« PreviousContinue »
solved to devote all my time to law, European and Indian.
The idea of your happiness, (and few men have a brighter prospect of it than yourself,) reconciles me to our approaching separation, though it must be very long: for I will not see England, while the interested factions which distract it, leave the legislature no time for the great operations which are essential for public felicity,' while patriotic virtues are derided as visionary, and while the rancour of contending parties fills with thorns those particular societies, in which I hoped to gather nothing but roses. I am sorry, (for the metaphor brings to my mind the Bustani Kheiyal *) that the garden of fancy should have as many weeds as that of politics. Surajélhak pronounced it, with emphasis, a wonderful work; and a young Mussulman assured me, that it comprised all the finest inventions of India and Persia. The work will pro. bably mend as it proceeds.
We must spare ourselves the pain of taking a formal leave: so farewell. May you live happy in a free country!-I am, &c.
The affectionate wish which concludes these extracts from the correspondence of Sir William Jones, was dictated by the circumstance of my departure from India: it has been verified; and the recollection of the place which I held in his esteem, however accompanied with regret for his
* The Garden of Fancy; the title of an Eastern romance in Persian, in sixteen quarto volumes.
death, is an additional source of that happiness, which he wished me to enjoy.
Among other literary occupations in which he employed hin,self during the two last years, it is to be noticed, that he undertook the office of editor of the elegant poem of Hatefi, on the unfortunate loves of Laili and Mujnoon, an Arabian youth and princess. The benevolent object of his labours renders them interesting, as the book was published at his own expense, with a declared appropriation of the produce of the sale, to the relief of insolvent debtors in the gaol at Calcutta.
In the English preface to the Persian work, hie has given a translation of five distichs in the measure of the original, and has shown that a bare transposition of the accents gives five Englislı couplets in the form which some call heroic, and others elegiac.--As a metrical curiosity, I first transcribe the lines in the measure of the original, with the transposed version of the couplets in the English form:
With cheeks where eternal paradise bloom'd,
Her heav'nly graces he transported vicw'd:
Love only drew the secret from each heart. It has already been mentioned, that, in the earliest periods of his education, Sir William Jones bad applied himself with uncommon assiduity to the study of prosody, and, as he advanced in the acquisition of new dialects, he continued to cultivate a knowledge of the laws of metre, which he found of the greatest utility, in ascertaining the text of Oriental authors. In the collection of his works, we read a translation of the first Neméan ode of Pindar, as nearly as possible in the same measure as the original; and, amongst other compositions of the same kind, not intended for publication, I find a translation of an ode of Sappho, word for word from the original, and syllable for syllable in the same measure, by the truest rules of English quantity.
In the beginning of 1789, the first volume of the Researches of the society was published. The selection of the papers was left to the judgment of Sir William Jones, and he undertook the labo. rious and unpleasant office of superintending the printing. A third part of the volume, the most interesting as well as instructive, is occupied by the contributions of the president.
Having passed half of my life in India, I
may be permitted to avail myself of the opportunity afforded by this publication, to vindicate my
fellow-labourers in the East, from one amongst many reproaches undeservedly bestowed
them. A disinclination to explore the literature and antiquities of Hindustan has been urged, as the natural consequence of that immoderate pursuit of riches, which was supposed to be the sole object of the servants of the East-India Company, and to engross their whole attention. The difficulty attend. ing the acquisition of new idioms, the obstacles opposed by the fears, prejudices, and the reserve of the natives, the constant occupations of official duty, and the injurious effect of sedentary application in a tropical climate upon the constitution, were unnoticed or disregarded, and no allowances made for impediments, which time and perseverance could alone surmount.
The reproach was unmerited; and long before the arrival of Sir William Jones in India, the talents of several persons there had been applied with considerable success, not only to investigations, by which the public interests were essentially assisted, but to those scientific researches, which he more effectually promoted. The art of printing had been introduced into Bengal, by the untaught skill of Mr. Wilkins, and had advanced to great perfection ; and many publications equally useful and interesting, issued from the press which he had established. LE
The genius, example, and direction of Sir William Jones, anticipated what time might perhaps have effected, but with slower progress. With advantages which no European in India possessed, he employed the ascendancy derived from his superior learning, knowledge, and abilities, to form an institution for promoting and preserving the literary labours of his countrymen ; and while he exhibited himself an example for imitation, and pointed out in his discourses, those extensive investigations wbich he only was capable of conceiving, his conduct was adapted to encourage, and invite all who possessed talents and knowledge, to contribute to the success of the institution. The establishment of the society, which does no less honour to him, than to the character of our countrymen in Asia, may hereafter form an important article in the general history of arts and sciences; and if the future labours of the members should be continued with the same zeal, the obligations of the public will be proportionably increased*. In the twenty years which have elapsed
ince this establishment was formed, more accurate information on the history and antiquities, on the arts, sciences, and literature of India, has been given to the world, than ever before appeared; and without disparaging the labours of other investigators and the merit of antecedent publica
* Three roluines of the Asiatic Researches were published before the death of Sir William Jones; a fourth was ready for the press, at the time of his demise, in April 1794, and a seventh volume has since been received in England.