By: Mukaram Irshad Naqvi
With the crowning of Queen Victoria as Empress of India in the year 1877, the British Empire set its foot firmly in India, taking over from the British East India Company. The interactions between the English and Indian cultures started to grow, especially in the field of literature. During the 1880s, popular English literature was now easily available in major urban centres across the Indian sub-continent. Experimentations in the translations of these works were commissioned to cater to a larger audience in their own languages and this proved to be a huge success within no time.
One of the earliest translations that were carried out from English to Urdu was the translation of Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ and “A Ballad ” in Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield. Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cymbeline, The Tempest (and Lamb’s Tales) were some of the most popular plays to be translated and adapted in Urdu. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, Dr Johnson’s History of Rasselas, Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor and The Talisman, and Marie Corelli’s Vendetta and The Soul of Lilith were also samples of early English literature which got assimilated in Urdu literature in the form of translations.
The writers whose works became popular were Edward Bulwer Lytton, H. Rider Haggard, R. L. Stevenson, Maurice Leblanc, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sax Rohmer, William Le Queux, and Charles Dickens. But it was George William MacArthur Reynolds whose novels created a sensation among the readers and the admiration of his gothic-styled works was swift.
Reynolds’ authorship was praised in the prefaces of some Urdu translations as “A famous story writer of England whose magical writing and sorcerous style had made waves in the all the four corners of the world”, “A writer who creates magic through the weaving of the words” and “King of Novels and Novels for the Kings”.
In this blog post, the influence of the works of G.W.M. Reynolds on Indian literature – especially Urdu novels – is detailed along with the translators and the publishers who did the marvellous work of blending and popularising his works thousands of miles away from his homeland, in another language, maintaining the original flavour. For almost half a century, right from the 1880s to the 1920s, Reynolds remained the most popular British writer in India, more popular than Charles Dickens. With almost the entire corpus of his works translated in another language, one can judge the appeal of this prolific author.
The translations of his works are reproduced below (Note: information has been gathered from the cover pages of the books, and whatever information available has been put down. Many times the information in original Urdu isn’t explicit and most of the time the publication dates aren’t available) :-
- Fasana e Aladin wa Leila (literally, Story of Aladdin and Leila) translated from Leila or Star of Mingrelia by Mohammad Ameer Hasan Tehsildar Rath, District Hamirpur, United Provinces and printed at Munshi Nawal Kishore Press, Lucknow, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh1in the year 1891.
2. Fasana Lawrence o Ruth (lit. Story of Lawrence and Ruth), a translation of The Rye House Plot by Munshi Mohammad Ameer Hasan, then Deputy Collector of District Jalaun, United Provinces and printed at Munshi Naval Kishore Press, Lucknow in the year 1897.
3.“Rosa Lambert” or, the Memoirs of an Unfortunate Woman, translated in Urdu by Mohammed Umrao Beg a.k.a. Mirza Hairat Dehlviwho happened to be the employee of the famous Oudh Akhbar run by Munshi Nawal Kishore. At the request of Munshi Nawal Kishore, Mirza Hairat Dehlvi translated this novel in Urdu but it wasn’t published in his lifetime.Munshi Nawal Kishore died in the year 1885 after which his son2 ,Rai Bahadur Munshi Parag Narain Bhargava, took over the management of the press and this Urdu translation was published by him in the year 1898.
4. Durbar e London (lit. Court of London), the translations of The Mysteries of Court of London translation by Ghulam Qadir “Fasih”, the proprietor and the editor of The Punjab Gazette, were published during the years 1892 till around 1897 at Sialkot, Punjab in numerous volumes.
5.“Wagnor Wansida” a translation of Wagner the Wehr-Wolf, was translated by Munshi Mohammad Ameer Hasan, Tehsildar Rath, District Hamirpur, United Provinces. The translation was commissioned by Munshi Jalpa Prasad, Secretary of the Oudh Akhbar, and was first published as a series in Oudh Akhbar Lucknow. Later it was printed in October 1914, under the aegis of Babu Manohar Lal Bhargava, Superintendent Munshi Nawal Kishore Press, Lucknow.
6. Haram Sara (lit. Harem Palace) a translation of The Loves of the Harem, was translated by Hazrat Riyaz and its printing was supervised by Hafiz Nizam Ahmad, Proprietor of prestigious Riyaz Ul Akhbar Press, Gorakhpur, United Provinces.
7. Sipahi Ki Dulhan, a translation of The Soldier’s Wife was translated by Doctor Lakshmi Dutt under the patronage of Hafiz Fayyaz-ud-din and was printed at the Abu Al Alayee Steam Press Agra, United Provinces.
The Lal Brothers or Babu Pyare Lal Publishers, Lahore was the publishing house managed by Lala Moti Ram. It was from here that most of the translations of the novels of G. W. M Reynolds in Urdu were published and they are as follows:-
8. Fasana-e-London, a translation of The Mysteries of London, (In 18 Volumes) translated by Munshi Teerath Ram Ferozpuri.
9. Fasana-e-London -do-(Second Series in 25 Vols.) translated by Munshi Teerath Ram Ferozpuri.
10. Nazzaro e Paristan (lit. The Scene of the Fairyland), a translation of The Mysteries of the Court of London( In 25 Vols.) by Munshi Teerath Ram Ferozpuri.
11. Khooli Talwar (lit. Bloodthirsty sword), a translation of The Massacre of Glencoe by Munshi Teerath Ram Ferozpuri.
12. Baap ka Qaatil (lit. The Father’s Murderer), a translation of The Parricide or Youth’s Career of Crime by Munshi Shameem-ud-din Balhori.
13. Sham e Ghurbat (lit. Night of Despair), a translation of Pope Joan by Meer Karamat Karamat Ullah Amritsari.
14. Sham Jawani (lit. A Youthful Evening), a translation of The Young Duchess by Munshi Naubat Rai “Nazar” Lakhnawi.
15. Omar Pasha, a translation of Omar by Munshi Ahmaduddin B.A.
16. Sozan Ishq (lit. The Pain of Love), a translation of The Seamstress by Pandit Bishamber Nath.
17. Israr (lit. Secrets), a translation of Necromancer by Munshi Siddiq Ahmad.
18. Qadeem Landan ke Israr (lit. The Secrets of Old London)(in two Volumes), a translation of The Old London done by Munshi Mohammad Ameer Hasan.
19. Sarguzasht (lit. A Narration), a translation of Mary Price by Syed Nawazish Ali.
20. Dhoka ya Tilismi Fanus (lit. Deceit or the Mystical Lantern), a translation of Master Timothy’s Bookcase by Munshi Sajjad Husain.
21. Margret or the Discarded Queen, translated by Munshi Girja Sahai B.A.
22. Israr e Haram (lit. Secret of the Harem) a translation of Loves of the Harem, by Munshi Ahmaduddin B.A.
23. Some stories from the Miscellany translated by Munshi Amjad Husain Khan.
24. Shad Kaam (lit. The Happy Work), a translation of Alfred by Munshi Amjad Husain Khan.
25. Jheel ki Maashooqa (lit. The Lover of the Lake), translated from The Young Fishermen by Lala Deenanath
26. Ghuroor e Husn (lit. Beauty’s Pride) a translation of Agnes by Munshi Teerath Ram Ferozpuri.
27. Gardish Afaq (lit. The Rotation of the Skies), a translation of Joseph Wilmot by Munshi Teerath Ram Ferozpuriprinted in around 28 volumes.
From other publishing houses:
28. Sarah o Clara, a plot based on Mary Price, adaptation was executed by Babu Imdad Husain District Board Clerk, District Shahjahanpur, United Provinces and published in the magazine Payam e Yaar, Lucknow during the period January 1903 to December 1903 and under the patronage of Mohammad Nisar Husain “Nisar”. Later it got published in form of a book at Quami Press, Chowk, Lucknow.
29. Paadash e Amal (lit. Rewards of the actions) was a translation of Kenneth by Maulvi Mohammad Siddiq Hasan editor Dilgudaz and Dilafroz. From April 1916 to March 1917 it appeared as a series in the magazine Dilafroz and after the completion of the series was published in the form of a book at the Dilgudaz Press, Lucknow in the year 1918 under the patronage of Hakeem Mohammad Sirajul Haq, Manager Dilgudaz and Dilafroz.
30. Raaz o Niyaz (lit. Secret Desires) a translation of Canonbury House or The Queen’s Prophecy by Munshi Syed Ashiq Husain “Ashiq” on the request of Munshi Nisar Husain “Nisar”, owner of Qaumi Press and magazine Payam-e-Yaar. It was published in two volumes in the years 1894 and 1895, in Payam-e-Yaar and Qaumi Press Lucknow.
31.“Joseph Wilmot” translated in Urdu by Afsar Siddiqui Amrohavi and published by The General Book Depot and Educational Press Amroha, United Provinces under the arrangement of Lala Madho Ram in three volumes.
32.“Rosa Lambert” translated by Munshi Jay Narain Varma at the behest of Babu Harcharan Das Narain Bhargava in the year 1920 at Nawal Kishore Printing Press, Lucknow, United Provinces.
33. Jannat ul Firdaus (lit. Heaven) translated on the request of Babu Harcharan Das Bhargava from Leila or Star of Mingrelia, arranged by Munshi Debi Prasad and printed at the Jabir Press, Latouche Road, Lucknow
34. Fareb e Husn (lit. Beauty’s Deception), a translation of The Faust by Khwaja Akbar Husain (a resident of the erstwhile princely state of Banganapalle, present Andhra Pradesh, India ) was printed in the year 1925 at Munshi Nawal Kishore Press, Lucknow.
35. Nisar e Ishq (lit. Sacrificed for Love), a translation from The Young Fisherman was organised for printing by Abdul Aziz at the Matba Khadim Ul Taleem Press, Lahore.
36. Do Rangi Duniya (lit. A Hypocritical World) a translation of The Faust by Munshi Teerath Ram Ferozpuri wasprinted at Daira e Adabiya, Lahore.
37. Husn ka Jadoo (lit. The Magic of Beauty)translated from Aristocratic Morals and other chapters of The Mysteries of London by Munshi Teerath Ram Firozpuri was published by Kitabistan, Delhi
38. Tarahdar Mashuqa (lit. A Deceitful Lover), a translation of The Father, translated by Pandit Girdhari Lal was printed at Qadimi Qutbkhana, Lahore.
 Present-day Uttar Pradesh, India.
 adopted son.
 Present-day Punjab, Pakistan
 Sayyid Abdul Latif, Influence of English Literature on Urdu Literature (London: Forster Groom & Co., 1924)
 https://www.rekhta.org/authors/george-w-m-reynolds-3/ebooks (Translations from Urdu by author)
If you are interested in this topic and want to explore further, the following are highly recommended:
Battacharya, Sucheta. “G.W.M. Reynolds: Rewritten in Nineteenth-century Bengal”. Humpherys and James eds. GWM Reynolds: Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Politics and the Press. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008. 247-258.
Joshi, Priya. In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India. Columbia: Columbia UP, 2002.
– Mary L. Shannon
One thought on “Reynolds In Translation”
Kudos to the young and passionate researcher Mr. Mukarram Irshad Naqvi !!!
An informative and thought provoking piece of research work. Proud to see how much literary, translation and transcreation work was going on in the Lucknow of those days !!! That too without dictionries !
How much these translations of English literature have enriched the Urdu language and literature is unimaginable ! I am sure not only Urdu but other Indian languages must have directly or indirectly benefited from the hard work of these early translators.
I once again felicitate the learned author of this article for his hard work, research aptitude and his ease in expressing himself in the language of Shakespeare!
Keep on great work !