Johnson, Francis (1796?-1876) (DNB00)

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JOHNSON, FRANCIS (1796?–1876), orientalist, spent much time in early manhood in Italy, where he applied himself to the study of oriental languages, and learned Arabic from an Arab. In March 1818 he left Rome in company with Charles (afterwards Sir Charles) Barry, Charles (afterwards Sir Charles) Lock Eastlake, and Kinnaird, an architect, for Athens. After studying antiquities there till June, Johnson and Barry travelled overland to Constantinople, but they parted in August, Johnson returning to Italy, while Barry pursued his travels in Egypt (Lady Eastlake, Memoir of C. L. Eastlake, p. 72; Barry, Sir Charles Barry, pp. 25 sq.). In 1824 Johnson was appointed to the chair of Sanskrit, Bengali, and Telugu in the East India Company's college at Haileybury. He resigned his chair in 1855, was married in 1857, and died at Hertford on 29 Jan. 1876.

The great work of Johnson's life was his ‘Persian Dictionary.’ On its first publication in 1829 it was described as the third edition of Richardson's dictionary. It contained, however, much original matter, especially in respect of the Arabic element in Persian. In 1852 Johnson published a revised and much extended edition under his own name alone. This work is by far the most important contribution to Persian lexicography in any European language. Compound words are treated with especial completeness. Johnson also edited the ‘Gulistān’ of Sa‘di (1863), while in Sanskrit he re-edited, with the addition of a vocabulary and a collation of new manuscripts, H. H. Wilson's text and translation of the ‘Meghadūta’ (1867). His well-known selections from the ‘Mahābhārata’ (1842) and his ‘Hitopadeśa,’ London, 1840, 4to (subsequent editions 1847, 1848, and 1864), have long proved very useful to English beginners in the study of Sanskrit.

[Hertfordshire Mercury, 12 Feb. 1876; Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, new ser. vol. ix., Report for 1876; Johnson's Works.]

C. B.