Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cadell, Jessie

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CADELL, JESSIE (1844–1884), novelist and orientalist, was born in Scotland 23 Aug. 1844, and at an early age accompanied her husband, an officer in the army, to India. She resided chiefly at Peshawur, and embodied her observations of frontier life in a pleasing novel, ‘Ida Craven’ (1876). One of the principal characters in this work, a loyal Mahommedan officer, is drawn from personal observation, and is an instructive as well as an interesting study. To while away the tedium of cantonment life, Mrs. Cadell made herself mistress of Persian, and upon her return to England after the death of her husband devoted herself especially to the study of Omar Khayyam, the astronomer-poet of Persia. Without seeking to compete with Mr. Fitzgerald's splendid paraphrase in its own line, Mrs. Cadell contemplated a complete edition and a more accurate translation. She visited numerous public libraries in quest of manuscripts, and embodied a portion of her researches in an article in 'Fraser's Magazine' for May 1879, on which Bodenstedt, when publishing his own German translation, bestowed the highest praise, without any idea that he was criticising the production of a female writer. It is to be hoped that her collections may yet be made serviceable. She was prevented from carrying out her intention by the decline of her health, and she died at Florence on 17 June 1884. 'She was,' the 'Athenæum' truly said, 'a brave, frank, true woman, bright and animated in the midst of sickness and trouble, disinterestedly attached to whatever was good and excellent, a devoted mother, a staunch and sympathising friend.'

[Athenæum, 28 June 1884; private information.]

R. G.