The fowling Selections, originally complied by Sir Graves Chamney Haughton about 1822, served as a text-book for beginners in the study of the Bengali language, at Haileybury Collage till about 1835, when Professor Wilson, then appointed Collage Examiner, substituted Sanskrit for Bengali. It naturally followed, then that for more then the last quarter of a century the Bengali, in this country, become "an Unknown tongue," until the study of it was very properly reviled a year or two back.
In selecting a text-book to meet the demand of present day, and to serve as a companion to my Bengali Grammar recently published, I did not see that I could do better then reproduce Sir G. Houghton's work (now out of print), thoroughly revised and corrected throughout. For long list of errata in the text, and of omissions and inaccuracies in the Vocabulary, I am indebted to my friend F. Johnson, Esq., late Professor of Sanskrit, and previously Professor of Bengali, in Haileybury Collage.
A very cursory inspection of the Vocabulary will demonstrate how much the Bengali language is indebted to its parent, the Sanskrit. Of words derived form the latter source, scarcely any but verbs and pronouns are the least corrupted. Of foreign words the admixture is very trifling, except in the practical style (see Grammar, § 124,c.) Hence even a slight acquaintance with the Sanskrit will be found to be of the greatest service to any one learning this language. The same remark is equally applicable to other Hindu dialects to the north of the Indian peninsula.
In turning the stories into English, the intention has been to assist the Student so far as to enable him to acquire a fair knowledge of the language "proprio marte." i. e. when he has no access to a teacher. He is requested, however, to have recourse to the translation as rarely as possible, for it never was intended, to supersede the necessity of referring to the Vocabulary for the sense of every word. Owing to the difference of idiom between the Bengali and our own language, a general adherence to the turn of expression in the original has been sufficient to cramp the English version; but to have" essentially varied form the literal sense of the text, for the sake of rendering the English more idiomatic and easy, would have defeated the object for which it was undertaken. It is hoped, however, that the translations will answer the purpose for which they were designed, namely, to enable the industrious student to gain a right knowledge of the force of the original, but in such a way as to be subordinate to the indispensable habit of referring to the dictionary.
The choice of specimens has been guided by the desire of affording a variety of styles. The popular work called "The Tales of a Parrot," is written in a style at once easy and elegant. The stories form the "Batrish Puttalika" and the "Purush-Parikhya" being translations from the Sanskrit, are composed in what I have described in my Grammar (§ 124 c.) as the practical style.
Considerable difficulties have always presented themselves in selecting prose subjects form the Oriental languages, to be put in the hands of beginners. The most simple narrations are evidently those which are most desirable to commence with, as the connexion and unity of design in such compositions are extremely favourable to their being easily comprehended. These requisites, therefore, are a matter of the first importance in languages so dissimilar in structure and genius form those of Europe. But works possessing these advantages afford in other respects but little interest, as they are such as have written for the entertainment of the most limited capacities, for the populace, or for children Eastern history, though possessing the essential excellence of impartial veracity, as far as this quality can depend upon the historian, is seldom, if ever, written in a simple and chaste manner becoming the dignity of the subject. Form this. Charge, however, I must exempt the "History of Krishna Chandra," and, perhaps, more recent compositions of which I have not yet heard. Bengali poetry is generally too difficult; the love of hyperbole and far-stretched metaphor, and the' many recondite conceits with which it usually abounds, unfit it particularly, as a help to rudimental instruction. Hence, in selecting stories there is scarcely anything like an intermediate style; it is but one step from the extravagant inventions, which delight the vulgar, to the wide waste of metaphysics, or the subtilely curious and often vain distinctions of dialectics. And even here the line is not very accurately drown by their writers; for the very same collection of popular stories will often be founds to embrace fictions only fit for the entertainment of childhood, and matters which frequently transcend the comprehension of the most profound reasoner: a peculiarity marking a people of strong, but undisciplined, imagination, and familiarly prone to abstract speculations. Yet it would be particularly unfair to Judge of the intellectual powers of any people by works confessedly written to amuse the vulgar.
Whatever tends to facilitate our intercourse with the Natives of India, must be conducive to their intellectual and moral improvement, as well as to their worldly happiness; and it therefore becomes a matter of paramount importance, that Her Majesty's Servants should be well acquainted, with the language that may be vernacular within the range of their duties. Such elementary works as the present acquire, under this point of view, a degree of consequence that is not to be estimated by their intrinsic merit. What is rudimental should be easy; and what possesses this indispensable requisite can scarcely be deserving of much critical severity. If these stories can be made the means of facilitating the acquisition of the language, every design intended by their publication is fulfilled; and any deficiency of elegance or taste, either in the authors or the translator, will, it is hoped, be fully compensated by the evident utility of the work.
I am not aware of more than one error of importance, that has crept into the text when the work was going though the press. It is at the end of page 58 -instead of (with a semi-colon) read (with a comma after prabhu).
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