Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Conolly, Arthur

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CONOLLY, ARTHUR (1807–1842?), captain in the East India Company's service, was one of the six sons of Valentine Conolly of 37 Portland Place, London, who made a rapid fortune in India at the close of the last century, and who died on 2 Dec. 1819, three days after his wife (Gent. Mag. lxxxix. (ii.) 569, 570). Arthur, the third son, was born on 2 July 1807, and on 1 July 1820 was entered at Rugby School by his uncle, the Rev. Mr. Wake of Angley House, Cranbrook, Kent. Among his schoolfellows were Lord Sidney Godolphin Osborne, Bishop Claughton, and Generals Horatio Shirley and Sir Charles Trollope (Rugby School Registers, 1881). A shy, sensitive boy, Conolly was unfit for public-school life, and often referred in after years to his sufferings at Rugby (Kaye, Lives of Indian Officers, vol. ii.) Leaving Rugby, he entered Addiscombe Seminary 3 May 1822, but resigned on receiving a cavalry cadetship. He proceeded to Bengal the same year, a fellow-passenger with Bishop Heber, and in January 1823 was made cornet in the 6th Bengal native light cavalry, to which his brother, Edward Barry Conolly, was appointed later. Arthur became lieutenant in the regiment 13 May 1826, and captain 30 July 1838. Being in England on sick leave in 1829, he obtained leave to return to India through Central Asia. He left London 10 Aug. 1829, travelled through France and Germany to Hamburg, thence by sea to St. Petersburg, where he stayed a month, and then proceeded by Tiflis and Teheran to Astrabad. There he assumed the guise of a native merchant and laid in a stock of furs and shawls, in the hope of penetrating to Khiva. He left Astrabad for the Turcoman steppes on 20 April 1830, but when the little caravan to which he attached himself was about halfway between Erasnovodsk and Ejzil Arvat he was seized by some treacherous nomads and plundered. For days his life hung in a balance, the Turcomans being undecided whether to kill him or sell him into slavery. Tribal jealousies in the end secured his release, and ne returned to Astrabad 22 May 1830, whence he continued his journey to India by way of Meshed, Herat, and Candahar, visiting Scinde, and finally crossing the Indian frontier in January 1831. A lively narrative of the journey—reflecting Conolly's bright, hopeful temperament—was published by him under the title 'A Journey to Northern India,' &c. 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1834. Conolly also contributed papers on 'The Overland Journey to India' to 'Gleanings in Science,' 1831, i. 346-57, 389-98, and on a 'Journey to Northern India' to 'J. R. Geog. Soc.,' iv. 278-317. After an interview with Lord William Bentinck at Delhi, Conolly rejoined his regiment, and when stationed at Cawnpore appears to have acquired the lasting friendship of the eccentric Jewish convert, Dr. Joseph Wolff, then travelling as a missionary in India. In 1834 he was appointed assistant to the government agent in Kajpootana, and in 1838 returned home on furlough. Seriously disappointed in love, Conolly sought relief in further professional activity (ib.) Russian movements in Central Asia were beginning to cause anxiety in England, and Conolly proposed to the home government to remove the not unreasonable pretext for Russian advances in that quarter by negotiating with the principal Usbeg chiefs, so as to put a stop to the carrying off of Russian and Persian subjects into slavery. He was furnished with letters of recommendation to Lord Auckland, then governor-general of India, together with 500l. to pay the expenses of an overland Journey. Conolly left London 11 Feb. 1839, visited Vienna (where he had an interview with Prince Metternich), Constantinople, and Bagdad, where he first met Major (now Sir Henry) Rawlinson, and reached Bombay in November 1839, thence proceeding to Calcutta. The moment appeared propitious, and Conolly was sent on to Cabul, where in the spring of 1840 he joined the staff of Sir William Hay Macnaghten, the British envoy with Shah Soojah in Afghanistan. One of Macnaughten's brothers had married Conolly's sister (see Burke, Baronetage, under 'Macnaghten'). A paper written by Conolly when in Afghanistan at this time, on 'The White-haired Angora Goat, . . . and another resembling the Thibet Shawl Goat,' appeared in 'Journ. Asiat. Soc.' vi. (1841) 159–78.

At the beginning of 1840 Shah Soojah had been replaced on the throne of Cabul, and the failure of the Russian expedition under Perovsky to Khiva was still unknown in India. The openly expressed views of the envoy, Macnaghten, then were that the British troops in Afghanistan should be pushed on to Balkh, and possibly to Bokhara with the threefold object of reconstituting the authority of Shah Soojah over the petty tribes between Cabul and Balkh; of effecting the release of Colonel Stoddart, who had been despatched by the British envoy in Persia in 1838 on a special mission to Bokhara, where he had been detained and repeatedly imprisoned by the ameer; and of making a sort of counter-demonstration against the Russian advance. There appears to have been some intention of sending Major Rawlinson and Arthur Conolly on a special mission to the Russian army (Calcutta Review, vol. xv.) Later in the year the Russian disasters became known, and Conolly was despatched as envoy to Khiva, with directions to carry out certain objects at Khiva and Khokand, and, conditionally, to visit Bokhara. These objects are stated to have been 'sanctioned in a private letter from authority,' so that the mission could not be considered an amateur one, although Lord Ellenborough always insisted on so regarding it (ib.) Ardent and enthusiastic by nature, cherishing views and hopes, which he himself allowed to be somewhat 'visionary,' of the political regeneration of Central Asia, and the ultimate 'conversion' of its warring tribes 'to the pure faith of Jesus Christ' (ib.), Conolly started, full of heart and hope, in September 1840. Joining the 35th Bengal native infantry, part of the Bhameean reinforcement, he was present with it in the brilliant action of 18 Sept. under Brigadier Dennis, afterwards proceeding to Merv and thence, by the route followed and described by Sir Richmond Shakespeare, to Khiva. His speculations regarding the future of Merv and his fruitless interviews with the khan of Khiva are detailed in a notice of his manuscript remains in the 'Calcutta Review,' 1851 (vol. xv.) Subsequently he proceeded to Khokand and Bokhara, where he was arrested and imprisoned, it is believed, in the third week in December 1841 ((Kaye, ii. 142). Conolly was a voluminous and rapid writer. When not in the saddle he had nearly always a pen in his hand, and on his travels was wont to note down minutely all he said and did in his journal, a practice he appears to have kept up even in his dungeon at Bokhara. Five letters, all written in February and March 1842, forming the main portion of Conolly's prison journal, are now in possession of Mr. George Pritchard, London and County Bank, Paddington, W., and are full of harrowing details. The latest direct tidings of him alive were contained in a letter sent by him to his brother, then a hostage at Cabul, early in 1842, in which he describes the sufferings of Stoddart and himself. For four months they had no change of raiment; their dungeon was in a most foul and unwholesome state, teeming with vermin to a degree that made life burdensome. Stoddart was reduced to a skeleton. They had with difficulty persuaded one of their keepers to represent their wretched condition to the ameer, and were then awaiting his reply, having committed themselves to God in the full belief that unless quickly released death must soon terminate their sufferings (letter from Sir V. Eyre in Calcutta Review, vol. xv.) The British government appearing unwilling to take action, a committee was formed in London in 1842, at the instance of Captain John Grover, F.R.S., for effecting the release of the Bokhara captives, and a sum of 500l. so collected furnished the funds for Dr. Wolff's mission to Bokhara. An account of the transaction, with a roll of the subscribers appended, was published by Captain Grover, under the title 'The Bokhara Victims,' and conveys a painful impression of official procrastination and the cross purposes of many of the parties concerned. The results of Wolff's perilous investigations at Bokhara were that Conolly, with Stoddart and other victims, 'after enduring agonies in prison of a most fearful character . . . were cruelly slaughtered some time in 1843' (1259 Hegira), and that the instigator of the foul deed was the pretended friend of the English, Abdul Samut Khan, nayeb or prime minister of Nasir Ulla Bahadoor, ameer of Bokhara (see preface to Wolff's narrative, 7th ed.) The military records in the India Office give the probable date of his death, on the authority of Wolff, as 1842. Wolff appears to have afterwards thought this too early; but Kaye, after a careful review of all the evidence attainable, considered that Conolly and Stoddart were most probably executed on 17 June 1842 (Kaye, ii. 139).

Many years after, Conolly's prayer-book, wherein he had entered a last record of his sufferings and aspirations when a prisoner at Bokhara, was left at his sister's house in London by a mysterious foreigner, who simply left word that he came from Russia. The details there furnished are given in full in Kaye's account of Conolly.

Three of Conolly's brothers lost their lives in the Indian service, viz.:—

Conolly, Edward Barry (1808–1840), captain 6th Bengal light cavalry, who at the time of his death was in command of the escort of the British envoy at Cabul. He was killed by a shot from the fort of Tootumdurrah, in the Kohat, north of Cabul, when acting as a volunteer with Sir Robert Sale, in an attack on that place on 29 Sept. 1840 (see Journal Asiat. Soc. of Bengal, vol. ix. pt. i.) The following papers from his pen appeared in the 'Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal;' 'Observations on the Past and Present Condition of Orijein or Uijayana,' vol. vi.; 'Discoveries of Gems from Candahar,' 'Sketch of Physical Geography of Seistan,' 'Notes on the Eusofzye Tribes of Afghanistan,' vol. ix.; 'Journal kept while Travelling in Seistan,' vol. x.; 'On Gems and Coins,' vol. xi.

Conolly, John Balfour (d. 1842), lieutenant 20th Bengal native infantry, a cadet of 1833, was afterwards attached to the Cabul embassy. He died of fever while a hostage in the Bala Hissar, Cabul, on 7 Aug. 1842 (see Lady Sale's Journal, p. 392).

Conolly, Henry Valentine (1806–1865), Madras civil service, was entered at Rugby School in the same year as his brother Arthur, and was appointed a writer on the Madras establishment on 19 May 1824. He became assistant to the principal collector at Bellary in 1826, and after holding various posts—as deputy secretary to the military department, Canarese translator to the government, cashier of the government bank, additional government commissioner for the settlement of Carnatic claims, &c.—he was appointed magistrate and collector at Malabar, a post he held for many years. Conolly, who was married, was murdered in his own house on 11 Sept. 1855, by some Mopla fanatics, in revenge for the active share he had taken in the outlawry of their 'Thungai,' or saint, a religious vagabond who had been deported to Jeddah a few years before on account of his seditious acts. Shortly before his death Conolly was made a provisional member of the council of the Madras government (Overland Bombay Times, 12 Sept. to 5 Oct. 1855). There is a monument to him in the cathedral, Madras, and a scholarship was founded in his memory at the Madras University.

[The most authentic particulars of Arthur Conolly will be found in the biography in Kaye's Lives of Indian Officers, vol. ii., and in Calcutta Review, vol. xv. Much information respecting the military services of Arthur and Edward Barry Conolly is contained in the Service Army Lists kept at the India Office. Accessory information will be found in Rugby School Registers, Annotated (Rugby, 1881); A. Conolly's Journey to Northern India, 2 vols. (London, 1834); in various historical and biographical works bearing on the first Afghan war; in Captain John Grover's Bokhara Victims (London, 1846, 8vo); and in Dr. Joseph Wolff's Mission to Bokhara, 7th ed. (Edinburgh, 1862).]

H. M. C.