ROBERTS, Emma. Scenes and Characteristics of Hindostan, with Sketches of Anglo-Indian Society. London, Wm. H. Allen, 1835.
Three volumes, 8vo. Contemporary (publisher's?) drab boards, re-backed with new printed spine labels; pp. xvi, 323, 8 (publisher's catalogue, dated December, 1835]; xi, 310; xi, 323, [8, advertisements]; endpapers a little spotted and with a few flaws, otherwise rather clean and fresh; provenance; rubber stamps of Rama Krishna & Sons Book-Sellers Lahore on front paste-downs.
Very rare first edition. 'In 1828, after her mother's death, she [Emma Roberts] went out to India with her elder sister, Laura, who had married Captain Robert Adair McNaghten of the 61st Bengal infantry. "There cannot be", she later wrote: "a more wretched situation than that of a young woman in India who has been induced to follow the fortunes of her married sister under the delusive expectation that she will exchange the privations attached to limited means in England for the far-famed luxuries of the East" [Roberts, Scenes and Characteristics, 1.33–4]. With the McNaghtens she lived in north India at Agra, Cawnpore, and Etawah, and in 1830 published a volume of poetry, Oriental Scenes, which she claimed to be the first written by a British woman in India. After her sister's death in October 1830 her writing became the main focus of her interest and a source of financial support. On moving to Calcutta, she edited and wrote for the Oriental Observer, and contributed to periodicals and annuals. In 1832, suffering from overwork, she returned to London and immersed herself in its literary world. She wrote extensively in many fields, including history, biography, topographical description, cookery, fiction, and poetry. However, it was as a writer on India that she won greatest acclaim. The objectivity gained from what she perceived to be her peripheral role as a spinster in British society in India was turned to account in her descriptions of both the British and Indians, for whom she showed sympathy. Many of her articles which appeared in the Asiatic Journal from 1832 were published as Scenes and Characteristics of Hindostan (1835). The book was widely praised, the Calcutta Literary Gazette noting, "there is a vivacity, a delicacy, and a truth in her light sketches of all that lay immediately before her, that have never been surpassed in any book of travels that is at this moment present to our memory" '(ODNB).