Part Two: YOUNG MANHOOD - VI. The Edwardian Era Begins
The Edwardian Era Begins
THE MURDER of my kinsman at Poona in the summer of 1898 had emphasized, in the most sensational and unpleasant fashion, the disruptive qualities latent in the huge, ramshackle, feudally extravagant household and entourage which I had inherited, and which I have in previous chapters described at some length.
I was responsible by now for a dependent population of about two thousand people in my households in Bombay and Poona. I actually supported them -- most of them in idleness. They were housed and fed at my expense. The financial burden, considerable as it was, was not as worrying as certain other thoroughly undesirable aspects of their manner of life.
When my grandfather left Persia, he took with him -- as seemed to him natural and proper -- the train of a medieval prince. But in Bombay in the last years of the nineteenth century we were not living in the Middle Ages.
There was not only the immediate family, which was large enough. During the earlier part of his wanderings my grandfather was accompanied by a troop of cavalry, who fought under his command in Persia and in Afghanistan, and later rendered redoubtable assistance to Sir Charles Napier in his conquest of Sind. At the beginning these numbered probably some two hundred, some of princely birth, some knights and peasants, but all devoted in their allegiance to my grandfather. When he settled in Bombay they settled around him -- were they not his liegemen who had endured and fought in his company? -- and long before I was born and throughout my childhood, there they were, aging warriors whose battles were done, in houses or rooms dotted about the rambling estate, with their families growing up around them. Some of them, after they had settled down, sent for their wives from Iran, but most of them married Indian wives.
These ex-soldiers and their families were not all. During the fifties followers came in fair numbers from Central Asia, from Turkestan and Sinkiang, from Bokhara and Afghanistan, to offer their loyalty and bring their tribute to my grandfather. Some returned to their own distant homes, but some stayed, and those who stayed took Indian wives or married the daughters of those who had settled earlier. Some Ismailis came from Africa and they brought Negro slaves, but when they went home some of their slaves refused to go and stayed in Bombay. Intermarrying and multiplying, all these diverse elements had grown, by 1898 or thereabouts, into a vast assembly of two thousand people, men, women and children, with little or nothing to do and nothing to occupy them, with no background and no roots. In my grandfather's time and in my father's time (though they were not of course as numerous), their dependent status was taken for granted, and throughout my long minority my mother really had no choice but to go on housing and feeding them. As one generation aged and another grew up (after all, half a century and more had gone by since my grandfather exiled himself from Persia), the whole affair took on, in the view of those who accepted our bounty, the air of a custom established in right.
The old soldiers, of course, took pensions from my grandfather. As they died off, the pensions continued to be paid, first by my father and then by my mother during my minority; but the original sum had to be divided among its first recipient's descendants. These were often so numerous that by the late nineties the actual incomes received by all these beneficiaries were small. Most of them augmented their incomes in one way or another -- as racecourse tipsters or as stable-hands, for example. Long years of this rather raffish, irresponsible life, in and around the rapidly growing city and port of Bombay, had not tended to make particularly worthy or useful citizens of them. But they came of high-spirited, proud stock, and their natural energies and abilities were now being dissipated in intrigues and feuds. Quick to take offense, they were apt to be quick, too, in drawing the knife.
Dangerous as the potentialities were, the situation had not been too bad until the murder of my kinsman in Poona. This, as it were, touched off a fuse. From then on any attempt to control this nest of hornets, internally by the household or from the outside by the police, met with fierce threats. While I was on my travels I was warned that if I tried to clear up a clutter of ne'er-do-wells, who had become a scandal and a menace, my life too would be in danger.
I was determined however to put an end to this situation. The police in Bombay were extremely anxious for me to do nothing too summary or too rash, such as stopping all pensions and turning the lot out into the street. Idle, well-fed, unruly, two thousand of them from half-a-dozen races in Africa, Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan, suddenly loose among the population of Bombay as vagrants, would be a real public danger. And it was a danger which the Government -- as I was given firmly to understand -- was not prepared to allow.
It was essential, therefore, that if I were to deal with my problem, I must act all the time with the full support of the Government and in close co-operation with the police. It was particularly fortunate that I was on terms of warm friendship and understanding with Sir William Lee Warner at the India Office. He was a tower of strength in the background. In Bombay itself a new Governor, Lord Northcote, had succeeded Lord Sandhurst; he too sustained me with his constant friendship and helped me through an extremely difficult task. Without allies of this stature and authority it would have been immeasurably more difficult.
As it was, I went at it gradually and persistently. Some of the rowdiest and unruliest of all were technically not British subjects; these were deported to the Persian Gulf and turned loose in regions where their propensities were less dangerous than in populous, urban Bombay. To a number I gave lump-sum gratuities, on condition that they too took themselves off. One group I got sent off, with the help of the police, to remote hill stations, whence they were forbidden to make their way back to Bombay. With the removal of the worst among the older malcontents, we were able to get down to the more agreeable task of reclaiming and educating their children. We set up schools for them and some went to the Jesuit schools nearby; some who were conspicuously bright went on to a higher university education. They all went out to work, and the majority of them are now, I am glad to say, and have long since been, worthy and law-abiding citizens. Among them may be counted barristers, engineers, senior officers of the I.M.S. and prosperous members of other professions.
But the clean-up was not an easy job, and it was not completed in a day. It was a long struggle that was with me for many months.
Meanwhile, engrossed as I was in this arduous and unpleasant job, I had not lost touch with the wider world. Queen Victoria's death in January, 1901, seemed the end of an age to those of us who had been born and had grown up under the ample and glorious shade of her long reign. We were conscious that Finis had been written to a mighty chapter.
My friend and patron, the Prince of Wales, was now upon the throne, with the title of Edward VII. He graciously honored me with a personal invitation to be present at his Coronation in 1902. Therefore, to London I returned that summer, to a London which I knew well, to a society in which I had many friends and where I was made warmly and happily welcome. Already it was possible to recognize that the Edwardian Age was opening. There was a new tone noticeable in society, a shift of standards, a recognition of the meaning and challenge of the new century.
At first it was a gay and eventful summer. There was a whole round of shows and entertainments, and a great deal of hospitality was shown to me and the other Indian Princes and Maharajahs who had been invited. Suddenly on the eve of the Coronation the King, who was no longer a young man, was taken ill. Few, I think, at the time were really aware of the gravity of the King's illness, and the narrowness of his escape. Appendicitis was not in those days the almost routine affair it is considered today, and an appendectomy was a serious and danger-fraught operation. The Coronation had to be postponed; the ceremonies and rejoicings were held in suspense; many of the distinguished foreign Royal guests, unable to wait as long as was obviously necessary, took their leave and went home. The King made a wonderful, rapid recovery from his operation, and by August was willing, nay eager, to face the strain and fatigue of the elaborate and beautiful Coronation ceremony. It was not generally realized at the time that during much of the service the King, who bore himself with great dignity throughout, was in considerable pain.
For myself there was one particularly gratifying circumstance connected with the Coronation. The King advanced me from the rank of K.C.I.E. to G.C.I.E. in his Coronation Honors.
In accordance with custom there was a great Coronation naval review at Spithead, which I had the privilege of attending as the King's guest aboard his own yacht. Among the other guests there was, I remember, the thin, slight but formidable figure of Ras Makonen, the Abyssinian feudal chieftain who was the victorious general, right-hand man and Viceroy of the Emperor Menelik, whom he subsequently succeeded. He possessed the quality of inscrutability. I recall that the British Minister in Addis Ababa told me that he could always read Menelik's mind and divine his intentions, but never Ras Makonen's. The mutability of human affairs is aptly illustrated by the vicissitudes endured by his son, Ras Tafari, who became the Emperor Haile Selassie, resisted the Italian invasion of his country in 1935, was defeated and driven into exile, pleaded his cause before the League of Nations in Geneva, then bided his time in exile and in 1941, when the Italians were crushingly defeated in East Africa (by a small, valiant army to which India contributed magnificently), returned in triumph to his throne. Surely this is one of the most extraordinary romances of our time, in danger of being forgotten because there have been so many other romantic and strange stories.
I returned to India in November of that year, 1902. I was surprised to find waiting for me a letter from the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, asking me to become a member of his Legislative Council. This was a considerable honor to a young man still in his twenties (I was by far the youngest member), for the Viceroy's Legislative Council in those days was a small, select body of influential people, wielding real authority. My acceptance necessitated my moving, for the time being, to Calcutta, which was then the seat of British power in India.
The two years in which I was a member of the Legislative Council (I was asked if I would accept nomination a second time, but I refused) had a profound and permanent effect on my life and character, in their private and personal as well as their public aspects. For the first time in my life I had a real, normal home of my own, with the ordinary complement of servants and the ordinary social and domestic life of a man in my station, free of the extraordinary accretion of hangers-on and ne'er-do-wells (remnants of whom never entirely disappeared from Bombay and Poona) whose disruptive and menacing activities I have described earlier in this chapter.
The effect on my public and political life was hardly less marked. I found myself working alongside men of the caliber and quality of Lord Curzon himself and of the Commander in Chief, the redoubtable Field Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. Among my Indian colleagues there was the brilliant Mr. G. K. Gokhale, the outstanding Indian nationalist statesman until the rise of Mahatma Gandhi and the Nehrus, father and son. Gokhale and I struck up a friendship which ended only with his death. He was a caste Hindu and I was a Muslim, but our friendship crossed the barriers of creed and race. He was a man of vision, courage and generosity. His influence on my thought and outlook was probably considerable. Not of course that he was the first political thinker of a different background from my own with whom I had come in contact, or with whom I found the exchange of ideas stimulating. Some years previously in Bombay I had come to know and like Mr. Navroji Dumasia, a talented Parsee in the service of The Times of India and Mr. (later Sir) Frank Brown, a British journalist and publicist who was on the staff of The Bombay Gazette and subsequently of The Times; to these friends I owe a great deal, both in what I have done and what I have tried to do in my political work.
In Gokhale I encountered a powerful as well as a lovable personality. I realized how deep and strong were the forces in India of which he was the spokesman. I also saw that the Government had become remote from the people of India, not the masses only, but the increasing and ever more articulate and active intelligentsia. I saw at close quarters how foreign the Government was in spirit and in atmosphere. On the other side, I saw that India's political leaders, dissatisfied at not having succeeded in obtaining their earlier moderate demands, had begun to seek not merely administrative reforms but the full control of their own political destiny.
For myself, I continued to pin a great deal of faith on educational advancement. Illiteracy I saw as a menace to people and Government alike. Poverty and disease were its sinister consequences and accompaniments. More than once my speeches in the Legislative Council turned into strong pleas for generous and judicious expenditures on education. I urged the adoption of a system of universal primary education such as almost every civilized country possessed, and pointed out as often as I could that in my view the fundamental cause of India's extreme poverty was India's extreme ignorance.
At the same time I began to realize, during these two crucial years, that the Congress party, the only active and responsible political organization in the country, would prove itself incapable -was already proving itself incapable -- of representing India's Muslims, or of dealing adequately or justly with the needs and aspirations of the Muslim community. The pressure of Hindu extremism was too strong. Already that artificial unity which the British Raj had imposed from without was cracking. Deep-seated and ineradicable differences expressed themselves, once political activity and aspirations had advanced beyond the most elementary stage. The breach was there -- in Hindu intransigence and lack of perception of basic Muslim ideals and hopes. I did all I could to prevent the breach's being widened. I maintained a campaign of remonstrance with Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, who was high in the counsels of the Congress party, who was a friend of my family and who had known me since childhood. I begged him to use his influence and to make Congress realize how important it was to win Muslim confidence, but all to no avail.
Whatever the reason for their attitude, the Congress leaders persisted in ignoring the realities of the communal situation. There were provinces in which the Muslims were in a clear majority: in Bengal, for example, and in the Punjab, out of which the Northwest Frontier Province had not then been carved. And about Delhi, Agra and Aligarh there had been built up a spiritual home, sanctified by some of the most valuable of Muslim traditions and adorned with imperishable treasures of Islamic art and culture. Some comprehension of what this meant in Muslim minds was all we asked. And the time was propitious -- as never again -- for an understanding; earlier grave differences of opinion with Congress had dwindled into comparative insignificance, and even the memory of them that remained could have been wiped out -- as I argued as forcibly as I could -- if certain of our proposals for equitable representation and a fair ratio of Government employment for Muslims had been accepted and acted upon.
The primary step was that Congress should choose as its representative on the Viceroy's Legislative Council a Muslim from Bengal or the Punjab. We drew a blank there. For Congress obstinately continued to send third-rate Muslims from preponderantly Hindu provinces like Madras and Bombay. Gokhale, I am convinced, was sincerely anxious to do all he could to change his party's attitude. He could never publicly admit it, but privately he was deeply distressed to watch his political friends and associates thus deliberately sowing the seeds of permanent disunity between Hindu and Muslim. I made frequent, urgent representations of practical, feasible steps by which we could have integrated Muslim political feeling into the Congress party and presented a united front to the British Government. Yet even the private support which Gokhale gave to my representations brought no change of mind or heart.
I turned to my friends at Aligarh, and in particular to Nawab Mohsen-ul-Molk, who had succeeded Sir Syed Ahmed as Muslim leader. Mohsen-ul-Molk was not hidebound; he was moderate and realistic and not at all antagonistic either to Congress or to Hindus in general. If there had been give-and-take in what were then quite minor matters, he would have been willing to join forces with Congress. In such an atmosphere -- assisted by the existence of a joint electorate and joint representation -- a political alliance between the two communities was possible. Our hopes were dashed again and again. Conditions deteriorated at the next elections; and by 1906 Mohsen-ul-Molk and I, in common with other Muslim leaders, had come to the conclusion that our only hope lay along the lines of independent organization and action, and that we must secure independent political recognition from the British Government as a nation within a nation.
While I lived in Calcutta, I came to know the Right Honorable Syed Amir Ali, later a Privy Councilor, then a Judge of the High Court in Calcutta. I had of course read his famous books on Islam; my admiration for his learning, and for his capacity to expound and interpret our Muslim religion, was unstinted. Although he was excluded from any participation in politics, I had no hesitation in going to him for advice and help in my own political endeavors -above all, to secure equitable representations of Muslims and to open the eyes of the Congress High Command to the perils of the course on which they seemed set. But when our hopes were frustrated, it was encouraging that Syed Amir Ali, with all his personal prestige, and his great knowledge of Hindu-Muslim political relations (especially in Bengal), urged us on in our efforts for the establishment of a separate Muslim organization and gave us quiet, constant support when Nawab Mohsen-ul-Molk and I argued that our only hope of getting a fair deal from the British was to convince them of the width of the gulf -- historical, cultural and religious -between us and our neighbors.
The Congress party, by its blindness to legitimate claims and aspirations, and by its persistence in its ridiculous habit of choosing Muslim yes-men from Madras and Bombay as its representatives on the Viceroy's Legislative Council, lost a great opportunity which was not to occur again. These then were critical years, not merely in my own political development but in that vast and complex process which brought about, in little more than forty years, the partition of the Indian subcontinent into the separate states of Bharat and Pakistan.
A notable event during my period of service on the Viceroy's Legislative Council was the Coronation Durbar in Delhi, the climax of which was a magnificent parade of some forty thousand troops who, headed by the Commander in Chief, Lord Kitchener, marched past the representative of the King-Emperor. That representative was the King's brother, my watchful and kind friend since my childhood, the Duke of Connaught. Immediately after the Durbar we held a Muslim Educational Conference in Delhi, at which I spoke at some length on several of the educational projects in whose furtherance I was active -- most important of all, Aligarh.
I ventured to make a direct plea to my friends and colleagues: "I beg of you that the cause of a Central University -- a university which, please Heaven, may rank some day with Oxford and Leipzig and Paris as a home of great ideas and noble ideals -- a university where our youth may receive the highest instruction in the sciences of the West, a university where the teaching of the history and literature of the East may not be scamped over for a mere parrotlike knowledge of Western thought, a university where our youth may also enjoy, in addition to such advantages, a Muslim atmosphere. I earnestly beg of you that the cause of such a university should not be forgotten in the shouts of the market place that daily rise among us."
Those sentences of mine, spoken fifty years ago, sum up the aspirations which I cherished from the outset on behalf of Aligarh and which I have been happy to live to see fulfilled.
I had had two arduous and formative years on the Viceroy's Legislative Council. In the summer of 1904 I returned to Europe and picked up the threads of my social and personal life there. In the political sphere there were big changes impending. Arthur Balfour had succeeded his uncle, Lord Salisbury, as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, but it was obvious that the long epoch of Conservative dominance in British politics was drawing to a close. The dynamic Joseph Chamberlain had flung the issue of Protectionism into the ring, and in so doing had gravely split the Conservative party. The Liberals were steadily gathering their forces; the Irish Question, after some years of deceptive calm, was simmering again; and the emergence of the Labor party -still very small in numbers -- was a portent well worth noting.
I had as yet formed no intention of racing or breeding horses in Europe, and was not to do so until many years had elapsed, but my interest in these matters was unabated. I went regularly to race meetings while I was in England, and it was during this summer, as I recall, that I first made the acquaintance of Colonel Hall Walker (later Lord Wavertree), who was one of the outstanding personalities of the British turf, immensely knowledgeable about everything to do with horses, independent in his judgment, outspoken and didactic. Some people considered his views and his methods so eccentric that he was nicknamed "Whimsical Walker," but I would be the last to impugn his wisdom, his sagacity and experience. He was then the owner of the famous Tully Stud in Ireland, which later became the Irish National Stud, and with which in afteryears I had much to do.
I returned to Bombay that winter and set out in the following year, 1905, on my second visit to East Africa. I urged on my Ismaili followers there some of the ideas, in intellectual and physical education, which I was practicing and preaching in India. I was especially distressed by the low standards of physique noticeable in Zanzibar; the incidence of tuberculosis was high. If it was argued that the fierce tropical climate enervated those who lived in it and induced listlessness and apathy, I could point out that the same could be said of India, and there we were beginning to take energetic steps to combat it. In Zanzibar I had consultations with the mukhis, the leaders of the local communities. I had a palace turned into a sports club and center for physical training, with a running track and football and cricket pitches. I gave prizes in all sorts of competitions, from billiards to cycling. I am glad to say that my innovations proved a marked success.
While I was in Africa a suit was brought against me in the Bombay High Court by certain discontented members of my family, collateral descendants of my grandfather. A series of claims, financial and otherwise, were made against me. This case, which dragged on for many months, was not so much a sequel of the earlier case brought against my grandfather in the sixties, by dissident elements among the Khojas (to which I have referred in a previous chapter), as a consequence of the generous, feudal manner in which my grandfather's establishment in Bombay had been set up and maintained. During the protracted proceedings a great deal of the history and background of my family and the Ismaili sect were gone into again, commissions of inquiry were sent into distant regions of Asia and Africa to collect evidence about my ancestors' property and affairs. My mother gave evidence on my behalf and was complimented by the judge, who said that she had "displayed an extraordinary memory." I was fortunate in my counsel, Mr. Inverarity, a keen and able lawyer. When at length the hearings ended and the presiding judge, Mr. Justice Russell, summed up, his judgment proved to be a classic example of its kind -- a masterly, lucid, wide-ranging survey of Islamic history, religion, custom and law. At the conclusion of the long and costly business, I was fully and finally confirmed in my rights and status, and have never thereafter been subjected to a similar challenge.
I returned to India for the cold weather of 1905-1906, in time to pay my respects to the Prince of Wales (later King George V) in Calcutta. He was there, of course, in the middle of that state visit to India which had been under discussion when I was in England in 1904. This was not my first meeting with His Royal Highness (as he then was). My friendship with him and with his beloved consort, Queen Mary, was of long standing. I first met Queen Mary in 1898 when she was Duchess of York; she was at home in England with her three young children ( King Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor, the late King George VI, and the Princess Royal) while her husband was out of the country on his first tour of duty as a naval officer.
All my memories of this good and gracious pair are warmly affectionate. I have always been proud that I won King George V's friendship and maintained it to the end of his life. He gave me his confidence to the same degree as his father had done. He talked to me always with utter frankness on all sorts of subjects, personal, political, sporting and social. I often had the honor of being his guest at luncheon, first at Marlborough House when he was Prince of Wales, and after his accession at Buckingham Palace. Luncheon was an informal, quiet family affair, with Queen Mary and one or two of their children and myself the only guest. Usually these luncheons were noted in the Court Circular; but from time to time, for special reasons, public reference was not made to them. King George carried all his life the stamp of his early training as a professional officer in the Royal Navy, with his trim and elegant figure, his strong, fresh complexion, his nautical beard, and the tone and accent of his admirably clear voice -- an especially vivid reminder that he had exercised command at sea for many years before the death of his elder brother had placed him directly in the succession to the Throne. He had a short temper and was apt to show it when small things went wrong, but he quickly got over his anger. He had a very kind heart that was easily stirred to sympathy by the suffering of others.
I know of one example of the spontaneity and generosity of his sympathy. During the King-Emperor's Coronation Durbar in Delhi, the Maharajah of Baroda resented the fact that he had to go and make a public bow to the King. He demonstrated his resentment by performing his homage in a haphazard and casual fashion. This shocked everyone who saw it, British and Indian alike, because there was no justification for his showing open discourtesy to the King-Emperor. He apologized in writing to the Viceroy, and, although the apology was accepted, the King naturally felt sore about the episode and went on feeling sore for some years. But later misfortune descended upon the Maharajah of Baroda; more than one of his sons died in their young manhood, and then another fell grievously ill. When the King learned of these sorrows, he forgave the Maharajah wholeheartedly, blotted out the memory of the insult, and more than once I heard him refer to the Maharajah of Baroda as "that poor, unfortunate man" in tones of sincere commiseration.
King George V, like his father, was extremely meticulous about the way in which orders and decorations were worn, and, again like his father, had an extraordinarily keen eye for the slightest mistake in their arrangement on anyone's chest.
He once remarked to me: "Some people are surprised that my father and I are so particular about these things. But wouldn't it be peculiar if in ordinary society people turned up with their shirts outside their trousers, their collars or their neckties on back to front, and the buttons of their coats and waistcoats all wrong? Just as ordinary society has its rules for the proper wearing of clothes, so a King and his Court must have their rules for the proper wearing of unifoms, decorations and orders."
Once at some big Court function the late Maharajah of Rajpipla appeared in the King's presence not wearing -- as he should have worn -- the collar of one of his decorations because it caused him discomfort. The King was angry and showed that he was angry, but Queen Mary made a quick, conciliatory gesture toward the unhappy young man, as if to say, "Don't worry, it'll blow over." It did, and the King soon forgave him.
In connection with this same Maharajah of Rajpipla, I can give an example of King George V's pertinacious and all-round interest in all sorts of matters. The Maharajah won the Derby in 1934 with a horse called Windsor Lad. He had somehow delayed giving to his trainer the present which it is customary for a winning owner to give to his trainer after the Derby. His trainer was Mr. Marcus Marsh, the son of King George's former trainer. Weeks passed and the Maharajah still gave no present. One afternoon I was at a solemn and imposing state ceremony, where Ambassadors, Cabinet Ministers and exalted Court functionaries abounded. The King caught sight of me in the august throng, took me quietly into a corner and told me that he knew Marsh had not had his present.
"You were a great friend of his father's, weren't you?" he said earnestly, "and you know the young man himself. Do please tackle him and make him see that this present is a normal affair, and he's got to give it."
Naturally I did as the King asked, and the Maharajah belatedly sent Marsh his present. Nearly twenty years afterward I told Marsh my side of the episode. Now, although Marsh was the son of the King's trainer and quite often saw the King, he had never mentioned it to the King but had told a friend of his about the Maharajah's curious absence of mind. The friend was a general on the King's staff; he told the King and the King decided to use me as a gobetween.
During the thirty-four years that I knew him I saw a great deal of King George V, at his home, at race meetings at Ascot and Epsom and elsewhere, and on his two visits to India as Prince of Wales and as King.
On the former visit in 1905, which has set me off on this train of reminiscences, there was a state ball in the Viceroy's House in Calcutta. The Prince of Wales took me into his room and told me that he was fully in favor of the appointment of Indians to the Viceroy's Executive Council and that he considered it most unfortunate that there were no Indians on it at the moment. He said, "I have strongly urged both Lord Morley and Lord Minto that an Indian be appointed."
He went on to talk to me at length about the Calcutta hospitals, to which his father had referred a year before; he was not at all happy about them.
The Morley-Minto reforms (of which I shall have much to say a little later) were promulgated in the following year. In private the Prince of Wales made no secret of the fact that he regarded these reforms as necessary and right. Like Queen Victoria, he had a quick and real sympathy for his Indian subjects, and he understood the real needs of India, above all, for a vigorous, united drive against ignorance and poverty and the appallingly low standard of living. During the Round Table Conferences he sent me more than one message urging me on and encouraging me in my efforts to bring about a settlement of Hindu-Muslim differences in order that we might then get on with the practical, economic and social reforms which were so long overdue. One day after I had the honor of lunching with him at Ascot, he spoke to me warmly along the same lines.
I remember that when the news leaked out from Berlin during the First World War that Indian anarchists were being trained in Germany, the King was shocked and grieved at the thought that the Kaiser could demean himself to countenance such underhanded and savage tactics. In the same way his grief was profound but private at the dreadful murder of the whole Russian Royal Family, his cousins, the Czar and Czarina and all their children, at Ekaterinburg in 1918. He never made any public reference to it, but more than once in our private talks he had no hesitation in opening his heart to me and telling me of his sorrow.
Sir Harold Nicolson, in his recently published biography of King George V, lays stress on the fact that the King was always fully aware of the constitutional proprieties, and of his inability to intervene in politics, however strong his private wishes or feelings might be. Sir Harold gives a vivid account of the way in which, after he had aired his views -- vigorously, doubtless, and with singular pungency of phrase -- he would make a gentle gesture, his right hand passing across his body, and say with a resigned smile, "It's not for me to have opinions, or to interfere." I so well remember that gesture and that smile. I have seen them so often, in many an after-luncheon talk. The most industrious, diligent and hard-worked of men, King George yet possessed the delightful faculty of collecting and remembering small personal details about his friends' private lives. Some years before the First World War the Maharajah of Gwalior was affianced to the Maharajah of Baroda's daughter (now the Maharani of Cooch Behar). During the Delhi Durbar of 1912 she broke off the engagement. Outwardly the Maharajah of Gwalior took his disappointment bravely, but inwardly he was greatly distressed. The King heard about it. He knew that Gwalior and I were close friends. At one of the state functions he sent for me, told me how grieved he was for Gwalior, and asked me to do all I could to ease matters.
As I have said, I knew Queen Mary even before I met her husband. For well over fifty years I was proud and glad to be counted among her friends. In 1952 -- less than a year before she died -- I had two affectionate personal messages from her; the first, a telegram of congratulations after my horse Tulyar won the Derby, and with it a solicitous inquiry about my health, for she knew that I had been gravely ill and was glad to hear that I was on the mend; and the other (the last message I ever had from her) was when the same horse, Tulyar, won the King George and Queen Elizabeth Cup at Ascot, and she got an equerry to convey her congratulations and her regards to me.
She was a staunch, invaluable support to King George; a truly great English lady, she seemed to me to mingle in herself all the best qualities of royalty in the constitutional pattern, of wifely, maternal, domestic excellence, and of sturdy middle-class realism.
One of the most touching -- in a way, one of the most painful -- experiences of my life was a conversation which I had with Queen Mary shortly before King Edward VIII's abdication. I had just had a long audience with King Edward VIII, having returned to London from Geneva after one of the interminable conferences of the League of Nations, and in this audience I made my report to the King. I spoke fervently and sincerely to Queen Mary of my great admiration for King Edward, for his clarity of view, for his realism, and, above all, for his full appreciation of the dangers of the coming war. I could see that she was immensely proud of her son, yet I could see too that she was holding back tears -- tears which were an indication of her awareness of the sorrow that impended for the Royal Family. No open hint did she give of it, and no reference could I make, or would I have made, to it. Having come from abroad I had had no sense of how near and how great was King Edward's danger. Realization in that sad silence was all the more shocking. In all that we did not say, in the quiet of her drawing room, there was a profound and tragic apprehension, a sense of the clouds massing for the terrible storm that was to burst around her and around those she dearly loved.
In the summer of 1906 I was again in England. There had been a General Election since my last visit, the Conservatives had been heavily defeated, and the Liberals were in power with a record majority and a Government under the Premiership of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Assembled in the Cabinet room and on the Front Bench was a galaxy of brilliant and able men, unequaled in recent British history: Asquith, Grey, Haldane, Lloyd George, John Morley, Herbert Samuel, and Winston Churchill, to name only a few of that memorable Administration. Morley -- Gladstone's intimate friend, Cabinet colleague and biographer, the possessor of one of the most powerful, constructive intellects of his day -- held what was to me and my political associates the supremely important post of Secretary of State for India. Soon his name was to be associated with that of the Viceroy, the Earl of Minto, a Scottish nobleman of Liberal outlook, sagacity and equability, in the Morley-Minto reforms, which marked so momentous an advance in India's journey to political emancipation. Asquith was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George was president of the Board of Trade; and Winston Churchill, then just turned thirty, and a recent recruit from the other side of the House, held at first a minor ministerial post but was soon to rocket into prominence.
I have had the privilege and pleasure of Sir Winston Churchill's friendship for over half a century. As I recall, it was at Poona in the late summer of 1896 that our paths first crossed. A group of officers of a British cavalry regiment, the Fourth Hussars, then stationed at Bangalore, called on me. I was ill at the time and did not meet them, but my cousin Shamsuddin entertained them and showed them my race horses. When he later told me of their visit he said that among the officers none had a keener, more discriminating eye, none was a better judge of a horse, than a young subaltern by the name of Winston Spencer Churchill. My cousin described him as perhaps a little over twenty, boyish-looking, eager, irrepressible, and already an enthusiastic, courageous and promising polo player.
It is impossible to think of the young Winston Churchill without recalling his mother, the brilliant and much-loved Lady Randolph Churchill. Her beauty, her grace and her wit have now a legendary quality. The wife of one famous man, the mother of another, she herself was a woman of the utmost distinction.
From many recollections of Lady Randolph, on many occasions and in many places, I choose one saying of hers that seems to me especially typical of the felicity and the pointedness of her wit. One day at Aix-les-Bains, Sir Rufus Isaacs (later the first Marquis of Reading) observed, about some particular action of which he disapproved, "No man would respect a woman who would do that."
"No woman," said Lady Randolph gently, "wants to be respected."
In later life our paths were destined to cross again and again. We met in the summer of 1902, King Edward VII's Coronation Year, at Warwick Castle as guests of Lord and Lady Warwick over a long week end. In six years the ebullient cavalry subaltern had traveled far and achieved much; wherever there had been fighting he had contrived to be, regardless of the views of senior officers -Malakand, about which he wrote the first of his many books, Kitchener's "River War" along the upper reaches of the Nile, the cavalry charge at Omdurman; as a war correspondent in South Africa he had been taken prisoner, escaped and had had a price put on his head by Kruger; and by 1902 he was Conservative member of Parliament for Oldman. At Warwick that week end he was in a holiday mood. He and I involved ourselves in a vigorous argument about the comparative merits, in sheer sporting quality, of polo and hunting. He was firmly for polo; I who had followed hounds from boyhood was as stubbornly for hunting. But I recall another conversation that same summer week end which was less lighthearted. He, with his imperialist traditions and outlook, reverted -- as so many politically minded Englishman had to in those days -- to the question of Ireland; he echoed something that Lord Spencer had said to me some years earlier: "Twenty years of firm government is no solution of the Irish problem.
"So long as the people of Ireland are dissatisfied," continued the young Tory M.P, the nominal supporter of Arthur Balfour, "there can be no solution. Only when the Irish people are politically satisfied will we be able to solve the Irish problem."
As young men will, we talked a great deal about a great many subjects. Churchill, whose verbal memory is one of his many remarkable characteristics, quoted freely from Fitzgerald's translation of Omar Khayyám. He assured me that he knew virtually the whole poem by heart. I remember being genuinely surprised by the enthusiasm which he displayed, for to those of us whose mother tongue is Persian, Omar Khayyám seems a minor poet with a very limited outlook. I tackled Churchill along those lines, and he countered me by saying that what he admired in Omar Khayyám was not his philosophy but his poetic power. Then suddenly he made a dialectical volte-face and said: "You know, there's a great deal in his philosophy. After all, it doesn't greatly matter what we do now -- it'll be all the same in a hundred years."
I took strong exception to this flippant observation.
"What you do now," I said, "may be of little account a thousand years from now. But certainly events a hundred years hence will very much be the direct results of our present deeds and misdeeds."
As I remember, he came round into agreement with me. Now a good deal older, and with a good deal more experience behind me, I think that I would argue that events a thousand years hence can be strongly affected by what we do now -- or leave undone.
Think of my own august ancestor, Mohammed the Prophet of Islam. If Mohammed had been killed in his first encounter with his enemies, Islam would never have arisen; Arabia might have been the home of a number of minor Christian sects; the Middle East would have been Christian instead of predominantly Muslim; and that part of the Indian subcontinent which became Muslim might have been converted to some version of Christianity. I go further: if after our Holy Prophet's Ascension into Heaven the succession had gone to the Ansar of Medina -- a kindly, steadfast clan of yeomen, content to live on and work by the land -- instead of to the Prophet's own tribe, the Quraish of Mecca -- internationally minded, virile, reckless folk with a lust for travel and adventure, who journeyed to Constantinople and Alexandria, to Rome even, to Iran and by sea to India in search of trade -- then Islam would have taken a totally different turn. Under the leadership of the Ansar of Medina it would have been today -- if indeed it still survived -- one of many minor, little-known Eastern sects.
It needed the imagination, the international experience of the trade-conscious Quraish, the citizens of Mecca, to have made Islam a world religion whose call was spread abroad to all mankind.
In our own time too, there are many examples of decisions -political and otherwise -- whose influence stretches far beyond the immediate present into a distant future. If in 1871 Bismarck had left Alsace and Lorraine out of the peace terms which he imposed on France in his hour of victory, would there ever have been the cry of "Revanche, revanche!" which echoed fiercely down the years afterward? The Franco-Prussian War might have slipped into oblivion with the other vainglorious follies of the Second Empire; and that United Europe, which is the eager hope and desire of us all today, would have come to pass without the bitter experience of two world wars. Even after the First World War had the Western Powers hearkened to the advice of men like Lord D'Abernon during the early, critical years of the Weimar Republic, we might never have heard of Adolf Hitler; the old League of Nations which had many good points -- not least of which was its rapid acceptance of Stresemann's Germany into full membership -- would have gone a long way to heal the wounds of the First World War. But there were other less enlightened counselors to whom the peoples of Western Europe listened, and in the succeeding years nothing was left undone to show the German people that there was one way in which they could get what they wanted, and that was by power politics.
Ah, well, the two young men who sat talking so ardently at Warwick Castle long ago had much to learn; and, if I may say so, one of Sir Winston Churchill's outstanding characteristics -- perhaps the most valuable of all to him in his career as a statesman -- has been his capacity to learn by experience and, having learned, to wipe the slate clean.
In 1906, four years after our memorable encounter at Warwick Castle, he was a junior Minister in Campbell-Bannerman's Liberal Government, and I remember that John Morley, his senior Cabinet colleague, said to me, "The young Churchill, like the young Joseph Chamberlain that I knew, possesses the greatest natural political sense. There is in Churchill the same innate and natural readiness to tackle and solve problems as they arise that there was in Joe."
Sir Winston Churchill unites and blends in his strong personality two usually conflicting strands: the romantic, the deeply emotional and poetic interpreter of history and the common sense, practical, down-to-earth realist, the hardheaded and coolly calculating strategist. It is an irresistible, at times a majestic, combination.
And he accepted the fact that India was to remain in the Commonwealth on her own terms and as a republic. As he himself has said to me, "Half a loaf is better than none."
His whole relationship with the problem of India is a manifestation on the highest political plane of these two interlinked facets of Churchill's character. Part of his being responds with instantaneous romanticism to a highly colored conception of Empire, to the Union Jack unfurled to the breeze in some distant outpost, to the vigilant picket-keeping guard in the desolate Khyber, to all the trumpet calls of more than a century of British Imperial history. But in another part of his being he is capable of resolute practicality and common sense, solid and realistic yet magnanimous. It is this latter facet which has predominated since 1947; he has cheerfully accepted a political fact for what it is, and has striven -- with a good deal of success -- to make the best of a quite new situation.
I would have wished, though, that his connection with India (after his brief period of soldiering there was over) had been closer, and his responsibility for decisions on Indian matters more immediate, at some time or another in his career.
I saw a good deal of him during the First World War, and we often discussed politics. Not long after the end of the war, when Lord Chelmsford's term as Viceroy was ending and before the appointment of Lord Reading, Lloyd George asked two of us, myself and an intimate friend of mine, Mr. Bassou, a member of the Council of India, to come and see him on the matter of a successor. I suggested to Mr. Lloyd George, on behalf of the pair of us, two candidates for this great post: Lord Derby and Winston Churchill. He did not turn down either of them outright. He then turned to Mr. Bassou. Mr. Bassou's suggestions of course coincided with mine. To me Lloyd George had made no comment on either name. With Mr. Bassou, as with me, he passed over Lord Derby's name in silence. Then he turned round sharply and said to Mr. Bassou, "Do you know Churchill?"
Mr. Bassou admitted that he had not the pleasure of Mr. Churchill's personal acquaintance.
"I know Churchill," said Lloyd George with finality.
Looking back, and with the knowledge of all the great positions under the Crown which Sir Winston Churchill has occupied with such luster, I still think that it was a pity Lloyd George did not accede to our joint suggestion. If Churchill had had direct and recent Indian experience, his whole outlook at the time of the Indian Round Table Conference from 1930 on, and his speeches in the Parliamentary debates leading up to the passing of the Government of India Act in 1935, would, I am certain, have been different. And the effect of that changed outlook would have been felt throughout the whole later history of Anglo-Indian relations. I go further; I believe that with the direct knowledge of India which he would have acquired as Viceroy, he might have found other and far less terrible means of bringing about the downfall of Hitler and the saving of Germany for Western civilization.
Every time that I have discussed political matters with Sir Winston, I have been impressed anew by the extraordinarily practical realism of his outlook. He is never the slave of his past ideas, his desires or his dreams; he is their master.
During the First World War, when so many British statesmen were anxious to save Turkey from the doom which seemed bound to engulf her, I remember Churchill's telling me brusquely that Turkey would be the victor's prize. Turkey, he said, was the sick man of Europe, dying and degenerate, whom it was no use trying to save.
Who in the Second World War and since has been a warmer admirer, a more staunch supporter and friend of modern Turkey than Winston Churchill? He has come round to a firm belief in the vitality and stubborn strength of the contemporary Turkish character, nurtured in the Anatolian Highlands, and to a genuine admiration for the vigor of Turkey's revival under Kemal Ataturk -- a revival like that of the phoenix out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, whose disasters were the result of the blind and foolish policy of her leaders.
So far as India is concerned, the evolution in Churchill's outlook is even more startling. I remember his attitude at the time of the Round Table Conference, the whole tone in which he addressed us, and his determined opposition to the very idea of Dominion status. Yet this was the Churchill who in 1942 sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India with a directive which could only lead in the end to complete independence and to the emergence of the Indian Republic. And when the severance was finally accomplished, when the highest jewel in the British Crown was no more, when the last British soldier and the last British administrator had left Indian soil, Churchill's acceptance of the fact of Indian independence was made sincerely and with good grace.
Churchill, as leader of the Conservative party, faced with equanimity the momentous sequence of events which brought about Indian independence, the partition of the subcontinent into the two new and sovereign states of Bharat and Pakistan, and the division of the Indian Army.
As I look back down the long vista of the years that I have known Sir Winston, I am sure that the greatest blessing God has given him has been his health. He has a constitution of iron, and all his life he has taxed it to the uttermost. He has disregarded all the do's and don't's which doctors impose. He has worked unceasingly; he has played hard, he has excelled in countless activities from polo to painting, and have I ever seen him refuse any good dish put in front of him, or a liqueur glass of brandy, or a cigar? This gusto and this vitality have been sustained by his magnificent constitution. The young subaltern who came to look at my horses had it, and the veteran statesman, honored and revered by the whole civilized world, has it.
The electoral change in England in that crucial year 1906 had its effect on India. While I was in England that summer my friends in India wrote and told me that at last the Government was beginning to realize that there was something called a Muslim problem in India and that they could no longer dismiss it as an idle fabrication.
Since 1857 and the transference of authority in India from the East India Company to the Crown, the Muslims had, in a political sense, been more or less ignored by the British. Perhaps not unnaturally the new rulers of India turned away from those who, by religion and by language, were connected with the rulers who had been ousted. Muslims were not brought into the administration or into politics; few studied or read English. If the end of the Moghul emperors was pitiable, its effects lingered on for two generations in the sense of isolation and powerlessness which enveloped the Muslims of India in their own land. The Hindu majority were in an advantageous position under their new rulers; and they made full use of it. The Muslims had been for long what the French call "quantité negligeable," but at long last we were going to be heard. The Viceroy, Lord Minto, had agreed to receive a deputation from us and I was to lead that deputation.
We were acutely aware that we had long been neglected, that to the Hindu majority -- as represented by its leaders in the Congress party -- we seemed a tiresome splinter in the flesh of the body politic, and that though there was great talk of nationalism, we were not ever considered in the aspirations that were being fostered, the plans that were being laid. They continued to send to the Viceroy's Legislative Council third-rate yes-men instead of truly representative Muslims, with the result that our separate identity as a community and the status that would have appertained to it had been forgotten by the British.
Now we decided that the time had come to make a stand for a change in attitude. If constitutional advancements were to be mooted, we must have our say in their disposition. Reform was in the air, but it must be understood -- in the utterly different political atmosphere of more than forty years later -- that it was reform within extremely limited terms of reference. British supremacy in India, administrative and legislative, was to remain uninfringed, unaltered. In the Morley-Minto reforms, as they came to be known, and in the Indian Councils Act of 1907 in which they were embodied, there was no hint of a process of evolution toward ultimate Indian self-government, no hint of transference of power from British to Indian hands. John Morley himself said, "A fur coat may be all very well in Canada, but no use at all in India" -- the political and constitutional evolution which had been Canada's experience was thus by implication rejected for India (though not, of course, by India). All that the Morley-Minto proposals were intended to achieve, and did achieve, was a modest devolution in communal and local matters and the admittance of Indians, on a rigidly restricted basis, to consultation -- though not to decision -- about their own affairs.
Within these limits, however, they were an advance, and from the Muslim point of view they were especially significant. Our experience from the time of the Cross-Lansdowne reforms in 1892 had pointed the way; there was no hope of a fair deal for us within the fold of the Congress party or in alliance with it. Now in 1906 we boldly asked the Viceroy to look facts in the face; we asked that the Muslims of India should be regarded not as a mere minority, but as a nation within a nation whose rights and obligations should be guaranteed by statute. History has amply demonstrated since then, after the First World War and again and again later, that the existence of minorities -- of one nationally conscious community within another, numerically weaker perhaps but not less firmly aware of itself as a nation than the majority -- is one of the major issues of our time. Ireland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia -- the world's maps are plentifully dotted with these minority problems, with all their complexity and difficulty.
For ourselves in 1906 we asked for the establishment of a principle, a principle which would have to be embodied in any legislation as a consequence of these proposals for reform. We asked for adequate and separate representation for Muslims both on local bodies and on the legislative councils, we asked that this representation be secured by a separate communal franchise and electoral roll. In short, we Muslims should have the right of electing our own representatives on it. We conceded that in areas where we were in the majority, like the Punjab and what was then the Province of Eastern Bengal, we would give a certain number of extra seats to the Hindus, in order to safeguard their interests, but in return we asked that in areas in which there was a big Hindu majority we likewise should be conceded a certain number of extra seats.
Lord Minto listened with sympathy to the statement of our case. He assured us that the political rights and interests of the Muslim community would be safeguarded in any change in administration that might occur. Our principle was accepted. Most of our demands in detail were conceded, though not all. It would, in my view, have been better had there been provision for two Indian members of the Viceroy's Executive Council -- one Muslim and one Hindu -- instead of the one finally provided for. But after all, it was John Morley himself who said to me when I raised this point, "You mustn't get too much power, you know."
It is perhaps unnecessary to stress the irony of history's comment on that observation. But within their own time, the Morley-Minto reforms were a genuine step forward. We had had established a major political principle; its application was henceforward to be a permanent feature of all constitutional developments in India. It was not conceded however without opposition. And if in retrospect there is an element of irony about Lord Morley's remark which I have just quoted, there is a much more freakishly ironic flavor about the name and personality of the chief Muslim opponent of the stand which we took. For Lord Minto's acceptance of our demands was the foundation of all future constitutional proposals made for India by successive British Governments, and its final, inevitable consequence was the partition of India and the emergence of Pakistan.
Who then was our doughtiest opponent in 1906? A distinguished Muslim barrister in Bombay, with a large and prosperous practice, Mr. Mohammed All Jinnah. We first became acquainted when he, having been called to the English Bar, settled in Bombay and -- entirely without private fortune and without influence -- rapidly built up his successful practice there. We had always been on friendly terms, but at this juncture he came out in bitter hostility toward all that I and my friends had done and were trying to do. He was the only well-known Muslim to take this attitude, but his opposition had nothing mealy-mouthed about it; he said that our principle of separate electorates was dividing the nation against itself, and for nearly a quarter of a century he remained our most inflexible critic and opponent. In a later chapter I shall discuss more fully the circumstances -- most of all the stubborn folly and intransigence of the Hindu majority in Congress -- which converted this stoutest champion of Indian unity into its most determined opponent; and I shall trace in detail the paths of destiny which brought him, as the unchallenged leader of eighty million Muslims, that victory -- the creation of the separate and independent State of Pakistan -- for which we at the beginning were working unconsciously and indirectly, and he at the end consciously and directly and with all the force of his will and intellect. For the moment I merely reflect upon the irony implicit in it all.
Our achievement in 1906 seemed important enough; and it was obvious to those of us most closely associated with it -- especially Nawab Mohsen-ul-Molk and myself -- that since we had obtained separate electoral recognition, we must have the political organization to make that separate representation effective. The All-India Muslim League was therefore founded at a meeting at Dacca later that year at which, as it happened, I was unable to be present. I was, however, elected its first President, and as such I remained until 1912.
All these events -- our deputation to the Viceroy, his acceptance of our demands, the subsequent foundation of the All-India Muslim League and my election as its President -- marked for me the culmination of a period of concentrated political effort. The strain had shown itself physically and during our visit to Simla to see the Viceroy, I fainted. I needed physical recuperation and I thought that I would combine this with widening my experience and knowledge. I set out on a world tour in the company of a French friend of mine, Monsieur Rene Talomon, who subsequently became a professor of French literature in the United States, and who died recently. We headed east, going first to Malaya and Singapore and then on to China.
China's condition at that time was saddening. In Peking the aged Dowager-Empress dwelt in seclusion within the vast confines of the summer palace; beyond its walls her Empire was crumbling in confusion and decay. In towns along the seaboard and far up the great navigable rivers that were the arteries of China's lifeblood, foreign -- European -- trading communities had established an elaborate system of treaty ports and concessions. Here on the territory of a country which was in no sense a colony of any of the European nations involved, it was astonishing, and disquieting, to see that the most arrogant and hidebound kind of colonialism prevailed. The foreign concessions in towns like Shanghai, Hankow and others were alien cities and strongholds of power, political and financial. It was indeed merely a matter of extraterritorial foreign administration within the various concessions and settlements; the power and prestige of the foreigner was so great, and the authority of the Manchu Government so feeble, that the real rulers of China in those days were the consuls of the European Powers, chief among them the British Consul General in Shanghai. In the disintegration from which China's administration was suffering, wealthy Chinese brought their money and their investments into the foreign settlements for safety and protection -- just as today many Europeans send their capital to the United States and Canada.
The atmosphere of colonialism was as nauseating as it was allpervasive. In the P & O ship in which I traveled from Hong Kong to Shanghai, one of my fellow passengers was the Imperial Viceroy of the Province of Yunnan -- a personage, one would have supposed, of some consequence in his own country. When we reached Shanghai I was genuinely astonished, and a good deal shocked, to see the way in which the officials of the so-called Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs -- after all, they were nominally the servants of the Chinese Government -- treated this dignitary, compared with their attitude toward the British passengers, myself and even my Indian servants.
For us there was every mark of consideration and courtesy. He was dealt with brusquely and rudely, all his baggage was opened, and the customs officials ruffled busily through his robes and his mandarin orders. It was a nastily enlightening comparison which I have never forgotten.
Within the foreign settlements the general attitude toward the Chinese was little short of outrageous. All the better hotels refused entry to Chinese, except in wings specially set aside for them. It was the same in restaurants. From European clubs they were totally excluded. Even in shops a Chinese customer would have to stand aside and wait to be served when a European or an American came in after him and demanded attention. We hear a great deal about the color bar in South Africa today. In the early years of this century in China the color bar was rigidly imposed -- not least offensively in discrimination against officials of the very government whose guests, under international law, all foreigners were supposed to be. Is it any wonder that the Chinese intelligentsia long retained bitter memories of this attitude?
The old mandarin class, of course, did not travel and knew little of the world outside China, but already, even in 1906, there were a number of Chinese students attending universities in the United States and then returning home. Their bitterness was probably sharper and deeper than the cool, self-isolating disdain which was the natural reaction of the mandarin class.
In Shanghai Talomon and I were entertained at dinner -- Chinese style -- by some wealthy Chinese merchants to whom we had letters of introduction from a Chinese friend in Singapore.
We had the usual chicken dishes and something which they called tartar grilled meat, which was really a kebab similar to that which is eaten in Persia, Turkey, Egypt and all the Middle Eastern countries, and even in the Caucasus. When we remarked that it was a well-known dish in a large part of the world and a part with which I particularly was familiar, our hosts said, "Yes, it has been prepared for us by a Chinese Muslim cook." There followed the classical Chinese dishes, such as bamboo shoots and buried eggs. And then we were offered a dish which at first we thought was eel.
Luckily -- oh, how luckily! -- Talomon said, "We know this very well."
Our host laughed in courteous deprecation of Talomon's little mistake. "Oh, no," he said, "this is snake."
There is a limit, and for us this went beyond it. Under the cover of our napkins, and with what we hoped was the greatest care so that we should not be seen, we got rid of it. I remember, long years later, reading a newspaper account of the effect of a similar dish on some foreigners at a Chinese official dinner. All were very ill and some died.
Students of sociology may be interested in the existence in those days, both in Shanghai and Hong Kong, of what were called "welcome houses," maintained by small groups of American women. There was not a hint of coarseness or vulgarity about these establishments; they were enveloped in an almost oppressive atmosphere of decorum. The first impression on any novice who walked into one of them for the first time was that he had entered an agreeable but fairly strait-laced social gathering. Only Europeans and Americans of impeccable social background were admitted. The women who ran them -- many of whom were known to be well-to-do, several indeed owning race horses in Shanghai -- were regarded with a proper degree of respect. They resembled, shall I say, the Greek hetaera rather than the fashionable lady of the European demimonde of that time. Most of the women were of Scandinavian origin and had come, I believe, from the vicinity of Minnesota where there is a considerable degree of Scandinavian settlement. The current theory in the Far East was that they came thither with one set purpose: to accumulate a dowry which their families could not afford to give them and that having in a few years piled up quite sizable fortunes, home they went to be absorbed into a respectable and blameless family life.
Talomon and I went on to Japan. Since the world picture has changed so irrevocably in the years since then, it may perhaps be necessary to recall two important facts in connection with Japan in 1906: first, that Britain and Japan were allies, under the terms of an agreement signed early in the century and, second, that Japan had just emerged victorious from the Russo-Japanese War, the first in modern times in which an Asiatic Power had taken on and soundly defeated a European Great Power in a combat on modern terms and with modern arms and equipment. The Foreign Minister, Count Hayashi, who had been Ambassador in London at the time of the signature of the Treaty of Anglo-Japanese alliance, gave a big luncheon in my honor. During the course of the meal he and I discussed the Anglo-Japanese alliance; and Count Hayashi, whom I had known quite well in London, assured me that influential military circles in Japan had been opposed to the idea of an alliance with Britain and had advocated an alliance with Russia. Simultaneous negotiations had in fact been conducted, and the Russian plan failed only because Russia's acceptance of the terms proposed arrived after the treaty with Britain had been initialed. It is interesting and a little awe-inspiring to speculate on how different the history of our century would have been had the Czar's Government moved more speedily. There would have been no Russo-Japanese War to weaken -- as it in fact did irreparably -- the Czarist regime; might not Lenin have remained an obscure agitator in permanent exile?
Among Japanese leaders whom I met was Field Marshal Oyama. I remember being struck by his modesty of demeanor, absence of self-satisfaction and lack of any display of power, and I remember thinking -- for, after all, he was one of the men who had just led their country to victory in the war against Russia -- that his bearing was very different from that which a European or American military leader would have adopted in a like situation. Friends told me that the bearing of Admiral Togo, the victorious commander in the great naval battle of Tsushima, was very similar to that of the Field Marshal.
I was fortunate enough to be granted an audience with the old Emperor, the great Mikado of Japan's revolution, the Emperor during whose reign Japan had stepped at one bound from a medieval way of life to a modern industrial and military power able to challenge the West in its own terms. As a boy before the Revolution, although he was the Mikado, he had been kept in Kyoto by the Shogun in obscurity and something near poverty, rationed daily to a small issue of rice by those who were supposed to be his servants. He threw off this overweening tyranny -- with tremendous results. What surprised me was that he was a tall, powerful, robust man; he would have been thought a big man anywhere, but in Tokyo his size seemed much more conspicuous. My audience with him was a noisy affair. He talked at the top of his powerful voice, shouting questions at me and shouting back his answering comments. When he wasn't shouting he was uttering loud, explosive exclamations. The courtier who acted as interpreter told me afterward that these exclamations indicated that the Emperor approved of my answers to his questions.
We took a Japanese boat across the Pacific and called at Honolulu. People who know Honolulu nowadays can have no idea of what it was like then -- its charm and its quiet air of absolute peace and happiness. There were no trans-Pacific clippers bringing holidaymakers overnight from the United States. It had not been discovered and exploited by the cinema; its romance was genuine. There was no tourist industry, and there were no vast naval and air bases.
All the young women of the island went about garlanded, and whenever we were introduced to any of them they took off their garlands -- so gay and beautiful were their smiles, so graceful and delicate the movements and touch of their hands -- and put them round our necks. Talomon and I were still young and impressionable; we were both pleased and gratified by this courteous custom.
On we went toward the United States and reached San Francisco in December, 1906, in the aftermath of the earthquake. The whole city was one vast ruin. People talk of the material havoc of war in France and in Germany, and I myself have seen, at the conclusion of two world wars, many cities and towns in ruins, but San Francisco in 1906 exceeded anything I have ever seen. It was difficult to find a shop open, but we chanced on a drugstore; it was a curious experience -- amid all this devastation -- to be served with ice cream and cold drinks in what elsewhere in the world we call a chemist's shop. One or two hotels and restaurants were open, but in general life and work were only just beginning again in that terrible and pitiable havoc.
From California we crossed the continent by train, stopping off from time to time and staying a day or two in various cities on the way. In Chicago we were taken on a conducted tour of the stockyards and slaughter houses. Not long before this, Upton Sinclair's propagandist novel about the slaughter houses had been published and caused a considerable sensation. I must say the conditions in the slaughter houses which I was shown bore no similarity to the lurid horrors described in the novel.
Perhaps I ought to point out that such knowledge of America as I then possessed was not derived from novels. I had read Lord Bryce's classic work on the American Constitution, I knew the writings of authors as diverse as Walt Whitman, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Henry and William James and Mark Twain (whom, as I have recorded, I had met in Bombay). I had many American friends and acquaintances in Europe. Like all visitors to the United States I suppose I had my preconceived notions, but they were founded on some real, if academic, knowledge of the structure of American social, economic and political life.
Just after the New Year of 1907 we reached New York. It was the height of the city's winter season. Talomon and I went to stay at the St. Regis; forty years later it was the habit of my younger son, Sadruddin, when he was a Harvard undergraduate, to stay there whenever he was in New York.
From all that my friends tell me, there is no comparison between the social life of New York as it was in those days and the swift, swirling existence of the city today. Of course I had many introductions, largely from my American friends in Europe, and I was immediately and generously entertained. Americans are the most hospitable people in the world, and they receive foreigners with so much kindness, their welcome is so open and so goodhearted, that anyone who has once been to the United States never forgets his time there. I seemed to be invited out to luncheon and dinner every day, and night after night I was someone's guest at the opera. The Metropolitan Opera House in those days was like a superb exhibition of jewelry and fashion. I knew the Opera in Paris and London, but for elegance and opulence among the audience neither was comparable with New York's Metropolitan in the early years of this century.
One New Yorker of some consequence to whom I had an introduction was the then District Attorney, Mr. Jerome, Lady Randolph Churchill's cousin. He was kind enough to arrange for me a special pass which enabled me to watch one of the most interesting and sensational causes célèbres of the time. This was the trial of Harry K. Thaw, accused of the murder of Stanford White, the architect and designer of skyscrapers.
At his trial Thaw was found guilty but insane and thus escaped execution. It seemed that Mrs. Thaw had confessed to her husband that before her marriage she had been taken by Stanford White to his apartment, given drugged champagne, and seduced. This confession aroused Thaw to maniacal jealousy, all the more ferocious because he suspected (groundlessly) that White was still pursuing his wife. In the ballroom of Madison Square Roof Garden White was waltzing with a girl friend when Harry Thaw strode across the floor and fired six shots into his body.
I was especially interested in this melodramatic and colorful affair, for two years before I had met Thaw and the former Evelyn Nesbit together in Paris. Thaw, whose fortune was derived from railroads, cut something of a figure in international society at that time. He had, however, an uncontrollable temper and was an extremely jealous and possessive individual. I met them once at dinner and later on that evening I was talking pleasantly and lightheartedly with the young woman, who was extremely beautiful and attractive. Thaw in the background looked grim and preoccupied, and a friend who was in the party quietly warned me that there was a dangerous streak in Thaw.
There was a grim but bewildering fascination about the trial. I had grown up accustomed to British methods in a court of justice; the whole system of questioning and cross-examination and all the rules of evidence in an American court were startlingly different. It took me a little time to realize that, although the basis of the criminal law is the same in the United States as in England, it has developed along different lines since the eighteenth century and the American legal profession has evolved its own technique and traditions.
By 1907 the motorcar was coming into its own and was no longer the despised and smelly toy it had been a decade earlier, New York was still a city of fine carriages and glossy and well-groomed horses, and the taxi had not yet replaced the elegant hansom cab. How affable and good-tempered American people of all classes were in those days. The clerks and the assistants in the shops and stores seemed friendly and alert, never giving one those sour, disapproving looks that one got in shops in Europe. The policemen on the beat, the New York cops, were genial and talkative when you asked them the way, not curt like the Paris gendarme or aloof and majestic like the old-fashioned London bobby.
I realize that I was extremely fortunate both in the time of this my single visit to New York and in the social world -- now almost entirely vanished -- to which I had the entree. I met the great hostesses and leaders of society of those days: Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Mrs. Whitelaw Reid, Mrs. Phipps, Mrs. Ogden Mills and others. How kind and hospitable they were, how stately were the parties and the dances they gave -- more than one, I may add, in my honor.
I spent a good deal of time in the museums, as I always do in any city that I visit for the first time. Many of the wealthier private houses, of course, were museums and art galleries in their own right. It was curious, I remember remarking, that although in Europe the heyday of the French impressionists had dawned and connoisseurs were already beginning to collect their work, American taste remained still classical and traditional, and the walls of many of the big houses that I visited were hung with examples of English, Italian, German, Flemish and Dutch painting of many epochs.
I was made an honorary member of the Union Club. I discovered the joys of native American cooking; surely canvasback duck and terrapin are two of the best dishes in the world. I went to the theater a great deal, and here "modernism" -- as it was then understood -- had certainly hit New York. Ibsen was the rage, and several of his plays were being performed at theaters around the town. But it was also, of course, the day of the musical comedy, before it had been displaced by other noisier, more synthetic forms of amusement.
It was a time of great expansion and prosperity for New York and for America generally, an outward and visible sign of which was the rising skyline of New York. We talked about skyscrapers then, but they were modest little affairs of twenty or thirty floors -- still, they seemed to us gigantic.
Altogether I had a wonderful time in New York. I have never forgotten it. I only wish that I had been able to go back again. That this has never proved possible has been my misfortune and, I may say, a cause of great and lasting regret.
My tour had set me up in health and in spirits. The year 1907 saw the Morley-Minto constitutional reforms in India turned from tentative proposals, whose shape and pattern we had been able effectively to influence, into law. John Morley, with his liberal background and outlook of the purest theoretical and academic kind, was extremely reluctant to accept the principle of separate electoral representation for the Muslims. It went against the grain of his character. However, the Viceroy, Lord Minto, had given his assent to the undertaking, and Morley -- however scrupulous his theoretical objections -- could not be permitted to go back on it. For Syed Amir Ali and myself, 1907 was a period of what I can best describe as guerrilla warfare, whose aim was to keep up to the mark. We won in the end, but it was hard going.
In my personal life I was able to effect radical and permanent adjustments. Any hope of reconciliation with my wife, Shahzadi Begum, had unhappily but finally receded; we agreed to a deed of separation and, not long afterward, to a divorce under Muslim law. While of course I remained responsible for her maintenance until her death, she passed completely out of my life and we never met again.
From 1907 I visited Europe every year. My life moved in an agreeable and spacious round. As a shy, raw young man on my first visit to Europe in 1898, I had lost my heart to the French Riviera. Now in my maturity my affection for it had deepened and ripened, and I found myself returning to it again and again. In 1908 this affection found a personal focus. I made the acquaintance of Mlle. Theresa Magliano, one of the most promising young dancers of the Ballet Opéra of Monte Carlo, a ballerina who -- in the opinion of the teachers of both the Paris Opéra and of La Scala in Milan -- was assured of a brilliant future in her profession. She was then just nineteen. We fell deeply in love. In the spring of that year she accompanied me to Egypt and we were married in Cairo in accordance with Muslim law.
My new marriage brought me spiritual and mental satisfaction and enrichment. It also opened for me a path into a new and absorbing world. My young wife's nature was intensely aesthetic. She was a truly creative artist. Although inevitably she gave up the stage after our marriage, she turned to a serious study first of painting and later of sculpture. It was here that her talents flowered. She took the professional name of Yla. Her work was exhibited on the Continent and in England.
Before she died in 1926, at the tragically early age of thirtyseven, my wife had attained recognition as a sculptor of merit and high artistic capacity. She had been asked to design a number of war memorials in England and France and also a number of those monuments to Unknown Soldiers which so poignantly expressed the emotions of the interwar years. The last commission which she was offered gave her especial satisfaction; it was from the city of Vienna, obtained in open competition with a strong candidature of more than a hundred, to design a fountain in which statuary was an important part of the decorative scheme.
My wife's aesthetic interests and tastes encouraged me to explore the world of art for myself.
My own first loves in the world of aesthetic experience were always music and the ballet. My reactions to music and to dancing have been emotional and sensuous. I have a vivid recollection of the first time I ever heard a waltz played and watched it danced. I was a boy of thirteen or fourteen at the time. The scene was a ball at Government House in Poona. I daresay the orchestra was worse than mediocre; I doubt if the dancers were particularly expert. I had no standards to judge by. My taste was utterly unformed. But there in the brightly lit ballroom the dancers swirled before me; it was as if the figures on some beautifully carved frieze had come suddenly to warm and glowing life; the lilt and sway of the music swept into my heart like a flooding tide of joy. The lights that shone in that ballroom have been extinguished sixty years and more, and the dancers are all gone, but the memory of the music and movement has never faded.
I had discovered a source of happiness which I was never to lose. As life has gone on I have become more and more interested and I have found more and more refreshment and solace in music, in the ballet, the opera and the theater. These for me have ranked first among the arts. Pictures I have liked, but in a comparatively restricted field. Like many others of my generation I was brought up on the work of the great masters of the Italian and, to a lesser extent, the Dutch and British schools; but dutifully though I went around the art galleries, they never stirred me. It was when I first saw Turner's work that I saw what painting really could mean. Then about 1904 I saw my first French impressionists; here for me was an extension and development of the same satisfaction that Turner gave me -- their early landscapes, not their portraits. Turner, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, those are my painters. In sculpture and in furniture my taste is sheerly Egyptian -- the great statuaries of ancient Egypt, the simple, pure, formal yet flowing lines of the ordinary, day-to-day furniture that you see exhibited in the Cairo Museum, those are enough for me. English and French furniture, even of the "great" periods, leaves me cold. I care little for jewelry or work in precious metals, except silver; beautiful silver has always held a considerable attraction for me.
But in those realms of aesthetic experience that I do care about, much have I traveled and much have I profoundly enjoyed. I am proud to recall that I have counted among my personal friends many of the great artists of this century. I know Stravinsky well, and my knowledge of much of his early work was close and intimate. In his association with Diaghilev he wrote, as everyone knows, the music for some of the finest ballets ever created by that master impresario; I heard much of that music before it was orchestrated.
I knew Puccini quite well. I think I must have been one of the first of his friends to notice a troublesome and increasing hoarseness in Puccini's voice, a hoarseness which was the first indication of the malady which ultimately killed him -- as tactfully as I could, I suggested to him that instead of perpetually sucking cough lozenges, he ought to go to see a doctor. Massenet was another friend of mine, and we often dined together at the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo. Once when he was, as I had been given to understand, laid low with bronchitis, I drove over from Cannes to see him at the Hôtel de Paris. I was shown up immediately to his sitting room. He was stark naked in the room next door in a marble bathtub before a blazing fire. He was busily dictating music to a woman secretary. Neither he nor she seemed at all discomposed; I was, I must confess, somewhat taken aback. Massenet, however, was voluble in his explanation. He had had a rush of creative ideas which had to be put down on paper. Since I had come all the way from Cannes to call on him, would it not have been discourteous to refuse to see me?
"Please sit down," he said. "I must just finish this piece of work."
For nearly an hour he sat on in the bath, turning the hot tap on from time to time, repeating and trying out bars and single notes of music, and making his secretary sing them back to him, so that it began to sound as if he were giving her a singing lesson. At last the flow of inspiration ceased, the young woman shut her notebook and hurried away, and only then did the old gentleman -- he was, after all, about seventy -- realize that he was sitting there naked and that the water had grown chilly. He jumped out of the bath, ran into his bedroom, put on a bathrobe, and came back to bid me a friendly and courteous good-by.
I have known many actors and singers: Madame Bartet of the Comédie Française; Jean de Reszke, the great tenor and teacher of a new generation of singers; Caruso, whose magnificent voice seemed literally to shake Covent Garden to its foundations when he soared to his highest notes. Though perhaps not as pure an artist as Tomagno, I think that he was, without doubt, the greatest tenor of my time. I remember Melba in her magnificent prime; it was told of her that when she first presented herself at the Opéra in Paris the director, though he recognized the potentialities of her voice, said that her Australian accent was so formidable that he would be able to do nothing with her. Like many other great singers Melba was a hearty eater; she liked a good, rich supper after the opera, and to top it off she had a habit of ordering ice cream, a fresh peach, strawberries, and cream and consuming the lot together. Escoffier, the famous restaurateur, heard about this habit, made an established dish of it and named it in her honor. So was born the now universally known Pècbe Melba.
In England I knew well many of the most famous figures of the stage, from Sir Henry Irving (whom I often visited in his dressing room at the Lyceum Theater) to the George Alexanders, the Trees, Sir Seymour Hicks and his wife Ellaline Terriss, and many, many others. I made the acquaintance of Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson through a friend of mine, a fellow member of the Marlborough, Douglas Ainsley. Ainsley himself was a man of originality of character and some talent; formerly a member of the diplomatic service, he established in his own person a kind of unofficial liaison between the world of society and the world of the stage. Forbes-Robertson suggested that I should write an Oriental tragedy for him on an historical theme, leaving it to me to choose my subject out of the great mass of Islamic lore and legend. I chose the sad and stirring story of the murder of the Prophet's grandson, my ancestor, Hussein, at Kerbela, and made a beginning with it. One day in the summer of 1904 at Douglas Ainsley's house I read Forbes-Robertson what I had written; I don't think he liked it very much. Thenceforward I abandoned any idea of writing dramatic poetry.
To return to composers -- when I first arrived in Europe the great controversy about Wagner was still in full swing. But it was of course, as all musical appreciation was in those days in every Western European country except Italy, restricted to a comparatively few. One of the great changes that I have seen in my lifetime has been the vast extension of musical understanding, taste and appreciation through all sections of society. The old, snobbish glamour may have departed; but the breakdown of class distinction not only in England but in France and Switzerland too has, in my opinion, done a great deal of good. It is especially noticeable over the ballet; and here I may claim that I have watched, from very close quarters, an immense revolution in taste from its beginnings.
Diaghilev was the creator and inspirer of this revolution. As Caesar in Britain, so was the Russian, Diaghilev, in prewar Western Europe -- he came, he saw, he conquered. He himself maintained that he would never have had a chance to demonstrate his originality or exert his influence as he did in Western Europe had he remained in Russia, where -- although it was the home of the ballet in a certain sense -- the classical mold was firmly fixed, and there was no opportunity for that creative fire which, once he was abroad, Diaghilev set burning so furiously.
From the first I was one of Diaghilev's enthusiastic and unwavering supporters, and so I remained till his untimely death. I doubt if the magnitude of Diaghilev's achievement is generally realized today. A new generation takes it all for granted. Ballet, as it was understood and practiced in Western Europe, before he came on the scene, was a sterile and virtually static minor art form from which real vitality and excitement -- as distinct from mere repetitive prettiness -- seemed to have ebbed away. Then in 1909 and 1910 Diaghilev burst like a bomb on the aesthetic consciousness of Europe. His dynamic influence was not confined to the ballet; it spilled over into all the allied arts and revolutionized their fundamental ideas, creative and critical. On the concepts of uniting music and motion and the representation of abstract ideas and ideals through movement as much as through music, Diaghilev's influence was tremendous and lasting. This obviously was the core of his unique achievement; but what would stage décor, costume design, feminine fashion, furnishings and interior decorations have been in the first half of this century without Diaghilev? His impact on the major plastic arts of sculpture and painting was no less revolutionary. Yet his wonderful, unique quality was one of indirect creativeness. It is possible to argue that he himself in fact never created anything, but the truth is that the creative work of everyone who collaborated with him was, profoundly and really, his creation too. How many artists did what the world now recognizes to be their best work for him and with him? Not only dancers like Karsavina, Nijinsky, Lifar and Massine, but a painter like Bakst, a musician like Stravinsky. He was an impresario of genius, and he was something more. He so infused and inspired others that, working for him, they were better and bigger than they ever could have been without him and the result of the association has been that some of them have become today the most famous and wonderful choreographers in the world. Nijinsky was the supreme and tragic example of this mysterious power which he exerted, of genius evoking genius. But his influence was no less important on many others, over whom his hold was not so obviously hypnotic. Imposing his strong, original taste on a band of talented artists and extracting from them their best and most original work, he imposed that taste on Europe -- with unforgettable, immeasurable effect.
I often used to be present at his conferences with all of his leading associates -- "heads of departments" as he called them: Stravinsky, Bakst, Nijinsky, Karsavina, his ballet master, his choreographer in chief, a young poet perhaps, a venerable and venerated artist like Rodin. A conference was like a council of war. Each would pour out his ideas into a common pool, but Diaghilev -- have no doubt of it -was the supreme commander; he imposed a unity of form and aesthetic conception, he turned a mass of brilliant projects into an ordered and coherent work of art. The clash of ideas was subdued and hammered into shape, and the final result, far more often than not, was a masterpiece.
The practical foundation, on which this exuberance of talent was based, seemed at first sight fragile in the extreme. Diaghilev was always in debt; he never -- apparently -- had a penny in hand. His creative imagination -- and his own faith in it -- outsoared these (as it seemed to him) minor considerations. He knew that he was creating a masterpiece, a series of masterpieces; he trusted implicitly that his audiences would recognize the value of his work. He possessed that faith which moves mountains -- and mountains of difficulty dissolved as he went along. Whenever the financial situation looked most desperate, some new wealthy patron, some Maecenas would turn up; the most immediate and pressing difficulties would be smoothed away; and he would sweep in confidence to his next triumph. On the stage, too, his capacity for improvisation and his total reliance on it were all-pervasive. Until the last minute every new production bore the appearance of total chaos, but somehow by some magic of his own, between the final rehearsal and the first night, when everyone else around him was despairing and on the edge of nervous collapse, Diaghilev would induce order out of the hurly-burly; and another thunderously acclaimed success would be added to the lengthening roll. Night after night the HOUSE FULL board would go out in front of the theater. The whole season would be triumphant. At its close, off Diaghilev and the company would go to London and to other capitals and provincial centers, to the same acclamation, with the same story of success, until the money ran out. He was indeed unique, but the revolution in art which his genius precipitated has continued to run its course since his death. The revitalized and flourishing art of the ballet all over the world -- in Paris, London and the United States -- is the beautiful and fruitful tree whose seeds this strange, turbulent and brilliant man so lavishly sowed. It is a profound cause of satisfaction to those who, like myself, saw his work at close quarters and almost from its inception to know that this great aesthetic revolution, as fundamental and as far-reaching as that which Wagner brought about in the world of music, was the work of a genius whom we were privileged to know as a friend.
Diaghilev and the ballet were the center of that fascinating world of highly sophisticated, highly cultivated creative work and critical appreciation in which, during those years immediately before the First World War, I lived so full and so zestful a life. Time, chance, war, economic and social change have wreaked havoc with the rich fabric and pattern of a civilization and a way of life which then seemed indestructible. However, if much is lost, much has been gained in those magnificent and widespread effects of the revolution in all artistic matters achieved by Diaghilev. While the classes have lost, the masses have gained. The diffusion of culture is not just a textbook phrase nowadays; it is a reality. When I think of the theaters and opera houses, the concert halls and art galleries of Western Europe today, and of the people of all social classes (and not just a wealthy and leisured few) who throng them, whose pleasure and mental and spiritual enrichment are so obvious; when I think of how real and eager understanding and appreciation of the arts have extended in recent decades to every level of society -- then I see far more reason to rejoice than to lament. There are some, however, who cannot share my optimism. The sadness of one facet of the years of transition is for me summed up and symbolized in an encounter which I had in the theater in Zurich, in the middle of the Second World War, with Richard Strauss. I had known him well at the height of his international fame. Around us there was a continent, a world, locked in relentless conflict, a nightmare projection into grim reality of all Wagner's most terrible imaginings and forebodings. Strauss was an old, heartbroken man. He saw me, flung up both his arms in a sad, despairing gesture, rolled his eyes upward and muttered some incoherent phrase in which I could just catch the word "God," and stumbled forlornly away.
From 1907 until the outbreak of war I was in Europe for some part of every year. Movement from country to country, from continent to continent, though more leisurely than it is today, was also a great deal easier and freer. Civilization had not learned all the tortuous refinements of passports and visas, of exchange control and security regulations. The number of Americans who were coming to Europe was increasing year by year; many of them were affluent; many were people of cultivated and sophisticated tastes; some stayed permanently, some came back and forth, some maintained largescale establishments on the Riviera or elsewhere. Many of them were "characters" in their own right -- the remarkable James Gordon Bennett, for example, the famous proprietor of the New York Herald who had a villa at Beaulieu-sur-Mer. He was then an old man, and he looked his age. He was apt to be short-tempered and peppery, but he had a warm, kind heart. The hospitality which he and his delightful wife most liked to dispense was breakfast, big and elaborate meal with every kind of characteristic American dish. I recall that during the First World War he developed the strongest antipathy to bad news of any kind. If his attention were drawn to any tactical or strategic reverse suffered by the Western Allies, his temper became terrible, the unhappy bringer of bad tidings was so abused and berated that it was difficult not to believe that he was not actually responsible for the reverse which he had been so rash as to mention.
Others whose acquaintance and friendship I made at this time included Mr. Harjes, of Morgan's Bank, a staunch supporter of the Allied cause from the day war broke out, and his wife -- one of the world's most beautiful women, a queenly, glorious, magnificent woman; Mr. Ralph Curtis -- a lively amusing conversationalist -and his wife; Mr. and Mrs. James H. Hyde; Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Berenson; and Walter Berry, who had been a judge of the mixed courts in Cairo, and who was a lifelong friend of Edith Wharton, the novelist-historian of New York.
Bernard Berenson took considerable pride in the care and precision with which he pronounced the English language. His verbal armor, however, had one curious chink in it; he pronounced the simple word "corkscrew" as if it had a third syllable in it -- "corkerscrew." Some of his friends who knew of this little vagary, having got him off his guard, mischievously put him to the test one April Fool's Day. To everyone's delight out popped "corkerscrew"; and for years afterward if he dared to take up a stand on correct pronunciation, he would be vociferously reminded of that intrusive syllable.
Ralph Curtis had an addiction to puns; years before I knew him he happened to be in Bombay when Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt (the father of Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough, later Madame Balsan) arrived in his yacht. Lord Harris, then Governor, held the erroneous opinion, frequently held by Englishmen, that American society was built on money. Aware that the Vanderbilts were very rich, he condescendingly asked Ralph Curtis if he knew Mr. Vanderbilt, clearly implying that it would be quite an honor if he did.
"I never knew the Vanderbilts," said Ralph Curtis, demurely, "for when I lived in New York they were still Vanderbuilding."
At James Hyde's house I met several times Monsieur Hanotaux, the famous historian, member of the Académie Française, and statesman, who had been France's Foreign Minister from 1894 to 1898. He took a fancy to me and often we found ourselves discussing politics. I remember that he affirmed with great earnestness that if the Méline Cabinet of 1898, of which he had been a member, had not fallen, and if the coalition of parties that had put Méline in office had maintained their support of him instead of backing Delcassé, it might have proved possible to achieve a fair and friendly solution of the problem of Alsace-Lorraine which would have been honorable and satisfying to both France and Germany. If Hanotaux's assertion was right, here was another of those missed chances in diplomacy, another wrong turning, where if the right decision had been taken, the First World War need never have happened.
Walter Berry brought me into acquaintanceship with Mrs. Edith Wharton and with Marcel Proust. Walter Berry, a bachelor and an agreeable and charming conversationalist, had somehow or another achieved among the women members of the little circle in which he and I then moved the reputation of being the greatest marital submarine torpedo that had ever existed. The ladies averred that he had told each of them separately that she was far too good for her husband; he was a distinguished man, a famous lawyer -- what could they do but believe him? And every time there was another marriage torpedoed. It was the kind of joke which a small, sophisticated society can get hold of, work almost to death and never let go. But Walter Berry had one remarkable claim to fame. He was one of the few people in the world who could at any time ask Proust to dinner and always be sure of an acceptance. Oddly enough, I never met Proust at the Ritz, where he used to go a great deal, but I did meet him several times at dinner at Walter Berry's. What I remember most about Proust was his silences; I recall only one remark of his. A Mademoiselle Atoucha, an Argentine lady who was affianced to a French Marquis, was Berry's fourth guest. Proust surveyed her, observed that she looked like Cleopatra, and said nothing else for the rest of the dinner. On this, as on other occasions, Berry and I did our best to sustain the conversation, and the great novelist sat silently watching and listening to us; it was a slightly disconcerting experience.
This was the society, these were some of the friends of my leisure in these happy and agreeable years. Work, of course, continued unabated. I spent a considerable part of each year in India, concerned not only with my duties toward my followers but with the interests and the responsibilities which I had acquired in Indian politics. These were the years in which the Morley-Minto reforms were being put into practice. It was proved that the principle of separate electoral representation for Muslims, which we had fought so hard to have established, was sound and workable as well as theoretically just. Muslim political consciousness, under the leadership of men like Nawab Ali Chowdry and the Nawab of Dacca in Bengal, and of Sir Mohammed Shaffi and Sir Sulfiqar Ali Khan in the Punjab, matured and strengthened steadily.
I myself was devoting a good deal of time, energy and interest to the affairs of Aligarh. I suppose that I was a sort of one-man "ginger group" on behalf of the project of converting Aligarh into a great Muslim university. Steadily during these years we aroused interest in and extended support for our project. Of course it provoked opposition from that powerful British element whose argument was that a Muslim university would be undesirable and that its tendencies and teachings would be narrowly sectarian and particularist. I strove hard to counter these criticisms, making it a cardinal point of all my appeals for help, all my speeches and articles, that the sons of Aligarh University would go forth "through the length and breadth of the land to preach the gospel of free inquiry, of large-hearted toleration and of pure morality."
I was not without support in high places. Lord Minto was succeeded by Viceroy Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, a statesman and diplomat with a wide and long experience of life with and among Muslim people in Iran and throughout the Near East. As the member of the Viceroy's Executive Council responsible for education there was a brilliant and devoted administrator, Sir Harcourt Butler, uncle of Mr. R. A. Butler, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Sir Winston Churchill's Government of 1951 onward, and the minister responsible for Britain's great Education Act of 1944. Interest in education is a tradition in the Butler family. Both Lord Hardinge and Sir Harcourt understood our Muslim position and were aware of the fundamental differences in the social, cultural and spiritual background of Muslim and Hindu. For myself, I tried again and again to make it clear that I regarded Muslim educational advancement not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. If we were to advance down the road toward independence and self-government -- however distant that goal might seem -- we must, as a community, possess the knowledge and the intellectual equipment to cope with the political responsibilities to which we were beginning to aspire. I had no narrow sectarian purpose in view. I urged from the outset that Sanskrit should be taught, and with it the history and evolution of Hindu civilization, religion and philosophy, in order that our people should be able better to understand their neighbors. A university of our own was essential because it was the best and most enduring means of developing the spiritual unity of Islam.
The work of converting others to this belief which I held so ardently, of building up support for it and of raising funds was extremely strenuous. I traveled all over India. I went to great Muslim leaders, to the poor and to the rich, to princes and to peasants. My own monetary contribution was one hundred thousand rupees, which was quite a sum in those days; in all I collected more than three million rupees. These were years of unremitting hard work. For days and weeks at a time, it seemed, I lived in railway trains. In every town at which the train stopped I would address Muslim gatherings on the platform of the railway station. At every opportunity I preached the cause of Aligarh. My honorary private secretary, and my right-hand man throughout the campaign, was the late Maulana Shakak Ali; without his steadfast, unwearying helpI doubt if I should ever have been able to make a success of it.
We reached a climax in the long campaign with the Muslim Educational Conference at Nagpur in 1910 at which the Aligarh project was the principal item on the agenda, and indeed dominated the proceedings. Our aims were well expressed by the chairman of the conference, Mr. Yusuf Ali, who defined the scope of the university which we hoped to establish in these words: "It will have no tests; freedom and originality of thought will be encouraged. It will be a Muslim university in the sense that it will promote the ideals which the Muslims of India have evolved out of the educational experience of two generations."
Now when all is said and done, when I look back on all that the Muslim University of Aligarh has stood for and achieved in the past forty years, this is without doubt one of the facets of my life which I can record and contemplate with real and abiding satisfaction. I do not want to stress only its political consequences, momentous as those have been. Where else than in a Muslim university would it have been possible to establish and maintain, alongside and fully integrated with the libraries, the laboratories and all the facilities essential for a full understanding of our world and our time, a true center of Islamic faith and culture, in which can be expounded and practiced the principles of our religion, its universality and its real modernity, its essential reasonableness, its profound spirit of tolerance and charity and respect for other faiths? That I played my part in establishing such a center is for me one of the happiest, most consoling and most fortifying thoughts to take into old age.