LEYDEN, John

LEYDEN, John. Denholm, Cavers, Roxburghshire 8.9.1775 — Batavia 28.8.1811 (or 10.9.?). British (Scottish) Physician and Orientalist, a Pioneer of South-East Asian Studies. Son of John L., a shepherd, and Isabella Scott. He was educated at Kirktown and Edinburgh, learned Oriental languages already at home in Edinburgh (Hebrew, Arabic, Persian). Contributed to literary periodicals, produced independent works, and collaborated with Sir Walter Scott collecting old ballads and folklore. Licensed as a preacher in 1798, but he was not interested in religious career. He studied now medicine and became M.D. at St.Andrew’s. Assistant Surgeon in service of the E.I.C. in India (Madras) and South-East Asia from 1803. After surveying Mysore and visiting Penang he came in 1806 to Calcutta and became Professor of Hindustani at College of Fort Williams, then Judge of the 24 Parganas, in 1810 Assay Master of the Mint. In 1805 in Penang he met and befriended himself with Raffles, whom he then accompanied as Malay interpreter in the conquest of Java, but died soon after.

According to contemporary testimonies he was enormously learned, but also a great bore with his endless talks. He knew a great number of languages, including several Indian and South-East Asian. Among his unfinished works was a Prākrit grammar.

Publications: Translated the Malay Annals. Ed. by Th. St. Raffles. 16+361 p. L. 1821; further works.

– “On the Languages and Literature of the Indo-Chinese Nations”, As. Res. 10, 1808, 209-???, 8° ed. 1811, 158-289, repr. with notes by R. Rost in Miscel­laneous Papers relating to Indo-China. 1. L. 1886, 84-?? (both mainland and islands); “On the Rosheniah Sect, and its founder Báyezíd Ansárí”, As. Res. 11, 363-.

– His Bābur translation, the Commentaries of Baber was unfinished, then revised and completed by W. Erskine and published 1826.

– Own poetry and poetical translations, collected in Poetical Remains. With Memoirs of his Life by J. Morton. 9+92+415 p. L. 1819.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; T.B[ayne], D.N.B. 33, 1893, 215f., rev. by *R. Maxwell, Oxford D.N.B.; scattered notes from Maurice Collis, Raffles. London 1966; Wikipedia with portrait.

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