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WILLIAM JONES, ESQ. TO ROBERT ORME, ESQ. DEAR SIR,
Duke Street, June 26th, 1773. I was never less pleased with the study of the law than at this moment, when my attendance at Westminster Hall prevents me from thanking you in person for your most elegant and acceptable present, which shall ever be preserved amongst my literary treasures. Your history is not one of those books which a man reads once in a cursory manner, and then throws aside for ever ; there is no end of reading and approving of it, nor shall I ever desist giving myself that pleasure to the last year of my life. You may rely on this testimony, as it comes from one who not only was never guilty of flattery, but like Cæsar's wife, would never suffer himself to be suspected of it.
It is much to be regretted that the historical pieces of Lucceius are not preserved to us : by a letter or two of his, which are extant, he seems to have been a man of exquisite parts and taste. Cicero declares himself charmed with his way of writing, which makes me think that his works would have been far preferable to those of Sallust and Tacitus, whom I cannot help considering as the first corrupters of the Roman language and eloquence. As to our language, if yourself, and perhaps Lord Lyttleton, had not restored it to its native simplicity, we should soon have been reduced to a new dialect, &c. &c. I have been for the last five weeks at Oxford, where I took the degree of Master of Arts in the regular course. I was
much pressed to speak at the ensuing encænia ; but when I had taken the pains to prepare an oration, in which there was nothing that could offend the most obsequious courtier, the persons who had urged me to write it were disappointed at not finding it a slavish compliment to the ministers, and exhorted me not to deliver it in the theatre without a great deal of softening, which determined me not to speak at all; but as I am pleased with the composition, which is written wholly in the manner of the ancients, I shall print a few copies for my friends. See the loquacity of us writers; you honour me with three kind and indulgent lines, and I send you in return as many rambling pages : but when friends cannot converse in person, they have no resource but conversing at a distance. I am, with great truth, most sincerely yours,
WILLIAM JONES, ESQ. TO MR. GIBBON.
Lamb's Buildings, June 30th, 1781. I HAVE more than once sought, without having been so fortunate as to obtain a proper oppor. tunity of thanking you very sincerely for the elegant compliment which you pay me, in a work abounding in elegance of all kinds.
My Seven Arabian Poets will see the light be. fore next winter, and be proud to wait upon you in their English dress. Their wild productions will, I flatter myself, be thought interesting,
and not venerable merely on account of their antiquity.
In the mean while, let me request you to honour me with accepting a copy of a law tract, which is not yet published; the subject is so generally important, that I make no apology for sending you a professional work.
You must pardon my inveterate hatred of C. Octavianus, basely surnamed Augustus. I feel myself unable to forgive the death of Cicero, which, if he did not promote, he might have prevented. Besides, even Mecænas knew the cruelty of his disposition, and ventured to reproach him with it. In short, I have not Christian charity for him.
With regard to Asiatic letters, a necessary attention to my profession will compel me wholly and eternally to abandon them, unless Lord North (to whom I am already under no small obligation) should think me worthy to concur in the improved administration of justice in Bengal, and should appoint me to supply the vacancy on the India bench. Were that appointment to take place this year, I should probably travel, for speed, through part of Egypt and Arabia, and should be able, in my way, to procure many eastern tracts of literature and jurisprudence. I might become a good Mahomedan lawyer before I reached Calcutta, and, in my vacations, should find leisure to explain, in my native language, whatever the Arabs, Persians, and Turks have written on science, history, and the fine arts.
My happiness by no means depends on obtaining this appointment, as I am in easy circumstances
without my profession, and have flattering prospects in it; but if the present summer and the ensuing autumn elapse without my receiving any answer, favourable or unfavourable, I shall be forced to consider that silence as a polite refusal, and, having given sincere thanks for past favours, sball entirely drop all thoughts of Asia, and,
deep as ever plummet sounded, shall drown my Persian books.” If my politics have given offence, it would be manly in ministers to tell me
I shall never be personally hostile to them, nor enlist under party banners of any colour; but I will never resign my opinions for interest, though I would cheerfully abandon them on conviction. My reason, such as it is, can only be controlled by better reason,
to which I am ever open. As to my freedom of thought, speech, and action, I shall say what Charles XII. wrote under the map of Riga, “ Dieu me l'a donnée, la diable ne me l'ôtera pas.” But the fair answer to this objection is, that my system is purely speculative, and has no relation to my seat on the bench in India, where I should hardly think of instructing the Gentoos in the maxims of the Athenians. I be. lieve I should not have troubled you with this letter, if I did not fear that your attendance in parliament might deprive me of the pleasure of meeting you at the club next Tuesday ; and I shall go to Oxford a few days after. At all times, and in all places, I shall ever be, with undissembled regard, dear sir, your much obliged and faithful servant,
WILLIAM JONES, ESQ. TO MR. PRITCHARD.
Lamb's Building, 21 May (by the calendar,
21 Nov. by the weather), 1782. MY DEAR PRITCHARD, I HAVE called anxiously at the stationer's, every now and then, for the last month,no letter from Oldbury: I have called there this morning with increasing anxiety,—no letter from Oldbury, or Thornbury, or Hawkesbury, or any other bury. Are you dead and buried in earnest, my dear Arthur, or are you ill? The last idea gives me alarm ; for it is impossible to conceive that you forget my existence, or that you stand upon the form of regular answers. Many thanks for yours dated 17th April-it was short, but agreeable to me. You will ask why I have not answered it, and will be anxious also for my health : I will inform you ; earnestly hoping that you will burn this, or at least take special care of it. We parted on the bank of the Severn, on Sunday ·(was it not?) the 14th of April. I reached Oxford on the Monday, and found letters in college, which I did not look at till I had dined in the common room ; I read them at six o'clock: one was from Lord Shelburne, dated the 9th, desiring to see me instantly: I put four horses to my chaise; travelled all night, and saw his lordship early the next morning : the same day I was presented to all the new ministers. A great place had been kept open for me above a fortnight: not hearing from me, nor knowing where I was, they desponded and disposed of it. Particulars