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sent delegates and representatives to the present Congress. In this country the Royal Asiatic Society has generally encouraged the advance of Oriental learning, especially the Aryan and Turanian sections. The Royal Society of Literature has also, besides Greek and Roman antiquities, promoted the study of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The new Society of Biblical Archæology has also, though last, entered with the greatest interest on the route of Semitic and Hamitic languages, as well as the archæology of lands connected with the Bible. In order to bring this knowledge before all classes of the public by the publication of the “Records of the Past," and in order to revive the study of Oriental learning, it has proposed a series of lectures on Assyrian and Egyptian philology. The Journal Asiatique in France, and that of the German Oriental Society at Leipzig, are the known organs of all Oriental languages in those countries, and the special sections of Egyptian and Assyrian research have been well represented in the Zeitschrift für Aegyptische Sprache und Alterthumskunde of Berlin. It is to be hoped that all these exertions will not have been in vain, and that this Congress, demonstrating the growing importance of Oriental studies, will attract fresh inquirers to these studies, and such as will sustain hereafter the brilliant reputation achieved by those now present in the pursuit of Oriental inquiry. Nor can this Address be closed without asking you to join with me in an expression of our thanks for the countenance afforded to this Congress and this country by the Governments of Europe, by Germany, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Egypt, and others, whose enlightened rulers have sent representatives from Universities and other public institutions.





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The Section of the Congress which I have now the honour to address has been organized for the purpose of giving to Orientalists an opportunity of interchanging their ideas, with regard to that group of languages to which the conventional name has been given of Semitic. This group has always possessed an interest beyond, and independently of, its linguistic peculiarities, in consequence of its having been the medium, to use the words of Dr. Pritchard, “of handing down and perpetuating the dictates of divine revelation." Semitic studies, indeed, have been cultivated in all ages, mainly from their connexion with the Hebrew Scriptures, and even now discoveries in this field of research are chiefly valued by the public for the light which they throw on the Mosaic account of the early hi ry of mankind. The Congress of Orientalists, however, will, probably, attach more importance to philological than to historical or religious considerations, and will be disposed to discuss Semitic literature and the Semitic languages in their general, rather than their special, relations. The time is hardly yet come, perhaps, for sound generalization in regard to the origin, development, and scientific classification of the Semitic languages. At any rate I have not the requisite knowledge or leisure to grapple with such a question. All that I propose to do in opening this Section is to draw attention to the very enlarged proportions that have lately been given to Semitic research. Not only have our Phænician materials been more than doubled since Gesenius wrote his famous text-book on the relics of that language, but Southern Arabia has yielded a mass of inscriptions from copper plates and sculptured rocks, which have brought the old Himyaritic language fairly within our grasp; and more recently Assyria has been added to the list, sustained inquiry having opened up to the investigation of scholars that ancient language, which, as far as our present knowledge extends, would seem to be one of the earliest members of the wide-spread Semitic family. Educated Europe was very slow to admit the genuineness of Cuneiform decipherment. It was asserted at first as a well-known axiom, that it was impossible to recover lost alphabets and extinct languages without the aid of a bilingual key, such as was afforded to Egyptologists by the famous Stone of Rosetta. Our efforts at interpretation were therefore pronounced to be empirical, and scholars were warned against accepting our results. I have a vivid recollection, indeed, of the scornful incredulity with which I was generally received when, in 1849, I first brought to England a copy of the Babylonian version of the Behistun Inscription, and endeavoured to show that, by comparing this version with the corresponding Persian text, I had arrived at a partial understanding of the newly discovered records of Assyria and Babylonia. I did not assume to have done more than break the crust of the difficulty, and yet I obtained no attention. Hardly any one in England, except Dr. Hincks and Mr. Norris and the Chevalier Bunsen, was satisfied of the soundness of the basis of inquiry. Nor, indeed, did the study make much progress for a long time afterwards. Semitic scholars, like M. Renan, accustomed to the rigid forms and limited scope of alphabets of the Phænician type, were bewildered at the laxity of cuneiform expression, where phonetic and ideographic elements were commingled; and refused to admit the possibility of such a system of writing being applied to a Semitic language. Biblical students, again, were not favourable at first to the idea of testing the authenticity of the Hebrew records by comparing them with the contemporary annals of a cognate people, and for a time ignored our results ; while the Classicists of this country, who followed the lead of the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis, calmly asserted the superiority and sufficiency of Greek tradition, and treated our endeavours to set up a rival school of historical criticism, derived from a barbarian source, almost with contempt. Struggling thus against disbelief and prejudice, our progress in this country was for many years slow and unsatisfactory; but at length, as materials increased, and competing intellects, engaged in the study of the inscriptions, arrived at almost identical results, the attention of Europe was aroused and Assyriologists received a more respectful treatment.

It would be out of place on an occasion like the present to trace in any detail the early stages of Cuneiform decipherment, or to attempt to apportion among the first pioneers in this difficult branch of study their respective shares in the credit of discovery. Still, there are some names, both among the living and the dead, to which, even in this hasty sketch, I cannot help referring. The obligations which Assyriologists owe to the late Dr. Hincks and the late Mr. Norris can hardly be overstated, while there is still one among us who, if he did not commence work quite so early as his English fellow-labourers, carried on his researches with an energy, a perseverance, and a happy boldness, which soon enabled him to outstrip them. I allude to Dr. Jules Oppert, of Paris. If any one has a right to claim the paternity of Assyrian science, as it exists at the present day, it is certainly this distinguished scholar, who, having enjoyed the advantage of a personal investigation of the Assyrian and Babylonian ruins, now twenty-three years ago, devoted himself on his return to Europe to the prosecution of cuneiform studies with a vigour and ingenuity, neither deterred by opposition nor discouraged by neglect, which ultimately led to a complete success, gaining as he did for himself the Quinquennial Prize of the French Academy, and thus obtaining the attestation of the first critical body in Europe to the genuineness and importance of the studies on which he was engaged. This, indeed, may be considered the turning-point of cuneiform research; hitherto there had been doubt and disparagement; henceforward Assyriology took its place within the recognized pale of Oriental science, and the study of the inscriptions steadily advanced. France well sustained her claim to the prominent place which Dr. Oppert had first acquired for her. M. Menant, who was at an early period associated with him, exerted himself to popularize a difficult subject; while the indefatigable François Lenormant, following closely on their footsteps, has since pursued a brilliant career of discovery and daring research, which in his particular line of study has placed him far ahead of all competitors. Waldemar Schmidt in Denmark, Finzi


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in Italy, and Naville of Geneva, have also joined our band of Assyriologists; while Germany, although coming late into the field of Assyriology, has at once assumed a leading position in regard to the most essential branch of the inquiry, from which she is not likely to be soon displaced.

It is, indeed, a searching and elaborate critical power, combined with intense application and a thorough mastery of the Semitic languages,-rather than conjectural translation, however happy, or premature generalization, which is too apt to mislead,—that is now required for the advancement of Assyrian knowledge; and as such qualifications are pre-eminently possessed by Professor Schrader and Dr. Prætorius, who are at the head of the cuneiform scholars of Germany, I am inclined to look to them as our future leaders in this interesting study. The contribution of England of late years to the science of Assyrian philology has perhaps hardly kept pace with its early promise. Mr. Norris's Dictionary and the three volumes of inscriptions which I have published for the British Museum have supplied, no doubt, very useful and extensive materials for scholars to work upon; while the independent labours of Mr. George Smith, of Mr. Fox Talbot, and of the Rev. Mr. Sayce have thrown much light on the history and geography and half-developed science of the Assyrians, as well as on their mythology, and especially on their primitive legends and traditions ; but, notwithstanding the wide extent of these researches and their great merit, as additions to our knowledge of the early world, I am bound to say that nothing has lately appeared in this country which, in my opinion, is equal in value, in a philological point of view, to the researches of Schrader and Oppert; and I am further inclined to think that until some accomplished Semitic scholar, such as the late Dr. Lee or the late Dr. Cureton, shall take up cuneiform inquiry in England and devote himself exclusively to it, we must be content, as far as critical accuracy is concerned, to follow in the wake of our Continental brethren.

At the same time I am far from wishing to disparage the labours of the English school of Assyriology, or to deter young disciples from joining our ranks. What I complain of is—and I am fully as culpable as my fellow-labourers in this matter, that we have hitherto devoted ourselves to the sensational rather than the practical branch of the inquiry, and have thus built up a superstructure on insecure

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