Page images
PDF
EPUB

1849.]

Bunsen's Late Work upon Egypt.

709

Whence, whence came to our sinful race the idea of such a Being, of such a kingdom ? Has man's reason framed it; and the human imagination, hath that gendered it? With cold eye and heart I might gaze on the face of nature in her grandest or her loveliest scenes ; with intellectual delight I may scan the principles and follow out the deductions of an abstract scherne of philosophic speculation; with sublime wonder 1 may follow the astronomer as he describes the laws and order of firmaments and systen:s radiant in their solar light; I may feel all my human sympathies enlisted by any philanthropic scheme which would bring justice and love into this world so full of oppression and hatred; but when I think of the wonders of our Saviour's Person and of the glories of his redemptive work, of all his love, his love for me a sinner, his love to all so great that He could die for all, and of that blessed and perpetual kingdom which his blood has purchased and of which He is the ever living Head; when, in some rapt moment, my heart can realize this in all its fulness, then, if ever, is my whole being filled with the profoundest emotions of awe, of gratitude, and of love. Never is the soul so conscious of its full capacities of thought and feeling, never does it throb with such unwonted and divine life, as when it has most fully grasped the majestic reality of the Christian faith, as a wondrous and harmonious whole, tending to the highest imaginable end, and centering in that glorious Being who unites divinity with humanity and reconciles heaven with earth.

In comparison with the fulness, fitness, and sufficiency of such a system, the most colossal structure which pantheism ever reared is but as a palace of ice, cold and cheerless, contrasted with that heavenly city, whose gates are pearl, whose streets are gold, thronged with a company innumerable and exultant, vocal with the · melodies of the redeemed, of which the Lamb is the light, and God the glory.

ARTICLE V.

REMARKS ON BUNSEN'S LATE WORK UPON EGYPT.

The Chevalier Bunsen, who has been for some years the Prussian minister at the court of St. James, is publishing in German and in English, a work on Egypt, which has been anticipated with much pleasure by all who are acquainted with his talents, or who have taken Vol. VI. No. 24.

60

any interest in Egyptian discoveries. The author possesses, in many respects, eminent qualifications for the work which he has undertaken. He is now in the full maturity of his powers. His early studies were purely philological, and were completed at Göttingen under the direction of Heyne and Heeren. He then went to Paris, and under the guidance of De Sacy and others, attended to several of the oriental languages. Having studied Sanskrit, he formed a plan of visiting India in company with an Englishman, and proceeded to Florence for that purpose. His fellow traveller failing to meet him there, Bunsen went to Rome, where he found his early friend, Professor Brandis, then secretary of Niebuhr, the Prussian ambassador. Niebubr became immediately interested in him, and animated and directed his studies. He was subsequently appointed Niebuhr's private secretary, and then secretary to the embassy. After the departure of the distinguished historian, Bunsen became minister resident at the Papal Court. A visit of the bookseller Cotta at Rome, in the winter of 1817-18, occasioned the preparation of a very able and comprehensive work on the Antiquities of Rome, by Bunsen, Platner, Gerhard, and others. While in Rome, Bunsen formed the acquaintance of Champollion the Younger, with whom he studied the hieroglyphics on the Egyptian obelisks in that city. Since 1838, when he left Rome, Bunsen has resided for the most part in London, as Prussian ambassador. He is a gentleman no less distinguished for the excellence of his moral and religious character, for the liberality of his views, and for his generous feelings, than for the extent of his knowledge and his accurate learning

Bunsen's work, now before us, is entitled, “Egypt's Place in Universal History : an Historical Investigation, in five Books.” It is to be included in three volumes. Two volumes of the German edition and one of the English are printed. The latter is not a mere version, but is in some respects a new work. “It owes,” says the author, "many valuable remarks and additions, particularly in the grammatical, lexicographic, and mythological part, to Mr. Samuel Birch of the British Museum." The hieroglyphical signs, instead of being given in separate plates, are printed by the side of their respective interpretations. In the Coptic explanations in the Dictionary, the author has enjoyed the aid of Professor Moritz Schwarze of Berlin, who has been sent to London to prepare for publication important Coptic MSS. found in the British Museum and other libraries in England. Mr.

Some of our readers will remember the affection and reverence with which the late Dr. Arnold speaks of him.

1849.]

Contents of the first Volume.

711

Bunsen is also in constant communication with Professor Lepsius. The system of Egyptian chronology drawn up by Bunsen has been adopted substantially by Lepsius.

The first volume of the English work contains only the first of the five Books. It treats of the sources and primeval facts of Egyptian History, under the six following heads :

The Nature and Antiquity of Egyptian Tradition, especially of the Sacred Books; The Researches of the Greeks into Egyptian Chronology-Herodotus, Diodorus, Eratosthenes, etc.; Egyptian Tradition among the Jews, the Biblical accounts, the Septuagint, Josephus, etc., and the Christian researches into the Chronology of Egypt, by Young, Champollion, Wilkinson, Rosellini, and others ; The fourth Section is on Egyptian Grammar. The fifth is on the Writings of the Egyptians, containing a Sketch of the History of Modern Hieroglyphical Discovery, and the sixth is on the Egyptian Mythology. Two large Appendices of nearly 300 pages, contain an Egyptian Vocabulary, and a complete List of Hieroglyphical Signs.

In the 2d Book, Mr. Bunsen proposes to restore the chronology of the Old Empire, a period of 1076 years according to the data of Eratosthenes. In the 3d Book, he will treat of the Period of the Middle and New Empires, comprising nine and thirteen centuries respectively, following the guidance of Manetho. In the 4th Book, Mr. Bunsen proposes to test the Chronological Results of his researches, first by astronomy and secondly by historical synchronisms; in other words, to gain fixed points of time both by contemporaneous celestial phenomena and of remarkable events in the history of other nations. The 5th and last Book will contain a survey of General History, intended to exhibit whatever in the History of Egypt is of importance for the human mind, or mankind in general.

It is not our intention to offer any criticisms on the general views or theories advanced in this work, or to express any opinion of its merits. It would be obviously improper to pass any judgment upon it, were we possessed of the ability, while so large a part of the work remains unpublished. All which we propose to do in this Article is to offer two observations of a general character, and then some suggestions on a particular statement of the author.

Our first remark is, that the work, even should it fail of the special object which the author has in view - to establish the position of Egypt in universal History - cannot fail to be instructive in a high degree. It will furnish a comprehensive outline of the entire subject. A survey of so rich and wide a field by a scholar so able and experienced, will serve as landmarks to future explorers. It will bring subjects of great extent and of no little intricacy into such a shape that many may be able to understand and pursue the investigations.

Our second general remark relates to the confident tone, the decisive air with which the author advances his propositions and announces his results. His bearing, indeed, towards individuals is eminently courteous, as every one would expect from his position and character. At the same time, we are struck with the rapidity with which the author disposes of the opinions and views of others, and with the firm faith which he feels in his own.

As examples of this unshaken reliance in the correctness of his own views, and the untenable nature of those adopted by his predecessors, we may refer to his assertion that he shall feel called upon decidedly to combat almost every one of the chronological views of Champollion. He also expresses bis conviction that the chronological system of Rosellini is essentially as groundless as the one adopted by Champollion, though he pays the fullest credit to the value of the labors of both in other departments. “The path pursued by the English travellers Felix, Salt, Burton, Wilkinson, and others," he remarks, “is by no means satisfactory. With regard to the time prior to the 18th dynasty, the English inquirers stand on the same rough and unsafe ground as Champollion and Rosellini. Even as regards the period where they wholly or chiefly follow the old series of royal succession, they have plainly abandoned, together with the order and number of the kings, the dates also of the individual reigns, and hence have become involved in still grosser self-contradiction than the French and Italian critics."

Now in some respects a scholar able and learned, as Bunsen is acknowledged to be, is entitled to speak with confidence of the results of his investigations. He enjoyed an excellent preparatory, classical training, and he seems to have patiently and fundamentally studied all the sources of information accessible in Europe. He has thus been in possession of advantages, to some extent, of forming a truer judgment than a mere practical explorer in Egypt. Still, on the other hand, examination of the Egyptian antiquities on the spot forms one indispensable element to an adequate and perfectly trustworthy judgment. There is no substitute for the sight of the eye. Champollion, Rosellini, and Wilkinson, in addition to the great advantage derived from actual inspection in the localities, are familiar with all the principal literary helps and sources on which Bunsen relies. Rosellini was an eminently safe investigator, discarding all theories, and searching only for the facts, the real phenomena. Wilkinson has the unaffected modesty of genuine science. He everywhere shows that he is search

1849.]
High Antiquity of Egypt.

713 ing for the truth, not contending for victory, or to support a favorite hypothesis. The reader insensibly feels more respect for his judgments than if they were propounded categorically, or with undoubting confidence.

It should be remarked that Mr. Bunsen enjoys the special aid of the latest Egyptian investigator, Professor Lepsius. But as the principal results of his labors are not yet published, we cannot form a correct judgment of the importance of the additions which he will make to our knowledge of the subject. It seems, however, to be the impression in Germany, that there will be some disappointment in this respect; that the ardent hopes cherished of the value of his discoveries will not all be fulfilled. If we may form an opinion from a little work which he has published in relation to Mount Sinai, we should have some misgiving in respect to the soundness of his judgment.

The particular passage on which we wish to offer a few remarks, is found on page 32d of the Introduction, and is as follows:

“ The germs of national existence which we find in Egypt, are not the most ancient traces of humanity. No historical investigator will consider the Egyptians as the most ancient nation of the earth, even before he has called to his assistance the science of the philologer and mythologist. Their very history shows them to belong to the great Middle Ages of mankind.” “The Egyptian patriarchs, perhaps, were descended from a cognate race, which sprang, in like manner, from another of kindred origin.”

We may remark, in the outset, that the question which we are about to consider is wholly distinct from that pertaining to the antiquity of the earth itself. If it be admitted that the date of the creation of the earth is very ancient, it does not follow that the date of the creation of man is to be indefinitely extended.

The argument, substantially, for this indefinite extension of the Egyptian national existence, and of the life of man on earth, is drawn from the high state of civilization and of many of the arts in Egypt, at a very early period. “The Egyptians had the same arts,” Mr. Wilkinson observes,

“the same manners and customs,the same style of architecture and were in the same advanced state of refinement, on the arrival of Joseph in Egypt in the reign of the first Osirtasen, as in the reign of Remeses II.," an interval of several hundred years. “There is palpable proof,” says Mr. Bunsen, " that the old Egyptian language, in so far as yet known or investigated, was in its essential element, a legacy, inherited by Menes and his empire from their forefathers.” Menes reigned, as Bunsen interprets Manetho, 3555 years before Alexander the Great.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »