«ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: TYRANT! TIPU SULTAN AND THE RECONCEPTION OF BRITISH IMPERIAL IDENTITY, 1780-1800 Michael Soracoe, Doctor of ...»
Like Singleton, Mather Brown also painted an imaginary scene of Tipu’s sons leaving their father, taking the opportunity again to apply the label of tyrant to the Sultan and depict him as a heartless parent. The Departure of the Sons of Tipu from the Zenana provided Brown’s interpretation of the departure of Tipu’s sons; Tipu bends towards the princes on the left side of the picture, gesturing as he attempts to persuade his sons to consign themselves willingly to British captivity [Figure 6].133 Tipu is cast as an unalloyed villain, wearing dark robes and hunching over at the waist. The Sultan is further depicted as a master manipulator, appearing amongst women, children, and servants, all of whom the painting suggests that Tipu was willing to sacrifice for the sake of political gain. Constance McPhee has argued that this scene is in fact based on a famous painting of Richard III, designed to portray Tipu as a completely ruthless
[Brown] modeled Tipu’s pose and expression on a well-known representation of Richard III, and compared the plight of the sultan’s sons to Richard’s persecuted nephews, the Little Princes in the Tower. By equating Tipu with one of England’s most venal kings, Brown shifted the implied blame for the captivity of the Indian princes onto their father’s shoulders. As a result, Cornwallis, who actually instigated the hostage plan, could assume the role of beneficent liberator of Mysore.134 Hermione de Almeida and George Gilpin. Indian Renaissance: British Romantic Art and the Prospect of India (2005): 151 Mather Brown, Departure of the Sons of Tipu from the Zenana (1793). Engraving, Walter Collection.
Constance McPhee. “Tipu Sultan of Mysore and British Medievalism in the Paintings of Mather Brown” in Orientalism Transposed. Dianne Sachko MacLeod and Julie F. Codell (1998): 202 This opinion was supported by a pair of Indian art historians, who examined the same work and concluded that Brown had likely not seen drawings made in India, with Tipu’s form and costume configuring much more to European ideals of Oriental subjects than what one would have actually encountered in Mysore.135 When paired together with his companion painting of Cornwallis receiving the hostage princes, Brown’s works persuasively shifted culpability for the harsh terms of the treaty onto the tyrant Tipu, allowing the Company to justify its Indian wars and carve out a new patriotic role for itself through the glorification of British military arms.
Brown’s paintings proved to be popular and were widely viewed by the public through open exhibitions and cheap engraving reproductions. Advertisements in the Morning Chronicle and other contemporary newspapers called on the London public to view the standards captured from Tipu at Bangalore along with the works of Mather Brown for the price of one shilling.136 Another newspaper praised the paintings on display, stating how Brown’s reception of the princes did the artist “infinite credit”, while the introduction of the lame vakil “in the true Olympiad Hero style, was a very favourable circumstance to the Composition.”137 Brown’s paintings first went on display in March of 1793, and public viewings were still being held as late as February of 1794, attesting to the popularity of the subject matter, while advertisements continued to run in the newspapers for reproductions of the paintings of both Brown and Singleton.138 Ads promoting engravings for scenes of the hostage princes continued to appear in the Pratapaditya Pal and Vidya Dehejia. From Merchants to Emperors: British Artists and India 1757-1930 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986): 52-53 Morning Chronicle (London, England) 16 March 1793, Issue 7420 True Briton (London, England) 16 March 1793, Issue 65 See for example World (London, England) 10 February 1794, Issue 2222 London newspapers as late as 1798, and would only disappear when subsumed by further Tipu artwork after the Fourth Mysore War the following year.
These popular representations of India were unlike earlier historical paintings of the subcontinent, which had treated Indian potentates with far more dignity, most frequently as powerful figures worthy of respect. The historical paintings of the 1790s featuring Tipu Sultan and the hostage princes represented a break in continuity from earlier works, and a change in the presentation of the British presence in India. Artists began to celebrate the romance of a British empire in India, with the spectacle of the hostage princes perfectly capturing the new ideal of colonial relations: childlike Indians paternalistically entrusting their fate to mighty British fathers.139 Indian rulers who refused to fit into this worldview, such as Tipu Sultan, were demonized as tyrants and marked for elimination by military means. The visual art of the formal history painters during the 1790s were instrumental in establishing the romance of overseas empire, and helping to change the popular perception of the East India Company from its low standing of the mid-eighteenth century.
Depictions of the hostage princes appeared not only in print culture and in history paintings, but also took place on the popular stage in London. Inspired by the lucrative success of the Tipu play East India Campaigning as performed at Sadler's Wells, Astley’s Royal Saloon and Amphitheatre created its own production based upon the news of the hostage princes. Beginning its run on 20 August 1792, the new show was entitled Tippoo Saib’s Two Sons; or, An East-India Military Divertissement, and promised in its advertisements to feature dance, song, and pantomime on the departure of the hostage Hermione de Almeida and George Gilpin. Indian Renaissance: British Romantic Art and the Prospect of India (2005): 153 princes from their father, and then their reception by Cornwallis, complete with an "Oriental military festival" which commemorated the occasion.140 Astley's show was effectively a live action version of the same scenes portrayed in the artwork of the hostage princes by Home, Singleton, and Brown; once again, Cornwallis was envisioned as both triumphant commander and loving father. The Governor-General's affective sympathy for Tipu's sons emphasized the Sultan's defective paternal care, while also downplaying the Company's military aggression in southern India.141 Tippoo Saib’s Two Sons proved to be a successful and well-regarded production in its own right, drawing huge crowds and widespread applause from the contemporary print culture. The Public Advertiser praised the choice of subject matter and noted the full house in attendance, while World echoed that a better subject could not have been hit on for stage representation.142 The continued praise for the costumes and set designs in the newspaper accounts suggest that it was the exotic Oriental spectacle of Tipu Sultan and the Mysore Wars which attracted so much attention. The Star praised the show for successfully tugging at the emotions of the audience: "Tippoo’s Sons is a fine subject for a picture; and indeed it is so heroically performed, that the tear of sympathy is often seen in the spectator’s eye," indicating how the hostage princes were once again employed as a prop in the staged performance (literally, in this case) of empire.143 One of the songs from the performance was published, sounding many of the same themes as the music employed in East India Campaigning. "From sweet Tipperary Diary or Woodfall’s Register (London, England) 20 August 1792, Issue 1065 Daniel O’Quinn. Staging Governance: Theatrical Imperialism in London, 1770-1800 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007): 330 Public Advertiser (London, England) 21 August 1792, Issue 18136; World (London, England) 22 August 1792, Issue 1762 Star (London, England) 29 August 1792, Issue 1344 to pick up some Honor" was sung by another Irish character on stage, and contained
further racially explicit lyrics designed to mock Tipu Sultan:
What good looking Creatures, these Lacks of Rupees Sir, Then the two Lads, Great Tippoo’s Sons if you please Sir, To be sure Mister Sultan, with us they an’t sleeping, Nor you get them again, till you pay for their keeping, Och! rub a dub row de dow, saith Mister Tippoo, To be sure you won’t pay us for taking a trip O!
Which we did just to say, “How d’ye do Mister Tippoo.”144 Other verses contained lines detailing how Tipu planned to kill and eat captured British soldiers, and in return the Company treated itself to half of his kingdom. The reappearance of Dennis O'Neal in the lyrics was likely both a reference to a common Irish name and also to the earlier Sadler's Wells production.
The song used highly racial terminology to describe Tipu, referring to his forces as the "Blackamoor Party", but unlike the music from East India Campaigning, there was much less anxiety about capture and forced emasculation while languishing in Tipu's dungeons. Instead, the song from Tippoo Saib’s Two Sons concerned itself with the looting and plundering of Mysore, making multiple references to rupees and insisting that Tipu would not see the return of his sons until he paid the full indemnity owed by the peace treaty. The more confident and assertive tone of the second song was likely a result "A Favourite Song. In the New East-India Military Divertissement" printed in Diary or Woodfall’s Register (London, England) 23 August 1792, Issue 1068 of the year that passed in between their respective compositions; the Tipu of 1792 had been defeated and humbled in battle, in contrast to the much more menacing Tipu of
1791. As the Company's military fortunes steadily improved over the last two decades of the eighteenth century, the visual representations of the Sultan (in artwork and on the stage) shifted to reflect less fear of the threat of captivity, and more confidence in the superiority of the British character. The hostage taking of Tipu's sons, rather than the Sultan's taking of British prisoners, indicated this growing confidence in the Company's power. This increasingly paternalistic tone of the discussion of the hostage princes anticipated the British Raj of the next century, as Indian rulers like Tipu were less likely to be viewed as dangerous military opponents, and more likely to be seen as backwards and childlike.
Conclusion These shifts in British popular opinion reflected how a widespread belief in Tipu's tyrannical nature had taken hold by the end of the Third Mysore War. More and more people accepted the claim that the Company had shed its earlier period of nabobery, and had become a defender of the British nation and all of the liberties that it stood for.
Cornwallis appeared to embody this reformed Company, as a gentleman from a properly aristocratic background who would be immune to the blandishments of avarice and Eastern luxury. His treatment of the hostage princes had demonstrated the superiority of British humanity over the callous and depraved Oriental despotism of Tipu Sultan. By the time that Wellesley won his final victory in 1799, it was almost universally accepted in Britain that the Mysore Wars had been just conflicts fought to put an end to the abuses of Tippoo the Tyrant.
This belief had not always been the case, however. Prior to the Company's victory in the Third Mysore War, popular opinion was much more divided on the subject of both how to view Tipu Sultan, and the proper way to view the East India Company. In the years following the Company's assumption of control over Bengal, there had been widespread anxiety about the threat posed by the nabobs, and the fear that they would contaminate the nation with their degenerate ways. Popular resentment of the nabobs continued into the early 1790s, and became tied up in some of the most fundamental questions about how to view Britain's empire overseas. Who was truly acting in despotic fashion overseas: the East India Company or Indian rulers like Tipu Sultan? This became a highly politicized subject, and the legality of the Mysore Wars was debated in the popular press and in the halls of Parliament. This leads next to the consideration of Tipu Sultan and the Mysore Wars in Company and party politics.
Introduction In addition to the popular discussion surrounding the captured British prisoners and the language of tyranny and despotism, Tipu Sultan and the Mysore Wars also figured prominently in parliamentary and East India Company politics during the final decades of the eighteenth century. Tipu played an important political role in these contemporary debates, as British representations of the Sultan touched upon many of the disagreements that lay at the heart of the whole imperial project. There was a sizable portion of both the British public and wider Enlightenment intellectual thought that remained profoundly skeptical of empire.1 This was best symbolized by the nabobs, members of the East India Company who became subjects of public ridicule for their possession of supposedly ill-gained Indian wealth and unabashed social climbing.
The nabobs represented all of the worst fears associated with colonization; it was argued that they had been corrupted by Oriental vice and luxury, and would bring about the destruction of British liberties in the metropole.2 The nabobs were the antithesis of proper virtuous behavior, and they existed in a state completely separate from the British national character. The widespread public condemnation of the nabobs in the years following the Company’s conquest of Bengal attested to the anxieties associated with empire, and even led to widespread pessimism about the future of the Company’s territorial possessions. Indian subjects who had been acquired in such immoral fashion would only be ruled by the Company in despotic fashion, which was doomed to a brief Sankar Muthu. Enlightenment Against Empire. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003) Tillman Nechtman. Nabobs: Empire and Identity in Eighteenth Century Britain. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 12 and transient existence. The contemporary disaster unfolding in America in the 1780s indicated the inevitable destruction of all such imperial projects overseas.