Daniel John Gogerly (1792 -1862)

Daniel John Gogerly (1792-1862) was a British Wesleyan Methodist missionary, who served in Sri Lanka from 1818, never returning to England. He was one of the first British translators of the Pāli texts into English, and the greater part of his time was spent in research work in the literature of Ceylon Buddhism. In spite of his commendable wish to accurately portray Buddhism, Gogerly used his translations to highlight difference between Buddhism and Christianity in furtherance of his missionary agenda. However, Gogerly is important not only because his translations were so early but also because the differing factors that conditioned them underscore the complexity within any study of orientalist representations of Buddhism.

After passing several years in general studies, and particularly in earnest preparation for the ministry, he proceeded to Ceylon in 1818, to take charge of the Wesleyan Mission Press at Colombo. From the time of his arrival, he engaged in the study of the vernacular tongues, and was one of the first missionaries who preached extemporaneously in the Sinhalese language. While at Negombo, where he was stationed from 1822 to 1834, he began the study of Pali.

An original Gogerly translation of the Mahāvagga text

His principal publications consist in essays and translations contributed to the pages of various local periodicals and the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, of which he became in succession Secretary, Vice-president, and President. These papers are of value to researchers, as records of ancient Pali treatises, of which neither translations nor printed editions existed before Gogerly. His ‘Dictionary of the Pali language’ could be considered his greatest literary work. He had begun to compile it while at Mathura, and continued adding to it constantly as his reading became more extensive, so that at the time of his death it contained 15,000 words.

Page from Pali-English Dictionary

Gogerly died at the Wesleyan Mission House, Colpetty, near Colombo, in 1862.

Letter from T.W. Arnold notifying the RAS of Gogerly’s death

The Papers of Daniel John Gogerly include three handwritten versions of his Pali-English dictionaries, many manuscripts of his translations and later correspondences concerning the publication of his work. The full catalogue for the Papers is available on Archives Hub here.