trailblazing for india
DIGBY, William 1857. A Friend in Need. 1887. Friendship forgotten. An Episode in Indian Foreign Office Administration. London, Indian Political Agency, 1890.
8vo. Original blue cloth decorated and lettered in gilt, boards with blind-stamped fillets; pp. xvii, , 148, with folding coloured map of the ‘Indian Empire’ and 6 halftone plates from photographs; cloth minimally spotted, apart from foxing to edges and map (offseting to adjacent pages), a very good copy.
Very are first edition. A work criticising the British government in Calcutta for turning its back on Nepal, by the journalist and social campaigner William Digby (1849–1904), described by Gandhi as a ‘champion’ of India. Reminding his readers of the debt owed by the British to Jung Bahadur (founder of the Rana dynasty and ruler of Nepal until 1877) for his assistance during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Digby here condemns British inaction following the 1885 assassination of his successor Ranodip Singh in a coup d’état by his nephews (which he compares to Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan) and its indifference to the plight of Jung Bahadur’s daughter and other relatives, in particular that shown by the then Governor-General of India, the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava. The volume contains much of interest on the history of Nepal, its relations with Britain, and the early years of the premiership of Bir Shumsher, successor to Ranodip Singh. Digby ‘pursued in the press and on the platform the campaign for extending selfgovernment to Indians … [and] attacked the economic consequences of the empire, claiming to prove a steady growth of poverty among the majority of Indians under British rule’ (ODNB). Following his death, Gandhi wrote that ‘India has lost a champion, whom it will be difficult to replace’. In 1888 Digby had set up the Indian Political and General Agency in London for the purpose of raising awareness about Indian grievances in the British Parliament and Press. He served as its secretary during 1887–1892 and served as an unofficial guide to Indian National Congress leaders visiting London.