Sidor som bilder

socks, to require from each student an account of his progres Klaproth's turn came, and he was cable to answer the simplest questions. The exariper, tired of interrogating him, observed, “why, you kot pothing at all, Sir!" "I beg your pardr. Sir, replied Klaproth; “I know Chinese." “What! Chinese? And who taught it you ?" - Nobody, Sir; I learned it by myself." “ But even in China, a whole life is scarcely sufficient to acquire a knowledge of their books.” “I will conrioee you, Sir, it is no such thing." Away went the sebolar to his paper-case, and produced to the eres of the astonished examiner copies of Chinese characters, essays of translations, and extracts from original works. He was now upon his proper ground; there was no hesitation, no perplexity; all was ease and confidence; from student he had ascended at once to master, and might retort upon others the reproach of ignorance which had just been lerelled at him. His answers were satisfactory; he obviated doubts and difficulties; explained the pretended mystery of the Chinese tongue, and, after displaying the spoils of his patient industry, he described, with all the enthusiasm of a disco verer, the irresistible fascinations of a study from which he could not withhold his nights, after having sacrificed his days.

His reputation commenced from this moment; his unassisted acquisition of such a language as the Chinese, then deemed almost unconquerable, caused young Klaproth to be looked upon as a literary phenomenon. His exclusive application to this study had, however, left his education, in other respects, defective, and, in 1801, he tore himself, with reluctance, at the instance of his father, from Berlin, to study the Greek and Latin classics at Halle. In a few months he had performed all that was required of him, and, in the summer of 1802, he was prosecuting at Dresden the studies he had been forced to forego at Berlin. Towards the close of this year, he published, at Weimar, in German, the first numbers of his Asiatic Magazine, t containing valuable memoirs and documents respecting the history and geography of Asia.

Soon after this, the Academy of St. Petersburgh named M. Klaproth one of their associates for Asiatic languages and literature. This nomination, which was not purely of an honorary character, determined him to proceed to Russia, a

One of the Jesuit missionaries, writing from Peking, represents the acquisition of the Chinese language by a native of Europe as impossible.

† He commenced another periodical work under the same title, in 1824, in French. It ceased, after three numbers had appeared, owing to want of encouragement.

[ocr errors]

country which opened boundless resources to his arvest and inquisitive mind—a country which was eager to welcome learned foreigners, and where he boped, like other ingenious men, to find better pe cuniary prospects, and larger facilities of inquiry, than Prussia presented. The result did not fulfil his expectations.

He had already distinguished himself in Russia by the novelty and importance of his researches, when an extraordinary embassy to Peking afforded him a fair opportunity of augmenting and completing them. Before even the ambassador had b.xa fixed upon, M. Klaproth was appointed to scompany him, together with a long train of scientific persons, besides political and commercial agents. The department of science was assigned to Count John Potocki; that of politics and commerce to Count Golowkin, the chief of the embassy. Great efforts were made by the government to se cure an accurate report respecting the geography of the country between Lake Baikal and the frontiers of China, the steppes of the Kirgheez, and the manners of its Asiatic nomade subjects.

Before Count Golowkin had completed his arrangements, M. Klaproth set off in the spring of 1805, visited Kasan and Perm, crossed the Ural mountains at Ekatherinaburgh, followed the Irtish

from Tobolsk to Omsk, whence he proceeded to Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk, where the embassy was to rendezvous. This route led him amongst the Samoyeds and the Finnish and Tartar tribes, that dwell on the banks of the Yenisei, from the Frozen Sea to Lake Baikal, extending from the Obi far into the eastern part of North Siberia. South of this province, he met with tribes of Mongol origin ; he resided amongst the Tungooses of Tobolsk and Irkutsk; with the Bashkirs, the Yakoots, the Kirgheez, &c.; he studied their manners, collected vocabularies of their dialects, and noted their national physiognomy, in order to distinguish the characteristic traits of the families whose races had crossed. “Guided by the analogies and distinctions he remarked, he ascertained the relations of consanguinity and community of origin of tribes, which are now placed remotely from each other ; he reduced their languages into families and subdivided them into dialects; then, following the different nations in their migrations, he traced them from station to station, till they became blended and confounded together in the nations of Middle Asia. These observations, the fruit of much reflection and confirmed by farther inquiries, constituted the foundation of an immense work, in which the people of Asia are distributed according to their

[ocr errors]

languages, and the order of their primitive races, with the exactness so essential in such matters The classification adopted by M. Klaproth, in his Asia Polyglotta, as it comes into use, will soon prevent our confounding, with De Guignes or Blumenbach, all the nations of Northern Asia in one, denominated sometimes Huns and sometimes Mongols."

The embassy assembled at Irkutsk at the close of the summer of 1805, and reached Kiakhta on the 17th October. Here obstacles, thrown in the way by the Chinese authorities, detained it till the end of the year ; but the delay was favourable to the objects of M. Klaproth. He applied himself with indefatigable industry to acquire a variety of Tartar dialects ; he learned the Mongol

, perfected himself in the Mandchoo ; and, besides a valuable store of notes and other materials, he obtained a pretty large collection of Chinese, Tibetan, Mandchoo and Mongol works.

Meanwhile the cold became severe; mercury froze, and the felt tents of the Mongols were a bad protection against the rigorous inclemency of the weather. Privations and fatigue had, however, little effect upon the zeal of M. Klaproth, from which much benefit would have resulted to Oriental letters had the embassy been permitted to proceed

s Peking. After crossing the frontiers, Count
baskin became embroiled with the Chinese
1907 of Mongolia, at Ourga, in a dispute about
castle, and the embassy was compelled to retro-
prade to Kiakhta, which it reached in March 1806.
Cinder the instructions of the Academy of St.

, M. Klaproth continued to examine
de northern frontiers of China as far as Oostkame-
agorsk, where he was to inspect the Buddhist
capes of Semipalatnaya and Ablakit, and copy
we Tibetan fragments said to exist there. After
siting the Sayanian mountains, traversing the
Sai chain, and making an excursion from the
brigh to Lake Dzaysang, in the Eleuth country,
me distance from the southern frontier of Siberia,
be returned by way of Omsk to St. Petersburgh ;
There be arrived at the beginning of 1807. The
eademy, to which he made a circumstantial report
d his travels, recompensed his zeal, activity, and

, by appointing him academician extra-
tinary, prior to the allotted time, and the Emperor
Alexander, besides other marks of particular regard,
granted him a pension of three hundred rubles,

Another testimony to his merits was his selection, at the recommendation of Count Potocki, to survey the new conquests of this immense empire in Georgia

, and on the shores of the Caspian. He

« FöregåendeFortsätt »