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BOOK 3, CH. 8,
THE STUDENT AND SCHOLAR
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THE STUDENT AND SCHOLAR
Hitherto our narrative has turned mainly on those incidents of life, and traits of character, which relate to the subject of our memoir as a Christian minister: but a biography of Adam Clarke would be essentially defective, in which a respectful homage was not rendered to his memory as a scholar and a man of letters. Unhappily, the scanty limits of the present work will not allow of extensive disquisition [treatise] on this topic, were the writer ever so well able to indulge in it. Necessity prescribes that our pages should teem with facts rather than fancies, and should treasure up materials which the thoughtful reader may make the subject of his own considerations. For myself, I enter on this chapter with a mortifying sense of insufficiency. I am not going to affect the critic, or to sit in judgment on the intellect and learning of a man the latchet of whose shoes I should have been unworthy to unloose. On the other hand, I may be doing a pleasurable service to my readers by collecting and setting down such notices of his mental development as have been given, here and there, by Dr. Clarke himself, or by those who knew him intimately.
We are first led back to the village-school in Ireland, where the child, under the indignant glance of his disappointed and anxious father, tried to learn, but could not. The circumstances under which this physical inability was overcome have been already detailed. His intellect seemed to undergo a sudden regeneration. The ability to learn was given him, as it were, in an instant of time. In his own words, “it was not acquired by slow degrees; there was no conquest over inaptitude and dullness by persevering and gradual conflict: the power seemed generated in a moment, and in a moment there was a transition from darkness to light, from mental imbecility to intellectual rigor; and no means nor excitements were brought into operation but those mentioned in the narrative. The reproaches of his schoolfellow were the spark which fell on the gunpowder and inflamed it instantly. The inflammable material was there before, but the spark was wanting. This would be a proper subject for the discussion of those who write on the philosophy, of the human mind.”
Dr. Clarke always considered this incident as having an important bearing on his destiny, and often mentioned it as “a singular providence which gave a strong characteristic coloring to his subsequent life.” He says that it may not be unworthy the consideration of the instructors of youth, but may teach the masters of the rod and ferula [stick] that those are not the instruments of instruction, though proper enough for the correction of the obstinate and indolent; that motives to emulation, and the prevention of disgrace, may be in some cases more effectual than any punishment inflicted on the flesh. “Let not the reader imagine from this detail,” says he, “that A. C. found no difficulty afterwards in the acquisition of knowledge.
He ever found an initial difficulty to comprehend anything; and till he could comprehend in some measure the reason of a thing, he could not acquire the principle itself. In this respect there was a great difference between him and his brother: the latter apprehended a subject at first sight, and knew as much of it in a short time as ever he knew after: the former was slow in apprehension, and proceeded with great caution, till he was sure of his principles; he then went forward with vigor, in pushing them to their utmost legitimate consequences.”
These two brothers had for some time but an interrupted school-tuition, from the demand which the garden and fields made upon their labor. “Before and after school-hours was the only time their father could do anything in his little farm; the rest of the toil, except in those times when several hands must be employed to plant and sow and gather in the fruits of the earth, was performed by his two sons. This cramped their education, but labor omnia vincit improbus: the two brothers went ‘day about’ to school, and he who had the advantage of the day’s instruction remembered all he could, and imparted on his return to him who continued in the farm all the knowledge he had acquired in the day. Thus they were alternately instructors and scholars, and each taught and learned for the other. This was making the best of their circumstances; and such a plan is much more judicious than that which studies to make one son a scholar while the others are the drudges of the family, whereby jealousies and feuds are often generated.” No doubt this alternation of rustic exercise with school-seclusion had a good effect in strengthening the child’s physical constitution, and in contributing to insure him a healthy mind in a healthy body. Good air and exercise have a wondrous influence in giving tone to the intellect, as in after-life Adam Clarke found, when, a wandering itinerant, he read many a book and thought out many a sermon sub dio, on the high road, or in the wayside field. So in his school-days, in summer-time, his lessons were often conned [learned by heart] in the open air. “The school,” he tells us, “was situated in the skirt of a wood on a gently-rising eminence, behind which a hill, thickly covered with bushes of different kinds and growth, rose to a considerable height. In front of this there was a great variety of prospect both of hill and dale, where, in their seasons, all the operations of husbandry might be distinctly seen. The boys who could be trusted were permitted in the fine weather to go into the wood to study their lessons.”
On this pleasant slope, with the auburn and purple moorlands spread out before him, the sunlit sea in the distance, and the smoke from the cottage chimneys here and there rising into the quiet sky, the boy would find that the pages of Virgil had a charm which made the task of construing, a labor of love. “Quid faciat laetas segetes,” &c., would have a commentary on the page of nature before him, as well as in the words of the annotator in the margin.
What makes a plenteous harvest; when to turn The fruitful soil, and when to sow the corn; The care of sheep, of oxen, and of kine; And how to raise on elms the teeming vine; The birth and genius of the frugal bee, I sing, Maecenas, and I sing to thee.” “In this most advantageous situation,” to quote his own words, “Adam read the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, where he had almost every scene described in those poems, exhibited in real life before his eyes. If ever he enjoyed real intellectual happiness, it was in that place and in that line of study. These living scenes were often finer comments on the Roman poet than all the labored notes and illustrations of the Delphin editors and the Variorum critics.”
The glimpses which his school-books gave into the by-gone times of Greek and Roman history, awoke in his mind a strong desire to become more fully acquainted with them; and, among other methods which his scanty means allowed him, he procured “an old copy of Littleton’s Dictionary, and made himself master of all the proper names, so that there was neither person nor place in the classic world of which he could not give an account. This made him of great consideration among his schoolfellows, and most of them in all the forms generally applied to him for information.”
His love of reading had already become intense and unconquerable. “To gratify this passion, he would undergo any privations. The pence that he and his brother got, they carefully saved for the purchase of some book Theirs was but a little library, but to them right precious.” He gives a list of some of the books; where, with Jack the Giant-killer, we have Guy Earl of Warwick, the Seven Wise Masters, the Nine Worthies of the World, the Seven Champions, Sir Francis Drake, Robinson Crusoe, and Montelion, or the Knight of the Oracle; the Gentle Shepherd, the Peruvian Tales, and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments; with many others.
In those fanciful days he greatly delighted himself with whatever books he could get of a romantic kind, written in a metrical form; and, as he grew up, he became extensively read in the popular ballad-literature both of England and Ireland. In after-years he used to boast that his library contained some of the choicest specimens of the old poetic romances. His mind, indeed, may not have been poetical; and the pleasure which in later days he found in that description of reading, resulted rather from the insight it gave him into the manners and feelings of past generations, than from any sympathy with the charms of the poem itself. In that respect he read only as an antiquarian [one who studies antiquities]. Thus, referring to the metrical ballads of Sir Walter Scott, he said, “I scarcely ever give myself the trouble to read the poetry: the notes are the most valuable part of the book to me, and these I can convert to my own purposes.” Nor is it at all improbable that the first impulse of his mind to antiquarian studies was communicated by his converse, in childhood, with these versified traditions of the past.
Nor was he without some skill in those days in stringing rhymes together.
A specimen which has come down to us, composed “one Saturday afternoon, at a time when he had not learned to write small hand, so that he was obliged to employ his brother to write down the verses from his lips,” shows, if not a precocity [premature development] of genius, yet an amount of talent which, if cultivated, would have given him a place, at least, among our second-rate poets. Along with his classical lessons at school, in Greek and Latin, he received some instruction in mathematics and French; in which departments a good foundation was laid for the progressive attainments of coming life. One circumstance we should not omit: He tells us he found it much easier to learn after his conversion to God. “Though he could not well enter into the spirit of Lucian and Juvenal, which he then read, yet he was surprised to find how easy, in comparison of former times, learning appeared. The grace which he had received greatly illumined and improved his understanding, and learning now seemed to him little more than an exercise of memory. He has often said, ‘After I found the peace of God, I may safely assert that I learned more in one day than I could formerly in a month. And no wonder; my soul began to rise out of the ruins of its fall, by the favor of the Eternal Spirit. I found that religion was the gate to true learning, and that they who went through their studies without it had double work to do.’ “ In English reading, he was engaged at this time with some very good books, which were sanctified to his improvement both in mind and heart. Such were the works of Derham and Ray. He read them with Kersey’s and Martin’s Dictionaries by him for the explanation of technical words.
Baxter’s “Saints’ Everlasting Rest,” and the Life of the devoted Brainerd, he perused with solemn and prayerful joy. These two latter books seem to have given him a great impulse toward the ministry; and this was probably what he meant when, expressing his obligations to Mrs. Rutherford, who had lent them to him, he said that it was she who had made him a preacher.
Such was the stage of mental culture he had attained, when entering, under the circumstances already related, on the life and labors of an itinerant Methodist preacher. On leaving Ireland for Kingswood, these treasures of the mind were his only patrimony. Even of books of his own he had scarcely any to take away. “I brought from home an English Bible, a Greek Testament, Prideaux’s Connection, and Young’s Night Thoughts, on the margin of which I had written a number of notes. It was a favorite with some of my children, and remained in the family when the others had gone.
Young I twice recaptured; once from Anna, and once from Eliza; but where it now is I cannot tell.”
In the first Circuit some few attempts were made to keep up his classical reading, but with little effect, from the want of suitable books, and the necessity of preparation for the constant work of preaching, on which he had now fully entered. In the course of the year, as we have seen, he was induced by the influence of well meant but barbarous advice to give up scholastic learning altogether. Yet it may be questioned whether the four years’ recess from those particular studies, which followed his adoption of that advice, was really detrimental to his mental education, considered as a whole. A man requires something more than Greek and Latin to be a preacher of the Gospel. A mere classical scholar, whose mind is not stored with general knowledge, and whose reasoning faculties are suffered to lie dormant, is but poorly fitted for the grand labors of the Christian ministry; and Adam Clarke, while he left Homer and Virgil to their repose, was earnestly engaged in gathering in, and in giving forth to others, the precious fruits of that knowledge of the word and ways of God which makes the moral life of man strong, healthy, and beautiful. He began the study of the Hebrew Bible, read a good deal in French, and made his first essay in authorship itself, by translating some of the Abbe’ Maury’s Discourse on Pulpit Eloquence for the Arminian Magazine. He, moreover, enlarged his acquaintance with the works of the great English theologians. He read widely and diligently, morning, noon, and night, not only in his different places of sojourn, but in walking and riding as well. Thus those years were by no means lost, but, probably, more substantially improved than they would have been by the bald word-studies he had been led for that time to abandon. However this be considered, the time came when he could conscientiously resume them. Mr. Wesley, to whom in 1786 he had sent the translation from Maury, in kindly acknowledging it, charged him “to cultivate his mind, as far as his circumstances would allow, and not to forget anything he had ever learned.” “This,” says he, “was a word in season, and, next to the Divine oracles, of the highest authority with Mr. C. He began to reason with himself thus: ‘ What would he have me to do?
He certainly means that I should not forget the Latin and Greek which I have learned; but then he does not know that by a solemn vow I have abjured the study of those languages for ever. But was such a vow lawful?
Is the study of Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which God has given the Old and New Testaments, sinful? It must have been laudable in some, else we should have had no translations. Is it likely that what must have been laudable in those who have translated the sacred writings, can be sinful in any, especially in ministers of God’s holy word? I have made the vow, it is true; but who required it? What have I gained by it? I was told it was dangerous, and would fill me with pride, and pride would lead me to perdition: but who told me so? Could Mr. _____, at whose suggestions I abandoned all the se studies, be considered as a competent judge? I fear I have been totally in error, and that my vow may rank with rash ones.
Which, then, is the greater evil, — to keep it, or to break it? I should beg pardon from God for having made it: and, if it were sinful to make, it is so to keep it.’ So he kneeled down, and begged God to forgive the rash vow, and to undo any obligation which might remain. He arose satisfied that he had done wrong in making it, and that it was his duty now to cultivate his mind in every way, to be a workman needing not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
In resuming the classics, he found he had so far forgotten the grammatical forms, as to be obliged to begin almost de novo. But he now took care to lay the foundations strongly in acquiring the Greek and Latin accidences; and, going to work in good earnest, soon regained what had been lost, and thenceforth made steady advancements.
From the time of his appointment to Bristol, after his return from the Channel Islands, he was unusually successful in gathering together in his library the best editions of the classical authors, and spread out his reading in all directions, till in the lapse of years, spent in persevering study, he had become familiar with the great authors of antiquity, from Homer and Herodotus down to the Neo-Platonists of Alexandria and the Byzantine annalists. In communion with these great minds he lived through the ages of the past: he saw, in the drama of the Iliad, Troy sink in flame and thunder; he wandered with Ulysses in his homeward way, and voyaged with the Argonauts through the gorgeous scenes portrayed by Apollonius.
He sat with Theocritus among the wild thyme of the Sicilian hills; with Hannibal he gazed on Italy from the Alpine rocks; and stood with Scipio amid the ruins of Carthage. He heard Demosthenes on the Pnyx, Cicero at the bar, and Plato in the academic grove. And these sights and voices of times for ever gone did not yield him pleasure only, they brought him profit: he read with a purpose, and made every acquisition subservient to the great design of his life, the elucidation of the Bible, and the advancement of religious truth among mankind. He had ascertained that all knowledge helped to promote this end; and wherever it was to be obtained, there was he. Ubi mel ibi apis; and, like the bee, he gathered honey from every flower. This profiting appears to all who are acquainted with his works, and especially in the Commentary; in reading which, we see how affluent was the author’s erudition [great learning], and with what advantage he employs it in illustrating the sacred text, seeking to bring every imagination and thought of even heathen minds into subservience to the cause of Christ, and to make the heroes, historians, poets, and philosophers of the pagan world, so many Nethinim, to do such employment as they could in the courts of the one true God.
So, too, there are those yet living who remember with an unfading pleasure how richly the conversation of Doctor Clarke was pervaded with choice and useful allusions derived from classic literature; while, occasionally, an hour spent in listening to him yielded as much profit as a day’s reading.
But, respectable as were his attainments in what is strictly classic erudition, Dr. Clarke stands out more prominently among the scholars of his time as a master of Oriental learning. In this respect his celebrity is, perhaps, not owing so much to a thorough and practical acquaintance with the languages of the East, as to the circumstance that the cultivation of them has met with but little patronage in our country, and has called forth the resolute energy requisite to excel in them from comparatively few of the scholars of England. It is true that life is short, and that knowledge is a boundless deep; that, where the whole of a man’s years are devoted to study, he cannot learn everything; and that, in general, a serious application to the classics or mathematics, combined with professional duties, will not allow men to meddle with Hebrew or Persian. But what is a just matter of complaint is, that when men have been led to encounter such tasks, and have so far succeeded as to be able to promote this description of learning through the medium of the press, they have been almost uniformly called to suffer for it: so that what Solomon the king wrote, that “he who increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow,” has been fulfilled in them. The greatest work in Oriental literature we English possess, next to the London Polyglot Bible, (itself elaborated with much anxiety, as well as toil,) is the Heptaglot Lexicon of Edmund Castel; in the completion of which the author, instead of winning a fortune, spent one, and brought himself to the threshold of a jail. We have seen that to the laudable overtures of Dr. Clarke and the Rev. Josiah Pratt for a new edition of the Polyglot, no response worth naming was given: a conclusion almost as impotent as what followed when another learned person published a Prospectus for a new edition of Meninski’s Thesaurus, and received in return the name of one subscriber, and that one, not an Englishman, but a Pole!
It may not excite great surprise that the dead languages of the Orient are so scantily cultivated in our schools of learning; but it is a marvel in the eyes of our Continental neighbors, that England, with such extensive relations to the East, should be so indifferent to the knowledge of the living tongues of the people whom Providence has brought under her protection, or subjected to her rule. One would think our Indian and Asiatic interests would cause the study of Sanskrit, Hindustanee, Arabic, Armenian, and Persian, to become almost as popular as German or French. France, which has no such interests to operate as a motive to the patronage of such studies, has for many years sustained the means of a gratuitous prosecution of them by all who desire such advantages. At Paris, where I have for months together enjoyed the privilege of lessons, without money or price, there are Professors’ chairs for the current languages of the East, free of access to all. Great patronage is also given in Germany, and even in Denmark, to the same pursuits. From the imperial press at Vienna editions of the most important works in Oriental learning are continually issuing; while the Russian government makes such studies imperative on large classes of its subjects. Every country which has commercial or diplomatic relations with Russia, has its linguistic representatives in the schools of St. Petersburg, — Novo Tcherskask, Storopol, and Kazan, — where the languages of Circassia, Tartary, Turkey, Persia, Arabia, India, and China, form a regular part of the education of young men, according to the department of public service to which they are destined. In England some progress has been made of late years, but not enough; far from enough to answer to the scale of our advantages or our duties. In addition to what has been done in the establishment at Haileybury, greater effectiveness should be given to the study of the Oriental languages in our Universities, by more stringent requirements and more generous rewards; and in the metropolis there should be, as in Paris, free schools, — or, if we cannot afford to go so far, then schools at an easy rate of payment for the encouragement of hundreds of young men who would gratefully avail themselves of such a privilege.
To return to Dr. Clarke: — The first bias of his mind toward this kind of learning seems to have been given at a very early time of life. He tells us that the reading of the “Arabian Nights’ Entertainments” gave him that decided taste for Oriental history which proved so useful to him in his biblical studies. He wished to acquaint himself more particularly with races of people whose customs and manners, both religious and civil, were so strange and curious; and he never lost sight of this till Divine Providence opened his way, and put the means in his power to gain some acquaintance with the principal languages of the East.
Under the circumstances already related, he began Hebrew at Trowbridge.
He entered heartily upon it, and soon made himself master of as much as could be gathered from Bayley’s Grammar. The excellence of this work consists in a variety of copious extracts from the Bible, with a translation and analysis; but, as a grammar, it fails to give a perspicuous exhibition of the forms of the language, and is now become obsolete. It is, however, a kind of amiable book; and a copy is worth having. Dr. Bayley, the author, after leaving Kingswood, obtained some church-preferment in Manchester.
The next book Mr. Clarke appears to have got at Plymouth was, Leigh’s Critica Sacra, where he found the literal sense of every Greek and Hebrew word in the Old and New Testament, and the definitions enriched with theological and philological notes drawn from the best grammarians and critics. Just lately Dr. Kennicott had then published his edition of the Hebrew Bible. His sister, who resided at Plymouth-Dock, lent Mr. Clarke a copy; the careful reading of which gave him his first practical knowledge of Biblical criticism.
When first settled in the islands, he had set to work on Grabe’s Septuagint, with the desire to see how far it agreed with or differed from the Hebrew text, with which he had now become pretty familiar. He found that the Septuagint threw much light on the Hebrew; the translators, who had advantages we do not possess, having perpetuated the meaning of a multitude of Hebrew words, which would otherwise have passed away.
He read on in the Septuagitat to the end of the Psalms; noting down the most important differences in the margin of a quarto Bible in three volumes, which was afterwards unfortunately lost. At this time his own stock of books was very small; and, having no living teacher, he had to contend with difficulties at every stage. But, when it was his turn to serve in Jersey, he made all the use he could of the public library which had been established in St. Helier’s by the Rev. Mr. Falle, one of the ministers of the island, and its historian. Here, as before said, he had the use of Walton’s Polyglot. In reading the Prolegomena to the first volume, he perceived the importance of the Oriental versions there described, and began to feel an intense desire to read them. His first attempt was with the Samaritan text of the Pentateuch. This was easy work, as the words are all Hebrew, only expressed in the andent Samaritan character, which he very soon learned. This Samaritan text must be distinguished from the Samaritan Version of the Pentateuch, which is a different work. The text is an invaluable relict. It gives, occasionally, accounts of transactions mentioned by Moses which are more full than those of the Hebrew text; it expresses the words, also, more fully; gives the essential vowels which are supplied in the Hebrew text by the Masoretic points; and contains as well some important variations in the chronology. The Samaritan version is a Targum, or paraphrase on the text, in a mongrel dialect, which, with an Aramaic basis, comprises a multitude of words, Cuthite, Arabic, and Hebrew. “Having met with a copy of Walton’s Introductio ad Linguas Orientales, he next applied himself to the study of the Syriac.”
From that little manual, however, he would get no further instruction in Syriac than what relates to the orthoepy [the scientific study of the correct pronunciation of words] of the language; and that not delivered in the plainest manner. He was, therefore, thankful for the additional help afforded him in the Scholia Syriaca of Leusden. By the time he had mastered this, he was able to consult any text in the Syriac version; so that the Polyglot became more and more available to him. “All the time he could spare from the duties of his office, he spent in the public library, reading and collating the texts in the Polyglot, especially the Hebrew, Samaritan, Chaldee, Syriac, Vulgate, and Septuagint.
The Arabic, Persian, and Ethiopic he did not yet attempt, despairing to make any improvement in them without a preceptor.”
When obliged to leave the library, he cast a lingering look at the Polyglot, and sighed for one he could call his own. Providence gratified his desire, and in a way which he will best relate for himself: — “Knowing that he could not always enjoy the benefit of the public library, he began earnestly to wish to have a copy of his own; but three pounds per quarter, and his food, (which was the whole of his income as a preacher,) could ill supply any sum for the purchase of books Yet he believed that God in the course of His providence would furnish him with this precious gift. He had a strong confidence that by some means or other he should get a Polyglot. One morning a preacher’s wife who lodged in the same family said, ‘Mr. Clarke, I had a strange dream last night.’ ‘ What was it, Mrs. D.? ‘ said he. ‘ Why, I dreamed that some person had made you a present of a Polyglot Bible.’ He answered, Then I shall get one soon, I have no doubt.’ In the course of a day or two he received a letter containing a bank-note of 10 from a person from whom he never expected anything of the kind. He immediately said, ‘Here is the Polyglot.’ He wrote to a friend in London, who procured him a tolerably good copy, the price exactly ten pounds.”
Mr. Clarke’s appointment to Bristol afforded him yet greater facilities. He had access to some important libraries; and from the large collections of second-hand books he made continual accessions to his own. The Rev.
Henry Moore, referring to this period of his life, says: “I met him in Bristol. I was glad to see a considerable alteration in his person, though still nothing approaching the clerical costume. I found he had been a hard student, and had made progress, especially in Oriental literature. His library alarmed me. He had among his other works a Polyglot Bible, and he seemed determined to master every tongue in it. I said, ‘Brother Clarke, you have got a choice collection of books; but what will you do with them? As a Methodist preacher, you cannot give them that attention which they demand.’ He smiled, and said, ‘I will try.’ I found he had been trying indeed. To an improvement in Latin, Greek, and French, he had added a considerable knowledge of Hebrew; and he showed me a Chaldee Grammar which h e had himself written out, in order to be able to study the whole of the prophet Daniel. As he had not hitherto been appointed to Circuits favorable to such studies, I was surprised at the advancement he had made. Our common work at that time was to travel two or three hundred miles in a month, preach generally fifteen times in a week, and attend to various other duties; and, if Mr. Wesley heard of a very studious preacher, he was sure to keep him at that work, lest he should forget or lightly esteem the great design of God to which [the preachers] were expressly called in that extraordinary day; which was, not to dispense knowledge but life, even life from the dead. Knowledge would follow of course, if life were attained: but zeal and tender love for souls might easily be lost. His concise charge, when he received them as his helpers, was, ‘ You have nothing to do but to save souls; therefore spend and be spent therein.’” These reflections are good enough; but there was no need to make them in connection with Mr. Clarke’s name, and that Mr. Moore knew very well.
Indeed, he immediately adds: “But I found my friend had not neglected this high calling. His discourses seldom smelled of the lamp, and he was zealous for the Lord.” Mr. Clarke fully entered into the spirit and design of his revered father in the Gospel; and the “Twelve Rules of a Helper,” from which Mr. Moore quotes what he calls Mr. Wesley’s charge, were never more heartily observed than by him. In his old copy of the “Large Minutes,” I find his mark attached in the margin to the first of these Rules: “Be diligent: Never be unemployed a moment: Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time; neither spend any more time at any place than is strictly necessary.” The observance of that rule was the secret of the “progress” which astonished not his friend Moore only, but many besides.
In another part of the same manual, his mark stands also in the margin opposite the following passage, on the employment of time, addressed by Mr. Wesley to his preachers: — “We advise you, 1. As often as possible to rise at four. 2. From four to five in the morning, to meditate, pray, and read, partly the Scriptures with the Notes, partly the closely practical parts of what we have published. 3. From six in the morning till twelve, allowing an hour for breakfast, to read in order, with much prayer, the Christian Library, and the other books which we have published, in prose and verse.”
It will be seen, therefore, that Mr. Wesley never intended his preachers should be ignorant and illiterate men. Here are seven hours a day prescribed for study. Very few Methodist ministers in the present day can afford so much time for their books. The works recommended in the Minute were not, of course, to be the exclusive reading of the preachers; for elsewhere Mr. Wesley gives another list of works, comprising some of the principal of the classics, arranged for four years’ study; the going through which, he tells the preachers, would make a man a better scholar than many a graduate of the Universities.
Two years later Messrs. Moore and Clarke met again, when the former “was astonished at the progress” the latter “had made: he seemed to have Oriental learning at his fingers’ ends.” While residing at Bristol, on his second appointment to that city in l798, Mr. Clarke applied himself to learn Persian. He had now such an insight into the laws of languages, as to find assistance, rather than obstruction, in the simultaneous study of several of them. In one of his letters, written later in life to Mr. Hugh Stuart Boyd, who appears to have expressed a doubt as to the advisableness of such a course, he says: “I think it strange that you are of opinion that we cannot carry on consentaneously two or three languages at a time. If I could not do so, I think I should be tempted to run out into the street, and dash the place where the brains should be, against the first post I met.” In fact, the more he learned, the more he found he could learn. To him who had, was given. In Bristol he had become acquainted with a man of kindred spirit, and learned how true it is, in these matters as well as in others, that “as iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance of a man his friend.” The gentleman I allude to was the late Mr. Charles Fox; one who to many elegant attainments added a passionate love for Oriental, and especially for Persian, poetry. Mr. Clarke and he became intimate, and each proved a help to the other. Clarke obtained a good deal of aid from Fox in the study of Persian; and Fox, by his converse and correspondence with his Methodist friend, became a devout believer, and exemplified in life and death the blessedness of the true Christian.
In Persian, Mr. Clarke commenced with the version of the Gospels in that language, found in the fifth volume of the London Polyglot; nor could he at that time have adopted a better textbook, as the subject was already familiar, and the language good idiomatic Persian. The version itself was not made from the Greek text, but from the Syriac Peschito, the very words of which are sometimes retained with a Persian gloss; but the body of the work is good Persian. Henry Martyn found that the Persians at Shiraz liked it better than the more recent translations. “To my surprise,” says he, “the old despised Polyglot version was not only spoken of as superior to the rest,” (i.e., the two by Sabat,) “but it was asked, ‘ What fault is found in this? This is the language we speak.’ “ The grammar Mr. Clarke used was that of Sir William Jones, no doubt, the best in existence. Of this elaborate work he wrote in after-days a masterly description in the Eclectic Review, which may be seen, also, in his Miscellaneous Works. The perusal of that review — as well as of others, in the same volume, on Wilkins’s Persian Dictionary, and Gilchrist’s Theory of the Persian Verbs — will reveal abundant evidence that in the progress of years the writer had become an accomplished critic in the literature of that beautiful tongue It will not be supposed that a man of Mr. Clarke’s tastes and impulses would remain satisfied without the knowledge of Arabic; a language which, for the purposes he had at heart, would have a higher claim upon his regard than that of the Persians. As a cognate of the Hebrew, it takes rank among the more strictly Biblical tongues; and some acquaintance with it will be helpful to the thorough study of the original text of the Old Testament. Dr. Clarke, however, was by no means disposed to attach that exaggerated importance to the knowledge of Arabic, in this respect, which has been claimed for it by some scholars. He gave it as his deliberate opinion, after much experience, that “a man may perfectly understand the whole phraseology of the Hebrew Bible who knows not a letter of the Arabic alphabet: and though we readily grant that a knowledge of that language may be of considerable service in supplying several deficient roots, whose derivatives alone remain in the Hebrew Bible; yet, as to the general understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures, we assert in our turn that a knowledge of Hellenistic Greek, and especially that of the Septuagint, will avail more toward a thorough understanding of the sacred text than all the Arabic in Hariri or the Koran. Of all the books in the Old Testament, the book of Job alone is that to which Arabic learning may be most successfully applied, from the number of Archaisms which it contains; yet even here it can do but little, as is evident from the excessive labors of Schultens and Chapelow on this book, — both eminent Arabic scholars and critics; who, nevertheless, in the judgment of those best qualified to form a correct opinion, have contributed little toward the elucidation of the difficulties found in this ancient book.” He entered, however, on the study with his wonted [accustomed] energy, and followed it up with such results as to become one of the most respectable Arabic scholars in England. The enthusiasm he felt in pursuit, in its earlier stages, discovers itself in the sacrafice he made to obtain what was then deemed, and rightly, the best lexicon to the language, the Thesaurus of Meninski. He had written to his bookseller to look out for a copy for him, and learned in reply that “one copy had been sold the day before, to a brother in the trade, for 30; that he had been to see what he would let it go for, and that he demanded forty guineas, saying he could make even more of it, but that he would keep it forty-eight hours for the answer.” Mr. Clarke immediately wrote to a friend for the loan of the money, since “without the Thesaurus he was at a stand in the prosecution of his studies;” engaging that he would “faithfully repay it in three months.” His friend, however, demurred [objected] to the greatness of the sum “ for a book,” and, instead of the forty guineas, sent him some dry advice on the necessity of learning the value of money, and of confining his wishes and wants within the limits of his circumstances. Nothing daunted, he went in person to another friend, and said, “Mr. Ewer, I want to borrow of you 40 for three months, at the end of which I will repay you.
Will you send me that sum?” To which the good man replied, “Yes, Mr. Clarke, twenty times that sum for twenty times as long, if you wish it: you may have it today.” So Meninski was brought home, and became one of the choice companions of his life. In Arabian literature, as well as Persian, Dr. Clarke from time to time enriched his library with the choicest authors, both printed and in manuscript. His collection of Oriental manuscripts became at length truly magnificent. In the course of his earlier studies, he derived great advantage from the Bibliotheque Orientale” of D’Herbelot, and cherished a strong wish to publish an English translation of it. Among his other researches, he had become master of enough of Ethiopic and Coptic to be able to read and pronounce the few scanty pieces we have in those languages. Connected with the latter, there was a little incident which deserves to be set down. On one of his visits to London, in 1803, he met one day with the secretary of the Royal Society of Antiquarians, Dr. Brandt, who invited him to go with him to the Society’s Hall at Somerset House, to give an opinion upon a stone recently arrived from Egypt, with an inscription which had hitherto baffled all attempts to decipher it. The stone had been dug up by the French troops when at work in the trenches at Raschid, or Rosetta, in Lower Egypt. In the reverses of the war, it fell into the hands of Sir Sydney Smith, and, greatly to the mortification of the savans, had been transmitted to England, and entrusted to the care of the Royal Society of Antiquarians. The block, somewhat mutilated, bore a triple inscription; one in Greek, a second in hieroglyphics, and the third in forms which had defied all the learning of London to unravel. I will now let Mr. Clarke tell his own story, in writing home: — “I have been very little out since I came here; but, through Mr. Baynes, I have had an interview with the secretary of the R. S. of Antiquarians, who informed me that they had received from Egypt a curious stone with a threefold inscription: one, hieroglyphics; the other, Greek; and the third, utterly unknown. He offered to take me, and show it. ‘All of the literati,’ said he, ‘have been; several members of the Asiatic Society, the famous Sanskrit scholar, Charles Wilkins, &c.; and not one of them can find out the matter of the stone, nor the third inscription. Sir, it pours contempt upon all modern learning, and is a language that is utterly lost. As the Greek inscription shows that it relates to the deification of one of the Ptolemies, it is evidently several hundred years older than the Christian era. However, if you choose, sir, you shall have the privilege of seeing it.’ He seemed to treat me with such a more than quantum sufficit of hauteur [haughtiness of manner], that I really did not wish to lay myself under so much obligation. He then said, ‘If you are conversant in Greek, I can repeat part of the last lines of the inscription to you.’ I bowed, and said nothing. He then began, and interpreted as he went. Among many things he said, ‘ The stone is so hard that no instrument we have can cut it; and the inscription itself points this out, for the decree is that it should be cut on a hard stone.’ — A. C. ‘ Sir, I do not think, whatever quality the stone may be of, that [stereda] here signifies hard. Its ideal and proper meaning is firm; and it probably refers to the local establishment of the stone.’ He was not willing to give up his own opinion, and the interview ended. “On Saturday morning I called upon Mr. Baynes, and found the Doctor had been there again inquiring for me, and wishing me to meet him there at noon, and he would take me to Somerset House The Doctor came at the appointed time, and behaved with less stiffness. We entered the coach. The conversation was chiefly about the stone and its indescribable inscription, with the contempt it poured, and so forth. He talked about Persian, and assured me we had derived many English words from it, and mentioned some. I mentioned others. I soon had the ground to myself. Arrived at Somerset House, I was led to the apartment. Doctor. ‘Here is the curious and ancient stone which Sir Sydney took from General Menou; which he valued so much, that the French Government endeavored to make the restoration of it a part of the treaty.’ I had only begun to look at the stone, when the member who is employed in making out the Greek inscription came in, I suppose by appointment. I viewed it silently for some time. Doctor. ‘ Well, si r, what do you think of it?’ A. C. ‘Why, sir, it is certainly very curious.’ Dr. ‘ What do you think the stone is? Some suppose it to be porphyry, others granite: but none are agreed.’ A. C. ‘ Why, sir, it is neither porphyry nor granite: it is basaltes.’ Dr. ‘Basaltes, think you?’ A. C. ‘Yes, sir; I am certain it is nothing but basaltes, interspersed with mica and quartz. I pledge myself it will strike fire with flint. This produced some conversation, in which the other gentleman took a part; at last my opinion became current. I then measured the stone, and the Doctor took down the dimensions.
From the treasures of Sanskrit and Hindoo literature, the Vedas, Shastras, Puranas, and other symbolic books of the old Indian religion, Dr. Clarke enriched his commonplace books with a great variety of remarkable extracts; and especially from the Zend-Avesta and Baghavat-geeta; which were afterward used with advantage in his commentaries on the Scriptures. He made no pretensions to an acquaintance with the original languages of those books, but availed himself of the translations of them which had been so far accomplished at that time by M. Anquetil du Perron, Sir William Jones, Dr. Charles Wilkins, and various writers in the “Asiatic Researches:” though I ought to observe, that subsequently (that is to say, in 1812, as I find by a memorandum of his own) he entered for for himself on the study of sanskrit; and I believe found no small help in pursuing it from the two Indian priests who, as we shall see, were shortly after domiciled a considerable time in his family. But so far back as 1798 he was eagerly employed with the translated works. “I have read over the Ayeen Akbery, and marked a number of curious things. I never met with a better spirit than that of the author. It is a work of great labor and importance, and has more matter in it than fourscore volumes. Will you be so kind as to inquire whether Mr. Wilkins, who translated the Baghavat-geeta, has finished the remainder? If this has been published, get it for me at any price. I have made large gleanings from the Baghavat-geeta; and I think the rest would afford me a copious harvest Do not lose a moment about it.
When I come to John’s Gospel and Epistles, I shall need to consult all the Oriental writings I can procure. It is from them alone that his peculiar phrases can be interpreted. [Query.] Keep your eye about you. May be God may throw in our way an Ayeen Akbery, &c. I have at considerable expense purchased the Zend-Avesta, attributed to Zoroaster, published by M. A. Du Perron.”
And again, in 1799: “I thank you heartily. Before I knew anything of your design, I purposed to write to you concerning the Hedaiyah, but I almost despaired of getting it; because I thought, like the Ayeen Akbery, it was one of those phoenix books which are rarely to be seen. While purposing to write, I was agreeably surprised by the receipt of it. In the customs and manners alluded to in the Scriptures, all these books will be uncommonly useful. In this respect the Ayeen Akbery, Baghavat-geeta, Institutes of Menu, and the Hedaiyah, are invaluable. I have read the three former, and have marked every place that suits my purpose. The Hedaiyah I am now beginning.”
Once more, 1799: “Last week a bookseller came to me from Bath, with a lot of MSS. One is a large thick octavo, a Hindoo and Persian Dictionary: another, a small octavo, is a compilation from the Mahabharata, containing about six hundred pages; another is a very thick folio, containing about fifteen or sixteen hundred pages, and is either the whole or a very large part of the Makdbk,’rata translated from the Sanskrit into Persian. The Mahabharata contains one hundred and sixty thousand couplets in the original, and is the most invaluable work in the East. From it the Geeta was translated by Mr. Wilkins; a work next in dignity and importance to the Bible. [?] He left them with me to look at them, and marked the three for nine guineas, but has since sent me word that he must have four more. Mr. Stock, who saw the MSS. the evening they came, begged to purchase the great folio for his friend, A. C. Now, do you think I should give the 4. 4s. more than he asked me? Mr. Fox will be glad to have the other. If I s end them back, I shall lose the Mahabharata; and this I should not like, as it comes to me in a providential way.”
A fervent admirer of the English language, he made himself master of its vast capabilities, by an intimate acquaintance with its structure, and with the sources of those various elements of which it is composed. He had carefully read the homely fathers of our English theology and history in their own Anglo-Saxon; and this, together with his knowledge of the Semitic and Indo-European tongues, (especially Persian and Sanskrit,) as well as the earlier Continental dialects, enabled him to arrive at the true origines of the English speech, and to explain its peculiar phenomena.