Though not a particularly scholarly work, John Pemble’s book explores new arenas in the fashionable subject of the 1857 uprising. The first part of the book, entitled the ‘City’, is an eminently readable depiction of the Court life of Lucknow, with interesting observations on the emergence and themes of Urdu poetry that flourished in the Court of Oudh. It comments with insight on the particular styles of many well-known and the lesser-known poets of the time, and ably traces the gradual decadence and lack of profundity that came to characterize Urdu ‘culture’ in the 19th century. One wishes that the original Urdu had been given for the many poems and ghazals quoted. (Much of the original seems to have been lost in translation, especially in view of the author’s penchant to rhyme the verses). The main drawback of this portion is the conspicuous absence of any attempt to depict the life of the common people of Oudh. Life after all did not revolve around a fast-degenerating Court alone.
Mar-Apr-May-June 1980, volume 4, No 3/4/5/6