Lucknow. In the course of her book she gives only one date, September 18, 1825, when her husband held the post of Tahsildar, or sub-collector of revenue, at Kanauj in the British district of Farrukhabad. No records bearing on his career as a British official are forthcoming. Another Lucknow tradition states that on his arrival at the Court of Oudh from England he was, on the recommendation of the Resident, appointed to a post in the King's service on a salary of Rs. 300 per annum. Subsequently he fell into disgrace and was obliged to retire to Farrukhabad with the court eunuch, Nawab Mu'tamad-ud-daula, Agha Mir.
With the restoration of Agha Mir to power, Hasan 'Ali returned to Lucknow, and was granted a life pension of Rs. 100 per mensem for his services as Darogha at the Residency, and in consideration of his negotiations between the King and the British Government or the East India Company.
From the information collected at Lucknow it appears that he was known as Mir Londoni, 'the London gentleman', and that he was appointed Safir, or Attaché, at the court of King Ghazi-ud-din Haidar, who conferred upon him the title of Maslaha-ud-daula, 'Counsellor of State'. By another account he held the post of Mir Munshi, head native clerk or secretary to the British Resident.
One of the most influential personages in the court of Oudh during this period was that stormy petrel of politics, Nawab Hakim Mehndi. He had been the right-hand man of the Nawab Sa'adat Ali, and on the accession of his son Ghazi-ud-din Haidar in 1814 he was dismissed on the ground that he had incited the King to protest against interference in Oudh affairs by the Resident, Colonel Baillie. The King at the last moment became frightened at the prospect of an open rupture with the Resident. Nawab Hakim Mehndi was deprived of all his public offices and of much of his property, and he was imprisoned for a time. On his release he retired into British territory, and in 1824 he was living in magnificent style at Fatehgarh. In that year Bishop Heber visited Lucknow and received a courteous letter from the Nawab inviting him to his house at Fatehgarh. He gave the Bishop an assurance 'that he had an English housekeeper, who knew perfectly well how to do the honours of his establishment to gentlemen of her own nation. (She is, in fact, a singular female, who became the wife of one of the Hindustani professors at Hertford, now the Hukeem's dewan, and bears, I believe, a very respectable character.)' The authoress makes no reference to Hakim Mehndi, nor to the fact that she and her husband were in his employment.
The cause of her final departure from India is stated by W. Knighton in a highly coloured sketch of court life in the days of King Nasir-ud-daula, The Private Life of an Eastern King, published in 1855. 'Mrs. Meer Hassan was an English lady who married a Lucknow noble during a visit to England. She spent twelve years with him in India, and did not allow him to exercise a Moslem's privilege of a plurality of wives. Returning to England afterwards on account of her health, she did not again rejoin him.' The jealousy between rival wives in a polygamous Musalman household is notorious. 'A rival may be good, but her son never: a rival even if she be made of dough is intolerable: the malice of a rival is known to everybody: wife upon wife and heartburnings'—such are the common proverbs which define the situation. But if her separation from her husband was really due to this cause, it is curious that in her book she notes as a mark of a good wife that she is tolerant of such arrangements. 'She receives him [her husband] with undisguised pleasure, although she has just before learned that another member has been added to his well-peopled harem. The good and forbearing wife, by this line of conduct, secures to herself the confidence of her husband, who, feeling assured that the amiable woman has an interest in his happiness, will consult her and take her advice in the domestic affairs of his children by other wives, and even arrange by her judgement all the settlements for their marriages, &c. He can speak of other wives without restraint—for she knows he has others—and her education has taught her that they deserve her respect in proportion as they contribute to her husband's happiness.'
It is certainly noticeable that she says very little about her husband beyond calling him in a conventional way 'an excellent husband' and 'a dutiful, affectionate son'. There is no indication that her husband accompanied her on her undated visit to Delhi, when she was received in audience by the King, Akbar II, and the Queen, who were then living in a state of semi-poverty. She tells us that they 'both appeared, and expressed themselves, highly gratified with the visit of an English lady, who could explain herself in their language without embarrassment, or the assistance of an interpreter, and who was the more interesting to them from the circumstance of being the wife of a Syaad'.
From inquiries made at Lucknow it has been ascertained that Mir Hasan 'Ali had no children by his English wife. By one or more native wives he had three children: a daughter, Fatimah Begam, who married a certain Mir Sher 'Ali, of which marriage one or more descendants are believed to be alive; and two sons, Mir Sayyid 'Ali or Miran Sahib, said to have served the British Government as a Tahsildar, whose grandson is now living at Lucknow, and Mir Sayyid Husain, who became a Risaldar, or commander of a troop, in one of the Oudh Irregular Cavalry Regiments. One of his descendants, Mir Agha 'Ali Sahib, possesses some landed property which was probably acquired by the Risaldar. After the annexation of Oudh Mir Hasan 'Ali is said to have been paid a pension of Rs. 100 per mensem till his death in 1863.
It is also worthy of remark that she carefully avoids any reference to the palace intrigues and maladministration which prevailed in Oudh during the reigns of Ghazi-ud-din Haidar and Nasir-ud-din Haidar, who occupied the throne during her residence at Lucknow. She makes a vague apology for the disorganized state of the country: 'Acts of oppression may sometimes occur in Native States without the knowledge even, and much less by the command of, the Sovereign ruler, since the good order of the government mainly depends on the disposition of the Prime Minister for the time being'—a true remark, but no defence for the conduct of the weak princes who did nothing to suppress corruption and save their subjects from oppression.
Little is known of the history of Mrs. Mir Hasan 'Ali after her arrival in England. It has been stated that she was attached in some capacity to the household of the Princess Augusta, who died unmarried on September 22, 1840. This is probable, because the list of subscribers to her book is headed by Queen Adelaide, the Princess Augusta, and other ladies of the Royal Family. She must have been in good repute among Anglo-Indians, because several well-known names appear in the list: H.T. Colebrooke, G.C. Haughton, Mordaunt Ricketts and his wife, and Colonel J. Tod.
The value of the book rests on the fact that it is a record of the first-hand experiences of an English lady who occupied the exceptional position of membership of a Musalman family. She tells us nothing of her friends in Lucknow, but she had free access to the houses of respectable Sayyids, and thus gained ample facilities for the study of the manners and customs of Musalman families. Much of her information on Islam was obtained from her husband and his father, both learned, travelled gentlemen, and by them she was treated with a degree of toleration unusual in a Shi'ah household, this sect being rigid and often fanatical followers of Islam. She was allowed to retain a firm belief in the Christian religion, and she tells us that Mir Haji Shah delighted in conversing on religious topics, and that his happiest time was