Mary Hobhouse

Other names: 

Lady Hobhouse

Date of death: 
02 May 1905
Location of death: 
London, England

Mary Hobhouse was married to Lord Arthur Hobhouse, who served on the Viceroy's Legal Council in India. Upon their return to England in 1877, they became members of the National Indian Association. Mary Hobhouse often chaired the committee meetings of the Association, particularly from 1886 until 1901. She and her husband were leading figures of the Association until they died within months of each other in 1904 and 1905. The couple had no children.

After Cornelia Sorabji wrote to the National Indian Association in 1888, Lady Hobhouse was instrumental in raising funds for Cornelia Sorabji to study in Britain. Hobhouse wrote a letter to The Times and established a fund that was also advertised in the Queen. Contributors included E. A. Manning, Florence Nightingale, Madeleine Shaw Lefevre, Sir William Wedderburn and many other British figures. When Sorabji came to England in 1889, the Hobhouses saw Sorabji regularly and encouraged her to take up the teaching and then the legal line rather than medicine as Sorabji had originally envisaged.

Mary Hobhouse often contributed to the Journal of the National Indian Association (Indian Magazine at this time). Contributions included a review of Manmohan Ghose and Laurence Binyon's Primavera in 1890 and an edited selection of extracts from the diary of Mehdi Hasan Khan's visit to London in the same year.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Indian Magazine

Queen: The Lady's Newspaper, 24 Auust 1889 (article on Sorabji's fund)

Secondary works: 

Burton, Antoinette, At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998)

Hobhouse, L. T., and Hammond, J. L., Lord Hobhouse: A Memoir (London: Edwin Arnold, 1905)

Hobhouse, Mary, Letters from India, 1872-1877 (Printed for private circulation, British Library, 1906)


Letter to The Times, 13 April 1888, p. 4.


Mary Hobhouse discusses the case of Cornelia Sorabji and her desire to be educated in England.


Miss Sorabji is very desirous to come to England and to pass the examination requisite to gain an Oxford or a Cambridge degree (the degree itself being as yet not granted to womenkind) since this would be a great advantage to her in her destined career in India. Difficulties, chiefly of a pecuniary character, prevent her at present from following this course, and unless an opening or a friend should arise she means to prepare to take the MA degree at the Bombay University, with a view to continuing the useful work of teaching and of helping her countrywomen directly and indirectly by the stimulus of her example.

The thought that perhaps others, like myself, may feel interested in watching Miss Sorabji's courageous course must be my excuse for troubling you with this letter.


The involvement of Mary Hobhouse in Cornelia Sorabji's case and her indirect appeal through The Times for financial help for Sorabji.

Archive source: 

Mss Eur F165, correspondence between Lady Hobhouse and Cornelia Sorabji, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Mss Eur F147, National Indian Association minutes, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras