Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Goldstuecker, Theodor

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GOLDSTUECKER, THEODOR (1821–1872), orientalist, was born of Jewish parents at Königsberg, Prussia, on 18 Jan. 1821. His earlier instruction (1829–36) was received at the Altstädtisches Gymnasium of his native town, where in 1836 he also commenced his university course, attending with especial profit the lectures of Rosenkranz, the Hegelian philosopher, and of Peter von Bohlen in Sanskrit. In 1838 he removed to the university of Bonn, continuing his oriental studies under the well-known Sanskritists A. W. von Schlegel and Lassen, and attending the Arabic classes of Freytag. Returning to Königsberg, he graduated as doctor in 1840. He appears about this time to have developed advanced political views. A request for permission to act as a privat-docent in the university, addressed to the department of public instruction, was refused, though it was backed by Rosenkranz. In 1842 he published anonymously a translation of the Sanskrit play, ‘Prabodha-candrodaya,’ with an introduction by Professor Rosenkranz. In the same year he went to live in Paris, and remained there for three years. While in Paris he assisted Burnouf in his great work ‘Introduction à l'histoire du Bouddhisme indien.’ About 1844 he paid his first visit to this country, and examined the great oriental collections in the Bodleian Library and at the East India House. At the India House he made the acquaintance of Professor H. H. Wilson, a critical event in his career. From 1845 to 1847 he was again at Königsberg. In the latter year he went to Berlin, where he met Alexander von Humboldt, then engaged on his ‘Kosmos,’ in which Goldstuecker gave some assistance. One long note on Indian matters is entirely from his pen. In 1850 Goldstuecker was ordered to leave Berlin on account of his political opinions. Six weeks afterwards the order was rescinded; Goldstuecker had retired no further than Potsdam, but, recognising his insecurity, and doubtless disgusted at the intolerance and want of appreciation manifested by his countrymen, he readily accepted in 1850 the invitation of Professor Wilson to come to England and assist in a new edition of his ‘Sanskrit Dictionary.’ In May 1852 he was appointed professor of Sanskrit in University College, London, an appointment then as now more honourable than lucrative. Goldstuecker appears to have lectured to less than the prescribed minimum of students, and to have given gratuitous help to such students as needed it.

He was a prominent member of the Royal Asiatic and the Philological Societies, and other learned bodies. But though he read numerous papers at their meetings, he rarely allowed them to be published. The papers he explained ‘were mere offshoots from his own particular method of Sanskritic and comparative inquiry, as opposed to that of other scholars; they could not be rightly understood before he had dealt with the science of Comparative Philology as a whole. …’ Like many other of Goldstuecker's great projects, few of which he carried beyond the ground plan, this project of a systematic exposition of philology never saw the light. The Sanskrit Text Society was founded in 1866 mainly by his exertions, and announced a series: ‘Auctores Sanscriti, edited … under the supervision of Th. Goldstuecker.’ Goldstuecker began to edit for the society the ‘Jaiminīya-nyāya-mālā-vistara,’ by the great Indian commentator Sāyana, a learned and valuable though somewhat tedious philosophical treatise. A small portion appeared as the society's first issue in 1872, the year of the editor's death. Four-fifths of it remained unpublished, nor had Goldstuecker left any notes. Happily the edition was completed by Professor E. B. Cowell, and finally appeared in 1878. Four other works were afterwards issued by the Sanskrit Text Society. But its practical failure, when compared with the success of the less ambitious Pali Text Society, proves Goldstuecker's defective management. The history of Goldstuecker's other great unpublished work, his ‘Dictionary,’ is hardly more satisfactory. He began in 1856 to re-edit Wilson's ‘Dictionary,’ a work belonging to a rather rudimentary stage of lexicography. The first part contained a notice that ten sheets were to be issued every two or three months. Instead of this only six parts appeared in eight years, and then the publication ceased before a twentieth part of the work had been completed. Yet even in this space the design of the work was practically revolutionised, for already at pt. 3 we find not only references (which were at first eschewed), but such a ponderous system of quotations, fitting only for an encyclopædia or thesaurus, as would have absorbed all the energies of the author, even if he had lived to the end of the century. For the elucidation of technical terms, especially those of philosophy, this remarkable fragment, treating only a part of the letter ă, is still of considerable value.

Goldstuecker was a violent controversialist. In his chief controversial work, ‘Pānini and his Place in Sanskrit Literature,’ 1861, he savagely attacked the two greatest oriental lexicographers of our time, Böhtlingk and Roth. The severity of his controversial tone is utterly disproportionate to the importance of the point at issue. On subjects of acknowledged intricacy like Sanskrit grammar, which the ordinary learned reader would have little means of verifying, he expressed himself with a confidence which did injustice to his adversaries. And he himself was by no means infallible. The best living authority, Professor Kielhorn, effectually disposes of his views on Kātyāyana as the result of a prolonged study of Goldstuecker's own favourite armoury of offensive weapons, the ‘Mahābhāshya.’ Similarly Dr. Eggeling, in his preface to the ‘Ganaratnamahodadhi,’ published by the Sanskrit Text Society, shows that Goldstuecker's attack on Böhtlingk with respect to the grammarian Vardhamāna was quite unjustifiable. Goldstuecker also impugned in the same volume Professor Weber's ‘Vedic Criticism,’ to which Weber replied in his ‘Indische Studien,’ Bd. 5. Goldstuecker wrote a number of essays and reviews on Indian subjects in the ‘Athenæum,’ the ‘Westminster Review,’ Chambers's ‘Cyclopædia,’ and elsewhere. They are full of learning and eccentricity, missing that true balance of judgment that marks the best scholarship. The chief of them, including some useful contributions to the study of Indian law, were collected in two volumes of ‘Literary Remains’ in 1879. Goldstuecker took a practical interest in modern India, and a pleasant account of his relations with many natives appears in the ‘Biographical Sketch’ prefixed to the ‘Remains.’ He died at his residence, St. George's Square, Primrose Hill, London, on 6 March 1872.

[Report of Royal Asiatic Society for 1872; biog. sketch prefixed to Goldstuecker's Literary Remains, 1879.]

C. B.