Correspondence re The Griffin
Bombay Gazette 27 September 1820
Malligaum, Sept. 15th 1820.
Perhaps you will have the goodness to assist me in giving information to a friend of mine at an outpost regarding the actual publication in England of a work lately printed in your Gazette under the title of the “Griffin”. Many doubts have arisen in the minds of my brother officers at this station as to such a book having ever issued from the English Press. Some imagine it to be the production of a Resident in this country and that you are reviewing it! Others (and to this opinion I also incline) that it is from the Pen of a young officer now at home; it is certainly a creditable performance be it whose it may and bears evident marks of much satirical genius. I admire your Critique upon it (if it is yours) and regret exceedingly that the interest of the Poem should have been weakened by being given at different periods. I hope you will not deem this an intrusion upon any wish for secresy you may possibly have, but I am really anxious as well as many others to purchase this extraordinary book if for sale, to see how he treats our friends at the presidency and what he says of our army during the last War. Pray then Mr. Editor, publish this letter as it may lead some of your Correspondents to assist in flashing conviction upon us; and your attending to this request in your next will really much oblige many of your readers as well as your obedient servant.
Bombay Courier, 30 September 1820
To the Editor of the Bombay Courier,
In the Bombay Gazettes of the 30th Aug. and 20th instant I have read the review of a work called “The Griffin.” The 2nd canto I have unfortunately not been able to procure a sight of – but I am told it is a shameless libel upon the ladies of this settlement in particular and of India in general – Be the author who he may, I trust this is not the case, that he has not been so deficient in principle, so void of all generous feelings as to attempt to throw obloquy upon a whole society.
I read the commencement of the review with some interest, as the critic there tells us it is the production of an Indian Subaltern’s muse; and anxious to see a spark of genius in a brother Exile and to derive amusement from something superior to the ephemeral Sonnets we are generally indulged with, I perused the Griffin with much attention, and I will add with encreasing interest, whether (I speak of as much only as I have read) the review or the Poem or both be the growth of England or India is immaterial, the former is ably written & I applaud the sentiments of the critic highly.
I do not feel capable of appreciating the merits of the Book, having missed seeing what is said to be the best part of it, viz, the 2nd Canto, but thus much I will say (& it is on this account chiefly I have now troubled you) that situated as I am with ladies under my protection and many female friends in this place whom I esteem and regard, I most anxiously wish to know if the author of the Poem is actually in England or India, that should we find “The Chield amang us taking notes”  we may be more on our guard.
I do not by this, wish to make your paper the vehicle of public or private animosities, but it strikes me, and it is the opinion of many of your readers, that a letter of this kind published by you, may set enquiries on foot and help to rid many of our wags, of the suspicions under which they at present labour.
I mean nothing disrespectful to the Author of the Griffin – far from it – I applaud his genius – but I dislike his subject – and both my praise and censure are in the same ratio as I should feel inclined to bestow upon a well-drawn caricature, if I saw myself or any of my friends “shining in grim burlesque” among the ridiculous figures of the laughable group.
I trust you will find a vacuum in your next paper for this letter, as I am convinced (and I have many reasons for the conviction) that it will draw forth an answer calculated to dispel the distrust with which I and some of my acquaintances now receive the visits of many young friends whom we deem capable of exercising their satirical talents with such effect – Oblige me therefore in this request, and allow me to subscribe myself your’s obediently.
Bycullah September, 24th 1820.
Bombay Courier, 21 October 1820
Dear Mr. Editor,
Would it be an infringement of Editorial prerogatives if you were to give your readers a full and connected copy of the extraordinary work called “the Griffin.” We unfortunately have lost more than half of it and as it is our full determination to do all in our power to refute the charges he has so unprovokedly brought against all females in this country, I trust you will excuse this intrusion. A blush of Maiden modesty suffuses my cheeks while forming this Epistle, the first I ever wrote to one of the male sex, nor would I have had occasion to trespass upon the columns of your hebdomadal publication had not a female friend (a Matron, Sir) advised the proceeding. My chief motive in addressing you is to request that you will come forward in your public capacity and vindicate the reputations of Indian females from the foul aspersions cast upon them by the Author of the “Griffin.” Will you make him, Sir, uncloak himself? will you force him to give up his abominable name? Will you champion him to the utterance? Let not, Mr. Editor, this “Anguis in herbâ”  poison the minds of those who are willing to look upon our Sex as the Angels of this world and their light to the next. Let not this hidden calumniator breathe his serpent venom on the fairest flowers of creation. Yet, Sir, if you are unwilling to undertake our cause, if you shrink from the task, at least grant us all the aid you can. We ask it from you as an Editor! We claim it from you as a man! Think not I write this from any personal feeling of pique or revenge. No Sir! I scorn it. I take up the cause, as the cause of all spinsters. I am myself in no danger of turning “Port Admiral” for I shall soon quit the country, I neither snatch at nor would I jump at any of the magnates of the Land, neither do I strain my Syren's voice or shew off my Vestris’ step to entrap a lover. I have a hand to dispose of ’tis true, and perhaps as soon as Malabar Point  is disengaged, I may, I dont say I shall, but I may, I think it rather likely, but God knows, I am sure I dont know, yet if it should be so, I dare the say the Point will agree with me. I can say no more now than that I am
Priscilla Wishfort. 
P.S. My Aunt who is in her opinion the person alluded to in the Griffin, under the name of the “would be Sappho,” is determined to cut it up, she is a very learned woman and knows Latin and Greek, and to tell truth dictated the first part of this letter, so you see she is capable and if you can republish the work all at once in one of your Supplements it will greatly aid us, as we do not take in the Gazette, and only got a glimpse of it the other day from a friend who has since quitted the station, I have one or two beaux who have promised to assist. One writes poetry himself very prettily and much more genteel than the Griffin.
My Aunt will be delighted if this her epistolary production be in print, so pray give it a place and do as we have requested. I long to commence Satirist and Reviewer, I have all the technicals and bitter epithets ready arranged. Pray don't disappoint us and we'll be amply revenged. Adieu, I'm just going to Church.
Bombay Gazette 1 November 1820
To the Editor of the Bombay Gazette,
The farrago of lampoon and invective which the malice of our enemies has heaped up against our sex, tho’ it may be a proof of their industry and power of fiction, reflects but little to their honor; Even the distorted hand of Carricature has been pressed into the service: – in vain our virtue triumphs over scurrility and scandal. Truth is bad enough sometimes, but as for scandal, who can describe it. – There is an abortive impotence, a want of soul, a turpitude in scurrility, which nothing can redeem, and whose necessary tendency to dissolution nothing can prevent.
I will fairly advocate the cause of my sex. We have been scandalized for coming out to India in quest of husbands; for the last half century that seems to have been the watch word: – Nay, sir, we have been exposed to public Auction (in print) like so many horses from the Gulf! –
Putting the object out of the question for a moment, pray if none of us had spirit to brave the raging main, and venture out to this fair land of promise, how long would this Eastern paradise retain its charms? – Men are poor helpless creatures: – without us the Company’s territories would very soon lose all their interest, dignity, & attraction – all would become savage and degenerate.
In quest of husbands. The charge is most ridiculous: upon my credit I do not mean to mince the matter; honesty needs no disguise; let me ingeniously explain things as they are, at least so far as I am concerned. That I came out to India is certain; but that I came out for the express purpose of getting a husband is false. – that I might be fortunate enough to get a husband to my liking was matter of hope, not of calculation. And pray Mr. Editor, with all your Editorial sapiency and penetration, can you see any great harm in this candid confession? Now, Sir, I will go further, merely to satisfy you that it was not a desperate case with me, and that I might have married well enough at home if I had thought proper; but I was in no hurry I resolved to look about me a little; to see the world; and not to give my hand unadvisedly to the first idle fellow who chose, to dream that he was in love with me.
At fifteen Mama thought me sufficiently accomplished, and took me from school. A few weeks after my return home, a wine merchant who visited us occasionally, was the first who acknowledged the power of my charms, and had spirit to aspire to the honor of my hand. He applied in due form, Mama was favorable; he had what the world, terms an improving concern; but I said no, I don’t like the trade. Mr. Vintage fumed and sighed; but I thought he would perhaps ultimately have sighed a great deal more, had I been silly enough to grant him my hand without my heart; so sir the courtship dropt.
The next who swore by all the furies, Mars Bellona and Wenus  as he called them, that the fire of my eyes had carried all before it, that he was dying for me, and would not live without me, was a spruce half pay Ensign of a marching Regiment. But young as I was I prudently calculated that three shillings a day would not go far towards house keeping; and as I had no idea of living on love and potatoes, and as this flaming lover of mine had nothing beyond that, and his jemmy  person to bestow, of which poor soul he appeared not a little enamoured, I made it a point implicity to obey Mama in a matter of so much importance, and as she declared herself decidedly hostile to the Ensign. A retreat was sounded, and he reluctantly raised the seige!
A parson, with a decent living, was my third aspirant. His proposals were pious; he talked of the mosaic Law; and expatiated so devoutly, on the blessings of a house full of young children shooting up like vines around the table, that I really became alarmed at the hideous prospect, and assured the holyman, solemnly, I never would bury myself alive in his old parsonage house; for what with his host of children and blue devils, I should be tormented to death. And therefore I gravely declined the honor of his religious promise of eternal fidelity. The Priest did not tarry after this explanation; but he certainly bore his disappointment with somewhat more, resignation than was pleasing to my vanity.
After this a bumkin of a Country Squire, who chanced to see me at an assembly, thought proper to fall in love with me. He honored me with two or three amatory epistles, in which, after setting forth that “the coulter of affection had ploughed up his hart,” he made a mighty display of his genealogy, the number of his acres, his dogs, hogs and horses, besides the old family coach: – But as he was only sixty years of age, and appeared healthy and strong as Hercules, tho’ he now and then affected to sigh like a turtle, I resolved to decline the favor of his hand and all his worldly goods. Had he been only thirty years younger, or thirty years older, I really don’t know what I might have done; tho’ as it was, I could see no ground for the abundant harvest of connubial happiness which he seemed to anticipate.
I will not enumerate any more: but I must not forget to mention that my flame of an Ensign, who swore by the Furies that he could not live without me, had the impudence to sign articles of alliance with my aunt, a buxom widow of fifty, after a short parley, of one week, (observe if you please Mr. Editor, the gracelessness, of men) one short week after my refusal.
There was yet another reason which I forgot to tell you, tho’ certainly it gave me much umbrage at the time, and indeed with a few other considerations of a domestic nature, determined me to try my luck in India. When my Squire found I was proof against all ploughshares and harrows of love, and would not have him with all his genealogical tree and the rest of his gear, he had the assurance to appear angry: that I could have borne; but then he said insolently enough “Well well child! go farther and fare worse!” There he fibbed: – ’tis true I have gone further, but thank my stars I have not fared worse; for I am still Slapatema Hopeful: and to convince you Mr. Editor, and shew that empty Griffin whoever, he is, that he knows nothing of our sex, tho’ he has presumed to blacken us pretty handsomely; I assure you, Sir, far from jumping at this, straining at that, or stretching or ogling after the other, I have very coolly refused half a score very personable suitors, for reasons best known to myself; the which I may perhaps detail in another Letter.
All I mean to say at present is that I have made up my mind never to become a cara sposa, until I find a man who has something to recommend him besides his purse or his place, or his age, or his youth, or his dandyism, or his affectation of a passion without a heart to appreciate my value! I must and will have a man who to sense adds fortune, to fortune merit, to merit good humour, and to all these full confidence in my loyalty and virtue! And this resolution I will sacredly observe, (tho’ all my friends declare it is rather visionary) until I come to years of DESPERATION: that is, Mr. Gazette, till I approximate that frightful climacteric at which a young lady, dragged on by the relentless hand of Time, merges, into what is hideously called an old maid! – If that dread period should ever arrive, which Heaven forefend, then indeed I may condescend to cut short my punctilios and rather than be doomed to such an evil, agree to become Mrs. Anybody; but not till then will I ever change the name of
P.S.– Now, pray Sir, don’t be alarmed, depend upon it we have no intention to lay violent hands upon any of you! We come to look about us, to please ourselves, if we can, if not, why there is no help for it. I am not eighteen yet, & finding on fairly and impartially consulting my glass, that, please god I live, I have still thirty years to flirt about, before I am on the list of antiquated virginity, tho that superficial Griffin (who writes prose and doggerel by the yard) would superannuate us at six and twenty; I by no means despair of finding a man to my taste I assure you. But if I fail, rather than jump at any of your Gogs or Magogs,  Civil or Military, I would go hence as I came, and if the worst come to the worst I can pick and choose in york shire, or take my discarded Squire into favor.
Bombay Courier, 11 November 1820
Eulogy on a Griffin
Bombay Courier, 18 November 1820.
La Belle Assemblee
Bombay Courier, 18 November 1820.
Throw this “Sop in the Pan” to all the Slappatemas, Priscillas and the “Curiuses,” and other Vermin who for the last fortnight have been barking at the Griffin.
SIR JOHN SUCKLING 
Bombay Courier, 9 December 1820.
The Griffins, Antigriffins, Slapatemas and all other, wolves in sheep's clothing.
ANNA HOWE 
Bombay Gazette, 13 December 1820.
Dux fæmina facti. – Virgil 
This is a most abominable old Lady, Pater Pangloss 
In yawning over the supplement of the last Courier (and by the bye that part of the Bombay Papers always make me yawn.) I had got to the middle of an old story about the Duke of Cumberland and Mrs. Horton,  when lo! at the bottom of the Page these words in Italics met my Eye.
“To be continued after the poetry”. – Well to this Courier, baptized Poetry I turned and saw, what! not the usual productions of maudlin sonnetteers, but another Anathema on the devoted heads of the Griffin and others, by ANNA HOWE. She attacks the anonymous author of that above mentioned poem with all the invective and scurrility she can make use of, accusing, but hear the Gentle Anna let the Lady speak for herself, she calls the author “one who wars with Woman” “annoys the sex” “defames” “mocks merit and shames virtue” “abuses defenceless modesty” “assails private life” “corrupts enjoyment” his mind a chaos, himself a brute “very Lady-like language indeed” and now for her poetry she says that “in Bombay” captive (perhaps for Captains) hearts are bound and lick their chains – what delicacy what playful elegance – what poetical imagery – just fancy half a dozen hearts (bleeding ones of course) licking chains – Scene a Butchers shambles!! But to proceed, and listen Ladies to your champion!! Each sex for each continual ambush lay!! What married and single! Proh! Pudor!  what is the meaning of this Miss Howe. Again – Maids to fulfil their End were born to wed!! Good! Good! my princess of Poetesses, but which end? fy! gentle Anna, fy! Miss Howe; then again at the unfortunate author “And where no Vices lurk, there only rails.” Well then, he must be a good natured satirist, but Eheu jam satis!  for would you believe it Mr. Editor, after all this abuse, after condemning his subject ridiculing his talents and affecting to despise his “puny stings.” She, the, Gentle Anna, acknowledges that the Griffin has gained his point, that the Day is won, he has not written in vain!! Well may he then exclaim in the words of the facetious Pindar “Euge Poeta magna  – well done Peter.” Now let me advise all your would-be wits – and can't-be Poets, who are thus continually intruding their trash upon the public thro the medium of the newspapers, to leave the author of the Griffin in the slumber to which he appears quietly to have betaken himself and to remember the old warning!! Never disturb a sleeping Dog. Either He or the Reviewer has allowed the Great and therefore Good folks of our island to escape almost scot-free from personalities yet with a remark (and I dislike that remark) hanging over them like the sword of Damocles suspended by a thread which the rude breath of abuse and invective may chance to snap, and if the weapon should fall twill make most tragical mirth “amongst them; for if I remember right in one part of the Review it is said that the inhabitants of Bombay” are almost individually characterized and with a freedom of touch and breadth of colour closely bordering on Caricature, what a poetical phantasmagoria may these Anna Howes occasion.
Quere.  Is not Miss Anna Howe the “Pamela” of the Griffin, and now writhing under the merited Lash of that Satirist.
 EDITOR'S NOTE: ‘A chield’s amang you, taking notes, / And, faith, he’ll prent it’ (Robert Burns, ‘On the late Captain Grose’s Peregrinations through Scotland’, 1st pub. 1789, Selected Poems and Songs, ed. Robert P. Irvine (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), p. 201). BACK
 EDITOR'S NOTE: The Furies are spirits of vengeance in Greek and Roman mythology, unconnected to Mars and Bellona, Roman god and goddess of war, or Venus, goddess of love. The transposition of v and w as a stereotypical marker of demotic London speech was already well established when Dickens highlighted it with Mr Weller’s oft-repeated catchphrase ‘Wery good, Samivel’ in The Pickwick Papers (1837). BACK
 EDITOR'S NOTE: Biblical enemies of the people of God (Ezekiel 38-9, Revelations 20:8); in this context, possibly a reference to a pair of giant statues displayed in the Guildhall of London (‘Gog and Magog’, in The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, ed. Elizabeth Knowles (Oxford University Press, 2005), www.oxfordreference.com [18 July 2016]). BACK
 EDITOR'S NOTE: In Greek and later Roman mythology the Muses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, were goddesses of creative and intellectual pursuits. Terpsichore was the Muse of poetry and dance, Clio the Muse of history. BACK
 EDITOR'S NOTE: Sir John Suckling (1609-1642), one of the ‘Cavalier poets’ associated with the court of Charles I of England. The poem is modelled on his ‘Why so pale and wan, fond lover?’, from the play Aglaura (1637). BACK
 EDITOR'S NOTE: The character of Lady Duberly is variously described as ‘a barbarous old woman’ (Act 3, Scene 2) and a ‘terrible old woman’ (Act 5, Scene 2) by her son’s tutor, Dr Peter Pangloss, in George Colman’s play The Heir at Law (1797). BACK