HODGSON, Brian Houghton

HODGSON, Brian Houghton. Lower Beech near Macclesfield 1.2.1800 (or 1801?) — London 23.5.1894. British Civil Servant, Diplomat and Indologist in India and Nepal (1818-44 & 1845-58), also worked on Anthropology and Natural History. Son of a banker, educated at Macclesfield and Dr. Delafosse’s school in Richmond, then at Haileybury. At the age of 17 joined I.C.S. and came to India. After further studies at College of Fort William, from 1819 Assistant to the Commission of Kumaon in a newly conquered region. In 1920-29 Secretary to the Resident of Nipál, then three years acting Resident and in 1833-43 Resident in Kathmandu. In December 1843 abruptly called back by Ellenborough. From 1830 lived with an Indian Muslim mistress until her death in 1843, three children (Wiki). According to Cust he came in 1844 to England and married, after one and a half year in England returned to India as a private person in 1845, but Rhys Davids wrote of “his life as a student bachelor recluse at Darjiling (1843-1853)”. According to Cust he lived in Darjeeling until 1858, when (according to RD 1855) he definitely returned to England. Now he settled down in Gloucester and engaged e.g. in chase. Wikipedia: Married 1853 Ann Scott and lived with her in Darjeeling until 1868. He was widowed in 1868 and married again in 1869 Susan Townshend (RD seems to have been poorly informed). Even in the last year of his life he still visited the continent.

During his years in Nepal BHH eagerly studied religions, languages, literature, ethnology and zoology of the country and collected all information available of Tibet. In 1835 he was presented the 1731 edition of the Kanjur and Tanjur by the Dalai Lama. He wrote 170 books and articles. His zoological collection in British Museum contains 10.000 pieces.When still in Nepal, he divided and presented his large manuscript collection between the libraries of Calcutta, London and Paris. After returning to Nepal he abandoned Buddhist studies and concentrated on Himalayan ethnography, physical geography, zoology (especially ornithology), modern lan­guages and their affinities and their use in “vernacular education”. He was no great scholar, but the extent of the unique material he had, made his studies important, and he became an important pioneer in many fields. He found 79 new species of mammals and 124 birds and himself described the majority of them.

After 1855 he did not pursue his studies any longer and published nothing. The reason is not know, apparently he was frustrated. His great idea had been to improve government with increased teaching of culture and literature – but his superiors did not approve and he never get the customary honours. Instead, he became honorary member of several learned academies (Turin 1834, Paris 1850) and societies (Natural Hist. Soc. of Manchester and Frankfurt 1845, Ethnological Society, London 1846, A.S.B. 1855, A.O.S. 1858, D.M.G. 1862, Royal Society 1874/77). Légion d’honneur 1838. D.C.L. 1889 Oxon.

Publications: a great number of articles in As.Res., JASB, JRAS, etc., mostly republished in his books.

– “Notices of the Languages, Literatures and religions of the Bauddahs of Nepal and Bhot”, As. Res. 16, 1828, 409-478.

Literature and Religion of the Buddhists of the North. Serampore 1841.

Aborigines of India. 1847.

collected articles: Selections from the records of the Government of India. No. 27. 1857; Essays on the Languages, Literature, and Religion of Nipál and Tibet. 1-2. L. 1874; Miscellaneous Essays relating to Indian Subjects. 1-2. L. 1880.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; R.N.C[ust], JRAS 1894, 843-849; *M. Cocker & C. Inskipp, A Himalayan ornithologist: The life and work of B.H.H. O.U.P. 1988; *Hoernle, Proc.ASB 1894; *W. W. Hunter, Life of Brian Houghton Hodgson: British Resident at the court of Nepal. 390 p. L. 1896; T. W. Rhys Davids, review of Hunter 1896, JRAS 1897, 186-191; *Sebart, JA 9:3, 1894, 585f.; *D.M. Waterhouse, The Origins of Himalayan Studie: B.H.H. in Nepal and Darjeeling, 1820-1858. Routledge 2004; Wikipedia with three portraits and a bust.

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