CHÉZY, Antoine Léonard de

CHÉZY, Antoine Léonard de. Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris 15.1.1773 — Paris 3.9. (or 31.8.) 1832. French Pioneer of Indology, the first Professor of Sanskrit in Paris. Born in the large family of Antoine de Chézy (1718–1798), a well known engineer and scientist. Birth year somewhat uncertain, D.B.F. gives 1775, others 1773. At the age of ten he was sent to Collège de Navarre. Originally he intended to follow his father, but became interested in languages, poetry and the Orient. He attended Silvestre de Sacy’s, later also Langlès’s classes and at the age of 17 already knew Arabic and Persian. From 1792 (Lévi says 1798) he was employed in Foreign Ministry. In 1798 he was chosen to participate in the scientific staff of Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition, but became ill and had, to his great chagrin, turn back from Toulon. Taught Arabic and Persian in Paris, catalogued the manuscripts brought from Egypt to Imperial Library, and read Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, and more Greek. He spoke now fluently (they say) Arabic and Persian and was also interested in Turkish, Chinese, and Mongolian. From 1798 he had suffered of a nervous illness and of hypochondria. In 1805 (or 1806) he married the German poet Helmine von Klencke (1783-1856), a friend of the Schlegel brothers, but in 1810 she returned with their two sons to Germany and began an eager anti-Napoleonian nationalistic campaign. She never returned to her husband (but also not divorced).

Now Chézy also began to read Sanskrit with the help of missionary manuscripts (a grammar and a glossary by —> Pons). He compared the manuscript texts of Manu, the Hitopadeśa, and the Bhagavagītā with the translations of Jones and Wilkins. He never attended the private classes given by Al. Hamilton in Paris. In 1808 he at last obtained a copy of Wilkins’ grammar, and soon also the Rāmāyaṇa of Carey and Marshman. This last text fascinated him, and he prepared an edition and translation of the Yajñadattavadha episode. He started many other projects, but because of his real and imagined illnesses was not able to carry them through. Among his literary remains were several such manuscripts, like a Sanskrit grammar, a Prakrit–Sanskrit–French dictionary, an analysis of the Rāmāyaṇa, and a Persian chrestomathy. The editio princeps of the Śakuntalā was, in addition to the Yajñadattavadha, his only finished major work. As the only printed text of such an important work, it was much used in its times, but the actual edition was rather poor being based on one sole manuscript of the Bengali recension. An appendix contains the text and translation of the Śakuntalā episode of the Mahābhārata. His Amaru translation was published under the pseudonym Apudy (Latin apud+y = chez+y).

In 1814 the efforts of Silvestre de Sacy yielded fruit and two new chairs were established at Collège de France for Chinese (Abel-Rémusat) and Sanskrit (Chézy). In January 1815 Chézy started his teaching and continued until his death (when he was succeeded by Burnouf). In 1824-27 he was also Professor of Persian at É.L.O.V. In 1824 he competed unsuccesfully with Abel-Rémusat for the office of Conservator of Oriental manuscripts. He was hypochondriac and apparently a difficult character, involved in many quarrels. He announced many great plans, but finish only very few of them. He quarreled with Abel-Rémusat and Burnouf. In 1832 he was among the victims of the cholera epidemy. Among his students were Burnouf, father and son, Jacquet, Langlois and Loiseleur-Deslongchamps, of Germans Dursch, B. Hirzel, Kosegarten, Lassen, Mitscherlich, A. W. von Schlegel, and to some extent also Bopp.

Publications: Extrait de Livre des Merveilles de la nature, par Mohammed ben Mohammed Kazwini. 148 p.  P. 1805.

Medjoun et Léila, poëme traduit du persan de Djami. 1-2. P. 1807 (In addition to Jāmī’s work the second vol. contains some further Indian [174–192 Hymne à Cama; 193–200 Poème d’Amarou, both translated from the Asiatic Miscellany. 1787] and Persian poems.).

Yadjnadatta-badha, ou La mort d’Yadjnadatta, épisode extrait et traduit du Ramayana, poème épique Sanskrit. 25+48 p. P. 1814 (translation, only privately circulated); Discours d’ouverture du cours de langue et de littérature sanscrites au Collège royal de France. 32 p. P. 1815.

Analyse du Mégha-Doûtah, poème Sanskrit de Kâlidâsa. 22 p. P. 1817.

– Transl. Le combat de Lakshmanas avec le Géant Atikayas. P. 1818 (Gildem. n. 125 ex Adelung. In Börsenblatt 11.1.1873 Trübner includes it in his list of “books wanted”. Franco 2021 states that it was soon translated into Polish by I. Kulakowsky in Zabawski Wiérszem. Grodno 1828, 35ff.).

– “L’Ermitage de Kandou, poëme extrait et traduit du Brahmâ-pourana”, JA 1, 1822, 1-16; “Ghata-Karparam ou l’absence. Idylle dialoguée traduite”, JA 2, 1823, 39-45; Çlokavirac’anavidhi. Théorie du Sloka, ou Mètre héroique sanscrit. 8+22 p. P. 1827.

Yaj’n’adattabad‘a ou la mort d’Yadjnadatta, episode extrait du Ramâyana, poème épique Sanscrit, donné avec le texte gravé, une analyse grammaticale très-détaillée, une traduction française, et des notes; par A. L. Chézy, … et suivi par forme d’appendice d’une traduction latine littérale par J. L. Burnouf, un de ses anciens auditeurs, aujourd’hui son collège au Collège royal de France. Ouvrage publié par la Société Asiatique. 32+15+120+11 p. P. 1826.

Çrîkâlidâsavirac’itam abhig’nânaçakuntalam nâma nâtakam. La reconnaissance de Sacountala, drame sanscrit, publié avec une trad. fr. et des notes. 31+286+ 268+100 p. P. 1830, transl. republ. in 1832; Notes et corrections supplémentaires pour l’édition du drame de Sacountala. 49 p. 1832.

Anthologie érotique d’Amarou. Texte sanscrit, traduction, notes et glosses par A. L. Apudy. 12+94 p. P. 1831.

Reviews in JA, JS (1817 Wilson’s Meghadūta, 1825 Schlegel’s Gītā, 1831 Manu of Loiseleur-Deslongchamps, 1832 Lassen’s diss.), Moniteur.

Sources: *Helmine von Chézy, Unvergessenes. Denkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben von H. von Ch., von ihr selbst erzählt. 1-2. Lp. 1858 (Lévi says it is very biased); E. Franco, “Chézy, Lévi and the Beginnings of Sanskrit Studies at the Collège de France”, WZKS 58, 2019-21, 45-76; Fr. Hitzel, D.O.L.F. 214; S. Lévi, “L’entrée du sanscrit au Collège de France”, Mémorial S. Lévi 1937, 144-162 (from Livre jubilaire composée à l’occasion di IVe centenaire du C. de F. 1932, 329-344; *Silvestre de Sacy, Notice sur la vie et les ouvrages de M. Chézy. 1835 = MAIBL 12:1, 1839, 444-466 (selected bibliography on p. 466); Z., Biogr. univ. 60, 1836, 594-600; Windisch; French Wikipédia (not fully reliable, the English version even less [2020]).

*Jérôme Petit & Pascale Rabault-Feuerhahn, Le sanctuaire dévoilé: Antoine-Léonard Chézy et les débuts des études sanskrites en Europe, 1800-1850. 458 p. Paris: Geuthner 2019.

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