My trip so far…

Dear Stacey,

You would not believe the culture shock I’m currently having! My trip to Cancun has been a nonstop party and I have gotten to meet new people! The city itself is around the beach, which makes it convenient to go to and you can’t walk around without running into locals selling their homemade products. I actually bought you a Virgin Mary rosary; I’ll post it on Instagram later, so you can have a souvenir. I think you would really like it here and it’s not too late to jump on the next flight out!
I know you said you have a history report due soon but did you ever think you could finish it here? Basically all I know is that Cancun was a name derived from the Mayan population before they died off; It was on a brochure. You’re report will also look better if you were to come and talk to the locals; I’m sure they would admire us with their hospitality. It’s truly a blessing for the citizens of Cancun that we even come to their city! Honestly, they need all the help they can get. Being here for only two weeks I can already tell how corrupt the city is hence why I only party in the resort; you should do your report on this issue. But then again, maybe it’s not all bad? The beaches are beautiful that it makes me want to live here despite everything else. I would tell you about other things I’ve done in the city but it would be rude to remind you of all the fun I’m having.

It’s interesting, I spontaneously decided to go snorkeling for the first time and it was life- changing! I’ve been feeling rejuvenated and can somewhat see the potential this city may have if we decided to stay here. My husband would probably agree seeing as it’s a business opportunity to expand his company. Oh my, I can’t believe I let that slip out! I actually got married to Robert before arriving in Cancun; he’s just so tall, muscular, rich, obviously white, kind, and so many things I can’t think of right now. Anyways, I haven’t even told you the reason why I’m writing this letter but trust me you’ll want to hear this.

Apparently, I was told that Cancun is like a gold mine for eternal- happiness and I need a lot of it. It’s been a stressful year not only with my job promotion at Apple but also all the first world problems I use to victimize myself. That’s truly why I want to move to Cancun, it would give me a chance to pursue my passion in helping others and simultaneously look better in comparison to my work colleagues. You should let them know I’m extending my vacation time the next time you clock in for work. I also think the locals can learn from our American customs like our language, unseasoned food, and maybe privilege? Anyways, i’ll talk to you soon and tell everyone at the office not to miss me too much!

Much Love,




This letter was written as a parody of Phebe Gibbes’ Hartly House with the intention of pointing out Sophia Goldborne’s ignorance when visiting Calcutta, India. The story is sectioned into letters addressing her friend Arabella, who resides in England, and would ultimately be basing her views of Calcutta through Sophia’s impressions. While some statements are direct criticisms of Sophia’s character, “first world problems” and “privilege”, I also indicated some phrases where it requires further analysis. As I wrote, “Being here for only two weeks I can already tell how corrupt the city is hence why I only party in the resort”. It’s contradicting how the sentence indicates a negative view on the foreign land and at the same time not learning about it prior to the critique. Phebe Gibbes does something similar in her story because Hartly House is praising a foreign land, which should be praiseworthy, but the effects lead to false attraction. The attraction Sophia feels for Calcutta can, and does, manifest into feeling insecure about her own English customs and trying to reclaim those. My parody has been modernized by replacing Calcutta with Cancun and also the two women for the sake of keeping some of the original elements of Hartly House. There are instances in Hartly House where Sophia discusses her “new world” experiences with Arabella but does it as a way to brag and prove her worth. My parody switches off from praising Cancun and the locals to concluding that the city is corrupt and needs “saving”. The overall mix of emotions towards Cancun, in Stephanie’s letter, suggests that without trying to educate one another or being open-minded we will never get past our ignorance; same concept can be applied to Sophia’s letter. If characters like Stephanie and Sophia were to learn more about the foreign lands they visited would they still have the same ideas they chose to speak? Literature of Power is an aspect that writers such as Phebe Gibbes gear towards; the purpose of writing a story intended to move readers emotionally. That emotional movement cannot exist if we’re not being honest with one and if we’re lacking empathy towards a group or setting different to eurocentric standards.

-Kristy Frausto

Let there be Light: Finding Beauty in Sophia’s I am the Best! Letters

In Hartly House, Phebe Gibbes gives the reader a view of India from the eyes of an English teenager named Sophia. Sophia is writing to her friend Arabella and many of the letters remind me of high school style one-upmanship. She is constantly rubbing her friends nose in the sights shes seeing, and the fact that she is traveling the world while poor Arabella is stuck at home in England. Furthermore, she is constantly talking about how wonderful and beautiful she is (usually in relation to some man admiring her) and whining about her love life. So, when Sophia uses allusions to the classics within her letters (in the form of references, quotes, and poetry) one could be forgiven for simply thinking it is just another way for Sophia to make her “friend” feel more inferior by throwing her education in her face, yet these references aren’t just thrown in there. There is obviously some reason for the author adding them (because Sophia is spoiled and pretentious enough without them). These allusions tie this work to the classics, which was a common enough thing for literature of this time, and I imagine part of the reason these poems and quotes are worked into Hartly House, is to make the book more credible, and to give a nod to other works as other authors did. There is something else I noticed about the quotes, though, that I found interesting. Many of the quotes and references have to do with light.

In her second letter Sophia writes, “I cannot, like Mr. Apollo, lay aside my rays, that your optics shall be enabled to contemplate, however brilliant, the dazzling objects I gradually open to your view,” (Gibbes, 7). First of all, Apollo is the god of poetry and I think one could stretch that to all fiction writing, also Apollo is considered the god of light. This is probably because he is associated with Helios (the titan of the sun). The line in the letter itself is also all about light, “rays,” “brilliant,” and “dazzling,” all give this impression of sunlight. This is not the only reference to the classics that is connected to light. Granted Sophia may be using this imagery to connect to the climate of India which is completely different than England… But of course Sophia isn’t real, and so I think that Phebe Gibbes was trying to use these works to remind the reader that there is beauty here even if at first glance all we see is a spoiled rich kid bragging to her “friend.”

-Katie Oswald


Forced Assimilation


Phebe Gibbes Hartly House, Calcutta (1789) is filled with english literary references from the likes of  Dryden, Milton, Pope, Shakespeare, and many more English authors. Gibbs’s quotes Pope’s “An Essay on Man: Epistle I” to justify and articulate the forced assimilation that the native Indians went through. Pope states that,

For me the mine a thousand treasures brings;

For me health gushes from a thousand springs;

Seas roll to Wait me, suns to light me rise;

My footstool earth, my canopy the skies.

Sophia, language and tone does not match the reality of this example of the British imperialism. Sophia makes it seem that the natives we dying to read English colonialism literature. For example, Sophia states that “from all i have already seen and heard, that numbers of them are proud enough to believe, and apply to themselves, the poet’s language.” (Gibbes 48) Sophia is so naive that she actually believes that these people are studying british literature because they want to not because they are being forced to. A majority of these natives do not have there own free will, they are in servitude to the colonialists. Sophia fails to realize that whatever these british colonist tell their native servants to do they will do regardless if they actually would have done it with being ordered too.

The language and tone that Sophia uses in these section illustrates her disillusionment. She fails to realize that the british involvement in India is purely for monetary advancement, and these colonists will do anything and say anything to justify it. Shes describes this assimilation as “both human and divine” her choice to use the term divine masks this assimilation. The use of religious terminology escalates the native indian’s forced assimilation into British Culture.
-Conor Morgan

Sophia’s Statue

“You will naturally suppose, that statuary is a species of garden ornament the Governor and Company are not unmindful of: but to give you a lift of the characters introduced, is a talk I shall not undertake. I had, Indeed, a scheme for immortalizing you and Doyly, could I have only brought you together on this spot ; for, superadded to a Milton, who your figure should have represented the Allegro, his the Penferfo, of that sublime poet.” (Gibbes P.232)  Sophia Goldborne obsessively quotes English literary works to provide relatable images she sees in India for the readers and Arabella. When Sophia starts off with you will naturally suppose, she is amusing the literary work of Milton has been read by Arabella. The quotations suggest about English literature was fondly read in English culture. Thus Sophia attempts to relate her experience in India with one of the Englishman’s work. Sophia then explains how the Governor and East India Company do not practice the art of making statues, however it is a way Sophia attempts to immortalize the character’s she describes to Arabella and Doyly. This practice is one that the Roman’s took part in as their pagan culture. Milton’s Areopagitica was loaded with many Greek and Roman references. “We have it not, that can be heard of, from any ancient State, or politie, or Church, nor by any Statute left us by our Ancestors elder or later; nor from the moderne custom of any reformed Citty, or Church abroad; but from the most Antichristian Councel and the most tyrannous Inquisition that ever inquir’d.” (Milton P.1) Milton’s statement is about book licensing and how it was not a practice of any of the ancient societies such as the roman statues. The mention of modern custom of any reformed city immediately relates to Sophia’s colonial takeover of cities in India.  This leaves open the interpretation that Sophia was influenced by the tempo of Milton which she used to relate the current British oppression to Milton era. However, how oppressive could have the British colonials if they do not practice statuary, book licenses, and censorship of press in India.

-Dario Lomeli

Beautiful Words to Describe the Grotesque

Phebe Gibbes’ Hartly House, Calcuutta is extensively completed with quotes from English poets, authors, and/or plays; one of these being William Shenstone. Within Letter XI, nearing its end of the letter, Sophia quotes Shenstone to ironically express her native beauty, all the while she is critiquing England’s hospitals (by glorifying Calcutta’s). His quote is a short one: “They love me the more when they hear/ Such tenderness fall from my tongue” (Shenstone via Gibbes, 76).

It is needed to be said that Shenstone was indeed an English poet whom wrote about all the wonders and greatness that was found in his native land, such as the English language, hence his quote. He was regarded by many as being a profound poet, Robert Burns in fact—who wrote in the preface to one of Shenstone’s poetry collections—stated that he was a “celebrated poet whose divine elegies do honour to our language, our nation, and our species” (written in 1786). The poet appears to be quite talented in his English, so much so that it brings “honour” to it.

But with this said, what place does he have in this excerpt of the epistle, that is, why does Sophia quote from him whilst critiquing England’s morality?

For the most part Sophia is describing the hospital in Calcutta with pleasurable sensations of her father’s account with it; then tells Arabella that towards England’s hospitals she ought to “promote new and salutary regulations, by publishing so noble an example as [she has] thus set before [her]” (76). To Sophia, her language—her description of the hospital—has done its beauty justice; her words alone ought to grant the construction of better hospital regulations in her native country.

The proof is in her language—appropriately so—when she is comparing her thoughts between the hospitals both wherein she resides and the one she has fled. Sophia praises Calcutta’s, whereas she disregards with disgust the other, “extolling the country [she] now resides in; and sighing for the disgraces of the country [she has] quitted” (76). Therefore, no matter how grotesque she’d like to picture the English regulations, she’ll do so with her greatest asset, thus, also her greatest contradiction: English language.

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

Only English Women


Letter IX has a reference to George Lyttelton quote, “Seek to be good, but aim not to be great; A woman’s noblest station is retreat; Her fairest virtues fly from public sight: Domestic worth – that shuns too strong a light.”

George’s quote meant, by itself, that women should not aim “to be great.” That is the aim of men. His quote serves a different function on its own. The quote is a literary tool to oppress women, especially women who are trying “to be great” by doing anything that went against the dominant social definition of a women. A definition that was shaped, confined, and decided by men; men like George.

In “Hartly House”, however, the quote has a different function. As she describes the different buildings in the town, Phebe Gibbes utilizes the reference to challenge the ideology that deems men as superior. In her description of “The Writer’s Buildings” Phebe Gibbes also says, “This…is the nursery of all the great men; for; from being writers they are advanced…to the highest civil offices…” But, Phebe Gibbes is doing exactly what George says women shouldn’t be doing. Phebe Gibbes is a writer!

Right before she quotes George, Phebe Gibbes acknowledges, “ we are taught to believe, that a woman’s noblest station is retreat…” By using “we”, the character Sophia empathizes with her friend Arabella, in England. But if we zoom out, it is really Phebe Gibbes acknowledging a larger systemic issue, and is therefore empathizing with all English women and also serving as a symbol of resistance an resilience. Because an English women, Phebe Gibbes is ABLE to be a writer “smart enough” to use the master narrative against the masters, men.

But of course, while this narrative does uplift the voices of ENGLISH women. It oppresses women of color. This is a well-too-often issue that we still see happening in social justice movements today. I think this piece of literature offers an opportunity for us to find reasoning behind intersectional advocacy.


  • Israel Alonso

Fifty Shades of Golds…borne

Her fairest virtues fly from public sight.

Domestic worth, that shuns too strong a light.

-Gibbes, 58

Sophia Goldsborne is using a quote by George Lyttelton, the 1st Baron Lyttelton, a member of Parliament and the Royal Society. It is unknown where the exact quote came from, like was it from an interview or from one of his works? Anyway, Sophia is using this quote to help explain her point to Arabella. Before she brings this quote up she says “…for we are taught to believe, that a woman’s noblest station is retreat…” (58). I believe that she is saying that the quote by George has been a stereotype set upon women. That not only are women hidden from “public sight”, they are nothing but “domestic worth”, in other words, just housewives. It could also mean that Sophia, herself, is becoming a young adult in the world despite her being only 16. And she doesn’t want to just be some housewife, she’s too good for that! She goes on to say “…Indostan is the land of vivacity, rather than that of sentiment” (58). Indostan, also known as Hindustan, is a geographic term for the Northern part of India. I believe what Sophia is trying to say here is that Calcutta is a place that is very animated and lively whereas Europe is this place that is affected by many (tragic) events. All in all, Sophia is trying to rub it in Arabella’s face that she’s in Calcutta living the life. In fact, it sounds like she enjoys her stay in Calcutta as it is “the land of vivacity” and she doesn’t want to just be a housewife in such a lively place.

Another One 

On a side note, I did more research on George and found out that he was a supporter of Alexander Pope, Henry Fielding, and had a poem based on him by James Thomson. All of which do have a presence in Sophia’s letters. She has referenced Pope in Letter XIL:

They ask no angel’s wings, no seraph’s fire

But think, admitted to their native sky

Their faithful dog shall bear them company

-Gibbes, 87

By using this quote, she is admiring the people there. She goes on to describe these traits that make them look like Saints, where they would never do anything offensive or hurtful. And because of that, she would love to learn more about their values and traditions. It raises her curiosity of the Indian culture. In addition to that, she misquotes Pope entirely. And this is where it shows her ignorance and arrogance. Ignorance in misquoting, and arrogance in labeling all foreigners “they” and superiority in “native sky”. In Pope’s original passage, he uses “equal sky”. Thus, highlighting her weird usage of these references of literary works. In a sense, she might be misunderstanding the works or just doubt of her own knowledge in this foreign land. Whatever it may be, Sophia represents everything the English is: arrogant.

However, because of her interest in learning more–it could also mean she is working another angle here.

Greek Life

Hear me out on this, Gibbes might be using Sophia as a representation of the English language. Sophia is interested in learning more about the tradition and culture of India, but yet she compares them to the Greek. In my understanding, the Greeks once held knowledge that was very important but are now gone from relevancy. Also on page 7, she refers to the Greek god Apollo.

…though I cannot, like Mr. Apollo, lay aside my rays, that your optics shall be enabled to contemplate, however brilliant, the dazzling objects I gradually open on your view

-Gibbes, 7

She refers to Apollo as “Mr. Apollo,” but why? It may be to make her sound sophisticated to impress Arabella to see how much knowledge she has attained but Apollo is the God of Science, Music, etc., his presence in this quote may imply that she either knows Apollo personally because of how she addresses him or that maybe she believes that she is Apollo herself. To be able to say something like “I gradually open on your view” sounds like Sophia is lowering herself just to talk to Arabella. Again, shows how Sophia could be a representation of the English language: it’s ready to expand because of its amazing value it has behind the language (the Enlightenment, literary classics, etc.).

But is it also a foreshadowing of what is to come for India? I mean think about it, according to the lecture on Monday, this was written before Macaulay went on his conquest to impose English education on Indian land. Once she has “learned” all these things; what is to stop her from imposing her own culture and tradition on them? I mean, she juggles between admiring her own roots but also the things around her. As stated on page 58: “At the back of the Writers’ Building is the Calcutta Theatre…it equals the most splendid European exhibition” (58). To me, it sounds like she is impressed by the things around her but at the same time, she’s trying to play it safe by expressing her love for her European roots. And once she has completely settled down, what is stopping her from changing her mindset to Macaulay’s.

Macaulay’s Inspiration?

Last week, we read about how Macaulay compared the English language to Sanscrit and Arabic.

“…I certainly never met with any orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England”

-Thomas Babington Macaulay, 11

Sure, what they [Macaulay and scholars] learn there was good and all but in comparison to the English language? Not a contest. It’s like comparing Charles Barkley to Michael Jordan (one is a multiple time all-star but the other is a champion, MVP, and a multiple time all-star. Well, this is what the English were probably thinking). Goldsborne incorporates many English literary works here and there which makes me think that she’s trying to promote the English language as much as possible. Thus, showing the status of the English language. Domestically, it’s amazing. But should it be spread throughout the world? Maybe. But this book tells me that this is the very foundation of what Macaulay is preaching. Again, “Her fairest virtues fly from public sight. Domestic worth, that shuns too strong a light” (58). This could potentially stand for the English language as well. The English language might not be available worldwide for “public sight” but is too valuable to just be at home (in England). And now this goes back to how valuable the English language really is, it has literary works from Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, etc., yet it isn’t for the world to see. Not only that, but also Sophia’s characterisitcs of being ignorance and arrogance, it promotes the mindset of British power. And that, is what Macaulay is fighting for, to spread the language internationally because of this represenation.

  • Christopher Luong

“I know what I know, therefore knowing what I know makes me so like smart; like, ya know?”-Sophia

Phebe Gibbs in, Hartley House, Calcutta, introduces the world to a privileged European sixteen year old Sofia, and her narrow perspective of life, through the letters she writes to her friend Anabella.  Throughout the description of India, and all its surroundings, is an over exaggerated sense of nostalgia.  The nostalgia, being she in the center of it all; and the center being her.  In each letter, she writes of the people she meets, and proceeds to analyze them, as well as rate them at different levels of importance.  Her grading system is all dependent of her own knowledge and level of education. Thus, whenever she responds to the acquaintance of someone new, she refers quite often to English literary works and authors to solidify her judgment of them.  

    Upon one of her location stays, she refers to a woman named Mrs. Rider who is giving her a tour of the Mrs. Hartley’s room and closet, and mentions:

“The drapery is well executed, the attitude happily chosen, the likeness masterly, the commentary of the Genius of Shakespeare, which lies on a table in the background…

I feel myself proud when my mind tells me this lady is my countrywoman”(Gibbs, 148).

Two things can be seen here: one, she places herself on a level of all-knowing and implies that what she is well versed on- such as that of authors like Shakespeare- entitle her to a sense of authority; and two, she places Mrs. Hartley in a higher echelon, only for having shown an affection for Shakespeare work, and in that attaches herself to Mrs. Hartley’s elite “worth.”

    Sophia, while truly convinced that she is exploring a new world, only continues to revisit the same conventions she is used to and glorifies -her own self, and that of anything glitzy and glamorous.  It indeed alludes to the  notion that even on a level of academia, her lack of really appreciating other scholars and not holding them up to that same regard as she does to European authors, shows how much European authors were viewed as exclusively supreme; or, rather, the bar to reach.

-Maricela (Marcy) Martinez


In Hartley House by Phebe Gibbe’s, the main character Sophia repeatedly references the works of other English authors. One in particular, is interesting to consider when we form connections about the similarities between their text and this text. Dryden is mentioned in Sophia’s narrative.

When she is telling her friend Arabella about the barges she writes:

“You have seen, as you suppose, some very handsome barges on the river Thames; but how poor a figure the handsomest would make, in comparison with the bugeros, or barged of Calcutta, I will endeavor to convince you.

As they approached, my ears drank in the most delightful sounds; a band of music, as is the custom, occupied each of them, playing the softest airs; and from the tout ensemble, brought Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra to my recollection. “ (8-9)

It’s obvious, especially from the close reading on Wednesday, that Sophia is an adolescent that feeds into her own vanity. This inflated ego, is not terrible per se, but Sophia uses this vanity, as a way to show off literature she isn’t even familiar with!

 we notice that Sophia is using words such as “bugeros” and “tout ensemble”. She is also undermining Arabella’s intelligence by essentially simplifying the words, that wouldn’t have been needed simplification if she had just said the word as it is instead of using another language to appear more cultured.

Ah yes, Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra, no big deal. Except, Sophia, is that a thing? Does Sophia actually mean Antony and Cleopatra at Cydnus by…..William Shakespeare. 

Sophia is exposing this pretentiousness and British insecurity on foreign land. She tries over and over again to quote British literature and reference classics.

This demonstrates elitism within british literature, Gibbe’s is satirizing how engulfed Sophia is with the aesthetic beauty of British literature, and ignoring the other issues at hand going on in the world. 
-Beyanira Bautista

English Literature in Phebe Gibbes’s Hartley House, Calcutta

Receptive to the Anglo-Indian colonial experience in Bengal, Phebe Gibbes’s  Hartley House, Calcutta (1789) abounds with references to the works of Dryden, Milton, Pope, Shakespeare, and other English authors.  For next Friday (3/10), students will write a brief post focusing on ONE example of these references for close reading, explaining their specific function in the text.  Why does Sophia Goldborne obsessively quote English literary works ?  What do these selective quotations suggest about the status of English literature during this time?  Feel free to run a Google search for unattributed literary references.

Please categorize your post under “The Anglo-Indian Novel” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  The post is due by Friday (3/10) 1pm, but students have the option to revise it until 6pm that day.  And please sign your posts so that your TA, Hannah, and I know who wrote what.  Warning: blank or filler “placeholder” posts submitted after the deadline will not receive a grade!