Arnold, Sir Edwin


1897 receipt for $32 belated payment for copyright signed by Arnold


Type: Document
Description: (1832-1904) English poet and journalist most known for his 1879 work The Light of Asia.

Educated at King’s College London and University College, Oxford, Arnold became an educator in India, which influenced his literary endeavors. He was an editor and editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph for 40 years and, for facilitating Henry M. Stanley’s exploration of Africa, Stanley named a mountain NE of Albert Edward Nyanza after him.

Arnold’s poem, The Light of Asia, an exploration of Buddhist philosophy through the life of Prince Gautama, earned him widespread acclaim. Despite its success, later attempts to emulate its triumph with The Light of the World, centered on Jesus Christ, faced mixed reception. Arnold must also be credited with the 1st idea of a great trunk line traversing the African continent; he first employed the phrase “Cape to Cairo railway” in 1874, later popularized by Cecil Rhodes.

It was as a poet that he was best known to his contemporaries. The literary task he set before him was the interpretation in English verse of the life and philosophy of the East. His chief work, The Light of Asia, or The Great Renunciation, a poem of 8 books in blank verse, was translated into various languages incl. Hindi. In it, he attempted through an imaginary Buddhist votary to depict the life, character and philosophy of Prince Gautama, founder of Buddhism. It appeared in 1879 and was an immediate success, with numerous editions in England and America. It is an Indian epic dealing with the life and teaching of the Buddha. It had 2 lines of criticism: Oriental scholars held that it gave a false impression of Buddhist doctrine; devout Christians were offended by the suggested analogy between the Buddha and Jesus.

The latter criticism probably suggested to Arnold a 2nd narrative poem of which the central figure should be Jesus. Though The Light of the World (1891) had considerable poetic merit, it lacked the novelty of theme and setting which gave the earlier poem much of its attractiveness; it failed to repeat the success of The Light of Asia. Arnold’s other principal volumes of poetry were Indian Song of Songs (1875) ,  Pearls of the Faith (1883), The Song Celestial (1885, which produced a well-known poetic rendering of the sacred Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita), With Sa’di in the Garden (1888), Potiphar’s Wife (1892), Adzuma, or The Japanese Wife (1893), and Indian Poetry (1904).

Sir Edwin was appointed CSI on proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India in 1877 and knighted in 1888 as KCIE. He was also decorated by the rulers of Japan, Persia, Turkey, and Siam. He was a founder of the Mahabodi Society of India and a close associate of Weligama Sri Sumangaia. A vegetarian, he was vice-president of the West London Food Reform Society, a vegetarian group based in Bayswater, founded in 1891, with Mahatma Gandhi as secretary; it dissolved as soon as Gandhi left Bayswater.

2 ½ x 6 ¼ DS, London, printed receipt of Roberts Brothers, Publishers, London, February 5, 1897, for $32 for copyright due to January 1, 1897 “as per statement” printed; Arnold adds “and your letter of 23 Jany 1897” as well as day and month at top.

Roberts Brothers (1857–1898) were 19th century Boston bookbinders and publishers. American authors included: Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, Julia Ward Howe, amongst others. British and European authors included: Arnold, William Morris, Adelaide Ristori, and George Sand, amongst others. As publishers, the Roberts Brothers made their name in 1868 with the publication of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a best-seller. Little, Brown bought the firm in 1898.

Condition: Very good

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