« PreviousContinue »
guage. He was first attached to one of the Native Regiments of Infantry, as a clerk, it is believed, to the Adjutant; and, subsequently, as Vakil, or native agent to the regiment. While in these situations he prosecuted the study of the English language; and by acquiring a more grammatical knowledge of the several" vernacular dialects which he had been taught in early life, he added to a character for natural quickness of intellect and correctness of conduct, that of an accomplished interpreter. How long he remained in this situation, or whether leaving it at this period he obtained any other, is not known; but in the year 1815, we find him employed as a clerk in the office of the Military Auditor General. While in this employment a circumstance accidently brought him to the notice of the gentleman before mentioned. He had undertaken to translate from the Mahratta into the English language a code of Regulations drawn up by order of the late Tippu Sultán, the sovereign of Mysdr, for the guidance of his revenue officers. Such a work, it will be readily conceived, could not form a part of his duties as clerk in a military audit office, and it must therefore have been a voluntary task. His translation was in every respect so correct, and the notes and illustrations accompanying it exhibited so eminent a degree of knowledge in the several languages from which the terms and phrases used in the original were generally borrowed, as well as of the Mahratta and English, and at the same time displayed so much talent in the elucidation of the various parts of the subject
* It is not uncommon that in the same town or village two, three, or more vernacular languages will equally prevail; and that boys are taught, though very imperfectly, to read and
write in the whole of them.
by comparison and by contrast with the English system of revenue, as at that period to give rise to considerable doubt of its being the unassisted performance of a Hindu. Satisfied that it was so, this gentleman, his early patron, who besides the several offices which he held in the civil department of the Madras Government, was also Senior Member of the College of Fort St. George, gladly availed himself of so fair an opportunity to countenance and encourage talents and conduct such as he observed in our author; and procured for him, first, the appointment of Head of the College Office, and afterwards that of Head English Master to the native classes of that institution. It was while in the latter situation that he was, for upwards of five years, intimately known to the writer of these remarks, who, shortly before his quitting India, had the satisfaction of recommending him to the First Commissioner in Mysor, by which means he was placed in a sphere of action where talents such as his could not long remain unknown, and which soon raised him to the responsible and highly honourable post of Judge and Magistrate. By a regular course of private study while at Madras, he had added to his other accomplishments, not only a knowledge of the Sanscrit language, but also of algebra, geometry, the higher branches of mathematics, and of geography and astronomy; and at one time he had classes in these branches of science, the scholars of which were an honour to his industry and talents; by many of whom his assiduity, ability, and zeal, will be long held in grateful remembrance. Of his death no particular accounts have yet been received. It is said that the climate of Mysdr was not congenial to him;
and perhaps the duties of his situation there were too arduous for his weakly frame. He had no family, but he had adopted a daughter whom, together with his widow, an aged mother, and a brother who was in some mercantile profession at Madras, he has, it is supposed, left to enjoy the little wealth which his frugality, rather than any adequate return actually awarded to his merits, enabled him to realise. But however this may have been, his loss as a man of talents and of science, as well as a highly valuable servant of the British Government, is deeply to be regretted. The writer* of these remarks has the pleasure to announce that he expects shortly to receive from the friends of the deceased, ample materials whence a full and authentic view of the author's life may be drawn, should such a record be thought sufficiently interesting to the public, to induce its acceptance by the Royal
* After the volume was sent to press, he received from the widow of the deceased
a letter, from which the following is an extract:
To Captain HARKNEss.
“Bangalore, East-Indies, 22d May 1833. + + # #
“As my late husband in his lifetime had mentioned to me the existence of a friendship between yourself and him, and which, by letters found after his decease, I feel convinced existed in your mind towards him, I have taken the liberty to address you on the subject of my misfortune, not only in the loss of one so dear, so amiable, but also in being subjected to the mercenary and avaricious views of his brother.
“I beg to call to your remembrance the number of years my late husband was
in the Honourable Company's service; first, as Wakeel to the Second Battalion of the
Sixteenth Regiment of Madras Native Infantry; then in the Military Auditor General's Office; next in the College at Madras; and, lastly, as Native Judge in the Hoossor Adawlut Court at Bangalore, embracing a period of twenty-three years, during which he never failed in his different situations to obtain the respect and approbation of his superiors, and every one who had an acquaintance with him, as the various letters and testimonials from highly respectable individuals now in my possession will testify. It may also be in your recollection that he constantly and steadily pursued a course of study which has tended, in a certain degree, to the embellishment of Oriental Literature. His contributions to the London Asiatic Society, of which he was a corresponding Member, and his Illustrations of the Architecture of Hindostan, and other efforts of his
genius, have obtained the public thanks of that Society, and of other learned individuals both here and in England.”
Eatract of a Letter from RAM RAz to Rich ARD CLARKE, Esq.
“Since my last letter to you, I have collected ample materials for an essay on our architecture. I am now engaged in examining them, and hope to be able to send you the result of my examination by the next season. Works on Silpa Sástra are very scarce in this part of the country; and even the few scattered fragments that can be had are scarcely intelligible to our best educated pundits, as they are so full of memorial verses and technical terms, that none but those who have been regularly initiated in the study of the art, can comprehend them fully. As to our Silpts themselves, you know they are generally men of very limited acquirements, and totally unacquainted with the science, so that the task of explaining this obscure subject has become exceedingly difficult. I often attempted to unravel it with the assistance of many artists and pundits who had been supposed to know any thing of the matter, and as often despaired of meeting with any success; at length I have fortunately found a good sculptor of the Cammata tribe, a native of Tanjore, who is well acquainted with the practical part of the Hindú architecture, and with most of the terms used in the art. With his valuable aid I have already been enabled to solve many intricate problems, and to remove many
difficulties against which I had long been struggling. It is a melancholy truth, that
those venerable sages to whom our works on arts and sciences are attributed, in endeavouring to communicate instruction to the world have been guided rather by a mistaken ambition of rendering themselves reputable by the difficulty and abstruseness of their style, than by an anxiety to make themselves intelligible. And to this indeed is that almost general ignorance among the Hindús in the arts and sciences chiefly ascribable. I have now in my possession four standard treatises on architecture, and expect to have some more from different provinces; and I confidently hope that the result of my investigation will enable me to present to the Royal Asiatic Society, through you, a correct account of a science which may be now considered as almost lost for want of encourage
ment to study it.”
To Richard CLARKE, Esq.
“Madras, 13th January 1828.
“IN the last letter which I did myself the honour of addressing to you, I expressed a hope that I should be able to forward to you an Essay on Hindú Architecture by an early opportunity; but I fear I have been too premature in forming such a hope. I little calculated upon the time that would be necessarily required for me to surmount the various difficulties with which I have to contend in elucidating a subject now so little known in this part of the country. Little did I foresee the extent of the field into which my research has since led me. It is true I have procured several treatises on architecture, sculpture, &c.; and I have already mentioned to you how much I am indebted to Dr. Aitkin for the two manuscripts which he had the kindness to procure me; but our best pundits have given them up as altogether inexplicable; and although these works are all composed in Sanskrit, yet, with the exception of some topics connected with religious rites, sacrifices, and astrology, (which occupy indeed a considerable portion of the Silpa Sástra, and with which we have no immediate concern,) I might, without any exaggeration, affirm that the whole is no more intelligible than the darkest oracles are, at least, to those who are unacquainted with the science itself. Our pundits, it is well known, are skilful enough in scholastic disputation respecting grammar, logic, and law; to which, perhaps, may be added, a qualification, though less general, in mythological poetry and metaphysics, and a partial knowledge of astronomy and medicine; but our architecture, sculpture, painting, &c. have been for ages confined to a class of people