William Marsden

Life
1754-1836; b. 16 Nov. Bray, followed brother into East India Company, 1771; learnt Malay; issued ‘An Account of a Phenomenon observed in the Island of Sumatra’ (Transactions of Royal Society Philosophical); ‘Remarks on the Sumatra Language’, in The Archaeologia; History of Sumatra (1783); FRS, 1785; ‘Observations on the Language of the People commonly called Gipsies’, in The Archaeologia, Vol. VII; made DCLang. Oxon., 1786; ‘Dissertation on the Era of the Mahometans called the Hegira’ (TRS 1788; ‘Chronology of the Hindoos’ (TRS 1790); joined Admiralty, 1795, becoming Chief sec., and retiring in 1807; also issued The Grammar of the Malayan Language (1812), and The Dictionary of the Malayan Language (1812); trans., Marco Polo’s Travels (1817); also Numismata Orientalia Illustrata, or The Eastern Coins ancient and modern described and historically illustrated (1823-25); Memoirs of a Malayan Family (1830); essays on Polynesian languages (1832); relinquished pension, 1831; donated coins and medals to BML, 1834; Memoirs of his Life and Writings, ed. by his widow (1838); d. 6 Oct. Kensal Green. CAB ODNB

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References
Dictionary of National Biography, note dates at variance with CAB: entered East India Co., 1770 [sic]; FRS 1783; DCL Oxon., 1786; issued History of Sumatrai (1783); Dictionary and Grammar of the Malayan Language (1812); Numismata Orientalia (1823-25); donated collection of coins to British Museum, 1834.

A Cabinet of Irish Literature, ed. Charles Read (3 vols., 1876-78), gives extract from History of Sumatra, ‘Social Life of the Sumatrans’; and ‘Religion and Superstitions’: ‘The men are allowed to marry as many wives as they please, or can afford ... The condition of the women appears to be no other than that of slaves ... If by religion is meant public or private form of worship ... I can [pronouce] that the Rejangs are totally without religion, and cannot with propriety even be termed Pagans ... They are not, however, without superstitions of many kinds [... &c.]’

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