In the nineteenth century the British Empire was vast, and there were numerous travel books and articles written by explorers, adventurers, anthropologists, and others. Most of these books and articles had of course a British point of view, describing the 'quaint' customs of 'savage' peoples. In this little story Mrs Oliphant turns the tables by describing a visit to England as chronicled in the diary of a despotic Llama of Tibet, who hopes to bring civilisation to the primitive British peoples of this remote island.
Biographical and other notes
This light-hearted satire was inspired by the recent visit of the Shah of Persia to England, especially by his visit to Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. Margaret Oliphant lived in Windsor at that time and probably witnessed some of the public ceremonials. He was met with large crowds wherever he went, and the press reported many colourful anecdotes about himself and his visit. As described later in the short story "The Prince of Wales's Garden Party" by Charlotte Riddell, "No story related of the diamond-decked monarch was at that time too improbable to receive credence. . . . In all ranks, amongst all classes, the Shah was a household word."
This story is represented as quoting extracts from the diary of a fictional Llama of Tibet. Coincidentally a year later in 1874, the real-life Shah of Persia did publish his own journals of his 1873 visit: The Diary of HM The Shah of Persia During His Tour Through Europe in A.D. 1873.