Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wilson, Andrew (1831-1881)

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1049437Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62 — Wilson, Andrew (1831-1881)1900Gerald le Grys Norgate

WILSON, ANDREW (1831–1881), traveller and author, born in 1831, was the eldest son of the learned missionary John Wilson (1804–1875) [q. v.] He was educated at the universities of Edinburgh and Tübingen, and afterwards lived some time in Italy. He then went to India, where he began his career as a journalist by taking charge of the ‘Bombay Times’ in the absence of George Buist [q. v.], and as an oriental traveller by a tour in Baluchistan. After his return to England he contributed to ‘Blackwood's Magazine’ some verses entitled ‘Wayside Songs,’ and in 1857 attracted some attention by a paper ‘Infante Perduto,’ published in ‘Edinburgh Essays.’ He maintained his connection with ‘Blackwood’ throughout his life. Returning in 1860 to the east, he edited for three years the ‘China Mail,’ accompanied the expedition to Tientsin, and visited Japan. In 1860 he issued at Hongkong a pamphlet entitled ‘England's Policy in China,’ in which he advocated that change of policy which was afterwards carried out by Sir Frederick William Adolphus Bruce [q. v.] at Pekin, by Mr. (now Sir Robert) Hart at Shanghai, and by General Gordon in the field. He travelled much in southern China, and sent descriptive contributions to the ‘Daily News’ and ‘Pall Mall Gazette’ on eastern questions, as well as to ‘Blackwood.’ At the beginning of the civil war he paid a visit to the United States, and afterwards passed some years in England, during which he wrote for papers and magazines. Returning to India about 1873, he edited for a time the ‘Times of India’ and the ‘Bombay Gazette.’ Ill-health delayed the publication till 1878 of his book ‘The Ever-Victorious Army: a History of the Chinese Campaigns under Lieutenant-colonel C. G. Gordon, C.B., R.E., and of the Suppression of the Tai-Ping Rebellion,’ which is still the best account of the suppression of the movement of 1863–4. Wilson's chief source of information was Gordon's ‘Private Journal,’ then unpublished. The clear and animated style in which the work is written gives it an additional value. In 1875 Wilson published an account of a very adventurous journey under the title ‘The Abode of Snow: Observations on a Journey from Chinese Tibet to the Indian Caucasus through the Upper Valleys of the Himalaya.’ The book is based on articles in ‘Blackwood's Magazine.’ A second edition was issued next year. ‘The Abode of Snow’ is not only a vivid record of very arduous travel, it contains also valuable ethnological observations, and displays intense feeling for natural beauty expressed in excellent prose. Before his final departure from India Wilson made an excursion into the wild state of Kathiawar. His last contribution to ‘Blackwood’, written in the spring of 1877, was a retrospect of African travel (‘Twenty Years of African Travel’). The last years of his life were passed in England in the Lake district. He died at Howton on Ullswater on 9 June 1881.

[Men of the Time, 10th edit.; Blackwood's Magazine, July 1881 (obituary notice); Athenæum, 18 June 1881; Wilson's Works; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit. Suppl. vol. ii.; Ann. Reg. June 1881 (obituary); Men of the Reign.]

G. Le G. N.