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Persian Jones, the man who future on the immensity and helped to build India's pluralism of its past...

Byline: DYLAN IORWERTH

JONES was born in Beaufort Buildings, Westminster, on September 28, 1746, the youngest child of William ap Sion Siors (son of John George), known in London as William "Longitude" Jones FRS (c1675-1749), the eminent Welsh mathematician, friend of Newton, and first to use p as the ratio of c/d, and Mary Nix, the enlightened daughter of a cabinet-maker. His inheritance of intellectual precision was complemented by the influence of his polymathic Anglesey relation, Lewis Morris (1701-65), whose circle pioneered a Welsh cultural renaissance. A genealogy Morris enclosed in a letter from Llanfihangel Tre'r Beirdd (Town of the Bards), to his friend William Jones Sr showed that they shared an ancestry deriving from Hwfa ap Cynddelw, Lord of Llyslifon, and the princes of Gwynedd.

Jones' first publication was a translation from Persian into French of what became the Histoire de Nader Chah (1770), a biography of the Persian monarch Nadir Shah (d 1747). Jones, a passionate believer in universal manhood suffrage, accepted this prestigious commission from King Christian VII of Denmark with reluctance. Having little sympathy for a Persian tyrant, Jones appended his own "Traite sur la poesie orientale", which used translations of odes by Hafiz to undermine the tyrannical hold of Graeco-Roman classicism over European literature. Looking eastward might refresh jaded neo-classical tastes, as he wrote to his Hungarian Orientalist friend, Count Reviczki: "From my earliest years, I was charmed with the poetry of the Greeks; nothing, I then thought, could be more sublime than the Odes of Pindar, nothing sweeter than Anacreon, nothing more polished and elegant than the golden remains of Sappho, Archilochus, Alcaeus, and Simonides: but when I had tasted the poetry of the Arabs and Persians [...]" It was perhaps Welsh princely blood that made him dissatisfied with his post as tutor.

He sought a profession where intellect and merit might secure a rival exclusivity to that of rank, and on September 19, 1770 entered the Middle Temple to begin studying for the bar. For some time dusty legal tomes predominated over the Bodley's Persian manuscripts, but the fame for which he thirsted: "Glory I shall pursue through fire and water, by night and by day", arrived with the publication of his Grammar of the Persian Language (1771). Yunus Uksfurdi (Oxford Jones), produced not only a Shakaristan (a chest of sugar), as the grammar was titled in Persian, but a gulistan (bower of roses), replete with the beauties of "the Persian Anacreon" Hafiz, a ruba'i (quatrain) and a half by Omar Khayyam, and the love-songs of Firdausi: "If I could sleep one night on thy bosom, I should seem to touch the sky with my exalted head." A book proffering Oriental breasts and chests of rupees was likely to succeed.

Jones had inaugurated Romantic Orientalism. Perfectly balancing the aesthetic and the utilitarian, his Grammar designed to train Company writers in the language of Mughal governance simultaneously inspired them to love mystical Persian poetry.

At the age of 26, "Persian" Jones was elected to Dr Johnson's Literary Club, on terms of intimacy with the metropolitan luminaries of the day. The names of his friends present a roll-call of late eighteenth-century glitterati: Johnson, Hester Thrale, Elizabeth Craven, Boswell, Reynolds, Georgiana, duchess of Devonshire, Elizabeth Vesey, Elizabeth Montagu, Franklin, Price, Priestley, Burke, Hastings, Zoffany, Gibbon, Goldsmith, Percy, Sheridan, Fox, Pitt, Wilkes, Warton, Garrick, etc.

From 1775-1783 Jones chose to practise as a barrister on the Oxford and Carmarthen circuits, and Wales radicalized him. At Carmarthen, Haverfordwest, and Cardigan he championed the rights of a peasantry oppressed by the arbitrary power of largely Anglicized landowners, a rackrenting squirearchy, and Englishspeaking monoglot magistrates and judges. Jones' egalitarian principles aligned him with the underprivileged, frequently representing impoverished Welsh clients gratis. Jones, together with figures such as his friend Richard Price, and the deist, educator, and universalist, David Williams, were linking Wales with metropolitan and international spheres of oppositional radicalism. Jones' increasing radicalism earned him a reputation as a republican and long delayed his appointment to the bench on the Supreme Court in Calcutta.

His pamphlet The Principles of Gov-vernment, in a Dialogue between a Scholar and a Peasant (1782) was written to convince Benjamin Franklin that the mysteries of the state might be comprehended by the working man. Jones observed that "a free state is only a more numerous and more powerful club, and that he only is a free man, who is a member of such a state", maintaining that the qualification for membership was the property which every man possessed in his own life and liberty. Its emphases upon popular education, parliamentary reform, and cooperative association anticipated the radicalism of Thomas Paine and William Godwin. The work was published as a free pamphlet by Major Cartwright's Society for Constitutional Information. William Shipley, dean of St Asaph and shortly to become Jones' brother-in-law, reprinted this tract at Wrexham in January 1783. The high sheriff of Flintshire, Thomas Fitzmaurice, promptly prosecuted Shipley for publishing a paper "seditious, treasonable, and diabolical". Ironically, howev-ver, while Fitzmaurice was blackening Jones' name in Flintshire, Fitzmaurice's brother, William Petty, second earl of Shelburne, then prime minister, was at Windsor, recommending Jones for the Indian judgeship.

Knighted and married to his beloved Anna Maria Shipley, Jones' Indian ocean vision was of unparalleled opportunities for intellectual exploration, limited "only by the geographical limits of Asia" encompassing "MAN and NATURN E; whatever is performed by the one, or produced by the other". Arriving in Calcutta on September 25, 1783 Jones fell immediately in love with India. He tells of his inexpressible pleasure in reading of Krishna in a Persian translation of the rimad Bhagp g -watam: "[I]t is by far the most entertaining book, on account of its novelty and wildness, that I ever read". At times it almost sounds as if Jones has gone native. In the impassioned erotic tones of a bhakta (Hindu devotee), he announces: "I am in love with the Gopia, charmed with Crishen, an enthusiastick admirer of Ram, and a devout adorer of Brimha-bishenmehais" [Brahma, Vishnu, Siva: the trimurti/trinity]. Jones was inspired to write a series of "Hymns to Hindu Deities" presenting a dignified picture of Hinduism to the West.

In distinct opposition to Eurocentrism, Jones encouraged a recentering of perspective from the hub which is India. The organ of the Indocentric Asiatic Society he founded, Asiatick Researches, transformed western conceptions of a marginalized subcontinent, placing a vibrant India at the centre of European Romanticism. The Himalayas were forced upwards as the result of tectonic plate collision; and at sunset on October 5, 1784, Jones was surveying from a friend's bungalow at Bhagalpur the snow-capped peak of Chomolhari in Bhutan. By triangulation he calculated the elevation of the Himalayas, convinced they surpassed the Andes (then considered the world's highest peaks): they were "the highest mountains in the world, without excepting the ANDES". George Everest E was not yet born and Jones was the first to prove the global physical elevation of the subcontinent.

Two years later Jones, having learnt Sanskrit, revealed India's cultural elevation though the revolutionary upthrust of comparative philology. This was the real tectonic shift for it demolished western claims to intellectual superiority. Jones transformed Europe's selfunderstanding with the following passage: "The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed that no philologer could examine them all three, without believ-ving them to have sprung from some common source which perhaps no longer exists: there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothick and the Celtick, though blended with a very dif-fferent idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family." (Third Anniversary Discourse, February 2, 1786) Jones was making an imaginative scientific leap which marks the beginning of Indo-European comparative grammar and modern comparative linguistics. His familiarity with 28 languages enabled him to compile wordlists such as the following: Sanskrit matar Greek meter Latin mater Persian madar German mutter Spanish madre Russian mat' Welsh modryb; mam Breton mamm Albanian meme French mere; maman Afghan mor Arabic umm English mother; mum Gaelic mathair Jones suggests the revolutionary idea of language evolution and, if languages can change over time, they may also become extinct - Jones' putative lost source is what we now term Proto-Indo-European. His paradigm-shifting researches in Calcutta reveal the most extensive language family in the world. But if the linguistic thinking is radical, the racial ramifications are truly revolutionary. At a time when few Europeans expected - or desired - to find either refinement or family in India, this passage radically adjusted preconceptions of western cultural superiority, introducing disconcerting notions of familial relationship between the rulers and their "black" subjects. Within that family Sanskrit is seen as a more beautiful sister than her revered Western siblings.

Empire had facilitated Jones' famous statement of the Indo-European thesis by sending him to be a judge in Calcutta. Though a Crown appointee, he served a regime controlled by the world's first global corporation - the East India Company, resplendent in its unconstitutional power and private army. The "Honourable Company" was the corporate creator of empire, Britain and modernity. As globalizing commerce was shrinking the world, Jones' researches stressed global interconnectedness.

In Bengal his Sanskrit researches inaugurated Indology, and comparative literature, philology, mythology, and law. He did more than any other writer to destroy Eurocentric prejudice, reshaping western perceptions of India and the Orient. Jones incorporated ancient India into world history, identifying the "Palibothra" of the Greeks with Pataliputra, the birthplace of king Asoka in the third century BCE, at that time the world's largest city, and "Sandracottus" with the fourth-century BCE Maurya emperor Chandragupta. His commitment to the translation of culture, a multiculturalism fascinated as much by similitude as difference, profoundly influenced European and British Romanticism.

Another revolutionary contribution to Orientalism, Jones' translation of Kalidasa's classic play Sakuntala (1789) created a western sensation. Lighting the blue lotos touchpaper of Romantic Indophilia, Sakuntala inspired poets, philologists, ethnologists, and mythographers throughout Europe. Jones announced that Sakuntala was "so much like Shakespeare, that I should have thought our great dramatick poet had studied Calidasa".

Having revolutionized language theory by recognizing Sanskrit as a more polite sister of Latin and Greek, Jones introduces the beauteous Sakuntala to embody that Indian refinement in all her seductive elegance: "Dushm. [Aside] Admirably spoken, Priyamvada! No; her charms cannot be hidden, even though a robe of twisted fibres be thrown over her shoulders and conceal part of her bosom, like a veil of yellow leaves enfolding a fragrant flower. The water lily, though dark moss may settle on its head, is nevertheless beautiful; and the moon with dewy beams is rendered yet brighter by its black spots. The bark itself acquires elegance from the features of a girl with antelope's eyes, and rather augments than diminishes my ardour. Many are the rough stalks which support the water lily; but many and exquisite are the blossoms which hang on them."

Jones' key legal project was his preparation of an exhaustive digest of Hindu and Muslim law, a foundation stone of the policy of legitimizing British rule through the recovery of native traditions. In this he worked tirelessly with a team of Hindu pandits and Muslim maulavis (legal scholars), despite his arduous judicial schedules. In a courtroom break, Jones copied out a sentence from the Yajurveda (1500- 1200 BCE): "Then God produced Law, and Law is the king of kings, by whose help the weak are made strong", adding his otive reflection: "Moabused in Europe fo which occurs in th of a country govern rially by despotism". Pluralism has an respected pedigree tinent, nourishing a open debate wh shaped the hetero Indian democracy tral ideas of religioerance are at least as the rock-carved of Maurya king (273-232 BCE), the lion capital from o whose pillars providemblem of India's lic: "There shou growth in the esse all religions [] all have as their root r speech, that is, n one's own religion, ing the religion of oout good cause". In resurgent neo-colothe West, "preventivthe Middle East, a bated religious fundand fanaticism in world religions, it is ate time to conside tradition of artistiand religious ex debate which has the subcontinent.

In launching the on January 15, 178 Jones offered his "Nezr" (ceremonia and the Sanskr Wilkins reciprocateSanskrit poem - bu cal Persian ghazal (symbolizing the Su suhl-i kul (peace w enacting of Mughal sessed a political diregime's use of Su and Hindu Vedant quietist and potentily syncretist, fostera tradition of Indian interculturalism which Hastings saw as essential to peacefuand effective gove ment of Hindus Muslims, whether or Sunni.

For many of the H ings circle, as for Panehru later, India more than Hind (Hindu-ness). In M 2003 I discovered a ter from William J to Harford Jones, India Company Fa at Basra, expressing passionate desire to "Persia, them delightful, them MI fyddai'n ddiddorol gwybod pryd yn union y gwnaeth ein byd droi yn sgwar, neu o leia'n betryal. Achos, yn sicr, ar un adeg, roedd o'n grwn.

Dau ysgogiad sydd yna i'r cwestiwn - sylw bach mewn nofel newydd a thrip bach i rai o ynysoedd mwya' gogleddol gwledydd Prydain.

Yn Dwy Farwolaeth Y Endaf Rowlands, y llyfr a enillodd y Fedal Ryddiaith eleni, R mae Tony Bianchi'n dweud ein bod ni'n T licio byw mewn llefydd efo llinellau syth.

Ond draw yn Ynysoedd yr Y Orcnis - yr Ynysoedd Y Erch - crwn oedd y tai filoedd o flynyddoedd yn ol. A chrwn oedden nhw, o ran hynny, ar Dre'r Ceiri ar yr Eifl neu ar lethrau Allt Coed Mawr yn Waunfawr.

Er hynny, un o'r pethau trawiadol am y tai cyn-hanes yn Skara Brae oedd eu bod nhw'n hynod o debyg i fwthyn un o'r crofftwyr ar y tir mawr - er fod 5,000 o flynyddoedd rhyngddyn nhw.

Ond ar wahan i'r ffaith fod un yn grwn a'r llall yn hirsgwar, yr un oedd y drefn sylfaenol - dau wely bocs, tan, ychydig o le storio y tu allan a silffoedd i gadw a dangos pethau. Doedd fawr ddim ond y siap wedi newid tros yr holl ganrifoedd.

Yn Y Skara Brae, roedd llawer o'r tai bron iawn dan ddaear - arwydd mae'n debyg o ffyrnigrwydd yr hinsawdd a'u hamgylchiadau byw. Ac mi allwch chi ddychmygu bod tai crwn yn llawer mwy effeithiol o ran gwres a gwynt a mwg a sawl nodwedd arall.

Tybed a oedden nhw hefyd yn gweddu i'r ffordd o feddwl ac i'r ffordd o fyw. Fel patrymau troellog y Celtiaid, does dim cornel mewn ty crwn ac, ar wahan i fwlch y drws, does dim dechrau na diwedd iddo fo chwaith.

Mae yna rywbeth llawer mwy trefnus a ffurfiol am ystafell sgwar a hynny hefyd, falle, yn newid siap ein meddyliau. Ac mae ystafell sgwar yn gofyn lot llai o gwestiynau.

Yn ei nofel, mae prif gymeriad Y Tony T Bianchi'n cael trafferth wrth symud i mewn i fflat gydag un wal sy'n bochio. Mae'n cael trafferth i osod ei ddodrefn. Mae ystafell gron yn bownd o sbarduno'r dychymyg.

Yr ateb hawdd ydi awgrymu mai'r Rhufeiniaid oedd ar fai. Mae'r dystiolaeth arwynebol yn awgrymu mai efo nhw y daeth adeiladau hirsgwar i ddisodli'r lleill. Ac wedyn y Normaniaid a'u cestyll sgwar ac onglog yn lle'r hen geyrydd crwn.

Concwerwyr oedd y Rhufeiniaid a'r Normaniaid fel ei gilydd ac mi ddaeth adeiladau sgwar yn symbolau o awdurdod. Mae yna rywbeth trahaus mewn wal gornelog yn codi'n uchel i'r awyr.

Uchafbwynt y bensaerniaeth sgwar yng Nghymru ydi'r capeli - 'bocsys' T. ' T. Rowland Hughes. Tybed a fyddai pethau'n wahanol pe bai capeli'n grwn? Dylan Iorwerth yw Golygydd Gyfarwyddwr Golwg a Golwg 360 walesonline/cymraeg

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 15, 2015
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