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Fanny Parks

Birth: 1794

Death:1875

Fanny Parks or Parkes (née Frances Susanna Archer) (1794-1875) was a travel writer from Wales. She is known for keeping extensive journals about colonial India, where she lived for twenty-four years. These are recorded in her memoirs Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque. She was born Frances Susanna Archer, in Conwy, Wales, the daughter of Ann and Captain William Archer, 16th Lancers. On March 25, 1822 she married Charles Crawford Parks (17 November 1797 - 22 August 1856), a writer for the East India Companies.

Fanny lived in India between 1822 and 1846 with a break in England and Cape Town between 1839 and 1844. Parks began living in Calcutta in 1822, before moving to Allahabad ten years later due to her husband's posting. Parks wrote two volumes about her time traveling through India on horseback and befriending people around her, while learning Persian, Hindustani and Urdu. Her detailed memoirs written in a lively style reveal her independence of mind.

Parks allows an affectionate pre-colonial perspective of northern India and its peoples and customs, recording changes in Britain's governing of India, the economic impact of such policies, and domestic problems in Indian society, from 1822 to 1845. The people encountered by Parks included wealthy socialites as well as famine-stricken residents of Kanauj seen during a trip over mountains from Landour to Simla. Parks' narrative reflects her admiration and respect for the richness of Indian culture. The memoir includes a glossary of terms and a collection of translated Indian proverbs.

Some of Parks' writings cover topics which were controversial at the time. One of the most extreme examples was the murder of a woman in sati by those who felt that male heirs were more entitled to her possessions. Parks condemned the event and went on to criticize the laws governing married women in England. Parks also protested about a plan to sell the Taj Mahal, which she compared to Westminster Abbey. Clashing with the lack of respect for Indian culture commonly found in Europe, Parks described natural beauty in Delhi and Benares, as well as fascinating dress and cuisine. In one of Parks' last entries, she described feeling disenchanted with Europe after leaving India.

The memoirs were published as Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Pictureseque during four and twenty years in the East with Revelations of Life in the Zenana (Pelham Richardson, 1850). William Dalrymple rediscovered and edited this travelogue on India as Begums, Thugs & Englishmen. The Journals of Fanny Parkes (Penguin Publishers).

Iris Portal referred to Parks as a "kindred spirit" because of her curious writing style and the fact that her book expresses an open-minded approach to Indian customs. In 1851 she invested money, organized, and wrote the catalogue of the "Grand moving diorama of Hindostan, from Fort William, Bengal, to Gangoutri in the Himalaya", which was displayed at the "Asiatic Gallery, Baker Street Bazar, Portman Square. It was so popular that it was also shown in Hull in 1853.

Works:

Parks, Fanny (1851). Grand Moving Diorama of Hindustan, Displaying the Scenery of the Hoogly, the Bhagirathi,and the Ganges, from Fort William, Bengal to Gangoutri, in the Himalaya. London: The Asiatic Gallery, Baker Street Bazar. p. 77.

F. Parks, Wanderings of a pilgrim in search of the picturesque, during four-and-twenty years in the East with revelations of life in the zenana, 2 vols (London: Pelham Richardson, 1850)

References:

Eaton (2018). Fanny Parks: Intrepid Memsahib, Biography of Fanny Parks (1794-1875) An Independent Traveller in 19th Century India. KDP Paperback & Kindle. p. 280. ISBN 978 1980329336.


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