1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Jones

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 232.



The son of an eminent London mathematician, Jones (1746-1794) studied at Harrow, and then at Oxford, where he devoted much time to the Oriental languages. In 1772 he published a volume of poems, mostly translations. In 1774 he was called to the Bar. Though opposed to the American war and the slave-trade, he was knighted in 1783, and appointed a judge of the Supreme Court at Fort William, in Bengal. He married the daughter of Dr. Shipley, bishop of St. Asaph; and in his thirty-seventh year embarked for India, never to return. He performed his judicial functions with the utmost fidelity, but he overstrained him brain by intense study; and in 1784 his health began to fail. His attainments in the languages were various and profound. He might have won a conspicuous place among the poets, had he not been absorbed in philological pursuits. "The activity of my mind is too strong for my constitution," he writes. He died at the age of forty-eight, beloved as few have been, and leaving a character for unalloyed goodness, such as few have left. A collected edition of his writings was published in 1799, and again in 1807, with a Life of the author by Lord Teignmouth.