I had, six years ago, the honor of presenting you with a copy of my edition of the celebrated Indian philosophical poem, entitled Bhagavad-Gîtâ, the first book ever printed on the continent of Europe in the Sanscrit language and in the original Dèvanâgari character.
The first Volume of my edition of the Râmâyana, the most ancient epic poem of India, has just been published, and I have charged my bookseller to transmit to you the number of copies, for which I was honored with your subscription. I have, in a Prospectus, printed in London, and in the Latin preface prefixed to the first volume of the text, shown the importance of this work, and the extensive researches it involves.
I rejoice at having the present fresh opportunity of testifying my respect for your honorable body by offering you a Copy of my edition of the Hitôpadêsa, an ingenious collection of fables and moral sentences, which has served as a class-book in the colleges both of Fort William and Hayleybury, and is, indeed, eminently adapted to that purpose, when the teacher has a correct edition to assist him.
Since the beginning of this century encouragements have been granted, partly by your honorable Court, and partly by the government at Calcutta, to the study of the Sanscrit language, in order to form civil as well as military servants of the Company, who, by having acquired a knowledge of the vernacular Indian dialects, might no longer be reduced to depend on the aid of native interpretors. What originally was intended for a particular object only, has turned to the profit of science. Several learned Englishmen in India, and, more recently, some among the sholars of France and Germany, attracted solely by the historical and philosophical interest of the subject, have devoted themselves to the study of Sanskrit literature: and you cannot but contemplate with satisfaction, how your intentions have been seconded by and union of talent an erudition, independent of your own immediate influence.
Much still remains to be done. The elementary books, particularly the Dictionary, stand greatly in need of improvement, which can be prepared only by the publication of a greater number of Sanscrit books, edited according to the principles of sound criticism, and accompanied with such aids as are requisite for their being thoroughly understood.
Those, who would deny that the study of Sanscrit is useful for young Englishmen, destined for any branch of the public service in India, would only betray their own ignorance. The Sanscrit language is and can never cease to be, the key to the ancient legislation and religion, to the manners and customs of India. The modern provincial languages, which are mostly derived from that source, offer indeed only few difficulties in their structure. lt is, however, impossible to acquire them to any degree of perfection, without having previously been imbued with the national genius, which is indelibly impressed on the parent tongue, one of the most admirable productions of human intellect.
Proud of the approbation of a magnanimous sovereign, and encouraged by a government friendly to the promotion of letters, I offer you these reflections, and the results of my labors, only from a wish of expressing publicly my high sense of what you and your predecessors have done for the advancement of science.
I have the honor to be with the greatest respect.
Your obedient humble servant
A. W. Schlegel.