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which in other circumstances might in some degree have compensated for the absence of written history, the field of this distant antiquity seems, on the first consideration of the subject, to be almost as much shut up from our investigation as if it lay in another system. To our eye, looking back upon the past, the globe we inhabit appears to have first awakened into life during the gloom of midnight, so that the break of day found it already every where active, and the distribution of the great human family over its surface carried almost as far as we behold it at this hour. In what manner the mighty work was accomplished, we seek in vain to learn from any commemorating monuments erected at the time while it was going on. Even if we appeal to that tradition which lives among every people, and professes to tell the tale of their origin and early fortunes, we learn in general but little, if any thing, from its imperfect or incoherent responses, which indeed in many cases consist nearly of fables woven by priests or poets to flatter the national vanity, or hallow the established superstitions to the vulgar imagination, by wrapping them up in the veil of a reverend antiquity, and associating them with the splendid remembrances of other lands and other years. The traditions of one country thus contradict and refute those of another; and upon the whole, scarcely any more certain information as to the origin and descent of nations can be derived from this source, than from the winds of heaven, that blow whence and whither they list.
Amid this silence, however, of every other voice from the past, there is one fortunately that speaks to us in many instances audibly and distinctly enough, even from that dark and distant time when the nations whose deeds fill the page of authentic history were as yet but in embryo and without a name. We allude to the testimony furnished to us by the abiding and incontestable revelations of language. Here is an oracle from which, if we interpret its utterances aright, we may still extract many of the secrets that have lain longest hidden respecting our remotest ancestors. Words, the mere breath of men's lips, which it were so natural to look upon as the most perishable of human productions, are in truth of all things the most indestructible, coming down to us often from an age, of which every other relic is lost, and revealing to us in this way not a little both of the history and the manners of tribes, whose very existence, but for this undying record, would have been forgotten and unknown. It is quite true that etymological researches have often been persued after a fashion as unphilosophical and absurd as can well be conceived, and that in popular estimation accordingly the name of the study has long been little better than a jest and a bye word We must not, however, confound etymology with this abuse of it. Language, which examined piecemeal, and without reference to any guiding and comprehensive principle, seems to the mere
lexicographer only a chaos of shapeless shadows of which the eye may make any thing it chooses, is to the philosopher at once a well ordered and curious creation, and a very mine of knowledge. Considered in regard to its structure and character, it presents us perhaps with the most valuable metaphysical study to which it is possible for us to resort; and is calculated to teach us more of the nature of mind, and its mode of proceeding in many of its subtlest and most delicate operations, than we can learn from any other source. Looked to in another point of view, it is, as we have said, both the most faithful and the most permanent of all the memorials that preserve for us the early history of our race. No tribe has ever settled in any country without leaving discernible traces of its occupancy, if in no other way, at least in a sprinkling of its peculiar dialect, which may be read even by the most distant generation, either in the existing language, or in the topographical nomenclature, of the land. To take the case of England, for example, the speech which is even at this day in use among us, indicates as distinctly as the most authentic written document could do, that however mixed a nation we may have now become, a race of Teutonic descent must at some remote period have occupied the country. And even had all vestiges of its Saxon origin disappeared from our language, the same information might still have been gathered with equal certainty from the names of almost every old town, and hamlet, and stream, throughout the land, falling upon our ears, as they do at this day, with nearly the same Germanic sound which they conveyed to those of the men who lived where we now live, more than a thousand years ago. A still more enduring baptism has been that of a large portion of the northern division of the Island, in which although the popular speech has been for many centuries a dialect of the same Saxon which forms the basis of the established language of the south, the names of places almost all belong to a very different tongue to that Erse, or Gaelic, namely, which is still spoken in various forms and degrees of purity in the Scottish Highlands, a great part of Ireland, and that district of England called Wales, and which is demonstrated by the circumstance we have just mentioned, to have been also at one time vernacular to the inhabitants of nearly the whole of Scotland.
The two works, the titles of which we have placed at the head of this article, are both devoted to the investigation of this very interesting subject; though the authors have directed their principal attention to different portions of the common field of inquiry, and have, as perhaps was in these circumstances to be expected, arrived at different and somewhat inconsistent conclusions. It is but fair, however, to state, that to whatever extent the views propounded by each may be charged with partiality or incompleteness, they do not in this respect stand exactly in the same predicament. Of the two, Colonel Vans Kenndy alone professes to discuss the
whole question regarding the origin of the European and Asiatic languages, or so much of it at all events as comprehends the two great points, with the elucidation of which the present volumes may be considered to be occupied. Upon one of these points Mr. Grant, as we shall see, makes no pretension to be informed, and accordingly avoids intruding his judgment. Supposing him correct, therefore, as to the position which alone he undertakes to prove and illustrate, the imperfection that attaches to his theory, as here set forth, is merely that it does not embrace the whole of the question at issue. To this objection Colonel Vans Kennedy certainly does not stand exposed in the same degree; for he has pronounced his opinion in very decided terms as to both branches of the subject. He will be found however, we apprehend, on this very account to have subjected himself to a more discreditable accusation to the charge, namely, of having dogmatized with great rashness about sundry matters which he had never taken the trouble to examine with the requisite diligence, and in regard to which he was, indeed, from the acknowledged state of his acquirements, quite incompetent to deliver any thing like an authoritative verdict
The principal object of both the publications before us, is to investigate the origin of those two celebrated tongues which, in consequence partly of the extreme degree of polish and cultivation to which both were subjected, partly of the literary treasures contained in each, and partly of the extraordinary space which the people of the countries where they were spoken, occupy in the history of the ancient world, have for centuries continued to engage the chief attention of the learned of Europe, and not only constituted nearly all that has been generally known among us by the name of erudition, but exerted a greater influence than perhaps any other cause, over the whole field of modern literature. For a long while the languages of Greece and Rome were looked upon as of too peculiar and exalted a character to have been derived from any less classic source than themselves; and the former, of which the latter was considered as the unquestionable offspring, was accordingly spoken of, when the high mystery of its birth was at all alluded to, as having sprung up in the famous land from which it took its name, much in the same spontaneous fashion as the verdure of its soil, and to be a production that could neither have come into being among another people, nor lived under another sky. Some curious speculators did indeed venture to hint the possibility of its direct derivation from the Hebrew, which they assumed to be the universal fountain-head of languages, and an immediate descent from which was therefore deemed no dishonourable lineage even for the tongues of Homer and Plato. But of any meaner parentage for it they certainly never dreamed, and the suggession of any thing of the kind, if it had not been treated with utter contempt, would have thrown the
whole republic of learning into an uproar of indignation. At last, however, when the northern tongues, which had till then been nearly as much neglected by those to whom they were native, as by the educated classes of other countries, began, under the impulse of circumstances which we need not here detail, to force themselves upon the attention of scholars, both at home and abroad, a conviction speedily disseminated itself, that even between these rude Teutonic dialects and the polished languages of Greece and Rome, there existed certain fundamental and pervading resemblances, which rendered their radical relationship, and derivation from the same stem, hardly a matter of doubt. Subsequent investigations may be said to have completely established this original indentity, and to have demonstrated that even the splendid fabrics of classic speech have been reared in a great measure upon the same foundation which has also served as a basis to the Gothic tongues. Up to this point there can now be said scarcely to exist any difference of opinion among those who have investigated the subject.
With regard, also, to the oriental origin both of this primitive language and of the migratory hordes by whom it was introduced into the heart of Europe, a general agreement has long prevailed among the learned. The voice of profane unites with that of sacred history, in pointing to a particular district of Asia as the birth-place of the species; and all the investigations of Geographers and Antiquarians, tend to confirm a conclusion which is supported, besides, by the nearly unanimous testimony of popular tradition, almost here alone consistent and undeviating. Above all, the examination of the more ancient languages of the East, and especially of the Sanscrit, has of itself furnished sufficient proof, even if every other were wanting, of the Asiatic descent both of the population of Greece and of the Gothic tribes, in the radical terms as well as in the grammatical structure of whose tongues traces of oriental extraction have been found every where distinctly legible. That Europe derived its population in so many waves or successive invasions from Asia-that the ancestors of the Teutonic nations were either part of the same immigration, another division of which overspread Greece and Italy, or at all events that the hordes which established themselves in the centre, spoke originally nearly the same language with those who settled in the South of Europe; and that this language was either Sanscrit, or a cognate dialect, may therefore be considered as so many leading positions which have been abundantly demonstrated, and are universally assented to.
Here, however, we begin to be encompassed by a host of difficulties and discordant theories. When Europe, it is asked in the first place, was overspread by the progenitors of the Greeks and Goths, was it altogether uninhabited, or peopled by the descendants of some preceding invader? If the latter supposition be
adopted, who and whence were these previous occupants-what language did they speak-what has become of them-to what extent did they mix themselves with the new comers—and in how far was the language of these last affected by that which they found already in use in the country of their adoption? Who were the Celts, the Gauls, the Scythians, the Pelasgi, of all of whom ancient history speaks so vaguely, and yet in a manner which testifies so strongly to their multitudes and their wide diffusion? From what source, or sources, did Italy derive its population? Who were the Etrusci? Whence sprung the Romans? Or to return again to the East, what was the origin of the Hebrew and Arabic languages, and what influence have they exerted upon the formation of other tongues? What is the descent of the Tartaric tribes, and of their dialects? Whence came the Persian language and people? Out of what elements were the vernacular tongues of India formed? Whence are we to deduce the Chinese and the Japanese? And to say nothing of the barbarous dialects of America, Australasia, and central and southern Africa, what were the old Coptic and Punic tongues? Finally, turning to modern Europe, whence are we to trace the Slavonic nations and languages? How and when was Scandinavia peopled, and what other regions were colonized from that quarter? What remains have we of the Cymric tribes? Who were the original inhabitants of Great Britian and Ireland? These and many other questions which perplex this intricate and extensive subject, all remain as yet either unanswered, or so insufficiently investigated, that every one of them may be said to be still the subject of doubt and controversy.
We certainly have no intention of discussing one half of these topics on the present occasion; and indeed can only afford to examine very briefly the principal opinions that have been expressed in regard to two or three of them. But the hasty enumeration we have given, may furnish some idea at least of the length and breadth of that field of inquiry upon which the present writers have entered, and of the variety of acquirements requisite for its complete cultivation. Mr. Grant confines his remarks, as we have already stated, and as may indeed be gathered from the title of his work, to a comparatively small, but still very interesting and important division of the subject-the origin, namely, of the Celtic population of the British Islands, and its connection in respect of blood and language, with the other branches of the Great European family. His object is to shew that his Gaelic countrymen constitute, in all probability, the most unmixed remnant now existing of that race which, having come originally from the East, seem at one time to have overspread the greater part of Europe, and to have formed the primitive inhabitants, not only of our own country, but also of Greece, Italy, France, and the central regions of that quarter of the globe. Of the districts thus originally peopled, the greater number, according to him, were subsequently