Category Archives: Books

Two Coins: A Few Character Profiles

Last week I shared the places associated with Two Coins: A Biographical Novel. This week I’m introducing some of the people who grace its pages. With one exception, my selection is limited to characters with a visual record.

Two Coins focuses on the libel case Mary Pigot filed against The Reverend William Hastie. Though I searched everywhere I could think of, I found no likeness of Miss Pigot. A contemporary newspaper description of the plaintiff and defendant at the 1883 trial gives some idea of Miss Pigot’s appearance.

“Miss Pigot is a lady-like looking Eurasian, not giving one the impression from her looks of anything but strict propriety; indeed, with the profoundest respect to the lady, it seems difficult to conceive of any man conducting himself towards so respectable and rather interesting a person otherwise than with rigid decorum; Miss Pigot’s appearance would certainly not be denominated attractive by a romance writer.”

William Hastie, on the other hand, presented the newspaper reporter with a very different visage. “The defendant, the Rev. W. Hastie, is a hard-featured, canny-looking north countryman, wearing a close dark beard, moustache, [sic] and whiskers. He and the plaintiff impress one as being of about the same (anything but frivolous) age, say, 40 to 42.”

Monomohini WheelerMrs. Monomohini Wheeler, Inspectress of Girls’ Schools and Zenanas in Bengal, presents an appearance not unlike what I’m sure Miss Pigot adopted. The dress is plain; the hair, severe. Mrs. Wheeler testified on behalf of Reverend Hastie, supporting the defense that Miss Pigot failed in her duties to properly manage the Female

Orphanage. The illustration of a Mrs. Branden, Senior Inspectress of Schools in Madras, gives further insight into the fashion style of women involved in education.

Rev ChuckerbuttyThe Reverend Bipro Churn Chuckerbutty was a prominent convert and minister of the Church of Scotland mission in Kolkata. Records indicate that Rev. Chuckerbutty was born in 1823, and may have been the last Hindu boy to light a funeral pyre for his mother. He received Christian baptism in 1843 and went on to a career in the church. Churckerbutty received ordination in 1872 and raised funds to build the Bengali church in 1875. In the aftermath of the case of Pigot v. Hastie, Reverend Chuckerbutty retired in some disgrace.

Missionaries operated in their own structural context, not that of British Civil Servants. These illustrations give some indication of what Miss Pigot’s students may have looked like.

King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery Lieutenant-Colonel R. Alexander Walker was a member of the Royal Artillery at Dum Dum, near Kolkata. He was a close friend of Rev. Hastie, an enemy of Miss Pigot, and a prominent member of St. Andrew’s Kirk and the Scottish missionary community. His wife, Mrs. Amber Walker, and sister-in-law Miss Georgiana Smail played significant roles in gathering the charges made against Miss Pigot. I don’t have a picture of Lt. Col. Walker, but provide this one to demonstrate the type of culture he upheld. The social gap between a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Artillery and an unmarried Eurasian professional woman working for the Scottish mission was insurmountable.

Dr. Archibald Scott

 

Dr. Archibald Scott was, among many other posts, the convener of the Foreign Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland. From his position in Edinburgh he greatly influenced the fate of everyone connected to the case of Pigot v. Hastie.

***

 

The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, 2012. By Sgt Adrian Harlen.

Image of Dr. Archibald Scott from the Internet Archive Book Image. Flickr.

Other images in public domain.

 

Two Coins: A Sense of Place

My latest book, Two Coins: A Biographical Novel, officially released this past Friday, February 1, 2019. And, I’m excited to share some of the background to Mary Pigot’s story, and how I found it. While doing research for Rama’s Labyrinth, I ran across several references to the case of Pigot vs. Hastie, a civil suit… Continue Reading

LAST OF THE SUMMER READS

Throughout the summer I’ve highlighted books I enjoyed reading. It’s the last week of August, and today is the final installment of Summer Reads for 2018. I don’t know if the books under discussion have been to your taste. They’re all books I enjoyed with historical fiction and literary fiction the most represented genres. The… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: Two Novels of Forgotten Women

THE HANDFASTED WIFE It’s 1065 and Edith Swanneck is worried, because “These days everyone talked of how important a church wedding was, a priest listening to vows exchanged in the church porch and then blessing the marriage.” [Handfasted Wife, Chapter 1] Edith Swanneck didn’t stand on the church porch with her husband Harold Godwinson. They… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton & Patsy Jefferson Randolph

We see Alexander Hamilton every time we take out a ten dollar bill. Our first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton believed in a strong central government led by the executive branch, established the national debt as a means of developing international credit, and built the Bank of the United States. Alone among the Founding Fathers,… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: TWO BEACH BOOKS ABOUT BEGINNERS

Changing up the reading list a little with two novels about families and growing up. Officially the genre is called coming-of-age, and though it specifically refers to the transition from youth to adulthood, I don’t think it’s a process that’s ever complete. Both of these novels are engaging, and good vacation reading.   MATCHMAKING FOR… Continue Reading

SUMMER READS: TWO NOVELS BY SUJATA MASSEY

Good historical fiction takes the reader into an authentic world where the story is presented against the backdrop of actual customs and material culture, for example, food as it is eaten and prepared or family customs such as purdah, the seclusion of women within the household. When there’s also a mystery involved, it becomes more… Continue Reading

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