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time obtain a complete genealogical series of the kings of Egypt, supposing that enough of their inscriptions have been preserved and in some cases we may perhaps be able to determine, from collateral evidence, the pronunciation of the names of the personages concerned. The inscription on a statue of granite found at Rome, and engraved by Montfaucon in the second volume of his Supplement, implies that it represented a certain KING or prince who was the son of a PTOLEMY; hence it is obvious, that its date must be subsequent to the time of Alexander, and that its antiquity is less remote than has hitherto been believed. On the other hand, the sarcophagus, which has been supposed to have been the receptacle of the body of Alexander, must have belonged to a remoter age: two proper names only are observable among the multiplicity of characters engraved on it, and these belong to a certain KING and his FATHER the name of the father, which is not that of a divinity, is by far the most frequently repeated and it is next to impossible, from these circumstances, that either of the names should be either ALEXANDER or PHILIP: neither do they relate to any of the Ptolemies; so that they can only have belonged to some of the earlier kings of Egypt. I have also been able completely to identify the character representing Isis, which is a throne, with an addition implying a female, and I have ascertained that a similar throne, preceded by an eye, is the emblem of the principal divinity of the Egyptian mythology, whose most appropriate name must have been OSIRIS, though he seems to have been occasionally confounded with the SUN, as the names Phthah and Vulcan are also made synonymous in the Inscription of Rosetta.
On a general consideration of the present state of the inquiry into the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, I am not disposed to be extremely confident respecting its complete success, much less to appreciate its immediate utility very highly. We know that in China it is reckoned sufficient for the labour of half a life to learn a single hieroglyphical language, with all the aid of oral and lexicographical instruction and we can easily imagine how much a person would deceive himself, if he fancied that he had found out a single clue, which would enable him to unravel all the intricacies of Chinese literature. Equally absurd would it be to pretend to decipher, as if by inspiration,
by means of any general principles, an unknown Egyptian inscription, in the absence of all personal and almost all traditional instruction. It is true, that in some cases the imagination is assisted by the resemblance of the symbol to the thing represented; but this resemblance must inevitably be lost wherever the sense becomes metaphorical; and at the very utmost it would help us no more, than a few foreign words, scattered through any mixed language, would enable us to comprehend that language without other assistance. With respect to the utility of the knowledge to be acquired from an interpretation of all the existing inscriptions, a few historical details are the utmost that we could reasonably expect to obtain: the great mass of Egyptian monuments of all kinds relates exclusively to the religious and superstitious rites observed towards the ridiculous deities and the idolized heroes of the country. I have sufficiently ascertained the characters implying units, tens, hundreds, and thousands; but in the inscriptions connected with astronomical representations, scarcely any of these numbers are observable; so that we can entertain but slight hopes of finding any very accurate records of astronomical phenomena, among the monuments of so foolish and so frivolous a nation.
After all however, notwithstanding our contempt for their absurdities, it must not be denied, that a knowledge of the literature of that country, which is confessedly the parent of the earliest civilisation on record, does present to the imagination an object of the highest possible curiosity; and if a single individual should fail in completing the whole discovery, it may be presumed, that his labours will hereafter be continued by others with renewed ardour, and perhaps under more favourable circumstances. They must however remember, when they undertake such a task, that it is not by the gigantic exertions of fancied talents, but by the stubborn perseverance of indefatigable industry, that we can ever hope to obtain, for ourselves and our successors, an admission into the hidden treasuries of nature and
XII. To Mr. Akerblad.
Dated 12 August, 1816.
I IMAGINE, Sir, from the tenor of your obliging letter of the 19 April, that you are disposed to consider my attempt to decipher the hieroglyphical characters, as an undertaking somewhat visionary: you seem at a loss to understand what I can mean by a translation of the Egyptian Inscription, since its sense must undoubtedly be the same as that of the Greek; and you observe, that the great object is to separate the characters and read them into words: you say, that the language may be "tolerable Coptic" although many of the words may not be found in Lacroze's Lexicon, which you consider as containing but a small portion of the whole language: you suspect, that I should probably have adopted more of the readings which you have proposed, if they had been contained in your first letter to Mr. de Sacy; and you are disposed to appeal to Mr. Quatremère or Mr. Champollion, as judges of the comparative probability of our suggestions: and finally, you express an apprehension, that there is no chance of our ever discovering any more duplicates of the Rosetta stone.
I certainly cannot expect you to be convinced of the truth of my interpretation of any of the hieroglyphical characters, since I have not attempted to produce any evidence in support of it and a variety of very different engagements will probably not permit me to enter fully into the subject for many years to come: I must therefore only request you to suspend your opinion for the present. You will observe, that if my translation of the Egyptian Inscription is correct, its sense is in several passages not precisely the same with that of the Greek and you must be aware, that I could not have divided the translation into lines, without having previously separated the greater part of the characters into single words. I cannot help thinking your condemnation of Lacroze's lexicon a little severe there has been an unfortunate propensity among Coptic scholars to be unjust to their predecessors: thus Wilkins has been censured, by more than one of his followers, for errors of the press which are even noticed in his own corrections: and with respect to your remark on Lacroze, you must allow, that we consider ourselves
as sufficient judges of what is or is not Hebrew, though we have not half so extensive foundations for our knowledge of Hebrew as Lacroze had for his Egyptian lexicon. I fear indeed, that very little advantage could be expected in this inquiry, from the most accurate knowledge of the Egyptian language and of all its dialects; it may however be of some little use, even in the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, to be acquainted with the general character and structure of the language to which they refer: for example, there is a particle, NJE, which has always appeared to me to distinguish a nominative case following its verb, although this peculiarity does not seem to have been noticed by any of the grammarians or critics : and it is not unnatural to suppose, that some symbol may be found among the hieroglyphics, which may have a similar meaning, and to which nothing corresponding could be found in any other language.
You must not expect me to allow, that my adoption of the principal part of the readings, which you proposed in your first letter, depended on any disposition to acquiesce in the result of your labours, rather than to conduct the investigation on independent grounds: the fact is, that the three names most easily identified were discovered without difficulty by Mr. de Sacy: the sixteen or eighteen other words, which you pointed out in your letter, were also among the most prominent; and it was natural, that most of them should have occurred both to you and to me, even if I had never heard of the existence of your letter; while in other instances, where the difficulty was greater, we were less likely to agree. But whatever may be the knowledge, and candour, and integrity, of Mr. Quatremère and Mr. Champollion, I fear they will have very little scope for the exertion of these good qualities in appreciating the comparative value of our attempts to read the inscription of Rosetta into Coptic. It is true, that they had both in some degree pronounced a decision in your favour, Mr. Quatremère expressly, and Mr. Champollion by tacitly adopting your ideas, long before I had ever turned my attention to the subject: but I am persuaded, that if they will take the trouble of making the comparisons which I shall point out in this letter, they will be fully convinced that we have both been attempting an impossibility.
I shall first request them to direct their attention to the manuscripts on papyrus published by Denon; these, I believe, you have yourself acknowledged, in your letter to Mr. de Sacy, to be in the enchorial character: Mr. Quatremère has expressly enumerated them among the remains of the Egyptian language which are clearly not hieroglyphical and Mr. Champollion refers to one of them as an authority for a particular mode of writing the name of Egypt. Professor Vater has even talked of reducing them to an alphabet of no more than thirty or forty letters: and that they are not written in the sacred character is sufficiently obvious from the total diversity of the appearance of the distinct hieroglyphics, at the beginning of Plate 138, from that of the principal part of the manuscript which follows. The hieroglyphics are here written from left to right: the running hand always from right to left but in the sixth line of the first column of the manuscript, we find the three columns of hieroglyphics, over the principal personage of the tablet, very evidently, although by no means exactly, imitated, character for character, with a few accidental deviations only.
It is true, that the general appearance of this manuscript is very unlike that of the Rosetta Inscription: but if there were any doubt of their belonging to the same system of representation on account of this dissimilarity, the objection could not extend to the manuscripts engraved in the great Description de l'Egypte, some of which have a much more striking resemblance to the enchorial inscription than the plate of Denon: and I am sure, that the large manuscript, which extends from Plate 67 to 71 of the second volume of Antiquities, will be allowed to be as little like a representation of visible objects as any assem blage of alphabetical characters could be: indeed the editors of the work have expressly mentioned these manuscripts as being obviously written in the running hand of the country; while the great coloured manuscript, which follows them, consists as obviously of distinct and very neatly formed hieroglyphics. I shall now give you a collation of the parts of these several manuscripts, which I have carefully copied, and found undeniably to agree with each other, beginning with the ninth remaining column of the hieroglyphic ritual; and if you will take the pains to examine a very small portion of them only, you will be