Notes about I’tisam al-Din – toward performance script

I’m currently culling material from different sources for the performance script focusing on Mirza I’tisam al-Din. My aim is to have a full draft for this persona by the end of this week.

From translator’s introduction in:
Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin. The Wonders of Vilayet; Being the Memoir, originally in Persian, of a Visit to France and Britain in 1765. Translated by Kaiser Haq.

In 1765, after granting the revenue rights of Bengal in perpetuity to the East India Company, the Moghul Emperor Shah Alam II, beleaguered as he was by tenacious enemies, implored the protection of His Britannic Majesty’s troops.

Since it was not in Robert Clive’s power to place British soldiers in the service of a foreign court it was agreed that a letter containing the request would be dispatched, together with a present of 100,000 rupees from the Emperor to his British counterpart. The mission was entrusted to Captain Swinton and at the Emperor’s suggestion that an Indian well-versed in Persian should be there so that the letter’s contents could be properly explicated and interepreted, Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin was chosen to accompany him.

After 3 weeks at sea, the Mirza learned that Clive had held back the letter, saying that there was no point in sending it with them as the present intended to accompany it haden’t yet arrived from the Emperor. Clive had promised Captain Swinton that he would himself follow with both ehe letter and the money and catch up with them in England. But in England the Mirza discovered that Clive had suppressed the letter and presented the money on his own behalf… It was in the Company’s interest to prevent any direct contact between the English King and the Moghul Emperor. P8

Mirza born in 1730 and died in 1800… Ancestors went to India to escape a Mongol invasion of Persia… Completed his education under Muinshi Salimullah

A munshi was a scholar whose knowledge of Persian, then the official language, was indispensable in the fields of administration, diplomacy and law.

Most of Mirza’s life was spent in the Company’s employ, but its high point was the brief spell during which he worked for the Emperor Shah Alam II, who conferred on him the title of Mirza, roughly comparable to a knighthood, thus elevating him to the status of a courtier.

Vilayat: Indian word for Britain and Europe. Also: mother country

He began writing his memoir, at the behest of friends, and to seek distraction from the war in South India between the Company and Tipu Sultan. P10

Mirza was an Indian gengleman, proud of his lineage, well educated in the traditional manner who happened to live through the most crucial transition in Indian history. When he was born the East India Company was one among several European trading houses, when he died they were the effective rulers of most of India. Yet he was not, we must remember, a “colonial subject”.

He absorbs the British prejudices against the French. P11

His original text never published. Bengali translation, in 1981. Abridged and much flawed English translation in London in 1827. p13

Seven centuries of Moslem rule in India had introduced the conceptual currency of Persian into the Indian vernaculars. P14

From Tavakoli-Targhi, Refashioning Iran:

[William] Jones’s connection to Persianate scholars predated his 1783 arrival in India. Mirza I’tisam al-Din, an Indian who traveled to England between 1766 and 1769, reported that during his journey to Europe he helped to translate the introductory section of the Persian dictionary Farhang-i Jahangiri, which was made available to Jones when he composed his academic bestseller A Grammar of the Persian Language (1771). I’tisam al-Din recounted:

Formerly, on ship-board, Captain S[winton] read with me the whole of the Kuleelaah and Dumnah [Kalilah va Dimnah], and had translated the twelve rules of the Furhung Jehangeree which comprise the grammar of the Persian language. Mr. Jones having seen that translation, with the approbation of Captain Swinton, compiled his Grammar, and having printed it, sold it and made a good deal of money by it. This Grammar is a very celebrated one.

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