Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

as the great encourager of Persian and San. fcrit literature, they deemed him entitled to every mark of distinction, which it was in their power to offer : and although they were aware, that the numerous and important duties of his public station, might prove an infurmountable objection to his acquiescence, they nevertheless determined to solicit his acceptance of the honorary title of president of the society, as a just tribute of respect, which the occasion seemed to demand, and which could not have been omitted, without an appearance of inattention to his distinguished merit.

The application was received with the acknowledgment due to the motives which dictated it: but Mr. Hastings, for the reasons which had been anticipated, declined his acceptance of the proffered title, and “ begged " leave to resign his pretensions to the gen“ tleman, whose genius had planned the ina ftitution, and was most capable of conduct"ing it, to the attainment of the great and

splendid purposes of its formation." Sir

William Jones, upon the receipt of this anfwer, was immediately and unanimously requested to accept the presidency of the society. On this occasion, he addressed the following letter to Mr. Hastings: MY DEAR SIR;

Independently of my general presumption, that whatever you determine is right, I cannot but admit the solidity of the reasons, which induce you to decline that precedence, to which, if our society were in its full vigour instead of being in its cradle, you would have a title

paramount to all, who have been, are, or will be, in this country. Every part of your letter (except that which your kind indulgence makes so honourable to me) carries with it the clearest conviction. Your first reason (namely, an unwillingness to accept an honorary trust, and want of leisure for one, that

may require an active part) must appear satisfactory to all. I trust, you will consider our act as proceeding solely from our anxiety to give you that distinction, which justice obliged us to give. As to myself, I

Life-V. II.

could never have been fatisfied, if, in traverfing the sea of knowledge, I had fallen in with a fhip of your rate and station, without striking my flag. One thing more, iny dear Sir, I must assure you of, that in whatever manner your objections had been stated, I should have thought them just and wise; and if it were not for the pleasure, which your friendly communication of them has given me, I should repent of the trouble which our intended homage has occasioned.

I return Mr. Turner's letters, with many thanks for the entertainment which Lady J. and myself have received from them. I promise myself much delight and instruction from his conversation, and hope that when. he shall think proper to communicate a relation of his travels *, he will prefer our society to that of London. I will pay my re

* This relation was published in 1800, under the title of “ An Account of an Embassy to the Court of Teshoo

Lama in Tibet;" &c., by Captain Samuel Turner. It is exceedingly curious and interesting. The author, whose amiable manners and good qualities had endeared him to his friends, was seized with an apoplexy as he was walking the streets of London, and died within two days.

spects to you in the evening, and am concerned, from a selfish motive, that the place where I now write, will so soon lose one of its greatest advantages. Believe me to be, with unfeigned regard, dear Sir, Your faithful and obedient servant,

WILLIAM JONES.

To this public and private record of the merit of Mr. Hastings, in promoting and encouraging the pursuits of literature in Afia, the addition of any further testimony must be superfluous; yet I cannot deny myself the fatisfaction of stating briefly the grounds of his claims to that distinction, which excited the acknowledgments and prompted the solicitation of the society.

Mr. Hastings entered into the service of the East-India company, with all the advantages of a regular classical education, and with a mind strongly impressed with the plcafures of literature. The common dialects of Bengal, after his arrival in that country, foon became familiar to him; and at a period

when the use and importance of the Perfian language were scarcely suspected, and when the want of that grammatical and philological assistance, which has facilitated the labours of succeeding students, rendered the attainment of it a task of peculiar difficulty, he acquired a proficiency in it. His success not only contributed to make known the advantages of the acquisition, but proved an inducement to others to follow his example, and the general knowledge of the Persian language, which has been since attained by the fervants of the East-India company, has conspired to produce political effects of the greatest national importance, by promoting and accelerating the improvements, which have taken place in the system of internal administration in Bengal.

If Mr. Hastings cannot claim the merit of having himself explored the mine of Sanscrit literature, he is eminently entitled to the praise of having invited and liberally encouraged the researches of others. But he has a claim to commendations of a higher nature ;

« PreviousContinue »