Founders of Western Indology: August Wilhelm von Schlegel and Henry Thomas Colebrooke in Correspondence 1820-1837.

Author:Trautmann, Thomas R.
Position::Book review
 
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Founders of Western Indology: August Wilhelm von Schlegel and Henry Thomas Colebrooke in Correspondence 1820-1837. By Rosane Rocher and Ludo Rocher. Abhandlungen fur die Kunde des Morgenlands, vol. 84. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2013. Pp. xvi + 205, plates. [euro]48.

Rosane Rocher and Ludo Rocher supplement and amplify their excellent biography, The Making of Western Indology: Henry Thomas Colebrooke and the East India Company (London: Routledge, 2012), with this book. It publishes the correspondence of Colebrooke and August Wilhelm von Schlegel, fifty-seven well-annotated items, between 1820 and 1837. Enormous care in the pursuit of detail and two lifetimes of scholarship are brought to bear upon the "making" and the "founders" of Western Indology in the biography and this sequel. Relations between two giants of European scholarship on India are here elucidated by two present-day giants of the field.

The book contains a good deal of information on the personal relations of Colebrooke and Schlegel, which were at once formal and intimate. Their tastes were quite different. Schlegel was deeply involved with romanticism; Colebrooke was anything but a romantic, and although he "had a vast command of classical Sanskrit belles lettres ... he chose to address them by the angle of prosody" (p. 14), in a single article. Colebrooke wrote a great deal on Indian law, in which Schlegel had no interest. It was not a natural pairing, initiated by the younger Schlegel, who set the agenda with his questions to the older Colebrooke. Nevertheless the relation grew warm, and Colebrooke asked Schlegel to supervise the education of his son John in Germany. In matters such as these the book continues and enlarges upon the biography. But as the title indicates, the real object of study is their intellectual relation; it is not a follow-on to the biography, it is the thing itself. Their exchanges "throw light on a critical juncture in the history of Indology, when the made-in-India productions of colonial Britons intersected with the first manifestations of made-in-Europe German philology, at a time also when Indology became institutionalized, academicized, and professionalized in Europe" (p. 1).

What it shows is contrasting ways of conceptualizing and practicing the newly emerging discipline, nicely elucidated in the introduction to the book. Colebrooke, like the other Sanskritists of British India, went to school with the Brahmins, as the saying was, and engaged...

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