1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Silk Buckingham

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:888.



1823. JAMES SILK BUCKINGHAM, proprietor and editor of the Oriental Herald, published at Calcutta, was banished from India, unprepared and without trial, because he chose to say "that a clergyman of the church of Scotland was not the fittest person to be made a clerk of stationery." With regard to the Indian press, it may be observed, that the first adventurers into that region, solely intent on the means of amassing enormous wealth, had little appetite for any literary or intellectual gratifications. As, however, emigrants multiplied and their stay in India assumed more of a permanent character, the example of some illustrious individuals kindled a spirit of enquiry, not surpassed at home, and scarcely equalled unless among the most active intellectual circles. The human mind once roused to exertion, soon betters itself in every direction from philological and historical research, our countrymen sought to proceed to political enquiry, particularly into the constitution and administration of that singular and anomalous system under which they were governed. A free press, however, in a society composed on one side of a mere army, and in the other of a people subjected to immemorial despotism, and into whose mind such an idea never entered, was certainly a very critical measure. The marquis of Hastings, however, attempted it, he proclaimed the freedom of publication without previous censorship, as accompanied, however, with a series of warnings as to the limits within which this permission was to be exercised. Mr. Buckingham, a bold and clever adventurer immediately availed himself of this permission, and began a journal, which so addressed itself to the newly awakened curiosity of the Indian public, that in a short time it yielded a revenue of 8,000 a-year. As it was always found to be the more acceptable and profitable in proportion as the strictures upon the mighty of the land were more decided and piquant, the paper, in spite of repeated warnings from the government house, assumed always a character more and more offensive to the ruling powers. This state of things came to a crisis when the marquis left India, and the ministration devolved upon Mr. Adam in the interval, pervious to the arrival of anew governor-general. Mr. Buckingham having then committed an offence, supposed to exceed the atrocity of his former misdeeds, was banished from India on the ground of an old law, which empowered the government to take this step. Mr. Arnott, in whose hands he left the journal, and who conducted it in the same spirit, soon experienced a similar treatment; and the whole concern was entirely broken up.