Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

We are inclined to attribute to the author himself some lines which he gives as having been found worked on a little girl's first sampler at Ingleton-beautiful lines, with which we shall close our citations :

• Jesus, permit thy gracious name to stand
As the first effort of an infant's hand;
And as her fingers on the sampler move,
Engage her tender heart to seek thy love ;
With thy dear children may she have a part,

And write thy name thyself upon her heart.' — vol. ii., p. 136. We much regret that we have not room for the love-story which fills the last chapters of volume second. We have no hesitation, however, in saying that it is the sweetest love-story that has been printed for many a day in the English tongue--every sentence in it breathes freshness of heart and purity of mind, and all is perfect homely simplicity, both in the thought and the expression. This jewel would alone make an enviable reputation.

Be this author who he may, the names which conjecture has banded about in connexion with his work imply, all and each of them, a strong impression of the ability and erudition which it evinces. At first, suspicion lighted almost universally, we believe, on the Poet Laureate himself; and certainly the moral, political, and literary doctrines of the book are such, in the main, as might have countenanced such a notion—nor do we hesitate to

pay

the language of the book the extraordinary compliment of saying that much of it also might have done even Mr. Southey no discredit; but surely, of all the gross errors, both in the conception and in the execution, to which we have already alluded, the least could never have been supposed to have come from him,-unless, perhaps, in some merely juvenile prolusion, casually dug up out of a long-forgotten cabinet ; and their catalogue contains some items which even that theory could never have reconciled us to affiliate upon him. Of the real author of the work we happen to know he is ignorant; so we may spare ourselves further speculation on this head. Mr. Frere, who has also been not unfrequently talked of, must have changed many of his opinions in these latter days, if he has had any hand in “ The Doctor;' but the comparative poverty of classical learning (strictly so called) in the book, is to us sufficient proof that it is none of his. Mr. D'Israeli, too, has been much mentioned; but that delightful and instructive writer, though he might have supplied all, and more than all, the learning of this odd work, could neither have reached the elegant clearness and precision of its style, nor condescended to affect certain feelings most beautifully and cordially expressed therein, and towards which, unfortunately for the world, his avowed works

exhibit, exhibit, at best, a semi-poetical sort of respect. We confess that of all our distinguished contemporaries the one upon whom we ourselves were at first most inclined to fasten · The Doctor,' was Sir Egerton Brydges; but this guess was soon overturned by abuse of Lord Byron (whom no one has praised more eloquently than Sir Egerton)-by just, but highly expressed laudation of Sir Egerton himself—and lastly, alas! by the frequent recurrence of passages indicating a happy and serene temper of mind, which, if Sir Egerton Brydges had possessed, he must long ere now have been one of the most popular, as well as, what no adequate judge of his writings can hesitate to pronounce him, one of the most elegantly accomplished and profoundly reflective authors of his age. A whisper seems now to be gaining ground that the book before us is in truth a joint-stock performance—but that the larger share belongs to Mr. Hartley Coleridge, of whose exquisite Sonnets we gave some specimens in a recent Number of this Journal. This may or may not be the fact—the gentleman's residence in Yorkshire has perhaps been enough to start a provincial rumour, which, should it be unfounded, he can have little reason to resent. Indeed, if The Doctor' should prove at length to be a new candidate for literary fame, the names we have been reciting and rejecting will sufficiently attest the universal feeling that he, with all his defects, has been fully entitled to claim his degrees in cumulo.

Art.V.-Memoirs of the Emperor Jahangueir, written by himself;

and translated from a Persian Manuscript. By Major David Price, of th." Bombay Army; Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland ; of the Oriental Translation Committee; and of the Royal Society of Literature.

4to. pp. 141. London. 1829. IT. T seems to be even as yet hardly known to the public at large, that

a committee of persons of great learning and eminence, most of them members of the Royal Asiatic Society, have been engaged, during the last four or five years, in giving to the world English

and French translations from manuscripts in the Arabian, Persian, Cingalese, and other oriental languages. Supported by a list of subscribers, which, though not as numerous as we could wish, comprises the names of several individuals of the highest distinction in the country, they have been already enabled to produce upwards of thirty volumes connected with some branches of science, and almost every department of literature. We have treatises on algebra and geography, narratives of travels, memoirs, histories, romances, tragedies, epic and lyric poems, sketches of national customs, and precepts of religion and morality. Whatever may be thought of the intrinsic value of some of these publications, it cannot be doubted that the zeal and liberality of the gentlemen, by whose exertions they have been collected and printed, are deserving of unqualified praise. Though hitherto uncheered even by the barren reward of popularity, Lord Munster and his colleagues have steadily persevered in the execution of an enterprise, which cannot ultimately fail to promote the interests of sound knowledge, and to reflect honour upon the national character.

The stores of Eastern literature, which are deposited in public and private libraries in England and France, and in the hands of Arabian, Hindoo, and Persian families, may be said, without exaggeration, to be inexhaustible. They are of course of various degrees of merit : but, excluding works on astronomy, mathematics, and medicine, which the greater progress of Europe in those sciences has rendered obsolete, it is known that there are amongst those manuscript collections many compositions of considerable interest and importance. Accomplished scholars and travellers, who have had access to those treasures, report that they comprehend volumes on ecclesiastical history and divinity, written by the fathers of the Syrian and Arabian churches, which illustrate the progress of Christianity during the earlier centuries of its existence; that they also include some valuable disquisitions on grammar and rhetoricand numerous works of fiction, not excelled by those of a similar class which have been already rendered familiar to us in every polished language of Europe. Histories of the Crusades, exhibiting minute details of wars, which, however mistaken in their origin, will never cease to captivate the attention of mankind, are also said to abound in the East, and to be well entitled to a wider sphere of celebrity. The treatise of Apollonius Pergæus, on conic sections, which was brought to Europe by Golius, and translated by Halley, was preserved from the ruins of Greek literature by a learned Arabian, who was employed for the purpose by the court of Bagdad. It is not, perhaps, visionary to suppose, that some others of the long-lost works of ancient Greece may yet be found among the versions, which are known to have been executed under the protection of the same authority during the enlightened and memorable period of the Caliphate.

To explore these sources of literature and science, and to render them available to the civilized world, is the very laudable ambition of the committee appointed to manage the subscriptions which are contributed to the Oriental Fund. This country ought to feel particularly interested in the results of their labours, from the inti

mate

VOL. LI, NO, CI.

H

mate and most momentous connexion which it has with more than a hundred millions of the Asiatic people. We have, by the prowess of our arms and the moral transcendency of our reputation for enterprise and good faith, extended our sway from an insignificant factory over the fairest portion of India. The vast communities living within our dominions have been committed to our care by Providence; we are responsible for their education, their gradual enlightenment in the duties of religion, their political safety, and the amelioration of their personal condition. But the benefits which we can confer upon them must necessarily be very limited, until we become more generally acquainted with their various dialects, and the productions of their own authors, whom they hold in universal esteem. We possess facilities, it is needless to say, for the acquisition of the Asiatic languages, as well as of the works which they contain, that belong to no other nation, Of these facilities it is our duty, and it ought to be our pride, to make a generous use; it is a stain upon the literary character of our country, that, in a public point of view, we have so long treated them with neglect-a stain, however, which the Oriental Fund committee will, we trust, eventually remove. They hold out suitable rewards to translators, and we are particularly pleased to observe that, in some instances, they propose to give the original text, with a view to furnish students, at a moderate price, with copies of the best Asiatic productions, to which they might not otherwise have access. Nor do the committee limit their researches to the languages which we have above mentioned ; their operations extend also to the Sanscrit, the Chinese, Pali, Burmese, to the tongues of Thibet, Tartary, and Turkey, the Malayan and other dialects of the Eastern archipelago, as well as to those of Hindostan, and the southern peninsula of India.

We are not surprised at the comparative indifference with which the publications of the committee have been hitherto received by all our reading classes of society, as we cannot but be aware that, notwithstanding all the efforts which have been made since the time of Sir William Jones, both at home and abroad, for the purpose of soliciting attention to the beauties of Oriental composition, there is not, even now, any very general relish in this country for that species of literature. It should, however, be observed that with the exception of papers communicated to the Asiatic and other societies, and printed among their Transactions--of which the public in general have no knowledge whatever--the labours of authors who have translated from the Oriental languages, and published at their own risk, were confined principally to poetical pieces which they deemed most likely to prove popular. But these calculations turned out to be erroneous, chiefly because those productions teemed with allusions to systems of religion, in which, from their multiplicity and obscurity, English readers found no sort of interest. They have not yet learned the names of half the gods and goddesses who figure in Hindoo poetry. They feel no desire to gain an accurate acquaintance, even were it possible, with the sabled incarnations, the alleged respective attributes of those per: sonages, and the infinite variety of rites and ceremonies which are blended with their worship.

turned

The · Arabian Nights' made their way amongst us at once, because, in addition to stories of enchantment which interest the young, they exhibit a true picture of life and manners which comes home to the bosoms of men in whatever climate they breathe. There is very little of the sectarian peculiarities of religion in those immortal tales. The presiding care of a beneficent Providence they uniformly acknowledge; they treat as an opposing and formidable power the spirit of evil, and they assign to both subordinate agents, who, under the forms of propitious or malignant genii, manage all the affairs of the world. This is a system easily comprehended, and the exciting character of the incidents constituting a majority of these stories easily reconciles us to the marvellous machinery by which they are conducted. But the poetry of Persia and India, so far at least as it has been made known to this country by private translators, is full of a race of deities for whom we have neither love nor fear. The style in which the original compositions are framed is so florid, that even the best versions of them are mere paraphrases, our language not supplying the materials for such exaggerated and perpetual decoration. Their addresses to our fancy seldom kindle the imagination ; their appeals to our passions still more rarely touch the heart. We have on a former occasion, however, entered so largely into this subject, that we need not resume it here.

The Oriental Committee have had the good taste to avoid as much as it was possible productions overladen with exotics, which are not likely to live in our climate. There are at least a few of their publications to which we should wish to invite the attention of our readers, under the hope that we may assist the committee in dispelling the prejudices which at present prevail in the public mind against Eastern literature. Of these works, two were briefly analyzed in a late number of our Journal-but that now before us, entitled • Memoirs of the Emperor Jahangueir,' or Jehangire as he is called by Dow, is perhaps the most curious one of the collection. It is unfortunately but a fragment, relating only to thirteen out of the twenty-two years during

H 2

which

« AnteriorContinuar »