A genius requires a powerful language that has been enriched by scholars and thinkers alike, to convey his aptitude.
Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.
English education in India was spurred by an overwhelming eclectic inquisitiveness of its people. Like the Japanese in the 19th century, isolationists hitherto, who were in a sense enamored by the daunting naval fleet that Commodore Perry possessed, and desired to advance themselves in a way that would be deemed most appropriate in relation to the ever so increasing globalization of the world. The life and immense lexicographical project that Samuel Johnson undertook, describes a time of incredible sociopolitical movement, and his work of compiling excerpts from what he considered as the most substantial to language, would inevitably be a key proponent in insinuating at a massive sociopolitical scale, the standardization of English in India.
Samuel Johnson devoted his existence to a language, and gave life to the words he defined. Looking across the entries of his dictionary —in addition to uncovering unique vocabulary of the time— you are able to glimpse upon some of the concerns of an era, as well as read of some of the historical context that was critically relevant to the period. Examining his definition of tory and whig, allows us to better understand through blatantly worded examples, the state of affairs in England. “Tory: One who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a Whig. Whig: The name of a faction.” As a fervent tory, through his dictionary, we can constantly see as well as among Johnson’s other works, his devotion to the conservative order of the church and state. At the time, his focus was not on entirely to set forth to standardize a language for an entire world to better comprehend and advance technological achievements, but evidently in India, this would be the case.
Raja Rammohan Ray saw the potential of his people to propel themselves into ingenuity, and embraced the concept of standardizing a more practical and relevant language. Samuel Johnson, Thomas Babington Macaulay, and Rammohan Ray helped dig the grave of Sanscrit. Macaulay felt strongly about the obsolete presence of Sanscrit.” I believe that the present system tends not to accelerate the progress of truth but to delay the natural death of expiring errors. We are a Board for wasting the public money, for printing books which are of less value than the paper on which they are printed was while it was blank– for giving artificial encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd physics, absurd theology– for raising up a breed of scholars who find their scholarship an incumbrance and blemish, who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives” (Macaulay). Roy also believed that it was necessary to switch and standardize English for the populous of India. “But as the improvement of the native population is the object of the Government, it will consequently promote a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction, embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry and anatomy with other useful sciences. ” Macaulay references the transformation of English from Greek, as an advancement, and that Sanskrit would benefit from similar means by adapting a similar evolution of language. “Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto noted, had they neglected the language of Thucydides and Plato, and the language of Cicero and Tacitus, had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island, had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but chronicles in Anglo-Saxon and romances in Norman French, –would England ever have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity.” (Macaulay).
Throughout my life, as a student of various subjects, and as a barista for the tech-company Yahoo, I have encountered numerous examples of sheer intellect of people who have come from India. Many of which, possess an insatiable hunger of knowledge, which is both inspiring and admirable at once. I now know through the writings of Macaulay and Roy, of the beginnings of such a prevailing display of intelligence. Without the introduction of English to the people of India, there ingenuity evidently be present, but perhaps not in a manner that would be proudly shared to us. Rammohan Roy that his people were incredibly capable and his last words to William Pitt entail a sense of desperation to standardize a more cohesive language, that was spurred forth by the efforts of Johnson and the powerful writers before him. “In representing this subject to your Lordship I conceive myself discharging a solemn duty which I owe to my countrymen and also to that enlightened Soverign and Legislature which have extended their benevolent cares to this distant land actuated by a desire to improve its inhabitants and I therefore humbly trust you will excuse the liberty I have taken in thus expressing my sentiments to your Lordship” (Roy). I conclude my blog post with an excerpt from Macaulay that explains and sums my beliefs and points sufficiently.
We know that foreigners of all nations do learn our language sufficiently to have access to all the most abstruse knowledge which it contains sufficiently to relish even the more delicate graces of our most idiomatic writers. There are in this very town natives who are quite competent to discuss political or scientific questions with fluency and precision in the English language. Indeed it is unusual to find, even in the literary circles of the Continent, any foreigner who can express himself in English with so much facility and correctness as we find in many Hindoos. Nobody, I suppose, will contend that English is so difficult to a Hindoo as Greek to an Englishman. Yet an intelligent English youth, in a much smaller number of years than our unfortunate pupils pass at the Sanscrit College, becomes able to read, to enjoy, and even to imitate not unhappily the compositions of the best Greek authors. Less than half the time which enables an English youth to read Herodotus and Sophocles ought to enable a Hindoo to read Hume and Milton.
Spelling bees are a whole lot more entertaining, likely in part by Raja Rammohan Roy. You’ve allowed for the youth of an entire nation to rise intellectually to global prominence. Thanks Roy.