(Last Updated on : 10/07/2014)
" The daughter of Bengal, so admirable and so strangely gifted, Hindu by race and tradition, English woman by education, a French woman at heart, a poet in English, prose writer in French herself, who blended in herself three souls and three traditions, died at the age of twenty one in the full bloom of her talent and on the eve of the awakening of her genius, presents in the history of literature a phenomenon without parallel".(James Darmesteter)
Toru Dutt was one of the greatest writers of English Literature who will be remembered for ages for the eternal charm in her works. She was a poet, novelist, translator and what not. Though she died at a very young age of twenty-one, she had left behind an immense collection of prose and poetry. Her works are skillfully crafted which reflect the experiences of an young mind and have an intrinsic power, which is the characteristic of good literature. She was well versed not only in English but also French, German and Sanskrit. She was a remarkable young woman of her time and for the very reason she is remembered even after a century. Her works provide us with insights into the literary and social change that took place not only in late 19th century India, but also of Europe.
Toru Dutt was born on 4 March 1856 in the prosperous and cultured Hindu family of the Dattas of Rambagan, Calcutta. Toru hails from a well-educated family. She was the daughter of Gobinda Chandra Dutt and Kshetramoni. Her father was a linguist and a versifier. He converted to Christianity in the 1860's He was of the view that; the greater our intercourse with the European gentlemen, the greater will be our improvement in literary, social and political affairs. So he gave the best possible English education to his children. Toru Dutt was the youngest of the three children. She had a brother named Abju and a sister named Aru They were educated in France and England. They were not sent to school, but had private tutors to teach them English literature and western music. Both the sisters earned fame for their literary. . She lost her brother and sister in 1865.In her poem 'Our Casurina Tree' she mourns the death of her brother and sister. Her grandfather, Rasamay Dutt was a great lover of English literature who was known for his progressive views. He was the first Indian Commissioner of the Court of Small Causes and was one of the founders of the Hindu college.The famous administrator, writer and historian, Romesh Chunder Dutt was her cousin.
Her poems include Ancient Ballads and other Legends of Hindustan, Baugmaree, France, The Lotus, The Tree of Life, and Our Casurina Tree, which is the best known and held to be the finest. Le journal de Mlle.D' Arvers is her French novel. A Sheaf Gleaned in French Field is a random collection of her poems. Toru also translated some sonnets of deCramont and regarded him as one of the best of modern French poets. Unpublished translations of his sonnets were found among her posthumous papers. Toru Dutt's interest was not confined to literature alone. She was deeply interested in French history and politics, and published A Scene from Contemporary History ~ of France. Though she had spent only a few months in France she became an enthusiastic lover of France and French. Bianca and 'Le Journal de Mademoiselle d'Arvers earned fame. It seems impossible that an Indian girl at such an age, should have had such a knowledge of French literature and deal with the French masters as one assessing the work of equals. Her Ancient Ballads and Legends of India was the beginning of a new dawn in Indo-Anglican writing. Toru was a devout Christian and translated The Blood of Jesus into Bengali.
Toru felt the first staggering blow of fate at nine when her only brother Abju died. The shock was tremendous and the two sisters, Toru and Aru, turned to literature for consolation, trying to drown their grief in the repeated readings of Milton's Paradise Lost. Within a few years her sister also died leaving her alone.
Though a British by up-bringing, she was a harsh critic of the behavior of the British towards Indians. As a diligent reader of newspa-pers, she was aware of all the cases of injustice reported daily, and they filled her with bitterness against the British. There was the case of a person who was sentenced to three weeks of hard labour because he had defended himself when attacked by some dogs owned by an Englishman. Enraged, Toru wrote: "You see how cheap the life of an Indian is in the eyes of an English judge." She wrote to her friend about another case in which some soldiers had killed nine Ben-galis, and wounded seven, and mentioned several other instances of brutality. Toru was against the extrav-agance of the people during the visit of the Prince of Wales, and critical of the grand fireworks displayed in his honor in the Calcutta Maidan. Remembering how £ 9000 was spent on fireworks when the Duke of Edinburgh came to India in 1869, she questioned, "Was it not literally convert-ing money to smoke?" She disapproved pomp, extravagance, waste and feudal ways.
Time was running short for Toru Dutt and the same disease that had taken her brother and sister attacked Toru, and she knew that she too had to yield to pitiless tyrant. Though she died at a very young age, she had left a deep mark in English literature. She is called the Keats of the Indo-English literature as she died at a very young age of consumption like him and for both of them the end came slow and sad. Had she lived longer her contribution to literature would have been never ending. Critics describe her as the "fragile blossom" that withered so fast. The well-known poet and novelist Andre Theuriet showered much praise on A Sheaf Gleaned in French Field. Her last poem" AMon Pere" is praised worldwide and is considered "faultless". She was in a hurry to put in as much work as possible, to project and interpret India's past and glorious tradition to the English-speaking world. She was proud of her Indian tradition. She was proud of India's cultural heritage, folklores, myths and legends, and its rich classical literature. Though English by education, she was an Indian through and through. E.J. Thompson wrote about her, "Toru Dutt remains one of the most astonishing woman that ever lived fiery and unconquerable of soul. These poems are sufficient to place Toru Dutt in the small class of women who have written English verse that can stand".