Calcutta

Teltscher, "Colonial Correspondence: The Letters of George Bogle from Bengal, Bhutan and Tibet, 1770-81"

George Bogle was the first British envoy (and first British traveller) from India to Bhutan and Tibet in 1774-5. His letters home provide an exceptional account of British life in Calcutta of the 1770s and a fascinating record of the first mission to Bhutan and Tibet. He is best known for the narrative of his friendship with the third Panchen Lama of Tibet, apparently a relationship of mutual respect and affection which developed during Bogle's five-month stay. This essay explores the multiple, often incompatible, personae which Bogle adopts in his letters home. Writing to his father and brothers, Bogle represents himself as an ambitious, politically astute careerist; to his sisters, as a charming, self-denigrating dilettante. His letters to his sisters are filled with nostalgic invocations of childhood, but this domestic space must also accommodate unfamiliar cultures. In what guise is the Orient admitted to the home? By asking such questions, by tracing Bogle's various epistolary identities, we may catch the process of textual, social and colonial self-fashioning at work.
November 2000

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