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Confessions Of A Thug By Philip Meadows Taylor

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Confessions of a Thug is a tale of crime and retribution. Set in 1832 in India, the story lays bare the practice of the Thugs, or deceivers as they were called who lived in boats and used to murder those passengers whom they were able to entice into their company on their voyages up and down the rivers

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In Conversation with Philip Meadows Taylor

The tale of crime which forms the subject of the following pages is, alas, almost all true. What there is of fiction has been supplied only to connect the events, and make the adventures of Ameer Ali as interesting as the nature of his horrible profession would permit me.

I became acquainted with this person in 1832. He was one of the approvers or informers who were sent to the Nizam’s territories from Saugor, and whose appalling disclosures caused an excitement in the country which can never be forgotten. I have listened to them with fearful interest, such as I can scarcely hope to excite in the minds of my readers; and I can only add, in corroboration of the ensuing story, that, by his own confessions, which were in every particular confirmed by those of his brother informers, and are upon official record, that he had been directly concerned in the murder of seven hundred and nineteen persons. He once said to me, ‘‘Ah! Sir, if I had not been in prison twelve years, the number would have been a thousand!’’

How the system of Thuggee[1]could have become so prevalent—unknown to, and unsuspected by, the people of India, among whom the professors of it were living in constant association—must, to the majority of the English public, not conversant with the peculiar construction of Oriental society, be a subject of extreme wonder. It will be difficult to make this understood within my present limits, and yet it is so necessary that I cannot pass it by.

In a vast continent like India, which from the earliest periods has been portioned out into territories, the possessions of many princes and chieftains—each with supreme and irresponsible power in his own dominions, having most lax and inefficient governments, and at enmity with, or jealous of, all his neighbours—it may be conceived that no security could exist for the traveller upon the principal roads throughout the continent—no general league was ever entered into for his security; nor could any government, however vigorous, or system of police, however vigilant it might be in one State, possibly extend to all.

[1]The word Thug means a deceiver, from the Hindee verb Thugna, to deceive; it is pronouncedTug, slightly aspirated.When it is also considered that no public conveyances have ever existed in India (the want of roads, and the habits and customs of the natives being alike opposed to their use); that journeys, howeverlong, have to be undertaken on foot or on horseback; that parties,previously unknown to each other, associate together for mutual security and companionship; that even the principal roads (except those constructed for military purposes by the Company’s government) are only tracks made by the constant passage of people over them, often intersecting forests, jungles, and mountainous and uncultivated tracts, where there are but few

villages and a scanty population; and that there are never any habitations between the different villages, which are often some miles apart—it will readily be allowed, that every temptation and opportunity offers for plunderers of all descriptions to make travellers their prey.

Accordingly freebooters have always existed, under many denominations, employing various modes of operation to attain their ends; some affecting them by open and violent attacks with weapons, others by pretty thefts and by means of disguises. Beyond all, however, the Thugs have of late years been discovered to be the most numerous, the most united, the most secret in their horrible work, and consequently the most dangerous and destructive. Colonel Philip Meadows Taylor CSI (September 25, 1808 May 13, 1876 in Menton), an administrator and novelist, was born in Liverpool, England.At the age of fifteen he was sent out to India to become a clerk to a Bombay merchant. The merchant was in financial difficulties, though. In 1824, Taylor gladly accepted a commission in the service of the Nizam of Hyderabad, to which service he remained devotedly attached throughout his long career. He was speedily transferred from military duty to a civil appointment, and in this capacity he acquired a knowledge of the languages and the people of southern India which has seldom been equalled. He studied the laws, geology, and the antiquities of the country, being one of the foremost early experts on megaliths.[1] He was alternately judge, engineer, artist, and man of letters. While on furlough in England in 1840, he published the first of his Indian novels, Confessions of a Thug, in which he reproduced the scenes which he had heard about the Thuggee cult, described by the chief actors in them. This book was followed by a series of tales, Tippoo Sultaun (1840), Tara (1863), Ralph Darnell (1865), Seeta (1872), and A Noble Queen (1878), all illustrating periods of Indian history and society, and giving a prominent place to the native character, for which and the native institutions and traditions he had a great regard and respect. Seeta in particular was remarkable for its sympathetic and romantic portrayal of the marriage between a British civil servant and a Hindu widow just before the Indian Mutiny. Taylor himself had married Mary Palmer, the Eurasian granddaughter of William Palmer, the East India Company’s Resident at Hyderabad (who had married “one of the Princesses of the Royal House of Delhi”).[2] Returning to India he acted from 1840 to 1853 as correspondent for The Times. He also wrote a Student’s Manual of the History of India (1870).


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