James Greentree Wyatt

James Greentree was born 31 January, 1796 and baptised 31 January the following year.[1] As a young man, he applied to the East India Company for employment as a writer (a junior clerk). His appplication letter to the Company’s Court of Directors gives some idea of his education.

That your Petitioner has received the Rudiments of a Commercial and Classical Education, and is desirous to devote himself to the Civil Service of the Honorable Company in India, and with that view to qualify himself by further Improvement in liberal and suitable Learning.

He therefore humbly prays, that the Honorable Court will be pleased to place him in the East India College, in order that if his behaviour and attainments there should prove satisfactory to the Honorable Court, he may be appointed a Writer on the Bengal establishment and your Petitioner will ever pray…

James Greentree Wyatt

 Charles Wyatt
The Father of the Petitioner[2]

He was accepted and attended the East India Company training college for civil servants, Haileybury, in Hertford, beginning in 1814. He first arrived in India on 30 August, 1816 and from then to 1829 there is a steady list of entries for James as Assistant Collector and then Collector at various stations in India. There is just one occasion when he received home leave—from 17 August 1821 until sometime in 1825.[3] The East India Directory and Register lists his name until 1834;[4] in fact he had died on 4 November 1833 as Collector and Magistrate of Saheswan in the North-Western Provinces of India.[5]

The story of his death is a sad one. It is clear from letters sent between bureaucrats after his death (one of which is reproduced here) that he was considered not up to the demands of his final appointment, as well as being too reliant on his Indian officers—or acting on their wishes too often. As a result, he was dismissed from office.

India Revenue 20th March 1838

 Removal of Mr. J.G. Wyatt from the Office of Collector and Magistrate of Suheswan

 The State of the Suheswan Collectorate imperatively demanded that Mr. Wyatt should be removed. The melancholy termination of this Gentleman’s existence renders any further remark with respect to him personally unnecessary.

 [in margin in pencil: He died by his own hand shortly after his removal from office]

But we must observe that it is impossible to peruse the correspondence between the Western Board of Revenue and the Officiating Commissioner in the Division of Moradaban without being satisfied that Mr. Wyatt never could have been qualified to discharge the duties of the important office to which he was unadvisably appointed. The statement contained in Mr. Lowther’s letter to the Allahabad Board dated 3rd August 1833 in respect to the late Commissioner’s proceedings have made even a more unfavorable [sic] impression on our minds, as they shew, if well founded, that both the executive and Controlling officers were instruments in the hands of their respective head Native Officers.[6]

As the marginalia in the letter shows, James committed suicide after his dismissal. Perhaps he felt death was the only solution, as he was probably dependent entirely on his Company salary for income. And at the age of 37 there were probably few employment opportunities available to him in either India or England.

James is buried in the Sahaswan Cemetery, Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, India. “There are three tombs at Saheswan [i.e., Sahaswan], of which… only one bears an inscription: ‘…Sacred to the memory of J. Wyatt, late of the Bengal Civil Service, died 1833.’”[7]

[1] British Library: IOR: N/1/4 f.72.

[2] British Library:IOR/J/1?29/272-79 1814.

[3] A General Register of the Hon’ble East India Company’s Civil Servants of the Bengal Establishment from 1790 to 1842… Calcutta, 1844, p. 433.

[4] The East India Directory and Registry… Various dates and publishers.

[5] Danvers, Frederick Charles. Memorials of Old Haileybury College. London: Constable, 1904, p. 350.

[6] British Library: IOR Z/E/4/15/R230 S/4/754 p. 28.

[7] Bengal, Past & Present: Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, vol. 42, 1931, p. 8.

2 comments to James Greentree Wyatt

  • Mary-Anne Spratley

    Why James Greentree committed Suicide, is possibly self evident, however he was the son of Charles Wyatt MP for Sudbury and Architect who made a fortune in India. So money and prospects couldnt have been the whole issue.

    • marian

      I was hypothesizing about motives, but there certainly not much money in the family at this point. Charles Wyatt, in his will, notes the fact that he has lost his money and can no longer leave his children what he had expected to.


Leave a Reply




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.