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MICHAEL MADHU SUDAN DUTT (1824—1873)

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Originally appearing in Volume V08, Page 736 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MICHAEL MADHU SUDAN DUTT (1824—1873), the greatest native poet of India in the 19th century, was born at Sagandari, in the district of Jessore in Bengal, on the 25th of January 1824. His father was a pleader in Calcutta, and young Madhu Sudan received his education in the Hindu college of Calcutta, and was the foremost among the distinguished young students of his day, many of whom lived to make their mark in the literature and social progress of their country. Madhu Sudan left the college in 1842, and in the following year ran away to avoid a marriage intowhich his father wished to force him, and embraced the Christian religion. Continuing his studies now in the Bishop's college, Madhu Sudan learnt Greek and Latin and some modern European languages, and in 1848 went to Madras. There he wrote English verses, and married the daughter of a European indigo-planter, but was soon separated from her. He then united himself with an English lady, the daughter of an educational officer; and she remained true to him through life amidst all his misfortunes, and was the mother of the children he left. With her Madhu Sudan returned to Calcutta in 1856, and soon discovered that the true way for winning literary distinction was by writing in his own language, not by composing verses in English. His three classical dramas--Sarmishtha, Padmavati, and Krishna Kumariappeared between 1858 and 1861, and were recognized as works of merit. But his great ambition was to introduce blank verse into Bengali. His knowledge of Sanskrit poetry, his appreciation of the Greek and Latin epics, and his admiration of Dante and of Milton, impelled him to break through the fetters of the Bengali rhyme, and to attempt a spirited and elevated style in blank verse. His first poem in blank verse, the Tilottama, was only a partial success; but his great epic which followed in 1861, the Meghanad-Badha, took the Indian world by surprise, and at once established his reputation as the greatest poet of his age and country. He took his story from the old Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana, but the beauty of the poem is all his own, and he imparted to it the pathos and sweetness of Eastern ideas combined with the vigour and loftiness of Western thought. In 1862 Madhu Sudan left for Europe. He lived in England for some years, and was called to the bar; and in 1867 returned to his country to practise as a barrister in Calcutta. But the poet was unfitted for a lawyer's vocation; his liabilities increased, his health failed, his powers declined. He still wrote much, but nothing of enduring merit. His brilliant but erratic life ended in a Calcutta hospital on the 29th of June 1873.
End of Article: MICHAEL MADHU SUDAN DUTT (1824—1873)
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