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Dornford's Addrefs to the Livery and Citizens of London, ibid.
Ships in the Service of the East India Company,
Smith's Elegiac Sonnets. Third Edit.
Poetical Epiftle from the Ghost of Dr. Johnson to his Four Friends,
CRITICAL REVIEW. REVIEW.
For JANUARY, 1786.
Bhagvět-Gietā: or, Dialogues of Kreefhnă and Arjoon; in Eighteen Lectures. With Notes. Tranflated from the Ori ginal in the Sanskreet, or ancient Language of the Brahmāns, by Charles Wilkins. 4to. s. 6d. Nourse.
T HIS work is published by the authority of the court of directors of the Eaft India company, as well as at the particular defire and recommendation of the late governorgeneral of India: Mr. Haftings's letter is prefixed. Its antiquity, for it is an extract from a poem affirmed to have been written upwards of four thousand years ago (not much more than a century from the deluge), the anxious jealousy with which all the facred writings of the Bramins are concealed, and the great veneration in which it has been held for many fucceffive ages, render it an object of the highest curiofity. It is the production of the fame Bramin who compiled the four books of the Vêdes or Bêdes, though it appears, from fome circumstances mentioned by the very able tranflator, that the fourth is of a later date than the three former; and very probably later than the prefent performance, fince this is mentioned in it.
The letter from Mr. Haftings, with which this work is introduced, abounds with juft obfervations, not only on the fub ject immediately before him, but on fome others connected with it. He wishes, however, to prescribe bounds to criticifm, and would exclude, in eftimating the merit of this work, all rules drawn from the ancient or modern literature of Europe;' all references to fuch fentiments or manners, are become the ftandards of propriety for opinion and action, in our own modes of life;' and appeals to our revealed tenets of religion and moral duty. They are not applicable, he thinks, to a state of society fo different, with which we have been fo long unconnected, and of an antiquity fo far fuperior to the frit steps towards civilization in Europe. If this be allowed, Vol. LXI. Jan. 1786.
we must look on this facred relic with the veneration of an Hindo, and be afraid to put forward the unhallowed finger of criticifm; for by what rules muft we judge? The respectable writer of this letter fhould confider, that the work is offered to European readers; that it is European learning which has enabled them to form any judgment at all; and that it is not in their power, even if they were fo inclined, to discard it. Mr. Haftings tacitly acknowleges this, for he proceeds to decide on it in the manner, and with the opinions of an European.
Many paffages will be found obfcure, many will seem redundant; others will be found cloathed with ornaments of fancy unfuited to our taste, and fome elevated to a track of fublimity into which our habits of judgment will find it difficult to pursue them; but few which will fhock either our religious faith or moral fentiments. Something too must be allowed to the fubject itself, which is highly metaphyfical, to the extreme difficulty of rendering abftract terms by others exactly correfponding with them in another language, to the arbitrary combination of ideas, in words expreffing unfubftantial qualities, and more, to the errors of interpretation.'
Yet, with these deductions, which are fomewhat more fully infifted on, Mr. Haftings hefitates not to pronounce
The Geeta a performance of great originality; of a fublimity of conception, reafoning, and diction, almost unequalled; and a fingle exception, among all the known religions of mankind, of a theology accurately correfponding with that of the Chriftian difpenfation, and most powerfully illuftrating its fundamental doctrines.
It will not be fair to try its relative worth by a comparison with the original text of the first standards of European compofition; but let these be taken even in the moft efteemed of their profe tranflations; and in that equal fcale let their merits be weighed. I fhould not fear to place, in oppofition to the best French verfions of the most admired paffages of the Iliad or Odyssey, or of the first or fixth books of our own Milton, highly as I venerate the latter, the English translation of the Mahabharat.'
Let us add a circumftance in vindication of Mr. Haftings, fince he feels the imputation mentioned fo keenly: his fenfibility, in this refpect, does great credit to his delicacy and humanity.
A mind rendered fufceptible by the daily experience of unmerited reproach, may be excufed if it anticipates even unreasonable or improbable objections. This must be my plea for any apparent futility in the following obfervation. I have feen an extract from a foreign work of great literary credit, in