Page images
PDF
EPUB

my countrymen, that none care for, or interest themselves in, the subject: they are like people in a sound sleep, oblivious as to their state. Then, if it be the will of God to give me life, and I have the opportunity, by the kindness of some one helping me, a slave of the Almighty, to initiate the undertaking, it is my great hope that the Malay language may no longer remain in a state of muddle and doubtfulness.

I now return to Mr. Hughes' studies. In two years' time he could understand a little; but the understanding, I felt, was of little service for any of the objects he had in view, it was merely nominal-enough if any one asked him if he knew how to speak and to read, when of course' he could answer that he could. Truly at this era people look for the credit only of being called clever. While this was going on the Reverend Mr. Ebbison (?) came to Malacca, with his wife and a little son named Edwin; and when he arrived, Mr. Hughes brought him to me, and let him know of my position and circumstances, and how I had originally got my education in the college. A few days after this Mr. Ebbison called me to him, asking me to teach him Malay, as he wished to take charge of the college, and required to be clever at Malay, as he desired to teach people, and translate works from the English. To this I replied, that I would be delighted if he took charge of the college, so that it might be well attended, as it was in the time of Mr. Milne and other men now gone; but as regards cleverness or stupidity, that would not come of me but of himself. If he wished to be clever, he must set to work with vigour, for the most of people went so far as to read a little and to speak a little to their grooms, their waiters, and their cooks; this satisfied them, because they thought they had become clever. When he heard this he laughed outright, and admitted the

truth of what I said, telling me at the same time that in England there were many such like. He then told me to come on the morrow to teach him. So I said, 'Very well.' So on the morrow I began with him, and continued with him for a month, and when Mr. Hughes stopped learning Malay, I entered closely with Mr. Ebbison. I continued with him for six months after this, when he could do a little, but in a meaningless manner. I now perceived that he had a heavy intellect, no application, and was heartless; he then asked me to teach his son Edwin, for he being young could pick up the language faster. I assented to this; so I taught him, and in a few days he was able to read a little. He was very much clearer in the head than his father. But their study was like the study of the merchants, they only wished to understand, not to gain thorough competence in the ideology of the Malay language; so when he could read a little of history he stopped. For to their idea they were clever enough in Malay, not reflecting that in one hundred parts they had not acquired the half, the objects being hidden to them, as they had not tried to translate or to put other languages into Malay, or to compose any scientific essay in it. Of course there were thousands of expressions that they had not even heard of, so how could they know them?

Now, I have seen many persons who study Malay, after they had been able to read a little, translate into their own language whatever they have mastered, and they think it easy because they thus see it in theirs, and in their own idiom, so they think that they can translate other languages into it; but my advice is that, when a person studies Malay so that he can read writing, he should translate his own language into Malay, giving the exact sense; further, the Malay words which he uses should be in the proper idiom, and this without

the assistance of his native teacher. This would be well, and something like study. Such study would ultimately be of the highest importance, for others would acquiesce. This would be good seed; for, wherever it was planted, there it would grow with flowers of good odour, and with fruit of fine flavour. Now, O reader! if you wish to gain such knowledge without trouble, think not that God will bring about this in the Malay language."

This translation appears to be one of the best that has been written. It shows how keen a perception the natives have of the status of Europeans, and how little they respect ordinary minds or capacities.

Abdulla passes without notice the grammar by Marsden; this is ominous of its real merits, and having lost my copy of it, I unfortunately cannot refer to it. I can well fancy the quantity of self-sufficiency and ignorant tinkering that he would have to bear with. Here, in this translation, we have the whole secret circumstantially let out. I believe that Abdulla is correct in saying that while, out of a hundred words in the Malay language, seventy would conform to rule, thirty would not, but be fixed by established custom as exceptions; the prefixes and suffixes being also used as in our own language-by habit or public concurrence. It is the same with spelling, there are no cast-iron rules, but custom in centuries has decided each in its particular instance, so it would be absurd in foreigners to attempt to give them a new dressing." How puzzled must foreigners be with our time-honoured words-through, thru; though, not thu, but tho; cough, not co, but kof; enough, not enof, but enuff; cow, kau; low, not lau, but lo, etc., etc. Yet to be ignorant of these exceptions is to incur the sure

66

R

branding of the writer for presumption and folly. So we see what Abdulla drives at. I do not wonder at his almost frantic remarks. He did his best, and consequently must have our approbation; and also we must emphatically concur in his sentiment, that each race must be a judge of its own language. I understand he died without completing his much talked of grammar.

In this translation we also see more caustic sarcasm applied to his employers.* These went forth with high aspirations, temporal and spiritual, yet in the end are content to be able to speak a little to their grooms, waiters, and cooks, ministers of their indulgence and ease! It is needless to conceal the fact that no one can critically understand Asiatic or any other languages without living with and mixing amongst the people, and I never saw an educated European that would do this, missionary or any one else.

* I mean no reflections on any individual, for I am well aware that no person past his teens can ever learn Malay correctly; at the age of thirty the work must be most laborious, and to be encountered only by the most enthusiastic.

XXXI.

CAPTAIN NEWBOLD.

AFTER I had done with teaching Mr. Ebbison, I intended to sail to Singapore, as from thence there came calls and presents from my friends in quick succession, from Europeans and country-born Chinese, as there were numbers of new merchants coming there who wished to learn Malay; also, there was a deal of business to be done in writing letters to Malay rajas, and such like. Thus I intended to sail in two days; but one morning there came a Bengalee bringing an English letter to me, which was to this effect: 'Captain Newbold's compliments to Inchi Abdulla, who would be glad of a call at eleven o'clock to-day.' I replied by the messenger, with my respects, and that I would be there. So I went. He was at that time stopping in the house opposite that of Mr. Berchi Westerhout, and next to the college. When he saw me coming he came forward and received me with great civility, bidding me good day, and taking me into his office. He then asked me if I was well. To this I replied that I was quite well, thank you. He then said that he had heard much of my skill in the Malayan language from Europeans and natives, its composition as well as in giving the sense in English, also in Hindostanee and Tamil. To this I replied, that it was not I who was clever, but it might be some one

« PreviousContinue »