ELIOT, Charles Norton Edgcumbe. Sibford Gower, Oxfordshire 8.1.1862 — Strait of Malacca 16./17.3.1931. Sir. British Oriental Scholar and Diplomat. Son of Edward E., a curate, and Elizabeth Harriet Wyatt Watling. Educated at Cheltenham College, studies from 1880 at Balliol College, Oxford (classical philology, also Sanskrit). From 1886 in diplomatic service: in St. Petersburg, Constantinople, Morocco, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Washington. In 1901-04 High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief of the British East African Protectorate. Retired from the service because of a political disagreement with London, came to England and became the Vice-Chancellor of the new Sheffield University. In 1912-18 the first Vice-Chancellor and principal of the new Hong Kong University. In 1918 returned to the diplomatic service and was, after a while as British High Commissioner in Siberia, in 1919-26 the ambassador in Tokyo. In 1926 he retired and, living mainly in Japan, concentrated on his studies of Japanese Buddhism. Died on board travelling to England.
As a scholar Eliot was many-sided, but Japan had the first place. According to his contemporaries he was free of racial prejudices and appreciated much Indian thought. In 1926 he was elected as the first foreign member in the Imperial Academy of Japan. He was G.C.M.G., C.B., M.A., and Honorary D.Litt. (Oxon.), LL.D. (Edinb.), and Hon. D.C.L. (Durham). His hobby was the study of nudibranch molluscs, of which he described about 30 new species (listed in Wikipedia). Unmarried.
Publications: A Finnish Grammar. 279 p. Oxford 1890; Turkey in Europe. 475 p. L. 1900; The East African Protectorate. 12+334 p. L. 1905; Letters from the Far East. 188 p. L. 1907.
– Articles in the Enc. Brit.: History of Asia, the Hungarian language, the Huns, Kashgar, the Khazars, the Tartars, and the Turks; many articles on marine biology (molluscs), listed in Wikipedia.
– “Hinduism in Assam”, JRAS 1910, 1155-1186.
– Hinduism and Buddhism. 1-3. 350+324+517 p. L. 1921.
– Japanese Buddhism. 34+449 p. L. 1935.
Sources: R. F. Johnston, JRAS 1931, 728-731; H. Parlett, Preface to Eliot’s Japanese Buddhism. 1935; P. Pelliot, TP 28, 1931, 243f.; *G.B. Sansom & J.M. Hussey, Oxford D.N.B. 18, 2004, 49f.; Wikipedia with photo; several photos in National Portrait Gallery homepage.
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