18 SEPTEMBER 1880, Page 19



FROM the year 1840, when M. Mohl assumed the Secretaryship of the Societe Asiatique, until 1867, he f urnished the Society with an annual report on the books lately published on any of • Viagt-sept Ass d'Hisloire des Eludes Oriesslales. Rapporta rafts k1& Soaletd AdatIqoa de Peris de 1840 k1887, Par Jules Rohl. 2 tom. Paris: IteMwald. 1879. the subjects—languages and literatures alike—belonging to the vast field of Oriental studies coming within the province of the Society. These reports contained, besides, obituary notices of members of the Society, as well as of the most eminent foreign Orientalists, whether honorary members or unconnected with the French society ; they were, of course, published at the time in the Society's periodical, the "Journal Asiatique." The immense extent of M. Mohl's learning, and the care and pains he expended on these reports, render them a most useful record of the progress of Oriental study during the most golden era. it has yet passed through. These considerations fully justify their collection and republication by Madame Mohl. We may even go further, and consider that they furnish to a later generation, whose erudition, owing to the enor- mous increase in bulk and detail on most quarters of the vast field, is inevitably but lamentably specialised, a salutary picture of the all-round scholar who, in the earlier years of the century, could cast an intelligent eye over all that was being done with reference to the East, from Turkey and Arabia to farthest China and Mongolia. Mohl is thus the Admirable Crichton of Orientalists; and it does us good to contemplate his powers and influence, though we cannot at this day exactly follow in his steps.

Jules Mohl is known so generally by his position at Paris, his long activity in the Societe Asiatique, and his French writings, that some readers may be surprised to hear he was by birth a German. He was born at Stuttgart in 1800, one of four brothers, each of whom achieved celebrity in dif- ferent careers; Robert in law and politics, Moritz in polit- ical economy, Hugo in botany. The father stood high in the civil service of Wiirtemberg, and was able to give his sons the advantages of University education by which they evidently all knew how to profit. Jules entered the University of Tubingen as a student of theology ; but, as Dr. Max Muller well says in an appreciative biographical notice prefixed to these volumes, " Mecontent de l'esprit etroit et purement theologique qui presidait aux etudes Bur le christianisme, rhebreu fut pour lui, e,omme ii l'a et6 pour taut d'autres, le chemiu de passage de la theologie ii Porientalisme." It is somewhat remarkable, under these circumstances, that Hebrew appears not to have been much studied in later times by M. Mohl. His pronounced predilec- tion for Oriental studies naturally determined him in 1823 to go to Paris, then the undisputed focus of learning and brilliant talent in things Oriental ; and the position of usefulness and influence in which he soon found himself there decided the course of his life, and made it undesirable to return to Germany, where a professorship at Tubingen was placed at his disposal. To understand this, it is necessary to banish from view the Germany of later times, standing at the head of Oriental science, and discovering or first turning to account many an organic law of language ; we must recall the years 1820-30, in which, though Germany was beginning to

act vigorously, she was in matters Oriental only the scholar and follower of England and France. To England belonged naturally the first position in everything relating to India and China ; but as a large proportion of the English Orientalists were officials or missionaries resident in the East, London was (and is) less a centre of Oriental learning than would be the case if the books written in English were all home-products. France, on the other hand, with scarcely any political or commercial connection with the East, had assumed an honourable position of scientific inquiry into the history of Asiatic countries, which was localised in the College de France, and strongly represented there by men of European renown and noble character. In Germany, even at the present day, whether for good or ill—and on the whole, surely for good—no one centre

of learning brings together all the eminent Orientalists. No

such focus exists there now comparable to what Paris was in 1823. Then, or a. few years earlier or later, were gathered together Silvestre de Sacy, Fresnel, Fauriel, Burnouf, Chezy, and Saint-Martin, bearers of the newest lights on the Arabic, Persian, Pali, Zend, Sanskrit, and Armenian languages and literature, to say nothing of Berne& as an early investigator of cuneiform inscriptions. It was an heroic age for these studies, a period of ardent hope and expectation of great results, the feasibility of which was in part proved, and the realisation of which depended on the patient labour of men of great parts and self-denying energy. The right sort of men were there, and

the greatness of the issues created the enthusiasm and devotion which kept them to their respective labours, and prevented vain. -able time from being wasted in dissensions such as are too liable to 'arise among savants engaged in studies which are largely specula- tive. What is especially important to notice in this connection is, that the foundation of the scientific treatment of the languages of Asia was to a great extent laid by these men in France, and that the later German school, which has, perhaps, permanently gained precedence, owes its very existence to the great French masters. Thus Freytag, among many others, was the pupil of Silvestre de Sacy ; Bopp spent four years in Paris, during a time of political troubles, in quiet study of Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic ; Lassen's earliest work (on the Pali) was undertaken in -company with Eugene Burnouf.

No wonder, then, that Mohl went to Paris in 1823; and no -wonder that, once there and admitted to the society and the studies of these great men, he found Paris no city of mere pleasure, but the place best calculated to attract his affec- tions and retain him permanently. He began at once to attack the difficulties of Arabic and Persian in the class-room of Sil- vestre de Sacy, and those of Chinese in that of Remusat. Persian soon became his favourite study, and his progress in it must have been not only rapid, but notorious to persons of in- fluence ; for as early as 1826 he was engaged by the French Government to edit the great epic of Firdasi, the Slui,h-Ntimeh, which gives a poetic version of the 'history of the Kings of Persia from the earliest times. It was to form the commencement of a publication undertaken by the Government, entitled Collection Orientale, which was intended to embrace the most important works of Oriental literature in general, given in the original languages and French translations. The volumes were, however, planned on so mag- nificent a scale, being large folios, with delicate coloured borders round every page, and other typographical luxuries, as to be quite beyond the reach of most of the scholars who could use -them. The edition of the Slath-Mtmelt was the great work of Mold's life. The preparation for it occupied many years ; the first volume appeared in 1838, and others at intervals of many years ; the seventh and last was not quite finished at his death, portions of it having been destroyed in the disturbances of the Commune, but has been pub- lished since. It was accepted at once as a great work and a standard edition. Whether the text chosen was always the best, and whether in difficult or corrupt passages the translation does not sometimes force a meaning which the words will not legitimately yield,—these are questions that must be left to experts. Certain passages have been unfavourably judged in this sense, and often apparently with justice, by Riickert, in the Zeitschrift der Dentschem 3forgenliindischen Gesellschaft, Vols. VIII. and X. But this cannot detract from the substantial merit of this great work. It was the chief literary labour of Mohl's life. The perusal of the reports show how much of his time must have been spent, in keeping abreast of the Oriental science of his time, and explain how, while holding a position of great influence as a linguist, he was not a prolific -writer. Our own Edwin Norris occupied a somewhat similar position, exeept that he possessed a kind of instinctive genius, -which can scarcely be ascribed to Mohl.

In trying to estimate aright M. Mohl's Reports, we must transplant ourselves to the latitude of Paris, and especially to that of the learned societies there. We must remember how :apt literary reports of this kind, and especially notices of the literary achievements of a writer delivered after his death, are in France to degenerate into mere hloges, marked by the ignoring of faults and the emphasising of the learning, tact, or genius displayed. To persons accustomed to reviews of this sort, M. Mold's reports may have seemed occasionally unduly severe, and Professor Max Muller hints that his perfect sincerity towards friend and foe did gain him some enemies among the less nobly minded members of the Society. To us, in an age and country which (notwithstanding many possible exceptions to the rule) despises societies for mutual admiration or self- glorification, and accepts as a necessary moral principle the fullest discussion. and plainest speaking in matters of science, Mohl's reports appear in general kindly and sympathetic in perhaps an extreme degree, and we can hardly understand how he was ever regarded as severe. But before we allow ourselves -to think a thought of blame on this account, we ought to con- sider that he was merely giving an announcement of books of importance published during the year; that it was impossible 'within such narrow limits to enter into a detailed criticism, which alone would have justified the expression of a strong ex cathedra judgment ; and that he wrote as the mouthpiece of the Societe Asiatique, which he could not properly compromise by strong praise or blame. It will really be found that he per- formed his delicate task with perfect impartiality. If he seldom takes uppn himself to censure, so he is somewhat reticent with praise. He points out chiefly the subjects of the books, enlarges on the void they fill up, the state of our previous knowledge, and the qualifications of the authors exhibited by previous studies to treat the matter under notice. It may also be pre- sumed that worthless works are simply left unmentioned. Thus, if the reports are treated rather as a record of the progress of Oriental knowledge and a list of the chief authors and works during the period 1840 to 1867, than as a critique of them individually, they will be found a most faithful and valuable guide.

We must give a specimen of M. llohl's style, and would, by preference, select a passage of intrinsic interest. Eugene Burnouf's name and vast achievements are known in this country only to the learned. The obituary notice of Mold's teacher and friend is peculiarly excellent. After describing the process by which be discovered the key of the Zoroastian Scriptures, and laid down the laws of Zend grammar (from 1829 to 1850), he continues :— " M. Burnouf lui-meme a tire de sit decouverte tme des consequences les plus belles et les plus inattendues qu'elle contenait. On avait trouve en Perse, sur des rochers, sur des tombeaux, et Bar des restes des palais de Persepolis, des inscriptions Inagnifiques dans an caractere ineonnu, auquel on donnait le nom de cuneiforme. Ellen paraissaient offrir un probleme insoluble ; on n'en possedait aucune traduction ; on n'avait ancune indication sur leur sans, aueune con- naissance de In league dans laquelle elles etaient ecrites, ancun moyen de lire one ecriture qui n'avait d'analogie avec nulle entre. 'A la fin, Grotefend, admettant l'exactitude d'une indication des auteurs anciens sur la loealite des tombeaux de Darius at de Xerxes, designs, par an precede tres-ing,enieux, In place que les mans de ces dear rois et leer titre de roi den rois devaient occuper sur dear de ces inscrip- tions, et forma un alphabet, par l'analyse de ces noms. Comme on ignorait la longue des inscriptions, on ne pouvait pas eller plus loin, et l'on ne pouvait memo pas pronver ou refuter les resultate de la tentative do M. Grotefend, qui resta aiusi pendant treats ens it l'etat de conjecture plausible. Des hommes dun grand merit°, M. Bask et M. Saint-Martin, s'occuperent de cc grand probleme, sans faire faire des progres sensibles it an solution, at sans parvenir it IM 6ter son caractere conjectural. Ce fat la decouverte du zend, qui donna a M. Birnout la clef de cette dnigme ; car si les inscriptions etaient reellement de Darius, elles devaient etre ecrites dens la memo langue que lee 'lyres de Zoroastre, qui etait presque contemporain de ce roi, et I:intelligence des mots at des formes grammaticales devait le mettre en &at d'en fixer avec certi- tude l'alphabet et le sens. Ayant done applique sit connaissance du zend it deux inscriptions de Darius at de Xerxes trouvees pres de Hamadan, il parvint it les lire; prouva que la conjecture de Grotefend emit fondee, que l'alphabet qu'il avait decouvert elan partiellement vrai, que la league des inscriptions etait an dialecto voisin du zend, at donna une traduction complete des dear inscriptions et an alpha- bet presque complet [1836]. C'etait la premiere fois qu'on Bean reeltement une de ces inscriptions depuis le temps d'Alexandre le Grand, at un probleme qui paraissait devoir defier tons lee efforts de la sagacite humaine se trouva resolu, comma une consequence naturelle do la decouverte du zend. La question etait mitre, et M. Lassen, en s'appnyant sur les travaux de M. Burnout sur le zend deconvrit de son cfite, et presque en meme temps quo lui, la lecture des inscriptions cuneiformes pemanes."