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rational; that substantial freedom is both the daughter and parent of virtue; and that virtue is the only source of public and private felicity.”
In December, 1783, Sir William Jones took his seat on the bench, and delivered his first charge to the grand jury. Lord Teignmouth tells us that the publicthat is, the English community—had formed a high estimate of his oratorical powers, and that they were not disappointed. His address, we are told, was concise, graceful, and appropriate. He expounded his principles and sentiments with manly candour, but in a conciliatory manner; and from the known sincerity of his character, it was felt that his promises would not fail in the act of performance. Alluding with tact and good taste to the dissensions that at no remote period had unhappily prevailed between the executive and the judicial bench in Bengal, he showed that they ought to have been and might be avoided; that the functions of both were distinct, and could be exercised without risk of collision in promoting what should be the common object—the public good.
In the following year, his health becoming affected by the climate and his excessive application to his many duties, Sir William went on a tour through various parts of India, in the course of which he wrote “The Enchanted Fruit, or the Hindu Wife,” a tale in verse, and a “Treatise on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India.” On his return he resumed his official duties with characteristic earnestness; but he seems always to have been a valetudinarian. Nothing, however, was allowed to interfere with his indefatigable pursuit of knowledge, or his eager desire to benefit the teeming millions of India. He planned a grand “Digest of Hindu and Mohammedan
Laws,” on the model of Justinian's celebrated code; and the plan baving been approved by the Governor-General, he superintended its execution by native lawyers, devoting nearly the whole of his leisure to its advancement. To develop among the Anglo-Indian public a love of oriental literature, he founded the Asiatic Society, of which he was the first president. In order that he might investigate the principles of the Hindu law, without a servile dependence on the statements of the Pandects, he applied himself to the study of Sanskrit. To the Asiatic Miscellany, a periodical published at Calcutta, he contributed several translations, essays, and original poems.
His energy was inexhaustible, and his activity ceaseless. It was impossible for bim to desist from doing while there was anything to be done. Writing to a friend, he says :—“My private life is similar to that which you remember. Seven hours a-day, on an average, are occupied by my duties as a magistrate, and one hour is given to the new Indian Digest. For an hour in the evening I read aloud to Lady Jones.” are reminded of the division of time he suggests in the couplet which he improved from Sir Edward Coke. Coke wrote :
“Six hours in sleep, in law's grave study six,
Four spend in prayer, the rest on nature fix."
Sir William Jones laid down a wiser rule :
“ Seven hours to law, to soothing slumber seven,
Ten to the world allot, and all to heaven.”
In 1789 he translated the famous Indian drama of "Sakontala, or the Fatal Ring," which supplies us with some interesting pictures of Hindu characteristics and
This translation of Kalidasa's great dramatic poem has been to some extent superseded by Professor Monier Williams's; but it deserves to be ever held in respectful remembrance as the starting-point of Sanskrit philology in Europe. To Sir William Jones belongs the credit which is always ascribed to the pioneer who opens up a new path to man's intellectual enterprise.
Three years later, in pursuance of his great object of adapting the European administration of justice in India to the forms and principles of the old Indian laws, he published a translation of the “Ordinances of Menu." This great work is something more than a system of jurisprudence; it is also a system of cosmogony, an exposition of the art of government, and a treatise upon metaphysics. It is divided into twelve books, which treat respectively of—1. Creation; 2. Education, and the duties of a pupil, or the first order ; 3. Marriage, and the duties of a householder, or the second order; 4. Means of subsistence, and the morals of the individual ; 5. Diet, purification, and the duties of women ; 6. Duties of an anchorite and an ascetic, or the third and fourth orders; 7. Government, and the duties of a king and the military caste; 8. Judicature and law, private and criminal; 9. Duties of the commercial and servile castes; 10. Mixed castes, and the duties of the castes in time of distress ; 11. Penance and expiation ; and 12. Transmigration and final beatitude.
In December, 1793, Lady Jones, by the impaired condition of her health, was compelled to return to England, leaving her husband to complete the “Digest,” and then to join her in the happy rural retreat which his imagination, weary of its old ambitions, had pictured to him as the home of his later years. But this was not to be. One evening, in April, 1794, after remaining imprudently in the open air till a late hour, he called upon his friend, Sir John Shore (afterwards Lord Teignmouth), and complained of aguish symptoms. These, unfortunately, were found to indicate the existence of inflammation of the liver, when, two or three days afterwards, medical advice was obtained. His enfeebled constitution could not resist the disease ; it ran its course with increased swiftness; and on the 27th of April proved fatal.
On the morning of that day, his attendants, alarmed at the signs of approaching dissolution, hastened to summon Lord Teignmouth to the bedside of his friend. He found him lying on his bed in a posture of meditation, and the sole indication of lingering life was a small degree of action in the heart: this, after a few seconds, ceased, and he expired without a pang or groan. From the complacency of his features, and the ease of his position, it was evident that he had suffered little ; and no doubt he had found consolation from those sources where he had always been accustomed to seek it, —where alone, as we pass through the valley of the shadow, we can hope to find it successfully.
Sir William Jones, at the time of his death, was only forty-eight years old. But of his short life he had made admirable use. He had devoted himself to the acquisition of knowledge from no selfish motives. He had made it a means of advancing the cause of civilisation and human progress. His sympathies were always with right and justice and freedom ; his mind was as pure and as lofty as his life. Those last lines of Berkeley's “ Siris," of which he was so fond—“He that would make a real progress in knowledge must dedicate his age as well as youth, the latter growth as well as the first-fruits, at the altar
of Truth "*
-seem to me the exact epitome, as it were of his career; or rather, I should say, perhaps, they gave its keynote. Truth was his guiding-star, his inspiration. In every relation of life, and in every capacity, he commanded esteem by his rectitude of conduct and loftiness of purpose.
As a judge, his inflexible integrity was long remembered in Calcutta, both by Europeans and natives.
“So cautious was he,” says Lord Teignmouth, "to guard the independence of his character from any possibility of violation or imputation, that no solicitation could prevail upon him to use his personal influence with the members of administration in India to advance the private interests of friends whom he esteemed, and which he would have been happy to promote. He knew the dignity and felt the importance of his office, and, convinced that none could afford him more ample scope for exerting his talents for the benefit of mankind, his ambition never extended beyond it.”
As a linguist, Sir William Jones has been surpassed by few. He acquired a complete critical knowledge of eight languages : English, Latin, French, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit. Eight more he knew less perfectly, but could read with some small assistance from a dictionary Spanish, Portuguese, German, Runic, Hebrew, Bengali, Hindu, and Turkish. And with twelve others he had a varying degree of acquaintance— Tibetan, Pati, Phalari, Deri, Russian, Syrian, Ethiopic, Coptic,
* This sentence is the germ of the following lines by Sir William Jones :
“Before thy mystic altar, heavenly Truth,
I kneel in manhood as I knelt in youth ;