Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Arbuthnot, Forster FitzGerald

ARBUTHNOT, FORSTER FITZGERALD (1833–1901), orientalist, born at Belgaum, Bombay presidency, on 21 May 1833, was second son of Sir Robert Keith Arbuthnot, second baronet, by his wife Anne, daughter of Field-marshal Sir John Forster Fitzgerald [q. v.]. He was educated privately on the Continent, at Anhalt and Geneva. Receiving a nomination to Haileybury in 1851, he went out to India in the Bombay civil service in 1853, where his father had served before him, and retired in 1878. His last appointment was that of collector of Bombay city and island, in which capacity he fixed the existing assessment on what are known as toka lands. He is remembered for driving a four-in-hand, and for his seaside residence at Bandra, outside the island, where he entertained Sir Richard and Lady Burton in 1876. He had already been initiated into Oriental literature by Edward Rehatsek, an eccentric but learned Hungarian, who led the life of a faqir at Bombay. Shortly after his return to England Arbuthnot associated himself with Burton in founding the Kama Shastra Society, for the issue to private subscribers of unexpurgated translations of Oriental classics. He was himself active in procuring the translation of Jāmi's 'Behāristan' and of S'adi's 'Gulistān'; and to him Burton dedicated the fourth volume of his 'Arabian Nights,' commending his critical appreciation of Oriental literature, which enabled him 'to detect the pearl which lurks in the kitchen-midden.' Arbuthnot's own books were in the nature of popular compilations, the two most important being 'Persian Portraits' (1887), and 'Arabic Authors' (1890). A work of more permanent value was his inauguration, in 1891, of a new series of the 'Oriental Translation Fund,' which he started with some translations by Rehatsek, and which was continued after his death through his munificence. He was a member of council and also a trustee of the Royal Asiatic Society, and he took a prominent part in organising the reception of the International Congress of Orientalists that met in London in 1892. He was given to hospitality both at his town house in Park Lane and at his country residence near Guildford. He took a lively interest in his village neighbours, and his memory is preserved by the Arbuthnot Institute, Shemley Green, under the charge of the Wonersh parish council. He died in London on 25 May 1901. In 1879 he married Ellinor, daughter of Admiral Sir James Stirling [q. v.] and widow of James Alexander Guthrie of Craigie, Forfarshire, who survived him until 9 May 1911. There were no children of the marriage.

[The Times, 28 May 1901; personal knowledge.]

J. S. C.