Irwin, Eyles (DNB00)

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IRWIN, EYLES (1751?–1817), oriental traveller and miscellaneous writer, younger son of James Irwin, H.E.I.C.S., of Hazeleigh Hall, Essex, by his wife Sarah (Beale), widow of Henry Palmer, was born in Calcutta, and educated in England under Dr. Rose at Chiswick. Being appointed on 21 Nov. 1766 to a writership in the East India Company's service in the Madras presidency, he returned to India in February 1768, and in 1771 was appointed ‘superintendent of the company's grounds within the bounds of Madras,’ &c. Upon the deposition of Lord Pigot in 1776, Irwin signed a protest against the revolution in the Madras government, and on his refusal to accept the post of assistant at Vizagapatam, to which he was appointed by the council in November 1776, was suspended from the company's service. In order to seek redress, Irwin sailed for England early in 1777. After enduring many vicissitudes of fortune during a journey of eleven months, a full account of which is given in his ‘Series of Adventures in the course of a Voyage up the Red Sea,’ &c., Irwin arrived in England at the close of the year, and found that he had already been reinstated in the service of the company. Returning to India in the autumn of 1780 by another route, which is described in the third edition of his ‘Series of Adventures,’ &c., he was appointed by Lord Macartney on 6 Oct. 1781 a member of the committee of ‘assigned revenue,’ and in 1783 was made the superintendent of revenue in the Tinnevelly and Madura districts. Under his advice, Colonel William Fullarton [q. v.] undertook a successful expedition against the Poligars, and by his judicious management the revenues of the district were greatly improved. In November 1784 he was ordered to the Trichinopoly district to arrange ‘the speediest and most effectual mode of paying off the fighting men’ of the southern army. In March 1785 he was further appointed commissary on the part of the Madras government to negotiate for the cession of the Dutch settlements on the coasts of Tinnevelly and Marawa, and in consequence of the surrender of the assignment, delivered over the district of Tinnevelly in July to the nabob's agents. Towards the close of 1785 Irwin was compelled to return to England on account of his health, and in 1789 was awarded the sum of six thousand pagodas by the court of directors for his ‘able, judicious, and upright management’ of the assigned districts south of the Coleroon. In 1792 he was sent out with two colleagues to China, where he remained rather less than two years. He retired from the service in 1794, and in the following year was an unsuccessful candidate for a directorship of the company. The remainder of his days he passed in retirement, devoting himself chiefly to literary pursuits. Irwin died at Clifton, near Bristol, on 12 Aug. 1817, and was buried in the old churchyard at Clifton. He appears to have been an honest and able administrator. His character is said to have been ‘remarkable for its amiable simplicity.’ His portrait, painted by Romney, is in the possession of his great-grandson, Charles Stuart Pringle. It has been engraved by James Walker and Thornthwaite. In 1778 Irwin married Honor, daughter of the Rev. William Brooke of Dromavana and of Firmount, co. Longford, and first cousin once removed of Henry Brooke (1703?–1783) [q.v.] , the author of ‘The Fool of Quality.’ By her he had three sons and two daughters. His eldest son, James Brooke Irwin, a captain in the 103rd regiment, was killed in the assault on Fort Erie in August 1814.

Irwin was the author of the following works: 1. ‘Saint Thomas's Mount; a Poem. Written by a Gentleman in India,’ London, 1774, 4to. 2. ‘Bedukah, or the Self-devoted, an Indian Pastoral,’ London, 1776, 4to. 3. ‘An Epistle to … George, Lord Pigot, on the Anniversary of the Raising of the Siege of Madras. Written during his Lordship's Confinement at St. Thomas's Mount’ [in verse], anon., London, 1778, 4to. 4. ‘Eastern Eclogues; written during a Tour through Arabia, Egypt … in the year mdcclxxvii,’ &c., anon., London, 1780, 4to. 5. ‘A Series of Adventures, in the course of a Voyage up the Red Sea, on the coasts of Arabia and Egypt, and of a Route through the Desarts of Thebais … in the year mdcclxxvii. … Illustrated with Maps,’ &c., London, 1780, 4to; 2nd edit., London, 1780, 4to; 3rd edit., ‘with a Supplement of a Voyage from Venice to Latichea, and of a Route through the Desarts of Arabia, by Aleppo, Bagdad, and the Tigris, to Busrah, in the years 1780 and 1781,’ &c., London, 1787, 8vo, 2 vols. Translated from the third edition into French by J. P. Parraud, Paris, 1792, 8vo, 2 tom. 6. ‘Occasional Epistles, written during a Journey from London to Busrah … in the years 1780 and 1781’ [in verse], London, 1783, 4to. 7. ‘Ode to Robert Brooke, Esq., occasioned by the death of Hyder Ally,’ London, 1784, 4to. 8. ‘The Triumph of Innocence; an Ode, written on the Deliverance of Maria Theresa Charlotte, Princess Royal of France, from the Prison of the Temple,’ London, 1796, 4to. 9. ‘An Enquiry into the Feasibility of the supposed Expedition of Buonaparté to the East,’ London, 1798, 8vo. 10. ‘Buonaparte in Egypt, or an Appendix to the Enquiry into his supposed Expedition to the East,’ Dublin, 1798, 8vo. 11. ‘Nilus, an Elegy. Occasioned by the Victory of Admiral Nelson over the French Fleet on August 1,1798,’ London, 1798, 4to. 12. ‘The Failure of the French Crusade, or the Advantages to be derived by Great Britain from the restoration of Egypt to the Turks,’ London, 1799, 8vo. 13. ‘The Bedouins, or Arabs of the Desert. A Comic Opera in three Acts [prose and verse]. With Corrections and Additions,’ Dublin, 1802, 12mo. 14. ‘Ode to Iberia’ London, 1808, 4to. 15. ‘The Fall of Saragossa, an Elegy,’ 1808, 4to. 16. ‘Napoleon, or the Vanity of Human Wishes,’ 1814, 4to, 2 pts. 17. ‘An Elegy to the Memory of Captain James Brooke Irwin, who perished … in the Assault of Fort Erie, Upper Canada, on the fifteenth of August, 1814,’ London, 1814, 4to, privately printed. 18. ‘An Essay on the Origin of the Game of Chess,’ prefixed to ‘The incomparable Game of Chess developed after a new Method … translated from the Italian of Dr. Ercole dal Rio [or rather D. Ponziani]. By J. S. Bingham,’ London, 1820, 8vo. This essay is an extract from a letter written by Irwin while at Canton, dated 14 March 1793, and communicated by the Earl of Charlemont to the Royal Irish Academy (see Transactions, vol. v. ‘Antiquities,’ pp. 53–63).

[Annual Biog. and Obit. 1818, ii. 221–36; European Mag. 1789 xv. 179–81 (with portrait), 1817 lxxii. 277; Gent. Mag. 1792 vol. lxii. pt. i. p. 276, 1817 vol. lxxxvii. pt. ii. p. 376, 1818 vol. lxxxviii. pt. i. pp. 93–4; Asiatic Journal, 1817, iv. 425; A Collection of Letters, chiefly between the Madras Government and Eyles Irwin, in the years 1781–5 (1888); Colonel William Fullarton's View of the English Interests in India, 1788; Bishop Caldwell's Political and General History of the District of Tinnevelly, 1881, pp. 82, 143–57; Georgian Era, 1834, iii. 465–6; Baker's Biog. Dramatica, 1812, vol. i. pt. i. pp. 390–3; Prinsep's Record of Services of Madras Civilians, 1885, p. 80; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1882, i. 199–200; Foster's Peerage, 1883, s.n. ‘Charlemont;’ Dictionary of Living Authors, 1816, p. 174; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. xi. 34; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.