Eyles Irwin

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 3:465-66.

EYLES IRWIN was born at Calcutta, in the year 1748; and after having received his education in England, returned, in 1767, to Madras, where he obtained a situation, as a civilian, in the service of the East India Company. A short time after his arrival, he was much patronised by the then governor, Lord Pigot; on the imprisonment and deposition of whom, he was himself suspended. After this event, of which he sent information to the directors of the Company, he set out for Europe, with the intention of travelling thither by a new and circuitous route. Accordingly, on the 16th of April, 1777, he embarked at Mocha for Suez; in his way whither, he was compelled to anchor on the coast of Arabia, at a place called Yambo, where no European vessel had ever before touched, and where he was seized and imprisoned in a tower; from which he was only enabled to escape by bribing the commandant with a rich present. After paying a large sum for a vessel to convey him to Suez, he left Yambo on the 10th of June; but, instead of making for the former port, the treacherous Arabians sailed to Cosire, in Upper Egypt, where he was compelled to land on the 9th of the following month. Towards the end of July, he joined a caravan, with which he proceeded to Guinah, where he was detained a prisoner for some time, robbed of several valuable articles, and compelled to make expensive presents to the vizier. On the arrival of the great sheikh of the Arabs, who took means to ensure his future safety, his property was restored to him; and, on the 4th of September, he commenced his journey across the Thebaid desert. After traversing nearly three hundred and forty miles, he arrived at Tuinah, supposed to be built on the site of ancient Babylon; and, on the 19th of September, embarked on the Nile, and sailed down the river to Old Cairo, called, by the inhabitants, Miser ul Kaira, or the City of Anguish. Having despatched a letter of thanks, and a present of a Turkey carpet, to the Arab sheikh, he proceeded, by way of Darame, Cairo, and Rosetta, to Alexandria; whence he embarked for Marseilles, and reached England in the latter part of the year 1777. On arriving in London, he found that Lord Pigot had been restored to the government of Fort St. George, and himself re-appointed to the station he had formerly held in the service of the East India Company. Accordingly, having married a Miss Brooke two years previously, he, in 1780, set out for India, taking precisely the same route over land, as he had before travelled, and arrived at Madras without having encountered, in his journey, danger or impediment. About this time, the East Indian settlements being in a state of revolt and disorder, he was employed, by Lord Macartney, to assist in pacifying the natives; for which purpose he was intrusted with the superintendince and administration of the provinces of Tinivelly and Madurah; a situation in which he employed such skilful and conciliatory measures, that the districts, under his direction were very soon brought to a state of quiet and security. In 1785, Mr. Irwin returned to England, when the East India Company, in consideration of his services, voted him a liberal sum of money; and, in 1792, appointed him, in conjunction with others, to superintend their affairs in China; whither he proceeded, and, after a stay of two years again embarked for England. In 1795, he became a candidate for an East India directorship, but did not succeed in obtaining it; shortly after which, he retired, with his family, to Clifton, where he expired, on the 14th of October, 1817. The latter period of his life was employed in social and literary pursuits. Besides the Account of his Adventures during a Voyage up the Red Sea, and a Journey across the Desert, he published several volumes of poems, chiefly on historical subjects, and all evincing a highly poetical genius. He was the author, also, of An Inquiry into the Feasibility of Buonaparte's Expedition to the East; Epistle to Mr. Hayley; and Napoleon, or the Vanity of Human Wishes. Mr. Irwin's character was remarkable for its amiable simplicity: though seeing so much of the world, he knew little of that cunning which would prevent him from being its dupe. Such was his unvarying goodness and philanthropy, that it is said of him, he never lost a friend and never made an enemy.