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Tax attentions and datery, which ladies, who possess any
SKETCHES OF INDIAN SOCIETY
SOCIEto admit ration, receive in India, must be exceedingly gratifying to those who are consoled by such homage for the loss, or rather the curtailment, of one of the most delightful recreations of the sex, namely shopping. In many parts of the upper provinces, years may elapse without affording an opportunity for the purchase of a single European article, excepting by commission. Friends at some distant station must be applied to, and should the supply of goods not be very superabundant, the refuse of the box-wallah's stores are rummaged over, and the purchases must take what she can get and be thankful. Remote inland stations are very rarely visited by travelling merchants, who are afraid of incurring the expense of the conveyance of their goods upon an uncertain. ty, and thus trade is wholly confined to native dealers, a solitary box-wallah making his appearance occasionally, and asking upon his arrival such an extravagant price for his merchandize, as to render their purchase almost out of the question. Europeans are expected to pay exorbitantly for the products of their own country when the supply is scanty, and ladies have often the mortification of seeing an article, for which a very fair price has been refused, figuring on the person of one of their attendants, who has got it for next to nothing. Stations on the river are better supplied ; few boats come up without bringing some small investment, by which the dardies (boatmen) hope to increase the profits of their voyage, and European shopkeepers frequently engage a budgerow, freighting the vessel with all sorts of articles for which there is any demand. Upon their arrival at the ghaut, they send a catalogue round to the different resident families, with the prices affixed, and too frequently a tantalizing notice, “all sold,” against the items most in request. The joy, with which the arrival of any long-desired object is hailed, of which the attainment was nearly hopeless, is great. Ladies' slippers, especially of European manufacture, which happen to fit, seem like a blessing sent from heaven, after having gone almost barefoot in the soft, ill-shaped, spongy-soled shoes, of native construction. Even Chinese Crispins, though they are by far the best to be found in India, and bear a very high reputation, do not supply their fair customers with those Cinderella-like shoes, which alone are fitted for delicate feet. The upper portion may be constructed of beautiful and appropriate .materials, satin or prunella, but there is always a falling off in the soles, which are made of leather not sufficiently tanned, while the heels are never properly stiffened. Native shoe-makers succeed better with gentlemen's boots, &c., those from Europe soon becoming too hard to be wearable. The happiest efforts of Hoby must be discarded for a base imitation, which has the merit of being more comfortable and better suited to the climate. A wide street in Calcutta, called the Cossitollah, is almost filled with the shops of Chinese shoe-makers, who make satin slippers, to order, at four shillings a-pair, and prunella or jean for three. It seems a thriving trade, their operatives being always well dressed in the costume of their country, wearing upper garments of silk when they walk abroad, or repair to European houses to take orders and measures. Some of the native shoes are very handsome, but they can only be worn by foreign residents as slippers when in their dressing gowns, the heel though it may be raised at pleasure is laid down across the inner part of the sole, the points are pcaked, and turned up, and the whole is stiffened Asiat Journ. N.S. VOL. 14. No. 55.
with embroidery, beneath which a very small portion of the cloth or velvet composing the shoe is to be seen.
The only shops in Calcutta, which make much shew on the outside, are those of the chemists and druggists, who bring all the London passion for display to a foreign country; they exhibit splendid and appropriate fronts duly embellished with those crystal vases, in which gems of the most brilliant dye appear to be melted. They are flourishing concerns, and the establishment of manufacto: ries of soda-water has added not a little to their profits. Until of late years, this refreshing beverage, which forms one of the greatest luxuries in a tropical climate, was imported from Europe and sold at a very high price; there is now a large establishment at Futtyghur, which sends out supplies all over the country. An officer, having a high command at the time that Java was taken from the Dutch, found a mineral spring upon the island of bright sparkling bubbling water, as delicious and refreshing as that which, when bottled and stamped with the seal of the Duke of Nassau, travels to every quarter of the globe. He instantly made the discovery known to the captain of a trader, who freighted his vessel with it for the Calcutta market, where it obtained a rapid sale; but it does not appear that any permanent advantage was derived from this event, or that the Dutch government were aware of the existence of this fountain, which springs in the midst of a thick forest, and is in all probability only the resort of the poor natives in its vicinity,
The European jewellers' shops in Calcutta are large and handsome; they do not make any shew on the outside, but the interiors are splendid; the pavement of one or two is of marble, and the glass-cases on the various counters display a tempting variety of glittering treasures ; diamonds of the first water, pearls of price, with every precious stone that can be named in rich profusion. The setting of these gems is exceedingly beautiful, and according to the most fashionable patterns of London or Paris, neither of those places boasting a more superb assortment; but the prices are so ruinous, that it is wonderful where sufficient custom can be obtained to support establishments of the kind, of which there are at least four, in addition to the vast number of native artizans, who are not only exclusively employed by their own countrymen, but do a great deal of work for Europeans. Nothing could be more unconscionable than the profits which English jewellers sought and obtained for their goods in those days in which wealth flowed into Calcutta from many sources now cut off. Hitherto, the European shop-keepers of Calcutta have transacted business in the most arbitrary manner, according to their own devices, without any reference to the regulations of trade at home. They have had no competition to dread excepting with the natives, whose retail business, though extensive, has been carried on in a silent, unostentatious manner. Formerly, an idea was entertained that European goods could only be obtained in perfection from European dealers; but this notion is now exploded, and it will be seen, in the course of these remarks, that the shopkeepers of both countries obtain their supplies from the self-same sources. It is the policy of Europeans to cast a stigma on their native competitors; for, living at an ex. pensive rate, they are obliged to charge enormously for their commodities, while the humbler-minded native, whose whole establishment is maintained at a very small cost, is enabled to sell at a fair profit. In their anxiety to secure the genuine productions of Hoffman, or some other noted London trader, families have sent to their accredited agents in Calcutta, paying of course the highest price, and have afterwards discovered that the vender, being out of the article, has kept the messenger waiting, while he despatched one of his own people to the bazaar, where it was to be had for about a Afth part of the money put down to their account. Fortunes, however, are not accumulated in the rapid manner which might be surmised from the immense profits thus obtained; the goose is too often killed for the sake of its golden eggs, and customers are driven away in disgust by some piece of rapacity practised upon them. The princely style of living, also, affected by Calcutta shopkeepers, forms another drawback; they spend nearly as much as they gain, there being little or no difference between the establishment of a first-rate tradesman, and that of a civil servant; the modest few, who are content to occupy their houses of business, and who do not display close carriages and services of plate until they have realized sufficient capital for the indulgence of such luxuries, must inevitably acquire considerable wealth ; at least the opportunity has been afforded under the old regime. But the stern necessity for retrenchment felt by so large a portion of the community, and the paralyzation of trade consequent on the late failures, together with the host of adventurers, which the alteration of the East-India Company's charter will in all probability send out, cannot fail to effect a striking change in the mercantile classes of Calcutta.
Next to the jewellers' shops, the most magnificent establishment in the city is that of the principal bookseller ; there are others of inferior note, which have circulating libraries attached to them ; but the splendid scale of this literary emporium, and the elegance of its arrangements, place it far above all its competitors. The profit obtained upon books is more moderate than that of any other European commodity, the retail prices being entirely regulated by those of the London market; rupees are reckoned for shillings; a book which is sold at the publishers at home for a pound, is charged at twenty rupees in Calcutta ; and, considering the cost of freight and insurance, the perishable nature of the commodity, and the very great care requisite to secure both leaves and binding from being injured by damp, or devoured by insects, the price cannot be considered high. Books intended for sale must be carefully taken down from the shelf and wiped every day, and not only the outside, but the interior also, must be examined; a work of time which, in a large establishment, will occupy a great number of servants. The warping of splendid bindings in hot weather, and the rusts and mildews of the rainy season, must be taken into account, while, the white ants being no respectors of engravings, notwithstanding the greatest care, a hiatus will sometimes be visible in the centre of some superb specimen of art from the burin of Finden, Heath, or others of equal celebrity. The most expensive standard works are always procurable at this establishment, and though it may be cheaper to literary clubs and book societies to import their own supplies from London, so much must be left to the discretion of the agent employed, and, in the trade, there is such great temptation to get rid of unsaleable volumes, that, in the end, little saving is effected. Immense consignments of books sometimes come out to Calcutta, through different mercantile houses, which are sold by auction, and are often knocked down for a mere trifle. American editions of works of eminence also find their way into the market at a very cheap rate, and those who are content with bad paper, worse printing, and innumerable typographical errors, may furnish a library of the best authors at a small expense. The way in which a fashionable novel is got up is of little importance out of London, where an inelegant appearance would condemn the ablest production of the day; but in works of science, and those intended for the diffusion of useful knowledge, the mistakes and misprints, which are of constant occurrence in the American editions, may produce mischievous conse quences. It is only the inhabitants of Calcutta, or: its occasional residents, who can be benefited by the shoal of books brought upon the coast by a fleet: more than ordinarily freighted with literary merchandize. The supply at outstations never is superabundant; it is only in such places as Meerut and Cawnpore, that booksellers’ shops are to be found, and their catalogues are exceedingly scanty, people generally preferring to send to Calcutta than to take the chance of what may be obtained from a shop-keeper, who has not sufficient custom to lay in an extensive stock. At the Cape of Good Hope, the beach is said sometimes to be literally strewed with novels; an occurrence which takes place upon the wreck of a ship freighted from the warehouses of: Paternoster Row; and certainly, in the streets of Calcutta, those who' run may read, for books are thrust into the palanquin-doors, or the windows of a carriage, with the pertinacity of the Jews of London, by natives, who make : a point of presenting the title-pages and the engravings upside down. Some of these books seem to be worthy of the Minerva press in its worst days, and it is rather curious, that novels, which are never heard of in England, halfbound in the common pale blue covers so long exploded, and which do not ; figure in any of the advertisements ostentatiously put forth on the wrappers of magazines, &c., are hawked about in the highways and byeways of Calcutta; and, as, they are not expressly intended for foreign markets, it must be presumed, though the fact appears doubtful, that there is some sale for them at home, and that “ Mysterious Involvements, ” “ Errors of the Imagination,” and “ Delicate Dilemmas," still find supporters amongst the twaddlers of both
Though the jewellers must be styled the ruination shops of Calcutta, the : establishment of Messrs. Tulloh and Co. may be called the Howell and James of the city of palaces. It is seldom without a vast concourse of carriages at the door, and the attractions within are of a superior order. On the groundfloor, a large but by no means handsome hall is set apart for auctions; a pulpit : is erected in the centre, and every description of property (houses, horses, carriages, &c. down to thimbles and needles) comes under the bammer in the course of a short time; sales of all kinds being very frequent. The auction, room is accessible to males alone; it is open to the entrance-hall, but should a lady wander by mistake into the forbidden precincts, she becomes the talk of : Calcutta; it is an act of griffinism, which strikes the whole community with astonishment and horror. A broad flight of stairs leads to a suite of aparte • ments abore, in which there is a multifarious assortment of merchandize, oddly enough contrasted, the merest trumpery being often placed in juxtaposition with articles of great yalue. The walls are hung with framed engra. < vings, many of them from plates nearly worn out, intermixed with others of a ; superior description, and a few bad paintings, an accurate knowledge of the art being confined to a very small number of persons, and the worst specimens ; having as good a chance, especially with the natives, of procuring purchasers, , as those of a higher order. The tables and counters are covered with glass : cases, containing various kinds of British and foreign bijquterie ; others sup-: port immense quantities of China and glass, lamps, lustres, and mirrors; there ; are quantities of silk mercery and, linen drapery, and upholstery of all sorts. i At one time, a tempting collection of furniture en suite, fitted for a boudoir, was displayed in these ware-rooms, which would have forined an appropriate. decoration for the most recherché cabinet of the fairest queen in the world. It : consisted of a work, sopha, and circular table, six chairs, and a colich of the
beautiful black lacker, which even Chinese art cannot imitate. The landscapes were of the richest and most splendid enamel, and the cushions and draperies of pale green damask. They had been made in Japan, to order, from drawings or models sent from Calcutta, and were therefore of the most fashionable and approved form. The gentleman, who had despatched this splendid commission, did not live to see it completed, and it was consigned by his executors to Messrs. Tulloh and Co., to be sold for the benefit of the estate. Many bright eyes were directed towards these elegant decorations, although the cirá cumstance of their not being of European manufacture lessened their value in the estimation of the greater number of gazers, who would have preferred glittering trumpery from France. The expense rendered a speculation for the English market rather hazardous; the price of each chair was four pounds, which, together with the freight and the ad valorem duty imposed at the Custom-house of London, would have rendered it too costly for a fair chance of profit. Stuffed Chinese birds, beautifully arranged in glass cases, are amongst the rarities of Messrs. Tulloh's emporium; these were reckoned cheap at fifty pounds a case, and in all probability found purchasers in the captains of trading-vessels. Native sircars, who speak English, attend to acquaint the visitors with the different prices of the articles; but there are no chairs for the accommodation of the ladies, who in the hottest weather must either walk about, stand, or sink exhausted upon the stairs. Large consignments of goods to be sold by auction, upon some future day, are frequently exhibited; but ladies, however anxious they may be to become purchasers, are not permitted to select any of the lots at a fair price, although the sale may be so peremptory as to amount almost to giving them away: such is the despotism of custom at Calcutta! Flaming advertisements, which put the ornate and elaborate productions of George Robins to shame, draw crowds of carriages to Tulloh's rooms, and great is the disappointment of the fair visitants, when, as it frequently happens, they see the old remembered articles in their accustomed places, as well known as the Ochterlony monument, with as little chance of ever being removed from their site. No abatement whatever is made in the price, in consequence of the dilapidations which time may have occasioned; bargains are only to be procured at auctions, and the stock remains on hand during time immemorial, while newer and more fashionable importations, of the same nature, are knocked down to the highest bidder for any thing they will fetch. Mackenzie and Lyall, and Leyburn and Co., have establishments similar to that of Messrs. Tullohs, but neither so extensive nor so 'splendid. The sircars in attendance,-fine gentlemen, profusely arrayed in white muslin, and evidently fattening upon their profits,-assume a cavalier air and seem to take any disparagement of their employers' goods in high dudgeon. Auctionrooms are attached to the premises of both these parties, and all the heads of the establishments are expected to officiate in turn. This is a sine qua non, and many gentlemen, who would otherwise have devoted their time and property to mercantile pursuits, have been prevented from entering into a partnership with these firms, in consequence of the unpleasant nature of the duties. According to the old system, an auctioneer, however respectable his connexions might be, and whatever his previous rank, was not admitted into society. The rigid exclusiveness of etiquette has somewhat relaxed in the present day, and military and civil servants do not object to meet at other houses, or receive at their own, those persons who were formerly considered to be quite beyond the pale. Still the ascent of the rostrum is considered to entail the loss of caste, and it is supposed that the rigid enforcement of the