« PreviousContinue »
Art. III. Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature of the
United Kingdom. Vol. I. Part 1. 4to. pp. xxxvi. 228. London. 1827.
OUR readers will, we presume, participate in the curiosity
awakened by the announcement of the first part of the Transactions of this new royal society; an institution to which it is not a little remarkable that it should have been reserved for the present reign to give birth. Amid the multiplicity of our public institutions for the encouragement of the sciences and the arts, there was none that had for its specific object • the advancement of General Literature.' The present Society was instituted in the year 1821, under the immediate auspices of his Majesty, who has been 'graciously pleased to grant to ' the Society the annual sum of one thousand guineas, to be • assigned, in equal portions, to ten Royal Associates of ap• proved learning; together with the further donation of two • gold medals, of the value of fifty guineas each, to be awarded • annually to authors of works of eminent merit, or for im• portant discoveries in literature.' In the year 1825, his Majesty was pleased to confirm and perpetuate the Society by the grant of a royal charter ; and in furtherance of his royal intentions, a piece of ground near the church of St. Martin in the Fields has been assigned as the site of a hall and library for the use of the Society. The plan for effecting the general object proposed, is stated to be ;
• First, To promote, by assistance from its funds or otherwise, the publication, and in some cases the translation, of valuable Manuscripts discovered in any public or private collection.
Secondly,—To encourage such discoveries by all suitable means. .. Thirdly,- To promote the publication of works of great intrinsic value, but not of so popular a character as to induce the risk of individual expense.
• Fourihly,—To read, at its public meetings, such papers upon subjects of General Literature, as shall have been first approved by the Council of the Society; from which papers a selection shall be made, to be printed in the Transactions of the Society.
Fifthly,---To adjudge Honorary Rewards to persons who shall have rendered any eminent service to Literature, or produced any work highly distinguished for learning or genius ; provided always that such work contain nothing hostile to religion or morality.
· Sixthly,—To establish correspondence with learned men in foreign countries for the purpose of literary inquiry and information.
Seventhly,—To elect, as Honorary Associates, persons eminent for the pursuit of literature ; and from these to elect Associates upon the Royal Foundation, or upon the foundation of the Society, as circumstances may admit.'
The President of the Society is the Bishop of Salisbury (Dr. Burgess); the Librarian, the Rev. H. H. Baber; the Secretary, the Rev. R. Cattermole; and the following are the names of the first ten Royal Associates :-S. T. Coleridge, Esq. The Rev. Ed. Davies, M.A., the Author of Celtic Researches. The Rev. Dr. John Jamieson. The Rev. T. R. Malthus. Thomas J. Mathias, Esq. James Millingen, Esq. Sir William Ouseley. William Roscoe, Esq. The Rev. H. J. Todd. Sharon Turner, Esq. Among the sixteen Honorary Associates are: Mr. Bernard Barton. The Rev. G. Crabbe. The Rev. G. Croly. Professor Lee. James Montgomery, Esq. Dr. Robert Southey. Dr. Lingard. W. Jacob, Esq. &c. It does honour to those with whom the selection rested, that individuals of opposite political parties and of various religious denominations, should be found in this enumeration. A member of the Society of Friends, a Moravian, a Roman Catholic divine, and a Unitarian are, without regard to their peculiarities of private sentiment, harmoniously associated ; and if the Orthodox Congregational Dissenters, the denomination which boasts of the names of Howe and Owen, Watts and Grove, Doddridge and Fell, have not hitherto furnished an Associate, or Honorary Member, we are ready to admit that our learned men are not numerous-it is not a learned age--and the most learned and the most eloquent men of the body, are less known by their works than we wish they were. Add to which, few of our ministers have leisure for the cultivation of general literature ; and as to some, whose philological attainments would do honour to any society, the distant sphere of their labours would prevent their being otherwise connected with it, than as foreign or corresponding members. We confidently anticipate, that the names of Carey, and Marshman, and Morrison, will not be deemed unworthy of association with those of Sir John Malcolm, Sir William Ouseley, and Sir George Staunton; and that the same honourable policy which appears to have presided hitherto over the councils of this Institution, will secure, in good time, the addition of other names which we should not find it impossible to suggest. If these remarks should be imputed to a jealousy for the honour of the Orthodox Congregational Dissenters, we would frankly plead guilty to the charge. While we wish more and more to divest our minds of any undue party spirit, abhorring fronı our hearts a sectarian narrowness of feeling ; wbile, too, we may add, we feel ourselves less attached to the denomination to which we have the honour to belong, and to which we feel under extremely small obligations, than to the principles they profess, and which we contribute our poor endeavours to maintain ;-still, we will not conceal, that even the literary honour of our denomination is an object to which we cannot feel indifferent. • The present part comprises sixteen papers, of which it may not be unacceptable to our readers to have a brief analysis.
The first paper, communicated by Granville Penn, Esq., relates to 'an unknown manuscript of 1422,' illustrative of the dying declaration of our Henry V., recorded by Monstrelet, that he had intended, after he should have brought the kingdom of France into a peaceable condition, to undertake the conquest of Jerusalem, if it had been the pleasure of his Creator to permit him to live out his term. Rapin and Hume both report this circumstance; but the latter subjoins a comment which affords a fresh illustration of the inaccurate and flippant manner in which he compiled much of his fascinating misrepresentation of English history. “So ingenious,' he says, are • men in deceiving themselves, that Henry forgot, in these mo'ments, all the blood spilled by his ambition, and received • comfort from this late and feeble resolve; wbich, as the mode • of these enterprises was now past, he certainly would never • have carried into execution.'
• What this celebrated writer had done with his historical recollections,' remarks Mr. Penn, 'when he thus positively affirmed that the mode of these enterprises was past, it is not easy to conjecture; because, when Henry succeeded to the throne, be found a large land and naval force actually prepared by the late king his father, for the proclaimed purpose of executing such an enterprise ; which was only prevented by his death. So that the declaration of the son, was, in effect, only the declaration of a design to give eventual accomplishment to a suspended measure of his late father.'
This fact, which Hume excludes from his account of the
Shakspeare bas made use of it, making the dying monarch tell his son, that, in order to secure himself against his factious nobles, he had
had a purpose now
King Henry IV. Part II. Act iv. Sc. 4. Rapin, with his usual accuracy, notices the fact.* Mr. Sharon
* Dr. Lingard takes no notice of it, and mentions very slightly the declaration of Henry V., referring to Monstrelet, (Vol. III. p. 380.)
Turner says: “It is supposed that he was meditating a crusade, * when death surprised him, at an age that is to many but the * season of vigorous manhood.' He also briefly adverts to the declaration of Henry V. respecting his intention, referring to Pierre du Fenin as his authority. So far was the mode of these disgraceful enterprises from being past, that, a century later, an attempt was made to engage the princes of Christendom in a fresh confederacy against the Turks. Mr. Penn, however, goes too far, when he represents the spirit of crusade as still in vigour in the sixteenth century. Although the Popes repeatedly sounded the alarm, the sovereigns of Europe had grown deaf to the call. The decline of the papal influence, the cheapness of indulgences, the extension of the privileges of crusaders to other orthodox warriors, the commercial politics of the Italian States, and the growing conviction of the imposbibility of maintaining a Latin kingdom in Palestine, are enumerated by Mr. Mills among the causes which had contributed to ruin the crusading cause. The intentions of Henry IV. and Henry V, are not, however, to be questioned. It seems to have been, on the part of the latter, a long cherished resolve ; whether dictated by the policy to which Shakspeare ascribes it in Henry IV., or inspired by fanaticism, and proceeding from the wish to take heaven by storm by so meritorious an enterprise. Though not a death-bed resolution, however, as Hume represents, it was evidently adverted to by the dying king in connexion with the performance of the Penitential Service, as a proof of his piety, if not as a meritorious item to be set down to the account of his good works.
The evidence of Henry's' veracity and sincerity' is sup. plied by a manuscript discovered at Lille in Flanders, in the autumn of 1819, which proves,' that a confidential military • agent of high character and distinguished rank, (Gilbert de • Lannoi, knight, &c.) bad been despatched by him to survey • the maritime frontier of Egypt and Syria, and to procure ' upon the spot the information necessary towards embarking * in so vast an enterprise.' The MS. is a small quarto of vellum, in old French, finely written in the black character, and richly illuminated, consisting of 54 pages. It comprises a succinct military survey of the coast, from Alexandria round to Gallipoli, made by command of Henry V. within the last three years of his life, and completed and reported imme. diately after his unexpected death. The paper before us gives the title and the heads of the several chapters, which are curious as far as they go; but we confess that we should have been pleased to have a specimen, at least, of this ancient geographical survey. Possibly, it is intended to pub.
lish a transcript of the MS. Why might it not have found a place, as an Appendix, to this volume of Transactions ? Brief and meagre as the account may be, one would have liked to see how the chevalier describes the ports and city of Alexandria, Cairo and Babylon, · Ihrem,' Sur,' and Sayette, (Jerusalem, Tyre, and Sidon), as they existed in the fifteenth century.
The next six papers, (Art. II. to VII.) are on the Affi. nities and Diversities in the Languages of the World, and * on their Primeral Cause:' communicated by Sharon Turner, Esq. The general object is to shew, by a very extensive induction, that all languages exhibit some tokens of an an'cient general consanguinity of origin.? In the first two papers of the series, the numerals one and two are cited, in an amazing variety of dialects, for the purpose of shewing, that the numerals of different nations are combinations of
simpler ternis used also for numerals by some other nation.' In the third paper, 369 words in different languages, signifying Mother, are arranged under two leading classes, in one of which, the letter M, is the governing sound, in the other, the letter N., but in various combination. The next paper contains a collection of 547 words, in all languages, signifying Father. In the last two, the affinities of different and unconnected languages are pointed out in the instance of the substantive verb and its inflexions, and in various other words. The conclusion which Mr. Turner considers as deducible from the whole is, that the Mosaic account of the confusion of the primitive language, in Gen. xi., will alone account for the multifarious diversity, 'yet occasional affinity and identity, which are found to exist in the languages of mankind.
" If the primitive speech had not been suddenly and violently broken up, every language which might gradually have been formed from it, as the branches of the first united population moved successively off to different localities, would have exhibited that general similarity of words, structure, and grammar, and those occasional varieties and diversified terminations, additions, and idioms, which appear in the Latin and in its ramifications, the Italian, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. But, if the primitive speech of mankind did undergo a violent confusion and abruption, and their population, at that period one single society, was also at the same time divided and scattered into distant places, then, fragments only of the first common tongue would be carried away by each diverging family; and quite new and dissimilar languages would be gradually built up, by each accumulating, in its new settlement, words of unlike sounds as necessity required, and accident or existing circumstances suggested; yet all retaining some elements or fragments of their