Hudleston Music

The Hudleston Years in India




Hudleston embarked for India early in 1817, after the completion of his studies, and arrived in Madras on 25 June of that year, after almost six months at sea. Due to the great length of the voyage, travelers were encouraged to take along just about anything to lighten the tedium: “Fowling-pieces, rifles, fishing tackle, colour-boxes, musical instruments, books, scientific instruments, telescopes, cards, chess and backgammon boards” were all recommended. (J. H.Stocqueler, The Hand-Book of India, a guide to the stranger and the traveller and a companion to the resident. London, 1844). There was occasionally a piano on board; although if a passenger had brought one, it was unadvisable to unpack it during the journey! Hudleston’s devotion to and enthusiasm for the guitar (as well as his extraordinary proficiency on it), however, far exceeded that of someone who began the study of the instrument only to combat boredom.

Hudleston began his career at the Madras trading factory as did all newcomers to the Company’s Civil Service: as a writer. “A writer was nothing more than a clerk, whose days were spent wearily on a high wooden stool scratching interminable entries into a ledger with a quill pen...” (Geoffrey Moorhouse, India Brittanica. London, 1983). Tedious as this may have been for the young Hudleston, the practice of recording everything in writing stayed with him; he dated many of his own compositions and arrangements to the day, and on many of the prints in his collection are pencil notes concerning when he played the works, what he thought of them, when he made copies of them, and for whom. This marginalia has proven indispensable to the assembly of Hudleston’s biography.

In 1820, Hudleston was appointed Second Assistant to the Collector and Magistrate of Tinnevelly, a better promotion than a writer would expect within three years of arriving in India. Whether this promotion had to do with Hudleston’s exceptional administrative talents or to the fact that his father was a Company Director at the time is open to question.

In 1824, Hudleston was appointed the Head Assistant to the Registrar of the Sudder and Foujdarry Adawlut; two years later, he was Acting Deputy Registrar of the Sudder Court. The Sudder Adawlut was the chief court of appeals in Madras, and the Foujdarry was the chief criminal court. Hudleston’s duties in each post would once again have had much to do with keeping records.

Another two years later, in 1828, Hudleston was promoted again, this time to Deputy Collector of Madras, a post he held for three years. From 1831-1835, he was Superintendent of Stationery.

After serving as the Acting Collector and Deputy Collector of Madras from 1836 until 1843, Hudleston was finally promoted to the position of Chief Collector of Madras, a post of considerable importance, which he held until his retirement from the Civil Service in 1855. The Collector was the chief administrative official of a district, whose duty it is to collect revenue, as the title suggests. In areas outside Bengal, however, the Collector had controlling magisterial powers, and was more of a pro-consul or prefect. How much work the Collector, or any high official in the Company had to do is unclear, but the fact that Hudleston’s activity as a composer and arranger reached its peak during these very years leads one to believe that his professional duties were not very demanding.

But a Madras Civil Servant was not, in general, as desk-bound as we might expect. “The hours of work in all offices appears to have been between 8 and 11 in the morning and 2 to 4 in the afternoon, and that the principal meal was taken before midday and was followed by a siesta. This will interest those who desire to have a change in hours of work suitable to tropical climate: in hot sun between 11 and 2, employees in services are expected to have rest and not to strain themselves.” (W. S. Krishnaswami Nayudu, Old Madras. Madras, 1965). Plenty of time in the evenings, then, for music.


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