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|Number of Pages||332 Pages|
John Beames (1837-1902) spent most of his working life in Bihar, Orissa and Bengal. He came to India in August 1858: the mutiny had not yet been fully quelled. Before he retired in 1893, he had risen to be a Commissioner administering a few districts and for a short time held a seat on the Bengal Board of Revenue.
Beames was a man of strong opinions and was often in trouble with the authorities because of his outspokenness. He thought little of Lieutenant-Governors as a class. But his special dislike was reserved for Sir Richard Temple, Lt. Governor of Bengal, whose vanity and self-glorification he couldn`t stand.
There were instances when Beames stood by the people against tyranny. But, ironically enough, he also shared the casual racism of his peers and did not recognise Indian ICS officers as his academic and cultural equals: he strongly distrusted the Bengali intelligentsia.
Beames was a pioneer philologist. A magnum opus of his is the three volume Comparative Grammar of the Modern Aryan Languages of India (1872-79). Other works of his include Outline of Indian Philology (1867) and Grammar for the Bengali Language (1891). He knew a number of languages including Persian, Sanskrit, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, and Hindi and had a working knowledge of German, French and Italian. Beames started writing his Memoirs in 1875 but completed the task only after retirement, in England. His outspokenness which held him down in his career is his chief strength as a writer and tremendously enhances the value of his estimates of men and affairs of his time. Beames writes without being either pompous or timid.
This new edition carries a very useful 21-page introduction by Peter Penner (in addition to the original introduction) by Philip Mason, author of The Men Who Ruled India and an epilogue by Beames`s grandson, Christopher Cooke, that assesses Beames as an administrator and a scholar. Eminently readable, the edition is particularly welcome at a time when memoirs like this are increasingly being viewed as valuable sources for an interpretation of the British Raj.