Producer: Christopher Morahan
Director: Jim O'Brien, Christopher Morahan
THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN/Episode 1/Intro by Alistair Cooke
Good evening, I'm Alistair Cooke.
Tonight we begin a dramatization--in fourteen parts--of the late Paul Scott's four novels about the last few years of British rule in India. The novels came to be known as The Raj Quartet, and some people now think it constitutes a classic of Modern English Literature.
Now we'll have more to say about Paul Scott later on, but for the moment I'd like to sketch the quite unadventurous life of a man who was not given to self-promotion or mixing with literary cliques. This may have a lot to do with the sad fact that he was dead at fifty-seven, before most serious novel readers had even touched The Raj Quartet or knew that they'd lost a major novelist of the twentieth century. Paul Scott was born in London in 1920 of two commercial artists. He went to a private school of no great prestige, and then he went into training as an accountant (he wrote a little poetry on the side). Shortly after Hitler invaded Poland he was drafted, and in 1943 he was dispatched to India as a sergeant in the British Indian Army. For a time he couldn't bear India--he knew nothing about it; he'd not even read Kipling. Then he came down with hepatitis. And shortly after that he became an officer cadet in air (aviation) supply--a job which took him all over the subcontinent.
Now he never realized how much of an India addict he'd become until he got back to England in 1946, a year after the Second World War was over, when he went back into accounting. And for ten more years he was a literary agent boosting other people's reputations. He did write a few novels and radio plays that reached what we condescendingly call a small, discriminating public. Then in 1964 he went back to India on a visit and he began to write The Raj Quartet. It took eleven years to finish, and he was teaching at the University in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he fell ill, and he went back to England, where in 1978 he died of cancer.
What we're going to look at is a prolonged study of two class systems--the Indian, and the British--the British abroad. Raj meant rule and, The Rajiv meant every resident Briton in India, down from the Viceroy who was the King's representative, down through the Army, to the civil service, the top and the lower layers, down to merchants and insurance men and traders and the like, all of whom had very well understood relations between each other. Then India, the India, this huge subcontinent of one and a half million square miles, two long opposed religions, the Hindus and the Moslems, of princes who were secure in their independent kingdoms, of Indian officers of high rank, Indians who had been knighted, millions of untouchables, and millions more, of every degree of servitude.
I think the best introduction to this subtle and intertwined hierarchy is a passage that Paul Scott wrote at the very beginning of his first volume which was called The Jewel in the Crown, and which Granada Television has taken for the title of this whole dramatization. This is what Scott wrote:
This is the story of a rape, of the events that led up to it and followed it and the place in which it happened.... There was no trial in the judicial sense... but as time went on this rape became the core of a plot and a system that ended with the spectacle of two nations in violent opposition, not for the first time, nor as yet for the last, because they were then still locked in an imperial embrace of such long standing and subtlety it was no longer possible for them to know whether they loved each other or hated each other, or what it was that had held them together and seems to have confused the image of their separate destinies.
Episode one, The Jewel in the Crown.
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