The Light of Asia (pocket edition)
- Arnold, Edwin

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Commentary

First published in 1879, The Light of Asia is a famous narrative poem describing the life of Prince Gautama Siddhartha, who became Buddha after achieving enlightenment. The book was an important one in bringing Buddhism to a Western audience, and proved popular, going through numerous editions including a photographically illustrated version with photographs by Mabel Eardley-Wilmot. Her amateur topographical work in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century India provided the ideal accompaniment to Arnold’s text, rooting a by and large unknown religion (to a Western audience) in a picturesque tradition that would have been much more familiar. For all the potentially problematic politics of that position, if one takes into account Arnold’s original intentions for the book, its becomes, perhaps, more reconcilable. Composing The Light of Asia during his time as a newspaper editor in London, Arnold, in the words of Douglas C. Stenerson, ‘wanted to represent the spirit of Buddhist legend and myth accurately, but also to reconcile it with his own liberal, undogmatic Christianity.’ Certainly, Arnold’s use of Tennysonian blank verse and a smattering of local colour enabled his verse to be both exotic and picturesque, hence legitimising Eardley-Wilmot’s photographic illustrations as belonging principally to the compromise between East and West, local and exotic. The 1908 edition was followed by a ‘pocket edition’ in 1911.

Photographs in this volume are the Estate of Mabel Eardley-Wilmot and may not be reproduced without permission.

Book Details

Author: Arnold, Edwin
Title: The Light of Asia (pocket edition)
Publication Year: 1911
Photographers Featured: Eardley-Wilmot, Mabel
Subjects: Buddhist poetry, Buddhism, Doctrines, India
Photographic process: Photogravures

This book can be found in the University of St Andrews Library catalogue HERE

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