The description of Journal of a Cavalry Officer by W. Humbley
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The remark has often been made, that India is but little known to persons in England and on the continent of Europe. That there is ample ground for such a remark none can deny. For, whether we consider its vast territorial extent, covering an area of upwards of a million of square miles, with a population of more than 150 millions; its commercial wealth and enterprise, from the remotest ages of antiquity, and its immense natural resources; or, whether we regard India in a more intimate point of view, as forming an integral part of our own dominions, owing allegiance to one sovereign ruler, bound up with us by social relations and family ties, and consider what an El Dorado it has proved to the British empire for upwards of two centuries and a half; it is indeed a matter of no small surprise, that India should be so little, and so imperfectly, known by us.
We can scarcely comprehend how, until recently, the Emperor of China and his subjects should have looked upon the celestial empire as the most important in the world; but it is yet more astonishing that we, to whom the whole world lies open, should be contented to remain in ignorance of what it is so obviously our interest to understand.
Nearly six centuries have elapsed since that enterprising Venetian, Marco Polo, first visited India, and revealed to Europe the treasures of the Eastern Hemisphere; nay, they are familiar to us from the earliest records of the sacred writers; and, in later ages, Herodotus and other Greek authors dwelt upon the wonders of the East, its history, its resources, and its races. It is true that Marco Polo gained little credit for the marvels he related; but, we must bear in mind that he did not always speak from personal observation: he not only noted down what he saw, but eagerly collected all the information which he could obtain respecting those regions which he was unable to visit himself. His "Maraviglie del Mondo da lui descritte" were sneered at and discredited by many, in former times, as the visions of an enthusiast. People, indeed, believed in the existence of such cities as Agra and Delhi, because it was corroborated by the Chinese and Arabic maps which he brought home; while the fact of there being such an individual as the Great Mogul, was demonstrated by the painted representation of his Sublime Majesty on the royal court cards, which are supposed to have been then first introduced. More accurate investigations, however, have proved his veracity; and the researches of Klaproth, and other distinguished travellers, of modern times, have amply verified the truth of his statements.
The discredit at first thrown upon Marco Polo's narratives, may, in a great measure, be attributed to the Jesuit missionaries in India and China, who followed in his track, and who, while they availed themselves of the valuable information which he had supplied, scrupled not to add the most unblushing and incredible falsehoods. These Jesuits, though the most learned men of their time, composed a class of writers whose object it was to appear to surpass all other European travellers in information; and who sought to acquire an ascendancy in Asiatic countries, for the benefit of their master, the Pope, and the sovereigns of the European States.