MOLESWORTH, James Thomas

MOLESWORTH, James Thomas. Baptised St.Giles, Camberwell 15.6.1795 — Clifton 13.7.1872. British (Irish?) Colonial Officer and Indologist, specialist of Marāṭhī. Long time in India (1811?-36 and 51-60). Son of the Hon. Richard M. and Catherine Cobb. After education in Exeter he joined the army and came to India when he was approximately 16. Knowing classical languages he soon learnt Sanskrit and Persian and in 1814 took examinations in Marathi and Hindustani as well and was appointed as a linguist in Native Infantry, later in Commissariate Department. Lieutenant 1816. Posted in Sholapur, in 1818, he started with —> Th. Candy collecting lexical material on Marathi and in 1824, when posted in Kheda, Gujarat, submitted his project of a Marathi dictionary to the government. As Vans Kennedy’s Dictionary was already in press he did not obtain funds, although the proposal was not completely dismissed. In 1825 he, now Captain, obtained permission to move to Bombay and relieved of most other duties for work on the dictionary project. In addition he assisted the Bombay native Education Society and supervised a team of Pandits compiling a Marathi-Marathi dictionary (publ. 1829). In April 1826 the Candy brothers joined him in the dictionary project. As Bombay climate was found too hard for work the three moved in December 1826 to South Konkan and the work was completed in Bankot and Dapoli, mainly by JTM alone. The manuscript was finished in 1828, but as the types were to be prepared in Calcutta the waiting time was used for revision and numerous additions so that it finally contained 40 000 words. The work was printed in 1831 and, after some discussion — Vans Kennedy claiming that Marathi be only an oral language and without the numerous literary words recorded by JTM — the government accepted it and approved the plan of preparing the second volume (English–Marathi). JTM started the work immediately, but he had continuous problems with health and in 1836 he had to return to Europe. Even there he did not recover and had to retire from the army in 1837. He had also developed a strong religious conviction and thought any military assignment or rank to be incompetent with it and thus became plain Mr. Molesworth. In India T. Candy completed and published the dictionary.

Recovered in good health JTM returned to India in 1851 invited by the government to work in revision of his dictionary, which he mainly carried through in Poona and Mahabaleshwar. He returned to England around 1860. He was unmarried.

Publications: A Dictionary, Marathi and English. Assisted by T. & G. Candy. 1831, rev. & enl. 2nd ed. Bombay 1857, corrected repr. 920 p. 1975.

with T. Candy: English and Marathi Dictionary. 1847, rev. & enl. 2nd ed. 974 p. Poona 1873.

two Christian pamphlets in Marathi, 1829 & 1849.

Sources: Biographical sketch by Sh. Gogate in a new edition of Molesworth’s Marathi–English Dictionary, xv-xviii; Wikipedia.


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