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Mera K. Sett – an Appeal for Information

December 23, 2022

Bob Forrest has sent us the following request for information on the Rubaiyat artist Mera K Sett. If you can help, please comment below.

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Nearly a decade ago now (I am somewhat alarmed to find!) I put an article onto my website (*) about Rubaiyat illustrator Mera K. Sett. Since then some new information has come to light, though not as much as I would like. Mainly I have still been unable to discover where and when Sett died – I presume in Mumbai (or Bombay as it would have been then), but when ? I have written to and emailed various people and organisations in Mumbai – in some instances twice – but have never received any reply at all. So, does any reader of this blog have any contacts in Mumbai who might be able to help ? There is an online system for ordering death certificates for the Mumbai region, but you have to know the precise date of death to use it – so far as I am aware there is nothing akin to searching for a date of death via the online ancestry sites available in the UK.

It may interest readers of this blog to see a passport photo of Sett which has turned up, dated 1934, when he would have been 45 years old (Fig.1 above right). Also newly emerged is the fact that though the title-page of his illustrated Rubaiyat, published for him by Galloway and Porter of Cambridge, bears the date 1914 (Fig.2 below left), it was not actually published until December 1915. Since this is some months after the death of Rupert Brooke, on 23 April 1915, Brooke cannot have seen a published version of it, which of course has implications for the two-column review of Sett’s book which he is supposed to have written, and which has still not been found. This is not to say it wasn’t written. Sett and Brooke could certainly have met in either Cambridge or London in 1913, so Brooke could have seen Sett’s MS “in progress” and made favourable comments about it, but no evidence for this has yet come to light, and the review, if it was ever actually published, in view of Brooke’s untimely death, remains elusive.

One avenue of approach to finding further information about Sett is to try to contact descendants of the dedicatees of the stories in the only other book illustrated by (and written by) him, “Sculptured Melodies”, but so far this hasn’t paid dividends.(*) Some dedicatees have simply disappeared into the mists of time, others died childless, or, in the one case where contact with a descendant was made, she had quite simply never heard of Sett. But the quest continues.

(*) . This article contains information about the Rupert Brooke review, and also about Sett’s “Sculptured Melodies,” which some readers may find useful to be going on with. However, some parts of it do need to be revised and updated, which I will do in due course in a more detailed look at Sett’s life and art-work.

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