Click here for more...

Click here for more...

VOL. XXIII NO. 17, DECEMBER 16-31, 2013
The Wooing of Isabella Druitt, “surely the queen”
Sriram V.

In 1872, Dr Robert Druitt, author of the best-selling treatise Surgeon’s Vade-Mecum, sailed for Madras. Accompanying him was his daughter, Isabella. He was stricken by haematuria, a disease of the kidney. Popular medical opinion had it that this was cured by living in warmer climes and when that year, his close friend Lord Hobart was appointed Governor of Madras, Dr Druitt decided to go with him as his personal physician.

The doctor was welcomed by the local medical fraternity and made a member of the Madras Club. He wrote home a series of articles on the suitability of Madras as a winter residence, all of which were published in journals such as The Lancet and The Medical Times & Gazette. He praised the local climate sky-high and declared it to be better than that of the French Riviera. His daughter in the meanwhile determinedly set about finding a husband, and learning Tamil.

Described as plump and in good condition though dreadfully bitten by mosquitoes, she had no dearth of male company. One of the ADCs, Capt. Foot was “young, handsome and very merry” and “sang, acted and in fact did everything to perfection.” The most ardent however was Mr Araboun, an elderly and wealthy Armenian jeweller. The day after a ball he called on her and “with many gallant speeches,” pressed his suit with a poem inscribed on scented paper.

“In the assemblage of beauties where many are seen,

Isabella Druitt is surely the queen.

Her head so beautiful with loveliness crowned,

Embellish a face with mildness adorned.

Her figure so graceful with complexion bright

Shows her at once a perfection at sight.”

Struggling hard not to laugh, she expressed her thanks. A few days later, he gifted her a diamond ring. Her father allowed her to keep it. “I think India is a nice place,” she declared.

The problem of throwing off Araboun solved itself in 1875 when Lord Hobart died of cholera. The funeral, the last of those for a British Governor of Madras, was a solemn one with hundreds lining the street and following the cortege to Fort St George where the Governor was buried at St Mary’s. Dr Druitt led a committee to investigate the death and declared the drains of Triplicane and Chintadripet responsible. He recommended that the sewage of the city must be prevented from falling untreated into the rivers, something that we are still fighting against!

Back in England, Dr Druitt was once again fighting haematuria but Isabella was in for a surprise. Among the ADCs of Lord Hobart had been his younger brother, the Hon. Maj. Horace Miles Hobart-Hampden. A good 17 years older than Isabella and a crusty veteran of the 1857 uprising, he and she had hardly interacted in Madras. But he had all along been a secret admirer. He now proposed and was immediately accepted. The wedding no doubt involved the exchange of rings. Whether Araboun’s gift was one of them is not documented.

– Sriram V.

Please click here to support the Heritage Act

In this issue

Restoration sans any regulation
Banners the Bane of Our City
Masters of 20th Century Madras Science
A Landmark year for M.S. Swaminathan
A Search for Identity
The Wooing of Isabella Druitt
A Printing Press In a Garden
Tamil Theatre a Lost Legacy
Dates for Your Diary
An All Time Madras XI

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Readers Write
Madras Eye


Download PDF