Page images
PDF
EPUB

deed that I could have used them exclusively, but the paper is not altogether in a form to admit of publication. I

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 to communicate.

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

occuoccupations, 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 bave been purposely omitted in the translation, and many passages of the originals themselves have been suppressed.

T'he

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 inust request the

reader

xiii' . . 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 to print. - 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 tiines; 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.

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 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

« PreviousContinue »