Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

it appears, that in the acetous fermentation, the spirit of wine lofes fome of its inflammable air; but at the fame time the pure air abforbed unites with the tartareous acid, and makes it pafs into the ftate of faccharine acid; this again parting with more inflammable air, and abforbing a fresh quantity of pure air, becomes true vinegar. The bread fermentation offers the fame phenomena as the vinous fermentation.

The putrid animal and vegetable fermentation are next defcribed. Thefe operations abfolutely decompofe the fubftances. The mucilaginous parts, the refins, oils, falts, both acid and alkaline, and all other parts, are volatilised in the form of different airs, except a fmall quantity of infipid earth, mixed fometimes with metallic particles. M. DE LA METHERIE gives an analyfis of thefe airs. Thofe from vegetables are acid, inflammable, pure, and impure; thofe from animals are acid, pure, impure, inflammable, ammoniacal, and fulphureous.

M. DE LA METHERIE proceeds to defcribe combuftion, faline fubftances, metals, and earths: but as we have already carried this article to a great length, we cannot enter minutely into every particular that remains; we fhall therefore give a brief view of the whole.

The work contains a general state of our prefent knowlege in chemistry. The chief defign of it is to fhew that air is an elementary principle in all bodies, and one of their moft abundant conftituent parts. The Author has fhewn, that all organized bodies, fuch as animals and vegetables, yield, and are refolved into, a confiderable quantity of different fpecies of air. Nitrous acid is compounded of different fpecies of air and of water: this indeed was known before, but M. DE LA METHERIE fhews that nature, in forming the nitrous acid, forms alfo the vitriolic, marine, phosphoric acids, &c. and that it does not employ other principles in the production of one more than in that of another. He confiders metallic fubftances as acids faturated with inflammable air; it is therefore probable that they are produced like the acids. The ammoniacal alkali alfo appears to contain different fpecies of air; hence he thinks the component principles of the fixed alkalies may be nearly the fame; and the great fimilarity which magnefia and calcareous earth bear to the alkalies, leads him to fuppofe that their conftituent parts do not differ much from each other. Analogy has moreover induced him to think, that filiceous earth, which may be changed into clay, may not be without air; efpecially as this clay may, under feveral circumftances, be converted into the ftate of calcareous earth. Thus all bodies in nature appear to contain a confiderable quantity of air. All airs contain more or lefs water, and more or less of fire or light combined; hence M. DE LA METHERIE reduces the elementary principles to thefe three, viz.

air,

air, water, and fire, or light. As to earths, he believes them to be composed of the other three, and hence earth is not an element.

In the courfe of his work, the Author frequently corrects the errors into which he thinks other writers have fallen. The falfe conclufions of M. LAVOISIER are particularly pointed out, and indeed the whole fyftem of that chemift is totally overthrown. We cannot pofitively affirm that all M. DE LA METHERIE's doctrine is true; fome of it is by no means demonftrated; yet as his hypothefis explains the phenomena better and more fatisfactorily than any other, and being at the fame time exceedingly fimple, there is a propriety in adopting it, until future experiments, and a greater knowlege of facts, hall have led to the difcovery of a better.

ART. V.

BAGAVADAM, ou Doctrine Divine, Ouvrage Indien, Canonique; fur l'Etre Supreme, les Dieux, &c. i. e. BAGAVADAM, or a System of Divine Learning; an Indian Canonical Work; containing Difcourfes on the Supreme Being, the Gods, the Giants, Mankind, the different Parts of the Universe, &c. 8vo. 348 Pages. Paris. 1788.

Na preliminary difcourfe, prefixed to this work, which feems

tranflator, whofe name does not appear, complains, in trong terms, of the treachery of his Indian coadjutor, whofe affiftance he had purchased to enable him to complete his verfion.

After travelling 20 years (fays he) I arrived in Europe in 1771, and foon found that I had fuffered many literary loffes. A manufcript, but incorrect, copy of the tranflation of the Bagavadam had been clandeftinely addreffed to a minifter, whofe enlightened tafte for the fciences was not unknown beyond the feas. The perfon who fent it was the Indian interpreter, of whose affiftance I had availed myself. This man had received from me 25 rupees (2 louis and a half) per month. After I left India, in 1769, this allowance was contantly remitted to him, till the moment when I could no longer remain ignorant of the fraud he had practifed on me. In 1772 I fubmitted to the minifter, to whom the furreptitious tranflation had been fent, fatisfactory evidence of my property in the work, and of the treachery of my Indian affiftant. The anfwer with which I was honoured was perfectly fatisfactory. I had abfolutely loft fight of this little abufe of confidence: but, about four years fince, reading a modern book of travels, in two volumes 4to, I difcovered, by feveral paffages, and even from whole pages, that the Indian had fold to the author a copy of this tranflation, and of several other works purchased at my expence. I regarded thefe new inftances of treachery with equal indifference, as long as I continued in the refolution to employ myself no further on the materials which I had collected on the fubject of antiquities. With refpect to thefe materials, fome years

૦૧ 4

fince,

fince, after publishing an Effay on Natural History, I remained ftill undecided. At length the profpectus of the researches allude ed to having been lately announced, I had occafion to cite a few paffages of the Bagavadam, This circumftance induced me to fend it to the prefs. It would have been unnatural for me to have appeared to borrow from another what was really my own, and to borrow it too, disfigured by palpable blunders. Befide, I flattered myfelf that this piece of Indian mythology would merit the attention of an enlightened public. The copy which found its way into Europe in 1769 or 1770, could not but be faulty, and offen ambiguous and obfcure. This is fufficiently clear from the quotations of the learned who have confulted it. These quotations, though very fhort, have given rife to errors, of which I fhall produce two or three fpecimens.'

The following is one of thefe fpecimens:

The greater part of the scholars above mentioned appear to have adopted an idea fuggefted by fome note of the Indian interpreter, that the Vedam, the Pouranam, in short, all the facred books of all the nations in thefe vaft regions, are pofterior to the final establishment of the Mahometans in the country. Having perfonal opportunities of comparifon, and of rectifying his errors, I encouraged the interpreter, feeing in him fome qualifications which fitted him for his fituation, But, born a deferter from the religion of his fathers, full of narrow prejudices, and deftitute of the principles of criticifm, he was only paid for tranflating the original phrafes as literally as poffible. I may be permitted to employ a few lines in diffipating the delufion into which the too eafy faith of thefe fcholars has betrayed them.-Outrage, vexation, the fear of death, and the temptations of ambition united, could immediately gain but a very few diftinguifhed profelytes to Mahometanifm. The miferable, the degraded, and fuch tribes only as were held in univerfal contempt, are almoft the only ones who have liftened to the doctrines of Mahomet. It is no objection to the truth of this affertion, that the many defcendants of thefe miferable profelytes have fince been promoted to eminent pofts. What then? Are the canonical writings, the facred repofitories of the religious worship of an ancient and civilized nation, alwaye zealously attached to the inftitutions of their ancestors, are thefe only of yesterday? pofterior to the establishment of the Mahometans in India? No-this is the very epoch in which these facred books were concealed or burned-when the ftatues of the Indian gods were mutilated, and many of their temples destroyed-The fuperb monuments which call on us to wonder at the boldness and the labour which erected them-monuments made to brave the ravages of fucceffive ages, have been long fince abandoned; yet there we admire the idols ftill worshipped by the different fects; and, at the feet of fome of them, we difcover infcriptions in characters now unknown. The most rapid glance is here fufficient evidence-every thing attefts the antiquity of the canonical writings of thefe nations, and of the legends they contain.

[ocr errors]

The improper tranflation of two words feems to have led to the mifapplication of them in the prefent queñion. The word Toulouker was rendered by the Indian, Turks, and Miletcher, Moors, which a

a pre

a pretended explanatory note connected with the last invafions.-But Toulouker means Tartars, with whom the Indians had wars from time immemorial; though the more ignorant Indians of the fouthern parts now give this name to the Mahometans in general. Miletcher is a term of reproach, fignifying any thing impure, ignoble, or one who eats of all things indifferently. Hence the modern Indians apply this name to the Mahometans-and hence the error of the Indian interpreter, and of thofe who have followed him.'

We leave it to the juftice of our readers to determine the quantum of punishment due to this fraudulent dealer in literature, and to their penetration to difcover who are the scholars that have been mifled by his mistakes. We can furnish them with no fuller information than we have ourselves been able to obtain, viz. That the Indian, whofe character is thus branded by the French tranflator, is, we believe, Meridas Poullé, chief interpreter to the fupreme council of Pondicherry-That his verfion of the Bagavadam was addreffed to M. Bertin, minifter and fe cretary of state in 1769; and that, in the year 1772, a* memoir on the fubject of this work, by M. DE GUIGNES, appeared in the 38th vol. of the Hiftory of the Royal Academy of Infcriptions and Belles Lettres, to which, we apprehend, fome paffages in the preliminary difcourfe particularly allude. The opus palmarium of our tranflator, in the profpectus of which he had occafion to quote the Bagavadam, is, as we learn from an advertisement at the end of the volume, relinquished for want of a fufficient number of subscribers.

The work before us will probably intereft the curiofity of those who are converfant with the religion of the Hindoos, or rather with the imperfect and often difcordant accounts which are given of it. To fuch readers we might content ourselves with announcing it as a tranflation of one of those Indian compofitions diftinguished by the name of Pourans, or Pouranam. But as the tranflator has prefixed an hiftorical catalogue of the volumes held moft facred in India, we fhall briefly give the fubftance of it, without reconciling or even comparing it with what has formerly been written on the subject.

The Indians, he fays, pretend that, toward the end of the periodical age of the world immediately preceding the present, a Bramin, called Viaffen, the fon, or rather the defcendant of Brahma, collected together the Vedam, which had been long before compofed by his divine progenitor. This celeftial production comprehended all the fciences, whether fupernatural or human, to the amount of fixty four. In the time of Viaffen, its fragments were widely fcattered and extremely rare. Its fenfe was become obfcure, and, but for his pious care, its very memory must foon have been loft. He formed it into one body of doctrine, which he divided into four books, as honourable

See Review, vol. lviii. p. 540.

emblems

emblems of the four faces of Brahma. One of the books was foon after loft, or concealed by a monfter of impiety born in the facerdotal order.

Viaffen afterward wrote the 18 Pouranam, or facred hiftories in verse. Tradition alfo attributes to him the Mahabaratam*, a facred epic poem, which celebrates the atchievements of the houfe of Bourout, a monarch who was the ancestor of the emperor Paricchitou. Laftly, Viaffen is fuppofed to have composed the feveral + Chaftram, or Allegorical Commentaries, with the defign of freeing religion from the ruft of mythological legends. In this refpect, however, our tranflator is difpofed to reject the teftimony of tradition. He thinks it impoffible that Viaffen fhould have compofed all the books afcribed to him; and adds, that the Pouranam betray many internal marks which evince that they were not all the works of the fame author. They differ materially in explaining the doctrines of the Vedam: nay, fome of them confider Vichnou as the fupreme God, while others give the fame fupremacy to Brahma, and others again to Chiven.

With respect to the dates of thefe facred books, that of the Vedam baffles ail chronological research. The Indian literati believe it to be as old as the original production of the universe. Brahma, fay they (i. e. wifdom perfonified), proceeded from the bofom of God, and the Vedam (i. e. all fciences, and all truth) appeared on his lips.

The Pouranam, or Collections of Sacred Hiftory, were probably committed to writing by feveral learned Bramins, about a century after the commencement of the æra of Calyougam, or the prefent age of the world (about 4788 years ago). It is faid

* See more on this work, in the article of Ayeen Akbery, in this Appendix.

The reader will obferve, that we have retained the French ranflater's fpelling of the Indian names.

In the 328th page of the Bagavadam the origin of the Vedam is defcribed we shall fubjoin a tranflation of the paffage, though we certainly do not intend it as an explanatory note.

From the heart of the fun proceeded a living emanation, from which have been produced the four acts of the fpirit. From their re-union proceeded feven principles, and the mixture of their varying fhades, or tints, are the luminous forms of the Vedam Brahma united them to his four faces. They iffued forth by his word, which is Truth. Viafen, the fon of Brahma, collected the Vedam together, and divided it into four parts, which he called Roucou, Samam, Efrou, and Adarvanam. He taught them to his difciples Vayafambayen, Samien, Soumanden, and Baileu, who feverally taught them to other eminent perfons.'

We are elsewhere informed that Viaffen compofed a fifth book of the Vedam, to which he gave the name of Baradam This was intended for the ufe of the fifth trike, who were prohibited from reading the other four.

that

« PreviousContinue »