LAWRENCE, Henry Montgomery.

Some Passages in the Life of an Adventurer in the Punjab.

Originally published in the Delhi Gazette.

Delhi: Printed at the Gazette Press, by Kunniah Lall, 1842 Stock Code: 107518
£3,500.00

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First edition, extremely uncommon, just two copies - BL and Oxford - on Library Hub, WorldCat adds five more - NYPL, Yale, Harvard, universities of Minnesota and Missouri. One of the earliest commercial productions of this press, all Delhi imprints before 1850 are uncommon. Excellent copy of Lawrence's "fictionalised memoirs of Colonel Bellasis who joined the forces of the Sikh leader Runjeet Singh", further described by Riddick as "perhaps better read with George Frazier's sic fictional Flashman series than as a history". In fact Lawrence worked a great deal of fascinating and little-known information into his narrative of a freelance at large, which he had gleaned from his lengthy acquaintance with the Sikhs as a revenue surveyor in the North-Western Provinces; when administering the Ferozepore district as assistant to the governor-general's agent for the affairs of the Punjab and the North-West Frontier; and later during the First Afghan War, as political officer with Pollock's force, "he was given command of the Sikh contingent, which had been sent by the durbar to co-operate with the British" (ODNB). In a letter to her close friend Julia Margaret Cameron, the pioneering photographer, married to the jurist Charles Hay Cameron, a legal member of the Council of India, and "effectively the first lady of Anglo-Indian society", Lawrence's wife Honoria wrote; "How I like to think of your reading our Bellasis Honoria was a close collaborator on many of her husband's works, as editor, and in this case as co-author, "composing some of the romantic sections, including poetry" (ODNB), for it will give you many a sketch of our actual experience" (Edwardes and Merivale, Life of Sir Henry Lawrence, II, p.11). Chopra considers Lawrence's account of the Sikhs to be "authentic, reliable and accurate", standing out as "readable and objective".

A "Note by the Publisher" tipped in before the title page, apologises for the late delivery of the work, and confesses to being "not altogether satisfied with its appearance", remarking that "larger type and thicker paper would have been more acceptable". However, "small as the present work appears to be,, and it is assuredly very portable, there is matter sufficient in it, had we understood the art of book printing, to fill out two of the usual London volumes". And so it was to be, as in 1845 Henry Colburn, no doubt stimulated by outbreak of the first Anglo-Sikh War, published the text more or less unchanged in two volumes under the title of Adventures of an Officer in the Service of Runjeet Singh, issuing a second edition the following year with the further revised title Adventures of an Officer in the Punjaub. The enterprise seems to have met with little success, both of these London editions are fairly uncommon on the market, and in the letter noted above Honoria Lawrence speculates, "I suppose the book has had no public success, or we should have heard of it. Colburn published it on his own responsibility, and we have never heard from him since its appearance. The friends to whom we sent copies speak of the work as interesting for the author's sake, but if any review or even newspaper has thought it worth criticizing, we have never heard".

This copy with a superb provenance, having the ownership inscription of Col. Thomas Lumsden, dated in Simla 1843, to the title page, together with his inked identification of the author "Major H.M. Lawrence, Bengal Artillery". Col. Lumsden was the father of Henry Burnett Lumsden, who became a protégé of Lawrence's when he was resident at Lahore. "Lumsden accompanied Lawrence to Kashmir in October, 1846, and in December was sent with 3000 Sikh troops and six guns through Hazara. Lumsden's force encountered resistance from 7000 hostile tribesmen, but he successfully forced the passage of the two tributaries of the Jhelum, near Muzaffarabad, and following two sharp engagements eventually forced them to submit" (ODNB). As a result Lumsden received the thanks of government, and Lawrence gave him responsibility for raising a corps of guides for frontier service. "Lumsden enjoyed complete freedom regarding the recruitment, training, and equipment of this force", which went on to develop a superb reputation as an elite fighting force in the region. The 16 Onslow Square address of a kinsman, Col. Henry William Lumsden, late Madras Artillery, is pencilled on the rear free endpaper, this Col. Lumsden was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and the family historian. In all ways an excellent copy of this elusive and important book.

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Description

Octavo (211 x 131 mm). Contemporary, ?native black, straight-grained skiver-backed marbled boards, title gilt longitudinally, framed by foliate lozenges, foliate roll in blind too the spine edges.

Condition

Somewhat rubbed, through at the board edges, spine skilfully restored with some retooling, text-block lightly browned and with some marginal spotting, remains very good.

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