Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil du Perron

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ANQUETIL DU PERRON, Abraham Hyacinthe, an eminent Oriental scholar, brother of the subject of the preceding article, was born at Paris 7th Dec. 1731. He was a distinguished student at the university of that city, and at first intended to enter the church; but his taste for Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, and other languages of the East, developed into a passion, and he discontinued his theological course to devote himself entirely to them. His diligent attendance at the Royal Library, and his ardour in the prosecution of his favourite studies, attracted the attention of the keeper of the manuscripts, the Abbé Sallier, whose influence procured for him a small salary as student of the Oriental languges. He had scarcely received this appointment, when, lighting on some manuscripts in the Zend, he formed the project of a voyage to India, with the view of discovering the works of Zoroaster. Seeing no other means of accomplishing his plan, he enlisted as a common soldier on the 7th of November 1754, in the Indian expedition which was about to start from the port of L'Orient. His friends procured his discharge; and the minister, affected by his romantic zeal for knowledge, granted him a free passage, a seat at the captain's table, and a salary, the amount of which was to be fixed by the governor of the French settlement in India. After a passage of nine months, Anquetil landed, on the 10th of August 1755, at Pondicherry. Here he remained a short time to master modern Persian, and then hastened to Chandernagore, to acquire Sanscrit. Just then war was declared between France and England; Chandernagore was taken; and Anquetil resolved to return to Pondicherry by land. The journey was one of a hundred days, and he had many adventures and suffered many hardships by the way. He found one of his brothers at Pondicherry, and embarked with him for Surat; but, with the view of exploring the country, he landed at Mahe, and proceeded on foot. At Surat he succeeded, by perseverance and address in his intercourse with the native priests, in acquiring a sufficient knowledge of the languages to enable him to translate the dictionary called the Vedidad-Sade, and some other works. Thence he proposed going to Benares, to study the languages, antiquities, and sacred laws of the Hindus ; but the capture of Pondicherry obliged him to quit India. Returning to Europe in an English vessel, he spent some time in London and Oxford, and then set out for France. He arrived in Paris in May 1762, without fortune or the desire of acquiring it, but esteeming himself rich in the possession of one hundred and eighty Oriental manuscripts, besides other curiosities. The Abbo Barthelemy procured for him a pension, with the appointment of interpreter of Oriental languages at the Royal Library. In 1763 he was elected an associate of the Academy of the Belles Letters ; and began to arrange for the publication of the materials he had collected during his Eastern travels. In 1771 he published in three vols. 4to, the Zend-Avesta, containing collections from the sacred writings of the Persians, a life of Zoroaster, and fragments of works ascribed to that sage. The work was a very im portant} accession to our stores of Oriental literature. Sir John Malcolm (Hist, of Persia, vol. i. p. 193, note) refers to the Zend-Avesta as the most authentic source of infor mation on the religion and institutions of the great Persian legislator. In 1778 he published his Legislation Orientale, in which he controverted the system of Montesquieu, and endeavoured to prove that the nature of Oriental despotism had been greatly misrepresented. His Recherches His- toriques et G Gograpliiqv.es sur I lnde appeared in 1786, and formed part of Thieffenthaler s Geography of India. The Revolution seems to have greatly affected him. During that period he abandoned society, and shut himself up in literary seclusion. In 1798 he published in 2 vols. 8vo, L Inde en Rapport avec I Europe, a work remarkable for its invectives against the English, and its numerous misrepresentations. In 1804 he published in 2 vols. 4to, a Latin translation from the Persian of the Oupnek kat or Upanischada, i.e., secrets which must not be revealed. It is a curious mix ture of Latin, Greek, Persian, Arabic, and Sanscrit. (See Ed. Rev., vol. i. pp. 412-421). On the reorganisation of the Institute, Anquetil was elected a member, but soon afterwards gave in his resignation. He died at Paris 17th January 1805. Besides the works named above, he was the author of several others on subjects connected with the history and antiquities of the East. See Biographic, Universelle; Monthly Revieie, vol. Ixi. ; Lord Teignmouth s Life of Sir William Jones.