Francis William Bain (1863–1940) was a British writer of fantasy stories that he claimed were translated from Sanskrit.
The first of these was A Digit of the Moon (1898), which Bain claimed was his translation of the eighth part of sixteen of a Sanskrit manuscript given to him by a brahmin.
In the story, the king Súryakánta falls in love with the wise and beautiful princess Anangarágá, who will marry only the suitor who asks her a question she cannot answer. The king, with his clever friend Rasakósha, sets off to win the hand of the princess.
During Bain's life, argument raged about whether the story was truly a translation or whether Bain had written it himself. A 1905 review in The Nation said, in part:
- Though palpably a pretence, they are graceful fancies, and might as well have appeared for what they really are instead of masquerading as "translations". No Hindu, unless of this generation and under foreign influence, ever conceived these stories. . . . Moveover, they are of a strict propriety, whereas original Hindu love stories would put Rabelais's ghost to the blush. (Vol. 81, no. 1096, August 31, 1905, p. 183)
The book itself contains numerous refernences to Sanskrit puns and wordplay that the author claimed to have been unable to render in English.
A Digit of the Moon was followed by a number of other stories in the same mode: Syrup of the Bees, Bubbles of the Foam, Essence of the Dusk, Ashes of a God, Mine of Faults, Heifer of the Dawn, and others.
Bain was for a number of years a fellow of All Souls College at Oxford, and then a professor of History in the Deccan College of Poonah, in British India, until his retirement in 1919.
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