Wilks, Mark (DNB00)

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WILKS, MARK (1760?–1831), lieutenant-colonel in the Madras army, born about 1760, was a native of the Isle of Man, and entered the East India Company's service. Being at one time intended for the ministry, he received a classical education, and in consequence went to India at a later age than was usual. He obtained a cadetship in 1781, and on 25 Sept. 1782 received a commission in the Madras army. In 1786 he became deputy-secretary to the military board, and in the following year secretary to a diplomatic mission under Sir Barry Close [q. v.] to the sultan of Mysore. In 1788 he was appointed fort-adjutant at Fort St. George, and on 6 March 1789 he was promoted lieutenant, and served as aide-de-camp to the governor. From 1790 to 1792 he acted as brigade-major and aide-de-camp to Colonel (afterwards General) James Stuart [see under Stuart, James, (d. 1793)] during the war against Tipú Saib. In 1793 he was assistant adjutant-general, and in 1794 was appointed Stuart's military secretary. From 1795 to 1799 Wilks was on furlough from bad health, and during his absence, on 12 Oct. 1798, he received his captaincy. On his return he served successively as military secretary and private secretary to the governor, Lord Clive [see Clive, Edward, Earl of Powis]. He was next appointed town-major of Fort St. George, and in 1803 became military secretary to the commander-in-chief, Lieutenant-general James Stuart. From 1803 to 1808 he served as political resident at the court of Mysore, attaining the rank of major on 21 Sept. 1804, and of lieutenant-colonel on 4 April 1808. In that year ill-health obliged him to quit India, and on 20 Nov. 1812 he was appointed governor of St. Helena, arriving in the island on 22 June 1813.

His administration as governor was wise and enlightened, and personally he was very popular. He improved the condition of agriculture in the colony by introducing better methods of cultivation, and by inducing the East India Company to alter the system of land tenure. Wilks was governor on the arrival of Napoleon on 15 Oct. 1815, but in the next year was relieved by Sir Hudson Lowe [q. v.] He won the esteem of the emperor by the ability of his administration. He returned to England and retired from the company's service on 15 Oct. 1818, having received the brevet rank of colonel on 4 June 1814.

Wilks's fame rests chiefly on his admirable work, ‘Historical Sketches of the South of India in an Attempt to trace the History of Mysoor.’ The first volume was published in 1810 (London, 4to), and the second and third in 1814. A second edition in two volumes was published at Madras in 1867. For the early history of Mysore he had access to the state records, while he was himself a participator in the later events he describes, and from his official employments was possessed of an ample knowledge of state transactions. His history is written with rare impartiality, and in a style at once simple and interesting. It won him the praise of Sir James Mackintosh [q. v.], who spoke of the ‘Historical Sketches’ as ‘the first book on Indian history founded on a critical examination of testimony and probability.’

Wilks died at Kelloe House in Berwickshire, the residence of his son-in-law, on 19 Sept. 1831. He was twice married. His second wife, whom he married at Bath on 16 Feb. 1813, was youngest daughter of J. Taubman of Bath. By his first wife he had an only daughter, Laura, married at Bath on 22 July 1817 to Major-general Sir John Buchan (d. 1850) of Kelloe. She was famous for her beauty, on which she was complimented by Napoleon.

Besides the works mentioned, Wilks was the author of ‘A Report on the Interior Administration, Resources, and Expenditure of the Government of Mysoor,’ Fort William, 1805, fol.; new edit., Bangalore, 1861, 8vo. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and was for some years a vice-president of the Asiatic Society, in whose ‘Transactions’ he published an analysis of the philosophical work of Nasír ud dín of Tús entitled ‘Aklak i Naseri.’

[Gent. Mag. 1813 i. 282, 1817 ii. 178, 1831 ii. 469, 1833 ii. 94; Philippart's East India Military Calendar, 1823, i. 140; Dodwell and Miles's Indian Army List, 1838; Memoirs of the Life of Sir James Mackintosh, 1835, ii. 69; Blackwood's Mag. 1834, xxxv. 53; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Asiatic Journal, 1832, new ser. vol. viii.; Brooke's Hist. of St. Helena, 1824, pp. 376–89.]

E. I. C.