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Arthur Lindsay Sadler (1882–1970)

by Joyce Ackroyd

This article was published:

Arthur Lindsay Sadler (1882-1970), professor of Oriental studies, was born on 19 November 1882 at Hackney, London, son of William Sadler, mercantile clerk, and his wife Sarah Elizabeth, née Rudd. He was educated at Alleyn's College of God's Gift (Dulwich College), Merchant Taylors' School, London, and St John's College, Oxford (B.A., 1908; M.A., 1911). He was Pusey-Ellerton Hebrew scholar (1903), junior Kennicott Hebrew scholar (1907), won the junior Septuagint prize (1907) and graduated with second-class honours in Oriental languages (Hebrew and Assyrian).

In Japan from 1909, Sadler lectured in English and Latin at the Sixth Higher School, Okayama (1909-18), and in English at the Peers' College, Tokyo (1918-21). At the British vice-consulate, Tokyo, he married Eva Botan Seymour, an Anglo-Japanese, on 27 December 1916. He was a council-member of the Asiatic Society of Japan, chairing its organization committee, and was appointed companion (fifth class) of the Order of the Rising Sun in 1919.

In 1922 Sadler became professor of Oriental studies at the University of Sydney. Finding assistants a nuisance, he taught most of the curriculum himself, transferring his schedule to three evenings a week as his few language students were mostly mature aged. He was concurrently professor of Japanese at the Royal Military College (then in Victoria Barracks, Sydney) in 1931-37. Sadler believed that intensive reading of selected texts provided the strongest basis for a thorough knowledge of Japanese language and culture and placed little value on the formal teaching of grammar. Texts had to be copied from the blackboard: his calligraphy was surprisingly delicate and tendril-like. To his popular Oriental history classes he brought a mature acquaintance with European history and his analysis had, therefore, a comparative undercurrent. Lectures were enlivened by his inherent irreverence and quizzical sense of humour, as he seized with delight on the quirks of persons and events and the telling anecdote.

A universal scholar of the pre-specialist era, Sadler was knowledgeable in Japanese history, classical and modern literature, art, philology, archaeology and antiquities. He read assiduously in unannotated Japanese texts. His publications include The Art of Flower Arrangement in Japan (1933), Cha-no-yu: The Japanese Tea Ceremony (1934), The Maker of Modern Japan: Tokugawa Ieyasu (London, 1937), 'The Naval Campaign in the Korean War of Hideyoshi (1592-1598)' (Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, 2nd series, vol. 11, 1937), A Short History of Japanese Architecture (1941), and A Short History of Japan (1946). His English prose style, clearly formed on the rhythms of the Authorized Version, flowed effortlessly, as urbane and fastidious as his speech. He had a deft turn for transposing Japanese classical poetry into graceful English verse, matching in scansion as well as mood.

His translations include the war epic, 'Heike Monogatari' (T.A.S.J., 1918, 1921), The Ten Foot Square Hut and Tales of the Heike (1928), Japanese Plays: No-Kyogen-Kabuki (1934), The Ise Daijingu Sankieki: Or Diary of a Pilgrim to Ise (1940), Selections from the Confucian Texts (1942), Selections from Modern Japanese Writers (1943) and Three Military Classics of China (1944), as well as novels, short stories and essays by eminent modern Japanese writers, and a Buddhist play by the seventeenth-century emperor Go-Mizu-no-O.

Large and solidly built, Sadler had fine, fair hair and rather prominent, twinkling eyes, walking with a heavy, slightly splay-footed tread. He affected conservative English tweeds, pince-nez, and old-style rolled-brim hat. Reserved and modest, always meticulously polite and scrupulously fair, he was well liked by his colleagues. He eschewed university politics, was bored by administration and usually read during professorial board meetings. He enjoyed life. His recreations were fencing and collecting Japanalia, particularly fine Japanese swords and prints. The ante-room of his university office contained a handsome set of samurai armour with a fearsome face-mask.

Sadler retired in 1948, was appointed professor emeritus and returned to England. He was living at Bucks House, Great Bardfield, Essex, when he died, childless, at nearby Braintree on 13 July 1970. His wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. D. Coulthard-Clark, Duntroon, the Royal Military College of Australia, 1911-1986 (Syd, 1986)
  • J. E. Lee, Duntroon (Canb, 1952)
  • Asian Studies Association of Australia Review, 10, no 1, July 1986
  • University of Sydney archives
  • extracts from Royal Military College Reports supplied by Mr A. Harkness, RMC, Duntroon, Canberra
  • personal knowledge.

Citation details

Joyce Ackroyd, 'Sadler, Arthur Lindsay (1882–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 18 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


19 November, 1882
London, Middlesex, England


13 July, 1970 (aged 87)
Braintree, Essex, England

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