17 December 1911 - 2 September 1914. Mostly large Octavo (ca. 25x20,5 cm), with six smaller letters ca. 21x13,5 cm. In all over 250 pages of text. Brown and black ink on various wove paper. The photos: four loose gelatin silver prints (two mounted on card), from ca. 15x8 cm to ca. 28x17,5 cm (5 ¾ x 3 ¼ to ca. 11x7 in), with pencil and ink notes on versos. With six watercolour sketches on album paper, ca. 15x10 cm (6x4 in), all signed “G.E.M.” in the left lower corners. One letter clipped (some loss of text), fold marks, paper slightly age toned, but overall a very good archive.
Extensive collection of fascinating content rich letters written by Sybil Constance Macleod, wife of George Charles Sholto Macleod, Captain of the 2nd Battalion, Black Watch Regiment (Royal Highlanders) during his service in British India. The letters provide thoughtful and smart notes on the upper-class life in Calcutta, Darjeeling, Dalhousie, and Delhi, following Charles’ service as an Adjutant in Fort William (Calcutta) and his later transfer as a Station Staff Officer in Dalhousie (Nov. 1912). Most letters were written from Calcutta (thirteen) and Dalhousie (ten), with a few from a summer house in Darjeeling and during a short stay in Delhi. The first letter was written in December 1911 on the way to India on board S.S. Plassy, near Gibraltar; the last one – in the end of September 1914, shortly before the author’s departure to England in the beginning of WW1; most letters are addressed to Sybil’s mother Amy Constantia Jeffreys (d. 1932); with two written to her sister and aunt.
The letters contain a lot of interesting notes on the British military and civil officials, Indian people and places, i.e. Lord Hardinge (Viceroy of India, 1910-1916); Sir William Henry Clark (the Member for Commerce and Industry of the Council of the Viceroy of India, 1910-1916); Thomas David Gibson-Carmichael, 1st Baron Carmichael (Governor of Bengal in 1912-1917); Sir Edwin Lutyens (the architect of New Delhi); Fort William in Calcutta; several sights of Delhi, including the Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, and Chandni Chowk market (with “most fascinating shops, jewellery, embroideries, china, silks, & all the things that most make you wish you had money to chuck away!”); a trip from Calcutta to Dalhousie by train (up to Pathankot) and from there by an “invalid tonga” cart; landscapes in Darjeeling; officer’s vacation bungalows in Barrackpore. There is also a lengthy description of the “bomb tragedy” – assassination attempt of Viceroy Lord Hardinge which happened in Delhi on 23 December 1912; notes on a session of the Council of the Viceroy which she attended in Calcutta in March 1912; the planning of New Delhi; Christmas celebrations and King’s Birthday Parade in Dalhousie, and others. The letters are full of descriptions of dinners, receptions, and parties (i.e. A ball of Lieut.-Gov. Of Bengal, garden party of “Maharajashiraja Bahadur of Burdwan”, Sergeants’ Ball, a party given “by a native in honour of his nephew’s wedding” with a description of a mansion with lots of copies of old masters and later European paintings, Dresden china, and others). There are also numerous society gossips, passages about her daughter Sheila, dresses and gowns, jewelry, various purchases, house servants and cooks, prices for groceries, local trees and flowers, weather, et al.
One of the letters is illustrated with an ink drawn portrait of a native clothes mender “neatly dressed in a coat of cheap broderie anglais, through the holes of which shone his brown skin; a rather fashionable narrow skirt comes about to his ankles… The only thing is, I generally have to arrange to give him my things to mend just as they’re going to the wash, as he may be seen crouching on the back verandah, holding one end of his work between his toes!” (25 Apr. 1912).
The portraits show Charles and Sybil Macleod in the 1900s and early 1910s, Charles – in the uniform of the Lancashire Fusiliers (served in 1900-1905) decorated with medals received after the Second Boer War, and as an officer of the Egyptian Army (served in 1906-1908); Sybil – in an elaborate gown of the early 1910s. Done with an obvious artistic talent, most likely by Charles’ father George Edmostone Macleod (1851-1910, civil service commissioner in Oudh and Assam in 1870-1890s), the caricatures show “Zubberdust Khan, Budmash;” “Mir Shah – Pathan Sepoy;” “Umbeeka Churun Bose, Bengalee Baboo;” “Hunooman Dass, Jogee” [Jogi]; “Ram Ruttun – Ryot;” and “Gowee Mull – Delhi Jeweller.”
Some excerpts from the letters:
[Fort William]: “This fort is really a very nice place, quite away from Calcutta, separated from the town by the Maidan, an enormous wide open space of grass, which gives one plenty of air and light <…> lots of Generals live inside here, including the Commander-in Chief, who has a charming garden & tennis courts. There are lots of nice grassy bits, edged with trees, where they can play football ect., a native bazar, a post office & two churches, - so it is like a little town right away from the rest” (8 Feb. 1912).
[Indian Mutiny]: “I think somehow the Mutiny which thrills me more than almost anything in history, is apt to make one lose sight of Delhi’s own ancient history, for a time. The church is the same one as in Mutiny days, only restored, of course, while in its gardens close by, you see the battered brass globe & cross that surmounted it then, with bullet holes in dozens of places, but still never absolutely destroyed. The statue of John Nicholson, and the memorials in the church, the battered Kashmir Gate and the bare and open Ridge, all help one to realize those awful times, and the absolutely desperate fighting” (4 Feb. 1913)
[Planning of the New Delhi site]: “I have met Mr. Lutyens & Capt. Swinton, the “New Delhi” architects, & they are all busy squabbling as to the respective merits of two sites. It seems they had to keep the original scheme in such profound secrecy that they couldn’t consult even an expert, or something would have leaked out. & then when the Queen graciously announced her wish to lay the foundation stones of New Delhi, they were rather staggered, as experts had already pronounced the ground entirely unsuitable: however, the stones were duly laid, & will I suppose be removed in the night some time, to the spot which is finally selected. Mr. Lutyens <…> is a queer person, always making would be comic remarks, but much nicer when he’s serious; while Capt. Swinton, who was once in the army, has a long beard, a beautiful strait Greek nose…” (4 Feb. 1913); “There is being much heart-burning & furiously divided opinion in Delhi as to the respective merits of two proposed sites for the new capital, & last Sunday we went to see Mr. Lutyens’ sketches & plans for the new Govt. House, Secretariat etc., which were perfectly charming & so deliciously done, just slight sketches with vivid touches of colour” (13 Feb. 1913).
[Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India]: “They say he is so self-opinionated & won’t take advice from anyone, although of course he can’t know much about the country; & the new policy & change to Delhi, doesn’t seem popular either” (25 Jan. 1912); “there were a lot of people there, all entirely unenthusiastic & all heartily delighted to see the last of them. He has rather a bad manner, shy & a little stiff, & no small talk <…> There was no cheering & they drove off in dead silence. I wonder if the English papers noticed, what is thrilling everyone out here (the natives of course) – that as he was driving away, almost a vivid flash of lightning shattered the flag over Govt. House. I was really rather extraordinary, & of course to the people out here, the very worst of omens…” (farewell to the Viceroy in Calcutta, a letter from 28 Mar. 1912).
[Assassination attempt of Lord Hardinge on 23 December 1912]: “He seems to be very bad still, 6 weeks later, as it is now; & no one seems quite to know what the effects will really be. Though of course the drum of one ear is cracked, or broken, & I don’t suppose anything can be done to that; while at present the shock to his nerves & whole system seems to be tremendous. He would open the first Council meeting, but they had to drug him pretty heavily first, to present any possible emotionalism (not quite a word I fear!) as he had such a tremendous ovation on entering. Mrs. Clark was telling me Lady Hardinge’s own account of it, to her. It seems they didn’t hear the explosion – apparently you don’t if you are very near; but they were thrown forward on to the front of the Howdah, & she said to him, “Was it an earthquake?” – and he said “No, I’m afraid it was a bomb.” He had such faith in the Indian people, & that anarchy was dying out, that they say the shock of that has hurt him most terribly. He insisted they should go on, & it wasn’t till she looked back & saw the terribly mangled remains of the man who was holding the Sate umbrella over them, that she got the procession stopped. She spoke to the Viceroy, & just at that moment his face became perfectly grey, & he sort of convulsively crumpled up & fell forward unconscious…” (4 Feb. 1913).
[Sir William Henry Clark]: “He is one of 6 Council members who I suppose correspond more or less to the Cabinet at home, & are tremendous people out here, with salutes of 17 guns, deputations & addresses wherever they move, banquets, guards of honour, bands and garlands, to say nothing of special trains with private kitchens, bathrooms, & compartments for their entire staff of servants.” <…> (13 Feb. 1913).
[Indian people, servants, etc.]: “they know from long experience how white people like things done, & are a thousand times better than the ordinary little cook & house parlour maid of England or Ireland” (25 Jan. 1912); “…in Bengal [people] are the most mouldy little rats, with greasy heads, nearly always turban less, the average man is about the size of an English boy of 14, except when they’re enormously fat & oily, & quite disgusting. The women wear one dirty white drapery, & they all look seditious crow brutes, more like mice than men! But these Punjabies really are men, - great tall fine-looking creatures, all in turbans of every imaginable colour, with full white trousers & coats, & the look of a good fighting race…” (5 Nov. 1912); “all cooks in this country live to put spice in everything they touch, & Abdul Rashid is no exception. I have to wage war on nutmeg and cinnamon, but it creeps insidiously in upon the smallest provocation” (30 Dec. 1912); “We have been having terrible domestic scenes in the servants’ quarters, where the dishwasher & kitchen maid came & complained that the bearer had taken his wife from him! (he. The husband, always seemed to be beating her because she would stand outside the door & talk to other men!) Of course, the bearer indignantly denied it, - the dishwasher was under sentence to go already, & Charlie said they must be gone, bag & baggage, within an hour. He said his wife wouldn’t come with him, & then a terrible scene was enacted in front of the house, entirely for our benefit: he dragged her along the ground, she kicking & moaning, & thus they advanced about a yard at a time; till finding we were entirely unresponsive & only ordering them to go a little quicker, they picked themselves up & mournfully departed” (18 Jun. 1913).
[Mixed Anglo-Indian marriages]: “I must say it gave me rather a shock to see an obvious English girl, fair and rather pretty though second-rate looking dressed in a complete native dress; they say sometimes the daughters of houses in London that take in as lodgers these natives studying to be barristers or something, marry them and come out here to live, of course purely native fashion. Rather horrible I think, don’t you?” (27 Feb. 1912).
[King’s Birthday Parade, Dalhousie]: “The solid stodgy red lines of the Manchesters, Connaught Rangers & Lancashire Fusiliers marched past well knowing they were there to make an impression on the rows of dark faces huddled on the opposite hillside, in turbans & clothes of every most brilliant hue, who sat absolutely silent, watching while 3 cheers for the King, & salutes to the Flag, echoed & crackled round the hills & back again. They say there is a good deal of sedition & trouble going on under the surface – people holding disloyal meetings & warlike races like Sikhs trying to stir up the others; but no two of the many races in this enormous country would ever unite. I should imagine, - & we would never be caught so unprepared again as in the Mutiny days” (18 Jun. 1913).
[Reference to Rudyard Kipling]: “There is a “haunted bungalow” close by here, & it certainly has an air of great loneliness & mystery: masses of rock are lying tumbled about in the garden, & big beams that came down when the house was damaged in an earthquake. The house has been rebuilt, but is unlet now, & it is supposed to be the original of Kipling’s story about the man riding to see his love, on a stormy night when the rains had made the soil all loose – his horse bolted down the Khud, past the house, & he was never seen or heard of more, except that now people frequently hear him thundering past – Mrs. Carnegy, the General’s wife, vows and declares she has often heard it!” (20 May 1913).
[Description of a photo attached to the letter from May 20, 1913]: “I send you a photograph of the view from here, which may give you a sort of idea of the country, & the different layers, the nearer & lower slopes thick with rhododendrons, deodars & all sorts of trees, then only pines & gradually up to bare rock & the snows above all; Kashmir is over those mountains I believe.”
[Titanic wreck]: “Wasn’t the Titanic disaster perfectly haunting? I think worse that the shock of going down must have been the icy cold of the water, in which they couldn’t possibly live for more than a few minutes. We haven’t got the English papers account of it yet; but it ought really to make the builders of these luxurious & enormous liners pause & think a bit” (25 Apr. 1912).
[WW1]: “The Divisions from here seem to be going there, at present at any rate, & I suppose they may send farther reinforcements to guard oil fields in Persia, & keep an eye on Turkey. It is announced by Mahomedans out here that the Germans have tried their hardest to stir up the Turks, by representing that they lent them money in their need, while England didn’t help them& & of course if they succeeded in rousing the Turks, the Mahomedans of this country would almost certainly fo in with them, for the triumph of faith. Germans are supposed & I believe known, to have gone about stirring up trouble in the bazars, & many have now been deported to isolated places & guarded, like the Boer prisoners. They say a German either put, or bribed a native to put, this bomb in the Lahore fort, which would have been truly awful thing if it hadn’t been for the courage of a Capt. Rock, I think his name ism who, receiving a letter to say “Beware of fire tonight,” instantly thought of the Fort & rushed off there; seizing the bomb in his hand he fled outside with it ticking away, & flung it from him, but not before his arms & face were burnt” (2 Sept. 1914).
George Charles Sholto MacLeod (2nd Battalion, the Black Watch/ Royal Highlanders) was born at Sylhet, Assam on 28 June 1877. At the age of nineteen he joined the ranks of the army, in which he served for over three and a half years. He served during the South African War from 1899-1900 with the Royal Lancaster Regiment, with whom he gained the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (London Gazette 19 April 1901) ‘...for gallantry at Spion Kop, in the absence of stretcher bearers did good work in carrying wounded out of action under hot fire.’ He subsequently took part in the operations on Tugela Heights, where he was severely wounded. He received his commission in the Lancashire Fusiliers in May 1900, and was promoted Lieutenant in April 1901. In April 1905, he obtained special promotion to the Hampshire Regiment, as Captain, and in June 1908 was transferred to the Black Watch with the same rank. He served with the Egyptian Army from 1906 to 1908. Captain MacLeod died in hospital at Bethune, where he was taken after the action at Richebourg on 9 May 1915, suffering from shrapnel wounds. He had been wounded previously in France in November 1914. As well as the D.C.M. And Q.S.A. He is entitled to for his Boer War Service, he was also awarded the 1911 Coronation Medal.
He married Sybil Constance Jeffreys on June 2, 1908, they had two children – Sheila (12 Nov. 1909-1986), and Neil (16 Feb. 1914 - ?).
Price: $1,850.00 USD