William George Aston

Life
1841-1911, b. nr. Derry, 9 April; ed. QUB (Classics and Mod. langs.); British Consular Service Tokyo and Hyogo, and later Consul-General, Korea; 1884-86; works of oriental scholarship and commentary incl. the first modern grammar of Japanese, viz., A Short Grammar of Japanese Language (1869) ; Grammar of Japanese Written Language (1872), with a short chrestology, printed by the author; A Grammar of Japanese Spoken Language (4th edn. 1888); Nohong, Chronicles of Japan (1896); A History of Japanese Literature (1899); Shinto, the Way of the Gods (1905); Shinto, the Ancient Religion of Japan (1907); numerous articles in Transactions of Asiatic Soc., &c.; CMG on retirement, 1889; his collection acquired by Cambridge Univ. Library includes 9,500 Japanese books, many rare; wrote the earliest English translation of the Japanese Chronicles; d. Beer, 22 Nov. ODNB DIB OCIL

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Works
A Grammar of the Japanese Written Language, with a Short Chrestomathy
(London: for the author 1872; new edns., 1888), 3rd edn., rev. & corr [Luzac's Oriental Grammars, 5] (London: Luzac; Yokohama: Lane, Crawford & Co. 1904); A History of Japanese Literature (London: Heinemann 1899; new edns. 1907; 1959), xi, 408pp.; Do., new edn. (Vermont: Tuttle 1972), xii, 410pp.; Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697, 2 vols. (London: for the Society by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner 1896), and Do., new edn. (London: Allen & Unwin [1956]), xx, 443pp., ill.; Do., new edn. with an introduction by Terence Barrow [2 vols in 1] (Rutland, VT: Tuttle 1972), xxii, 443pp., ill.; Shinto: The Way of the Gods (London: Longmans 1905, new edns. 1907, 1910), 390pp.; Do., rep. edn. (NY: Krishna Press 1974), ii, 390pp., ill.; A Short Grammar of the Japanese Spoken Language (1871); The text of the constitution in seventeen articles: enacted by Prince Shotoku in 604 A.D (1952). Also, Fukuzawa Yukichi [...] delivered at the fifty second ordinary meeting of the Japan Society, London, May 8th, 1901 (1909). See also, Early Japanese books in Cambridge University Library: A Catalogue of the Aston, Satow and Von Siebold collections / Kenburijji Daigaku shozo wakan kosho sogo mokuroku: Asuton, Sato, Shiboruto korekushon (Cambridge Univ. Lib. 1991).

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Quotations
History of Japanese Literature (1899): ‘It is the literature of a brave, courteous, light-hearted, pleasure-loving people, sentimental rather than passionate, witty and humorous, of nimble apprehension, but not profound; ingenious and inventive, but hardly capable of high intellectual achievement; of receptive minds endowed with a voracious appetite for knowledge; with a turn of neatness and elegance of expression, but seldom or never rising to sublimity.’ ( Quoted in Paul Murray’s essay ‘Lafcadio Hearn, 1850-1904’, in Ian Nash, ed., Britain and Japan Biographical Portraits, Vol. II [1997], pp.137-50; p.147). ‘[T]he religion of the Early Japanese was not an organised religion. We can discover in it nothing corresponding to the body of dogma, the code of morals, and the sacred book authoritatively enforcing both, with which we are familiar in civilised religions, such as Buddism, Christianity, and Islam’. (Ibid.; quoted in Murray, op. cit., p.148, with further remarks on Aston’s belief - repudiated by Hearn - that Shinto was quite extinct and that the Japanese would speedily convert to Christianity.)

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