15th February, 1928


My dear P.M.,

I have just read 'Mother India' by Miss Katherine Mayo [1], an American woman whom I met in London a few years ago when she was on her way to India to collect the material for this book. It is a remarkable book and created a great stir both in England and America when it came out six or nine months ago. It is an expose of the mediaeval habits of body and mind that India is heir to and from which the rather spineless native character has not been able to shake itself free. The most sensational parts of her book are devoted to the horrors of child marriage and to the degraded state of the 'Untouchables'. I am no expert, but I imagine that there is a good deal of special pleading in her examples and in her arguments.

Naturally, being written by an American woman and published in America, it has roused great interest there, as well as in England. The United States is a great propaganda field for discontented and subversive Indians. Mukerji (who wrote 'My Brother's Face' [2]) and others have written books in answer to Miss Mayo; and there have been lectures, pulpit addresses, pamphlets, leading articles and press notices by the score, stimulated by her book.

The 'Manchester Guardian's' dictum about it has been much quoted:

'it is a book for India to remember and for the West to forget.' There have been, of course, many assertions by interested parties to the effect that the book was inspired by His Majesty's Government. This has been categorically denied by the India Office, who disclaim all responsibility for, or knowledge of, it prior to publication. However, it is very good indirect argument against those who say that India has not progressed under British rule at the rate that Indians desire. It shows that the social and religious habits of the Indians themselves are the brake on the wheel.

Few books have raised-and maintained for nine months-such a storm of controversy. It is certainly worth your reading for an hour, as much for the confirmation that it contains indirectly of the wisdom of our shutting out Indians from Australia.

I find that the point of view of people who know India is that all that Miss Mayo says is true, but that it is not a balanced or universal picture.

I am not sending the book out as it will be available in Australia.

The two volumes of 'The Travel Diary of a Philosopher' by Count Hermann Keyserling [3] have attracted a good deal of attention in Germany and in this country. I attach copy of an extract with regard to Americanism that sounds true.

He also bases a long discourse on the attitude of the Churches in America to effort and success. You will find the same idea worked out on somewhat the same lines in Siegfried's 'America Comes of Age'. [4] The general lines of the argument are as follows:

American Christianity agrees to regard material success as a tolerably accurate touchstone for the grace of God. The man who is pleasing to God must become rich. This is probably a heritage from the early puritan days when rigid asceticism in certain directions was not incompatible with the accumulation of considerable personal wealth. In fact, even in those days the idea existed that divine blessedness and prosperity were not unconnected. At no time in the history of the United States has there been any real form of animosity against the wealthy.

With the immense development that started in America 75 years ago, more than ever before, effort came to be generally accompanied by success, and wealth came to be a generally attainable aim. The unworldly asceticism of the Puritans faded into the background and became unpopular. Effort and a biting, tearing struggle for success became normal. What was the Church (he persists in calling it 'American Christianity'!) to do? Denounce the struggle? This would have been the end of the Church as an influence in the land.

Sanctify the struggle? Yes. And so gradually the idea has gained ground that 'ora est labora' was literally true-the more a man worked, and so inferentially the more successfully he worked, so much the more was he fulfilling his purpose in the world and the better he was in the eyes of the Church.

This is all quite nice and comfortable in a country where prosperity is regarded as the norm and the struggle is rewarded generously.

I am, Yours sincerely, R. G. CASEY

1 Katherine Mayo, Mother India, Jonathan Cape, London, 1927.

2 D. G. Mukerji, My Brother's Face, T. Butterworth, London, 1925.

3 Count Hermann Keyserling, The Travel Diary of a Philosopher, trans. J. H. Reece, Jonathan Cape, London, 1927.

4 Andre Siegfried, America Comes of Age, trans. H. M. and D.

Hemming, Jonathan Cape, New York, 1927.