Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Gupte - The Hindu Saint

Who was Gupte?

Here’s a pretty minor piece of Henry Miller trivia, yet related to my posting about Muzumdar. In Tropic Of Cancer, Henry writes about two Hindus, whom he’d considered “saints.” This is what is says on page 78 (Grove Weidenfeld edition):

“In America I had a number of Hindu friends, some good, some bad, some indifferent. Circumstances had placed me in a position where fortunately I could be of aid to them; I secured jobs for them, I harbored them, and I fed them when necessary. They were very grateful, I must say; so much so, in fact that they made my life miserable with their attentions. Two of them were saints, if I know what a saint is; particularly Gupte who was found one morning with his throat cut from ear to ear. In a little boarding house in Greenwich Village he was found one morning stretched out stark naked on the bed, his flute beside him, and his throat gashed, as I say from ear to ear. It was never discovered whether he had been murdered or whether he had committed suicide. But that’s neither here nor there ….”
Here's what I think I've uncovered about Gupte. A news story from the New York Times for July 31, 1922 (at which time Henry was at Western Union) headlined:

HINDU SOUL STUDENT A SUICIDE IN VILLAGE; Scion of Distinguished Family in India Found Dead of Gas in Furnished Room. RECENTLY AT A UNIVERSITY Came Here From Illinois Institution --Paintings of Merit Found in His Effects
His name was Salatil S. Gupge (close to "Gupte"). The opening text reads:
"Salatil S. Gupge, a Hindu student at the University of Illinois, and described as a scion of a distinguished family of India, was found asphyxiated yesterday morning in a furnished room at 15 Commerce Street, Greenwich Village."
Gupte/Gupye. Student (meaning he could have worked at Western Union). Suicide. Greenwich Village. 1922. No mention of a slit throat, but Miller could easily have fudged the facts (not like he hadn't done that before) or, because the passage from Cancer states that "it has never been discovered," this could just be gossip he'd heard, which had been corrupted through the grapevine.
Here's more evidence: The New York City Death Index has a record for this death.
Gupte, Shartam S - (age) 29 y - (date of death) Jul 30 1922 - (certificate number) 20208 - (county) Manhattan - (Soundex) G130.
The spelling is correct here: Gupte. Not important in terms of Henry Miller's biography, but a detail none the less.
(** I had previously titled this "Gupte-The Messenger Saint" (that's why there's a telegram in the banner art) but I realized I'd made an assumption that he was a messenger; but I don't actually know that, although Miller says he "secured jobs for them," which probably means at Western Union ... but I don't know if Gupte's job was as messenger.


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