Robert Nisbet Bain : Translator of Tolstoy, Encyclopedic Contributor, Novelist, and Internationalist

1854 — 1909

Entry 10319


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Untitled People Robert Nisbet Bain

Not Logged In: Login?

Comments (0)
Images (1)
Works (5)

On : of 0 Words

About Robert Nisbet Bain

Bain was born in London in 1854 to David and Elizabeth (born Cowan) Bain.

Bain was a fluent linguist who could use over twenty languages. Besides translating a number of books he also used his skills to write learned books on foreign people and folklore. Bain was a frequent contributor to the Encyclopædia Britannica. His contributions were biographies and varied from Andrew Aagensen to Aleksander Wielopolski. He taught himself Hungarian in order that he could read Mór Jókai in the original after first reading him in German. He translated from Finnish, Danish and Russian and also tackled Turkish authors via Hungarian. He was the most prolific translator into English from Hungarian in the nineteenth century. He married late and died young after publishing a wide range of literature from or about Europe.

He is buried in Brookwood Cemetery.


After education at private schools, he was for some years a shorthand writer in the office of Messrs. Henry Kimber & Co., solicitors, of 79 Lombard Street. From boyhood Bain showed an aptitude for languages, with a preference for those of northern Europe, and although he was only out of England for four brief periods in Denmark and Sweden in 1884, in Salies de Bearn and Pau in 1886, in Paris for a short time a few years later, and in Germany and Switzerland for some weeks in 1908 for health he acquired, unaided, a high degree of proficiency in no less than twenty foreign tongues, including Russian, Swedish, Hungarian, Finnish, Polish and Ruthenian. In 1883 he entered the printed books department of the British Museum as a second-class assistant, easily heading the list of candidates in the examination. He became in due course a first-class assistant.

Bain did much besides his official work, where his linguistic talent proved of great service. After his visit to Denmark and Sweden in Aug.- Sept. 1884, he began writing on Scandinavian and Russian history. 'Gustavus III and his Contemporaries, 1746-92; an Overlooked Chapter of 18th Century History' (2 vols. 1894) was based on the best Swedish authorities. There soon followed four monographs on Russian history: The Pupils of Peter the Great' (1897), based largely on the collections of the Russian Imperial Historical Society; 'The Daughter of Peter the Great: a History of Russian Diplomacy and of the Russian Court under the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, 1741-62' (1899), a capable survey of an obscure and difficult period; 'Peter III, Emperor of Russia: the Story of a Crisis and a Crime' (1902), in which Keith's dispatches and the Mitchell papers were utilized for the first time; and 'The First Romanovs, 1613-1725' (1905). 'The Last King of Poland and his Contemporaries,' presenting a new view of its subject, appeared in 1909.

Of equal value were two volumes in the 'Cambridge Historical' series (ed. G. W. Prothero), 'Scandinavia, 1513-1900' (1905), and 'Slavonic Europe' (1908), and a life of Charles XII (1895) for the 'Heroes of the Nations' series. He contributed to the 'Cambridge Modern History' seven chapters on the history and literature of eastern Europe (vols. iii. v. vi. and xi.); and historical and biographical articles relating to Hungary, Poland, Russia and Sweden to the 11th edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica.'

Bain's interests extended to literature as well as to history. In 1893 he issued a version of Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid and Other Stories,' and in 1895 a sympathetic 'Life of Hans Christian Andersen,' founded on Andersen's letters and itineraries. He was chiefly instrumental in introducing the Hungarian novelist, Maurus Jokai, to the English public, rendering into English ten of his stories, as well as a collection of 'Tales from Jokai' (1904). From the Russian he translated the Skazki of Polevoi as 'Russian Fairy Tales' (1893), as well as 'Tales' from Tolstoy (1901 and 1902) and Gorky (1902). From the Finnish he rendered Juhani Aho's 'Squier Hellmann and Other Stories' (1893). His 'Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales' (1894; illustrated by E. W. Mitchell) was the first English translation from the Ruthenian. He also translated from the Danish J. L. I. Lie's 'Weird Tales from Northern Seas' (1893), and from the Hungarian Dr. Ignacz Kunos's 'Turkish Fairy Tales and Folk Tales' (1896). Bain, who was in early life a fairly good gymnast and light-weight boxer, injured his health by excessive hours of work. A zealous high-churchman, he was for some years a sidesman and a constant attendant at St. Alban's, Holborn. He died prematurely, at 7 Overstrand Mansions, Battersea Park, on 5 May 1909, and was buried in Brookwood cemetery. He married in 1896 his cousin, Caroline Margaret Boswell, daughter of Charles Cowan of Park Lodge, Teddington; she survived him only two months, dying on 10 July 1909.

(Source: Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement.)

From : / Dictionary of National Biography, 1912


Back to Top

This person has authored 0 documents, with 0 words or 0 characters.

I. A gentleman of the name of Zhilin was serving in the Caucasus as an officer. One day he received a letter from home. His aged mother wrote to him: "I am growing old and should like to see my dear little son before I die. Come to me, I pray you, if it be only to bury me, and then in God's name enter the service again. And I have found for you a nice bride besides; she is sensible, good, and has property. You may fall in love with her perhaps, and you may marry her and be able to retire." Zhilin fell a musing: "Yes, indeed, the old lady has been ailing lately, she might never live to see me. Yes, I'll go, and if the girl is nice I may marry her into the bargain." So he went to his colonel, obtained leave of absence, took leave of hi... (From:
There dwelt once upon a time in the Ufimsk government a Bashkir named Elias. The father of Elias had left him a poor man. His father had only gotten him a wife a year before, and then died. In those days Elias owned seven mares, two cows, and twice ten sheep. But Elias was now the master, and began to spread himself out; from morn to eve he labored with his wife, rose up earlier and lay down later than all other men, and grew richer every year. Five-and-thirty years did Elias continue to labor, and won for himself great possessions. Elias now had two hundred head of horses, a hundred and fifty head of horned cattle, and one thousand two hundred sheep. Many men-servants pastured the tabuns[1] and the herds of Elia... (From:
In the olden time there lived a good master. He had much of everything, and many slaves served him. And the slaves praised their master. They said: "There is no master better than our master under heaven. He clothes and feeds us well, and gives us work to do according to our strength; he offends none by word of mouth, and bears no grudge for anything. He is not like other masters who torment their slaves and treat them worse than cattle, and punish them whethesr they commit faults or not, and have not a good word to say to them. Our master has our welfare at heart, and does good to us, and speaks well to us. We want no better life than the life we lead" Thus did the slaves praise their master. And the Devil was w... (From:
It was Autumn. A carriage and a calesche were proceeding at a sharp trot along the high-road. In the carriage sat two women. One of them was the mistress, thin and pale. The other was the maid, smug, florid, and buxom. Her short dry tresses peeped forth from under her faded bonnet, her pretty hand in her torn glove readjusted them from time to time; her swelling bosom, covered by a rug, was full of the breath of health; her quick black eyes glanced at one moment out of the window at the scurrying fields, at another stared boldly at her mistress, or glanced uneasily at the corners of the carriage. Before the very nose of the waiting-maid the bonnet of her mistress, attached to the netting of the carriage, rocked to and fro; on her knees lay ... (From:
Once upon a time, in the days long since gone by, there dwelt at Jerusalem two brothers; the name of the elder was Athanasius, the name of the younger John. They dwelt on a hill not far from the town, and lived upon what people gave to them. Every day the brothers went out to work. They worked not for themselves, but for the poor. Wherever the overworked, the sick were to be found—wherever there were widows and orphans, thither went the brothers, and there they worked and spent their time, taking no payment. Thus the brothers went about separately the whole week, and only met together in the evening of the Sabbath at their own dwelling. Only on Sunday did they remain at home, praying and conversing together. And the Angel of the Lord ... (From:

Image Gallery of Robert Nisbet Bain


Back to Top
An icon of a baby.
Birth Day.

An icon of a gravestone.
Death Day.

An icon of a news paper.
June 18, 2021; 5:21:16 PM (UTC)
Added to

An icon of a red pin for a bulletin board.
January 10, 2022; 1:31:58 PM (UTC)
Updated on


Back to Top

Login through Google to Comment or Like/Dislike :

No comments so far. You can be the first!


Back to Top