Florence Marryat (1837-1899)
India is the nursery of bigotry, prejudice, and small-mindedness; its enforced existence of enervating and soul-debasing indolence often kills all that promised to be noblest and best in a man’s character, whilst it seldom has the power to draw out his finer qualities, and make them sterling. She is truly the Juggernaut of English domestic life — year after year we lay beneath her wheels the flower of our British manhood, who, if they survive the process, deliver up in their turn, sweet home affections, the prattling of their children, often the best part of their wives, (for what true mother smiles as she could smile when leagues of ocean roll between her and her little ones?) generally, the best part of themselves. And then, when they have had youth, and all that makes youth beautiful — that can make old age serene — crushed out of them; when they have learned to look at life only through Indian spectacles, and to cavil at everything that is not done exactly after the same pattern as they do it in the East, they return to their native shores; to meet their children as grown up men and women, and to wander about in a listless manner like fish out of water, for the rest of their days, grumbling at what they cannot alter, and regretting what they cannot regain.
Were there no other reason to render life in India an evil, the separation from one’s children would cause it to be so. It was not for nought that the Almighty made the care of little children troublesome, and parents patient under it; and though men and women who know nothing of such small trials, profess to laugh at those who do, their laughter comes from ignorance of the blessings hid beneath such care. The trouble and the patience re-act upon each other, and it is of their co-operation that is born that marvellous and unalienable love existing between parents and their children. The father and mother who miss all this, who confide their infant charge to other hands, lose (it shall not be said a great pleasure since that is a matter of opinion) but a soul-fortifying influence for themselves. The watching, the inconvenience, the self-denial, all bear blessed fruits which no after kindness can, in like force, produce; and the man and woman, whose faces are the first things their children can remember to have known, whose hands have guided their baby footsteps, and at whose knees they have been taught their first prayer, have laid up for themselves a treasure which the world can neither give nor take away. Yet this is what nine out of ten resign when they accept a life in India, and for which ninety-nine out of a hundred, did they speak the truth, would confess that no wealth, or lack of trouble can repay them.
Véronique. Vol. 3. pp 10-13.