Page images
PDF
EPUB

state his facts, and prefer his arguments. Then criminal justice may march on boldly. The Judge has no stain of blood on his ermine; and the phrases which English people are so fond of lavishing upon the humanity of their laws, will have a real foundation. At present this part of the law is a mere relic of the barbarous injustice by which accusation in the early part of our jurisprudence was always confounded with guilt. The greater part of these abuses have been brushed away, as this cannot fail soon to be. In the mean time it is defended, (as every other abuse has been defended), by men who think it their duty to defend every thing which is, and to dread every thing which is not. We are told that the Judge does what he does not do, and ought not to do. The most pernicious effects are anticipated in trials of felony, from that which is found to produce the most perfect justice in civil causes, and in cases of treason and misdemeanour: We are called

upon to continue a practice without example in any other country, and are required by lawyers to consider that custom as humane, which every one who is not a lawyer pronounces to be most cruel and unjust-and which has not been brought forward to general notice, only because its bad effects are confined to the last and lowest of mankind.

ART. IV. 1. Article EGYPT in the Supplement to the Encyclo

pædia Britannica, Vol. IV. p. 38, published in the Year 1819. 2. Lettre à M. Dacier, Secrétaire Perpétuel de l'Académie des

Belles-Lettres, relative à l’Alphabet des Hiéroglyphes Phonetiques, 8c. Par M. CHAMPOLLION le Jeune. Paris, Didot,

1822. 8vo. avec quatre planches. 3. An Account of some Recent Discoveries in Hicroglyphical Li

terature, and Egyptian Antiquities, including the Author's Original Alphabet, as extended by M. Champollion ; with a Translation of five unpublished Greek and Egyptian Manuscripts. By Thomas Young, M. D. F. R. S. London,

Murray. 1823. 4. Précis du Système Hiéroglyphique des Anciens Egyptiens, ou

Récherches sur les Elémens Premiers de cette Ecriture Sacrée, sur leurs diverses Combinaisons, et sur les Rapports de ce Système avec les autres Méthodes Graphiques Egyptiennes. Par M. CHAMPOLLION le Jeune. Paris, Treuttel & Würtz.

1824. 8vo. avec un volume de planches. 5. Lettres à M. le Duc de Blacas d'Aulps, premier Gentil

homme de la Chambre, Pair de France, &c. relatives au Musée Royal Egyption de Turin; Premiere Lelire- Monuments Historiques. Par M. CHAMPOLLION, le Jeune. Paris, Didot.

1824. 6. ORIGINES ; or Remarks on the Origin of Several Empires, States, and Cities. By the Right Honourable Sir WILLIAM

RUMMOND. London, Baldwin & Co. 1824. 2 vols. 8vo. 7. Essay on Dr Young's and M. Champollion's Phonetic System

of Hieroglyphics ; with some additional Discoveries by which it may be applied to decipher the Names of the ancient Kings of Egypt and Ethiopia. By Henry SALT, Esq., his Britannic Majesty's Consul-General in Egypt, &c. &c. &c. Addressed to the Right Honourable CHARLES YORKE, &c. London, Longman & Co. 1825.

To o the Antiquary and the Historian, ancient Egypt is a sub

ject of inexhaustible interest. However inclined some modern sceptics may be to dispute the fact, the country of the Pharaohs was undoubtedly the parent of art and science, the great luminary of the ancient world. At a period when the soil of Greece and Italy was covered with primeval forests, affording shelter only to wild beasts, or to a few 'roving barba• rians' hardly less ferocious, the valley of the Nile was occupied by a people who had already built temples in honour of their Gods, and reared columns to commemorate their kings. Nor does this high antiquity rest merely on doubtful chronologies, or vague antiquarian speculation. On the contrary, it is demonstrated by facts about which there neither is nor can be any controversy.

So early as the days of Moses, Egypt, preeminent in laws, institutions, learning, and art, as well as in political power, appears to have reached that maximum of improvement at which nations generally remain for a longer or shorter period stationary. All the notices incidentally given by the Sacred Historian clearly indicate a people already arrived at this grand limit, and in the full enjoyment of all the benefit which could be derived from the peculiar forms of government and religion under which they lived. Even in that remote age, the learning of

the Egyptians' had become proverbial ; nor can there be any doubt, we think, that the celebrated Jewish Legislator transfused into his Code of Laws much of the practical or written wisdom which he had learned in the country of his birth and education.

From the era of Moses, by whom Egypt is connected with the earliest traditions no less than with the first historical record of the human race, till that of the Persian Conquest, when its glory and independence were destroyed- that is, during the long interval of ten centuries—a few imperfect and unsatisfactory no

tices are all that can be gleaned from the ancient authors respecting the state and condition of the country of the Pharaohs. It is certain, however, that, both prior and subsequent to the Persian invasion, the Greeks, notwithstanding the exclusive spirit with which they have somewhat inconsistently reproached the ministers of religion, then the sole depositaries of knowledge, were in the habit of resorting to Egypt to be initiated in the laws, customs, and learning of that country; and that in proportion as the principles of civilization took root in the genial soil of Greece, they crowded back to imbibe from the great fountainhead fresh supplies to facilitate and encourage their growth. Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and others, all acquired in Egypt the elements of that science which they afterwards taught, with such success, to their countrymen; and even the rudiments of Grecian Art, the originals of those beautiful forms, which the fine genius of the Greeks, improving upon their models, raised to an almost ideal perfection, may be distinctly traced to the banks of the Nile. The Persians, under Cambyses, had indeed overturned the temples and monuments consecrated to the worship of the Gods; in their rage against idolatry, they had ravaged the country, and deluged it in blood; but they had neither been able to destroy the monuments on which they discharged their iconoclastic fury, nor to exterminate the learning and science which they could not appreciate. Hence, when the fortunes of a second conquest had placed Kings of Greek descent on the throne of the Pharaohs, Egypt, under their enlightened sway, recovered a portion of its ancient splendour; the treasures of that renowned seat of early civilization were laid open to inquiry and investigation ; and when, at length, the caprice of a third conquest degraded it to the rank of a Roman province, the masters of the world came, in their turn, to dispose of all that yet remained to grave and learned Egypt.

To the Greeks, therefore, who had appropriated much of the science, and to the Romans who had exported not a few of the monuments of ancient Egypt, (where each of these nations had in turn obtained the ascendancy), it was natural to look for complete information touching the institutions, arts, and literature of that reniarkable region. Nor, in all that concerns the two former, will we look altogether in vain. The Father of History has devoted a considerable portion of his invaluable work to details connected with the laws, usages, manners, and topography of Egypt, which he studied on the spot with a care and fidelity that have stood the test of the most severe criticism; and not a little curious and useful information may be gleaned from the works of Diodorus, StraVOL. XLV. No. 89.

G

bo, and others, as well as from those of the later Roman writ. ers. On the subject of Egyptian art, too, as displayed in those colossal structures which still remain, having outlived the ravages

of more than three thousand years, and the fury of five conquests, the same authorities furnish us with details of the utmost interest and value ;-details without the aid and guidance of which the study of these monuments would prove a hopeless and unprofitable undertaking.

But there is one subject, and that the most important of all, in regard to which they have supplied only a few scanty and hitherto almost unintelligible notices;-we mean the Literature of ancient Egypt, including, of course, the method of writing practised in that country. This is, doubtless, a lamentable omission-one, indeed, of which it is difficult to offer an explanation, and for which it is impossible to devise an apology. Nor will our surprise on this account be lessened by reflecting, that, in Egypt, the arts of Sculpture and Painting were at all times subordinate to, and in reality branches of, the art of Writing; that the monuments scattered over its surface were nearly all covered externally with sculptures, and many internally with paintings, intended to serve as representatives either of ideas, or of the sounds of a spoken language, or of both. Here was a phenomenon calculated, one would have imagined, to arouse the most incurious observer, and to excite the most ardent spirit of inquiry: For what subject of greater interest could be presented to the human mind than the language and literature of a great and enlightened nation, especially when the preservation of both has been consigned to eternal monuments? But, from whatever cause it has happened, whether from national pride, which led them to disdain those languages which they considered barbarous, or from an absolute want of philological talent, the fact undoubtedly is, that the Classical Writers supply us with only a few vague and general notices, which, but for recent discoveries, would be nearly unintelligible ; while they at once aggravate and apologize for their ignorance by asserting, that, as Egypt was the parent of art and science, so the Hieroglyphical Inscriptions on its public monuments contain a summary of the most important mysteries of nature, and the most sublime inventions of man; but that the interpretation of these characters had been so studiously concealed by the priests from the knowledge of the vulgar, and had indeed been so imperfectly understood even by themselves, that it was soon wholly lost and forgotten.' It is even alleged, though the story seems to rest on no authentic foundation, that a reward was offered in vain by

one of the first Cæsars, for an interpretation of the inscription on an obelisk, then recently brought from Egypt to Rome.

Be this as it may, however, it was reserved for a Father of the Church to record the first precise and exact statement of the different methods of writing practised in Egypt ;-a statement so exact and so precise, that it serves as a key to the partial information contained in the classical authors, and tallies, in a remarkable manner, with the result of those brilliant discoveries to which we are about to direct the attention of our readers. For this reason, before proceeding to give any account of the progress which has, within these few years, been made in the interesting task of deciphering the sacred sculptures on the Egyptian monuments, it may be necessary, first of all, to advert to such intelligible information as is to be found in the ancient authors, and to exhibit a view of the state of opinion relative to this subject among modern inquirers, anterior to the period when Dr Young and M. Champollion commenced their exemplary labours.

When the arts were yet in their infancy, men employed mimetic images, or portraits to represent individual objects, and give notice of events to those at a distance. Thus, the Mexicans denoted the arrival of the Spaniards by a rude delineation of a ship, and of a man distinguished by the peculiarities of the European dress. But mere mimetic images, which could convey no idea of time, or any abstract quality, were totally insufficient for the purposes of communicating information and recording events. Hence conventional signs were chosen, to serve as symbols both of things and thoughts. But much time must have elapsed before men learned to communicate with one another by means of symbolical pictures; and no length of time could render such a method of communication easy. The painter would probably begin improvement by lessening the size and abridging the number of his signs,—the language spoken to the ear helping him to form that which was to be addressed to the eye. But, in the formation of language, man invariably proceeds from particulars to generals, classifying individuals according to their species, and arranging qualities under their proper categories. Thus, in inventing words for expressing his ideas, he would also invent the means of limiting their number; and, as oral preceded written language, the forms and figures of speech would instruct the graphic artist both how to express his sentiments and abridge his symbols. The metaphors he employed in speaking would suggest the images which he might use in writing. If, when he spoke, he called a strong man a lion, when he wrote he

« PreviousContinue »