Price, David (1762-1835) (DNB00)

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PRICE, DAVID (1762–1835), orientalist, was born in 1762 in Brecknockshire, where his father soon after his birth became rector of Llanbadarnvawr, near Aberystwith. He was educated at Brecknock College school until October 1779, when he was awarded a ‘Rustat’ scholarship (Memoirs … of a Field Officer, p. 4), and matriculated 5 Nov. 1779 as a sizar of Jesus College, Cambridge (Cambridge Univ. Register). Disliking university studies, he resided only till June 1780 (Memoirs, p. 6), when he went, nearly penniless, to London. On his way to volunteer for a regiment serving in America, he walked into a recruiting party of the East India Company, and was duly enrolled in its service. He sailed for India in the Essex on 15 March 1781, and, after some service on the Coromandel coast, under Sir Hector Munro [q. v.], arrived at Bombay in April 1782; he was soon appointed to the second battalion of Bombay sepoys, which, under Captain Daniel Carpenter, did good service against Tipu Sultan up to the peace of 1783. In the next war with Tipu, Price was in Little's battalion at the siege of Darwar, where he was severely wounded on 7 Feb. 1791, and lost a leg. He was next attached to the guard of Sir Charles Malet, political minister at Poona, whence he was transferred by the governor of Bombay, Jonathan Duncan the elder [q. v.], to a staff appointment at Surat. In 1795, being then brevet captain, he was nominated judge-advocate to the Bombay army, in which capacity he was present and officiated as prize agent at the siege and capture of Seringapatam by General James Stuart, to whom he also acted as Persian translator; he had in the meantime been military secretary and interpreter to Dow in Malabar (1797–8), where he had twice narrowly escaped being cut off. After the action at Seringapatam he returned to Bombay, and resumed the Persian studies and collecting of manuscripts which he had begun at Surat some years before. He got his majority in June 1804, and in February 1805, after twenty-four years' service, returned home, retiring finally from the Company's service on his marriage in October 1807.

Thenceforward he lived in retirement at Wootton, Brecknockshire, and devoted himself to oriental studies, writing long, leisurely works on Arabian, Persian, and Indian history, and printing them at the local press at Brecon. Of these the best known and the most important is the ‘Chronological Retrospect … of Mahommedan History,’ which was published in three volumes (the third in two parts) 4to, in 1811, 1812, and 1821. This is a history of the Mohammedan power from its foundation by Mohammed down to the time of the Emperor Akbar. The earlier volumes are based chiefly upon the chronicles of Mirkhand and Khandamir, and are naturally most detailed and accurate in respect to the history of the Persian dynasties; but in the last volume Abu-l-Fazl is largely used. The whole work is written in the over-ornate, tedious style of a scholar who has accustomed himself to Persian tropes and circumlocutions; but it is the work of a genuine student, who is conscientiously anxious to do full justice to his authorities. Without pretending to any striking grasp or generalisation, it is a useful and painstaking performance, which has served two generations of students, and is still for some branches of eastern history almost the only English work of reference. Price's other works were his ‘Essay towards the History of Arabia antecedent to the birth of Mahommed, arranged from the Tarikh Tebry’ [Persian text of Et-Tabari], 1824, 4to; the translation of the well-known ‘Memoirs of the Emperor Jahangueir,’ published by the Oriental Translation Fund in 1829, 4to; ‘Account of the Siege and Reduction of Chaitur … from the Akbar-Namah,’ 1831; and ‘The Last Days of Krishna,’ 1831. He also wrote ‘Autobiographical Memoirs of the early life and service of a Field Officer on the retired list of the Indian army,’ which was published after his death (London, 1839). His learned labours won him in 1830 the gold medal of the Oriental Translation Committee. He was a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, to the ‘Journal’ of which he contributed ‘An Extract from the Muáliját-i-Dárá Shekóhí,’ and to which he bequeathed over seventy oriental (chiefly Persian) manuscripts, some of the highest value. He died at his residence, Wootton, 16 Dec. 1835. His monument in Brecon church styles him ‘F.R.L.S.,’ and states that he was a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant.

[Memoirs … of a Field Officer, 1844, posthumous and anonymous, gives autobiography up to return from India in 1805, to which a brief memoir is appended from the Annual Biography and Obituary for 1837; Gent. Mag. 1836, i. 204–5; Annual Report of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1836, xii, lx; Ann. Reg. 1836, lxxviii. 183; Morley's Cat. of Hist. MSS. of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1854; information from J. W. Clark, esq., registrary of the University of Cambridge.]

S. L-P.