There can be no history of modern Indian literature without an account of the life and works of

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There can be no history of modern Indian literature without an account of the life and works of Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873) In Madhusudan, Bengali poetry has its outstanding creative energy between Bharatchandra Roy and Rabindranath Tagore There can be no understand­ing of our nation's cultural and intellectual Renaissance in the nine­teenth century without a keen appreciation of Michael's mmd and art so characteristic of the Indian response to fthe Western impact, Michael's supremacy as a writer is at once historical and timeless , his creative genius is at once tradition-based and rebellious, classical and explorative, rooted to the soil and far-ranging

Dr Amalcndu Bose has very ably brought out the essence of this genius in this brief monograph

Cover design Satyajit Ray Art Uttering Shyamal Sen Portrait by Courtesy Sibaprasad Chakravarh

Price Rs 400





Michael Madhusudan Dwtt : A monograph on Michael Madhusudan Datt by Amalendu Bose Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1981 Rs 4 00


35, Ferozeshah Road, New Delhi 110 001

Block VB, Rabmdra Sarovar Stadium, Calcutta 700 029

29, Eldaras Road, Madras 600 018

172, Naigaon Cross Road, Bombay 400 014

Published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi and Printed by Birendranath Paul at th^* /Victoria Printing Works, 94, Vivekananda Road* Calcutta 6


Preliminaries 1


Michael's Life 1824-1843 6


Michael's Life 1843-1847 20


Michael's Life 1847-1856 26


Michael's Life . 1856-1862 (Dramatic Works) 36


Michael's Life 1856-1862 ( Poetical Works ) 49


Creative Writings 61


In Europe ji


Back in Bengal , Michael's Death 76

Epilogue 83


Notes & References

In this monograph, works refers to the edition of Michael Madhusudan Dutt's works edited by Dr Kshetra Gupta, and published by Sahitya Samsad

When another edition (such as the one edited by Brajendra Nath Bandyopadhyay and Sajam Kanta Das, published by the Bangiya Sahitya Panshad ) has been used, the identity of this edition has been shown

Nagendra Nath Shome's biography has been used quite often A new edition of this book is being brought out by Vidyodaya Library of Calcutta Since this edition is a vast improvement on the earlier one, I have referred to this forthcoming edition although this edition has not yet been formally published and is yet m the press

The author is grateful to Sri Nikhil Kumar Nandy for drawing his attention to several printing inadequacies*

Amalendu Bose



































OF the many remarkable personalities thrown up by the Renaissance of Bengal in the nineteenth century, Michael Madhusudan Dutt's was unquestionably one of the richest This complex and many-faceted Renaissance ushered xn modern values and progressive and creative movements in every area of Bengali life and presently spread over to other regions of India , the values and movements related especially to social and religious regeneration and reform, a fervent sense of Indian nationalism, and a passionate belief in the constructive power of education We should, in these connec­tions, remember the names of Rammohun Roy, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, Raja Radhakanta Dev Bahadur, Sri Sri Rama-knshna Paramahamsa Deva, Dr Rajendralal Mitra and Swami Vivekananda The Renaissance had its inevitable impact on literature too In Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873), Bengali poetry has its outsandmg creative energy between Bharatchandra Roy (1712-1760) and Rabmdranath Tagore (1861-1941) and modern Bengali drama has its first major exponent, while in Michael's younger contemporary, the great novelist Bankimchandra Chatterjee (1838-1894), Bengali literature has its ail-time keenest and most disci­plined intellect With these two writers—Michael Madhu­sudan Dutt and Bankimchandra Chatterjee—fonojwe^by a host of gifted though lesser writers, we modernist sensibility and style of Bepjf^fT ti^rifture, a pfias(5 that in no time affected in a vanety x5£gw'ays the ora*ferTfa*ngua-ges and literatures of the country jfThtre.csSctwf PP history* of


modern Indian literature without an account of the life and works of Michael Madhusudan Dutt

But history alone cannot unfold for us the whole truth about a major writer Beyond the historical estimate, as Matthew Arnold told us in the last century, there has to be the real estimate The sense of tradition as we are reminded by T S Eliot, must be correlated to the appraisal of the individual talent Michael's supremacy as a w riter is at once historical and timeless , his creative genius is at once tradi-tion-based and rebellious, classical and explorative, rooted to the soil and far-ranging , it is a genius lit up bv a balance of opposites that has to be brought out in even so brief a monograph as this

There has to be another angle too to our estimate of Michael Madhusudan Dutt—the personal angle I do not allude here to the aesthetico-metaphysical concept of the ultimate subjectivity of creative art and critical evaluation, subjectivity that may be direct or oblique, latent or manifest I have a much simpler matter in mind I think of the flaming, tameless, rebellious man that Michael was, the man who defied all restrictive convention and authority , the man whom adventures lured across the seven seas, whose chydro-ptique thirst for knowledge' (borrowing an immortal phrase from Donne's Sermons) was matchless even m that glorious century of Paracelsus-hke quest for knowledge , the man who sedulously sought to Europeamze himself and ;yet remained in thought and spirit an Indian aiming at reinterpreting Indian values m the context of a changed milieu Michael was among the earliest of modern India's internationalists , one who had studied (in addition to the classics of Sanskrit and Tamil), m the original, Homer and Virgil and Horace , Dante, Petraich, Tasso and Ariosto , one who had written letters to Wordsworth, Victor Hugo and Tennyson, and even to King Victor Emmanuel of Italy True, the biography of Michael Madhusudan derives its fascination from the fact that it is the biography of a great poet, but the outer linea­ments of the life of a poet are not necessarily always as stn-


king as the achievements of his art, nor are the documentary evidences of such lineaments always available to the public There are several facets of his life—especially his two marria­ges—which are still obscure and which, it seems, will remain always obscure in spite of the strenuous hawk-like efforts of several researchers of the present generation to discover the necessary documents In spite of the disconcertingly inade­quate and superficial nature of the existing biographies, especially those which were* published some decades ago, we have at our disposal some evidences relating to the life of Michael, and although the present monograph has to limit itself to moderate length, it proposes to draw a firm sketch of the man and writer that Michael Madhusudan Dutt was

For one who seeks knowledge about Michael Madhu­sudan Dutt, the primary sources of information are his own writings, creative and otherwise , poetry, prose, drama; writings in Bengali as well as in English , essays, journalistic writings, letters (mostly) in English (only three of his letters written in Bengali have been discovered "so far), several offi­cial and institutional documents The secondary sources cover writings about and references to Michael of which the authors were the poet's contemporaries , under these sources are also to be classified critical estimates, essays, epistolary and oral allusions (afterwards written down), documents, and more or less dependable hearsay statements Curiously^ there is a good deal of astonishing vagueness and undepen-dability about certain matters relating to Madhusudan's life Thus we do not know for certain m which school Madhu­sudan's education in Calcutta began , the reason or reasons for his conversion to Christianity continue to be hazy and disputable He was married twice, both times m Madras and to non-Indian Christian women , the legal and sacramen­tal validity of these two marriages and the legal validity of his separation from his first wife are vague as vague can be We do not know why during his short sea-trip from Madras to Calcutta in 1851, he travelled under cover of a false name, Mr Holt. There is also the questionable though widely


prevalent notion that it was Madhusudan who had, m the course of a single night, translated into English the distin­guished contemporary drama by Deenabandhu Mitra, Nil-Darpan There are other elements too of uncertainty, guess work, hearsay about the life of Madhusudan

In the earlier biographies, especially in Madhu-Smnti (Memories of Madhu) by Nagendranath Some, the authors often failed to dip below the surface, to collect all available first-hand materials at a time when such materials had not succumbed to the ravages of time Far too often, these earlier biographers have rested content with glib phrases like 'It seems', 'We may guess', cWe believe', 'We have heard', 'We have been told' and so forth without enquiring into the autho­rity of what they had heard These early biographers wrote at a time when some of Madhusudan's contemporaries were still living In cur own days, several scholars, familiar with the strict discipline of research, have explored various areas m Calcutta, in Madras, in France, in England and even m Rome, and looked for source-materials without, unhappily, achieving much positive success although their labours have dusted off a good deal of false notions *

In regard to aesthetic responses to and critical assessments of Michael's literary works, one meets divergent opinions Even Rabmdranath Tagore wrote, while a teen-aged lad, a saucy essay denigrating Madhusudan Rabmdranath outgrew this adolescent defiance of the prevailing judgment and in later years wrote some highly perceptive criticism of Madhu­sudan Many years later, another powerful Bengali writer, Buddhadeva Bose, wrote a very hostile essay on Michael but, unlike Tagore, did not eventually retract his verdict The ultimately relevant facts that emerge from the various criti­cal attitudes are the following

a the position of Michael Madhusudan Dutt is excep­tionally high m any record of Indian literature of the nineteenth century and, indeed, in the entire history of Indian literature ,

b there can be no understanding of our nation's

Cultural and intellectual Renaissance in the nine­teenth century without a keen appreciation of Michael's mind and art so characteristic of the Indian response to the Western impact, c even the varying attitudes, opinions, estimates of Michael-critics agree on the basic judgment that Michael was an outstanding figure of the nineteenth centur\

As for the broad lineaments of Michael Madhusudan's personality, there does not seem to be marked variations in critical estimates , it is impossible not to admire Michael Madhusudan the man

Chaptee One

Michaels Life 1824-1843

MADHUSUDAN, the only son ofRajnaramDutt and Jahnavi, was born on Saturday, January 25, 1824, m the home of the Dutts in the village of Sagardann, m the district of Jessore which is now one of the districts of Bangladesh The Dutts were a solvent family Madhusudan's father, Rajnaram, was a lawyer in Calcutta (several members of the clan were m the legal profession) and rose to the top level of his profession Madhusudan's mother came of a prosperous zamindar family In his early life Madhusudan never experienced poverty In fact, when two of his brothers, both younger than him, died in childhood and Madhu happened to be Rajnaram's only living descendant, he enjoyed parental affection and tole­rance to an unusual degree The boy received his early education in the village school where he was taught Arith­metic, Bengali, some Sanskrit and Persian Some knowledge of Persian ran m the family It has to be borne m mind that the impact of Muslim culture on various segments of Indian life, particularly on Law and Justice, was dominant in those days and -even after the establishment of British rule, the language of law-courts, especially in matters of terminology, was based on Persian Madhu's father and uncles knew Persian Madhu too, at the age of seven, had to walk over a mile from his village home to the school of a Moulavi (a Muslim scholar and teacher) to learn Persian , he learnt to read and write Persian with some facility "When a student of the Hindu College in Calcutta, Madhu sang Persian ghazals for the benefit of his friends and, later on,

MICHAEL'S LIFE 1824-1843 7

he was in the Bishop's College, he translated several poems from Persian into English

Madhu's early education was not limited to the village school and the Moulavi's school His education was richly supplemented by his mother's memorable readings, in the evenings, from the two greatest and most popular Indian classics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (in their Bengali versions) Jahnavi Devi also used to read out the popular medieval classics of Bengal, especially the narratives of Chandi Mangal ( by Mukundaram ) and Armada Mongol ( by Bharat-chandra) To the great delight of his mother, the boy could recite large portions from these narratives The impact of the epics and the narratives on Madhusudan's creative ima­gination was fundamental , his poems and dramas are charged with the millenial tradition that he found m these epics and narratives Besides, we ought to be able to appreciate the relationship between the metrical revolution that Madhu-sudan wrought m later life through his blank verse and his early initiation in the basic tune of the traditional rhymed pentameter of the language In this connection, we may remember what Jyotinndranath Tagore, Rabmdranath's elder brother, a person of high artistic sensibility, wrote m his Memoirs about Michael's friendship with Sarada Ganguli (Jyotirmdranath's brother-in-law) and his recitation m his hoarse voice, of lines from Meghanad Badh Kavya9 his great blank verse epic Michael, we are told, recited with pauses after every word This is the text as generally recited today

Sanmukh samare parhi Vir Churamam Virbahu chali yabe gela Yampure

Akale, kaha he devi Amntabhasmi,
* * *

Below we have the word-clusters as Michael read them

Sanmukha — samare — parhi — Veera — Churhamam — Veera — BShu — Chali — yabe—gela — Yamapure Akale -— kaha — hey — devi — Amntabhasmi,


Michael split up the words in their shoitest possible sonal units and ended each sound unit with a \owel stress whereas the modern reader tends to end the unit with a consonantal and trochaic stress The rhythmic pattern that Michael adopted m his recitation (and winch he had in mind while writing)—the unhurried, statelv, deep-bieathing, sonally graduated rhythm—was indeed the pattern that used lobe followed by Bengali readers of the Krittivasa-Ramayana and the Kashirama Das-Mahabharata till some decades ago If the boyhood memories of Bengal's tiaditional epics and narra­tive poems left their enduring impact on Madhusudan's mmd and art, the natural environments of his ancestral village too entered deep into his sensibilities The river Kabataksha that meandered by the skirts of the village , the trees and flowers and birds chaiacteristic of Southern Bengal (and therefore of the village Sagardanri), the storms, sunrises, sun­sets, the midday glare and the midnight sky , the breezes that seemed to caress one and the rustling of the leaves of the trees and the swaying leaves of the arecanut trees,cocoanut trees and palm trees , indeed unending aspects of the village life of flora and fauna sank deeply and permanently into the memory of Madhusudan and mspite of his later experiences of Calcutta, Madras and Europe, some of those rural scenes infiltrated through his writings Lines such as the following can only be written by one whose imagination is rich enough to pictonalise a concrete experience

Like a giant tree in mighty war

With storm, on whirlwind car and fierce array.

Blasted—and crush'd (Visions of the Past, V)

Clouds covered Lanka, belching forth fire Heaps upon heaps , trees were uprooted m the forest Uproariously , a tremendous tornado shot across the sky And it rained like the deluge of the end of the world Swamping the universe while hails shot upon the earth

(Meghandd Badh Kavya canto II, my translation from the Bengali)

MICH\EL*S LIFE 1824—1843 9

Towards the close of the first canto of Tilottamasamhhava Kavya, there is a long passage which mentions numerous trees each of which is native to Southern Bengal, trees that Madhu-sudan had seen and watched while a village boy deodars, plum trees, Kadamba plant, the huge shimul, the sal, the palm, the lack palm, the cocoinut tree and the arecanut tree, the tamarind tree, the jacUruit tiee, date-palms, bamboo plants, the tamal and the shami and the gambhan, the amalaki—to mention only some of the trees the poet has collected m his verse-orchard That Madhusudan vividly remembered his village and that the remembrance of things past, as in the cases of Wordsworth and Marcel Proust, proved to be an un­ceasing and deep source of creative energy for him is a basic and unforgettable feature of his poetry

When her two sons, both younger than Madhu, died, the mother Jahnavi was so upset as almost to lose the balance of her mind Rajnaram decided to shift his household from the village to Calcutta where he had risen to be one among the three best-known and highest-paid lawyers and where, m Kidderpore, he owned a house From now on, Madhu lived as a member of a small famil}—father, mother and an only child He was the cynosure of the family and the load was clear for him to follow his father in the legal profession, inherit his father's considerable properties, both urban and rural, and settle down to a highly prosperous and respectable career in the fast-expanding capital city of India, Calcutta

Two dates in Madhu's life are interesting He was born in 1824, the year of Byron's death He moved on to Calcutta m 1832, the year of Sir Walter Scott's death and Goethe's death

In Calcutta, Madhu was admitted to a school As in several other matters concerning Madhusudan's life, there is some vagueness about the school to which the boy was sent The earliest biographer 2 vaguely states that Madhu was admitted into an English-teaching school in Kidderpore Recent scholars have arrived at the conclusion after researches that there was no school in Kidderpore until the eighteen-


forties There is strong probability m their suggestion that Madhu went to a Grammar School ( an offshoot of the Paren­tal Academic Institution, afterwards the Doveton College), established in 1823, housed at first close to W ellington Square and afterwards shifted to Park Street (1836-1842) We can­not be dogmatic but, rummage as much as you like through the documents of those days, you have to conclude that Madhu was admitted to a Grammar School in Lall Bazar rather than to a Grammar School m Wellington Square and that his father dropped the boy at the school before turning to the Law Courts near by and picked the boy up while retur­ning home The term 'Grammar School5 was a remnant of the British educational system of earlier centuries (Shakes­peare was a student of the Grammar School of Stiatford-on-Avon), Grammar Schools followed punctilious courses of study and were strong in the Humanities Madhu learnt Latin and Hebrew in this school After five years m this Grammar School, Madhu joined the Hindu College in 1837

At this point of our narrative it is necessary to refer to the significance of the Hindu College m the nineteenth century renaissance of Bengal of which, as it has been said in the first sentence of this monograph, Madhusudan was one of the richest products In the history of that renaissance, the Hindu College played a highly significant role, from the time of its foundation in January 1817 The English language was already being taught m some private institutions among these teachers of English in Calcutta were Archer, Farrell, Browne, Drummond, Sherbourne, Arratoon Petrus (these three were the best-known among the Anglo-Indian teachers of the times) Cunningham, Halifax, Yates and others "Every Englishman" it has been said, "in straitened circumstances—the broken-down soldier, bankrupt merchant and the ruined spend-thrift —set up a day school" 3 Presently, there began to grow an opinion among the thoughtful section of the Hindu middle-class that systematic education of Indian boys in the arts and sciences of Europe, received through the medium of the English language, would be of immense value Eventually,

MICHAEL'S LlfB 1824—184$ 11

the Hindu College, the archetype of all later Government colleges during the British regime, was founded The impact of the foundation of the Hindu College on the intellectual life of the Bengalees of the time was at once deep and wide and this impact has been discussed m a number of works4 on aspects of British Indian history The first phase in the history of the Hindu College is associated chiefly, almost wholly, with the name of Henry Louis Vivian Derozio ( 1809-31 ), the son of a Portuguese father, a poet in English of high promise, an extraordinary teacher whose influence ( even though he died at the early age of only twenty-two ) on his pupils spread far beyond the students them­selves and spear-headed a many-sided and far-reaching intellectual and ethical rebellion against age-old beliefs and customs of the land, Derozio was a poet (writing m English) of considerable promise and his poetry was praised by Max Muller, Kipling, Samtsbury, William Michael Rossetti, D L Richardson and Toru Dutt Derozio joined the Hindu College as a teacher in 1826 and in no time collected around him a band of intellectually adventurous and bright young Bengalees who came to be known in the city as the Derozians and also as Young Bengal Derozio was steeped m the ratio­nalistic philosophy of the age of Enlightenment and his argu­ments and assertions produced a mighty stir in the minds of his teen-aged pupils who used to have debates on such topics as idolatry, the caste-system, Deism, Atheism, Predestination, Literature and Patriotism (Derozio was the first Indian to address his country as 'Mother') In consequence of this stir, some youngmen lost faith in religion, some turned against the Hindu religion and social traditions, many took to alco­hol and beef-eating (the latter a shocking matter for pious Hindus) The College authorities werejperturbed by nume­rous complaints from respectable citizens and Dr Horace Hayman Wilson, the Visitor of the College demanded an explanation from Derozio , in spite of the explanation, Derozio had to submit resignation and within a few months, in December 1831, he died of cholera Tne intellectual and


ethical whirl that started m Derozio's class-room and his house, spread out very rapidly leading to creative writing5, nationalist thinking, educational activities, religious and social reforms, conversions to Christianity Though Madhu­sudan joined the Hindu College several years after Derozio's death, he was like those scholars who yearned for a visit to England, their Earthly Paradise, and continued to be inspired by the free-thinking style initiated by Derozio The spirit of rebellion that so distinguished the early life of Madhusudan was in the very an of the Hindu College, the air that was breathed by educated Bengalees of Calcutta from the third decade of the nineteenth century on The deep admiration for things European—manners, social life, literature, food and drink, philosophy, religion and so forth—that one notices in Madhusudan5was rooted in the contrast that the Hindu College boys perceived between their own country and Western Europe This sense of contrast is manifest even in an essay that earned Madhusudan a Gold Medal awarded by C H Cameron, at the time a Member of the Governor-General's Council The essay is on the importance of edu­cating Hindu Females, with reference to the improvement which it may be expected to pioduce on the education of children, m their early years, and the happiness it would generally confer on domestic life A few sentences from this brief essay of 574 words are quoted below

Extensive dissemination of knowledge amongst women is the surest way that leads a nation to civilisation and refine­ment, for it is woman who first gives ideas to the future philosopher and the would-be poet The happiness of a man who has an enlightened partner is complete In India, I may say in all the oriental countries, women are looked upon as created merely to contribute to the gratification of the animal appetites of man This brutal misconception of the design of the Almighty is the source of much misery to the fair sex, because it not only makes them appear as of inferior mental endowments, but no better than a sort of speaking brutes (B, P Majumdar, First Fruits of English Education, 221-222)

MICHAEL'S LIFE 1824—1843 13

As a student in the Hindu College, Madhusudan proved his brightness equally in English and Mathematics The story goes that once he had an argument with his class-mate, Bhudev Mukherjee (who afterwards distinguished himself as a powerful writer of Bengali prose and a peison of high intelle­ctual abilities) , the bone of contention was Who was the greater genius—Shakespeare or Newton ? Madhu asserted that Shakespeare, if he wished to be so, could be as great as Newton but the Mathematician had not in him the genius of the poet Soon after this argument, one day in the Mathe­matics class of V L Rees, when no one was able to solve a problem, Madhu walked up to the black-board, solved the problem and then proudly announced to his class-mates, 'And so Shakespeare could be Newton, if he tried'

In those days, the chief luminary of the teaching staff of the Hindu College was Captain David Lester Richardson (1801-1865), a friend of James Silk Buckingham, the well-known social worker and journalist of England of the Geor­gian and the early Victorian periods and a prominent Bentha-mist Richardson made a great name and exercised a power­ful influence on the youth of Bengal among whom are to be counted such distinguished men as Rajnarain Bose, Digambar Mitra, Peari Chand Mitra, Dakshma Ranjan Mukherjee, Bhudev Mukherjee and, fo course, Madhusudan Dutt Richard­son used to write poetry and though his name is not men­tioned in histories of nineteenth centmy literature (and in 1945, I found the pages of the copies of his works m the Bodleian Library still uncut), some of his poetical volumes were printed and published and many of his verses were published m some of the contemporary 'Annuals' and m so well-known a journal as the Athenaeum He must have been an exceptionally stimulating lecturer Macaulay's praise of him testifies to his impact on his audience With the power­ful encouragement of Richardson to support him, Madhu­sudan came in touch with several literary journals of IndiaThe Bengal Spectator, Literary Gleaner, Calcutta Literary Qazette, Literary Blossom^ Cornet^ an# h&d the pleasure gf


seeing a number of his verses published The following verses, imitative and artificial, nevertheless testify to his facile use of the medium ,


I loved a maid, a blue-eyed maid

As fair a maid can e'er be, O ' But she, oft with disdain, repaid

My fondness and affection, O ' For her I sighed, and e'er shall sigh,

Tho3 she shall ne'er be mine, O ' For this sad heart's starless sky

None but herself can light O '

(Works, p 444)

To another Lady

Oh ! deign to give a thought on me,

When these sad lines do meet thine eye,

Think then on him who oft for thee,

Sweet one ! doth unregarded sigh !

(Works, p 440)

Song I

I am like the Earth, revolving

Ever round the self-same Sun, Boy

Seasons, both of Joy and Sorrow,

I have, like her, as I run, Boy


O f her eyes soft, tender beamings,

And her sweet bewitching smile, Boy,

Like Enchantment's potent spell, do

Gall for the gayer, brighter Springs, Boy


But when frowns, like lowering clouds, do Ovet-cast her sunny brow, Boy,

MICHAEL'S LIFE 1824—1843 15

Then, oh l then, the freezing Winter

Of dark sorrow chills my breast, Boy

(The last two stanzas left out, Works, P 442)

These are but a few specimens of the kind of English verses that Madhusudan wrote while a student in the Hindu College There is no freshness and depth m the content of these \erses while the formal part of the verses merely indi­cates a growing facility in the use of a language which was not the author's own One of Madhu's sonnets goes thus

Sonnet [Written at the Hindu College]

Oh ! how my heart exulteth while I see Those future flow'rs, to deck my country's brow, Thus kmdly nurtured in this nursery '— Perchance, unmark'd some here are budding now, Whose temples shall with laureate-wreaths be crown'd, Twmed by the Sisters Nine whose angel-tongues Shall charm the world with their enchanting songs And time shall waft the echo of each sound To distant ages —some, perchance, here are, Who, with a Newton's glance, shall nobly trace The course mysterious of each wandering star , And, like a God, unveil the hidden face Of many a planet to man's wondering eye, And give their names to immortality ,

(Works p 448)

This sonnet reminds one of Derozio's sonnet on the same subject, published after his death m 1831

Expanding like the petals of young flowers,

I watch the gentle opening of your minds

And sweet loosening of the spell that binds

Your intellectual energies and powers, that stretch

(Like young birds in soft summer hour)

Their wings to try their strength, O how the winds

Of circumstance, and freshening April showers


Of new perceptions shed their influence, And how you worship Truth's Omnipotence ! What joyance rams upon me, when I see Fame m the mirror of futurity Weaving the chaplets you are yet to gain And then I feel I have not lived in vain Incidentally, Derozio was the first and Madhusudan the second Indian writer to compose sonnets 3 these early sonnets were, of course, composed in English

A number of English verses written by Madhusudan, wntten during the Hindu College period, were published m contemporary English periodicals (some of winch have been mentioned above), and we may do well to note that, as m India today since Independence, so m India for several decades from the eighteen thirties onwards, snobbish prestige was attached to writings (mostly verses) by Indians in English Then, as now, the publication of a few verses abroad, some back-pattmg by some English reviewer (to-day it may also be an American) or by a Western journal would earn the author some publicity 6 Madhu and his contemporaries, judging by their letters and other statements, were self-conscious about literary ventures in the medium of English

Madhusudan's poems of the Hindu College period (and they were poems in English) were composed between 1841 and 1842 when the poet was seventeen By this time, he had read some Shakespeare (I do not find any reference yet to Milton), Pope, the poets of the later eighteenth century and some Romantic poets He admired Wordsworth and in 1842 sent a bunch of poems to the Blackwood Magazine, dedicating the poems in the following words

These pieces are most respectfully dedicated to William Wordsworth Esq , the Poet, by a foreign admirer of his genius—the author

This is, as far as evidences go, the earliest record of an Indian reader's admiration for a European writer, preceding by almost a year, Dwarkanath Tagore's (Rabindranath's grandfather) admiring contact with Ciwrle$ Dickens 7 The

MICHAEL'S LIFE 1824-4843 17

influence of Wordsworth is noticeable in a few sonnets of the young Indian writer in respect of both theme and style Madhusudan admires other English poets too (Burns, Crabbe, Campbell, Southey, Coleridge and Shelley, judging from inter­nal evidence) but he admires most Tom Moore and Byron On November 25, 1842, he wrote to Gour Dass Bysack, a friend to whom he always unburdened his thoughts and feel­ings "I am reading Tom Moore's life of my favourite Byron —a splendid book, upon my word , Oh * how I should like to see you write my 'Life' if I happen to be a great poet " Madhusudan Dutt indeed grew to be ea great poet', one of the greatest poets of India of all times, but none of his friends, neither Gour Dass Bysack nor any one else, wrote his biography

Madhu's early poems show a wide variety There are short lyrical pieces (often imitating romantic weltschmerz), there are several sonnets (one, a daring experiment in a sonnet in blank verse), a few epigrammatic efforts, a longer poem on King Poms, divided into six sections of about twenty lines each, testifying to the young poet's patriotism Stylisti­cally, these poems belong to the backwash of English roman­ticism, employing the kind of feeble and sentiment-drenched diction and tone adopted m the verses of contemporary 'Annuals*. Madhusudan used to read the most popular cAnnuaP of the thirties, the Forget me Not

I find nothing in these verses to enthuse over The most that a teen-aged writer inditing such verses can expect from his readers is an avuncular pat on the back and a comment such as "Clever for a seventeen year old, eh !" There is nothing to show that the young Madhusudan has the capacity to break out of his cocoon We have merely to note that (a) Madhusudan has made his debut as a poet in the medium of English, not in his own language , (b) he can already handle the sonnet form, the second Indian po^t after Henry Vivian Derozio, to do so

We learn from his contemporaries in the college that Madhusudan was dark of complexion (his friends, not unoften

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