PROFESSOR OF SANSKRIT, BENGALI, AND MARATHI
Carey the only Sanskrit scholar in India besides Colebrooke–The motive of the missionary scholar–Plans translation of the sacred books of the East–Comparative philology from Leibniz to Carey–Hindoo and Mohammedan codes and colleges of Warren Hastings–The Marquis Wellesley–The College of Fort William founded–Character of the Company’s civil and military servants–Curriculum of study, professors and teachers–The vernacular languages–Carey’s account of the college and his appointment–How he studied Sanskrit–College Disputation Day in the new Government House–Carey’s Sanskrit speech–Lord Wellesley’s eulogy–Sir James Mackintosh–Carey’s pundits–He projects the Bibliotheca Asiatica–On the Committee of the Bengal Asiatic Society–Edition and translation of the Ramayana epic–The Hitopadesa–His Universal Dictionary–Influence of Carey on the civil and military services–W. B. Bayley; B. H. Hodgson; R. Jenkins; R. M. and W. Bird; John Lawrence.
WHEN, in the opening days of the nineteenth century, William Carey was driven to settle in Danish Serampore, he was the only member of the governing race in North India who knew the language of the people so as to teach it; the only scholar, with the exception of Colebrooke, who could speak Sanskrit as fluently as the Brahmans. The Bengali language he had made the vehicle of the teaching of Christ, of the thought of Paul, of the revelation of John. Of the Sanskrit, hitherto concealed from alien eyes or diluted only through the Persian, he had prepared a grammar and begun a dictionary, while he had continually used its great epics in preaching to the Brahmans, as Paul had quoted the Greek poets on the Areopagus. And all this he had done as the missionary of Christ and the scholar afterwards. Reporting to Ryland, in August 1800, the publication of the Gospels and of “several small pieces” in Bengali, he excused his irregularity in keeping a journal, “for in the printing I have to look over the copy and correct the press, which is much more laborious than it would be in England, because spelling, writing, printing, etc., in Bengali is almost a new thing, and we have in a manner to fix the orthography.” A little later, in a letter to Sutcliff, he used language regarding the sacred books of the Hindoos which finds a parallel more than eighty years after in Professor Max Müller’s preface to his series of the sacred books of the East, the translation of which Carey was the first to plan and to begin from the highest of all motives. Mr. Max Müller calls attention to the “real mischief that has been and is still being done by the enthusiasm of those pioneers who have opened the first avenues through the bewildering forests of the sacred literature of the East.” He declares that “Eastern nations themselves would not tolerate, in any of their classical literary compositions, such violations of the simplest rules of taste as they have accustomed themselves to tolerate, if not to admire, in their sacred books.” And he is compelled to leave untranslated, while he apologises for them, the frequent allusions to the sexual aspects of nature, “particularly in religious books.” The revelations of the Maharaj trial in Bombay are the practical fruit of all this.
“CALCUTTA, 17th March 1802.–I have been much astonished lately at the malignity of some of the infidel opposers of the Gospel, to see how ready they are to pick every flaw they can in the inspired writings, and even to distort the meaning, that they may make it appear inconsistent; while these very persons will labour to reconcile the grossest contradictions in the writings accounted sacred by the Hindoos, and will stoop to the meanest artifices in order to apologise for the numerous glaring falsehoods and horrid violations of all decency and decorum, which abound in almost every page. Any thing, it seems, will do with these men but the word of God. They ridicule the figurative language of Scripture, but will run allegory-mad in support of the most worthless productions that ever were published. I should think it time lost to translate any of them; and only a sense of duty excites me to read them. An idea, however, of the advantage which the friends of Christianity may obtain by having these mysterious sacred nothings (which have maintained their celebrity so long merely by being kept from the inspection of any but interested Brahmans) exposed to view, has induced me, among other things, to write the Sanskrit grammar, and to begin a dictionary of that language. I sincerely pity the poor people, who are held by the chains of an implicit faith in the grossest of lies; and can scarcely help despising the wretched infidel who pleads in their favour and tries to vindicate them. I have long wished to obtain a copy of the Veda; and am now in hopes I shall be able to procure all that are extant. A Brahman this morning offered to get them for me for the sake of money. If I succeed, I shall be strongly tempted to publish them with a translation, pro bono publico.”
It was not surprising that the Governor-General, even if he had been less enlightened than Lord Wellesley, found in this missionary interloper, as the East India Company officially termed the class to which he belonged, the only man fit to be Professor of Bengali, Sanskrit, and Marathi in the College of Fort William, and also translator of the laws and regulations of the Government.
In a memoir read before the Berlin Academy of Sciences, which he had founded in the first year of the eighteenth century, Leibniz first sowed the seed of the twin sciences of comparative philology and ethnology, to which we owe the fruitful results of the historical and critical school. That century was passed in the necessary collection of facts, of data. Carey introduced the second period, so far as the learned and vernacular languages of North India are concerned–of developing from the body of facts which his industry enormously extended, the principles upon which these languages were constructed, besides applying these principles, in the shape of grammars, dictionaries, and translations, to the instruction and Christian civilisation alike of the learned and of the millions of the people. To the last, as at the first, he was undoubtedly only what he called himself, a pioneer to prepare the way for more successful civilisers and scholars. But his pioneering was acknowledged by contemporary14 and later Orientalists, like Colebrooke and H. H. Wilson, to be of unexampled value in the history of scientific research and industry, while the succeeding pages will show that in its practical results the pioneering came as nearly to victory as is possible, until native India lives its own national Christian life.
When India first became a united British Empire under one Governor-General and the Regulating Act of Parliament of 1773, Warren Hastings had at once carried out the provision he himself had suggested for using the moulavies and pundits in the administration of Mussulman and Hindoo law. Besides colleges in Calcutta and Benares to train such, he caused those codes of Mohammedan and Brahmanical law to be prepared which afterwards appeared as The Hedaya and The Code of Gentoo Laws. The last was compiled in Sanskrit by pundits summoned from all Bengal and maintained in Calcutta at the public cost, each at a rupee a day. It was translated through the Persian, the language of the courts, by the elder Halhed into English in 1776. That was the first step in English Orientalism. The second was taken by Sir William Jones, a predecessor worthy of Carey, but cut off all too soon while still a young man of thirty-four, when he founded the Bengal Asiatic Society in 1784 on the model of Boyle’s Royal Society. The code of Warren Hastings had to be arranged and supplemented into a reliable digest of the original texts, and the translation of this work, as done by pundit Jaganatha, was left, by the death of Jones, to Colebrooke, who completed it in 1797. Charles Wilkins had made the first direct translation from the Sanskrit into English in 1785, when he published in London The Bhagavat-Geeta or Dialogue of Krishna and Arjoon, and his is the imperishable honour thus chronicled by a contemporary poetaster:–
“But he performed a yet more noble part,
He gave to Asia typographic art.”
In Bengali Halhed had printed at Hoogli in 1783, with types cut by Wilkins, the first grammar, but it had become obsolete and was imperfect. Such had been the tentative efforts of the civilians and officials of the Company when Carey began anew the work from the only secure foundation, the level of daily sympathetic intercourse with the people and their Brahmans, with the young as well as the old.
The Marquis Wellesley was of nearly the same age as Carey, whom he soon learned to appreciate and to use for the highest good of the empire. Of the same name and original English descent as John and Charles Wesley, the Governor-General was the eldest and not the least brilliant of the Irish family which, besides him, gave to the country the Duke of Wellington and Lord Cowley. While Carey was cobbling shoes in an unknown hamlet of the Midlands and was aspiring to convert the world, young Wellesley was at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, acquiring the classical scholarship which, as we find its fruits in his Primitiœ et Reliquiœ, extorted the praise of De Quincey. When Carey was starving in Calcutta unknown the young lord was making his mark in the House of Commons by a speech against the Jacobins of France in the style of Burke. The friend of Pitt, he served his apprenticeship to Indian affairs in the Board of Control, where he learned to fight the directors of the East India Company, and he landed at Calcutta in 1798, just in time to save the nascent empire from ruin by the second Mysore war and the fall of Tipoo at Seringapatam. Like that other marquis who most closely resembled him half a century after, the Scottish Dalhousie, his hands were no sooner freed from the uncongenial bonds of war than he became even more illustrious by his devotion to the progress which peace makes possible. He created the College of Fort William, dating the foundation of what was fitted and intended to be the greatest seat of learning in the East from the first anniversary of the victory of Seringapatam. So splendidly did he plan, so wisely did he organise, and with such lofty aims did he select the teachers of the college, that long after his death he won from De Quincey the impartial eulogy, that of his three services to his country and India this was the “first, to pave the way for the propagation of Christianity–mighty service, stretching to the clouds, and which in the hour of death must have given him consolation.”
When Wellesley arrived at Calcutta he had been shocked by the sensual ignorance of the Company’s servants. Sunday was universally given up to horse-racing and gambling. Boys of sixteen were removed from the English public schools where they had hardly mastered the rudiments of education to become the magistrates, judges, revenue collectors, and governors of millions of natives recently brought under British sway. At a time when the passions most need regulation and the conscience training, these lads found themselves in India with large incomes, flattered by native subordinates, encouraged by their superiors to lead lives of dissipation, and without the moral control even of the weakest public opinion. The Eton boy and Oxford man was himself still young, and he knew the world, but he saw that all this meant ruin to both the civil and military services, and to the Company’s system. The directors addressed in a public letter, dated 25th May 1798, “an objurgation on the character and conduct” of their servants. They re-echoed the words of the new Governor-General in their condemnation of a state of things, “highly discreditable to our Government, and totally incompatible with the religion we profess.” Such a service as this, preceding the creation of the college, led Pitt’s other friend, Wilberforce, in the discussions on the charter of 1813, to ascribe to Lord Wellesley, when summoning him to confirm and revise it, the system of diffusing useful knowledge of all sorts as the true foe not only of ignorance but of vice and of political and social decay.
Called upon to prevent the evils he had been the first to denounce officially, Lord Wellesley wrote his magnificent state paper of 1800, which he simply termed Notes on the necessity of a special collegiate training of Civil Servants. The Company’s factories had grown into the Indian Empire of Great Britain. The tradesmen and clerks, whom the Company still called “writer,” “factor,” and “merchant,” in their several grades, had, since Clive obtained a military commission in disgust at such duties, become the judges and rulers of millions, responsible to Parliament. They must be educated in India itself, and trained to be equal to the responsibilities and temptations of their position. If appointed by patronage at home when still at school, they must be tested after training in India so that promotion shall depend on degrees of merit. Lord Wellesley anticipated the modified system of competition which Macaulay offered to the Company in 1853, and the refusal of which led to the unrestricted system which has prevailed with varying results since that time. Nor was the college only for the young civilians as they arrived. Those already at work were to be encouraged to study. Military officers were to he invited to take advantage of an institution which was intended to be “the university of Calcutta,” “a light amid the darkness of Asia,” and that at a time when in all England there was not a military college. Finally, the college was designed to be a centre of Western learning in an Eastern dress for the natives of India and Southern Asia, alike as students and teachers. A noble site was marked out for it on the stately sweep of Garden Reach, where every East Indiaman first dropped its anchor, and the building was to be worthy of the founder who erected Government House.
The curriculum of study included Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit; Bengali, Marathi, Hindostani (Hindi), Telugoo, Tamil, and Kanarese; English, the Company’s, Mohammedan and Hindoo law, civil jurisprudence, and the law of nations; ethics; political economy, history, geography, and mathematics; the Greek, Latin, and English classics, and the modern languages of Europe; the history and antiquities of India; natural history, botany, chemistry, and astronomy. The discipline was that of the English universities as they then were, under the Governor-General himself, his colleagues, and the appellate judges. The senior chaplain, the Rev. David Brown, was provost in charge of the discipline; and Dr. Claudius Buchanan was vice-provost in charge of the studies, as well as professor of Greek, Latin, and English. Dr. Gilchrist was professor of Hindostani, in teaching which he had already made a fortune; Lieutenant J. Baillie of Arabic; and Mr. H. B. Edmonstone of Persian. Sir George Barlow expounded the laws or regulations of the British Government in India. The Church of England constitution of the college at first, to which Buchanan had applied the English Test Act, and his own modesty, led Carey to accept of his appointment, which was thus gazetted:–“The Rev. William Carey, teacher of the Bengali and Sanskrit languages.”
The first notice of the new college which we find in Carey’s correspondence is this, in a letter to Sutcliff dated 27th November 1800:–“There is a college erected at Fort William, of which the Rev. D. Brown is appointed provost, and C. Buchanan classical tutor: all the Eastern languages are to be taught in it.” “All” the languages of India were to be taught, the vernacular as well as the classical and purely official. This was a reform not less radical and beneficial in its far-reaching influence, and not less honourable to the scholarly foresight of Lord Wellesley, than Lord William Bentinck’s new era of the English language thirty-five years after. The rulers and administrators of the new empire were to begin their career by a three years’ study of the mother tongue of the people, to whom justice was administered in a language foreign alike to them and their governors, and of the Persian language of their foreign Mohammedan conquerors. That the peoples of India, “every man in his own language,” might hear and read the story of what the one true and living God had done for us men and our salvation, Carey had nine years before given himself to acquire Bengali and the Sanskrit of which it is one of a numerous family of daughters, as the tongues of the Latin nations of Europe and South America are of the offspring of the speech of Caesar and Cicero. Now, following the missionary pioneer, as educational, scientific, and even political progress has ever since done in the India which would have kept him out, Lord Wellesley decreed that, like the missionary, the administrator and the military officer shall master the language of the people. The five great vernaculars of India were accordingly named, and the greatest of all, the Hindi, which was not scientifically elaborated till long after, was provided for under the mixed dialect or lingua franca known as Hindostani.
When Carey and his colleagues were congratulating themselves on a reform which has already proved as fruitful of results as the first century of the Renascence of Europe, he little thought, in his modesty, that he would be recognised as the only man who was fit to carry it out. Having guarded the college, as they thought, by a test, Brown and Buchanan urged Carey to take charge of the Bengali and Sanskrit classes as “teacher” on Rs. 500 a month or £700 a year. Such an office was entirely in the line of the constitution of the missionary brotherhood. But would the Government which had banished it to Serampore recognise the aggressively missionary character of Carey, who would not degrade his high calling by even the suspicion of a compromise? To be called and paid as a teacher rather than as the professor whose double work he was asked to do, was nothing to the modesty of the scholar who pleaded his sense of unfitness for the duties. His Master, not himself, was ever Carey’s first thought, and the full professorship, rising to £1800 a year, was soon conferred on the man who proved himself to be almost as much the college in his own person as were the other professors put together. A month after his appointment he thus told the story to Dr. Ryland in the course of a long letter devoted chiefly to the first native converts:–
“SERAMPORE, 15th June 1801…We sent you some time ago a box full of gods and butterflies, etc., and another box containing a hundred copies of the New Testament in Bengali…Mr. Lang is studying Bengali, under me, in the college. What I have last mentioned requires some explanation, though you will probably hear of it before this reaches you. You must know, then, that a college was founded last year in Fort William, for the instruction of the junior civil servants of the Company, who are obliged to study in it three years after their arrival. I always highly approved of the institution, but never entertained a thought that I should be called to fill a station in it. To my great surprise I was asked to undertake the Bengali professorship. One morning a letter from Mr. Brown came, inviting me to cross the water, to have some conversation with him upon this subject. I had but just time to call our brethren together, who were of opinion that, for several reasons, I ought to accept it, provided it did not interfere with the work of the mission. I also knew myself to be incapable of filling such a station with reputation and propriety. I, however, went over, and honestly proposed all my fears and objections. Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Buchanan were of opinion that the cause of the mission would be furthered by it; and I was not able to reply to their arguments. I was convinced that it might. As to my ability, they could not satisfy me; but they insisted upon it that they must be the judges of that. I therefore consented, with fear and trembling. They proposed me that day, or the next, to the Governor-General, who is patron and visitor of the college. They told him that I had been a missionary in the country for seven years or more; and as a missionary I was appointed to the office. A clause had been inserted in the statutes to accommodate those who are not of the Church of England (for all professors are to take certain oaths, and make declarations); but, for the accommodation of such, two other names were inserted, viz., lecturers and teachers, who are not included under that obligation. When I was proposed, his lordship asked if I was well affected to the state, and capable of fulfilling the duties of the station; to which Mr. B. replied that he should never have proposed me if he had had the smallest doubt on those heads. I wonder how people can have such favourable ideas of me. I certainly am not disaffected to the state; but the other is not clear to me.
“When the appointment was made, I saw that I had a very important charge committed to me, and no books or helps of any kind to assist me. I therefore set about compiling a grammar, which is now half printed. I got Ram Basu to compose a history of one of their kings, the first prose book ever written in the Bengali language; which we are also printing. Our pundit has also nearly translated the Sanskrit fables, one or two of which Brother Thomas sent you, which we are also going to publish, These, with Mr. Foster’s vocabulary, will prepare the way to reading their poetical books; so that I hope this difficulty will be gotten through. But my ignorance of the way of conducting collegiate exercises is a great weight upon my mind. I have thirteen students in my class; I lecture twice a week, and have nearly gone through one term, not quite two months. It began 4th May. Most of the students have gotten through the accidents, and some have begun to translate Bengali into English. The examination begins this week. I am also appointed teacher of the Sanskrit language; and though no students have yet entered in that class, yet I must prepare for it. I am, therefore, writing a grammar of that language, which I must also print, if I should be able to get through with it, and perhaps a dictionary, which I began some years ago. I say all this, my dear brother, to induce you to give me your advice about the best manner of conducting myself in this station, and to induce you to pray much for me, that God may, in all things, be glorified by me. We presented a copy of the Bengali New Testament to Lord Wellesley, after the appointment, through the medium of the Rev. D. Brown, which was graciously received. We also presented Governor Bie with one.
“Serampore is now in the hands of the English. It was taken while we were in bed and asleep; you may therefore suppose that it was done without bloodshed. You may be perfectly easy about us: we are equally secure under the English or Danish Government, and I am sure well disposed to both.”
For seven years, since his first settlement in the Dinapoor district, Carey had given one-third of his long working day to the study of Sanskrit. In 1796 he reported:–“I am now learning the Sanskrit language, that I may be able to read their Shasters for myself; and I have acquired so much of the Hindi or Hindostani as to converse in it and speak for some time intelligibly…Even the language of Ceylon has so much affinity with that of Bengal that out of twelve words, with the little Sanskrit that I know, I can understand five or six.” In 1798 he wrote:–“I constantly employ the forenoon in temporal affairs; the afternoon in reading, writing, learning Sanskrit, etc.; and the evening by candle light in translating the Scriptures…Except I go out to preach, which is often the case, I never deviate from this rule.” Three years before that he had been able to confute the Brahmans from their own writings; in 1798 he quoted and translated the Rig Veda and the Purana in reply to a request for an account of the beliefs of the priesthood, apologising, however, with his usual self-depreciation:–“I am just beginning to see for myself by reading the original Shasters.” In 1799 we find him reading the Mahabharata epic with the hope of finding some allusion or fact which might enable him to equate Hindoo chronology with reliable history, as Dr. John Wilson of Bombay and James Prinsep did a generation later, by the discovery of the name of Antiochus the Great in two of the edicts of Asoka, written on the Girnar rock.
By September 1804 Carey had completed the first three years’ course of collegiate training in Sanskrit. The Governor-General summoned a brilliant assembly to listen to the disputations and declamations of the students who were passing out, and of their professors, in the various Oriental languages. The new Government House, as it was still called, having been completed only the year before at a cost of £140,000, was the scene, in “the southern room on the marble floor,” where, ever since, all through the century, the Sovereign’s Viceroys have received the homage of the tributary kings of our Indian empire. There, from Dalhousie and Canning to Lawrence and Mayo, and their still surviving successors, we have seen pageants and durbars more splendid, and representing a wider extent of territory, from Yarkand to Bangkok, than even the Sultanised Englishman as Sir James Mackintosh called Wellesley, ever dreamed of in his most imperial aspirations. There councils have ever since been held, and laws have been passed affecting the weal of from two to three hundred millions of our fellow-subjects. There, too, we have stood with Duff and Cotton, Ritchie and Outram, representing the later University of Calcutta which Wellesley would have anticipated. But we question if, ever since, the marble hall of the Governor-General’s palace has witnessed a sight more profoundly significant than that of William Carey addressing the Marquis Wellesley in Sanskrit, and in the presence of the future Duke of Wellington, in such words as follow.
The seventy students, their governors, officers, and professors, rose to their feet, when, at ten o’clock on Thursday the 20th of September 1804, His Excellency the Visitor entered the room, accompanied, as the official gazette duly chronicles, by “the Honourable the Chief Justice, the judges of the Supreme Court, the members of the Supreme Council, the members of the Council of the College, Major-General Cameron, Major-General the Honourable Arthur Wellesley, Major-General Dowdeswell, and Solyman Aga, the envoy from Baghdad. All the principal civil and military officers at the Presidency, and many of the British inhabitants, were present on this occasion; and also many learned natives.”
After Romer had defended, in Hindostani, the thesis that the Sanskrit is the parent language in India, and Swinton, in Persian, that the poems of Hafiz are to be understood in a figurative or mystical sense, there came a Bengali declamation by Tod senior on the position that the translations of the best works extant in the Sanskrit with the popular languages of India would promote the extension of science and civilisation, opposed by Hayes; then Carey, as moderator, made an appropriate Bengali speech. A similar disputation in Arabic and a Sanskrit declamation followed, when Carey was called on to conclude with a speech in Sanskrit. Two days after, at a second assemblage of the same kind, followed by a state dinner. Lord Wellesley presented the best students with degrees of merit inscribed on vellum in Oriental characters, and delivered an oration, in which he specially complimented the Sanskrit classes, urged more general attention to the Bengali language, and expressed satisfaction that a successful beginning had been made in the study of Marathi.
It was considered a dangerous experiment for a missionary, speaking in Sanskrit, to avow himself such not only before the Governor-General in official state but before the Hindoo and Mohammedan nobles who surrounded him. We may be sure that Carey would not show less of his Master’s charity and wisdom than he had always striven to do. But the necessity was the more laid on him that he should openly confess his great calling, for he had told Fuller on Lord Wellesley’s arrival he would do so if it were possible. Buchanan, being quite as anxious to bring the mission forward on this occasion, added much to the English draft–“the whole of the flattery is his,” wrote Carey to Fuller–and sent it on to Lord Wellesley with apprehension. This answer came back from the great Proconsul:–“I am much pleased with Mr. Carey’s truly original and excellent speech. I would not wish to have a word altered. I esteem such a testimony from such a man a greater honour than the applause of Courts and Parliaments.”
“MY LORD, it is just that the language which has been first cultivated under your auspices should primarily be employed in gratefully acknowledging the benefit, and in speaking your praise. This ancient language, which refused to disclose itself to the former Governors of India, unlocks its treasures at your command, and enriches the world with the history, learning, and science of a distant age. The rising importance of our collegiate institution has never been more clearly demonstrated than on the present occasion; and thousands of the learned in distant nations will exult in this triumph of literature.
“What a singular exhibition has been this day presented to us! In presence of the supreme Governor of India, and of its most learned and illustrious characters, Asiatic and European, an assembly is convened, in which no word of our native tongue is spoken, but public discourse is maintained on interesting subjects in the languages of Asia. The colloquial Hindostani, the classic Persian, the commercial Bengali, the learned Arabic, and the primæval Sanskrit are spoken fluently, after having been studied grammatically, by English youth. Did ever any university in Europe, or any literary institution in any other age or country, exhibit a scene so interesting as this? And what are the circumstances of these youth? They are not students who prosecute a dead language with uncertain purpose, impelled only by natural genius or love of fame. But having been appointed to the important offices of administering the government of the country in which these languages are spoken, they apply their acquisitions immediately to useful purpose; in distributing justice to the inhabitants; in transacting the business of the state, revenual and commercial; and in maintaining official intercourse with the people, in their own tongue, and not, as hitherto, by an interpreter. The acquisitions of our students may be appreciated by their affording to the suppliant native immediate access to his principal; and by their elucidating the spirit of the regulations of our Government by oral communication, and by written explanations, varied according to the circumstances and capacities of the people.
“The acquisitions of our students are appreciated at this moment by those learned Asiatics now present in this assembly, some of them strangers from distant provinces; who wonder every man to hear in his own tongue important subjects discussed, and new and noble principles asserted, by the youth of a foreign land. The literary proceedings of this day amply repay all the solicitude, labour, and expense that have been bestowed on this institution. If the expense had been a thousand times greater, it would not have equalled the immensity of the advantage, moral and political, that will ensue.
“I, now an old man, have lived for a long series of years among the Hindoos. I have been in the habit of preaching to multitudes daily, of discoursing with the Brahmans on every subject, and of superintending schools for the instruction of the Hindoo youth. Their language is nearly as familiar to me as my own. This close intercourse with the natives for so long a period, and in different parts of our empire, has afforded me opportunities of information not inferior to those which have hitherto been presented to any other person. I may say indeed that their manners, customs, habits, and sentiments are as obvious to me as if I was myself a native. And knowing them as I do, and hearing as I do their daily observations on our government, character, and principles, I am warranted to say (and I deem it my duty to embrace the public opportunity now afforded me of saying it) that the institution of this college was wanting to complete the happiness of the natives under our dominion; for this institution will break down that barrier (our ignorance of their language) which has ever opposed the influence of our laws and principles, and has despoiled our administration of its energy and effect.
“Were the institution to cease from this moment, its salutary effects would yet remain. Good has been done, which cannot be undone. Sources of useful knowledge, moral instruction, and political utility have been opened to the natives of India which can never be closed; and their civil improvement, like the gradual civilisation of our own country, will advance in progression for ages to come.
“One hundred original volumes in the Oriental languages and literature will preserve for ever in Asia the name of the founder of this institution. Nor are the examples frequent of a renown, possessing such utility for its basis, or pervading such a vast portion of the habitable globe. My lord, you have raised a monument of fame which no length of time or reverse of fortune is able to destroy; not chiefly because it is inscribed with Maratha and Mysore, with the trophies of war and the emblems of victory, but because there are inscribed on it the names of those learned youth who have obtained degrees of honour for high proficiency in the Oriental tongues.
“These youth will rise in regular succession to the Government of this country. They will extend the domain of British civilisation, security, and happiness, by enlarging the bounds of Oriental literature and thereby diffusing the spirit of Christian principles throughout the nations of Asia. These youth, who have lived so long amongst us, whose unwearied application to their studies we have all witnessed, whose moral and exemplary conduct has, in so solemn a manner, been publicly declared before this august assembly, on this day; and who, at the moment of entering on the public service, enjoy the fame of possessing qualities (rarely combined) constituting a reputation of threefold strength for public men, genius, industry, and virtue;–these illustrious scholars, my lord, the pride of their country, and the pillars of this empire, will record your name in many a language and secure your fame for ever. Your fame is already recorded in their hearts. The whole body of youth of this service hail you as their father and their friend. Your honour will ever be safe in their hands. No revolution of opinion or change of circumstances can rob you of the solid glory derived from the humane, just, liberal, and magnanimous principles which have been embodied by your administration.
“To whatever situation the course of future events may call you, the youth of this service will ever remain the pledges of the wisdom and purity of your government. Your evening of life will be constantly cheered with new testimonies of their reverence and affection, with new proofs of the advantages of the education you have afforded them, and with a demonstration of the numerous benefits, moral, religious, and political, resulting from this institution;–benefits which will consolidate the happiness of millions of Asia, with the glory and welfare of our country.”
The Court of Directors had never liked Lord Wellesley, and he had, in common with Colebrooke, keenly wounded them by proposing a free trade movement against their monopoly. They ordered that his favourite college should be immediately abolished. He took good care so to protract the operation as to give him time to call in the aid of the Board of Control, which saved the institution, but confined it to the teaching of languages to the civilians of the Bengal Presidency only. The Directors, when thus overruled chiefly by Pitt, created a similar college at Haileybury, which continued till the open competitive system of 1854 swept that also away; and the Company itself soon followed, as the march of events had made it an anachronism.
The first law professor at Haileybury was James Mackintosh, an Aberdeen student who had leaped into the front rank of publicists and scholars by his answer to Burke, in the Vindiciœ Gallicœ, and his famous defence of M. Peltier accused of a libel on Napoleon Buonaparte. Knighted and sent out to Bombay as its first recorder, Sir James Mackintosh became the centre of scholarly society in Western India, as Sir William Jones had been in Bengal. He was the friend of Robert Hall, the younger, who was filling Carey’s pulpit in Leicester, and he soon became the admiring correspondent of Carey himself. His first act during his seven years’ residence in Bombay was to establish the “Literary Society.” He drew up a “Plan of a comparative vocabulary of Indian languages,” to be filled up by the officials of every district, like that which Carey had long been elaborating for his own use as a philologist and Bible translator. In his first address to the Literary Society he thus eulogised the College of Fort William, though fresh from a chair in its English rival, Haileybury:–“The original plan was the most magnificent attempt ever made for the promotion of learning in the East…Even in its present mutilated state we have seen, at the last public exhibition, Sanskrit declamation by English youth, a circumstance so extraordinary, that if it be followed by suitable advances it will mark an epoch in the history of learning.”
Carey continued till 1831 to be the most notable figure in the College of Fort William. He was the centre of the learned natives whom it attracted, as pundits and moonshees, as inquirers and visitors. His own special pundit was the chief one, Mrityunjaya Vidyalankar, whom Home has immortalised in Carey’s portrait. In the college for more than half the week, as in his study at Serampore, Carey exhausted three pundits daily. His college-room was the centre of incessant literary work, as his Serampore study was of Bible translation. When he declared that the college staff had sent forth one hundred original volumes in the Oriental languages and literature, he referred to the grammars and dictionaries, the reading-books, compilations, and editions prepared for the students by the professors and their native assistants. But he contributed the largest share, and of all his contributions the most laborious and valuable was this project of the Bibliotheca Asiatica.
“24th July, 1805.–By the enclosed Gazette you will see that the Asiatic Society and the College have agreed to allow us a yearly stipend for translating Sanskrit works: this will maintain three missionary stations, and we intend to apply it to that purpose. An augmentation of my salary has been warmly recommended by the College Council, but has not yet taken place, and as Lord Cornwallis is now arrived and Lord Wellesley going away, it may not take place. If it should, it will be a further assistance. The business of the translation of Sanskrit works is as follows: About two years ago I presented proposals (to the Council of the College) to print the Sanskrit books at a fixed price, with a certain indemnity for 100 copies. The plan was thought too extensive by some, and was therefore laid by. A few months ago Dr. Francis Buchanan came to me, by desire of Marquis Wellesley, about the translation of his manuscripts. In the course of conversation I mentioned the proposal I had made, of which he much approved, and immediately communicated the matter to Sir John Anstruther, who is president of the Asiatic Society. Sir John had then been drawing out a proposal to Lord Wellesley to form a catalogue raisonnè of the ancient Hindoo books, which he sent to me, and entering warmly into my plan, desired that I would send in a set of proposals. After some amendments it was agreed that the College of Fort William and the Asiatic Society should subscribe in equal shares 300 rupees a month to defray the current expenses, that we should undertake any work approved of by them, and print the original with an English translation on such paper and with such a type as they shall approve; the copy to be ours. They have agreed to recommend the work to all the learned bodies in Europe. I have recommended the Ramayana to begin with, it being one of the most popular of all the Hindoo books accounted sacred. The Veda are so excessively insipid that, had we begun with them, we should have sickened the public at the outset. The Ramayana will furnish the best account of Hindoo mythology that any one book will, and has extravagancy enough to excite a wish to read it through.”
In 1807 Carey became one of the most active members of the Bengal Asiatic Society. His name at once appears as one of the Committee of Papers. In the ninth volume of the Asiatic Researches for that year, scholars were invited to communicate translations and descriptive accounts of Asiatic books. Carey’s edition of The Ramayana of Valmeeki, in the original Sanskrit, with a prose translation and explanatory notes, appeared from the Serampore press in three successive quartos from 1806 to 1810. The translation was done by “Dr. Carey and Joshua Marshman.” Until Gorresio published his edition and Italian translation of the whole poem this was the first and only attempt to open the seal of the second great Sankrit epic to the European world. In 1802 Carey had encouraged the publication at his own press of translations of both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana into Bengali. Carey’s Ramayana excited a keen interest not only among the learned of Europe, but among poetical students. Southey eagerly turned to it for materials for his Curse of Kehama, in the notes to which he makes long quotations from “the excellent and learned Baptist missionaries of Serampore.” Dean Milman, when professor of poetry in Oxford, drew from the same storehouse many of the notes with which he enriched his verse translations from both epics. A. W. von Schlegel, the death of whose eldest brother at Madras early led him to Oriental studies, published two books with a Latin translation. Mr. Ralph T. H. Griffith most pleasantly opened the treasures of this epic to English readers in his verse translations published since 1868. Carey’s translation has always been the more rare that the edition despatched for sale in England was lost at sea, and only a few presentation copies are extant, one of which is in the British Museum.
Carey’s contributions to Sanskrit scholarship were not confined to what he published or to what appeared under his own name. We are told by H. H. Wilson that he had prepared for the press translations of treatises on the metaphysical system called Sankhya. “It was not in Dr. Carey’s nature to volunteer a display of his erudition, and the literary labours already adverted to arose in a great measure out of his connection with the college of Calcutta, or were suggested to him by those whose authority he respected, and to whose wishes he thought it incumbent upon him to attend. It may be added that Dr. Carey spoke Sanskrit with fluency and correctness.”
He edited for the college the Sanskrit text of the Hitopadesa, from six MSS. recensions of this the first revelation to Europe of the fountain of Aryan folk-tales, of the original of Pilpay’s Fables.15 H. H. Wilson remarks that the errors are not more than might have been expected from the variations and defects of the manuscripts and the novelty of the task, for this was the first Sanskrit book ever printed in the Devanagari character. To this famous work Carey added an abridgment of the prose Adventures of Ten Princes (the Dasa Kumara Carita), and of Bhartri-hari’s Apophthegms. Colebrooke records his debt to Carey for carrying through the Serampore press the Sanskrit dictionary of Amara Sinha, the oldest native lexicographer, with an English interpretation and annotations. But the magnum opus of Carey was what in 1811 he described as A Universal Dictionary of the Oriental Languages, derived from the Sanskrit, of which that language is to be the groundwork. The object for which he had been long collecting the materials of this mighty work was the assisting of “Biblical students to correct the translation of the Bible in the Oriental languages after we are dead.”
Through the College of Fort William during thirty long years Carey influenced the ablest men in the Bengal Civil Service, and not a few in Madras and Bombay. “The college must stand or the empire must fall,” its founder had written to his friends in the Government, so convinced was he that only thus could proper men be trained for the public service and the welfare of our native subjects be secured. How right he was Carey’s experience proved. The young civilians turned out after the first three years’ course introduced that new era in the administration of India which has converted traders into statesmen and filibusters into soldier-politicals, so that the East Indian services stand alone in the history of the administration of imperial dependencies for spotless integrity and high average ability. Contrast with the work of these men, from the days of Wellesley, the first Minto, and Dalhousie, from the time of Canning to Lawrence and the second Minto, the provincial administration of imperial Rome, of Spain and Portugal at their best, of even the Netherlands and France. For a whole generation of thirty years the civilians who studied Sanskrit, Bengali, and Marathi came daily under the gentle spell of Carey, who, though he had failed to keep the village school of Moulton in order, manifested the learning and the modesty, the efficiency and the geniality, which won the affectionate admiration of his students in Calcutta.
A glance at the register of the college for its first five years reveals such men as these among his best students. The first Bengali prizeman of Carey was W. Butterworth Bayley, whose long career of blameless uprightness and marked ability culminated in the temporary seat of Governor-General, and who was followed in the service by a son worthy of him. The second was that Brian H. Hodgson who, when Resident of Nepal, of all his contemporaries won for himself the greatest reputation as a scholar, who fought side by side with the Serampore brotherhood the battle of the vernaculars of the people. Charles, afterwards Lord Metcalfe, had been the first student to enter the college. He was on its Persian side, and he learned while still under its discipline that “humility, patience, and obedience to the divine will” which unostentatiously marked his brilliant life and soothed his spirit in the agonies of a fatal disease. He and Bayley were inseparable. Of the first set, too, were Richard Jenkins, who was to leave his mark on history as Nagpoor Resident and author of the Report of 1826; and Romer, who rose to be Governor of Bombay for a time. In those early years the two Birds passed through the classes–Robert Mertins Bird, who was to found the great land revenue school of Hindostan; and Wilberforce Bird, who governed India while Lord Ellenborough played at soldiers, and to whom the legal suppression of slavery in Southern Asia is due. Names of men second to those, such as Elliot and Thackeray, Hamilton and Martin, the Shakespeares and Plowdens, the Moneys, the Rosses and Keenes, crowd the honour lists. One of the last to enjoy the advantages of the college before its abolition was John Lawrence, who used to confess that he was never good at languages, but whose vigorous Hindostani made many an ill-doing Raja tremble, while his homely conversation, interspersed with jokes, encouraged the toiling ryot.
These, and men like these, sat at the feet of Carey, where they learned not only to be scholars but to treat the natives kindly, and–some of them–even as brethren in Christ. Then from teaching the future rulers of the East, the missionary-professor turned to his Bengali preaching and his Benevolent Institution, to his visits to the prisoners and his intercourse with the British soldiers in Fort William. And when the four days’ work in Calcutta was over, the early tide bore him swiftly up the Hoogli to the study where, for the rest of the week, he gave himself to the translation of the Bible into the languages of the people and of their leaders.