Contents Index

Hostages to Empire: The Anglo-Indian Problem in Frankenstein, The Curse of Kehama, and The Missionary

D. S. Neff

European Romantic Review 8.4 (Fall 1997), 386-408

{386} In a lucid, encyclopedic analysis of the gothicization of race in nineteenth-century British culture, H. L. Malchow examines "a tradition in which the mixed-race person was often represented as an ambivalent creature torn between different cultures and loyalties, an outcast, a misfit, and a biological unnatural" (198-227). At one point in that discussion, Malchow briefly outlines the historical, political, and cultural predicaments faced in India by a group of Company -- and Government -- produced hybrids,1 a people known throughout its history as "creoles," "mustees," "Portuguese," "Country-born," "Indo-Britons," "half-castes," "Anglo-Asiatics," "East-Indians," "Eurasians," "Statutory natives of India," and "Anglo-Indians" (Anthony 1-2; Spear 61). Seen by the British as "a useful collaborating class" in the eighteenth century, the Anglo-Indians, in Malchow's view, suffered "the growth of prejudice generally" during the first half of the nineteenth century. Then, "in the wake of the panic over the 1857 rebellion," almost all "positive aspects of representation there may have been were overwhelmed by what one can call a kind of moral panic" (198-201).

Because Malchow places the decisive shift of public opinion against the Anglo-Indians after the Mutiny, he does not trace any influence that the developing Anglo-Indian problem may have had on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), preferring instead to describe that novel as furnishing its readers with the disquieting "monster suggestive . . . of the Jamaican slave" (9-40, 169). There is good reason to believe, though, that beings who grew to look upon themselves as disenfranchised "shadows of their [rulers'] own creation" (Report of Proceedings . . . ix) comprised a disturbing presence in the imaginative lives of the Shelley circle. Percy {387} Shelley, in what Thomas Love Peacock calls one of that poet's "most extraordinary delusions" (74-75), thought that he had contracted elephantiasis, a malady that was regarded by some experts of the day as being closely connected with syphilis and leprosy, sometime during the last half of 1813 after he had had some contact with a "a 'Miss N.', almost the same age as Shelley, 'the daughter of an English officer by a Hindoo woman.'"2 Mary Shelley also reacted strongly in her most famous novel against what was portrayed as utopian sexual promiscuity on the part of the father-negating, matrilineal and matrilocal Indian and half-caste heroines of James Lawrence's The Empire of the Nairs (1811) (Neff 205-16). However, the most direct evidence for the influence of the Anglo-Indian problem on Frankenstein lies within popular literary treatments, known by the Shelleys, of that historical and cultural crisis. Indeed, a close examination of Robert Southey's The Curse of Kehama (begun in 1801, stalled in 1805, finished in 1808-1810, and published in 1810)3 and Lady Sydney Owenson Morgan's The Missionary (1811)4 reveals that those works could have constituted hitherto unexamined sources of inspiration for some important plot elements, characters, and thematic concerns in Frankenstein.


Some estimates state that, by the middle of the eighteenth century, as many as ninety percent of the British men in India, with the encouragement of the East India Company, had married Indian women (Hyam 116). According to Frank Anthony, "by about 1750 the number of Anglo-Indians exceeded the number of Britons in India" (17). Ronald Hyam observes that, since "the keeping of mistresses was not uncommon in eighteenth-century Britain itself, . . . the keeping of a mistress in British India became a well-established practice by the later eighteenth century" (115). The Upper and Lower Orphanages housed, fed, and educated mixed-race children fathered by men in the British Army, often arranging marriage alliances between eleven and twelve year-old Anglo-Indian girls and newly arrived Englishmen (Anthony 16-17). The situation for many male Anglo-Indian children was promising throughout most of the eighteenth century, for
while the East India Company was growing, its territories expanding and its wars being fought, the Anglo-Indians were welcomed and treated as equals. The covenanted and commissioned ranks of the services were open to them and also the combatant ranks of the British army. They suffered no disabilities, either social or economic. If their fathers could afford it [and their skins were light {388} enough], they were sent to England for their studies and usually entered the covenanted ranks of the civil services or came out as officers in the British Regiments in India. Those who could not afford to go to England for their studies, usually entered the Warrant Officer and other ranks of the British army. (Anthony 18)
In short, young Anglo-Indian men gave the Company "the necessary man power to draw upon" when "Britain was largely occupied in fighting wars in the European Continent and was unable to provide European troops for campaigning in India" (Anthony 17-18). After listing a number of eighteenth-century battles and wars in India that were fought in large measure by Anglo-Indians, Herbert Stark goes on to assert that "by the time the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1783, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the French ambitions in India had been crushed largely with the help of Anglo-Indian officers and soldiers" (qtd. in Anthony 18).

Such meritorious service on the part of Anglo-Indians evidently meant little to powerful interests back home in England, however, who came to feel that, despite current Company policies to the contrary, "Indians should always be subordinated to Europeans" in every instance, whether or not such preferences constituted moral, rational, and useful social, political, military, and economic strategies (Spear 139). Movements to change Company practices and attitudes were also abetted by Evangelical missionaries, who communicated in a growing number of writings their shock and outrage at what they considered to be immoral relations between many British men and Indian women (Ballhatchet 4-5; Hyam 116-17). In addition, the Cornwallis reforms (1786-93) encouraged a corresponding propriety in sexual behavior among British officials in India, thereby dislodging the Indian mistress from her formerly acceptable place in Anglo-Indian culture (Ballhatchet 144). In the court of British public opinion, Indian women were often blamed for a serious venereal disease problem plaguing that part of the Empire, condemned unremittingly as agents transmitting frightening and degrading, and apparently uncontrollable, ailments not only to British men, but also, ultimately, back home to British women (Ballhatchet 10-14). Also especially disconcerting for those who were inclined to be suspicious of the seemingly good-hearted project of engendering mixed-race beings in India were the bloody uprisings by black slaves and mulattoes against white rule in Santo Domingo during the 1790s, and the slaughtering of whites during 1805, the year after Haiti declared its independence from France (Ballhatchet 98; Hyam 117; and Anthony 19-20).

Unfortunately for the Anglo-Indians, the developing biases against them began to show results. On 14 March 1786, an order was established that prevented virtually all wards from the Upper and Lower Orphanages {389} from traveling to England for further education. In 1791, Anglo-Indians "were precluded from employment as officers in the Civil, Military or Marine services of the Company." In 1795, offspring of mixed marriages were disqualified from all military service except for non-combatant positions. In 1808, all Anglo-Indians were discharged from the British Army (Anthony 20-22; Ballhatchet 4).

Viscount Valentia, who evaluated Company possessions and operations during a visit to India between 1802 and 1806, was clearly frightened by the Anglo-Indian problem. One passage from Valentia's report is such a vivid example of the rising paranoia concerning half-castes and potential revolution in India that it deserves to be quoted in its entirety:

The most rapidly accumulating evil of Bengal is the increase of half-caste children. They are forming the first step to colonisation by creating a link of union between the English and the natives. In every country where this intermediate caste has been permitted to rise, it has ultimately tended to its ruin. Spanish-America and San Domingo are examples of this fact. Their increase in India is beyond calculation: and though possibly there may be nothing to fear from the sloth of the Hindus, and the rapidly declining consequence of Musalmans, yet it may be justly apprehended that this tribe may hereafter become too powerful for control. Although they are not permitted to hold offices under the Company, yet they act as clerks in almost every mercantile house; and many of them are annually sent to England to receive the benefit of an European education. With numbers in their favour, with a close relationship to the natives, and without an equal proportion of the pusillanimity and indolence which is natural to them, what may not in future time be dreaded from them! (qtd. in Anthony 22)
Ironically enough, the unfair and immoral measures aimed at curbing what many of the British saw as inordinate power and undeserved privileges in the hands of Anglo-Indians engendered a situation that provided some justification for the kinds of fears expressed by Viscount Valentia. Anthony calls the period from 1808 to 1814 "The Great Anarchy" in India; during which many Anglo-Indians, having been "nurtured in the profession of arms" and thereafter "betrayed by the Administration . . . [by being] driven out of the services," took "the only course open to them." They "offered their services to the Indian Princes and to soldiers of fortune," with many of those disenfranchised individuals freely changing "their allegiance[s] according to the prospects of loot and plunder"

Southey, who was composing Kehama during the British betrayal of the Anglo-Indians, was unsettled by what he considered to be alarming {390} increases in the Anglo-Indian population, which posed a threat to both the British and the Indians because, in his opinion, "the mixed breed is bad; wherever colours are crossed in the human species, a sort of mulish obliquity of disposition is produced, which seem [sic] to shew that the order of Nature has been violated ." Southey then asserted that "a column upon the sand is but a feeble emblem" of the insecurity of the British Empire in India, arguing that "India is perpetually in danger, -- not from Buonaparte," but from an Indian Napoleon, "some villain, who, setting equally at defiance the laws of God and man, collects the whole contemporary force of evil about him, and bears down every thing in his way." Such an occurrence is only to be expected, for "no century has ever elapsed in which Asia has not produced some Buonaparte of its own." The British have brought an "improved discipline" to those under their influence in India, which those people "would exercise first to our destruction, and then to their own" (PA [1809] 210-11).

Such an Indian Buonoparte, however, probably would not be a Hindu, for Southey thought that group a "harmless" and "enslaved" people, addicted to "lying, deceit, and servility," vices that had developed as "the inevitable effects of oppression" (PA [1803] 211, 214). According to Southey, the only way to prevent the destruction of the British Empire in India at the hands of a usurper was the vigorous and systematic conversion to Christianity of the Hindu population in India. Christianized Hindus could be British "subjects," but not British "adherents," and "being merely subjects[,] would care little for a change of masters." Such a group, free from the willfulness and the haughtiness of their Anglo-Indian half-brethren, would "be preferably employed by government, and by all European settlers" (PA [1809] 211-14).

In analyzing Thalaba the Destroyer, Marilyn Butler argues persuasively that "Southey's magical oriental adventure yarns" function as an "adolescent type of fantasy-fiction [that] first repeats, [and] then hearteningly dissolves, darker popular fantasies" (148). It is also very likely that Southey, in Kehama, further demonized, and then reassuringly dissipated, any imagined threat arising from the Anglo-Indian problem, for Kehama can be read as an Orientalized reimagining of major motifs in Paradise Lost, in which Satanic dilemmas, stratagems, and aspirations are projected onto the Anglo-Indians, after the British betrayal had resulted in a threat to the Empire in India.

British fears concerning rampaging half-caste forces in India are embodied most palpably in Kehama, the "Man-God," the "Man-Almighty," the feared Indian Buonaparte who is able to frighten Indra from his heavenly realm and to wage warfare with Siva, "God to God" (PW 8, bk. 24, st. 4, ln. 20; st. 5, ln. 1; st. 14, ln. 7). Kehama is called a "Rajah" {391} throughout Southey's poem (PW 8, bk. 2, st. 1, ln. 9; st. 12, ln. 4; bk. 24, st. 10, ln 7), and, as Yule and Burnell's Hobson-Jobson states, that term can signify anything from a "king" to "many humbler dignitaries, petty chiefs, or large Zemindars" (754). Thus, Kehama can be seen as an exaggeration, on a cosmic scale, of either an Indian prince who has fought his way up to ultimate power in India with the help of dispossessed Anglo-Indian troops, or, even more frighteningly, as an Anglo-Indian who, having received a proper education in England and valuable training m the British military, has subsequently used those advantages to amass so many riches and so much influence that he can, because of an inherent weakness in the Indian theological system (the Hindu deities being at the command of human beings [PW 8-10]), threaten to conquer heaven.

Arvalan, Kehama's evil son, whose funeral opens the poem, and who periodically destroyed and revivified, stalks the forces of good, can be seen as a gothicized version of the dispossessed Anglo-Indian child. Just as the half-caste sons in India did not simply vanish from the scene after being denied the means of living in the way that their fathers and grandfathers did, Arvalan may be thought to be dead at the beginning of Kehama, but his strangely ruddy-faced corpse (PW 8, bk. 1, st. 4, lns. 13-21) is oddly unquiet, threatening to come to life at the most inopportune moments. Arvalan's spirit, "all naked feeling and raw life" (PW 8 bk. 2, st. 5, ln. 13), begs his father, Kehama, to use supernatural power to bring him back to life, so that he will not have to endure "years of wandering,/ Shivering and naked to the elements,/ In wretchedness" (PW 8, bk. 2, st. 3, lns. 2-4). Kehama, much like the Anglo-Indian father confronted by his unhappy offspring after the British betrayal in India vows to provide his son with "all power/ Whereof . . . [his] feeble spirit can be made/ Participant." Then, in a speech that would have sent shivers down the spines of those British readers who had been frightened by prophecies of Anglo-Indian revolt, Arvalan says to his father that only one thing will "mitigate" his misfortunes:

Only the sight of vengeance. Give me that!
Vengeance, -- full, worthy vengeance! not the stroke
Of sudden punishment; no agony
That spends itself, and leaves the wretch at rest;
But lasting, long revenge.

(PW 8, bk. 2, st. 6, lns. 6-14)
After thoroughly discomfiting his British audience by presenting Arvalan's various acts of mayhem and attempts at rape, Southey safely dispatches the Anglo-Indian avenger "to the World below . . . / To punishment deserved, and endless woe" at the hands of Baly, a divine {392} judge (PW 8, bk. 17, st. 12, lns. 6-8). Kehama, the god-displacing rajah, meets a fate similar to Milton's Satan, who is "so bent . . . / On desperate revenge, that shall redound/ Upon his own rebellious head" (3.84-86).6 Southey's rampaging overreacher is caught within the "wrath-beam" of Siva's "Eye of Anger," made to "burn eternally," and compelled to become the fourth leg on Yamen's (Death's) throne, with the other three corners of the throne being supported by personifications of greed, tyranny, and "impious falsehood" (PW 8, bk. 24, st. 6, lns. 14-26; st. 18. lns. 2, 3, 13). Thus concludes Southey's immense poetic prophecy describing the eventual banishment of the Anglo-Indians from India, leaving that subcontinent better prepared for the coming of a stronger, less corruptible religion.

Another indirect, but nonetheless potent, warning against the dangers of social and sexual commingling between British men and Indian women was Lady Morgan's The Missionary. That historical novel, while making ingenious use of the rivalries existing between Jesuits and Franciscans in early seventeenth-century India in order to present thinly disguised commentary on British colonial policy,7 is nowhere near as sanguine as Southey's Kehama about either the success of British evangelicalism in India or the ease of dissipating problems engendered by earlier assimilationist policies formulated by the Company and the Government.

Hilarion, the Franciscan missionary who is the hero of Lady Morgan's novel, is doomed to see his almost superhuman efforts at converting Indians to Christianity fail even with Luxima, a beautiful Hindu maiden who has fallen in love with him, and whose amorous attachment to a European leads to her death. As Nigel Leask astutely observes, despite its strategy of historical displacement, "the polemical thrust of Morgan's novel is to show that evangelical policies of cultural assimilation cannot succeed, rather than 'making a Christian' Hilarion only succeeds in 'destroying a Hindu', and he himself ends up as a hybrid" (128). Neither European nor Indian, and yet somehow strangely both, Hilarion is last seen in the novel as "a wild and melancholy man! whose religion was unknown but who prayed at the confluence of rivers, at the rising and the setting of the sun," needing "no assistance" and seeking no "intercourse; . . . thus slowly wearing away, gradually fad[ing] into death" (278).


There is a tantalizing possibility that Victor Frankenstein was at least partly modeled on Lady Morgan's Hilarion, a man "accustomed to pursue the bold wanderings of the human mind, upon subjects whose awful mystery escapes all human research," who, after "connecting, or endeavouring to connect, his incongruous ideas by abstract principles, . . . lost {393} sight of fact in pursuit of inference; and, excluded from all social intercourse, from all active engagement, his ardent imagination became his ruling faculty" as he was "consumed with an insatiable thirst for the conversion of souls; for the dilatation and honour of the kingdom of Christ" (8-9, 11). Hilarion's life, however, has not prepared him to resist the temptations of Luxima, whose successful conversion to Christianity he regards as the sole test of his powers (45, 46, 54), and Luxima becomes a force constantly tempting Hilarion away from his vows of chastity, making "love . . . now to him what his religion had once been" (130) as her sweet voice comes "between him and his God" (134), compelling that former paragon to throw himself to the ground at her feet, "thus grovelling on the earth" and brought to a "ruin" by one "beloved with all the sinful tyranny of human passion" (145).

Victor Frankenstein does not quest for the conversion of benighted souls to Christianity, but he, like Hilarion, withdraws from societal and familial connections after becoming animated by "an almost supernatural enthusiasm" for scientific pursuits, not considering "the magnitude and complexity" of "the creation of a human being" as "any argument of its impracticability" (46, 49). Just as Hilarion is ultimately brought low by the sheer impenetrability and resilience of Hindu culture and belief, Victor might also suffer because of some unwise dabbling in things Eastern. Indeed, Mary Shelley may have imagined Victor's "work of inconceivable difficulty and labour" (48) as the construction of an ur-human from India, the type of being that was being discussed throughout the salons of late eighteenth-century Europe.8 Mary and Percy Shelley read widely in Voltaire, who believed that "les Indiens, vers le Gange, sont peut-être les hommes les plus anciennement rassemblés en corps de peuple" (145). Mary also learned from Madame de Staël's De L'Allemagne (1810) that German scientists conducting the latest research on the principles of life and death were looking into "le système des émanations chez les Indiens" as one source for inspiration (2.172).9 A clear parallel to Victor's manufacture of the creature occurs in Kehama when Arvalan, the dispossessed Anglo-Indian demon, is torn to pieces but "the scattered members of the slain, . . . [assume] / Their vital form again" through the power of Lorrinite, priestess of Kali (PW 8, bk. 14, st. 12, lns. 1-3). Victor resolves "to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionately large" (49). If Mary were basing Victor's creature on Southey's Arvalan, then it would have made sense for her to have Victor making his creation relatively large, for Arvalan's menacing stature and bulk are emphasized throughout Kehama. Indeed, Mary and Southey were probably drawing from the developing notion in the eighteenth century that connected monstrosity {394} and excessive size, once accounts of Indian temples became widely disseminated throughout Europe (Mitter 25-26). The Missionary describes the "idols of gigantic stature, colossal forms, [and] hideous and grotesque images" within a temple that is said to be based on the famous structures at Elephanta (168). Victor uses parts from animals and humans to construct his creature (49-50), a process designed to create a microcosm (with parts from the Zodiacal animals representing parts of the self, the cosmos, etc.), transmitted from India to the West, and preserved in the works of Paracelsus and other occult writers studied by Victor (and known to the Shelleys).10 Mary also read, in Thomas Pennant's The View of Hindoostan (1798), accounts of gigantic "figures half beast and half man," cut "out of the live rock" in Indian caves (1.97),11 and she read in Volney's Ruins a passage describing the banner of the religions of India (one in a procession of world religions), upon which were represented "monstrous figures of human bodies, double, triple, quadruple, with heads of lions, bears and elephants, with tails of fishes and tortoises" (89).12 In the Frontispiece to Pennant's The View of Hindoostan is an engraving of an Indian "Yogey" (Figure 1), accompanied by a explanation describing some of the "most cruel austerities" such people "inflict on themselves." Perusal of that plate and its explanation may have given Mary a model for Victor's creature, who remains impervious to extremes of temperature, performs amazing physical feats, and endures endless austerities.

If Victor is a European who engenders a "son" by dallying with Hindu darkness, it is not outside the realm of possibility that the creature, with "yellow skin [that] scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath[;] . . . hair . . . of a lustrous black, and flowing; . . . teeth of a pearly whiteness"; a "shrivelled complexion"; and "straight black lips" (52), was, like Southey's Arvalan, based on the nightmare image of the Anglo-Indian that could have haunted the Shelleys' imagination after the elephantiasis episode: a larger-than-life, leprous vector of unspeakable diseases. Such a terrifying image reflects only one aspect of the complex Anglo-Indian stereotype, however, and what makes Frankenstein an inestimably greater work than Kehama is Mary Shelley's willingness never to resolve questions concerning the creature's ultimate place in society, the world, or the metaphysical realm. H. L. Malchow correctly states that "persons of mixed race became in nineteenth-century English discourse hyphenated beings -- or, more accurately, themselves hyphens" (179), and the creature, when seen as such a "hyphen," remains disturbingly undefinable in biological, moral, and cultural terms. The creature, like his Anglo-Indian counterparts, often seems to embody Homi K. Bhabha's notion of "hybridity," as "the sign of the productivity of colonial power, its shifting forces and fixities" that occupy "the ambivalent


Figure 1. A Yogey
Detail from the Frontispiece of volume 1
of Thomas Pennant's The View of Hindoostan

{396} space where the rite of power is enacted on the site of desire" (112). At other times, though, the creature seems to be the furthest thing from a Bhabhaian "hybrid," instead acting firmly within the confines of what Abdul R. JanMohamed, in an extension of ideas formulated by Frantz Fanon, calls "racial manicheism": an irreducible duality in colonialism, in which "any evident 'ambivalence' is in fact a product of deliberate if at times subconscious, imperialist duplicity, operating very efficiently through the economy of its central trope, the manichean allegory" (80).13 Consequently, any analysis of the creature as an Anglo-Indian compels what Laura Chrisman calls "a shift away from a focus on 'images/allegories/tropes' of Others[,] . . . [and] attending [instead] to the diverse, overdetermined and contradictory formal dynamics and ideological codes which produce certain forms of Othering but which are not reducible to it" (500).

Confronted by a being that seems to be a nightmarish, but unmistakable, reflection of himself, Victor Frankenstein, like many of the British fathers of Anglo-Indian children, abandons the "wretch -- the miserable monster" who grins at him, mutters "some inarticulate sounds," and stretches out a hand to him (53). Victor's inability to deal with his "son" may not be entirely his fault, though, for Mary Shelley may have meant for such an aversion to be almost completely beyond Victor's control, the result of a European, despite a natural predisposition to love his own offspring, nevertheless being adversely affected by some indefinable quality within that rather uncanny being. Victor cannot bear to look into the creature's eyes, the "watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set" (52), and it is entirely likely that Mary had one of the most memorable passages in Kehama (and its accompanying notes) in mind when she was writing the description of the creature's eyes. Lorrinite, a witch who is allied with Kehama and Arvalan throughout Southey's Indian epic, has a "withering" gaze that "hath crippling in it," that consumes "the vital parts,/ Eating . . . [the] very core of life away" of the person on whom she gazes (PW 8, bk. 11, st. 4, lns. 7-9; st. 5, lns. 5-6). In the notes to that passage Southey cites Ayeen Achery on "the Jiggerkhar (or liver-eater)," who can "steal away the liver of another by looks and incantations," or, that "by looking at a person, he deprives him of his senses, and then steals from him something resembling the seed of a pomegranate, which he hides in the calf of his leg," and Pietro della Valle on Arabian witches who can, by staring at a person's heart and saying the appropriate spell, symbolically devour the heart, causing the person to waste away and die (PW 8.284-87).

{397} Victor does waste away and die after he is transfixed by the creature's eyes, but he does so in a way that is suggested by another fascinating note in Kehama describing a mental, moral, and emotional derangement, a "weakness peculiar to Asia" that can contaminate unwary Europeans who have had too unguarded a contact with people or ideas of that region. Southey cites Halhed on "folly," an "obstinately stupid lethargy, or perverse absence of mind, in which the will is not altogether passive," in which "men will utter falsehoods totally incompatible with each other, and utterly contrary to their own opinion, knowledge, and conviction; and it may be added, also, their inclination and intention" (PW 8.229-30). Victor, tainted by his creature's half-Oriental stare, becomes torn by inexplicable confusion, indecisiveness, and lapses in judgment -- faults that allow him to do almost nothing to prevent the creature's evil actions. In Bhabhaian terms, Victor's strange lethargy may come about because he has been confronted by "the menace of mimicry" stemming from having to see in the eyes of the creature "the partial representation/recognition of the colonial object," a traumatic moment when "the reforming, civilizing mission is threatened by the displacing gaze of its disciplinary double" (85-89).

Waltraud Ernst reports that the East India Company, that wanted "civil and military officers who would set up profitable trading enterprises or in other ways further the cause of European rule," most certainly did not desire to have in India those people "who would echo the lower-class misery and destitution of Britain itself or who, through sickness or personal tragedy, were unable to provide for themselves." Such undesirables also included the mentally ill, i.e., those who were affected by what were thought to be strange tropical lethargies, or those who had "gone native" from immoderate interactions with Indian culture and women. Repatriation of the mentally ill "can be traced back to well before 1800 when European immigration control emerged as part of a colonial policy of restricting the presence of lower-class Europeans in British India." By 1819, "the maximum term of confinement for Europeans in asylums in India was set at one year"; then the patients were to be sent back home, where it was thought that exposure to a colder climate would restore their sanity (39-41). Victor Frankenstein, the man who was creative and intelligent enough to defeat death itself, can be seen as having his life ruined by the same sort of illness resulting from contact with things Eastern that was being displayed in those unfortunate individuals who had undergone repatriation, and were attempting to recover at home.

Even though the creature's stare might excite an unconquerable revulsion within Victor, and engender seeds of destruction and a sense of irrevocable failure within Victor's mind and heart, the creature cannot {398} help who or what he is. Like the disinherited half-caste sons "considered to be 'not of a colour' to be introduced to British society" (Dyson 90), who had to endure a social distance between themselves and their fathers that was almost as great as that "between Brahmin and Pariah" (F. J. Shore, Notes on Indian Affairs [1857], qtd. in Spear 64), Victor's creature finds his education where he can, absorbing his father's European heritage (by way of Milton, Goethe, Plutarch, Volney) furtively, all the while peering through "a small and almost imperceptible chink" in the wall of the "hovel" that "joined" the De Laceys' dwelling: "a cottage of a neat and pleasant appearance" (101-28). The creature, performing as an "invisible hand" (108-10), secretly furnishes necessities to his European neighbors. While performing such thankless services, he listens to what he calls Felix De Lacey's "very minute explanations" of main themes in Volney's Ruins, but which in reality are nothing but ethnocentric glosses on that text that contrast "slothful Asiatics" with "the stupendous genius and mental activity of the Grecians" and the "wars and wonderful virtue of the early Romans" (114-15). Felix, whose needs are being unknowingly met by labor performed by a being whom he would castigate as lazy, can be interpreted as an "amiable and benevolent" (126) racist whose prejudices cause him to ignore the main theme of Volney's skeptical, yet utopian, work: "Equality and Liberty are therefore two essential attributes of man; two laws of the Divinity constitutional and unchangeable like the physical properties of matter" (78).

R. G. Wallace, writing in 1819, explains that Londoners in the early nineteenth century were often confronted with the "half-castes, [who,] with tawny face and neck stiffened almost to suffocation, jump[ed] from the sublime to the ridiculous in attempts at imitation" of "many a young Bond St. dandy" strutting about "with inconceivable self-satisfaction" (qtd. in Spear 64). The creature, like the half-castes in London, identifies strongly with and attempts to assimilate the beliefs and appearance of those he understands to be his betters, becoming, for all intents and purposes, converted and colonized by that family's values. Mary Shelley, however, will not allow such an assimilationist scheme to reach fruition, because she appears to be too aware of the effects created by what Bhabha characterizes as the disquieting "metonymy of presence" within those mimicking their colonizers, within those hybrid beings who personify certain "inappropriate signifiers of colonial discourse," thereby ironically reimpressing within the mind of the colonizer "the difference between being English and being Anglicized." The harder such a mimic tries to become the object of imitation, the more fear within the colonizer is produced by "the prodigious and strategic production of conflictual, fantastic, discriminatory 'identity effects' in the play of a power that is {399} elusive because it hides no essence, no 'itself'" (89-90). In what can be interpreted as a parodic reversal of ever-increasing stories of miraculous conversions coming back from India by way of the Evangelical societies,14 the creature has his hopes for completely successful mimicry shattered in a two-stage recapitulation of what Bhabha, commenting on Frantz Fanon's racial manicheism, calls a "primal scene" of blackness. In such a scene occurs the mythic "origin of the marking of the subject within the racist practices and discourses of a colonialist culture," and the dark-skinned individual's irredeemable otherness is pressed home so completely and forcefully that identification with the dominant race is rendered impossible (75-80).15 The creature, who had "admired the perfect forms of . . . [his] cottagers -- their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions," is "terrified" when he first examines his appearance "in a transparent pool," and tortured by "the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification" when he becomes convinced that he was "in reality the monster" that he sees reflected back to himself (109). Nevertheless, the creature carries on, hoping against hope that he will somehow be accepted and loved by the De Laceys, until his illusions are completely shattered when his attempts at contact with the cottagers result in violent rejection and abject renunciation (128-31), just as the Anglo-Indians reacted with shock and chagrin as they were decolonized, against their will, by a nation that used them, and then regarded them as an embarrassment and a threat.

Thus, "overcome by pain and anguish" (131), finding himself "unsympathized with" (132) by people whose apparent openness to assimilation was, at best, a cover for what JanMohamed characterizes as a racist duplicity on the part of colonizers that "is based on a transformation of racial difference into moral and even metaphysical difference" (80), the creature, like the Anglo-Indians peopling British nightmares after they were betrayed by that nation, sees that the Europeans' hatred and fear will never cease, and makes the following fateful vow: "[F]rom that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me, and sent me forth to this insupportable misery" (133). In Fanon's terms, the creature has become abruptly decolonized which is "always a violent phenomenon" that occurs during "the replacing of a certain 'species' of men by another 'species' of men." Such a decolonized being is "declared insensible to ethics" by those who have colonized and betrayed him, representing "not only the absence of values but also the negation of values. He is, let us dare to admit, the enemy of values, and in this sense he is the absolute evil. He is the corrosive element, destroying all that comes near him; he is the deforming element disfiguring all that has to do with beauty or morality; he is the depository {400} of maleficent powers, the unconscious and irretrievable instrument of blind forces" (WE 35, 41). As the creature later tells Victor, Milton's Satan is a "fitter emblem" than Adam of his condition, for when he views human bliss, "the bitter gall of envy" bubbles up within him (125), much like the feeling within Fanon's decolonized "native," a man who uses violence to satisfy "his dreams of possession -- all manner of possession: to sit at the settler's table, to sleep in the settler's bed, with his wife if possible" (WE 39). Indeed, the creature carries out such a mission of vengeance, first destroying young William Frankenstein, a "beautiful child" who is his creator's brother, and then implicating in the murder Justine Moritz, a young woman whose appearance reminds him that he had been "for ever deprived of the delights that such beautiful creatures could bestow" (138-40).

The creature, feeling that he has no one with whom to sympathize, begs Victor to create a female companion for him, who "must be of the same species, and have the same defects" (140). Victor, like the Company and the Government that sanctioned the engendering of Anglo-Indians, initially agrees, but then finally refuses, having seen the effects resulting from the creation of his first yellow-skinned creature, "a fiend whose unparalleled barbarity" has "desolated" his heart (163). The precise meaning and logic of Victor's arguments has been the subject of some critical debate (Pollin 104-05; Buchen 110; Johnson 151; and Mellor 119-20), but they make more sense if they are read as being spoken by a prejudiced parent (or nation) of one race to a mixed-race child on the possibility of that child finding a suitable mate in a racist society. Despite the creature's thorough explanations concerning his attitudes and feelings, Victor claims ignorance about those matters. The female creature, being "a thinking and reasoning animal," might rebel. Having been influenced by the self-loathing that had already proved so damaging to the first creature, the creatures might "hate each other," with the male creature hating his deformity "when it came before his eyes in the female form," or the female creature rejecting her mate, showing stronger attraction "to the superior beauty of man" (163).

Having been deprived of a suitable companion, the creature completes his mission of vengeance. He kills Henry Clerval, Victor's closest friend. Then, in a reversal of the scene from Kehama in which Kailyal (the daughter of Ladurlad, the hero of the epic), having been abducted and forced onto the "bridal bed" of "Jaga-Naut," is menaced by the "hateful Spirit" of Arvalan (who peers at her through terrifying "specular orbs") and subsequently rescued (PW 8, bk. 14, st. 1, ln. 1; st. 9, ln. 14; st. 10, lns. 19-20), the creature murders Elizabeth on her wedding night, leaving Victor imprisoned within the ultimate colonialist terror: to find his new {401} wife, "lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted features half covered by her hair" (192-94).

A close examination of the concluding episodes of The Missionary and Frankenstein shows that Mary Shelley, in an effort to emphasize the ambivalent relationship between Victor and the creature, could have borrowed, with some appropriate minor changes, from some particularly affecting episodes emphasizing the failure of Hilarion's mission in India and his doomed love for Luxima. When Hilarion is in the hands of the Inquisition at Goa, doomed to perish in an auto-da-fé, his body is "worn away by suffering, by fatigue, [and] by internal conflicts"; his "brow" is "marked . . . with traces of distrust and disappointment", and "his zeal [is] subdued by the final consequences of its unsuccessful efforts." Nevertheless, "gleams" of Hilarion's "mind's untarnished glory" brighten "his look of gloom," making him appear "little less than 'archangel ruined'" (246-47). Luxima, who mistakenly believes that Hilarion has been killed, and thinks that the fires of the auto-da-fé comprise the conflagration required for the Hindu rite of sati, seems to hear Hilarion's voice coming from the flames and rushes "to the pile in all the enthusiasm of love and of devotion," so that she, as she expresses in her own words can "die as Brahmin women die, a Hindu in my feelings and my faith -- dying for him I loved, and believing as my fathers have believed." She is stabbed as she reaches the pyre, and, in her dying moments, asks Hilarion to tell anyone considering the conversion of Hindus to Christianity or any Europeans and Indians daring to love each other, "how I have suffered and how even thou hast failed: -- thou, for whom I forfeited my cast, my country, and my life" (264-65, 273). In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley has Victor ask that Walton commit to "posterity" the narration describing his failed experiment and its tragic aftermath, warning that Walton should "learn" the "miseries" entailed in such overreaching pursuits. Walton characterizes Victor as being "noble and godlike in ruin," and Victor, who says that he has "trod heaven in . . . [his] thoughts, now exulting in . . . [his] powers, now burning with the idea of their effects," describes himself as being like "the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, . . . chained in an eternal hell," once having fallen, "never, never again to rise" (206-09). The creature, like Luxima, is attracted to the idea of death on a funeral pyre, wishing to commit his own version of sati, vowing to ascend the "funeral pile [of his creator] triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames," with his ashes later "swept into the sea by the winds" (221).

Kehama opens with the spectacle of sati, and then indulges in the epic collapse of the monstrously hybrid, Company-engendered state, leaving {402} India ready for the spiritually homogenizing, and yet racially manichean, schemes of Southeyan Evangelism. Frankenstein, on the other hand, offers no such hope, closing with the deaths of both European creator and half-caste creature, warning of the potential for monstrous catastrophe slumbering fitfully within the most seemingly benevolent of nations and the most apparently enlightened of reforms. Does the creature die a betrayed victim, a loving child, or a vengeful rival? Perhaps the best, and most disturbing, answer to such a question is, from the Anglo-Indian perspective, that Mary Shelley apparently did not know.


1. During an examination of Britain's changing views of its ethnographic hybridity (3-4, 17-18), Young notes that "'hybrid' is the nineteenth century's word. But it has become our own again. In the nineteenth century it was used to refer to a physiological phenomenon; in the twentieth century it has been reactivated to describe a cultural one" (6). This study will, for the most part, use "hybrid" and "hybridity" in both senses, since it is very difficult to separate the cultural from the biological in certain references by Southey that imply that Anglo-Indians constitute a cross between two species, or when Mary Shelley's creature in Frankenstein refers to himself as belonging to a different species from the rest of the humans in the novel.

2. Crook and Guiton, who have furnished a thorough and balanced evaluation of Percy's elephantiasis delusions and the various recountings of them, make a persuasive case for "Miss N." being the most likely source for Percy's elephantiasis fears, even though Percy may have also known about a young boy of European parentage who had been stricken with that disease. They also provide a useful discussion of connections made between syphilis, elephantiasis, and leprosy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (91-98).

3. The 1878-80 edition of Southey's poetical works, which will serve as the source for the text of Kehama in this essay, is a reprint of the 1837-38 edition of Southey's poetry. According to Maurice H Fitzgerald, editor of Poems of Robert Southey, the 1837-38 version of Kehama "differs scarcely at all from that originally published" (x). There are some obvious changes in the notes to Kehama, but those particular notes will not be cited in the present essay.

Percy Shelley read Kehama avidly during his final year at Eton (1810) and he read the poem aloud to Mary Shelley on 17 September 1814 (White 1.52, 366; JMS 1.26-27). Mary also notes that she read Kehama herself on 18 September 1814 (JMS 1.27).

4. Percy Shelley recorded his delighted reaction to The Missionary in three letters written during June, 1811 (LPBS 1.101, 107, 112). Mary Shelley notes that she read The Missionary relatively late in the process of composing Frankenstein, in early September of 1817 during the revision of the proofs of her novel (JMS 1.179-80, 2.664). It is not unlikely, however, that she could have discussed Lady Morgan's novel with Percy, heard passages read from it by him, or even perused passages from it herself during the previous two years. Lew observes briefly that The Missionary could have inspired various elements in Frankenstein, but offers no close analysis to substantiate such a claim (255-56).

5. See Jordan (8, 173, 458, 468, 502, 523-24) for analyses and examples of a longstanding tendency on the part of Englishmen and Americans to regard ruddy cheeks, even when displayed by mixed-race people as a very reliable signal of "whiteness."

6. The anonymous referee for this article has also noted, correctly, three other possible sources for Southey's Kehama: Vathek, the vengeful caliph in Beckford's Vathek (1786); Hassan, a black slave in Lewis's The Castle Spectre (1797); and Zofloya, the murderous Moor in Dacre's Zofloya (1806).

7. For background on strained relations between Jesuits and Franciscans in seventeenth-century India, see Neill (71-80,114-24, 193, 235, 321, 353).

8. Marshall (20-43) furnishes a thorough treatment of Hindu chronology and its effect on Christians and skeptics in Europe.

9. See Sunstein (107) for a discussion of De L'Allemagne as a source for Frankenstein.

10. For a discussion of the effect on Western occult writers of Hindu conceptions of the Zodiac, the microcosm, and the macrocosm, see Seznec (55-83). Peacock, in his Memoirs of Shelley, notes that the young poet was fascinated by Hindu and Zoroastrian ideas on the Zodiac because he felt that the "most ancient and sublime morality" of vegetarianism, which held the key for the eradication of all physical ills, "was mystically inculcated in the most ancient Zodiac," which was populated by Persian, Classical, and Hindu deities (71-73). For detailed analyses on the pseudo-scientific and scientific sources for Frankenstein, see Vasbinder, and Mellor (89-109).

11. Mary Shelley records her reading of The View of Hindoostan in a journal entry for 11 December 1814 (JMS 1.51-52).

12. The translation of The Ruins used in this essay, the 1817 Paris translation, was undertaken by Volney and Joel Barlow in order to correct some of the problems with the two previous translations (the London [1795] and the Philadelphia [1797]). See Cameron; White (1.277); and Mellor (45) for discussions of the Shelleys' readings of Volney's Ruins.

13. See Parry (39-43, 45-50) for an astute analysis of the Bhabha/JanMohamed controversy.

14. See for example, Indian testimonials to the wondrous power of the Bible recorded in the early nineteenth century in Browne (2.38-42, 248-53, 454-57).

15. Bhabha is commenting on Fanon's analysis of "the fact of blackness" in Black Skin, White Masks (109-18).

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