JANUARY 25, 1895
The late Sir T. Muthuswami Iyer
AFTER AN ILLNESS OF HARDLY TEN DAYS, WITHOUT MUCH suffering, with alternate despair and hope of recovery and without losing consciousness to the last moment, Sir T. Muthuswami Iyer passed away peacefully this morning, regretted not merely by his family but by the whole country, respected and loved by every one that knew him and honoured by the people and by the Government.
The deceased was a strict Hindu with enlightened orthodox notions of God and religion and it may be supposed that in addition to the satisfaction of his knowledge of the regard and honour he universally commanded he had in his
ast moments the solace which a pure conscience and faith in religion invariably bring.
In his character the most prominent qualities of his race found an embodiment. With the finest and most cultured of intellects and with the highest and the most honourable reputations as a public servant and with complete confidence in his own ability and character, he combined a degree of gentleness, courtesy and sense of duty, which made him on the whole a most fascinating type of
man, a pride to his country and an ornament to the service in which he spent nearly forty years of his life.
Born of parents who were very poor but respected, Mr. Muthuswami Iyer commenced his struggle for life with little but his own brain and his poverty to help and advance him, and thanks to the respect which poverty affianced to intelligence has always commanded in this country, he found patrons who appreciated the young man’s intellectual qualities, undertook his education, and introduced him into public service.
Once introduced, he no further wanted a patron, his own ability and sterling character serving him instead most unswervingly and most effectually and he soon rose to distinction, which grew higher and higher, in the service. In his
character were found many of the elements of greatness.
He was thoroughly honest and had nothing like conceit or self-sufficiency. He was always considerate to others’ feelings and generally of the most uninterfering nature. What he might have been if he had taken up any other profession than Judicial service, it is difficult to say. His unobtrusiveness and his want of selfassertiveness might have operated against him although even then his honesty and his remarkable intellectual power should have given him a distinct advantage over others.
He was a Judge of the Madras High Court for seventeen years and during this long period he uniformly maintained his high reputation as a Judge and lawyer as well as the confidence of his colleagues and the public. He seldom took leave and never complained of work, although it often happened that his colleagues who understood life to be a mixture of recreation and work found in Mr. Muthuswami Iyer’s willingness a peculiar convenience to them.
As Hindu Judge, his opinions were sought with special confidence on matters relating to Hindu law and customs and whenever he was called upon, as a Judge of the highest tribunal and as the highest authority on these matters, to declare his interpretations, he divested himself of all bias in favour of the modern
ideas of social well-being and perceived his duty more in a strict and true interpretation of the law and custom as he understood them than in importing into their significance a sense suited to a non-existing ideal.
Whether such a frame of mind is desirable in a Judicial officer or not, this is
not the place or occasion to determine, but even as a conservative lawyer, he has reared a fabric fully permeated by his erudition, his grasp of principles and his prolonged experience, which will last long as a monument of his success and as an example and inspiration to the coming generations.
It is very much to be regretted that Mr. Muthuswami Iyer did not retire from service some years ago and spend the evening of his life in relaxed work and refreshing ease. Like so many of our countrymen, Mr. Muthuswami Iyer too thought that having accepted the paid service of the State, he had lost his claim to the pleasures and recreations of life and was bound to give to the State that employed him all that was in him of energy and sustaining power.
An European in his place would work for a fixed length of time and no further and would look upon sports and amusements as necessary and indispensable as the doing of his official work. Indeed, he would argue if his employers expect him to give them the best return for the wages they paid him, he should be free to spend a portion of the day in health-giving and invigorating exercise as he is bound to spend another portion in the discharge of his official duty.
Mr. Muthuswami Iyer neglected this and consequently died while in harness without affording his countrymen the satisfaction of seeing him free from the trammels of official service and utilizing his experience and social influence in the guidance of their own movements.
The most lamentable death of Mr. Muthuswami Iyer vacates a place in the highest rank of the living generation of educated Indians, which it will not be easy to fill, but the lamp of wisdom and merit which he has lit will remain long to guide the footsteps of many a wanderer in search of the hidden secret of success in the