« PreviousContinue »
Var in India. The plans, circumstances, and events of it, are so clearly described by you, that I felt an interest in them rather as an actor than a reader. I was particularly pleased with your delineation of the lives and characters of those, who had distinguished themselves by their actions or wisdom ; nor was I less delighted with the elegance of your topographical descriptions; that of the Ganges particularly pleased me; it is absolutely a picture. I have remarked, that the more polished historians of all ages, as well as the poets, have been fond of displaying their talents in describing rivers. Thus Thucydides describes the Achelous, and Xenophon the Teleboas, and both admirably, though in a different manner ; the latter with his usual brevity and elegance, the former with a degree of roughness and magnificence not uncommon to him. With respect to your style, if elegance consist in the choice and collocation of words, you have a most indubitable title to it; for you
have on all occasions selected the most appropriate expressions, and have given to them the most beautiful arrangement; and this is almost the greatest praise, which a composition can claim.
The publication of the second part of your History, which has been so long and earnestly looked for, will be highly acceptable to those whose opinions you respect; and I need not say that it will add to your reputation. Indeed it is not just, that the Coromandel coast only should receive the ornament of your pen, to the neglect of Bengal, which an Indian monarch pronounced the delight of the world.
If the reader should complain that the correspondence presented to him, is not always important or interesting, I can only plead in excuse, my inability to make any selection that would obviate this remark, without being liable to the weightier objection of exhibiting an imperfect picture of the character of Mr. Jones. To me it is
pleasing to trace him in his closet, unfold his meditations, develop his projects, and follow him in his familiar intercourse with his friends; and whilst my admiration is excited by the ardour of his mind, embracing in idea excellence unattainable even by him, and conceiving works impracticable from their extent, I participate with equal pleasure in his relaxations and amusements.
The plan of the Epic Poem, which he mentions in his letters to his Polish friend, was sketched during his residence at Spa, in July 1770. The original manuscript has been preserved; and I am enabled to communicate it to the public*. The subject of the poem was the supposed discovery of our island by Tyrian adventurers, and he proposed to exhibit under the character of the prince of Tyre, that of a perfect king of this country; a character which he pronounces the most glorious and beneficial of the warmest imagination can form. It represents (to quote his own words) the dangers to which a King of England is necessarily exposed, the vices which he must avoid, and the virtues, and great qualities, with which he must be adorned. On the whole,
“ Britain “ discovered” is intended as a poetical panegyric on our excellent Constitution, and as a pledge of the author's attachment to it; as a national epic poem, like those of Homer, Virgil, Tasso, and Camoëns, designed to celebrate the honours of his country, to disa play in a striking light the most important principles of politics and morality, and to inculcate these grand maxims, that nothing can shake our state, while the true liberty of the subject remains united with the dignity of the sovereign; and that in all states, virtue is the only sure basis of private and public happiness.
He reserved the completion of the poem to a period of leisure and independence which never arrived; and although after an in* Appendix, A.
terval of some years, he resumed the idea of composing an Epic Poem on the same subject, but with considerable alterations, he never extended the execution of it beyond a few lines.
Whether the Turkish History, which Mr. Jones mentions as ready for the press, was ever finished, I am not informed; part of the original manuscript still remains; the introduction to it was printed, but not published, and will form a number in the Appendix.
The anticipation of future prospects suggested by the fervour of youthful imagination, is too common to all, but particularly to men of genius, to excite much surprise; and of them it has been generally and justly remarked, that what has been performed by them, bears little proportion to what was projected. In their progress through life, impediments occur to the execution of their plans, which the mind at first eagerly overlooks; whilst time, imperceptibly advancing, deprives them of the power and even of the inclination to complete what has been designed with so much ardour. They find what experience daily proves, that the duties of life can only be properly performed, when they are the primary objects of our regard and attention.
The little discourse, to which Mr. Jones humourously alludes in his letter to Reviczki, was a letter in French, addressed to Monsieur Anquetil du Perron, and printed in 1771. The Frenchman had published, in three quarto volumes, an account of his travels in India, the life of Zoroaster, and some supposed works of that philosopher. To this publication he prefixed a discourse, in which he treated the University of Oxford, and some of its learned members and friends of Mr. Jones, with ridicule and disrespect. From the perusal of his works, Mr. Jones was little disposed to agree with Appendix, B.
Monsieur du Perron, in the boasted importance of his communications; he was disgusted with his vanity and petulance, and particularly offended by his illiberal attack upon the University, which he respected, and upon the persons whom he esteemed and ad. mired. The letter which he addressed to M. du Perron was anonymous; it was written with great force, and expresses his indignation and contempt with a degree of asperity, which the judgment of maturer years would have disapproved. Professor Biorn Sthal, a Swedish Orientalist, says of it, that he had known many Frenchmen so far mistaken in the writer, as to ascribe it to some bel esprit of Paris. Such in their opinion was the brilliancy and correctness of its style. Dr. Hunt, the Laudian Professor of Arabic, at Oxford, who had been contemptuously mentioned by du Perron, addressed the two following letters to Mr. Jones on this occasion :
Ch. Church, Oct. 25, 1771. I have now found the translation of all the remains of Zoroaster, mentioned in your last, and think, upon an attentive perusal of it, that the account which Dr. Fraser has given of it is true.
I never told Perron, that I understood the ancient Persic language; and I am authorized by Mr. Swinton, who was present all the time Perron was with me, to say, that he never heard me tell him so. I might perhaps say, that I knew the old Persic character, as given by Dr. Hyde; but to a further knowledge of the language I never pretended, nor could I tell him that I did. But for a proof of the veracity of this fellow, I beg leave to refer you to page 461. of his preliminary discourse, where he says, that he made me a present of a fine Sanskirrit, (or, as he calls it, Sanskrotan) alphabet, and that he promised Dr. Barton and Mr. Swinton, to send them 4
alphabets of the several Asiatic languages; whereas he neither made me the present, nor performed the promise to them. Mr. Swinton says, he can furnish us with other instances of this Frenchman's veracity, which he has promised to do in a few days. In the mean time,
I am, &c.
Ch. Church, Nov. 28, 1771.
excellent pamphlet against Perron* in due time, and yesterday I was favoured with your kind letter; for both which I return you my hearty thanks. I should have thanked you for your pamphlet sooner, but have been out of town. I have read it over and over again, and think the whole nation, as well as the University and its members, are much obliged to you for this able and spirited defence. I acknowledge myself to be so in a particular manner, and so does Mr. Swinton, who desires his compliments and thanks. But there is one thing which Mr. Swinton seems to doubt of, which is, whether there has been such a general destruction of the writings of the ancient Persians as you imagine there has been. For my own part, till some better proof can be given of the authenticity of those books, which have been produced as the genuine compositions of that ancient people, than what I have yet seen given, I am inclined to be of your opinion. At least, this I am sure of, that if the books, which Alexander, Omar, &c. destroyed, were no better than those which have been published, the world has had no great loss ; witness the insufferable jargon which you have given from their writings in the 38th and 41st, &c. pages of your letter; to which, as this bulky performance of Perront will be but in few
hands, * Works, vol. iv. p. 583.
† Mons. Anquetil du Perron made a voyage to India, in 1755, for the purpose of acquiring the ancient language of Persia, and that of the Bramins. His ardour for this