WILSON, Horace Hayman

WILSON, Horace Hayman. London 26.9.1786 (date uncertain) — London 8.5.1860. British Indologist. In India 1808-32, then Professor in Oxford. Born in a modest family. Educated in London and studied medicine at St.Thomas’ Hospital, but also learned the elements of minting. In 1808 left forBengal as Assistant-Surgeon, during the six months’ travel learned Hindūstānī. Arrived at Calcutta in March 1809 he was, insteadof surgery, put in the Calcutta Mint, from 1816 its Assay-Master (succeeding —> Leyden). In 1811-32 Secretary of A.S.B. He was involved in establishing the Sanskrit College and the Hindu College in Calcutta. From 1832 the first Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford. In 1833-36 lived in Oxford, but then moved to London as the successor of Wilkins as the Librarian of the E.I.C., visiting Oxford periodically to give his teaching. Twice a year he was also examiner at Haileybury. Both Professor and Librarian until his death. In 1837-60 Director of R.A.S. (1837-56 President, then Director, says Sengupta)). Married 1829 Frances Sarah Parr Siddons (1808–1878), several children, his grandson Alexander Hayman W. (d. 1934) was the lawyer of R.A.S.

Wilson started the study of Sanskrit soon after arriving in India, becoming friend and disciple of Colebrooke and relying on the help of local Pandits. With his medical background he also studied traditional treatment of cholera and leprosy in Calcutta and wrote a few medical articles. He soon developed into a many-sided Indologist who, beside literature, was also interested in archaeology and in his later years even in Veda. The great Sanskrit dictionary was compiled by a team of Pandits under his supervisionand financed by the government. Itwas the first really useful (although also very expensive) help and superseded only by the PW. Many other books were important pioneer works (e.g. Hindu Theatre, which was also the first attempt to explain Indian aesthetics to western audience). He wrote good summaries and analyses. He started (with Burnouf) the scholarly study of the Purāṇas and had a heated argument with Vans Kennedy, who held them ancient, while Wilson dated them around 8th to 16th centuries. In his Ṛgveda translation he followed Sāyaṇa, and the work was already antiquated when the last volumes came out. The Ariana antiqua was an important account of recent historical and numismatical studies. Important was also his apt criticism of James Mill’s one-sided and biased History of India. He was keenly interested in theatre and a capable performer himself. Among his many students at Oxford were E. B. Cowell, Monier-Williams and J. C. Thomson. His personal collection of no less than 540 Sanskrit manuscripts is now in Oxford.

Publications: Edited & transl. Megha duta, or, cloud messenger. 12+199 p. Calcutta 1813 (tr. in rhymed verse).

Edited: Sanskrit-English Dictionary. 1061 p. Calcutta 1819, rev. 2nd ed. 1831.

– “An Essay on the Hindu History of Cashmir”, As. Res. 15, 1825, 1-119; “On the Hindoo Law as it is Current in Bengal”, Oriental Magazine 3, 1825, 171-240.

“Kushta, or leprosy, as known to the Hindus”, Transactions of the Medical and Physical Soc. of Calcutta 1, 1825, 1-44; “On the native practice in cholera, with remarks”, Ibid. 2, 1826, 282-292.

Select Specimens of the Theatre of the Hindus. 1-2. 11+79+204, 105+4+133+9+114 p. Calcutta 1826-27, German transl. 1-2. Weimar 1828-31; French by Langlois. 1-2. P. 1828.

Translated: The Mrichchakati or the Toy Cart, a Drama. 204 p. Calcutta 1826 (also Select Specimens 1:2. 1827); Vikrama and Urvasi or the Hero and the Nymph, a Drama. 105 p. Calcutta 1826 (also Select Specimens 2:1. 1827); The Mudra Rakshasa or the Signet of the Minister. 156 p. Calcutta 1827 (also Select Specimens 3:1. 1827).

– “Analytical Account of the Pancha Tantra illustrated with occasional Translations”, TrRAS 1:2, 1826, 155-200.

– “A Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus”, As. Res. 16, 1828, 1-136 & 17, 1832, 169-313, as book Calcutta 1846; Lectures on the Religious and Philosophical Systems of the Hindus. 1840; “The Religious Festivals of the Hindus”, JRAS 9, 1848, 60-110.

A descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Manuscripts, etc. collected by … Mackenzie. 1-2. 154+357, 149+269 p. Calcutta 1828.

– “Sanscrit Inscriptions at Abú”, As. Res. 16, 1828, 284-330; “Description of Select Coins”, As. Res. 17, 1832, 559-606.

With A. Csoma de Körös: “Abstract of the Contents of the Dul-va”, JASB 1, 1832, 1-8.

– “Historical Sketch of the Kingdom of Pándya, Southern Peninsula of India”, JRAS 3, 1836, 199-242, 387-390 (then also in MJLS 6, 1837, 176-220).

Edited & translated: The Sa’nkhya Kárika or Memorial Verses on the Sa’nkhya Philosophy, by I’swara Krishna. Transl. from the Sanskrit by H. T. Colebrooke, also the Bháshja or Commentary, transl. & illustrated by an original Commentary by H. H. W. 14+194+48+6 p. L. 1837.

– “Essays on the Puránas”, JRAS 5, 1839, 61-72 & 280-313.

Translated: Vishnu Purana. A system of Hindu mythology and tradition. L. 1840, new ed. by F. Hall. 1-5. 140+200+343+343+347+394+268 p. L. 1864.

Edited: W. Moorcroft & G. Trebeck: Travels in the Himalayan provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab; in Ladakh and Kashmir; in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz, and Bokhara from 1819 to 1825. 1-2. 459+508 p. L. 1841.

Ariana Antiqua. A Descriptive Account of the Antiquities and Coins of Afghanistan. 16+452 p. 22 pl. London 1841.

The History of British India from 1805 to 1835. 1-3. 16+608, 16+592+70+24 p. L. 1845-48 (continuation of Mill’s History); Narrative of the Burmese War in 1824–26. 8+290 p. L. 1852.

Introduction to the grammar of the Sanskrit language for the use of early students. 11+447 p. L. 1841, 3rd ed. 1847.

– “Notes on the Sabhá Parva of the Mahábhárata, illustrative of some Ancient Usages and Articles of Traffic of the Hindus”, JRAS 7, 1843, 137-144.

Edited: The Daśa Kumára Charita, or adventures of ten princes. 31+202 p. L. 1846.

Translated: Ṛig-Veda-Sanhitā. A Collection of ancient Hindu hymns. 1-6. L. 1850-58, 1888 (4-6. edited by Cowell and Webster).

– “The Rock Inscriptions of Kapur di Giri, Dhauli and Girnar”, JRS 12, 1850, 153-251; brief articles on Aśokan inscriptions in JRAS 8, 1846 & 16, 1856.

A glossary of judicial and revenue terms and of useful words occurring in official documents relating to the administration of the government of British India. 28+788 p. L. 1855.

– “On Buddha and Buddhism”, JRAS 16, 1856, 229-265.

Essays and Lectures on the Religion of the Hindus. Collected and ed. by R. Rost. 1-2. 398+416 p. L. 1861-62; Essays. Analytical, Critical and Philological on Subjects Connected with Sanskrit Literature. Edited by R. Rost. 1-3. 408+406+392 p. L. 1864.

Works of the late H. H. Wilson. 1-12. Ed. by R. Rost. 1862-71.

Sources: A.J. Arberry, The Library of the India Office. L. 1938; C.B[endall], D.N.B. 62, 1900, 97-99; Buckland, Dictionary.; G. Dugat, Histoire des orientalistes. P. 1868, 143-161; Renou, Maitres 1928, 3-5 (on RV transl.); Sengupta 1996, 51-60; Stache-Weiske 2017, 570; Windisch 36-47, 112-115; JRAS Annual report for 1860; Wikipedia with two portraits. There are several portraits and busts of him (see Arberry 1938, 63).

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