Francis Whyte Ellis

Other Literary Contributions

St. George College and its press:

While stationed at Madras, Ellis became interested in the history and languages of India. He was a Member of the Madras Literary Society and the founder of the College of Fort St. George at Madras - an institution which had both British and Indian members. Pattabiram Shastri, Muthusami Pillai, Udayagiri Venkatanarayanayya, Chidambara Vaathiyaar and Syed Abdul Khadar were among Indian scholars who worked in the college. The college was founded in 1812 and the next year Ellis also helped to set up the College Press by supplying it with a printing press and Tamil types. Telugu types, printing ink and labour for the venture was supplied by the Superintendent of Government Press at Egmore. The Madras Government supplied the paper. Ellis purchased English types and printing ink for the Press cheaply. The press commenced publishing in 1813 - its first work was Constanzo Beschi's (Veeramamunivar) Tamil grammar "Kodum Tamil". Before Ellis's death in 1819, the press published a Tamil grammar primer Ilakkana surukkam, a Tamil translation of Uttara Kandam of Ramayana (both by Chitthambala Desikar), Ellis' own translation and commentary of Thirukkural and five Telugu works - Campbell's grammar (with Ellis' Dravidian Proof), tales of Vikirama, a translation of Panchatantra and two more grammars. The press continued publishing books into the 1830s including works in Kannada, Malayalam and Arabic.

Works of Ellis:

He translated 18 chapters of the Aratthupaal (one division of Thirukkural dealing with Law and Virtue) into English in a non-metrical verse. 13 of those chapters were published by the College press during Ellis' lifetime. Ellis was also the first scholar to decipher and explain the first century CE "Cochin Grants" given to the Anjuvannam Jewish community in Cochin. In addition to the "Dravidian Proof", Ellis wrote three dissertations - on Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.

A stone inscription found on the walls of a well at the Periya palayathamman temple at Royapettai indicates Ellis' regard for Thiruvalluvar. It is one of the 27 wells dug on the orders of Ellis in 1818, when Madras suffered a severe drinking water shortage. In the long inscription Ellis praises Thiruvalluvar and uses a couplet from Thirukkural to explain his actions during the drought. When he was in charge of the Madras Treasury and Mint, he also issued a gold coin bearing Thiruvalluvar's image. The Tamil inscription on his grave makes note of his commentary of Thirukkural.