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WHEN I scribbled off the first chapter of the following work, I had little idea of the length to which it would run; and still less, that I should now be writing a preface to a goodly-sized volume. Haying been favored with some share of the public attention, I must now ask for a little more, while I tell enough of the birth and parentage of the present volume, to accredit the statements therein contained.
I have passed a great part of my life in India, and witnessed quite my share of the stirring scenes of the last twenty years : the history and statistics of this country had long been a favorite study and recreation ; a labor of love, to which I returned with fresh interest when less congenial avocations had suspended the pursuit. In my vanity I fancied I knew something of the status of our Indian empire, yet at that very time I was not aware that
Army of the Indus,” when it reached Ludianâ in 1838, would make its very next march in the Lâhaur territory. I have since met with men, long resident in the North-Western Provinces, and not generally ill-informed, who did not know that the Sikh Government had any dominions south of the Sutluj, and as may be supposed, still more ignorant of affairs on the other side of that river.
The consideration of this ignorance was working in my mind, without either the thought of authorship or leisure for it, when, one evening, sitting at home, and reading a recent work on India which had become popular, though not very original or profound, the notion, “ and I too am a painter,” came into my mind, and taking up a sheet of paper, I scribbled off the first chapter of Bellasis. A friend who was by, read and approved; and with this encouragement two or three more chapters were soon written.
There is seldom a long step between writing and publishing i • The Adventurer in the Panjab” appeared in the Delhi Gazette ; the Editor asked for more, and more, and more and thus was the Adventurer led on, step by step; Bellasis himself and his persona adventures being purely fictitious, but the slight story serving as a vehicle to convey some illustrations of the border, its people, and rulers.
A few words, to distinguish fact from fiction in the following pages, may not be amiss. My personal knowledge of Láhaur hardly exceeds what is assigned to Bellasis, in the first chapter, but a brief view gives life and reality to ideas with which the mind has previously been familiar. Kângrâ I have not seen, but I took much pains to acquire the information requisite to give a faithful picture of that remarkable place. Raj Kôt is entirely imaginary ; I wished to describe Ryiâsî, a stronghold belonging to Raja Dhyân Singh, but not being able to collect materials for a correct description, I invented a name, and imagined a place, such as might give an idea of the power of the Raja, and of the means at his disposal.
In the endeavours of Bellasis for the good of his subjects, I wished to sketch what I know to have been attempted, in another quarter, for a people as wild and impracticable as those of Kot Kângrâ : the character of the hero himself was suggested by intercourse with some of the foreign officers in Ranjît's service, though he is not intended to represent any one of them. Chând Khân is meant to personate an intelligent Native, with whom I have had a good deal of intercourse ; though I hope no such fate as that of the Multânî awaits my little friend, as I am not aware of his having done any thing to merit it.
The characters who bear real names, are intended as portraits ; many of the incidents they figure in are real, though not occurring exactly at the times and places here assigned to them. What is put into the mouth of the Maharajah is almost all imaginary, but many of the conversations with Azizûdîn really took place. For the romance of the story, the sole fact on which it rests is, that the Chief of Kangra had daughters, one of whom was sought by Raja Dhyân Singh, and that the father indignantly refused what he considered a degrading alliance.
The historical passages are chiefly taken from Forster, Malcolm, Prinsep, and Burnes, and I once for all acknowledge how largely I have used these authorities, too frequently, indeed, to admit of reference at every place. Some few facts rest on native authority, and with the above are interwoven notes, taken at different times, in the course of much opportunity for observation.
Little remains for the author to disclose, or the reader to know. The Adventurer makes no pretension to laboured disquisition or folio learning, professing only to give some popular outlines of an interesting tract, that has hitherto been little explored.