EDEN, Emily. 'Up the Country'. Letters written to her Sister from the Upper Provinces of India. London, Richard Bentley, 1866.
Two volumes, 8vo. Contemporary red half-calf over marbled boards; pp. [ii], 302; [ii], 263; light marking to bindings; evenly a little toned; a good set.
First edition. The writer Emily Eden (1797–1869) accompanied her brother George when he was appointed governor-general of India in 1835. 'The monotony of her Calcutta life was also broken by an extended tour of north-western India between October 1837 and February 1840. The governor-general's party spent April to October in 1838 and 1839 at Simla, which Eden proclaimed the 'best part of India' (Up the Country, 125). Her travels during these two years formed the basis of what became perhaps her best-known book, Up the Country, which was drawn from a series of letters to one of her sisters. Eden's dry, ironic style and eye for memorable detail ensures that the letters are more than a simple enumeration of marvels. While she presents vivid large-scale pictures of state travel in the company of 12,000 people, she is also attentive to such relatively mundane matters as silk gowns ruined by the custom of pouring attar of roses on the hands of visitors and the difficulties of painting a portrait of the new Queen Victoria, whom nobody in their party had seen, for an official present for the maharaja Ranjit Singh. Eden, who was a talented amateur painter as well as a writer, occupied herself with sketching, in addition to carrying out her official duties, leaving a visual as well as a verbal record of her travels in India. Despite the generally light tone of the letters, however, the Edens were in India during troubled times. They travelled from Calcutta during a year of devastating famine, and Eden was deeply shocked by the suffering she witnessed as they passed through the Cawnpore region early in 1838. That year also saw the build-up to the first Anglo-Afghan War, a disaster that seriously damaged Lord Auckland's reputation as governor-general' (ODNB).