« PreviousContinue »
their strength; or, to speak more correctly, to exercise and disci. pline their powers on points of no very direct and obvious utility; for it is by such means only, that we may hope to see them carried to their highest perfection, and to secure their services for the ordinary purposes of society and education. Perhaps, tuo, this question is not to be regarded as one of mere curiosity. If the accurately ascertaining, or even approaching to the true pronunciation of an ancient and highly cultivated language, adds to the intellectual pleasures of the scholar, this is of itself, no slight inducement to pursue the inquiry, while it must necessarily afford much assistance in all general philological or etymological discussions,--pursuits, which, since the labour of Horne Tooke (justly as he may be thought to have strained them beyond their true use), are now very generally acknowledged to lead to the most useful and profound results in the knowledge of our own nature, and the history of the human mind.
The literary history of the controversy is briefly this. When, upon the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, which was contemporaneous with the arrival of letters in western Europe, Gre. cian literature was diffused over the continent by those learned Greeks, who fled from the Mahometan dominion, the language of Homer and Plato was taught by them in their own modern pronunciation. This pronunciation was introduced in company with the Greek language and literature, into the north of Europe, by John Reuchlin, a very learned German; and hence this mode acquired the name of the Reuchlinian pronunciation. Soon after, Erasmus, proposed a new, or reformed' system, approximating, as he conceived, more nearly to the ancient pronunciation. This was founded partly on the presumed analogy of the Greek to the Latin, and to the modern languages of the continent, but chiefly on such explanations, criticisms, and comparisons of the sounds of the letters, as are to be found in the various ancient critics, grammarians, and commentators, and incidentally in other classical authors. This soon prevailed, and it is that which, varied only by some slight tinges of national peculiarities, now obtains generally in the learned world.
In the year 1814, Mr. John Pickering was induced, by the arrival of a Greek ship at Boston, to turn his attention to the subject of the modern Greek pronunciation; and the result of his inquiries was, a conviction that the general pronunciation of the modern Greeks, does not very materially differ from that of the bright and glorious periods of Grecian literature. He communicated his views of this subject to the public, in a very elaborate and most ingeiously argued memoir read before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and published in their transactions for 1818. This has very recently called forth an essay in reply, by Mr. Moore of New York, who rejects in mass, the whole theory of Mr. Pickering, and strenuously supports the system of Erasmus, as being a highly probable approximation to the ancient common dialect
of VOL. XIV.
Greece; that is to say, to the Attic, stripped of some of its very marked peculiarities.
Finally, a writer in the North American Review, for June 1819, (who, however, could not have seen Mr. Moore's tract), after discussing the subject at some length, and certainly with much learning and candour, assumes a middle ground, and seems to consider every attempt to ascertain the spoken language of a people which has ceased to exist, for eighteen centuries, as entirely hopeless.
It would be difficult to present an analysis of the arguments OR each side, without devoting more room to it than would well comport with the miscellaneous plan of this journal, especially as it is entirely a question of detail; and as Mr. Moore's pamphlet is written with so much condensation, as not easily to admit of abridgment. The two schools, agree entirely in the sounds of 5, 5, 0, 1, dg. Meg &, o, *,8,0, , , and y. Their chief controversy is about the true sounds of B, n, o, u, and all the diphthongs. The most plausible argument in favour of the Romaic or Reuchlinian pronunciation, is the resemblance, in other respects, of the modern Greek language, to the ancient, and the high probability of a traditionary pronunciation preserved, as well by the weekly, and even daily services of the Greek church, as by the similar, though corrupted common dialect,
The strongest, and in our view almost insuperable objection to it is, that it gives the same sound ton 4, 81, on, and ., and to me as to to It is true that there are some similar instances of vowel sounds thus confounded in all modern languages; these, however, are never general rules, but always exceptions. In the French language particularly, they have been regarded as so anomalous, that innovations have been introduced into the established orthography of the language, in order to extirpate them; and in spite of the early opposition of the academy, the orthography of Voltaire has been daily gaining ground, and we doubt not will completely triumph.
We extract Mr. Moore's discussion on the sound of B, which the modern Greeks pronounce as our V, as a specimen of the manner in which he has managed his
argument. *As to the pronunciation of B, the argument drawn by the Erasmians from the acknowledged similarity in sound of the Latin B and the Greek 8, is answered in Mr. P's Essay,* by resorting to the supposition that both letters were sounded rather like the letter V, than the B of modern languages; and such a pronunciation of the letter B in Spain, and the frequent interchange of B and V in Latin inscriptions, “especially since the fourth century," are urged in support of this conjecture. That the true ancient sound of the Latin V consonant has been preserved by the inhabitants of a particular district only, in a remote province of the empire, is
** Essay,' p. 29.
+'! (10 not understand what Mr. P. means by calling “the Spaniards and Portuguose a Roman colony." These countries were, it is true, reduced to the form cil, formed by the assemblage of the five greatest powers of Europe; he is commissioned by himself; the queen of the world, public opinion, accredits him near the kings and nations, whose interests he impartially maintains. The means of this diplomacy, so novel in its kind, are the eloquence of reason, love of the general good, and courage to say all the truth, even in the presence of absolute power. He adds to these advantages, a constant moderation and a continued attention to avoid every passionate expresof provinces, of which they constituted three, and colonies were sent into various parts of them. But that Latin was ever so well spoken there as in Italy, is very improbable. And, whatever the language of the country may have been, it has been exposed to suffer from invaders, full as much as that of Italy, if not more.'
not to be believed without any proof whatever, but upon conjecture alone. And as to the frequent confounding of the Latin B and V in inscriptions, and the use by the Greeks of s for the Latin V consonant, in words borrowed from that language; these facts prove nothing in favour of the modern Greeks; for the Latin V consonant had not the sound of the modern Greek , but of our W, and the Greeks having no single character* to express this sound, either used ß, as an approximation to it, or rendered it more exactly by their diphthong •v. They would spell Severus, therefore, either Eeßngos or Erovngos, but more frequently in the latter mode. The French, who likewise want a single character for this sound, use the same diphthong to express it, spelling Cornwall, Cornouaille; Washington Ouachinnetonne. Which may be compared with the Bæriy ytor (Washington), of the modern Greeks, and will serve to show how inconclusive are these argu. ments to prove identity of sound, when they have no other foundation than the attempts made by those of one nation, to express in their own characters, sounds that are peculiar to another people. Thus it was the necessity of the case, added to a certain resem. blance between the sounds, when not very forcibly expressed, that first led the Greeks to use B for V, and hence arose, in some instances, the same confusion amongst the Romans. Though, perhaps, these blunders in Latin inscriptions and manuscripts, might be satisfactorily accounted for by supposing them the work of Greeks, multitudes of whom were employed in such offices by the Romans, either as slaves or hired artisans.'
ART. IV.-L'Europe, aprés le Congrès d'Aix la Chapelle, faisant
suite au Congrès de Vienne. Europe, after the Congress of Aix la Chapelle, &c. By M. de Pradt, formerly Bishop of Malines.
[Translated from La Minerve Francaise.) MR. [R. DE PRADT is the ambassador of truth at the grand coun
** The Æolic digamma had exactly the sound of the Latin V consonant, or of our W; but this character was never in use among the Greeks generally, and not long among the Æoles themselves.'
See Dawes. Misc. Crit. p. 119. Edit. Oxon. 1781.'
sion that might produce irritation, and so injure the most legitimate cause that of his country. He often defends France against those other powers which have pronounced her fate, but he does not offend them by violent recriminations.
In our present position, it is impossible for a Frenchman to withdraw his attention from the unhappy spectacle of the two foreign invasions. Mr. de Pradt, therefore, begins his disquisition by reflections upon the double catastrophe of our noble and unhappy country. Here the author speaks with a generous frankness to the allies, who have too much forgotten the value of that word in their conduct toward France.
The powers of Europe, says Mr. de Pradt, after having committed the imprudence, to leave at the very threshold of France, in view of her veteran legions, him who could not but be associated with her proudest recollections, have imposed on us the penalty of their fault. They neither sent their enemy away, nor guarded him-all the mischief came from that source. It is very evident that the island of Elba could only be a watch-tower against the Thuilleries. The European powers, too confident, perhaps, in 1814, fell into the extreme of distrust in 1815. While the presence of Napoleon still threatened them, they had been moderate; but when he was irretrievably beaten, this moderation gave place to extraordinary exactions. They condemned France to pay the expenses of a war undertaken against Napoleon alone; they violated her territories; they took away her fortified places; she lost Landau, Philipville, Sarrelouis, and was reduced to submit to a military occupation. Reason and justice are equally insufficient to justify such a severity; but as our author observes, treaties signed in the capitals of the vanquished, do not bring them any ad. vantage, and France will do well hereafter to avoid all treaties of Paris.”
Mr. de Pradt, after complaining of the exactions of Europe, who showed herself, in 1815, more severe towards an allied prince than she had dared to be towards an enemy, even at the most critical moment of the decline of his prosperity, recalls all potentates to good faith in politics, and to the sincerity of treaties. We cannot censure the monitions of the author as too late. Heretofore in his valuable work on the Congress of Vienna, he had forcibly set forth the most daring truths on the same subject, before the monarchs were united, for the first time, by a common interest. It is due to him now to recollect this, and to recall the violations of principle to which France was entirely a stranger. It is cheering to hear him say on the subject of the alarms and suspicions inspired by the evil ways of diplomacy, the evil comes from a source more remote, and those who, from hatred of the revolution, represent it as the school of deception, ought to raise their observation higher; they would perceive the cause in the snares laid through
the whole course of the negotiations of the cabinets of Vienna and Berlin, by Frederick and prince Kaunitz; Silesia had demoralized the Austrian and Prussian diplomacy; the division of Poland, the invasion of Bavaria by the emperor Joseph, of Holland by the prince of Brunswick, in 1787, war against the Turks, by Catherine and Joseph, had entirely degraded diplomacy prior to the revolution. Britain had invaded Canada, and took three hundred French merchant vessels, prior to her declaration of war, in 1766. " What would become of England if she were always just towards France?” the English minister had said.' As a friend of truth, Mr. de Pradt might have gone further. He might have added to the list of political aberrations, those monstrous coalitions against France, guilty of the overthrow of her liberty-coalitions so often destroyed by victory and renewed by perfidy, the day after peace was made; the war of extermination declared against a whole people by the English minister-a war in which no effort was spared for our ruin, and that of our allies. Certainly it is not wise to revive national animosities, and we are far from such an intention; but we must not be unjust towards France, nor join in charging her with all the evil deeds of ambition. It would seem from the violence of the accusations made against us, and the complaisance with which some among us repeat them, that our enemies had given us only examples of justice and moderation. Yet, to cite the instance of merely one of our adversaries, the death of Tippoo Saib, the heir of his father's hatred of the English; the destruction of the empire of Mysore; the fall of so many states; the sudden extinction of so many royal families; the enslaving of India; the almost periodical massacre of its inhabitants, whom you might suppose were appointed by regular order to be cut down like the trees of a forest; the treachery at Quiberon;* the burning of Copenhagen in the midst of peace, and that of Washington, do not figure in the annals of our politics. Let us, therefore, have some indulgence for France, whose greatest excesses were often but feeble retaliation, and who has seen the greatest powers of Europe, by turns, associated in our enterprises. We could, perhaps, without resorting to the subterfuges of ancient diplomacy, justify some of those transactions; but in consenting to the blame with which it is now agreed to cover them, it appears to us that each one ought to take his share, and that we ought all to be modest, since all have been fallible. Such are the deductions from the reflections of M. de Pradt; we have only developed them. Let us pass, meantime, to his observations on the actual force and position of the different states of Europe, and the dangers with which she is menaced by England and Russia, whom he regards as two colossi, pressing her between them.
* Mr. Pitt, making an apology in the house of commons, for the expedition to Quiberon, said that no British blood had flowed there. Mr. Sheridan replied, that though British blood had not flowed, British honour had, at every pore.