1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Jones

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 65 (April 1795) 347.



At Calcutta, in the East Indies, on Sunday morning, April 27, 1794, after a few days of illness, Sir William Jones, knight, one of the judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature. On Monday morning his remains were interred with the following solemnities: At a quarter before seven o'clock in the morning, the body was moved from the house lately occupied by the Hon. Mr. Justice Hyde, at Chouringhee, and, being placed in the hearse, the procession advanced towards the burying-ground, accompanied by a very numerous attendance of the gentlemen of the settlement, in their carriages and palanquins, and preceded by all the European troops in garrison, with arms reversed, drums muffled, and the artillery band playing sacred musick, while minute-guns were fired from the ramparts of Fort William. When the procession had arrived so near the gate of the burying-ground as just to leave sufficient room for the troops to be drawn up on each side of the road, forming a street, and resting on their arms, the whole halted, and the corpse, being taken out of the hearse and placed upon men's shoulders, was carried to the place of interment, followed by all the attendants on foot, the Hon. Mr. Hyde and Sir Wm. Dunkin as chief mourners, and the pall bourne by the barristers and other gentlemen of the Supreme Court. The funeral service was performed by the Rev. Mr. Blanchard; and the body being laid in the earth, the solemn ceremony was concluded by the troops firing three vollies of musquetry over the grave. The plate upon the coffin stated the age of the deceased to be 48. — In the swift career of intellectual attainment, in an high public station, and in the full vigour of life, from the remainder of which the world anxiously expected the boundaries of knowledge and Oriental literature would have been widely enlarged, we see our hopes prematurely perish, by the loss of a genius that seemed peculiarly destined for the instruction and ornament of man. Endowed by Nature with a mind of extraordinary vigour, Sir William Jones, by unwearied industry, aided by superior genius, successfully explored the hidden sources of Oriental science and literature; and his attainments were such as to place him, far beyond all competition, the most eminent Oriental scholar in this or perhaps any other age. In his public character, the labour he afforded in the dispatch of business, the clearness of his discernment, and his legal abilities, well qualified him for one of the guardians of his fellow-citizens. As a scholar, his name is known wherever Literature is cultivated. In private life he was a companionable, mild, gentle, and amiable in his manners, and his conversation rich and energetic. In fine, in all the relations of public and private life, he was revered and beloved. Unlike many other eminent literary characters of the age, Sir William was a sincere and pious Christian; and, instead of labouring, by his writings, to propagate the doctrines of infidelity, as has been a favourite practice with some modern philosopher of reputation, he was desirous to lend the Scriptures his utmost support; and, in one of his latest annual discourses to the Asiatic Society, he has done more to give validity to the Mosaic history of the creation than the researches of any contemporary writer.

The following epitaphs were written, the first by himself, and the latter by a brother-judge, Sir William Dunkin:

1. Here was deposited
the mortal part of a man
who feared GOD, but not Death;
and maintained independence,
but sought not riches;
who thought none below him
but the base and unjust;
none above him but the wise and virtuous;
who loved his parents, kindred, friends,
and country:
and, having devoted his life to their service,
and the improvement of his mind,
resigned it calmly,
giving glory to the Creator,
wishing peace on earth,
and good-will to all his creatures,
on the ... day of ...
in the year of our blessed Redeemer ....

2. GULIEMUS JONES,
Eques, Cur. sup. in Bengal ex Judicibus unus,
Legum peritus, fidusque interpres,
Omnibus benignus,
Nullius Fautor,
Virtute, Fortitudine, Suavitate Morum
Nemini secundus,
Seculi eruditi longe primus,
Ibat ubi solum plura cognoscere Fas est:
27 Apr. 1794.