Findlay, "'[T]hat Liberty of Writing': Incontinent Ordinance in 'Oriental' Jones"

Sir William Jones (1746-1794) remains a key figure in the continuing history of romantic and other orientalisms. At the very mention of the idea of "Containing English India," he leaps to mind not only as part of the contents contained within any envelope or archive so designated, but also as part of the discontent and unruly dissemination of such contents. Jones is both of the Indian sub-continent and in various senses incontinent within it and when writing about it (just as he is both inside and outside the dominant versions of Englishness in the later eighteenth century). In this essay, I revisit this dialectic of positioning or location, containing and incontinence, and the related contradictions that constituted Jones's early libertarianisim in England and his later legal and philological activities in India. My emphasis at every stage is on the Anglo-Indian Jones. Moreover, the echo in my title of that Gulf War euphemism, incontinent ordinance, is a deliberate gesture towards two points I stress in my conclusion: namely, that imperialism did not end with the British in India, and that imperialism's instabilities and illusions are always evident, if we care to look, in the language it uses to describe itself.