“MAWLANA Sheikh Mohammed Alî Hazîn <Arabic> a Persian of Dis­tinction, eminently learned and accom­plished, having fled into Hindôstân from his native country to avoid the persecution of Nâdir Shâh, died at an advanced age about the year 1779 at Benares, equally admired and esteemed by the Muselmân, Hindoo, and English inhabitants of India. His retirement is thus noticed by a contemporary writer, the Khowâja Abdolkarîm, who, having quoted a tetrastich of the Sheikh, in which some reflexions are thrown on the mean origin of Nâdir Shâh, adds,
‘An illustrious person has observed, that the language of the Sheikh on this subject is not worthy of attention, because they (Nâdir Shâh and he) were enemies to each other, and the venerable Sheikh, from fear of him (Nâdir Shâh), honoured India as the place of his retirement.’

“The copy of the Sheikh's memoirs in my possession is an octavo volume of 153 pages: it was composed some years after his settle­ment for life in Hindôstân, and contains such a pleasing variety of personal and his­torical anecdotes, such excellent observations on men and manners, besides an interesting account of his travels, and remarks on many modern literary productions, with specimens of several,— that I was induced to employ in a translation of this work five or six weeks of the last summer (1797), during my residence in the country. It appears that Mohammed Alî Hazîn was a voluminous author both in prose and verse. I have perused with much pleasure two large volumes of his elegies and sonnets. His liberality in religious opinions, (although he seems sincere in his attachment to the religion he professed,) exceeds that of any Muselmân writer with whose works I am acquainted; and is emi­nently conspicuous in the praises he bestows on some learned and amiable Magians, (the descendants and disciples of the ancient fire-worshippers,) whom he met with in Yazd and other towns of Persia: his tribute of approbation was never withholden from any who could justly claim it, of whatever sect or nation,— Tros Tyriusve.

“My translation of his Memoirs, with a map, which I have constructed to describe his route through various parts of Arabia, Persia, and Hindôstân but little known to European travellers, shall be offered to the public as soon as some literary engagements, which at present engross my time, shall have been fulfilled.”

Thus wrote Sir William Ouseley in No. 1 of the Second Volume of his Oriental Col­lections, p. 36. published by Cadell and Davies in the year 1798. Five-and-twenty years later, Sir William again writes, in his Travels Vol. i. p. 415:

“This passage, referring to the Sabians,” (for its translation in this volume, see page 160) “is extracted from Mohammed Alî Hazîn's Memoirs, comprised in a thin octavo volume, of which I had commenced several years ago an English translation, to be printed with the Persian text. But, having learned that a very ingenious Orientalist at Calcutta was employed on the same text, I relinquished my design. Since the death, however, of that gentleman, it appears, that he had never actually begun although he had meditated the work. My translation, therefore, may yet be offered to the public at some future period of leisure. To the observations which I formerly made on the learned and accom­plished Sheikh, I will only add that he was born at Isphâhân, in 1692; that he was as high in civil rank, as he was eminent for the purest erudition; that of many hundred Muselmân authors, whose works I have perused, he is one of the few (five or perhaps six) entitled to the epithet ‘liberal;’ and that one account which I have seen of his latest existence, states that ‘he had attained to a very advanced age;’ another, more particular, dates his death in the year 1779.”

Sir William does not state whence he obtained this last information. If it is cor­rect, then it appears, that the Sheikh lived seven-and-thirty years after he had penned in 1742 this history of his preceding life; but leading, as he tells us, the dullest course of existence in the dullest of all countries, and disabled by his increasing infirmities for any active exertion of either body or mind, he has probably deprived the world of little instruction by neglecting to carry forward his memoirs to a later date; even those which he has given are curtailed of the greater part of the scenes which he witnessed in India, for the reason which he furnishes in page 256.

That, in translating these Memoirs, I have accomplished a task, so highly esteemed and so long contemplated by the distinguished scholar and most sincere and persevering promoter of Oriental literature, whose valu­able works I have quoted above, is to me a source of delightful satisfaction, which would be perfect, were it not for my sense of the much inferior merit of my humble performance. But I had two great difficulties to contend with in the execution of the greater part of the labour. Working on a single manuscript, very incorrectly written, which, not having perused Sir William Ouseley's Works, I supposed was the only copy of the Sheikh's Memoirs to be found in this coun­try; (for the use of which most liberally granted me by Professor KEENE of the India College Haileybury, I am much indebted to that learned gentleman's unenvious friend­ship;) I was perpetually puzzled by the omis­sion of some words, the entire but accidental disfigurement of others, and, most of all, by the steady uniformity of the ignorant copyist in misspelling not a few. To every Scholar it must be apparent, that to decipher such a writing it is peculiarly requisite that means be had of referring to what I will call the General Assembly of the Language in which the Manuscript is written, summoned within the comprehensive bounds of an authorita­tive dictionary. Without this facility, and the most intense meditation of the context, not even the most learned philologist can pretend to a due performance of his arduous task. Limited to unsatisfactory conjectures, he will run the risk of substituting expres­sions and ideas of his own; or he will in despair abandon the translation altogether, and in order to retreat with flying colours perhaps fall back on the critical correction of the copy; as I have heard it related of a highly talented Orientalist, either in France or England, who, on being applied to for a translation of the Arabic Manuscript con­taining the Sherîf Ibrâhîm's Account of the Death of Mungo Park, acknowledged, after a diligent investigation, his total inability to decipher the ill-written document, but volunteered a correction, which he considered important. The Manuscript in one place gave these words <Arabic> He observed that neither Mungo Park nor his companion could be supposed so cruel as to kill his wife; no man kills his wife; it must be <Arabic> “kissed his wife,” embrassa sa femme.