HODGSON, Brian Houghton

HODGSON, Brian Houghton. Lower Beech near Macclesfield, Cheshire 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 Brian Hodgson (1766–1858), a banker, and his wife Catherine. 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 1820-29 Secretary to the Resident of Nipál (Nepal), 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 Mehrunnisha until her death in 1843, three children (Wikipedia). 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, no children. Even in the last year of his life he still visited the continent.

During his years in Nepal Hodgson 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, sending them in several batches between 1825-37. Thus on one occasion he sent 94 manuscripts to Bengal Asiatic Society, 66 to Fort William College, 79 to R.A.S., 30 to India Office and 147 to Paris.

After returning from 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. As ethnographer he laid much importance on language, equating linguistic and genetic relation and trying in vain to find a uniform aboriginal language behind the various tribal languages.

After 1855 Hodgson did not pursue his studies any longer and published nothing. The reason is not known, 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: More than 300 articles on languages, religion, literature, ethnography, zoology and botany 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. 3+220 p. Serampore 1841.

Essay the first; On the Kocch, Bódo and Dhimál tribes. 204 p. Calcutta 1847 (also quoted as On the Aborigines of India).

Collected articles: Essays on the Languages, Literature, and Religion of Nipál and Tibet. 1-2. 11+245+124 p. L. 1874; Miscellaneous Essays relating to Indian Subjects. 1-2. 7+407+7+348 p. L. 1880.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; R.N.C[ust], JRAS 1894, 843-849 (also in his *Linguistic and Oriental Essays. L. 1895, 75-80); *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 B.H.H.: British Resident at the court of Nepal. 390 p. L. 1896; *M. Hutt, “Hodgson and the Hanuman Dhoka”, JRAS 3:5, 1995, 1-10; T. W. Rhys Davids, review of Hunter 1896, JRAS 1897, 186-191; *Senart, JA 9:3, 1894, 585f.; *D.M. Waterhouse, The Origins of Himalayan Studie: B.H.H. in Nepal and Darjeeling, 1820-1858. Routledge 2004; Trautmann 1997, 158-160; CRAI 38, 1894, 183f.; *TP 5, 1894; Wikipedia with three portraits, photo and a bust; painting by L. Starr-Canziani (1872) in Ch. Allen, The Buddha and the Sahibs. 2002.

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