Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. April 17, 1907
By the Way
A Mouse in a Flutter
Poor N.1 N. Ghose! When we dealt with him faithfully in our “By the Way” column, we did so in the belief that it would do him good; the wounds given by a friend are wholesome, though painful. We expected that if we printed2 him in his true colours, he would recognise the picture, grow ashamed and reform; but it is possible we did wrong to pluck out so cruelly the heart of our Sankaritola Hamlet's mystery. Certainly we did not anticipate that the sight of his own moral lineaments would drive him into such an exhibition of shrieking and gesticulating fury as disfigures the Indian Nation of the 15th April. Such self-degradation by a cultured and respectable literary gentleman is very distressing and we apologise to the public for being the cause of this shocking spectacle. We will devote our column today to soothing down his ruffled plumes. By the way, we assure Mr. Ghose that when we talk of his ruffled plumes, we are not thinking of him in his capacity as a mouse at all. We are for a moment imagining him to be a feathered biped – say, a pelican solitary in the wilderness or else, if he prefers it, a turtle-dove cooing to his newly-found mate in Colootola.
What is it that Mr. Ghose lays to our charge? In the first place, he accuses us of having turned him into a mouse. In the second place, he complains that after turning him into a mouse, we should still treat him as a human being. “I am a mouse,” he complains; “how can I have an arm of succour or a fully organised heart? I am a mouse, ergo I am neither a politician nor a cynic.” We plead not guilty to both charges. We do not profess to have any magical power whatever and when we casually compared our revered contemporary to the mouse in the fable, we had not the least idea that we were using a powerful mantra which could double the number of Mr. Ghose's legs and change him into a furtive “rodent3”. The rest of our remarks we made under the impression that he was still a human being; why he should so indignantly resent being spoken of as a human being, we fail to understand. No, when we made the allusion, we did not mean to turn Mr. Ghose into a mouse any more than when we compared him to Satan reproving sin, we intended to turn him into the devil. But the Principal of the Metropolitan College seems as skilful in mixing other people's metaphors as in mixing his own.
If, after this explanation, he still persists in his “mouse I am and mouse I remain” attitude we cannot help it. The worthy publicist seems to have had mice on his brain recently. The other day he discovered a winged or fluttering species of the rodent; now the mere mention of a mouse has engendered the delusion that he is one himself. We do not believe in the existence of fluttering mice,– but after Mr. Ghose's recent exhibition we can well believe in the existence of a mouse in a flutter. This time he seems to have discovered a new species which he calls “rhodents”! There was much discussion in our office as to this new animal. Some thought it a brilliant invention of the printer's devil; others opined that in his wild excitement the editor's cockney-made pen had dropped an “h”; others held that our Calcutta Hamlet, unlike the Shakespearian, cannot distinguish between a mouse and a rhododendron. A learned Government Professor assured4 us, however, that rhodon is Greek for a rose and that Mr. Ghose has found a new species of mouse that not only flutters but flowers,– of which he believes himself to be the only surviving specimen. However that may be, we have learned our lesson and will never compare him to a “rhodent” again. A rose by another name will smell as sweet and a mouse by any other name will gnaw as hard.
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.
1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Mr. N.
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: painted
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: rhodent
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: assures