Page images
PDF
EPUB

biftory, Science, and art: the first comprehends either an account of natural productions, or the genuine records of empires and states ; the second embraces the whole circle of pure and mixed mathematicks, together with ethicks and law, as far as they depend on the reasoning faculty; and the third includes all the beauties of imagery and the charms of invention, displayed in modulated language, or represented by colour, figure, or found.

Agreeably to this analysis, you will investigate whatever is rare in the stupendous fabrick of nature, will correct the geography of Asia by new observations and discoveries ; will trace the annals, and even traditions, of those nations, who from time to time have peopled or desolated it; and will bring to light their various forms of government, with their institutions civil and religious; you will examine their improvements and methods in arithmetick and geometry, in trigonometry, mensuration, mechanicks, opticks, astronomy, and general physicks; their systems of morality, grammar, rhetorick, and dialectick; their skill in chirurgery and medicine, and their advancement, whatever it may be, in anatomy and chymistry. will add researches into their agriculture, manufactures, trade; and, whilst you inquire with pleasure into their musick, architecture,

To this you

painting, and poetry, will not neglect those inferior arts, by which the comforts and even elegances of social life are supplied or improved. You may observe, that I have omitted their languages, the diversity and difficulty of which are a sad obstacle to the progress of useful knowledge; but I have ever considered languages as the mere instruments of real learning, and think them improperly confounded with learning itself: the attainment of them is, however, indispensably necessary; and if to the Persian, Armenian, Turkish, and Arabick, could be added not only the Sanscrit, the treasures of which we may now hope to see unlocked, but even the Chinese, Tartarian, Japanese, and the various insular dialects, an immense mine would then be

open, in which we might labour with equal delight and advantage.

Having submitted to you these imperfect thoughts on the limits and objects of our future society, I request your permission to add a few hints on the conduct of it in its present immature state.

LUCIAN begins one of his satirical pieces against historians, with declaring that the only true proposition in his work was, that it should contain nothing true; and perhaps it may be advisable at first, in order to prevent any

difference of sentiment on particular points not immediately before us, to establish but one rule, namely, to have no rules at all. This only I mean, that, in the infancy of any society, there ought to be no confinement, no trouble, no expense, no un. necessary formality. Let us, if you please, for the present, have weekly evening meetings in this hall, for the purpose of hearing original papers read on such subjects, as fall within the circle of our inquiries. Let all curious and learned men be invited to send their tracts to our secretary, for which they ought immediately to receive our thanks; and if, towards the end of each year, we should be supplied with a fufficiency of valuable materials to fill a volume, let us present our Afiatick miscellany to the literary world, who have derived so much pleasure and information from the agreeable work of Kæmpfer, than which we can scarce propose a better model, that they will accept with eager* nefs any

freih entertainment of the fame kind. You will not perhaps be disposed to admit mere tranflations of considerable length, except of such unpublished essays or treatises as may be transmitted to us by native authors; but, whether you will enrol as members any number of learned natives, you will hereafter decide, with many other questions as they happen to arise; and you will think, I presume, that all questions should be decided on a ballot, by a majority of two thirds, and that nine members should be requisite to constitute a board for such decisions. These points, however, and all others I submit entirely, gentlemen, to your determination, having neither with nor pretension to claim any more than my single right of suffrage. One thing only, as essential to your dignity, I recommend with earnestness, on no account to admit a new member, who has not expressed a voluntary desire to become so; and in that case, you will not require, I suppose, any other qua- • lification than a love of knowledge, and a zeal for the promotion of it.

Your institution, I am persuaded, will ripen of itself, and your meetings will be amply supplied with interesting and amusing papers, as soon as the object of your inquiries shall be generally known. There are, it

may not be de licate to name them, but there are many, from whose important studies I cannot but conceive high expectations; and, as far as mere labour will avail, I sincerely promise, that, if in my allotted sphere of jurisprudence, or in any

intellectual excursion, that I may have leisure to make, I should be so fortunate as to collect, by accident, either fruits or flowers, which may seem valuable or pleasing, I shall offer my humble Nezr to your society with as much respectful zeal as to the greatest potentate on earth.

ANNIVERSARY DISCOURSE,

DELIVERED 24 FEBRUARY, 1785,

BY

THE PRESIDENT.

GENTLEMEN,

IF the Deity of the Hindus, by whom all their just requests are believed to be granted with fina gular indulgence, had proposed last year to gratify my warmest wishes, I could have desired nothing more ardently than the success of your institution; because I can desire nothing in preference to the general good, which your plan seems calculated to promote, by bringing to light many useful and interesting tracts, which, being too short for separate publication, might lie

many years concealed, or, perhaps, irrecoverably perish: my wishes are accomplished, without an invocation to CA'MADHE'NU; and your Society, having already passed its infant state, is advancing to maturity with every mark of a healthy and robust constitution. When I reflect, indeed, on the variety of subjects, which have been discussed before you, concerning the his

« PreviousContinue »