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commended to me soon after I came to India, as a worthy ingenious old man. I inclose his verses to you, with a basty translation* on the back of the paper, of the best couplets. The smaller volume contains part of the epic poem, which is written with enthusiasm; and the other volume is filled with odes and elegies, all in the old man's writing. He is married to immortal verse, and his highest ambition is to be an atom in one of your sunbeams.
* This translation, as a specimen of the taste and adulatory style of modern Persian poets,
is inserted for the reader's entertainment. Macpherson exalted as the sky, prosperous in thy undertakings, who like the sun receivest even atoms in thy beams ! Thou art the just one of this age; and in thy name, that of Nushirovan revives. With the aid of Jesus (blessed be his name!) the government acquires its stability from thy mind. I have composed a poem in words of truth, beginning with a panegyric on the company. It contains a recital of the wars of the English, described with an animated pen. By the command of Hastings, entitled to reverence, I began a book on the victory of Benares; but before the completion of my task, that honourable man returned to his country. In thy government has my work been completed, and with thy name have I adorned its opening, in hope, that thou wilt send me fresh materials, to decorate with golden verses the cheeks of my book. If I compose a Shahnameh, on the glorious name of the King of England, the book will fly over Iran and Turan, and the deeds of thy nation will blaze like the sun; if I sing the achievements of the English, the name of Parveiz will be no more mentioned. If I open a chapter of their conquests, Afrasiab will tremble under the earth; the rapid motion of my dark reed will make Rustem halt and droop. Hear my strains with discernment, and my pen shall soar with the wings of a falcon. Favour me, as Sultan Mahmoud shewed kindness to Ferdosi, that we may be a pair of tuneful nightingales.
The actions of all nations are commemorated, let those of the English be celebrated under thy auspices. May thy orders be resistless as the sea; the head of the contumacious be in thy power, and the seal of government bear thy name!
On the names mentioned in this translation, it may be sufficient to observe that Ferdosi is the Homer of Persia, who composed an heroic poem under the title of Shahnameh; that the name of Nushirovan, is proverbial for justice; that Sran and Turan are Persia and Tartary; and that the other persons introduced were kings or heroes of those countries.
Sir WILLIAM JONES to J. MACPHERSON, Esq.
May 1785. The ornament of the faith (for that is the bard's name) Zainudeen will wait upon you on Wednesday; his style of compliments is moderate in comparison of most Oriental compositions ; other poets of this country would have entreated you not to ride on horseback, lest you should cause an earthquake in India when you mounted. This was actually said to a prince at Delhi, who pleasantly bade the poet comfort himself, and assured him, that he would ever after go in a palanquin.
Sir WILLIAM JONES to J. MACPHERSON, Esq.
May 26, 1785. The regulation which you made concerning the Madrissa* is so salutary, that few things would grieve me more than to see it frustrated. Your predecessor has often mentioned to me, the high opinion which he had formed of the rector, but (I know not for what reason) he is very unpopular. Perhaps it is only faction, too common in most colleges at our universities, of the students against the head.
* The passages in these letters relating to the Madrissa or college, as an establishment of national importance, merits a more particular explanation. Mr. Hastings, whilst he held the office of governor-general, with a view to promote the knowledge of Mohammedan law, as essential to the due administration of justice to the natives of India, had established a college at Calcutta, in which native students were admitted and taught at the public expence. This institution was dictated by a wise policy; it was calculated to conciliate the affections of the Mussulmans, and to ensure a succession of men properly qualified by education to expound the law of the Koran, and to fill the important offices of magistrates in the courts of justice. The president of this college had been selected with every attention to his character and ability; but some representations having been inade to his disadvantage, the succeeding governor-general, J. Macpherson, Esq. consulted Sir William Jones, on the regulations proper to be established for promoting the laudable objects of the institution, and controlling its conduct.
It is a remark of Johnson's*, that as spiders would make silk, if they could agree together, so men of letters would be useful to the public, if they were not perpetually at variance. approbation as a good citizen of your regulations, I have a particular interest in the conduct of Mujduddeen, who is Maulavyf of the court, and as such ought to be omni exceptione major. I believe from my conversation with him, that he is not a man of deep learning; but his manners are not unpleasing. The proposal which you make, cannot but produce good effects; but I hardly know any member of our society, who answers your description for a visitor under your directions, except Mr. Chambers, and his report might be depended on. I will, if you please, propose it on Thursday. The students brought a complaint before me last term, which I dismissed as not being within my cognizance, that their allowances were taken by the head, who left them without subsistence; but whether this be true or false, it will not be amiss for the Maulavy to know, that he is subject to visitation from time to time.
If the best intentions can ensure safety, you have nothing to apprehend; but, alas ! my friend, if you can be safe only in fixed unanimous opinions of statute law, you can seldom, I fear, act with perfect confidence. Such is the imperfection of human language, that few written laws are free from ambiguity; and it rarely happens that many minds are united in the same interpretation of them.
A statesman told Lord Coke, that he meant to consult him on a point of law. “ If it be common law,” said Coke, “ I should be “ ashamed if I could not give you are ady answer; but if it be
* Originally Reaumur's.
+ Expounder of the Mohammedan law.
statute-law, I should be equally ashamed if I answered you “ immediately."
I will here only set down a few rules of interpretation which the wisdom of
has established, where the sense of the words is at all ambiguous.
1. The intention of the writer must be sought, and prevail over the literal sense of terms; but penal laws must be strictly expounded against offenders, and liberally against the offence.
2. All clauses, preceding or subsequent, must be taken together to explain any one doubtful clause.
3. When a case is expressed to remove any doubt, whether it was included or not, the extent of the clause, with regard to cases not so expressed, is by no means restrained.
4. The conclusion of a phrase is not confined to the words immediately preceding, but usually extended to the whole antecedent phrase.
These are copious maxims, and, with half a dozen more, are the stars by which we steer in the construction of all public and private writings.
Sir WILLIAM JONES to J. MACPHERSON, Esq.
Court House, July. We have just convicted a low Hindu of a foul conspiracy, which would have ended in perjury, and (as his own lawgiver says) in every cause of damnation. If richer men were of the plot, I hope our court will escape the reproach of the satirist, that “ laws resemble cobwebs, which catch flies and let the wasps “ break through."
Sir WILLIAM JONES to J. MACPHERSON, Esq.'
August 14, 1785. I give you my hearty thanks, my dear Sir, for the history of the Roman Republic, which I read with particular pleasure.
Looking over my shelves the other day, I laid my hand on the annexed little book ascribed to Sir Walter Raleigh ; it is, like most posthumous works, incorrect, but contains, with some rubbish, a number of wise aphorisms and pertinent examples ; it is rather the common-place book of some statesman, than a well digested treatise, but it has amused me on a second reading, and I hope it will amuse a few of your leisure moments.
The society of Sir William Jones was too attractive, to allow him to employ his leisure hours in those studies, which he so eagerly desired to cultivate, and although no man was more happy in the conversation of his friends, he soon found that the unrestrained enjoyment of this gratification was incompatible with his attention to literary pursuits. He determined therefore to seek some retirement, at no great distance from Calcutta, where he might have the benefit of air and exercise, and prosecute his studies without interruption, during the vacations of the supreme court. For this purpose, he made choice of a residence at Crishnagur, which had a particular attraction for him, from its vicinity to a Hindu college, and from this spot be writes to his friends.
Sir WILLIAM JONES to Dr. PATRICK RUSSEL.
Sept. 8, 1787. Your two kind letters found me overwhelmed with the business of a severe sessions and term, which lasted two months,