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to us so much of interest, that, to judge from our own views, we conceive that we shall not weary our readers by again recurring to it. We shall therefore devote a sew pages to the consideration of the historical results that have already been drawn from the discovery of the method of decyphering hieroglyphic writing, results which we have only partially and incidentally mentioned, in describing the hieroglyphic system, and in inquiring into the iwo most important dates of ancient Egyptian chronology. We shall be chiefly guided in this discussion, by Champollion's own papers, published in the Bulletin Universel, as quoted at the head of this article.
There is a strange and mysterious interest awakened, whenever we inquire into the history of bygone ages Darkness and doubt enveloping their annals, serve only to render our curiosity more intense, and we eagerly catch at the most insignificant monuments or remains of people, that have passed from the face of the earth, in the hopes of being by them enabled to pierce the opaque medium which obscures their annals. As the interval of time that separates our epoch from theirs, increases, so also increases the ardour of inquiry, and thus we find ourselves more and more powerfully attracted, as we proceed step by step, to consider the mouldering tombs of the fathers of our own nation ; the remains of rude art, and of savage tribes that preceded them in their occupation of this country; the mounds, the pyramids, and other traces of a more civilized race of yet earlier date; and the more perfect reliques of the power, the arts, and, we may almost venture to say, the science of the Aztecs. The old world possesses still stronger powers of allurement. No American can ever forget his first impressions on visiting the yet existing edifices of Gothic date; the long drawn aisle of the cathedral, the pale religious cloister, rich in graven brass and monumental marble; the baronial castle that still seems ready to echo the trumpets of the tournament, and from whose gates we almost expect to see the chivalric train issue to the lists, sheathed in panoply of steel. Even such impressions must fade into insignificance, on treading the masses of rubbish which cover the forum, where Tully poured the tide of eloquence, and Curtius devoted himself for his country, or the sacred way up which the conquerors of the world bore the opima spolia to the temple of Feretrian Jove. These feelings must be still more intense, in those who gaze upon the Parthenon, the unrivalled specimen of purity of taste, and beauty of design, rich in associations of those philosophers, poets, and orators, who have for centuries, and must, while the globe endures, serve as the models of all who pursue the same path to honour. But to us, we must confess, a greater and more powerful interest hangs around those distant tribes who first attained the rank of nations, and were the earliest in their civilization, and in the cul
tivation of the arts; of whom scanty and uncertain notices have alone reached us through the Greek historians, and their incidental connexion with sacred writ: nations whose records and traditions were as much hidden by distance of time from those whom we call ancient, as those of the latter are from us; to whom the Greeks resorted, in those very ages when we are accustomed to look up to them with reverence, to learn their practical wisdom, and admire their greater proficiency in the arts.
The Euphrates and the Nile saw upon their banks the first formation of civil society. In the very early accumulation of mankind into communities, in the vast works they so speedily undertook, we see civilization to be the natural state of man, and law and government to be the emanations of a wisdom superior to his own. He was not left to the unassisted efforts of his own reason, to attain, in the lapse of successive generations, the knowledge and experience essential to the maintenance of well-ordered society, but we trace him by his works of art, up to a period little posterior to the last great catastrophe, of which our planet still shows traces upon its surface, and find him existing in wellordered communities. If the first nations mentioned in history were far less enlightened in science, and inferior in skill in the useful arts, to those of modern times, they still astonish us by their vast conceptions, and the labour they bestowed upon their edifices, labour such as no modern government could command, or bring to bear even upon objects of utility. All is colossal and exaggerated in the works of these primeval nations, and in principle, recalls forcibly to our memory the periods when, as we are informed in the most ancient of histories, the life of our race extended centuries beyond its present duration, and where edifices such as we now construct for our posterity, would have mouldered into dust long before the builders felt the approach of age. The change in the duration of human life, from the longevity of the antediluvians to its present contracted limit, occupied several generations; and in the vivid recollection of the period when it was thus extended, we are to seek the cause of the almost imperishable monuments which these early nations have left us. The Birs Nimbrod, after a lapse of more than forty centuries, still stands like a mountain in the midst of the surrounding waste, and the inscriptions of Egypt, of a date little posterior, maintain their original, bold, and decided relief.
In the absence of written annals, it is to inscribed monuments that we must refer for information, in relation to the history of vanished ages. Even where the former are not wanting, we may still recur to the latter with advantage ; and the Arundelian and Capitoline marbles, are considered to be better authorities for chronology than Herodotus or Livy. No nation has transmitted to our times such abundant monuments as the Egyptian. Not only do we find the sites of their cities covered with forests of obelisks and inscribed statues, but even written records of bargain and sale, evidences of the transfer of property, have reached us, dated as long before the commencement of our era, as we are posterior to it. A key to the language and the alphabet was alone wanting, to render these memorials of use to history, and the discoveries, whose progress we have detailed on a former occasion, have at last placed this within our reach. Thus, then, the foundation of the monumental history of Egypt, is as firm as that on which the consent of critics has placed the history of Rome and Greece. Each inscription is in itself an incontestable witness, bearing record of the times at which it was delineated, and their combinations and comparison may be effected in the same way that we compare and combine those which relate to other nations. To sculptured stones, are to be added the evidence of the papyri; many of these exist in the collections of Europe ; some of them are mere funeral rituals, but even these contain the name of the prince under whose government they were drawn up, and the year of his reign. The greater part are civil contracts, and in their preamble we read the date, described upon the same principle. Even public documents have been discovered ; and in the magnificent collection made by Drovetti, and purchased by the King of Sardinia, was found a mass of mutilated papyri, records of the ages of Mæris and Sesostris. Champollion reached these only a little too late to preserve them from a destruction to which the greater part were condemned, from a want of proper care. Some few fragments were however preserved, and have proved of inestimable value.
It is, by a comparison of these monuments and documents with the text of those few ancient authors that have treated of Egypt, that we are to gain a knowledge of the true history of that country. The present then is the era when criticism can be advantageously applied to this purpose. Discrepant in themselves, vague and meagre in their details, these histories have not acquired our confidence, and we can therefore enter into their examination free from bias of any kind. By such investigations, ancient Egypt is restored to the province of authentic history, and this restoration is effected by the aid of a mass of documentary evidence, hitherto unknown or unintelligible.
Circumstances have rendered this evidence comparatively easy of access. The results of the French expedition to Egypt have been embodied in a splendid national work, in which are to be found the most correct copies of the larger and less moveable monuments; while the researches of Salt and Drovetti have accumulated numerous remains of every possible description, with which the museums of Europe are in a manner loaded. Four magnificent public collections already exist ; namely, at Turin;
in the Vatican ; in the Louvre; and in the British Museum. The French collection has been recently opened under the superintendence of Champollion the younger, in splendid a partments, fitted up for the express purpose ; and the present King of France seeks to immortalize his name by connecting it with the foundation of this Museum. We shall translate the account of this magnificent collection from a cotemporary journal.
“ The rich collection of Egyptian antiquities purchased at the expense of the king from Messrs. Drovetti, Salt, and Durand, and placed in the magnificent halls of the Museum of CHARLES X., is opened to the view of the public."
“ The first sensation we experience upon the view of these ancient remains, is the astonishment, that they have been able to exist through so long a series of centuries, almost entire, and that we are thus enabled to judge of the state of the arts at so remote a period.”
“ They attest that the people, whose legacy they are, had attained, even long before the time which we style the Heroic Age of Greece, an advanced state of civilization, and we are compelled to confess, that the only merit we can at the present day boast, is that of having filled up by our industry, what Egyptian labour had first sketched out, and of having added a few new inventions to all those which we derive at second hand from that country.”
“ With how high an idea of the Egyptians do these remains inspire us, which, after having resisted for forty centuries the ravages of time and the barbarian, still attest, that all that is neeessary for life, nay all that can render it agreeable, was already invented and employed by them ; that they knew how to appropriate to their wants all the productions of their soil, and confine their desires to them, without seeking to extend them beyond the limits of their own territory. Truly there was no small degree of wisdom in that people, whith was able, before the barbarian had extended his devastating arm over its borders, to preserve for a long succession of years the stability of its government, maintain its ancient institutions in their primitive vigour, and devote itself to the arts of peace, at an epoch, when in other parts of the world, now the most civilized, hordes still savage, were engaged in the task of mutual destruction, or contested the means of subsistence with ferocious beasts.”
“ To collect and interrogate the annals of this primitive people, in order to obtain facts fitted to illustrate the history of those obscure eras, that seem to bound upon the very origin of the world, is a task worthy of the speculations of philosophy, and the researches of the learned. In the state to which the study of Egyptian antiquity has been advanced by private means, it became the duty of a government, the encourager of the arts, to unite, and expose to the inspection of an enlightened public, a numerous series of inscribed monuments, and to confide them to the care of the scholar who had decyphered them. Science and literature unite in applauding this happy thought, whose performance gives rise to the most ardent hopes.”
“ Nine great halls, embellished with vast pannels of marble, and decorated with paintings, communicate by means of vast arched openings, resting on Ionic pilasters, that permit the visitor to seize at a single glance, the whole extent of the Museum of Charles X. The four first halls contain the antiquities of Egypt; the others, a rich collection of Greek vases, of ancient statues in bronze, paintings in enamel of the 18th century, and other articles precious from their material, their workmanship, or their rarity. Allegorical paintings of the most brilliant effect, embellish all the ceilings; the voussoirs, whose colours are well chosen, are covered with emblems and subjects connected with those of the ceilings; painted imitations of bas-reliefs adorn the pannels.”
“ The collection of Egyptian antiquities united in these four halls, consists of objects of small size alone, with the exception of the mummies and their cases ; but it is rich from the number and the variety of the articles it contains. The civil and religious history of Egypt must draw from it invaluable illustrations.”
“ It is hardly possible to appreciate the difficulty that must have been experienced, in classing, methodically, monuments so numerous, the habitual objects of so many errors, and which had for so many ages been considered as beyond the reach of explanation. No other person but Champollion the younger was worthy of being intrusted with such a task; and his numerous discoveries in Egyptian history, and in the graphical system of that country, have furnished him with the means of performing it. In truth, nearly all the monuments of Egyptian art are accompanied by hieroglyphic inscriptions, which indicate their object and destination; a facility rarely met with in Greek or Roman antiquities.”
“ The collection has been divided into three departments. In the first hall (called that of the Gods) are to be seen the images of the Egyptian deities, their emblems, the sacred animals, and the scarabiei that represent the divinities or their symbols. The second hall (called Civil) contains articles belonging to the civil class, and to the several castes of Egypt; among these are small statues and figures of kings, of priests, and of private individuals ; instruments of worship, jewels, domestic utensils, and the products of the arts and manufactures. In the two remaining halls (called Funereal) are placed, human mummies, and their