Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marshman, John Clark

MARSHMAN, JOHN CLARK (1794–1877), author of the 'History of India,' eldest son of Joshua Marshman [q. v.] the missionary, was born in August 1794. He accompanied his father to Serampur in 1800, and from 1812 directed his father's religious undertakings. For twenty years he held the position of a secular bishop, providing for a great body of missionaries, catechists, and native Christians, collecting for them large sums of money, while living, like his colleagues, on 200l. a year. He at last surrendered the mission into the hands of the baptists, and thenceforth betook himself to secular work. He started a paper-mill, the only one in India; founded with his father the first paper in Bengali, the 'Suinachar Durpun,' on 31 May 1818; established, also with his father, the first English weekly, the 'Friend of India' (since published at Calcutta) in 1821; published a series of law books, one of which, the ' Guide to the Civil Law,' was for years the civil code of India, and was probably the most profitable law book ever published. He also started a Christian colony on a tract of land purchased in the Sunderbunds. All his undertakings except the last succeeded, and the profits were largely devoted to promoting education, which he regarded as the needful forerunner of Christianity. He had the sympathy of the king of Denmark, to whom Serampur then belonged, and the king's influence prevented the suppression of his newspaper, which offended the local officials by its plain speaking. He expended 30,000l. on the Serampur College for the education of natives, a college still working with great success. Unwillingly he accepted the place of official Bengali translator to the government, and henceforth was abused daily in the native newspapers as 'the hireling of the government.' The salary, 1,000l. a year, he paid away in furthering the cause of education. He resigned his post and returned to England in 1852.

Marshman was an earnest student of Indian history. From his pen came the first, and for years the only, history of Bengal, and he was long engaged on the ‘History of India,’ which he finished and published after his return to England. His reading was very wide, and he was a distinguished oriental scholar. He studied Chinese, knew all the great Sanscrit poems, and gave much attention to Persian. In England, however, he was not recognised. He was refused a seat in the Indian council, and though his services to education were, at the instigation of Lord Lawrence, tardily recognised by the grant of the Star of India in 1868, he had to seek occupation as chairman of the committee of audit of the East India railway. He made three unsuccessful attempts to obtain a seat in parliament, for Ipswich in 1857, Harwich in 1859, and Marylebone in 1861. He died at Redcliffe Square North, Kensington, London, 8 July 1877.

Marshman wrote:

  1. ‘Reply of J. C. Marshman to the Attack of J. S. Buckingham on the Serampore Missionaries,’ 1826.
  2. ‘A Dictionary of the Bengalee Language, abridged from Dr. William Carey's “Dictionary,”’ by J. C. Marshman, vol. i., Bengalee and English; vol. ii., English and Bengalee, by J. C. Marshman, 1827–8; 3rd edit. 1864–7.
  3. ‘Guide Book for Moonsiffs, Sudder Ameens, and Principal Sudder Ameens, containing all the Rules necessary for the conduct of Suits in their Courts,’ 1832.
  4. ‘Guide to Revenue Regulations of the Presidencies of Bengal and Agra,’ 1835, 2 vols.
  5. ‘The History of India from Remote Antiquity to the Accession of the Mogul Dynasty,’ 1842; 5th edit. 1860.
  6. ‘Marshman's Guide to the Civil Law of the Presidency of Fort William,’ translated into Urdu by J. J. Moore, 1845–6, 2 vols.; 2nd edit. 1848.
  7. ‘Outline of the History of Bengal;’ 5th edit. 1844.
  8. ‘History of Bengal from the Accession of Suraj-ad-dowla to the Administration of Lord W. Bentinck inclusive,’ translated into Bengali, 1848.
  9. ‘The Darogah's Manual, comprising also the Duties of Landholders in connection with the Police,’ 1850.
  10. ‘How Wars arise in India; Observations on Mr. Cobden's Pamphlet entitled “The Origin of the Burmese War,”’ 1853.
  11. ‘Letter to J. Bright, Esq., M.P., relative to the Debates on the India Question,’ 1853; 2nd edit. 1853.
  12. ‘The Life and Times of Carey, Marshman, and Ward, embracing the History of the Serampore Mission,’ 1859, 2 vols.
  13. ‘Memoirs of Major-General Sir H. Havelock,’ 1860; 3rd edit. 1867.
  14. ‘The History of India from the Earliest Period to the close of the Eighteenth Century,’ 1863, pt. i. only.
  15. ‘The History of India from the Earliest Period to the Close of Lord Dalhousie's Administration,’ 1863–7, 3 vols.; 2nd edit. 1867; an abridgment appeared in 1876 (2nd edit. 1880; 3rd edit., bringing the work to 1891, ‘by a relative,’ 1893).

[Times, 10 July 1877, p. 4; Illustr. Lond. News, 28 July 1877, p. 93, with portrait; Journ. Royal Asiatic Soc. 1878, 8vo, vol. x. Ann. Rep. pp. xi–xii; Hunter's Gazetteer of India, art. ‘Serampur;’ Ann. Register, 1877, p. 154; Law Times, 1877, lxiii. 201.]

G. C. B.