CHÉZY, Antoine Léonard de. Neuilly 15.1.1773 (1775?) — Paris 3.9. (or 31.8.) 1832. French Pioneer of Indology. the first Professor of Sanskrit in Paris. Born in a large family of Antoine de Chézy (1718–1798) a well known engineer and scientist. Birthdate uncertain, the D.B.F. gives 1775. 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 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 MSS. 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 children to Germany and began an eager anti-Napoleonian nationalistic campaign. She never returned to her husband.
Now Chézy also began to read Sanskrit with the help of missionary MSS. (a grammar and a glossary). He compared the MSS. texts of Manu, the Hitopadeśa, and the Bhagavagītā with the translations of Jones and Wilkins. 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 MSS., 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. 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-Remusat) 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-Remusat for the office of Conservator of Oriental MSS. He quarreled with Abel-Remusat 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, Kosegarten, Lassen, Mitscherlich, A. W. von Schlegel, and to some extent also Bopp.
Publications: Extrait de Livre des Merveilles de la nature, par Mohammed. 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 Poeme 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. P. 1815.
– Analyse du Mégha-Doûtah, poème Sanskrit de Kâlidâsa. 22 p. P. 1817.
– Le combat de Lakshmanas avec le Géant Atikayas. Traduit. 1818 (Gildem. n. 125).
– “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; Théorie du Sloka. 30 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 in Wilson’s Meghadūta), Moniteur.
Sources: 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 Wikipedia.