Billeder på siden

practice to extend beyond the æra of authentic history.

2. The cabalistical doctors of the Jews maintain that alphabetical writing was one of the ten things which God created in the evening of the Sabbath. Br. Walton. prol. bibl. pol. sect. 2.

3. Most of the profane authors of antiquity ascribe the first use of alphabetical characters to the Ægyptians;" who, according to some, received the expedient from Mercury," and, according to others, from the god Teuth. This ascription of alphabetic characters to a divine communication, shews the sense entertained by the ancients of the difficulty of the inven tion.

The Indian letters are in a similar man

sed alii apud Ægyptios a Mercurio, ut Gellius, álii apud Syros repertas volunt." By the Syrians, in this passage, may be meant Jews, Judæa being frequently by ancient writers considered as a province of Syria: W.

So, among others, Plato, in his Philebus and Phædrus. In the former of these dialogues, he says, Επειδη φωνην απείρον κατενόησεν, είτε τις Θεός, είτε και θείος άνθρωπος, ώς λόγος εν Αιγυπίῳ Θευθ τινα τ8τον γενεσθαι λεγων. W. Whoever it was, whether some God, or some divine man, (the Ægyptian reports say that his name was Theuth) who first contemplated the infinite nature of the human voice," &c. Sydenham.

η Ερμης λέγεται θεών εν Αιγύπτῳ γράμματα πρωτος ευρειν. Plut. Symp. probl. 1. ix, pr. 3. W.-Mercury is said first of the gods to have invented letters in Egypt.

ner ascribed by the Hindoos to a divine origin.°

4. It is remarkable that history commonly attributes the introduction of letters to some great traveller, a concurring proof of their derivation among different nations from

a common source.

5. No mention is made of the alphabet' in Homer, though it appears to have been in use among the Jews long before his time.

6. Is there any reason to suppose, from the history of the human mind, that oral language, which has long been perfect, beyond any memorials of our species in heathen writers, and is co-eval with man, according to the testimony of scripture; is there any reason, I say,

• "The characters in which the languages of India were originally written are called Najari, from Najar, a city, with the word Déva sometimes prefixed, because they are believed to have been taught by the Divinity himself, who prescribed the artificial order of them in a voice from heaven." Sir W. Jones. As. Diss. I. 105. W.

[ocr errors]

• On that passage of Homer, κληρον εσημήναντο έκαστος, ' each put his mark upon his lot,' Il. H, 175, the Scholiast remarks, Εξ & δηλοι, ότι 8 γραμματα ηδεισαν οι Ήρωες, that the Heroes were ignorant of the use of letters. The onμara Xuypa, pernicious signs,' mentioned in the story of Bellerophon, I. Z. 168, appear to have been only arbitrary marks, the signification of which had been previously agreed upon between the correspondents. W.

[ocr errors]

to suppose that even language itself is the effect of human ingenuity and experience?

7. To suppose that the art of alphabetical

The ancient writers were not insensible of the difficulty of language, and the admirable nature of this expedient for fixing, arranging, and extending the conceptions of the intellect. Even a poet has recorded it among the wonderful attainments of man, that ɛyua edidagaro, he has learnt the use of speech. Soph. Ant. 360.

[ocr errors]

What credit then can be given to those theories, ingenious as we allow them to be, which profess to develope the gradual structure of a complicated language from a few of the simplest elements, and which suppose this to have been effected by the sagacity of men, at a time when, according to the uniform testimony of all ages, and all reasonable deduction, the world. was in general immersed in a state of barbarism. Yet such speculations, if regarded in their proper light, are not destitute of utility. They develope those analogies on which at language of philosophical principles might be constructed, and by the light which they throw on universal grammar, may tend gradually to render existing languages more precise.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to account for the origin and progress of the arts and sciences, without supposing the operations of the human mind to have received their first moving impulse from a divine interposition. Man, we learn from experience, acquires his rational powers from instruction and imitation, and differs from the brutes only in his capacity for improvement. A body, under some circumstances, will proceed with an accelerated motion, but an extraneous force is absolutely necessary to remove it from a state of rest.

Socrates in the Phædon of Plato, sensible of the difficulty of accounting for the intellectual accomplishments of man by natural means, argues that all our knowledge is only reminiscence, derived from some prior state of being. W.

writing is the invention of man, is almost a philosophical impossibility, when we consider that it must, in this case, have been devised in the rudest state of human intellect, while typography, a discovery less curious and sagacious, eluded the detection of the most refined ages of literary perfection.




Professor HEYNE to Mr. WAKEFIELD.

TRANSFERENDUM curavi ad te, vir doctissime, cujus ingenium et eruditionem a multo inde tempore admiratus sum, libellum viri docti, Jacobs, ex mea disciplina progressi, quandoquidem ille et colit et amat te, et vestigia tua in nonnullis premit. Nihil eorum, quæ a te aguntur, et quæ ad tua consilia spectant, a me non sedulo anquiritur, quantum quidem ex scriptis tuis aut ex recensibus indiciisque aliorum consequi possum. Non itaque levis et temere concepta esse potest ea qua te prosequor voluntas, amor et studium. Tu ut valeas, et res tuas ex animo agas, precor.

Scr. Gottingæ d. xii. Dec. c110ccXCVII.*

I have transmitted to you, learned Sir, whose genius and erudition have long been the object of my admiration, a small

« ForrigeFortsæt »