Indian elements in The Palace of Fortune and their reception in Queen Mab

William Jones is a significant individual when it comes to mapping Indian literature on the world map. He is a prominent figure in the arena of colonial Indian literature. His genre of work focused on Hindu mythology, and he pioneered the translation of Indian literature by translating many works which were prominent Hindu religious and mythological texts of ancient times. In January 1772, he published a small collection of poems, which consisted mainly of the translations of literary pieces from the Asian languages that had been written before 1770. Most of these works were not just translations but also adaptations of the existing works. He worked ardently to bring the literature aficionados informed about the existing works in oriental languages. He focused on making a comparison between the literature of the Oriental world and the classic Greek and Roman works. The goal was not to pit oriental literature against classic western literature, but rather to encourage translations of these oriental works.”The Palace of Fortune” is a part of one of the celebrated works of Jones. The narrative detail of the poem tells us the story of Maia, who is a maiden with exquisite beauty and becomes aware of the beauty she possesses and her perfections, which leads her to become conceited. The queen of Heaven comes, and Maia is transformed into a goddess and is bestowed with a palace in the sky. She then encounters the exemplification of the people who wished for several luxuries and things deemed to be the source of happiness, which were granted to them. as the poem progresses it focuses on the adventures that come in her life as a girl and we are finally made aware that in due course of events that are projected in the text her discontent vanishes and she repents on her belief. This prolific work of William Jones, “The Palace of Fortune, an Indian Tale,” was largely based and inspired by the story of “Roshanara,” taken from the works of Alexander Dow’s Tales, which was a translation from the Persian of Inatulla of Delhi, composed in 1769. Dow’s original work “Persian Tale’ which has an Indian context, was taken by Jones, and concurring with the fact that he took poetic license, he added several other instances, which he took up from various eastern stories that he encountered. The Palace of Fortune, like many of Jones’s works, was written under the influence of Indian thought and mythology.

The whole adaptation from various sources makes this work traceable to its ancient origins. However, Jones’ work has inspired Percy Bysshe Shelly. In Queen Mab’ we see daunting similarities between the two works of literature. When we consider both the poems under the paradigm of influence, we see that many things that have been discussed by Jones in his work are also present in Shelly’s work. In Jones’s poem, we see that when the beautiful Maia is taken by the Goddess Fortune to her Fairy palace while the Maiden is sleeping in her shining car, this shining car is also present in Shelly’s work; he mentions a pearly and pellucid car. The second similarity that we find is the revelation of the supernatural apparition, and in Queen Mab, the apparition claims to know all the thoughts that man has. Further, Shelly takes another instance where it is shown about the favour that is bestowed on lanthe and the removal of the maiden’s soul. Queen Mab can also be one of the major works of study since it also traces its influence in Edward Moore’s Hindu Pantheon. However, Jones’s The Palace of Fortune (1769), taken from several Indian and Eastern sources, took centre stage when it comes to the inspiration behind “Queen Mab.” In the poem, the abstract characters depicted in the form of pleasure, glory, riches, and knowledge are obliterated because of the blessings they sought, the moral being that human wishes are vain and empty. Shelley must have read Jones’s The Palace of Fortune before writing the description of Queen Mab’s palace. E. Koeppel (1900) and Marie Meister (1915), respectively, highlighted the parallels between The Palace of Fortune and Queen Mab. They remark that both poems talk of a sleeping maiden as a central character, who is escorted to a fairy court by a supernatural figure, who then shows them a realistic vision and seems to know all about mankind. Koeppel and Meister opines that Shelley took the idea of the two women, Ianthe, and Queen Mab, forming the central characters of the poem from Jones’s poem. Jones’ influence within Shelley’s poetry is distinguishably prominent since the plot for Shelley’s Queen Mab, in which a young woman is magically escorted off into the heavens by a golden chariot to learn greater universal truths, is nearly identical to that of Jones’ The Palace of Fortune: An Indian Tale. The major differences between Jones and Shelly can be drawn on the basis of the beliefs that they held in terms of colonialism. William Jones was not a man who believed in democratic principles; rather, he was a contributor to the thought of imperialism. He did not fathom the idea of India as a sovereign state; instead, he was working on Indian literature so that he could in some way legitimise colonialism. He was doing all the translations so that he could win a place in the hearts of the colonised and make the whole process of assimilation easier. On the other hand, Shelly was a believer in rights and democracy, and he was taking influences not to perpetuate any kind of hierarchy but rather to be a supporter of liberal arts and ideas and the free floating of these. Shelly was an atheist and he suffered because of his beliefs at the hands of the state; his own children were taken from him as he was held incapable of nurturing them with good values, and he believed in free speech and ideas. He was a person who surpassed the boundaries of the time and was thinking ahead; he believed in true love. Jones was an educated man, and he was complicit in colonizing people. His translations were a means to establish easy control over the population. By translating, he was connecting himself with the colonised and it made him more aware than the regular coloniser. His translations were poised to benefit the British and not the natives; he thought that he could find listeners easily in the colonised if he indulged in the native works. But this proved otherwise as the works of Indian reached a greater audience which could be seen in the influence which shelly took from Jones. Shelly was a revolutionary of his time, and his idea of working was very different from Jones’. He was not in favour of colonialisation. Even though he was rejected in his own time, he is a cherished writer who believed in freedom and was very different from Jones in that area. This ideological divide between the two writers is vividly depicted in their work.

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Simrah Khan
Simrah Khan, a post graduate student in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University. She has completed her graduation in German Language and Literature from Aligarh Muslim University. Her areas of interests are Canadian Literature, German Literature, and Migrant Literature. She has a keen interest in dialogue studies, rhetoric and writing and is perpetually working in the field of language and literatures of the world. Miss. Khan is an ardent reader and researcher; she has worked as a Content Writer and a Translator of the German language. She can be reached at



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