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Hunter, Robert (1823-1897) (DNB01)

HUNTER, ROBERT (1823–1897), lexicographer, theologian, and missionary, born at Newburgh, Fifeshire, on 3 Sept. 1823, was son of John M. Hunter, a native of Wigtownshire, and Agnes Strickland of Ulverston, Lancashire. His father was a collector in her majesty's excise. Hunter attended at the university of Aberdeen, where he graduated in 1840. He received an appointment in connection with education in Bermuda and resided there for two years. On account of his work as a naturalist while in Bermuda he attracted the attention and elicited the warm commendation of Sir William Jackson Hooker [q.v.] of Kew, and of Sir Richard Owen [q.v.], both of whom advised him to devote himself to branches of natural science. Hunter, however, preferred to continue his studies for the ministry of the free church of Scotland, and, having attended the requisite theological classes in Edinburgh, he was licensed as a preacher of the free church. On 22 Oct. 1846 he was ordained colleague of Stephen Hislop [q.v.] of the free church mission at Nagpore, Central India. He gave nine years of distinguished service to the educational and evangelistic advancement of that populous district, and while doing so made several important discoveries in geological science. But failure of health compelled him in 1855 to return home. He subsequently assisted Alexander Duff [q.v.] in forming missionary associations in the free church, and from 1864 to 1866 he was resident tutor in the theological college of the presbyterian church of England in London.

The remainder of Hunter's life was devoted mainly to literary work. For seventeen years he was engaged in editing the 'Encyclopædic Dictionary,' published in 1889, and reissued in 1895 by the proprietor of the 'Daily Chronicle' as 'Lloyd's Encyclopaedic Dictionary.' Sir Richard Owen called it 'a colossal work.' It is a monument of wide knowledge, clear arrangement, and judicious condensation. He also published the 'Sunday School Teacher's Bible Manual' (1893), now known as Cassell's 'Concise Bible Dictionary' (1894), and was a frequent contributor to the 'British and Foreign Evangelical Review 'and other religious journals and periodicals of the day. While engaged in literary work Hunter also continued to render good service in evangelistic work in London. He founded the Victoria Docks Sunday school and church in connection with the presbyterian church of England, and for over twenty years conducted religious services at Sewardstone, near Tottenham.

The university of Aberdeen conferred the degree of L.L.D. upon Hunter in 1883. He was also a fellow of the Geological Society, a member of the British Archaeological Society, and was connected with other learned bodies. He was a man of vast learning, of extensive scientific attainments, and of great application—a man, too, of a humble, gentle, and retiring disposition and of genuine piety. He died on 25 Feb. 1897 at his residence in Epping Forest. An earnest preacher of the gospel and a devoted missionary, he will be specially remembered as an experienced scientist and a skilful lexicographer. Besides the works already mentioned, Hunter published: 1. 'History of India,' 1863. 2. 'History of the Missions of the Free Church of Scotland in India and Africa,' 1873.

[Information chiefly from the Rev. "W. Hume Elliot, Ramsbottom, by whom a memoir of Hunter is to be published shortly; in the Brit. Mus. Cat. Hunter's works are ascribed to two different persons.]

T. B. J.