The City of Dreadful Night II

The Reflections of a Savage

(notes by David Page, drawing on the work of the ORG Editors)

First Publication

5th March, 1888 in the Pioneer.

Notes on the Text

[Page 208, line 18] Bobby This was important to Kipling for it seems that Calcutta alone had a corps of British policemen. A letter to the Editor published in January 1887 in The Statesman, the celebrated English daily newspaper published in India, further substantiates this:

… a European policeman is paid to stand opposite the Great Eastern Hotel, to turn bullock carts into by-lanes, out of the way of the Burra Sahibs.

Kipling here calls him a ‘Bobby’ as people have done in London since 1828 when (Sir) Robert Peel – as Home Secretary – put the Metropolitan Police Act through Parliament, ‘Bobby’ being a pet nickname from Robert. [ORG] Nowadays there are a number of other nicknames for a London police officer, including ‘the Old Bill’.

[Page 209, line 12] Job Charnock (c.1630-1693), English colonist, stationed at Hooghli. When attacked by Mughal troops, he moved to the site of the present Calcutta of which he has been called the founder.

However, the Times of India reported on 21 January 2003 that:

an expert committee of historians, set up by the Calcutta High Court, has held that the city was not founded by the English trader Job Charnock. It was believed till date that Job Charnock was the founder of Calcutta, now renamed Kolkata, and August 24, 1690, was the “birthday” of the metropolis. A unanimous report of the committee, which was presented before the division bench of Chief Justice A K Mathur and Justice Jayanta Biswas, said that the origin of the city was part of a general process of rural settlement, clusters of which agglomerated in the last decade of the 17th century into the English companies’ trading factory.

[Page 209, line 27] through the Parcels Post effectively a mail order system, not unlike that operated by Sears Roebuck in the USA.

[Page 210, line 8] frock-coat formal attire for men (right) which in the late 1800s was usually a black knee-length ‘jacket’ (not an overcoat), with a uniform hem (not ‘tails’) that buttoned to the waist.

[Page 210, line 16] a top-hat, a shiny black ‘plug’ a tall cylindrical black hat now only worn on formal occasions. A history of the hat can be found at the Top Hat Shop web-site. The ‘plug’ or ‘stovepipe’ hat was an American term for this style of hat.

[Page 210, line 24] babul an acacia tree or mimosa. [ORG]

[Page 211, line 9] Burra Bazar to Chitpore or Barabazar to Chitpur. The former district is just north of Dalhousie Square and Bow Bazar whilst Chitpore is just to the north of the Circular Canal.

[Page 211, lines 14 & 15] a short tower this is probably Sir David Ochterlony’s monument, built in 1828 and now known as the Shahid Minar (or tower).

[Page 211, line 20] Newmarket Heath the great racecourse situated in Suffolk, England, 62 miles north of London. This small town is the Headquarters of the Jockey Club and English horse-racing. [ORG]

[Page 211, line 28] rupee was two shillings and a penny i.e., 25 old pence or 10.4 new (decimal) pence; when Kipling wrote this it was down to 16 old pennies to the Rupee or 6.7 new pence. [ORG] Today (2008) there are some 80 rupees to the £, making a rupee worth 1.25 new pence.

[Page 212, line 5] durwân a door-keeper or concierge.

[Page 212, line 7] pân a mild stimulant, consisting of betel-leaf, lime and areca-nut, for chewing.

[Page 212, line 25] three lakhs of rupees 300,000 rupees, then about £20,000.

[Page 212, line 28] seventy thousand rupees then about £4,666.

[Page 213, line 11] five hundred a month rent then of about £33 per month.

[Page 214, line 21] the lamps are in their sockets! the lamps are in their proper places on the carriages.

[Page 214, lines 21-23] country-bred . . . Waler ‘Country-bred’ horses were bred in India, whilst the ‘Walers’ were imported from New South Wales in Australia, and were consequently more expensive.

[Page 214, line 26] saises or syces. Grooms for the horses.

[Page 214, line 31] Writers’ Buildings Originally built to house the young clerks of the East India Company, and located on Strand Road (right), just in front of Lal Bazar and Bow Bazar, and opposite the Import & Export jetties.

Local control of each of the three Presidencies of British India (Madras, Bombay and Bengal) was exercised by a President (or Governor) supported by a council of the senior merchants. By 1706 a structure was in place whereby a man acted for:

  • five years as a ‘writer’ before becoming a ‘factor’.
  • three years as a ‘factor’ before becoming a ‘junior merchant’
  • three years as a ‘junior merchant’ before becoming a ‘senior merchant’

‘Writers’ were clerks who spent their days learning the business by making entries into ledgers. [See India Britannica, Geoffrey Moorhouse, 1983, 2000 Edition, Academy Chicago Publishers, p. 29]

©David Page 2008 All rights reserved