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A mere catalogue of the writings of Sir William Jones, would shew the extent and
world, to the discourses themselves; and in presenting him with a faint outline of some of the most important facts and observations contained in them, I mean rather to excite his curiosity than to gratify it.
I shall follow the discourses in the order in which they stand; and, to avoid unnecessary phraseology, I shall, as far as possible, use the language of Sir William Jones himself.
The first discourse, which is the third of the series in which they were delivered, begins with the HINDUS.
The civil history of the inhabitants of India, beyond the middle of the nineteenth century from the present time, is enveloped in a cloud of fables. Facts, strengthened by analogy, may lead us to suppose the existence of a primeval language in Upper India, which may be called Hindi, and that the Sanscrit was introduced into it, by conquerors from other kingdoms in some very remote age. The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either; yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs, and in the form of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine thein all three without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which perhaps no longer exists. There is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothick and Celtick, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the San scrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family.
variety of his erudition ; a perusal of them will prove, that it was no
that it was no less deep than
The Deb-nagari characters, in which the languages of India were originally written, are adopted with little variation in form, in more than twenty kingdoms and states, from the borders of Cashgar and Khoten, to the Southern extremity of the peninsula ; and from the Indus to the river of Siam. That the square Chaldaic characters, in which most Hebrew books are copied, were originally the same, or derived from the same prototype, both with the Indian and Arabian characters, there can be little doubt; and it is probable that the Phænician, from which the Greek and Roman alphabets were formed, had a siinilar origin.
The deities adored in India, were worshipped under different names in Old Greece and Italy, and the same philosophical tenets which were illustrated by the Ionick and Attick writers, with all the beauties of their melodious language, are professed in India.
The six philosophical schools of the Indians, comprise all the metaphysicks of the old Academy, the Stóa, and the Lyceum ; nor can we hesitate to believe, that PYTHAGORAS and PLATO, derived their sublime theories from the same fountain with the sages of India. The Scythian and Hyperborean doctrines and mythology are discovered in every part of the Eastern regions, and that Won or ODEN, was the same with BUDH of India, and Fo of China, seems indisputable.
The remains of architecture and sculpture in India, seem to prove an early connection between that country and Africa. The letters on many of the monuments appear partly of Indian, and partly of Abyssinian or Ethiopick ori
miscellaneous. Whatever topic he discusses, his ideas flow with ease and perspicuity;
gin; and these indubitable facts seem to authorise a probable opinion, that Ethiopia and Hindustan were colonized by the same race. The period of the subjugation of India, by the Hindus under Rama, from Audh to Silan, may be dated at about 36 centuries before the present period.
The ARABS come next under investigation. The Arabic language is unquestionably one of the most ancient in the world. That it has not the least resemblance either in words, or in the structure of them, to the Sanscrit, or great parent of the Indian dialects, is established by the most irrefragable arguments. With respect to the characters in which the old compositions of Arabia were written, little is known except that the Koran originally appeared in those of Kufah, from which the modern Arabian characters were derived, and which unquestionably had a common origin with the Hebrew and Chaldaic. It has
generally been supposed, that the old religion of the Arabs was entirely Sabian; but the information concerning the Sabian faith, and even the meaning of the word, is too imperfect to admit of any satisfactory conclusion on the subject. That the people of remen soon fell into the common idolatry of adoring the sun and firmament, is certain; other tribes worshipped the planets and fixed stars, but the religion of the poets seems to have been pure theism : of any philosophy but ethics, there are no traces among them; and their system of morals was miserably depraved for a century, at least, before Mohammed.
Few monuments of antiquity are preserved in Arabia,
his style is always clear and polished ; animated and forcible when his subject requires
and of these the accounts are uncertain. Of sciences, the Arabs of Hejaz were totally ignorant, and the only arts successfully cultivated by them; (horsemanship and military accomplishments excepted,) were poetry and rhetoric. The people of Yemen had possibly more mechanical arts, and perhaps more science.
Thus it clearly appears, that the Arabs both of Hejaz and Yemen, sprang from a stock entirely different from that of the Hindus ; and if we give credit to the universal tradition of Yemen, that Yoktan, the son of Eber, first settled his family in Arabia, their first establishments in their respective countries were nearly coeval, about eighteen centuries before the Christian æra.
The TARTARS furnish the subject of the fifth discourse. In general, they differ wholly in feature and complexion from the Hindus and Arabs. The general traditional history of the Tartars begins with Oghuz, as that of the Hindus does with Rama; and according to Visdelou, the king of the Hyumnus or Huns, began his reign about 3560 years ago, not long after the time fixed, in the former discourses, for the regular establishments of the Hindus and Arabs in their several countries.
The enquiry concerning the languages and letters of the Tartars, presents a deplorable void, or a prospect as barren and dreary as their deserts; they had in general no literature, (a proposition, which is not affected by admitting with Ibnu Arabshah, the existence of Dilberjin and Eighuri letters); and all that can be safely inferred from the little information we have on the subject, is the probability that the various dialects of Tartary descended
it. His philological, botanical, philofophical, and chronological disquisitions, his historical
from one common stock, essentially different from that from which the Indian and Arabian tongues severally came. The language of the Brahmans affords a proof of an immemorial and total difference between the savages
of the mountains, as the Chinese call the Tartars, and the studious, placid, contemplative inhabitants of India.
Pure theism appears to have prevailed in Tartary for Home generations after Yafet; the Mongals and Turcs some ages afterwards relapsed into idolatry; but Chingis was a theist.
Thus it has been proved beyond controversy, that the far greater part of Asia has been peopled, and immemorially possessed by three considerable nations, whom for want of better names we may call Hindus, Arabs, and Tartars; each of them divided and subdivided into an infinite number of branches, and all of them so different in form and features, language, manners, and religion, that if they sprang originally from one common root, they must have been separated for ages.
The sixth and next discourse is on PERSIA or IRAN.
There is solid reason to suppose, that a powerful monarchy had been established in Irân, for ages before the Assyrian Dynasty, (which commenced with Cayumers, about eight or nine centuries before Christ) under the name of the Mahabadian Dynasty, and that it must be the oldest in the world.
When Mohammed was born, two languages appear to have been generally prevalent in the great empire of Irân; that of the court, thence named Deri, which was only a refined and elegant dialeci of the Parsi, and that of the learned named Pahlavi. But besides these two, a