Part – 2
by Kusum Pant Joshi

Sarojini Chattopadhyay Naidu (1879- 1949), visited Britain thrice between 1895 and 1920. Though India was then a British colony and its ruling classes were notorious for their racism and discriminatory attitude, Sarojini was the first Indian poetess, after Torulata Dutt (1856-1877), to be hailed for her English poetry by English poets and critics. She was also welcomed by Suffragists and covered widely in English papers. 

Sarojini was again in the UK between 1912 to 1914 when war clouds were gathering on the European horizon. Once again, British newspapers talked about her literary activities. The 31 October, 1912 issue of the ‘Pall Mall Gazette, Illustrated Supplement’ carried a full-length column on her new book: ‘The Bird of Time’ (1912) with a highly positive Introduction by Edmond Gosse. An article titled: “The Songs of a Dreamer” also carried a photograph of Sarojini. After highlighting the outstanding features and originality of her poetry, the English critic had ended his review on a highly positive note that “… its merit is incontestable and its charm is all its own.” 

From English newspapers, it is also clear that Sarojin’ Naidu’s activities had not remained confined to the realm of poetry. An in-depth article titled: ‘MRS SAROJINI NAIDU – Indian Poetess and Leader of the Women’s Movement’ appeared in ‘The Westminster Gazette’ on 22 November, 1913. It began as follows: “Mrs Sarojini Naidu BA, whom Mr Edmund Gosse describes as ‘the most brilliant, the most original, as well as the most correct, of all the natives of Hindustan who have written in English, and who is now in England has been interviewed by a representative of ‘The Westminster Gazette’. Mrs Naidu who is small in stature and frail-looking in appearance, is a typically dainty and sweet-tempered 

woman of the East. She is a student, an orator, and.a.poetess.” Then, turning to the purpose of her present visit the article stressed that: “The object of the lady’s visit to this country is twofold: to work among the Hindus and Mohammedan students that they may themselves work together in harmony for the good of their Motherland; and to study the social questions of the day.” It went on to mention her views on the position of Indian women and stressed that they had a respected position in society and according to ancient Indian traditions were the ‘ardhanginis’ (the other half of men). When asked about female education, she had said that their education should not be based on foreign ideas but on the country’s own traditional values. During this visit, English newspapers had also highlighted occasions when both British and Indians resident in the UK, had joined to honour her. A special newspaper item of mid-November 1913 titled “Dinner to Mrs Sarojini Naidu: An English and Indian Tribute,” reported as follows: “A remarkable company of men and women of distinction in the world of literature and affairs assembled at the Cecil on Friday evening … Mr. W.B. Yeats presided, and among those present were Princess Sophia Dhuleep Singh [daughter 

of Maharaja Dalip Singh of the Punjab], Sir Frederick and Lady Pollock, Sir Krishna Gupta [ICS], Mrs Alice Meynell [British writer, critic, poet and suffragist], Mr and Mrs Ernest Rhys [British writer, best known for founding the Everyman’s Library series], Mr W. Heinemann [Publisher, bookseller and novelist], Mr Ezra Pound [expatriate American poet and critic], Mr Robert Ross [British journalist, art critic and art dealer, known for his relationship with Oscar Wilde], … Mr Harold Munro [English poet and proprietor of London’s Poetry Bookshop], Mr T. Strange Monro, Mr and Mrs Newton Knight, Miss Evelyn Underhill, Mr Syed Wazir Hasan, Mr S.K. Ratcliffe, Mr Edwin R. Bevan, Mrs P.L. Roy, Mr B. Dube, Mrs Leila Mukherjee, Mr Syud Hossain, Mohammad Ali, Mr Loken Palit, Dr. J.N. Mehta, Mr R.S. Bajpai and other Indian ladies and gentlemen. The company numbered about one hundred and twenty to do honour to Mrs Sarojini Naidu.” 

Another feather was added to her cap when she was honoured by being made a Member of the Royal Society of Literature. 

Her third trip to the UK was from 1920-1921. Once again she was in the news with English newspapers highlighting her conspicuous participation in diverse activities. ‘The Vote’ of 16 January 1920 reported that she had been invited to speak in various branches of the