FORBES, Duncan. Kinnaird, Pertshire 28.4.1798 — London 17.8.1868. British (Scottish) Oriental Scholar (Persian and Urdū). Born in a poor family, in 1801 remained with his grandfather, when the parents moved to the U.S.A. In the age of 12 he still knew not English (or was illiterate in it), but as an intelligent and quick-learning youth passed easily local school and was sent in 1818 to Perth Grammar School. In 1820 started studies at St.Andrews University (M.A. 1823). In 1823-26 he taught at Calcutta Academy, but then an illness forced him to return. In London he assisted Gilchrist and Arnot as teacher of Hindūstānī and became in 1837 Professor of Oriental languages at King’s College. In 1861 retired as honorary fellow. LL.D. 1847 St.Andrews.
Forbes, who had an ascetic lifestyle, was very popular as a teacher and wrote a number of much used elementary books and manuals. The field of his chair extended from Arabic to Bengālī, but neither of the two languages he knew well. In his article “Fior Ghael” in the Gentleman’s Magazine (May 1836) he tried to show that Cymric would not be a Celtic language, which caused a lively discussion (ibid. 1838-39). In 1849-55 he catalogued the Persian collection of British Museum (more than 1000 manuscripts). He was very fond of chess.
Publications: With S. Arnot: An Essay on the Origin and Structure of the Hindostanee Tongue. 24 p. L. 1828; new edition of Arnot’s Grammar of the Hindûstânee Tongue in the Oriental and Roman Character, with a new Selection of easy extracts for reading in the Persi-Arabic and Devanagari character, with a vocabulary by D.F. 132 p. L. 1844; enl. 3rd ed. 1-3. 1861.
– With S. Arnot: A New Persian Grammar. 4+61 p. L. 1828.
– Translated from Persian: The Adventures of Hatim Tai. 11+214 p. Or. Tr. Fund 8. L. 1830, 3rd ed. L. 1911.
– The Hindustani Manual, for all those who visit India in any capacity. 1. Grammar. 2. Vocabulary. 1845, 2nd ed. 1850, 3rd enl. ed. 8+183 p., again rev. by Platts 1874; A Grammar of the Hindūstānī Language. 11+148+16+64+40 p. L. 1846, new ed. L. 1860.
– Oriental Penmanship, an essay for facilitating the reading and writing of the Tálik character. 4+8+22 p. 6 pl. L. 1849.
– Bāgh o Bahār; consisting of entertaining Tales in the Hindūstānī Language. By Mīr Amman of Dihli. 4+130+260 p. L. 1846 (ed. with a vocabulary), new ed. 1849, in Roman characters 1859; The Bágh o Bahár, or the Garden and the Spring; being the Adventures of King Ázád Bakht, and the four Darweshes: literally translated from the Urdú of Mír Amman, of Delhi. With copious explanatory Notes, and an introductory Preface. Hertford 1852, new ed. Hertford & L. 1877 (it remains unclear, whether 1852 version was by F. or rev. from L. F. Smith, at least in 1862 F. published his own version); Two Letters addressed to E. B. Eastwick, attacking Eastwick’s “Lucubrations on the Bâgh o Bahâr”. 1852.
– A Dictionary, Hindustani and English. To which is added a reversed Part, English and Hindustani. 11+586+318 p. L. 1848, 2nd greatly enl. ed. 1-2. 1857, 3rd ed. 1859, again 802+ 318 p. L. 1866; A Smaller Hindustani and English Dictionary, printed entirely in the Roman character. 4+488 p. L. 1861.
– Edited: Totā-Kahānī; or Tales of a Parrot, in the Hindūstānī Language. Translated by Saiyid Ḥaidar Bakhsh, surnamed Ḥaidarī. A new Edition with … a Vocabulary of all the words occurring in the Text. 146+42 p. L. 1852, 2nd ed. 1862; Baitāl-Pachīsī, or, The twenty-five tales of a demon: a new and corrected edition, with a vocabulary of all the words occurring in the text. 198 p. L. 1857.
– Observations on the Origin and Progress of Chess, Containing a Brief Account of the Theory and Practice of the Chaturanga, the Primaeval Game of the Hindus, Also of the Shatranj, the Mediaeval Game of the Persians and Arabs. 50 p. L. 1855; The history of chess, from the time of the early invention of the game in India till the period of its establishment in western and central Europe. 8+312 p. L. 1860.
– A Grammar of the Bengālī Language. 232 p. L. 1861, 2nd ed. L. 1875; The Bengālī Reader. 192 p. L. 1862 (rev. from Haughton’s Bengali Selections).
– Edited with Ch. Rieu, Ikhwānu-ṣ-Ṣafā. Translated from the Arabic into Hindūstānī, by Maulawī Ikrām Alī. 6+176 p. L. 1862.
– A Grammar of the Arabic Language. 344 p. L. 1863; Arabic Reading Lessons, consisting of Easy Extracts from the Best Authors, together with a Vocabulary. 231 p. L. 1864.
– Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts, chiefly Persian, collected with the last 35 years. 92 p. L. 1866.
Sources: D.N.B. 19, 1889, 386-388 (unsigned!); Buckland, Dictionary; *privately printed autobiography; Wikipedia.
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