Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Newbold, Thomas John

NEWBOLD, THOMAS JOHN (1807–1850), traveller, son of Francis Newbold, surgeon, of Macclesfield, was born there on 8 Feb. 1807, and obtained a commission as ensign in the 23rd regiment Madras light infantry under the East India Company in 1828. Arriving in India in that year, he passed a very creditable examination in Hindustani in 1830, and in Persian in 1831. From 1830 to 1835 he was quartermaster and interpreter to his regiment. Proceeding to Malacca in 1832, he became lieutenant in 1834. While in command of the port at Lingy, he seized and detained a boat which had conveyed supplies to one of the native belligerents between whom the government of Malacca desired to maintain a strict neutrality. On his prosecution by the owner, the legality of the seizure could not be maintained; but Newbold's conduct was approved by the court, and he was reimbursed his expenses. Arriving at the presidency with a detachment of his corps in August 1835, he was approved aide-de-camp to Brigadier-general E. W. Wilson, C.B., commanding the ceded districts, an appointment which he held until 1840. He was appointed deputy assistant quartermaster-general for the division in 1838, and deputy assistant adjutant-general and postmaster to the field force in the ceded districts in 1839.

During his residence of three years in the Straits of Malacca, where he had constant intercourse with the native chiefs on the Malayan peninsula, Newbold had accumulated materials for several papers contributed to the journals of the Asiatic societies of Bengal and Madras. These papers formed the basis of his ‘Political and Statistical Account of the British Settlements in the Straits of Malacca … with a History of the Malayan States on the Peninsula of Malacca,’ London, 2 vols. 8vo, 1839. Forty copies of this work were taken for the use of the court of directors of the East India Company. Newbold also devoted much time to the investigation of the mineral resources of India. He visited the Kupput Gode range of hills in the Southern Mahratta country, where he obtained specimens of gold-dust; the iron mines of the Salem district, the lead mines of the Eastern Ghauts, the diamond tracts, and many other localities. He was one of the leading authorities on the geology of Southern India, which he investigated with great thoroughness. The results of his observations were published from time to time in the journal of the Asiatic Society and other scientific periodicals.

Newbold left India on leave of absence early in 1840, and visited Gebel Nákas in the peninsula of Mount Sinai in June of that year. He was elected a member of the Asiatic Society on 5 June 1841, and during a residence of some months in England read several papers before the society. He also persuaded the society to address a letter to the pasha of Egypt, protesting against the demolition of the remains of antiquity by his officers. Newbold was an accomplished oriental scholar. As early as 1831 he formed the project of compiling an account of some Persian, Hindustani, Arabic, Turkish, and Malayan poets, with extracts from their compositions; and he published a notice of some Persian poets in the Madras ‘Journal of Literature and Science.’ While he was in England he presented to the Asiatic Society several Persian and Hindustani manuscripts, some specimens of Malay pantuns, a biography of Turkish poets, which he had procured at Constantinople; a collection of specimens of useful rocks and minerals found in Southern India, and a sculptured offering-stone, bearing hieroglyphical marks, brought by him from the ruins of Gon-el-Kebir. Among the manuscripts was Schâh Muhammed Kamâl's ‘Majma ulintikhâb,’ which formed the subject of a correspondence between Newbold and Garcin de Tassy, upon the publication by the latter in the ‘Journal Asiatique’ of his ‘Sâadi, auteur des premières poésies hindoustanies.’

Newbold was promoted to the rank of captain on 12 April 1842, and was recalled to India in the following May. Arriving at Madras, he was appointed assistant to the commission at Kurnool, on a salary of two hundred rupees, in addition to his military allowances, and also to command the horse. He was assistant to the agent to the governor of Fort St. George at Kurnool and Bunganahilly from 1843 to 1848, when he was appointed assistant to the resident at Hyderabad. He was permitted to go to Egypt for two years in June 1845. He died at Mahabuleshwar, ‘too early for his fame’ (Burton), on 29 May 1850.

Among other subjects of Newbold's investigations may be mentioned the geology of Egypt, the Chenchwars, a wild tribe inhabiting the Eastern Ghauts, the gipsies of Egypt, of Syria, and of Persia; the ancient sepulchres of Pánduvaram, North Arcot, the sites of Ashteroth, of Hai or Ai, the royal city of the Canaanites, and of the ‘seven churches of Asia.’ In the Royal Society's catalogue forty-six scientific papers are mentioned of which Newbold was the author.

[Information supplied by the India Office; Asiatic Journal, May–August 1841 pt. ii. p. 537, September–December 1841 ii. 395, January–April 1842 i. 198, ii. 91, 182, 183, 251, 252, 366, 367, May–August 1842 ii. 171; Journal Asiatique, November 1843, pp. 361–9; Geologist, 1842, p. 168; Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, 1846, xvi. 331–8; Journal of the Asiatic Society, vii. 78, 113, 129, 150, 161, 167, 202, 203, 215, 219, 226, viii. 138, 213, 271, 315, 355, ix. 1, 23, xii. 78, xiii. 81, 90; Calcutta Review, January–June 1848, ix. 314; Geological Survey of India, v. 75, vii. 140, xvii. 28; Annual Register, 1850, p. 232; Gent. Mag. 1851, i. 222; m'Culloch's Literature of Political Economy, p. 112; Lyell's Principles of Geology, i. 431; Laurie's Distinguished Anglo-Indians, p. 143; Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers, iv. 398, 399; Röhricht's Bibliotheca Geographica Palestinæ, p. 423; Review of British Geographical Work during the hundred years 1789–1889, pp. 32, 33, 67–9, 100; Prince Ibraham-Hilmy's Literature of Egypt and the Soudan, p. 65; Lady Burton's Life of Sir Richard Burton, ii. 527, 530.]

W. A. S. H.