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And conjecture, and even tradition seem to point them out as the origin of all the

Streams that watered all the schools
Of academies old and new, with those
Surnamed Peripatetics, and the sect
Epicurean, and the Stoic severe.

A thousand circumstances concur to identify the ancient religions of India and Egypt; and to render it most probable that the relation of their sciences and philosophy was not less intimate. Which was the most anciently civilized of the two countries will probably ever remain undetermined; but the Indians seem on many accounts to lay claim to a superior antiquity. Their physical situation, so well adapted to the production of all that nature requires, while it must have been long before the muddy shores of the Nile were habitable, is not the least argument in their favour; besides, their traditions and poems all seem to point to the north as the quarter whence they received their religion, their science, their language, and their conquerors, which could not have been the case if they were originally from Egypt. It is possible that the same origin may be common to them both, and that the similarity observed in the monuments of every kind in the two nations may be drawn from one common source. Now the Greeks confessedly borrowed from

the Egyptians, but transporting their coarse and clumsy imagery into their own charming climate, genius refined and purified it with her magic touch, and formed even in the infancy of happy Greece those models, which like the ideal beauty of the painter, future times have sought unceasingly to emulate, but sought in vain; while the ancient mothers of art, continued their massy and ill-formed works, as if the palsied hand of time had brought them back to a state of infancy and fixed them in irrecoverable mediocrity. You have only to compare the rude sketch I send you of a still ruder deity*, with the beautiful head of the Apollo, and if for a moment you can forget its deformity to think of the ingenuity that made the elephant's head the symbol of the god of letters, I shall think you deserve to be born a Brahmin in your next visit to this world, and to be one of Genesa's especial favourites, with whose name I conclude this letter, the subject of which is peculiarly his own.


You flatter me extremely by desiring the continuance of so grave a correspondence as mine on the subject of India has hitherto

* See the plate of Genesa.

been, and, what is worse, I fear I cannot promise to be much more amusing in future. The truth is, that the literature of the East has hitherto been kept so totally distinct from that of Europe, that the moment one touches on an oriental subject, one conjures up the figures of grave professors with cauliflower wigs, and expects to hear beef and mutton talked of in the original Hebrew. Now really it has often mortified me, to think I was living under the same government and protected by the same laws with my fellow-subjects in India, and that I knew as little about them as about the inhabitants of Mercury, who are so enveloped in sunbeams as to be dark with excess of light; so that you owe to my vanity all these long stories of philosophers and poets with which I have treated you for some time past.

I am not sure that I was not once liable to the reproach of European prejudice so far as to despise immeasurably the Hindu meekness, and half polish; and perhaps I should be ashamed to own that I had so far strayed from good-nature and good-sense, as to forget, that whatever reproaches may be deserved by some of the Hindus for their moral practices, the fundamental principles of morality itself are so firmly implanted in the soul of man that no vicious practice and no mistaken code can change

their nature, and that we should look on the historian who should tell us of laws which enacted theft and murder, or punished honesty and benevolence, with as little credit, as on him who should talk of "men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders."

Our missionaries are very apt to split upon this rock, and in order to place our religion in the brightest light, as if it wanted their feeble aid, they lay claim exclusively to all the sublime maxims of morality, and tell those they wish to convert, that their own books contain nothing but abominations, the belief of which they must abandon in order to receive the purer doctrine of Christianity. Mistaken men! could they desire a better opening to their hopes than to find already established that morality which says, it is enjoined to man even at the moment of destruction to wish to benefit his foes, "as the sandal tree in the instant of its overthrow sheds perfume on the axe that fells it."

How happy would it be if instead of fighting with the air as these good men persist in doing, they were employed in teaching the rudiments of knowledge, in searching for, and compiling such moral passages from the ancient Hindû books, as, taught to the young Indians, might improve them, and render them worthy of still further advantages, an improvement they would be far

from refusing, as it would accord with their prejudices, and being founded on the wisdom of their forefathers would carry with it the authority of religion and the attractions of affection. Should we hear of the habitual want of truth in the Hindûs, if from their infancy they were exercised in those sacred passages where truth in all her sublime and attractive array is identified with the universal soul, and made familiar with the strains of the poet, who speaking of the inviolability of a promise, sings, "Before the appointed hour even thou thyself art not able to destroy the tyrant to whom thou hast promised life; no more than the sun is able prematurely to close the day which he himself enlightens*."

In short I consider morality like the sciences and arts, to be only slumbering not forgotten in India; and that to awaken the Hindûs to a knowledge of the treasures in their own hands is the only thing wanting to set them fairly in the course of improvement with other nations.

Everywhere in the ancient Hindû books we find the maxims of that pure and sound morality which is founded on the nature of man as a rátional and social being. Their laws themselves

* From Magha's poem on the death of Sisupila.

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