1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Maurice

Anonymous, in Review of Maurice, Modern History of Hindostan; Edinburgh Review 5 (January 1805) 300-01.



Having entered so fully into the examination of this performance in the preceding pages, it seems scarcely necessary to make any general estimate of its merits. The "History of Modern Hindostan" is evidently the work of a well-meaning, virtuous man, who would do every thing in his power to support the cause of truth and morality; but who, in the path he has chosen, can never be of any considerable service to either. He seems to be very deficient in the taste and judgment requisite in an historical writer. For a historian of India he is totally disqualified, both on account of the peculiar difficulties of the subject, and his ignorance of the Asiatic languages. If this sentence appear unjust and severe, we must refer our readers to the history itself, and need not fear the unbiassed result of their judgments. When Mr. Maurice undertook this work, he ought to have seriously reflected, that he was not seated at his desk to write a history of ancient Greece, or of any other country, of which he had all the information before him, in a series of printed volumes; but that of a distant region of the world, the history of which was either lost, or locked up in obscure and nearly forgotten languages, which, if he did not study, he could never attain the object of his wishes. The task which he has proposed to himself is not to be executed by a feeble hand; nor can it be thought inglorious to have failed in making the attempt. For before any writer shall favour the literary republic with a history of India worthy of its thanks and approbation, he must explore every scrap of information, in every language which Asia possesses, from the deserts of Tartary, the country of Gangis and Timur, to the promontories of Malabar and Malacca. He must learn to forswear quotation, and must deliver his opinions in his own name and authority. To these qualifications he must add the taste and philosophy of a Hume or a Robertson. We do not at present discern any of the signs of such an historian; but, in the mean time, it is the business of the learned to collect MSS., form grammars and dictionaries, write dissertations, publish historical researches and records; and wait patiently for his appearance.