The first paragraph of Premchand's (true?) short story "My First Composition" (available on the Internet Archive) is:

At the time my age was about thirteen years. I was quite ignorant of Hindi. I had a passion for Urdu novels. Maulana Sharar, Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar, Mirza Ruswa, Maulvi Mohamad Ali of Hardoi were the popular novelists of the period. Wherever I came across any of their works, I would forget all about my school and would not rest until I had read it from cover to cover. In those days Reynold's novels were in great demand and the Urdu translations of these were being published in quick succession and sold like hot cakes. They were my favourites, too. The late Hazrat Riyas, who is a well-known poet and who had passed away only recently, had translated a novel of Reynolds under the title of Haram Sara, while the then editor of the Lucknow weekly, Oudh Punch - one of the immortals among the humourists of India - Maulana Sajjad Hussain had translated another novel of Reynolds with the title, Shokha or Tilasmi Fanus. I read all these books in those days. I never had a surfeit of Ratan Nath Sarshar, even though I had finished reading all his novels.

I presumed the writers mentioned here to be famous Urdu writers, but several of them I found hard to identify.

  • Maulana Sharar - is this Abdul Halim Sharar?
  • Pandit Ratan Nath Sarshar - this must be Ratan Nath Dhar Sarshar?
  • Mirza Ruswa must be Mirza Hadi Ruswa.
  • Maulvi Mohamad Ali might be Muhammad Ali under a different spelling, but he came from Murar not Hardoi?
  • Searching for novelists called Reynolds brings me to the modern writers Alistair Reynolds and Jason Reynolds, so who is the Reynold(s) that Premchand refers to?
  • Searching for Hazrat Riyas gives me nothing at all - who was this?
  • Maulana Sajjad Hussain must be Munshi Sajjad Husain, editor of the Oudh Punch.

1 Answer 1


This gets easier when you strip out the honorific titles, Maulana, Pandit, Mirza, Maulvi and Hazrat.

Sharar, Sarshar, Ruswa and Hussain I think you have correctly identified.

'Mohamad Ali of Hardoi' may be 'Ahmad Ali', an Urdu writer known for his contributions to Ouhd Punch and a mentor to Sharar. I found this in the 'A Note on Abdul Halim Sharar' on page 4 (PDF numbers) of Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture ABDUL HALIM SHARAR. While that gives no autobiographical information for Ali, it does place him in Lucknow which is only around 50km south east of Hardoi.

Riyas would appear to be Riyaz Khairabadi. The date of his death in 1934 would not tally with the story being autobiographical.

Khairabadi translated some of the works of George William MacArthur Reynolds including Loves of the Harem (1855) as Haram-Sara.

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