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The Missionary: An Indian Tale (Broadview Literary Texts) Paperback – February 5, 2002
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“Lady Morgan’s The Missionary is a haunting tale of cultural encounter and trans-racial romance set in early colonial India, whose tragic conclusion casts a sceptical light on the seemingly triumphant march of European imperialism. Morgan’s heroine Luxima exerted such a powerful effect on the imagination of the young Percy Shelley that he wrote ‘since I have read this book I have read no other―but I have thought strangely.’ In this splendid, extensively-documented edition, Julia Wright locates the novel in the historical context of British imperial consolidation in India, as well as in Morgan’s native Ireland in the aftermath of the Act of Union. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Romantic Orientalism, Ireland, and the development of the early nineteenth-century novel.” ― Nigel Leask, Queens’ College, University of Cambridge
“Not readily available until now, Sydney Owenson’s remarkable novel is given new life in this excellent edition. Set in the turbulent years of Spanish-Portuguese conflict in India, The Missionary is a devastating commentary on the pernicious effects of European colonialism and religious intolerance. Wright’s introduction expertly establishes the novel’s parallel meanings for Ireland and India under British rule. The supplementary historical and literary materials are comprehensive and well-selected, providing invaluable insight into the broad themes of The Missionary. Readers will welcome the timely publication of this extraordinary novel.” ― Gauri Viswanathan, Columbia University
From the Back Cover
Set in seventeenth-century India, The Missionary focuses on the relationship between Hilarion, a Portuguese missionary to India, and Luxima, an Indian prophetess. Both are aristocratic, devoted to their religions, bound by vows of chastity, and begin the novel biased against other cultures. This Broadview Literary Texts edition also includes extensive primary source appendices that situate the novel in relation to Irish, Portuguese and Indian history, as well as to the literature of sensibility and travel writing.
Top customer reviews
The Missionary is a Portuguese noble of royal descent and a Franciscan monk. Although only in his twenties, his whole life has been dedicated to religious practices. His zeal, self-denial and eloquence in preaching are so extraordinary that he's sent to India as a missionary.
The Hindu people turn out to be stubbornly attached to their own colorful gods and indifferent to the austere God of seventeenth-century Christianity. A learned Hindu Pundit suggests to the Missionary that if he can convert the young Prophetess of Cashmire, a divine emanation, the people will follow her en masse.
And so, in the lush woods of Cashmire the formidable Catholic priest seeks out the beautiful Hindu priestess by the stream where she performs her private rituals. These two saintly virgins, steeped in the life of the spirit, feel an instant and disturbing attraction to each other. What happens next is the substance of the plot.
Sydney Owenson, despite the frequent disapproval of reviewers, was one of the most popular writers of her day. Her literary admirers included Shelley, Byron and Walter Scott. This book is a sly attack on colonial attitudes and religious intolerance - as well as a wonderful example of early nineteenth century sentimental fiction.
I had to work at enjoying the novel at times, overwhelmed by the gorgeous prose and evocative landscapes. But ultimately the experience was worth the effort. I recommend the book to adventurous readers.