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Not the least striking part of Mr. Jones’s character was an ardent love
of liberty, and a high and honourable feeling of independence in his own
person. The former was displayed in his open and fearless advocacy of
opinions calculated to close the road to preferment, such as an entire
disapprobation of the American war, and a strong feeling of the
necessity of reform in Parliament. It should also be noticed that at an
early period he denounced in energetic language the abomination of the
Slave Trade. His personal love of independence was at this time
manifested in his resolution to quit the certain road to ease and
competence which his connexion with the noble family of Spencer laid
before him, to embark in the brilliant but uncertain course of legal
adventure. Ambition was a prominent feature in Jones’s character; and it
was his hope and his earnest wish to distinguish himself in the House of
Commons as well as at the bar. He was admitted of the Middle Temple
November 19, 1770; and his Oriental studies, though not entirely
abandoned, especially at first, were thenceforth much curtailed until
the prospect of being appointed to a judicial office in India furnished
an adequate reason for the resumption of them. But he gave a proof that
his devotion to Oriental had not destroyed his taste for Grecian
learning, by publishing in 1778 a translation of the ‘Orations of
Isæus,’ relative to the laws of succession to property in Athens. The
subject appears to have interested him; for in 1782, when his attention
was again directed to the East, he published translations of two Arabian
poems; one on the Mohammedan law of succession to the property of
intestates, the other on the Mohammedan law of inheritance. About the
same time he translated the seven ancient Arabian poems, called
Moallakat, or ‘Suspended,’ because they had been hung up, in honour of
their merit, in the Temple of Mecca; and to show, perhaps, that his
attention had not been withdrawn from his immediate profession, he wrote
an ‘Essay on the Law of Bailments.’

Mr. Jones was called to the bar in 1774. Within two years’ space he
obtained a commissionership of bankrupts; by what influence does not
appear: it could not be from any professional eminence. A letter written
to Lord Althorp so early as October, 1778, intimates a wish to obtain
some judicial appointment in India, not only in consequence of the
interest which he had felt from an early age in every thing connected
with the East, but from a motive which has sent other eminent men to the
same unhealthy climate; a feeling that pecuniary independence was almost
essential to success in political life, and the hope of returning in the
prime of manhood with an honourable competence.

In 1780 Mr. Jones became a candidate to represent the University of
Oxford. His political opinions were not calculated to win the favour of
that learned body, and though respectably supported, he did not find
encouragement to warrant him in coming to a poll. From this time forward
Mr. Jones’s mind was much occupied by the thought of going to India. His
letters contain frequent allusions to the subject, and express doubt
whether, notwithstanding the personal friendship of Lord North, his own
known views of politics, especially his often and strongly-declared
reprobation of the American war, would not interfere with his obtaining
the desired promotion. The event proved him to be right, for it was not
until after the formation of the Shelburne ministry that he received
information of his appointment to a seat in the Supreme Court of
Judicature at Calcutta, March 3, 1783. For this he was indebted to the
friendship of Lord Ashburton (Mr. Dunning). The state of uncertainty in
which he was so long retained interfered considerably with his attention
to his legal practice, which was rapidly increasing. He was the more
anxious on this subject, because he had been long attached to Miss
Shipley, daughter of the Bishop of St. Asaph; and his union with her was
only deferred until professional success should place him in a fit
station to support a family. His marriage took place in April, and in
the same month he embarked for India. It remains to be noticed, that in
1782 Mr. Jones had written an essay, entitled ‘The Principles of
Government,’ in a dialogue between a farmer and country gentleman,
intended to express in a cheap and simple form his own views on
constitutional questions. This was first printed by the Society for
Constitutional Information, of which Mr. Jones was a member: it was
reprinted by his brother-in-law, the Dean of St. Asaph, who was in
consequence indicted for libel. In the prosecution which ensued, Mr.
Erskine made one of his first and most remarkable appearances, and the
series of speeches which he delivered in this case prepared the way for
the Libel Bill of 1792.

Sir William Jones arrived in Calcutta in September, and entered on his
judicial functions in December, 1783. One of his first employments was
the organization of a scientific association, under the title of the
Asiatic Society. The Governor-general, Warren Hastings, was requested to
become president; and on his declining to accept, as an honorary
distinction, an office the real duties of which he was unable to fulfil,
Sir William Jones was fitly placed at the head of that institution,
which, but for him, probably would not have existed. The transactions of
that society, under the name of ‘Asiatic Researches,’ were published
under his superintendence, and owe a large portion of their interest to
the labours of his pen. Another work, the ‘Asiatic Miscellany,’ was also
indebted to him for several valuable contributions. But the perfect
acquisition of the Sanscrit language was the chief employment of that
time which could be spared from his judicial labours; a task indeed
subsidiary to those labours, and performed with the benevolent design of
insuring to the Indian subjects of Britain a pure administration of
justice, by rendering the knowledge of their laws accessible to British
magistrates. Bound to adjudicate between the natives according to their
own native laws, and ignorant for the most part of the very language in
which those laws were written, the judges were obliged to have recourse
to native lawyers, called Pundits, who were regularly attached to the
courts as a species of assessors. Of these men Sir W. Jones, no harsh or
hasty reprover, says, “It would be unjust and absurd to pass
indiscriminate censure on so considerable a body of men; but my
experience justifies me in declaring that I could not, with an easy
conscience, concur in a decision merely on the written opinion of native
lawyers, in a case in which they could have the remotest interest in
misleading the court.” The obvious remedy was to obtain a trustworthy
digest of the Hindoo laws, which should then be accurately translated
into English. The scheme indeed had been already undertaken in part at
the desire of Mr. Hastings, by Mr. Halhed: but as the code of Hindoo
law, compiled by that gentleman, was merely a translation from a
defective Persian version of the original Sanscrit, it did not possess
the requisite correctness, or authority. It appears from Sir W. Jones’s
correspondence, that at an early period he had contemplated supplying
this great desideratum by his own labour and expense. But prudence did
not warrant such an uncalled-for act of liberality; and he addressed a
letter to Lord Cornwallis, dated March 19, 1788, in which the necessity
for such a work, and the means by which it might be executed, are fully
laid down. It was to be compiled by the Mohammedan or Hindoo lawyers,
working under the superintendence of a director and translator, who
should be qualified to check and correct intentional or careless error:
and a chief difficulty, in Sir W. Jones’s own words, was “to find a
person who, with a competent knowledge of the Sanscrit and Arabic, has a
general acquaintance with the principles of jurisprudence, and a
sufficient share even of legislative spirit, to arrange the plan of a
digest, superintend the compilation of it, and render the whole, as it
proceeds, into perspicuous English. Now (he continues), though I am
truly conscious of possessing a very moderate portion of those talents
which I should require in the superintendent of such a work, yet I may
without vanity profess myself equal to the labour of it;—and I cannot
but know that the qualifications required, even in the low degree in
which I possess them, are not often found united in the same person.”
The proposal of course was eagerly accepted. That he should have
acquired the necessary acquaintance, first with the language, then with
the law, in the space of four years and a half, is sufficiently
remarkable; and the method in which he proposed to execute it will
startle those who know the enervating influence of a tropical climate.
“I should be able,” he says, “if my health continued firm, to translate
every morning, before any other business is begun, as much as the
lawyers could compile, and the writers copy, in the preceding day.” The
quantity of work which Jones did in India was indeed astonishing; but he
was a severe economist of time, and even his hours of recreation were
rendered serviceable to the increase of knowledge. Botany especially was
a favourite pursuit of his more leisure hours; and his correspondence
with Banks and others shows at once the zeal with which, when duty would
permit, he followed that fascinating science, and the readiness with
which he communicated his own discoveries to his friends, and laboured
to answer their inquiries. Nor did he neglect poetry. Several odes to
Hindoo deities, originally published in the Asiatic Miscellany, will be
found in his works; and these, with an elegant and cultivated fancy,
display considerable power of composition. He projected a more serious
undertaking,—an epic poem, of which a Phœnician colonist of Britain was
to be the hero, and the Hindoo mythology was to furnish the machinery:
the whole being an allegorical panegyric on the British constitution,
and furnishing the character of a perfect King of England. But the
extravagant fictions of the Hindoo religion have never proved
permanently popular in an English dress; and there is no reason to
regret that this scheme never advanced beyond its first sketch. The
author made a more acceptable present to European literature in
translating ‘Sacontala, or the Fatal Ring,’ a very ancient Indian drama,
which contains a lively, simple, and pleasing picture of the manners of
Hindustan at a remote age. It is ascribed to the first century before

For a catalogue of Sir W. Jones’s works, we must refer to the edition
published by Lady Jones. We have only noticed a few of the most
important: to which are to be added, the series of anniversary
discourses addressed to the Asiatic Society, and the translation of the
‘Ordinances of Menu.’ The former, eleven in number, treat of the
History, Antiquities, Arts, &c. of Asia, and more especially of the
origin and connection of the chief nations among whom that quarter of
the globe is divided. His last work was the translation of the
‘Ordinances of Menu,’ “a system of duties” (we quote from the
translator’s preface) “religious and civil, and of law in all its
branches, which the Hindoos firmly believe to have been promulged in the
beginning of time by Menu, son or grandson of Brahma, or, in plain
language, the first of created beings, and not the oldest only, but the
holiest of legislators: a system so comprehensive, and so minutely
exact, that it may be considered as the Institutes of Hindoo law,
preparatory to the copious Digest which has lately been compiled by
Pundits of eminent learning.” This was his last work. It was begun in
1786, though not completed and published till 1794, a short time before
the author’s death.

The private history of Sir William Jones, during the period of his life
which was spent in India, affords very little scope for narration.
During his first summer he nearly fell a victim to the climate; but an
absence of seven months spent in travelling recruited his strength, and
after his return to Calcutta, in February, 1785, he seemed to be
acclimated, and suffered little from serious illness till his last fatal
attack. His domestic habits are thus described by his biographer, Lord
Teignmouth. “The largest portion of each year was devoted to his
professional duties and studies; and all the time that could be saved
from these important avocations was dedicated to the cultivation of
science and literature. While business required the daily attendance of
Sir W. Jones in Calcutta, his usual residence was on the banks of the
Ganges, at the distance of five miles from the court; to this spot he
returned every evening after sunset, and in the morning rose so early as
to reach his apartments in town by walking, at the first appearance of
the dawn. The intervening period of each morning, until the opening of
the court, was regularly allotted and applied to distinct studies. He
passed the months of vacation at his retirement at Crishnagur (a villa
about fifty miles from Calcutta) in his usual pursuits.” Those portions
of his correspondence which are preserved in Lord Teignmouth’s life may
be read with pleasure; and indeed constitute the chief interest of the
latter part of the work. Busy, tranquil, and cheerful, his life afforded
little of material for the biographer: and but for the impaired health
of his wife, his residence in India would have been one of almost
unmixed happiness. Lady Jones was compelled to embark for England in
December, 1793. The mere desire of increasing a fortune, which he
professed to find already large enough for his moderate wishes, would
not have tempted Sir William Jones to remain alone in Bengal: but he
felt an earnest desire to complete the great work on Hindoo Law, which
he had originated; and no apprehension was felt on his account, as his
constitution seemed to have become inured to the climate. But in the
following spring he was attacked by inflammation of the liver, which ran
its fatal course with unusual rapidity. He died, April 27, 1794. The
‘Digest,’ to which he had thus sacrificed his life, was completed by Mr.
Colebrooke, and published in 1800.

Blameless in his domestic relations, consistent and enlightened in his
political views, an honest and indefatigable magistrate, few men have
gone through life with more credit, or as far as it is possible to form
an opinion, with more happiness than Sir William Jones. As a scholar,
the circumstances of his life being considered, his acquirements were
extraordinary; and in this light the most remarkable feature of his
character was his singular facility in learning languages. A list,
preserved in his own handwriting, thus classes those with which he was
in any degree acquainted; they are twenty-eight in number. “Eight
languages studied critically—English, Latin, French, Italian, Greek,
Arabic, Persian, Sanscrit. Eight studied less perfectly, but all
intelligible with a dictionary—Spanish, Portuguese, German, Runic,
Hebrew, Bengali, Hindi, Turkish. Twelve studied less perfectly, but all
attainable: Thibetian, Pâli, Pahlair, Deri, Russian, Syriac, Ethiopic,
Coptic, Welsh, Swedish, Dutch, Chinese.” Besides law, which as his
profession, was his chief business through life, his writings embrace a
vast variety of subjects in the several classes of philology, botany,
zoology, poetry original and translated, political discussion,
geography, mythology, astronomy as applied to chronology, and history,
especially that of the Asiatic nations. And the praise of ‘adorning
everything that he touched’ is singularly due to him, for the elegance
of his style, and his power of throwing interest over the dry and
uncertain inquiries in which he took such delight. As far as England is
concerned, he was our great pioneer in Eastern learning; and if later
scholars, profiting in part by his labours, have found reason to dissent
from his opinions, it is to be recollected, as far as our estimate of
his powers is concerned, that most men, who have obtained eminence in
this recondite department of literature, have done so by the devotion of
their undivided powers: what Jones accomplished was performed, on the
contrary, in the intervals of those official labours, to which the best
hours and energies of his life were, as his first point of duty,
devoted. What he had meditated, if life and leisure had been granted,
may be inferred from the list of ‘Desiderata,’ which his biographer
(vol. ii., p. 301, it is not said on what authority) regards as
exhibiting his own literary projects. The following emphatic panegyric,
conceived in the warm language which affection naturally indulges in on
such an occasion, has been pronounced on him by his friend and
school-fellow, Dr. Bennet, Bishop of Cloyne. “I knew him from the early
age of eight or nine, and he was always an uncommon boy. Great
abilities, great particularity of thinking, fondness for writing verses
and plays of various kinds, and a degree of integrity and manly courage,
of which I remember many instances, distinguished him even at that
period. I loved and revered him, and though one or two years older than
he was, was always instructed by him from my earliest age. In a word, I
can only say of this wonderful man, that he had more virtues and less
faults than I ever yet saw in any human being; and that the goodness of
his head, admirable as it was, was exceeded by that of his heart. I have
never ceased to admire him from the moment I first saw him, and my
esteem for his great qualities and regret for his loss will only end
with my life.”

Due honours were paid after death to this great man. The Court of
Directors placed a statue of him in St. Paul’s cathedral; and Lady Jones
erected a monument to him in the ante-chapel of University College,
Oxford. In conformity with his own expressed opinion, that “the best
monument that can be erected to a man of literary talent, is a good
edition of his works,” she caused them to be collected and printed in
1799, in six quarto volumes. They have been reprinted in octavo. A life
of Sir William Jones was afterwards written by Lord Teignmouth, his
intimate friend in India, at Lady Jones’s request. There is a memoir in
the Annual Obituary for 1817, which is chiefly devoted to set forth the
political opinions of Sir William Jones, in a stronger light than seemed
fitting to his noble biographer.

[Illustration: [Statue of Sir W. Jones, by John Bacon, R.A., in St.


_Engraved by Rob^t. Hart._


_From an original Picture by Latour, in the possession of M. Bordes,
at Paris._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._



Jean Jacques Rousseau, the son of a watch-maker at Geneva, was born June
28, 1712. His mother dying while he was yet a child, his father took a
second wife; and he himself was placed at school at the village of
Bossey, near Geneva, where he learnt but little, and was afterwards
apprenticed to an engraver, a coarse, brutal man, whose treatment of him
tended to sour a temper already wilful and morose. He became addicted to
idleness, pilfering, and lying. The fear of punishment for some act of
especial misconduct induced him to run away from his master, and he
wandered into Savoy, where finding himself totally destitute, he applied
to the Bishop of Annecy, on the plea of wishing to be instructed in the
Catholic religion. The bishop recommended him to Madame de Warens, a
Swiss lady, herself a convert to Catholicism, who lived at Annecy. She
received the boy kindly, relieved his present wants, and afforded him
the means of proceeding to Turin, where he entered the College of
Catechumens, and after going through a preparatory course of
instruction, abjured the reformed religion, and became a Catholic. But
as he refused to enter into holy orders, on leaving the college he was
again thrown upon his own resources. He became a domestic servant; but
his want of self-control and discretion rendered him very unfit for his
employment: and in 1730 he returned to the house of Madame de Warens,
who received him kindly, and afforded him support and protection during
the next ten years. Of his foolish, profligate, and ungrateful course of
life during this period, we have neither space nor wish to give an
account: after many absences, and many returns, Rousseau quitted her
finally in 1740, receiving letters of introduction to some persons at
Lyons. Tutor, musician, and private secretary to the French Ambassador,
his restless temper and versatile mind led him successively from Lyons
to Paris and Venice. From the last-named city he returned to Paris in
1745; and alighting at an obscure inn, met with a servant girl, Therese
Levasseur, with whom he formed a connexion which lasted all the rest of
his life. He tried to compose music for the stage, but did not succeed
in his attempts. He was next employed as a clerk in the office of M.
Dupin, Fermier-général, but did not remain long in his new employment.
In 1748 he became acquainted with Madame d’Epinay, who proved afterwards
one of his steadiest and kindest friends. He frequented the society also
of D’Alembert, Diderot, and Condillac, and he was engaged to write the
articles on music for the Encyclopédie, which he did very ill, as he
himself acknowledges. One day he saw by chance in an advertisement, that
a prize had been offered by the Academy of Dijon, for the best essay on
the question, Whether the progress of sciences and of the arts has been
favourable to the morals of mankind? He at once resolved to write for
the prize, and apparently without having ever before considered the
subject, made up his mind to take the negative side of the question.
Diderot encouraged, but did not, as has been commonly said, originate
this determination. He supported his position, that science, literature,
and art, have been fatal to the virtues and happiness of mankind, with a
glowing eloquence; and the Academy awarded him the prize. His success
confirmed him in a turn for paradox and exaggeration; and he seems to
have adopted, as a general principle, the doctrine that the extreme
opposite to wrong must necessarily be right. At the same time his
reputation as an author became established, and in a few years after his
first essay, he was acknowledged to be one of the most, or rather the
most, eloquent writer among his contemporaries. Meantime he persevered
in his attempts at musical composition, and wrote ‘Le Devin du Village,’
an opera which was played before the king at the Court Theatre of
Fontainebleau, and met with the royal approbation. Rousseau was in one
of the boxes with a gentleman belonging to the court. The king having
expressed a desire to see the composer of the opera, Rousseau became
alarmed or ashamed at the slovenly condition of his dress, and instead
of repairing to the royal presence, he ran out of the house and hastened
back to Paris. Naturally shy, he possessed neither ease of manners nor
facility of address, and he could never throughout life subdue his own
acute feeling of these deficiencies; a feeling which of course tended to
perpetuate and increase his awkwardness. This was the secret spring of
most of his eccentricities. In order to hide his imperfections, he
resorted to the plan of affecting to disregard manners altogether; he
put on the appearance of a cynic, of a misanthropist, which he was not
in reality.

It was about the year 1750, soon after writing his dissertation for the
Dijon prize, that he made a total change in his habits and mode of
living. He gave up all refinement about his dress, laid aside his sword,
bag, and silk stockings, sold his watch, but kept his linen apparel,
which, however, was stolen from him shortly after. He spent one half of
the day in copying music as a means of subsistence, and he found
constant employment. Several persons who knew his circumstances offered
him three or four times the value of his labour, but he would never
accept more than the usual remuneration. In 1753 he wrote his ‘Lettre
sur la Musique Française,’ in which he asserted that the French had no
music deserving the name, that they could not possibly have any, and

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