Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo
ON "SONGS TO MYTILLA" (1898)
LETTERS OF MANMOHAN GHOSE TO RABINDRANATH TAGORE
Dear Mr. Tagore,
Many, many thanks indeed for your kind letter, with all the warm and cordial things you say about my poems. You cannot think how much I value your simple and sincere words of praise. I feel sure that if there is any one competent to know and criticise about poetry (whether in English or in Bengali) it is yourself; and your praise is doubly precious and encouraging to me, as coming from so distinguished and experienced a master in the art of writing verse, and the foremost living genius of my country. I will carefully treasure your letter, that in moments of gloom and despondency, I may open and read your kind words of praise and feel cheered and encouraged by them. When I say gloom and despondency, you who have felt what a supremely difficult thing poetry is, will know what I mean and sympathize with me.
What you say about the lyrical quality in my verse, I feel must be true, as it has been a distinctly self-conscious aim with me. I am so glad you think that all the poems in the selection are good ones. I think I may flatter myself that I made a very careful and conscientious selection, admitting nothing unless it was good both in idea and execution at least so good as I have power to make it. There are two or three however which had to be omitted for want of space, and which will appear I think, in the autumn, in Elkin Matthews new venture, The Garland of New Poetry by various writers.1 I am looking forward so much to the pleasure of spending some time with you, at Shillada,2 in my next vacation. I shall be very eager indeed to hear your new narrative poems, the plot of one of which you told me, and which I thought contained a very beautiful human situation. I think now I was wrong not to have gone with you I missed a great treat but you cannot imagine how I dread the horrors of a railway-journey; and the rain, the sleeplessness, and discomfort of that night was a sort of pretty martyrdom to me.
But I hope this enjoyment is only to be delayed, not deferred altogether, and that we shall soon meet again, till when I will say goodbye for the present. I send you a little lyric I wrote the other day, which may please you.
Ever yours sincerely
Dear Mr. Tagore,
I am so sorry that I was not able to join you last night, as agreed upon. Quite a chapter of accidents happened to prevent me. I had sent for my servant who was to go with me, but he could not be found, so that when Surens carriage came past my house, I had to tell him to go on without me and I would follow as soon as my servant came. It was half past one before the fellow turned up, and I had the greatest trouble to persuade him to come with me, as he is a Dacca man and for some reason or other seemed most unwilling to go. I reached the station about three oclock, and got drenched in a shower crossing to where the carriages of your party were. Everybody seemed buried in profound slumber. I happened to light upon the carriage in which Pramatha was, all by himself, and in a very bad humour for being waked up I told him my difficulties with my servant and that my ticket had not been taken He told me not to wake up Suren, that it would be all right about the ticket, and then turned on the other side and went to sleep again. It certainly seemed cruel to wake up people from sleep at that unearthly hour of the night, but as I was dismally wet and very doubtful whether I was right in travelling without a ticket, I thought after all it was a mistake on my part to have come at all at so late an hour, and that it was best to go back to my house. So here I am, with a bad cold after my wetting and dead for want of sleep and in a very bad humour with myself and everything.
I am very much disappointed as I was looking forward with great pleasure to spending some time in your company after I had got over my first indecision. But it really seems as if Fate had intervened to justify that indecision and to reprove me for forsaking the thankless Muse and my lonely and laborious days and flying so eagerly to the pleasure of your brilliant and charming society. I could of course easily take the next convenient train to join you. But my former hesitation comes over me, and I think of the whole precious year I have so disgracefully wasted in Calcutta. Since you have so kindly given me a standing invitation to come at any time to stay with you at Shillada (provided you should be there) I think I will postpone coming for the present and take advantage of your offer on the next earliest occasion, and I am sure I shall have many.
Believe me, with warmest good wishes,
Yours very sincerely
Dear Mr. Tagore,
I write to ask whether you will be at home at your house in Shillada any time this Vacation. I have been having a bad time of it since I wrote last to you. For a whole month, September, I have been down with bilious fever, and feel very much pulled down. My doctor has ordered me to some dry & healthy place in the upcountry so I am thinking of going to Baidyanath, especially as I shall have my own relatives to look after me, if I have any relapse. My vacation lasts from Oct. 18th to Nov. 17th. Will you kindly let me know where you will probably be during the Vacation I want so much to see you again, and renew our talks together. Will you be in Shillada during latter part of this period from Nov. 1st to 15th? If so I should so much like to come and spend some time with you (in fulfilment of your kind invitation to me some time ago,) after I have recouped my health a little at Baidyanath. Or if you should happen to be in Calcutta during any part of that period, perhaps I shall meet you there. My brother is just now at Baidyanath (he has just published a volume of poems at Baroda) and perhaps I may persude him to come down to Calcutta to make your acquaintance and also to see some other delightful people in Calcutta. I say this in hope. For I do not know how far my wretched constitution will enable me to move about from place to place I find Educational work more & more trying & exhausting especially during the last few months. I sometimes feel sorry that I did not take advantage of the opening which you once kindly discovered for me in Tipperah anything would be better than the soul-killing routine of a Professors life[.] Both my brothers seem to be better off than me, as regards leisure & peace of mind, in the service of Indian Princes. I have of course done nothing in the way of poetry for ages I cant bear the excitement of it in my present state.
I trust you have spent your time full of happy and useful activity as you always do and have written much in the way of poetry (even with the burden of conducting a magazine on your shoulders)[.] I have read the Parosh pathor several times again, and am never tired of it it seems to have soul-echoes of endless and haunting beauty[.]
Please let me know where you are at present I shall write again from Baidyanath (I start tomorrow) to tell you how I am, and give other & more interesting news of myself.
With best wishes
Oct. 24th 18943
Dear Mr. Tagore,
I am so glad to get your kind letter, and to know that you will be in Shillidah for the period of my present Pooja holidays. I shall come and join you without fail, and hope to enjoy many pleasant talks about delightful things, and to catch a glimpse of that charming village life of which I have heard so much, and know a little of from your poetry and from Bankim Babus novels.
All the pleasure of my stay here at Baidyanath has been spoilt by an unlucky accident which is much troubling me. On the journey here viâ Naihatty all my luggage, containing my necessaries, and in fact all my belongings, has been lost left behind, I suppose, at one of the frequent changing stations, or gone by mistake to the terminus or in some other way miscarried[.] What grieves me particularly is that one of the boxes contained all my books of English poetry, and the two Albums containing my splendid collection of photographs of famous pictures, as well as many letters and mementoes of dear friends in England. The luggage was of course booked properly and the Railway Cos. are responsible for their safe arrival. I am going down to Calcutta day after tomorrow to see if I cannot put pressure on the District Superintendent at Howrah or recover them in some way. Do you happen to know any one in the Railway line? or any friend from whom I could get some advice as to how to proceed, as I am quite inexperienced in these matters? Perhaps Suren will be able to tell me? at any rate I will go and see him before any one else. I believe Chittaranjan and most of my barrister acquaintances will be away from Calcutta at this time. If I can, I will try and put up at the India club, whilst in Calcutta, but I do not at present know where I shall be staying. Aurobinda is anxious to know what you think of his book of verses, but I have explained to him how busy you are just now; and that you will write later when you have a little more leisure to do justice to his book. I myself think that he is possessed of considerable powers of language and a real literary gift, but is lacking in stuff and matter, perhaps in warmth of temperament. But those pieces on Parnell, consisting of fine philosophic reflection, show, I think, that he might do great things. Unfortunately he has directed (or rather misdirected) all his energies to writing Bengali poetry. He is at present engaged on an epic (inspired I believe by Michael Madhusudan) on the subject of Usha & Aniruddha.
I will write again soon from Calcutta, and hope to be able to tell when I shall be coming up to Shillidah, as soon as I know something about my unlucky boxes.
Yours very sincerely
170 Dhurrumtollah St.
My dear Mr. Tagore,
I have not been able to write to you owing to illness. Since my last letter to you from Baidyanath, I fell ill again, and came to Calcutta two days ago to consult doctors, as to what is really the matter with me, not with any satisfactory results, one declaring that my heart is weak, and others that it is simply nervous exhaustion. I am so sorry that my prospective visit to you has been cut short. I was looking forward with such pleasure to seeing you again, and gaining fresh stimulus and inspiration towards writing poetry by [a] little of your delightful society. But I have really been in too wretched a condition to enjoy anything. I am going back to Dacca tomorrow, and will endeavour to take sick-leave for a time, if I can get it.
I hope you have been enjoying your retirement and solitude at Shillida, and written much poetry, if your magazine work has not been too much in the way. I hope today to see your relatives at Ballygunge and get some news of you.
Yours very sincerely
1 The book referred to, Love Songs and Elegies, was published in 1898.
2 More properly spelled Shilaidah, place in eastern Bengal from which the Tagore family estate was managed.
3 Date certainly incorrect. See Bibliographical Notes.
4 Between 1894 and 1924 (when Manmohan died) November 14 fell on a Monday only in 1898, 1904, 1910, and 1921. Of these four years, 1898 is the only one possible for this letter.