Welsh Orientalist: Sir William Jones

A.L. Rowse describes the life and career of the foremost Persian and Sanskrit scholar of his day.

Of the scores of fine monuments in Oxford college chapels that go unregarded by the impercipient tourist, one of the finest is the Flaxman at the west end of University College chapel. It is a pyramidal pile with rounded gourds, a caduceus, a Welsh harp at the top; then a long Latin inscription, and underneath a scene in relief.

A youngish Georgian figure with pleasant face is seated under a palm tree at a desk, writing down with his quill what an ancient Hindu sage on his haunches is reading from his books, two more Oriental figures behind him in attendance.

Upon the seat is the motto: ‘A nation should be judged by its own laws - Menook Beneath the scene is inscribed: ‘He formed a digest of Hindu and Mohammedan Laws’. That was his prime achievement, though he accomplished a great deal more than that, for this is the monument to the first Orientalist of his age: Sir William Jones. All that he did was in a short space of time, for he was only forty-seven when he died in 1794.

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