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and Tuscans, the Scytbians or Goths, and Celts, the Chinese, Japanese, and Peruvians ; whence, as no reason appears for believing, that they were a colony from any one of those nations, or any of those nations from them, we may fairly conclude that they all proceeded from some central country, to investigate which will be the object of
my future Discourfes ; and I have a fanguine hope, that your collections during the present year will bring to light many useful discoveries ; although the departure for Europe of a very ingenious member, who first opened the inestimable mine of Sanscrit literature, will often deprive us of accurate and solid information concerning the languages and antiquities of India.
DELIVERED 15 FEBRUARY, 1787,
I HAD the honour last year of opening to you my intention, to discourse at our annual meetings on the five principal nations, who have peopled the continent and islands of Asia; so as to trace, by an historical and philological analysis, the number of ancient stems, from which those five branches have severally sprung, and the central region, from which they appear to have proceeded : you may, therefore, expect, that, having submitted to your consideration a few general remarks on the old inhabitants of India, I should now offer my sentiments on some other nation, who, from a similarity of language, religion, arts, and manners, may be supposed to have had an early connection with the Hindus ; but, since we find some Afiatick nations totally diffimilar to them in all or most of those particulars, and since the difference will strike you more forcibly by an immediate and close comparison, I design at present to give a short account of a wonderful people, who seem in every respect fo strongly contrasted to the original natives of this country, that they must have been for ages a distinct and separate race,
For the purpose of these discourses, I considered India on its largest scale, describing it as lying between Persia and China, Tartary and Java; and, for the fanie purpose, I now apply the name of Arabia, as the Arabian Geographers often apply it, to that extensive Peninsula, which the Red Sea divides from Africa, the great Asyrian river from Iràn, and of which the Erythrean Sea washes the base ; without excluding any part of its western side, which would be completely maritime, if no isthmus intervened between the Mediterranean, and the Sea of Kolzom; that country in short I call Arabia, in which the Arabick language and letters, or such as have a near affinity to them, have been immemorially current.
Arabia, thus divided from India by a vast ocean, or at least by a broad bay, could hardly have been connected in any degree with this country, until navigation and commerce had been considerably improved : yet, as the Hindus and the people of Yemen were both commercial nations in a very early age, they were probably the first instruments of conveying to the western world the gold, ivory, and perfumes of India, as well as the fragrant wood, called álluwwa in Arabick and aguru in Sanscrit, which grows in the greatest perfection in Anam or Cochinchina. It is possible too, that a part of the Arabian Idolatry might have been derived from the same source with that of the Hindus; but such an intercourse
may be considered as partial and accidental only; nor am I more convinced, than I was fifteen years ago, when I took the liberty to animadvert on a passage in the History of Prince KANTEMIR, that the Turks have any just reason for holding the coast of Yemen to be a part of India, and calling its inhabitants Yellow Indians.
The Arabs have never been entirely subdued; nor has any impression been made on them, except on their borders; where, indeed, the Pbenicians, Persians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, and, in modern times, the Othmàn Țartars, have severally acquired settlements ; but, with these exceptions, the natives of Hejàz and Yemen have preserved for ages the sole dominion of their deserts and pastures, their mountains and fertile valleys : thus, apart from the rest of mankind, this extraordinary people have retained their primitive manners and language, features and character, as long and as remarkably as the Hindus themselves. All the genuine Arabs of Syria whom I knew in Europe, those of Yemen, whom I saw in the isle of Hinzuàn, whither many had come from Maskat for the purpose of trade, and those of Hejàz, whom I have met in Bengal, form a striking contrast to the Hindu inhabitants of these provinces : their eyes are full of vivacity, their speech voluble and articulate, their deportment manly and dignified, their apprehension quick, their minds always present and attentive; with a spirit of independence appearing in the countenances even of the lowest among them. Men will always differ in their ideas of civilization, each measuring it by the habits and prejudices of his own country; but, if courtesy and urbanity, a love of poetry and eloquence, and the practice of exalted virtues be a juster measure of perfect society, we have certain proof, that the people of Arabia, both on plains and in cities, in republican and monarchical states, were eminently civilized for many ages before their conquest of Persia.
It is deplorable, that the ancient History of this majestick race should be as little known in detail before the time of Dhú Yezen, as that of the Hindus before Vicramáditya ; for, although the vast historical work of Alnuwairì, and the Murijuldhabab, or Golden Meadows, of Almafúúdi, contain chapters on the kings of Himyar, Ghafàn, and Hirah, with lists of them and