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SIR WILLIAM JONES.
A DISCOURSE ON THE INSTITUTION OF A
FOR INQUIRING INTO THE
HISTORY, CIVIL AND NATURAL, THE ANTIQUITIES, ARTS,
SCIENCES, AND LITERATURE, OF
BY THE PRESIDENT.
WHEN I was at sea last August, on my voyage to this country, which I had long and ardently desired to visit, I found one evening, on inspecting the observations of the day, that India lay before us, and Perfa on our left, whilst a breeze from Arabia blew nearly on our ftern. A situation so pleasing in itself, and to me so new, could not fail to awaken a train of reflections in a mind, which had early been accustomed to contemplate with delight the eventful histories and agreeable fictions of this eastern world. It gave me inexpressible pleasure to find myself in the midst of so noble an amphitheatre, almost encircled by the vast regions of Asia, which has ever been esteemed the nurse of sciences, the inventress of delightful and useful arts, the scene of glorious actions, fertile in the productions of human genius, abounding in natural wonders, and infinitely diversified in the forms of religion and government, in the laws, manners, customs, , and languages, as well as in the features and complexions, of men. I could not help remarking, how important and extensive a field was yet unexplored, and how many solid advantages unimproved ; and when I considered, with pain, that, in this fluctuating, imperfect, and limited condition of life, such inquiries and improvements could only be made by the united efforts of many, who are not easily brought, without some pressing inducement or strong impulse, to converge
a common point, I consoled myself with a hope, founded on opinions which it might have the appearance of flattery to mention, that, if in any country or community, such an union could be effected, it was among my countrymen in Bengal, with some of whom I already had, and with most was desirous of having, the pleasure of being intimately acquainted.
You have realized that hope, gentlemen, and even anticipated a declaration of my wishes, by your alacrity in laying the foundation of a society for inquiring into the history and antiquities, the natural productions, arts, sciences, and literature of Afa. I may confidently foretel, that an institution so likely to afford entertainment, and convey knowledge, to mankind, will advance to maturity by flow, yet certain, degrees; as the Royal Society, which at first was only a meeting of a few literary friends at Oxford, rose gradually to that splendid zenith, at which a Halley was their secretary, and a Newton their president.
Although it is my humble opinion, that, in order to ensure our success and
permanence, we must keep a middle course between a languid remiffness, and an over zealous activity, and that the tree, which
have auspiciously planted, will produce fairer blossoms, and more exquisite fruit, if it be not at first exposed to too great a glare of sunshine, yet I take the liberty of submitting to your consideration a few general ideas on the plan of our society; assuring you, that, whether you reject or approve them, your correction will give me both pleasure and instruction, as your flattering attentions have already conferred on me the highest honour.
It is your design, I conceive, to take an ample space for your learned investigations, bounding them only by the geographical limits of Afa; so that, considering Hindustan as a centre, and turning your eyes in idea to the North, you have on your right, many important kingdoms in the Eastern peninsula, the ancient and wonderful empire of China with all her Tartarian dependencies, and that of Japan, with the cluster of precious islands, in which many singular curiosities have too long been concealed : before you lies that prodigious chain of mountains, which formerly perhaps were a barrier against the violence of the sea, and beyond them the very interesting country of Tibet, and the vast regions of Tartary, from which, as from the Trojan horse of the poets, have issued fo many consummate warriors, whose domain has extended at least from the banks of the Ilissus to the mouths of the Ganges: on your left are the beautiful and celebrated provinces of Iran or Perhia, the unmeasured, and perhaps unmeasurable deserts of Arabia, and the once flourishing kingdom of Yemen, with the pleasant iles that the Arabs have fubdued or colonized; and farther westward, the Afatick dominions of the Turkish sultans, whose moon seems approaching rapidly to its wane.-By this great circumference, the field of
useful researches will be inclosed; þut, since Egypt had unquestionably an old connection with this country, if not with China, since the language and literature of the Abysinians bear a manifest affinity to those of Asia, since the Arabian arms prevailed along the African coast of the Mediterranean, and even erected a powerful dynasty on the continent of Europe, you may not be displeased occasionally to follow the streams of Asiatick learning a little beyond its natural boundary; and, if it be necessary or convenient, that a short name or epithet be given to our society, in order to distinguish it in the world, that of Asiatick appears both classical and proper, whether we consider the place or the object of the institution, and preferable to Oriental, which is in truth a word merely relative, and, though commonly used in Europe, conveys no very distinct idea.
If now it be asked, what are the intended objects of our inquiries within these spacious limits, we answer, MAN and NATURE; whatever is performed by the one, or produced by the other. Human knowledge has been elegantly analysed according to the three great faculties of the mind, memory, reason, and imagination, which we constantly find employed in arranging and retaining, comparing and distinguishing, combining and diversifying, the ideas, which we receive through our senses, or acquire by reflection hence the three main branches of learning are