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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 Persia on our left, whilft a breeze from Arabia blew nearly on our stern. 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 in 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 fociety 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 slow, 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 you 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 fubmitting 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 Asia; 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 so many consummate warriors, whose domain has extended at least from the banks of the Iliffus to the mouths of the Ganges: on your left are the beautiful and celebrated provinces of Iran or Perfia, the unmeasured, and perhaps unmeasurable deserts of Arabia, and the once flourishing kingdom of Yemen, with the pleasant isles that the Arabs have subdued 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 your useful researches will be inclosed; þut, since Egypt had unquestionably an old con