Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Turner, Samuel (1749?-1802)

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TURNER, SAMUEL (1749?–1802), Asiatic traveller, born in Gloucestershire about 1749, was a kinsman of Warren Hastings. He was given an East India cadetship in 1780, appointed ensign the same year, lieutenant on 8 Aug. 1781, captain on 8 June 1796, and regimental captain on 18 March 1799. He was known as the author of the only published account of a journey to Great Tibet written by an Englishman until Bogle and Manning's narratives were printed in 1875. News having reached Calcutta, in February 1782, of the reincarnation of the Tashi-lhunpo grand lama of Tibet (Bogle and Turner's Teshoo Lama of Teshoo Loomboo) in the person of a child, Warren Hastings proposed the despatch of a mission to Tibet to congratulate the lamaist regency on the event, and strengthen the friendly relations established by George Bogle [q. v.], who had died on 3 April 1781, and, with the assent of the court of directors, Turner was appointed on 9 Jan. 1783 chief of the mission. Leaving Calcutta shortly afterwards, and following the route previously taken by Bogle, Turner reached the summer palace of the Deb Raja of Bhutan early in June 1783, stayed till 8 Sept. in this country, and then proceeded, still following Bogle's route, to Tashi-lhunpo, a monastery in the neighbourhood of Shigatze, arriving there on 22 Sept. 1783. On 4 Dec. at Ter-pa-ling, he had an audience of the infant Tashi lama, who, he was told, could understand what was said to him. The envoy accordingly stated that 'the governor-general, on receiving news of his decease in China, was overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, and continued to lament his absence from the world until the cloud that had overcast the happiness of this nation was dispelled by his reappearance' (Turner, Embassy, p. 334). 'The little creature,' Turner adds, 'looked steadfastly towards me, with the appearance of much attention while I spoke, and nodded with repeated but slow movements of the head, as though he understood every word, but could not utter a reply. His parents, who stood by all the time, eyed their son with a look of affection, and a smile expressive of heartfelt joy, at the propriety of the young lama's conduct. . . . Teshoo Lama was at this time eighteen months old.' Returning to India by the same route, Turner joined the governor-general's camp at Patna in March 1784, and at once proceeded to submit a report of his mission, which was afterwards reprinted in the appendix to his larger work.

Turner was among the officers with Lord Cornwallis on the night of 6 Feb. 1792 (Dirom). In 1794 he served at the siege of Seringapatam in command of a troop of the governor-general's (Cornwallis) bodyguard of cavalry. In 1798 he was a captain in the company's 3rd European regiment, and, going on furlough to Europe, purchased a country seat in Gloucestershire. The name of Samuel Turner is among the list of persons who received pensions and gratuities in 1800, on the recommendation of Lord Cornwallis, when viceroy in Ireland. On 15 Jan. 1801 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. On 21 Dec. 1801, while walking at night in the neighbourhood of Fetter Lane, London, he was seized with a paralytic stroke, and was taken to the workhouse in Shoe Lane. His name and address in St. James's Place were presently discovered; but he was too ill to be moved, and died on 2 Jan. 1802. He was buried in St. James's church, Piccadilly. His property in Gloucestershire went to his sisters, one of whom married Joseph White, regius professor of Hebrew at Oxford, He wrote 'An Account of an Embassy to the Court of the Teshoo Lama in Tibet, containing a Narrative of a Journey through Bootan and part of Tibet,' London, 1800, 4to; a French translation appeared at Paris in 1800, and a German translation by Sprengel at Berlin and Hamburg next year.

[Bengal Kalendars; Dirom's Narrative of the Campaign in India in 1792-93; Gent. Mag. 1802, i. 87; Bogle and Manning's Tibet, ed. Markham.]

S. W.