Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Pope, George Uglow

POPE, GEORGE UGLOW (1820–1908), missionary and Tamil scholar, was born on 24 April 1820 in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. His father, John Pope, born at Padstow, Cornwall, emigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1818, and in 1820 removed to Nova Scotia, where giving up trade he became a missionary; returning in 1826 to Plymouth, he there resumed his business as merchant and shipowner, and took a prominent part in municipal affairs. George's mother was Catherine Uglow of Stratton, North Cornwall. Both parents were devout Wesleyans. William Burt Pope [q. v. Suppl. II] was his younger brother. Educated at Wesleyan institutions at Bury and Hoxton, George resolved in his fourteenth year to become a missionary to the Tamil-speaking population of Southern India. He landed at Madras in 1839, having learned Tamil from books during the voyage. In 1843 he was ordained in the Church of England, and henceforth was associated with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which had recently taken over the native congregations founded by Christian Friedrich Schwartz [q. v.] and other German missionaries in the extreme south of India. During the first ten years his sphere of work was in Tinnevelly. Then came a visit to England (1849-51), mostly spent at Oxford, where he came into intimate relation with Cardinal Manning, Archbishop Trench, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop Lonsdale, Dr. Pusey, and John Keble. On his return to India there followed another ten years of missionary labour in Tanjore, during which he felt himself compelled to protest against the practices of the Lutheran missionaries of Tranquebar in the toleration of caste and native customs. At this time he founded in Tinnevelly district the Sawyer-puram seminary for training native clergy, which has a Pope memorial hall and library; and also St. Peter's schools for boys (now a college) and for girls at Tanjore.

In 1859 he founded the grammar school at Ootacamund, on the Nilgiri Hills, of which he was the first headmaster; and in 1870 he was transferred to the principalship of Bishop Cotton's schools and college at Bangalore, in Mysore, where he left the reputation of severity with the cane. With both these appointments he combined clerical duty, and during this period published many educational manuals. In 1859 he became a fellow of the newly founded Madras University, for which he was a constant examiner. In 1864 the Lambeth degree of D.D. was conferred on him by Archbishop Longley. He left India finally in 1880, after forty years of active work. A short time was passed in Manchester, and then he settled at Oxford as diocesan secretary of the S.P.G. In 1884 he was appointed teacher of Tamil and Telugu in the university; in 1886 he was awarded the honorary degree of M.A.; and from 1888 he was chaplain at Balliol College, where he enjoyed the intimate friendship of two Masters, Jowett and Caird. In 1906 he received the gold medal of the Royal Asiatic Society, which is awarded every three years to an oriental scholar (cf. Journ. Roy. Asiatic Soc. 1906, pp. 767-790). He died at Oxford, after a brief illness, on 11 Feb. 1908, and was buried in St. Sepulchre's cemetery. His friends and pupils in India, the majority Hindus, placed by subscription a monument on his grave and founded a memorial prize for Tamil studies in the university of Madras; a gymnasium called by his name has also been erected in Bishop Cotton's school at Bangalore.

Pope married (1) in 1841 Mary, daughter of the Rev. J. Carver; she died at Tuticorin in 1845; (2) in 1849, at Madras, Henrietta Page, daughter of G. Van Someren. She and her two daughters were awarded a joint civil list pension of 50l. in 1909. She died at Forest Hill, London, on 11 Sept. 1911, and is buried with her husband. Three sons won distinction in the service of the Indian government, viz. John Van Someren Pope, for seventeen years director of public instruction in Burma; Arthur William Uglow Pope, C.I.E. (1906), railway engineer and manager in India and China; and Lieut.-colonel Thomas Henry Pope, I.M.S., professor of ophthalmology at the Madras Medical College. A not very satisfactory portrait by Alfred Wolmark, painted by subscription among his Madras pupils, is in the Indian Institute at Oxford.

Pope ranks as the first of Tamil scholars, even when compared with Beschi, Francis Whyte Ellis [q. v.], and Bishop Caldwell, though he did not concern himself much with the cognate Dravidian languages. With him Tamil was the means to understand the history, religion, and sentiment of the people of Southern India. As early as 1842 he published (in Tamil) his 'First Catechism of Tamil Grammar,' which was re-issued in 1895, with an English translation, by the Clarendon Press. His educational books of this kind reached completion in the series entitled 'Handbook to the Ordinary Dialect of the Tamil Language,' which includes Tamil-English and English-Tamil dictionaries, as well as a prose reader and the seventh edition of his Tamil handbook (Oxford, 1904-6). But his reputation rests upon his critical editions of three classical works of old Tanul literature: the 'Kurral' of the pariah poet Tiruvalluvar, which has supplied a metrical catechism of morality to the people of Southern India for at least a thousand years (1886); the 'Naladiyar,' or four hundred quatrains of similar didactic sayings, probably of yet earlier date and of equal popularity (1893); and the 'Tiruvaçagam,' or sacred utterances of Manikka-Va9agar, to which is prefixed a summary of the life and legends of the author, with appendices illustrating the system of philosophy and religion in Southern India known as Saiva Siddhantam (1900). Of this last the preface is dated on the editor's eightieth birthday and the dedication is to the memory of Jowett. All these books contain translations into English, together with copious notes and a lexicon. Apart from their erudition, they reveal Pope's warm sympathy with the people and their literature. In addition to his published books. Pope left in MS. complete editions and English translations of at least three Tamil works, as well as a vast amount of material for a standard Tamil dictionary, which it is hoped will be utilised by a committee of native scholars that has been formed at Madras. He further began about 1890 a catalogue of the Tamil printed books in the British Museum, which was carried out by Dr. L. D. Barnett. Among numerous pamphlets and sermons, published chiefly in his early days, was 'An Alphabet for all India' (Madras, 1859), a plan for adapting the Roman alphabet to all the languages of India.

Pope, whose culture was wide, was an enthusiastic student of all great literature. His favourite poet was Browning, to whose loftiness of speculation he paid tribute in his 'St. John in the Desert' (1897; 2nd edit. 1904, an introduction and notes to Browning's ' A Death in the Desert). He knew Browning personally, and to him the poet gave the 'square old yellow book with crumpled vellum covers,' which formed the basis of 'The Ring and the Book,' and which Pope presented to the library of Balliol College. Keenly interested in all phases of philosophy and religion, he welcomed the development of modern Christian thought, but was always loyal to the Wesleyanism in which he had been brought up. His brilliant and picturesque talk bore witness to the variety of his intellectual interests and his catholicity of thought.

[Obituary by M. de Z. Wickremasinghe in Journal of Royal Asiatic See. 1908; personal reminiscences by Rev. A. L. Mayhew in Guardian, 26 Feb 1908.]

J. S. C.