GLADWIN, FRANCIS (d. ca. 1813), lexicographer and prolific translator of Persian literature into English. He served in the Bengal Army and later, owing to his remarkable linguistic ability, became one of the three professors of Persian at Fort William College in Calcutta in 1800, the year of its establishment. He was a founding member of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and carried out his scholarly works and translations under the patronage of Warren Hastings.

Gladwin published several dictionaries, including The Persian Guide, Exhibiting the Arabic Derivatives (Calcutta, 1800) and A Dictionary, Persian, Hindoostanee and English, including Synonyma (Calcutta, 1809), which was based on John Richardson’s Dictionary, Persian, Arabic, English … (2 vols, Oxford, 1777) but omitted the Arabic synonyms.

Gladwin was an able translator with an elegant and precise diction. His translations were accompanied by the original Persian text. His complete translation of Saʿdi’s Golestān(The Gûlistân of Sady, 2 vols., Calcutta, 1806), written in lucid, uniform prose (no distinction being made between its poetry and prose passages), succeeds in conveying much of the rhetoric of the original. It was reprinted as The Gûlistân; or, Rose Garden (London, 1808; the Boston, 1865 edition includes an essay on Saʿdi by James Ross and a preface by Ralph Waldo Emerson). His Dissertations on the Rhetoric, Prosody and Rhyme of the Persians (Calcutta, 1801) is based on translations from Persian works including Sayfi’s ʿAruż. He also translated Jāmi’s Neṣāb-e tajnis al-loḡāt as Resemblances Linear and Verbal, a Philological Poem (2nd. ed., London, 1811). Gladwin’s translation of ʿAṭṭār’s Pand-nāma (as A Compendium of Ethics, Calcutta, 1788), which he erroneously attributed to Saʿdi, is included in his famous Persian Moonshee (Calcutta, 1795), which is itself a collection of various pieces of work, ranging from a grammar of Persian to the translation of three chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel into Persian by William Chambers, whose Persian monši (scribe/tutor) had provided the contents of section four of part two of the book and who most probably inspired its title. The book was also meant to replace a Persian monši for would-be students of Persian. Gladwin also translated Jean Frédéric Osterwald’s Abrégé de l’histoire sainte et du catéchisme into Persian as Ostervald’s Abridgement of the History of the Bible; and Catechetical Instructions, with a Persian Translation (Calcutta, 1792).

Among his many other works, Gladwin’s translation of the Āʾin-e Akbari (as Ayeen Akbery, or the Institutes of the Emperor Akber, 3 vols. in 2, London, 1783-86) is well known. He also compiled A Dictionary of Religious Ceremonies of the Eastern Nations (Calcutta, 1787), based on Barthelemy d’Herbelot’s Bibliothèque orientale (Maestricht, 1776), and he translated a polyglot medical dictionary by Moḥammad ʿAbd-Allāh Širāzi (as Ulfáz Udwiyeh or the Materia Medica, in the Arabic, Persian, and Hindevy Languages, Calcutta, 1793). He edited the Asiatic Miscellany (2 vols, Calcutta,1785-86) and the New Asiatic Miscellany (Calcutta,1789), which include many translations from Persian by himself and other authors.



Arthur J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, London, 1958.

John D. Yohannan, Persian Poetry in England and America: A 200-Year History, Delmar, N.Y., 1977.

(Parvin Loloi)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 9, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, p. 9