Maurice, Thomas (DNB00)
|←Maurice, James Wilkes||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 37
MAURICE, THOMAS (1754–1824), oriental scholar and historian, came of an ancient Welsh family which claimed connection with the princes of Powis, and descent from Eineon (fl. 1093) [q. v.] His father, Thomas, was articled to a West India merchant, made several voyages to the West Indies, and after a three years' settlement at Jamaica opened an academy at Clapham, and married an elderly lady with some property. In 1737 he was elected head-master of a school at Hertford belonging to Christ's Hospital. His first wife had died, and Thomas, the eldest of six children by a second, was born at Hertford in 1754. His father died in 1763 and his mother married an Irish methodist, who is said to have treated her badly, while Thomas was sent to Christ's Hospital, thence to Ealing, and subsequently, through his mother's influence, to Kingswood School, Bath. Taking chambers in the Inner Temple, he found the study of classical and English literature more attractive than that of law, and under the tuition of Dr. Samuel Parr [q. v.], at Stanmore, devoted himself to classics. On 6 May 1774 he matriculated from St. John's College, Oxford, migrated after a year to University College, and graduated B.A. in 1778 and M.A. in 1808. While at Oxford he published a translation of the Œdipus Tyrannus, for which Dr. Johnson wrote a preface (Hill, Boswell, iii. 370 n. 2) and some English poems. He was ordained by Bishop Lowth on leaving Oxford and became curate of Woodford, Essex; he was also, through the influence of Dr. Johnson, offered the curacy of Bosworth. In 1785 he relinquished his curacy for the chapel of Epping, and about the same time purchased the chaplaincy of the 97th regiment, which was disbanded soon afterwards, and Maurice received half-pay for the rest of his life. In 1798 he was presented by Earl Spencer to the vicarage of Wormleighton, Warwickshire; in the same year he became assistant keeper of manuscripts in the British Museum, and in 1804, on the presentation of the lord-chancellor, vicar of Cudham, Kent. All these offices he retained until his death. In 1800 he obtained, through Bishop Tomline [q. v.], the pension which had been enjoyed by Cowper. Maurice died on 30 March 1824 in his apartments at the British Museum. In 1786 he married the daughter of Thomas Pearce, a captain in the service of the East India Company; she died in 1790.
- Maurice was on intimate terms with many of the foremost of his contemporaries. He was an industrious student, a voluminous author, and one of the first to popularise a knowledge of the history and religions of the east; but Byron, in his ‘English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,’ described Maurice as 'dull,' and his poem on ‘Richmond Hill’ as ‘the
petrifactions of a plodding brain.’ His principal works are: 1. ‘Poems and Miscellaneous Pieces,’ 1779, 4to. 2. ‘Westminster Abbey, an elegiac poem,’ 1784, 4to; another edition with other poems was published in 1813, 8vo. 3. ‘Indian Antiquities,’ 7 vols. 1793-1800, 8vo; another edition 1794-1800 and 1806. 4. ‘History of Hindostan,’ 2 vols. 1795-8, 4to; 2nd edition, 3 vols. 1820. 5. ‘Sanscreet Fragments,’ 1798. 6. ‘A Dissertation on the Oriental Trinities,’ 1800, 8vo, extracted from the 4th and 5th volumes of the ‘Indian Antiquities.’ 7. ‘Poems: epistolary, lyric, and elegiacal,’ 1800, 8vo. 8. ‘Modern History of Hindostan,’ 2 vols. 1802-10, 8vo. 9. ‘The Crisis of Britain,’ 1803, 4to; a poem addressed to Pitt. 10. ‘Select Poems,’ 1803, 8vo. 11. ‘A Vindication of the Modern History of Hindostan,’ 1805, 8vo. 12. ‘Elegy on the late Rt. Hon. W. Pitt’ , 8vo. 13. ‘The Fall of the Mogul: a Tragedy,’ 1806. 14. ‘Richmond Hill, a descriptive and historical Poem,’ 1807. 15. ‘Brahminical Fraud Detected,’ 1812, 8vo; another edition, entitled ‘The Indian Sceptic Refuted,’ 1813, 8vo. 16. ‘Observations connected with Astronomy,’ 1816, 4to; another edition, 1816, 8vo. 17. ‘Memoirs,’ 1819-22, 8vo. He also published numerous other poems, several of them being odes on the deaths of well-known persons.[Memoirs of the Author of Indian Antiquities; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Gent. Mag. 1824, i. 467-72; Georgian Era; Nichols's Lit. Illustrations, ii. 661, 663, 848, viii. 187; Lit. Anecdotes, iii. 242; Hill's Boswell, iii. 370 n. 2; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1714-1886 ; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors.]