Toru Dutt (1856-1877) was an Indian Bengali translator, who was also a linguist and an exemplary poet. Her works majorly include A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields (1876); Bianca, or the Spanish Maiden (1878); Le Journal de Mademoiselle d’Arvers (1879); Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan (1882);. Toru Dutt published the translations of French poetry in Bengal Magazine (1874-1877). Toru Dutt is one of those prominent figures who contributed in founding Indo-Anglian literature. Themes of longingness, patriotism, and nostalgia are widely seen in Toru Dutt’s work. On 30 August 1877, Toru Dutt died at the age of 21 becauses of Tuberculosis.
Toru Dutt (Tarulatha Dutt) was born on Tuesday, 4 March 1856 (age 21 years; at the time of death) in 12 Maniktollah Street, Calcutta Bengal, British India (now Kolkata, India). Toru Dutt’s family was one of those first families in Calcutta who were highly influenced by Christian missionaries and thoughts. Toru Dutt was six years old when, in 1862, her father converted to Christianity. Toru Dutt, along with her siblings, were first provided education at home by private English tutors. In 1869, Toru Dutt, along with her family, moved to France, where Toru Dutt studied history, arts, and language. Toru Dutt, along with her sister, Aru joined a French school at Nice, where they studied French. In 1870, Toru Dutt’s family moved to England where they studied French language and literature. Before moving to England, they stayed in Paris and Italy. Later, they began to translate French poetry into English. Then, the family moved to London for a year, where Toru Dutt and her sister, Aru, studied History and Music. In 1871, they moved to University of Cambridge where they studied for next two years and there Toru Dutta met Mary E Martin, with whom she shared a bond of close friendship. In Cambridge, Dutt sisters studied a series ‘Lectures for Ladies’ (which later became Newnham College in 1871) by the educationists, Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Henry Sidgewick. In September 1873, Toru Dutt returned to Calcutta with her family.
Toru Dutt was born in a Bengali family and later converted to Christianity.
Parents & Siblings
Toru Dutt’s grandfather, Rasamay Dutt and father, Govind Chandra Dutt, were a crucial part of colonial government in India. Her father,was a linguist and published few poems. Her mother, Kshetramoni Dutt, was also very fond of literature, especially Hindu mythology. She translated the book The Blood of Christ into Bengali. Toru Dutt was the youngest child of her parents. She had a sister, Aru, and a brother, Abju. Toru Dutt’s brother, Abju died at the age of eleven, and Aru died due to consumption on 23 July 1874 at the age of twenty. Dutt’s cousin Romesh Chandra Dutt served as an Indian civil servant. He was also a writer.
Toru Dutt was born in a Bengali family and later converted to Christianity. Toru Dutt’s family was one of the first families in Calcutta who were highly influenced by Christian missionaries and thoughts. Although she was a devout Christian her entire life, she always had a respect and love for Hindu belief, and it can be seen in most of her works which are heavily influenced by Hinduism.
In the same year Toru Dutt’s sister Aru died, she started publishing her work. In 1874, her first published works, the essays on Henry Derozio and Leconte de Lisle and ‘An Eurasian Poet’ appeared in Bengal Magazine. On the death of her sister, Toru wrote,
Of all sad words of tongue and pen/ The saddest are these- it might have been.”
From March 1874 to March 1877, Toru Dutt published a series of English translations of French poetry for the section of ‘Poet’s Corner’ in The Calcutta Review and The Bengal Magazine. Toru Dutt’s work ‘A Scene from Contemporary History’ got published in The Bengal Magazine in 1875 in which she translated political speeches given by M Adolphe Thiers and Victor Hugo. During Toru’s lifetime, ‘A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields’ (1876) was the only work that appeared as a collection of English translations of French poetry. It was published without any preface or introduction by a small press of Calcutta. Rest of her works like ‘Bianca, or the Young Spanish Maiden’, which she left unfinished serialized 1878 from January to April in Bengal Magazine, ‘Le Journal de Mademoiselle d’Arvers’, 1879, and ‘Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan‘, 1882 are all posthumous publications of his works. Her popular poems include ‘Sîta’, ‘The Lotus’, ‘Lakshman’, ‘Our Casuarina Tree’, ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘Buttoo’. In 1921, Harihar Das published Toru Dutt’s biography, ‘Life And Letters Of Toru Dutt’.
Torru Dutt’s favorite authors were the French writers Pierre-Jean de Béranger and Victor Hugo.
On 30 August 1877, Toru Dutt died at the age of 21 due to Tuberculosis. She is buried at Maniktalla Christian Cemetery, Kolkata
- Toru Dutt and her sister became one of the first Bengali girls who travelled by sea to Europe.
- She is known as a literary genius who blended three literary traditions that include Indian, English, and French.
- Toru Dutt’s grandfather was the co founder of Hindu School in Kolkata and was an educationist of British India.
- Toru Dutt wrote several letters to Mary Martin which she later provided as a source to Harihar Das. It contribute in her biography ‘Life And Letters Of Toru Dutt’.
- Toru Dutt’s grave and her family member’s grave is at the same place in Maniktalla Christian Cemetery in Kolkata.