David Gentleman wrote in his superb book about India, by far and away the best book on India we know – apart from A Passage to India and The Far Cry (and do read the Persephone Forum about The Far Cry) that he ‘particularly liked a stone carving of a cow turning to lick its calf, a magical combination of keen observation and warm emotion’. And it’s amazing to think that the cow licking the calf has survived unharmed at Mahabalipuram for 12,000 years. (Oh and The Jewel in the Crown must be added to the trio of India books.)


The 8th century granite carvings at Mahabalipuram (spellings vary, another is Mamallapuram) are unforgettable. For many centuries they were covered in sand but during the last quarter of the eighteenth century European visitors began to make them famous and now they are part of a World Heritage Site. More details here.


India is unforgettable so this week and next on the Post some highlights from the trip. Mahabalipuram has been enchanting visitors for two centuries: Edward Lear went there the early 1870s. He had already written ‘The Courtship Of The Yonghy-bonghy-bo':

On the Coast of Coromandel
Where the early pumpkins blow,
In the middle of the woods
Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
Two old chairs, and half a candle,
One old jug without a handle–
These were all his worldly goods,
In the middle of the woods,
These were all his worldly goods,
Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo,
Of the Yonghy-Bonghy Bo

and met schoolchildren who could recite the whole of ‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’ from memory. There are eight Mahabaliburam watercolours at  Harvard, this is one:

Knight, Harold, 1874-1961; Girl Writing

This Harold Knight has definitely been on the Post before but one can’t see it too often: Girl Writing 1931 is at the Grundy Art Gallery.

Knight, Harold, 1874-1961; At the Piano

At the Piano was painted in 1921 and is at the Laing Art Gallery

(c) John Croft; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Girl with a Red Bow by Harold Knight c. 1896 is at the Castle Museum, Nottingham: one can imagine Dorothy Whipple going here on a Sunday afternoon or when she was nearby doing some shopping, there are several children in her novels who could have been inspired by this painting..

Knight, Harold, 1874-1961; The Embroideress

Harold Knight’s The Embroideress was painted in 1921 and is at the Aberdeen Art Gallery. The young woman has a look of Jane in Dorothy Whipple’s High Wages.

(c) John Croft; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

We have featured Harold Knight, husband of Laura, on the Post before but since he is one of our absolute favourites (up there with Harold Harvey and Fred Elwell) he can bear a bit of repetition. This is The Green Book 1916, it’s at the National Museum of Wales, and it’s a moot point whether the book is green – or Persephone grey.


From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, India’s first – and so far only – woman prime minister would subvert the political establishment and dominate India’s public life. After Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi (1917-84) was the most powerful woman of the twentieth century. ‘As a child I wanted to be like Joan of Arc,’ Mrs Gandhi told a close adviser. ‘I may yet be burnt at the stake.’ ‘She ended up achieving a certain kind of political martyrdom. But the broader political legacy of the era she dominated was to imprint on the political imagination of Indians the vital necessity of democracy.’


Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-41) was ‘twentieth-century India’s first art star… she paid particular attention throughout her career to the poor, from Hungarian gypsies and Parisian consumptives to Indian peasants. But she believed firmly that it was the art, not the subject, that mattered most. She inherited from her sophisticated Sikh father and Hungarian mother an artistic sensibility and a temperamental unconcern for the censorious reactions of conventional people.’ Bride’s Toilet was painted by Amrita Sher-Gil in 1937.

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