« PreviousContinue »
Preface, without mentioning some information which materially affects an important passage in the 367th page of the 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 Hindûs; 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 Hindû, 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sheet, discoloured, and prepared for the purpose of deception, and which having served this purpose, was afterwards withdrawn.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 re-examine 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 determi
nation, he cominunicated 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 particulars of the imposition practised upon him by the pandit, whom he employed in making extracts from the books of the Hindûs, are detailed by Captain Wilford, in the introduction to a work now printing in Bengal, under the title of An ESSAY on the SACRED Isles in the West, with other Essays connected with that Works
In the course of collating the Sanscrit authorities quoted or referred to, in this Essay, he discovered some discolorations in the manuscripts, which led to suspicions of deception, which examination fully verified. The discovery naturally excited an apprehension, that a similar imposition had been practised upon him, with respect to his former Essay on Egypt and the Nile, and he had the mortification to find it well grounded. His first step was to inform his friends of it, either verbally, or by letters, that he miglit secure at least the credit of the first disclosure.
“ The forgeries of the pandit, (Captain Wilford observes,) were of three kinds : in the “ first, a word or two only was altered. In the second, were such legends, as had under
gone a more material alteration; and in the third, all those which he had written “ from memory..
“ With regard to those of the first class, when he found that I was resolved to make « a collation of the manuscript, he began to adulterate and disfigure his own manuscript, “ mine, and the manuscripts of the college, by erasing the original name of the country, " and putting that of Egypt or of Swetam in its place.
“ To prerent my detecting those of the second class, which were not numerous, but " of the greatest importance in their nature, (and as books in India are not bound as in
Europe, and every leaf is loose,) he took out one or two leaves, and substituted others " with an adulterous legend. In books of some antiquity, it is not uncommon to see a « few new leaves inserted in the room of others that were wanting.
" To conceal the more numerous impositions of the third class, he had the patience to " write two voluminous sections, supposed to belong, one to the Scanda-Purana, and the “other to the Bramúndu, in which he connected all the legends together, in the usual style
In the 325th page of the Memoirs, the reader will find mention of an unsuccessful attempt of the Hindûs, 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
“ of the Puranas. These two sections, as he wrote them, consist of po less than 12,000 s slocas or lines, the title of which he borrowed."
The above is an extract froin Mr. Wilford's Essay, and affords a remarkable though not a singular instance of industry and ingenuity in literary forgeries. I shall only add, from the same Essay, the following lines immediately applicable 10 the passage which has occasioned my remarks.
“ A few instances of the impositions of my pandit, will exemplify his mode of proceeding. The first is a legend of the greatest importance, and is said to be extracted " from the Padma. It contains the history of Noah and his three sons, and is written “in a masterly style. But unfortunately there is not a word of it to be found in that “Purana. It is however mentioned, though in less explicit terms, in many Puranas, " and the pandit look particular care in pointing out to me several passages, which more " or less confirmed this interesting legend.” 1
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 without a considerable diminution of the respect, which their general fame has excited.
From whatever source this remark may have proceeded, or to whatever degree of truth it may be entitled, I cannot but express a solicitude, that it may 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. DILIGENTISSIMÈ. EXCVLTVM.
ERAT. INDOLES. AD. VIRTVTEM. EXIMIA, ET. IN. IVSTITIA. LIBERTATE. RELIGIONE. VINDICANDA,
ID. OMNE. SCRIPTIS . SVIS. IMMORTALIBVS,
CVM . A. PROVINCIA. BENGALA,
PER. DECENNIVM. OBIERAT,
INGRVENTIS. MORBI . VIS. OPPRESSIT,
VT. QVIBVS.IN. ÆDIBVS
IPSE. OLIM. SOCIVS. INCLARVISSET, IN. IISDEM. MEMORIA. EIVS. POTISSIMVM. CONSERVARETVR,
HONORARIVM. HOC . MONVMENTVM, ANNA. MARIA. FILIA. JONATHAN. SHIPLEY. EPIS.. ASAPH.
CONIVGI. SVO. B. . M.