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DELIVERED 24 FEBRUARY, 1785,
If the Deity of the Hindus, by whom all their just requests are believed to be granted with fingular 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 defire nothing in preference to the general good, which your plan feems calculated to promote, by bringing to light many useful and interesting tracts, which, being too short for feparate 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 histhat many
tory, laws, manners, arts, and antiquities of Asia, I am unable to decide whether my pleasure or my surprise be the greater ; for I will not dissemble, that your progress has far exceeded my expectations; and, though we must seriously deplore the loss of those excellent men, who have lately departed from this Capital, yet there is a prospect still of large contributions to your ftock of Asiatick learning, which, I am persuaded, will continually increafe. My late journey to Benares has enabled me to assure you,
of your members, who reside at a distance, employ a part of their leisure in preparing additions to your archives; and, unlefs I am too fanguine, you will soon receive light from them on feveral topicks entirely new in the republick of letters.
It was principally with a design to open fources of such information, that I long had meditated an expedition up the Ganges during the suspension of my business; but, although I had the satisfaction of visiting two ancient seats of Hindu superstition and literature, yet, illness having detained me a considerable time in the way, it was not in my power to continue in them long enough to pursue my inquiries; and I left them, as Æneas is feigned to have left the shades, when his guide made him recollect the fwift flight of irrevocable time, with a curiosity
raised to the height, and a regret not easy to be described.
Whoever travels in Asia, especially if he be conversant with the literature of the countries through which he passes, must naturally remark the superiority of European talents : the observation, indeed, is at least as old as ALEXANDER; and, though we cannot agree with the fage preceptor of that ambitious Prince, that “the Afiaticks are born to be flaves,” yet the Athenian * poet seems perfectly in the right, when he represents Europe as a sovereign Princess, and Asia as ber Handmaid: but, if the mistress be transcendently majestick, it cannot be denied that the attendant has many beauties, and some advantages peculiar to herself. The ancients were accustomed to pronounce panegyricks on their own countrymen at the expense of all other nations, with a political view, perhaps, of stimulating them by praise, and exciting them to still greater exertions ; but such arts are here unnecessary; nor would they, indeed, become a society, who seek nothing but truth unadorned by rhetorick; and, although we must be conscious of our superior advancement in all kinds of useful knowledge, yet we ought not therefore to contemn the people of Asia, from whose researches into nature, works of art, and inventions of fancy, many valuable hints
rived for our own improvement and advantage. If that, indeed, were not the principal object of your institution, little else could arise from it but the mere gratification of curiosity; and I should not receive so much delight from the humble share, which you have allowed me to take, in promoting it.
To form an exact parallel between the works and actions of the Western and Eastern worlds, would require a tract of no inconsiderable length; but we may decide on the whole, that reason and taste are the grand prerogatives of European minds, while the Asiaticks have soared to loftier heights in the sphere of imagination. The civil history of their vast empires, and of India in particular, must be highly interesting to our common country; but we have a still nearer interest in knowing all former modes of ruling these inestimable provinces, on the prosperity of which so much of our national welfare, and individual benefit, seems to depend. A minute geographical knowledge, not only of Bengal and Babar, but, for evident reasons, of all the kingdoms bordering on them, is closely connected with an account of their many revolutions : but the natural productions of these territories, efpecially in the vegetable and mineral systems, are momentous objects of research to an imperial, • but, which is 'a character of equal dignitý, a commercial, people.
If Botany may be described by metaphors drawn from the science itself, we may justly pronounce a minute acquaintance with plants, their classes, orders, kinds, and Species, to be its flowers, which can only produce fruit by an application of that knowledge to the purposes of life, particularly to diet, by which diseases may be avoided, and to medicine, by which they may be remedied: for the improvement of the last mentioned art, than which nonė surely can be more beneficial to mankind, the virtues of minerals also should be accurately known. So highly has medical skill been prized by the ancient Indians, that one of the fourteen Retna's, or precious things, which their Gods are believed to have produced by churning the ocean with the mountain Mandara, was à learned physician. What their old books contain on this subject, we ought certainly to discover, and that without lofs of time; left the venerable but abstruse language, in which they are composed, should cease to be perfectly intelligible, 'even to the best educated natives, through a want of powerful invitation to study it. Bernier, who was himself of the Faculty, mentions approved medical books in Sanscrit, and cites a few aphorisms,