World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

John Leyden

Article Id: WHEBN0000231391
Reproduction Date:

Title: John Leyden  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Denholm, Malay Annals, People by year/Reports/No other categories/2, Archibald Constable, The Unfortunate Traveller
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

John Leyden

John Leyden (8 September 1775 – 28 August 1811) was a Scottish orientalist.


  • Biography 1
  • Works 2
    • Translations 2.1
    • Memoirs 2.2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4


Leyden was born at Denholm on the River Teviot, not far from Hawick. His father, a shepherd, had contrived to send him to Edinburgh University to study for the ministry. Leyden was a diligent but somewhat haphazard student, apparently reading everything except theology, for which he seems to have had no taste. Though he completed his divinity course, and in 1798 was licensed to preach from the presbytery of St Andrews, it soon became clear that the pulpit was not his vocation.

In 1794, Leyden formed an acquaintance with Dr Robert Anderson, editor of The British Poets, and of The Literary Magazine. It was Anderson who later introduced him to Dr Alexander Murray, and Murray, probably, who led him to the study of Eastern languages. They became warm friends and generous rivals, though Leyden excelled, perhaps, in the rapid acquisition of new tongues and acquaintance with their literature, while Murray was the more scientific philologist.

Through Anderson also he came to know Richard Heber, by whom he came to the notice of Sir Walter Scott, who was then collecting materials for his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802). Leyden was admirably fitted for helping in this kind of work, for he was a borderer himself, and an enthusiastic lover of old ballads and folklore. Scott tells how, on one occasion, Leyden walked 40 miles to get the last two verses of a ballad, and returned at midnight, singing it all the way with his loud, harsh voice, to the wonder and consternation of the poet and his household.

Other work on Scottish customs includes the editing of the 16th-century tract The Complaynt of Scotland, adding an essay exploring Scottish folk music and customs,[1] printing a volume of Scottish descriptive poems, and nearly finishing his Scenes of Infancy, a diffuse poem based on border scenes and traditions. Leyden meanwhile compiled a work on the Discoveries and Settlements of Europeans in Northern and Western Africa, suggested by Mungo Park's travels, He also made some translations from Persian and Arabic poetry.

At last his friends got him an appointment in India on the medical staff, for which he qualified by a year's hard work. In 1803, he sailed for Madras, and took his place in the general hospital there. He was promoted to be naturalist to the commissioners going to survey Mysore, and in 1807, his knowledge of the languages of India procured him an appointment as professor of Hindustani at Calcutta; this he soon after resigned for a judgeship, and that again to be a commissioner in the court of requests in 1805, a post which required a familiarity with several Eastern languages.

In 1811, Leyden joined Lord Minto in the expedition to Java. Having entered a library which was said to contain many Eastern manuscripts, without having the place aired, he was seized with Batavian fever (possibly malaria or dengue) and died, after three days' illness, on 28 August 1811. He was buried on the island, underneath a small firefly colony, which remains as his tombstone to this day.

Interestingly Dr Leyden also has importance for the Punjab and the Sikh community. Recently surfaced manuscripts in the British Library shows Dr Leyden translated Punjabi works into English. These have been commented on and discussed by Sikh Historian Gurinder Singh Mann from Leicester UK. The Panjab Cultural Association released the website and a booklet regarding the project in November 2011.[2]


  • Memoirs of Zehir-Ed-Din Muhammed Babur, emperor of Hindustan


  • Leyden, John (1821), Malay Annals (translated from the Malay language), Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown 
  • Malay Annals, Translated from the Malay Language By... John Leyden...


  • The Poetical Remains of the Late Dr. John Leyden,: With Memoirs of His Life, By John Leyden, James Morton
  • The poetical remains of the late Dr. John Leyden, : with memoirs of his life, (1819)
  • The poetical remains of the late Dr. John Leyden, : with memoirs of his life, (1819)
  • The Poetical Works of Dr. John Leyden (1875)
  • The poetical remains of the late Dr. John Leyden, with memoirs of his life (1819)


  1. ^ David Johnson. "John Leyden". In Macy, Laura.   (subscription required)
  2. ^ The Significance of the Translations of Dr Leyden to the Sikh and Panjabi community


  • The Poetical Remains of the Late Dr. John Leyden,: With Memoirs of His Life at Google Books.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.