Remembring Toru Dutt

Prodigal Poetess



News - India & You

September 2, 2016

/ By / kolkata

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Dutt at her teenage

Toru Dutt can undoubtedly be regarded as the first Indian poet, who composed in English and French. W R Goodman writes in his Quintessence of literary Essays “Although a convert into Christianity, Toru Dutt had imbibed the ancient spirit and love of India”

Born in 1856, in a renowned Indian family, Toru Dutt had the advantage of a better education and friendly environment that helped to nourish the poetess in her. In her writings, Toru Dutt connected the Indian mythology and fiction with English literature. Her extensive use of Indian myths gives this fictional poetess her identity.

Dutt’s entire family baptised when she was six. In the years 1869-73, she moved with her family to live in France and then England. She continued her higher studies in French even when she was living in England (1871-1873). She became proficient in Bengali, English, and French and later in Sanskrit as well.“She brought with her from Europe a store of knowledge that would have sufficed to make an English or French girl seem learned, but which in her case was simply miraculous,” Edmund Gosse, English literary historian and poet wrote about Dutt.

Contribution in Literature

The fictionist had very interesting observation to make on literature, her writing pieces also had a touch not melancholy but more of emotional notes. Her two novels, Bianca or The Young Spanish Maiden written in English, though unfinished and Le journal de Mademoiselle d’Arvers, written in French, significantly with non-Indian protagonists, were based outside India.She also translated into Englishover 250 poetries written by some of the greatest French novelists such as Victor Hugo, Henri Heine, J. Soulary, F. de Gramont, Mme. Valmore, A. Pommier and Sainte-Beuve, which were published in A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields.  Her translations and adaptations from Sanskrit to English are published in Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan.

It is notable that Dutt’s position as a poet of eminence rests chiefly on a handful of much anthologised poems like “Our Casuarina Tree”, “My Vocation”,“Sita”, “Savitri”, “The Lotus”, “Tree of Life”, and “Baugmaree”. She had an eye for the beauty and grandeur of Nature and one can see a vivid image of nature. “Love at first signet as poets sing, is then no fiction? Heaven above is whiteness, that the heart is king finds often like a lighting flash;” reads one of her works.

“Prehlad”, “Jogadhya Uma”,“Sindhu”, “Lakshman”, “The Legend of Dhruva”, are the most prominent literary pieces written by Dutt, who died at a very young age of 21 on 30th August 1877. Like Brontë sisters and Keats, her family too, had become a victim of tuberculosis.

Toru Dutt is also called Keats of the Indo-English literature. During the closing years of her life she studied Sanskrit, and it brought her to the spring of her own literature.  “It is wonderful to grasp of a girl who at the age of 21 had produced so much of lasting worth,” wrote Edmund Gosse. Little wonder then that even 137 years after her death, Toru Dutt’s contribution to literature is vividly remembered.

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