Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.

The Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official, always a costly book, has been scarce and difficult to procure for many years past. Among the crowd of books descriptive of Indian scenery, manners, and customs, the sterling merits of Sir William Sleeman's work have secured it pre-eminence, and kept it in constant demand, notwithstanding the lapse of nearly fifty years since its publication.

The high reputation of this work does not rest upon its strictly literary qualities. The author was a busy man, immersed all his life in the practical affairs of administration, and too full of his subject to be careful of strict correctness of style or minute accuracy of expression.

Yet, so great is the intrinsic value of his observations, and so attractive are the sincerity and sympathy with which he discusses a vast range of topics, that the reader refuses to be offended by slight formal defects in expression or arrangement, and willingly yields to the charm of the author's genial and unstudied conversation.

It would be difficult to name any other book so full of instruction for the young Anglo-Indian administrator. When this work was published in 1844 the author had had thirty-five years' varied experience of Indian life, and had accumulated and assimilated an immense store of knowledge concerning the history, manners, and modes of thought of the complex population of India.

He thoroughly understood the peculiarities of the various native races, and the characteristics which distinguish them from the nations of Europe; while his sympathetic insight into Indian life had not orientalized him, nor had it ever for one moment caused him to forget his position and heritage as an Englishman. This attitude of sane and discriminating sympathy is the right attitude for the Englishman in India.

To enumerate the topics on which wise and profitable observations will be found in this book would be superfluous. The wine is good, and needs no bush. So much may be said that the book is one to interest that nondescript person, the general reader in Europe or America, as well as the Anglo-Indian official.

Besides good advice and sound teaching on matters of policy and administration, it contains many charming, though inartificial, descriptions of scenery and customs, many ingenious speculations, and some capital stories. The ethnologist, the antiquary, the geologist, the soldier, and the missionary will all find in it something to suit their several tastes.

In this edition the numerous misprints of the original edition have been all, and, for the most part, silently corrected. The extremely erratic punctuation has been freely modified, and the spelling of Indian words and names has been systematized. Two paragraphs, misplaced in the original edition at the end of Chapter 48 of Volume I, have been removed, and inserted in their proper place at the end of Chapter 47; and the supplementary notes printed at the end of the second volume of the original edition have been brought up to the positions which they were intended to occupy.

Chapters 37 to 46 of the first volume, describing the contest for empire between the sons of Shāh Jahān, are in substance only a free version of Bernier's work entitled, The Late Revolution of the Empire of the Great Mogol. These chapters have not been reprinted because the history of that revolution can now be read much more satisfactorily in Mr. Constable's edition of Bernier's Travels. Except as above stated, the text of the present edition of the Rambles and Recollections is a faithful reprint of the Author's text.

In the spelling of names and other words of Oriental languages the Editor has 'endeavoured to strike a mean between popular usage and academic precision, preferring to incur the charge of looseness to that of pedantry'. Diacritical marks intended to distinguish between the various sibilants, dentals, nasals, and so forth, of the Arabic and Sanskrit alphabets, have been purposely omitted. Long vowels are marked by the sign ¯.

Except in a few familiar words, such as Nerbudda and Hindoo, which are spelled in the traditional manner, vowels are to be pronounced as in Italian, or as in the following English examples, namely: ā, as in 'call'; e, or ē, as the medial vowel in 'cake'; i, as in 'kill'; ī, as the medial vowels in 'keel'; u, as in 'full'; ū, as the medial vowels in 'fool'; o, or ō, as in 'bone'; ai, or āi, as 'eye' or 'aye', respectively; and au, as the medial sound in 'fowl'. Short a, with stress, is pronounced like the u in 'but'; and if without stress, as an indistinct vowel, like the A in 'America'.

The Editor's notes, being designed merely to explain and illustrate the text, so as to render the book fully intelligible and helpful to readers of the present day, have been compressed into the narrowest possible limits. Even India changes, and observations and criticisms which were perfectly true when recorded can no longer be safely applied without explanation to the India of to-day. The Author's few notes are distinguished by his initials.

A copious analytical index has been compiled. The bibliography is as complete as careful inquiry could make it, but it is possible that some anonymous papers by the Author, published in periodicals, may have escaped notice.

The memoir of Sir William Sleeman is based on the slight sketch prefixed to the Journey through the Kingdom of Oude, supplemented by much additional matter derived from his published works and correspondence, as well as from his unpublished letters and other papers generously communicated by his only son, Captain Henry Sleeman. Ample materials exist for a full account of Sir William Sleeman's noble and interesting life, which well deserves to be recorded in detail; but the necessary limitations of these volumes preclude the Editor from making free use of the biographical matter at his command.

The reproduction of the twenty-four coloured plates of varying merit which enrich the original edition has not been considered desirable. The map shows clearly the route taken by the Author in the journey the description of which is the leading theme of the book.