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||Paul (Mark) Scott (1920-1978)|
British writer, best known for The Raj Quartet (1965-1975), which describes from different points of view the events that led to the end of the British rule in India. Scott was only noted as a master of his craft quite late in life. Just before he died, Scott received the prestigious Booker Prize for the novel Staying On (1977).
"This is a story of a rape, of the events that led up to it and followed it and of the place in which it happened. There are action, the people, and the place; all of which are interrelated but in their totality incommunicable in isolation from the moral continuum of human affairs." (from The Jewel in the Crown, 1966; part one of The Raj Quartet)
Paul Scott was born in suburban North London, where he would continue to reside throughout most of his life. His father, Thomas Scott, was a commercial artist, and his mother, Frances, was a former shop clerk; she had written some novels which she destroyed after her marriage. George and Gilbert, his uncles, were commercial artists, who painted horses and hunting scenes with great success.
Scott was educated at Winchmore Hill Collegiate, a private school, but was forced to abandon his studies at the age of 16 when the family's money ran out. Scott then was sent to be trained in accountancy. Due to his "photographic" memory he passed th examination with great ease. During these years he read Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, which had a profound and lasting influence upon him. He had a lover, an aesthetic estate agent called Gerald Armstrong.
At the outbreak of World War II, Scott enlisted as a private – he
served as a supply officer. At Torquau he met Nancy Edith Avery, whom
he married in 1941. They were soon separated when Scott was sent
to India as an air supplies officer. He arrived in Bombay in 1943
without much knowledge of the country, but also without Kiplingesque
arrogance. He served in India and Malaya (1943-46) and wrote during
this period various poems and plays.
Upon returning to England, with amebiasis, from which he
suffered some 20 years but which was not diagnosed until 1964, he
settled in London with his family and worked as book-keeper for the
Falcon and Grey Walls Press. The publishing house was caricatured by
Muriel Spark in A Far Cry from Kensington. In 1950 Scott
joined Pearn, Pollinger and Higham as a literary agent. After
abandoning poetry he wrote radio play and television plays. The Pillars of Salt, published in 1948, was not performed. Lines of Communication (1952) and Sahibs and Memsahibs (1958) were produced and broadcast by the BBC.
But it was the novelistic narrative, its complexity and
flexibility, which gave Scott's ideas and experiences the scope and
variety he needed. He published a string of novels dealing more or less
directly with British military figures on duty in foreign lands. From
1960 Scott devoted himself entirely to literature, though it took many
years before he started to gain recognition as a novelist. However,
after getting rid of dysentry, there was a new joy and ease in his
writing. Elizabeth Avery started to publish fiction late in life.
The manuscrip of Scott's novel The Gradual Day, later re-entitled The Dazzling Crystal, was rejected by 17 publishers. Johnnie Sahib (1952), set in the border area of India and Burma at the end of WW II, won Scott the Eyre and Spottiswoode Award. The Alies Sky (1953), his second novel, was adapted for radio and television. In the United States the book was published under the title Six Days in Marapore. Scott's early works received mixed reviews and did not sell well, but eventually he gained an international reputation with the Raj Quartet. Most of Scott's works depict India or have Indian themes and characters.
The Raj Quartet, set in the final years of British India in 1942-47, was completed in 1974. It includes four novels, told from different point of views. Through its characters and their worldview Scott examined the moral and ethical decline of the last years of the colonial rule. Like in Forster's A Passage to India (1924), accusations of rape parallel with the reality of colonialism and issues of class and race. However, Scott denied any direct influence from Forster, and he thought that the novel has no "conscious moral purpose" apart expressing the novelist's view of reality.
The Jewel in the Crown (1966) opens with an image of a girl
running – in an essay Scott said that for him the inspiration for a
novel always came in the form of an image. The novel presents for the
reader Daphne Manners, a young Englishwoman, her Anglo-Indian lover
Hari Kumar, and the homosexual sadistic police official Ronald Merrick, who feels
superior to Kumar. Daphne is raped by a group of men in the Bibighar
Gardens of Mayapore, when she is spending a night with Hari. She dies
in childbirth without accusing Hari. In The Day of the Scorpion (1968)
Hari is imprisoned because of the rape and Merrick says that he
believes Hari is guilty. During the interrogation, Merrick sexually
abuses him as well. The Towers of Silence (1972)
focuses on the Layton family, the engagement of Susan Layton and Teddie
Bingham, their weddings, and the events before Teddie's death. A Division of the Spoils (1974)
continues the story, but the central character is Guy Perron, who
witnesses the independence process of India and hears about Merrick's
death. Staying On returns to the world of the quartet,
and depicts two of the minor characters, Tusker and Lucy Smalley, an
elderly couple, who live in an isolated retirement in India long after
The novelist Salman Rushdie denounced The Raj Quartet for perpetuating colonial assumption and racial stereotypes. Both in E.M. Forster's novel A Passage to India (1924) and in Scott's work, imperialism and racism are associated with sexual abuse. "...if rape must be used as the metaphor of the Indo-British connection," Rushdie said, "then surely, the interests of accuracy, it should be the rape of an Indian woman by one or more Englishmen of whatever class." ('Outside the Whale', in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991, 1991, pp. 87-101) Referring to India's struggle for independence, Timothy Foote wrote from an American point of view in his review of the first volume, that the whole subject is "too remote to be any pressing interest" and as a result, "The Jewel in the Crown, like a long delayed letters from a soldier whose death has already been announced by cable, sometimes seems touchingly irrelevant. ('Rape in India – Real and Allegorical' by Timothy Foote, Life, June 10, 1966) In has also been argued by many scholars that The Raj Quartet is nostalgic for the days of the Raj, even as it condems the exploitation of India under British rule.
His last years Scott spent traveling between his Hampstead house and
the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was a visiting fellow. He
suffered from cancer and his condition was weakened by heavy drinking,
which had caused cirrhosis of the liver. He died on March 1, 1978 in
London. According to Scott's biographer, the family also suffered from
his violence – he often shut himself away for days in his study,
working and drinking there. Eventually his wife left him, seeking a
first shelter at Chiswick Women's Aid. The Raj Quartet was also adapted for the Granada television series The Jewel in the Crown
(1982). Anthony Powell noted in his journal, that Merrick "seem to some
extent a phantasm of Scott himself" but he "certainly makes the film
For further reading: Paul Scott by K.B. Rao (1980); Introducing The Raj Quartet by J. Tedesco and J. Popham (1985); Paul Scott's Raj by R. Moore (1990); Paul Scott by Hilary Spurling (1990); Paul Scott's Raj by R. Moore (1990); 'Outside the Whale' by S. Rushdie in Imaginary Homelands (1991); Paul Scott: His Art and Vision by V.R. Badiger (1994); After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, Rushdie by Michael Gorra (1997); Paul Scott's "Raj Quartet": History and Division by Peter Childs (1998); Colonial Power, Colonial Texts: India in the Modern British Novel by M. Keith Booker (1998); 'Images of Rape and Buggery: Paul Scott's View of the Dual Evils of Empire' by Janis E. Haswell, in Studies in the Novel 33.2 (2001); Paul Scott: The Raj Quartet and Staying On by John Lennard (2010) - See also: Kilping, Tagore