Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mayers, William Frederick

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MAYERS, WILLIAM FREDERICK (1831–1878), Chinese scholar, son of the Rev. M. John Mayers, afterwards rector of St. Peter's, Winchester, was born on 7 Jan. 1831 in Tasmania. The father at his son's birth was colonial chaplain, but was subsequently appointed consular chaplain at Marseilles, where Mayers received the chief part of his education. After spending some years as a journalist in New York, Mayers in 1859 went to China as a student-interpreter, accompanying Lord Elgin to Pekin, and, after serving as interpreter to the allied commission charged with the government of Canton, was appointed interpreter to the consulate there. He filled various consular posts at Chinese ports until 1872, when he was made Chinese secretary of legation at Pekin. In the same year he visited England, and in August read a paper on the 'Pathays of Yünan' before the geographical section of the British Association at Brighton. He died on 24 March 1878 at Shanghai of typhus fever.

Mayers was an accomplished Chinese scholar, and his works are monuments 'of his industry and the completeness of his knowledge.' He wrote:

  1. 'The Anglo-Chinese Calendar Manual,' 1869, 8vo.
  2. 'The Chinese Reader's Manual,' Lond. 1874, 8vo.
  3. 'Treaties between the Empire of China and Foreign Powers,' 1877, 8vo.
  4. 'The Chinese Government,' Shanghai, 1878, 8vo.

In 1867, with N. B. Dennys and Lieutenant Charles King, he wrote 'The Treaty Ports of China,' and in 1877 translated the 'Pekin Gazette' for that year, Shanghai, 1878, 8vo. His official report on 'The Famine in the Northern Provinces of China' was published as a parliamentary paper. In 1861 he became fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; he was also a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, to whose 'Journal' in 1869 he contributed a paper on the 'Lamaist Septem in Tibet.' He was a constant contributor to periodical publications, especially the 'China Review,' published at Shanghai, and rendered valuable service to the British Museum by procuring for its library one of the few existing copies of the 'Imperial Encyclopedia of Chinese Literature' in 5,020 volumes.

[Works in Brit. Mos. Library; Journal of Royal Asiatic Society; Proceedings of Royal Geographical Society, 1878, pp. 326-7; Times, 6 May 1878.]

A. F. P.