Manipulating Meaning: Daniel Gogerly's Nineteenth Century Translations of the Theravada Texts


  • Elizabeth J. Harris Liverpool Hope University



Theravada Buddhism, Christian mission history, colonialism, translation, Dhammapada, Tipitaka, Sri Lanka, Ceylon, nineteenth century, Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society


Daniel John Gogerly (1792–1862), a British Wesleyan Methodist missionary, served in Sri Lanka from 1818 until his death. He learnt P?li in M?tara in the 1830s and was one of the first British translators of the P?li texts into English. Praised by fellow orientalist, T.W. Rhys Davis, as ‘the greatest Pali scholar of his age’ and hailed by his missionary colleagues as the expert who showed them how to attack Buddhism, his work was both pioneering and deeply flawed. This paper first situates Gogerly in his missionary context and then examines one translation — the first 18 vaggas of the Dhammapada, using three versions, one of which was an unpublished rough translation. It demonstrates that Gogerly, in spite of a commendable wish to be just to Buddhism, used his translations to highlight difference between Buddhism and Christianity in furtherance of his missionary agenda. 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.

Author Biography

Elizabeth J. Harris, Liverpool Hope University

Elizabeth J Harris is a Senior Lecturer in Buddhist Studies at Liverpool Hope University, specialising in Buddhist Studies. She is currently President of the European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies and a member of the Management Board of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies.


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How to Cite

Harris, E. J. (2011). Manipulating Meaning: Daniel Gogerly’s Nineteenth Century Translations of the Theravada Texts. Buddhist Studies Review, 27(2), 177-195.