« PreviousContinue »
literary pursuits, from his earliest youth, extending them with ardour during his life, and never losing sight of them under any accumulation of business, the letters of Sir William Jones necessarily refer to habits so dear to him, and so long established: and I must request the reader to carry this remark with him to the perusal of his correspondence throughout, and particularly of the letters written by him in Bengal, which frequently relate to Indian literature, as well as to subjects and occupations peculiar to that country.
The Memoirs and Appendix contain some original compositions of Sir William Jones, which have not hitherto been published ; they are not of equal importance with those of which the public are in possession; there are still more, which I have not ventured to print.
It would have been easy to have enlarged the size of this volume ; but, having no ambition to extend it beyond its proper limits, I have confined myself as closely as I could to the object I had in view....that of elucidating the life and opinions of Sir William Jones. With this rule constantly in my reco!lection, I have avoided dissertations on the events of the times. The notice which I have taken of characters, incidentally mentioned, is brief and explanatory only; and I have suppressed many observations, which would have added more to the bulk of the Memoirs than to the information or entertainment of the reader.
I have now given such explanation, on the subject of the Memoirs, as appeared to me necessary; but I cannot conclude the Preface, without mentioning some information which materially affects an important passage in these Memoirs, and which I received from Bengal, long after it had been printed.
The passage alluded to is stated to be an exact translation from one of the mythological books of the Hindus. it first appeared in a note, annexed, by Sir William Jones, to an Essay on Egypt and the Nile, in the 3d vol. of the Asiatic Researches, by lieutenant, now captain, Wilford; and relates to Noah (under the designation of Satyavrata) and his three sons.
Captain Wilford has since had the mortification and regret to discover, that he was imposed upon by a learned Hindu, who assisted his investigations; that the Purana, in which he actually and carefully read the passage, which he communicated to Sir William Jones, as an extract from it, does not contain it, and that it was interpolated by the dextrous introduction of a forged sheet, discoloured, and prepared for the purpose of deception; and which, having served this purpose, was afterwards withdrawn.
The uncommon anxiety of captain Wilford to reexamine all the authorities quoted in his essay, led to the detection of the imposition; and he immediately determined to publish it to the world, in another essay, which he was then preparing, and which I understand to be now printing in Bengal. To guard against the effects of any accident, which might prevent the execution of this determination, he communicated the circumstance to his friends, that it might eventually be made known to the public; and, in the explanation now submitted to them, I only anticipate the solicitude of captain Wilford, to expose the imposition which has been practised on him.
The reader will find mention, in these Memoirs, of an unsuccessful attempt of the Hindus, to impose, upon Sir William Jones, a forged Sanscrit book, on Oaths.
The same sagacity which detected the fraud, in this instance, might have discovered the forgery of the pundit employed by Mr. Wilford, if the original document had been submitted to the inspection of Sir William Jones. In this country the fabrications of a Chatterton escaped, for a season, the penetration of the learned and acute.
In the Postscript to the Memoirs, I have omitted to mention, in its proper place, that a monument was erected at Oxford, to the memory of Sir William Jones, by a subscription of the gentlemen residing in Bengal, who had received their education at the university there, and at Cambridge. The inscription on the elegant monument, executed by Flaxman, at the expense of Lady Jones, and placed in the anti-chamber to the Chapel of University College, Oxford, is annexed to the Preface.
It has frequently been remarked, that the characters of very eminent men cannot be closely examined, with. out a considerable diminution of the respect which their general fame has excited.
From whatever source this remark may have pro. ceded, or to whatever degree of truth it may be entitled, I cannot but express a solicitude, that it
derive no confirmation from the work now presented to the public. Impressed with admiration, respect, and esteem, for the memory of Sir William Jones, whether I contemplate his genius, his learning, or his virtues, I wish to transfer my own feelings to the minds of my readers; but whilst I distrust my own efforts, I am equally anxious to guard against extravagant expectations in them, and any want of discernment in myself.
GVLIELMI. JONES. EQVITIS. AVRATI. QVI. CLARVM. IN. LITERIS. NOMEN. A. PATRE. ACCEPTVM.
MAGNA. CVMVLAVIT. GLORIA. INGENIVM. IN. ILLO. ERAT. SCIENTIARVM. OMNIVM. CAPAX.
DISCIPLINISQVE. OPTIMIS. DILIGENTISSIME. EXCVLTVM.
ERAT. INDOLES. AD. VIRTVTEM. EXIMIA.
ET. IN. IVSTITIA. LIBERTATE. RELIGIONE. VINDICANDA.
MAXIME. PROBATA. QUICQUID. AVTEM. VTILE. VEL. HONESTVM. CONSILIIS. EXEMPLO. AVCTORITATE. VIVVS. PROMOVERAT.
ID. OMNE. SCRIPTIS. SVIS. IMMORTALIBVS.
ETIAM. NVNC. TVETVR. ATQVE. ORNAT.
PRAESTANTISSIMVM. HVNC. VIRVM..
CVM. A. PROVINCIA. BENGALA.
VBI. IVDICIS. INTEGERRIMI. MVNVS.
PER. DECENNIVM. OBIERAT.
REDITVM. IN. PATRIAM. MEDITARETVR.
IX. KAL. IVN. A. C. MDCCLXXXXIII. ÆT. XLVIII.
VT. QVIBVS. IN. AEDIBVS.
IPSE. OLIM. SOCIVS. INCLARVISSET,
IN. IISDEM. MEMORIA. EIVS. POTISSIMVM. CONSERVARETVR.
HONORARIVM. HOC. MONVMENTVM.
ANNA. MARIA. FILIA. JONATHAN. SHIPLEY. EPIS. ASAPH.
CONIVGI. SVO. B. M.