The fictional character of Frederick Lawley, a prominent British figure in colonial India, is the main object of R. K. Narayan's "Lawley Road" (a short story first published in 1956 in the eponymous collection, also republished in the 1982 collection Malgudi Days which I'm currently reading online) and his name also crops up in other stories since several places in Malgudi are named after him. In the story "Lawley Road", people at first think he was a monster of British oppression:

For they unearthed a lot of history about Sir Frederick Lawley. He was a combination of Attila, the Scourge of Europe, and Nadir Shah, with the craftiness of a Machiavelli. He subjugated Indians with the sword and razed to the ground the villages from which he heard the slightest murmur of protest. He never countenanced Indians except when they approached him on their knees.

But later, after they remove his statue, they receive a lot of letters to the contrary:

They were from every kind of historical society in India, all protesting against the removal of the statue. We had all been misled about Sir F. All the present history pertained to a different Lawley of the time of Warren Hastings. This Frederick Lawley (of the statue) was a military governor who had settled down here after the Mutiny. He cleared the jungles and almost built the town of Malgudi. He established here the first cooperative society for the whole of India, and the first canal system by which thousands of acres of land were irrigated from the Sarayu, which had been dissipating itself till then. He established this, he established that, and he died in the great Sarayu floods while attempting to save the lives of villagers living on its banks. He was the first Englishman to advise the British Parliament to involve more and more Indians in all Indian affairs. In one of his despatches he was said to have declared, ‘Britain must quit India someday for her own good.’

Some of these claims are quite specific, and not only related to the fictional town of Malgudi but to the British occupation of India in general. So I wonder: was this fictional Frederick Lawley based on a real figure?

There's a similar question on Quora, where an answer says:

Frederick Lawley is a fictional character, but is believed to have been based upon the real-life Arthur Lawley, 6th Baron Wenlock, who was once upon a time the Governor of Madras. Perhaps, some details of the fictional Lawley’s life, death and legacy were also inspired by the life-story of Sir Thomas Munro, 1st Baronet, another Governor of Madras.

... but without any sources or analysis to support those suggestions. Can this site do better? I'm hoping for specific similarities with Narayan's descriptions of Frederick Lawley, if possible; definitely something more than just a name, which could in any case be the other Lawley mentioned in the story.


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