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Books of Travels have been received at all times, and in all
with avidity; the Author of the present work will consider himself well recompensed if he meet with a small portion of public indulgence. It has been expected of, and it has always been customary for, a traveller to assign the motives for his undertaking. Ill health and curiosity were the reasons which induced me to visit Persia; and if the Public deem the latter to have been well directed, I shall receive an ample compensation for the temporary loss of the most invaluable of all blessings.
Few countries have been visited oftener than Persia: relations of this country, however, have often been given by persons who were ignorant of the language of its inhabitants; by others, who have been too intent upon their own concerns to interest themselves about the manners or usages of a remote kingdom; and by some, whose prejudices have not only directed their enquiries, but also commanded their opinions.
How I have executed this work I am not to determine. I may be, however, allowed to mention, that I have spared no pains to
establish the accuracy of my information; nor have I ever advanced any statement upon doubtful or suspicious authority.
This work was originally published in India. The numerous and absurd errors of the press, which were observable in every page of it, have induced the author to print it afresh, and he trusts he has rendered his work more worthy of public approbation. The subject of the Gaurs, or ancient inhabitants of Persia, appeared to me to have been exhausted; and I refrained from noticing a subject which has been so amply discussed by Sir J. Chardin. Since this work was printed, I have seen a knowledge of the ancient language of Persia, ascribed to the late Mehdee Ulee Khan: a knowledge as chimerical as his imputed virtues. His knowledge is said to have admirably qualified him for adjusting the discrepancies which have crept into the accounts of the Byzantine and early Mahometan historians. Admitting his acquaintance with the ancient language of Persia, I deny his ability of rectifying the contradictory accounts of the Greek and Mooslim writers: from what source was he to derive his knowledge? but the same profound wisdom which created his knowledge, might likewise create for him materials. But I deny his knowledge of the language, for it had ceased to exist in the time of Chardin.*
Sir William Ousely believes that there are many works still existing in the ancient language of Persia, and many stupendous monuments of antiquity which have been unnoticed by European travellers. To satisfy himself upon this subject, he has resolved upon visiting Persia. His intention may remind us of the spectators visiting Cairo to measure the pyramids.†
+ I cannot see that this is an unjust sarcasm upon Mr. Greaves; the accuracy of his measurement is now denied.
I have but few words to add upon the subject of the translations which appear in this work. In no instance, excepting the quotations from the Ukhlaqi Nasiree, have I attended to the literal interpretation of my author. I have attempted rather to express the sentiments than the words of the Persian authors; a task infinitely more difficult than giving the bare meaning of a few verses. The one requires thought, the other requires none; and I believe it is a common observation, that a person may be a most literal translator, without feeling the spirit, or comprehending the design of his author.
Many persons have attached vast importance to the orthography of Indian or Persian words: I must confess that I attach none.* I have in general adhered to a system which was formed by Dr. John Gilchrist for his Hindoostanee Dictionary; but where words have received the sanction of universal usage, I have followed the voice of the public.
To avow an obligation is a debt not only of gratitude, but of justice; I may be, therefore, excused declaring, that whatever knowledge I may be supposed to possess of Eastern learning, I must ascribe to the exertions which have been made by the Most Noble Marquis Wellesley in favour of Oriental literature: and although (as it is probable) I may not have done justice to those exertions,
* For the sake of geography, it could be wished that a standard was fixed; it is the business of the geographer, and not of the grammarian, to determine upon a regular system of Oriental orthography.
yet this declaration will not prove me ungrateful for the benefits which I might have received.
I shall not attempt to anticipate objections or extenuate errors. I have presented myself before a tribunal whose decision admits of no appeal; and to whose judgment I must bow with deference and submission.
October 13, 1804.