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great learning, it must be plainly said that, judged by scholars of to-day, he would be considered an impostor. In his works on Coptic1 there are, no doubt, many interesting facts, but mixed with them is such an amount of nonsense that Jablonski says, touching one of his statements, "Verum hic ut in aliis plurimis fucum lectoribus fecit Jesuita ille, et fumum vendidit"; from the same writer, also, Kircher's arrogant assertions called forth the remark, "Kircherus, in quo semper plus inest ostentationis, quam solidae eruditionis." It is impossible to understand what grounds Kircher had for his statements and how he arrived at his results; as for his translations, they have nothing correct in them. Here is one taken at random from Oedipus Aegyptiacus, tom. III, p. 431, where he gives a translation of an inscription (A) printed on the plate between pp. 428 and 429. The hieroglyphs are written on a Ptah-SekerOsiris figure and read :

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Osiris, at the head of the underworld, god great, lord of

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Re-stau (i.e., the passages of the tomb),"

and his translation runs :-" Vitale providi Numinis dominium, quadruplicem Mundani liquoris substantiam dominio confert Osiridis, cujus unà cum Mendesio foecundi Numinis dominio, benefica virtute influente, omnia quae in Mundo sunt, vegetantur, animantur, conservantur." Other writers on hieroglyphs whose works Kircher consulted were John Peter Bolzanius Valerianus,3 and Mercati,' but no good results followed their investigations. In the year 1770 Joseph de Guignes determined the existence of groups of characters having determinatives, 5 and four years later he published his Mémoire, in which he tried to prove that the epistolographic and symbolic characters of the Egyptians were to be found in the Chinese characters, and that the Chinese nation was nothing but an Egyptian

1 Prodromus Coptus, Rome, 1636; Lingua Aegyptiaca restituta, Rome, 1643.

2 Jablonski, Opuscula, tom. I, ed. Water, 1804, pp. 157, 211.

3 Hieroglyphica, seu de sacris Aegyptiorum aliarumque gentium litteris Commentariorum libri VII, duobus aliis ab eruditissimo viro annexis, etc., Basil., 1556.

• Degli Obelischi di Roma, Rome, 1589.

' Essai sur le moyen de parvenir à la lecture et à l'intelligence des Hiéroglyphes égyptiens. (In Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions, tom. XXXIV, pp. 1-56.)


Ibid., tom. XXXIX, p. 1 ff.


colony. In 1797 Zoega made a step in the right direction, and came to the conclusion1 that the hieroglyphs were letters and that the cartouches contained royal names. A few years later Silvestre de Sacy published a letter on the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone,2 and the work of this learned man was soon after followed by that of Åkerblad who, in a letter to M. de Sacy, discussed the demotic inscription on the recently discovered Rosetta Stone, and published an alphabet of the demotic characters, from which a large number were adopted in after times by Young and Champollion. It would seem that Åkerblad never gained the credit which was due to him for his really good work, and it will be seen from the facts quoted in the following pages how largely the success of Young's labours on the demotic inscription on the Rosetta Stone depended on those of Åkerblad.

But side by side with the letters of de Sacy and Akerblad and the learned works of Young and Champollion, there sprang into existence a mass of literature full of absurd statements and theories written by men having no qualifications for expressing opinions on hieroglyphic matters. Thus the Comte de Pahlin, in his De l'Étude des Hieroglyphes, hesitated not to say that the inscription on one of the porticoes of the Temple at Denderah contained a translation of the hundredth Psalm, composed to invite all people to enter into the house of the Lord. The same author said that to produce the Books of the Bible, which were originally written on papyri, it was only necessary to translate the Psalms of David into Chinese and to write them in the ancient characters of that language. 5 Lenoir considered the Egyptian inscriptions to contain Hebrew compositions, and Lacour thought that they contained Biblical phrases. Worse than all these wild theories was the belief in the works of the Kircher school of investigators, and in the accuracy of the statements made by Warburton, who, it must be confessed, seems to have recognized the existence of alphabetic characters, but who in no way deserves the praise of Bailey, the Cambridge prize essayist, "Vir singulari quodam ingenii acumine praeditus, Warburtonus; qui primus certe recentiorum ad rectam harum rerum cognitionem patefecit viam."


1 De Usu et Origine Obeliscorum, Rome, 1797, fol., p. 465.

2 Lettre au citoyen Chaptal, au sujet de l'Inscription égyptienne du Monument trouvé à Rosette, Paris, 1802.

3 Lettre sur l'Inscription égyptienne de Rosette, Paris, 1802. Published at Paris in 5 vols., 1812.

Lettres sur les Hieroglyphes, Weimar, 1802.

In Nouvelle explication des Hieroglyphes, Paris, 1809-10, 4 vols.; and Nouveaux Essais sur les Hieroglyphes, Paris, 1826, 4 vols.

See his Essai sur les Hieroglyphes égyptiens, Bordeaux, 1821.

8 In his The Divine Legation of Moses demonstrated, to which is adjoint an Essay on Egyptian Hieroglyphics, London, 1738, 2 vols.

Hieroglyphicorum Origo et Natura, Cambridge, 1816, p. 9.


Here naturally comes an account of the labours of Young and Champollion, two men who stand out pre-eminently as the true discoverers of the right method of decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. As much has been written on the works of these savants, and as some have tried to show that the whole merit of the discovery belongs to Young, and others that it belongs to Champollion, it will not be out of place here to summarize the actual facts which can now be put together about the value of the labours of each; a few details concerning the lives of these remarkable men may also be given.

Thomas Young was born at Milverton, in Somersetshire, on June 13th, 1773. His parents were both members of the Society of Friends. At the age of two he could read fluently, and before he was four he had read the Bible through twice. At the age of six he learnt by heart in six weeks Goldsmith's Deserted Village. When not quite seven years of age he went to a school, kept by a man called King, at Stapleton, near Bristol, where he stayed for a year and a half. In March, 1782, when nearly nine years of age, he went to the school of Mr. T. Thompson, at Compton, in Dorsetshire, where he remained four years. Here he read Phaedrus's Fables, Cornelius Nepos, Virgil, Horace expurgated by Knox, the whole of Beza's Greek and Latin Testament, the First Seven Books of the Iliad, Martin's Natural Philosophy, etc., etc. Before leaving this school he had got through six chapters of the Hebrew Bible. About this time he learnt to use the lathe, and he made a telescope and a microscope, and the Italian, Persian, Syriac, and Chaldee languages all occupied his attention. From 1787 to 1792 he was private tutor to Hudson Gurney, at Youngsbury, in Hertfordshire, where he seems to have devoted himself to the study of English, French, Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Samaritan, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Ethiopic, as well as to that of Natural Philosophy, Botany, and Entomology. In 1792 Young began to study Medicine and Anatomy in London, and in 1793 he entered St. Bartholomew's Hospital as a pupil. In 1798 Young received a splendid bequest from his uncle, Dr. Brocklesby, consisting of his house in Norfolk Street, Park Lane, his library, his prints, his pictures, and about £10,000 in money; hence he was free to form his own scheme of life. In May, 1801, he discovered the undulatory theory of light, and his paper on this subject was read before the Royal Society in the November following; in the same year he accepted the office of Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution. In 1802 he was appointed Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society. In 1803 he read a paper before the Royal Society, and was elected a Fellow the following year (balloted for and elected, June 19th). Shortly after he attended medical lectures in

Edinburgh and Göttingen, and he subsequently went to Cambridge, where he took the degree of Bachelor of Medicine (1803), and afterwards that of Doctor of Physic (1808). The attention of Young was called to Egyptian inscriptions by Sir W. E. Rouse Boughton, who had found in a mummy case at Thebes a papyrus written in cursive Egyptian characters, and to a notice of this which Young prepared for his friend he appended a translation of the demotic text of the Rosetta Stone. As the details of his studies on the Rosetta Stone belong to the history of the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, they are given further on. The reader who wishes to understand Young's position, and to know what exactly he contributed towards the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, should read Dean Peacock's account of it in Leitch's Life of Thomas Young, Vol. III, London, 1845, pp. 258-344. Here he will find a collection of dated letters from Young and Champollion which put the relations of these two great men in their true light, and supply a series of facts which are usually suppressed by the friends of Champollion.

In 1816 Young was appointed Secretary to a Commission for ascertaining the length of the seconds pendulum, for comparing French and English standards, etc., and in 1818 he was appointed Secretary of the Board of Longitude and Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac. In 1825 he became Medical Referee and Inspector of Calculations to the Palladium Insurance Company. In 1826 he was elected one of the eight foreign Associates of the Academy of Sciences at Paris. In February, 1829, he began to suffer from repeated attacks of asthma, and by the April following he was in a state of great weakness; he died on May 10th, not having completed his fifty-sixth year. An excellent steel engraving of Young, by R. Ward, from a picture by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A., forms the frontispiece to his life by Dean Peacock, which, according to J. J. Champollion-Figeac, "exprime fidèlement la douceur, la grâce, les traits d'une figure toute rayonnante d'intelligence.' "'1

Jean François Champollion, surnamed le Jeune, was born at Figeac on December 23rd, 1790. As a boy he made rapid progress in classical studies, and he devoted himself at the same time to botany and mineralogy; at a very early date, however, he showed a natural taste for oriental languages and, like Young, was, at the age of thirteen, master of a fair knowledge of Hebrew, Syriac and Chaldee.2 In 1807 his brother, J. J. Champollion-Figeac, brought him to Paris and caused him to be admitted to the Cours de l'École des Langues Orientales, and introduced him to Silvestre de Sacy. Soon after

1 Lettre au Directeur de la Revue Britannique au sujet des Recherches du Docteur Young, Paris, 1857, p. 11.

2 On the subject of Champollion's studies at Grenoble see Chroniques Dauphinoises, par A. Champollion-Figeac, tom. III, pp. 153, 156, 157–238.

his arrival in Paris Champollion turned his attention to the study of the hieroglyphic inscription on the Rosetta Stone, but his powerful friend de Sacy advised the elder brother to warn the younger off a study which ne pouvait donner aucun résultat. In 1812 (1809 ?) he was nominated Professor of Ancient History to the faculty of Letters at Grenoble, where he still carried on his oriental studies. When he arrived in Paris he found that the older Egyptologists maintained that hieroglyphs were a symbolic language and, seeking to verify this theory, he wasted a year. He sketched out a plan for a large work on Egypt in several volumes, and the first part of it appeared at Grenoble in 1811, entitled Introduction; it was never sold, for only about thirty copies were printed, but it appeared, without the analytical table of Coptic geographical names, under the title L'Égypte sous les Pharaons, 8vo., 2 vols., 1814.

About this time (May 19th, 1814) Young, in England, was studying the texts on the Rosetta Stone, and had actually made a translation of the demotic section, making use of the results obtained by de Sacy and Åkerblad. Whatever may be said as to Champollion's ignorance of Young's results, it is quite certain that he must have known of those of Åkerblad, and we know (see p. 145) that a printed copy of Young's paper on the Rosetta Stone had been put into Champollion's hands by de Sacy. In a very short time Champollion discovered where his predecessors had broken down, and having already written De l'Écriture Hiératique des Anciens Égyptiens, Grenoble, 1821, on September 17th, in the following year, he read his Mémoire on the hieroglyphs and exhibited his hieroglyphic Alphabet, with its Greek and demotic equivalents, before the Académie des Inscriptions. In the same year Champollion published his Lettre à M. Dacier, relative à l'Alphabet des Hieroglyphes phonétiques, in which he fully described his system. In a series of Mémoires read at the Institut in April, May and June, 1823, he explained his system more fully, and these he afterwards published together, entitled Précis du Système Hieroglyphique des Anciens Égyptiens, Paris, 2 vols., 1824. A second edition, revised and corrected, appeared in 1828. In June, 1824, Champollion arrived in Turin, where he devoted himself to the study of Egyptian papyri. Early in 1825 he arrived in Rome, and thence he went to Naples, where all the museums were opened for him. In 1826 he returned to Paris. In July, 1828, he set out on his long-planned voyage to Egypt, and returned in March, 1830, bringing with him a fine collection of antiquities and a number of copies of inscriptions which filled about two thousand pages. As soon as he returned to France he set to work to publish the rich results of his travels, but while occupied with this undertaking death overtook him on March 4th, 1832. An etched portrait of Champollion le Jeune will be found in Les Deux Champollion, leur Vie et leurs Euvres, par Aimé Champollion-Figeac : Grenoble, 1887, p. 52. See also H. Hartleben,

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