The obliteration of Oriental ideas of sexuality and gender relations, and, indeed, of Orientals themselves, from the English romance novel in order to achieve resolution, is characteristic of another genre which prefigured and overlapped with the Anglo-Indian romance: Mutiny fiction, largely produced between the s to the s.
Mutiny fiction was set around the events of the Indian uprising. It focused on the epic or heroic deeds of English men and the atrocities experienced by women, and romance was subordinated to these themes. Mutiny fiction therefore remained within the classical model of masculine chivalric romance, with its emphasis on knightly deeds, battle, and quests, while women served as the excuse for adventure and the reward for masculine success.
There was little genuine interest in the developing relationship between men and women. The exception, however, was Flora Annie Steel's On the Face of the Waters - a bestseller that combined the Mutiny with romance and the exploration of interracial relations. The superiority of English womanhood is demonstrated by contrasting Kate with the Hindu widow, Tara Devi, whom the hero, Jim Douglas, saves from suttee, and who then falls in love with him. Although Tara disguises Kate as a Persian woman, teaches her Hindi, and thus enables her to survive, Kate becomes her rival for Jim's affection.
Tara's inability to enter the space of English domesticity she fails to nurse Jim back to health when he falls ill and has to send for Kate to save him precludes a romantic resolution to this interracial relationship. Tara kills herself in a Hindu suttee parallel to Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre, as Sharpe has pointed out 30 by climbing to the top of a burning roof and letting the flames consume her. By the end of the novel, all non-white women in Jim's life - his Persian mistress Zora and the Hindu widow Tara - have died, thus eradicating Kate's possible racial and romantic rivals.
Kate's future romantic and domestic bliss is predicated on the deaths of non-white women. Steel's double standard of interracial relations and sexual morality is blatantly clear in that Jim is a fitting hero and husband for Kate even though he had previously kept a Persian mistress. For an English woman to have sexual relations with a non-white man, however, was anathema.
It was, in fact, inconceivable except as part of the mythology of Indian rape during the Mutiny. Mutiny fiction was read by both men and women, yet by the s the romance novel would be regarded as a purely female phenomenon. Anglo-Indian romances of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries played a part in the feminizing of romance.
They demonstrate the transition from the male-centred quest romance to the female-centred domestic romance. Even when they treat the hero and heroine even-handedly, devoting approximately equal space and narrative perspective to each character, the issues with which these novels dealt - purdah, the zenana, the Indian woman, the malevolent influence of Hinduism, miscegenation, the status of the Eurasian community in relation to the Anglo-Indian community, and the fascination with Indian rajahs and the threat they posed to white women - were all particular concerns of the memsahibs in India.
Moreover, they appealed to metropolitan female readers concerned with marriage and sexuality; they were simultaneously titillated and outraged by miscegenation between British men and Indian women. One of the early romances which best exemplified the concerns of the Anglo-Indian community with the problems of race and how the British should relate to both Indians and Eurasians is Mrs.
Penny's Caste and Creed Penny had deliberately set out to write a novel that would explore the possibilities of interracial romance via the Eurasian community. Such a focus provided ready-made cultural impediments to the course of romantic love within the social context of that time, for by the second half of the nineteenth century, Eurasians were often despised as much, if not more, than "native" Indians.
The Eurasian community in India and Ceylon suffered more discrimination under British rule than other comparable European powers, for the Portuguese and the Dutch, who had established a presence in India nearly three centuries before the British, were particularly tolerant of intermarriage. Although Penny believed she was championing the plight of the Eurasian community by shedding light on their lives, she was unable to overcome her own prejudices to create a sympathetic picture of them in her novels. Caste and Creed tells the story of Zelma Anderson, a beautiful Eurasian girl whose father was a rich Scottish merchant in India and whose mother was a young Brahmin.
Zelma is sent back to England to be educated away from her Hindu mother's influence, and when she finally returns to India, the past decade has made her "British by education and not Indian. On her voyage back to India, she meets Percy Bell, a district collector. He does not realize at first that she is half-Indian because she is "beautifully fair" - even her mother looks "just like some lovely, dark-eyed Italian dressed in Indian fashion.
Even as she ostensibly attempted to garner sympathy and understanding for the Eurasian community, Penny reaffirmed negative stereotypes of them by emphasizing that most Eurasians "were generally the offspring of the lowest, blackest Tamulan women, and Englishmen of low tastes, if not low birth. Zelma, by contrast, is the product of a unique union of a "Scotchman with a high caste Brahmin woman. Zelma is, after all, half-Indian. Only by removing her from India and completely severing her ties with her Indian mother can she - and their marriage - be safe from the possibility that she might regress to Indianness and Hinduism in the future.
Her Eurasian blood and culture must be diluted by intermixing with English culture and intermarrying with English stock.
Romancing the Raj
While Penny entertained the possibility of Eurasian absorption into British culture, her contemporaries were far more pessimistic. The limited ability of western education to bridge the cultural chasm is firmly emphasized in Alice Perrin's The Anglo-Indians , where Anglicization only produces discontent on the part of the "native" and fearful jealousy on the part of the English man. The hero of this story, Captain Clive Somerton, has been given charge of the Rajah of Rotah, a graceful young man whose warm brown skin "might easily have been the bronze of sunburn - indeed he was no darker than many an Irishman or Cornishman.
Unfortunately, the Rajah develops such a predilection for English things that he falls in love with the English heroine Fay. He realizes the futility of his love, however, and laments: "Why was I shown a different side to everything, making me unsatisfied with the ways and customs of my ancestors! Why should desires have been put into my heart, when at the same time I am forbidden to fulfill them? When Somerton finds out, he is astounded and outraged: "Like many Englishmen, notwithstanding his genuine comprehension of, and affection for, the Oriental character, it had never previously occurred to him that the Oriental of any class or position might be capable of an attitude similar to his own in relation to women.
Indians are almost always portrayed as being incapable of developing conjugal affection, tenderness, and care for each other; all such feelings are lavished on their offspring - usually their sons. What they are capable of feeling, however, is uncontrollable lust as well as the desire to possess the "prize" of a precious and unique woman, thus reducing the value of an English woman to that of a commodity.
Interwar women's magazines such as Eve's Own made regular use of the stock image of the lust-filled randy rajah in their romance stories. Such fears of predatory rajahs, and of silly white women who succumbed to their seduction, entered British consciousness at the turn of the century, particularly during Curzon's vice-royalty After the Mutiny, Indian princes had been cultivated as close allies of the British. During the princes' visits to Britain, their aristocratic status was given full recognition, and they were admitted to the most exclusive of social circles, unlike many officials of the British government in India.
Ballhatchet argued that "[r]acial, social and sexual jealousy can be seen in operation together" in ensuing accusations that certain Indian princes enjoyed the sexual favours of white women of all classes. Apparently it pervades all classes of society: the smartest peeresses were only too ready to make a fuss with Bikaner and other Indian chiefs, and as you go lower in the social scale, so does this tendency manifest itself more strongly and in a way characteristic of the habits and lives of the respective classes of the community. At Hampton Court the great difficulty of the officers was in keeping the white women away from our Native soldiers.
Sexual dalliance was bad enough; the prospect of interracial marriage was even worse. And enough examples of this occurred to stoke the sexual, social, and racial anxieties of British men. The Rajah of Jind had married Dorothy, the daughter of a European aeronaut. The Rajah of Porbandar had a long-term relationship with an English woman.
After her suicide, he married a famous Spanish dancer, Anita Delgrada. News that the Maharajah of Patiala intended to marry a working-class English woman by the name of Florry Bryan caused considerable consternation because all sorts of boundaries were being transgressed: class, caste, racial, and social. Such real-life cases provided the inspiration and underlying tension for plots involving randy rajahs. At the bottom was the fear and outrage that a white woman should have sexual relations with a "coloured" man; these sentiments had first come into play in the Indian context during the post-Mutiny era, when wholly unsubstantiated stories of the rape of English women by sepoys began to circulate in Anglo-Indian society, their brutalized bodies serving as a metaphor for a government that saw itself betrayed and its trust violated.
Inverting the conventional use of the metaphor, Scott had intended the gang rape of Daphne Manners as a metaphor for the violence and rapacity of colonial relations. In a scathing attack on the novel and the television series, however, Salman Rushdie criticized the appropriateness of the metaphor:.
It is useless, I'm sure to suggest that if a rape must be used as the metaphor of the Indo-British connection, then surely in the interests of accuracy, it should be the rape of an Indian woman by one or more Englishmen of whatever class. So much more evocative to conjure up white society's fear of the darkie, of big brown cocks.
In Perrin's novel, this fear is precisely what prompts Somerton's revulsion at the thought of the Rajah of Rotah falling in love with Fay, even though they both knew that the Rajah's desire could never be fulfilled. Somerton feels "almost maniacal antagonism" towards the Rajah for "unconsciously, he was in the grip of that primitive sense of repulsion innate in white-skinned humanity towards the notion of race admixture with a dark-skinned people - a repulsion arising from Nature's tendency to breed upwards, not downwards.
If interracial love was to be contemplated, it could not be between an Indian man and an English woman, only between an English man and a high-caste Indian woman. Maud Diver's romance novel, Lilamani , daringly presented the prospect of an English gentleman who has a happy and successful marriage to a high-caste Brahmin woman. Although this was done ostensibly to explore the possibility of interracial relations between the upper classes of both societies, Diver was obviously using Oriental femininity to contrast with, and castigate, the development of the New Woman, of whom she strongly disapproved.
The English New Woman in this novel, Audrey Hammond, is contrasted unfavourably with the impossibly idealized, submissive, spiritual femininity of the Indian Lilamani. Audrey is an unfeminine woman, boyish and prosaic with little romance in her. Her passion is in her work to "uplift" Indian women and "let a little light into their custom-ridden souls. Of Audrey's ambitions, Diver commented: "It is a question whether girls of her type - products of extreme reaction from mid-Victorian ideals - are not cultivating brain and ego at the expense of the natural emotions; a doubtful gain for themselves and for the race.
Equality must be found in other ways: through class and race.
Comments for ~*~Princess Nhya~*~’s review of Minority Affairs: Intense Interracial Erotica
When Lilamani's father finally agrees to the marriage, he uses class as the basis of equality between Lilamani and Nevil: "To me it seems no more honour for her to marry with you than with any fine young fellow of her own caste. She is of old Rajput family, of good birth and lineage, like yourself. In fact, if you had not been her equal in that, I would never give consent. Not only is Lilamani a Brahmin, but she is also of the soldierly Rajputs, claiming Kshatriya descent - the second of the four great Hindu castes.
As such, she too is descended from the Aryan race, like Nevil himself.
The British acceptance that an ancient Aryan civilization was common to both Britain and India stemmed from the work of classical philologists who established that the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit, was part of the Indo-European group of languages. This linguistic commonality was later extended to the hypothesis of a common racial origin for both groups, prompting the notion that India had degenerated from the cultural zenith of an ancient Aryan past.
The marriage between Lilamani and Nevil is therefore rationalized on this basis, leading Nevil to assure himself that for him to marry Lilamani is no more remarkable than if he were to marry an "Italian" or "Spaniard. Lilamani then urges her son not to marry an Indian woman because, "for an old English family like his, with roots down deep in English soil and history, it is not good that mixture of race should come twice over in two generations. As timid and unsatisfactory as Penny's and Diver's explorations of intimacy between the English and Eurasians or Indians had been, few other romance novelists of their generation were prepared to go as far.
Indians and Eurasians rarely served as heroes or heroines; they were far more likely to be the villains or the seductive Other Woman of the story.
Negative portrayals of the Eurasian community in India and the importance of keeping the British and Indian communities separate continued during the interwar years. The dangers of doing otherwise were explored in Alice Eustace's A Girl from the Jungle , a startling and daring novel in which the English heroine, Karin Braden, is brought up as a "native", forced to marry an Indian man, and gives birth to his child, thereby spelling out plainly that an English woman actually had sex with an Indian man.
The crime is rendered even more horrific and the heroine's role as a consenting partner diminished by the fact that Karin was a child when this happened. She is thirteen when her father dies, and she is forced to dress like an Indian woman and marry his Indian butler, Goulam. She has a child by him at the age of fourteen, her child dies a year later, and her life is a nightmare until she manages to escape.
The tragedy of Karin's Indian marriage demonstrates the necessity of keeping the races separate. Restored to her English guardian by the hero, she learns that:. In India the white man finds himself one of a tiny minority, set down among a people whose thoughts and habits are utterly alien to his own, whose lives are governed by customs which he does not like, and can but faintly understand. There are but two ways open to him - isolation or fusion. Now the Portuguese chose the latter - fusion.
And to-day. The British, on the other hand, "preferred isolation, and generation after generation the same stock returns, fresh, virile, strong, cherishing the same ideals, to govern, and uphold the law, in a country which but seldom in its history has known either justice or good government. In Diver's Ships of Youth, an American woman enthuses: "I reckon it's proof of your racial strength that you spend the best years of your lives in this amazing country; and you don't merge.
Issues of "going native" - either among the Indian or Eurasian communities - were inevitably connected to loss of class status in women's romance novels. Things go wrong for her and she is forced to take a job at a hotel at which many Eurasians work. When she loses that job, she is offered shelter by a Eurasian family. Elsa winces at the sound of their voices, gags at the smell of the garlic and ghee they use in their cooking, is offended by their obnoxious offspring, and is bleakly amused by their proud and pretentious claims to relations in London who live in a shabby street in Peckham.
The Eurasian community is not only associated with racial, but also with class inferiority. In Juliet Armstrong's The Singing Flame , the heroine travels to India to work as a secretary, nurse, and travel companion to a writer. In the course of her work as a nurse to the rajah's son and consultant to a hospital for women and children, she builds a bridge between the Indians and the British, and is told: "If more Englishwomen of your type came out to India, how quickly the old antagonisms would die away. Forster's A Passage to India castigated English women for creating a rift between the races.
Armstrong, who was born and raised in India, would surely have felt the injustice of such sentiments. Women should only enter into marriage on the basis of mutual love and respect. The triumph of Armstrong's English heroines, though notable for their time, came at the expense of Indians and Eurasians; thus racial hierarchies and conventions were maintained, even as gender relations were transformed. Alice Eustace's Mills and Boon novels, however, broke many contemporary social taboos. Flame of the Forest, which was dedicated to the Maharajah Jamsaib of Nawanagar and the Princess Bhaniba, had as its heroine the Indian Princess Kesuda, whose name is a flower meaning "Flame of the Forest.
Even the improbable masquerade she undertakes in the course the novel is not presented as a slight on her Indian character because it is done for the most noble and patriotic reasons. When her twin brother goes on a drinking binge, falls into the Thames, and drowns just at the moment when he accedes to the throne of Rajistan, Flame impersonates him so that she can become the next maharajah because her people need a good ruler after the chaos of her elder brother's misrule.
When Flame returns to India, the two men closest to her become rivals for her love. The English Bryan Carr is her secretary of state. He is determined not to fall in love with her at first because she is coloured and he does not believe in miscegenation: "It leads to no good," he says. Although Flame loves Bryan, she refuses to abdicate because of her obligation to her people. Romantic love is no longer the sole purpose of a woman's life in these novels. Flame's cousin Ajit is also in love with her, but he nobly relinquishes all claim to her in favour of Bryan, and encourages her to continue ruling her province wisely and justly.
That he is able to rise above his baser sentiments can be attributed to his Sandhurst education, which once led a viceroy to commend him thus: "So far as I know Ajit is a white man, bred in the tradition of Sandhurst and a product of the British public school. Nevertheless, during the s, for Eustace to portray Indian characters, however westernized that they might be, in a positive light was no small concession. These characters could love fully, nobly, and self-sacrificially. After relinquishing his claim to Flame, Ajit proves his love and loyalty by protecting Flame in an attack and losing an eye.
Lest the Indian man should come across as the more noble and heroic character, in a rather ridiculous twist, Bryan then dies when he in turn saves Flame from a panther attack. As he is mauled to death, he tells her to marry Ajit: "After all, if he has your dear body, I shall have what is far more precious - your spirit.
That, I know, will always be mine. Is it too great a leap of the imagination to see in Bryan's death the eventual heroic sacrifice of masculine Britain for feminine India, nobly entrusting India into the hands of a western-educated Indian man who is practically white? In Eustace's interwar romance, issues of women's independence and equality with men are played out through the discourse of feminist orientalism. Submissive, gentle, humble, docile, holding that the woman only found her soul when a man loved her, and she became the mother of his son.
The whole plot justifies the belief that high-caste Indian women should be "taught as Western girls are taught - to ride, to swim, to drive a car, to study, to learn. It is not well when the man looks down on the woman as on an inferior. Therefore let the girl go forth to England also, and learn the English ways, for they are good. If the events of the novel urge the spread of British culture to the Indian elite to prepare them for self-government, they also urge equality between British men and women by presenting it as a fait accompli.
Flame of the Forest is a truly remarkable romance novel in that the female protagonist is a strong, independent "native" whose right, as a woman, to exercise political leadership is unquestioned, and who finds love and happiness with an Indian man. In positing such a character, Eustace broke not only with romantic but with the dominant literary traditions of her day.
She acquiesced to conventional wisdom, however, in her retreat from interracial marriage as a resolution to the romantic plot. Perhaps she was unable to contemplate the prospect of English masculinity in political subservience to the leadership of a strong Indian woman.
After the Second World War, few romance novels were set in India. With the loss of India as a colony after , British romance readers seemed to lose interest in the region.
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Ward right now? Yesterday, while waiting for class to begin, I was reading a graphic novel called Preacher. And I almost start panting at the thought of the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica. Tell me about reading out of my element. When will they get proper representation in Romancelandia?
The title character is not only non-neurotic, but is rather ass-kicking for a Regency miss. Unfortunately, the book is only in-print in electronic format Fictionwise. If you want dead-tree-ware, used copies are available on Amazon or check your local library. Those little glitters of light in the corners of your rooms are…umm…well, not cameras, no, certainly not cameras. I think several people here have hit on a really important point. There is more than one way to be Jewish, or lesbian, or native American or any combination thereof. So rather than trying to capture the entire culture in one character, the writer can go for a really well-formed character.
And then we could talk about the dearth of multi-racial characters. Or even to be female. Same here. And now his son Nathan is roaming around in my imagination, trying to charm me into making him the protagonist of my next story. But the readers of black romances are a very loyal bunch, Zane readers especially. There is no such thing as a universal experience, but we can find common ground by writing about things that everyone strives for, regardless of race, creed, religion or sexual orientation.
I would put forth that those include love, acceptance, success in our chosen sphere, familial accord, and supportive friendships. Finally, readers might have some power to lobby publishers and bookstores to change the segregation of shelving status quo.
Has it? All an author can do is make sure she does solid research and stays true to her characters and story. All a reader is responsible for is giving a story as fair a chance as she gives any other except for stories with Native American or Asian chars which just plain suck. Kiku, yeah Preacher is pretty gruesome. Do you have any? Also, I love Batman and WW. I look askance at any dogma that limits my right to write. The point of fiction is that if we can imagine it, we can write it.
So there you go: a black twentysomething who was raised by a single mother in impoverished situations, but speaks quite eloquently, loves reading and adores indie-rock music. Or sometimes a Jewish guy who has thick black hair I can think of putting my hands in. Or a pirate who looks like Johnny Depp.
Or whatever. Not as likely to go for historical as contemporary. I do think white readers are kind of nervous to pick up an AA romance sometimes, afraid to look dumb as one commenter pointed out. It helps that there are more and more books out there, and more and more styles of writing, from sexy to sweet, romps and issue books. How cool is that? And nobody tells us who or what to publish! But a well-written book like The Color Purple—that can be genuinely painful. There was no HEA for anybody of color.
And I wonder if that might not be true for many casual readers. Offer a coffee-drinker a nice cup of herb tea first thing in the a. He was discussing the issue with a Black educator who said he was the only candidate who even seemed to know that existed. Unfortunately, calling attention to the possibity in an accusatory way is more likely to create more anxiety. Not to mention that there are wealthy societies of blacks, of mexicans, or chinese, etc that have existed for a while: take a drive through the super-rich parts of Washington D.
Kiku says:. Shay says:. Barbara says:.