Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Three Letters to Romesh Chunder Dutt (S690aa: 1911)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Three letters to R. C. Dutt: two on his translation of the epic poem 'Mahabharata,' and one on his book Famines in India. Printed in the 1911 biography Life and Work of Romesh Chunder Dutt C.I.E., by Jnanendra N. Gupta. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S690AA.htm


[[p. 267]] Parkstone, Dorset,
1st March 1899.

     Dear Sir,--I thank you very much for sending me your beautiful translation of the "Mahabharata," which I have heard much of, but have never before become acquainted with. If, as you say, your translation is almost a literal one, it is indeed a great poem. I am surprised at the clear sequence of the story, which is in itself interesting, but more especially in the force and [[p. 268]] simplicity of the language and the beautiful, often poetical and lofty ideas.

     I must also express my admiration of your beautiful, poetical, and rhythmical version in what is to you a foreign tongue. It is perfectly clear and harmonious, and is a pleasure to read; and I am sure that, if better known, it would become a favourite with English readers. I only regret that it has not been issued in a more worthy form, with better paper and a little more margin. You have showed excellent judgement in giving what you do translate in full, with brief connecting prose summaries. I think, however, you should give in notes, or in a glossary at the end, the meaning of the various untranslated Sanskrit words you introduce in your translation. Also the proper names are so numerous that I think, at the commencement of each book, the names of all the persons mentioned should be given, with their positions, titles, and relationships, as in the dramatis personæ of a play. I should like to see a new edition, with illustrations of the chief scenes like that you have as a frontispiece.

     I seldom go to London now, but shall have great pleasure in receiving a visit from you here, should you ever be in the vicinity.--Believe me, yours very truly,

Alfred Wallace.

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Parkstone, Dorset,
8th March 1899.

     My dear Sir,--Very many thanks for the copy of the large edition of your translation of the "Mahabharata." It is very elegant and well worthy of the great poem, and I hope will have a large sale. I waited to finish reading the poem before writing to you, and I have also read the earlier books over again with even greater pleasure than at first. One wants to know the characters and all the chief ideas of such a poem before it can be duly appreciated, hence a second reading is necessary. I have noted, while reading, a number of places where I think the wording can be improved or the meaning better expressed, and also a few press errors. I enclose you notes of all these, with new readings suggested in many cases, which I hope may be of use to you in correcting for a new edition.

     The "Story of Savitri" is the gem of the whole poem, and I cannot recall anything in poetry more beautiful, or any higher teaching as to the sanctity of love and marriage. We have really not advanced one step beyond this old-world people in our ethical standards. How fine and lofty, too, is Krishna's exposition of a king's duties at the end of Book III. Draupadi's [[p. 269]] plaint and Dhrita-Rashtra's kindness are also very fine, and the acceptance of slavery by these warlike princes on a point of honour is grand, though we may consider it excessive.

     The least satisfactory part of the poem is the fact of Draupadi, after having accepted Arjun, becoming the wife of Judhishthir. Considering her character, that seems very extraordinary. Was she married to Arjun or Judhishthir? I cannot believe that she became the wife of five in common. I wish you had translated the main part of the wedding ceremony. Also the great game of dice, which must surely lend itself to some fine poetry. But, even as you give it, it is a grand poem.--Believe me, yours very faithfully,

Alfred Wallace.

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[[p. 287]] Parkstone, Dorset,
1st August 1900.

     Dear Sir,--Many thanks for sending me your book on "Famines in India"; with its numerous appendices and statistics, it is of great value, and will be an indispensable book of reference on various questions relating to the social and economic condition of India, and our (mis)government of it.--Yours very truly,

Alfred R. Wallace.


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