The Domestic Novel Goes Native: Bithia Mary Croker’s Anglo-India

Shuchi Kapila

Grinnell College, Iowa

Nineteenth-Century Contexts 26.3 (September 2004): 215-35.

In nineteenth-century English fiction, whether adventure fiction or domestic novels, non-white racial others often appear as demons that haunt the English imagination, only to be ultimately vanquished and eliminated. In the domestic novel in particular, all traces of interracial desire are fiercely suppressed in order to celebrate an English culture based on racial purity. In either case, what we see are the protean metaphoric manifestations of the fluid category of race, but rarely a representation of interracial domesticity. Whether it is the demonized Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, or the gorgeous African woman in Heart of Darkness, racial difference is a Gothic, romantic metaphor for the desired but ultimately rejected in English culture.1 This traditional closure of the domestic and adventure novel2 is challenged by the appearance of interracial domesticity in Anglo-Indian3 fiction, particularly after 1857, which makes the non-European woman and the racially mixed home central to the colonial experience.4 Equally, it challenges the Victorian domestic novel by making racial and cultural difference insistently a part of ‘English’ life abroad.

Unlike both the domestic novel and the colonial adventure tale, popular romances written by English memsahibs in India venture into racially mixed households, acknowledging there the pleasures and possibilities, and the dangers of ‘going native.’ As Alison Sainsbury points out, the Anglo-Indian romancers mix together “the ‘domestic novel,’ focused on women’s activities in the home, the sentimental novel, with its defense of virginity, and the gothic novel, whose ‘exotic’ settings betoken threat” (Sainsbury 163). In doing so, they produce a genre that delineates the class-bound contours of imperial consciousness, and the subversive form of fiction that would confront cultural difference, if only to domesticate it. The Anglo-Indian romance goes boldly forth where the canonical Victorian novel hesitates to go, explores the permutations of Victorian ideologies of gender, nation, and class in the colonies, and shows how these are mutually constitutive categories. In the early part of the twentieth century, Anglo-Indian women writers such as Alice Perrin, Maud Diver, I.A.R. Wylie, Fanny Penny, and Bithia Mary Croker were very popular, often commanding as large an audience as Rudyard Kipling. The romances of Bithia Mary Croker are a particularly rich and provocative example of this genre, enacting both the fascination and the fear of hybrid domestic spaces particularly, as I will show, in her Indian romance In Old Madras (1913).

Rejecting the alien Other, constructed as non-English, is arguably one of the most distinctive strategies of the English domestic novel. Victorian novelists have always seemed to distance themselves from a concern with colonialism, international trade and commerce, and the consequences at home of cultural exchange abroad.5 Two recent arguments about Mansfield Park could well be applied to later Victorian fiction. Jon Mee argues that in Austen’s novel the domestic world and the world of empire “cannot simply be seen as parallel, or as extensions of each other” (Mee 75), and that in fact the conclusion of the novel returns to the solidly English, shutting out the colonial abroad, which is “morally dubious and dangerously uncertain” (Mee 90). Clara Tuite, analyzing the moment when Fanny’s question about Sir Thomas’s plantations in Antigua is greeted with an awkward silence, only to be covered over with domestic chatter, concludes that “colonial critique is subordinated to and chastised by the impulses of domestic drama” (Tuite 104). Her larger claim is that “the world of the colonies is represented or subsumed by the terms of representation of the other world of the domestic” (Tuite 104). In both these arguments, the domestic displaces the colonial as the focus of authorial interest. And while other astute critics have mined the domestic for its connections with the colonial through metaphor and allegory, in the end the colonies are occluded for a return to English civility in the home.

This motif of the return to England has meant that miscegenation if not the unspeakable of the text is certainly its repressed and rejected narrative.6 Literary antecedents for interracial marriage between a British man and a non-English woman can be found in Kipling’s early tales, Conrad’s Malay tales and Lord Jim, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Beach of Falesa and the works of Anglo-Indian women romancers. But in these works, it is depicted either in the register of the dreamlike, unreal, and exotic, or as a repressed and unspeakable transgression. One of Kipling’s early stories, “Beyond the Pale,” might stand as a literary precursor to Croker’s In Old Madras. The interracial love between the English hero and a young Indian widow is punished in the end by the gruesome mutilation of the woman and the banishment of her English lover from the Indian spaces in which he had become comfortable. He is wounded in his right leg and returns to his English world with just that wound as a reminder of his transgression. The aberration is covered over and respectability reestablished. It does not seem mere coincidence that at his life’s end Kipling was still working on a novel about Eurasian life called Mother Maturin, which he never completed. He was prepared only at the end of his career to contemplate an extended study of the consequences of miscegenation and cultural hybridization. In Croker’s In Old Madras, on the other hand, interracial romances are represented as an unavoidable part of the terrain, and given full, if ambiguous treatment.

The claim that interracial love, miscegenation, and hybridity form the foundational narrative of most Victorian and modern fiction has been made, most notably, by Robert Young in his Colonial Desire. He writes that “if we consider the English novel, we find that what is portrayed as characterizing English experience is rather often the opposite, a sense of fluidity and a painful sense of, or need for, otherness. . . . It is striking that many novelists not only of today but also of the past write almost obsessively about the uncertain crossing and invasion of identities: whether of class and gender—the Brontes, Hardy or Lawrence—or culture and race—the Brontes again (the irresistible, transgressive Heathcliff is of mixed race), Haggard, Conrad . . . James, Forster, Cary, Lawrence, Joyce, Green, Rhys” (Young 2–3). Young’s claim is based on high Victorian fiction in which such desire is portrayed as futile, unconsummated, and tragic, and it is ultimately purged and eliminated. Interracial romance in these novels is most often described as reified and dream-like, merely a projection of English anxieties rather than transformative of English fictional conventions. It is more often intended as an interrogation of English identity rather than a study of the racial other. Young recognizes the subterranean nature of such desire when he calls it “the soft underbelly of that power relation” which fuelled colonial desire (Young 175). As long as such desire is described in the language of repression and projection, it is denied, superseded, and eventually expelled.7 Young’s claim about the ever-present racial other applies as much to the Anglo-Indian novel but with two important differences: here interracial love can bring about narrative and ideological transformations; and the narrative is driven by imagining it fully rather than expelling it. If the purity of an English home signals narrative closure and the consummation of readerly pleasure in the canonical novel, what if it were complicated by the delights of a racially and culturally mixed household and an Indian lifestyle?

The popularity of Croker’s romances compels us to question the nature of readerly pleasure in the text. Romances that focus on miscegenation complicate our notion of simple escape, which is now figured as the vicarious transgression of racial boundaries. Did these romances work to consolidate middle-class ideologies that created good wives at home, or did they offer a secret frisson of delight in what lay outside the home? How are English weddings that signal the formal closures of the romance offset by the forbidden pleasures of miscegenation? I will return to these questions in order to place Anglo-Indian romances in the literature of empire.

The relationship of the domestic to the outside world, to the public sphere of business and politics, and to the definition of gender has been in flux throughout the nineteenth century.8 In colonial culture, the domestic intersected with national, gender, and class identity in complex ways. On the one hand, colonial ideology tried to impose a rigid and rigorously policed notion of the domestic and its place in Anglo-Indian culture; on the other, men and women from many different backgrounds, all seeking a rise in or a consolidation of their social status, inevitably made the colonial middle and upper class a fluid and variable category. The English home in the colonies becomes the visible sign of this jostling for class and status and comes to signify culture, nation, class, and race. The domestic functions of surveillance and management acquire a particular urgency in the colonies and appear, in effect, to be an extension of imperial governance.

The significance of the English home in making imperial ideology visible becomes more complex when interracial marriage enters the picture. Ann Stoler points out that efficient management of a European home ensured that the men would be protected from contact with native women and consequent racial degeneracy, and would be strengthened in their imperial ambitions. Stoler’s larger point is that the “arrival in large numbers of European women thus coincided with an embourgeoisment of colonial communities and with a significant sharpening of racial categories” (Stoler 1991, 64). Furthermore, these racial distinctions were expressed in the language of class, which in turn underscored colonial authority. Stoler also discusses at length the significance of the relationships between Dutch colonials and Asian women in the Netherlands Indies. These arrangements expressed recognition by the Dutch that critical issues such as the power that native women might exercise over Company officials and how this might effect administration were at stake here.

The British seemed rather more squeamish than French or Dutch colonials about recognizing liaisons between British men and Indian women. Marriage and other forms of interracial relationships flourished for a short period in late 18th century India before official proscriptions were issued against them, and by the early nineteenth century, these were definitely frowned upon. But this prohibition remained in the realm of the understood and the unspoken through the nineteenth-century. It was only in 1909 that the Crewe Circular made these proscriptions official. Issued by the British Colonial Office, it warned new recruits of the ‘disgrace and official ruin’ that would follow if they entered into relationships with native women (qtd. in Hyam 1986, 171). The only instance of official ‘management’ of such relationships in India was in the case of brothels for soldiers posted in Northern India.9 Given the absence of a historical context in which interracial romance could be studied, and its marginal presence in the ‘high’ Victorian novel, it is startling to find in the popular romance a representation of this deeply repressed aspect of the British colonial experience.

Anglo-Indian romances, also called “Indian Romance” (Stieg 2) or “Anglo-Indian domestic novels” (Sainsbury 163), were produced between 1880 and 1930 and were immensely popular with British women readers in India, England, and in British colonies.10 An early study by Bhupal Singh recognizes the romances as a distinctive genre and classifies them by plot and theme.11 Within this genre, interracial romances (usually between an English man and an Indian woman) constitute another sub-genre and more often than not end with the death of the Indian woman. Maud Diver is one of the few authors whose three interracial romances, Lilamani (1909), Far to Seek: A Romance of England and India (1921), and The Dream Prevails (1934) have happy endings. Even here, it must be noted, that the trilogy that begins with Lilamani ends with Ships of Youth in which Roy, the descendent of Lilamani, is compelled to indulge his Indian-ness only in a private room on his British estate. At the other end of the spectrum, the theme of Pamela Wynne’s romances, which often narrate the sad fate of English women who fall prey to Indian men, is best described by the title of one of them: East is Always East (1930). A more typical plot follows the fortunes of an English man or woman of the upper or middle class who travels to India, develops a love for the country, finds an English love-interest of the appropriate class and returns to England to establish happy domesticity. Often, one of the protagonists falls on hard times, and has to struggle to find a place in the upper-middle class society of Anglo-Indians where he or she is finally restored to a place of honor by inheriting a fortune or a title. Sometimes, as in Alice Perrin’s The Anglo-Indians (1913), the love for India and the fantasy of a pastoral, feudal lifestyle as against life in urban, industrial England takes the happy couple back to India. Fictional examples of liaisons between English men and Indian women, which invariably end with the death of the woman, make it apparent that such a connection between the two worlds has no narrative or social viability. In Flora Annie Steele’s On the Face of the Waters (1896), the young Indian mistress of the English hero fades away into a pale wraith, by her death releasing the hero to marry an English woman. Similarly, the Indian wife of a British official in Philip Meadows Taylor’s Seeta (1872) dies in the Revolt of 1857, thereby resolving the problem of finding credible social possibilities for her within Anglo-India. The unofficial status of interracial romance gives it a tragic, Gothic, and subterranean life in the imagination of the Anglo-Indian romancers.

Early twentieth-century women romancers have not received the same serious critical attention as canonical figures such as Rudyard Kipling and E.M. Forster, who have always been studied for the seriousness and complexity of their Indian experience. The canonization of Kipling’s work has made the masculine genre of adventure writing the representative ‘literature of empire.’ Domestic dramas and romances have been treated as at best a historical curiosity and at worst “bad writing” that would never attain the status of great literature.12 This genre of Anglo-Indian fiction seems to have had a largely female readership and was seen to focus exclusively on the frivolities of social interaction. So it is not surprising that very little is known about Croker except that she was the daughter of an Irish clergyman and married a John Croker who rose to be Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Munster Fusiliers posted in India. Even though she wrote fifty novels (twenty of these set in India) she receives only brief mention in dictionaries of Irish writers and The Feminist Companion to Literature in English (Blain et al. ed.). The Feminist Companion tells us that she spent 14 years in Burma and India, where in 1880 she began writing as a distraction from the hot season (248)! Croker published some of her fiction in Cornhill Magazine and Belgravia. Her first novel, Proper Pride, had good reviews but was thought to be by a man.

Responses to Croker’s fiction in the contemporary press ranged from enthusiastic appreciation to faintly derogatory comments on the lack of depth in her characters or worse, her bad punctuation. A satirical and irreverent obituary article in The Bookman in January 1921 begins with the unpromising statement that Mrs. Croker “will be missed as a woman, even more than as an author.” Croker, the reviewer says, had “two strings to her bow,” Ireland and India, the first acquired by birth and the second by long residence in India, but “if the patterns she worked with were largely the same,” that would not “displease her patron in the least” (311). One of her early novels, Beyond the Pale, is described as “astonishingly workmanlike and readable.” This shaky edifice of approval is completely destroyed, however, by the remark that Mrs. Croker used the comma to “devastate perfectly clear English” (312).

But if these reviews did not add greatly to Croker’s reputation as a novelist, other journals did take favourable notice. The Times Literary Supplement in a 1902 book review described The Cat’s Paw as having “abundance of sensation, with unwonted freshness of incident,” while In Old Madras “shows her usual ease and familiarity in picturing Anglo-Indian life”(44). By the end of the century, Croker had reason to feel pleased with her success as a popular author. She wrote to a friend in 1895: “I get up to 100 pounds for barely 30,000 words now, cash down, and I have promised back reprints of three novels, so you see I am getting on at last, and time for me, seeing that I have brought out eleven successful books in twelve years—not that any of them were boomed or made a great splash—but they secured the attention of readers in England, America, Australia, Germany, and side stations.”13 We can conclude that there was a large market for Croker’s fiction from the fact that Tauchnitz published many of her novels. Founded by Baron Tauchnitz, this was one of the largest European publishing houses, and one of the leading publishers of English language fiction in the nineteenth century.14 It was also well known for producing cheap editions of English novels, the work of some of the most prominent Victorian novelists—George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and Wilkie Collins among others. The Tauchnitz edition of In Old Madras includes on its front and back cover advertisements for other fiction reprinted by them, including, H. Rider Haggard’s Child of Storm, Jack London’s South Sea Tales, and The Mating of Lydia by Mrs. Humphrey Ward, all very popular authors. The Continental publication in this edition shows that Croker’s novels had a large audience that extended beyond their obvious constituencies in England and India.15 Baron Tauchnitz organized a vast distribution system in Europe, where his books were sold in public places like railways stations, stores, and stalls. Tauchnitz books could also be found in the libraries of resort hotels and ships at sea, and “at such remote locales as Algiers, Luxor, Meknes, and Port Sudan, at Buenos Aires, Montvideo, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago, and at Kobe, Peking, Smyrna, and Teheran” (Todd and Bowen 190).

I. English Domesticity Goes Native

In Old Madras is set up as a pseudo-suspense novel, with an unresolved mystery providing the motive for the action. The young English hero, Geoffrey Mallendar, comes to India in search of his uncle Captain Mallendar who has been missing for many years and given up for dead. Geoffrey’s suspicions are aroused by the fact that someone draws on his uncle’s bank account regularly. Against the injunctions of his uncle’s business partners and the advice of friends and family, he decides to investigate this mystery. He is duly introduced into Anglo-Indian society and meets a diverse cast of characters: the Tallboys happily ensconced in upper-class domesticity; the miserable single women Barbie Miller and Ada Sims seeking husbands or patrons; the ruthless and extravagant widow Lena Villars also seeking a husband; the malicious gossip Mrs. Fiske; and Geoffrey’s friendly, unpretentious cousin Nancy Bander. Geoffrey falls in love with Barbie Miller, and after many adventures that take him to the margins of Anglo-Indian society earns the title to his father’s estate, marries Barbie, and returns triumphant to England. The climactic episode is the discovery of his uncle, the missing Captain Mallendar. Unlike most other romances in this genre, In Old Madras does not dwell on the central love plot between Geoffrey and Barbie, which is given fairly perfunctory treatment. Croker’s imaginative energies are spent in taking Geoffrey and the reader through a tour of the peripheries of Anglo-Indian society, into interracial homes and mixed domestic spaces, and finally to the confrontation with his uncle. It is only then that the sentimental plot concludes with a brief description of the wedding of Barbie and Geoffrey. Croker’s preoccupation with interracial relationships in this romance makes English domesticity a normative referent, not the center of the action.

We are introduced to this English ideal of domesticity early in the novel in the person of Fanny Tallboys, the perfect hostess, homemaker, and therefore perfect wife of Fred Tallboys, Geoffrey Mallendar’s cousin. Her parties are the most successful and well attended in her circle, and her house is always full of well looked after guests. At his first dinner in her house, Mallendar and the company are

steered successfully into their respective places at an oval table, glittering with crystal and silver and embellished by exquisite flowers and fruit. In the background stood a row of well-drilled attendants, commanded and marshalled by the gold and white butler. . . The newcomer noted the dainty appointments and careful details, painted menus, crested Venetian glass, and three superb epergnes . . . . (54)

The martial language in which the perfect execution of this domestic event is described reveals the continuities between the business of running an empire and the efficient management of the home. Literary critics have recently argued that romance represents British domesticity as an important means of establishing and making imperial power visible and shows the Englishwoman as an active agent of empire. Commenting on the advice given to English housewives by Maud Diver in her The Englishwoman in India, Rosemary George points to the language of “state-craft and diplomacy” in which housewives are enjoined to deal with their servants, “knowing like a politically astute leader whom to trust.” Similarly Steel and Gardiner in their The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook write, “We do not wish to cultivate an unholy haughtiness; but an Indian household can no more be governed peacefully, without dignity and prestige, than an Indian Empire” (qtd. in George 51). George comments, “Time and again, the colonial discourse, especially the texts written by women, represent the management of empire as essentially ‘home-management’ on a large scale. There are doors to be locked, corners to be periodically dusted, rooms to be fumigated and made free of pests, children (i.e. “natives”) to be doctored, educated, clothed, disciplined, accounts to be kept, boundaries redrawn and fences mended” (George 51).16 As I argue later in this essay, Croker’s distinctive contribution to this literature is that the Gothic hybridity of her Eurasian homes. In Old Madras disrupts this seamless continuum of empire and the English home. The English housekeeping of Mrs Tallboys is emphasized by the elegant order of her interiors. Further evidence of her skill as a hostess is provided when Mallendar learns that one of her passions is acquiring antique furniture. This is almost the first thing he notices in her living room, which characterizes her for him even before he meets her:

He did not fail to notice the great chunam pillars—gleaming like white marble—the polished teak floors, Eastern rugs, carefully placed screens, and profusion of delicately scented flowers; the whole atmosphere exhaled a cultivated taste, and subdued magnificence. What particularly struck the stranger was the accumulation of old furniture; objects he recognized from seeing their counterparts in great houses—or indeed in a lesser degree his own. Here were chairs, mirrors, settees, and cabinets—enclosing curiosities and old china. Mallender was no judge, but he realized that he was surrounded by many rare and valuable treasures . . . . (50)

As one of the guests says to Mallendar, “we’re quite up to date here” (54) pointing to the successful duplication of English upper-class society by Anglo-Indians. The Tallboys residence is a reminder of the British aspirations to an aristocratic lifestyle that India permitted without the privilege of noble birth. Fanny Tallboys does not come from a titled family, though Fred Tallboys certainly belongs to the landed gentry. The political dominance of the British, the comforts provided by a high-paying official position, and servants in the household, allowed the upper echelons of the bureaucracy to not only imitate, but recreate on an even grander scale, the lifestyle of titled and landed gentry in England. Describing Hoopers Gardens, the Tallboys’ residence in Madras, Byng, another young Englishman who has lived in India for a few years, explains to Geoffrey that the great houses here are “not like our Grosvenor Gardens or Chesterfield Gardens, at home; these houses—sort of nabob’s palaces—built by merchants in the Fort, were where they took refuge during the long-shore winds. . .” (31). These houses evoke the time of individual adventurers and profiteers who came to India, often in the service of the East India Company, but also as agents of traders or with independent commissions in the army in the second half of the eighteenth century. This was the period that created the nabob whose wealth acquired mythic status in England and India. The extravagance of the Tallboys’ lifestyle is tempered by the fact that they generously share their home with others, and that Mrs. Tallboys is active in charitable work—the mark of Victorian upper-middle-class women.

Mallendar notes that the home resembled “great houses” he had seen back home, not a middle-class home. The markers of this aristocratic status such as “rare and valuable treasures” can also be easily acquired in India without necessarily inheriting them. Fanny Tallboys’ description of the process by which she acquired her furniture “in the thieving bazaar, or at Franck’s auction rooms in Mount Road”(52) underscores the point that the hybrid origins of her domestic interiors are not presented as Gothic, but absorbed into ‘pure’ English domesticity (52):

That lovely Empire Couch he [Fred] rescued from being chopped up for firewood—the poor thing had only two legs. The Chippendale chairs he routed out of a mouldy old bungalow on the top of Palaveram Hill. I discovered that charming satinwood table, in a dirzee’s shop of Blacktown; some of the furniture has made journeys all over the Presidency on bullock-carts when regiments were on the move, and has been battered and cracked and auctioned, over and over again, for nearly two centuries!

. . . some invaluable treasures have gone to boil cooltie, or gram, but many fine seasoned travelers still survive. My collection is my craze, my chief weakness, and my tongue once started cannot stop; every bit has its own history. Those Sevres vases I bought from a Toda in the Hills; that ugly gilt jar in the same cabinet, I purchased as an act of charity from a beggar, a poor Eurasian woman, and gave her twenty rupees—believing it was brass. Long afterwards it turned out to be solid gold—a bit of loot from Seringapatam. (52)

Fanny’s list of salvaged furniture shows that the features of an Anglo-Indian home have meaning only when they are assembled and arranged according to the conventions of a bourgeois home. Wrenched from that context, unappreciated, and gathering dust in the shops and houses of Indians, they signify nothing except the failure of cultural transposition and a history of plunder. Significantly, the vase that the Eurasian woman sells is part of the plunder from Seringapatam, sacked by the British in 1799, but as relics of a bygone era they do not impinge on the lives of the natives, which go on regardless of the detritus of past historical moments. When Fanny Tallboys refers to every piece having its own history, she means not its own history, but the one it acquired when collected by Fanny. The Eurasian woman, dislocated and unmoored from a stable social context as a consequence of mixed blood, does not even know whether she is selling gold or brass. These objects, native and European alike, acquire semiotic significance only when they are arranged in Fanny Tallboys’ living room, signifying there her domestic aspirations, and enshrining the values of empire and nation.

The critical role of domesticity in creating ‘respectability’ and ‘middle-class culture’ for Englishwomen becomes obvious when Croker represents the other end of domestic felicity in the extreme economic destitution of the lower-middle class women who appear on the margins of the social world of In Old Madras. The dream of happy matrimony against an exotic backdrop fails more often than it succeeds and exposes the underside of the fantasy of India as a marriage market for Englishwomen. Ada Sim is a grim reminder of the lack of social options for such women in the late nineteenth century. She is introduced to Mallendar at a grand dinner at his cousin Major Tallboys’s house as “a dreadful sponge and not very interesting” (57) by the dazzling Mrs. Villars, a rich widow searching for a second husband. Ada’s friend Barbie Miller, who eventually becomes the hero’s romantic interest, is also placed in a similar position and is threatened with the prospect of marrying a wealthy bachelor, almost twice her age. As the two women exchange confidences, Ada Sim reveals that she has exhausted all her resources and the goodwill of her friends. She cannot pay for her passage back to England, and has been reduced to selling her clothes. Even the possibility of ending it all is denied the wretched Ada. As she says with a touch of black humour: “I’d drown myself, only there is no place to do it in—the Cooum is filthy, and off the pier there are sharks” (73). In the depth of her self-hating despair, she points out to Barbie why she cannot find a niche in Anglo-Indian society: “Friends, I have none, those I had are sick of me, and no wonder. I’m not pretty, or amusing, or accomplished, I don’t play bridge for money, I’m not even good-tempered. Just a plain, stupid bore” (73).

Ada is the anti-heroine who is unable to participate in the endless rounds of dinners, bridge playing, singing, dancing and flirting that characterize Anglo-Indian society. From the account that she gives of her life in England, we learn that she was an orphan who lived with her aunt as maid and governess to her two children. To escape the drudgery of her life, she “devoured every book relating to the East.” Her sister’s letters from India make it seem a place of escape, adventure, and romance. Once in India, Ada finds the reality quite different from the romance. Relying on her ability to sing, tell fortunes, and trim hats, Ada enjoys her first few months in India, being “reckless, and happy, and greedy of amusement” (119). As she goes from one friend’s house to the next, she finds herself less and less welcome and slowly turns into an unwanted guest. Her aunt, who thinks Ada had been reckless and unwise, “wild-goosing to India” (118), refuses to help her out of her dire financial distress.

The wish-fulfilling function of the Anglo-Indian romance pushes the plot to a happy conclusion for its economically dispossessed women, predictably through the intercession of patriarchal figures. Fanny Tallboys finds Major Tallboys, Ada Sim is rescued by a friend of her uncle who intercedes with him on her behalf. The uncle, ending a long-standing estrangement, turns into her benefactor and gives her a place in his home. Barbie is ‘rescued’ from marrying a much older man by Mallendar, who becomes the heir to the Mallendar estate. The formal movement of the romance re-establishes domestic harmony and benevolent kinship relations and India remains a wish-fulfilling land, a place where destitute Englishwomen are rescued and securely placed in the English household.

If this were all that In Old Madras concerned itself with, it would not distinguish itself from the huge corpus of Anglo-Indian romances. But the romance takes us on a journey away from Anglo-India towards racially mixed domestic spaces, and the secret, obscure, social lives of Englishmen who are detached or estranged from the hub of Anglo-India. Despite the narrative return to England, and Croker’s anxiety about maintaining an English household, her fiction dwells on miscegenated households with a desiring glance that contradicts narrative outcome. Not only are the Indian and/or lower-class women granted representational space in Croker’s romances, they are often the primary caretakers of the English men they marry, and the miscegenated households are domesticated and become places of nurture and sociability. Furthermore, it is now Englishmen who are rescued and nurtured by women of Indian or Eurasian origin or of the lower class. These miscegenated relationships are expressed in a vision of Gothic hybridity inside the house, which points to the fact that Croker’s perspective and her narrative conventions are deeply entrenched in normative upper-class British domesticity. However, the subplot or parallel plots of Croker’s fiction foreground mixed households which provide an ironic counterpart to the British household. Instead of domesticating difference, the British household is transformed by it, and becomes a hybrid space outside of Anglo-India.

In Old Madras, from the very outset invokes the fear that the story of the missing Captain Mallendar must have something to do with a liaison with an Indian woman. When he hears that Mallendar intends to go in search of his uncle, Mr. Fleming, his uncle’s lawyer, rattles off a list of possible reasons for his disappearance. These encapsulate the lure of the East as present to the English imagination:

Oriental life has an irresistible fascination for some natures; the glamour, the relief from convention, and the tyranny of the starched collar, the lure of attractive and voluptuous women, idleness, ease, luxury, drugs! I could tell you of an officer who went crazy about a beautiful Kashmeri, and actually abandoned his regiment and his nationality, in order to live as a native! Twice, his friends came from England to fetch him home, and each time he escaped—even at the eleventh hour in Bombay plunged into the bazaar, hid his identity, and was lost, in every sense! (12)

Mr. Fleming obviously means to throw Mallendar off his uncle’s trail. His melodramatic yoking of women, idleness, and drugs is an ironic evocation of British fears about the influence of Indian culture especially as a consequence of miscegenation. The “starched collar” that signifies British civilization and nation is a “tyrannical” imposition from which British men want to flee. Similarly, the word “luxury,” denotes giving in to pleasures forbidden to “civilized” men.17 This includes the temptation represented by the Indian women from the bazaar. Fleming suggests that such abandonment of both is not unusual, that in fact Oriental life has an irresistible lure for some Englishmen. The irony of this speech is that though this is precisely what has happened to Mallendar’s uncle, he is far from ‘lost’ in quite this sense. Fleming is playing on the official and popular British perception of the fate of such men. In fact, he continues to work as his uncle’s lawyer and agent, and manages his well-settled business interests, participating in a long business and personal relationship with the ‘lost’ elder Mallendar without wanting to reveal all this to the young Mallendar.

The confused, disordered and unenclosed space of the Indian bazaar evokes an ambivalent response in Croker in much the same way as the mixed households that are the subject of novel. It is a place where people jostle and crowd together in a promiscuous interaction, “the low-Other . . . hybrid, heterogeneous, and ambiguous . . . Bourgeois society construes as contamination the mixing of classes and other social and cultural categories that is essential to the marketplace or fair.”18 During the young Mallendar’s adventures in the town of Wellunga, Croker surprises the reader by representing the bazaar as a place of bewildering abundance, colour, and festivity. The minutiae and rhythms of everyday life rather than a fearful geography dominate this description of ‘Indian spaces’:

In the first place, although it was teeming with human life, there was not a single European to be seen, nor even a Eurasian—all were natives of the country. Truly here was “India for the Indians!” The stalls displayed no Western requirements, but grains, condiments, strange sweets, coloured cottons, and muslins, piles of silk of local manufacture in vermilion, orange, indigo, pink and green; also turbans, and tinseled caps of all colours. Here were working jewelers with their little braziers; huka makers, weavers of spells, and public letter-writers. The long narrow streets reeked with the intangible but familiar bazaar odour (a mixture of oil, grain, aromatic spices, and raw cotton). Crowds were chafing, gossiping, or strolling along. Here and there, a tall bold-looking woman covered with jewelry, and painted with kohl, passed with defiant glare; gaily caparisoned horses with jeweled girths, and head-bands—their manes and tails dyed rose colour—were led snorting by disturbing the little sacred bulls, who were poking wet black noses into the open gram baskets. (245)

India for the Indians is represented by an open-air market where among the profusion of gorgeously coloured objects we also see a bold-looking bazaar woman. She signals the confusion caused in the Anglo-Indian imagination by a woman who is not confined by the home. It is from contact with the bazaar and bazaar women that Englishmen and English values have to be protected. But even here, the liveliness, colour, and smells of the bazaar are lovingly portrayed by Croker. As we see later, the bazaar odours come to define a non-English space in the novel—a smell that is both revolting, but also a curious lure to the Anglo-Indian imagination. It is a smell that marks a culture, a way of living and being completely closed off from the British inhabitants of Wellunga. The public letter-writer is also a peculiar institution of the Indian bazaar, his presence a reminder of the unequal distribution of literacy in the culture.19 Earlier in the novel, when Geoffrey shows Fred Tallboys an old letter from his uncle, Fred recognizes at once the “bazaar paper and bazaar ink” (23), which leads him to conclude that the elder Captain Mallendar, had surely “gone native.”

The pleasure of the bazaar cannot, however, continue without interruption. In an effort to remind the reader that the bazaar is a threatening space, Croker places a fantastic image of a man-eating horse at its center. The threat to English values—here embodied as upper-class pedigree—are dramatized in an incident in which the golden-haired and very English Tara, adopted daughter of General Beamish, and an icon of upper-class British culture, is threatened by a gigantic man-eating horse which charges at her in the bazaar:

In a second, the Kathiawari was chasing him open-mouthed, and Tara, frantically lashing her Arab, turned to fly; but Rustum was tired, the pursuer fresh, and full of pride and gram. Screaming, and open-mouthed, he drove his prey right to the brink of a deep nullah. Here he intended to overtake and destroy him—for the Kathiawari came of old native stock, who were bred and trained to kill, in the hideous horse-fights so popular with the Rajahs of a bygone time. (253)

This horse evokes the danger and fear associated with the India that lies outside British rule in the territory of the “Rajahs of a bygone time.” It has been “trained to kill” and belongs to a primitive, “bygone” time before the civilizing influence of British rule. Yet Tara represents not middle-class English culture, but in fact, nobility. Her upper-class origins place her above the romantic plot as she signifies British values that are to be honoured and protected by the Englishmen who come to India. So Mallendar steps in to save Tara from the Kathiawari horse, injuring himself in the process and earning the status of a hero among the British.

This division of racial and cultural spaces dissolves completely when the young Mallendar goes in search of his uncle and finds instead other British men who live with Indian or lower class wives, have “half-caste” children, and are, as a consequence, hiding from Anglo-India in the obscure life of some small town. The first of these false leads takes him to the home of Major Rochfort, who has a wife in England and a second family with a half-Indian wife on a plantation in India. The Major’s second wife is now dead and can be refined into a portrait on the wall, but his household now includes their three children, a daughter “who looks quite Europe” and two sons who, though the image of their father, are “two copies in black” (164). The fair colour and golden hair of the girl, Mota, who is beautiful, whimsical and sometimes wayward, extracts tribute from siblings and friends alike, a sign that they acknowledge her racial and cultural superiority. As in her other romances, Croker’s ambivalence about mixed households makes her nervously place an English icon in the household as a reminder that assimilation to English culture is the desired trajectory of the romance.

The climax of this episode comes when the Major’s first wife visits India and discovers his second family. She finds that his second wife, though only half-European, was a beautiful and graceful woman who had kept a lovely home. This fact gives the Eurasian wife the narrator’s approval, and unlike other greedy, grasping “Delilah” figures that try to lure British officers into matrimony, she is portrayed as having had a positive effect on the Major’s life. Even Mallendar, who has seen the Major’s English and Indian homes, recognizes this:

Then, he had sat at a table loaded with wonderful old silver and hot-house flowers, and was waited on by powdered footmen, in the company of Rochfort’s prim English wife, and her titled county neighbours. Now, he was eating curried vegetables, under a slowly moving punkah, attended by black servants, and surrounded by a Madras family—which included a golden-haired imperious hostess, aged nine years. (184)

As Major Rochfort’s first wife takes in the details of the Madras home, she perceives an implied criticism of her domestic life in England. She notices “the homely comfort, the good plain food . . . the bright young people, and their complete absence of self-consciousness” (184). Impressed with this picture of the happy family in a well-appointed home, and the charming Mota, Mrs. Rochfort decides to adopt Mota, make peace with her husband, and return to England. Even though this move back to England would seem to provide an ending typical of most Victorian fiction, yet India functions as wish-fulfilling world, a corrective to empty and regimented English domesticity rather than as the rejected other of English culture.

A similar ambivalence characterizes the representation of the household of General Beamish, a retired army officer who lives a life of anonymity in the small town of Wellunga. The present Mrs. Beamish is introduced to Mallendar by the General as “my third wife, country born, country bred, no country blood though—just an apothecary’s daughter, and a trained nurse; but I did not marry her for that” (211). Although Mrs. Beamish is probably white, she is clearly of a lower class than the General, and born and raised in India. This is evident in Croker’s idiom of domestic interiors, which mark racial and class difference through their deviation from an ideal of pure English culture. Her Indian birth and influence also set Mrs Beamish apart from upper-class Anglo-India, making her closer in acculturation to India rather than England. General Beamish’s house is described as a “mixture” in much the same way as the inhabitants:

In fact, the appointments and surroundings were a curious and remarkable mixture; here were rat-tailed spoons, Charles the First Sugar bowls, superb candelabra, holding cheap candles (twelve to the pound), a coarse mission table-cloth, and bazaar crockery. The aristocratic side-board, and a bookcase were undoubtedly of the days of Count Lally, and seemed to shrivel up, and hold themselves aloof from the coarse “maistrey” furniture and jail carpets—their associates. (215)

The mismatched interiors reflect a crossing of class boundaries and a falling off from the glamour and harmony of Anglo-India. Domestic interiors mimic racial and cultural hierarchies as the aristocratic furniture ‘shrivels’ up at the enforced contact with the homely furniture made by the Indian ‘maistrey’ or carpenter. The superb candelabra hold candles that cost twelve to the pound, indicating the contribution of Mrs. Beamish to the household in contrast to the upper-class origins of the General. The comic-book excess with which this separation of the English and the Indian is portrayed, suggests Croker’s ironic deployment of the expected tropes of separation and segregation, which the rest of the narrative, however, does not entirely support. The company is also “strangely assorted” (215)—Mrs. Beamish and her children Jessie and Tom are “a kindly commonplace trio, of the lower middle class,” while the two daughters of a family friend look only half-European. Croker interrupts the progress of exotic adventure and romance with mundane and detailed descriptions of the household. While it would be difficult to ignore Croker’s racist depiction of the binaries of English and other, the much maligned household is a home nevertheless, not a fantastic space that threatens to dissolve with narrative closure as in the case of so many adventure novels.

Croker’s further portrayal of Mrs Beamish provides a counterpoint to the earlier impression of a homely, uncultivated woman. Mrs. Beamish, if not quite up to the upper-class lifestyle of the Tallboys, “country-born” and “country-bred,” nevertheless earns popular respect as a nurse. Mallendar is astonished to find a large crowd outside the Beamish residence one day, “a multitude of the blind, halt, and lame, all waiting to be treated by the kind hands of Mrs. Beamish” (241). And as Mrs. Beamish, justifiably proud of her clientele says, “Look at my clients—has any doctor in Harley Street such a practice” (242)!

The most dramatic episode of the novel is reserved for the latter half when Geoffrey finally meets his uncle, almost as a prize for having acquainted himself with the margins of Anglo-Indian society. He finds that Captain Mallendar did fall prey to the seductions of India, but they did not emanate from the bazaar: he had fallen in love with and married an Indian princess. On the one hand, Captain Mallendar is severely punished for this transgression, but on the other, Indian woman seems even more central in his domestic life than in all the other episodes of the romance.

Captain Mallendar’s mixed household is a syncretic combination of British and Indian cultures. The young Mallendar notes that his uncle’s house is “saturated with novel and aromatic odours” (298). The dark and dimly lit interior of the house has no furniture other than “shadowy divans along the wall, a few rugs on the floor” (298). Captain Mallendar has learnt to speak Tamil and Canarese fluently. His English education accounts for his taste in books, choice of food, and his interest in riding, but as he explains to his nephew, he smokes the huka, maintains a royal estate, and has his luxuries: “shooting, horses, motors, yes! rupees are a wonderful balm” (304).

The fearful maiming that lies at the heart of the novel forms part of a cautionary tale about the perils of departing from English values enshrined in English domesticity. Captain Mallendar’s gathers together the Gothic, domestic, and romantic motifs of earlier episodes. Mallendar finds his uncle living with his Indian wife Alida, disguised as an Indian prince. Unlike the other Indian women in the story, Alida is not a bazaar woman but a Coorgi princess named ‘Puvaka,’ who is re-named Alida after she marries Captain Mallendar. She is sixteen when the Captain meets and falls in love with her and finding that his feelings are returned, decides to elope with her to escape the wrath of her family. But Alida’s family hears of the plan, ambush the couple, and cut off Captain Mallendar’s nose, ears, eyelids and upper lip. Alida saves his life and nurses him back to health, becoming “his good angel, a miracle of patience and forbearance” who makes his home and mitigates his life in death (303). Since then, the older Mallendar has been living in obscurity completely away from the hub of Anglo-India. When at his request Mallendar’s uncle finally unmasks before him, we witness the horrible price of interracial love:

What he beheld was a grey old man, wearing a black skull cap; his withered cheeks were deeply sunken, his scanty beard was white, and oh, the awful noseless face, the bare grinning teeth, the lidless eyeballs,—expressing mute agonised interrogation, and years of hopeless anguish. (305)

This version of the romance does not look back to England for its satisfactory conclusion even though for the young Mallendar the price of abandoning England and duty seems almost too great. As a corrective to the pleasures of the Indian experience, this heart-rending experience ensures that hero and the reader will return to the safe haven of Anglo-India. The young Mallendar thinks of his uncle’s fate in all its loss and deprivation, “a young man of his own age, and profession, full of life, energy and expectation, suddenly shut out from his kindred, friends, and nation” (313), definitely not an example to follow.

At the heart of the novel lies the body of the mutilated or maimed Englishman, reminiscent of other such figures in English fiction who suffer for their sin of interracial love—Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Kurtz of the ‘unspeakable’ crimes in Heart of Darkness, frail and reduced to a voice by the time the narrator finds him. While the former found redemption through the kind offices of an Englishwoman, the latter is condemned to lose himself in the depths of the Congo. In both cases, the formal closure of the novel is achieved by punishing the transgressor and eliminating the racial other from memory and history. Jane Eyre affirms the romance plot of a happy ‘English’ marriage, even if lived out in isolation from English society in the ‘natural’ refuge of Ferndean. The conclusion of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is clearly more ambivalent, but with his lie to the Intended, Marlow pays ritual obeisance to the idea of the noble colonizer who remains ‘uncorrupted.’ Neither protagonist, however, is reintegrated into English society. Kurtz never returns to Europe, and Rochester and Jane can only set aside considerations of class and birth while in Ferndean. Captain Mallender, on the other hand, lives in the same neighbourhood as Geoffrey’s upper-class cousin Fred, and from the confines of his princely home commands economic and social power. He controls the Mallendar property, can manipulate his nephew’s movements through his lawyers, and enjoys the privileges of being both native aristocrat and English gentleman. So even though he cannot re-enter English society, he can function outside it.

In an atypical episode, Mallendar’s encounter with his uncle and aunt ends with their inclusion in his future life. When he takes leave of Alida, he is moved by her parting comments: “We heard of you up in Coorg, my country, and in beautiful Mysore. I am your Aunt Alida” (310). Mallendar is confronted with having to acknowledge his kinship with an Indian woman, pauses to consider this fact, and finally, accepts it:

“Mallendar bowed his assent, then as he looked into her face, stirred by an inexplicable impulse, he stooped, and lifted her hand to his lips. Why not? She was his uncle’s wife, and she held herself like royalty” (310). This is a critical moment in the romance, and even though it is couched in blatantly classist terms, Mallendar gives a name to his relationship with this Indian woman who has been the cause of his uncle’s disappearance from Anglo-India. Even though the reader is party to Geoffrey’s conclusion that despite the sweetness and good humour of Alida, the world of Anglo-India was not well worth losing for a grand passion, and his consequent emotional recoil from his uncle’s fate, Croker avoids giving us a pat rejection of India. Alida gets the final words at the parting between her and Mallendar. Looking at his care-worn face and shabby clothes at the end of his adventures, she compassionately comments, “You have had a hard time, but if one leaves the beaten road—one has to pay” (311). In different degrees, they have all left the beaten road, thus establishing kinship with each other.

Croker’s fiction depends heavily on formal closure—one of the inescapable features of popular romances inextricably tied to reader satisfaction. Like other romances, this one also concludes with an English wedding. The penniless Mallendar inherits his family estate, marries the pretty, economical, and good-hearted Barbie Miller, and receives many expensive gifts. As Mrs. Nancy Bander says at the very end “behold, now, he returns leaving crowds of Indian friends . . . and carries away with him a sword, a horse, a fortune, and a bride!” (326). But in a marked departure from fictional convention, at this wedding the English hero has not only Indian friends, but an Indian family, who are included in the celebrations. The vitriolic Mrs. Fiske notices his ‘strange acquaintances’ which included “two youths who were almost black” and two other “natives,” “a black-bearded man, wearing spectacles, and an immense turban, and a lady who was closely veiled” (324). Though clearly marginalized and shunned by the racist gathering, these guests nevertheless mark the bonds that Mallendar has formed with Major Rochfort’s part-Indian family and with his uncle and Aunt. Even though the romance wends its way back to England, it reveals Anglo-India’s intimate connection with England. It offers its readers the thrill of vicariously experiencing transgression, yet returning to the safe haven of the familiar. Croker thus uses a conventional fictional framework, but uses it to explore and reveal the unofficial life of Anglo-India.

II. Readerly Pleasure and the Romance

Most recent studies of Victorian popular fiction emphasize the sheer numbers of novels which are unfamiliar to readers today and which have been neglected by scholarly studies. More importantly, they show the critical consequences of this neglect in our ignorance of the variety of audience response, characters, and themes with which these lesser known authors experimented. There is near unanimity among these scholars that though Victorian popular writers often seem to conform to Victorian narrative conventions, their subversive manipulations or modifications of these norms are equally, if not more significant. Feminist readings of popular fiction point out, for instance, that such fiction could “both endorse and subvert ideological norms in the representation of femininity” (Liggins and Duffy xvii).20 In the same way, Anglo-Indian fiction both follows and subverts Victorian conventions of representing domesticity. On the one hand it portrays interracial romance as a Gothic aberration and an instance of the perils of stepping out of the boundaries of the British and the familiar; on the other, it dwells in fascination on mixed households and mixed progeny.

We can gather from our reconstruction of the implied readership of the Anglo-Indian romances that like other domestic fiction, these must also have been a powerful method of socialization. As Nancy Armstrong has argued, one of the frames of reference for the domestic novel was conduct books for women, which meant that the novel both produced and represented domestic ideologies (Armstrong 63). Alison Sainsbury describes the novels as seeking to “enfranchise middle-class English women, making them partners—even central agents—in the enterprise of empire” thereby connecting rather than separating public and private spheres (Sainsbury 181). In Croker’s In Old Madras, however, the perfunctory nature of the conclusion of the marriage and domestic plot complicates the linear progression of desire and readerly pleasure. It co-exists in an uneasy relation to the thrill of vicariously going beyond the racial, geographical boundaries of Anglo-India, even if such an experience is only allowed to the Englishman. In this way, Croker’s In Old Madras works both as domestic fiction that participates in the socialization of its readers and a fantasy that explores the forbidden realm of interracial love. The Englishman who goes native is punished severely for his transgression, thereby ensuring that the romance has a ‘conventional’ ending in rejecting miscegenation. However, Croker’s readers are placed in the unusual position of condoling yet condoning the grisly punishment of the racially transgressive Englishman. They are also forced to acknowledge that the homely and domestic atmosphere of the other mixed homes outside the social boundaries of Anglo-India are nevertheless intimately connected to it.

In its attempt to represent the unspeakable, and despite its final gesture of repudiation, the romance is more subversive than the canonical English novel. At a very basic level, the romance allows the representation of the native woman within the domestic space, in quotidian relationships, not madly raging in an attic or reduced to an inarticulate image of the African continent. Further, as an examination of the concluding chapters of In Old Madras shows, Croker does not present a neat rejection of India and natives as a fading out of the exotic locale, to be replaced by domestic harmony in England. In its inclusion of Anglo-Indian life, its critique of upper-class British life associated with England, its praise of homeliness even in a mixed home, Croker’s romance breaches the boundaries of the unspeakable and complicates the satisfactions of romance.

Acknowledgements

For their insightful comments on earlier versions of this essay, I would like to thank Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, Carolyn Vallenga Berman, Sarah Mckibben, Paula Moya, Talia Schaffer, the two readers for Nineteenth-Century Contexts, and especially Jim Carson for his generous readings of more than one draft. Thanks also to Marko Mircetic and Rebecca Stuhr for timely research assistance.

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  1. David Punter notes that the ‘Gothic’ was often used to express the taboo quality of many themes such as racial and sexual transgression. He discusses a second feature of the Gothic that is relevant to my argument here: its expression of bourgeois fears about the lower classes and the aristocracy. H. L. Malchow has also comprehensively shown that the Gothic was often used in nineteenth-century literature to describe the racially other. Alison Sainsbury argues that the focus on miscegenation in the Anglo-Indian romance may also come from the gothic novel (Sainsbury 164). 

  2. My argument is influenced by Roslyn Jolly study of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Beach of Falesa, which, she argues, is a hybrid genre in which Stevenson rejects the values and generic properties of the colonial adventure to adopt the ‘feminine realm of domestic fiction’ (463). She shows that his representation of interracial marriage between the English Wiltshire and the Polynesian Uma calls into questions the separation between adventure and domesticity, romance and realism, and between races. Texts that have invited most debate in these terms include H. Rider Haggard’s She and King Solomon’s Mines, and Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness. See Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather, 240-248. 

  3. “Anglo-Indian” is a term used to describe the British community in colonial India. It was only in the Census of 1911 that the Government of British India made it the official term for “Eurasian” or person of mixed white and native Asian descent. 

  4. Most studies of Anglo-Indian domesticity focus on the ‘women’s sphere’ as constituted by memsahibs or wives of British civil servants. See Rosemary George, The Politics of Home, Alison Sainsbury, “Married to the Empire: the Anglo-Indian domestic novel” and Margaret Stieg, “Indian Romances: Tracts for the Times.” A recent exception is Nancy Paxton’s Writing Under the Raj

  5. Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak have both presented persuasive arguments showing how metropolitan culture is constituted by colonial experience. Said’s Culture and Imperialism argues for the economic, political, and consequently literary significance of the colonies. Spivak, in her pioneering ‘critique of imperialism’ in Jane Eyre, sees the achievement of Jane’s independent selfhood as based on the elimination of the Caribbean Bertha Mason from the narrative. For other studies of the imperial theme in Victorian domestic fiction, see Brantlinger, Susan Meyer, Dierdre David, Jenny Sharpe, and Suvendrini Perera. While studies of canonical authors such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, and W.M. Thackeray have taken this injunction very seriously, literature generated in the colonies has not been studied with the same urgency. 

  6. As Abena Busia has argued, Heart of Darkness is posited on the silencing of the African woman, and hence the erasure of miscegenation. 

  7. John McBratney points out, for instance, that in Kipling’s few interracial romances, the Indian woman is figured as an engulfing, destructive presence that has to be rejected so that the integrity of the British empire can be preserved. 

  8. Mary Poovey writes “the middle-class ideology we most often associate with the Victorian period was both contested and always under construction; because it was always in the making, it was always open to revision, dispute, and the emergence of oppositional formulations” (3). Elizabeth Langland in Nobody’s Angels argues that “with the rapid increase of wealth generated by the industrial revolution and the consequent social upheavals, status became a fluid thing, increasingly dependant upon the manipulation of social signs” (26). Langland also makes the case that middle-class women exercised considerable social influence through their active management of the Victorian home. 

  9. See Kenneth Ballhatchet’s Race, Sex and Class Under the Raj in which he claims that the British made a distinction between the proclivities of the lower and upper classes and hence ‘provided’ for the soldiers whose sexual desires required official management through the setting up of brothels and lock hospitals. 

  10. For a descriptive account of this genre see Margaret Stieg and Alison Sainsbury. 

  11. Bhupal Singh, A Survey of Anglo-Indian Fiction (1934). 

  12. So, for instance, in 1972 Benita Parry dismissed the romancers and their readers when she wrote, “while they deal in superficialities and received opinions, their fiction innocently reveals the sensations which India could evoke in impressionable British people. The themes they repeatedly use point to the way Anglo-Indians were haunted by Indian sensuality and spirituality” (Parry 70). 

  13. Quoted in Nineteenth-Century Fiction: A Bibliographical Catalogue based on the Collection formed by Robert Lee Wolff Vol. I (New Jersey: Garland, 1981), p. 319. 

  14. The founder, Baron Tauchnitz, described as a “fervent Anglophile,” is said to have declared that “As a German-Saxon it gave me particular pleasure to promote the literary interest of my Anglo-Saxon cousins, by rendering English literature as universally known as possible beyond the limits of the British Empire” (Todd and Bowen vii). 

  15. On its frontispiece, Croker’s In Old Madras declares: “The Copyright of this Collection is purchased for Continental Circulation only, and the volumes may therefore not be introduced into Great Britain or her Colonies.” 

  16. Ann Stoler makes a similar point about European women who came to join their spouses in the colonies. They were seen as “auxiliary forces in the imperial effort” who “were to conserve the fitness and sometimes the life around them by ensuring that the home be happy and gay and that all take pleasure in clustering there,” and that “manuals on how to run a European household in the tropics provided detailed instructions in domestic science, moral upbringing and employer-servant relations” (Stoler 1990 56). 

  17. Both these motifs appear in Heart of Darkness. The Accountant’s starched collars signify a resistance to Africa, while Kurtz’s giving in to the Congo is read by Marlow as self-indulgence. 

  18. Gary R. Dyer borrows the term “low-Other” from Peter Stallybrass and Allon White’s The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. He analyzes the bourgeois criticism of charity bazaars in London as arising from a perception of the bazaar as a place of commercialism, Eastern influence, and feminine corruption. See his “The ‘Vanity Fair of Nineteenth-Century England: Commerce, Women, and the East in the Ladies’ Bazaar.” Even though London bazaars present a different context from Indian bazaars, the bourgeois suspicion of an open market-place and its association with women of easy virtue would be shared by both cultures. 

  19. In Kipling’s Kim, the letter-writer is an important instrument of communication for Kim’s wild plans and schemes. 

  20. See John Sutherland’s introduction to The New Nineteenth Century: Feminist Readings of Underread Victorian Fiction and Lyn Pykett’s “Afterword” in Beyond Sensation: Mary Elizabeth Braddon in Context. Also see articles by Toni Johnson-Woods and Gail Turley Houston. Feminist Rereadings of Popular Victorian Texts is another collection which emphasizes reader response and underscores the fact that such fiction could both endorse and subvert ideological norms it represents.