Lot 56
Sold for £ 22,800 (US$ 30,109) inc. premium

India and Beyond

13 Apr 2010, 13:00 BST

London, Knightsbridge

Lot Details
HUME (ALLAN OCTAVIAN) Autograph journal kept by Allan Octavian Hume, Magistrate and Collector of the Etawah District, while on active military service during the Indian Mutiny, headed "Narrative": beginning on 7 March 1858, providing a daily account of his defence of Etawah and, between 24 March and 2 June, his command under Colonel Riddell of a moveable column, the journal ending on 31 July 1858 when Hume, who had been suffering from cholera, temporarily handed over the district to G.E. Lance; with loosely-inserted a lithographed map, showing troop dispositions printed with the legend 'Fought Feby 7th 1858/ Enemies Dead found and counted – 125/ Hung – 6/ One gun & whole baggage captured// (Signed) A.O. Hume./ Feby 8th 1858', approximately 100 pages, on thin but good-quality paper, seemingly made-up from sheets of writing paper, many leaves bearing what appears to be a stationer's blindstamp (evidently in place prior to writing), one or two minor stains (judging from the doodle accompanying one, made by Hume himself), contemporary Indian half calf, marbled boards, 8vo, Etawah and district, North-Western Provinces (Uttar Pradesh), India, 1857-1858


  • "HEAVEN HELP THE POOR COWED VILLAGERS": A JOURNAL KEPT BY THE FOUNDER OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, WHILE ON ACTIVE SERVICE DURING INDIA'S 'FIRST WAR OF INDEPENDENCE'. Allan Octavian Hume, the author of this journal, was to be acknowledged at his death by the 27th Session of the Indian National Congress, meeting at Bankipur on 26-28 December 1912, as the "father and founder of the Congress, to whose lifelong services, rendered at rare self-sacrifice, India feels deep and lasting gratitude" (William Wedderburn, Allan Octavian Hume, 1913, p.176). Although Hume's journal is a narrative of almost uninterrupted warfare, the voice of the future founder of Congress – pragmatic but humane – is in evidence throughout; as for example in the entry for 14 April 1858, where he points out that not only are the mutineers lacking any sense of common purpose, but that the ordinary people of India have no say in their affairs: "I do not think that there can be less than 3000 real Mutineers in arms in the district – but as yet they seem to have no idea of uniting prefering to carry on their predatory profession independently. Heaven help the poor cowed villagers I cant -- & no body else seems inclined to do so".

    Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912) was the youngest son of the well-known radical MP Joseph Hume and had been posted to the North West Frontier in 1850: "He remained immersed in the Indian rural hinterland until February 1856, when he became magistrate of Etawah. He handled routine administration efficiently but valued his position as an instrument for reform. His main initiatives were the establishment of a district-wide system of secular, voluntarily funded, village vernacular (Hindi and Urdu) education, a press and newspaper in the same languages, the institution of municipal government and extensive redevelopment of the district capital, improved health care facilities, and large-scale improvements to roads and public buildings. Hume's progressive initiatives were disrupted by the uprising of 1857 and for six months he took refuge in Agra Fort. All but one of Etawah's principal Indian officials remained loyal, and by January 1858 Hume had re-established a tenuous position there. He recruited an irregular force of up to 650 Indian troops and fought with them in many engagements. For his courage and leadership he was made a CB. Hume blamed the uprising on British political ineptitude, believed that the Etawah populace wanted no part of it, and deliberately pursued a policy of 'mercy and forbearance' which some Europeans mistook for a 'want of firmness' or being swayed by 'loyal natives'. Uncontaminated by racism, he admired the executive capabilities of his Indian deputies. To him the rising demonstrated the necessity for greater openness and Indian involvement in government" (Edward C. Moulton, ODNB).

    In 1867 Hume was appointed Commissioner of Inland Customs, which led to his appointment as head of the Indian government's new Department of Agriculture, Revenue and Commerce: "Hume pushed for the development of an integrated system of model farms in every district of India but most provincial governments were unsupportive. Always outspoken, he particularly irritated his superiors by linking land revenue policy with acute poverty in parts of India, condemning indentured emigration practices, and advocating conservation measures. Finally, in 1879 the government utilized ostensible retrenchment measures to abolish Hume's department and demote him to revenue administration in the North-Western Provinces. Hume responded by publishing Agricultural Reform in India (1879), an indictment of government neglect of agricultural modernization" (Moulton, op.cit.). He combined his departmental duties with a thoroughgoing survey of the birds of the Indian subcontinent, during the course of which he amassed the largest collection of Asiatic birds in the world, comprising some 82,000 specimens (now housed in the Natural History Museum, London) and discovering or describing for the first time nearly 100 species. He published The Game Birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon (1879–81) and Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds (1883), and single-handedly ran the periodical Stray Feathers, becoming known as 'the Pope of Indian Ornithology'.

    In 1879, he took up theosophy, as taught by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcot, leading him to a study of Hinduism and Buddhism, allied to the adoption of vegetarianism; although disillusionment with the more far-fetched aspirations of Madame Blavatsky was soon to set in: "As his involvement in theosophy waned Hume found a new mission in life – fostering the development of Indian national political organization. He was appalled by European opposition to Lord Ripon's Ilbert Bill, by which the viceroy sought to give Indian judges some jurisdiction over white people. Hume sided with Indian leaders and issued an appeal to graduates of Calcutta University to organize for national reform. This initiative led to the creation of the Indian National Congress in 1885. He informed the new viceroy, Lord Dufferin, in advance of the plans for the new organization but contemporary reports that Hume intended it to focus on social reform rather than politics are unconvincing. Hume always attached primacy to politics. He became the general secretary of Congress for its formative first decade. Passionately believing in representative government and constitutional agitation, he was not, as some historians of the 'nationalist school' have claimed, a restraining force on Congress leaders. Rather, he wanted them to exert themselves more vigorously to push the reluctant raj towards substantial political and economic reform" (Moulton). This of course was the organization that was to lead India to independence in 1947, nine decades after the uprising recorded by this journal.

    The present volume, which appears to be of Indian manufacture, was clearly already in use by Hume before he began his journal. The first six leaves consist of Hume's pencilled notes on the conduct of local rulers and others, evidently made immediately after the first uprising during the summer of 1857: "Chatter Singh altho he tehsuled never appears to have been against us he entertained & guarded throughout the treasury. tehsuldar [tahsildar] & records in his own house – only love of money led him astray -- & men of his assisted the Darogha & now his people aided in catching the Darogha & Mohurrir of Kooder Koto -- Laik Singh in every way akheyr Khaw – he was looted robbed attacked reported the same but used no violence in return should be most Markedly rewarded... Kumul Singh of Bhadowra & Bhim Singh of Mohu – (we always thought these very bad chaps) but throughout they have really exerted themselves to aid us". These notes are followed by a blank leaf, before the journal proper begins. Reversed at the end, written in turquoise ink, are some pages of a personal inventory, listing the contents of two 'petarahs' (the first containing household linen, the second clothes, such as "2 trouser Khakee/ 1 Purple flannel shirt./ 1. Corderoi Breeches"); a "Carpet Bag" (containing "Brush comb soap-box clothes-brush" and the like); a black box containing ammunition, tobacco, cheroots and other items; a list of "Crockery &c"; bedding; and his supply of bottles and preserves (including port, rum, brandy, sauterne, 'chatney', potted meats and herrings, and bottles of anchovy, Soyer's, and Harvey's sauce). Thus the journal, which is written in umber ink on the right-hand pages only, begins after the pencilled notes on local leaders and runs through to the end of the book, which is then reversed, allowing the journal to continue on the right-hand pages, skipping those sections already occupied by the inventory. The journal ends with calculations of revenue, made upon his hand-over of command due to ill-health: "I believe there are no arrears in any department – Tomorrow I make over charge to Mr. E.G. [i.e. G.E.] Lance".

    Hume's 'Narrative' was clearly kept for official consumption, and in it there are several references to instalments being sent off to head quarters, as for example in the entry for 14 March which opens: "Subsequent to the despatch of yesterdays narrative...". It covers the period of the successful operations of the Central Field Force under Sir Hugh Rose (with whom Hume is in frequent contact) during May and June 1858. This however had an adverse effect on Hume's efforts to clear his district, as large bodies of retreating rebels began to pass through Etawah in an attempt to escape into still disturbed Oudh. The journal furnishes us with not only a narrative of Hume's doings, but a justification of his policy of avoiding unnecessary confrontation while taking vigorous action against lawlessness, as for example in the very first entry: "not being strongly supported here as few orders as possible are issued – it being more inexpedient to engage in a series of village fights: so long as the people daily expect us to be driven out by the Calpee force at least ¼ of the villages would turn out & fight if required to give up any one they didnt choose to or do any thing they didnt like, whereas directly our position here is firmly established no coercive measures or but very few will be requisite -- & my policy is as far as possible not to embroil myself with the mass of the people who have up to the present moment not been actively disloyal" (7 March 1858).

    Typical is the entry for 18 May 1858, of which we quote an extract (and which well illustrates his admiration for the Indian troops under his command): "Col Riddell was desirous of having the standing encampment of the Enemy (which was on the other side of the Jumna) burnt, as also one or two villages near the same appeared also to afford shelter... Accordingly at daylight the said company having marched to the river bank Lt Sherriff & myself crossed our men, Sergts Purcell & Edmonds of the Native levies accompanying – on landing I was met by scouts who informed me that the Enemy some 2000 strong were about 1½ mile inland... I therefore returned to report this to Col Riddell... he said that he still wished us to proceed, but that he had rather not send any Europeans with us... I therefore recrossed & joined my men – we advanced in skirmishing order, & in about an hour had completed our task when some of the enemies cavalry (about 100,) superbly mounted came gallopping down on us – we fell back slowly for some little distance till we had got our line into broken ground full of short keeker trees – then Lt Sherriff & myself with 30 riflemen ran forward to within 150 or 200 yards of the cavalry & opened on them – I am happy to say I knocked over a swell in gold & red who was leading & 3 more saddles were emptied. They behaved well some of them dismounted & picked up their dead or wounded & they then moved slowly off – As we were falling back I caught sight of a line of perhaps 100 bayonets glittering just above the crest of the plateau on our left (as we were falling back facing the enemy) showing that some of their infantry were trying to get round us & cut us from the boats – Lt Sherriff then extended our line in that direction our left (we still falling back towards the river facing the enemy) becoming at once engaged – As we fell back very slowly the enemy showed all along our front & firing became general from right to left – Nothing could be more admirable than the behaviour of the Men – the enemy could not have numbered less than 500 regular infantry & 1000 Bundookchees – on the Southern side of the river there is a belt of level sand about 500 yards wide before the country rises – when we reached the edge of this we drew up our men in light infantry order along the crest of the broken ground intending to let the enemy get pretty close up with their gun which they had opened in the distance & then to charge... We saw a company of Europeans embarked landed & drawn up on our side of the river, & then the bugles sounded our recall – we thought that a mistake abandoning a very strong position but concluded that we were intended to unite with the Europeans & then turn the enemies flank instead of attacking the centre as we should have been compelled to do from the position we held... fell back very slowly in skirmishing order to the waters edge – we were no little astonished when still about 200 yards distant from the river, to see the Europeans quietly reembark – so that when we did get down we found ourselves without boats, without a particle of cover, exposed to a very heavy fire from rifles muskets matchlocks & one gun – The Men were very angry, but perfectly steady & the fire that we kept up... kept them in check, & the boats arrived & we reembarked all the party in perfect order...".

    Hume was to publish a Narrative of [Mutiny] Occurrences in Etawah in 1859, which presumably draws on the present 'Narrative' (at the time of going to press, we have not had access to the published version). Although Hume nowhere names himself in this volume, the context leaves no doubt as to his authorship. This is confirmed by comparison of the journal's handwriting with autograph letters by Hume held by the British Library, including the Oriental and India Office Collections: see for example Add.MS. 43996, f.100.
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