Part One: CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH - IV. I Visit the Western World
I Visit the Western World
WITH APPROACHING MANHOOD my life shaped itself into new channels of its own. More and more the duties and decisions implicit in my inherited position devolved on me. I was never indeed subject to any Regency, in the accepted sense, and as my capacity to make decisions increased, so my mother and my uncles encouraged me to accept responsibility. My mother, who had insisted on the educational discipline of my early boyhood, was as shrewd and watchful as she was loving. She and I remained, throughout her long life, in the closest, most affectionate intimacy. Every night in those years I would go to her apartments and join with her in prayer -- that prayer for unity, for companionship on high, which is the core of Muslim faith. This shared experience gave us both, I think, the strength to bear our load of fatigue and anxiety, mental and spiritual, which was by no means light during these difficult years. But my mother's religion was resolutely practical as well; she saw no virtue in faith without works, and from the outset of my public career I accepted and sought to practice the same standards.
My education continued until I was eighteen. Mr. Kenny, my English tutor, once more exerted his beneficent influence and persuaded my mentors that I could give up my hated calligraphy. My mind was opening rapidly to new horizons; in my reading I began to range widely, in English and French as well as in Persian and Arabic; I discovered the intellectual delight -- the precision and clarity -- of Mill's system of logic. I read voraciously in history and biography, and with my cousin Shamsuddin I became an insatiable reader of novels -- a diversion, I may say, whose pleasures have never faded.
On my father's death his racing stables, of course, became my property; and although I was a minor my horses raced under my name year after year, and long before I was out of my teens His Highness the Aga Khan's horses were well known -- and not without their successes -- on the turf of Western India. There my inherited and environmental influences made themselves obvious from the first. All my family -- my mother not excluded -- were keen followers of racing form, English as well as Indian. We were knowledgeable about the English turf; Ormone's glorious triumphs, for example, meant almost as much to us as they did to his backers on English racecourses. I well remember that when I was quite small the victor in any pony races between myself and my cousins was hailed for the rest of the day as "Fred Archer." Archer's death in tragic circumstances plunged us all in gloom, almost as if a close friend had committed suicide.
My successes as an owner were not insignificant. I may claim that for a time I -- and my cousin Aga Shamsuddin, who was part owner with me of a number of excellent horses -- dominated the turf in Western India. Four times in succession I won the Nizam's Gold Cup -- the most important and valuable race in Western India. With a horse called Yildiz I won the Governor's Cup in Poona during these years, and again somewhat later.
I took up hunting, not of course fox hunting as in England, but jackal hunting both in Poona and Bombay. It happens that I have never hunted the fox in England, but frankly I know no more exhilarating sport than jackal hunting over the rice fields in Bombay on an early, cold winter morning when the scent is good and the hounds get a good long run after the wily jackal.
I was a pioneer of another sport in India -- hockey, which nowadays is one of the main national games of both India and Pakistan. I began to play it with my cousin and other companions of my own age in the early nineties. I encouraged interest in the game; I gave the cups; I got the Indian Army to play. Teams were built up among the various communities in Bombay, and competitions extended steadily all over India. Hockey and cricket developed at much the same time in India, cricket fostered and encouraged by the then Governor of Bombay, Lord Harris; young Indians who had been to England for some part of their education continued the game when they came home, and it exerted an appeal which it has never lost and which has extended to wider and wider circles in India and Pakistan, both of which now produce teams of Test Match caliber and quality.
In my late teens I took up boxing, and made a serious study and use of Eugene Sandow's System of Physical Culture. All my life I have been a keen advocate and practitioner of simple, forthright principles of physical fitness. I have always been a believer in steady exercise. I was a great walker, I took up golf after I was fifty, and one of the catchphrases which journalists used about me was that my two great ambitions were "to win the Derby and the Open Golf Championship." Well, I have won the Derby -- and more than once; the other ambition (if it was ever more than a journalist's invention!) is unfulfilled, but my handicap for years was twelve. I have never believed, as many Englishmen do, in cramming a great deal of exercise into a few hours over the week end, and taking little or none during the rest of the week; a certain amount of steady exercise every day has been my habit -- exercise to be fitted into the program of a busy day.
A memorable experience of my later boyhood was meeting Mark Twain. I spent a whole afternoon in his company and finished by having dinner with him at Watson's Hotel in Bombay, where he was staying. He had a pleasant, utterly unassuming charm and a friendliness of manner which captivated the serious-minded lad that I was.
He had amassed a considerable fortune, I believe, and had lost it in bad speculation. Now in old age he had to begin to earn his living all over again; therefore he was traveling around the world and interviewing people on the way. * He showed absolutely no sign of bitter ness or resentment against his misfortune. He seemed to me dear, gentle and saintly, sad and immensely modest for so great and famous a genius.
* Incidentally, he refers to our encounter in his subsequent book, Following the Equator.
More and more as my teens advanced, my days were busy. I was keenly aware that I possessed a dual responsibility, perhaps a dual opportunity: first, in India, as the leader of an influential group within the wide Muslim community at an epoch when political aspirations were stirring and second, as the head of a far-ranging international community, a spiritual chief whose authority extended, in a tenuous yet sensitive network, into the heart of many lands and many peoples. I could never be solely an Indian nationalist, although from 1892, under the influence of wise and good men such as Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Mr. Badruddin Tyebjee, I took the standpoint of moderate Indian nationalism of that time. My unique task, in a world in which the first hints and rumbles of impending conflict were to be discerned, was surely international. My followers were to be found in Burma and Southeast Asia, in greater and greater numbers along the East African seaboard from Mombasa to East London and inland in South Africa; in Syria, Persia, Afghanistan, in Chinese Turkestan, in Russian territories in the heart of Central Asia, and the Mesopotamian provinces of Turkey which were later to be known as Iraq. My home inevitably was a sounding board of ideas and beliefs, hopes, fears and aspirations from all over the Islamic world. My primary advice, indeed my mandate, to my followers who were citizens of many countries had to be then -- and always has been -- that the loyalty which they owe to my house and person is a spiritual and nontemporal loyalty, that their temporal allegiance is fully engaged to the State of which they are citizens, and that it is an absolute part of their duty to be good citizens. All my work, in politics and diplomacy all my life, is comprehensible in terms of this dual responsibility with which from my earliest days I have been charged.
At the end of 1895 and the beginning of 1896 I was on the verge of manhood. The reins of my life's task were now fully in my hands. My tutors took their farewell and bowed their way out of my life.
I, like many youths of my age in the East, thought of marriage; and naturally enough I looked around me in the small, confined family circle in which I had grown up. One of my earliest playmates in my childhood had been my cousin, Shahzadi Begum, whose father, Aga Jungishah, was my uncle and one of my early mentors and exemplars. In our adolescence, as was usual in our time and society, we saw little or nothing of each other, but as I approached manhood I became sharply aware of my cousin's beauty and charm, and I fell in love with her. It has been alleged, unkindly and unjustly, that my first marriage was a "state marriage," arranged for my cousin and myself by our parents for dynastic reasons. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was a youth in love, groping toward that experience, that mingling of joy and pain, which turns a boy into a man. Mine and mine only was the initiative in the matter of marriage. I told my mother of my feelings and begged her to approach my uncle and his wife on my behalf, and ask their permission for me to marry Shahzadi. The overtures were made, my formal proposal was accepted. We were to be married within the year. Meanwhile my uncle and aunt, with their daughter and her brother, Shah Abbas, set forth on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The party, having made the Haj, set out for home, and on their way stayed for a time, as was customary, in Jeddah, the port on the Red Sea through which the vast majority of pilgrims to Mecca come and go. My uncle and cousin were assassinated in brutal and violent circumstances; and my aunt and her daughter were in the house when the murders were committed. Police investigation in the Western sense did not exist in Jeddah in those days; communications were scanty and unreliable. The Bombay police closely questioned returning Indian pilgrims and though much about the affray was, and has always remained, obscure, and although the assailants were said either to have immediately poisoned themselves or to have been beaten to death by the horror-struck attendants and bystanders, it is at least clear that my uncle and his son were the victims of dastardly religious fanaticism.
This ghastly tragedy had a profound effect on me, both physically and emotionally. All through that summer I was seriously ill, a prey to a succession of fevers, with painful rheumatic symptoms. In October, when the great heat of the summer was over and the monsoon rains had passed, I made my first journey to Northern India. Hitherto my traveling outside Western and Southern India, except for visits to Baghdad and to Bushire and Muscat, had been extremely restricted. I now, however, acquired a taste for travel which I have certainly never abandoned. On this first trip I visited the great shrines and centers of Muslim India at Agra, Delhi and Lahore: that magnificent group of monuments to Islamic civilization and culture -- the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort in Delhi, and the Friday Mosque, and those exquisite gems, the Pearl Mosques at Delhi and Agra. My way led me, too, to the Anglo-Muslim College (as it then was) at Aligarh, where I met Sir Syed Ahmed and Nawab Mohsen-ul-Molk. This was the origin of what was for many years one of the crucial concerns of my life -- my interest in the extension and improvement of Muslim higher education, and specially the college and university at Aligarh.
I took up its cause then with a youthful fervor which I have never regretted. Aligarh in the 1890's was an admirable institution, but it was hampered and restricted by lack of funds and lack of facilities. Did I realize then, young as I was, that it had in it to become a great powerhouse of Muslim thought and culture and learning, in full accord with Islamic tradition and teaching, yet adapted to the outlook and the techniques of our present age? No one could have foretold all that did in fact happen; but I do know that I was on fire to see Aligarh's scope widened and its usefulness extended, and to find the money for it, by any short-cut means if necessary. Why not, said I in my youthful rashness, go to some great American philanthropist -- Mr. Rockefeller or Mr. Carnegie -- and ask for a substantial grant?
My new friends were older and sager. It was our responsibility, they said, within our own sixty or seventy million-strong Muslim community in India; if we sought for outside help, even from the richest and most philanthropically inclined of American multimillionaires, we should be dishonored for all time. They were right, of course. For this was an age which had not experienced two world wars and had never heard of Point Four. But that decision, and my own zeal in the cause which I had taken up, led (as such decisions are apt to lead) to years of arduous and all-demanding toil, the journeyings, the speechmaking, the sitting on committees, the fight against apathy and the long, long discussions with those in high places, which are the lot of those who commit themselves to such an endeavor.
Often in civilized history a university has supplied the springboard for a nation's intellectual and spiritual renascence. In our time it has been said that the American Robert Missionary College in Constantinople led to the re-emergence of Bulgaria as an independent, sovereign nation. Who can assess the effect on Arab nationalism of the existence of the American University of Beirut? Aligarh is no exception to this rule. But we may claim with pride that Aligarh was the product of our own efforts and of no outside benevolence; and surely it may also be claimed that the independent, sovereign nation of Pakistan was born in the Muslim University of Aligarh.
Reinvigorated and restored to health by my travels I went home at the end of the year to our wedding ceremonies and celebrations. It was a double wedding. For at the same time Shahzadi's brother, my trusted friend Aga Shamsuddin, was married to another of our cousins. Our nuptials were celebrated with all the appropriate ritual and rejoicing; and then sorrow beset myself and my bride.
It is a long-ago story of young unhappiness, and it can be briefly and sadly told. We were both ignorant and innocent; our ignorance and innocence set a gulf between us which knowledge, wisely and salutarily applied, could have bridged. We were too shy to acquire that knowledge, too innocent even to know how to set about getting it. Tenderness and diffused affection -- and my wife had all that I could give -- were no use for our forlorn plight. Ours was no less a tragedy because, under the iron conventions of the time, it was both commonplace and concealed. Mine, I thought, was the blame for the grief and misunderstanding that embroiled us; and this deepened my affection for my wife; but for her, baffled and bewildered as she was, the affection I offered was no substitute nor atonement. Inevitably we drifted apart, she to a private purgatory of resentment and reproach, and I to the activities and interests of the outside world.
For me relief was legitimately much easier, for my official and political life rapidly became full and vigorous, and there was a great deal of sheer hard work to be done. If my marriage was a sour sham, my duties and responsibilities were real and earnest in this year of 1897.
During the previous year there had been sinister rumors that an epidemic of bubonic plague was sedulously and remorselessly spreading westward across Asia. There had been a bad outbreak in Hong Kong; sporadically it appeared in towns and cities farther and farther west. When in the late summer of 1897 it hit Bombay there was a natural and general tendency to discredit its seriousness; but within a brief time we were all compelled to face the fact that it was indeed an epidemic of disastrous proportions. Understanding of the ecology of plague was still extremely incomplete in the nineties. The medical authorities in Bombay were overwhelmed by the magnitude, and (as it seemed) the complexity, of the catastrophe that had descended on the city. Their reactions were cautious and conservative. Cure they had none, and the only preventative that they could offer was along lines of timid general hygiene, vaguely admirable but unsuited to the precise problem with which they had to deal. Open up, they said; let fresh air and light into the little huts, the hovels and the shanties in which hundreds of thousands of the industrial and agricultural proletariat in Bombay Presidency lived; and when you have let in fresh air, sprinkle as much strong and strong-smelling disinfectant as you can. These precautions were not only ineffective; they ran directly counter to deep-rooted habits in the Indian masses. Had they obviously worked, they might have been forgiven, but as they obviously did not, and the death roll mounted day by day, it was inevitable that there was a growing feeling of resentment.
It was a grim period. The plague had its ugly, traditional effect on public morals. Respect for law and order slipped ominously. There were outbreaks of looting and violence. Drunkenness and immorality increased; and there was a great deal of bitter feeling against the Government for the haphazard and inefficient way in which it was tackling the crisis. The climax was reached with the assassination (on his way home from a Government House function) of one of the senior British officials responsible for such preventative measures as had been undertaken.
Now it happened that the Government of Bombay had at its disposal a brilliant scientist and research worker, Professor Haffkinez, a Russian Jew, who had come to work on problems connected with cholera; he had induced the authorities to tackle cholera by mass inoculation and had had in this sphere considerable success. He was a determined and energetic man. He was convinced that inoculation offered a method of combating bubonic plague. He pressed his views on official quarters in Bombay -- without a great deal of success. Controversy seethed around him, but he had little chance to put his views into practice. Meanwhile people were dying like flies -- among them many of my own followers.
I knew that something must be done, and I knew that I must take the initiative. I was not, as I have already recounted, entirely without scientific knowledge; I knew something of Pasteur's work in France. I was convinced that the Surgeon General's Department was working along the wrong lines. I by-passed it and addressed myself directly to Professor Haffkine. He and I formed an immediate alliance and a friendship that was not restricted solely to the grim business that confronted us. This, by now, was urgent enough. I could at least and at once give him facilities for his research and laboratory work. I put freely at his disposal one of my biggest houses, a vast, rambling palace not far from Aga Hall (it is now a part of St. Mary's College, Mazagaon); here he established himself, and here he remained about two years until the Government of India, convinced of the success of his methods, took over the whole research project and put it on a proper, adequate and official footing.
Meanwhile I had to act swiftly and drastically. The impact of the plague among my own people was alarming. It was in my power to set an example. I had myself publicly inoculated, and I took care to see that the news of what I had done was spread as far as possible and as quickly as possible.
My followers could see for themselves that I, their Imam, had in full view of many witnesses submitted myself to this mysterious and dreaded process; hence there was no danger in following my example. The immunity, of which my continued health and my activities were obvious evidence, impressed itself on their consciousness and conquered their fear.
I was twenty years old. I ranged myself (with Haffkine, of course) against orthodox medical opinion of the time -- among Europeans no less than among Asiatics. And if the doctors were opposed to the idea of inoculation, what of the views of ordinary people, in my own household and entourage, in the public at large? Ordinary people were extremely frightened. Looking back across more than half a century, may I not be justified in feeling that the young man that I was showed a certain amount of courage and resolution?
At any rate it worked. Among my own followers the news circulated swiftly, as I had intended it to do, that their Imam had been inoculated and that they were to follow my example. Deliberately I put my leadership to the test. It survived and vindicated itself in a new and perhaps dramatic fashion. My followers allowed themselves to be inoculated, not in a few isolated instances, but as a group. Within a short time statistics were firmly on my side; the death rate from plague was demonstrably far, far lower among Ismailis than in any other section of the community; the number of new cases, caused by contamination, was sharply reduced; and finally the incidence of recovery was far higher.
A man's first battle in life is always important. Mine had taught me much, about myself and about other people. I had fought official apathy and conservatism, fear and ignorance -- my past foretold my future, for they were foes that were to confront me again and again throughout my life.
By the time the crisis was passed I may have seemed solemn beyond my years, but I possessed an inner self-confidence and strength that temporary and transient twists of fortune henceforth could not easily shake. A by-product of the influence and the authority which I had exerted was that others than my own Ismaili followers looked to me for leadership. The year 1897 was Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. It was natural enough that I should go to Simla to present to the Viceroy, Lord Elgin, an address of loyalty and congratulations to Her Majesty as hereditary Imam of my own Ismaili sect; but, in fact, I went in a triple capacity. I presented three addresses, one from my own community, another as leader and representative of the Muslims of Western India, and a third on behalf of a representative assemblage of the citizens of Bombay and Poona.
Lord Elgin received me graciously and hospitably. I was invited to luncheon by Field Marshal Sir George White, then Commander in Chief in India. The Field Marshal's nickname was Sir George the Dragon Killer, and no man could have better looked the part than this gauntly handsome, old warrior -- immensely tall, strong and stern of visage. Sitting there beside him at luncheon I had a sudden vision of the old man kilted, claymore in hand, fiercely challenging all comers, human and animal, a dragon or two, a squadron of cavalry or a herd of rhinoceros. There was still, you see, a vein of romanticism in the young man who had with gravity and propriety presented his three official addresses to His Excellency, the Viceroy.
I returned to Bombay to prepare for my biggest and most important journey hitherto.
I set out to discover the Europe of which I had read and heard so much, which beckoned with so insistent and imperious an attraction.
In our distracted and war-battered epoch there is a deep, nostalgic sadness in recalling the splendors and the security-both seemingly unshakable -- which Western European civilization had attained in the last decade of the nineteenth century. As a young man I saw that old world at its zenith. I have lived to watch all the vicissitudes of its strange and swift decline. When I first set foot on the soil of Europe, just half a century had elapsed since the convulsions of 1848. Peace, prosperity and progress seemed universal and allenveloping. True enough the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 had flashed grim warnings for those prescient enough to see them, but to many that conflict seemed a temporary and regrettable divagation from the general and steady trend toward human betterment. Britain, whose world hegemony, founded on absolute naval supremacy, seemed unchallengeable, was powerful and prosperous as never before under the rule of her august Queen; not since 1815 had she been compelled to intervene in any major Continental conflict, and generations of her statesmen and diplomats were trained in the essential art and duty of retaining the balance of power in Europe. In spite of a few minatory signs of military, social and economic danger or discontent, the dominant notes in the Europe of 1898 were those of serenity and affluence.
Thither I set out from Bombay early in February. I was a little more than twenty years of age. Two members of my household accompanied me as personal attendants. We traveled to Marseilles in a brand-new liner of the Messageries Maritime fleet. In passing I may say that -- at any rate so far as the routes to India, Africa and the Far East are concerned -- the crack ships of the late nineties were really much better to travel in than their alleged "luxury" twentieth-century successors. Their cabins were more spacious and comfortable and all their amenities were on a far more civilized scale. A great deal of show and chromium plate does not, to my mind, compensate for a decrease in solid comfort.
From Marseilles I went straight to Nice. It was the height of the Riviera winter season; in those days the south of France had no summer season. Every hotel in every resort along the Côte d'Azur was packed, and I had the greatest difficulty in finding accommodation. After all, a considerable proportion of the royalty, nobility and gentry of Europe was concentrated along this strip of coast line. Queen Victoria was at Cimiez; and at length I found myself a room in the hotel in which the Queen was staying. Of pretty small account I was in the vast, glittering, aristocratic and opulent company gathered for the Riviera season: the Emperor Franz Joseph at Cap Martin, a score or so of Russian grand dukes and Austrian archdukes in their villas and palaces, half the English peerage with a generous sprinkling of millionaires from industry and finance; and most of the Almanach de Gotha from Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Balkan countries lately "emancipated" from Ottoman rule, and Czarist Russia. The young man from Bombay was dazzled and awed.
I knew nobody. I think the only people, other than my own personal attendants, to whom I spoke half a dozen words were the hotel staff and the officials at the Casino in Monte Carlo. But I enjoyed myself enormously -- looking and listening. I went out for long drives from Cimiez along the coast to Monte Carlo and Menton. I stared at the shop windows -- and what shop windows, those of jewelers especially! After more than fifty years I have a vivid recollection of the solid wealth on display for the eyes of the wealthiest people in Europe, whether they were financiers or landowners from England or Moscow millowners. There were none of your present-day bits and pieces of gold and silver and worthless stones made up into trumpery trinkets; no -- this was real jewelry, great sparkling diamonds, pearls, rubies, emeralds and sapphires winking and gleaming in the bright winter sun.
At Cannes, at Nice, at Monte Carlo the streets were packed in the fashionable hours with the carriages of the great and the wealthy, handsome landaus and victorias with fine, high-stepping horses and coachmen and footmen in dashing liveries. I remember that there were one or two automobiles on show as curiosities in front of the Hôtel de Paris at Monte Carlo. How elegant was the disdain with which the fashionable crowd regarded these noisy, smelly toys! Few then had the foresight to see in them the predecessors not only of today's Concours d'Élégance but of the great, silver-winged, jetpropelled aircraft which shoot across the sky.
Though prosperity was to some extent diffused through all the towns and villages along the Côte d'Azur and though there was no hunger and there were no rags, and the poorest had at least one solid meat meal a day, it cannot be said that living was cheap on the Riviera in the nineties. For accommodations and service at the best hotel for myself and two valets, my daily bill -- with no extravagance and no entertainment of any kind -- was about two hundred gold francs. That translated into present-day terms would be nearly forty thousand francs a day. But were it possible to live at the same rate and on the same scale as I did on that first trip of mine, I daresay my bill -in contemporary terms -- would work out at about six thousand to seven thousand francs a day. So in relation to the gold standard of the nineties, the cost of living -- my sort of living in those days -- was five or six times as high as it is now.
Since I was staying in the same hotel as Queen Victoria, I had frequent opportunities of watching her go out to and return from her daily drives in her landau. She was helped in and out of her carriage by Indian servants from her personal household. I and my own attendants reached the same, rather strange conclusion, and, I may say, it was reinforced later when I saw her servants at closer quarters at Windsor: they were distinctly second-class servants, of the kind that you find around hotels and restaurants, the kind that the newly arrived or transient European is apt to acquire in the first hotel in which he stays -- very different from and very inferior to the admirable, trustworthy and very high-grade men whom, throughout the years of British rule in India, one would encounter at Viceregal Lodge or at Government House in any of the provinces. It seemed highly odd, and frankly it still does. Was the explanation possibly that the pay offered was not good enough to attract the first-rate man overseas? Of course after Queen Victoria's death there was a change; successive King-Emperors had no Indian menial servants, but there were several posts of honor in the Royal Household for Indian aides-de-camp and orderly officers.
I had ten memorable days on the Riviera, and then off I set for Paris. I have praised the comfort of the liners of those days, but no, not the sleeping cars -- anyone who knows the modern wagon-lits or Pullman car, and the glories perhaps of the Blue Train, can have no idea of the cramped, primitive, alleged sleeping car of the nineties and the early 1900's. However, it took me to Paris. I repeat: I was twenty years old, I had steeped myself in French literature and French history of the whole nineteenth century and earlier. I knew the names of the streets, I knew the way Parisians lived, acted and thought. Mine in dreams and in reading was the Paris of the two Napoleons, the Paris of Balzac and of Barrès, of the boulevards and the barricades. Where did I stay but at the famous Hôtel Bristol? What did I do on my first morning in Paris but pay my call at the British Embassy?
I have hinted that I was a solemn young man, very serious about my cultural and scientific interests. In the absence of the Ambassador, the Minister gave me the introductions that I wanted and supplemented those that I had brought with me. To the Carnavalet Museum I went, to the Louvre, to the Bibliothèque Nationale. There I was shown around by the curator of Oriental books and manuscripts, accompanied by M. Solomon Reinach, an eminent archaeologist. He was astonished, he said, that a young man who spoke English and French so fluently could read with case ancient classical Persian and Arabic manuscripts. I was astonished in my turn (though I did not say so) that so distinguished a savant should forget that Persian and Arabic were, after all, my native languages, the languages which my forebears had spoken for hundreds of years.
My friend Professor Haffkine in Bombay had given me a letter of introduction to Dr. Roux of the Pasteur Institute. In the evenings I sallied forth to the theater and the opera. It was not the season in Paris, and therefore there was not the display and the elegance that I had seen at the Riviera. Still I saw Madam Bartet at the Comédie Française and thought her the most enchanting and accomplished actress I had ever seen -- and now with a lifetime in between, that is a verdict which I see no reason to alter. I saw Sarah Bernhardt, but frankly she disappointed me. I never thought she came up to Bartet. I went several times to the opera and except for Faust, every opera that I saw was by Meyerbeer. Who ever hears an opera by Meyerbeer nowadays? His reputation suddenly dropped like a plummet, and yet I think he has been unfairly treated, with a fierce contempt which he does not merit. I know that he is no Wagner; I know that he cannot compare with the best of Mozart or Verdi, but I have a hankering belief that a Meyerbeer revival might prove quite a success.
Not all my time in Paris was spent on culture. I did have letters of introduction to members of the Jockey Club; I did go to the races. And after a fortnight I headed for London.
The private, incognito status in which I had hitherto traveled was no longer possible. I had reached the capital and center of the Empire. At the station to meet me when I arrived was an equerry from Buckingham Palace, representing Her Majesty; and from the India Office, representing the Secretary of State, there was the Political Aide-de-Camp, Sir Gerald Fitzgerald. I went to the Albemarle Hotel in Piccadilly, which was my headquarters and base throughout that spring and summer.
Soon after I reached the hotel the Duke of Connaught, who had known me in my childhood and boyhood at home, paid a call and stayed for a long time. The British Royal Family's watchful and friendly interest in me had not abated.
London in the nineties has been written about ad nauseam, yet it is difficult to exaggerate the magnetic effect and the splendor of London in that sunlit heyday of the Victorian age -- the ease, the security, the affluence, the self-confidence. The City was the financial center of the civilized world, immensely rich, immensely powerful. From Westminster a great Empire was governed with benevolent assurance. If the Foreign Office were dowdy and inconvenient, if the India Office's methods of administering a subcontinent were tortuous and archaic, who could deny the irresistible sense of power and authority concentrated in those few small acres? The outward show of that power and that authority was magnificently impressive. The pound sterling was a gold sovereign, and purchased about eight times what its paper equivalent does today. The gradations from rich to poor were steep; yet throughout much of society there was diffused a general sense of prosperity. There was no welfare state, but there was a robust, genial feeling that Britain was top dog, and there was gaiety, vigor and adventurousness about life for the mass of the people.
Real power, political and economic, was in the hands of a few. The rulers of England and the Empire consisted of a small closed circle of the aristocracy and those members of the rising plutocracy who had attached themselves to, and got themselves accepted by, the aristocracy. To that circle my own rank and the august connections which I possessed gave me a direct and immediate entry. I who have lived to see the demagogue and the dictator in power in a large part of what was once civilized Europe saw in my young manhood, at very close quarters, the oligarchy which controlled Victorian England and the Empire.
The London season was just beginning when I arrived. I was immediately swept into the middle of it all. All doors in society were open to me. I took my place in a glittering, superbly organized round and ritual: Epsom, Ascot, Newmarket; a dinner at Lansdowne House, at Lord Ripon's or Lord Reay's; the opera and a ball at a great ducal mansion; garden parties, country-house week ends. Formal clothes were de rigueur in London, a frock coat or a morning coat, a stiff collar and a silk hat and gloves, however hot the weather. Church parade on a Sunday morning in Hyde Park was a stately occasion, with its own elaborate ceremony. There was the detailed ritual of calling. From royalty downward the whole of society was organized with a care and a rigidity inconceivable today. To recall it all now is indeed to evoke a vanished world.
In due course I was summoned to an audience with Her Majesty at Windsor Castle. She received me with the utmost courtesy and affability. The only other person in the room during this first audience was my old patron, the Duke of Connaught, in whose presence I did not feel shy or overawed. The Queen, enfolded in voluminous black wraps and shawls, was seated on a big sofa. Was she tall or short, was she stout or not? I could not tell; her posture and her wraps made assessments of that kind quite impossible. I kissed the hand which she held out to me. She remarked that the Duke of Connaught was a close friend of my family and myself. She had an odd accent, a mixture of Scotch and German -- the German was perfectly explicable by the fact that she was brought up in the company of her mother, a German princess, and a German governess, Baroness Lehzen. She also had the German conversational trick of interjecting "so" -- pronounced "tzo" -- frequently into her remarks. She observed that since I was a prince myself and the descendant of many kings, she would not ask me to kneel, or to receive the acco lade and the touch of the sword upon my shoulder, but she would simply hand the order to me. I was greatly touched by her consideration and courtesy. This, the K.C.I.E. was the first British Order which I received.
A little later I was bidden to stay the night at the castle and dine with Her Majesty. This too was a memorable experience. I sat at dinner between the Queen and her daughter Princess Beatrice -Princess Henry of Battenberg, mother of Queen Ena of Spain. The Queen was wearing her customary black -- that mourning which, from the day after her husband died, she never put off. On her wrist she wore a large diamond bracelet set in the center of which was a beautiful miniature of the Prince Consort, about three inches long and two inches wide. The Queen was then seventy-nine; the vigor of her bearing and the facility and clarity of her conversation were astonishing.
There were several high officers of State present, including the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Halsbury, a small, squat, unimpressive looking man. I was both surprised and amused when the Queen murmured to me that Lord Halsbury, though not much to look at, was a formidable lawyer and statesman. The Queen talked to me especially about India. Were British senior officials and representatives, she asked, civil or were they wanting in manners toward Indian Princes and gentry? I replied truthfully that so far as I and my family were concerned, we had always been treated with impeccable kindness and courtesy by British officials with whom we came in contact. Throughout dinner the Queen and the two guests to right and left of her -- myself and the Lord Chancellor -- were served by her Indian attendants, who were the same kind of rather second-rate servants whom I had noticed in her entourage at Nice.
The dinner was long and elaborate -- course after course, three or four choices of meat, a hot pudding and an iced pudding, a savory and all kinds of hothouse fruit -- slow and stately in its serving. We sat down at a quarter past nine, and it must have been a quarter of eleven before it was all over. The Queen, in spite of her age, ate and drank heartily -- every kind of wine that was offered and every course, including both the hot and the iced pudding. After dinner, in the state drawing room each guest was presented to Her Majesty and had a few moments' conversation with her. She gave me a jeweled portrait of herself, decorated with the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland and the harp of Ireland -- and the harp was in emeralds. Next morning her munshi, her Indian secretary, came to me and gave me something which the Queen had herself written in Urdu and Arabic characters.
To be Queen-Empress was for Queen Victoria to possess no formal and remote title. She was keenly alert and sensitive to the views and needs of her Indian subjects, and her liking and sympathy for them were warm and genuine. I particularly remember that at dinner she said to me with great earnestness she hoped that when British people in India visited mosques and temples, they conducted themselves with respect and reverence as they would in cathedrals in their own land.
During this visit to England I first made the acquaintance of various other members of the British Royal Family -- first among them, of course, the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII. From the first the Prince was extremely kind to me. He had me at once made an honorary member of his own club, the Marlborough, and some months later, early in 1899, he himself nominated me for full membership. In those days membership in the Marlborough, thus conferred, had a special social and personal significance; one was stamped, as it were, as a personal friend of the Prince of Wales. I may mention in passing that I am still, after more than fifty years, a member of the Marlborough-Windham; and when I am in London, I still drop in there to look at the newspapers. The head hallporter and I are by now quite the oldest inhabitants; he entered the service of the Club in, I think, 1896 or 1897. Together he and I recall old times, and our conversation evokes many, many ghosts whose living presence, as we knew them in our youth, are very real to us.
For the last decade of his life I was honored with the warm, personal friendship of King Edward VII. My association with him was far from formal. He was elderly and I was young, and at the outset a stranger, but he treated me always with the greatest kindness and benevolence. Indeed if I search for a word in which to sum up King Edward's character, the answer is to be found in "benevolent." He wished everybody well. It is perfectly true that he had a great taste for the good things in life, that he enjoyed having a good time; but sincerely and steadily he wanted everyone else -- the humblest as well as the highest of his subjects -- to have a good time too.
He cared a great deal about the alleviation of pain and suffering. His patronage of hospitals was something which he undertook not as a mere Royal duty, nor for that matter as a fad or personal fancy; it was one expression of a deeply felt attitude toward life, a spontaneous and generous sympathy with suffering in all its forms.
Two of his remarks on this subject have been often quoted. I who knew him so well know that they came from the bottom of his heart. "The man who discovers a cure for cancer ought to have a statue to his memory in every capital of Europe." I can bear the very inflexion in his voice as he said that; and the other, about certain diseases which doctors describe as preventable, "If preventable, why not prevented?"
In 1904, when a state visit to India by the then Prince of Wales -later King George V -- was being discussed, I happened to be in England, and the King sent for me in private audience at Buckingham Palace. He questioned me closely and at length about hospital conditions in India, and disclosed considerable knowledge as well as great concern. He was especially worried about the terrible state of hospitals in the big cities, particularly Calcutta, and he told me that he proposed to brief his son thoroughly on this subject and make him insist on a close, personal report on several city hospitals. He said too that he advocated the establishment of homes in the mountains, and in healthier areas of the country, for the prevention and early treatment of tuberculosis.
Nearly two years later, in the summer of 1906, the King, in another long private conversation, reverted in great detail to this subject. He commended the Prince of Wales' work along the lines he had himself indicated, and it was a commendation which I could support from my own knowledge. The King had also had a series of independent reports, and he knew that I, with a group of friends, had established a sanatorium in a hill station for the treatment of tuberculosis in its earlier stages.
King Edward's close interest in pain and sickness and their alleviation (had it something to do perhaps with his own attack of typhoid, which so nearly proved fatal?) was not prompted by his sense of kingly duty, but sprang -- I am convinced -- from his real humanity. It is significant, I think, that it was enhanced and deepened after his own other grave illness, just before his Coronation. He himself was dignified and brave in face of physical pain; but he disliked it exceedingly and sought to diminish its assaults -- for others more than for himself.
It has been widely held that King Edward was anti-German, and that he had a prejudice against Germany as a nation because he did not get on well with his nephew, the Kaiser William II. The evidence to the contrary is strong, both from the King's own lips and from witnesses as reliable as Baron von Eckardstein and Count Wolf Metternich -- both of whom held positions of influence and authority in their respective periods in the Embassy in London -- who went out of their way to tell me that the King was completely sincere in his desire for friendship between Britain and Germany, and that he strove, to the utmost of his ability, to remain on good terms with his nephew. That there were deep and subtle personal differences and difficulties between them cannot be denied. The relationship was almost bound to be strained. The Kaiser acceded to his throne as a very young man, and for a decade or more he was in full control of all the affairs of state in his own country; whereas his uncle, a middle-aged man, chafed at not being allowed any sort of responsibility and indeed not being allowed even to read the Foreign Office papers. The Kaiser was never the most tactful or self-effacing of men; in twentieth-century terms he suffered from an enormous inferiority complex. He never forgot to assert himself. His uncle strove valiantly to repress his natural irritation; it was rarely indeed that he blew up, or behaved toward his nephew other than with courtesy and consideration, albeit tinged with the irony which a sage and experienced man of the world could command.
King Edward had a stern sense of decorum; he knew what was fitting in a King and what was fitting in behavior toward a King. He strongly disliked anybody's taking liberties or taking advantage of his own urbanity and kindness. But I do know of several examples of lapses which earned his peremptory disapproval; yet when the delinquent either wrote directly to His Majesty and apologized or asked for pardon through one of the officials of the palace, and demonstrated that he sincerely regretted his offense, the King not only forgave but forgot, and the offender was never shown the slightest hostility or coldness. King Edward was genuinely magnanimous.
He also possessed a great fund of considerate tact in matters great and small. One winter a wealthy and well-known American resident in Paris, a Mrs. Moore, who was the King's friend and mine (the King was often her guest at dinner at Biarritz), was visiting London. The King called on her one bleak afternoon, when there had been a hard frost all day. Mrs. Moore received the King in her warm drawing room upstairs, and he stayed to tea by her fireside. A few minutes after he had taken his leave there was a knock on the drawing-room door. A Royal footman came in and gave her a note. It was a habit of the King always to have paper, pencils and small envelopes close at hand so that he might jot down any ideas that occurred to him. The King's note to Mrs. Moore that winter afternoon warned her that when she went out she must be very careful because the pavement was slippery and she might easily fall and hurt herself. The King sat waiting in his car until the footman came back from delivering the message.
I recall one occasion when he showed the same tact toward me, and after forty-four years I can still give the precise time and place. It was the Friday of Ascot Week in 1909. The King had asked me to luncheon in the Royal Box. I was sitting at His Majesty's table. When the main dish was served, the waiters by-passed me, a little to my surprise, and then a couple of cutlets were put in front of me.
The King called to me across the table in his strong, deep voice. "I thought you wouldn't like the thing on the menu," he said, "so I ordered those cutlets for you."
I glanced at my neighbor's plate and saw a piece of ham on it. The King had realized that I, as a Muslim, would not want to eat the ham, nor would I like to refuse what was put before me at his table, so carefully he had made his own arrangements.
Digressing for a moment, may I say this sort of tact is essential for people in high places. During Lord Curzon's viceroyalty the eldest son of the then Amir of Afghanistan paid a state visit to Calcutta. On the night of his arrival a special state banquet was given in his honor. I was one of the guests; I sat opposite the Afghan Prince and had a front-row view of a lamentable affair. To my dismay I realized that the soup was well laced with sherry; before the Prince had time to lift his first spoonful to his lips, the political agent who was sitting beside him said in officious and self-important tones: "Your Highness, there is sherry in this soup."
In supposed strict conformity with Muslim canons, the Prince put aside his soup untouched. His fish course had nothing obnoxious about it and he tucked into it happily enough. The first entree had some slices of ham in it, and sadly the Prince watched that go past him. Then there was a vegetable dish, and it was clearly, blatantly decorated with bits of bacon fat. All the main part of the dinner was thus an unprofitable blank for the poor Prince. At last came the ice cream. Eagerly the Prince prepared to attack it.
"Your Highness," said the officious politico, "it's got chartreuse in it."
Resignedly the Prince put his spoon down again -- and compensated himself, in the end, with a cheese savory and some dessert. It was curious that Lord Curzon never had the slightest awareness that his chief guest left the table hungry. It was all the more odd in that Lord Curzon in his own house -- I was more than once his guest at Hackwood -- was the most considerate and thoughtful host imaginable. The explanation was, I suppose, that as Viceroy he left the day-to-day running of his house to his staff, and someone blundered -- in a fashion which Lord Curzon would never have permitted in his own home.
I will confess that I myself have been embroiled in a similar disaster -- in Bombay, and at the Willington Club of all places, whose head steward was a Parsee. I gave a big dinner party at which a number of Hindu Maharajahs were my guests. I went to the Club beforehand and told the steward who my guests were to be; I said that they were very strict about their food and that of course on no account should beef be served.
"I understand, Your Highness," said he. "I shall be very careful. Nothing wrong will happen, I assure you."
We sat down to dinner, quite an assemblage of Hindu Maharajahs, some of them Rajputs of the most orthodox religious outlook. Everything went along agreeably until the main course was served. Then to my horror I saw plate after big plate of ox-tongue. My guests could well construe this miserable faux-pas as a direct and studied insult; I apologized abjectly. As soon as dinner was over, I found the steward and rated him soundly.
"What on earth were you up to? I warned you not to serve beef!"
"But, Your Highness," he expostulated, "they were ox-tongues." He was a Parsee, he had lived in India all his life, and incredible as it may seem, he still thought that ox-tongue would not count as beef.
The effect of this kind of prohibition or instruction about diet, imposed in one's childhood, with the sanction of religion to support it and the tradition probably of many centuries, is strong and long enduring. I remember that I was once dining in Europe with an Indian friend, a Hindu, a man of profound learning and wide culture, whose reaction when a calf's head was put on the table was one of obvious shock and deep distress. He seemed to be almost on the edge of a nervous collapse. A few days later when I asked him why -- apart from a quite understandable religious disapproval -he had been so upset, he said that for him to see a calf's head thus displayed on a table was as immediately horrifying as if a human baby's head had been offered.
"How would you feel," he said, "if the chef cooked you a baby's head and served it in aspic, tastefully garnished?"
There is no ready answer. I once asked another friend, a wise and highly educated Brahmin, a Cambridge scholar, whether he -who had never had any animal food in his life, except milk products, and whose ancestors for two thousand years or so had never touched eggs, fish or meat -- had any instinctive feeling of repulsion to this kind of food.
He hesitated for a long time and at length answered, "You know, if you had been brought up as I have been, I doubt if you would ever, all your life, get over the instinctive horror of the stink of meat or fish or eggs."
Well, I have wandered some distance from London in that faroff summer of 1898, a long way from my first introduction to London society. I have spoken of its gaieties, its splendors, its race meetings, its garden parties, its great dinners, its nights at the opera, perhaps after the opera a final, late-night call at the Marlborough, and a chat with the Prince of Wales -- he had a way of dropping in at the club on his way home for a last drink (hot water, lemon and gin it always was) -- but I must not give the impression that I spent all my time frivolously.
My friend Professor Haffkine in Bombay had given me more than one introduction to distinguished scientists in England, including Lord Lister, the great surgeon, who was most hospitable. I also met Lord Kelvin, then the doyen of English scientists, who (as I have remarked elsewhere) assured me that flying in heavier-than-air machines was a physical impossibility. I was often the guest of the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, at whose house I met several of the leading spiritualists of the period.
I called too on Miss Florence Nightingale. She and the Baroness, next to Queen Victoria herself, were the most eminent women of the time. Though by now advanced in years and a complete invalid, confined to a sofa in her drawing room in her Park Lane home, Miss Nightingale retained a formidable interest in affairs. One of the topics on which she kept herself most closely and fully informed was the British administration of India -- especially so far as it concerned matters of health and hygiene. Over the years she had constituted herself an august unofficial adviser to the Raj, although she had never been to India. Both the India Office and the War Office knew the strength and urgency of Miss Nightingale's memoranda. No newly appointed Viceroy would have dared, before he left England to take up his appointment, to omit a call on Miss Nightingale, and for all of them a profitable and helpful experience it proved to be. She laid out the plans for the system of military cantonments established for British garrisons all over India; she devised a medical administrative system, and systems of pay and allowances which subsisted almost without change in detail, certainly without change in principle, until the end of British rule in India.
It was perfectly natural that I should call on her. Lytton Strachey, that entertaining but far from reliable historian, chose in his essay on Miss Nightingale in Eminent Victorians to give an account of my first visit to her which is a ludicrous caricature. What he omits to mention is that we became fast friends and that I went back to see her again and again. Naturally enough she talked at length, eloquently and earnestly, about what could and could not be done for the betterment of health in India, particularly among women and children.
I ventured, however, on more general topics. I was, as I have indicated, a serious young man, and I asked Miss Nightingale whether she thought that there had been any real improvement in human affairs since her youth, whether faith in God had extended and deepened. Lytton Strachey waxed sarcastic about my question, but I still think it was very much to the point. Miss Nightingale, anyway, saw it as such, and discussed it with the gravity with which I had propounded it. After all, there had occurred in Miss Nightingale's lifetime (and in mine it has been redoubled) a vast and rapid increase in man's power to exploit his natural resources -- from steam propulsion to the internal combustion engine and thence to atomic fission -- whose relation to or divorce from faith in God and all that such faith means in action, is a topic of some importance. Miss Nightingale did not see fit, like Mr. Lytton Strachey, to dismiss it with a snigger; she gave me her views on it and she honored me henceforth with her friendship.
That same summer I met another great figure in the history of the British Army, Field Marshal Lord Wolseley. Sir Alfred Lyall gave a breakfast party at which the guests were Leonard Courtney, the Liberal writer and politician (later Lord Courtney), Mr. Paul, historian and editor, Lord Wolseley and myself. Somebody mentioned Mr. Gladstone, and the Field Marshal immediately launched into a passionate denunciation of Gladstone and all his works; there was no word too bad for him, none of us could get a sentence in, and we sat listening to an unbridled tirade. Gladstone was the most evil and destructive influence of his time, responsible for a catastrophic decline in Britain's prestige and authority in Europe and throughout the world, responsible for the disaster in the Sudan, personally accountable for the death of General Gordon -in short and despite the fact that at least half the population of England idolized him (irrespective of what the other half thought), a malefactor who ought not to be at large in civilized society.
Although Lord Wolseley's depth of feeling and degree of outspokenness surprised me greatly at Sir Alfred Lyall's breakfast table, I subsequently came to recognize this attitude and manner, in regard to Gladstone, as not unusual. I remember that when Gladstone died, although the tone of public comment was respectful, society's private remarks as I heard them at dinner parties or in great country houses (and the most influential sections of society were Conservative and Unionist) were fiercely critical and unforgiving. In latter years too I recall how the same people talked about Lloyd George (of whom I shall have a good deal to say). Even now, so I believe, a certain member of the Labor party, of Welsh origin like Lloyd George, is a ferocious bogey to his Tory opponents.
Of course in purely liberal circles one heard very different opinions. I was the guest that summer of Lord Spencer, who had been a close colleague of Gladstone's and a member of his Cabinet. He took a small house near Birmingham for the agricultural show. On the last night of my stay, when all the other guests had gone, Lord Spencer talked freely if somberly about that perennially critical issue in British politics in the Victorian Age, the Irish Question. This was 1898; Gladstone's attempt to introduce Home Rule had long been shipwrecked; Lord Salisbury's Unionist Government was securely in power, and its Irish policy consisted of "firm government" -- associated with Arthur Balfour's name -- and attempts to tackle the thorny problem of land tenure. Lord Spencer insisted that there was no way of settling Ireland's problems except by giving her full political freedom, that twenty years -- or two hundred years -- of police rule would not make the Irish "loyal" or submissive; that a great chance had been missed in 1886 and that it would not occur again; the inevitable consequences, soon or late, would be an armed rebellion, with all its accompanying bloodshed and murder, and at the end the loss of Ireland to the Empire. Within a quarter of a century every detail of the prophecy to which I listened that summer night in 1898 was to be meticulously fulfilled. And in India there were those who watched the working out of Ireland's destiny and were fully cognizant of the lessons it taught, the message it signaled across the world.
Back in London I saw the season through to the end; and then in August when English society began its stately annual exodus to Cowes and to Scotland, I set forth on my European travels again, to Paris once more and thence to Geneva and Lausanne, to Italy and to Vienna, still then the capital city of a great, historic Empire.
During this otherwise pleasant summer I was greatly shocked and saddened by a grievous piece of news from India. A near kinsman, Hashim Shah, whose father was my elder half-brother, was murdered by a steward in my house in Poona. Mercifully this was not, as the assassinations in Jeddah in 1896 had been, prompted by motives of religious fanaticism, but the outcome of personal resentment and some personal grudge. However, its warning could not be discounted; there was an element of lawlessness and violence in my own close surroundings which would, sooner or later, have to be dealt with firmly if it were not to become a running sore in the life of Bombay and Poona.