This work on J. H. Cousins, the Irish Poet, Critic and Theosophist, is the first full scale bio-critical study of the author. No work has yet been published on this writer in India and abroad. Entirely based on primary materials available in the Theosophical Society Library & Archives, Adyar, Madras, where Cousins worked in various capacities since 1915, it throws new light on this rather forgotten literary figure who identified himself with the emergent nationalist milieu of the twenties and thirties of our country.
This work aims at making an in-depth study of all the interesting corpus of Cousins' works including those which are published as magazine articles in various Indian Journals and it provides for the first time a comprehensive and complete annotated Bibliography of this writer.
One important dimension of this work is its exploration of Cousins and his con temporary Irish writers' interest in Indian mystical thought and the impact of Theosophical Movement on their writings.
This work studies Cousins' involvement in India's social, religious, literary and cultural fields and his interaction with eminent Indian writers and artists such as Aurobindo, Tagore, Sorojini Naidu, O.C. Ganguly and others.
Among its positive findings, this work is the first to point out that the initial context for some of Aurobindo's literary essays, especially what came to be known as The Future Poetry, was provided by Cousins.
This work on the whole seeks to confirm Cousins' life and work as a concrete embodiment of Irish-Indian understanding and their independence in efforts to create a new world of values based on spirituality and nationalism.
Dr. Dilip Kumar Chatterjee, author of the present volume, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, Bangabasi Morning College of the University of Calcutta. He has also been teaching in the Post Graduate Department of English, Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta, since 1984. Earlier he worked as a fullfledged Research Scholar in the Department of English, University of Burdwan, West Bengal. He has contributed articles to Indian and foreign journals. One of his research findings which was published in the Journal of South Asian Literature (vol. Spring, Winter 1989, No. I) by the Michigan State University, U.S.A., deserves special mention.
My interest in James Henry Cousins sprang from my own research on Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), poet, social reformer and mystic. Cousins was an ardent admirer of Carpenter and visited him at Millthorpe, Sheffield, before he came to India to take up an appointment under Mrs. Anne Besant's Theosophical Society. Carpenter was not a Theosophist but he was held by many among them as their spiritual mentor. Anne Besant herself once told Olive Schreiner, the South African novelist and an early feminist, that whenever she was depressed and doubtful about life she read Carpenter to revivify her spirit.!
The Cousinses, James Henry and Margarette, derived much inspiration from Carpenter's work. Carpenter's report of his visit to India in 1892,2 his numerous articles on the Upanishads, his famous poem Towards Democracy (1883), inspired partly by his reading of The Gita, generated great interest in India. And Cousins explored deep into India and Indian philosophical thought, and wrote numerous works, which I thought should be examined critically and sympathetically by an able researcher. Mr. Dilip Chatterjee came to my help to take up the work which I would have liked to do myself. And he has done an excellent work digging up materials in Adyar Research Centre Library, Madras, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry, Trivandrum Govt. Museum, Kerala, and in the files of old newspapers and periodicals, and has built a comprehensive image of Cousins and his works, beginning with his early Celtic Revival connections to the last days of his life in India.
James Henry Cousins, an Irish writer and a theosophist, was a younger participant in the Irish Literary Revival of which Yeats and A.E. were the leading members. His association with AE amounted almost to a discipleship and he followed all AE's interests including theosophy and social reform. In Dublin he was known as a journalist, a social reformer, a poet and a playwright. In all his literary and cultural activities he got active support from his wife Margaret Cousins. Together they devoted themselves to the Women Suffrage Movement in Ireland. They were the founders of the Irish Women's Franchise League. Herself a theosophist and feminist, Mrs. Annie Besant, knew Cousins and his wife Margaret well enough. She appreciated their activities and elected Cousins as her 'presidential agent' in Ireland in 1908.
Under her patronage Cousins and his wife came to India in November 1915. They settled down in Madras as active workers of the Theosophical Society. Mrs. Besant appointed Cousins sub editor in her nationalist theosophical Indian Journal, The New India, published from Madras. Since then till his death in 1956 he lived in India and held various public positions. He made India his spiritual home and wrote poetry, drama, criticism and philosophical essays of considerable interest. Cousins' works, however, did not receive much critical attention.
Cousins' arrival in India synchronised with a new phase of Indian Nationalist Movement. This was the period when there was a kind of national resurgence in the literary and cultural fields, with Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo and Sarojini Naidu as the outstanding writers with whom Cousins interacted. His close friendship and interaction with these Indian nationalists and poets provide us a perfect example of the East-West or to be more precise, the Indo Irish interaction during the early decades of the twentieth century.
Considering that very little is known of this writer, my work tends to be bio-critical in nature and I endeavour to place the achievements of Cousins as a poet, playwright, critic and aesthetician in the light of the impact of the Theosophical Movement in India and the West.
As Cousins derived his inspiration chiefly from two sources : The Theosophical Movement and the Irish Literary Revival, I have made two separate chapters; one is devoted to the study of the fundamental tenets of theosophy and the other is to study the impact of Madam Blavatsky on some writers of the Irish Literary Revival particularly on AE and Cousins. Cousins' poetry and plays written in Ireland and India show his absorption of this dual heritage.
His literary criticism and aesthetical writings are not exempted from this attitude. Cousins' aesthetics grows out of years of viewing art and life in theosophical terms. He inherited the attitudes of the German Idealistic thinkers and Romantic Aestheticians and combined them with his theosophical philosophy. What he sought was to bring the creative intuition of the East and the critical intelligence of the West into a synthesis. He has significantly called his book on aesthetics, A Study in Synthesis (1934). Philosophically his interest in Indian thought or the ancient wisdom religion reflected his inner concern for a unitive experience where the human being would regain his wholeness.
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