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The Life of John Wilson
Chapter X. Oriental Scholarship and Scholars


1836-1842.
ORIENTAL SCHOLARSHIP AND SCHOLARS.

Sir W. Jones founds the Bengal Asiatic Society—Sir James Mackintosh and the Bombay Literary Society—The Early Orientalists of Western India— Dr. Wilson’s first Address as President—Subordinates his Scholarly to his directly Missionary Pursuits—Member of the Royal Asiatic Society—The first to attempt deciphering of the Fourteen Edicts of Asoka—Colonel James Tod at Gimar—James Prinsep’s Enthusiasm—Dr. Mill—Prinsep’s tribute to Dr. Wilson—Girnar as it is—The Second and Thirteenth Edicts, and the early successors of Alexander the Great—Dr. Wilson consulted by Chief-Justice on Parsee Law and Customs—Congratulatory Letters on “ The Parsi Religion ” from Erskine and Lassen—Dr. Wilson appointed Honorary President of the Bombay Asiatic Society—Close of the first period of his work in Western India.

When Sir William Jones was sailing across the Indian Ocean, India itself before him, Persia on his left, and a breeze from Arabia blowing him on, he tells us that “ in the midst of so noble an amphitheatre, encircled by the vast regions of Asia,” he resolved to found that greatest successor to the Royal Society, and the parent of many others—the Asiatic Society of Bengal. In 1784, encouraged by Warren Hastings who declined the office of first President in his favour, Sir William Jones instituted the first “ Society for inquiring into the history, civil and national, the antiquities, arts, sciences, and literature of Asia.” His translation of Sakoontcila had revealed to Europe the virgin mine of Hindoo literature, as Goethe sang. His greater successor, H. T. Colebrooke, on finally returning to England, founded the Eoyal Asiatic Society, as well as the Astronomical Society.

It was not to be expected that Western India, when it grew into importance as a Presidency by conquest and diplomacy, would be allowed by men like the Governor Jonathan Duncan, and Mountstuart Elphinstone and Malcolm afterwards, to remain unrepresented in the republic of letters. What Sir William Jones, with his fresh English energy and Oxford zeal, did for the accomplished officials who surrounded Warren Hastings, Sir James Mackintosh as happily effected among the few who were associated with Jonathan Duncan. An Inverness boy, a medical graduate of Aberdeen, an ethical philosopher, a constitutional lawyer, and a keen politician, Mackintosh leaped into the front rank of the Liberals as they were at the close of last century. He became the worthy adversary of Burke, the warm friend of Robert Hall, the advocate of Peltier who, charged with libelling Napoleon Buonaparte, found in the impetuous Scot a defender whose oration the first Lord Ellenborough pronounced the most eloquent he had ever heard in Westminster Hall. Like Macaulay afterwards, who resembled him in many respects, Mackintosh went out to Bombay as Recorder, was knighted, and remained there for eight years, till his friends thought he had saved enough besides earning a pension. The simple bachelor habits of Jonathan Duncan led him to make over to the new Judge and his family the principal Government house in the island, formerly a Jesuit College, known as Parell. Sir James had not been many months there when, on the 26th November 1804, he summoned a meeting of friends who established the Literary Society of Bombay. His Discourse on that occasion mapped out the field of knowledge, moral and physical, which the observers of Western India were called to cultivate. He himself, as President, suggested the first philological and statistical inquiries on a uniform scale, which were not systematically carried out till, in 1862, Lord Canning directed the adoption, for all India, of the extended scheme drawn up by Mr. Claude Erskine, the grandson of Sir James Mackintosh, and by the present writer. That has culminated in the decennial census, the uniform annual Administration Reports, and the Gazetteers of the whole Empire of India.

The Literary Society of Bombay soon established a reputation from the researches of such members as Mr. William Erskine; Colonel Boden, founder of the Sanskrit Chair at Oxford ; Colonel Briggs, who succeeded Captain Grant Duff as Resident at Satara; Colonel Vans Kennedy, and Captain

Basil Hall; besides Elphinstone and Malcolm. Of these Mackintosh became the literary adviser. To his encouragement we owe such classical works as Wilks’s Mysore, Elphinstone’s Cabul, Briggs’s Ferishta, Dr. John Taylor’s Lilawati, and Malcolm’s Political History of India. Moor, Drummond, Price, Salt, Colonel Sykes, Sir Charles Forbes, Joseph Hammer, and the erratic Lord Valentia, also adorned that early group, each in his own way. Sir James urged on the President of the Bengal Asiatic Society that co-operation for the publication of translations from the Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian, which, in another form, subsequently issued in the “Oriental Translation Fund,” the Notices cles Manuscrits de la Biblio-thlque du Boi, and most fully of all, in the Bibliotheca Inclica.

But his greatest immediate service was the creation of a Library which, from the nucleus sent out on his return to England, has grown to be the most useful, alike for the scholar and the general reader, in all Asia. That Library gave the Literary Society a new impetus. Besides the papers which its members contributed to the Bengal and Royal Asiatic Societies, it published three volumes of Transactions in 1819-1823, and these have recently been reprinted. In 1830 it was incorporated as the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, and in 1841 it issued independently the first quarterly number of its Transactions, now a goodly series of volumes. When Dr. Wilson settled in Bombay he thus found a literary and scholarly home, to which in a few years he managed to add a museum. Long after, in 1870, he thus expressed his gratitude :—“ I feel that I am under very great obligations to this Society. I never could have prosecuted my studies, such as they have been, without access to such a Library as that which we here possess. I have often had a hundred volumes from this Library at the same time in my possession, and though I have now accumulated a very considerable Oriental library for myself, I have still frequently to refer to these shelves in order to get my inquiries satisfied. .... I have also been much sustained by the literary communion we have here enjoyed. This is not merely the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, but a sort of literary and scientific club.”

But in truth Dr. Wilson had not been a year in Bombay when he came to be recognised as the most zealous member of the Society, and soon to be identified with it as almost the Society itself. In 1830 Sir John Malcolm proposed him as a member, and from that day his activity was such that, in 1835, the young Scottish missionary was unanimously elected President in succession to so ripe a scholar as Colonel Vans Kennedy. Every tour that he made year by year, every manuscript that he purchased, every oriental book that he read, contributed material to the Asiatic Society, which Government royally accommodated in the fine suite of rooms surrounding the Town Hall of Bombay. Nor did he, in all this intercourse with scholars, non-Christian as well as Christian, veil for a moment the earnestness of his own convictions, or restrain his duty as a missionary. With the then distinguished Orientalist whom he succeeded as president, he had for years conducted a public controversy. In his Ancient and Hindu Mythology, and in his Treatise on the Vedanta, Colonel Yans Kennedy had appeared as something like the apologist of Yedic and Brahmanical beliefs. While admitting and even eulogising the ability of these disquisitions as the most learned up to that time, Dr. Wilson exposed views which he proved to be as superficial as they were hostile to the work he had come to India to do. But if his hand was the hand of iron, he ever used the glove of silk. His courtesy, even in the impetuosity of youth, was as remarkable as his gentle chivalry towards all when years and toil began to weaken his arm.

Dr. Wilson’s first address as President, on the 27th January 1836, reviewed the work of the Society and the desiderata of research, from the similar discourses of Sir James Mackintosh in 1801 and Sir John Malcolm in 1828, up to that time. He showed that it had failed to realise the anticipations of the founder as to Natural History and Statistics. He declared the condition of the people in the different provinces, as to language, religion, literature, science, art, means of support, and manners and customs, to be the paramount object of the Society’s investigation. Beginning with the Parsees, he reviewed the contributions to a study of them made by Malcolm, Kennedy, Erskine, Bask, Mohl, Shea, Neumann, and Atkinson, arguing that “should any of the Parsees, of competent attainments, and real and respectable character and influence, ask membership of this Society, it should be readily accorded.”

Such advocacy of the claims of native inquirers and scholars was characteristic of Dr. "Wilson, and it soon bore fruit. He pointed to Burnouf as the savant best fitted to translate faithfully the Yandidad Sade, but plainly hinted that the work might be done in Bombay should that great scholar fail from the disadvantages of his situation in Europe. As to Muhammadanism, he desiderated that fuller account of the state of Arabia at the time of its origin, which Muir and Sprenger soon after gave, and of the Bohoras and other sectaries whom he himself was studying. His observations on researches into Hindooism may be read with profit even after the forty years’ scholarship of Anglo-Indians, Germans, and Italians. To H. H. Wilson, who had not long been transferred from Calcutta to Oxford, he looked for a complete translation of the Big Veda, part of which had appeared first in Bombay; and of the Bhagavata Parana, the greatest practical authority in the West of India. On the various Hindoo sects, and on the Jains, he sought for much light, such as he himself afterwards gave. The despised aborigines, down-trodden by Hindoo and Muhammadan, and ignored by the ruling class, save by civilians like Sir Donald M'Leod and missionaries, Dr. Wilson pronounced “particularly worthy of observation by all who desire to advance their civilisation, and to elevate them from their present degradation. Description must precede any considerable efforts made for their improvement—perhaps leading to important conjectures as to the ancient history of India.”Many of these“ have had no connection with Brahmanism except in so far as they may have felt its unhallowed influence in excluding them from the common privileges of humanity.”

He enlarged on the duty of collecting Sanskrit MSS., a work not undertaken by Government till a much later date, but now prosecuted with great zeal and liberality in almost every province. Such manuscripts, he said, are to be found in a pure state in the Dekhan more than in any other part of India, and the poverty of the Brahmans leads them readily to part with them. After eulogising the work of Mr. William Erskine, and his own old missionary colleague, Dr. Stevenson, in their researches into the architecture and inscriptions of cave temples, Dr. Wilson said :—“ We require information as to the time at which, and the views with which, they were constructed; an estimate of them as works of art, or as indicative of the resources of those to whom they are to be ascribed ; and an inquiry into the religious rites and services for which they have been appropriated, and the moral impressions which they seem fitted to make on those resorting to them. Grants of land, engraven on copper plates, are next to them in importance in the advancement of antiquarian research.”

We find the key-note of Dr. Wilson’s scholarship and erudition in his reference to “The systems of faith which have so long exercised their sway in this country, and the various literary works which, though, unlike those of Greece and Rome, they are of little or 110 use in the cultivation of taste, are valuable as they illustrate the tendency of those systems in their connection with social and public life ; and as they explain a language the most copious in its vocables and powerful in its grammatical forms, in which any records exist. Destitute of a knowledge of these systems, and the works in which they are embodied, the native character and the state of native society will never be sufficiently understood, a right key obtained to open the native mind, and all desirable facilities enjoyed for the introduction among the people of a body of rational and equitable law, and the propagation of the Gospel, and the promotion of general education. . . . While divine truth must be propagated with unwavering fidelity, and all hopes of its ultimate success rest on its own potency, its suitableness to the general character of man, and the assistance of divine grace, judgment ought to be employed in the mode of its application to those who vary much in their creeds and differ much in their moral practice. Though the great truths proclaimed by the Apostle Paul were the same in all circumstances, they were introduced in very different ways to the Jewish Rabbis and people and to the members of the Athenian Areopagus. I must hold that there is no little unsuitableness in India in addressing a pantheist as a polytheist and vice versa ; in speaking to a Jain as to a Brahman; in condemning that at random which the natives may suppose to be unknown, and in using theological terms and general phrases without any very definite sense of their application by the natives themselves. The more a knowledge of Hindooism and of Hindoo literature is possessed by any teacher, the more patiently and uninterruptedly will he be listened to by the people, and the more forcibly will he be enabled, and principally by contrast and concession, to set forth the authority and the excellence of the doctrines of Christianity.” The address concluded with a reference to the many Armenians in India, of whom Dr. Wilson remarked, in allusion to Mr. Dickinson’s dissertation on the antiquity of their language in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, “There cannot be a doubt that the Armenians can fill up important blanks in Church history which, to the undue neglect of the Orientals, is principally formed on the authority of the Roman and Byzantine Fathers.”

The new President’s Address called forth a request, proposed and seconded by Mr. Bruce and Mr. Farish, that it should be printed. Mr. James Prinsep republished it in the fifth volume of the Bengal Asiatic Society’s Journal, with this introduction—“We make no apology, but rather feel a pride, in transferring it to our pages entire.” It must be taken as a directory to Dr. Wilson himself of much that he meant to overtake, and did more than overtake in the wide area of Orientalism. The immediate effect of the Address, when it reached Europe, and of the position in which the young missionary had been placed as the successor of Sir James Mackintosh, Mr. William Erskine, Sir John Malcolm, and Vans Kennedy, was his election as a member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, on the 18th of June 1836.

We are now in a position to estimate the exact value of Dr. Wilson’s contribution to the deciphering of the fourteen edicts graven by the Buddhist Emperor Asoka on the rocks of Girnar and other places in India, north and east, as well as west. On the 13th March 1835, Dr. Wilson, hurrying down from the peak of Girnar before the darkness of the night should come on, examined “the ancient inscriptions which, though never deciphered, have attracted much attention.” In 1822 Lieutenant-Colonel James Tod had been the first to notice the antiquities of “the old fort,” which Joonagurh means, and “the noblest monument of Saurashtra, a monument speaking in an unknown tongue of other times, and calling to the Frank ‘ Yedyavan ’ or savant to remove the spell of ignorance in which it has been enveloped for ages.” But Colonel Tod had contented himself with directing his old Gooroo, or pundit, to copy two of tlie edicts, and a portion of a third, while he speculated quite in the dark as to the author of the inscriptions. Nothing more was heard of the most interesting historical rock-book in all southern Asia, for the next thirteen years, till Dr. Wilson stood before it. “After,” he says, “comparing the letters with several Sanskrita alphabets in my possession, I found myself able, to my great joy and that of the Brahmans who were with me, to make out several words, and to decide as to the probable possibility of making out the whole. The taking a copy of the inscriptions I found from their extent to be a hopeless task, but, as Captain Lang had kindly promised to procure a transcript of the whole for me, I did not regret the circumstance.” He subsequently wrote thus to James Prinsep :—

“I suggested to Captain Lang a plan for taking a facsimile of the inscriptions. I recommended him to cover the rock with native paper slightly moistened, and to trace with ink the depressions corresponding with the forms of the letters. The idea of using cloth, instead of paper, was entirely his own : and to that able officer, and his native assistants, are we indebted for the very correct facsimile which lie presented to me, and which I forwarded to you some months ago for jour inspection and use. During the time that it was in Bombay it was mostly with Mr. Wathen, who got prepared for yourself the reduced transcript, and with a native, who, at the request of our Asiatic Society, and with my permission, prepared a copy for M. Jaequet of Paris. I had commenced the deciphering of it when you kindly communicated to me the discovery of your alphabet; and I at once determined that you, as was most justly due, should have the undivided honour of first promulgating its mysteries. Any little progress which I had made in the attempt to forge a key, was from the assistance which 1 had received from the alphabets formerly published in your transeendantly able work, Mr. Elliot’s Canarese alphabets, and the rigid deductions of Vishnu Shasthi, my quondam pundit, to whom Mr. Wathen has expressed his obligations in his paper on some ancient copperplate grants lately sent by him to England. Vishnu’s palteographical studies, I may mention, commenced with Dr. Babbington’s paper, which I showed to him some years ago ; and they were matured under Mr. Wathen. I mention these facts from my desire to act according to the maxim sunm casque tribuc.

“The rock containing the inscriptions, it should be observed, is about half a mile to the eastward of [the present town of] Jundgdrli, and about four miles from the base of Girndr, which is in the same direction. It marks, I should think, the extremity of the Maryddd of the sacred mountain. The Jainas, as the successors of the Buddhas, greatly honour it. They maintain 2)injard2nirs, or brute hospitals, like the Banyas of Surat, in many of the towns both of the peninsula and province of Gvjardt; and practise to a great extent the johilopsychy of the long forgotten, but now restored, edicts of Asoka.”

Dr. Wilson was thus not only the first scholar to report intelligently on the inscriptions, and to cause a copy of them to be carefully taken, but to translate “several words” at first sight, to “commence the deciphering,” and to satisfy himself that he could probably make out the whole in the leisure of his study. This his knowledge of Sanskrit, and his toilsome study of “several ancient Sanskrita alphabets,” lists of which we find in his rough note-books, enabled him to do. To the last, more brilliant discoverers devoted to this one work, like James Prinsep and Colonel Mackenzie, were ignorant of Sanskrit. Prinsep modestly confesses that he had long despaired of deciphering the famous Samudra Gupta’s inscription on the Allahabad pillar, from “want of a competent knowledge of Sanscrit.” Priority in time and mastery of the Sanskrit characters and literature gave Dr. Wilson an advantage over all the scholars of that day in India.

H. H. Wilson had left Bengal in 1833, and Dr. Mill, on whom his mantle fell, though translating what General Cunningham calls “several important inscriptions,” resigned the position of head of Bishop’s College, Calcutta, in 1837, and in his departure Prinsep bewailed an irreparable loss. General Cunningham ascribes to Professor Lassen the honour of having been the first to read “any of these unknown characters,” on coins at least. A letter from him to James Prinsep shows that in 1836 the greatest German Orientalist of his day had read the Indian Pali legend on the square copper coins of Agathokles, as Agcithulda Raja. But Dr. Wilson’s papers prove that he was even then familiar with the characters on coins, while this letter does not affect the credit due to him in the matter of the rock inscriptions.

Captain Lang seems to have delayed for a year the transmission to him of copies of the Girnar inscriptions. This delay, coupled with Dr. Wilson’s unselfish regard for others, his devotion to truth in all its forms, and the fine enthusiasm of the young scholar of Bengal—though five years his senior—led to the despatch of the facsimiles to Prinsep. The latter was already partially making the Arian Pali legends of the Bactrian Greek coins tell their historical tale, and was poring over the Indian Pali legends of the coins of Surashtra. Mr. Masson had given him the clue through the Pahlavi signs for Menandrou, Apollodotou, Erinaiou, Basileos, and Soteros, as he acknowledged in 1835. General Cunningham, his correspondent and friend even in those early days, admits that “in both of these achievements the first step towards discovery was made by others.” That clue led him successfully to recognise sixteen of the thirty-three consonants of the Arian alphabet, and to give a provisional translation of the rock inscriptions, before, in April 1840, illness induced by over-work deprived oriental scholarship of its most promising ornament.

Now what does James Prinsep himself say of Dr. Wilson in this matter of the Girnar inscriptions 'I The admission of the missionary scholar’s merit, previously made when republishing his address as President in the Bengal Journal, is almost as modest and courteous as Dr. Wilson’s action had been. It affords a fine example to those orientalists of the present day who, in Germany, in America, and in England, have sometimes proved themselves vain controversialists. In 1837 Mr. Watlien had sent to him, and also to M. Jacquet of Paris—a young orientalist of promise—the reduced copy of the facsimiles, “which had been taken on cloth by the Rev. Dr. Wilson.” On 7th March 1838 Prinsep read his paper on the “Discovery of the name of Antiochus the Great in two of the Edicts of Asoka, King of India,” nearly three years after Dr. Wilson’s first partial translation. But he uses this honourable language—“I should indeed be doing an injustice to Captain Lang, who executed the cloth facsimile for the President of the Bombay Literary Society, and to Dr. Wilson himself, who so graciously placed it at my disposal when, doubtless, he might with little trouble have succeeded himself in interpreting it much better than I can do, from his well-known proficiency in the Sanskrit language—it would, I say, be an injustice to them were I to withhold the publication of what is already prepared for the press, which may be looked upon as their property and their discovery, and to mix it with what may hereafter be obtained by a more accurate survey of the spot.”

Prinsep’s enthusiasm, as he worked his way through these rock inscriptions in the weeks of February and March 1838, and occasionally stumbled over the mutilated portions of the facsimiles, led him to petition the Governor-General to order another rubbing to be taken, and the Governor of Bombay despatched Lieutenant Postans to the spot. That officer “took infinite pains to secure exactitude, aided by Captain Lang, who was with him,” according to Captain Le Grand Jacob’s account. But, alas ! Prinsep was no more when the MSS. and cloth copies reached Calcutta. Not till 1870 did General Cunningham stumble upon the neglected treasures there, although duplicates had been sent to the Eoyal Asiatic Society. Captain Jacob and Mr. Westergaard made fresh copies to secure more complete accuracy. The Government of Bombay has of late shown an intelligent interest in the priceless antiquities of Western India by appointing an archseological surveyor and reporter so competent as Mr. J. Burgess, M.E.A.S., and long Dr. Wilson’s friend. His examination of the Girnar antiquities and his estcimpages of the inscriptions, as described in his second report, were the most careful and thorough of all, and may be regarded as final. He sets at rest the remaining doubts of Professor Weber. After referring to Dr. Wilson’s first transcript, lie thus describes the stone:—

“The Asoka inscription at Girnar covers considerably over a hundred square feet of the uneven surface of a huge rounded and somewhat conical granite boulder, rising 12 feet above the surface of the ground, and about 75 feet in circumference at the base. It occupies the greater portion of the north-east face, and, as is well known, is divided down the centre by a vertical line ; on the left, or east side, of which are the first five edicts or tablets, divided from one another by horizontal lines ; on the right are the next seven, similarly divided ; the thirteenth has been placed below the fifth and twelfth, and is unfortunately damaged; and the fourteenth is placed to the right of the thirteenth.”

We reproduce Westergaard’s nearly accurate transcript of the Second Edict, that our readers may see the characters on which first Dr. Wilson and then James Prinsep worked. The Thirteenth Edict follows, in a transliterated form, and as mutilated by what Tod calls “the magnificent vanity of Sun-darji, the horse merchant,” whose people, when making a causeway to the spot from Joonagurh, seem to have used a part of the fifth as well as of the thirteenth tablet. Mr. Burgess, in 1869, found the precious Rock occupied by “a lazy, sanctimonious, naked devotee, whose firewood lay against the sides of the stone, whilst fragments of broken earthenware covered the top of it.” The engraving is from a photograph, taken under his direction, from the wall of the causeway. The Joonagurh chief, a Muhammadan, has, at the request of Government, now protected the stone by a roof.

The latest rendering, by Professor Kern of Leyden, is this:—

“In the whole’dominion of King Devanampriya Priyadarsin, as also in the adjacent countries, as Cliola (Tanjore), Pandya (Madura), Satyaputra, Iveralaputra (Malabar), as far as Tamraparni (Ceylon), the kingdom of Anti-ochns the Grecian king, and of his neighbour kings, the system of caring for the sick both of men and cattle, followed by King Devanampriya Priyadarsin, has been everywhere brought into practice ; and at all places where useful healing herbs for men and cattle were wanting he has caused them to be brought and planted ; and at all places where roots and fruits were wanting he has caused them to be brought and planted ; also he has caused wells to be dug and trees to be planted on the roads for the benefit of men and cattle.”

This is so mutilated that Professor H. H. Wilson did not venture to propose a rendering of it while criticising James Prinsep’s. We select these two out of the fourteen Edicts for purely English readers, because they form the historical links which connect India with Greece. It is in the Second Edict that the name of the Yona, Yavan, Ionian or Greek king Antiochus occurs, that Antiochus II. who died B.C. 247, in the twelfth year of Priyadarsi’s or Asoka’s reign. Still more reliable is the Thirteenth Tablet, damaged though it be, for it gives us the names of other Greek kings in the eighth line—Ptolemaios, Antigonus, and Magas; and of a fourth to whom Asoka sent embassies which “won from them a victory not by the sword but by religion.’’

In the address of the Bombay Asiatic Society to Dr. Wilson, before his departure for Syria, he was thanked by his colleagues “ for facsimile inscriptions on the Cave Temples at Karli, of which, aided by Prinsep’s monumental alphabet, it was reserved for your learned associate Dr. Stevenson and yourself, to be the first decipherers.” As Sir William Jones was the first to introduce into the chaos of Hindoo literature and history the magical but very real drop of chronological truth which developed from the Cliandragupta of the Mudra Rakshasa, the Sandrocuptos of Athenseus, or Sandracottus of Arrian, so Dr. Wilson brought to light the inscriptions, in which the greater grandson of Chandragupta had engraved on the rock, twenty centuries before, the names of the successors of Alexander in Egypt and the East. The Girnar rock must rank in historical literature with the Rosetta stone, the Behistun inscription, and the Accadian brick-libraries of Assyria. Apart from that, in purely Indian literature it reveals to us, in letters as real and vivid as the printed page, the character of the great and good Asoka, who, when ruling over the most extensive empire Hindooism ever saw, from the eastern uplands of Beliar to the Indian Ocean, and from the snows of Himalaya to the coasts of Malabar, Coromandel, and Ceylon, was driven by disgust at the sacerdotal tyranny of the Brahmans to profess and to propagate Buddhism in the eleventh year of his reign. Tolerant and enlightened, his edicts alone, as we find them graven on the rocks from Girnar to Cuttack and the Punjab, justify the title, happily given to the Constantine of Buddhism by Professor Kern, of Asoka the Humane.

From the time that he was nominated President of the Bombay Asiatic Society, Dr. Wilson kept up a somewhat constant correspondence with the scholars of France and Germany, who looked to him in India for new facts and materials. Greatest of them all in France, if not throughout Europe, was the accomplished and accurate Eugene Burnouf, Professor of Sanskrit in the College de France, who for the first half of this century was without a rival in the department of Zand. He was the friend, also, of Mr. Brian Hodgson. In 1840 another French scholar, M. Theodore Pavie, of L’Ecole des Langues Orientales in Paris, visited Bombay, passing on thence to Madras and Calcutta, from which, in imperfect English, he addressed to Dr. Wilson a letter of gratitude for learned counsel and the gift of a MS. of one of Kalidasa’s dramas. About the same time Mr. Turnour, the greatest Pali scholar in the East, and afterwards translator of the MaJiawctnso, “The Genealogy of the Great,” was introduced to Dr. Wilson. They must have had much to talk of, for it was Turnour who first identified the Priyadarsi of the Edicts with Asoka, by “throwing open the hitherto sealed page of the Buddhist historian to the development of Indian monuments and Puranic records,” as Prinsep expressed it.

No Government, not even that of the country which rules India, has shown so enlightened an interest in its literature and religions as that of Denmark. It was the first to send Protestant missionaries to the Hindoos, the first to protect the English missionaries whom the East India Company* persecuted at the end of last century, and the first to despatch its scholars to the East. Thus Rask had taken from Bombay the rich collection of MSS., Zand and Pahlavi, which he deposited in Copenhagen. And in 1841, after mastering these, Professor Westergaard prepared himself for his critical edition of the Zandavasta by visiting Bombay where he was Dr. Wilson’s guest, and exploring both Western India and Persia in a literary sense.

Colonel Dickinson, one of his colleagues in the Asiatic Society, and a valued servant of the State, offered generous aid to Dr. Wilson in the purchase of Oriental MSS., while he himself, in letters to his Edinburgh publisher and to Dr. Brunton, was planning new literary undertakings in aid or rising out of his missionary work. These were—‘The Conversion of India and the Means of its Accomplishment;’ ‘The Tribes of Western India, with Notices of Missionary Labour; ’ 'Poetical Pieces by Anna Bayne, with a Biographical Sketch of the Author; ’ Memoir of B. C. Money, Esq.’ To Dr. Brunton he thus wrote on 19th July 1842, of a scheme afterwards taken up by English biblical scholars and travellers: —“I have long been talking to our friends here about the propriety of our attempting to found in Britain a society whose express object shall be to collect Oriental illustrations of the Scriptures, and to render available to Europeans the treasures of Church History which are to be found in the Syriac, Armenian, and other Eastern languages. Had leisure permitted, you might ere this have received from me a short memoir on the subject, directing attention to what has occurred respecting it, and offering a few remarks on the intimations of an international communication between the Jews and ancient Persians, which are contained in the writings in the possession of the Zoroastrians of India and of Yezd and Kerman.”

In 1836 there seems to have been made to Dr. Wilson the first of those references by the Judges of the Supreme Court as well as the Executive Government, which afterwards became so frequent and honourable to both, as well as conducive to the good administration of the country. The Parsees in India believe that, on their expatriation,' their ancient code of laws as well as their other religious books were lost. They were governed internally by their own Punchayat, under rules recognised by the Government in 1778, which gave that committee the power of beating offenders with the shoe. But as sectarian divisions spread, and as civil suits involving religious questions came before the Supreme Court, the necessity for legislation by the British Government became apparent. Not till 1865 could all parties agree to such a civil code of marriage, divorce, and inheritance at least as would be satisfactory. In one of the numerous disputes in 1835 Dr. Wilson’s knowledge of the Parsee literature and customs was appealed to by the Chief Justice, who directed the thanks of the Court to be conveyed to him “ for the clear, concise, and lucid manner in which you have framed your answers to the queries submitted to you.”

Dr. Wilson now began to prepare for his homeward tour; for new duty in the midst of holiday recreation. We may here, most appropriately, give some of the letters of congratulation addressed to him by the greatest Orientalists of the day. The learned and amiable William Erskine, who had translated the Memoirs of the Emperor Baber, and was engaged on the History of the House of Taimur which he was not to live to complete, thus wrote to him, linking on the foundation of the Bombay Literary Society to the more brilliant days of the Asiatic Society :—

“(Edinburgh), 13 St. Bernard's Crescent, 14th November 1843.—My dear Sir — I received with many thanks your valuable researches and remarks on the Parsee religion. Your knowledge of the Zand and Pahlavi, with their cognate languages, has enabled you to do much more, and more correctly, than any of your predecessors, and no person is so well qualified to solve the question of the date of the sacred books of the Parsees and the mode of their composition. You speak more kindly of my surface investigations than they probably deserve. As to the production of Ormuzd by Zerwen, you are no doubt right. Go on and enrich the world of letters, while you think chiefly of the religious world and the religious benefit of the human race. One of the greatest difficulties with Orientals, and especially with close religions like the Hindoo and Parsee, you have in a great measure overcome— that of making them appeal to reason and reasoning. I consider their entering the field of controversy, to fight foot to foot, as the great difficulty overcome. It has always hitherto been the grand obstacle. They have rested in ignorance, regarding even doubt as criminal.

“The address of the Literary Society of Bombay does honour to you and to them. I think, at its first meeting, the present Governor, then Lieutenant Arthur who was with his regiment in India, was made a member, on the motion of Lord Valentia then at Bombay. Believe me, with much esteem, my dear Sir, yours very truly, Wm. Erskine.”

“Bonn, 1st of September 1845.—Dear Sir—I have had the gratification of receiving the valuable present of your learned and important book on the Parsee Religion, and beg to offer you my sincere thanks for this token of your attention. Having devoted much time and labour to the study of the Zand language and the remains of its literature, I need hardly assure you that I have taken a deep interest in your discussions with the Parsees. I trust that your labours will mainly contribute to enlighten the descendants of an ancient people that at present are sunk into such a deep ignorance of their religion. Believe me, dear Sir, your most obliged and obedient Servant,

“Chr. Lassen.”

On the 30th December 1842 Dr. Wilson gave in his resignation of President of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, which he had filled for seven years. He presented it with a copy of The Tarsi Religion, which he dedicated to its office-bearers and members in token of gratitude “for the warm interest which many of them individually have taken in my labours to disseminate useful, but more especially divine, knowledge among the natives of this great country, whose present social and moral condition, as well as past history, it is one of the principal objects of this Society to investigate and unfold.” He gave it also the two octavo volumes of the Vandidad in Zand, with Goojaratee translation, lithographed from his own MS., as containing the doctrinal standards of the Parsees, and two Cufic inscriptions from the south of Arabia. “It is not without emotion,” he wrote, “I sever this link which has bound me to office with the Society.” He was made Honorary President.

The Parsee editors and controversialists were not soothed by the publication of Dr. Wilson’s book. His almost simultaneous departure gave them full scope for criticism without fear, and for attack without the possibility of rejoinder. In his edition of Dr. Haug’s Essays, Dr. E. W. West correctly states that “ any personal ill-feeling which Dr. Wilson may have occasioned by his book soon disappeared; but it was many years before his habitual kindliness and conscientious efforts for the improvement of the natives of India, regained the confidence of the Parsees. On his death, however, in 1875, no one felt more deeply than the Dastoors themselves that they had lost one of their best friends, and that in controversy with them he had only acted as his duty compelled him.”

The controversy, and the political, educational, and social influences that preceded it, had done much to teach the whole community such lessons of toleration, free discussion, and public virtue, as were embodied and recognised in Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, who was created a baronet in 1857. The day after Dr. Wilson sailed from Bombay, all the worthy of the island, Native and European, united to lay the foundation of the noble hospital, which bears this inscription:— “This Edifice was erected as a testimony of devoted loyalty to the Young Queen of the British Isles, and of unmingled respect for the just and paternal British Government in India; also, in affectionate and patriotic solicitude for the welfare of the poor classes of all races among his countrymen, the British Subjects of Bombay, by Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, Knight, the first Native of India honoured with British Knighthood, who thus hoped to perform a pleasing duty towards his government, his country, and his people : and, in solemn remembrance of blessings bestowed, to present this, his offering of religious gratitude to Almighty God, the Father in Heaven of the Christian, the Hindoo, the Mahommedan, and the Parsee; with humble, earnest prayer for His continued care and blessing upon his Children, his Family, his Tribe, and his Country.”


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