In Phebe Gibbes’ Hartley House, Calcutta chapter 19, Sophia refers to a quote from The Genius of Shakespear that goes as follows, “Whose nice discernment Virgil-like is such, Never to say too little or too much” (148). For starters, after I googled The Genius of Shakespeare, I discovered that this book is criticizing Shakespear’s literary power–in the sense that he wasn’t as creative as people deemed him to be (like, he had his “off-days” where his work wasn’t the best, yet we consider all of his work to be great–I think, I personally don’t know much about Shakespeare, I didn’t have the traditional English curriculum in high school). It also put forth the question of whether or not he would have the recognition he has today if in 1588 during the Spanish Armada, the Spanish would have won instead of England.
With that being said, it appears then that Sophia is reading material that is deconstructing or simply questioning the things that in that time, Europeans knew as a given; Shakespeare was the greatest. It is also her constant admiration (the receiving of it) in India that made me believe that maybe Sophia was beginning to believe that maybe the European lifestyle wasn’t for her. That she might have possibly preferred to be in India rather than in England. This is supported when she writes the following:
“Thus, you find, we Asiatics can contrive to vary our pleasures; and must be the envy of the European ladies, were they to read that we of Calcutta live only to be adored…” (150).
She began to identify as an Asiatic, while othering herself from the “European ladies” which is absurd but understandable, when you’re being treated like a queen in a land that’s new–essentially soon to be yours. All the “elegance, bright and shiny” treatment she received while in India, made her feel like she deserved to be there. At first, she was a proud European girl, but as time went on, she was fascinated with the culture she was exposed to. If she read The Genius of Shakespeare, I think that might have served as a tool for her to say/believe, “it’s okay to disagree with the given, when the new is better.” It kind of gave her the “ok” to distance herself from the English tradition.