George Uglow Pope

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Statue of G U Pope in Triplicane, Chennai

George Uglow Pope (1820–1908) popularly known as "Pope Iyer" [1] or Rev. G.U. Pope or G.U. Pope was a Christian missionary and Tamil scholar who spent 40 years in Tamil Nadu and translated many Tamil texts into English. His popular translations include Tirukkural and Tiruvachagam. He was the head of the Bishop Cotton Boys' School, Bangalore and a Lecturer at Balliol College, Oxford. A statue on the Chennai waterfront recognizes him for his contribution to the understanding and promotion of Tamil culture.


George Uglow Pope was born on 24 April 1820 in Bedeque, Prince Edward Island in Canada. His father was John Pope (1791–1863), of Padstow, Cornwall, a merchant who became a missionary, who emigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1818, and Catherine Uglow (1797-1867), of Stratton, north Cornwall. The family moved to Nova Scotia, St. Vincent's before returning to England in 1826.[2] George Uglow Pope's younger brother William Burt Pope also (1822–1903) became a noted Wesleyan Methodist preacher and theologian.[3]

He left for South India in 1839 and arrived at Sawyerpuram near Tuticorin. Pope started studying Tamil as a teenager in England and Pope turned into a scholar of Tamil, Sanskrit and Telugu. He set up several schools and taught Latin, English, Hebrew, Mathematics and Philosophy.

In 1849, Pope and his second wife Henrietta Van Sommeran returned to England, and stayed mainly at Oxford, where he developed relationships with leading Anglo-Catholic figures of the Oxford Movement, such as Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, Archbishop Trench, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop John Lonsdale, E. B. Pusey, and John Keble.[4] Pope returned to India in 1851 and worked in Tanjore, where he taught at St Peter's School, founded by pioneering Lutheran missionary Christian Friedrich Schwartz, where he taught for six years.

He completed his translation of Tirukkural on September 1, 1886. His Sacred Kural contains introduction, grammar, translation, notes, lexicon and concordance. It also includes the English translation of F. W. Ellis and the Latin Translation of Constanzo Beschi (வீரமாமுனிவர்) with 436 pages. He had, by February 1893, translated Naaladiyaar (நாலடியார்), a didactic work of moral sayings in quatrains (வெண்பா), 400 in number in 40 chapters, each by a Jain ascetic, according to a Tamil tradition.

His magnum opus, the translation of Tiruvachakam(திருவாசகம்) appeared in 1900. Of this he said: "I date this on my eightieth birthday. I find, by reference, that my first Tamil lesson was in 1837. This ends, as I suppose a long life of devotion to Tamil studies. It is not without deep emotion that I thus bring to a close my life's literary work".

Rev. George Uglow Pope was one of the founding members of the Bishop Cotton's School, Bangalore, and also served as its warden. He was also the first pastor of the All Saints Church, Bangalore.[5] He also founded Holy Trinity Church in Ooty, and founded and ran a grammar school from 1859 to 1870, which is on the site of the current Government Arts School and the Stone House.

The much coveted Gold Medal of the Royal Asiatic Society was awarded to him in 1906. He died on 12 February 1908. He delivered his last sermon on May 26, 1907. Rev. Pope was buried at St Sepulchre's Cemetery, located in Jericho, central Oxford, England.


  • First lessons in Tamil: or a full introduction to the common dialect of that language, on the plan of Ollendorf and Arnold, Madras, 1856 (1st edition) *Title for the 1st edition of the following book
  • A Tamil hand-book: or full introduction to the common dialect of that language on the plan of Ollendorf and Arnold, Madras, 1859 (2nd edition), 1867 (3rd edition) *Title for the 2nd and the 3rd edition of the following book
  • A handbook of the ordinary dialect of the Tamil language, London, 1883 (4th edition, 3 volumes), Oxford 1904 (7th edition) *Title for the latest editions* While coming from England to India, by sea without wasting time he read a book on how to speak Tamil, and after reaching India he gave a speech on Tamil fluently.
  • A larger grammar of the Tamil language in both its dialects, Madras, 1858
  • A text-book of Indian history; with geographical notes, genealogical tables, examination questions, and chronological, biographical, geographical, and general indexes, London, 1871 (1st edition), 1880 (3rd edition)
  • திருவள்ளுவAR அருளிச்செய்த திருக்குறள் (Tiruvalluvar arulicceyta Tirrukkural). The 'Sacred' Kurral of Tiruvalluva-Nayanar, London, 1886
  • முனிவர் அருளிச்செய்த நாலடியார் = The Naladiyar, or, Four hundred quatrains in Tamil, Oxford, 1893
  • St. John in the Desert: an introduction and notes to Browning's 'a death in the desert' , Oxford, 1897
  • The Tiruvacagam; or, 'Sacred utterances' of the Tamil poet, saint, and sage Manikka-Vacagar: the Tamil text of the fifty-one poems, with English translation, Oxford, 1900
  • A catalogue of the Tamil books in the library of the British Museum, London, 1909 (with L. D. Barnett)

His Last Letter[edit]

In his last letter he mentions about Tiruvachagam .

My dear friend,
In the heart of this my last sermon, lie truths that harmonize with all that is best in Tiruvachagam and Siva-nyanam(Siva-gnana bodham).

   Iam very old. May the Father bless you and yours.


Works contributed to Tamil[edit]

  • Professor and Lecturer of Tamil and Telugu at Balliol College, University of Oxford (1881 to 1908)
  • Translations of many important Tamil Literary Works
  • Special attention taken to improve Tamil Grammar
  • Established himself as a student of Tamil, in his coffin.
  • Wrote important articles about Tamil's cultural literary basis in magazines such as Indian Archaeological Survey
  • Created many grammatical reference guides for students as well as elderly people.
  • Selected 600 Tamil poems teaching valuable lessons and composed them and created " Tamil seyyut kalambagam " literally meaning " Composition of Tamil Poems".


External links[edit]

Project Madurai