THE RETORT COURTEOUS
THERE is a story current among the Yankees of a small school boy, who, having been thrashed by a bigger fellow and being unable to hit him back, consoled himself by making faces at his enemy's sister. Such is the position of my opponent of the world-famed Bombay Review. Realizing the impossibility of injuring the Theosophical Society, he "makes faces" at its Corresponding Secretary, flinging at her personal abuse.
Unfortunately for my masked enemies and fortunately for myself, I have five years' experience in fighting American newspapers, any one of which, notwithstanding the grandiloquent style of the "Anthroposophists," "B.'s" and "Onesimuses" is any day more than a match in humour, and especially in wit, for a swarm of such pseudonymous wasps as work on the Review. If I go to the trouble of noticing their last Saturday's curry of weak arguments and impertinent personalities at all, it is simply with the object of proving once more that it requires more wit than seems to be at their command to compel my silence. Abuse is no argument; moreover, if applied indiscriminately it may prove dangerous sometimes.
Hence, I intend noticing but one particular point. As to their conceit, it is very delightful to behold! What a benevolent tone of patronage combined with modesty is theirs! How refreshing in hot weather to hear them saying of oneself:
Could dictatorial magnanimity be carried further? And this dithyrambic, which forces one's recognition of the worth of the mighty ones "of broad and catholic views," who control the fates of The Bombay Review, and have done in various ways so much "for the races of India"! One might fancy he heard the "spirits" of Lord Mayo and Sir William Jones themselves blowing through the pipes of this earthshaking organ.
Has it acquired its reverberant diapason from the patronage of all the native princes whose favours it so eagerly sought a while ago?
I have neither leisure nor desire to banter penny-a-line wit with such gold-medal experts, especially when I honestly write above my own signature and they hide themselves behind secure pseudonyms. Therefore, I will leave their claptrap about "weeds and Madame Sophy" to be digested by themselves, and notice but the insinuation about "Russian spies." I agree with the Review editor when he says that it is the business of Sir Richard Temple and Sir Frank Souter to take care of such "spies." And I will further add that it is these two gentlemen alone who have the right or the authority to denounce such people.
No other person, were he even the noblest of the lords instead of an anonymous writer, can or will be allowed to throw out such a malicious and mischievous hint about a woman and a citizen of the United States. He who does it risks being brought to the bar of that most just of all tribunals – a British Court. And if either of my ambuscaders wishes to test the question, pray let him put his calumny in some tangible shape. Such a vile innuendo – even when shaped into the sham-denial of a bazaar rumour, becomes something more serious than whole folios of the "flapdoodle" (the stuff – as sailors say – upon which fools are fed) which the Review's Christian Shastris serve up against Theosophy and Theosophists. In the interest of that youthful and boisterous paper itself, we hope that henceforth it will get its information from a more reliable source than the Bombay market places.
[From The Indian Spectator, March 1879]