Category Archives: literary achievements

From Galle Across Oceans: The Talented Joseph Family

An Introductory Note from Michael Roberts, 30 September 2020

This ramified tale begins with the wedding photograph sent to me my old playmate Adrienne Ranasinghe nee Conderlag displaying the elegant couple and entourage in front of the All Saints Church in the fort of Galle. This spark has set Joe Simpson, a Galle lover who taught at Richmond College for a while and is back in Canada now, off-and-running. He saw that the best man at the wedding was Louis Joseph and sent me an old article he had composed on the Joseph family. This essay is now adorning the Thuppahi web site as well.

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The Joseph Family of British Ceylon: Service to Mankind across the Oceans

Joe Simpson. reproducing his article in http://www.worldgenweb.org/lkawgw/sid.html

This dashing military-style portrait is of Sidney Percival Joseph (1873- 934) who was one of 15 children of Arthur Francis Joseph’s younger brother Eugene (1839-1915) and his wife, Georgiana Jemima (nee Ohlmus) (1848-1906). Sidney would thus have been a nephew of Arthur Francis Joseph (“AFJ”) and Eugenia, and a first cousin of Lawrence Joseph and his brothers. As the two cousins were almost exactly the same age, Sidney and Lawrence were probably childhood friends and remained so after Lawrence Joseph (later Joseph Lawrence) moved permanently to Scotland in the early 1890s.

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How Robert Knox’s Opus took shape in 1681

Anna Winterbottom, in The British Journal for the History of Science, Volume 42Issue 4., December 2009 , pp. 515-538 where the title is Producing and using the Historical Relation of Ceylon: Robert Knox, the East India Company and the Royal Society”

Abstract: Robert Knox’s An Historical Relation of the Island of Ceylon was produced, published and enlarged through the collaboration of the author with scholars including Robert Hooke and financial support from members of the East India Company. The Relation should be seen in the context of a number of texts collected, translated or commissioned by the East India Company in cooperation with the Royal Society during the late seventeenth century that informed and shaped both European expansion and natural philosophy. As well as circulating between European intellectual centres, often reorientated in the process of translation, these texts served as practical guides across settlements and trading posts abroad. Comparing written accounts with experience led to annotations and borrowings that served as the basis for further writings. Company records and Knox’s own unpublished works reveal how the Relation was used as the basis for bio-prospecting for naturally occurring drugs and food sources and in efforts at agricultural transplantation spanning the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Through the reports of seamen like Knox, such experiments contributed to contemporary theories concerning the effects of latitude on plant life.

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Dr RL Spittel: A Learned Man for the Väddās and the Wild

Richard Boyle. in Serendib, October 2013 where the title runs thus “Dr. R. L. Spittel: City Surgeon, Jungle Doctor, Wildlife Crusader”

In the late 1880s, a boy with the ambition to become a leading physician stood in a jungle clearing watching his surgeon-father perform an autopsy. From the undergrowth a member of the aboriginal people, the Veddahs, suddenly appeared. Their eyes met for one brief moment before the shy Veddah hastily withdrew. It was Richard Lionel Spittel’s first experience of a Veddah; an encounter that profoundly affected his life.

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Michael Sandel’s Pursuit of Civic Virtues in USA and the World

Julian Coman, in The Observer, 6 September 2020, …. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/sep/06/michael-sandel-the-populist-backlash-has-been-a-revolt-against-the-tyranny-of-merit?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

The philosopher believes the liberal left’s pursuit of meritocracy has betrayed the working classes. His new book argues for a politics centred on dignity.

Michael Sandel photographed last month in the grounds of Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photograph: Webb Chappell

Michael Sandel was 18 years old when he received his first significant lesson in the art of politics. The future philosopher was president of the student body at Palisades high school, California, at a time when Ronald Reagan, then governor of the state, lived in the same town. Never short of confidence, in 1971 Sandel challenged him to a debate in front of 2,400 left-leaning teenagers. It was the height of the Vietnam war, which had radicalised a generation, and student campuses of any description were hostile territory for a conservative. Somewhat to Sandel’s surprise, Reagan took up the gauntlet that had been thrown down, arriving at the school in style in a black limousine. The subsequent encounter confounded the expectations of his youthful interlocutor.

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The Insidious and False Dimensions of the “Traditional Homeland” Thesis

Gerald Peiris 

The concept of the ‘Traditional Tamil Homeland’ as promulgated by its exponents is based on the notion that, from the distant past, the island of Sri Lanka comprised the territories of two distinct nationalities that were arbitrarily unified in the formation of British Ceylon in the early 19th century.  My survey, which draws from several authoritative writings, some of which have been authored by reputed Tamil scholars, shows that such a notion does not conform to known facts and unbiased interpretations of the country’s history.

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Rajiva Wijesinha’s “Servants” returns to Our World

Godage and Bros have reissued an expanded edition of Professor Rajiva Wijesinha’s novel ‘Servants’ which won the Gratiaen Prize for 1995. Launched at the triennial conference of the Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies held in Colombo in August 1995, the book was acclaimed both in Sri Lanka and abroad. The following year it was awarded the Gratiaen Prize, jointly with Sybil Wettasinghe’s ‘The Child In Me’.

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Interpreting Sigiriya: Confronting Gananath Obeyesekere’s Distortions

Raja De Silva commenting on Gananāth Obēyesēkere: The Buddha in Srī Lankā. Histories and Stories. London: Routledge. 2019 336 pp.

The author [GO], an eminent anthropologist, has rejected the evidence (archaeological and literary)  that I depended on in my interpretation (de Silva, Raja 2002., 155 pp) of the meaning of Sīgiriya and its paintings: that  the site was a monastic complex and the paintings were representations of the goddess Tara.  He has criticized my thesis (1) by resorting to assertions, several untrue and the rest of no merit and (2) by asking rhetorical questions.  He has mentioned without criticism the interpretation of Sīgiriya by Siri Gunasinghe (SG) (2008), his friendly colleague of the Peradeniya University.

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Arise Madame Norah Roberts, 1907-2002

Michael Roberts

In following up on my article clarifying the context of a Letter sent by my sister Norah Roberts in April 1995, I am saying Mea Culpa, Norah, I did not realise what a repository of knowledge on Sri Lankan society you were during your lifetime. Neither did I recognise your commitment to this land and its people.”

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Norah Roberts: A Letter from Her Past, April 1995

My sister Norah Roberts, I now realise, was a remarkable woman. Further elaborations along these lines will follow in a second “Memoriam.” The present display is via a Letter she sent to Fr Corera of the Vanareeth House for Elders run by the Sisters of Charity in Galle on the 15th April 1995 …. a copy of which has been preserved by Moninna Goonewardena of 15 Parawa Street, Fort, Galle.[1]

The copy of the Letter below will be followed by a commentary on several facets touched on within the letter; while my Ode in Praise in a subsequent essay will present details on Norah Roberts and her difficult circumstances of total deafness from her 32/33rd years on earth.

GalleFort~library~2002

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