[Author's note by Lewis Ferdinand Smith:] The following four Letters were published in the European Magazine and the Annual Asiatic Register about the period they were written; and as they are illustrative of Asiatic Manners and Customs, I have thought they might be added to this work.

[Proofread for correction of typos, slightly edited for clarity, and somewhat abridged, by FWP. A few very long paragraphs have been broken into shorter ones; original paragraph breaks are indented. Page numbers are in square brackets.]

*LETTER ONE [A hunting excursion with the Navab of Avadh]*
*LETTER TWO [The wedding of the Navab's eldest son]*
*LETTER THREE [About Navab Asif ud-Daulah]*
[*LETTER FOUR [Muslim rituals of birth, marriage, and death]*]
[*Hoojjutbeg & the Suedagur's Wife, by C. W. Stuart, Esq.*]
*Song, by Lieut. A. H. E. Boileau*




        [268] I am just returned from a four months' excursion with his Excellency the Nuwab, and as a sketch of our ramble may afford you some amusement in an idle hour, I shall detail a few of the most agreeable and interesting circumstances which occurred: We left Lucnow on the 4th of October last, and directed our course towards Buraitch. Our Qafeela or party consisted of about 40,000 men and 20,000 beasts, composed of 10,000 soldiers, 1,000 cavalry and near 150 pieces of cannon; 1,500 elephants, 3,000 hackries, and an innumerable train of camels, horses, and bullocks. Great numbers of ruts or covered carriages for women drawn by oxen, which were filled with the Nuwab's ladies; many large and small boats carried on carts, drawn by 30, 40, and 50 oxen each; tigers, leopards, and hawks; fighting cocks, fighting quails, and nightingales; pigeons; dancing-women and boys; singers, players, buffoons and mountebanks.

In short his Excellency had every thing, every object, which could please or surprise; cause a smile or raise a sneer; attract admiration, fix with wonder, or convulse with laughter; captivate the eyes, lull the ear, or tickle the palate. Above 500 coolees or porters were employed to carry his shooting apparatus, guns, powder, shot, and ceteras; he has above a thousand double-barrel guns, the finest that Manton or Nock could make; single-barrels, pistols, swords and spears innumerable.

Religion constrained him to stop some days at Baraitch, to pay homage at the tomb of a celebrated Saint called Sular Ghazee; all good Mahometans who are able, resort to worship this holy anchorite once a year: generally in the month of May; his bones were discovered about four hundred years ago, and manifested their sanctity by some miraculous marks; the witty and unbelieving say they were the skeleton of an ass....

    [269] The next sport we had of any magnitude was the attack on a wild elephant, which we met a few days after the battle with the tiger; we espied him on a large plain overgrown with grass; the Nawab, eager for such diversion, immediately formed a semicircle with four hundred elephants, who were directed to advance on and encircle him. This was the first wild elephant I had ever seen attacked, and I confess I did not feel very easy; however I kept alongside of his Excellency, determined to take my chance. When the semicircle of elephants got within three hundred yards of the wild one, he looked amazed, but not frightened; [270] two large musth/1/ elephants of the Nuwab's were ordered to advance against him; when they approached within fifty yards, he charged them; the shock was dreadful; however the wild one conquered, and drove the musth elephants before him. As he passed us, the Nuwab ordered some of the strongest female elephants with thick ropes to go alongside of him, and endeavour to entangle him with nooses and running knots: the attempt was vain, as he snapped every rope, and none of the tame elephants could stop his progress.

The Nuwab, perceiving it impossible to catch him, ordered his death, and immediately a volley of above a hundred shots were fired; many of the balls hit him, but he seemed unconcerned, and moved on towards the mountains; we kept up an incessant fire for near half an hour; the Nuwab and most of his omraos used rifles, which carried two- or three-ounce balls; but they made very little impression; the balls just entered the skin and lodged there. I went up repeatedly, being mounted on a female elephant, within ten yards of the wild one, and fired my rifle at his head; the blood gushed out, but the skull was invulnerable. Some of the Kunduhar horse galloped up to the wild elephant, and made cuts at him with their sabres; he charged the horsemen, wounded some and killed others.

Being now much exhausted with the loss of blood, having received above three thousand shots and many strokes of the sabre, he slackened his pace; quite calm and serene, as if determined to meet his approaching end with the undaunted firmness of a hero. I could not at this time refrain from pitying so noble an animal, and thought I saw in him the great Epaminondas encompassed by the Lacedemonians at the battle of Mantinea. The horsemen, seeing him weak and slow, dismounted and with their swords began a furious attack on the tendons of his hind legs; they were soon cut. Unable to proceed, this noble monarch of the woods staggered; looked with an eye of reproach mixed with contempt at his unfeeling foes, and then fell without a groan, like a mountain thrown on its side.

The hatchetmen now advanced, and commenced an attack on his large ivory tusks; whilst the horsemen and soldiers, with barbarous insult, began a cruel and degrading assault on the extended hero; to try the sharpness of their swords, display the stranegh of their arms, and shew their invincible courage; the sight was very affecting; he still breathed, and breathed without a groan; he rolled his eyes with anguish on the surrounding crowd, and making a last effort to rise, he expired with a sigh-- thus has many a brave Roman met his fate, overcome by superior numbers. The Nuwab returned to his tents, as much flushed with vanity and exultation as Achilles; and the remainder of the day, and many a day after, was dedicated to repeated narration of his victory, which was ornamented [271] and magnified by all the combined powers of ingenious flattery and unbounded exaggeration....

        On the 5th day of December, early in the morning, we were summoned to the Sylvan war-- a line of twelve hundred elephants was drawn up on the north of the lake, facing the east, and we proceeded rapidly through the high grass, with minds glowing with expectation of the grand sport we should meet.... it is impossible for the most splendid language to describe what we saw and felt. The confusion, tumult, noise, firing, shrieking, and roaring of twelve hundred tame elephants, and their riders, attacked and attacking one hundred and seventy wild ones, "all in terrible disorder tossed," formed a dreadful melange, which cannot be imagined by the most luxuriant fancy; to attempt therefore a delineation would only injure the sublime subject. There were above 100,000 shots fired from all quarters, and considering the [272] confusion, I am surprised that the scene was not more bloody on our side; about twenty men were killed and wounded, and nearly half a dozen horses.... The largest elephant we killed was above ten feet high/2/.... it must have been the sublimest sight that ever was presented to the mind of man in the Sylvan war. Apollo would have been astonished, Acteon consterned, and Diana and her Nymphs frightened out of their wits; we expatiate on it with rapture to this day....




        As I have nothing better to amuse you with, and no domestic matter of sufficient consequence to write about, I shall beguile the tediousness of time by giving you an account of the celebration of an Eastern Nuwab's marriage, at which I have been lately invited. It was the Nuptials of Wazeer Ullee,/3/ the eldest son, [273] real or pretended, of Nuwab Asuf ood-Dowlah, the present Nuwab of Oude, whose capital is Lucknow. I say real or pretended, as public rumour confidently asserts that the Nuwab is incapable of having children, though his seraglio contains above five hundred of the greatest beauties of India. All his children are by adoption, and they amount to about sixty in number; thirty-two sons and twenth-eight daughters. Pregnant women are purchased or beguiled into the seraglio, where they lie in. If a royal salute is fired, it proclaims the birth of a young Nuwab; of a daughter, the public knows nothing, as women are in this country considered merely as a piece of necessary furniture to ornament the haram, and the birth of a daughter occasions no joy to the father. Judging from his own conduct, he foresees the treatment his child will experience, when she is consigned to the animal love of another; that they will be merely slaves in purple and fine linen; loaded with jewels to please the eyes of their tyrants, and never allowed to step beyond the precincts of the zunana or haram, except on occasional visits to some female friend; nor ever suffered to behold the face of any man besides their masters (for they cannot be called husbands without outrage to the term), except through the latticed windows of their high-walled prisons, called zunanas or harams to mollify the name. How different this, my dear Eliza, from the life and freedom of a British fair! Bless God that you were not born in the unfeeling land of Hindoostan, and cherish more the country which gave you birth; a country which is equally renowned for beauty as for freedom and delicacy of sentiment; where the fair tyrannise over the wounded hearts of their admirers, and where they often wear the breeches, and sometimes comb the heads of their pliant husbands with a slipper.

        But to return to the marriage, after this long digression: The bridegroom was about thirteen, dark-complexioned and not handsome; the bride about ten, still darker, and still more ordinary. We went in the evening to the celebration; our party consisted of about four ladies and twelve gentlemen. We went all on elephants caparisoned. On the plains which border on the city of Lucknow, the Nuwab had pitched many tents, but two large ones in particular, made of strong cotton cloth lined with the finest English broadcloth, cut in stripes, different colours, with cords of silk and cotton-- these two large tents cost five lakhs of rupees; they were each about 120 feet long and 60 broad, and the poles about 60 feet high, and the walls of the tents about 10 feet high. The walls of one of the tents were cut in lattice work for the women of the Nuwab's seraglio, and those of the principal native nobility, to see through. In front of the large tent destined for our reception, and for the reception of the principal nobility at the [274] Nuwab's Court, was a large awning called a shumeeana, of fine English broadcloth, supported on about 60 poles covered with plates of silver; this awning or shumeeana was about 100 feet long and the same in breadth.

        When we arrived, the good-humoured Nuwab received us very politely, and conducted us to one of the large tents destined for the men, where we sat for about an hour; he was covered with jewels to the amount of at least two millions sterling; we then went out and sat under the shumeeana, which was lighted up with a couple of hundred elephant gerandoles, and as many shades, with wax candles; and many hundred flambeaux; the glare and reflection was dazzling and offensive to the sight. Here were above a hundred dancing girls, richly dressed, who went through their elegant but rather lascivious dances and motions, and sang some soft airs of the country, chiefly Persian and Hindoo-Persian. About seven at night the bridegroom, Wazeer Ullee, the young Nuwab, appeared, loaded so absurdly with jewels that he could scarcely stagger under the precious weight. We then mounted our elephants to proceed to a rich and extensive garden which was about a mile off.

The procession was grand beyond conception! It consisted of above twelve hundred elephants richly caparisoned and drawn up in a regular line like a regiment of soldiers; about a hundred of the elephants, which were in the centre, had castles, called umbaree, lashed on their backs, which were covered with plates of silver. In the centre was the Nuwab mounted on an uncommonly large elephant covered with cloth of gold and with a rich umbaree covered with plates of gold and inlaid precious stones. On his right hand was the British Resident at his Court, Mr. George Johnstone, and on his left the young Nuwab Wazeer Ullee; the other English gentlemen and ladies and the native nobility were intermixed on the right and left. On both sides of the road, from the tents to the garden, were raised artificial sceneries of bumboo work very high, representing bastions, arches, minarets, and towers, covered with lights in lamps, which made a grand and sublime display; and on each side of the procession, in front of the elephants, were dancing girls, richly dressed, carried on platforms supported by men called bearers, who danced as we went along; all these platforms were covered with gold and silver cloths, and there were two girls and two musicians on each platform; the number of these platforms were about a hundred on each side of the procession.

        All the space of ground from the tents to the garden, over which we moved along, was inlaid with fireworks, and at every step the elephants took, the earth burst before us, and threw up artificial stars in the heavens to emulate those created by the hand of Providence; besides innumerable rockets and hundreds of wooden shells that burst in the air and shot forth a thousand fiery serpents, which winding through the heavens, illuminated the sky and turned a dark night into a bright day, assisted by the height of the bumboo [275] scenery. The procession moved on very slowly, to give time for the fireworks which were inlaid in the ground to go off, and the whole of this grand scene was further lighted by above three thousand flambeaux carried by men hired for the occasion. Thus enlightened, we moved on in stately pomp to the gardens, which though only a mile off, required two hours.

When we arrived at the garden gate we descended from the elephants and entered the garden, which we found illuminated by innumerable transparent paper lamps or lanterns of various colours suspended from the branches of the trees. In the centre of the garden was a large edifice to which we ascended, and were introduced into a grand salon, brightened by innumerable gerandoles and pendant lustres of English manufacture lighted with wax candles. Here we had an elegant and grand collation of English and Native dishes, with wines, fruits, and sweetmeats; at the same time above a hundred dancing girls sang their sprightly airs, and danced their native dances.

Thus passed the time until the dawn, when we all returned to our respective homes, quite delighted and wonder-struck with this enchanting and sublime scene, which surpassed in splendour every sight of the kind beheld in this country. The affable Nuwab rightly observed, with Asiatic vanity, that such a spectacle was never before seen in India, and never would be seen again. The whole expense of this marriage fete, which was repeated for three successive nights in the same manner I have described, cost above three hundred thousand pounds, or twenty-five lakhs of rupees. Now my dear Eliza, your heart must part with delight, and you must regret that you were not present to behold what I have so feebly described. I wish you were there; it would have given delight to this grand and elegant scene which I cannot describe. Adieu! Believe me ever yours very affectionately,

L. F. S.


LUCKNOW, 11th MARCH, 1795


        In my last I sent you a description of a Hymenial Fete at which I was present; in this letter I shall offer for your amusement a historical sketch of the present Nuwab of Oude, called Asaf ood-Dowleh. He is the eldest son of the famous Shuja ood-Dowleh, the former Nuwab of Oude who was conquered by the irresistible arms of the British East India Company, directed by the inviolable and wonderful Clive-- a man to whom the British Government ought to have raised an everlasting monument of adamant, for having conquered an immense territory as large as England and France united, with numbers which would be scarce sufficient to storm a redoubt in Europe. The founder of the family that reigns at present in Oude was Sadut Khan, a Persian soldier who came to 
Dhailee to seek his fortune, and who raised [276] himself to rank, riches and power by his sword and his policy. Shuja ood-Dowleh was the son of Sufdur Jung, who was married to this Sadut Khan's daughter, and I believe was of the family of Sadut Khan. Shuja ood-Dowleh died in 1775, leaving the character of a bold, cruel, enterprising, and rapacious Prince.

Asaf ood-Dowleh his son succeeded to the Government by the assistance of the East India Company; he is mild in manners, generous to extravagance, affably polite, and engaging in his conduct; but he has no great mental powers, though his heart is good, considering the education he has received, which instilled the most despotic ideas; he is fond of lavishing his treasures on gardens, palaces, horses, and elephants; and above all on fine English guns, lustres, mirrors, and all sorts of European manufactures, more especially English, from a two-penny deal board painting of ducks and drakes to the elegant paintings of a Lorraine and a Zophani; and from a little dirty paper lantern to mirrors and lustres which cost two or three thousand pounds each. Every year he expends about two hundred thousand pounds in English goods of all sorts. He has above a hundred gardens, twenty palaces, twelve hundred elephants, three thousand fine saddle horses, fifteen hundred elegant double-barrel guns, seventeen hundred superb lustres, and thirty thousand shades of various kinds and colours; some hundreds of large mirrors, clocks, and gerandoles.

He lately bought four mirrors, which were the largest that had ever been made in Europe (of course, in the world); they were ordered expressly for him, and were made in London, where they cost eight thousand pounds; they were twenve feet long and six feet broad within the frame, of single sheets of glass, in elegant gilt frames; he bought them and sent them to his Repository, where they will repose in peace and unnoticed until the time of the religious fete called the Mohurrum when they will be displayed with the rest of his mirrors, lustres, and gerandoles, etc., in the grand hall of a grand religious edifice called the Emaumbarra, which cost a million sterling in building, and which is the largest building in Lucknow. Some of his clocks are curious, and richly set with precious stones, which play tunes every hour, and have figures in them in continual movement; a pair of these clocks cost him thirty thousand pounds. His museum is curious, rich, and ridiculously displayed. You see a wooden cuckoo clock which perhaps cost a crown alongside of a rich superb clock which perhaps cost the price of a crown; an elegant landscape of Lorraine beside a deal board daub of ducks and drakes; a superb lustre of forty or fifty lights, which cost perhaps four or five thousand pounds, hung up near a paper lantern of twopence.

        Asuf ood-Dowleh is absurdly extravagant and ridiculously curious; he has no state and less judgment. I have seen him more amused with a tetotum than with electrical experiments; but he is nevertheless extremely avaricious of all that is elegant and rare; he wants every instrument and every machine, of every art and every [277] science; but he knows none. His haram is grand, and contains above five hundred of the greatest beauties of Hindoostan, who are immured in high walls, never to leave it except on their biers. He has large carriages drawn by one or two elephants, in which he may give a dinner to ten or twelve persons at their ease; he has an immense number of domestic servants and a very large army, and he is always at peace with his neighbours; moreover he is fully protected from hostile invasion by the Company's subsidiary force, for which he pays five hundred thousand pounds per annum. Such is old Asuf ood-Dawleh, as he is generally called, though he is now only forty-seven years of age,/4/ a curious inexplicable compound of absurdity, generosity, candour, leniency, childish curiosity; devoid of taste, affable, polite, good-humoured, weak, ignorant, and often detestably brutish in his private pleasures. In his public appearance and conduct he is admirably agreeable and courteous. In short, he has some qualities to praise, some to detest, and many to laugh at.

He has many adopted children, but none of his own; he was married when young to one of the finest women in India, of high birth and high character; but for these sixteen years he has not seen her, and reports say he has never fulfilled the duties of a husband.  He was once fond of drinking European liquors to excess, especially claret and cherry brandy; but he has lately forsworn them, and now intoxicates himself with large quantities of opium, and a green inebriating leaf called subzee, a species of the hemp which is pounded, diluted in water and sugar, and drunk; he is very fond of the English and English manners; he eats at table with them without the silly superstitious repugnance of other Mahometans, and he relishes a good dish of tea and hot rolls for breakfast. Once he was at table, and a roasted pig by mistake was placed before him; he smiled and said, "Though I am forbidden to eat that animal, I am not forbidden to look at it."

        His revenues amount to about three millions sterling, and he is generally in debt; he never troubles his head about the government of his country, which is generally entrusted to rapacious ministers; all he looks to is, that there be money sufficient for his private expenses. His jewels amount to about eight millions sterling; I saw the whole the day before the marriage of his eldest adopted son, Wazeer Ullee;/5/ he had them collected from all parts; from his own wardrobe, his women, &c.; they were accumulated since the time of his grandfather Sufdur Jung, to his own. I never saw such a precious sight, and I believe I shall never see it again; the good-humoured Nuwab was in the midst of them, handling them like a child does its baubles; and in a philosophic sense they are mere baubles....


DHAILEE, 1st MAY, 1801


        I was duly favoured with your kind letter requesting some information respecting the Rites of Birth, Marriage, and Burial, observed among the Mahometans in this part of India; and take up my pen to give you the best information I have been able to collect on those subjects. I do not know any writer who has written correctly or fully on these matters, or I would refer you to him; as the erratic life I lead does not allow time for deep researches; moreover the Moosulmauns are tenacious of entering on these subjects; I have therefore had some difficulty in acquiring the particulars I now transmit.... [These particulars are only second-hand, and thus of much less interest than the first-hand observations in the earlier letters.]



[The story of a merchant from Delhi who goes on a long journey to Persia, leaving his wife under the financial care of his friend Hoojjut Beg. The merchant's journey is prolonged, Hoojjut Beg declines to supply any more money, and demands repayment of the earlier loan. The clever wife outmaneuvers him: when the case is heard in court, she contrives to give assignations to the Kotwal, the Qazi, the Vazir, and the Badshah himself, causing them to arrive in sequence so that they are forced to hide from each other, and are all exposed before the Badshah. Her chastity and prudence are vindicated, and on her husband's return she wins praise as "the mirror of wives, the amiable Penelope of the East."]


SONG, by Lieut. A. H. E. Boileau

Air -- "Oh no, we never mention."

A fairy vision haunts my dreams,
I think I see it still;
Oh why does such a lovely form
My heated fancy fill?
I know her hand can ne'er be mine,
I know we soon must part,
And yet in vain I strive to tear
Her image from my heart!

Her gentle love another claims--
For him she breathes alone;
Oh no, alike on every one
Her witching smile is thrown.
And yet whene'er that blushing cheek,
Those sparkline eyes, I see,
Delusive hope still makes me think
Her smile was meant for me.

Then haunt me still, thou vision bright
I cannot bid thee fly;
This trifling boon, a spirit pure
As this, will not deny:
Flit o'er my couch, I ask no more
To tranquillize my breast,
Until this poor half-broken heart
Enjoy a lasting rest.




/1/ Musth elephants are those that are in nigh rut; they are then very unmanageable, bold, savage, and often very dangerous. The male elephants become musth at a certain age, which some say is forty years; the musth elephants are the only ones that will dare to face a male wild one; they are also used in the elephant fights exhibited before the Princes of India.
/2/ Travellers say there are elephants sixteen feet high, but this is the exaggerated language of travellers, who are in general more anxious to excite wonder than convey information. I never saw one eleven feet high, and I have seen some thousands. The Nuwab gives extravagant prices for uncommonly large elephants, and he has none eleven feet high-- the first we killed was the highest I ever saw. Their general height is about seven or eight feet.
/3/ Wazeer Ullee, who is now confined in Fort William for his atrocious murder of Mr. Cherry and others at Benares.
/4/ Asuf ood-Dowleh died on the 21st September 1797, aged 49, of a dropsy. He was succeeded by his adopted son, Wuzeer Ullee, who was soon dethroned for his vices and crimes.
/5/ Wazeer Ullee got the greatest part of them, after the death of Asuf ood-Dowleh, and used them to the worst of purposes.


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