Imágenes de página

Art. V. 1. The Works of Confucius, containing the Original

Text, with a Translation. By J. Marshman. Vol. I. Seram

pore, printed at the Mission-press. 1809. 2 Horæ Sinicæ : Translations from the Popular Literature of the

Chinese. By the Rev. Robert Morrison, Protestant Missionary at Canton. London, 1812.

VHE remark of Sir William Jones that it is to our French

neighbours we are indebted for almost every effort that has been made to elucidate the language and literature of China,' bowever just in his time, has at length, we think, ceased to be so.Within the last twenty years our own countrymen bave paid off with interest to this neighbour' the literary debt of two centuries. Without meaning to speak ligbtly of the laborious attention which the Italian, the

Portugueze, and the Spanish missionaries, as well as those from France, bave bestowed on the history, customs, laws, and reputed ancient literature of China, we may be permitted to say that to few, if to any of them, can be assigned the merit of having directed their philological studies to any one point of practical utility. In giving us abundance of theories and ingenious speculations, they have taken good care not to overwhelm us with such lights as might enable us to pronounce a judgment on the justness of their conclusions. Indeed the authenticity of many of their communications has often been called in question-less perhaps from the matter of them than from an apparently studied concealment of the means that might enable the learned and studious of Europe to examine the originals. The ingenious dissertations of Messrs. De Guignes and Freret in the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, with all their plausible theories and conjectures, were calculated to perplex rather than to elucidate; and the copious contributions of the fathers Amiot and Cibot in the

Mémoires sur les Chinois' are too diffuse, and their notions of every thing Chinese too refined, to afford any help towards the promotion of Chinese literature in Europe, or the attainment even of the Chinese language. Indeed, if we except the gleanings of Bayer in his Musæum Sinicum, and the more systematic but studiously obscure Meditationes Sinicæ of Fourmont, not one of our

French neighbours' has favoured the world with any thing in the shape of an introductory or grammatical treatise on this singular language, or with that indispensable help towards the attainment of every foreign language, a dictionary. In short they have given us a profusion of the garnish of Chinese literature, but totally omitted the substantial and wholesome part of it which could alope contribute to the growth and nourishment of the intellectual faculties.

[ocr errors]

The missionaries, however, may, for aught we know to the contrary, be entitled to the merit of good intentions, and it is certain that persons were not wanting in France to follow up those intentions. Fourmont had prepared, at a considerable expense of money and time, a collection of types or dies, and arranged them in proper order for printing a Chinese dictionary. These types at bis death were transferred to De Guignes and Deshauterayes, with a view to the publication of the projected work; but either from the Want of sufficient knowledge of the subject, or, which is most likely, of sufficient funds, the work made little or no progress. The task then devolved on M. Langlés, but, as far as we know, with no better success, though ostensibly patronized by the late French ruler.

A German quack, of the name of Hager, having, by impudence or adulation, obtained the more effectual support of Bonaparte, figured for a time in what, in Paris, passed for Chinese literature. With a very limited knowledge of the rudiments even of that language, he contrived to print two very expensive works, the one on the Mythology of China, and the other on its Numismatics. These two volumes were compilations from the writings of Europeans, interspersed with wild theories and fanciful conjectures of his own. They may be deemed by some as curious, but can be of no possible use to the student of Chinese literature.

In Berlin the zealous and enthusiastic Montucci appears to have added largely to his stock of Chinese literature since his publications in England, as well as considerably to have improved his taste. He has not only printed a Latin dissertation De Studiis Sinicis,' and 'Remarques Philologiques, &c.' but has made, as it would seem, some progress in preparing for the press a Chinese dictionary, consisting of eight or ten thousand of such characters as are most commonly in use. If, as we have understood, he is in possession of the manuscript copy of a Chinese dictionary belonging to the late Cardinal Antonelli, of the College De Propaganda Fide at Naples, and which was lent to Lord Macartney on bis embassy to China, we believe he could not possibly perform a more useful service to all those who have any desire to study the language, than by printing a fac simile of that excellent compilation; and his familiar dialogues in Chinese, Latin, and French, for a copy of which he is indebted to our countryman Mr. Raper, will be found to be equally useful to the Chinese scholar.

At Halle the ingenious Julius Von Klaproth has taken up the study of the Chinese language; but for want of a proper guide, we observe with regret, that he has, unfortunately for himself and the advancement of philology, plunged at once into the maze of Chinese metaphysics, and completely bewildered bimself in ats tempting to explain the meaning, if they ever had any, which we much doubt, of the kua or digrams or trigrams, or by whatever name we may be pleased to call them, ascribed to the first of their kings, Fo-shee. Something of the same kind has befallen a modern French author of the name of Abel Rémusat, as we perceive from his Essai sur la Langue et la Littérature Chinoise, a book from which it is utterly impossible to derive the most distant notion either of their language or literature. It is, indeed, peculiarly unfortunate that the mysticism, if we may so call it, of the squares, circles, and polygons of the venerable Fo-shee's teapots should bave formed, in the very threshold, the great stumbling-block of almost every one who has attempted to enter on the study of Chinese philology. Indeed we are quite persuaded that those lines never had the least relation to the language, but were mere devices for ornamental purposes; and we would recommend to those, who may hereafter be tempted to employ themselves in Chinese literature to rest satisfied with the explanation which one of Mr. Marshman's Chinese assistants gave to him concerning them that those who could understand them would always be able to detect thieves, and recover stolen goods.'

In England we have reason to believe the Chinese language and literature have already made much greater progress than on the continent. They now for a part of the acquirements of the students in the East India College at Hertford, where there is a regular Chinese professor. In the College of Fort William a very considerable advance has been made; and, though late, we are pleased to find that several of the young gentlemen in the Company's service at Canton, have, since the censure we were reluctantly compelled to pass on them, turned their attention to this subject. The language of China had, in fact, long been considered so abstruse and difficult as to be wholly unattainable by foreigners; but this idea has been completely exploded by the extensive knowledge which several English gentlemen have acquired of it. Of these we believe Sir George Staunton may fairly claim the first place ;-his knowledge of this singular language is not only demonstrated by every day's practical use of it there, in written and coloquial communications with the natives, but still more clearly by his translation of the Leu-lee, or fundamental laws and statutes of the empire, a work which, though it cannot be placed in comparison with Blackstone's Commentaries, may at least be considered of equal merit, as it certainly is of equal importance to the Chinese, with our Burn's Justice in England.

We have already had occasion to notice the labours of Mr. Stephen Weston in Chinese literature ; and though we could not conscientiously say much in praise of his imperial poetry, or think very highly of his 'Chinese Genesis,' now that he has begun at the right end, that is to say, at the beginning, we entertain, from wis well-known ingenuity and indefatigable pursuit after knowledge, a lively bope of his success in this line of study. The rudimental characters, or keys, of the language which he has just publisbed, and the free and literal translations of the Chinese Moral Tale, we can venture to recommend as likely to be useful to the young student in Chinese literature ; but we must be understood to make an exception of that part of his little work which he intimates to be a grammar of the language, as being not only calculated to perplex, but also to lead to the formation of very erroneous opinions.

We have reason to expect something shortly, and we think something good, on Chinese subjects, from an English traveller of the name of Manning, who has made considerable progress in the Chinese language. This gentleman bad been for many years endeavouring, but in vain, to make his way from Canton into the interior of China; for the Chinese, with their vigilant and instinctive jealousy, kept so strict an eye upon bim that he found the attempt to be utterly impracticable; he therefore proceeded by sea to Cochinchina, but with no better success; the people of that country being tinctured with the same species of political jealousy and caution as their neighbours. Determined, however, to persevere in his object, he proceeded to Calcutta, and thence to the northern frontier of Bengal; here he was fortunate enough to penetrate into Bootan, where he met with, and by some means or other succeeded in engaging himself to, the commander of the Chi, nese forces, as his body physician; accompanied him as far as Lassa in Thibet; and was just on the eve of departure from thence, and on the point of realizing his hopes by proceeding along the upper region of Tartary to the capital of China, when an order was received from Pekin to recall the general, and to send back, immediately, to Bengal, the European physician whom he had been guilty of entertaining about his person :---so difficult, not to say impossible is it, in the most remote corner of this extended empire, to elude Chinese vigilance !

The Reverend Robert Morrison, Missionary at Canton, appears to have made good use of his time in his application to the study of the Chinese language. He has not only translated several original works into the English language, but has printed the New Testament in the Chinese characters; and we are informed that he has composed an introductory treatise to this extraordinary language, of which report speaks bighly, and which, we trust, he will not withbold from the public. The East India Company, with their usual liberality, have not only allowed Mr. Morrison a salary

of 5001. a year as interpreter during the absence of Sir George Staunton, but have supplied him with a press, and other materials, to enable him to print and diffuse the holy Scriptures througb the country, in the Chinese language. It is to be hoped that he may use the implements thus entrusted to his management with becoming discretion; though, when the extreme jealousy and the deep-rooted prejudices of this singular people against every person, and thing that is foreign, are taken into consideration, we cannot but confess our doubts of the policy of entrusting instruments of so delicate and dangerous a nature to the inexperienced hands of a gospel missionary. · It was reserved, however, for the missionary of Serampore to favour the European world with the first plain, simple, and intelligible introductory treatise of the Chinese language; of which treatise we bave given in a former Number a very full and detailed account. Had Mr. Marshman adhered to elementary tracts, vocabularies and dictionaries, he would have conferred a lasting benefit on those who may have intercourse with the Chinese, or whose pursuits may lead to the cultivation of Chinese literature. No one can be better qualified to classify and analyze the Chinese characters than Mr. Marsbman. He seems to possess the happy talent of deciphering or resolving them into their constituent parts with as much facility as a botanist will refer a plant to its proper class and order in the Linnæan system ; but here we think his merit ends : like the botanist with his plants, he can classify his symbols without knowing much of their powers or virtues; and when he ceases to be the pioneer of literature,' he ceases to be respectable. The truth is, that like most of the missionaries, Mr. Marshman bas the qualities of zeal and unwearied diligence; but he is deficient in taste and judgment. He could not possibly have made a worse choice of a subject than that which is contained in the formidable volume of 740 pages now before us, and which is but one half of the laborious drudgery he has undertaken to accomplish. The style of Confucius is not the style of the present day. The application of a Chinese symbol varies with the times, and with the rank and situation of the person who makes use of it; besides this, most of the characters have a literal and a figurative meaning; and sometimes the same character has opposite significations. Many of those which have the reputation of a very high antiquity are supposed to include within themselves certain great moral truths, others, beautiful and appropriate allusions, or the elegant expression of a sentiment, to be comprehended and felt only by the great and the learned; and most of them are used in a metaphorical sense. The emperor issues his edicts through the medium of these ancient characters, and generally in measured sentences. If he

« AnteriorContinuar »