« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
it, and but few of them even attain a complete knowledge of it. Yet M. de Sacy, to bring this literature within the reach of Europeans, succeeded in gaining such a familiarity with the system as perhaps no Arab of this age has attained.
At the same time he devoted himself to the regular study of universal grammar. In 1799, he published the edition of his Principles of General Grammar. This edition was a mere abstract of what he had found most simple in the general grammars of Mess. Port Royal, and of Beauzee, and in the universal grammar of Count de Gebelin. But in the second edition which appeared in 1804, M. de Sacy, who had had time to mature his ideas, made a nearer approach to principles. This work has been considered at once so learned and so simple, that it is still used in several primary schools.*
A law of the 25th Oct. 1795, had re-established the old academies on a new basis. The single body, which was to represent them all, was divided into three classes, and bore the name of the National Institute. M. de Sacy was admitted from the first into the class of literature and the fine arts. But at this period the government required of every person clothed with any title whatever, to take what was termed the oath of hatred to royalty. M. de Sacy refused to take the oath, and before the installation of the new body, sent in his resignation. But he was at the same time professor of Arabic, and it was not long before he was called upon to take the oath for this office. He declared that he would not take it, but that he would continue to give lectures until the appointment of his successor. It was no easy matter to find a substitute, and he was left unmolested. At length the Institute having been reorganized in 1803, and the Academy of Inscriptions having been re-established under the title of Class of Ancient History and Literature, M. de Sacy resumed his former place.
Some scholars had, at different periods, expressed the opinion, that there existed in the archives of Genoa, oriental works of the highest importance, manuscripts accumulated
*] third edition appeared in 1815. The title is, Principes de Grammaire Generale mis a la portee des enfans, et propres a servir d'introduction a l' etude de toutes les langues. Paris, 1 vol. 12 mo. The first edition was translated into Danish, the second into German, and the third into English, and published in the United States.
while the Genoese republic had been mistress of the Mediterranean and the adjacent seas, which might throw light on the history of the middle ages. In 1805, while Genoa was dependent on France, M. de Sacy was deputed by the Imperial government to examine those literary treasures. This was the first and last time in which he was separated from his family. With his studies and domestic habits, he was not fond of leaving home. During the rest of his life, bis journeys were confined to an occasional visit to the country, in company with his family, a few leagues from the capital, and this was generally less for relaxation, than for more uninterrupted study.
M. de Sacy did not find at Genoa, the manuscripts which had been referred to. Either they had never existed, or had perished amid the distraction, to which the republic had more than once been a prey. He took notes however, of a great many documents important to the history of the government and coinmerce of the republic in the middle ages. On his return to Paris, in 1806, he made a report to the academy on the various documents, and at a later period published some of them entire.
In the same year appeared, under the title of Chrestomathie Arabe, a selection from various Arabian writers both in prose and verse, with a French translation and notes. This work, in 3 vols. 8vo, was the first fruits of his labors as professor of Arabic. The work fulfilled the object he had in view, and, while it was especially intended for the use of the pupils of the School of Oriental Languages, it was soon adopted in all the universities, both at home and abroad, where the same studies were cultivated.
In 1808 M. de Sacy was elected by the department of the Seine, a member of the Legislative body. In 1810 appeared the first edition of the Arabic Grammar, in two large volumes 8vo. the fruit of fifteen years researches and meditation. This grammar is the most learned and methodical view of the Arabic language, that has yet appeared in Europe, and is a very remarkable specimen of grammatical analysis. In the same year M. de Sacy published a French translation of an Arabic account of Egypt, accompanied by notes. The author of this was a physician of Bagdad, named Abd-allatif who visited Egypt under the reign of the great Saladin, and later under his brother Malek-Adel. Versed in the natural and philosophical sciences, a religious philosopher, and an enlightened observer, nothing escaped his notice. He described the climate of Egypt, its natural productions and phenomena, and monuments of antiquity, many of which, since his time have disappeared. The whole volume of the translation, which was the fruit of nearly ten years' application, is executed with extreme care ; and notwithstanding the progress which oriental literature has since made, it would be impossible to perform the task better at the present day.
M. de Sacy as we have seen, carried on conjointly several works; and yet these were but a part of his habitual occupations; he was one of those men who find recreation in a change of subject. While he was composing the works just mentioned, any one of which would have been sufficient to absorb the leisure of an ordinary scholar, he took a very active part in the labors of the Academy of Inscriptions ; he furnished articles to the Notices and Extracts from the MSS. in the King's Library, and was one of the most zealous contributors to the Magazine Encyclopedique, the Mines de l' Orient, the Annales des Voyages, &c.
It is proper to add that M. de Sacy, throughout almost his whole life, was a man of business, as well as a man of science. His precision and accuracy, his indefatigable activity, the skill with which he invariably retained a command over his tongue," and the consummate address he could at all times employ, enabled him to take part in every thing, and to speak on every subject. Was a report to be drawn up on any matter whatsoever, he was always prepared for it; and what is most remarkable, his ordinary pursuits went on, in the mean while as if he had nothing else to attend to.
M. de Sacy had received from the Imperial Government, in 1813, the title of Baron, which he had so nobly earned. In February 1815, the Royal government appointed him Rector of the University of Paris, a post, which had been filled by Rollin and other distinguished personages. He was nominated in August a member of the committee of public instruction, which subsequently was designated the Royal Council of Public Instruction. In this period amid political and administrative avocations, we must place a species of researches, which has almost formed a new era in oriental studies—the study of the prosodial and metrical systems of the Arabic and Persian languages. It is well known of what advantage the knowledge of the Latin and Greek metrical system has been in classical literature. This knowledge was still more necessary for Arabic poetry, in which the consonants alone are generally written; yet till very lately only two or three Europeans, who had made some stay in the east, had been initiated in so important a study. The researches to which M. de Sacy devoted himself commenced as early as 1814. In this year the writer of this memoir began to attend his course, where he met as fellow pupils, M. Freytag, professor of Arabic at the University of Bonn, M: Humbert, professor of Arabic at Geneva, and M. Garcin de Tassy, professor of Hindostani in the Special School of Oriental Languages. The investigations of M. de Sacy developed the system of versification of all the Mussulman nations which possess a literature, and his observations were welcomed and immediately adopted by the principal orientalists in Europe.
From this period to 1822 oriental literature had made rapid advances in Europe. Hebrew, Syriac, and other biblical languages, were still cultivated, particularly in Germany. Arabian and Persian, thanks to M. de Sacy, were now taught with new energy. and there had been added Armenian, Sanscrit, and Chinese, in fact all the languages of modern Asia, which enjoy any measure of celebrity. Under these circumstances the happy idea occurred to certain persons, of incorporating together at Paris all the lovers of oriental literature, whatever the branch they had adopted as the especial object of their researches, and of combining around this centre those persons, both in the provinces and abroad, who partook of the same tastes. Such was the origin of our Asiatic Society. Of this Society M. de Sacy was elected the first President.
We ornit many contributions of great but minor importance, and republications. In 1823, he was made principal of the college of France, and in 1832, was raised to the peerage, and soon after appointed conservator of oriental MSS. in the Royal library and perpetual secretary to the Academy of Inscriptions. His last work was a sketch in two volumes, 8vo, of the religious doctrines of the Druses, for which as we have stated, he had collected most of the materials forty years before. The work thus published was left incomplete. On the 21st of February 1838, after an illness of only three days, he expired, in the eighteth year
of his age, his powers of intellect, and literary activity unimpaired.
The influence which M. de Sacy exercised over not only Arabic and Persian, but every department of oriental literature was very great. His direct connexion with the government allowed him to express his opinion on every thing in any way connected with those studies; on the other hand, his works, his oral instructions, his vast correspondence, his pupils, who were successively called to fill the principal chairs of Europe, and not the least, his contributions to the principal literary collections of the day, allowed the public to participate in all his ideas.
Uniting as he did talents so various and so brilliant, he was perhaps more distinguished as a professor than in any other character. Endowed with a perfect clearness of understanding, having had time to meditate on all the mysteries of the theory of language, and possessing a knowledge of the tongue he had to teach superior to that of any one before him, he added to these valuable qualifications much coolness and a presence of mind that was imperturbable. Did any difficulty arise, he took the matter up and went directly to the point, saying just as much as was necessary and nothing more. Thus, his lectures became not those of France alone, but of all Europe. They were constantly attended by men who had completed their studies, and who had in some instances distinguished themselves by important works, and who yet came to learn something from him. M. de Sacy was quite sensible that this formed a part of his renown, and he accordingly attached an extreme importance to the due discharge of his professional duties. He was in the habit of graduating bis lessons, so as to consult the advantage of the most advanced students as well as of those who were less so; the former he required to explain works of extreme difficulty, and when the work was one which he had not yet thoroughly studied, be prepared his lecture previously at home, compared the text with the manuscripts which were within his reach, and cleared up all obscurities. When the bour of lecture arrived he was ready to explain every thing. Sometimes, however, difficulties would arise, which he had not foreseen, on which occasions he frankly confessed his embarrassment; for he was not one of those men who desire to have it believed that they know every thing; but on his re