1.        The main text of this edition is a review of a hypothetical poem, ‘The Griffin’, the ‘maiden effort of an Indian Subaltern’s Muse’, supposedly published in an unnamed London periodical and then reproduced in the Bombay Gazette during the autumn of 1820. [1]  This poem, which exists only in the form of passages quoted within the review, is described by the reviewer as ‘written in burlesque imitation (if we may use such a phrase when the thing burlesqued is in itself a Burlesque) of Lord Byron’s witty yet shamelessly indecent Don Juan; void of all its richest beauties and destitute also of its licentiousness and depravity’. [2]  Serialized in six parts, the review / poem [3]  chronicles its protagonist’s arrival in India, his encounters with Bombay society, his experiences in the army and his relations with a series of women, one of whom commits herself to him and then reneges on her promises. It was the work of Thomas D’Arcy (or Darcy) Morris, [4]  at the time a 28-year-old Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion of the 12th Regiment of the Bombay Native Infantry—the parallels between author and protagonist are more than situational, as Daric (the eponymous Griffin, or newcomer to India) and his lover Carineth were recognised by readers as thinly-disguised versions of Morris himself and Catharine Hickes, the wife of one of his friends.

2.        The Griffin is accompanied in this edition by two sets of related texts. One comprises Morris’s poems (and the essay ‘An Eastern Vision’) appearing in the year preceding the publication of The Griffin in the Bombay Gazette and the Bombay Courier, under the pseudonyms ‘M.E.’ and ‘Uxorius’. These texts are forerunners and in some cases proto-fragments of the longer work; they anticipate its concerns (primarily the love affair at the heart of The Griffin, but also its observations of the world of Bombay), and they experiment with the characters and situations that would later form part of the review / poem.

3.        The other set of related texts is constituted by letters of commentary and criticism to the editors of the same newspapers, some in prose and some in verse, interspersed with the instalments of The Griffin throughout the course of its publication. Two of these raise queries about the authenticity of ‘The Griffin’ and the identity of its author. Others contest, or appear to contest, its misogyny, although the tone of these communications—‘A blush of Maiden modesty suffuses my cheeks while forming this Epistle, the first I ever wrote to one of the male sex’—indicates their satiric intent. [5]  They are signed with a variety of pseudonyms, in keeping with contemporary practice, where communications for publication were by convention anonymous or pseudonymous (a correspondent who insisted on using his own name attracted outraged accusations of vanity from others, who pointed out that ‘writers in a newspaper, however high their abilities may be, in general prefer to make their public appearance in such flying sheets under a nom de guerre’). [6]  Some might conceivably be genuine inquiries from readers, such as the letter asking ‘if the author of the Poem is actually in England or India’, in order to ‘dispel the distrust’ prevailing among those who wondered whether the writer might be found in their own circles. [7]  At the other extreme, the exuberant listing by ‘Slapatema Hopeful’ of her rejected suitors, together with her rejoicing in the prospect of another ‘thirty years to flirt about, before I am on the list of antiquated virginity’, and her contemptuous dismissal of ‘that superficial Griffin’, reads like a continuation outside the text of The Griffin of the sex wars fought within it. Given the way in which these letters enter into and exacerbate The Griffin’s themes of misogyny, conflict and satiric representation of individuals, it is very possible that some are the work of Morris himself—a theory borne out by his production of similar pseudonymous critical responses to his own works in the Oriental Sporting Magazine. [8]  In the absence of evidence of authorship, it might be preferable to regard at least some of them as potentially genuine readers’ responses to Morris’s work, indicative of his Bombay readership’s interest in and capacity for entering into the sophisticated literary parody sustained throughout the correspondence.

The author

4.        Thomas D’Arcy Morris (1792-1835) was born in London, the eldest son of Thomas Morris, a customs official, and his wife Mary. His entire adult life was spent in the service of the East India Company in the Bombay army. Arriving in Bombay as a cadet in 1808, he remained there (with the exception of periods of leave overseas) until his death, along with two brothers, also army officers, and four sisters who married army officers. [9]  During his army career—where he attained the rank of captain, and worked for many years as paymaster—he is credited with having devised plans for a ‘retiring fund’, or pension scheme, and with being an effective advocate at courts martial, as well as maintaining the amateur pursuits of actor, poet, and ‘arbiter elegentarium’ (to quote his obituary) of his circle of acquaintances. [10]  He was also secretary of Poona racecourse, and a sportsman renowned both for hunting and for writing popular songs in celebration of the hunt, his works a mainstay of the Oriental Sporting Magazine. His death, on 13 April 1835, occurred as a consequence of fever, and possibly wounds, suffered through ‘long and severe exposure’ while he was leading his regiment, the 24th Native Infantry, against Bhil raiders. [11] 

5.        The records of Morris’s time in India are not extensive: apart from routine mentions in army lists, the Bombay Calendar and similar outlets, and his uncomplicated will leaving everything to his daughter (see below), there are few personal remnants of his life and work. The exception is a letter to Mountstuart Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay 1819-1827 (the original survives among Elphinstone’s papers), communicating a request for preferment. Responding to the prospect of changes in the Pay Department (to which Elphinstone had nominated him in November 1824) which might deprive him of his post as deputy paymaster, he refers to the ‘marks of kindness’ already received from Elphinstone, and requests that ‘should any change in the Pay Department take place, I beg my dear sir that you will send me to the Deccan where the earliest & happiest days of my service have been passed’. [12]  (The letter appears to have achieved its objective: Morris was promoted to paymaster of the Malwa Field Force the same year, and later transferred to the Poona Division, but he remained in the Pay Department for all but one year of his subsequent career. [13] )

6.        Morris’s reference to his service in the Deccan foregrounds his personal involvement in the military actions of the early nineteenth century, a series of campaigns culminating in the third Anglo-Maratha war of 1817-1818. This conflict, resulting in defeat for the Maratha Confederacy which had controlled much of north and central India, paved the way for the consolidation of British power in the Deccan, and the expansion of the administrative area of the Bombay Presidency. These events underlie the personal stories of The Griffin and the early poems, and their associated geographical and military landmarks also constitute a zone of mutual understanding between Morris and his first readers, many of whom were also participants in the East India Company’s civil and military establishment in Bombay. The defeat twice over of Maratha forces at the battles of Kirkee (Khadki) and Ashtee (Ashta) in late 1817, occasions which form the background to the second instalment of The Griffin, was crucial to the Company’s achievement of control over the Deccan. The places invoked throughout the text—such as Poona (Poonah, Pune) and Sholapoor (Solapur), both locations where Morris had served—are part of that recently conquered territory, and demonstrate the extent to which the immediate history of the colony is already informing its literature.

The story of The Griffin and its aftermath

7.        The Englishman newspaper’s obituary of Morris discreetly skirts the controversy caused by The Griffin, ‘some passages in which, as they touched the reputation of a female member of the society of Bombay, formed the ground-work of a court martial’. [14] 

8.        This court martial was the outcome of a series of interactions between Morris and another officer, Frederick Hickes. Morris was charged with ‘disgraceful conduct, unbecoming the Character of an Officer and a Gentleman’ on two counts relating to the practice of settling differences or avenging insults by means of a duel. In 1821, immediately following publication of the final instalment of The Griffin, he had refused to respond appropriately (presumably by issuing a challenge to fight) when Hickes insulted him with ‘the most opprobrious Epithets’. [15]  Two years later, in 1823, he attempted to provoke Hickes to a duel. No explanation was offered of his apparently contradictory actions.

9.        Reading between the lines of the L/Mil records, and the documented details of the careers of both men, these events look like the outcome of a triangular relationship, the nature of which became clear to all the participants only on publication of The Griffin. Frederick Hickes, a fellow officer and friend of Morris, was posted alongside him between 1817 and 1820, first in the Peshwah’s Brigade and then in the Poonah Auxiliary Force. [16]  During this period, in March 1818, Hickes married Catharine Billamore. [17]  A daughter was born to them a year later, and another daughter died in infancy in June 1821. If Catharine Billamore is the subject of the lines ‘To C—B—’, published by Morris in May 1819, she was at the time of her marriage also the subject of Morris’s attention, and may have made some kind of promise to him, which she reneged on in order to marry Hickes. This work points to a romantic interest—initially requited—between them, where Catharine’s repudiation of Morris and marriage to Hickes became the occasion of a series of self-involved narratives of love and rejection. ‘To C—B—’ reproaches its subject with ‘faithlessness’, and represents her as thoughtlessly abandoning the writer for another:

Till thou in woman’s fickleness of mood—
Vow-pledge and every tie of faith forgetting—
Leapt to another’s arms—unsought—unwooed.
Take back the myrtle-bough—the heart’s ease take;
Take back the olive-branch—thy first Love-token
These in thine absence sooth’d my heart’s dull ache,
That heart which thou in wantonness hath broken.
This mode of writing—combining self-pity, fury at her betrayal and a misogynistic dwelling on the ‘fickleness’ of women—is maintained through several other versions of the abandoned lover’s story. An early ‘Fragment’ of what would become The Griffin gives the woman in question the suggestively acronymical name of ‘Carineth’, and has the speaker, Daric (a near miss for ‘D’Arcy’), return from battle to find her ‘Wedded to him, my best, my bosom friend’. This situation is replicated in the prose ‘Eastern Vision’ where the narrator reflects on ‘the fate of many a warm hearted Youth, who relying upon the virgin-vows of some impatient female, obey’d the calls of Duty and Honour and returned to the object of his Adoration time enough to find her “The Bride of Another”!!’ [18] 

10.        While the reiterated narrative is a striking feature when these texts are read together, they were first published as incidental pieces of no particular note, and appear to have attracted no attention. This changed with the publication of The Griffin and its associated correspondence. When the character of Carineth is reprised in The Griffin, re-enacting the scene of parting from Daric as a prelude to entering ‘the pale of matrimony “almost unsought and totally unwoo’d”’, it is in the context of a work which all but proclaims its status as roman à clef: ‘the objects thus satirized may possibly be the mere creatures of [the poet’s] imagination but to us they appear to issue so fresh in feature and with such undoubted impress of real Life that we feel them pass current with us and we stamp’d them, accordingly, as genuine’. [19]  As ‘Carineth’ and ‘Daric’ were unmasked by Morris’s readers, Frederick Hickes sent Morris a series of insulting letters in the first weeks of January 1821. Morris, ‘sensible of having injured grievously a former Friend’, chose to apologize for ‘the Conduct which had occasioned’ Hickes’s response; and mutual friends brought about an understanding of sorts. [20]  Morris was abruptly granted sick leave and left India almost immediately for an absence of two years. [21] 

11.        During this period, Catharine Hickes died ‘after a short but severe illness’. [22]  A memorial inscription on the wall of Trinity Church in Cheltenham, where she is listed alongside her parents and siblings, records her age at death as 26. This, or some other circumstance, changed Morris’s mind. On his return to Bombay in July 1823, he resumed hostilities with Hickes, this time as the aggressor, sending a message intended ‘to provoke … Hickes to fight a Duel on grounds connected with the … circumstances’ of January 1821, and eventually bringing about the court-martial. The fact that the court acquitted him of all charges, to the dismay of the commander in chief who pointed out that the evidence unequivocally indicated his guilt, suggests that they had some sympathy with his situation. [23] 

12.        There are, to my knowledge, no records of any further interaction between the two men, and the other players in this drama went their separate ways. Catharine Hickes’s daughter, named Catherine after her mother, married an officer named Joshua Tait and died as his widow in 1860. Frederick Hickes was married for the second time in 1827, to Anne Barlow Foquett, and had several more children; he had reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Bombay army by the time of his death during the storming of the fort of Punalla in 1844, when he was struck by a cannon-ball. [24]  Morris never married, but at his death left all his possessions to his ‘illegitimate daughter Mary May Morris’, born to an unnamed, probably Indian, mother in 1826. [25] 

‘It was his own life…’

13.        Over sixty years after the events described in The Griffin, a correspondent of the Times of India wrote to claim that he had been acquainted with Morris, a friend of his father’s, ‘in my youth, now alas about fifty years ago’. This letter correctly identifies Morris as the author of hunting songs, but its references to The Griffin are inaccurate—the text is cited as ‘Life of Tom Raw the Griffin’ [26]  (confusing it with the far more widely read later poem of that name)—and attributes its publication to the Courier rather than the Gazette. The writer continues: ‘It was his own life on first arrival in the country. He was engaged to a young lady, a very handsome one; however, there was a disagreement, and he got soured and wrote this work, and it was privately circulated amongst his personal friends.’ [27]  The inconsistencies of this account, and the time elapsed between the events described and the correspondent’s recollection, are reasons to treat the rationale offered with caution—but the reference to an engagement perhaps merely formalizes the abandoned promise which underlies the early poems, the focus for the writer’s fury and despair.

14.        These early works turn in each case on a scene of trauma and betrayal experienced by a protagonist who returns from battle to find that his promised beloved has married his friend. The ‘warm hearted Youth’ of ‘An Eastern Vision’ finds ‘the object of his Adoration’ has become ‘The Bride of Another’; the addressee of ‘To C—.B—.’ has ‘Leapt to another’s arms’; the Carineth of ‘A Fragment’ is ‘Wedded to him, my best, my bosom friend’, and so on. The explanation for her conduct is variously given as ‘woman’s fickleness’, faithlessness, impatience—the qualities of what ‘Observer XIV’ terms a ‘true woman’. The overriding point is clearly about the infidelity of women, and the impact of this particular woman’s betrayal of the man who loved her.

15.        In The Griffin, a more complicated story is alluded to. The reviewer’s remarks on Canto 4 suggest that the reason for the breakdown of relations between Carineth and Daric appears to be on his side, rather than hers—‘he had found means to communicate to her that an invincible obstacle prevented their Union’—and are thus at odds with the version offered in the earlier fragments, where Daric is represented as overcome by her decision to send him away. In Canto 6, a different version again: ‘Soon after the rupture between Babille and the Griffin, Carineth, who had watched the progress of the Amour, now treats him with marked reserve and almost merited Contempt’. She eventually rejects him, leaving him ‘to wander thro’ the world the victim of a hopeless passion—a prey to miserable and vain regret whilst the object of his affections, enters the pale of matrimony “almost unsought and totally unwoo’d.”’ Here, unlike any of the earlier versions, the woman’s point of view is given, and given in direct speech:

…’twould now be weak to rail
Or sigh for one, who would that sigh deride
Who, by the hour of parting, moan, and wail
Flew to another shrine and knelt and sighed
And woo’d a face of Smiles … (Canto 6, ll. 183-187).
These variations of the story, with their movement away from the basic theme of Carineth’s faithlessness, might be attributable to a changing mood of the writer, or to the narrative complexity inherent in the longer form of the review / poem, where multiple characters and episodes complicate the spare landscape of the earlier texts. Nonetheless, the attitude to women more generally expressed by the writer remains constant, as the more nuanced representation of Carineth is accompanied by the deployment of the freakishly untrustworthy ‘woman-Serpent’ Babille, false from her hair and her teeth to her ‘flirting, fibbing, scandal and back biting’ (Canto 6, ll. 135-142). As this, rather than the plight of the abandoned lover, strikes the key-note of The Griffin, it suggests that the writer was left with a lasting contempt for his female compatriots.

16.        Morris’s later work bears this out, as it concerns almost exclusively the masculine world of sport—hunting, horse-racing—and avoids any engagement with his former subjects. A hunting poem, ‘Saddle, Spur and Spear’, chronicles the transition in words which all but compel a biographical reading:

Let others boast and proudly toast
The light of ladies’ eyes,
And swear the rose less perfume throws
Than beauty’s fragrant sighs;
That ripe-red lips in hue eclipse
The ruby’s radiant gem;
That woman’s far the brightest star
In nature’s diadem;
Yet since for me no charms I see
In all the sex can show,
And smile and tear alike appear,
Unheeded flash or flow—
I’ll change my theme, and fondly deem
True sportsmen pledge me here,
And fill my cup, and drain it up,
To saddle, spur and spear! [28] 

The Griffin’s ‘Anti-woman Mania’

17.        One of the most striking aspects of Morris’s work is its misogyny, which finds expression in three ways. First is the resentful depiction of women as status-seeking and faithless, summed up in the embedded poem of ‘The Observer XIV’: the female protagonist is said to value ‘Rank’ in a prospective partner over the quality of a ‘warm’ heart. Her decision to cast aside her lover and marry his friend is represented as a trait of the female sex more generally, rather than indicative of her personal characteristics: the action of a ‘true woman’. Second, the material bodies of women are represented as grotesque and revolting to men, as the apparent allure of Babille, for instance, turns out to conceal a combination of physical repulsiveness and artificial enhancements:

Her bloom, hair teeth and neck, struck Daric’s senses,
But soon the youth recover’d, from the shock
For he found out (how I’lle not say—but hence his
Disgust) they were at bed-time under lock
And key—with all her little prominences!! (The Griffin, Canto 6, ll. 143-147).
Third, the text continually returns to a repetitive trope of entrapment, dwelling on figures such as the ‘dame well-skilled in husband-seeking’ who ‘by some artful and expert manoeuvre / … lures a gilded gudgeon to the Bait’ (Canto 6, l. 250); or Vivian, who uses the spell given her by Merlin to trap him (Canto 6, 115-130). ‘Man is their prey’, the implied poet of ‘The Griffin’ writes (Canto 6, l. 48). The reviewer, for his part, seemingly contests the misogyny of the poem’s text by highlighting ‘the most unpardonable language in which the Author has attempted to degrade the loveliest part of Creation’. This strategy frames and draws attention to exactly the theme it appears to decry, and the brief mention of supportive and beloved ‘Women (and particularly British Women)’ is overshadowed by the account of those ‘females even in India whose turpitude of conduct render them objects of loathing and disgust to every virtuous mind’ (Canto 1). When Daric’s encounter with Marion, his ‘proper Love’, is mentioned by the reviewer, it is simultaneously elided: ‘Her appearance is most interestingly described, her character exquisitely pourtrayed, the opening of his passion and her confession together with their extraordinary adventures and final disappointment, separation and misery, form one of the most pathetic Episodes we have ever read.’ But, the reviewer continues, ‘We will not anticipate the readers delight which this affecting tale will impart...’ (Canto 3). The present, but invisible, phantom of the ‘proper’ woman is contrasted with the all-too-concretely imagined versions of the improper feminine: Babille the ‘Talking shuttle cock’, Pamela with her ‘carrion’ breath and addiction to ‘lying and to liquor’. [29] 

18.        Some of this attitude will inevitably be attributed to the personal circumstances of the writer, and the obsessively repeated depiction in the early works of the betraying woman is evidence of the importance of this figure to Morris himself. At the same time, a comparable mistrust of women is more widely visible across the periodicals of colonial Bombay. As The Griffin was being published in the Bombay Gazette, another poem in the rival Courier remarked on the immodesty of women (‘nature’s self is frail’, and ‘I’d have maids vestals—till they’re brides’); and the same writer later evokes the spectre of a woman’s corrupt body: ‘the flush of beauty’s face / Hiding disease—by adding grace.’ [30]  The theme of entrapment in Morris’s work is echoed in the notion of the freedom of bachelorhood being curtailed by ‘Wedlock’s mystic chain’, a weight dragging its victim ‘to dreary Earth again’. [31]  More directly, the long poem ‘Woman’ discusses several types of women and relationships, beginning with Eve’s ‘foolish heart’ and ‘empty head’, and concluding: ‘Few Females are deceived by Man alone / The Fault is partly, or is all their Own.’ [32] 

19.        Such representations of women and relationships should be viewed in the context of a colonial society based on the civil and military structures of the East India Company, where pay increased only with seniority, leaving junior officers without independent means in often straitened circumstances. (On attaining the rank of major in 1834, Morris was paid nearly three times the amount he received as a lieutenant in 1820, but he had by then been in the Company’s service for twenty-five years.) Simultaneously, the gender imbalance in the makeup of that society—the ‘great number of men’, as Maria Graham puts it, in relation to a small number of women—underlies the sexual politics of colonial Bombay. [33]  Being a scarce commodity in the sexual marketplace, women could make their own calculations of the material as well as moral and erotic worth of the men whom they wished to attract, resulting in what Indrani Sen terms ‘a virtual inversion of gender power-relations and an unaccustomed degree of female sexual power’. [34]  The narrator’s contemptuous appraisal of the women of Bombay should be seen in the context of Daric’s predicament as he finds himself ‘o’erlooked and spurned’ (Canto 5, l. 181)—not only excluded from the exercise of the male gaze, but rendered invisible. In response to female sexual agency, the poem resorts to the production of femininity as the embodiment and justification of corporeal misogyny.

Decentering the metropolis

20.        The sensational story at the heart of The Griffin should not become a distraction from the larger context for Morris’s work. The poem is not just about the protagonist, or about Bombay society; it is also a writing back to the literary establishment of Britain. This is represented by the supposed reviewer of ‘The Griffin’, whose ignorance of the social and linguistic norms of colonial society is established from the outset. Led by the title to expect a ‘tale of German Horrors, a tissue of deaths heads and blue lights’, rather than the account of a novice traveller to India, he maintains throughout the review a stance of distaste for the world of Bombay, commenting upon the ‘disgusting minuteness’ with which the poem describes the inhabitants of the country. [35]  Hampered by his lack of knowledge and attitude of disdain, this reviewer is held up to ridicule by an author who invites his readers to re-evaluate their own accustomed position of distance from and dependence on the metropolis. Rather than finding themselves literally and figuratively at the end of a line, waiting months for the supply of ideas, texts and cultural forms to travel from Britain to Bombay, colonial readers are invited to enjoy a position of relative advantage. When the reviewer remarks that ‘the description of [the dawn breaking] appears one of the Author’s best specimens of Eastern scenery, but we leave the greatest portion of it out, that it may reach with all the additional effect of novelty, those who may have witnessed and can better appreciate the local interest’ (Canto 2), he is identifying local readers as privileged—those who can ‘appreciate’ the text—but also underlining the imagined metropolitan reader’s lack of access to the sights and events of the colony.

21.        The reviewer’s other function is to signpost the text’s operation as a roman à clef, where not only the two protagonists, but also some of the incidental characters, are recognizable portraits of individuals. This level of coding is generally inaccessible now, as the time elapsed since publication renders indecipherable the highly-coloured depictions of characters such as Pomponious the surveyor, Babille, or the gruesome married couple Janet and Peter. It is nonetheless clear that episodes such as the Griffin’s encounter with ‘a friend of his father’s’, whose ungenerous refusal of notice or hospitality is a dismaying introduction to Bombay, are to be read, contra the reviewer’s sarcastic protests, as real-life representations: ‘the outline of this personage is greatly overdrawn and we trust that no one sat for the horrid likeness’. [36]  Full access to the text again demands the expert readership of the colony.

22.        This theme of material and experiential distance between metropolitan and colonial reader is maintained throughout the work. The cascade of visual descriptors in the descriptions of landscape—‘azure mist’, ‘radiant glory’, ‘golden light’—creates the highly-coloured sheen of the picturesque familiar to readers of travel-writing and poetry from India, but it is mixed with the listing of place-names and landmarks familiar only to local residents, setting lived experience of India in tension with the metropolitan-facing consumerist vision of the colonial picturesque. [37]  The reviewer’s listing of ‘the Heathenish names of Parbuttee, Gunness-Kund, Singhur and Paishaunee’, highlights their strangeness to a metropolitan eye, but to local readers, these are regional landmarks, familiar as locations associated with the battle of Kirkee and the wider campaign by which the East India Company attained control over the Deccan territories. Colonial readers’ acquaintance with these temporally, politically and geographically specific locations sets them both apart from and (in terms of knowledge and cultural capital) above their counterparts of the metropolis. Similarly, the scene before the battle of Kirkee, in Canto 2 of The Griffin, acknowledges a moment of colonial dependence on the metropolis in Morris’s open imitation of Byron’s Childe Harold, but the battle also signals for the readers of Bombay their own assertion of dominance in India, chronicled in a text prioritising the agenda of the colony. In this way, Morris reverses the polarity of some of the basic literary and political relationships of the Romantic period, contesting the increasingly hegemonic role of publications such as the Edinburgh Review in policing the boundaries of literature, and engaging in the creative appropriation of metropolitan literary forms to give voice to specifically colonial and anti-metropolitan concerns.

Colonial literary networks and the writers of Bombay

23.        Morris was a wide reader with an excellent knowledge of poetry and fiction, as well as a magpie eclecticism and a confident willingness to adapt—he was happy, for example, to take one line of Walter Scott’s on a mythological hero’s death from a review of Southey’s work, and transform the dying message to a beloved wife into a declaration of love for someone who has just been discovered to be the wife of someone else. [38]  Similarly, the epigraph from Scott’s Legend of Montrose that precedes the full text of ‘An Eastern Vision’ (not given here) is adapted to be voiced by a man in relation to a woman, rather than the original where the reverse is the case: ‘But parted by severe decree, / Far different must our fortunes prove, / May thine be Joy—enough for me, / To weep and pray for her I love.’ [39]  His range of reference includes Southey, Crabbe, Scott, the Spectator, and Samuel Richardson, as well as the more obvious Byron and Moore. Invoking Pamela sets contemporary anti-feminism against a background of insistence on the power of virtue, implicitly enrolling The Griffin in the list of parodies and satires that beset Richardson’s work almost from its inception. With the invocation of John Suckling in the correspondence, the literary network evolved by Morris (whether regarded as his own work or achieved in partnership with his readers) stretches back to the seventeenth century.

24.        The most significant link in that network of connection between metropolis and colony, Byron, and especially his best-known work, Don Juan, provides the impetus for The Griffin. There are also references to Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage throughout the text—the identification of the author with his protagonist, the night of revelry before a battle, several direct allusions to the text—but the direct claim of Don Juan as a model in the opening lines, and the romantic escapades of its protagonist, ensure that the latter forms the lens through which its first readers saw it. [40]  The transforming influence of Byron on the poetry of British India has long been recognized, since David Kopf credited the appearance of Don Juan in the Calcutta Gazette in the early days of 1820 with being the inspiration for a generation of poetic satirists who used the form of Byron’s most spectacular work to chronicle the lives of hapless East India Company protagonists, and mount a comic attack on the values and practices of the Company itself. [41]  In other parts of India, the influence of Don Juan is equally notable, though less well documented; it appears in the periodicals of Bombay in forms ranging from the publication of Byronic imitations and parodies to the listing of a horse named ‘Don Juan’ in the field lining up for the Poona Races. [42] 

25.        In some respects, the appearance of The Griffin fits well into this narrative of Byronic originary force. Morris had been publishing short works exploring the bitter aftermath of rejection in the years immediately preceding the publication of Don Juan, producing a repetitive series of lyric verses focusing on the protagonist’s emotional response to his lover’s betrayal. The series of fragments hints at a larger narrative, but none such is forthcoming. The arrival in India of Don Juan Cantos I and II might be regarded as a turning-point: in August 1820, the first canto of The Griffin makes its appearance, complete with a Byronic protagonist, a narrative of that protagonist’s progress through Bombay society, and a narrative voice and style which consciously and deliberately echoes Byron’s ottava rima, his tone and his flamboyant rhymes. The acknowledgement of Don Juan in the opening paragraph is all but superfluous.

26.        To read Don Juan as a determining force in relation to The Griffin is, however, to overlook several important aspects of the work and its composition. Morris’s fictional construct, with its series of embedded narrative structures, the inbuilt commentary of the review element, and the (probable) accompaniment of the readers’ chorus of the correspondence, draws on a wider and older tradition than that represented simply by Byron’s work. The device of a long narrative poem with prose interludes had been popularized by Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh, invoked by Morris in The Griffin (Canto 5). Samuel Richardson’s multi-vocal epistolary novels, with their insistence on deferral of readerly judgement, are invoked in both poem and correspondence, enabling Morris to frame the self-centred lyric lines about Daric’s plight within a construct of distancing and sceptical narrative. [43]  The use of the review article format echoes the centrality of reviews to the process of reading and reception of the early nineteenth century, at a time when the Edinburgh Review was reaching a circulation of 13,000, and (as Morris’s own reading of Southey through Walter Scott’s review suggests) providing a window onto contemporary literature for more readers than would encounter the original works. [44]  If Byron supplied the form and tone and inflected the content for ‘The Griffin’ as poetry, the larger review / poem was shaped by the eighteenth-century and Romantic tradition of critical engagement with creative writing and use of multi-narrator forms to explore and create critical distance from a topic, transforming lyric into satire.

Morris and the evolution of a colonial literary tradition

27.        In the moment of 1820, The Griffin caught the attention of Bombay, and Morris continued to be sought after as a poet and comic essayist, dominating the columns of the Oriental Sporting Magazine (1828-1833) over the course of its publication. [45]  Its longer term influence, and especially the extent to which it might be said to contribute to a distinctively colonial literary tradition, is more open to question. It may be helpful here to distinguish between the formal aspects of Morris’s work—the playful, multivocal texts where content is nuanced through layers of narrative—and the subject-matter, particularly as that pertains to the concerns and lived experience of British residents in India. On this latter point, there is evidence in the periodical record to suggest that Morris’s work, particularly the sporting texts of the Oriental Sporting Magazine, came to exemplify for readers a golden age of Britain in India, or at least a golden age for British officers of the East India Company, who enjoyed a degree of freedom, autonomy and leisure to follow their own pursuits unattainable for their successors. This is the message of a writer for the Times of India in the 1890s, who sums up his nostalgic retrospective in the remark that ‘There were more hogs in these days’. [46]  In the context of a changing India, where the work of another Bombay writer, ‘Ram Bux’, exemplifies the alienation felt by British colonizers in the light of a nascent Indian movement towards self-government, Morris’s poetry represented an age of British colonial security. [47]  Their pseudonymous publication meant that in most cases his name was no longer associated with individual works, but they were reprinted, their respective merits assessed, and their authorship speculated upon. (‘[T]he first song which we quote, the famous boar song, it is customary to attribute either to a Colonel Campbell or a Colonel Morris, and to say that it was written in Khandeish. We do not know what ground there is for any of these rumours…’. [48] ) Described on Morris’s memorial as having ‘a celebrity all over India’, these hunting songs represent a colonial masculine identity that retains its cultural and affective currency in the Bombay of the 1890s. [49] 

28.        On literary form, the legacy of Morris’s work is less visible. There are some traces observable in the years following publication of The Griffin, in the appearance of other texts in the Bombay papers which replicate some of its narrative devices. The conceit of a found poem is echoed in ‘Hot blow the winds….’ (1822), an account of a soldier’s life, where the lines are prefaced by a paragraph describing the circumstances of its acquisition: ‘The enclosed was picked from the debris of a devil of no common powers, which spread uproar and confusion through our lines this forenoon. From the handwriting I suspect it to be the production of Dick Dumps of ours, a very good fellow’. As in The Griffin, the meta-narrative comments in comedic style on the intersection of material and poetic form: ‘You will perceive a hiatus, or hole in the ballad just before the concluding stanza, occasioned, I am sorry to say, by the gnawing of a favorite terrier pup.’ [50]  The review / poem format was resurrected by the pseudonymous ‘Amicus’ in ‘Trip to Margate; or, A Peep at Ladies as They Are’. [51]  The Oriental Sporting Magazine carried several examples of texts using narrative framing, the deployment of multiple authorial personae and embedded controversies; as well as longer works such as ‘The Three Macs’, by ‘Andropais’, drawing on The Griffin’s Byronic format and the trope of the encounter with Bombay. [52] 

29.        Despite these early signs of an evolving literary tradition, the conditions of publication in Bombay, as elsewhere in India, were not conducive to the persistence of local literary influence. Though the Bombay Gazette lasted through the end of the nineteenth century, and the Bombay Courier until 1861, the Oriental Sporting Magazine lasted only five years, and other niche periodicals were similarly shortlived. [53]  Looking across the span of the nineteenth century, it is evident that even where individual titles persist, the presence of poetry in the periodicals, and the incidence of particular genres and modes of poetry, is not consistent across titles or across time; rather it is contingent upon the contribution of individuals, with brief runs of identifiable work lasting sometimes a year or two and then fading as the authors died, were transferred, or lost interest. [54]  Though The Griffin continued to be fondly, if inaccurately, recollected (see above), the ephemerality of local print culture, and the weight of metropolitan literature which continued to be preferred in the colonial marketplace, militated against any more lasting impact Morris’s work might have had on the literary tradition of Bombay. [55] 

30.        With the partial exception of the hunting songs, Morris’s work has remained largely unread during the period of almost two hundred years since his first verses to ‘C—B—’ appeared in a Bombay newspaper. The ephemeral nature of the periodical press of the time, and the fact that Morris (unlike many of his contemporaries) chose to eschew any form of collection or book publication of his works, contributed to their neglect. The nature of the texts—their focus on personal circumstances and stories, and their close ties to the time and place of their composition—also make them resistant to easy retrieval or decoding. They are, however, important witnesses to the literary concerns and strategies of a largely overlooked British India. Morris, like his contemporary writers in Bombay and the other regional centres of India, was geographically and culturally distant from the main colonial literary scene of Calcutta, as well as from the British centre. Separated by class as well as by education from the elite scholars of the late eighteenth century, they did not have access to the transoceanic and transcultural networks commanded by William Jones and his colleagues, or their knowledge of Oriental languages and literatures. Culturally and professionally circumscribed by the narrow society of military and sporting Bombay, the colonial literary networks developed by Morris and his readers and co-writers in the Oriental Sporting Magazine bear no comparison to those of 1830s Calcutta, where H.L.V. Derozio, David Lester Richardson, Emma Roberts, Kasiprasad Ghosh and others developed a rich, though transient, set of collaborative and mutually influential cross-cultural relationships. [56]  Morris’s idiosyncratic vision and irreverent focus on the personal and the frivolous also sets him apart from his mainstream contemporaries. Nonetheless, Morris is not wholly or only a derivative writer: his repurposing of available literary models, his centering of colonial lived experience and world-view, and his resourceful ability to counter the preoccupations and concerns of the metropolis position him as in control of, rather than dependent upon, contemporary cultural forms. His writing privileges the local, the parochial and the parodic, but it also illuminates aspects of the complex relationships of dependence and transformation between the metropolis, the colony and the individuals whose lives and works spanned the distance between them.


[1] ‘From the ***** Review, Published at London by Richard Paterson, & Co., 25 Long Lane, Third Edition—with Plates’, Bombay Gazette 30 August 1820; further instalments appeared on 6 September, 20 September, 25 October, 6 December and 27 December. BACK

[2] Bombay Gazette 30 August 1820. BACK

[3] I use ‘The Griffin’ to refer to the embedded poem, and The Griffin to refer to the entire review / poem text. BACK

[4] The name appears in both forms. I have preferred that used by J.H. Stocqueler in his obituary of Morris, as Stocqueler was also the editor who published many of Morris’s works in the Oriental Sporting Magazine. BACK

[5] Priscilla Wishfort to the Bombay Courier (21 October 1820). BACK

[6] See the correspondence from and about J.W. Graham (Bombay Courier, 22 and 29 September 1821). BACK

[7] ‘No-Griffin’ to the Bombay Courier, 30 September 1820. BACK

[8] See the items by ‘Stephen’ included in the ‘List of works by Thomas D’Arcy Morris’. BACK

[9] ‘The Author of the “Mighty Boar”’, Times of India 21 October 1881, p. 2. Family historians have compiled an extensive genealogy of the Morris siblings; see [23 July 2016]. BACK

[10] ‘The Sportsman’, Englishman, 8 May 1835. BACK

[11] Asiatic Journal, October 1835, p. 127. This introduction draws on and extends my earlier work on Morris in The Poetry of British India, vol. 1 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), pp. 175-176; and a brief account of The Griffin included in ‘Transformations of Byron in the Poetry of British India’, Victorian Literature and Culture 42.3 (2014): 578. The current edition should be regarded as superseding any earlier material. BACK

[12] Morris to Mountstuart Elphinstone, 27 September 1827 (BL Mss Eur F88/276, ff. 138-139). A verse ‘Address to Elphinstone’ on his departure from India, written by Morris later that year, is included in the Oriental Sporting Magazine (October 1830), 2.39- 41. BACK

[13] Bombay Calendar, 1827-1835. BACK

[14] ‘The Sportsman’, Englishman, 8 May 1835. BACK

[15] ‘Court martial of Lt TD Morris of 12th NI held 28 July and 22 August 1823’, IOR L/Mil/17/4/292, pp. 87-88, BL. BACK

[16] Bombay Calendar, 1818-1820. BACK

[17] Asiatic Journal, December 1818, p. 673. BACK

[18] Bombay Gazette, 2 February, 5 April 1820. BACK

[19] The Griffin, Canto 6. The original text is erratically presented, with stanzas numbered in some cantos and not in others. I have referenced prose quotations to the relevant canto; verse quotations are further identified by the line numbers used in this edition. BACK

[20] L/Mil/17/4/292, pp. 87-88. BACK

[21] Bombay Courier, 27 January 1821. BACK

[22] Asiatic Journal, June 1822, p. 620. BACK

[23] L/Mil/17/4/292, pp. 87-88. BACK

[24] Gentleman’s Magazine, March 1845, p. 303. BACK

[25] IOR L/AG/34/29/348, f. 12, BL. Ian Macdonnell, a descendant of Mary May Morris, kindly provided some details of his family’s history for my earlier work on Morris. BACK

[26] Tom Raw, the Griffin, by a Civilian and an Officer on the Bengal Establishment [Charles D’Oyly and James Atkinson] (London: Ackermann, 1828). A later correspondent contests the association of Morris with Tom Raw: The Griffin, and raises the alternative possibility that he might be the author of The Grand Master: or, Adventures of Qui Hi in Hindustan, by ‘Quiz’ (1816) (A.C., ‘Tom Raw, the Griffin’, Times of India 24 October 1881, p. 2). This is at least theoretically possible—Morris in 1816 had been eight years in India—but it does not seem likely that the author would have produced first the sustained narrative and technical achievement of The Grand Master (and had the resources to have it published in London, with Rowlandson’s engravings) and only then the short and repetitive poems and fragmentary narrative forms that make up The Griffin and its forerunners. BACK

[27] Budha Admin, ‘To the editor of the Times of India’, Times of India, 15 October 1881, p. 6. BACK

[28] Oriental Sporting Magazine (October, 1830), 2.9. BACK

[29] The Griffin, Canto 6, l. 148; ll. 280, 289. BACK

[30] Anti-Waltz, ‘A Poetic Hint: Reasons why I dislike Waltzing and Spanish Dances’, Bombay Courier, 22 July 1820; Anti-Waltz, ‘In reply to the Lines in the last Gazette’, Bombay Courier, 19 August 1820. BACK

[31] E., ‘Riddle’, Bombay Courier, 21 October 1820. BACK

[32] Bombay Gazette, 21 March 1821. BACK

[33] Maria Graham, Journal of a Residence in India, 2nd edn (Edinburgh: Constable, 1813), p. 28; on the relative numbers of men and women in the society of colonial India, see P.J. Marshall, ‘British immigration into India in the nineteenth century’, in P.C. Emmer and M. Mörner (eds), European Expansion and Migration: Essays on the Intercontinental Migration from Africa, Asia, and Europe (New York: Berg, 1992), pp. 182-184. BACK

[34] Indrani Sen, Woman and Empire: Representations in the Writings of British India (1858-1900) (Delhi: Orient Longman Private, 2002), p. 80. BACK

[35] The Griffin, Canto 1, Canto 2. BACK

[36] The Griffin, Canto 2. BACK

[37] The Griffin, Canto 2, ll. 101-105. Compare, for instance, the picturesque landscapes of D.L. Richardson, in poems such as ‘Written on the Banks of the Ganges’ (Sonnets, and Other Poems (London: Thomas and George Underwood, 1825); or Emma Roberts’s ‘The Land Storm’, Oriental Scenes, Dramatic Sketches and Tales, with Other Poems (Calcutta: printed for the author by P.S. D’Rozario, 1830). See also Sara Suleri, The Rhetoric of English India (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Mary Ellis Gibson, Indian Angles: English Verse in Colonial India from Jones to Tagore (Athens, OH: Ohio UP, 2011); Pramod K. Nayar, English Writing and India, 1600-1920: Colonizing Aesthetics (London: Routledge, 2008). BACK

[38] See ‘’Twas Noon’, note 4. Morris’s inexact references suggest a practice of relying on memory: his quotation of John Campbell, for example, substitutes ‘glitter’d’ for ‘shone’ and ‘people’ for ‘other animals’ (Canto 6, note 145). BACK

[39] Compare Walter Scott, A Legend of the Wars of Montrose, ed. J.H. Alexander (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1995), p. 165. BACK

[40] The Griffin, Canto 3 ll. 284ff; Canto 6, l.291. References to Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage are documented in the notes to this edition of the text. BACK

[41] David Kopf, British Orientalism and the Bengal Renaissance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), pp. 222-27. See, for example, ‘Rinaldo, or the Incipient Judge’ (1820), H.L.V. Derozio, Don Juanics (1825) and Tom Raw, the Griffin (1828); critical discussions of these and other texts include Nigel Leask, ‘Towards an Anglo-Indian Poetry? The Colonial Muse in the Writings of John Leyden, Thomas Medwin and Charles D’Oyly’, in Writing India, 1757-1990, ed. Bart Moore-Gilbert (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), pp. 52-85; Gibson, Indian Angles, p. 72; ní Fhlathúin, ‘Transformations of Byron’. BACK

[42] Phlegon, ‘Burlesque Imitation of Don Juan’, Bombay Courier 11 Mar 1820; see the report of the Poona race meeting (signed by T.D. Morris as secretary), Bombay Courier 26 February 1820. The supposed ‘Canto III’ of Don Juan published in the Bombay Gazette issues of 26 April and 3 May 1820, copied from the Calcutta Journal, is not by Byron, but is the work entitled Don Juan: With a Biographical Sketch of Lord Byron and his Family, Canto III (London: William Wright, 1819)—mainly a hostile account of Byron’s life. Notwithstanding its inauthenticity, it further demonstrates the local interest in Byron’s work, and the availability of the Byronic hero as a model for colonial writers. BACK

[43] Richardson’s heroine Pamela is called into readerly memory by her namesake and mirror image in The Griffin (Canto 4, ll. 251-305); his Clarissa by the correspondence (see the letter of ‘Anna Howe’ in this edition). BACK

[44] See Early Poems, n. 5. BACK

[45] See the list of ‘Additional Works’; even before the advent of the OSM, the unusual response from the editor of the Bombay Gazette to the submission of ‘An Eastern Vision’—a note that future contributions ‘will be always acceptable’ (5 April 1820)—suggests that Morris’s work was valued above that of other contributors. BACK

[46] ‘Sport and Song in the Bombay Presidency, 1828-1833’, Times of India 19 June 1891, p. 4. BACK

[47] Ram Bux, Boojum Ballads (Bombay: Tatva-Vivechaka Press, 1895). I have written on this elsewhere; see British India (pp. 167-169). BACK

[48] ‘Indian Hunting Songs’, Times of India 11 October 1881, p. 2. BACK

[49] A Handbook for India: Bombay (London: John Murray, 1859), p. 456. BACK

[50] P.P., ‘Hot blow the winds’, Bombay Courier, 20 April 1822. BACK

[51] Bombay Gazette, 16 January, 23 January 1822. BACK

[52] ‘The Three Macs’ was serialized over several issues (Oriental Sporting Magazine 1.158-161, 1.232-236, 1.361-363); see also ‘The Griffin’s First Picnic’, by Peter Popjoy (Oriental Sporting Magazine 2. 278-380); and one of Morris’s own works, ‘John Dockery Again’: ‘The accompanying M.S. was accidentally discovered in the tavern at Khandalla, and is supposed to have escaped from John’s breeches pocket while he was yet under the influence of the powerful narcotic administered by Nimrod in the East.’ (Oriental Sporting Magazine 2.227). The inclusion of a reference to ‘Nimrod in the East’—another OSM correspondent—recalls the coterie element of The Griffin and its associated correspondence. BACK

[53] Examples include the Bombay Iris (1827), the Bombay Gentlemen’s Literary Gazette (1843-1849), and the Bombay Oriental News (1853-1857). BACK

[54] In the Bombay Oriental News, for example, the poetry columns for 1853 are largely filled by the contributions of two authors, W.A. Shepherd of Colaba and the pseudonymous ‘Ada’. By the following year, ‘Ada’ is seen no longer, and Shepherd’s contributions cease in June 1854, after which the volume of poetry in the periodical dwindles to insignificant proportions until 1857. BACK

[55] The relative value of metropolitan versus local literature is demonstrated by the editor of the Bombay Courier, whose note to correspondents explains that the contributions of a local author, ‘Senrub’, have been ‘laid aside to make room for our English files. When they are exhausted we will return to … his verses’ (2 May 1829). BACK

[56] These relationships are discussed in Gibson, Indian Angles; Rosinka Chaudhuri, Gentlemen Poets in Colonial Bengal: Emergent Nationalism and the Orientalist Project (Calcutta: Seagull, 2002). BACK