EDITOR'S introduction by FWP
If John Borthwick Gilchrist (1759-1841) hadn't existed, nobody could ever have invented him. Since one of his main fields of activity was transliterating, defining, explicating, promoting, and teaching what he called "the Hindoostanee," somebody like me can't help but find him a sort of misguided, or very oddly guided, kindred spirit. He's by turns admirable, amusing, and extremely annoying. (To see him at his best and worst, take a look at Appendix 2, which is an explication of some of his views on language and British-Indian cultural relations, including the question of "pedal nudity.")
The Wikipedia entry on Gilchrist [wiki] gives an overview of his life and publications (most of which have spectacularly bizarre titles that are treats in themselves); if you have access to university library etext services, several of his works are available online. He was the chief moving spirit behind the founding (1800) and early activity of Fort William College [wiki] in Calcutta. This *Fort William College Bibliography* gives an idea of the remarkable and multilingual range of its publications-- especially, thanks to Gilchrist, in Urdu and Hindi, which he was very determined to treat as two distinct "languages" even when the natives themselves did not. For further discussion of his dubious contributions in this area, see Chapter One, pp. 24-36, of *Early Urdu Literary Culture and History* by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi. For a contrast, check out Mir Amman's 1804 introduction to the Fort William text *The Story of the Four Derweshes*, with its extravagantly laudatory tribute to Gilchrist. And for another perspective, *Rita Raley* compares his linguistic theories to those of Sir William Jones.
What inspired me to add the present text to my website was finding it invitingly available in electronic form on the website of LaTrobe University. Obviously it's an irresistible read. There are so many things in it to enjoy, so many to dislike, so many to wonder about, so many to learn from. Even while it's been sitting here unfinished on my website, not indexed at all, it's been getting hundreds of hits every week. And when I discovered that it was an update of an earlier version of the same work, so there could also be a diachronic view -- well, how could I possibly refrain from adopting it? I've now given it a colorful new home, where it can entertain many additional guests.
I especially wanted to do this, because the LaTrobe etext editions are not too reader-friendly. They've apparently been generated in a way that leaves them untouched by human hands. Each page of the book is a separately delivered web-page -- constant clicking is required, the indexing is minimal, the formatting is erratic, a page or two is missing entirely, and there are many undetected OCR errors: for example, on *p. 138*, instead of "camel's foot" we find "earners foot." (If you click on that page and take a look, you'll also notice that two different page numbers are shown; that's because p. 24 is missing, so that all the numbers after that are skewed.)
But believe me, I don't mean this by way of complaint. I'm just speaking in pragmatic and descriptive terms. LaTrobe has performed an excellent service in putting these and a number of other texts online, and the price of putting so many texts online is standardizing the process rather than giving individual attention to each one. Here are the links to the LaTrobe versions:
What I have done is to download the LaTrobe Gilchrist etext pages, consolidate them, massage and edit them, and check my final list of queries against the hard copy owned by Burke Library at Columbia. (I have not so checked the Williamson excerpts that I include.)
Please note that this is a NEW EDITION of the text, and I've played the role of an EDITOR with some vigor. This means that if you're a serious scholar of Gilchristiana, you'll definitely want to get the original printed text. But if you're anybody else, I think you'll find my edition plenty usable. Not a word has been omitted. But a number of editorial changes have been made in the format.
Early along, I noticed that Gilchrist follows Williamson pretty closely-- except when he doesn't. In particular, he omits every word of Williamson's cheerfully commonsense accounts of why and how young men maintain native mistresses. (There's so much to be said on this subject that I don't want to even get started.) He also omits Williamson's irritable diatribe against an Indo-Persian poet. (Ditto for this subject.) These and many shorter omissions within chapters I have restored, being careful to mark them clearly so that no confusion can exist. But I haven't inserted every single omission-- just the more thought-provoking ones. (If you want to catch them all, you can always check the LaTrobe etexts of the Williamson editions.) I've edited the Williamson interpolations more lightly than main text, leaving more archaisms intact.
In the Gilchrist text as a whole, I've aimed at readability for modern students. I've broken long paragraphs into shorter ones (but never consolidated short ones into longer ones), and I've adjusted the punctuation for clarity, mostly by removing some confusing italicizations and some of the commas to which he's excessively devoted even by my standards. I've also modernized some of the text's now-archaic spellings: "burthen" has gone to "burden"; "ancle" to "ankle"; "is situate" to "is situated"; "shew" to "show"; "have drank" to "have drunk," and so on. However, "cast" has not been changed to "caste."
When it comes to Indian names and terms, I've standardized them according to the most frequently used forms, since the text often spells the same name or word differently in different places. For some reason, in the table of contents quite a number of Indian names and terms are spelled differently from their most frequent spelling in the text; I've adjusted the spellings in the table of contents to accord with the text. In a few cases some of Gilchrist's special "Hindoostanee" diacritics appear (r,hut, g'horry, da,ee), but since he uses them sporadically and inconsistently, other words that apparently should have them do not (bheesty, khidmutgar, neriaul). I don't want to get started on the subject here, but in fact Gilchrist's much-vaunted "scientific" transliteration practices, and his command of grammar and usage generally, look considerably shakier in this volume than his extravagant claims might lead one to expect.
All footnotes in the text are Gilchrist's own. All notes and interpolations in square brackets are mine. All sub-headings in square brackets are mine. (I plan to add more of these over time.) Page numbers in double square brackets have been inserted by me to accord with the book pages (and for convenience in reference).
There's one final caveat. Gilchrist was fond of fancy words, including some that may be neologisms and others that may be obsolete technical, medical, or crafts vocabulary. Where I had doubts about the etext readings, I've checked them in the book itself and have caught a few errors (as in the "earners" for "camel's" case). But I've made no effort to go beyond what was printed in the book itself, except to put a "[sic]" if I found a usage particularly strange. And there might be a few cases in which a technical term was wrong in the etext, but I didn't recognize its wrongness and thus didn't know I needed to check it against the printed book. Please note that I have not checked the whole etext against the whole printed book! If you want the maximum possible accuracy, you'll need (as always) to go back to the most authoritative text, which in this case is the 1825 printed version.
But if you're a teacher looking for good discussion material, I don't
have to tell you how much fun some parts of this text could be in the classroom.
And if you're a student of things Indian, this is the kind of book you'll
end up reading for pleasure anyway. I hope you find it as strange and fascinating
as I did.