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AN ADDRESS TO SLEEP.
Oh! gentle Sleep!
Oh ! faithless maid !
Alas! in happier hours,
Farewell ! a brief farewell !
[ 323 )
ON THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE OF INDIA THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE ENGLISH
SOME of the admirers of Orientalism have battled with more ability than success in favor of the vernacular, in preference to the English language, as a means of communicating the literature and science of the West to the people of India. They venture to compare it with the Latin and the English, and even roundly assert that the Bengali is quite as rich and expressive as either of those languages. It is added that all the subtle distinctions of metaphysics may be taught in Bengali quite as well as in English. How a language which has scarcely any literature at all can be compared for copiousness, flexibility and precision, to a language that has been cultivated for ages by the greatest poets, orators, and philosophers which the world has known, is a riddle that it would be difficult to solve. Bengali compared to English is as lax and meagre, as are almost all other ancient languages compared with Greek. “The obstacles," says Sir James Mackintosh, (in the introduction to his View of the Progress of Ethical Philosophy,) " which stood in the way of Lucretius and Cicero, when they began to translate the subtle philosophy of Greece into their narrow and barren tongue, are always felt by the philosopher, when he struggles to express, with the necessary discrimination, his abstruse reasoning in words which, though those of his own language, he must take from the mouths of persons to whom his distinctions would be without a meaning." If the Latin compared with the Greek is a narrow and barren
tongue," the same may be said of the Bengali when compared with the Latin, and with equal justice when compared with the English; for the latter has been so vastly improved by careful cultivation, by the taste and genius of a host of native writers, and by the judicious introduction of expressive foreign words, that, perhaps, no other living language may be compared with it for force, fertility and exactness. And yet this language, with all its excellencies, is not even now entirely fitted for the use of the metaphysician, and perhaps never will be. Nothing is more common amongst our authors than the most pathetic complaints respecting the imperfections of the language. Professor Stewart, amongst other eminent metaphysicians, has spoken of the perplexing obscurity, in which mental philosophy has been involved by the vagueness and ambiguity of words. If so comparatively rich and flexible a language as ours, is often found inadequate to express the subtler metaphysical distinctions, how unreasonable is it to imagine that such a language as the Bengali, in its present state, can be successfully devoted to such a purpose! It would take several centuries to bring it to a state of copiousness and refinement.
The obstacles in the way of introducing the English language to the people of India, have been greatly exaggerated by the Orientalists. If there were but one spoken and written language in all India, the objection to the introduction of the English language would seem more plausible; but when consider the multiplicity of languages and characters already in use amongst the natives, it seems perfectly ridiculous to talk of the difficulty of introducing a foreign tongue. Are not the Arabic and Persian, foreign languages ? Is not the greater part of the learning of the East embodied in the Sanscrit ? Would it be a whit more difficult or less useful to teach the living English than the dead Sanscrit? Is the Roman character more hieroglyphycal or less distinct than the Nagree?
OP THE PEOPLE OF INDIA.
Some of our most ardent Orientalists insist upon the necessity of translating the productions of the Western writers into Arabic or Sanscrit, and when they carried every thing before them in the councils of the Committee of Public Instruction, they devoted no less a sum than 65,000 rupees to remunerate Doctor Tytler for the translation into Arabic of six books— five of them of a medical character, and one of a mathematical ! Luckily for the youth of India, Lord William Bentinck had sense and decision enough to put a sudden stop to this preposterous waste of toil and money, and since that time a most wholesome change has been effected in the entire system of Indian education. We now send out of our colleges hundreds of fine-minded youths who are not only familiar with English words, but with English thoughts and feelings. Instead of the old system of bribing boys with a fixed remuneration of some 16 or 20 rupees per mensem to acquire a knowledge of the astronomy of Ptolemy and the medicine of Galen, we have our schools crowded with enthusiastic youths who deem it a precious privilege to be admited upon the payment of a monthly sum*, which, small as it may seem, is often given with difficulty and inconvenience. But yet they
! willingly and proudly make this pecuniary sacrifice for the sake of an acquaintance not with Ptolemy and Galen, or with the Oriental writers of licentious tales, but with Shakespeare and Milton, and Bacon and Newton, and Addison and Johnson ! Even the late Doctor Tytler himself, an indefatigable student in Oriental Literature and a violent opponent of the Romanizing system introduced by Sir William Jones, and followed up with so much ardour by Mr. Trevelyan, acknowledges that the English language ought to be "an object, nay, a paramount object, in Native education;" and while he is opposing Mr. Trevelyan's plan of Anglicizing the whole literature of India, on account of its supposed difficulty, or rather its supposed impossibility, he admits that the vernacular
* The boys at the Hindu College pay five rupees per mensem.
dialects cannot be thoroughly understood by the natives of India, or used with propriety without a knowledge of their learned languages. If, then, amongst the natives of India, all education beyond the most ordinary kind, requires the knowledge of more than one language besides the vernacular, what impropriety or unreasonableness can be imputed to those who desire to supplant such an extra or foreign acquisition as that of Arabic or Sanscrit by the introduction of English? It will hardly be denied by the most bigotted Orientalist, that the latter contains nobler treasures of literature and science than any Eastern language.
One would imagine that all mankind would be anxious to get rid as much as possible of the curse of Babel, and would aim at acquiring a uniformity of language ; but there are natives of considerable acuteness who yet do not understand how great a blessing would be conferred upon their country by the abolition of the immense variety of dialects which now divide so many millions of their countrymen into different tribes. Nothing would more speedily or more effectually civilize the people of this vast land, and give them political strength, than a uniformity of language. It is the great bond of social union. It would change a thousand tribes into one people. A community of language is a community of thought. And if the people have now to choose a language it is natural to suppose that they would give the preference to that of their more enlightened governors, many of whom, we hope, are quite as anxious to improve the mind of India, as to increase its revenue. When people talk of the extreme difficulty of introducing the English language, they forget that it is not offered to men but to children. It is not the present but the rising generation upon whom this blessing is to be conferred ; and every one knows with what extreme facility a child im. bibes a language. The children of European parents in India. generally speak English and Hindustani with equal facility. They learn them both simultaneously. And why should not the children