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X. Fourth Letter to Mr. Silvestre de Sacy. Dated 3 August, 1815. Translation.
The letter, [V] which I have now the pleasure of sending you, was written more than nine months ago, and I have hitherto kept it by me, partly waiting till I heard from you, and partly, as I told Mr. Kopitar, to whom I showed it in the winter, because I had not time to take a copy of it, having been very fully engaged in pursuits of a very different nature.
At present I have been arranging a little paper on the inscription, and your last letter arrived just as I was beginning to renew my attention to the subject. I hope soon to have the pleasure of sending you this paper; but in the mean time I must briefly reply to some of your remarks and enquiries.
You are at a loss to imagine how it was possible for me to recognise the words exip and &LOT at the beginning of the inscription, without being in possession of an Egyptian alphabet. I answer, that the word "Month" is found several times, very distinctly marked, in the 28th and 29th lines, and that having observed the same characters in the first line, with the epithet Egyptian, before the characters which answer to the word "Reigning," at the beginning of the Greek inscription, while the date is wanting in the part of the Egyptian inscription corresponding to the passage of the Greek which contains it, I thought myself fully authorised to conclude, that the Egyptian inscription began with the date: and this opinion was afterwards confirmed by the discovery of a similar group in the latter part of the inscription, where the date is repeated.***
I am not surprised that, when you consider the general appearance of the inscription, you are inclined to despair of the possibility of discovering an alphabet capable of enabling us to decipher it; and if you wish to know my "secret," it is simply this, that no such alphabet ever existed; notwithstanding the coincidence of some of the characters with the rudiments of about fifty Coptic words, which I think I have ascertained with tolerable certainty, including the proper names, and the other words which Mr. Akerblad has pointed out in his publication on the subject. Two days after the date of my last letter, I was fortunate enough to satisfy myself respecting the sense of some of the hieroglyphic characters, and by degrees I ascertained enough of them to obtain
a translation of the latter part of the inscription, which I have printed in Roman characters; the beginning, as you may easily imagine, is too much mutilated to allow of any satisfactory comparison: but I am in great hopes that I shall shortly be able to obtain either the remaining fragments, or one ofthe repetitions of the stone, which will probably enable me to determine the value of two or three hundred hieroglyphic characters; that is, at least one third as many as appear to have been commonly employed: and after this there will be little difficulty in deciphering a multitude of other hieroglyphic inscriptions, in the same manner as I have already succeeded in reading the inscription on the base of the little golden statue engraved in the Archæologia, which implies KING LIVING FOR EVER:" the name of course cannot be at once discovered, but the image gives us the portrait of the king in question. The difficulty of the analysis, you will easily believe, was not trifling; and I should not have been able to overcome it, but for the advantage of the intimate connexion between the hieroglyphic and Egyptian inscription, which, as you observe, might naturally be expected; but which in this instance was merely accidental, the name of Ptolemy being found three times in a passage of the Egyptian inscription, essential to the comparison, where it happened that the Greek translation had inserted it twice only.
But to return to the alphabet: after having completed this analysis of the hieroglyphic inscription, I observed that the epistolographic characters of the Egyptian inscription, which expressed the words God, Immortal, Vulcan, Priests, Diadem, Thirty, and some others, had a striking resemblance to the corresponding hieroglyphics; and since none of these characters could be reconciled, without inconceivable violence, to the forms of any imaginable alphabet, I could scarcely doubt, that they were imitations of the hieroglyphics, adopted as monograms or verbal characters, and mixed with the letters of the alphabet : and the terminal mark, which I have expressed by an asterisc in my last letter, appeared evidently to be of the same kind, being a portion of the ring which surrounds the hieroglyphic representations of most of the proper names. All this is extremely unexpected, and in some respects very discouraging, but not the less true, notwithstanding the accounts which the Greek authors have left us of the Egyptian modes of writing: and you see that instead
of being led to a knowledge of the hieroglyphic inscriptions by the assistance of the Coptic language, and of alphabetical characters, the only remaining hope appears to be, that we may be able to interpret the old Egyptian manuscripts in general by ineans of the hieroglyphics. It is admitted that a great number of these manuscripts are purely hieroglyphical; and it is remarkable that not a single group has been observed in any of them, that affords a word distinguishable upon the stone of Rosetta. Mr. Champollion indeed imagines, that he has found the word Egypt, in a manuscript published by Mr. Denon, but I have examined the part to which he refers, without being able to discover it and I fear that he has been somewhat hasty in several others of his remarks upon this Inscription.
[You may perhaps think me too sanguine in my expectations of obtaining a knowledge of the hieroglyphical language in general from the inscription of Rosetta only; and I will confess to you that the difficulties are greater than a superficial view of the subject would induce us to suppose. The number of the
radical characters is indeed limited, like that of the keys of the Chinese; but it appears that these characters are by no means universally independent of each other, a combination of two or three of them being often employed to form a single word, and perhaps even to represent a simple idea: and indeed this must necessarily happen where we have only about a thousand characters for the expression of a whole language. For the same reason it is impossible that all the characters can be pictures of the things which they represent: some, however, of the symbols on the stone of Rosetta have a manifest relation to the objects denoted by them, for instance, a Priest, a Shrine, a Statue, an Asp, a Month, and the Numerals, and a king is denoted by a sort of plant with an insect, which is said to have been a bee; while a much greater number of the characters have no perceptible connexion with the ideas attached to them; although it is probable that a resemblance, either real or metaphorical, may have existed or have been imagined when they were first employed: thus a Libation was originally denoted by a hand holding a jar, with two streams of a liquid issuing from it, but in this inscription the representation has degenerated into the form of a bird's foot. With respect to the epistolographic or enchorial character, it does not seem quite certain that it could be explained even if the hieroglyDD
VOL. II NO. 6.
phics were perfectly understood: for many of the characters neither resemble the corresponding hieroglyphics, nor are capable of being satisfactorily resolved into an alphabet of any kind in short the two characters might be supposed to belong to different languages; for they do not seem to agree even in their manner of forming compound from simple terms.]
I am extremely obliged by your kindness in sending me copies of several little pamphlets relating to Oriental literature, which afford a very favourable prospect of the future progress of your countrymen in these studies. I trust that I shall hereafter be able to give you more ample details of my investigations respecting the antiquities of Egypt; but I am not likely for the present, and perhaps not for some years, to have sufficient leisure for the pursuit; and it would even be a waste of time to attempt much more than I have done, without being in possession of a more perfect copy of the Inscription: the first step is however firmly established, and you know how much greater the labour, as well as the chance of error, must have been in such a step, than in all those which are to follow.* A. B. C. D.
(Continued from No. V. p. 89.)
III. Of the Actors.
WE have before observed, that the singer of the chorus was originally the only performer, (p. 73.) and that Thespis first added an actor, who relieved the singer by relating and gesticulating some mythological story. Eschylus added a second actor, who kept up a dialogue with the other performer, the singer introducing the Bacchic song between the different portions of their performance. And therefore he is justly considered as the father of tragedy. Afterwards Sophocles added a third actor; an improvement, the credit of which is said to be due to Eschylus by the author of that poet's life; but Dicæarchus, who was well versed in the
On the Dramatic Representations of the Greeks. 205
history of the drama, attributed it to Sophocles, as we learn from the same life. And so Diogenes Laertius in Platone. ὥσπερ δὲ τὸ παλαιὸν ἐν (τῇ) τραγῳδίᾳ πρότερον μὲν ὁ χορὸς διεδραμάτισεν, ὕστερον δὲ Θέσπις ἕνα ὑποκριτὴν ἐξεῦρεν, ὑπὲρ τοῦ διαπαύεσθαι τὸν χορὸν, καὶ δεύτερον Αἰσχύλος, τὸν δὲ τρίτον Σοφοκλῆς, καὶ συνεπλήρωσαν τὴν τραγῳδίαν. A better authority still is that of Aristotle, de Poet. c. 10. καὶ τό τε ὑποκριτῶν πλῆθος ἐξ ἑνὸς εἰς δύο πρῶτος Αἰσχύλος ἤγαγε, καὶ τὰ τοῦ χοροῦ ἠλάττωσε, καὶ τὸν λόγον πρωταγωνίστην παρεσκεύασε· τρεῖς δὲ, καὶ σκηνογραφίαν, Σοφοκλῆς. “ Æschylus both increased the number of interlocutors (ὑποκριταὶ) from one to two, and lessened the choric part of the representation, Sophocles introduced three actors and scene-painting."
In his notes on the foregoing passage, Mr. Tyrwhitt observes that Eschylus certainly introduced three actors into some of his plays, as for instance in the Choephori, v. 665, to v. 716. but he thinks that he borrowed the hint from Sophocles, by whom he was worsted in a tragic contest at least twelve years before his death. There is a passage in the Choephori where the ̓Εξάγγελος, Clytemnestra, Orestes and Pylades appear to have been all on the stage at once-but the Scholiast observes μετεσκεύασται ὁ Εξάγγελος εἰς Πυλάδην, ἵνα μὴ δ ̓ λέγωσιν. i. e. the Extra Messenger goes out after v. 886. and returns at v. 900. under the character of Pylades; an artifice by which the tragic poets on more than one occasion supplied the deficiency of actors. The following remark of Mr. Elmsley is transcribed from the Quarterly Review, Vol. VII. p. 449. “ The actors were not only assigned by lot to the several competitors, but the number which each competitor was allowed to employ, was limited to three. Hesychius v. Νέμεσις ὑποκριτῶν. (rather Νέμησις. See our last No. p. 85.) In consequence of this regulation, when three characters were already on the stage, a fourth could not be introduced without allowing one of the three actors sufficient time to retire
1. The ancient signification of ὑποκρίνεσθαι was to answer. ὑποκριτὴς therefore was the person who answered the chorus, and as he supported a feigned character, ὑποκρίνεσθαι came by degrees to signify acting, personating. See Eustathius, quoted by Tyrwhitt on Aristotle, p. 131. Photius, and Suidas, Ὑποκρίνεσθαι, τὸ ἀποκρίς νεσθαι οἱ παλαιοί, καὶ ὁ ὑποκριτὴς ἐντεῦθεν, ὁ ὑποκρινόμενος τῷ Χορῷ. Cf. Hesych.