Monday, November 12, 2012

Lockwood Kipling on Caste/ June 1877

I have a pretty substantial backlog of topics to cover, many of them connected to my brief research trip to Sussex back in June. For a variety of reasons, I haven't been able to follow up on that work much, though I'm hoping to now make a dent in it.

We'll start small, with some clippings from Lockwood Kipling. Rudyard's father was a journalist in his own right for years in Bombay and then Lahore -- a very well-established columnist by the time his son began to write for the CMG. At Sussex, there are several scrapbook of Lockwood Kipling's own columns from several different newspapers.

Here is one scrap that caught my eye, on caste. In it, Lockwood Kipling raises an eyebrow at the growing British missionary interest in attacking the Hindu caste system. He suggests that what he sees as a somewhat crude hostility to caste might be the zealotry of new arrivants on the Indian scene.

The article begins on a somewhat smug note, noting that when Missionaries talk about caste, "although we get a great deal of sound and fury, it is seldom that we find much philosophical breadth of view, or sound reasoning, in either Dr. Duff or Dr. Duffer, who will persist in regarding it as a separate and distinct part of the system of Oriental life--a detached hydra-head, rather more important than the rest, which only needs to be lopped off by a few well-directed blows."  Lockwood Kipling then moves to suggest that a deeper understanding of the "system of Oriental life" will reveal that one cannot simply "lop off the head" of caste. In the second paragraph he then suggests that a version of caste is very much alive at home:

And yet caste, which is to be destroyed off hand in India, is in England and in the rest of Europe the bulwark of the church. We gloss this fact, but it is none the less true. To take but one instance merely, is it not an unwritten law that members of an aristocracy shall conform either to what is actually the State-Church, or to what has been the State-Church at some former period of the national history? Although England is a Protestant country, an English gentleman does not lose caste when he joins the Roman Catholic communion; but he distinctly loses caste when he becomes a Dissenter. Ask Dr. Douglas if he does not.

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