ERSKINE, William. Edinburgh 8.11.1773 — Edinburgh 20.5.1852. British (Scottish) Civil Servant and Lawyer. 1804-23 in India. Son of David E., a lawyer, and Jean Melvin. Educated at Royal High School and Edinburgh University (dr. iuris). He “was a lawyer’s apprentice, 1792-9, went to India in 1803-4 with Sir James Mackintosh”, his future father-in-law. “At Bombay he became a clerk to the Small Cause Court, a stipendiary magistrate, Secretary and Vice-President to the Literary Society… Became Master in Equity in the Recorder’s Court in 1820, was a Member of Mountstuart Elphinstone’s Committee for framing the Bombay code of Regulations. He left India in 1823, having lost his legal offices on a charge of defalcations.” Returned to Scotland, he was Provost of St. Andrew’s in 1836-39. For a while also resided in southern France. Married 1809 Maitland Mackintosh, fourteen children, among whom four sons, i.al. James Claudius E. (1821-1893) and Henry Napier Bruce E. (1832-1893), served in India.
Erskine was mainly a Persian scholar, with an additional interest in archaeology. With Mackintosh he was among the founders of the Bombay Literary Society in 1804.
Publications: “Account of the cave temple of Elephanta”, Tr. Lit. Soc. Bombay 1, 1819, 198-250, 5 pl.; “On the Sacred Books and Religion of the Parsis”, Tr. Lit. Soc. Bombay 2, 1820, 312-361; “On the Authenticity of the Desátír, with Remarks on the Account of the Mahabadi Religion contained in the Dabistán”, Tr. Lit. Soc. Bombay 2, 1820, 362-398; “Observations on the remains of the Buddhists in India”, Tr. Lit. Soc. Bombay 3, 1823, 494-537; other articles.
– Completed Leyden’s translation of Babar’s memoirs. 1826 (using the Persian version, comparing it to the Turki original), and Malcolm’s biography of Clive (1836).
– History of India under Babar and Humayun. Edited by his son (J. C. E.). 1-2. 24+577, 24+585 p. L. 1854.
– Diaries of his journeys to Ellora and Gujarat in JBRAS 25, 1922, 373-409.
Sources: H.B[everidg]e, D.N.B. Suppl. 1, 1901, 190-193; Buckland, Dictionary; V.N. Mandlik, Preface to the 1877 reprint of TrLitSocBombay 1, p. xii; *J. Wilson, JBRAS 4, 1852; JRAS 15, 1855, ii-vi; Wikipedia
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