Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/71

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JOHN LEYDEN. 441


and languages, &c., of the natives of Mysore. This, you would imagine, was the very situation I wished for, and so it would, had I previously had time to acquire the country languages. But I had them now to acquire after severe marches and counter-marches in the heat of the sun, night-marches and day- marches, and amid the disgusting details of a field hospital, the duties of which were considerably arduous. However, I wrought incessantly and steadily, and without being discouraged by any kind of difficulty, till my health absolutely gave way, and when I could keep the field no longer, I wrought on my couch, as I generally do still, though I am much better than I have been. As I had the assistance of no intelligent Europeans, I was obliged long to grope my way; but I have now acquired a pretty correct idea of India in all its departments, which increases in geometrical progression as I advance in the languages. The languages that have attracted my attention since my arrival have been Arabic, Persic, Hindostanee, Mahratta, Tamal, Telinga, Canara, Sanscrit, Malayalam, Malay, and Armenian. You will be ready to ask where I picked up these hard names, but I assure you it is infinitely more difficult to pick up the languages themselves; several of which include dialects as different from each other as French or Italian from Spanish or Portuguese ; and in all these, I flatter my- self, I have made considerable progress. What would you say, were I to add the Maldivian and Mapella languages to these ? Besides, I have decyphered the inscriptions of Mavalipoorani, which were written in an ancient Canara character that had hitherto defied all attempts at understanding it, and also several Lada Lippi inscriptions, which is an ancient Tamal dialect and charac- ter, in addition to the Jewish tablets of Cochin, which were in the ancient Malayalam, generally termed Malabar. I enter into these details merely to show you that I have not been idle, and that my time has neither been dissi- pated, rior devoid of plan, though that plan is not sufficiently unfolded. To what I have told you of, you are to add constant and necessary exposure to the sun, damps and dews from the jungles, and putrid exhalations of marshes, be- fore I had been properly accustomed to the climate, constant rambling in the haunts of tigers, leopards, bears, and serpents of 30 or 40 feet long, that make nothing of swallowing a buffalo, by way of demonstrating their appetite, in a morning, together with smaller and more dangerous snakes, whose haunts are dangerous, and bite deadly ; and you have a faint idea of a situation, in which, with health, I lived as happy as the day was long. It was occasionally diversi- fied with rapid jaunts of a hundred miles or so, as fast as horses or bearers could carry me, by night or day, swimming through rivers, afloat in an old brass ket- tle, at midnight ! Oil could tell you adventures to outrival the witch of Endor, or any witch that ever swam in egg-shell or sieve ; but you would undoubtedly imagine I wanted to impose on you were I to relate what I have seen and passed through. No ! I certainly shall never repent of having come to India. It has awakened energies in me that I scarcely imagined I possessed, though I could gnaw my living nails with pure vexation to think how much I have been thwart- ed by indisposition. If, however, I get over it, I shall think the better of my constitution as long as I live. It is not every constitution that can resist the combined attack of liver, spleen, bloody flux, and jungle fever, which is very much akin to the plague of l%ypt, and yellow fever of America. It is true I have been five times given up by the most skilful physicians in these parts ; but in spite of that, I am firmly convinced that " rny doom is not to die this day." You are to commend me kindly to your good motherly mother, and tell her I wish I saw her oftener, and then to your brother Alexander, and request him sometimes, on a Saturday night, precisely at eight o'clock, for my sake, to play " Gingling Johnny" on his flageolet. If I had you both in my tent, you should