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*C. Reviczki to Mr. Jones.
London, March 29, 1768. That I have deferred longer than usual my reply to your obliging letter, you must impute to the novel and strange appearance of things here. You will not, I trust, be disposed to blame a delay occasioned by the attention of a foreigner to customs which are peculiar to your country, and which I never observed in any other; for I confess to you that I never saw any thing similar to the mode here pursued of electing members of parliament. The novelty of it at first amused me; but the increasing tumult sickened and disgusted me, and, by compelling me to remain at home, afforded me an opportunity of writing to you. I rejoice that my version of the Persian ode pleases you, and that it has induced you to think me equal to the translation of the whole collection. But, highly as I am honoured by your opinion, I cannot but think your advice somewhat unmerciful; for what mortal, unless
Or oak, or brass, with triple fold,
would undertake a translation, in prose and verse, of six hundred odes. The attempt would not only require many years, but an entire exemption from all other occupations, which is not my case; I can only make these studies my occasional amusement. I mean, however, some time or other, to publish as much as I can.
The person who applied to me for the first book of the Iliad, with a verbal analysis, already possesses the key to Homer; but he thinks the other work better
* Appendix, No. 6.
adapted to the use of boys, because the notes in it are . subjoined to the text, which is not the plan of the Clavis. If you have one at hand, oblige me by just looking into it; for, if my memory does not fail me, there is a catalogue prefixed, mentioning the work which I want, and the name of the printer.
Although your politeness has excused any further efforts, I nevertheless send the ode which you requested
last letter but one, as I think it will please you. It is by no means one of the easiest, either to understand, or translate; and, indeed, the force of the peculiar idioms of a foreign language cannot be well conveyed by any circumlocution.
You ask my opinion of the affinity between the Hebrew and Arabic, and of an idiom, common to both, of using the past for the future. Though I seldom read Hebrew, or, to say the truth, though I consider this sacred language rather as an object of veneration than of delight, (for excepting the Old Testament itself, and some rabbinical dreams about it, there is nothing in it worth perusal) I well remember, from the little of it which I have read, having remarked a close connection between the grammar of the Hebrew and Arabic, the moods and tenses in both are so few, as to require the substitution of one for the other; the Greek, however, which is so redundant in moods and tenses, sometimes does the same; for instance, when it uses the infinitive for the imperative. With respect to the measures used in the two languages, I am of a different opinion ; for I consider the metrical art of the Arabs of much later invention, and to have assumed its present form, only a short time before Mahommed; there being no trace whatever among them of a more ancient poetry. If the Hebrew poetry had a similar construction, which may, indeed, be suspected from a similar use of the vowels,
we might by this time have traced, without difficulty, the laws of Hebrew metre by the rules of analogy.*
If the text of the ode, which you mention to have read in the miscellaneous works of some anonymous author, had been correct, you would not have wanted my humble assistance: but it is so full of errors, that I must be an Oedipus to interpret it. Every one knows, that the mere irregularity of the diacritical points occasions infinite difficulty in the Oriental languages; but this is doubly increased by the casual omission or alteration of the letters themselves. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary, in my opinion, as it is impossible to find manuscripts without errors, to possess two copies of every one which you read, that the faults of the one may be corrected by the other; and this is my method.
I have only to conclude by thanking you for your Italian sonnet, and expressing the commendation to which it is entitled....Farewel.
+ Mr. Jones to C. Reviczki.
April, 1768. Nothing can afford a stronger proof of your polite attention to me than your last very friendly letter, which
contrived to write in the midst of city bustle, during the noise of riotous mobs, and the tumult of a parliamentary election, and to accompany it with a most beautiful Persian Ode, and a Latin translation. Our favourite Hafez deserves, indeed, to be fed with ambrosia ; and I daily discover, with increasing delight, new beauties and elegancies in him. The principal difficulty attending the translation and publication of his poems, as you have begun, consists in giving them a poetical dress; but this will prove easier than you imagine; for there are many of his odes, which, I conclude, you will not attempt to translate, as containing expressions wholly foreign to our manners, lofty and daring figures, or abrupt unconnected lines; and this will, in some measure, alleviate the Herculean labour of the task.
* The probability, that the metrical compositions of the Herrews and Arabs were founded on the same rules of prosody, is intimated by Sir W. Jones, in his Commentaries on Asiatic Poetry, and proposed to the 'investigation of the learned. This opinion is suggested by the close affinity of the languages of those ancient people, whence he argues to a presumption that their poets used the same numbers, feet, and measures, in their compositions.
† Appendix, No. 7.
If I were not a sincere lover of truth, and averse from all dissimulation, I should lament that our capital has fallen under your inspection in these times of turbu. lence and distraction, when the liberty of my country, so universally celebrated, has degenerated into unbridled licentiousness, not to say outrage. The original form of our constitution is almost divine;....to such a degree, that no state of Rome, or Greece, could ever boast one superior to it; nor could Plato, Aristotle, nor any legislator, even conceive a more perfect model of a state. The three parts, which compose it, are so harmoniously blended and incorporated, that neither the fute of Aristoxenus, nor the lyre of Timotheus, ever produced more perfect concord. What can be more difficult than to devise a constitution, which, while it guards the dignity of the sovereign and liberty of the people from any encroachment, by the influence and power of the nobility, preserves the force and majesty of the laws from violation, by the popular liberty? This was the case formerly in our island, and would be so still, if the folly of some had not prompted them to spur on the populace, instead of holding them in. I cannot, therefore, restrain my indignation against Wilkes, a bold and able, but turbulent, man; the very torch and firebrand of sedition. But what can be said in defence of the honour and consistency of some of our nobility, who, after having given him their countenance and support, shamefully deserted and betrayed him?
If you wish to obtain more accurate information respecting our laws and customs, I recommend to your perusal Smith's Treatise on the English Constitution, and the Dialogue of Fortescue, in praise of the Laws of England. Thomas Smith was the English ambassador in France, in the reign of Elizabeth, and his work is in Latin, and not inelegantly written. To Fortescue’s little tract we may apply the words of Xenophon, to the Teleboas, “ it is not large, but beautiful.” He was Chancellor of England under Henry the VIth, and was compelled, by the distractions of the times, to take refuge, with his pupil, prince Edward, in France, where, in an advanced age, he composed his little golden dialogue. These books will convince you that our laws are framed with the greatest wisdom, and that, as Pindar, quoted by Plato in his Gorgias, says,
Sov'reign o'er all, eternal law
When I reflect on our constitution, I seem, as it were, to contemplate a game at chess, a recreation in which we both delight: for we have a king, whose dignity we strenuously defend, but whose power is very