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Sir William Jones to Yos. Cowper Walker, Esq. St. Valeri, Bray, Ireland.
Crishna-nagur, Sept. 11, 1787. I give you my hearty thanks, dear Sir, for your kind attention to me, and for the pleasure which I have received from your letter, as well as for that which I certainly shall receive from your historical memoirs of the Irish Bards. The term being over before your book could be found, and the state of my health obliging me to seek this pastoral retreat, where I always pass my vacation among the Brahmans of this ancient university, I left Calcutta before I could read your work, but shall peruse it with eagerness on my return to the capital. You touched an important ftring, when you mentioned the subject of Indian music, of which I am particularly fond. I have just read a very old book on that art in Sanscrit. I hope to present the world with the substance of it, as soon as the transactions of our society can be printed ; but we go on slowly, since the press is often engaged by government; and
we think it better to let our fruit ripen naturally, than to bring forth such watery and imperfect fruits as are usually raised in hot beds. The Asiatic Miscellany, to which
you allude, is not the publication of our society, who mean to print no scraps, nor any mere translations. It was the undertaking of a private gentleman, and will certainly be of use in diffusing Oriental literature, though it has not been fo correctly printed as I could wish. When you fee Colonel Vallancy, whose learned work I have read through twice with great pleasure, I request you to present him with my best remembrance. We shall soon I hope fee faithful translations of Irish histories and poems. I shall be happy in comparing them with the Sanscrit, with which the ancient language of Ireland had certainly an affinity. Proceed, Sir, in your laudable career, you deserve the applause of your country, and will most assuredly have that of, Sir, &c.
Sir William Jones to Dr. Patrick Russel.
Crishna-nagur, Sept. 22, 1787. Your interesting papers did not find their
way to me. till I had left this cottage, and was wholly immersed in business. Indeed, I am so harassed for eight months in twelve, that I can seldom think of literature till the autumn vacation, which I pass in this charming plain, the driest in Bengal, and close to a college of Brahmans. I am charmed with your plan ; and if the directors have not yet resolved to print the work at their expense, I can perhaps suggest a mode of procuring very powerful influence with them. The king has much at heart his new botanical garden at St. Vincent's ; his object is twofold, to improve the commerce of the WestIndia islands, and to provide the British troops on service there with medicinal plants. Now, if you could send a box or two of seeds, likely to be useful in commerce or medicine, directed to Sir George Young, the secretary at war, (to whom I have inclosed your letter to the Board at Madras) I dare say the Board of Controul would be desired to use their in
fuence with the Directors.
You could not have chosen a better specimen than the pedalium murex, of which little is said by Linnæus, and that from doubtful authority. The opuntia I have not seen here, and I cannot ramble into the woods. Our groves at this place are skirted with an angulated cactus; called sija (pronounced feeja) in the Sanscrit dictionaries, where I find the 'names of about 300 medicinal plants, the virtues of which are mentioned in medicinal books. I
agree with you, that those books do not carry full conviction; but they lead to useful experiments, and are therefore valuable. I made fine red ink, by dropping a solution of tin in aqua regia into an infusion of the coccus, which Dr. Anderson was so polite as to send
His discovery will, I trust, be useful ; his ardour and ingenuity deserve success.
I have just read with attention the PhiloJophia Botanica, which I consider as the grammar, and the Genera et Species as the dictionary, of botany. It is a masterly work, and contains excellent matter in a short vo
lume; but it is harshly, not to say barbarously, written. I grieve to see botany imperfect in its two most important articles, the natural orders and the virtues of plants, between which I suspect a strong affinity. I envy those who have leisure to pursue this bewitching study. Pray, my dear Sir, have
the Oriental manuscripts of my friend Dr. Alexander Russel? He lent me three, which I returned; the Sucardan, the Banquet of Physicians, and a beautiful Hafez. If you have them, I shall beg leave to read them again, when we meet in Europe.
Postscript. What is spikenard? I mean botanically, what is the natural order, class, genus, &c. of the plant ? What was the spikenard in the alabaster-box of the Gospel ? What was nardi parvus onyx ? What did Ptolemy mean by the excellent nard of Rhangamutty in Bengal? I have been in vain endeavouring for above two years to procure an answer to these questions; your answer will greatly oblige me.