Page images

it appears, that in the acetous fermentation, the spirit of wine lores fome of its inflammable air; but at the same time the pure air absorbed unites with the tartareous acid, and makes it pass into the state of faccharine acid; this again parting with more inflammable air, and absorbing a fresh quantity of pure air, becomes true vinegar. The bread fermentation offers the same phenomena as the vinous fermentation.

The putrid animal and vegetable fermentation are next defcribed. These operations absolutely decompose the substances. 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 small quantity of insipid earth, mixed sometimes with metallic particles. . M. DE LA METHERIE gives an analyfis of these airs. Those from vegetables are acid, inflammable, pure, and impure; those from animals are acid, pure, impure, inflammable, ammoniacal, and sulphureous.

M. de la Methenie proceeds to describe combuftion, saline substances, 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 all cherefore give a brief view of the whole.

The work contains a general state of our present knowlege in chemistry. The chief delign of it is to the w that air is an elementary principle in all bodies, and one of their moft abundant conftituent parts. The Author has thewn, that all organized bodies, such as animals and vegetables, yield, and are resolved into, a confiderable quantity of different species of air. Nitrous acid is compounded of different species of air and of water : this indeed was known before, but M. DE LA METHERIE shews that nature, in forming the nitrous acid, forms also 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 considers metallic substances as acids saturated with inflammable air; it is therefore probable that they are produced like the acids. The ammoniacal alkali also appears to contain different species of air; hence he thinks the component principles of the fixed alkalies may be nearly the same ; and the great similarity which magnesia and calcareous earth bear to the alkalies, leads him to suppose 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 ; especially as this clay may, under several circumstances, be converted into the state of calcareous earth. Thus all bodies in nature appear to contain a confiderable quantity of air. All airs contain more or less water, and more or less of fire or light combined ; hence M. DE LA ME. THERIE reduces the elementary principles to these three, viz.

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

In the course of his work, the Author frequently corrects the errors into which he thinks other writers have fallen. The false conclusions of M. LAVOISIER are particularly pointed out, and indeed the whole system of that chemist is totally overthrown. We cannot positively affirm that all M. DE LA METherie's doctrine is true; some of it is by no means demon. ftrated; yet as his hypothesis explains the phenomena better and more satisfactorily than any other, and being at the same time exceedingly simple, there is a propriety in adopting it, until future experiments, and a greater knowlege of facts, Thall have led to the discovery of a better.

[ocr errors]

ART. 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 Difcourses on the Supreme Being, the Gods, the Giants, Mankind, the different Parts of the Universe, &c. 8vo. 348 Pages. Paris. 1788. N a preliminary discourse, prefixed to this work, which seems


translator, whose name does not appear, complains, in trong terms, of the treachery of his Indian coadjutor, whose allistance he had purchased to enable him to complete his verf10n.

After travelling 20 years (says he) I arrived in Europe in 1771, and soon found that I had suffered many literary losses. A manufcript, but incorrect, copy of the translation of the Bagavadan had been clandestinely addressed to a minister, whose enlightened taste for the sciences was not unknown beyond the seas. The person who sent it was the Indian interpreter, of whose allistance 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 conItantly remitted to him, till the moment when I could no longer remain ignorant of the fraud he had practised on me. In 1772 I submitted to the minister, to whom the furreptitious translation had been sent, satisfactory evidence of my property in the work, and of the treachery of my Indian assistant. The answer with which I was honoured was perfectly satisfactory. I had absolutely lost sight of this little abuse of confidence : but, about four years since, reading a modern book of travels, in two volumes 4to, I discovered, by several parsages, and even from whole pages, that the Indian had sold to the author a copy of this translation, and of several other works purchased at my expence. I regarded these new instances of treachery with egual indifference, as long as I continued in the resolution to employ myself no further on the materials which I had collected on the subject of antiquities. With respect to these materials, fome years

Q 9 4


fince, after publishing an Essay on Natural History, I remained still undecided. At length the prospectus of the researches allude ed to having been lately announced, I had occasion to cite a few passages of the Bagavadam, This circumstance induced me to send it to the press. 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. Beside, I Battered myself that this piece of Indian mythology would merit the attention of an enlightened public. The copy which found its way in to Europe in 1769 or 1770, could not but be faulty, and often ambiguous and obscure. This is sufficiently clear from the quotations of the learned who have consulted it. These quotations, though very short, have given rise to errors, of which I fall produce two or three specimens.'

The following is one of these specimens :

• The greater part of the scholars above mentioned appear to have adopted an idea suggested by fome note of the Indian interpreter, that the Vedam, the Pouranam, in short, all the sacred books of all 'the nations in these vast regions, are posterior to the final eltablishment of the Mahometans in the country. Having personal oppor. tunities of comparison, and of rectifying his errors, I encouraged the interpreter, seeing in him some qualifications which fitted him for his fiquation, But, born a deserter from the religion of his fathers, full of narrow prejudices, and destitute of the principles of criticism, he was only paid for translating the original phrases as literally as possible. I may be permitted to employ a few lines in dislipating the delusion into which the too easy faith of these scholars has betrayed them.--Outrage, vexation, the fear of death, and the temptations of ambition united, could immediately gain but a very few diftinguished profelyies to Mahometanism. The miserable, the degraded, and such tribes only as were held in universal contempt, are almost the only ones who have listened to the doctrines of Mahomet. It is no objection to the truth of this assertion, that the many descendants of these miserable proselytes have since been promoted to eminent posts. What then ? Are the canonical writings, the sacred repositories of the religious worship of an ancient and civilized , nation, alway: zealously attached to the institutions of their ancestors, are these only of yesterday? pofterior to the establishment of the Mahometans in India? No--this is the very epoch in which these sacred books were concealed or burned when the statues of the Indian gods were mutilated, and many of their temples destroyed – The ju perb monuments which call on us to wonder at the boldness and the labour which erected them-monuments made to brave the savages of fucceffive ages, have been long fince abandoned ; yet there we admire the idols full worshipped by che different sects; and, at the feet of some of them, we discover inscriptions in characters now unknown. The most rapid glance is here fufficient evidence- every thing attests the antiquity of the canonical writings of these nations, and of the legends they contain.

• The improper translation of two words seems to have led to the misapplication of them in the present question. The word Toulauker "was rendered by the Indian, Turks, and Miletcher, Moors, which a a pretended explanatory note connected with the last invasions. But Çoxlouker 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 those who have followed him.'

a preemblems that

We leave it in the justice of our readers to determine the quantum of punishment due to this fraudulent dealer in literature, and to their penetration to discover who are the scholars that have been misled by his mistakes. We can furnith them with no fuller information than we have ourselves been able to obtain, viz. That the Indian, whose character is thus branded by the French translator, is, we believe, Meridas Poullé, chief interpreter to the supreme council of Pondicherry-That his version of the Bagavadam was addrefled to M. Bertin, minister and fecretary of state in 1769; and that, in the year 1772, a * memoir on the subject of this work, by M. DE GUIGNES, appeared in the 38th vol. of the History of the Royal Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres, to which, we apprehend, fome passages in the preliminary discourse particularly allude. The opus palmarium of our translator, in the prospe&us of which he had occafion to quote the Bagavadam, is, as we learn from ani advertisement at the end of the volume, relinquished for want of a fufficient number of subscribers.

The work before us will probably interest the curiosity of those who are conversant with the religion of the Hindoos, or rather with the imperfe& and often discordant accounts which are given of it. To such readers we might conient ourselves with announcing it as a translation of one of those Indian compositions diftinguished by the name of Pourans, or Pouranam. But as the translator has prefixed an historical catalogue of the volumes held most sacred in India, we shall briefly give the substance of it, without reconciling or even comparing it with what has formerly been written on the subject.

The Indians, he says, pretend that, toward the end of the periodical age of the world immediately preceding the present, a Bramin, called Viasen, the son, or rather the descendant of Brahma, collected together the Vedam, which had been long before composed by his divine progenitor. This celestial production comprehended all the sciences, whether fupernatural or human, to the amount of fixty four. In the time of Viajen, its fragments were widely scattered and extremely rare. Its sense was become obscure, and, but for his pious case, its very memory must soon have been loft. He formed it into one body of doctrine, which he divided into four books, as honourable

* See Review, vol. Iviii. p. 540.

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

Viassen afterward wrote the 18 Pouranam, or sacred histories in verse. Tradition also attributes to him the Mahabaratan*, a sacred epic poem, which celebrates the archievements of the house of Bourout, a monarch who was the ancestor of the emperor Paricchitou. Lastly, Viasjen is supposed to have composed the several + Chastram, or Allegorical Commentaries, with the design of freeing religion from the rust of mythological legends. In this respect, however, our translator is disposed to rejeat the testimony of tradition. He thinks it impossible that Viassen thould have composed all the books ascribed to him; and adds, that the Pouranam betray many internal marks which evince that they were not all the works of the same author. They differ materially in explaining the doctrines of the Vedam : nay, fome of them consider Vichnou as the supreme God, while others give the same supremacy to Brahma, and others again to Chiven,

With respect to the dates of these sacred books, that of the Vedam bafis ail chronological research. The Indian literati believe it to be as old as the original production of the universe. Brahma, say they (i. e. wisdom personified), proceeded from the bosom of God, and the Vedam (i. e, all sciences, and all truth) appeared on his I lips.

The Pouranam, or Collections of Sacred History, were probably com pitted to writing by several learned Bramins, about a century after the commencement of the æra of Calyougam, or the present age of the world (about 4788 years ago). It is said

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

† The reader will observe, that we have retained the French translator's spelling of the Indian names.

In the 328th page of the Bagavadam the origin of the Vedam is described : we shall subjoin a translation of the passage, 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 spirit. From their re-union proceeded seven principles, and the mixture of their varying Mades, or tints, are the luminous forms of the Vedam. Brahma united them to his four faces. They issued forth by his word, which is Truth. Viasjen, the son 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 disciples Vayalambayen, Samien, Soumanden, and Baileu, who severally taught them to other eminent persons.'

We are elsewhere informed that Viassen composed a fifth book of the Vedam, to which he gave the name of Baradam This was intended for the use of the fifth cribe, who were prohibited from read. ing the other four.


« PreviousContinue »