Morris, John Carnac (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39
Morris, John Carnac

no contributor recorded

MORRIS, JOHN CARNAC (1798–1858), Telugu scholar, born 16 Oct. 1798, was eldest son of John Morris of the Bombay civil service, who was subsequently a director and thrice chairman of the East India Company. The son entered the royal navy as a midshipman, and saw active service during the last two years of the French war. On the conclusion of the war in 1815 his father sent the folio wing laconic note to his captain, Sir George Sartorius: 'Your trade is up for the next half-century. Send my son John home by the next coach.'

After a brief period of training he went to the East India Company's college at Haileybury, and afterwards entered the Madras civil service, reaching India in 1818. Five younger brothers obtained similar employment under the East India Company. Morris served for a time at Masulipatam (in 1821) and Coimbore. In 1823 a stroke of paralysis deprived him of the use of his legs; but his energy was not impaired by the misfortune, and his industry in sedentary occupation was exceptional. Most of his time was thenceforth spent at Madras in the secretariat, or board of revenue. He was Telugu translator to the government from 1832, and finally, in 1839, became civil auditor or accountant-general. Among his most successful services at Madras was the establishment in 1834 of the Madras government bank, of which he was the first secretary and treasurer, and in 1835 superintendent. The bank was subsequently transferred by the government to private hands.

Morris devoted his leisure to the study of Sanskrit, Persian, and Hindustani, and became proficient in all; but in Telugu he chiefly interested himself. He was compiler of the well-known text-book 'Telugu Selections, with Translations and Grammatical Analyses: to which is added a Glossary of Revenue Terms used in the Northern Circars,' Madras, 1823, fol. (new and enlarged edition, Madras, 1855); and he was author of an 'English-Telugu Dictionary,' based on Johnson's 'English Dictionary,' and the first undertaking of its kind. It was issued at Madras in two quarto volumes in 1835. It is still a standard work. Morris was also for several years from 1834 editor of the Madras 'Journal of Literature and Science.' While on furlough in England between 1829 and 1831 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He was very popular in Madras society, and was an enthusiastic freemason there and in England. On leaving India in July 1846, he received a testimonial from the native population.

Settling in Mansfield Street, Portland Place, London, in 1848, Morris spent much of his time thenceforth in commercial enterprises. He failed in his persistent efforts to become, as his father had been, a director of the East India Company, but he successfully established a company to run steamers between Milford Haven and Australia by way of Panama, which lasted only a few years; and he promoted and was managing director of the London and Eastern Banking Company. In 1855 he resigned the management of the latter company to become chairman; but his colleagues entered into rash speculations, and in 1858 the bank was wound up. Morris placed all his resources at the disposal of the official liquidator, and retired to Jersey, where he died on 2 Aug. 1858. He was buried at St. Heliers.

He married Rosanna Curtis, second daughter of Peter Cherry of the East India Company's service, on 4 Feb. 1823, and was father of John Morris (1826-1893), Jesuit, [q. v.], and of other sons.

[Private information; C. C. Prinsep's Madras Civil Servants, pp. 101-2; Madras Athenæum, 30 June and 9 July 1846; Madras Spectator, 29 June and 2 July 1846.]