CLIVE OF INDIA by Mark Bence-Jones


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Robert Clive went to India as a respectable young businessman and then, by necessity, became a military leader; when, at the end of his career, he was accused of stockjobbing, plunder, and the like, it was a scapegoat attack by Britons who resented the whole crew of ""nabobs."" This biography by a novelist and author of Irish Palaces of the Raj takes pains to refute derogatory stories about Clive, from Macaulay on; but the slanders will be less familiar to American than British readers. Bence-Jones provides a full, sympathetic sense of the man, his lack of interest in native Indian life, his disappointment at being made merely an Irish peer, his pettishness, hypochondria and actual illnesses. (Bence-Jones says he was not a total opium addict but he did commit suicide.) Clive had the benefit of a virtuous and spirited wife -- it was more a Victorian marriage than one typically 18th century -- and the burden of an apparent manic-depressive affliction. He also benefited from French imperial weakness, though his energy in finally ousting them from India was helpful, and-somewhat underrated at the time, according to the author, despite the later British cult of the Raj. An entertaining study, with the prospective audience of Lady Longford's Wellington biography, though not its scope.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1975
Publisher: St. Martin's