Hartly House, Calcutta

Phebe Gibbes

This novel is a designedly political document. Written at the time of the Hastings impeachment and set in the period of Hastings’s Orientalist government, Hartly House, Calcutta (1789) represents a dramatic delineation of the Anglo-Indian encounter. The novel constitutes a significant intervention in the contemporary debate concerning the nature of Hastings’s rule of India by demonstrating that it was characterised by an atmosphere of intellectual sympathy and racial tolerance. Within a few decades the Evangelical and Anglicising lobbies frequently condemned Brahmans as devious beneficiaries of a parasitic priestcraft, but Phebe Gibbes’s portrayal of Sophia’s Brahman and the religion he espouses represent a perception of India dignified by a sympathetic and tolerant attempt to dispel prejudice.


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