The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

X. Anglo-Indian Literature

§ 3. The later historians

After the mutiny, Anglo-Indians continued to produce work of permanent value in most branches of literature. George Bruce Malleson, James Talboys Wheeler, John Clark Marshman and Sir William Hunter devoted themselves to the discovery of new knowledge in Indian history as well as to the popularisation of that already existing. John Watson McCrindle threw light on the history of ancient India; Charles Robert Wilson on that of modern Bengal; Henry George Keene took medieval and modern India as his subject; while Sir William Muir wrote The Life of Mahomet and other books on Islamic history. Of less important writers of history and kindred literature, the names are too numerous to recite, though Henry Elmsley Busteed’s carefully written and attractive Echoes from Old Calcutta deserves mention as having secured a standard position among Anglo-Indian writings. These historians were marked in the main by assiduous ability rather than by genius. Malleson, possessed as he was of a vigorous narrative style, was eminently suited to write the history of the Indian mutiny, had he not been so strong a partisan, a fault which revealed itself also in his History of the French in India. Wheeler and Marshman, without being distinguished by their style, came nearer to impartiality through their close Indian sympathies. McCrindle, Wilson, Keene and Muir alike produced work of lasting historical value; but, as a historian and man of letters, Sir William Hunter stands out as the most brilliant Anglo-Indian of the last generation. His style was picturesque and striking, his impartiality rare, his grasp of world-history wide and penetrating, and his industry enormous. Alike in his more technical work, such as The Imperial Gazetteer, his historical work, such as The Annals of Rural Bengal and his History of British India, his biographies and his lighter literary work, such as The Thackerays in India and The Old Missionary, he gave evidence of broad culture and of a rare power of accurate and vigorous literary expression. Hunter’s death at a time when he had completed but one hundred years of his History of British India was the severest blow ever sustained by Indian historical studies.

In fiction, John Lang, who wrote novels both before and after the mutiny, is the earliest name with which we meet in this period. In his work, we notice a difference of attitude from that of Oakfield, since Lang cynically satirised Anglo-Indian failings over which Arnold’s deeper nature grieved. Alexander Allardyce painted a very attractive picture of indigenous Indian life in his City of Sunshine, a study of Indian psychology. Henry Curwen, editor of The Times of India, used thin plots as a peg on which to hang a vast amount of clever talk, speculation and satire. Sir George Chesney, who created a sensation in 1871 by his Battle of Dorking, lives in Anglo-Indian literature mainly by The Dilemma, a powerful mutiny romance. Jessie Ellen Cadell, who was an oriental scholar of some merit, wrote two novels, of which the first, Ida Craven, described frontier life.

Among the poets, William Waterfield, Mary Leslie, Henry George Keene and Charles Kelly may be mentioned, in passing, among a host of minor writers. Waterfield derived the theme of his ballads from Indian mythology; Mary Leslie from Indian history and Indian nature; Keene, historian, essayist and poet, one of the early supporters of The Calcutta Review, and for some years before his death in 1915 the doyen of Anglo-Indian literary men, published tasteful verse on Indian and other topics throughout a long literary life of over fifty years. Kelly, like many other Anglo-Indian writers, was inspired by the mutiny.