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IN presenting the public with an account of the Life of Sir WILLIAM JONES, I feel a particular anxiety, to guard against the charge of presumption for an undertaking, which may be thought to require a more than ordinary share of learning and abilities. I hope therefore, to have credit for a declaration, that nothing but the earnest solicitation of Lady Jones, who knew my affection for her Husband when living, and my unabated regard for his memory, and who conceived that these qualifications might supply the deficiency of more essential talents, could have prevailed upon me, to enter upon a literary career, so foreign to the habits of a life, of which more than fifty years are now elapsed.
It may be proper to notice the materials, which I have used
in this compilation, and to explain the plan which I have adopted - in in the arrangement of them. The first, is a single sheet written by Sir William Jones, containing short notices of his situation and occupations during every year of his life; it is indeed extended beyond the date of his existence, to the 50th year, opposite to which the words avy Oso, if God pleases, are inserted ; it appears to have been hastily written, a few months only before his death, and, although the dates are sometimes inaccurate, and the notices too brief to supply more than a reference, it suggested enquiries which have sometimes terminated satisfactorily, though more frequently in disappointment. This paper however dictated the plan of the work, and I have endeavoured, as far as my materials permitted, to
trace the life of Sir William Jones, year by year.
For the first twenty-two years of it, my authorities are ample and satisfactory; they consist principally of memoranda written by Sir William himself, and in describing the occurrences of this period, I have frequently availed myself of his own words. I wish indeed that I could have used them exclusively, but the paper is not altogether in a form to admit of publication.
The account of the last twelve years of his life in India, is chiefly supplied by my own recollection, assisted by information collected from his writings and correspondence.
Of the events of his life between 1768, his twenty-second year, and the date of his embarkation for India in 1783, my information
is less complete, although I have spared no diligence in endeavouring to collect all that could be obtained. I was in hopes that the recollection of his contemporaries at Oxford, where he occasionally resided until he left England, might have supplied some material anecdotes, and that farther information might have been procured from his companions in Westminster Hall, or on the Circuit, but my researches have had little success, and I am chiefly indebted to his correspondence for the information which I have been able
In the arrangement of these materials, it was my wish, as far as possible, to make Sir William Jones describe himself; and with this view, I have introduced his letters into the body of the Memoirs. . They develop his occupations, hopes, pursuits, and feelings; and although the narrative, from the introduction of them, may lose something in point of connection, this inconvenience, I flatter myself, will be more than compensated by the letters themselves. By this mode they will excite an interest, which they might have failed to produce, if the substance or subjects of them only had been interwoven into the narrative, with a reference to
the letters themselves in the Appendix.
This arrangement has however imposed upon me the necessity of translating many of the letters of Sir William Jones and his learned correspondents, from the Latin or French, and I have endeavoured to give the sense of them in a plain familiar style. But I must warn the reader, that he is to expect nothing more in these translations, and that those who are qualified to peruse the original letters of Sir William Jones, will find in them an elegance which I do not pretend to transfuse into my version of them. Some few sentences of the original letters have been purposely omitted in the translation, and many passages of the originals themselves have been suppressed.
The Latin letters of Sir William Jones are printed in the Appendix, and with respect to them it is further proper to observe, that in consequence of interlineations, corrections, erasures, and mutilation from time, I could not always ascertain the exact words which he ultimately adopted. In such cases I have been compelled to exercise my own judgment, and I desire the reader to notice this remark, lest any inaccuracy of mine should be imputed to a man, who was equally qualified to guide the taste of the elegant, and correct the errors of the learned.
To elucidate the life, occupations, and opinions of Sir William Jones, was the principal object which I had in view, in the selection of the letters now presented to the public ; some have been inserted, as calculated in my opinion to afford entertainment to the reader. I am very sensible that many of these letters relate to topics not generally interesting: engaged in literary pursuits from his earliest youth, extending and cultivating 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
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 of it, that of elucidating the life and opinions of Sir William Jones. With this rule constantly in my recollection, 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 Breface,