Prévost, Louis Augustin (DNB00)

PRÉVOST, LOUIS AUGUSTIN (1796–1858), linguist, was born at Troyes in Champagne on 6 June 1796, and educated at a college in Versailles. Coming to England in 1823, he was at first tutor in the family of William Young Ottley [q. v.], afterwards keeper of the prints in the British Museum. For some years, 1823–43, he was a teacher of languages in London, and numbered Charles Dickens among his pupils. His leisure was spent in the reading-room of the British Museum in studying languages. He gradually acquired most of the languages of Europe, many of Asia, including Chinese, and even some of Polynesia. He was, finally, acquainted more or less perfectly with upwards of forty languages. Like Mezzofanti, who was credited with knowing sixty, he was chiefly interested in their structures. From 1843 to 1855 he was engaged by the trustees of the British Museum in cataloguing the Chinese books. He died at Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London, on 25 April 1858, and was buried in Highgate cemetery on 30 April. In 1825 he married an English wife, and on 25 Oct. 1854 he lost his only son, fighting under the assumed name of Melrose, in the charge of the light brigade at Balaklava.

[Cowtan's Memories of the British Museum, 1872, pp. 358–62; Gent. Mag. 1858, pt. ii. p. 87.]

G. C. B.