1783 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Jones

Anonymous, "Anecdotes of the Author" European Magazine 4 (December 1783) 445-46.



Sir William Jones is now in the 38th year of his age. The place of his nativity is London. His father was a private teacher of mathematicks, in which science he was so great a proficient that he attracted and conciliated the favour of the Earl of Macclesfield, then at the head of the Royal Society, and celebrated throughout Europe for his skill in geometry and algebra. Through the favour of Lord Macclesfield, young Jones was enabled to pursue his studies at University College, Oxford. Here he was distinguished greatly, by the closeness of his application, and the success, too, of his unremitting studies. He happily enjoyed a vigorous constitution of body was well as mind: both of which must be athletic in order to pursue with success so many languages and sciences as Sir William Jones has mastered. He was called from the university to travel with Lord Apthorpe. And, having returned from the continent, he was called to the bar in 1775. It might have been expected that so bright a genius would have made a distinguished figure at Westminster-hall; his appearances there were highly respectable: but his non-attendance lost the attornies; and he was much above courting the attention of those mortals. He regularly continued, however, to attend the judges on the Welch and Oxford circuits. He acquired the esteem and confidence of Mr. Dunning, afterwards Lord Ashburton: and it was chiefly through his patronage and protection that he was appointed, towards the end of Lord Shelburn's administration, one of the judges in India. His residence in that country may be considered as fortunate for the advancement of knowledge. There he will have an opportunity of enquiring, with great advantage, into the manners, customs, and literature of the Asiatic nations: and the humanity of his disposition will, in proportion to the sphere of his authority and influence, be a blessing to the natives of Indostan.

Sir William Jones has a good mein and presence: and his conversation abundantly supports the high ideas one is apt to entertain of him from his writings. A singular, and astonishing proof of the vigour of his capacity, is, that he can dictate to two amanuenses, at the same time, on different subjects.