City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Nathaniel Brassey Halhed (1751-1830)
Nathaniel Brassey Halhed (25 May 1751 – 18 February 1830) was an English Orientalist and philologist. Halhed was born at Westminster. He was educated at Harrow, where he began his intimacy with Richard Brinsley Sheridan, which continued after he entered Christ Church, Oxford. At Oxford he also made the acquaintance of William Jones, the famous Orientalist, who induced him to study Arabic. Accepting a writership in the service of the East India Company, Halhed went out to India, and here, at the suggestion of Warren Hastings, by whose orders it had been compiled, translated the Hindu legal code from a Persian version of the original Sanskrit. This translation was published in 1776 under the title A Code of Gentoo Laws.In 1778 he published a Bengali grammar, to print which he set up, at Hugli, the first Bengali press in India. It is claimed that he was the first writer to call attention to the philological connection of Sanskrit with Persian, Arabic, Greek and Latin.In 1785 he returned to England, and from 1790–1795 was Member of Parliament for Lymington, Hants. For some time he was a disciple of Richard Brothers, and his unwise speech in parliament in defence of Brothers made it impossible for him to remain in the House of Commons, from which he resigned in 1795. He subsequently obtained a home appointment under the East India Company. He died in London on 18 February 1830. His collection of Oriental manuscripts was purchased by the British Museum, and there is an unfinished translation by him of the Mahabharata in the library of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.