Orme, Robert

, an eminent historian, the son of Dr. Alexander Orme, a physician and surgeon in the service of the East India company, was born at Anjengo, in the Travancore country, in 1728. He was sent to England for hi education, and was entered at Harrow-school when he was only six years of age. After he left school, he was a year in the office of the accomptant-general of the Afri^ can company, to be initiated in commercial transactions, and then embarked for Calcutta, where he arrived in 1742. As soon as he engaged in the company’s service, he acquired the highest reputation for the zeal with which he entered into their interests, and at the same time acquired such knowledge of the institutions, manners, and customs of the natives of India, that, in 1752, when some regulations were thought necessary in the police of Calcutta, he was desired to give his opinion on the subject. He accordingly drew up the greater part of “A general idea of the Government and People of Indostan.” In 1753 he returned to England, and was frequently consulted by men in power on Indian affairs, and respecting plans, at that time in agitation, for supporting the British interest in Hindoostan. Mr. Orme revisited India in 1754, on being appointed by the court of directors a member of the council at Fort St. George, and contributed much to those measures which finally gave to the English the superiority in India which they have ever since possessed. Mr. Orme held the office of commissary and accomptant-general | during the years 1757-8, but in the latter year his health obliged him to embark for England, where he arrived in the autumn of 1760, and settling in London, employed himself in preparing “The History' of the Military Transactions of the British nation in Itidostan, from the year 1745,” the first volume of which, bringing down the history to 1756, was published in 1763, and extremely well received by the public. The East India company, duly sensible of his merits, and of the importance of his historical researches, not only gave him free access to all their records, but appointed him to be their historiographer, with a salary of 400l. per annum. To obtain the most accurate information respecting the war which was to be the subject of the second volume, he went over to France in 1773, where he was furnished liberally with various authentic documents, but it was not till 1778 that the work was brought to its completion. This contained all the events which took place in the English settlements in India from 1756 to 1763, with an investigation of the rise and progress of the English commerce in Bengal, and an account of the Mahommedan government from its establishment in 1200. In 1782 Mr. Orme published a work entitled “Historical Fragments of the Mogul empire of the Marattoes, and of the English concerns in Indostau from the year 1659.” This, which was an octavo volume, was his last publication, for though his literary pursuits were unremitted, yet his health was unequal to the exertions required for the composition. In 1792 he left the metropolis to enjoy in retirement the society of. his friends, and the recreation afforded by a well- assorted library. The place of his retirement was Ealing, where he was often visited by his friends, who appear to have loved him with great affection. Amongst these may be mentioned general Richard Smith, Mr. Robarts, one of the court of directors, Mr. Dairy mple, sir George Baker, and the late Mr. Owen Cambridge. But his books were his chief companions; and such was the active curiosity of his mind, that at the age of seventy he found in them a constant source of amusement. He continued his studies to the last month of his life, and a great many of his books bear interesting evidence of the strict attention with which he perused them; for their margins are filled with observations in his own hand writing. In the beginning of January 1801, he fell into a state of weakness and languor that prognosticated his | speedy dissolution; and he expired on the 14th of that month, in the seventy-third year of his age.

Mr. Or me was not known to be married, even to those who were most in his confidence; but in a letter from him to a particular friend, which, agreeably to the directions he left, was delivered according to its address, after his death, he acknowledges his marriage: and, in consequence of that acknowledgment, the court of directors settled a small annuity on his widow. He left no children.

Mr. Orme was somewhat above the middle stature, and his countenance expressed much shrewdness and intelligence. In his personal habits he seems not to have had any striking peculiarities. His general manner was sensible, easy, and polite. Of the qualities of his heart, those who knew him long and intimately thought very highly. He was zealous in the service of those whom he really loved: -but as it was not his custom to make professions of friendship, his acts sometimes surpassed expectations. His powers of conversation were very considerable; and such was the extent of his knowledge, the readiness of his thoughts, and the facility of his expression, that he generally illustrated, in a pleasing, often in a forcible, manner, whatever subject he talked on. Ancient literature was one of his favourite topics and he conversed on it with no common degree of learning and critical exactness, yet without any sort of pedantry or affectation. He loved to talk of music and painting, and was a good judge of both.

With respect to his intellectual character, it would appear, from his life as well as his writings, that the principal features were good sense, sagacity, and judgment. These qualities were assisted in their operation by an active spirit, a solicitous curiosity, and a cultivated taste. A mind thus constituted readily acquired that power of combining circumstances in lucid order, and of relating them with compressive force, which distioguishes the writings of Orme. Few historians have connected the events of their story with more perspicuity, or related them with more conciseness. If he is sometimes minute, he is never redundant, and never tedious. Every incident is so distinctly stated and clearly arranged; every new nation or individual is introduced with so compendious an explanation; all the observations arise from the facts with so much propriety, and are in themselves so forcible and just and the general style has so much simplicity and terseness that every | reader of discernment and taste must feel a strong interest in perusing his history. It is not, indeed, illumined with philosophical views of society, or manners, or civil institutions, or arts, or commerce; nor is it adorned with any fine delineations of character; but it is, nevertheless, a work of great merit, and must continue to hold a high place in the second rank of historical compositions.

He bequeathed to his friend and executor, Mr. Robarts, all his Mss. and a variety of other valuable historical materials, with a wish that he would present them to the East India company, which has been done, and the following catalogue drawn up by Mr. Wilkins, the Company’s librarian: 1. Printed books. Fifty-one volumes, containing one hundred and ninety tracts on the subject of India, and the Honourable Company’s affairs, from about the year 1750 down to the year 1788. 2. Manuscript books. Two hundred and thirty-one volumes of various sizes, chiefly bound in vellum, containing a vast body of information upon the subject of India, in copies which Mr. Orme had permission to make from the records and collections of others, and in original documents, common-place, &c. with many useful Indexes. 3. Eight bundles of letters, chiefly from Madras and Bombay, upon the subject of the Company’s transactions in India. 4. Printed maps, charts, plans, and views; twenty rolls, consisting chiefly of foul and spare impressions of the plates used for Mr. Orme’s history. 5. Twenty rolls, containing sundry maps and plans. 6. Thirtyfive books, containing maps, plans, and views. 7. Four port folios, ditto ditto. 8. Manuscript plans and maps; seventeen rolls of plans and maps, chiefly the originals of those engraved for Mr. Orme’s History. 9. Hindoo idols; six figures in brass, representing some of the principal emblems of the divine attributes, according to their mythology. After his death his “Historical Fragments” were reprinted in a quarto volume, with the addition of a paper on the “Origin of the English Establishment, and of the Company’s Trade,” and another, containing “A General Idea of the Genius and People of Hindostan.” To this volume is prefixed an account of the life and writings of the author, to which our readers are referred for farther information. 1

1

Life as above.—Asiatic Annual Register, vol. IV.—Gent. Mag. vol. LXXIII.—Boswell’s Johnson.—Nichols’s Bowyer.

|