Wednesday, the 20th of April, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

Today my pick is a nonfiction volume, in fact a collection of letters–Up the Country: Letters Written to Her Sister From the Upper Provinces of India (1866) by Emily Eden. Emily Eden was from an aristocratic background, the daughter of William Eden, first Baron Auckland, and sister of George Eden who served as Governor-General of India between 1835 and 1842. She wrote two successful (and may I say, delightful) novels, The Semi-attached Couple and the Semi-detached House, the second of which I’ve reviewed previously on this blog, and was also a quite talented artist having painted/sketched portraits of royalty and commoners during her time in India.

And which brings me to today’s pick for it is to her time in India that this relates. When George Eden was serving as Governor-General, Emily and one of her sisters, Fanny travelled to India where they joined George on a two-and-a-half-year tour in the northern provinces of the country, accompanied by a 12,000-strong entourage including camels, horses and elephants. During this tour, Emily wrote letters describing her time in the country covering varied subjects from local colour to ceremonies and political developments. And this book is part of that collection of letters. [Interestingly, as Janakay from You Might as Well Read, had pointed out to me that this trip has been fictionalised in One Last Look by Susanna Moore, a book which I very much want to read, though I’m yet to track down a copy].

I was introduced to Emily Eden though noticing her novels on a friend’s shelf, and when I read them, I absolutely loved them. She writes with wit and a great deal of humour and this is said to reflect in her letters as well, which are also said to show a great deal of perception. It is partly Eden and her writing that make me want to read this book, but also the fact that this is a reflection on India in the earlier part of the 1800’s (even if a colonial one) and by someone who was travelling extensively through at least part of the country. Very much looking forward to reading this sometime.

Do you enjoy reading collected letters? Any that you’d recommend? And travel writings from the past? Do you find them more interesting if they’re from your part of the world, or do you find all of them equally enjoyable, irrespective of place? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Lisa’s pick this week is Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, an alternative history/fantasy novel set in a 1920s New York, which is submerged under water.

Cover image from Goodreads; book description from a profile I’d done on Eden earlier.


14 thoughts on “Shelf Control #181: Up the Country: Letters Written to Her Sister From the Upper Provinces of India by Emily Eden

    1. I hope you get to the Semis soon. They’re delightful–couple is a little more serious in tone focusing on a near breakdown in a marriage while house is light all through but both have wonderful characters, some eccentric and all interesting.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I’m definitely a bit on the backwater here as I’ve never heard of Emily Eden. I do like collected letters from time to time and read a lovely book last month that was a collection of letters a father wrote to his daughter. “Letters to Bizzy.”

    Those drawings are remarkable! On a lighter note, I look at her hairstyle and think the messy bun of late is making a comeback!

    Hope you have a good weekend to look forward to!

    Elza Reads

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She isn’t very well known and I might not have come across her either if I hadn’t noticed the books on my friend’s shelf. They’re delightful and I’d certainly recommend them (she’s been compared to Jane Austen, though I wouldn’t say quite the same but still very good and some of her characters are as eccentric).

      I’d shared more of her drawings on the profile post I’d done, linked below in case you’re interested. True about the hair–fashions do end up rather cyclical don’t they?🙂

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll look up the book


    1. I haven’t read one either though another collection that tempts me is letters between Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh which are once again known for being very witty. This collection I’m interested in for the descriptions of the country, mostly.


  2. I wouldn’t ever really think of reading a collection of letters, but this does sound interesting to get a picture of India written contemporaneously from someone who was there, even if, as you say, it’s a colonialist viewpoint. I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it when you get to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the novels and I’ve also read this – well, I know I’ve read it but apparently pre-blog! (goes and checks) whoa, pre-my reading journals, too. I remember it being good but there will be those colonialist viewpoints to negotiate, I’m sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved the novels as well; I reread Semi-detached last year and enjoyed it as much as the first time. I’m glad you remember the letters as being good. What’s interesting me most is even if colonialist, it is a first hand account from the mid 1800s.


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