Wrong C. Kennedy?

Last Updated 2/24/2009

General Information

Employment History

Commanding Officer  - Sabathu

Librarian  - Asiatic Society of Bengal

Kanum

Affiliations

Founder  - Simla

Web References  

The Hungarian Who Walked to Heaven - Fox Edward - Benvenuto nella libreria di Marco Vasta - la più grande bibliografia e libreria di viaggi

In 1830, a young French aristocrat and naturalist named Victor Jacquemont, travelling in northern India on a mission for the Natural History Museum of Paris to explore the Himalayan regions, wrote an admiring description of Captain C. P. Kennedy, the commanding officer at Sabathu, in a letter to his father.
Kennedy was the founder of Simla, the picturesque summer resort which from 1865 until the end of the Raj served as the administrative capital of India during the hot summer months. His taste for luxury and the style he brought to military life in this distant outpost of British power greatly appealed to his aristocratic guest. Captain Kennedy's immediate response on setting eyes on this extraordinary visitor, who spoke heavily accented English, carried no recognizable passport but claimed to be Hungarian, and who was dressed, as far as he could tell, like an Indian beggar, was to order him to change into smarter clothing. Csoma reappeared wearing the only European clothes he still possessed, a Hungarian national costume, consisting of baggy trousers and a long tailed coat with a waistcoat underneath. Csoma wore this incongruous outfit every day throughout his stay at Sabathu, in hot weather and cold. Csoma expected, on his arrival at Sabathu, to be welcomed as a prodigal son, returning to his British patrons to show, with abundant evidence, that he had diligently fulfilled the contract he had made with their representative, William Moorcroft. Instead, to his dismay, his appearance was met with puzzlement, amusement and suspicion. No one knew who he was or what to do with him. Instead of being feted, he was held under a form of house arrest. On November 28th, 1824, two days after his arrival, Captain Kennedy wrote to the regional headquarters at Ambala, "an European traveller, who gives his name as Alexander Csoma de Körös, a subject of Hungary, has arrived at this post. Two months after Csoma's arrival at Sabathu, Captain Kennedy asked him to write an account of everywhere he had been since leaving his native Hungary and to state the purpose of his journey. The result was the eight-page letter addressed to Captain Kennedy, in legalistically numbered paragraphs, that is the only primary record of Csoma's life. After describing his five years of travel and study, which he does with the colourless accuracy and conciseness of a biologist describing something seen on a microscope slide, disdaining to offer anything but what is required of him, a tone of self-pity slips out when he writes that "At my first entrance to the British Indian territory I was fully persuaded that I should be received as a friend by the Government, because I supposed that my name, my purpose, and my engagement for searching after Tibetan literature, were well known in consequence of Mr. Moorcroft's introductions." As far as Captain Kennedy and his superiors were concerned, even if they knew Moorcroft other than by hearsay, his patronage of Csoma's project - if what the Hungarian had written was true -- was just another of his impractical enthusiasms. After deliberating for five months, Captain Kennedy and Lord Amherst agreed that Csoma was telling the truth about himself and was not travelling "with a view to obtain political information. Like Moorcroft, they saw the sincerity of Csoma's loyalty to the British and that his work on the Tibetan language was of real value. "It may not be improper to state," Kennedy wrote to Lord Amherst, "that Mr. Csoma appears a very unassuming and diffident man. In a letter to his new patron, Captain Kennedy, Csoma expressed his disgust and disappointment with the lamas at Kanum, who were not the kind of Tibetans he was expecting to find at all. They were, he wrote, "half Hindus; they detest and hate the Tibetans on account of their eating beef. In general they are very ignorant, nor can they speak the Tibetan language properly." Faced with this setback, Csoma decided that he had no choice but to try to renew contact with Phuntsog. He left Kanum and trekked northwards back into Zanskar, reaching Phuntsog's home village of Tetha. A bemused Captain Kennedy wrote to Horace Wilson, "He declines any attention I would be most happy to show him, and lives in the most retired manner." Csoma's translation was sent by Captain Kennedy to the regional headquarters at Ambala, and from there to Delhi. One of the oddest encounters in the annals of exploration took place the following year, when Csoma was visited by Victor Jacquemont, the young French naturalist who had earlier been the guest of Captain Kennedy at Sabathu. Kennedy had suggested that the Frenchman pay Csoma a visit, so in July 1830, Jacquemont arrived at Kanum to call on the hermit scholar with accompanied by a retinue of sixty-one Gurkha soldiers, servants and porters. A few months after Jacquemont's visit, Csoma wrote to Captain Kennedy to make arrangements to travel to Calcutta with his boxes of printed Tibetan texts and manuscripts, the fruit of eight years' labour. There is no record, of course, of how Csoma accomplished the 1,100 mile journey from Kanum to Calcutta, bringing with him his store of literary treasures, except that Kennedy sent him 500 rupees for the purpose, which must have enabled him to travel in greater comfort than he was used to. He arrived in Calcutta in April 1831, where he was appointed to the post of librarian at the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and given a room in the Society's headquarters, a large building in what is now downtown Calcutta. If he thought that here at last he could find recognition and solace, he was mistaken: his old adversary, the Secretary of the Asiatic Society, Horace Wilson, who had argued that there was no benefit in paying Csoma solely to complete his Tibetan works, insisted as a condition of his employment that he devote himself not to his own projects but to cataloguing the hundreds of Tibetan books that had been sent to the Society by the British Resident in the Nepalese capital Katmandu, B. H. Hodgson. Csoma accepted this but typically refused to accept the modest salary the Society offered him, preferring to subsist at poverty level on the savings he still had after his three years in Kanum.

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Benvenuto nella libreria di Marco Vasta

In 1830, a young French aristocrat and naturalist named Victor Jacquemont, travelling in northern India on a mission for the Natural History Museum of Paris to explore the Himalayan regions, wrote an admiring description of Captain C. P. Kennedy, the commanding officer at Sabathu, in a letter to his father. Kennedy was the founder of Simla, the picturesque summer resort which from 1865 until the end of the Raj served as the administrative capital of India during the hot summer months.His taste for luxury and the style he brought to military life in this distant outpost of British power greatly appealed to his aristocratic guest. Captain Kennedy's immediate response on setting eyes on this extraordinary visitor, who spoke heavily accented English, carried no recognizable passport but claimed to be Hungarian, and who was dressed, as far as he could tell, like an Indian beggar, was to order him to change into smarter clothing.Csoma reappeared wearing the only European clothes he still possessed, a Hungarian national costume, consisting of baggy trousers and a long tailed coat with a waistcoat underneath.Csoma wore this incongruous outfit every day throughout his stay at Sabathu, in hot weather and cold. Csoma expected, on his arrival at Sabathu, to be welcomed as a prodigal son, returning to his British patrons to show, with abundant evidence, that he had diligently fulfilled the contract he had made with their representative, William Moorcroft.Instead, to his dismay, his appearance was met with puzzlement, amusement and suspicion.No one knew who he was or what to do with him.Instead of being feted, he was held under a form of house arrest. On November 28th, 1824, two days after his arrival, Captain Kennedy wrote to the regional headquarters at Ambala, "an European traveller, who gives his name as Alexander Csoma de Körös, a subject of Hungary, has arrived at this post.Two months after Csoma's arrival at Sabathu, Captain Kennedy asked him to write an account of everywhere he had been since leaving his native Hungary and to state the purpose of his journey.The result was the eight-page letter addressed to Captain Kennedy, in legalistically numbered paragraphs, that is the only primary record of Csoma's life. After describing his five years of travel and study, which he does with the colourless accuracy and conciseness of a biologist describing something seen on a microscope slide, disdaining to offer anything but what is required of him, a tone of self-pity slips out when he writes that "At my first entrance to the British Indian territory I was fully persuaded that I should be received as a friend by the Government, because I supposed that my name, my purpose, and my engagement for searching after Tibetan literature, were well known in consequence of Mr. Moorcroft's introductions." As far as Captain Kennedy and his superiors were concerned, even if they knew Moorcroft other than by hearsay, his patronage of Csoma's project - if what the Hungarian had written was true -- was just another of his impractical enthusiasms. After deliberating for five months, Captain Kennedy and Lord Amherst agreed that Csoma was telling the truth about himself and was not travelling "with a view to obtain political information."Like Moorcroft, they saw the sincerity of Csoma's loyalty to the British and that his work on the Tibetan language was of real value. "It may not be improper to state," Kennedy wrote to Lord Amherst, "that Mr. Csoma appears a very unassuming and diffident man.In a letter to his new patron, Captain Kennedy, Csoma expressed his disgust and disappointment with the lamas at Kanum, who were not the kind of Tibetans he was expecting to find at all.They were, he wrote, "half Hindus; they detest and hate the Tibetans on account of their eating beef.In general they are very ignorant, nor can they speak the Tibetan language properly." Faced with this setback, Csoma decided that he had no choice but to try to renew contact with Phuntsog.He left Kanum and trekked northwards back into Zanskar, reaching Phuntsog's home village of Tetha.A bemused Captain Kennedy wrote to Horace Wilson, "He declines any attention I would be most happy to show him, and lives in the most retired manner." Csoma's translation was sent by Captain Kennedy to the regional headquarters at Ambala, and from there to Delhi. One of the oddest encounters in the annals of exploration took place the following year, when Csoma was visited by Victor Jacquemont, the young French naturalist who had earlier been the guest of Captain Kennedy at Sabathu.Kennedy had suggested that the Frenchman pay Csoma a visit, so in July 1830, Jacquemont arrived at Kanum to call on the hermit scholar with accompanied by a retinue of sixty-one Gurkha soldiers, servants and porters.A few months after Jacquemont's visit, Csoma wrote to Captain Kennedy to make arrangements to travel to Calcutta with his boxes of printed Tibetan texts and manuscripts, the fruit of eight years' labour. There is no record, of course, of how Csoma accomplished the 1,100 mile journey from Kanum to Calcutta, bringing with him his store of literary treasures, except that Kennedy sent him 500 rupees for the purpose, which must have enabled him to travel in greater comfort than he was used to.He arrived in Calcutta in April 1831, where he was appointed to the post of librarian at the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and given a room in the Society's headquarters, a large building in what is now downtown Calcutta.If he thought that here at last he could find recognition and solace, he was mistaken: his old adversary, the Secretary of the Asiatic Society, Horace Wilson, who had argued that there was no benefit in paying Csoma solely to complete his Tibetan works, insisted as a condition of his employment that he devote himself not to his own projects but to cataloguing the hundreds of Tibetan books that had been sent to the Society by the British Resident in the Nepalese capital Katmandu, B. H. Hodgson.Csoma accepted this but typically refused to accept the modest salary the Society offered him, preferring to subsist at poverty level on the savings he still had after his three years in Kanum.

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