Indian Reminiscences, or the Bengal Moofussul Miscellany
TO perpetuate the existence of thoughts and feelings recorded in by-gone days, and in distant lands, is surely not an unworthy or useless task; for by it the memory of early friendships and youthful associations, is often revived, the mind carried back, through vicissitudes of fortune, through the rain and sunshine of chequered existence, to that bright portion of it, when "gay hope was hers by fancy fed:" -- to many readers, therefore, it is hoped, that this volume will prove acceptable, from recalling to mind scenes and friends of the olden time.
As by far the greater portion of the following papers was composed by the late G.A.Addison, Esq., the Editor considers it but a fair meed, and honourable tribute of praise to be deceased, as well as a debt of justice to the public, to preface the work with a faithful and succinct memoir of their young and accomplished author.
George Augustus Addison was born in Calcutta, in 1792, -- and at an early age, sent to England for his education. His father, the late John Addison, Esq., was in the Civil Service of the Honourable East India Company. He held the situation of Judge of Nattore, at the period of his son's birth, and subsequently, other situations high in the Service: and, at the time of his death, was President of Bauleah.
Mr Addison senior, as the nearest collateral descendant, was heir-at-law to the celebrated moralist, -- that great man having a daughter only in the direct line, who died unmarried.
Although no hereditary claim to the intellectual powers of the poet can be maintained, it is impossible to deny the existence of an affinity in ability and talent that would have not have disgraced a nearer tie.
In his fifth year, George was entered at Hackney school, at that period a celebrated place of education for youth, enrolling in its academic list the scions of various illustrious houses, and producing many promising students,-- who, under the auspices of Dr. Newcomb, rose, in after life, to eminence.
Illustrative of our author's great abilities in this early stage, may be quoted an acecdote, exemplifying his capability, quick apprehension, and extra-ordinary retention of memory. Dr. Newcomb having established an exhibition of the talents of his pupils, under the familiar term of "Speeches," was, on the eve of one of these trying and anxious scenes, mortified by the sudden illness of the young gentlemen who was to have taken a prominent part in the proceedings of the day, by the delivery of a Greek oration, of great length, and requiring superior powers of elocution. Announcing the fact to his scholars, the learned doctor enlarged on the embarrassment he felt, to meet the nobility and gentry formally invited to assemble and judge of his abilities as a teacher, by the proficiency and talents of those confided to his care.
In this dilemma, George Addison, modestly, but firmly, presented himself to supply the invalid's place, -- a task, that the worthy doctor, coupling the few hours left for its performance with the knowledge of its concomitant difficulties, (even under the advantage of time and study,) confessed himself sceptical of the success of, --but, nevertheless, as an only alternative, he embraced it, from confidence in the young aspirant. Nor were the nervous feelings of the master diminished in the morning, by the many heads of schools and colleges collected to witness the examination.
Every thing went on however as was expected, till George Addison mounted the rostrum to deliver the oration,--when the master's agitation betrayed itself palpably, and was reciprocated by all who were in the secret. As, however, the speaker warmed in his subject, the applause became general; --and when he concluded, so great was the burst of approbation that sealed his triumph, as to overcome the phlegmatic character of the excellent doctor, who, yielding to the impulse of feelings, rarely excited, ran down and embraced the youthful orator, thanking him publicly, in terms of the highest encomium, for maintaining the credit of the school.
George's name remains engraved in characters of gold in the school, with those of others, who similarly distinguished themselves at different times.
At the period in question, he was only fourteen years of age, -- and this promise of talent, his after life did not belie.
Shortly after, he embarked for India. Without entering into the subordinate details of his useful career,--suffice it that he ultimately became Private Secretary to J. S. Raffles, Esq. (afterwards Sir Stamford Raffles) then Governor of Java.
In the enlarged sphere thus presented for the exercise of those qualities which distinguished him, whether as the polished gentleman--the accomplished scholar--the indefatigable man of business--or the affable and kind friend of all who deserved advancement, his popularity rose to a height rarely attained; and his appointment to the post of Secretary to the Government, subsequently was made the occasion of an address from the mercantile body at Batavia. At the later period, the thanks of the Government in Council, were accorded to his services: and the official report of their nature and extent, furnishes a document of inestimable value to his family.
George Addison died, beloved and lamented, at Java, in the twenty-second year of his age, of a fever, that carried him off in a few days. The subjoined extracts of letters from Sir Stamford Raffles, attest his high sense of the worth of this excellent and able young man : and few could better judge of, or appreciate his character and acquirements, that that talented individual.
Extract of a letter from Sir Stamford Raffles, Governor of Java, to Mr. E----.
- Buitenzorg, 28 Feb. 1814.
"I have had the opportunity of meeting your wishes fully with regard to Mr. Addison, who has in every way proved himself deserving of the high encomiums you have passed on him, and of the confidence which I immediately placed in his ability and character. He arrived very opportunely at a moment when I required an able assistant in the superintendence and direction of the Revenue arrangements, and has been appointed Assistant Secretary to Government in this department; an office which I hope the Supreme Government will sanction, under the recent change of system.
"It is probable that he will write to you himself, expressive of the satisfaction he feels in his present situation. He lives with us at Government House, and forms one of our family in every respect, and it is due to his amiable character that I should return you my sincere thanks for having introduced so much virtue and ability to my acquaintance.
- (Signed) "J.S.Raffles."
Extract of a letter from the Governor of Java to the Secretary of the Supreme Government of Bengal.
"I am directed by the Honourable the Lientenant Governor in Council, to report to you the death of Mr. G. A. Addison, Assistant Secretary to the Revenue and Judicial Departments.
"In communicating this lamented occurrence, the Lieutenant Governor in Council is anxious to take the opportunity of expressing the high sense he entertain of the talents, merits, and services, of Mr. Addison. His abilities and acquirements were remarkably great, his application and exertions unwearied, and his person conduct as amiable as his public services were eminent.
"The Lieutenant Governor in Council therefore sincerely regrets his loss in every point of view.
- (Signed) "CHARLES ASSEY."
- Secretary to Government.
Batavia, 21st Jan. 1815
No higher praise than the above can well be bestowed. By his scientific acquirements, Mr. Addison was enabled to methodise the arrangements of his duties, and to make his adaption of the principles of political economy beneficial to the interests of the colony. Yet he found time to keep up a sportive acquaintance with Muses, and indulge in pursuits of a less grave character.
The papers and poems he has left, speak the cultivation of his mind; and his correspondence with friends he valued, on literary topics, and very varied subjects, evince a playfulness of fancy, delicacy of feeling, and soundness of judgment, remarkable in one so young; --in a word, he was master of six languages--a first-rate mathematician, an admitted classic, a firm and zealous friend, a devoted son, an affectionate brother, and an unostentatious Christian.
We feel inclined to repine at the early removal of such men. Natural reason understands no why death alights on one so youthful and serviceable, just at a period when his usefulness becomes valuable to his country, and his virtues begin to exert an influence on the society in which he moves; but it is the Divine Will, so to oder events: and his recollection should satisfy the repiner.
- "Health, is at best, a vain precarious thing,
- And fair-faced youth is ever on the wing:"
These lines are part of a version of Pope's melancholy letter to Mr. Steele, (vol. vii. o. 187, 1st edit.) by Mr. West, another of those whose early promise, like G.A.Addison's, was blighted in its prime.
Truly poetical (but nothing more) are the thoughts of Pope upon the subject;-- they would indeed come admirably from an unenlightened heathen moralist. The reader shall judge for himself, and will doubtless consider their beauty and appropriateness to the present topic, as a sufficient apology for inserting them.
"Youth, at the very best, is but the betray of human life in the gentler and smoother manner than age: 'tis like the stream that nourishes a plant upon a bank, and causes it to flourish and blossom to the sight, but at the same time is undermining it at the root in secret. * * * The morning after my exit, the sun will rise as bright as ever, the flowers smell as sweet, the plants spring as green : people will laugh as heartily, and marry as fast as they used to do.--'The memory of man' (as it is elegantly expressed in the Book of Wisdom) 'passeth away as the remembrance of a guest, that tarrieth by one day.' There are reasons enough in the fourth chapter of the same book to make any young man contented with the prospect of death. --'For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, or is measured by numbers of years; but wisdom is the grey hair to man, and an unspotted life is old age: he was taken away speedily, lest wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul.'
Much of the above quotation is, indeed, equally applicable to the lamented George Addison.
His short career was adorned by every virtue of domestic life. His unaffected manliness of character, integrity of spirit, and benevolent disposition, won the esteem and affection of all who came into communion with him.
Thus much may be permitted to one who sincerely regarded the subject of this brief memoir, and who would fain snatch from oblivion a few memorials of his worth and talents, by this feeble tribute to his name.
The remainder of the papers in this collection are from the pens of persons (chiefly now no more) who held civil and military appointments, and of various other British residents in Bengal.
- December, 1836.