[From Calcutta Review, Vol. XXXV, pp. 200 ff September 1860; Calcutta in the Olden Time-its People by Rev. J. Long.]
On morality in old Calcutta
Wealth, leisure, and the climate brought ill habits of drinking and debauchery - . . .Concubinage was prevalent. . . . A man in a Calcutta paper of 1780 recommends the Christians to follow his example of seeking the society of a mistress in the heat of the day. . . Civilians and Military went out as mere lads, before their understanding was ripened. We need not look for a high toned morality in Calcutta a century ago when we find such men as Drake the Governor, and Clive bargaining with a traitor to sell his country, they themselves sharing in the spoil, while those dealers in treason and rebellion pocketed each some 20 lacs sterling. Force and fraud were the morality of the day. . . That an example set to natives, when Clive by counterfeiting or forging Admiral Watson's signature to a treaty, defrauded the merchant Omichand of 250,000 I. Omichand become insane, Clive was made a peer, though he committed the same crime for which Nuncomar was hanged by English law. . . The following advertisement from an old Calcutta newspaper of 1781 shows what the vices were: -
A Resolution not to bribe, or a determination
not to be bribed.
Lost - The dignity of high life, in and attention to trifles.
Stolen - Into the country - the inhabitants of the Esplanade.
Strayed - Sincerity and common honesty.
Found - That the idea of liberty is fast verging to slavery.
To be sold - A great bargain - the reversion of modern honor.
To be let - Unfurnished - several heads near the Esplanade.
Missing - The advice of two able men retired from public business.
On Sale - For ready money - whatever ought to be purchased by merit only.
* * * *
Atkinson, in his "City of Palaces,"
thus alludes to this state of things:
"Calcutta! nurse of opulence and vice,
Thou architect of European fame
And fortune, fancied beyond earthly price,
Envy of sovereigns, and constant aim
Of kin adventurers, art thou not the same
As other sinks where manhood rots in state?
Sparkling with phospher brightness
There stood proud cities once, of ancient date,
Close parallels to thee, denounced by angry fate."
Back to The Sons of Mystery [ Previous ] [ Next ]