Thai response to The King and I
King of Siam speaks.
[Bangkok] [for private circulation] [Circa 1946]
Mimeographed typescript, folio (34 x 22 cm), single-sided, pp.[v], 250. A handsome copy bound in patterned local cloth.
A privately produced selection of the letters and documents of King Mongkut of Thailand (1804-1868), whose reign from 1851 to 1868 brought a wave of reforms and ensured the continued independence of his country. The editors compiled this collection in response to the King's depiction in Margaret Landon's 1944 novel, Anna and the King of Siam, and its film adaptation, which saw King Mongkut presented to the West as "a barbaric oriental monarch of an interesting if somewhat doubtful character... not rex Siamensium but Rex Harrison," in their words. Their introduction provides a biographical sketch of the King and his times. The body of this collection is divided into four sections. "Contemplation" contains a handful of letters written by the future king to American acquaintances before his ascent to the throne. "Legislation" includes proclamations and acts dealing with topics from foreign treats to inebriation during New Year celebrations, with another act warning against the trustworthiness of newspapers. "Diplomacy" comprises letters to European diplomats and rulers, and the King's own representative abroad. There are letters to Sir John Bowring and Queen Victoria, President James Buchanan, and even Pope Pius IX. "Domestic and Private" has letters and documents relating to the King's family and household, including a heartfelt note to his children, imploring them to "desist from opium smoking... commit not sexual perversities with thy female companion, if thou be a woman... [and] preserve thee the capital, and use only the interests or profits accruing therefrom." The final section contains an account of the King's final moments and wishes. Although the Pramoj brothers only circulated this collection privately, it was the primary source for Abbot Low Moffat's 1961 biography of King Mongkut, to whom they had sent a copy. It remained unpublished until 1987, when the Siam Society issued an illustrated edition. Seni Pramoj (1905-1997) and Kukrit Pramoj (1911-995) were prominent Thai politicians and great-nephews of King Mongkut, who between them served four terms as prime minister.