Philip Meadows Taylor

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Colonel Philip Meadows Taylor, CSI (25 September 1808 – 13 May 1876 in Menton, France), an administrator in British India and a novelist, made notable contributions to public knowledge of South India. Though largely self-taught, he was a polymath: alternately a judge, engineer, artist, and man of letters.

Life and writings[edit]

Taylor was born in Liverpool, England, where his father, Philip Meadows Taylor, was a merchant. His mother was Jane Honoria Alicia, daughter of Bertram Mitford of Mitford Castle, Northumberland.[1]

At the age of 15, Taylor was sent out to India to become a clerk to a Bombay merchant, Mr Baxter.[1] However, Baxter was in financial difficulties, and in 1824 Taylor gladly accepted a commission in the service of the Nizam of Hyderabad, with which he remained dutifully attached throughout his long career. He was speedily transferred from military duty to a civil appointment, and in this capacity acquired a proficient knowledge of the languages and the people of southern India.[2]

Meanwhile, Taylor studied the laws, geology and the antiquities of the country and became an early expert on megaliths.[3] See more at South Asian Stone Age. He was alternately judge, engineer, artist, and a man of letters.

While on furlough in England in 1840, he published the first of his Indian novels, Confessions of a Thug, in which he reproduced the scenes which he had heard about the Thuggee cult, described by the chief actors in them. This book was followed by a series of tales, Tippoo Sultaun (1840), Tara (1863), Ralph Darnell (1865), Seeta (1872), and A Noble Queen (1878), all illustrating periods of Indian history and society, and giving a prominent place to the native character, for which and the native institutions and traditions he had a great regard and respect. Seeta in particular was remarkable for its sympathetic and romantic portrayal of the marriage between a British civil servant and a Hindu widow just before the Indian Mutiny. Taylor himself is thought to have married in about 1830, although his autobiography states 1840,[1] to Mary Palmer, the Eurasian granddaughter of William Palmer, the East India Company's Resident at Hyderabad (who had married "one of the Princesses of the Royal House of Delhi").[4] Returning to India he acted from 1840 to 1853 as correspondent for The Times. He also wrote a Student's Manual of the History of India (1870).[2]

About 1850, Meadows Taylor was appointed by the Nizam's government to administer, during a long minority, the principality of the young Raja Venkatappa Nayaka He succeeded without any European assistance in raising this small territory to a high degree of prosperity. Such was his influence with the natives that during the Indian Mutiny in 1857, he held his ground without military support.

Colonel Taylor, whose merits were now recognized and acknowledged by the British government of India – although he had never been in the service of the Company – was subsequently appointed Deputy Commissioner of the western "Ceded Districts". He succeeded in establishing a new assessment of revenues that was both more equitable to the cultivators, and more productive to the government. By perseverance he had raised himself from the condition of a half-educated youth, without patronage, and without even the support of the Company, to the successful government of some of the most important provinces of India, 36,000 square miles (93,000 km2) in extent and with a population of more than five million.[2]

He received an Order of the Star of India on his retirement from service in 1860 and given a pension.[1] In 1875 his sight failed, and on medical advice, he decided to spend the winter in India, but contracted jungle fever. He died at Menton, France, on his way home, on 13 May 1876.[1]

Contributions to Gulburga[edit]

Taylor made a number of contributions to the Gulburga region in India, by initiating a number of reforms. He encouraged improvement of agriculture, opened up more job opportunities, started schools and improved infrastructure. He was known to spend his own money to provide drought relief. The local people started calling him as "Mahadev Baba". Taylor carried out significant archaeological excavations in Gulburga, and published his findings in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy and the Journal of The Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society[5]

Tributes[edit]

Richard Garnett commented, "His Confessions of a Thug is a classic adventure novel, which inspired the young of several imperial generations and was much imitated by other colonial fiction writers for over a century."[1]

Rich tributes were paid to Taylor, by the Archaeological Survey of India in its book History of Indian Archaeology 1784–1947, by Sourindranath Roy. The archaeological work done by Taylor is acknowledged as being highly significant.[5]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Megalithic Tombs and other Ancient Remains in the Deccan (reprint, Hyderabad, 1941)
  • The Story of My Life (London, 1877)
  • Confessions of a Thug (novel, 2nd edition, London, 1839)
  • Tippoo Sultaun (novel, unknown, 1840)
  • Tara (novel, Edinburgh/London: 1863)
  • Ralph Darnell (novel, unknown, 1865)
  • Student's Manual of the History of India (London, 1871)
  • Seeta (novel, London: 1872)
  • A Noble Queen. A Romance of Indian History (novel, London: 1878)[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Richard Garnett (rev. David Washbrook): "Taylor, Philip Meadows (1808–1876)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, UK: OUP) [1] Retrieved 13 May 2018.]
  2. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
  3. ^ God-apes and Fossil Men: Paleoanthropology of South Asia - Kenneth A. R. Kennedy - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  4. ^ Philip Meadows Taylor The Story of My Life (Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons) 1877 pp62-3
  5. ^ a b Sirnoorkar, Srinivas (19 November 2013). "It's a Taylor-made task" (Bangalore). Deccan Herald. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  6. ^ Details have been added from the British Library catalogue Retrieved 13 May 2018.

External links[edit]