Thursday, September 21 2017, 04:05:33
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Lavanya Bahuguna


Do You Know About India’s 1st Woman to Write in English and French?

  • IWB Post
  •  June 3, 2015


Well I didn’t! Sadly she died at the age of 21. Toru Dutt, by the time, had written many poems & novels in English and French. Her work was acknowledged by many renowned people in literature.

One such was French critic James S who wrote:

This daughter of Bengal, so admirably and so strangely gifted, Hindu by race and tradition, an Englishwoman by education, a Frenchwoman at heart, poet in English, prose-writer in French; who at the age of 18 made India acquainted with the poets of France in the rhyme of England, who blended in herself three souls and three traditions, and died at the age of 21, in the full bloom of her talent and on the eve of the awakening of her genius, presents in the history of literature a phenomenon without parallel.

Her publisher Edmund Gosse said:

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. Immediately on her return she began to study Sanskrit with the same intense application which she gave to all her work, and mastering the language with extraordinary swiftness, she plunged into its mysterious literature.

Toru Dutt (1856-1877) belonged to Calcutta. When she was 13, the family moved to Europe where she became fluent in French and its literature. It was after Toru Dutt s death in 1877 that her father discovered the manuscripts of her writings. At the time of her death, she left behind two unpublished novels— Le Journal de Mademoiselle d’Arvers (thought to be the first novel in French by an Indian writer) and Bianca, or the Young Spanish Maiden (thought to be the first novel in English by an Indian woman writer)—in addition to an unfinished volume of original poems in English, Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan.

Her father once remembered – “whenever we had a dispute about the signification of any expression in Sanskrit, or French, or German, in seven or eight cases out of ten, she would prove to be right.”

Do you want to read her brilliant work? Click here!

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