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The Good Memsahib? Marriage, Infidelity and Empire in Alice Perrin’s Anglo-Indian Tales

  • Victoria MargreeEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

Alice Perrin published short stories about life in the British Raj from the end of the nineteenth century into the first decades of the twentieth. Among these feature many tales in which actual or possible supernatural phenomena occur. In what follows I will read Perrin’s stories as attempting to articulate a positive model of colonial femininity in which the Anglo-Indian wife is central to the success of the imperial project, but as being haunted by a recognition of the difficulties of marriage and the very real temptations of infidelity. I explore a group of stories that attempt to reconcile the perceived tension between imperial duty and individual desire. Many of these stories involve a kind of hybrid Anglo-Indian supernaturalism, in which the conventions of the Victorian ghost story as well as phenomena explored by psychical researchers are imported to a colonial context where they commingle with Indian beliefs in phenomena such as spirit transmigration and reincarnation. The focus of this chapter is as such on a writer and a set of texts that I argue are not easily assimilated into accounts of the subversive tendencies of either the ghost story or the short story more generally. While there are elements within Perrin’s tales that indeed foreground the fault lines of imperialist ideology, these arise in the context of her broader promotion of the colonial cause and of imperial marriage. Within this context, a particular kind of deployment of the supernatural emerges which is appropriately characterised as conservative, in the sense that it is offered in the service of maintaining rather than transforming the status quo.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BrightonBrightonUK

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