Poetry of the Company: Anglo-Indian Poetry
There is a popular misconception that Anglo-Indian (a term used for people of British origin living in India) poetry began with Rudyard Kipling and his works written in the late nineteenth century. But poetical works written in and about India are as old as Britain's history with India.
The British presence was established in the Indian subcontinent by the early eighteenth century. The East India Company was dominant in the Bengal region by the 1760s and in the majority of India by the early nineteenth century, followed by the formation of the British Raj in the 1850s. With the East India Company came soldiers, civil servants, lawyers, and others trying to make a fortune for themselves. These ex-patriots would have found India exotic and strange, which in turn inspired some to write poetry about their new surroundings and experiences.
This small group of colonial literati published their individual poems in local journals or had whole volumes printed by publishing houses in Calcutta or Bombay. They tried to emulate their more famous poet counterparts back in England, and in some cases dedicated their works to them. For the first half of the nineteenth century Anglo-Indian poetry was seen as amateur and not taken very seriously by either the writers themselves or the critics; as shown in the dedication of John Malcolm's Miscellaneous Poems, "The Author of this short Poem is aware, that he repeats a very common-place Preface ... when he states, that it was written without the remotest view to Publication." In the second half of the nineteenth century, attempts were made to categorize "British-Indian poetry" but it was still viewed as amateurish and sentimental. It was not until the twentieth century that Anglo-Indian poetry was systematically described and studied as a literature.