On Bashing Lutyens

By Martin Lutyens

Letter by Candia Lutyens

The author, William Dalrymple, has long been known for taking potshots at Edwin Lutyens, not least in the form of misattributing to him “imperialist” quotations from others. In a recent review of yasmin Khan’s new book, The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War, he was at it again with “as Lutyens put it, ‘Hurrah for despotism!’”. This in fact comes from a letter to Lutyens from Sir Herbert Baker (in Christopher Hussey’s The Life of Sir Edwin Lutyens, p 247). The review included other related inaccuracies and, to cut a long story short, The Spectator agreed to amend its online version of the review and publish the following letter from Edwin’s granddaughter, Candia Lutyens. We are grateful to The Spectator for helping to set the record straight.

“In Defence of New Delhi

Sir: In his review of yasmin Khan’s The Raj at War (Books, 25 July), William Dalrymple devotes his first two paragraphs to misquotes attributed to my grandfather, Sir Edwin Lutyens. His thesis is ill-conceived, inaccurate and, moreover, has nothing to do with the book he is reviewing. Lutyens did not write or say any of the quotes attributed to him — they were variously by Lord Stamfordham conveying the King’s sentiments to Lord Crewe (then Secretary of State for India) and by Sir Herbert Baker. All are welldocumented. The quote attributed to Robert Byron was taken out of context and anyway reflects the latter’s views rather than those of Lutyens. Even the conceit that the Delhi Order with its stone bells was a nod to imperialism is fundamentally misunderstood.

At a time when the very future of New Delhi as conceived by Lutyens is under threat following the withdrawal by the Modi government of its application for uNESCO World Heritage status, it is unhelpful that Dalrymple chooses to pursue his own agenda by indulging in an unwarranted smear on our country’s greatest architect since Wren. Let us leave politics to the politicians but rejoice in the legacy and the beauty of New Delhi.

Candia Lutyens, Samoens, France”

Sadly, the original Spectator article found its way on to the internet and was also syndicated to the Australian press. All this is tiresome but Lutyens Trust members can take comfort from the thought that Edwin Lutyens’s heritage is likely to outlast Dalrymple’s.