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Asia. Those with whom I have spent some of my happiest hours,
and hope to spend many more on my return to England, are tearing one another to pieces, with the enmity that is proverbial here, of the snake and the ichneumon. I have nothing left therefore, but to wish what is right and just may prevail, to discharge my public duties with unremitted attention, and to recreate myself at leisure with the literature of this interesting country.
Sir WILLIAM JONES to J. SHORE, Esq. Chrishna-nagur, Aug. 16, 1787. I thank you heartily, my dear Sir, for the tender strains of the unfortunate Charlotte", which have given us pleasure and pain ; the sonnets which relate to herself are incomparably the best. Petrarca is little known; his sonnets, especially the first book, are the least valuable of his works, and contain less natural sentiments than those of the swan of Avon ; but his odes which are political, are equal to the lyric poems of the Greeks; and his triumphs are in a triumphant strain of sublimity and magnificence. Anna Maria gives you many thanks for the pleasure you have procured her. We are in love with this pastoral cottage ; but though these three months are called a vacation, yet I have no vacant hours. It rarely happens that favourite studies are closely connected with the strict discharge of our duty, as mine happily are; even in this cottage I am assisting the court by studying Arabic and Sanscrit, and have now rendered it an impossibility for the Mohammedan or Hindu lawyers to impose upon us with erroneous opinions.
This brings to my mind your honest pundit, Rhadacaunt, who refused, I hear, the office of pundit to the court, and told Mr. Hastings that he would not accept of it, if the salary were doubled; - * Sonnets by Charlotte Smith.
his scruples were probably religious; but they would put it out of my power to serve him, should the office again be vacant. His unvarnished tale I would have repeated to you, if we had not missed one another on the river; but since I despair of seeing you until my return to Calcutta, at the end of October, I will set it down here, as nearly as I can recollect, in his own words:
“My father (said he) died at the age of an hundred years, and “my mother, who was eighty years old, became a sati, and burned “herself to expiate sins. They left me little besides good prin“ciples. Mr. Hastings purchased for me a piece of land, which “at first yielded twelve hundred rupees a year; but lately, either “ through my inattention or through accident, it has produced “ only one thousand. This would be sufficient for me and my “family ; but the duty of Brahmans is not only to teach the “ youths of their sect, but to relieve those who are poor. I made “many presents to poor scholars and others in distress, and for “ this purpose I anticipated my income : I was then obliged to bor“ row for my family expenses, and I now owe about three thousand “ rupees. This debt is my only cause of uneasiness in this world. “I would have mentioned it to Mr. Shore, but I was ashamed.”
Now the question is, how he can be set upon his legs again, when I hope he will be more prudent. If Bahman* should return to Persia, I can afford to give him one hundred rupees a month, * till his debt shall be discharged out of his rents; but at present, I pay more in salaries to my native scholars than I can well afford ; nevertheless I will cheerfully join you in any mode of clearing the honest man, that can be suggested ; and I would assist him merely for his own sake, as I have more Brahmanical teachers than I can find time to hear.
* A parsi and a native of Yezd, employed by Sir William Jones as a reader.
I send you not an elegant pathetic sonnet, but the wildest and strangest poem that was ever written, Khakani's complaint in prison. The whole is a menace, that he would change his religion, and seek protection among the Christians, or the Gabres. It contains one or two proper names, of which I find no full explanation even in a commentary professedly written to illustrate the poem. The fire of Khakani's genius blazes through the smoke of his erudition ; the measure of the poem, which will enable you to correct the errors of the copies, is
with a strong accent on the last syllable of each foot. Adieu, my dear Sir, &c.
Sir WILLIAM JONES to JOS. COWPER, Esq.
Crishna-nagur, Sept. 11, 1787. I give you my hearty thanks, dear Sir, for your kind attention to me, and for the pleasure which I have received from your letter, as well as for that which I certainly shall receive from your historical memoirs of the Irish Bards. The term being over before your book could be found, and the state of my health obliging me to seek this pastoral retreat, where I always pass my vacation among the Brahmans of this ancient university, I left Calcutta before I could read your work, but shall peruse it with eagerness on my return to the capital. You touched an important string, when you mentioned the subject of Indian music, of which I am particularly fond. I have just read a very old book on that art in Sanscrit. I hope to present the world with the substance of it, as soon as the transactions of our society can be printed ; but we go on slowly, since the press is often engaged by government; and we think it better to let our fruit ripen naturally, than than to bring forth such watery and imperfect fruits as are usually raised in hot beds. The Asiatic Miscellany, to which you allude, is not the publication of our society, who mean to print no scraps, nor any mere translations. It was the undertaking of a private gentleman, and will certainly be of use in diffusing Oriental literature, though it has not been so correctly printed as I could wish. When you see Colonel Vallancy, whose learned work I have read through twice with great pleasure, I request you to present him with my best remembrance. We shall soon I hope see faithful translations of Irish histories and poems. I shall be happy in comparing them with the Sanscrit, with which the ancient language of Ireland had certainly an affinity. Proceed, Sir, in your laudable career; you deserve the applause of your country, and will most assuredly have that of, Sir, &c.
Sir WILLIAM JONES to Dr. PATRICK RUSSEL. - Chrishna-nagur, Sept. 22, 1787. Your interesting papers did not find their way to me till I had left this cottage, and was wholly immersed in business. Indeed, I am so harassed for eight months in twelve, that I can seldom think of literature till the autumn vacation, which I pass in this charming plain, the driest in Bengal, and close to a college of Brahmans. I am charmed with your plan ; and if the directors have not yet resolved to print the work at their expense, I can perhaps suggest a mode of procuring very powerful influence with them. The king has much at heart his new botanical garden at St. Vincent's; his object is two-fold, to improve the commerce of the West-India islands, and to provide the British troops on service there with medicinal plants. Now, if you could send a box or two of seeds, likely to be useful in commerce or medicine, directed to Sir George Young, the secretary at war, (to whom I have inclosed your letter to the Board at Madras) I dare say the Board - Q Q of
of Controul would be desired to use their influence with the DirectorS. # # #: + # You could not have chosen a better specimen than the pedalium murer, of which little is said by Linnaeus, and that from doubtful authority. The opuntia I have not seen here, and I cannot ramble into the woods. Our groves at this place are skirted with an angulated cactus, called sija (pronounced sceja) in the Sanscrit dictionaries, where I find the names of about 300 medicinal plants, the virtues of which are mentioned in medicinal books. I agree with you, that those books do not carry full conviction; but they lead to useful experiments, and are therefore valuable. I made fine red ink, by dropping a solution of tin in aqua regia into an infusion of the coccus, which Dr. Anderson was so polite as to send to me. His discovery will, I trust, be useful; his ardour and ingenuity deserve success.
I have just read with attention the Philosophia Botanica, which I consider as the grammar, and the Genera et Species as the dictionary, of botany. It is a masterly work, and contains excellent matter in a short volume ; but it is harshly, not to say barbarously, written. I grieve to see botany imperfect in its two most important articles, the natural orders and the virtues of plants, between which I suspect a strong affinity. I envy those who have leisure to pursue this bewitching study. A.
Pray, my dear Sir, have you the Oriental manuscripts of my friend Dr. Alexander Russel ? He lent me three, which I returned; the Sucardan, the Banquet of Physicians, and a beautiful Hafez. If you have them, I shall beg leave to read them again, when we meet in Europe.
Postscript. What is spikenard I mean botanically, what is the natural order, class, genus, &c. of the plant P What was the spikenard