Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eastwick, Edward Backhouse

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EASTWICK, EDWARD BACKHOUSE (1814–1883), orientalist and diplomatist, was born in 1814 of a family long connected with the East India Company's service, of which his brother became a director. He was educated at Charterhouse and Merton College, Oxford, whence at the age of twenty-two he proceeded in 1836 to join the Bombay infantry as a cadet; but his proficiency in oriental languages soon removed him from the military to the civil profession, and procured him political employment in Kattiawar and Sindh. Broken health compelled him to return to Europe, and he spent some time at Frankfort busily engaged in linguistic study. In 1845 the East India Company appointed him to the post of professor of Hindustani at their college of Haileybury. When Haileybury was given up he was appointed assistant political secretary at the India Office (1859). His thoughts at this time turned towards the bar, and in 1860 he was called to the Middle Temple, but it does not appear that he practised. In the same year he left England as secretary of legation to the court of Persia, where he remained three years; and in 1864 he was named one of the commissioners for arranging a Venezuelan loan, and the same business again withdrew him from home employment in 1867. In 1866 he became private secretary to Lord Cranborne (Marquis of Salisbury), then secretary of state for India, and his zeal and ability were rewarded by the companionship of the Bath. For six years, 1868–74, he sat in the House of Commons as the conservative member for Penryn and Falmouth; he was defeated in 1874; money losses then enforced his retirement, and he devoted himself to literary work. He was created an honorary master of arts of Oxford in 1875. He died at Ventnor 16 July 1883.

Eastwick was an industrious writer, and some of his books are valuable. The best known is his translation of the ‘Gulistan,’ or ‘Rose Garden,’ of Sa'di, which was first published in 1852, and reissued in Trübner's ‘Oriental Series’ in 1880. Students of Persian, however, are equally familiar with his version of the ‘Anvār-i Suhaili,’ or ‘Fables’ of Pilpai, 1854. Other translations are: ‘The Arrival of the Parsees in India: Kessahi Sanjan,’ 1845; the ‘Bāgh o Bahār,’ from the Urdu, 1852, new ed. 1877; Bopp's ‘ Comparative Grammar,’ 1856; and, from the German of Schiller, the ‘Revolt of the Netherlands,’ 1844, new ed. 1846. His ‘Concise Grammar of Hindustani,’ 1847 and 1858, is a standard work, and he did excellent service for Mr. Murray when he wrote the spirited ‘Handbook for India,’ 1859, and the separate ‘Handbooks’ for Madras, 2nd ed. 1879, Bombay, 2nd ed. 1881, Bengal, 1882, and the Panjab, &c. 1883. He edited or prefaced a good many books by Indian scholars; published the text of the ‘Gulistan,’ and edited Genesis in Dakhani for the Bible Society. His foreign missions suggested the publication of his ‘Journal of a Diplomate's Three Years' Residence in Persia,’ 2 vols. 1864, and ‘Venezuela, or Sketches of Life in a South American Republic,’ 2nd edit. 1868. The latter was written for ‘All the Year Round’ at Dickens's request. In 1880 he published a pamphlet on ‘Gold in India,’ and in 1878 and 1882 brought out, under the patronage of the India Office and most of the Indian princes, the two volumes of his sumptuous ‘Kaisar-nama-i Hind’ or ‘Lay of the Empress.’ He was a contributor to the eighth edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ and to literary journals.

[Athenæum, No. 2908; Times, 18 July 1883; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

S. L-P.