|THE GENERAL EAST INDIA GUIDE 1810|
(39) European polygamy, characters of women generally domiciliatcd by Europeans, ordinary expences ((413-417)) [from Williamson 1810, vol. 1; omitted by Gilchrist]
((413)) Nine in ten of the women domiciliated by gentlemen, are Mussulmans; the Hindus being far more scrupulous: with few exceptions, the small portion not of the former sect are Portugueze. These latter prove in many instances very good house-keepers; looking after the disbursements with great acuteness and, on a thousand occasions, shewing more promptness and more fitness for such an employment. They are remarkably fond of rearing poultry and swine; in which they certainly succeed. But there is a certain something about this description of women, which few are partial to, and which I never could tolerate.
I have already spoken of the pride of these miserable descendants of renowned characters; but it really is beyond my power to describe that fierte, that vindictive spirit, that authoritative consequence, which excite at least contempt, if not hatred, in every person towards whom they are exercised. These viragoes have no scruples as to what they are to eat and drink; many of them, indeed, can manage a bottle as well as any man in the kingdom: they are, however, staunch Catholics, and on Calendar days dress out in all the finery their kind keepers can be coaxed out of.
It is not to be supposed these ladies are more continent than ((414)) Mussulmans or Hindus of similar condition: far otherwise; but they are extremely crafty, and carefully lay the scene of action at some place to which they resort to offer up their prayers, in common with other equally good Christians: by this means, they are tolerably secure from the prying curiosity of ordinary menials, who are not permitted to enter within the sacred pale!
In regard to the expences attendant upon concubinage in the East, they will depend greatly on the circumstances, and the disposition, of the gentleman, generally speaking; though after a while, the lady commonly gains a kind of ascendancy, and goes beyond those limits, which in almost every case are marked out by previous contract. A certain sum to be paid monthly; the pay of two or three female attendants; an allowance for beetle, tobacco (it is very rarely they chew it), shoes, clothes, and gynahs (i.e. gold and silver ornaments); are articles in almost every capitulation [=enumeration]!
Taking a broad outline, we may put down the whole at about forty rupees monthly; equal to sixty pounds sterling per annum; which must certainly be considered no great price for a bosom friend, when compared with the sums laid out upon some British damsels who are not always more scrupulous than those I have described.
But when we estimate the Asiatic chere amie according ((415)) to her merits as a companion, then indeed will my fair country-women appear most conspicuously pre-eminent! Their agreeable manners, their polished language, their highly cultivated minds, and their pleasing attentions, are so irresistible as to level the barriers of discretion, and to render every attempt at comparison nugatory; indeed, incompatible!
In taking the above average, viz. forty rupees per month, I have supposed the gentleman to be in easy circumstances; otherwise, that sum will be found to exceed the proportion of his other expences considerably: at the lowest, we cannot estimate the charges at less than twenty-five rupees monthly; which, to say the truth, must be attended with several deficiencies or privations by no means creditable.
In this particular the natives are very scrupulous, and hold it the highest disgrace for a woman to be retained, without due attendance, suitable clothing, and a participation of the comforts, if not of the luxuries, of life. The men, especially the Hindus, are indifferent in regard to their own apparel, which is often mean to an extreme; but pride thernselves on the splendor and profusion to be found in their zenanahs.
As an instance in point I must state that in the year 1784, a detachment of six companies was sent out from Cawnpore, on the road to Etayah, in compliment to the B'how-Buxcy, ((416)) a General of some note in the Maharrattah army who was proceeding on an embassy to Lucknow. We met him about twenty miles to the westward of the cantonments; where we were nearly smothered by the dust raised by his immense retinue, and absolutely stunned by the unmerciful clangor of cracked trumpets, and of great bells suspended from the sides of elephants, whose motion caused the pendulous monotonists to ring 'a sonorous peal.'
It was natural to expect that the B'how, who knew [that] we were waiting to receive him, and that an officer of rank was deputed on the occasion, would have exhibited himself to advantage; but to our great surprize, when he alighted from his elephant, which was sumptuously caparisoned, he appeared the veriest bunyah (or petty shopkeeper) my eyes had ever beheld! His clothes were absolutely filthy, and of a fabric such as disgraced the wearer. None of our khedmutgars could have changed apparel with him, without being considerable losers by the bargain.
The B'how was, nevertheless, attended by a nautch-tuffah, or set of dancing-girls, whose equipage announced his liberality, and whose talents evinced his judgement. Let me not be misunderstood in this last expression: the dancers of India can suit only particular tastes, and those perhaps only from habit: they are not to be classed with persons of the same profession in ((417)) Europe; but are a distinct genus. It cannot, however, be denied, that some among them possess very superior powers in the vocal part of their profession; and that certain individuals dance, in their style, with peculiar effect; indeed, with much graceful delicacy, and with undeviating regard to the measure. The B'how's zenanah was of course secluded; but the number of the elephants, r'huts, palanquins, doolies, and other conveyances, satisfied me that the ladies were in better plight than their most abominably filthy lord!