BEAMES, John William. Greenwich 21.6.1837 — Clevedon, Somerset 24.5.1902. British Civil servant and Indologist in India, a Pioneer of Comparative NIA Studies. Served in India in 1858-93. Son of the Rev. Thomas B., educated first at Merchant Taylor’s School, then 1856-57 at Haileybury. In 1858 to India, served from March 1859 to the fall 1861 in the Pañjāb, then in Bengal (which then included Bihar and Orissa). From 1867 Collector, 1881 Commissioner. Retired in March 1893 and returned in England living his last years in Clevedon. Politically he was conservative and behaved arrogantly towards Indian members of I.C.S.

At Haileybury Beames had obtained a solid foundation in Oriental languages (mainly Sanskrit and Persian), and his service in the Puñjab and Bengal was a good base for learning of and studying on modern Indian languages. He knew very well Pañjābī, Bengalī, Bihārī and Oṛiyā. Caldwell’s Dravidian grammar gave him the idea to do similar work with the NIA. He was the first to describe Bihārī and (after Hodgson) the Himalayan languages. In the 1860/70s he also wrote on epigraphy, on Orissan archaeology and on Bengalī poetry. Hoernle’s Essays, Trumpp’s Sindhi Grammar, and the second part of Beames’ work came out more or less at the same time, but he was the only one to achieve a full comparative grammar. He did a great work in the period, when this kind of scholarly activity in a colonial official was still considered mere shirking of real work.

Publications: Articles in JASB e.g. on Arabian elements in Hindi (1866-67), on the Chand Bardai (1870-83, with specimens transl.), on Orissan archaeology (1872, 1875) and history (1883). Also articles (on Bengali and Orissan literature 1872-73, and on the geography of India in the times of Akbar 1884-85) and reviews in the IA. Edited Sir H. Elliot’s Supplementary Glossar of Indian Terms.

Comparative Grammar of the Aryan Languages of India: Hindi, Panjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Orija and Bangali. 1-4. ??+354+357+322 p. L. 1866-72-75-79.

Outline of Indian Philology. 100 p. Calcutta 1867, 2nd ed. 1868 (coll. of articles).

Edited: The Prithirája Rásau of Chand Bardai. 1-2. Bibl. Ind. Calcutta 1873 (then continued by Hoernle).

Grammar of the Bengali Language literary and colloquial. 96 p. Oxford 1891.

– “Notes on Akbar’s Súbahs, with reference to Aín-i Akbari”, JRAS 1896, 83-130, 743-765.

Memoirs of a Bengal Civilian. 312 p. 1961.

Sources: Buckland, Dictionary; G.A.G[rierson], JRAS 1902, 722-725; *N. Balbir, Lex. Gramm. 1996, 77f.; Wikipedia with photo.

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