CHAMBERS, Robert. Newcastle-upon-Tyne 14.1.1737 — Paris 9.5.1803. Sir. British Colonial Official and a Pioneer of Indology. Son of Robert Ch. (d. 1749), an attorney in Newcastle, and Anne Metcalf, brother of —> William Ch. Educated at Royal Grammar School in Newcastle. Studies from 1754 at Oxford (Lincoln College; 1758 B.A., 1761 M.A. and Fellow of University College, 1765 B.C.L.). Called to the bar in 1761, from 1766 Vinerian Professor of Law, until 1774 (formally to 1777). A friend of (Sir) William Jones and Dr. Johnson as early as 1766. As a succesful lawyer he went to India in 1774 as the second Judge of the Calcutta Supreme Court, knighted in 1778. From 1789 Chief Justice. As a judge of the Nancomar trial he was accused for clemency. After Shore President of the A.S.B. in 1797-99. In 1799 returned from India because of ill-health and in 1802 left for South France in order to tend his lungs, but died in Paris. Married 1774 Frances Wilton (Lady Ch., d. 1839), seven children.
Chambers was no linguist and himself admitted that he did not know well any Asian language, just some Persian. He was a perfectionist, who published very little. His fine collection of Sanskrit manuscripts was later (1843) bought for Berlin Library.
Publications: “Discourse”, As. Res. 6, 1800, 1-5 (on the history of the A.S.B.).
– A Treatise on Estates and Tenures. Ed. by C. H. Chambers. 12+312 p. L. 1824 (not on India); A course of lectures on the English law … 1767–1773. Ed. by T. M. Curley. 1-2. Oxford 1986.
– W. H. Smoult: A Collection of Orders by the Supreme Court of Judicature at Bengal on the Plea Side of the Court, 1774–1813, with notes from the note-books of Sir R. Ch. and Mr. Justice Hyde. Calcutta 1834.
– [Fr. Rosen]: Catalogue of the Sanskrit Manuscripts collected during his residence in India by the late Sir Robert Ch. … with a brief memoir by Lady Chambers. 35 p. L. 1838.
Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; *T.H. Bowyer, Oxford D.N.B.: W.P.C[ourtney], D.N.B. 10, 1887, 22f.; *Th.M. Curley, Sir Robert Chambers: Law, Literature, and Empire in the Age of Johnson. Madison 1998 (with several pictures); Wikipedia with portrait.
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