Restoring Rabindranath Tagore

  • Mary Lago


In The Reconstruction of India, published in 1930 just before the First Round Table Conference in London, Edward J. Thompson proposed measures that would in his view go far to encourage a new beginning in British-Indian relations. In a 1931 edition, published after the Conference, he explained why he had addressed the book not only to England and India but to America as well. He placed little trust in ‘the books by which the American public forms its opinions of Indian affairs’, for they gave that public a drastically distorted picture of the situation.1 Americans liked to think that in the Indian resistance to British control they were seeing their own early history repeated, and they tended to give things Indian a thick coating of romanticism. Neither in politics nor in cultural affairs was this desirable; Thompson wrote:

It is intolerable that a whole field of human experience and activity, a field so vast and varied, should continue to be the home of ignorance and pedantry and brag and complacency. The main outlines of Indian legend and history and belief must become part of the normal equipment of educated men and women everywhere. The angry ghosts of nationalism and imperialism must be exorcized from the region where they have stalked so long2


India Society Indian Affair Vernacular Literature Bengali Lyric Music Critic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Edward J. Thompson, The Reconstruction of India (London: Faber & Faber, 1931) p.ll.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
    Tagore, Gitanjali (Song-Offerings) (London: The India Society, 1912; Macmillan, 1913) p.xv.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Frances Cornford to Rothenstein [15 July 1912], quoted in Imperfect Encounter: Letters of William Rothenstein and Rabindranath Tagore 1911–1941, ed. Mary Lago (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972) p.19.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    (Unsigned review) The Athenaeum (London) 16 November 1912, p.583.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    (Unsigned review) ibid., 5 April 1913, p.382.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    (Unsigned review) The Spectator (London) 110 (1913), 279.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    (Unsigned review) ‘Romance from Bengal/ The Nation (New York) 96 (1913) 500.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Max Beerbohm distilled these for his 1913 caricature, ‘Mr. William Rothenstein warns Mr. Tagore against being spoilt by occidental success,’ in which Rothenstein sits at the feet of an ethereal-looking Tagore. Reproduced in Imperfect Encounter, p. 205. William Rothenstein (1872–1945), painter and lithographer noted for his portrait work, was Professor of Civic Art at Sheffield University, the first to hold such a post in England, 1917–26; originator of the idea of British War Artists and official artist to the British and the Canadian forces in World War I, and to the Royal Air Force in World War II; Principal, Royal College of Art, 1920–35; Trustee, Tate Gallery, 1927–33; Member, Royal Fine Art Commission, 1931–38. He was knighted in 1931.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See ‘Proceedings of the Society’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 58 (1909–10) 274–85. Ernest B. Havell (1861–1934) was Superintendent, Madras School of Art, 1884–92; Principal, Calcutta School of Art, 1896–1906. Sir George Birdwood (1832–1917), Bombay Medical Staff, from 1854; Royal Commissioner for Indian and Colonial Exhibition, 1886; Revenue and Statistical Department of the India Office, 1871–1902. Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877–1947), Director, Mineral Survey of Ceylon, 1903–6; Director, Art Section of United Provinces Exhibition, 1910–11; Fellow for Research in Indian, Persian, and Muhammedan Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1917–47.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid., pp.290–1.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    William Rothenstein, Men and Memories, 1900–1922 (London: Faber & Faber, 1932) p.231.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    A. H. Fox Strangways (1859–1948), schoolmaster, Wellington College, 1887–1910; appointed music critic for The Times, 1911; for The Observer, 1925; founder-editor, Music and Letters, 1920–36.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Christiana Jane Powell Herringham (1853–1929), a talented copyist; wife of Sir Wilmot Herringham (1855–1936) who served as Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, 1912–15; Consulting Physician to the Expeditionary Forces in France, 1914–19. For her translation, see The Book of the Art of Cennino Cennini: A Contemporary Practical Treatise on Quatrocento Painting. Translated from the Italian, with Notes on Medieval Art Methods, by Christiana Jane Herringham (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1899; 2nd impression, 1922).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Rothenstein, Six Portraits of Sir Rabindranath Tagore (London: Macmillan, 1915).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Tagore’s letters to Rothenstein also are in the Houghton Library.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Tagore, ‘Londone’ (In London), Rabindra-Racanābali, (Calcutta: Visva-Bharati, 1964–6) xxvi, 513–16. This, and following translations, are mine, with Mrs Krishna Dutta’s assistance.Google Scholar
  18. 18–20.
    Tagore, ‘Bandhu’ (A Friend), ibid., pp.516–21.Google Scholar
  19. 21–22.
    Tagore, ‘Kabi Ietsh’ (Poet Yeats), ibid., pp.521–8.Google Scholar
  20. 23–25.
    Tagore, ‘Stāphard Bruk’ (Stopford Brooke), ibid., pp.528–39.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    William Butler Yeats, Introduction to Gitanjali, p.viii. The Bengali doctor was D. N. Maitra (1878–1950), Resident Surgeon of the Mayo Hospital, Calcutta.Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    Ibid., pp.x, xi, xx.Google Scholar
  23. 28.
    Tagore, Sadhana: The Realization of Life (London: Macmillan, 1913).Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    Tagore to Rothenstein, 2 December 1912; quoted in Imperfect Encounter, p.69.Google Scholar
  25. 30.
    Krishna Kripalani, Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography (New York: Grove Press, 1962) p.222.Google Scholar
  26. 31.
    (Unsigned ‘Notes’) The Nation (New York), 97 (1913) 541.Google Scholar
  27. 32.
    Helen Bullis [review] The Sun (New York), 6 December 1913, p.9.Google Scholar
  28. 33.
    By 1917 comments in this vein became quite specific: for example, in the New York Sun, quoted in The Literary Digest, 54, Pt. 1 (1917) 540–1: ‘Mr. Tagore has seen many Americans. Does he know America? Have his audiences been composed of typical representatives of this great democracy? It does not seem to be an affirmative answer that flashes to us from the Golden Gate.’ [i.e. when leaving America in 1917.]Google Scholar
  29. 34.
    (Unsigned review) ‘The Circle and the Centre.’ The Nation (London) 14 (1913) 499.Google Scholar
  30. 35.
    (Unsigned review) ‘The Neo-Hinduism of Bengal,’ The Spectator, 112 (1914) 266.Google Scholar
  31. 36.
    See ‘Greatest Living Poet of Hindustan Arrives: Winner of the Nobel Prize Seeks Funds for His School for Boys,’ The Los Angeles Times, 19 September 1916, Part 1, p.l. The accompanying photograph is captioned, ‘Shakespeare of the East Here.’ The article described him as ‘above six feet tall, the head of a Greek god over which flows a mass of soft grey locks, a full high brow, and a figure straight as an Indian’s of the [American] plains.…Tagore thinks in the realm of the spiritual, the beautiful.’Google Scholar
  32. 37.
    Lyman Abbott, ‘A Voice from the East,’ The Outlook (New York), 114 (1916) 794–7.Google Scholar
  33. 38.
    Paul E. More, ‘Rabindranath Tagore,’ The Nation (New York), 103 (1916) 506–7.Google Scholar
  34. 39.
    Tagore to Harriet Monroe, 4 October 1916; quoted in Sujit Mukherjee, Passage to America: The Reception of Rabindranath Tagore in the United States, 1912–1941 (Calcutta: Bookland Private Ltd., 1964) p.83.Google Scholar
  35. 40.
    (Unsigned review) in The Athenaeum (London), October 1917, p.522.Google Scholar
  36. 41.
    (Unsigned review) ‘The Protest of a Seer,’ The Times Literary Supplement, 13 September 1917, p.435.Google Scholar
  37. 42.
    (Unsigned review) ‘The Neo-Hindu in America and Japan,’ The Spectator (London), 119 (1917) 386–7.Google Scholar
  38. 43.
    Tagore, Nationalism (New York and London: Macmillan, 1917) p. 19.Google Scholar
  39. 44.
    Ibid., p.46.Google Scholar
  40. 45.
    Ibid., p.94.Google Scholar
  41. 46.
    Ibid., p.143.Google Scholar
  42. 47.
    Tagore to Rothenstein, 2 August 1916; quoted in Imperfect Encounter, p.232.Google Scholar
  43. 48.
    Rothenstein to Tagore, 4 October 1916; quoted ibid., p.233.Google Scholar
  44. 49.
    Rothenstein to Max Beerbohm, 5 August [1920]; quoted in Max and Will: Max Beerbohm and William Rothenstein: their friendship and letters, 1893 to 1945, p. 113. Eds Mary Lago and Karl Beckson (London: John Murray; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972).Google Scholar
  45. 50.
    Edward J. Thompson, Robert Bridges 1844–1950 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1944).Google Scholar
  46. 51.
    Katherine Henn, Rabindranath Tagore: A Bibliography. ATLA Bibliography Series, No. 13 (Metuchen, NJ, and London: The American Theological Library Association and The Scarecrow Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  47. 52.
    See David Kopf, The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind (Princeton University Press, 1979);Google Scholar
  48. Stephen Hay, ‘Rabindranath Tagore in America,’ American Quarterly, 14 (1962) 439–63;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 53.
    Tagore, ‘Kabi letsh,’ in Father Shanchay (notes 21–22 above).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mary Lago and Ronald Warwick 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Lago

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations