Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/204

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Erskine
Erskine
192

whom and to Heber Leyden left his papers, received the manuscript in the end of 1813. By this time Erskine had finished his translation from the Persian. He at once set about comparing and correcting the two translations, and had just completed this when he received from Elphinstone a copy of the Turki original. This compelled him to undertake a third labour, viz. that of comparing his translation throughout with the Turki, and not merely with Leyden's translation, which was only a fragment. In his own words ' the discovery of this valuable manuscript (the Elphinstone manuscript, and which has, unhappily, again disappeared) reduced me, though heartily sick of the task, to the necessity of commencing my work once more.' The title-page states that the translation was made partly by Leyden and partly by Erskine, and the book was published, as we learn from Sir Walter Scott, for the benefit of Leyden's father ; but the credit of the performance is mainly due to Erskine. Leyden translated only down to page 195 of the 'Memoirs,' and pages 246-54, and he supplied scarcely any notes. Erskine contributed a valuable preface and introduction, he corrected Leyden's version, and he translated the remainder of the 425 pages, which include the Indian campaign and the description of India and its productions. He also supplied the notes, which Lord Jeffrey described as 'the most intelligent, learned, and least pedantic notes we have ever seen annexed to such a performance' (Edinburgh Review, 1827). The translation is indeed an admirable one, and will probably never be superseded. Almost its only defect is that it was made mainly from the Persian version and not from the Turki original. This defect has been practically remedied by Pavet de Courteille, who published a French translation from the Turki in 1871. His translation, however, has few notes, and is not always perfectly accurate. It has been made, too, from a single imprint (Ilminsky's), and without any collation of manuscripts. Leyden and Erskine's translation, which was published in London in 1826 in 4to, has been long out of print ; an abridgment by R. M. Caldecott appeared in 1844.

In 1827 Erskine went to Pau, where he resided for two or three years. In 1836 he became provost of St. Andrews. In 1839 he returned to Edinburgh, and from 1845 to 1848 he was at Bonn. For some years also he rented Blackburn House in Linlithgowshire, but most of his later years were spent in Edinburgh. For the last year of his life he was blind. He died at Edinburgh on 28 May 1852, and is buried in the churchyard of St. John's episcopal church, Princes' Street. On 27 Sept. 1809 he married, at Madras, Maitland, second daughter of Sir James Mackintosh; she died in London on 15 Jan. 1861. Erskine had fourteen children, of whom one, Miss Louisa Erskine, still survives. Four of his sons, two of whom are noticed below, were in the Indian civil service. Erskine's portrait is in the rooms of the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Erskine's chief work, apart from his great edition of 'Bäbar's Memoirs,' is his 'History of India under Bäbar and Humayun' (1854, 2 vols.) This was edited by his son, James Claudius, and was published after his death, though, as appears from the preface dated Bonn, 28 May 1845, it had been completed several years before. The work is a very valuable contribution to Indian history (cf. Calcutta JRevieic, 1855, vol. xx.) It is the only history of India which has been written by a thorough Persian scholar (Elphinstone was unable to read Persian manuscripts) and it is marked throughout by good sense, accuracy, and impartiality. Though Erskine was by no means so brilliant a man as his father-in-law, Mackintosh, or as his brother-in-law, Claudius James Rich [q. v.], he surpassed them both in powers of application, and in adherence to one subject, and thus he did more solid work than either of them. His intention was to have carried his history down to the time of Aurangzib, and he had collected many manuscripts for this purpose, and had also translated several of them. The latter consist of renderings, more or less complete, and abstracts of the 'Tarikh Reshidi of Haidar Mirzi,' the 'Memoirs of Bayazid Biyat,' Badauni, Abul Fazl's 'Akbarnama,' ' Jauhar's Memoirs,' and the 'Memoirs of Jehangir.' These are now in the British Museum, having been presented in 1865 by his son, J. Claudius, together with those of Leyden. J. Claudius Erskine also sold to the Museum his father's oriental manuscripts, of which the Persian amount to 195, the total number being 436. It is stated in Colebrooke's 'Life of Mountstuart Elphinstone' (ii. 340) that Erskine wrote the greater part of the third volume of Malcolm's 'Life of Olive.'

Erskine's elder son, James Claudius Erskine 1821-1893), member of the Indian civil service, was born on 20 May 1820. He was educated at St. Andrews and Haileybury ; arrived in Bombay in 1840, and became private secretary to the governor of Bombay. In 1846 he married Emily Georgina, daughter of Lestock Reid, acting-governor of Bombay. He was secretary