Mary Hobhouse


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.


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.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Indian Magazine

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


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.

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)


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

Other names: 

Lady Hobhouse

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

Colonial and Indian Exhibition, 1886

04 May 1886
Event location: 

South Kensington, London


In Autumn 1884, the Prince of Wales assumed the Presidency of the Royal Commission for the projected Colonial and Indian Exhibition. The Indian Court relied upon the assistance and involvement of the India Office in London and Indian Government, with work beginning in early 1885 to design the exhibition space and procure goods for display.

'India' took up roughly one third of the exhibition space in 1886. 103,000 square feet were dedicated within the exhibition buildings to India at a cost of £22,000. The Indian Government contributed £10,000 to this, with the rest of the money coming from the Royal Commission and various grants. Apart from the financial contributions needed, exhibits had to be procured, and in this the Indian princes and Indian states were intimately involved, donating a range of goods.

The Indian exhibits included art, architecture, economic goods, silks and anthropological studies. Art-wares were organized by Indian provinces - marking a break from previous exhibitions where displays had been ordered by juries on their rankings. The Indian Court was received well by the press and the Royal Family. The Gateways in particular attracted much attention. (The Jaipur Gate, paid for by the Maharaja of Jaipur, has stood in the grounds of the Hove Museum and Art Gallery since 1926.) The exhibition included a display of 'native artisans' - thirty-four men from Agra demonstrating various crafts and professions, from sweetmeat maker to potter to carpet weaver. These men were in fact inmates from Agra Jail who had arrived in Britain on 20 April 1886 with Dr J. W. Tyler, superintendent of Agra Jail. They were all invited to a reception at Windsor Castle to meet Queen Victoria in July 1886.

The exhibition was open for 164 days and welcomed 5,559,745 visitors.

Prince of Wales and Royal Commission
People involved: 

Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownaggree (Commissioner for H. H. the Thakur Sahib of Bhawnagar), B. J. Bose (Administration Court), Edward C. Buck (Commissioner for the Government of India), Philip Cunliffe-Owen (Executive Commissioner), B. A. Gupta (Silk Culture and Bombay Art Ware Courts), E. B. Havell (part of Madras committee), T. N. Mukharji (in charge of the commercial enquiry office), C. Purdon Clarke (Honorary Architect), J. R. Royle (Official Agent for the Government of India), Thomas Wardle (arranged silk collection).

Published works: 

Colonial and Indian Exhibition, 1886. Empire of India: Special Catalogue of Exhibits by the Government of India and Private Exhibitors (London: William Clowes & Sons., 1886)

Report of the Royal Commission for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1887)

Royle, J. R., Report on the Indian Section of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition 1886 (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1887)



The Colonial and Indian Exhibition 1886: Supplement to the Art Journal (1886) 

Pall Mall Gazette, 4 May 1886

Illustrated London News, 17 July 1886 and 24 July 1886

Primrose Record 2, 1886

Various reports in the daily press including illustrations in the Graphic and the Penny Illustrated Paper

Cundall, Frank, Reminiscences of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, illustrated by Thomas Riley (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1886)

E. V. B., A London Sparrow at the Colinderies (London: Sampson Low, 1887)

Mukharji, T. N., A Visit to Europe (Calcutta: W. Newman, 1889)

Secondary works: 

Barringer, Tim and Flynn, Tom, Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture, and the Museum (London: Routledge, 1998)

Burton, Antoinette, 'Making a Spectacle of Empire: Indian Travellers in Fin-de-siecle London', History Workshop Journal, 42 (1996), pp. 127-46

Dutta, Arindam, 'The Politics of Display: India 1886 and 1986', Journal of Arts and Ideas 30-1 (1997), pp. 115-45

Greenhalgh, Paul, Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World's Fairs, 1851-1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988) 

Hoffenberg, Peter H., An Empire on Display: English, Indian, and Australian Exhibitions from the Crystal Palace to the Great War (London: University of California Press, 2001)

King, Brenda M., Silk and Empire (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005)

Mathur, Saloni, India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007)

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