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John Borthwick Gilchrist

John Borthwick Gilchrist (June 1759 - 1841) was a noted British Indologist.

Gilchrist was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to merchant Walter Gilchrist, who disappeared the year he was born. After graduation from George Heriot's Hospital, a school for orphans, he obtained employment first as a surgeon's mate in the Royal Navy, then as an assistant surgeon in the East India Company's Medical Service. He landed at Bombay in 1782, then traveled overland with the troops.

There Gilchrist began studying the Hindustani (Urdu) language, and creating his first dictionary. In 1785 he requested a year's leave from duty. In 1787 leave was granted, and Gilchrist never returned to Medical Service. He spent 12 years living at various places, including Patna, Faizabad, Lucknow, Delhi, and Ghazipur.

Meanwhile in 1786 his first advertisement had announced A Dictionary English and Hindoostanee. To which Is Prefixed a Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language. By John Gilchrist . . . Calcutta: Printed by Stuart and Cooper. M.DCC.LXXXVI. The dictionary was published by subscription, and issued in installments to be completed in 1790. It was apparently the first publication in devanagari type, as developed by noted Orientalist Charles Wilkins. The Government promised to take 150 sets at 40 rupees each; the price rose eventually to 60 rupees. In 1796 his grammar appeared.

On his suggestion, governor-general, Marquis Wellesley, and the Company officers at Fort William agreed to organize the College of Fort William. In 1801 Gilchrist was named head of the college, and professor of Persian and Hindustani. He remained in India until 1804, when he returned to Edinburgh for ill health.

In 1805 Gilchrist evidently started business as a merchant in the linen trade in Edinburgh, though he resided much of the time in London where he gave lectures. In 1806, when the East India College was established in Hertford Castle, its original plan called only for the teaching of Arabic and Persian. However, the first appointed Oriental Professor, Jonathan Scott, a scholar of Arabic and Persian, resigned even before the College opened its doors. Gilchrist succeeded him but held the post only a few months.

In 1806 Gilchrist returned to Edinburgh where he founded a banking firm. There he also became a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Horticultural Society, the East Indian Society, etc. In 1815 his banking business fell into difficulties and was dissolved. He then moved to London in 1817, where he resided until 1827 or 1828. While there he helped to found University College London and served as its first Professor of Hindustani. He also worked with Dr. George Birkbeck to establish the London Mechanics Institution (later Birkbeck College), and helped organize the London Oriental Institution. From there he moved to Paris.

In 1841, upon his death, he endowed the Gilchrist Educational Trust to promote education. Its interest has provided scholarships and funded scientific lectures.

Selected works

  • A Dictionary: English and Hindoostanee, Calcutta: Stuart and Cooper, 1787-90.
  • A Grammar, of the Hindoostanee Language, or Part Third of Volume First, of a System of Hindoostanee Philology, Calcutta: Chronicle Press, 1796.
  • A Dictionary English and Hindoostanee. To which Is Prefixed a Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language. By John Gilchrist . . . Calcutta: Printed by Stuart and Cooper. M.DCC.LXXXVI
  • The Anti-Jargonist; a short and familiar introduction to the Hindoostanee Language, with an exstensive Vocabulary, Calcutta, 1800.
  • Dialogues, English and Hindoostanee, calculated to promote the colloquial intercourse of Europeans, on the most useful and familiar subjects, with the natives of India, upon their arrival in that country, Calcutta, 1802(?). Second edition: Edinburgh, Manners and Miller et al., 1809. lxiii, 253 p.
  • The Hindee Director, or Student’s Introductor to the Hindoostanee Language; comprising the Practical outlines of the improved Orthoepy and Orthography, along with first and general Principles of its Grammar, Calcutta, 1802.
  • The Hindee-Arabic Mirror; or improved Arabic practical tables of such Arabic words which are intimately connected with a due knowledge of the Hindoostanee language, Calcutta, 1802.
  • The Hindee-Roman Orthoepigraphical Ultimatum, or a systematic descriptive view of the Oriental and Occidental visible sounds of fixed and practical principles for the Language of the East, Calcutta, 1804.
  • British Indian Monitor; or, the Antijargonist, Stranger's Guide, Oriental Linguist, and Various Other Works, compressed into a series of portable volumes, on the Hindoostanee Language, improperly called Moors; with considerable information respecting Eastern tongues, manners, customs, &c., Edinburgh: Walker & Grieg, 1806-8.
  • Parliamentary reform, on constitutional principles; or, British loyalty against continental royalty, the whole host of sacerdotal inquisitors in Europe, and every iniquitous judge, corrupt ruler, venal corporation, rotten borough, slavish editor, or Jacobitical toad-eater within the British Empire, Glasgow : W. Lang. 1815.
  • The Orienti-Occidental Tuitionary Pioneer to Literary Pursuits, by the King's and Company's Officers of all Ranks, Capacities, and Departments, either as probationers at scholastic establishments, during the early periods of life, their outward voyage to the East, or while actually serving in British India...A Complete Regular Series of Fourteen Reports...earnestly recommending also the general Introduction, and efficient Culture immediately, of Practical Orientalism, simultaneously with Useful Occident Learning at all the Colleges, respectable Institutions, Schools, or Academies, in the United Kingdom,...a brief prospectus of the art of thinking made easy and attractive to Children, by the early and familiar union of theory with colloquial practice, on commensurate premises, in some appropriate examples, lists, &c. besides a Comprehensive Panglossal Diorama for a universal Language and Character...a perfectly new theory of Latin verbs, London: 1816.
  • The Oriental Green Bag!! Or a Complete Sketch of Edwards Alter in the Royal Exchequer, Containing a full Account of the Battle with the Books between a Belle and a Dragon: by a radical admirer of the great Sir William Jones's civil, religious, and political creed, against whom information have recently been lodged for the Treasonable Offence and heinous crime of deep-rooted Hostility to Corruption and Despotism, in every Shape and Form; on the sacred oath of Peeping Tom at Coventry, London: J.B. Gilchrist, 1820.
  • The Hindee-Roman Orthoepigraphical Ultimatum;or a systematic, descriminative view of Oriental and Occidental visible Sounds, on fixed and practical principles for acquiring the ... pronunciation of many Oriental languages; exemplified in one hundred popular anecdotes, ... and proverbs of the Hindoostanee story teller, London: 1820.
  • The General East India Guide and Vade Mecum: for the public functionary, government officer, private agent, trader or foreign sojourner, in British India, and the adjacent parts of Asia immediately connected with the honourable East India Company, London: Kingsbury, Parbury and Allen, 1825.
  • Dialogues, English and Hindoostanee; for illustrating the grammatical principles of the Strangers' East Indian Guide, and to promote the colloquial intercourse of Europeans on the most indispensable and familiar subjects with the Natives of India immediately upon their arrival in Hindoostan, London: Kingsley, Parbury, and Allen, 1826.
  • A Practical Appeal to the Public, Through a Series of Letters, in Defence of the New System of Physic, London : Parbury, Allen, & Co. 1833.
  • A Bold Epistolary Rhapsody Addressed to the Proprietors of East-India Stock in particular, and to every individual of the Welch, Scottish and English nations in general, London: Ridgway, 1833.

References

  • Thomas Duffus Hardy, Memoirs of the Right Honourable Henry Lord Langdale, Richard Bentley, 1852, pages 398-413.
  • Natasha Glaisyer, Sara Pennell, Didactic Literature in England 1500-1800: Expertise Constructed, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003, pages 155-159. ISBN 0754606694.
  • Richard Steadman-Jones, "Etymology and Language Learning at the Start of the 19th Century", in The History of Linguistic and Grammatical Praxis, Piet Desmet (ed.), Peeters Publishers, 2000, pages 190-193. ISBN 904290884X
  • Richard Steadman-Jones, Colonialism and grammatical representation: John Gilchrist and the analysis of the Hindustani language in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Publications of the Philological Society; 41, 2007 9781405161329
  • Sadiqur-Rahman Kidwai, Gilchrist and the 'Language of Hindoostan', Ph.D. thesis, University of Delhi. Rachna Prakashan, 1972.
  • History of the Gilchrist Educational Trust

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