The Times/1908/Obituary/Robert Atkinson
Dr. Robert Atkinson.
Our Dublin Correspondent telegraphs:—
"I regret to announce the death of Mr. Robert Atkinson, D.Litt., LL.D., late Professor of Sanscrit and of the Romance languages in Trinity College, Dublin, which took place on Friday evening at his residence in Dublin. Dr. Atkinson had been in ill-health for some months, and in last Michaelmas term he resigned his various posts in the University.
"By Dr. Atkinson's death Trinity College and Ireland loses one of the most brilliant and versatile scholars in the recent record of Irish learning. A native of Yorkshire, he was elected a scholar of Trinity College in 1862. In 1867 he was appointed Professor of Romance languages, and four years later he became Professor of Sanscrit and Comparative Philology. The degree of Doctor in Literature was conferred on him honoris causa in 1891. During all the years of his connexion with Trinity College he devoted himself with untiring enthusiasm to the study and teaching of languages and literature. His accomplishments in this respect were remarkable, both in their variety and in their completeness. He had an astonishing gift for the acquisition of languages, and it was said of him by those who knew him well that his achievements in this branch of knowledge outstripped even those of the famous Cardinal Mezzofanti, who was credited with a mastery of 50 languages. From the outset of his career in Trinity College Dr. Atkinson set himself to acquire nearly all the modern languages of the East. His knowledge of Indian dialects was truly remarkable, while in the world of philology he was long ago recognized to be an exceptional authority on ancient Irish. He was able to converse in their own patois with the peasants of many lands, and in his latest years he set himself the task of acquiring Icelandic. Some of his most learned and successful emendations of ancient manuscripts were made in Coptic and early French literature. Among other indications of his versatility his friends recall the fact that long before the art of jujitsu was known in these countries he had mastered it both in theory and practice.
"Most of Dr. Atkinson's contributions to literature and philology are hidden away in scientific journals, but his chief work in connexion with ancient Irish is very well known. He edited 'The Yellow Book of Lecan,' and his 'Glossary of the Four Masters' gave Celtic scholars much of the foundation on which most recent Irish studies have been developed. His most substantial work probably as the volumes of the Brehon Laws, which he edited for the Royal Commission appointed in 1852 to translate and publish the ancient laws and institutions of Ireland. 'The Book of Ballymote,' in photo-lithography, with an introduction, notes, and index and 'The Passions and Homilies from Leabhar Breac' are other enduring monuments to the acumen and research with which he illuminated the dark and difficult recesses of Celtic learning.
"Dr. Atkinson acted for five years as secretary to the council of the Royal Irish Academy. He was elected president in 1901, and filled that office with energy and distinction for a further period of five years. In controversy he was active and formidable, holding strong opinions and expressing them with a sole regard for what he believed to be the truth. In the early days of the Gaelic literature brought him into active collision with the leading spirits of that movement. His death is deeply mourned by Trinity College."