Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol III (1901).djvu/32

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Hunter
Hunter
18

of getting their best work out of his assistants, who were content to merge themselves in his identity. But his was the mind that planned the whole, and his the energy that caused it to appear with such promptitude. The stamp of his own special handiwork may be found in the article on 'India,' which was reissued in 1895 in a revised form under the title of 'The Indian Empire : its Peoples, History, and Products,' forming a volume of 852 pages. Here he has given a summary of his opinions about many vexed questions in the ethnical and religious history of early India, which he had at one time hoped to treat at greater length. Specially valuable is the account given from original sources of the growth of Christianity in Southern India. A condensation of this important work for school use, entitled 'A Brief History of the Indian Peoples' (1880), has sold to the number of nearly ninety thousand copies, and has been translated into five vernacular languages.

In 1881, after the first edition of the 'Imperial Gazetteer' had passed through the press, Hunter returned to India as an additional member of the governor-general's council. This appointment, which is equivalent to a seat in the legislature, was twice renewed, making a term of six years. During this period his most important duty was to preside over the commission on education, appointed in 1882 to regulate the divergent systems that had grown up in the several provinces. The report of the commission, drafted by Hunter's hand and almost wholly accepted by the government, marks a new departure in the increased attention paid to the elementary instruction of the masses, and in the recognition of private enterprise, whether displayed by missionaries or by the people themselves. All subsequent improvement in education has been upon the lines of this report. Hunter was also a member of the commission on finance that sat in 1886, and he was sent to England in 1884 to give evidence before a committee of the House of Commons on Indian railways. Another post that he filled was that of vice-chancellor of the university of Calcutta (1886).

In 1887 Hunter finally retired from the service at the early age of forty-seven, to devote the remainder of his life to working up the materials he had accumulated for a great history of India. During his previous visits to Great Britain he had resided at Edinburgh, where he went so far as to build himself a house, which afterwards passed into the occupation of Professor John Stuart Blackie [q. v. Suppl.] He now resolved to settle at Oxford. After spending a few years in the city and being initiated into academical life, he bought a plot of ground about three miles out on the Eynsham road, on the slope of the Witham Woods, commanding a view over the Valley of the White Horse. Here he built a comfortable house, which he called Oaken Holt, with accommodation for his library and also for his horses and his dogs. The superabundance of his energy found vent in many forms, especially in travel ; but he never allowed pleasure to interfere with work. In former times he had written much for the 'Calcutta Englishman.' He now became a regular contributor to the 'Times,' where his weekly articles on Indian affairs exercised great influence. One of the first things that he did after settling at Oxford was to arrange with the delegates of the Clarendon Press for the publication of a series of little volumes called 'The Rulers of India.' These were intended as historical retrospects rather than personal biographies, their object being to awaken popular interest in the spectacle afforded by the gradual growth of our eastern empire. He opened the series, which now consists of twenty-eight volumes, with a model memoir on the administration of Lord Dalhousie (1890), and followed it up with 'Lord Mayo,' condensed from a full-length biography which he had previously written in two volumes (1875). That biography of Lord Mayo is notable for containing an admirable analysis of the machinery of the supreme government in India which controls the local administrations. In a book entitled 'Bombay, 1885 to 1890' (1892), Hunter supplemented this by a detailed examination of the administration of the Western Presidency, under the governorship of Lord Reay. He had at one time hoped to write the life of Sir Bartle Frere [q.v.], the greatest of recent governors of Bombay ; but this project fell through. Instead, he took up the biography of Brian Houghton Hodgson, the veteran orientalist, who had first aroused his interest in the races and languages of India. Other publications of this period were 'The Old Missionary' (1895), an idyll which makes one regret that he did not more often indulge his lighter vein ; and 'The Thackerays in India' (1897), which is worthy of its subject. He also compiled a bibliography of books about India, which, out of the abundance of his own library, he contributed to James Samuelson's 'India Past and Present' (1890).

All these books, and not a few others, might be called 'Chips from an Anglo-Indian Workshop.' They represent the overflow of his literary activity, while his