TRAVELS THROUGH INDIA AT THE TIME OF THE DURBAR

A Little Tour in India.

London: Unwin Brothers, Limited, The Gresham Press for Edward Arnold, 1913.

8vo (225 x 140mm), pp. [i]-xi, [1 (blank)], [1]-224, [1]-16 (publisher’s catalogue, dated February 1913, with price of this title amended in manuscript from 10s 6d to ‘8/6’); original blue cloth, boards with upper and lower borders ruled in blind, upper board lettered in gilt, spine lettered and ruled in gilt, uncut; light spotting and offsetting on endpapers, extremities lightly rubbed and bumped, cracking on lower hinge skilfully repaired, nonetheless a very good, fresh copy; provenance: Brentano’s, New York (bookseller’s ticket on lower pastedown).

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First edition. Palmer was the son of the politician and colonial administrator William Palmer, Earl of Selborne, and was educated at Winchester College and University College, Oxford, where he took First Classes in Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores, obtained distinction in the examination for the Ireland Scholarship, and was President of the Union. In 1911 Palmer visited India and his experiences are recorded in this series of letters, written to members of his family between 1 December 1911 and 5 May 1912; as the author explains in his introduction, on his return to England ‘I found that they had been collected and typewritten: and I was persuaded to publish them. [...] Excepting the omission of private passages and the insertion of some few paragraphs from a diary, the letters are printed as they passed through the post, a fact which accounts for sundry monstrosities of syntax – barbarous parentheses, unattached pronouns, mixed tenses. It was thought better to leave these than to disguise rough impressions with a thin varnish of literary elaboration’ (p. vii).

The work opens with his arrival at Bombay and a description of the Taj Mahal, and an account follows of his attendance at various events relating to the Durbar held to commemorate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary: ‘[t]he Durbar was very good; from the purely aesthetic point of view it was worth all the week’s discomfort, and as a political eduction in imagination it may even be worth all the money spent on it’ (p. 19). Palmer then undertook a tour of the subcontinent, and the successive chapters describe his travels and experiences in Deccan, Mahratta, Calcutta, Darjeeling, Goa, and Kashmir. In October 1914 Palmer returned to India as an officer in the 6th Battalion Hampshire Regiment, and participated in the unsuccessful attempt to relieve the garrison at Kut-el-Amara, during which he fell at the Battle of Umm-el-Hannah on 21 January 1916.

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