MONIER-WILLIAMS, Monier. Bombay 12.11.1819 — Cannes, France 11.4. 1899. Sir. British Indologist. Professor in Oxford. Third son of Colonel M. W. (R.E., Surveyor-General in Bombay Presidency, 24 years in India). Sent to England in 1822 he was educated in Chelsea and Brighton, then at King’s College School in London. In 1838-39 at Balliol College, Oxford. In November 1838 obtained a post in the E.I.C. and started in January at Haileybury. He was about to leave to India when the news came that his younger brother had been slain in Sindh. Consenting to the requests of his mother MW remained in England and from 1841 continued his studies at University College in Oxford (now also Sanskrit under Wilson). B.A. 1844 Oxford. Professor of Sanskrit, Persian and Hindustani at Haileybury in 1844-58, until the college was closed. In December 1860 he was appointed Wilson’s successor as Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford (beating Max Müller). He planned the Indian Institute of Oxford and during his travels in India in 1875, 1876 & 1883 obtained funds for it from Indian princes. The foundation was laid in 1883 and the Institute was finally opened in 1896 with MW as its Keeper and Perpetual Curator. He was Fellow of Balliol College in 1882-88 and Honorary Fellow of University College from 1892. In 1887 health problems compelled him to give up teaching and in his last years he spent all winters in France. He died immediately after completing the second edition of his dictionary. Married in 1848, six sons and one daughter. Honorary D.C.L. 1875 Oxford, LL.D. 1876 Calcutta, Ph.D. 188? Göttingen. K.C.I.E. 1887.

As an Indologist MW concentrated on classical Sanskrit Literature (except the Veda) and in his editions and translations showed himself to be a good philologist. The major part of his time was used in preparing text books. The first edition of his famous dictionary was mainly compiled from the PW, which turned Böhtlingk and others against him, but the completely revised (with the help of several assistants) second edition has showed to be extremely useful. Popular was his Indian Wisdom, an account of literary history with numerous selections for a larger public. His aims were mainly practical. While he wanted to have his landsmen to better understand India, he was also all the time thinking the progress of Christian mission in India (according the original will of Boden!). He proposed a replacement of Indian alphabets with Latin letters even in India. Among his students were Gough and Pickford.

Publications: An elementary grammar of the Sanskrit language. 14+212+48 p. L. 1846, 4th ed. 1876; Sanskrit Manual of Composition. 1862.

edited: Vikramorvaśī. 1849; Sakuntala or Sakuntala recognized by the King. 332 p. Hertford 1853 (with partial translation), new ed. 1876; translation also separately, 1853, 6th ed. 1894; Nalopākhyānam. Story of Nala. An episode of the Mahā-bhārata. Sanskrit text, with a copious vocabulary and improved version of Milman’s transl. 346 p. Oxford 1860; transl. also publ. Oxford 1881.

Dictionary, English and Sanskrit. 859 p. 1851.

Papers illustrating the History of the Application of the Roman Alphabet to the Languages of India. 19+276 p. L. 1856.

An Easy Introduction to the Study of Hindūstānī. 1858; Practical Hindūstānī Grammar. 1862.

The Study of Sanskrit in Relation to the Missionary Work in India. 1861.

Indian Epic Poetry, with a full analysis of the Ramayana and of the leading story of the Mahabharata. 8+133 p. L. 1863.

Sanskrit–English Dictionary. 1872; new ed., greatly enlarged and improved. 1369 p. Oxford 1899.

Indian Wisdom, Or, Examples of the Religious, Philosophical, and Ethical Doctrines of the Hindūs. 542 p. L. 1875, 4th enl. ed. 1893.

Hinduism. L. 1877; Religious Life and Thought in India. 1883; Brahmanism. 1891.

Modern India and the Indians: being a series of impressions, notes, and essays. 376 p. L. 1878; “Indian Theistic Reformers”, JRAS 13, 1881, 1-41, 281-290.

– “The place which the Ṛig-veda occupies in the Sandhyâ, and other Daily Religious Services of the Hindus”, OC 5, Berlin 1881, 2:2, 1882, 157-188.

Buddhism, in its connexion with Brahmanism and Hinduism, and in its contrast with Christianity. L. 1889.

– “The Duty of English-speaking Orientalists in regard to united action in adhering generally to Sir William Jones’s Principles of Transliteration, especially in the case of Indian Languages”, JRAS 22, 1890, 607-638; other articles.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; *A.A. Macdonell, JRAS 1899, 730-733; A.A. M[acdonell], D.N.B. Suppl. 3, 1901, 186f.; *H. Morris, Sir Monier M.W., the English Pandit. L. 1900; *M. Moses & A. Moulik: Dialogue of Civilizations. William Jones and the Orientalists. New Delhi 2009, 402-410; Windisch 305-310; Wikipedia with photo.


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