Sir Henry Yule (1 May 1820 – 30 December 1889) was a Scottish Orientalist. He published many travel books including translations of the work of Marco Polo and Friar Jordanus. He was also the compiler of a dictionary of Anglo-Indian terms, the Hobson-Jobson along with Arthur Coke Burnell.
Henry was born at Inveresk, Scotland, near Edinburgh and was the youngest son of Major William Yule (1764–1839), translator of the Apothegms of Ali the son of Abu Talib. The Yules were farmers at Dirleton in East Lothian and the name may be of Scandinavian origin. Henry's mother was Elizabeth Paterson (d. c. 1827) of Braehead in Ayrshire. An older brother was (later Sir) George Udny Yule (1813–1886) who was father of the statistician Udny Yule (1871–1951). Another brother, Robert (1817–1857), died in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in Delhi.
Henry Yule was educated at Edinburgh, and later studied under Henry Parr Hamilton and James Challis. His fellow students were John Mason Neale and Harvey Goodwin. After a brief period at University College London, Yule entered Addiscombe Military Seminary (1837–8), followed by the Royal Engineers Establishment at Chatham, Kent. He obtained his commission in December 1838, and joined the Bengal Engineers in 1840.
His first posting was in the Khasi hills where the mission was to establish transport of coal to the plains. He was fascinated by the region and wrote an account of its people. He returned to England in 1843 and married his cousin Anna Maria (d. 1875), daughter of Martin White. She accompanied him back to India but returned owing to ill health. He was posted to enquire on the relationship between irrigation by the proposed Ganges Canal and its impact on public health in the area. He served in both the Sikh wars (1845-6 and 1848-9). He left India in 1848 to live in Edinburgh with his wife, and for three years lectured at the Scottish Military Academy. He wrote a volume on forts (1851).
A daughter, Amy was born in 1852 and shortly after her birth, Yule returned to Bengal. He worked in Arakan and Burma and was put in charge of a new railway system. This was interrupted by a posting as a secretary to Colonel Colonel Arthur Phayre's mission to Ava, Burma, in 1855. During this period he published Narrative of the Mission to the Court of Ava (1858) with illustrations. The 1857 rebellion made his life difficult, and although Yule was close to the governor generals Lord Dalhousie and Lord Canning, he lost interest in his work.
Return to Britain
Yule retired in 1862, and Canning's death in that year made it difficult for him to find any official appointment in London. In 1863 he was created CB through the influence of Sir Roderick Murchison. He devoted his leisure to the medieval history and geography of Central Asia. His wife became unwell, and they crossed Europe to settle in Palermo, Sicily. He made use of the richly stocked public libraries there during this period. He published Cathay and the Way Thither (1866), and the Book of Marco Polo (1871), for which he received the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society. After his wife's death in 1875, Yule returned to England where he was appointed to the Council of India. Yule remarried in 1877, his new wife Mary Wilhelmina (died 26 April 1881) the daughter of a Bengal civil servant, Fulwar Skipwith.
Yule was a member and for sometime the president of the Hakluyt Society, and for them he edited the Mirabilia Descripta (1863) a translation of the travels of translation from the Latin work of Friar Jordanus and The Diary of William Hedges (1887–89). He was also vice-president of the Royal Geographical Society (1887-9) and would have become a president but for a protest that he led along with H. M. Hyndman against Henry Morton Stanley. The Society wanted to welcome Stanley but Yule stood against the violent methods used in Africa. The latter contains a biography of Governor Pitt, grandfather of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. Yule wrote an introduction to Nikolay Przhevalsky's Mongolia (1876) and Captain William Gill's The River of Golden Sand (1880). He wrote biographical notes for the Royal Engineers' Journal and many geographical entries in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Yule's most famous work however was a glossary that he compiled along with Arthur C. Burnell called the Hobson-Jobson (1886). This was a dictionary of Anglo-Indian phrases and continues to provide an insight into the language used in British India.
Yule was awarded an honorary LL.D. from Edinburgh in 1884 and served as royal commissioner for the Indian and Colonial Exhibition of 1886. He was created Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India in 1889.
- Vibart 1894, p. 680.
- Vibart 1894, p. 487.
- Driver, Felix (2004). "Yule, Sir Henry (1820–1889)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30291.
- Yule, Amy Frances (1903). "Memoir of Sir Henry Yule". The Book of Ser Marco Polo. Volume 1 (3 ed.). London: John Murray. pp. xxvii–xxii.
- Vibart, H.M. (1894). Addiscombe: its heroes and men of note. Westminster: Archibald Constable. pp. 487–90.
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- "Yule, Henry". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Yule, Henry, Sir. Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. New ed. edited by William Crooke, B.A. London: J. Murray, 1903. (Searchable database)
- The Book of Ser Marco Polo (3e) Volume 1 Volume 2
- Cathay and the way thither: being a collection of medieval notices of China (1913) Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3
- Works by Henry Yule at Project Gutenberg