Caldwell, Robert (DNB01)

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CALDWELL, ROBERT (1814–1891), coadjutor bishop of Madras, born on 7 May 1814 near Antrim, was the son of Scottish parents. In his tenth year his parents. removed to Glasgow. In his sixteenth year he was taken to Dublin by an elder brother then living there, that he might study art. While in Dublin he came under religious impressions which led eventually to his becoming a missionary. He returned to Glasgow in 1833, and in the following year was accepted by the London Missionary Society, which sent him to Glasgow University to prosecute his studies. While studying there he imbibed a love of comparative philology, which was intensified by the lectures of the Greek professor, Sir Daniel Keyte Sandford [q. v.] After graduating B.A. in 1837, he embarked for Madras in the Mary Ann on 30 Aug. Among the passengers was Charles Philip Brown [q. v.], the Telugu scholar, who assisted Caldwell in his linguistic studies. Arriving in Madras on 8 Jan. 1838, he occupied himself during the first year of his residence in acquiring Tamil. While in Madras he made the acquaintance of the missionary, John Anderson (1805-1855) [q. v.], who exercised considerable influence on him. In February 1841 he resolved to join the English church, for which he had entertained predilections from his student days. He associated himself with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and was ordained on 19 Sept. by George Trevor Spencer [q. v.], bishop of Madras, at Utakamand, in the Nilgiri hills. By the end of 1841 he had established himself in Tinnevelly, where he laboured for fifty years, and before the end of 1842 he had visited all the mission stations and the important towns of the province. He took up his abode at Edengudi, and his first labour was to lay the foundations of a parochial system by obtaining the establishment of boundaries between the fields of the Church Missionary Society and of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. He found the people in a very low state of civilisation, and successfully promoted education among them by establishing schools for boys and girls. During his lifetime he saw the Christians of Tinnevelly increase in number from six thousand to one hundred thousand. The change in condition was no less marked. In 1838 they were sneered at by the governing race as 'rice Christians,' and disdained by the educated Hindus as a new low caste, begotten of ignorance and hunger. Not long before Caldwell's death the director of public instruction in Madras declared that if the native Christians maintained their present rate of educational progress, they would before long engross the leading positions in professional life in Southern India. On 11 March 1877 Caldwell was consecrated at Calcutta bishop of Tinnevelly as coadjutor to the bishop of Madras.

Caldwell is, however, more widely known as an orientalist than as a missionary. His work as an investigator of the South Indian family of languages is of the first importance, and he brought to light many Sanskrit manuscripts in Southern India. By his researches he collected a mass of carefully verified and original materials such as no other European scholar has ever accumulated in India. In 1842 he assisted to revise the Tamil version of the Prayer Book, and from April 1858 until April 1869 he was occupied with the revision of the Tamil Bible, undertaken by a number of delegates at the instance of the Madras Auxiliary Bible Society. In 1872 he assisted in a second revision of the Prayer Book. In 1856 he published his 'Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages' (London, 8vo), which in 1875 he revised and enlarged for a second edition, and which remains the standard authority on the subject. He had an intimate acquaintance with the people and their dialects, and made a careful study of their past history. In 1849 he wrote his 'Tinnevelli Shanars' (Madras; 2nd edit. London, 1850), which in 1881 he withdrew from circulation, on the representation of some of the younger members of the race that they had since so advanced in civilisation that the picture of their condition was no longer accurate. In 1881 his 'Political and General History of the District of Tinnevelly from the earliest Period to its Cession to the English Government in 1801 'was published by the Madras government at the public expense. In the same year appeared 'Records of the Early History of the Tinnevelly Mission of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel' (Madras, 8vo). This work was chiefly compiled from the manuscript records of the mission which. Caldwell brought together and collated for the first time.

On 31 Jan. 1891, on account of his age and feebleness, Caldwell resigned his episcopal office and retired to Kodaikanal. He died there in the same year on 28 Aug., and was buried on 29 Aug. under the altar of the church at Edengudi. A memorial tablet in English was placed in St. George's Cathedral, Madras, and a similar one in Tamil in the church at Edengudi. On 20 March 1844 he was married at Nagercoil, South Travancore, to Eliza, eldest daughter of Charles Mault, a missionary of the London Missionary Society. She assisted him greatly in his mission work, being peculiarly fitted to do so by her knowledge of Tamil. He left issue. In 1857 he received the degree of LL.D. from Glasgow University, and in 1874 that of D.D. from Durham University. He was an honorary member of the Asiatic Society.

Besides the works already mentioned Caldwell was the author of : 1. 'Lectures on the Tinnevelly Missions,' London, 1857, 12mo. 2. 'On Reserve in communicating Religious Instruction to Non-Christians in Mission Schools in India,' Madras, 1881, 8vo. He also published many sermons and lectures, and, in conjunction with Edward Sargent, he revised the Tamil hymn-book. He made many contributions to the 'Indian Antiquary.' His 'Reminiscences' were published in 1894:, after his death, by his son-in-law, the Rev. Joseph Light Wyatt.

[Caldwell's Reminiscences; Day's Mission Heroes: Bishop Caldwell, 1806; Stock's Hist. of the Church Missionary Society, 1899, index; The Times, 29 Aug. 1891; Journal of the Royal Asiatic Soc. 1892. pp. 145–6; Temple's Men and Events of my Time in India, 1882, pp. 454-6; Addison's Roll of Glasgow Graduates, 1898.]

E. I. C.