Life and Letters Today


Life & Letters Today was a monthly literary review magazine which published short fiction, essays on cultural issues, and book reviews. Several well known British literary figures, including D. H. Lawrence, Dylan Thomas and Julian Symons, contributed to the magazine. Mulk Raj Anand was a regular contributor of both fiction and reviews, and the work of several other South Asian writers based in Britain was also occasionally featured. There were three issues dedicated to Indian writing and featuring a range of short fiction and essays by writers such as Narayana Menon, S. Menon Marath, Iqbal Singh and the Ceylonese J. Vijaya-Tunga, as well as reviews of their work.


Life and Letters Today 21.20 (April 1939), pp. 3-4

Other names: 

Life and Letters (1928-35, 1946-50)

Life and Letters and the London Mercury and Bookman (1945-6)


This issue includes work by South Asian writers including Iqbal Singh, Alagu Subramaniam and J. Vijaya-Tunga.

Date began: 
01 Jun 1928

INDIAN WRITERS IN ENGLAND: Addressing members of the Indian Progressive Writers' Association at the Indian Students' Union on 19th March, Randall Swingler remarked that Indian writers faced a peculiar difficulty in this country – if they wrote well they were rejected by publishers on the ground that they wrote too well. Their success was taken as a slight to British superiority…Indian writers, like most foreign writers in England, found themselves unappreciated by publishers and literary folk in England.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Editors: Desmond McCarthy (1928-34), Hamish Miles (1934), R. Ellis Roberts (1934-55), Robert Herring (1935-50).


This Indian edition of Life and Letters Today, as well as the two subsequent Indian issues, highlights a degree of success on the part of South Asians in infiltrating an established 'mainstream' British cultural product. The comments above from the editorial of the magazine suggest its awareness and sympathy with the marginalization of Indian writers in Britain. That said, contributions to the magazine by South Asians comprise, for the most part (and with some notable exceptions), short fiction located almost uniquely in India/Ceylon rather than in Britain, and short prose on Indian history/culture, often positioning their authors as cultural informers primarily.


Contributors: K. Ahmad Abbas, Mulk Raj Anand, George Barker, Nancy Cunard, Cedric Dover, Julian Huxley, D. H. Lawrence, Jack Lindsay, Sarkis Megherian, Narayana Menon, S. Menon Marath, Ajit Mookerjee, Sean O’Casey, B. Rajan, S. Rajandram, S. Raja Ratnam, Keidrych Rhys, Dorothy M. Richardson, Iqbal Singh, Osbert Sitwell, Stevie Smith, Stephen Spender, Alagu Subramaniam, Julian Symons, Dylan Thomas, Fred Urquhart, J. Vijaya-Tunga, Vernon Watkins, Francis Watson.

Date ended: 
01 Jun 1950
Archive source: 

Life & Letters Today, P.P.5939.bgf, British Library, St Pancras

Precise date ended unknown: 
Books Reviewed Include: 

Abbas, K. Ahmad, Rice. Reviewed by Oswell Blakeston.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Coolie. Reviewed by Ronald Dewsbury.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Two Leaves and a Bud. Reviewed by Stephen Spender.

Anand, Mulk Raj, Indian Fairy Tales. Reviewed by Lorna Lewis.

Bhushan, V. N. (ed.), The Peacock Lute: Anthology of Poems in English by Indian Writers. Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Blom, Eric, Some Great Composers. Reviewed by Narayana Menon.

Ch’ien, Hsiao, The Spinners of Silk. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Desani, G. V., All About Mr Hatterr. Reviewed by Fred Urquhart.

Dover, Cedric, Half-Caste. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Flaubert, Gustave, Letters (selected by Richard Rumbold). Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Green, Henry, Loving. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Lawrence, T. E., Oriental Assembly. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Menon, Narayana, The Development of William Butler Yeats. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Motwani, Kewal, India: A Synthesis of Cultures. Reviewed by S. Menon Marath.

Nehru, Jawaharlal, Autobiography. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Palme Dutt, R., India Today.

Poems from Iqbal, trans. by V. G. Kiernan. Reviewed by Jack Lindsay.

Rajan, B. (ed.), The Novelist as Thinker. reviewed by Hugo Manning.

Rajan B. (ed.), T. S. Eliot: A Study of his Writing. Reviewed by George Barker.

Sampson, William, Fireman Flower. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Saroyan, William, Razzle-Dazzle. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Shelvankar, K. S., The Problem of India. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Silone, Ignazio, The Seed Beneath the Snow. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Tagore, Rabindranath, Caramel Doll.

Wernher, Hilda and Singh, Huthi, The Land and the Well.

Woolf, Virginia, The Death of a Moth. Reviewed by Mulk Raj Anand.

Jinadasa Vijayatunga


Author, teacher and journalist Jinadasa Vijayatunga grew up in the village of Urala before attending a boarding school in Galle in Southern Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). His Sinhalese-speaking parents employed a tutor to teach him English. He began his career as a teacher and journalist in Sri Lanka. He then taught in Tagore’s school in Bengal, and then as an examiner in Sinhalese for Calcutta University, 1927-8. He taught in New York from 1928 to 1931 before he went to London as a journalist. He lived most of his adult life abroad in America, England and India, before returning to Sri Lanka towards the end of his life.

Vijayatunga’s fiction published in London focuses on Sri Lanka. Grass for My Feet (1935) provides a series of vignettes of village life in Sri Lanka. It is based on Vijayatunga’s childhood memories growing up in a small remote village in Sri Lanka at the turn of the century. His book Island Story (1949) is a more factual account. It purports to convey an intimate knowledge of the island in terms of its people, history, culture and geographical layout. His choice of topics – Green Field and Valleys, The Gift of Water, Tea Gardens, Island Neighbours, Kings and Heroes of Old, Kandy the Lake City – suggests a desire to represent both Ceylon’s ancient traditions and present-day life. Published in the year after Ceylon gained independence, the book illuminates the newly independent country to the rest of the world. Both books were well-received in both Britain and Sri Lanka. They were hailed as great literary achievements and unique introductions of the island. Sri Lankan and Indian publishers have recently re-published these two works.

Published works: 

Grass for my Feet: Sketches of Life in a Ceylon Village (London: Arnold & Co, 1935)

Maharanee and Other Stories (Colombo: Gunasena & Co, 1947)

Trebizond: A Second Book of Poems (Colombo: M.D. Gunasena &Co. 1948)

What I Think (Colombo: Gunasena & Co, 1948)

The Glass Princess, and Other Singhala Folk Tales (Illustrations by Sita Vijayatunga) (Colombo: M. D. Gunasena & Co., 1949)

Yoga: The way of Self-Fulfilment, etc., (London/Bombay: Casement Publication 1953)

Isle of Lanka, Ceylon. (Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1955)

Lumbini to Kusinara - In the Footsteps of the Buddha (Maharagama: Saman Press, 1960)

Rodiya Girl and Other Stories (Maharagama: Saman Press, 1960)

The Sun Temple of Konarka (Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, 1963)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1902
Precise DOB unknown: 
Archive source: 

National Archives, Colombo, Sri Lanka

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Sri Lanka
Other names: 

Jinadasa Vijaya-Tunga

Jinnadasa Vijaya-Tunga

Jinadasa Vijayatunge

Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1931
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

ca. 1931-48



Ranjee G Shahani


Ranjee Shahani was born in 1904 and travelled to Britain some time in the mid-1920s. He had a D.Litt from Paris and his first wife, Suzanne, was from Normandy, France. His second wife was Leticia V. Ramos from the Philippines.

In 1928, Shahani was writing a thesis on Shakespeare and asked advice from Edward Garnett. His book Shakespeare through Eastern Eyes was published in 1932. Shahani became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1933, although this lapsed in 1934. In 1934, he wrote to Rabindranath Tagore that he wished to put together a selection of Thomas Sturge Moore's poems. In this, Shahani mentioned that he had talked to "AE" and William Rothenstein, and thus appeared to have various connections with the British literary establishment. Shahani was also a member of the India Society and spoke regularly at their meetings.

Shahani lived in France with his wife, daughter and mother-in-law from 1938, but then returned to England in 1941 due to the war. In the 1940s, he wrote a series of articles called 'Some British I admire' for The Asiatic Review, which included Laurence Binyon, Charles Lamb and E. M. Forster. He died in 1968, and at time of his death was Professor of English Literature at Seton Hall University, near New York.

Published works: 

Towards the Stars: being an appreciation of 'Phoenix and the Turtle', introduction by Edward Garnett and appreciation by André Marouis (1930)

Shakespeare through Eastern Eyes, introduction by J. Middleton Murray and appreciation by Emile Legouis (London: H. Joseph, 1932)

The Changeling (London: H. Joseph, 1933) [written under the pseudonym Hassan Ali]

The Coming of Karuna, with appreciation by Havelock Ellis (London: John Murray, 1934) 

A New Pilgrim's Progress (London: World Congress of Faiths pamphlet, 1938)

Indian Pilgrimage (London: Michael Joseph, 1939)

A White Man in Search of God (London: Lester & Welbeck, 1943)

The Amazing English (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1948)

The Indian Way (Bombay: Hind Kitabs Ltd, 1951)

Mr Gandhi (New York, 1961)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1904

Clifford Bax, Launcelot Cranmer-Byng, Isobel Cripps and Richard Stafford Cripps, Benedetto Croce, Havelock Ellis, E. M. Forster, Edward Garnett, Eric Gill, John Glasworthy, Emile Legouis, Sylvain Levi, Thomas Sturge Moore, John Middleton Murray, Eric Partridge, S. Radhakrishnan, Romain Rolland, William Rothenstein, George Russell (AE), Rabindranath Tagore, Edward Thompson, Leonard Woolf, Francis Yeats-Brown, Francis Younghusband, Yusuf Ali.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Various articles for Indian Art and Letters

Various articles for Asiatic Review

Contributed to The Sufi: A Journal of Mysticism

Various stories for Saint Detective Magazine (1960)

Spectator (16 August 1940)

Reviews of Sri Aurobindo's Collected Poems and Plays and Mulk Raj Anand's The Sword and the Sickle Times Literary Supplement, 1942

'The Asiatic Element in Swinburne', The Poetry Review 33.4 (July - August 1942)

'The Phoenix and the Turtle', Notes and Queries CXCI (1946)

Precise DOB unknown: 

G. Wilson Knight, The Criterion (Towards the Stars)

Malcolm Muggeridge, Daily Telegraph, 25 April 1939 (Indian Pilgrimage)

H. G. Wells refers to Shakespeare Through Eastern Eyes in Wells, H. G., Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (London: Penguin, 1943)

Archive source: 

Paper read to East India Association, 'Literary Interpreters of India: A Selective Study',(9 November 1943), Maynard Papers, Mss EUR F224/74, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Letter to E. M. Forster, Mary Lago Archive, University of Missouri; EMF/18/453/3, King's College Archive, Cambridge

Correspondence with Edward Garnett, Garnett Collection, McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University

Letter to William Rothenstein, Rothenstein Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard

Letters to Leonard Woolf, Leonard Woolf Archive, University of Sussex, Brighton

Letter to Rabindranath Tagore, Thomas Sturge Moore Correspondence, Visva Bharati Archives, Santiniketan

Involved in events: 

Attended World Congress of Faiths, University College, London, July 1936. Other speakers at the Congress include S. Radhakrishnan, Yusuf Ali, and Dr S. N. DasGupta

Lectured on 'The Influence of India on Western Culture' to India Society, presided by E. M. Forster, 4 Dec. 1942

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Other names: 

Ranjee Gurdassing Shahani

Ranjee Gurdasing Shahani

Hassan Ali


80 Eaton Terrace, Solane Square,
London, SW1W 8TY
United Kingdom
51° 29' 34.8792" N, 0° 9' 14.3964" W
Horniton House,
Flood Street,
London, SW3 5TB
United Kingdom
51° 29' 10.3056" N, 0° 9' 55.2168" W
Date of death: 
01 Jan 1968
Precise date of death unknown: 
Location of death: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

mid 1920s - 1936, 1941


21 Cromwell Road, South Kensington (in 1928)

Honiton House, Flood Street, Chelsea, London (1932-1936)

Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, France (1938-39)

80 Eaton Terrace, Sloane Square, London (1941)

54 Onslow Gardens, SW7, London (1948)

Tags for Making Britain: 

G. V. Desani


G. V. Desani was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where his parents were working as wood merchants. The family returned to Karachi in 1914, where Desani was educated. He arrived in Britain at the age of 17, to escape from an arranged marriage. When he arrived in England in 1926, he was befriended by George Lansbury, who helped him acquire a reader's pass to the British Museum Reading Room. During this period he also found work as an actor in films. Furthermore, he worked as a foreign corespondent for a number of Indian newspapers and news agencies, such as the Associated Press, Reuters and The Times of India. He returned to India in 1928, touring Rajasthan, on which he subsequently lectured extensively for the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Company.

Desani returned to Britain in the summer of 1939, only weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War.  He continued to work as a writer, journalist, and broadcaster for the Indian Section of the BBC Eastern Service and the Home Division. Desani broadcast both in Hindustani and in English and was praised for his wit, humour and ability as a script-writer. He also acted in radio plays. Furthermore, Desani lectured for the Ministry of Information and the Imperial Institute, regularly touring the regions and speaking to soldiers, schools and university colleges. These lectures featured as one of his Talks Programmes in Hindustani, titled 'My Lecture Tours' (broadcast 8 May 1943). They were widely praised and drew large audiences.

During this period, he wrote his best known work of fiction, the experimental novel All About Mr. Hatterr (later republished and revised as All About H. Hatterr). On publication the book was very well received by critics. For example, T. S. Eliot praised it as a remarkably original book: 'It is amazing that anyone should be able to sustain a piece of work in this style and tempo and at such length'. The critic C. E. M. Joad compared the book to 'Joyce and Miller with a difference: the difference being due to a dash of Munchhausen and the Arabian Nights'.  With its inventive use of language and its endorsement of hybridity, the work is a trailblazer for the fiction of Salman Rushdie, who has acknowledged its influence.

While in England, Desani also published his ‘poetic play’ Hali, as well as short fiction, sketches and essays. Shortly after the publication of Hali, Desani left Britain and returned to India. He was offered a position as cultural ambassador for Jawaharlal Nehru, however he did not take this up. In 1959 he travelled to Burma to study Buddhist and Hindu culture. During the 1950s and 1960 he wrote a regular column, 'Very High, Very Low', as well as articles for The Times of India and Illustrated Weekly of India. In 1967 he was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin, a position he held until his retirement in 1978. He spent the final years of his life in Dallas.

Published works: 

All About Mr. Hatterr, A Gesture (London: Aldor, 1948); revised edition published as All About H. Hatterr (London: Saturn Press, 1949)

Hali: A Poetic Play (London: Saturn Press, 1952)

Hali and Collected Stories (Kingston, NY: McPherson & Co., 1991)

Date of birth: 
08 Jul 1909

Mulk Raj Anand, A. L. Bakaya (BBC), Edmund Blunden,  Z. A. Bokhari, Ronald Boswell (BBC), Malcolm Darling (BBC), T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Attia HosainC. E. M. Joad, George Lansbury, L. F. Rushbrook Williams, Una Marson, Narayana Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru, George Orwell, Raja Rao, M. J. Tambimuttu.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Illustrated Weekly of India


Fred Urquhart, Life and Letters Today 59.136 (All About Mr Hatterr)

Secondary works: 

Bainbridge, Emma, ‘“Ball-Bearings All The Way, And Never A Dull Moment!”: An Analysis of the Writings of G. V. Desani’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Kent at Canterbury, 2003)

Daniels, Shouri, Desani: Writer and Worldview (New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1984)

Innes, C. L., A History of Black and Asian Writing in Britain, 1700–2000, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)


Archive source: 

Desani Papers, University of Texas, Austin

BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham Park, Reading

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Other names: 

Govindas Vishnoodas Desani

G. V. Dasani (changes his name to Desani in 1941)


40 Kew Bridge Court
London, W4 3AE
United Kingdom
51° 29' 19.3164" N, 0° 17' 2.796" W
Hillcrest OX1 5EZ
United Kingdom
51° 43' 26.2992" N, 1° 16' 30.414" W
6 Devonshire Terrace
London, W2 3HG
United Kingdom
51° 30' 49.6584" N, 0° 10' 48.0684" W
Date of death: 
15 Nov 2000
Location of death: 
Dallas, Texas
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1926
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1926-8, 1939-52

Rabindranath Tagore


Rabindranath Tagore was the son of Debendranath Tagore (1817–1905) and Sarada Devi. The Tagores were one of the leading families of Calcutta, whose estates and assets were built up by Rabindranath's grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore (1794–1846) and consolidated by his father, Debendranath, who headed the Brahmo Samaj movement (a Hindu Reform movement) in Bengal. Rabindranath was the fourteenth child and eigth son of his parents. His elder brother, Satyendranath, was the first Indian to compete and pass the ICS competitive exams in London and was posted to the Indian Civil Service in Bombay. Tagore went to Britain in 1878 and attended lectures at University College, London, but returned to India before he could receive a degree. Tagore's resistance to rote learning inspired him to build a school, Patha Bhavana, at Santiniketan (in the Bengali countryside) in 1901 with only five students.

Tagore is best known as a Bengali literary figure - he experimented in all literary genres (except verse epic), composed about 2,500 songs (words and music), and painted, towards the end of his life, nearly 3,000 paintings. He wrote poems and stories mainly in his mother tongue, Bengali. The Tagore that the world beyond India came to know was catapulted into fame by the award of the Nobel prize for literature. In November of 1912, Gitanjali  (‘Song-offering’) was published in a limited edition of 750 copies by the India Society of London. William Rothenstein had brought Tagore's work to the attention of the India Society and William Butler Yeats provided the introduction. In 1913 it was printed again by Macmillan, and on 16 November 1913, news of the award reached him in Santiniketan.

Subsequently, he toured much of the world and became the world’s first intercontinental literary star. Macmillan published a number of translations of Tagore's poems and stories after this success. A number of Tagore's plays were performed in London by British and Indian troupes. Tagore's international tours were also an opportunity for Tagore to speak against war and nationalism, to promote pan-Asianism, to expound India's spiritual heritage, his aesthetic and educational philosophy, and his ‘poet's religion’. With his fame, Tagore amassed more wealth which he was able to invest into his school at Santiniketan and the University, Visva-Bharati. The school and university attracted money and foreign scholars and students from all over the world, from C. F. Andrews and E. J. Thompson to Indira Nehru (later Gandhi) and Sylvain Levi. In 1919, Tagore returned the knighthood he had received from the British Government in 1915 as a protest against the Amritsar Massacre.

He died on 7 August 1941 at 6 Dwarkanath Tagore Lane, Jorasanko, Calcutta, in the house where he was born.

Published works: 

Publications in Britain between 1912 and 1941: 

Gitanjali (London: India Society, 1912) 

Glimpses of Bengal Life (London: Luzac & Co., 1913)

The Crescent Moon (London: Macmillan, 1913)

The Gardener (London: Macmillan, 1913)

Sadhana (London: Macmillan, 1913)

Chitra (London: India Society, 1914)

One Hundred Poems of Kabir (London: India Society, 1915)

Hungry Stones and Other Stories (London: Macmillan, 1916)

Fruit-Gathering (London: Macmillan, 1916)

Reminiscences (London: Macmillan, 1917) 

Mashi and other Stories (London: Macmillan, 1918)

Home and the World (London: Macmillan, 1919)

The Wreck (London: Macmillan, 1921)

Glimpses of Bengal (London: Macmillan, 1921)

Gora (London: Macmillan, 1923)

Broken Trees and Other Stories (London: Macmillan, 1925)

The Religion in Man (London: Allen & Unwin, 1931)

The Child (London: Allen & Unwin, 1931)

The Golden Boat (London: Allen & Unwin, 1932)

Collected Poems and Plays (London: Macmillan, 1936) 

Date of birth: 
07 May 1861

C. F. Andrews, Annie Besant, Bhabani Bhattacharya (translated poems in The Golden Boat (1932)), Katherine Bradley, Robert Bridges (edited one of Tagore's poems from Gitanjali for his 1915 anthology, The Spirit of Man), Edward Carpenter, J. Estlin Carpenter, Harindranath Chattopadhyaya, Edith Emma Cooper, Kedar Nath Das Gupta (director of plays), R. C. Dutt, Leonard Elmhirst, Jacob Epstein (Tagore sat for a bust in Epstein's studio in August 1926), A. H. Fox-Strangway, M. K. Gandhi, Patrick Geddes, Manmohan Ghose (translated Tagore's 'Paras Pathar'), Iseult Gonne, E. B. Havell, Helene Meyer-Franck, Heinrich Meyer-Benfey, Thomas Sturge Moore, Henry Morley (Professor of English Literature at UCL), Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru, W. W. Pearson, Ezra Pound, Ernest Rhys, Alice Richardson, William Rothenstein,  Kshitish Chandra Sen (was studying in Cambridge when Tagore was in England in 1912 and translated some of Tagore's work), Uday Shankar, St Nihal Singh (discussed Amritsar in July 1920 in London, from which Singh wrote an article for The Hindu (23 July 1920),  Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy (met at Oxford in 1913), Abanindranath Tagore (nephew), Rathindranath Tagore (Son), Satyendranath Tagore (brother), E. J. Thompson, Evelyn Underhill, H. G. Wells, William Butler Yeats .

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Modern Review


Widely reviewed including:

The Asiatic Review 

The Athenæum 

Indian Art and Letters 

The London Mercury

Wide press coverage including:

The Inquirer

The Manchester Guardian

The Times

Secondary works: 

Andrews, C. F., Letters to a Friend (London: Allen & Unwin, 1928) 

Calcutta Municipal Gazette: Tagore Memorial Special Supplement, first published 13 Sept. 1941, reprinted 9 May 1986 (Kolkata: Kolkata Municipal Corporation & New Age, 2002) 

Collins, Michael, Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World: Rabindranath Tagore's Writings on History, Politics and Society (London: Routledge, 2011)

Dasgupta, R. K., Rabindranath Tagore and William Butler Yeats: The Story of a Literary Friendship (Delhi: University of Delhi, 1965)

Dasgupta, Uma (ed.), Rabindranath Tagore: My Life in Words (New Delhi: Penguin Viking, 2006) 

Dutta, Krishna, and Robinson, Andrew, Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man (London: Bloomsbury, 1995)

Dutta, Krishna and Robinson, Andrew (eds), Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Kripalani, Krishna, Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography (London: Oxford University Press, 1962)

Kundu, Kalyan, Bhattacharya, Sakti and Sircar, Kalyan, Imagining Tagore: Rabindranath and the British Press (1912-1941) (Calcutta: Sahitya Samsad, 2000)

Nandy, Ashis, The Illegitimacy of Nationalism: Rabindranath Tagore and the Politics of Self (Delhi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994)

Radice, William, 'Tagore, Rabindranath (1861–1941)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)[]

Rhys, Ernest, Rabindranath Tagore: A Biographical Study (London: Macmillan, 1915)

Rothenstein, William, and Lago, Mary McClelland, Imperfect Encounter: Letters of William Rothenstein and Rabindranath Tagore, 1911-1914. Edited, with an Introduction and Notes by Mary McClelland Lago (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972)

Sen Gupta, Kalyan, The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005)

Tagore, Rabindranath, and Elmhirst, L. K., Rabindranath Tagore: Pioneer in Education. Essays and Exchages Between Rabindranath Tagore and L. K. Elmhirst (London: John Murray, 1961)

Tagore, Rabindranath, Rabindranath Tagore: 1861-1961. A Centenary Volume (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1961)

Thompson, Edward J., Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Dramatist ([S.I.]: Oxford University Press, 1926)

Thompson, E. P., Alien Homage: Edward Thompson and Rabindranath Tagore (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993) 

Archive source: 

Correspondence and papers, Rabindra Bhavan, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan

Correspondence and papers, Elmhirst Centre, Dartington

Correspondence and literary papers, Historical Manuscripts Commission, National Register of Archives

Correspondence with Macmillan, Add. MS 55004, British Library, St Pancras

Rothenstein Mss, Asia and Africa Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Letters to Elizabeth Sharpe, Mss Eur. B 280, Asia and Africa Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Letters to E. J. Thompson, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Letters to Sir William Rothenstein, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Correspondence with T. S. Moore, Senate House Library, London

Correspondence with Robert Bridges, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Correspondence with Sir Patrick Geddes, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh

Macmillan Company Archives, New York Public Library

'Rabindranath Tagore', Channel 4, 3 July 1986, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Documentary footage, Film and Video Archive,  Imperial War Museum,

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 


3 Heath Villas
Hampstead , NW3 1AW
United Kingdom
51° 33' 45.7236" N, 0° 10' 34.2516" W
37 Alfred Place West (now Thurloe Street
London, SW7 2L
United Kingdom
Date of death: 
07 Aug 1941
Location of death: 
Calcutta, India
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
10 Oct 1878
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

10 October 1878 - February 1880, 10 September 1890 - 9 October 1890, 16 June 1912 - 19 October 1912, 19 April 1913 - 3 September 1913, 5 June 1920 - 6 August 1920, 24 March 1921 - 16 April 1921, 4 August 1926 - 20 August 1926, 11 May 1930 - July 1930; 22 December 1930 - January 1931


3 Villas on Heath, Hampstead, London (June and July 1912)

37 Alfred Place West (now Thurloe Street), South Kensington, London (1913)

Quaker Settlement, Woodbroke, Birmingham (visited in May 1930)

Chatto & Windus


Chatto & Windus, a leading publisher of books from the Victorian era, became an important platform for South Asian Anglophone writers. Founded in 1855 by John Camden Hotten, it was sold in 1873 to his junior partner Andrew Chatto, who took on the poet W. E. Windus as a partner. Chatto first published the Indo-Irish writer Aubrey Menen’s novel The Prevalence of Witches (1947). The company continued to publish his works, and went on to publish a significant number of South Asian writers in English. Chatto & Windus’ interest in publishing South Asians appears to date from its acquisition of a controlling interest in Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press (founded in 1917) in 1947, given the latter's close connection and support of South Asian Anglophone writers. Cecil Day Lewis, one of Hogarth’s prize authors, became an editor at Chatto and edited Attia Hosain’s novels. Putnam, later Bodley Head, merged with Chatto in the late 1960s. Chatto then merged with Jonathan Cape (1969) and Virago (1982). The companies retained editorial control until Random House purchased the group in 1987.

Published works: 

Chaudhuri, Nirad, The Continent of Circe (1965)

Hosain, Attia, Phoenix Fled (1953)

Hosain, Attia, Sunlight on a Broken Column (1961)

Markandaya, Kamala, Two Virgins (1974)

Menen, Aubrey, The Prevalence of Witches (1947)

Menen, Aubrey, Dead Man in a Silver Market: An Autobiographical Essay on National Prides (1954)

Narayan, R. K., The Ramayana (1973)

Narayan, R. K., My Days (1975)

Sahgal, Nayantara,  Storm in Chandigarh (1969)

Singh, Khushwant, Train to Pakistan (1956)

Secondary works: 

Ranasinha, Ruvani, South Asian Writers in Twentieth-Century Britain:Culture in Translation (Oxford: Clarendon, 2007)

Warner, Oliver, Chatto & Windus: A Brief Account of the Firm's Origin, History and Development (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973)


Date began: 
01 Jan 1855
Key Individuals' Details: 

Attia Hosain, John Camden Hotten, Cecil Day Lewis, Aubrey Menen, W. E. Windus.

Archive source: 

Chatto & Windus Archive, University of Reading

Tags for Making Britain: 

Lawrence & Wishart


Lawrence & Wishart is a London-based publishing company. It was formed in 1936 through the merger of the Communist Party’s official publisher, Martin Lawrence, and the liberal and anti-fascist family-owned publisher Wishart. From its foundation, it specialized in publishing left-wing political fiction, drama and poetry, as well as non-fiction such as working-class histories and the works of Karl Marx, in the context of the economic depression, and the rise of fascism and the Second World War. It also produced the bi-annual literary anthology New Writing. After the War, it went on to publish early work by renowned leftist scholars including Eric Hobsbawm and Edward Thompson, and to translate the work of Antonio Gramsci.

In 1935, Wishart had published Mulk Raj Anand’s novel The Untouchable after it was rejected by some nineteen publishing houses. Its acceptance by Wishart was no doubt in part a product of the novel’s endorsement by E. M. Forster. Two of Anand’s subsequent novels were then taken on by Lawrence & Wishart, as was the work of Indian Communist Rajani Palme Dutt’s, whose brother Clemens translated work by Marx and Engels for the firm.

Published works: 

A selection of works published from 1936 to 1950:

Anand, Mulk Raj, Coolie (1936)

Anand, Mulk Raj, Two Leaves and a Bud (1937)

Beauchamp, Joan, Women Who Work (1937)

Britain Without Capitalists (1936)

Caudwell, Christopher, Illusion and Reality (1946)

Chen, Jack, Japan and the Pacific Theatre of War (1942)

Cornforth, Maurice, Science versus Idealism (1946)

Dutt, Rajani Palme, Britain in the World Front (1942)

Dutt, Rajani Palme, Britain’s Crisis of Empire (1950)

Engels, Friedrich, Dialectics of Nature, trans. Clemens Palme Dutt, preface by J. D. S. Haldane (1940)

Fox, Ralph, France Faces the Future (1936)

Gorky, Maksim, Culture and the People (1939)

Haldane, J. B. S., Science and Everyday Life (1939)

Klingender, Francis Donald, Marxism and Modern Art (1943)

Kuczynski, Jurgen, Hunger and Work: Statistical Studies (1938)

Lenin, V. I., Selected Works (1936-8)

Lenin, V. I., What is to be Done? (1944)

Lenin, V. I., Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1948)

Lindsay, Jack, A Handbook of Freedom (1939)

Marx, Karl, Selected Works, ed. by Clemens Palme Dutt (1942)

Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, Selected Correspondence, 1846-1895 (1941)

Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, The Communist Manifesto [1933] (1948)

Pollitt, Harry, Serving My Time (1940)

Reeves, Joseph, A History of Rochdale Cooperation, 1844-1944 (19434)

Slater, Montagu, New Way Wins (1937)

Stalin, Joseph, Foundations of Leninism (1940)

Stalin, Joseph, Marxism and the National and Colonial Question (1947)

Wolton, Douglas G., Whither South Africa? (1947)

Date began: 
01 Jan 1936
Precise date began unknown: 

Mulk Raj Anand, Clemens Palme Dutt, Rajani Palme Dutt, Friedrich Engels, E. M. Forster, Ralph Fox, J. B. S. Haldane, V. I. Lenin, Jack Lindsay, Karl Marx, Harry Pollitt, Montagu Slater, Joseph Stalin.

New India Publishing Co


Relatively little is known about this publishing venture. It is probable that it was founded by D. P. Chaudhuri who was also deputy editor of Asian Horizon (1948-1950). Mulk Raj Anand and Iqbal Singh were the editors of one of its few known outputs, Indian Short Stories (1946). Its other outputs include an anthology of poems by Indians in English, including work by Manmohan Ghose, Sarojini Naidu and G. K. Chettur, and a translation of Tagore's Farewell, My Friend. The founding editors of the company were keen that there should be a publisher of work by Indians in London that was actually run by Indians - and that Indians should be interpreting and evaluating the 'West' for their fellow countrymen, as well as interpreting the 'East' for Britons and the 'West'. They aimed for as wide a range of work on Indian culture and civilization as possible, incorporating all 'fields of thought' represented by both established and younger Indian writers, as well as by Chinese, 'Persian' and 'Arabian' writers.

Published works: 

Anand, Mulk Raj and Singh, Iqbal (eds), Indian Short Stories (1946)

Gangulee, Nagendranath, Sher Shah: The Bengal Tiger (1946)

Kabir, Humayun, Men and Rivers (1947)

Kabraji, Fredoon (ed.), This Strange Adventure: An Anthology of Poems in English by Indians, 1828-1946 (1947)

Tagore, Rabindranath, Farewell, My Friend, trans. by K. R. Kripalani (1949)


Programme of the New India Publishing Company Limited, endpapers of Anand, Mulk Raj and Singh, Iqbal (eds), Indian Short Stories (1946)


This is the manifesto of the company, stating its objectives and its scope.

Date began: 
01 Jan 1946

For a long time past there has been felt the need of an Indian Publishing House in London organised by Indians. There are Indian organisations in Great Britain which issue from time to time pamphlets, leaflets and news bulletins, but these are for the most part of ephemeral character. These efforts should be supplemented by literature of permanent value written by Indians on various aspects of Indian culture, civilization and particularly on modern trends of thought in relation to Indian renaissance.

But the basis of free and creative cooperation between India and the Western world cannot be securely established without a closer understanding of all progressive movements outside India, the development of which should be interpreted by Indians themselves. In other words, there should be ample facilities not only for the interpretation of Indian problems for the West by Indians but also for their own critical evaluation of the West for the East. Only by such two-way traffic of disseminating ideas can we achieve a definite synthesis between them.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Mulk Raj Anand (editor of Indian Short Stories), D. P. Chaudhuri (founding editor), Enid Furlonger (illustrator of Sher Shah), Nagendranath Gangulee (author of Sher Shah, resident in London in 1945), Fredoon Kabraji (editor of This Strange Adventure), Iqbal Singh (editor of Indian Short Stories).


This passage from the manifesto is evidence of the assertiveness of the Indian writers involved in the foundation of this company. Their emphasis on the need for a publishing house in Britain run by Indians is suggestive of a perception of their status in Britain as equal, endowing them with the right to compete with British publishers on British soil. Indeed their clear advocacy of 'free and creative cooperation between Britain and the Western world', and of the need for 'Indian themselves' to interpret 'progressive movements' and other events in the West, further underlines their understanding of the relationship between India and Britain as one of equals, forged by a 'two-way' dissemination of ideas.

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1950
Precise date ended unknown: 


17 Irving Street Leicester Square
London, WC2H 7AU
United Kingdom

British Museum


The British Museum was established by an Act of Parliament on 7 June 1753, but the origins of the Museum lie with Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), who wanted his collection of more than 71,000 objects, along with his library and herbarium, to be preserved after his death. On 15 January 1759, the British Museum opened to the public and access to view the collections became possible. The round Reading Room at the centre of the museum was constructed from 1854 to 1857.

It is this Reading Room which was frequented by a number of South Asians and their English friends. An article in the Star in January 1926 describes the constituency of the Reading Room thus: ‘From the Centre Desk…to the circumference, long tables radiate like the spokes of a spider’s web; and here sit hundreds of human flies, male and female, black, white, yellow and brown; some digging hard in pursuit of knowledge and scratching their heads at the hard words, others curled up and sleeping like babes’ (quoted in Harris, p. 29).

On his arrival in Britain as a student in 1888, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi used the Reading Room. Other South Asian users include Fredoon Kabraji, Sasadhar Sinha, mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, Cedric Dover, Aubrey Menen, the writer Mulk Raj Anand and his friend Nikhil Sen. Jomo Kenyatta also frequented the Reading Room when he studied at the London School of Economics.

In Conversations in Bloomsbury (1981), Anand relates a meeting between himself, his friend Nikhil Sen and literary critic Bonamy Dobree in the Museum Tavern. Anand also records meetings with Aldous Huxley, Laurence Binyon (who was Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum at the time) and Emily Richardson in the Reading Room.

Secondary works: 

Anand, Mulk Raj, Conversations in Bloomsbury (London: Wildwood House, 1981)

Barwick, George Frederick, The Reading Room of the British Museum (London: Ernest Benn, 1929)

British Museum, British Museum Reading Room, 1857-1957: Centenary Exhibition, etc. (London, 1957)

Caygill, Marjorie L., The British Museum Reading Room (London: Published for the Trustees of the British Museum, 2000)

Crook, Joseph M., The British Museum (London: Allen Lane, 1972)

Esdaile, Arundell, The British Museum Library: A Short History and Survey (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1946)

Fortescue, George K., A Guide to the Use of the Reading Room (London, 1912)

Harris, P. R., The Reading Room (London: British Library, 1979)

Harris, P. R., A History of the British Museum Library, 1753-1973 (London: British Library, 1998)

Hunt, James D., Gandhi in London (New Delhi: Promilla & Co., 1978)
Menen, Aubrey, Dead Man in the Silver Market: An Autobiographical Essay on National Pride (London: Chatto & Windus, 1954)
Miller, Edward, Prince of Librarians: The Life and Times of Antonio Panizzi of the British Museum (London: Andre Deutsch, 1967)
Miller, Edward, That Noble Cabinet: A History of the British Museum (London: Andre Deutsch, 1973)
Peddie, Robert Alexander, The British Museum Reading Room: A Handbook for Students (London: Grafton & Co., 1912)
Penn, J., For Readers Only (London: Chapman & Hall, 1936)
Date began: 
07 Jun 1753
Key Individuals' Details: 

Laurence Binyon (Keeper of Prints and Drawings), Sir Hans Sloane (founder).

Archive source: 

Readers' signature books, applications for admission (including testimonials) and various indexes, British Museum Archives


Great Russell Street
London, WC1B 3DG
United Kingdom

Progressive Writers' Association


The Progressive Writers’ Association was established in London in 1935 by Indian writers and intellectuals, with the encouragement and support of some British literary figures. It was in the Nanking Restaurant in central London that a group of writers, including Mulk Raj Anand, Sajjad Zaheer and Jyotirmaya Ghosh drafted a manifesto which stated their aims and objectives: ‘Radical changes are taking place in Indian society…We believe that the new literature of India must deal with the basic problems of our existence to-day – the problems of hunger and poverty, social backwardness, and political subjection. All that drags us down to passivity, inaction and un-reason we reject as re-actionary. All that arouses in us the critical spirit, which examines institutions and customs in the light of reason, which helps us to act, to organize ourselves, to transform, we accept as progressive’ (Anand, pp. 20-21). Comprising mainly Oxford, Cambridge and London university students, the group met once or twice a month in London to discuss and criticize articles and stories.

The PWA built on the foundation of the controversial collection of stories titled Anghare, published in 1932 and edited by Sajjad Zaheer, with contributions also from Ahmed Ali, Mahmuduzzafar and Rashid Jahan. This volume, which provoked considerable hostility in India and was eventually banned because of its political radicalism and also, according to some, obscenity, was influenced by the radical and literary avant-garde movements in Britain, where both Zaheer and Ali had spent some time studying.

In his memoirs, Zaheer claims the leftist writer Ralph Fox was particularly influential in encouraging the formal organization of the group in London. Anand and Zaheer’s attendance of the International Congress for the Defence of Culture in Paris on 21-6 June 1935, with its emphasis on freedom of expression and the interrelationship between art and society, was also an influence. On the peripheries of this congress, Anand went on to present an address at the Conference of the International Association of Writers for the Defence of Culture in London on 19-23 June 1936. The meeting was organized by the International Association of Writers for the Defence of Culture which aimed to stimulate translations and seek publication of works which were censored in the country of the author, as well as to set up a foundation for a world award, and fight, through culture, against war and fascism. Anand and Zaheer internalized much of what was said at these congresses which shaped the central issues of concern for the PWA.

In 1935, Zaheer left London for India via Paris taking the beginnings of the organization back to India for development. The All-India Progressive Writers’ Association had its official inaugural meeting in Lucknow on 9-10 April 1936, with the writer Premchand presiding. The organization continued to campaign for independence and advocate social equality through their writings. It was unfortunately riven by tensions between a desire to strengthen the links of the organization with Communism, and an opposition to this. Those in the latter camp, such as Ahmed Ali, voiced the dangers of the reduction of literature to a vehicle for propaganda. The PWA continued after independence but is said to have lost some of its energy in its later years.

Published works: 

New Indian Literature 1 (London, 1936)

Zaheer, Sajjad (ed.) Anghare (‘Burning Coals’) (1932)


Zaheer, Sajjad, ‘Reminiscences’, in S. Pradhan (ed.) Marxist Cultural Movement in India, Vol. 1 (Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1979)

Other names: 

Progressive Writers' Group

All-India Progressive Writers' Association

Secondary works: 

Anand, Mulk Raj, ‘On the Progressive Writers’ Movement’, in S. Pradhan (ed.) Marxist Cultural Movement in India, Vol. 1 (Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1979)

Coppola, Carlo, ‘The All-India Progressive Writers Association: The European Phase’, in Coppola (ed.) Marxist Influences and South Asian Literature, Vol. 1 (Winter 1974; Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan), pp. 1-34

Gopal, Priyamvada, Literary Radicalism in India: Gender, Nation and the Transition to Independence (London and New York: Routledge, 2005)

Zaheer, Sajjad, The Light: The History of the Movement for Progressive Literature in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)


In this piece, Zaheer recalls the formation and development of the Progressive Writers’ Association.

Date began: 
24 Nov 1934

We knew from the beginning that living in London we could neither influence Indian literature nor create any good literature ourselves. Side by side with our realising the advantages of forming the association in London, this feeling was strengthened. A few exiled Indians could do little more than draw up plans among themselves and produce an orphanlike literature under the influence of European culture. The most important thing that we learnt in Europe was that a progressive writers’ movement could bear fruits only when it is propagated in various languages and when the writers of India realise the necessity of this movement and put into practice its aims and objects. The best that the London Association could do was to put us in contact with the progressive literary movements abroad, to represent Indian literature in the West and to interpret for India the thoughts of Western writers and the social problems which were profoundly influencing Western literature.

Key Individuals' Details: 

Ahmed Ali (founding member, contributed to Anghare), Mulk Raj Anand (founding member, drafted manifesto), Hajrah Begum, Prem Chand (first President), Ismat Chugtai, Anil D’Silva, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Jyotirmaya Ghosh (founding member, helped to draft manifesto), Rashid Jahan (founding member, contributed to Anghare), Mahmuduzzafar (founding member, contributed to Anghare), Saadat Hasan Manto, Taseer (attended London meetings), Sajjad Zaheer (founding member, edited Anghare and helped to draft manfesto).


This passage outlines both the importance and the limitations of the location of the foundation of the PWA in London. London was formative to the Association in so far as the European avant-garde movement encountered there by its protagonists, as well as European political events (i.e., the rise of Fascism), instigated and helped to shape its development. Further, the distance of London from India arguably enabled the articulation of a more radical and critical politics than would have been possible within India. However, Zaheer’s notion of an ‘orphanlike’ literature, or a literature in exile, highlights the problematic detachment of the production in Britain of a socially and politically engaged Indian literature from its key concerns and preoccupations.


Suniti Kumar Chatterji, E. M. Forster, Ralph Fox, Attia Hosain, Aldous Huxley, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Herbert Read, John Strachey.

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1956
Precise date ended unknown: 


Nanking Restaurant
Denmark Street
London, WC2H 8LX
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

Founding meeting; Nanking Restaurant, London; 24 November 1934.

International Congress for the Defence of Culture, Paris; 21-6 June 1935 (Anand and Zaheer attend; formative to aims of association).

Official inauguration of the All-India Progressive Writers’ Association, Lucknow, April 1936.

Conference of International Association of Writers for the Defence of Culture, London; 19-23 June 1936 (Anand presents address).


Subscribe to RSS - literature