Tipu’s folly

As I mentioned previously, I am not a great fan of the Mysore Sultans Hyder and Tipu; in fact I have scant regard for them and disagree vehemently with those who tend to bracket them as freedom fighters. My studies on them however, are far from complete, especially their violent forays and ‘padayottam’ (military marches) periods in Malabar. Nevertheless, I must at the outset make it clear that British accounts of the Mysore sultans were filled with gross fabrications made in order to prop up and legitimize Richard Wellesly’s declaration of war against Tipu and justify the capture of the Mysore kingdom. But then this is more a story of Francois Ripuad and his masquerade, how it unwittingly brought about the downfall of Tipu Sultan.

The English in India greatly outnumbered the French who were finding their plans of creating their own allies and possibly an empire, thwarted at every turn. They possessed but a few small pockets of territory while the English were slowly increasing their grip and making and breaking agreements with the various Indian rulers. The French were gamely trying and we have read about some of their forays into Malabar in other articles. But from the onset they had stronger relationships with the arch enemies of Malabar chieftains, the Mysore Sultans. The wars, intrigues and resulting treaties between the English and the French in Europe and America however tended to regulate actions in India during this time.
The third Anglo Mysore war had been fought over Travancore and Tipu was defeated by the English. The grip he had over Malabar was weakened and as spoils of the war, Malabar was ceded to the British. Tipu was smarting badly (considering also that he had to give away three of his sons as ransom) and he was trying to find out if he could marshal more support from the French to get back at the British. Until then he, like his father Hyder maintained a loose but cordial relationship with the French, and many French soldiers had worked in his armies as mercenaries and trainers including people like Lally and Bussy. But even so, these French commanders had let him down on crucial occasions, and Tipu was yet to learn a lesson.

So in 1787, seeing that he was getting boxed in, Tipu made a decision to contact the French King Louis XVI directly, by deputing three of his ambassadors. The intentions were not only to seek assistance from the French, but also to show the English that he had good connections with the French High command in Europe. While they were received cordially in Versailles, the threesome soon became a spectacle in France, more for their dressing and bearing. The French would not extend their hand any further as the treaty of Versailles had just been signed (act 16 stated that neither party would involve themselves in the internal problems between Indian princes) and they did not want the status quo upset. The French revolution had followed and the French were in no mood for deeper intrigues at a time when the Mysorean ambassadors arrived in France. Anyway the visit came to naught and by 1794, the hostages were also returned after Tipu paid his dues to the British. So it was time for Tipu to plan again and it was finally in 1797 that an event in Mangalore made Tipu raise his hopes (In fact he had one of his dreams in May 1796 which told him that a person of rank from France was to arrive soon, promising support with a 1000 soldiers!!). But before we get to Mangalore, we have to go to the Isle de France or Mauritius and get to know the next person in our story.

Mauritius came under French rule during the period 1715-1810 after the Dutch had abandoned it.  During the Napoleonic wars, Isle de France became a base from which the French navy lead military expeditions to support French troops in India who were fighting the British. In addition to colonial trade and slavery, Mauritius was also home to a number of French Corsairs or privateers, a loose term synonymous with pirates. These Corsairs attacked British merchant vessels and looted their precious cargoes loaded in India and consigned for trading in Europe. One such corsair who took to that lucrative but risky trade was a failed businessman named François Fidèle Ripaud de Montaudevert who hailed from Brittany and had moved to the isles in 1773. In 1984, he married Jeanne Françoise Boyer also called Chounette, daughter of an officer of the militia of Bourbon and two years later their first child was born. But the peaceful life in the island of Reunion and farming was not befitting the character of this adventurer. It did not improve, by 1791, for a business venture together with his brother had gone bankrupt and so with no other opportunities around, he decided to become a brigand. The next six years were spent as a privateer, attacking the British shipping off Malabar. In 1797, he was operating in the Malabar Coast and continued his attacks on British shipping, but soon he had run out of ammunition and had no choice but to call in to the port of Mangalore with his ship.
The opportunist he was, Ripuad hatched up a plan to contact Tipu Sultan and announce himself as an emissary from France seeking Tipu’s audience. Whether it was of his own doing or whether he was set up to do this by Ghulam Ali, Lord of the admiralty of Mangalore (It is stated in various English sources that this was one for the 1787 ambassadors and thus he knew a little French, but I am not too sure as his name does not figure in the list of 3, he was actually the legless ambassador sent to Istanbul) is not clear, but Ripuad succeeded in meeting a suspicious Tipu, who had been altered by his ministers that this Frenchman was an imposter. Ripuad had stated that he was number two in Mauritius to Governor Malartic and that he had arrived to pass on the message that a large contingent of soldiers were waiting in Mauritius to disembark to Malabar and fight the English alongside Tipu. Even though Tipu had been altered, he took the chance and after first imprisoning the Frenchman, later getting swindled in the process of purchasing Ripaud’s boat twice, he decided to retain Ripuad as his Vakeel or advisor.

Boutier explains – Tipu’s minister of commerce had said, "This Ripaud, that is come, God knows, what an ass he is, whence it comes and for what purpose." To shake off such suspicions which led him to prison for some time, Ripaud tries to give visible proof of his official status. Thus, every Sunday, after mass, republican rituals are celebrated, evidently to restore Tipu's confidence and legitimize Ripaud's claims of being "representative of the French people besides prince Tippo."
Ripaud then organizes meetings and sets up the so called Jacobin club (a disputed issue discussed at length by Prof Jean Boutier in his paper listed under references), plants a tree of liberty in Seringapatanam and confers the title of Citizen Prince to Tipu, who formally becomes a member.

A French paper was found in Tipu's Palace in 1799, entitled 'Proceedings of a Jacobin Club formed at Seringapatam by the French Soldiers in the Corps commanded by M. Dompart. A Scotsman, Capt W Macleod, attested to its authenticity. The Paper listed by name 59 Frenchmen in the pay of 'Citizen Tippoo'; it described the gathering of a Primary Assembly on 5th May 1797, to elect a President, Francois Ripaud, and other officers. The 'Rights of Man' were proclaimed, and Ripaud presented a lecture on Republican principles. Further deliberations and formalities followed before, on 14th May, the National flag was ceremonially raised and a small delegation were formally received by Tipu. The 'Citizen Prince' ordered a salute of 2,300 cannon, all the musketry and 500 rockets, with a further 500 cannon firing from the Fort. A Tree of Liberty was planted, and crowned with a Cap of Equality, before Ripaud challenged his co-patriots: 'Do you swear hatred to all Kings, except Tippoo Sultaun, the Victorious, the Ally of the French Republic - War against all Tyrants, and love towards your Country and that of Citizen Tippoo.' ‘Yes! We swear to live free or die,' they replied.
Dr Soracoe explains the move - Against the wishes of the rest of his court, Tipu agreed to move forward with plans for an alliance with the French, and began preparing an embassy to travel to Mauritius. Tipu's desire for revenge and desperate search for allies against the British Company appear to have overridden more sensible judgment and led him into this poor decision. The contemporary Indian historian Mir Hussain Kirmani wrote years later about how sometimes Tipu would act rashly and without thought, refusing to listen even to his most faithful servants, and cited the interactions with Ripaud as one such example of poor judgment.

On one side this led to the British conjuring up an international Jacobin plot, touching the distant tip of South India while on the other side Tipu was now determined to obtain the required support from France through the isle of France and prepares a new Secret embassy of two or three persons to sail to Mauritius with Ripaud.  This is of course downplayed by various writers taking the ‘Tipu is a martyr’ line - Some leave out this entire Ripuad chapter from their accounts of the glorious Tipu, in fact one even goes on to say that Tipu actually sent his emissary to obtain artisans from Mauritius! Well that was a tall tale, in my opinion, taller than that narrated by Ripaud when he landed in Mangalore!
The idea was to make a new alliance proposal to France which briefly covered in five articles the following - After two preliminary articles of friendship, Tipu asked in the third article for 10,000 French soldiers and 30,000 French sepoys, to be provisioned for and commanded by Tipu's officers. The fourth article detailed how the Company possessions were to be divided; Tipu wanted half of the British territories, taking Goa for himself and leaving Bombay and Madras to the French. The fifth article stipulated that both alliances partners would also declare war on any native princes that sided with the British Company.

Port Louis Mauritius
Ripaud and party sailed out to Port Louis in Jan 1798. It is said that the trip to Mauritius was not very pleasant for as soon as the ship had set out, Ripuad changed colors, ill-treated the Mysoreans and proceeded only after making sure that the secret treaty papers from Tipu did not speak ill of him. General Malartic received them cordially but at the outset made it clear that Ripaud had nothing to do with the French officialdom and that Ripuad was nothing but a privateer and an imposter. He then proceeded to make public disclosure of the treaty proposed by Tipu Sultan (which was immediately conveyed to the British in Madras by English spies!).

Malartic then explained that he himself had no soldiers to spare but could of course advertise for volunteers, which he did. They also sent ships to France asking for support on the basis of Tipu’s entreaty. In a public proclamation and advertisement it was made clear that Tipu desired to form an offensive and defensive alliance with the French and was waiting for arrival of French troops to declare war against the British. This again is disputed by others , and some say that there was much dillydallying going on about what words to use and to keep it all neutral, but only to mention an alliance between Tipu and the French. Tipu’s plan was to check out the French and only form a military alliance if Ripaud's promise of tens of thousands of soldiers proved to be true. A few people decided to travel to Mangalore and as it finally turned out, fewer than a hundred French volunteers returned to Mysore together with the ambassadors (The party included two generals, 35 officers, 36 European soldiers, 22 colored troops, and four shipbuilders all under the leadership of L’Hermitte). Those who support the ‘Tipu is a martyr’ theory may take note that Tipu clearly had plans to enrich himself further and affirm his own safety, also to bring in the French at the expense of the English and the Marathas and the Nizam, nothing about all this to free India of foreign dominance or the British yoke.
And that brings us to Lord Mornington, the third player in the drama which followed. Richard Wesley (he always used the archaic Irish usage - Wesley, never the modernized usage Wellesley which his brother Arthur changed to) was known as The Earl of Mornington from 1781 until 1799. Wesley became the new Governor General of India in the spring of 1798, replacing John Shore, and arrived with a burning ambition to implant British superiority on these distant shores and perhaps to snuff out any French ambitions. As he learnt about the activities concerning Tipu, Ripaud and Malartic in Mauritius, he saw a window of opportunity and wanted to attack Tipu’s stronghold rightaway.

Wesley heard about the Malartic Proclamation and immediately resolved to invade Mysore,  believing that it provided sufficient rationale for a preemptive war of conquest. But in Europe, Britain was involved in an ongoing war against France and there was no enthusiasm for further military expenses and conquests in India. They generally decided to take a wait and watch attitude. Wesley was asked to, adopt a cautious approach, safeguard the EIC’s investment and await further instructions from home. Mornington however taking preemptive steps, went on a war footing and planned for an eventual war with Mysore. The first step was to disband French troops working for the Nizam of Hyderabad. In addition, a flurry of correspondence ensued between Tipu and Wesley made it clear that they knew what was going on. Various offers of peace were discussed, but Tipu curiously took little notice, sidestepped the serious issue and went on acting as though nothing had happened.

Richard Wellesley on the other hand took to exaggerating the issue with London. He made a big noise about the threat posed by Tipu's supposed French alliance, and implied that British India was in far more danger than actually existed. Then again the news of Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition and plans about India made the British even more nervous.  Wellesley was quite aware that the French soldiers in Egypt had little possibility of reaching India without adequate supplies, but then again, he led the EIC management and the larger British public to believe just the opposite by linking Tipu to the whole fracas.
The war of disinformation was quickly started with the British overstating Tipu’s purpose and instead of accusing the French made it look as though Tipu was about to attack the British. Tipu of course made matters worse by his own vacillation and foolishness. Tipu’s reputation, his forays into Malabar and other places were overstated by the British and he was soon portrayed a tyrant of the worst kind. The correspondence between Tipu and Wesley touched on various topics, and when Wesley mentioned the French, Tipu replied that it was nothing and that some 40 people had come from France in search of employment, adding that all the rest were malicious rumors parlayed by the French. In reality, when Mornington complained to Tipu that he was harboring hostile Frenchmen in his court, the Sultan diplomatically remarked that Ripaud had drifted to Mangalore in a ship during a storm at sea. "I am having no discussions with him at all” wrote Tipu to Mornington "In fact my sincere wish is that the French, who are of crooked disposition and are enemies of mankind, may be ever depressed and ruined."

But in Jan 1799, Mornington played his hand, and mentioned in clear terms that Tipu had violated the treaty and demanded that Tipu meet with Gen Doveton and accept reparations and new arrangements or face dangerous consequences (It was exactly the game Hyder had played on the Calicut Zamorin). Tipu still did not realize that his adversary had no interest in diplomacy and replied in the most bizarre fashion – he stated that he would receive Doveton as an envoy later, as he was proceeding upon a hunting expedition for the moment.

By then it was all too late, Wesley had already given the order for the EIC armies to invade Mysore on 3rd February, which was before receiving Tipu's response. His brother Arthur also participated in the onslaught. A quick and decisive war was fought, Seringapatanam was stormed and Tipu met his cruel end, justly so (for he was indeed a tyrant in the eyes of us, the people of Malabar). Richard Wesley did not do well in later life, though his brother did. Richard continued warring and racked up huge debts for the EIC and was called back in 1805, but only after converting the EIC business into an imperial colony.

In 1809 Richard was appointed ambassador to Spain. He started getting occasional and inexplicable "black-outs" when he was apparently unaware of his surroundings. He was also deeply hurt by his brother's failure to find a Cabinet position for him (Arthur made the usual excuse that one cannot give a Cabinet seat to everyone who wants one). They were soon estranged though they made up much later. Not satisfied with just an Irish peerage, which he contemptuously referred to as a "double-gilt potato, Richard passed away and is remembered by the Township of Wellesley, in Ontario, Canada which was named after him. Arthur Wellesly known Duke of Wellington continued on his marches in Malabar and Madras, became a British prime minister.
Thus we see that the primary causes of a decisive war in India, and the ruin of Tipu Sultan's ill-gotten empire and power, was all due to the accidental circumstance of Ripaud's cruise to the Malabar Coast and his playing with Tipu’s ego and false pride. That was Tipu’s folly.

But we have to tie all loose ends up, so let us now see what happened to Ripuad and the hundred odd Frenchmen who ventured out to Mysore. Well Ripaud left India (not clear if he came back) and went back to Reunion to continue the fight against the British, while at the same time arguing with French authorities about some war titles. He finally got the titles in his 50th year, after 30 years of fighting the British, perhaps being one of the few who fought them the longest.
The British took over Isle de France in 1810 and the island was ceded to them in 1814 to be renamed Mauritius. As part of an agreement all Frenchmen would be sent back to France. Thus François Ripaud returned to France after thirty years of absence. He landed there with his sons (one of them, a soldier who served under Napoleon, was killed in Russia).  Ripaud continued fighting the British. He next assumed command of the frigate La Sapho and was injured mortally in 1814.

As for Citizen Chapuy and his 150 Frenchmen, from whom much was anticipated by the Mysore Sultan, well they hardly participated in the war it is said that they had locked themselves in a dungeon, during the siege according to a British chroniclers. The more neutral account states that Colonel (Brevet) Louis Auguste Chappuis led a group of 450 soldiers. These men, and others already serving in Mysore, fought with distinction in the final campaign; however, their numbers were too small to make a significant difference to the final outcome.

Anne-Joseph-Hippolyte de Maurés, Compte de Malartic, father of the Mauritius colony died of apoplexy in 1800. A memorial was erected at Champs de mars in France. The Canadian town of Malartic is named after him.
After Tipu  was defeated & killed in War, his family (4 wives, 16 sons, 8 daughters) was exiled to Calcutta in 1806 & his son Ghulam Mohammed Sultan Khan (the fourteenth son) was recognized by the British administration as head of Mysore family & successor to Tipu and knighted in 1870. Their possessions in Calcutta apparently included the Royal Calcutta Golf Club and Tollygunge Club which were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but the present day descendants don’t seem to be doing well.

Les lettres de créances du corsaire Ripaud - Jean Boutier
Widows, Pariah’s and Bayaderes – Binita Mehta
Historical Sketches of the South of India – Mark Wilkes
Tipu Sultan and the re-conception of the British Imperial Identity 1780-1800 – Dr Michael Soracoe
Ripaud’s Bio

Notes –
1.       Wiki definitions - A privateer or "corsair" was a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign vessels during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend treasury resources or commit naval officers. The actual work of a pirate and a privateer is generally the same (raiding and plundering ships); it is, therefore, the authorization and perceived legality of the actions that form the distinction.
2.       Gautier article on Outlookindia mentions that Ripaud made mentions in his diary of the atrocities against Hindus in Calicut. This is not quite correct. Even though I am convinced that they took place, it was impossible for Ripaud to have seen them for they were perhaps carried out in 1783-1784, decades before Ripuad set foot in Mangalore.

Adela ‘Violet’ Florence Nicolson (Laurence Hope)

Her life, poems and a bit about her days at Feroke - Calicut

There was a short period of time when a British couple lived in a bungalow in Feroke. The eminent Col Malcom Nicolson, once ADC to Queen Victoria was that person, and he and his wife spent an idyllic period enjoying the lifestyle of Malabar in retirement, but had to move soon after to the Dunmore house Madras, due to medical issues. He died soon after, following a messed up prostrate operation. To exacerbate matters, his wife Adela who loved her days in Malabar, killed herself shortly thereafter by drinking perchloride of mercury. She was just 39 and she is the one we are going to talk about.
Adela had been publishing a number of sensitive poems under a famous male pseudonym Laurence Hope. Laurence Hope incidentally was the sister of yet another notorious writer with a pseudonym Victoria Cross. After her death, Adela became even more popular and is today studied by many people and oft quoted. Her list of admirers continue to grow day by day and in her time, one of her admirers was Somerset Maugham who wrote his short story ‘Colonels Lady’ loosely based on her experiences. Thomas Hardy was her admirer too and wrote about her. Kamala Das often mentioned her and the influence this poetess had on her. If you want to peruse her style of poetry, you can find all of her works easily on the internet.

Some of her poems are related to her time in Malabar. What intrigued me is Madhavi Kutty - Kamala Das’s cryptic comment to Merrily Weisbord. She said – ‘Poet Laurence Hope had many lovers, including a lowly boatman’. How did she come up with this idea? It took me a good amount zigzagging through her life across continents, England, India, England, South Africa and finally back to India to get to know Adela. Now we get to an account of her life and times which started in India and ended in India.
It all started with a chap named Malcolm Hassels Nicolson (1843–1904), whos pent hi slife and times in India fighting so many wars in India. After the war and following various promotions, he became an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria, being promoted major-general in the latter year and lieutenant-general in 1899. General Nicolson was an expert linguist in the NWFP languages and Farsi, I do not know if he learnt a smattering of Tamil or Malayalam, but finally chose to retire after all these exertions, to Calicut, in the year 1904, a place that was farthest from all his exploits. Perhaps he read the accounts of Edward Lear, who believed Calicut was the Garden of Eden. Or perhaps his wife, who had a poetic bent, had read Lawrence’s book or Shelly’s commentsabout Nairs. But let us now see what she was made of.

Adela’s story starts with her father Arthur Cory, an army man who arrived in India in January 1849. His marriage perhaps followed the
Fishing fleet tradition which I wrote about earlier, and I presume that is how his to be wife Fanny Griffin, came to India. Isabel was their eldest daughter. Even though they lived in Lahore, Adela Florence was born in England in 1865, near Bristol. Annie Sophie the younger daughter was born in 1868. After retirement in 1877 he joined a newspaper in Lahore, the Civil and Military Gazette, aimed at the British community in North India. He returned to London, and interestingly Rudyard Kipling, son of his friend took his post. By 1884 Cory must have returned to India, for he took over the paper’s Sind edition and turned it into a new journal, the Sind Gazette, published twice weekly in Karachi, eight hundred miles south-west of Lahore. He died in England in 1903. Adela’s education was completed in England and returned to Lahore at the age of sixteen, around 1882, just before her father’s retirement from the Civil and Military Gazette.  Isabel, Mrs. John Tate, succeeded her father as editor of The Sind Gazette. Ann Sofie as time would tell went on to become the notorious erotic writer Victoria Cross.

Adela married Colonel Malcolm Hassels Nicolson in April 1889 in Karachi.  As you can see, the colonel was 46 years old with a great drooping Walrus moustache, and Adela just 24, virtually half his age!  Was "Violet" as she was called by friends, destined to follow the traditional path of the British Army wife, horses, parties, ayahs and so on? We find that in 1897, when Violet was in a prestigious position as the General's wife, a Scottish writer called Violet Jacob whose husband, the Irish Major Arthur Otway Jacob, was posted at Mhow from 1894 to 1900, wrote thus of her: 'a tiny fair very strange woman, vilely and impossibly clothed. I always found her rather interesting, though of course everyone mocks at her, and I can't help doing it myself... sometimes at the really absurd figure she makes.
The Nicolson’s married life can also be gleaned from contemporary sources as testified by this report, Croquill writing for ‘The writer’ in 1909 - Mrs. Nicholson loved to dispense hospitality to her chosen friends. She was of a peculiar, unconventional nature, which is reflected in her poetry, and only those who were of the same mind appealed to her. She loved the world of books, occult science, and strongly sympathized with the Mohammedans. Those friends chosen for their brilliancy of mind more than for their material wealth found in her a warm, ardent, generous friend, extremely unconventional in her views, and a woman not at all fond of social gaiety in the usual acceptation of the term.

Adela took to wearing Indian clothes as time and writing poetry with a style reminiscent of the Sufi poets from the NW provinces (She was fluent in Urdu), and decided to get them published. It is said that while the substance of the poems was not drawn from identifiable Indian source, the exotic settings emphasized a passionate intensity which was seen as oriental. Her first volume of poetry, The Garden of Kama and other Love Lyrics from India, were published in 1901, but were not something Victorian and Edwardian England could accept from a lady and that was how they were published under the masculine pseudonym of Laurence Hope. The works were well received, though the somewhat explicit nature of the contents was hotly discussed. Generally reviewed as the work of a man, her poems attracted enormous attention at a time when DL Lawrence was still to become the buzz name, and was repeatedly republished every year for many years.
After retirement the couple briefly visited North Africa and then went to London, where they were drawn into literary circles including Thomas Hardy. But London and Africa were not to the liking of two people who had spent their entire life in India and so soon enough in 1904, the couple left London (after leaving their son London) in order to settle in Calicut. They found a bungalow in the hilltop overlooking the river at Feroke, a few miles off the town.   

Feroke Circa 1905
Calicut then was virtually a stopover on the way to Ooty, with no real relevance. Gone were the days of pomp and it was a sleepy town, barring the Moplah related events. Eleanor Montagu visiting Calicut, the place where the British had been present since 1615, and where A Conolly was the collector in 1884, wrote “Every person who comes to Calicut in the wild expectation of escaping at once to a more genial climate, labours under a delusion from which he will only too soon awake, when actually here”.

The Feroke House
But that was not the case for Adela and Malcom, because for six months they lived very happily in a place they stated was paradise, just like Edward Lear termed it. Adela’s poetry writing continued and she blossomed into a new dimension. But as most people agree, her poetry was a reflection of those interesting but difficult times where there was a definite passion and obsession of forbidden love in the minds of the literate. As experts state the purely personal voice of the poet was now beginning to dominate. She loved Malabar and wrote a lot about the land and its people….From the poem Song of the parao

These are my people, and this my land,
I hear the pulse of her secret soul.
This is the life that I understand,
Savage and simple and sane and whole.
These are my people, lithe-limbed and tall,
the maiden's bosom they scorn to cover.
Her breasts, which shall call and enthrall her lover,
Things of beauty, are free to all.

But recurring health issues required a move to Madras for the General's medical treatment. A routine prostate operation went wrong and the general died on 7 August 1904 at Mackay's Gardens Nursing Home, Madras, and was buried in St Mary's cemetery.
Mary Talbot Cross provides details - His widow was taken in by friends, the Stewarts, and for two months she stayed with them at Dunmore House (a property they were renting from Eardley Norton, the noted barrister and champion of the Indian right to self- determination). On 4 October 1904, when her final book of poetry was completed, "Laurence Hope" confided to a friend in London her intention of exercising her own "right" to follow her husband, entrusted the letter to Sir Norman Stewart whose return to England was imminent, retired to her room and took poison. It was an English equivalent of sati, and fittingly her last poems were published posthumously under the title Indian Love. Finally and after her death the poems were published in her own name. Some say that Adela did this following a bout of acute depression. She was buried, like her husband, in St Mary's cemetery, Madras. Her only son, Malcolm Josceline Nicolson, subsequently edited her poems.

In her book Indian Love, she started with a poem dedicated to her departed husband, in the poem she said…
Small joy was I to thee; before we met
Sorrow had left thee all too sad to save.
Useless my love-as vain as this regret
That pours my hopeless life across thy grave.

This controversial poem addressed to her husband and a number of swirling rumors kept hope in the limelight even after her death. While one of the rumors was based on her relationship with an Indian prince, the second was about her purported lesbian relationship with Amy Finden and third about her numerous affairs with all kinds of people without any real basis. Let’s take a cursory look at them. 

Somerset Maugham himself had experiences with India (especially the much talked about meeting in 1939 with Ramana Maharshi near Coimbatore, enroute Travancore).  Well, as it so happens, his short story ‘Colonel’s lady’ is loosely based around Adela Violet Nicolson. In fact it is a story where the Colonel discovers that his wife has become a hotshot writer all of a sudden and her much talked about story about an affair with a younger man (not a prince as some people have mentioned!!), becomes one he cannot stomach. Eventually after much soul searching and discussions with his solicitor he concludes that he should do nothing and ignore it, after all he himself had been dipping his wick (a blond and luscious thing) now and then while in London!

But a newspaper article is emphatic about the relationship with the prince, though I found it rather vague and unconvincing – EC Keissling writing for the Milwaukee journal in 1968 states that Adela was in love with a Raja and as that would upset the apple cart for the English; they used to meet in secret with him dressed as a commoner and she as a dancing girl. One day he was caught and threatened by his father the Raja and told that his head would be shaved and he would be sent to the forests. So he broke off the relationship. Malcom heard about this while recovering from malaria (not prostrate operation??) and this news hastened his death!

Others said after Adela moved to India that the poems expressed Adela’s lesbian love for Amy Woodforde-Finden. It appears Amy wrote to Laurence stating that she had been trying out some of the songs and wanted approval. Laurence agreed and asked if they could meet – the rumor is that they did meet and they fell instantly and passionately in love, and embarked on a brief intense affair before returning to their respective husbands as propriety demanded. Amy (Kashmiri song) incidentally was known as a prolific composer of `eastern ditties,' which effectively captured the mood and morals of the period. But many believe that the two never met. Before this rumor heated up, Adela had shifted to Madras to recuperate following her husband’s death and that effectively killed the rumor.

Hope's Grave
Anyway the Nicolsons were gone and Adela’s poetry published first under the name of Laurence Hope and later in her own name survived. The St Mary's cemetery mentioned is the one below the Stanley Viaduct (Sriram kindly helped me out on this, thanks). The graves are somewhere there, though you can see above a photo of what that once was.

A lot of people are interested in the Dunmore house, one that was home to many an illustrious person (read Sriram’sinteresting article linked here). Muthiah explains that Keith Murray, son of the 4th Earl of Dunmore lived at Dunmore House off Moubray’s Road between 1822 and 1831, when he was Collector of Madras. He also explains that the street leading to his gate became Murray’s Gate Road. The house itself vanished and was eaten up by the Venus colony where Venus pictures started a new dawn for Tamil cinema. A rare picture of the Dunmore house can be seen above.  

Murrays road became Muresh road (I have no idea who this Muresh is)
As for the bungalow at Feroke – it is still around I believe, mute testimony to days long gone, but bereft of poetry in these times! Malcolm Josceline John Sinclair Nicolson, who was just four when his mother took her life, later went on to edit her poems and make it available to the public.

And now we come to Madhavi Kutty’s comment about the boatman. If you read this poem ‘Surface rights’ written by Adela while at Feroke, you can see the intensity and the passion in the poetry which Kamala Das would of course have analyzed through her writer’s eyes. Perhaps this was written after a personal experience, for such was the high passion of a certain physical relationship depicted in words. Poem - Surface rights

Drifting, drifting along the River,
Under the light of a wan low moon,
Steady, the paddles; Boatmen, steady,--
Why should we reach the sea so soon?
Sweet are thy ways and thy strange caresses,
That sear as flame, and exult as wine.
But I care only for that wild moment
When my soul arises and reaches thine.

Perhaps she met him while going to or traveling around Malabar in a boat. A clue comes from a letter dated from Nilambur in May 1904, she writes:  We came here twenty-two miles through the jungle. The jungle was the jungle, but the hill climate was chilly, and there was a lot of grey in the sky, but here it is hot, it is India again. Do you know the name of Clogstoun? The tomb of Lt Samuel Robert Clogstoun (actually of 23rd regiment), who was drowned in 1843 in the river here at nineteen, “generous, high-spirited, and full of promise," as the officers of his regiment (the 21st Madras Infantry) have it, is here. The tomb was in a scrub jungle and almost covered. I washed the stone clean last evening and wondered if there were any of his people anywhere.

This place is perfect. I only wish one had a thousand years to live, as there are so many things one will have to leave undone.
That last sentence, you will agree, was profound!

I would presume that Hope was left to her own thoughts after her husband’s death and somewhat depressed. What hastened her suicide or Sati or whatever else it could be termed? At an age of 39, she took this decision to swallow a horrible chemical that burns your mouth, lips, gullet and innards as it traverses through and hastens your departure from this world? Why the torturous decision? Was it guilt or a sacrifice to her husband, or for her lover prince or Amy or for that matter the boatman? 

Perhaps a question that will never be answered, so take your pick!
HinduArticle – S Muthaiah
Friday times article
Fate KnowsNo Tears - Mary Talbot Cross (A novel, for those interested, I have not read it)
If you want to read about her suicide, read The Fin-de-siècle Poem: English Literary Culture and the 1890s  edited by Joseph Bristow ( see chapter  Death of the author by suicide – Holly laird)
The Idea of a Colony: Cross-culturalism in Modern Poetry -  Edward Marx ( See chapter - exotic transgressions of Laurence hope)
Victoria Cross article
Putnam’s monthly – Vol II April – Sept 1907
Somerset Maugham 65 short stories – The Colonel’s lady
Montague Crackanthorpe’s article - Outlook may 1905

While not many remember Laurence Hope, some others benefited, A ‘Garden of Kama’ perfume marketed by Dubarry et Cie in 1915, (Garden of Kama by Dubarry: perfume launched in 1916-1919, but the bottle was created in 1914 by Clovis and Julien Viard and trademarked by Depinoix in 1914) presented in a squat round bottle with a figural stopper sitting in the lotus position, designed by the renowned French sculptor Clovis Viard remained as the only material connection to Adela, the poetess, albeit briefly.

Feroke - Laurence Hope
The rice-birds fly so white, so silver white,    
The velvet rice-flats lie so emerald green. 
My heart inhales, with sorrowful delight,
The sweet and poignant sadness of the scene.
The swollen tawny river seeks the sea,
Its hungry waters, never satisfied,
Beflecked with fallen log and torn-up tree,
Engulph the fisher-huts on either side.
The current brought a stranger yesterday,
And laid him on the sand beneath a palm.
His worn young face was partly torn away,
His eyes, that saw the world no more, were calm.
We could not close his eyelids, stiff with blood,
But, oh, my brother, I had changed with thee 
For I am still tormented in the flood,
Whilst thou hast done thy work, and reached the sea