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'How quickly fades the vital flow'r !
'Can zeal drear Pluto's wrath restrain?
His hallow'd shrine with blood,
In vain, my Parnell, wrapt in ease,
Our house, our land, our shadowy grove,
Ah me, we soon must leave!
Their fragrance o'er our grave.
From the school at Harrow, and the affectionate tuition of Dr. Sumner, our pupil, in his seventeenth year, removed to Oxford; in which university, after a few months residence, he was unanimously elected one of the four scholars on the foundation of sir Simon Bennett, " to whose munificence he was ever proud to acknowledge his obligations." Here he pursued his studies with indefatigable labour, and especially directed them to a knowledge of the Hebrew, Arabic, and Persic tongues; while, during the vacations, he acquired at home a sufficient acquaintance with the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese; and, as well for the sake of health as external accomplishments, attended the schools of Angelo for a knowledge of riding and fencing. At the age of nineteen he received, through the interest of Dr. Shipley, who only knew him from several of his juvenile compositions, an invitation to become private tutor to lord Althorpe, now earl Spencer,
who was then but seven years old: an invitation which he cheerfully accepted, and which laid the first foundation for his connexion with Dr. Shipley's family. In the course of the ensuing summer he was moreover fortunate enough to be elected fellow on sir Simon Bennett's foundation; so that he now found himself sufficiently well provided for to refrain from any farther trespass on the limited income of his mother, as well as to refuse the post of interpreter for Eastern languages, which was at this period offered him by the duke of Grafton, then at the head of the treasury.
When lord Althorpe repaired to Spa, for the benefit of his health, Mr. Jones accompanied him, and there improved himself in the German language. On his return home, with an insatiable desire of being accomplished in every science as well as polite art, he applied himself to the Welsh harp, under Evans, and to dancing, under Gallini; in the latter pursuit he acquired considerable grace; but the former he soon relinquished, from ignorance of the principles of music, and want of time to make himself master of them. During this period he first laid his hands on Fortescue's Treatise on the Laws of England, which gave him the earliest idea of studying general law as a profession; and in which he would probably at this moment have made a more rapid progress, had he not been diverted from all farther prosecution of this subject for the present by the circumstance that induced him to undertake the laborious, and we may add unprofitable, translation of the Life of Nadir Shah, written not more than twelve years antecedently in the Persic tongue by Mirza Mohammed Mahadi Kahn de Mazenderan. The whole of this transaction is explained so much more at large in the biography before us than in any account hitherto communicated to the public, that we shall offer no apology for relating it in the noble author's own words.
The king of Denmark, upon a visit to this country, had brought with him an eastern manuscript, containing the life of Nadir Shah, which he was desirous of having translated in England. The secretary of state, with whom the Danish minister had conversed upon the subject, sent the volume to Mr. Jones, requesting him to give a literal translation of it in the French language; but he wholly declined the task, alleging for his excuse the dryness of the subject, the difficulty of the style, and chiefly his want both of leisure and ability to enter upon an undertaking so fruitless and laborious. He mentioned, however, a gentleman, with whom he was not then acquainted, but who had distinguished himself by the translation of a Persian history, and some popular tales from the Persic, as capable of gratifying the wishes of his Danish majesty. Major Dow, the writer alluded to, excused himself on account of his numerous engagements; and the application to Mr. Jones was renewed. It was hinted, that his com
pliance would be of no small advantage to him, at his entrance into life; that it would procure him some mark of distinction, which would be pleasing to him; and above all, that it would be a reflection upon this country, if the king should be obliged to carry the manuscript into France. Incited by these motives, and principally the last, unwilling to be thought churlish or morose, and eager for reputation, The undertook the work, and sent a specimen of it to his Danish majesty; who returned his approbation of the style and method, but desired that the whole translation might be perfectly literal, and the oriental images accurately preserved. The task would have been far easier to him, if he had been directed to finish it in Latin; for the acquisition of a French style was infinitely more tedious, and it was necessary to have every chapter corrected, by a native of France, before it could be offered to the discerning eye of the public; since in every language there are certain peculiarities of idiom, and nice shades of meaning, which a foreigner can never attain to perfection. The work, however arduous and unpleasant, was completed in a year, not without repeated hints from the secretary's office, that it was expected with great impatience by the court of Denmark. The translation was not, however, published until 1770. Forty copies upon large paper were sent to Copenhagen; one of them, bound with uncommon elegance, for the king himself, and the others as presents to his courtiers.
Such were the circumstances which induced him (as he modestly observed) against his inclinations, to describe the life of a conqueror ; and to appear in public as an author, before a maturity of judgment had made him see the danger of the step. If (to quote his own words) he had reflected on the little solid glory which a man reaps from ac quiring a name in literature, on the jealousy and envy which attend such an acquisition, on the distant reserve which a writer is sure to meet with from the generality of mankind, and on the obstruction which a contemplative habit gives to our hopes of being distinguished in active life; if all or any of these reflections had occurred to him, he would not have been tempted by any consideration to enter upon 50 invidious and thankless a career. But, as Tully says, he would have considered, before he embarked, the nature and extent of his voyage: now, since the sails are spread, the vessel must take its course.
What marks of distinction he received, or what fruits he reaped from his labours, he thought it would ill become him to mention at the head of a work, in which he professed to be the historian of others, and not of himself; but to repel the false assertions which appeared in an advertisement on this subject in the public papers, containing a most unjust reflection on the king of Denmark, he considered it a duty imposed on him by the law of justice and gratitude to point out, at the beginning of his translation, the honourable testimony of regard which his majesty, Christian VII, sent publicly to London, a few months after the receipt of the work, together with the letter of thanks which he returned for so signal a token of his favour. From these documents, it appears that his Danish majesty sent to him a diploma, constituting him a member of the Royal Society of Copenhagen, and recommended him, in the strongest terms, to the favour and benevolence of his own sovereign.' P.39.
To the value of these high and flattering honours our ingenuous translator could not be insensible; but whether, unaccompanied as we yet believe them to have been with more solid proofs of esteem, they were altogether sufficient, in the estimation of the translator himself, to repay him for the labour of a whole twelvemonth upon a subject on many accounts irksome to him, his biographer does not undertake to inform us; we therefore, influenced by the same profound respect for royal patrons as himself, shall not venture a suggestion. Money, however, is what he expressly declared he did not wish for; but he certainly aspired at some profitable as well as honorary marks of royal approbation.
It was about this time that he became acquainted with the baron Reviczki, a name dear to every lover of oriental literature, who was now in England in the character of Imperial ambassador; and who, in consequence of a former diplomatic engagement at Constantinople, had acquired a correct knowledge of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish. The acquaintance was soon converted into a close and durable friendship, and appears to have been productive of as much literary utility to Mr. Jones as it was of private pleasure. The letters which passed between them were numerous, and many of them are preserved in the volume before us they are chiefly upon oriental subjects, and highly as well as mutually, complimentary. The greater part of those which are furnished by Mr. Jones are written from situations calculated, as one would suppose, to afford him other topics of intercourse than oriental poetry; for they are dated from different parts of Italy, France, and Germany, during a tour over the continent in company with the family of his noble pupil; yet we have scarcely the slightest observation on the nature of the countries through which he passed, or on the customs and characters of the different nations: all is oriental literature, every passage manifests an intolerable listlessness to the beautiful scenery by which he must of necessity have been often surrounded, and a long and unceasing desire to return to the dark and dusty retreat of the Bodleian library.
His friends, however, were not satisfied with his pursuits; they were not satisfied with the narrow sphere to which, as tutor in a family, his splendid and commanding talents were circumscribed: they wished to behold him abandon the unprofitable haunts of the Persian muses for a lucrative proission, and to exchange the contracted employments of a private tutor for the high road of public honour. The law was seriously proposed and pressed upon him, and he at Jength acquiesced. Yet he acquiesced with reluctance: and
his feelings are thus freely unbosomed to his confidential friend Reviczki in a letter written to him at this period.
On my late return to England I found myself entangled, as it were, in a variety of important considerations. My friends, companions, relations, all attacked me with urgent solicitations to banish poetry and oriental literature for a time, and apply myself to oratory and the study of the law; in other words, to become a barrister, and pursue the track of ambition. Their advice in truth was conformable to my own inclinations; for the only road to the highest stations in this country is that of the law, and I need not add how ambitious and laborious I am. Behold me then become a lawyer, and expect in future that my correspondence will have somewhat more of public business in it. But if ever it should be my fortune to have any share in administration, you shall be my Atticus, the partner of my plans, the confidant of my secrets. Do not, however, suppose that I have altogether renounced polite literature. I intend shortly to publish my English poems; and I mean to bring my tragedy of Soliman on the stage, when I can find proper actors for the performance of it. I intend also composing an epic poem, on a noble subject, under the title of Britanneis; but this I must defer until I have more leisure, with some degree of independence. In the mean time I amuse myself with the choicest of the Persian poets; and I have the good fortune to possess many manuscripts, which I have either purchased or borrowed from my friends, on various subjects, including history, philosophy, and some of the most celebrated poetry of Persia.' P. 92.
In another letter to the same correspondent, written three quarters of a year afterwards, we find him thus equally a prey to his passion for oriental studies.
What news from Turkey? no mention of peace? Whenever the war with Russia is at an end, I propose making an open and direct application for the office of minister at Constantinople; at present I can only privately whisper my wishes. The king is very well disposed towards me; so perhaps are the men in power; and the Turkish Company wish much to oblige me: all that I have to apprehend is the appearance of some powerful competitor, who may drive me off the stage. If I should succeed in my wishes, how shall I bound for joy! First, I shall enjoy your company at Vienna, then I shall drink deep of Asiatic literature, and shall explore the Turkish manners in their most hidden sources. If I am disappointed, philosophy remains: the bar is open, and I shall not, I trust, want employment; for the harvest of litigation is always abundant. I shall apply to the study of eloquence, to poetry, history, and philosophy; each of which, if properly cultivated, would occupy a complete life of
"Such men as live in these degenerate days."
I could say much more, but I yield to the imperious summons (not of Proserpine I hope, but) of the goddess, if there be one, who presides pver our tribunals'. P. 101.