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THE MONTHLY REPOSITORY
NEW SERIES, No. VII.
To the Editor, Sir, A VALUABLE correspondent, in a former number, enriched your pages with some most interesting observations on points arising out of the recent discoveries in Egyptian Hieroglyphics. His remarks assume an acquaintance on the part of your readers with the general nature of those discoveries, and he also refers to the sources of information on the subject; but perhaps you will not think a small space ill employed by an attempt to transfer to your pages a short summary of the history and progress of the late inquiries, in which of course you will understand me as aiming only at a very humble office, compared with that of your former correspondent.
The Monuments of Egyptian art seein built for eternity; but, till lately, they spoke to us only in the permanence and magnitude of their outward forms. The obscurity and ignorance in which the remains of ancient literature engraved upon them all, have been for ages involved, appeared doomed never to be removed. But even this part of the labour of the artist is likely at last not to have been in vain. The revelation of his object, in an age which perpetuates its discoveries even on more durable materials than the rock, will give it a new immortality, now that the book which he left
before the eye of the curious is doomed, after the revolution, not of centu1 ries, but of milleniums, to be read and understood, as asserting and vindi
cating the title of the Egyptians to be considered the patrons and cultivators of the arts when the rest of the world was plunged in hopeless barbarism.
That the monuments of the ancient dynasties of the kings of Egypt, of her Pharaohs, or even her Ptolemies, should now be in a state of preservation, enabling the antiquarian to trace the characters of their inscriptions, is sufficiently wonderful; but no one expected, after the fruitless research of so many ages, to see the day when they would be deciphered and understood, and when the spectator would readily develope the records of time extending beyond the conception of the most sanguine observer.
It is perhaps wrong to despair of receiving new sources of information on any topics of historical inquiry. Within a short time the ancient history of Eusebius has been restored, to enlighten us on many points of antiquarian controversy; and now a few ingenious inquirers have hit, as it were by
accident, upon the meaning of a puzzle which seemed to baffle all chance of elucidation. Dr. Young and M. Champollion, aided by the inquiries of Mr. Salt and Mr. Bankes, have made great progress in deciphering the ancient Egyptian inscriptions; and, by a most fortunate coincidence, the last gentleman, in making excavations at Abydos, disinterred a genealogical table of the Egyptian kings, which not only fixes many of the hieroglyphic discoveries, but confirms and establishes the much-questioned canon of Manetho.
It is well known that while Egypt was occupied by the French troops, a block or pillar of black basalt was discovered at Rosetta, which afterwards fell into the hands of the English, and now rests in the British Museum. On this pillar were three inscriptions of the age of Ptolemy Epiphanes, one in Greek, a second (as was stated in the Greek) in the sacred or hieroglyphic characters, and the third in the enchorial (demotic or popular) letters of the country. Here, therefore, being a Greek inscription, with two translations, a key was given to the task of understanding and deciphering these two translations, and thus obtaining a clue and alphabet to the languages in which they were written. It is not necessary to detail the ineffectual labours of many great scholars in this task, but at last, Dr. Young first, and afterwards M. Champollion, discovered the true explanation.
Considering that the inscriptions on monuments, even of the age of the Cæsars, are in the same style as those on the most ancient, and, therefore, that the system of writing must have been well known, at any rate to some persons, to a comparatively late period, it seems extraordinary that a minute account of it had not been handed down by any classical writer. Herodotus and Diodorus were either ignorant on the subject or conveyed their hints so obscurely as to be of no service; but Clemens Alexandrinus, it now appears, has (in a passage, about the meaning of which none were agreed, though these discoveries have made it tolerably obvious) given an outline of the whole system, though with such a want of explanation as to details as rendered his description of no service to the uninitiated.
After a great deal of fruitless labour, and measuring comparative distances and spaces on the three versions, the places where the proper names mentioned in the Greek text must occur in the translations were in many cases fixed; and groups of figures or characters being there found answering to those in the places where the same words must, as it was known, occur again, certain points or landmarks were ascertained which reduced the investigation within manageable limits. So far as the enchorial, or, as it was supposed, alphabetic version was concerned, the proper names were thus ascertained, and an alphabet of an arbitrary character was compiled, giving to the characters the powers which were required to effect the construction of the words, the situation of which was thus indicated.
On minute examination of the hieroglyphic version, to which the enchorial, from the similarity of many of the characters, formed a clue, the positions of the names were ascertained in that version also; and it was further found that they were each inclosed in a ring or circular border. The hieroglyphic figures so inclosed had some of them a resemblance to the enchorial characters at the corresponding places in the enchorial version, which led to the conclusion that the latter was only a cut-down or running hand, formed from the more finished pictures of the hieroglyphic style; and if so, alphabetic writing might be suspected at any rate to be mixed with the supposed hieroglyphic or pictorial representation. Still, as far as experience and opinion had hitherto gone, hieroglyphic writing was supposed to be throughout of one character, -ideographic or symbolic, i. e, representing
the word by the pictured image. Answering, however, to the name on the Greek inscription, were inscribed within the oval several hieroglyphic pictures which could only be explained on the supposition (which had indeed crudely occurred to Warburton, but was considered inconsistent with other facts), that this hieroglyphic writing was in reality alphabetic; and next, that this system was compounded partly of characters or hieroglyphics, symbolic or ideographic, i. e. expressing words by images, and partly of words composed of letters; such letters representing sounds, not things or ideas at all : —and further observation induced the conjecture, that the significancy in this way of these images, used for alphabetic purposes, arose from their standing for things or objects, the common names or appellations of which, in the ancient spoken language of the country, begun with the soun or letter which it was wanted to express.
A little reflection will shew the occasion for this system, bungling and odd as it may at first appear. Picture-writing, or proper hieroglyphics, would very well express sensible and usual images ; but when a proper name, especially a foreign one, came to be written, how was it to be expressed In the following way, which furnishes a clue to the whole system. Suppose a person who had only a picture language, had to record a new word, say “James;"-having no picture which would convey the idea, he might say, I will give a series of the usual pictures of common objects, the names of which begin with the sound I want; and he might draw a jug, an ape, a man, an egg, and a stick, and thus make a hieroglyphic acrostic, that would perpetuate a foreign word which he had no other means of writing.
Singular as this plan may seem, its reality is now supported by striking evidence; and it is still more singular that it should not only be the rude invention of a barbarous time, but that the invention should have stuck at its first opening, and not have refined into a complete alphabetic system; and that it should continue even unto the polished age of the Cæsars, and be blended and combined in greater or less proportions with the proper hieroglyphic writing, and not merely be confined to proper names. Proper names, however, being peculiarly marked out, the leading features of all these inscriptions are with this clue easily identified and read, and the age of the monuments is ascertained by learning the persons by whom or to whom they were erected.
After the first guess at this explanation of the system had been hit upon, the next task was to obtain such an acquaintance with the ancient Coptic or Thebaic as would give the probable clue and reason of the power of the letter thus represented by an image; and it was soon found that the initiative sound of the word in that language for the thing represented, generally gave, with remarkable precision, the sound or letter required. Thus, in the first instance, the letters in the "Ptolemy' of the hieroglyphic inscription on the Rosetta stone, as fixed by the Greek version, were found to form that word by taking the initial sound or letter in the ancient Coptic names of the things drawn within the oval. Certain letters being by these means fixed beyond all doubt, the next word, similarly situated and proved by the corresponding translation, being “Birenice,” added some other letters to this new alphabet, which the discoverers called the phonetic alphabet ; and to these were soon added those of the word “Cleopatra,” also discovered with a Greek translation on an obelisk found in the Isle of Philæ; and thus were not only some new letters added, but “Cleopatra” and “Ptolemy' having some letters in common which exactly answered in the two hieroglyphic in
scriptions, the former discovery was doubly proved, not only by translation, but by corresponding readings in the same character.
These inquiries were actively prosecuted, and Mr. Salt, who was at first a little incredulous, established in the result the now undoubted validity of the system. The phonetic characters mixed with the hieroglyphics gave a clue to the whole system, and to the rationale of the enchorial or running hand. The proper names, and often more, are read with ease; and translations bave been made which subsequent discoveries (as in a mummy case in one instance) of Greek versions have shewn to be undoubtedly correct. It is obvious that it is not of much consequence (though interesting and corroborative of the truth of the system) how the alphabetic or phonetic characters representing words, mixed up with the bieroglyphics, first came by their form. The grand discoveries were, first, that they were alphabetic; and next, by comparison and translation, what was their power.
This phonetic alphabet was found to record the names of the Roman emperors, with their titles, on the edifices and monuments of their æra; which have been read with ease, in instances where, from other circumstances, there can be no doubt of the accuracy; and they are accompanied by proper hieroglyphics or ideographic writings which, in many instances, were previously known and understood; but in other instances are and probably will remain unknown.
In an æra above this, the names of the Lagides or Ptolemies and Cleopatras are found on many temples, and, at an earlier period, those of Philip and Alexander, described as Mai-Amun, the beloved of Amun.
But the application of the discovery goes higher, and on the more ancient edifices are deciphered the names of Sabaco, Amenoph, Tiraka, (2 Kings xix. 9,) and Psammeticus. The Egyptian deities are also found inscribed in a similar manner. Traces are in the same way found of the Persian dynasty, and proceeding still higher into the dynasties of ancient kings, given by Manetho and vouched by the genealogical tables discovered by Mr. Bankes, are found the ancient names of Osorthus, the Pharaoh Sesak or Shishak, (1 Kings xiv. 25,) the Sesonchis of Manetho, Rameses, Amenoph, Thoutmosis, &c.
Thus, by a series of readings, among the most remarkable in the history of scholarship, M. Champollion traced the use of hieroglyphico-phonetic signs, first, from the age of Antoninus upwards to Alexander; secondly, from Alexander to the Persian conquest; and, lastly, through the different dynasties up to the commencement of the eighteenth, about the year 1874, before the Christian æra, exemplifying at every stage of the progress the accuracy of the chronological canon of Manetho.
The result of these discoveries is, that the graphic system of the Egyptians was composed of three sorts of writing; i, the hieroglyphic or sacred, which conibined at once three distinct sorts of signs, viz. figurative characters representing the object itself, symbolic or ænigmatic characters having an analogy to the object, and phonetic characters which, by the images of objects, represented sounds or letters only, and combined to form words ; 2, the Hieratic or sacerdotal writing, which is only a form of writing abridged or derived from the hieroglyphic; 3, the demotic, enchorial, or popular writing, distinct from the two former, but derived from them, consisting of simpler characters, borrowed or cut down from them, and employing a much larger proportion of the phonetic or alphabetic characters. of this character a complete alphabet has been formed, and manuscripts
translated, in versions which stood the severe test of the subsequent discovery of complete Greek versions. All the three systems were simultaneously in use among the Egyptians for an almost countless series of ages.
The main difficulty remaining is to discover and interpret the hieroglyphic images, and this can only be accomplished by a patient comparison, particularly where the truth of the conjecture can be fixed by translations. Meantime, the discoveries made are of the highest value and interest, if it were only to fix the comparative antiquity of the monuments to which they belong, and to shew to how remote a period the arts, in much the same degree of proficiency, are to be carried back. It is strange enough that at this time of day contemporaneous written evidence should restore personages almost consigned to fabulous history to an actual existence, idenufied by monuments erected during their reigns.
ON BEING BORN AGAIN: A DISCOURSE BY THE LATE MRS. BARBAUI.D.
To the Editor. SIR, Amongst many papers (mostly fragments) left by my late venerable aunt, Mrs. Barbauld, are a few discourses written at various periods of her life, and I believe not intended by her for publication, which it was not thought expedient to add to the collection of her finished works lately published. Nevertheless, as these discourses display in her own glowing and eloquent language the same ardent piety and lofty sentiments that adorn all her other devotional pieces, I have thought that they would prove an acceptable contribution to your liberal Magazine, which she always perused with interest, and to which she was an occasional contributor.
I remain, Sir,
C. R. AIKIN. Great James Street, Bedford Row, May, 1827. “ Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven."
A strange paradox this, and so it seemed to the person to whom the declaration was addressed, and he answered to the literal sense, with more simplicity than acuteness, “ Can a man enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born ?" Yet the eastern manner is so full of bold metaphors, that though a European might naturally have been startled at the seeming uncouthness of the figure, a ruler in Israel ought to have readily understood the spiritual meaning shadowed out under the similitude. The beginning of a Christian's life in his conversion from sin to holiness is here designed under the figure of a birth, a new or a second birth; and it shall be the business of this discourse to unfold the beauty and justness of the metaphor.
That the whole man is not born at once, is a doctrine of philosophy no less than of religion: the infant has only entered upon an animal life ; whatever lofly titles we may salute him with on his entrance upon the stage, he is not yet a moral agent or even a rational creature.
There is, therefore, some subsequent period in which he enters upon the spiritual, the divine life, and whether it be by the gradual unfolding of his powers, or by