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words ; consider that there is no possible connection between a cluster of these letters, or of these words, and a thought of the mind. Every mother can tell how slow and painful is the process by which a child may be taught its letters, as it is called. The process may well be slow and painful; for how should a child discover any connection between the sound and the mark that is made to belong to it? The difficulty, indeed, has been considered so great, that some philosophers have supposed that mankind could only have derived the use of letters from supernatural interposition. The Chinese are not in possession of an alphabet at this moment; and nothing can be so curious as the system of their language.
You will now, then, see the difficulty that belonged to the subject of hieroglyphics from the first moment they were presented to an inquirer : was it a language of symbols ? did it consist of words? was it made out of an alphabet ? was it a language spoken ? was it a dead language? If a living language, what living language? Was it a language known only to the priests themselves, as the Sanscrit of India was once supposed to be ? How endless were these fields of inquiry! Many writers offered their reasonings and conjectures on the subject, and from this moment the study of Egyptian antiquities, and of hieroglyphics in particular, was carried on in a direction totally different from truth; since imagination was substituted for reason, and conjecture for facts.
I will offer you a specimen in illustration of what I am saying. Observe, for instance, the method employed in the seventeenth century by the Jesuit Kircher.
This indefatigable writer, in the several works which he published on hieroglyphics, pretended to have discovered in all the Egyptian inscriptions engraved on obelisks and mummies, the whole of the cabalistic art, and the extraordinary rules and precepts of the most refined system of demonology.
Indeed it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to give an idea of the absurdities which are found in his works, from the practical impossibility of translating some of his explanations. One instance will suffice. Among the obelisks which the Roman emperors removed from Egypt to Rome, there is one called the Pamphilian obelisk; it is entirely covered with hieroglyphics, and among them we find a cluster of seventeen characters. These, modern ingenuity has discovered to contain the name of Domitian, accompanied by his titles of Cæsar Augustus; in the Greek language, Kaloup L&Baoros, spelt in hieroglyphics Kap. How has the learned Jesuit translated them ? You shall hear :-“Generationis beneficus præses cælesti dominio quadripotens ærem per Mophta beneficum humorem æreum committit amoni inferiora potentissimo, qui per simulacrum et ceremonias appropriatas trahitur ad potentiam exerendam.” I find it utterly impossible to make any translation of this jargon.
Such is the specimen of the interpretation which
the Jesuit Kircher made of hieroglyphics. Other writers, considering the land of Egypt as too conJined a spot, thought that the doctrine concealed by these Egyptian characters affected the whole of mankind, and imagined that hieroglyphics contained the precepts and the system of the Christian religion, revealed to the Egyptian priests 4000 years before its Founder. Others, with equal truth, imagined that the hieroglyphics on the Pamphilian obelisk were intended to preserve the memory of the victory which the believers in the Trinity and the Word obtained over the wicked Pagans, six centuries after the flood, during the reigns of the sixth and seventh kings of Egypt; and, to complete the whole, the chevalier Palin, thinking that there was the greatest possible similarity between the Egyptian hieroglyphics and the Chinese characters, has asserted that we have only to translate the Psalms of David into Chinese, and write them in the ancient characters of that language, to reproduce the Egyptian Papyri; and that Hebrew translations of many of the consecrated rolls of papyrus are to be found in the Bible. On the whole it was quite clear that no real knowledge of the nature of hieroglyphics could be obtained, unless some public edifice or obelisk was found, in which the same inscription was written first in hieroglyphics, and afterwards, in some language that was known. It was then possible that the corresponding parts of the two inscriptions might be compared together, and the general mean
ing, at least of some parts of the hieroglyphic inscription, be discovered. But here again it was observed, that if the hieroglyphic inscription was not made up of symbols, it must have a reference to some language, and unless that language was known, nothing more could, even then, be made out, but that such particular characters had such a particular meaning, and the whole nature of hieroglyphics could not yet be considered as sufficiently ascertained. Now it so happens, that a stone of this kind has been found; the celebrated Rosetta stone, of which I shall have to speak hereafter. On this stone there were observed different inscriptions,— one in hieroglyphics, one in Greek, and a third in the characters which the Egyptians had been accustomed to write for many centuries. Here was evidently a field opened for the enquiry of learned men, and it was possible that ingenuity and diligence might now not be exerted in vain. But as the hieroglyphics seem not entirely to consist of pictures of animals or human figures, the probability was, that it had a reference to some language, and the question was, what this language could be. Probably it might be the language spoken in the country at the time the inscription was made. This, at least, was the only chance to proceed upon ; for if the language was a dead one, or one known only to the priests, there was little
chance of much discovery in this very curious subject.
Now the great hope was, that the language should be the Coptic. This was the language spoken by the Egyptians in later ages; and an ingenious and learned Frenchman, M. De Quattremere, has proved that this was also the language of the old Egyptians, preserved by oral communication from time immemorial. His book bears the title of “ Recherches sur la Langue et la Literature de l’Egypt;" and it was published in Paris, in the year 1808. According, therefore, to M. De Quattremere, in whatever time these hieroglyphics were written, the language was probably Coptic. This language was not unknown to learned men ; we have the Pentateuch, and several parts of the Scriptures, translated into Coptic; so that here was, again, some hope for the student of hieroglyphics. This old Coptic language might also be affected by the incursions of the Arabians ; for their first incursion and settlement in Egypt precedes the age of Joseph: and there is, besides, every reason to suppose, that in later times, during the captivity of the Israelites in that country, they made a second incursion, and possessed themselves of the whole of the Lower Egypt, where they fixed their residence, and formed a new dynasty,-so much known in history by the appellation of Shepherd Kings, or, as the Egyptians called them, Hyk-shos. But the Arabic language is known,