Lot 1287
GANDHI, MOHANDAS. 1869-1948.
Sold for US$ 45,410 inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
GANDHI, MOHANDAS. 1869-1948.
22 Autograph Letters Signed (“M.K. Gandhi,” “Mohandas” and “Bapu”) and 4 Letters Signed (“Mohandas”), in Gujarati, 57 pp recto and verso, 4to, 8vo, and 12mo, various places including London, South Africa, and India, December 14, 1888 to July 14, 1944, to his brother Lakshmidas and nephew Salmadas, most addressing the conflict between family obligations and Gandhi’s devotion to public work, pages heavily toned and creased, some separation and loss to earlier leaves, soiling throughout, overall leaves are fragile but legible. With English translations.

The youngest son of a merchant-class family in Gurajat, India, Mohandas K. Gandhi became the spiritual and political leader of Indian whose philosophy of non-violence continues to inspire resistance movements today. Gandhi was sent at an early age to London to study law and make his fortune. After a few years, he returned to India, and then moved to South Africa, where he found himself working on behalf of the oppressed Indian community in that country. The racism he encountered in South Africa galvanized Gandhi into an activist, and when he returned to India for good in 1916, he soon became a leading force in the Indian National Congress.

The letters here represent some of the earliest surviving correspondence of M.K. Gandhi. They begin as Gandhi journeys from India to London in 1888, reporting on his passage and early days in London. An early letter, probably written September 5, 1888, reveals that Gandhi, though not prepared to abandon class distinctions, is aware that he must be flexible in a new land: “There is a problem about caste distinction, it is true … cooking is problematic … It is very difficult to observe caste difference here just as we do in India. When we leave our country to go abroad, we have to let go of certain differences.” Within a few years, tensions begin to grow between Gandhi and his older brother, who feels that Gandhi’s public works are taking bread away from the family. From January 14, 1906, Gandhi writes: “Whatever money I have earned, I do not, and will never consider it mine. You and Karsandas have first share in it. … Whatever debt there was, has been paid and whatever I had left I spent on community work—I am not at fault and I do not have to seek your permission for anything that I do. If I decide to do something for others, I don’t think I have to ask for the permission of elders. I don’t feel that whatever I have is mine and I feel that not only you have the right to it but it belongs to the whole family and in the same way it belongs to mankind.” A year later, Gandhi continues to try to appease his brother, writing on January 9, 1907: “I am writing to let you know that the respect I had for you in England is greater now, as my mind is more pure now. It would not be enough even if I make shoes for you from my skin and put them on your feet … I am the same as I have always been: the only difference is that I have eradicated selfish motives. My desire to engage myself in other things such as the desire to help others has become more powerful and that is why you are tired of me.
On April 19, 1907, Gandhi sends a long letter in a scribal hand addressing his older brother’s complaints about Gandhi’s failure to focus his attention on his family alone: “I do not understand what family is. To me, the family is not limited to two brothers, it also includes sisters and cousins. And if I can add without pride, each living being is my family. The difference lies in the fact that those who depend on me more, because of our relationship or acquaintance, get more help from me … I don’t think I’ve robbed you or anyone else … if I consider every human being alike, those that depend on me should get more. This means wife and sons get first and then others who have the right to it and then those who are helpless. But if there is any other way to take care of wife and sons, then those who are helpless will have more right. If they have an income, and you don’t, then you have the first right … This includes only sustenance and it does not include money for pleasure.”
An important early archive of one of the 20th century’s most influential figures.
See illustrations.
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