There is no nation that has so many gods as the Hindoos. What do you think of three hundred and thirty millions! There are not so many people in Hindostan as that. No one person can know the names of all these gods; and who would wish to know them? Some of them are snakes, and some are monkeys!
Monkey gods!!?! Snake gods? And people call me a heathen!
Of course, I’m sure that I would be in for a few more choice names from Mrs. Favell Lee Mortimer, the Victorian children’s author who wrote the choice quote above. Mrs. Mortimer published a trilogy of geography/travel books for young missionaries-in-training, covering all of the world that Victorian England cared about in the 1850s — a truly amazing accomplishment, given that the lady had only traveled to Scotland and France during her life. Of course, accuracy and detail were not exactly Mrs. Mortimer’s aims: she does not claim “completeness, nor comprehensiveness, nor depth of research, nor splendour of description ; but the very reverse… simple, superficial, desultory character, as better adapted to the volatile beings for whom it is designed.”
Ah, how I miss my days as a volatile being!
Anyways, I found the book which covers Asian nations, Far off, in GoogleBooks this weekend, and thought to share some of the chapter on “Hindostan” with everyone. However, if you don’t have a taste for black humor – or can’t handle her rather venomous style of writing -, then feel free to skip this one. I do think it is very informative & thought-provoking, though – both for what she gets wrong about India, and what she manages to get right. Colonialism at its very best, of course: