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

George Edalji


George Edalji became infamous in Britain when he was convicted in 1903 for the mutilation of a horse and for writing a number of malicious anonymous letters in the parish of Great Wyrley in Staffordshire.

Edalji was the eldest son of Shapurji Edalji, the vicar of Great Wyrley. Shapurji was of Parsee origin but practiced as an Anglican vicar, having received the parish from his wife's uncle in 1875. Shapurji had married Charlotte Stoneham in 1874. George was born in 1876, followed by Horace in 1879 and Maud in 1882. George Edalji was educated at Rugely Grammar School and then Mason College, Birmingham, where he studied law. In 1893, Edalji began a five year articleship with a firm of Birmingham solicitors and then set up his own law practice in 1899. He wrote a guidebook called Railway Law for the "Man in the Train" in 1901.

The Edalji family began to receive anonymous letters from about 1888, many of them threatening. The Chief Constable of Staffordshire, George Anson, alleged that George was the author of these letters. Then in 1903, a number of livestock were mutilated in Great Wyrley, and anonymous letters were circulated accusing Edalji of these crimes. Edalji was arrested for these crimes and despite an alibi was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison. His father worked tirelessly to publicize the case and his son's innocence. Suddenly, in 1906, Edalji was released from prison with no explanation or pardon. He was unable to return to work and therefore sought to clear his name after his release.

Edalji gained the help of Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes books, who wrote two non-copyright articles in The Daily Telegraph. Edalji's case became notorious and was widely discussed. In 1907, Herbert Gladstone, the Home Secretary, appointed a Special Committee of Inquiry. The Committee cleared Edalji of the crime of mutilation but upheld the claim that he was author of the anonymous letters. Under pressure, Gladstone awarded Edalji a free pardon but did not allow Edalji to be compensated. The case was instrumental in shaping public opinion about the fallacies of the British justice system. On 28 August 1907, the Criminal Appeal Act established the Criminal Court of Appeal. After his release from prison, Edalji moved to London and practised again as a lawyer. He died in 1953.

Published works: 

Railway Law for the "Man in the Train" (London: E. Wilson, 1901)

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1876

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Shapurji Edalji

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Umpire (November 1906)

Precise DOB unknown: 

The Daily Telegraph; see also Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case of Mr George Edalji (London: Blake & Co., 1907) [reprints of articles from The Daily Telegraph]

Edalji, Shapurji, A Miscarriage of Justice: The Case of George Edalji (London: The United Press, 1905)

‘The Edalji case and the home office’, The Spectator (26 Jan 1907), pp. 131–2.

The Times

Secondary works: 

Barnes, Julian, Arthur and George (London: Jonathan Cape, 2005) [For a fictional realisation]

Doyle, Arthur Conan, Memories and Adventures (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1924)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Weaver, Gordon, Conan Doyle and the Parson's Son: The George Edalji Case (Cambridge: Vanguard, 2006)

Whittington-Egan, Richard and Molly (eds), The Story of Mr George Edalji, by Arthur Conan Doyle (London: Greyhouse Books, 1985)

Archive source: 

Report of Home Office departmental committee on papers relating to the case of George Edalji (session 1907, Cd 3503)

Letters and papers, 1902 - 1904, collected by Sir Benjamin Stone concerning the trial of George Edalji, 370797 [IIR 89], ff. 163 -168., Birmingham Central Library, Birmingham

Papers relating to the George Edalji Case, Staffordshire Record Office, Stafford

City of birth: 
Great Wyrley, Staffordshire
Country of birth: 


54 Newhall Street
Birmingham, B3 1LP
United Kingdom
52° 28' 55.0848" N, 1° 54' 10.8252" W
Great Wyrley , WS6 6NT
United Kingdom
52° 39' 58.9824" N, 2° 0' 32.742" W
Date of death: 
17 Jun 1953
Location of death: 
Welwyn Garden City, England
Tags for Making Britain: 
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