeds, but Mr. Banerjea's tales prove that a good understanding is possible. It is now imperilled by the curse of political agitation.
In 1526 the Afghan dynasty was subverted by a Mongol chieftain lineally descended from Tamerlane. His grandson Akbar's reign (1560-1605) was India's golden age. Akbar the Great was a ruler of the best modern type, who gave his subjects all the essentials of civilisation. But he knew that material prosperity is only the means to an end. Man, said Ruskin, is an engine whose motive power is the soul; and its fuel is love. Akbar called all the best elements in society to his side and linked them in the bonds of sympathy.
Religion in its highest phase is coloured by mysticism which seeks emblems of the hidden source of harmony in every form of life. Anthropomorphic conceptions are laid aside; ritual is abandoned as savouring of magic; hierocracy as part of an obsolete caste system; metaphysical dogma because the Infinite cannot be weighed in the balances of human reason. The truce to fanaticism called by Akbar the Great encouraged a poet and reformer named Tulsi Dása (1532-1623) to point a surer way to salvation. He adored Krishna, the preserving influence incarnate as Ráma, and rehandled Valmiki's great epic, the Rámáyana, in the faint rays of Christian light which penetrated India during that age of transition. Buddha had proclaimed the brotherhood of man; Tulsi Dása deduced it from the fatherhood of God. The Preserver, having sojourned among men, can understand their infirmities, and is ever ready to save his sinful creatures who call upon him. The duty of leading others to the fold is imposed on believers, for we are all children of the same Father. Tulsi Dása's Rámáyana is better known in Bihar and the United Provinces than is the Bible in rural England. The people of Hindustan are not swayed by relentless fate, nor by the goddess of destruction. Their prayers are addressed to a God who loves his meanest adorer; they accept this world's buffetings with resignation: while Ráma reigns all is well.
If the hereditary principle were sound, the Empire cemented together by Akbar's statecraft might have defied aggression. His successors were debauchees or fanatics. They neglected the army; a recrudescence of the nomad instinct sent them wandering over India with a locust-like horde of followers; Hindus were persecuted, and their temples were destroyed. So the military castes whose religion was threatened, rose in revolt; Viceroys threw off allegiance, and carved out kingdoms for themselves. Within a century of Akbar's death his Empire was a prey to anarchy.
India had hitherto enjoyed long spells of immunity from foreign interference. Her people, defended by the Himalayan wall and the ocean, were free to develop their own scheme of national life; and world-forces which pierce the thickest crust of custom, reached them in attenuated volume. Their isolation ended when the sea was no longer a barrier; and for maritime nations it is but an extension of their territory. A third invasion began in the sixteenth century, and has continued till our own day. The underlying motive was not economic necessity, nor religious enthusiasm, but sheer lust of gain.
In 1498 Vasco da Gama discovered an all-sea route to India, thus opening the fabulous riches of Asia to hungry Europe. Portuguese, Dutch, French and English adventurers embarked in a struggle for Indian commerce, in which our ancestors were victorious because they obtained the command of the sea, and had the whole resources of the mother-country at their back.
Westerners are so imbued with the profit-making instinct that they mentally open a ledger account in order to prove that India gains more than she loses by dependence on the people of these islands. It cannot be denied that the fabric of English administration is a noble monument of the civil skill and military prowess developed by our race. We have given the peninsula railways and canals, postal and telegraph systems, a code of laws which is far in advance of our own. Profound peace broods over the empire, famine and pestilence are fought with the weapons of science. It would be easy to pile up items on the debit side of our imaginary cash-book. Free trade has destroyed indigenous crafts wholesale, and quartered the castes who pursued them on an over-taxed soil. Incalculable is the waste of human life and inherited skill caused by the shifting of productive energy from India to Great Britain, Germany and America. It cannot be said that the oversea commerce, which amounted in 1907-8 to £241,000,000, is an unmixed benefit. The empire exports food and raw materials, robbing the soil of priceless constituents, and buys manufactured goods which ought to be produced at home. Foreign commerce is stimulated by the home charges, which average £18,000,000, and it received an indirect bounty by the closure of the mints in 1893. The textile industry of Lancashire was built upon a prohibition of Indian muslins: it now exports yarn and piece goods to the tune of £32,000,000, and this trade was unjustly favoured at the expense of local mills under the Customs Tariff of 1895. But there are forces in play for good or evil which cannot be appraised in money. From a material point of view our Government is the best and most honest in existence. If it fails to satisfy the psychical cravings of India there are shortcomings on both sides; and some of them are revealed by Mr. Banerjea's tales.
Caste.—As a Kulin, or pedigreed Brahmin, he is naturally prone to magnify the prestige of his order. It has been sapped by incidents of foreign rule and the spread of mysticism. Pandits find their stupendous lore of less account than the literary baggage of a university graduate. Brahmin pride is outraged by the advancement of men belonging to inferior castes. The priesthood's dream is to regain the ascendancy usurped by a race of Mlecchas (barbarians); and it keeps orthodox Hindus in a state of suppressed revolt. One centre of the insidious agitation is the fell goddess Káli's shrine near Calcutta; another is Puna, which has for centuries been a stronghold of the clannish Máráthá Brahmans. Railways have given a mighty impetus to religion by facilitating access to places of pilgrimage; the post office keeps disaffected elements in touch; and English has become a lingua franca.
While Brahminism, if it dared, could proclaim a religious war, it has powerful enemies within the hierarchy. A desire for social recognition is universal. It was the Patricians' refusal to intermarry with Plebeians that caused the great constitutional struggles of Ancient Rome. Many of the lowest castes are rebelling against Brahmin arrogance. They have waxed rich by growing lucrative staples, and a strong minority are highly educated. Mystical sects have already thrown off the priestly yoke. But caste is by no means confined to races of Indian blood. What is the snobbery which degrades our English character but the Indo-German Sudra's reverence for his Brahmin? The Europeans constitute a caste which possesses some solidarity against "natives," and they have spontaneously adopted these anti-social distinctions. At the apex stand covenanted civilians; whose service is now practically a close preserve for white men. It is split into the Secretariat, who enjoy a superb climate plus Indian pay and furlough, and the "rank and file" doomed to swelter in the plains. Esprit de corps, which is the life-blood of caste, has vanished. Officers of the Educational Service, recruited from the same social strata, rank as "uncovenanted"; and a sense of humiliation reacts on their teaching.
The Land.—In 1765 Clive secured for the East India Company the right of levying land-tax in Bengal. It was then collected by zemindars, a few of whom were semi-independent nobles, and the rest mere farmers of revenue, who bid against one another at the periodical settlements. Tenant right apart, the conception of private property in the soil was inconceivable to the Indian mind. Every one knows that it was borrowed by English lawyers from the Roman codes, when commercialism destroyed the old feudal nexus. Lord Cornwallis's permanent Settlement of 1793 was a revolution as drastic in its degree as that which France was undergoing. Zemindars were presented with the land for which they had been mere rakers-in of revenue. It was parcelled out into "estates," which might be bought and sold like moveable property. A tax levied at customary rates became "rent" arrived at by a process of bargaining between the landlord and ignorant rustics. The Government demand was fixed for ever, but no attempt was made to safeguard the ryot's interests. Cornwallis and his henchmen fondly supposed that they were manufacturing magnates of the English type, who had made our agriculture a model for the world. They were grievously mistaken. Under the cast-iron law of sale most of the original zemindars lost their estates, which passed into the hands of parvenus saturated with commercialism. Bengal is not indebted to its zemindars for any of the new staples which have created so vast a volume of wealth. They are content to be annuitants on the land, and sub-infeudation has gone to incredible lengths. Most of them are absentees whose one thought is to secure a maximum of unearned increment from tillers of the soil. In 1765 the land revenue amounted to £3,400,000, of which £258,000 was allotted to zemindars. A century afterwards their net profits were estimated at £12,000,000, and they are now probably half as much again. The horrible oppression described by Mr. Banerjea is impossible in our era of law-courts, railways and newspapers. But it is always dangerous to bring the sense of brotherhood, on which civilisation depends, into conflict with crude animal instincts. In days of American slavery the planter's interest prompted him to treat his human cattle with consideration, yet Simon Legrees were not unknown. It is a fact that certain zemindars are in the habit of remeasuring their ryots' holdings periodically, and always finding more land than was set forth in the lease.
The Police.—A pale copy of Sir Robert Peel's famous system was introduced in 1861, when hosts of inspectors, sub-inspectors and head constables were let loose on Bengal. The new force was highly unpopular, and failed to attract the educated classes. Subaltern officers, therefore, used power for private ends, while the masses were so inured to oppression that they offered no resistance. There has been a marked improvement in the personnel of late years; and Mr. Banerjea's lurid pictures of corruption and petty tyranny apply to a past generation of policemen. The Lieutenant-Governor of Eastern Bengal does justice to a much-abused service in his Administrative Report for 1907-8. His Honour "believes the force to be a hard-working body of Government servants, the difficulties, trials, and even dangers of whose duties it is impossible for the public at large really to appreciate". He acknowledges that "India is passing through a period of transition. Old pre-possessions and unscientific methods must be cast aside, and the value of the confession must be held at a discount." Bengal policemen fail as egregiously as their British colleagues in coping with professional crime. Burglary is a positive scourge, and the habit of organising gang-robberies has spread to youths of the middle class.
Education.—Though Mr. Banerjea has no experience of the inner working of our Government offices, he speaks on education with an expert's authority. Lord Macaulay, who went to India in 1834 as legal member of Council, was responsible for the introduction of English as the vehicle of instruction. He had gained admission to the caste of Whigs, whose battle-cry was "Knowledge for the People," and his brilliant rhetoric overpowered the arguments of champions of oriental learning. Every one with a smattering of Sanskrit, Arabic or Persian, regrets the fact that those glorious languages have not been adequately cultivated in modern India. Bengali is a true daughter of the Sanskrit; it has Italian sweetness and German capacity for expressing abstract ideas. No degree of proficiency in an alien tongue can compensate for the neglect of the vernacular. Moreover, the curriculum introduced in the "thirties" was purely academic. It came to India directly from English universities, which had stuck fast in the ruts of the Renaissance. Undue weight was given to literary training, while science and technical skill were despised. Our colleges and schools do not attempt to build character on a foundation of useful habits and tastes that sweeten life; to ennoble ideals, or inspire self-knowledge, self-reliance, and self-control. Technical education is still in its infancy; and the æsthetic instinct which lies dormant in every Aryan's brain is unawakened. A race which invented the loom now invents nothing but grievances. In 1901 Bengal possessed 69,000 schools and colleges, attended by 1,700,000 pupils, yet only one adult male in 10 and one female in 144 can read and write! The Calcutta University is an examining body on the London model. It does not attempt to enforce discipline in a city which flaunts every vice known to great seaports and commercial centres, unmitigated by the social instinct. Nor is the training of covenanted civilians more satisfactory. In 1909 only 1 out of 50 selected candidates presented himself for examination in Sanskrit or Arabic! Men go out to India at twenty-four, knowing little of the ethnology, languages or history of the races they are about to govern.
Agriculture.—Seventy-two per cent. of Bengalis live by cultivating the soil. The vast majority are in the clutches of some local Shylock, who sweeps their produce into his garners, doling out inadequate supplies of food and seed grain. Our courts of law are used by these harpies as engines of oppression; toil as he may the ryot is never free from debt. The current rates of interest leave no profit from agriculture or trade. Twelve to 18 per cent. is charged for loans on ample landed security; and ordinary cultivators are mulcted in 40 to 60. A haunting fear of civil discord, and purblind conservatism in the commercial castes, are responsible for the dearth of capital. India imports bullion amounting to £25,000,000 a year, to the great detriment of European credit, and nine-tenths of it is hoarded in the shape of ornaments or invested in land, which is a badge of social rank. Yet the Aryan nature is peculiarly adapted to co-operation. If facilities for borrowing at remunerative rates existed in towns, agricultural banks on the Schulze-Delitzsch and Raiffeisen systems would soon overspread the land. Credit and co-operative groupings for the purchase of seed, fertilisers and implements, are the twin pillars of rural industry. Indian ryots are quite as receptive of new ideas as English farmers. They bought many thousands of little iron sugar mills, placed on the market a generation back by some English speculators, and will adopt any improvements of practical value if the price is brought within their slender means.
The revolution which began a decade ago in America has not spread to Bengal, where the average yield of grain per acre is only 10 bushels as compared with 30 in Europe. Yet it has been calculated that another bushel would defray the whole cost of Government! Bengalis obey the injunction "increase and multiply" without regard for consequences. Their habitat has a population of 552 per square mile, and in some districts the ratio exceeds 900. Clearly there is a pressing need of scientific agriculture, to replace or supplement the rule-of-thumb methods in which the ryot is a past master.
The Bengali Character.—Mr. Banerjea has lifted a corner of the veil that guards the Indian's home from prying eyes. He shows that Bengalis are men of like passions with us. The picture is perhaps overcharged with shade. Sycophants, hustlers and cheats abound in every community; happily for the future of civilisation there is also a leaven of true nobility: "The flesh striveth against the spirit," nor does it always gain mastery. Having mixed with all classes for twenty eventful years, and speaking the vernacular fluently, I am perhaps entitled to hold an opinion on this much-vexed question. The most salient feature in the Indian nature is its boundless charity. There are no poor laws, and the struggle for life is very severe; yet the aged and infirm, the widow and the orphan have their allotted share in the earnings of every household. It is a symptom of approaching famine that beggars are perforce refused their daily dole. Cruelty to children is quite unknown. Parents will deny themselves food in order to defray a son's schooling-fees or marry a daughter with suitable provision. Bengalis are remarkably clannish: they will toil and plot to advance the interests of anyone remotely connected with them by ties of blood.
Their faults are the outcome of superstition, slavery to custom, and an unhealthy climate. Among them is a lack of moral courage, a tendency to lean on stronger natures, and to flatter a superior by feigning to agree with him. The standard of truth and honesty is that of all races which have been ground under heel for ages: deceit is the weapon of weaklings and slaves. Perjury has become a fine art, because our legal system fosters the chicane which is innate in quick-witted peoples. The same man who lies unblushingly in an English court, will tell the truth to an assembly of caste-fellows, or to the Panchayat (a committee of five which arbitrates in private disputes). Let British Pharisees study the working of their own Divorce and County Courts: they will not find much evidence of superior virtue! As for honesty, the essence of commercialism is "taking advantage of other people's needs," and no legal code has yet succeeded in drawing a line between fair and unfair trade. In India and Japan merchants are an inferior class; and loss of self-respect reacts unfavourably on the moral sense. Ingratitude is a vice attributed to Bengalis by people who have done little or nothing to elicit the corresponding virtue. As a matter of fact their memory is extremely retentive of favours. They will overlook any shortcomings in a ruler who has the divine gift of sympathy, and serve him with devotion. Macaulay has branded them with cowardice. If the charge were true, it was surely illogical and unmanly to reproach a community numbering 50,000,000 for inherited defects. Difference of environment and social customs will account for the superior virility of Europeans as compared with their distant kinsmen whose lot is cast in the sweltering tropics. But no one who has observed Bengali schoolboys standing up bare-legged to fast bowling will question their bravery. In fact, the instinct of combativeness is universal, and among protected communities it finds vent in litigation.
Englishmen who seek to do their duty by India have potential allies in the educated classes, who have grafted Western learning on a civilisation much more ancient than their own. Bengal has given many illustrious sons to the empire. Among the dead I may mention Pandits Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Kissari Mohan Ganguli, whose vast learning was eclipsed by their zeal for social service; Dr. Sambhu Chandra Mukharji, whose biography I wrote in 1895; and Mr. Umesh Chandra Banarji, a lawyer who held his own with the flower of our English bar. A Bengali Brahmin is still with us who directs one of the greatest contracting firms in the empire. How much brighter would India's outlook be if this highly-gifted race were linked in bonds of sympathy with our own!
The women of the Gangetic delta deserve a better fate than is assigned to them by Hindu and Mohammadan custom. They are kept in leading-strings from the cradle to the grave; their intellect is rarely cultivated, their affections suffer atrophy from constant repression. Yet Mr. Banerjea draws more than one picture of wifely devotion, and the instinctive good sense which is one of the secrets of feminine influence. Women seldom fail to rise to the occasion when opportunity is vouchsafed them. The late Maharani Surnomoyi of Cossimbazar managed her enormous estates with acumen; and her charities were as lavish as Lady Burdett-Coutts's. Torn Dutt, who died in girlhood, wrote French and English verses full of haunting sweetness. It is a little premature for extremists to prate of autonomy while their women are prisoners or drudges.
Superstition.—Modes of thought surviving from past ages of intellectual growth are the chief obstacles in the path of progress. Mr. Banerjea's tales contain many references to magic—a pseudo-science which clings to the world's religions and social polity. It is doubtful whether the most civilised of us has quite shaken off the notion that mysterious virtues may be transmitted without the impetus of will-power. Latin races are haunted by dread of the Evil Eye; advertisements of palmists, astrologers and crystal-gazers fill columns of our newspapers. Rational education alone enables us to trace the sequence of cause and effect which is visible in every form of energy. Until this truth is generally recognised no community can eradicate the vices of superstition. The "unrest" of which we hear so much finds no echo in Mr. Banerjea's pages. It is, indeed, confined to a minute percentage of the population, even including the callow schoolboys who have been tempted to waste precious years on politics. The masses are too ignorant and too absorbed by the struggle for existence to care one jot for reforms. They may, however, be stirred to blind fury by appealing to their prejudices. Therein lies a real danger. Divergence of religious ideals, to which I have already alluded, accounts for the tranquillity that prevails throughout Bihar as compared with the spirit of revolution in Bengal proper. The microbe of anarchy finds an excellent culture-ground in minds which grovel before the goddess Káli. But the unrest cannot be isolated from other manifestations of cosmic energy, which flash from mind to mind and keep the world in turmoil. Every force of nature tends to be periodic. The heart's systole and diastole; alternations of day and night, of season and tide, are reflected in the history of our race. Progress is secured by the swing of a giant pendulum from East to West, the end of each beat ushering in drastic changes in religion, economics and social polity. It is probable that one of these cataclysmic epochs opened with the victories wrested from Russia by Japan. The democratic upheaval which began five hundred years ago is assuming Protean forces; and amongst them is the malady aptly styled "constitutionalitis" by Dr. Dillon. The situation in India demands prescience and statecraft. Though world-forces cannot be withstood, they are susceptible of control by enlightened will-power. Will peace be restored by the gift of constitutional government at a crisis when the august Mother of Parliaments is herself a prey to faction? It is worthy of note that the self-same spirit has always been rife in Bengal, where every village has its Dals—local Montagues and Capulets, whose bickerings are a fertile source of litigation.
Mr. Banerjea's tales were written for his own countrymen, and needed extensive revision in order to render them intelligible to Western readers. I have preserved the author's spirit and phraseology; and venture to hope that this little book will shed some light on the problem of Indian administration.
Francis H. Skrine.