Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
MY DEAR SISTER,
Were any one to ask your countrymen in India what has been their greatest source of pleasure while there, perhaps nine in ten would say, the letters which they receive from their sisters at home. These, of all things, perhaps, tend most to link our affections with home by filling the landscapes, so dear to our recollections, with ever varying groups of the family circles, among whom our infancy and our boyhood have been passed; and among whom we still hope to spend the winter of our days.
They have a very happy facility in making us familiar with the new additions made from time to time to the dramatis personae of these scenes after we quit them, in the character of husbands, wives, children, or friends; and, while thus contributing so much to our happiness, they no doubt tend to make us better citizens of the world, and servants of government, than we should otherwise be, for, in our 'struggles through life in India', we have all, more or less, an eye to the approbation of those circles which our kind sisters represent—who may, therefore, be considered in the exalted light of a valuable species of unpaid magistracy to the Government of India.
No brother has ever had a kinder or better correspondent than I have had in you, my dear sister; and it was the consciousness of having left many of your valued letters unanswered, in the press of official duties, that made me first think of devoting a part of my leisure to you in these Rambles and Recollections, while on my way from the banks of the Nerbudda river to the Himālaya mountains, in search of health, in the end of 1835 and beginning of 1836. To what I wrote during that journey I have now added a few notes, observations, and conversations with natives, on the subjects which my narrative seemed to embrace; and the whole will, I hope, interest and amuse you and the other members of our family; and appear, perchance, not altogether uninteresting or uninstructive to those who are strangers to us both.
Of one thing I must beg you to be assured, that I have nowhere indulged in fiction, either in the narrative, the recollections, or the conversations. What I relate on the testimony of others I believe to be true; and what I relate upon my own you may rely upon as being so. Had I chosen to write a work of fiction, I might possibly have made it a good deal more interesting; but I question whether it would have been so much valued by you, or so useful to others; and these are the objects I have had in view. The work may, perhaps, tend to make the people of India better understood by those of my own countrymen whose destinies are cast among them, and inspire more kindly feelings towards them. Those parts which, to the general reader, will seem dry and tedious, may be considered, by the Indian statesman, as the most useful and important.
The opportunities of observation, which varied employment has given me, have been such as fall to the lot of few; but, although I have endeavoured to make the most of them, the time of public servants is not their own; and that of few men has been more exclusively devoted to the service of their masters than mine. It may be, however, that the world, or that part of it which ventures to read these pages, will think that it had been better had I not been left even the little leisure that has been devoted to them.
Your ever affectionate brother,
W. H. SLEEMAN.