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LIFE, WRITINGS, AND CORRESPONDENCE,
SIR WILLIAM JONES.
THE origin of the family of Sir WILLIAM JONES, on the maternal side, has been traced, by the industry of Lewis Morris, a learned British antiquary, to the ancient princes and chieftains of North Wales. With whatever delight, however, the Cambrian genealogist might peruse the line of his ancestry, a barren catalogue of uncouth names would furnish no entertainment to the reader. I shall only transcribe from the list, a single and remarkable name in one of the collateral branches, that of William o Dregaian, who died in one thousand five hundred and eighty one, at the advanced age of one hundred and five years, with the note annexed to it, that, by three wives, he had thirty-six children, seven more by two concubines, and that eighty of his issue, during his life, were living in the parish of Tregaian, in Anglesey.
But I insert, without apology for the anticipation, a letter addressed by Mr. Morris to the father of Sir William Jones, as an interesting memorial of an ancient custom which is daily falling into disuse, and a pleasing specimen of the mind and talents of the writer.
To William Jones, Esquire.
January 1, 1748.
It was a custom among the Ancient Britons (and still retained in Anglesey) for the most knowing among them, in the descent of families, to send their friends of the same stock or family, a dydd calan Ionawr a calennig, a present of their pedigree; which was in order, I presume, to keep up a friendship among relations, which these people preserved surprisingly, and do to this day among the meanest of them, to the sixth and seventh degree.
Some writers take notice that the Gauls also were noted for this affection and regard for their own people, though ever so distantly related. These things to be sure are trifles; but all other things in the world are trifles too.
I take men's bodies in the same sense as I take vegetables. Young trees, propagated by seed or grafts from a good old tree, certainly owe some regard to their primitive stock, provided trees could act and think; and as, for my part, the very thought of those brave people, who struggled so long with a superior power for their liberty, inspires me with such an idea of them, that I almost adore their memories. Therefore, to keep up that old laudable custom, I herewith send you a calennig of the same kind as that above mentioned, which I desire you will accept of.
I have reason to know, it is founded on good authority; for both my father and mother were related to your mother, and came from the same stock mentioned in the inclosed, which is the reason I am so well acquainted with your mother's descent; and on the same account, till further enquiry, an utter stranger to your father's family.
As you were young when you left the country, it cannot be supposed that you could know much of these things. I have had too much time there; I wish I had not; for I might have applied it to better use than I have. If this gives you any pleasure, I shall be glad of it; if not, commit it to the flames; and believe me to be with truth and sincerity, &c.
Leaving the genealogical splendor of the family of Sir William Jones to the contemplation of the antiquarian, it may be remarked, with pleasure, that its latest descendants have a claim to reputation, founded upon the honourable and unambiguous testimony of personal merit. His father was the celebrated philosopher and mathematician, who so eminently distinguished himself in the commencement of the last century; and a short, but more accurate, sketch of his life than has hitherto appeared, which I am enabled to give from the authority of his son, may be acceptable to the lovers of science.
Mr. William Jones was born in the year 1680, in Anglesey; his parents were yeomen, or little farmers, on that island; and he there received the best education which they were able to afford; but the industrious exertion of vigorous intellectual powers supplied the defects of inadequate instruction, and laid the foundation of his future fame and fortune. From his earliest years, Mr. Jones discovered a propensity to mathematical studies; and having cultivated them with assiduity, he began his career in life by teaching mathematics on board a man of war; and in this situation he attracted the notice, and obtained the friendship, of Lord Anson. In his twenty-second year, Mr. Jones published a Treatise on the Art of Navigation, which was received with
great approbation. He was present at the capture of Vigo, in 1702, and having joined his comrades in quest of pillage, he eagerly fixed upon a bookseller's shop, as the object of his depredation; but finding in it no literary treasures, which were the sole plunder that he coveted, he contented himself with a pair of scissars, which he frequently exhibited to his friends, as a trophy of his military success, relating the anecdote by which he gained it. He returned with the fleet to England, and immediately afterwards established himself as a teacher of mathematics, in London, where, at the age of twentysix, he published his Synopsis Palmariorum Mathescos; a decisive proof of his early and consummate proficiency in his favourite science.
The private character of Mr. Jones was respectable, his manners were agreeable and inviting; and these qualities not only contributed to enlarge the circle of his friends, whom his established reputation for science had attracted, but also to secure their attachment to him.
Amongst others who honoured him with their esteem, I am authorized to mention the great and virtuous Lord Hardwicke. Mr. Jones attended him as a companion on the circuit when he was chief justice; and this nobleman, when he afterwards held the great seal, availed himself of the opportunity to testify his regard for the merit and character of his friend, by conferring upon him the office of secretary for the peace. He was also introduced to the friendship of Lord Parker (afterwards president of the Royal Society), which terminated only with his death; and amongst other distinguished characters in the annals of science and literature, the names of Sir Isaac Newton, Halley, Mead, and Samuel Johnson, may be enumerated as the intimate friends of Mr. Jones.... By Sir Isaac Newton he was treated with particular regard and confidence, and prepared, with his assent, the
very elegant edition of small tracts on the higher mathematics, in a mode which obtained the approbation, and increased the esteem, of the author for him.
After the retirement of Lord Macclesfield to Sherborne Castle, Mr. Jones resided with his lordship as a member of his family, and instructed him in the sciences. In this situation he had the misfortune to lose the greatest part of his property, the accumulation of industry and economy, by the failure of a banker; but the friendship of Lord Macclesfield diminished the weight of the loss, by procuring for him a sinecure place of considerable emolument. The same nobleman, who was then Teller of the Exchequer, made him an offer of a more lucrative situation; but he declined the acceptance of it; as it would have imposed upon him the obligation of more official attendance than was agreeable to his temper, or compatible with his attachment to scientific pursuits.
In this retreat he became acquainted with Miss Mary Nix, the youngest daughter of George Nix, a cabinetmaker in London; who, although of low extraction, had raised himself to eminence in his profession, and, from the honest and pleasant frankness of his conversation, was admitted to the tables of the great, and to the intimacy of Lord Macclesfield. The acquaintance of Mr. Jones with Miss Nix terminated in marriage; and from this union sprang three children, the last of whom, the late Sir William Jones, was born in London, on the eve of the festival of St. Michael, in the year 1746; and, a few days after his birth, was baptized by the Christian name of his father. The first son, George, died in his infancy; and the second child, a daughter, Mary, who was born in 1736, married Mr. Rainsford, a merchant, retired from business, in opulent circumstances. This