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Description - The Life and Mind of Oriental Jones by Garland Cannon

Sir William Jones is best known for his famous Third Discourse of 1786 in which he proposed that Sanskrit's affinity to Greek and Latin could be explained by positing a common, earlier source, one known today as Indo-European. This brilliant thesis of language families laid the groundwork for modern comparative linguistics. Jones's interests and achievements, however, ranged far beyond language. He studied and made contributions to astronomy, botany, history, law, literature, music, physiology, politics, and religion. He served as a Supreme Court justice in India and founded the Asiatic Society, which stimulated worldwide interest in India and the Orient. He was friends with many of the leading intellectuals of his day and corresponded with Benjamin Franklin in America and with Burke, Gibbon, Johnson, Percy, and Reynolds in Britain. In his short life he mastered so many languages that even in his own time he was regarded as a phenomenon; and so he was. Garland Cannon, editor of The Letters of Sir William Jones, has written a new definitive biography of this fascinating man, who in his life and works teaches us that the path to understanding and appreciating the art and literature of a great culture very different from our own is through devoted study, a tolerant spirit, and an unquenchably curious mind.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780521391498
ISBN-10: 0521391490
Format: Hardback
(228mm x 152mm x 29mm)
Pages: 432
Imprint: Cambridge University Press
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publish Date: 25-Jan-1991
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - The Life and Mind of Oriental Jones by Garland Cannon

Book Reviews - The Life and Mind of Oriental Jones by Garland Cannon

US Kirkus Review » A star-struck biography of Sir William "Oriental" Jones, who in 1786 proposed a common linguistic antecedent called Indo-European, from which most other languages were descended. Jones's search for universal and secular origins expressed the spirit of his age. A poet and scholar by avocation, he was trained in the law and spent most of his life as Supreme Court Justice in India, where he founded the Asiatic Society for the study and dissemination of knowledge about Oriental culture. Its scope exceeded that of the Royal Society, but its Anglo-Indian membership lacked glitter, which may account for why its major contribution, the discovery of a Hindu golden age, was disregarded during the Anglicizing of the 19th century. While this biography by Cannon (English/Texas A&M) records where Jones went, what he said, his club meetings, dinners, illnesses, and cases, there is little of the actual life or mind here. We learn that Jones's father was an esteemed mathematician; that a series of childhood accidents left him scarred and nearly blind; that his formidable education and prodigious memory helped him overcome his otherwise humble origins; that he sought an Indian post to earn money for an English retirement; that, with his nearly invisible wife Ann, he preferred to the lively social life of Calcutta a quiet retreat with such pets as a giant turtle named "Othello," who answered to his name and joined them for dinner. After many years of fevers from the unhealthy climate, Jones died alone at age 47, his wife having preceded him in returning to England. With his erudition and industry, Jones is a challenge to any biographer; but Cannon, who edited the Jones letters (1970), and wrote a bibliography (1976), makes excessive claims that compromise Jones's genuine achievements. His poetry, for example, voluminous, learned, but derivative, is not as "innovative" as The Lyrical Ballads; his aesthetics did not influence the Romantic writers; and he was not "among the greatest living poets." At best, as the Gentleman's Magazine claimed, "he is one of the most extraordinary characters which England has furnished," and that's a good enough reason for reading this biography. (Kirkus Reviews)

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