FORBES, Duncan. Pertshire 28.4.1798 — 17.8.1868. British (Scots) Orientalist (Persian and Urdu scholar). Born in a poor family, in 1801 remained at his grandfather, when the parents moved to the U.S.A. In the age of 12 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 Hindustani and became in 1837 Professor of Oriental languages at King’s College. In 1861 retired as honorary fellow. LL.D. 1847 St.Andrews.
DF, who had an ascetic lifestyle, was very popular as a teacher and wrote a number of elementary books and manuals, which were much used. The field of his chair extended from Arabic to Bengali, but neither of the two languages he knew well. In his article “Fior Ghael” in 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 MSS. of British Museum (more than 1000 MSS.). 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. 1828.
– translated from Hindustani: The Adventures of Hatim Tai. 1830.
– The Hindustani Manual. 1. Grammar. 2. Vocabulary. 1845, 2nd ed. 1850, rev. by Platts 1874; A Grammar of the Hundūstānī Language. 1846.
– Oriental Penmanship, an essay for facilitating the reading and writing of the Tálik character. 1849.
– Bāgh o Bahār. Edited with a vocabulary. 1846, new ed. 1849, in Roman characters 1859; rev. ed. of L. F. Smith’s translation 1851; own new translation 1862; 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. 1848, 2nd greatly enl. ed. 1-2. 1857, 3rd ed. 1859, again 802+ 318 p. L. 1866; A Smaller Hindustani and English Dictionary. 1861.
– edited in Hindustani: Totā-Kahānī. 1852;: Baitāl-Pachīsī, with Vocab. L. 1857.
– Observations on the Origin and Progress of Chess. 1855; The History of Chess. 1860.
– A Grammar of the Bengālī Language. 1861; The Bengālī Reader. 1862.
– ed. with Ch. Rieu, Ikhwānu-ṣ-Ṣafā. Translated from the Arabic into Hindūstānī, by Maulawī Ikrām Alī. L. 1862.
– A Grammar of the Arabic Language. 1863; Arabic Reading Lessons. 1864.
– Catalogue of Oriental MSS., chiefly Persian, collected with the last 35 years. 1866.
Sources: D.N.B. 19, 1889, 386-388; Buckland, Dictionary; *privately printed autobiography; Wikipedia.