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FORSYTH, Sir Douglas.

Autobiography and Reminiscences …

Edited by his Daughter.

London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1887 Stock Code: 118098

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First edition of this posthumously published memoir of service in Asia, with accounts of Forsyth's two missions to Yarkand, gambits in the Great Game; the second securing "promises... that greatly exceeded anything Yakub Beg had offered his earlier Russian visitors" (Hopkirk, The Great Game, p.354). Shallow though these promises proved to be, the party were given safe conduct to follow the route back to Kashmir via the Pamirs, vital intelligence against a possible Russian invasion.

Forsyth was deputy commissioner at Ambala during the outbreak of the Mutiny and quickly secured a supply of grain and transport for the Delhi Relief Force. He proudly recounts how he was one of the first officers to execute a rebel, and after the relief of Delhi he was appointed as one of the special commissioners to hunt down escaping insurgents, "a job he relished" (ODNB), and for which he was created CB. He undertook a number of missions into central Asia, in 1867 travelling to Ladakh to firm up trade relations, and in 1869 he visited St. Petersburg and obtained an agreement with the Russians on the extent of the Amir of Kabul's territory. A failed mission to Yarkand in 1870 was followed by his misjudged intervention in the rising of the Kukas, a millenarian Sikh sect, in Maler Kotla. On arrival he approved the resident officer's decision to blow nearly fifty Kukas from the cannon's mouth, and compounded this by sentencing the remaining miscreants to more of the same. Demotion to a relative backwater followed. Forsyth's career was salvaged by the incoming viceroy, Lord Northbrook, who in 1872 appointed him plenipotentiary to Yarkand. The second expedition met with great success, establishing excellent commercial relations with the amir and producing a wealth of geographical, botanical and ethnographical information on the region. On his return Forsyth was made KCSI and elected FRGS. In view of Russia's conquest of Khiva earlier in the year, Forsyth's mission was of considerable significance in the playing out of the Great Game. He may have overstated the case somewhat, but the "belief that Russia was the rising power, that she is destined to advance still further, that England is afraid of her, and will do nothing to oppose her progress" (Forsyth's Secret Despatches, quoted in Huttenback "The Great Game in the Pamirs," Modern Asian Studies IX, 1) was rife in the region and clearly needed some corrective.

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Octavo. Original blue cloth, titles and block of the Star of India to spine gilt, frame blocked in blind to covers, Forsyth arms gilt to front cover, publisher's device blocked in blind to rear cover, black coated endpapers.


Engraved portrait frontispiece with facsimile signature and tissue-guard, folding coloured map.


Near-contemporary gift inscription to front free endpaper verso. Spine toned and gently rolled, slight wear to tips, a couple of faint marks to covers, light foxing to frontispiece; an excellent copy.


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