페이지 이미지

enthusiastically imitated, and at the same time so violently censured, as the style of Dr. Johnson. Nervous, yet precise, dignified, and yet subtle, he astonishes by the greatness of his conceptions, delights by the fertility of his illustrations, captivates by the ease of propriety, and charms by the measured falls of musical rotundity. The heaviest charges against him are, that he has innovated upon the pure idiom of the language by an excessive adaptation of sounding Latinisms; that he is rich to satiety, and melodious to sameness. To discuss these points would require an essay of no brief extent; and, after all, the better way, perhaps, would be to read Johnson, and determine the advantages of his style by the effect which it produces. The English is a language so confusedly composed of different tongues, as well modern as antient, that it seems rather inconsistent to condemn a writer for pursuing the means from which our speech has derived its characteristic beauties. The scholar will moreover recollect that a happy renovation of obsolete terms, and a perspicuous introduction of new phrases, is a meritorious feature in composition advised by Horace, and disputed by no commentator.

Such is the foundation of Johnson's fame with posterity; but amongst his cutemporaries, he had another resource for distinction, such as no other man ever availed himself of so powerfully. This was his conversational ability: no man at all approached to an equality with him as a talker. His memory was singularly retentive, his imagination keen, his perception quick and penetrating, and though he read with greater rapidity than system, he had a most extraordinary facility of extemporaneously methodising his thoughts or attainments, however diffusely gathered, or variously retained. From his earliest years he had accustomed himself to such accu. racy in the manner in which he expressed himself even upon the commonest occasions, that he at all times delivered himself with a force and elegance that defied rivalry. The confidence of habit, and a didactic style, in which he most rejoiced, imparted such an effect to all he uttered, that Goldsmith declared it was impossible to argue with him; for if his pistol missed fire, like the man in Cibber's play, he knocked you down with the butt end of it.


The memory of Sir William Jones is preserved in St. Paul's Cathedral, by a good statue from the chisel of Bacon, R.A. which stands against the south-west great pier of the dome. He is represented in an attitude of composition, with a pen in one hand, a scroll in the other, and his right arm supported by some volumes, which are introduced upon a pedestal, bieroglyphically engraved, and are understood to mean the Institutes of Menn. The pedestal is wrought on one side with an insipid allegory of Study and Genius, opening out Oriental Knowledge, and on another with this plain inscription :

To the Memory
of Sir WilLIAM JONES, Knight,

one of the Judges
of the Supreme Court of Judicature
At Fort William, in Bengal,

This Statue was erected
By the Honourable East India Company,

In Testimony
Of their grateful sense of his Public Services,
Their admiration of his Genius and Learning,
And their respect for his Character

And Virtues.
He died in Bengal, on the 24th April, 1794,

Aged 47.

William Jones, for whom some Cambrian genealogists have traced a descent from Welsh Kings, was born in London, on traced a descent na ww w . id Michaelmas-eve, 1746. When only three years old, his father died, in the possession of a moderate property, and some reputation as a mathematician. Through this loss the cares of his earliest education devolved upon his mother, a lady of marked sense and virtue, who was the daughter of a cabinet-maker, named Nix, and is commended by her son's biographers for a proficiency in some such unfeminine branches of science, as Aigebra, Trigonometry, and the theory of Navigation.

Two serious accidents, however, had nearly deprived her of the honour of rearing an illustrious son : for being left alone one day in a room, he amused himself by scraping the soot from the chimney, and fell into the fire, from which he was only saved after a severe burning, by a servant, whom his cries had alarmed. Soon after this escape, he quarrelled with the maid who was dressing him, and in his peevish struggles fastened one of the hooks of his coat in his eye. A dangerous wound was thus inflicted, which, though healed by the skill of Doctor Mead, left the sight ever after imperfect.

Being placed at Harrow School, in his seventh year, he continued remarkable for application, until, after à sojourn of two years, he had the misfortune to break his thigh-bone in a scholastic scramble. A twelvemonth's suspension of his studies was thus occasioned ; but so favourable was the opinion entertained of his ability, that upon his return to school, he was placed in the class to which he would have risen had no interruption impeded his proficiency. Naturally enough he was then far bebind his school-fellows; but the deficiency was soon supplied, for his master, Dr. Thackery, flogged him up to par with a severe earnestness, which Jones never ceased to reprobate. In his twelfth year he was promoted to a form in the upper-school; and from that period the peculiar industry of his character, and the various subjects which his talents were able concurrently to embrace, became superiorly manifested. Various anecdotes are told to prove the powerful comprehensibility of his mind; but it must here suffice to observe, that he now translated, of his own accord, the Epistles of Ovid, the Pastorals of Virgil, wrote a dramatic piece on the story of Meleager, which was acted by his compila nions, and that before his fifteenth year, in which he left the school, he had acquired, by private assiduity, a knowledge of French, Italian, Hebrew, and Arabic ; had composed a Greek play entitled Mormon, and a volume of poetry, under the designation of Prolusions. By lucubrations, precocious and elaborate, as these, he grew to be the pride of the place, and was styled the Great Scholar.

In the spring of the year 1764, he matriculated at University College, Oxford, and, in the course of a few months, was unani. mously elected a scholar, on one of the four foundations established by Sir Simon Bennet. To his knowledge of languages he next added an acquaintance with the Spanish, Portuguese, and Persian authors, and rendered the Arabian Tales of Galland into the original tongue. In his nineteenth year he became tutor to Lord Althorpe, the eldest son of Earl Spencer, and in 1766 obtained a fellowship at his college. Here it is curious to remark the universality of his ambition; for, not content with the reputation of deep learning, he aspired to excellence in every accomplishment by which a gentleman can be distinguished. He now took regular lessons from the most fashionable dancing and fencing masters in London, and even hired an old pensioner from Chelsea College to teach him the exercise of the broad sword. On these flirting vanities it cannot be interesting to dilate, but the extent to which he carried them may be estimated by the fact, that, during a visit of three weeks, which he made to Spa, in the Netherlands, he consumed part of his time in going over to Aixla-Chapelle to receive graces from a dancing-master.

After refusing the place of Interpreter of the Fastern languages, which was tendered to him by Lord North, he translated into French, for the King of Denmark, a Persian Manuscript, entitled the History of Nadir Shah. This performance, after the style had been corrected by a native, he published in 1770, with a prefatory • Treatise on Eastern Poetry. Continuing his attendance on Lord Althorpe, he conducted him through Harrow School, and had the advantage of accompanying the family in a journey through France, Switzerland, and the South of Italy, in the years 1769 and 1770. At the close of this year he renounced the office of Preceptor, and became a student-at-law in the Temple.

By this time we are assured that Jones's reputation was nearly as extensive as his attainments: he had a vast correspondence with the literary characters of his own country, and foreign nations; and, notwithstanding the accumulation of labour thus entailed upon him, he pored over books with his wonted avidity and success. Taking up his degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts, in due course, he was admitted a Fellow of the Royal Society, and entertained his friends with projects of works, and aspirations of dignities, which, like many others, he never had the perseverance to execute, or the fortune to seize. In 1774, he was called to the bar, and published his · Commentaries on Asiatic Poetry,' (De Poesi Asiaticâ,) a work on which he had spent eight years in corrections, and which was reviewed with many praises by the learned throughout Europe. Choosing the Oxford Cir. cuit for practice, he began his career as a barrister in the following year, and was almost immediately nominated a Commissioner of Bankrupts-- an office which he rather pettishly described as one of great importance, but little emolument.

In 1778 he relapsed into polite letters, and produced a version of the Orations of Isæus, with a prefatory discourse, and notes critical and historical, which was dedicated to Earl Bathurst, and honoured with the approbation of Edmund Burke.

Finding his business now increase with rapidity, he made an abortive attempt to figure as a politician, and signalised his objections to the American War in an Alcaic Ode to Liberty, of which it is enough to observe, that the style is crudely imitated from Horace, and the sentiments are mainly copied from Collins. He started as a candidate for the University of Oxford, at the general election in 1780, but was obliged to resign the contest through want of sufficient support. For the loss of this distinction, he consoled himself by forthwith issuing from the press, in rapid succession, a treatise ‘On the Maritime Jurisprudence of the Athenians, illustrated by five speeches of Demosthenes on Commercial Causes;' "A Dissertation on the Manners of the Arabians before the time of Mahomet, illustrated by a translation of the Seven Arabian Poets;' and · An Enquiry into the legal Mode of Suppressing Riots, with a Constitutional Plan of future Defence.' These productions were soon followed by an `Essay on the Law of Bailment;' and a translation of an Arabic Poem “On the Mahommedan Law of Succession to the Property of Intestates.' Connected with this epoch of his life, are farther, to be mentioned his enrolment into the Society for Constitutional

« 이전계속 »