Original Letters from India

Original Letters from India

By Eliza Fay; Simon Winchester (Introduction by); E. M. Forster (Annotations by)

New York Review of Books, Paperback, 9781590173367, 288pp.

Publication Date: February 2, 2010

Eliza Fay's origins are obscure; she was not beautiful, rich, or outlandishly accomplished. Yet the letters she wrote from her 1779 voyage across the globe captivated E. M. Forster, who arranged for their British publication in 1925. The letters have been delighting readers ever since with their truth-is-stranger-than-fiction twists and turns, their earthy humor, and their depiction of an indomitable woman.
When the intrepid Mrs. Fay departed from Dover more than two hundred years ago, she embarked on a grueling twelve-month journey through much of Europe, up the Nile, over the deserts of Egypt, and finally across the ocean to India. Along the way her party encountered wars, territorial disputes, brigands, and even imprisonment.
Fay was a contemporary of Jane Austen, but her adventures are worthy of a novel by Daniel Defoe. These letters--unfiltered, forthright, and often hilarious--bring the perils and excitements of an earlier age to life.

About the Author

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, Atlantic, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa. In 2006, Mr. Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He lives in western Massachusetts.

Edward Morgan Forster's most homosexual works are the two published posthumously, his novel Maurice, written in 1913 but not published until 1971, and a collection of short stories titled The Life to Come. Forster's other works were published as he wrote them. None contained overtly homosexual themes, although what readers would now refer to as a "gay sensibility" is present in all. Forster was a prolific writer in his youth but ceased to write at age forty-five. Forster never married and was well-known among his friends to be homosexual. However, he remained celibate until the age of thirty-eight when he visited Egypt and had sex with a wounded soldier he met on the beach. He lived a closeted life, but eventually enjoyed a loving relationship with a married policeman named Bob Buckingham. The two met when Forster was fifty-one, Buckingham twenty-eight, and the relationship lasted forty years. Before meeting Buckingham, Forster had much briefer affairs with another policeman and a bus driver.

Praise For Original Letters from India

“The Letters put Raiders of the Lost Ark in the category of timid and passive inactivity.” —The Courier-Mail

“In [the letters] we discover India through a woman blessed with unusual vitality and great humanity, a lively eye and a sharp ear. . . . In her exuberant presence we quickly come to see why Forster rated her ‘a work of art.'"—Francis Robinson, History Today

“Born in a country where caste was life, she had no caste to speak of, and she had no husband worth mentioning in an age when a woman could scarcely survive without one. Yet she survived. . . . Her sharp unsentimental middle-class eyes saw through the vanities of this world.” —Katherine Anne Porter, The New Republic

“Were she only frank and naïve, it would be something, but she is much more: a soul courageous and gallant, an eye and ear always on the watch. . . . Though [her letters] have value historically, their main interest is human: they show us a highly remarkable character, triumphant over the difficulties of life and narrative style.” —E. M. Forster