M. Fischer devotes one chapter to Bacon's relation to the ancient philosophers, and another to his views on poetry. In the latter, he naturally compares Bacon with his contemporary, Shakespeare. We recommend this chapter, as well as a similar one in a work on Shakespeare by Gervinus, to the author of the ingenious discovery that Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare's plays. Besides an analysis of the constructive part of Bacon's philosophy, or the Instauratio Magna, M. Fischer gives us several interesting chapters, in which he treats of Bacon as an historical character, of his views on religion and theology, and of his reviewers. His defense of Bacon's political character is the weakest part of his work. He draws an elaborate parallel between the spirit of Bacon's philosophy and the spirit of his public acts. Discovery, he says, was the object of the philosopher; success that of the politician. But what can be gained by such parallels? We admire Bacon's ardent exertions for the successful advancement of learning, but, if his acts for his own advancement were blamable, no moralist, whatever notions he may hold on the relation between the understanding and the will, would be swayed in his judgment of Lord Bacon's character by such considerations. We make no allowance for the imitative talents of a tragedian, if he stands convicted of forgery, nor for the courage of a soldier, if he is accused of murder. Bacon's character can only be judged by the historian, and by a careful study of the standard of public morality in Bacon's times. And the same may be said of the position which he took with regard to religion and theology. We may explain his inclination to keep religion distinct from philosophy by taking into account the practical tendencies of all his labors. But there is such a want of straightforwardness, and we might almost say, of real faith, in his theological statements, that no one can be surprised to find that, while he is taken as the representative of orthodoxy by some, he has been attacked by others as the most dangerous and insidious enemy of Christianity. Writers of the school of De Maistre see in him a decided atheist and hypocrite.
In a work on Bacon, it seems to have become a necessity to discuss Bacon's last reviewer, and M. Fischer therefore breaks a lance with Mr. Macaulay. We give some extracts from this chapter (page 358 seq.), which will serve, at the same time, as a specimen of our author's style:—
"Mr. Macaulay pleads unconditionally in favor of practical philosophy, which he designates by the name of Bacon, against all theoretical philosophy. We have two questions to ask: 1. What does Mr. Macaulay mean by the contrast of practical and theoretical philosophy, on which he dwells so constantly? and 2. What has his own practical philosophy in common with that of Bacon?
"Mr. Macaulay decides on the fate of philosophy with a ready formula, which, like many of the same kind, dazzles by means of words which have nothing behind them,—words which become more obscure and empty the nearer we approach them. He says, Philosophy was made for Man, not Man for Philosophy. In the former case it is practical; in the latter, theoretical. Mr. Macaulay embraces the first, and rejects the second. He cannot speak with sufficient praise of the one, nor with sufficient contempt of the other. According to him, the Baconian philosophy is practical; the pre-Baconian, and particularly the ancient philosophy, theoretical. He carries the contrast between the two to the last extreme, and he places it before our eyes, not in its naked form, but veiled in metaphors, and in well-chosen figures of speech, where the imposing and charming image always represents the practical, the repulsive the theoretical, form of philosophy. By this play he carries away the great mass of people, who, like children, always run after images. Practical philosophy is not so much a conviction with him, but it serves him to make a point; whereas theoretical philosophy serves as an easy butt. Thus the contrast between the two acquires a certain dramatic charm. The reader feels moved and excited by the subject before him, and forgets the scientific question. His fancy is caught by a kind of metaphorical imagery, and his understanding surrenders what is due to it.... What is Mr. Macaulay's meaning in rejecting theoretical philosophy, because philosophy is here the object, and man the means; whereas he adopts practical philosophy, because man is here the object, and philosophy the means? What do we gain by such comparisons, as when he says that practical and theoretical philosophy are like works and words, fruits and thorns, a high-road and a treadmill? Such phrases always remind us of the remark of Socrates: They are said indeed, but are they well and truly said? According to the strict meaning of Mr. Macaulay's words, there never was a practical philosophy; for there never was a philosophy which owed its origin to practical considerations only. And there never was a theoretical philosophy, for there never was a philosophy which did not receive its impulse from a human want, that is to say, from a practical motive. This shows where playing with words must always lead. He defines theoretical and practical philosophy in such a manner that his definition is inapplicable to any kind of philosophy. His antithesis is entirely empty. But if we drop the antithesis, and only keep to what it means in sober and intelligible language, it would come to this,—that the value of a theory depends on its usefulness, on its practical influence on human life, on the advantage which we derive from it. Utility alone is to decide on the value of a theory. Be it so. But who is to decide on utility? If all things are useful which serve to satisfy human wants, who is to decide on our wants? We take Mr. Macaulay's own point of view. Philosophy should be practical; it should serve man, satisfy his wants, or help to satisfy them; and if it fails in this, let it be called useless and hollow. But if there are wants in human nature which demand to be satisfied, which make life a burden unless they are satisfied, is that not to be called practical which answers to these wants? And if some of them are of that peculiar nature that they can only be satisfied by knowledge, or by theoretical contemplation, is this knowledge, is this theoretical contemplation, not useful,—useful even in the eyes of the most decided Utilitarian? Might it not happen that what he calls theoretical philosophy seems useless and barren to the Utilitarian, because his ideas of men are too narrow? It is dangerous, and not quite becoming, to lay down the law, and say from the very first, 'You must not have more than certain wants, and therefore you do not want more than a certain philosophy!' If we may judge from Mr. Macaulay's illustrations, his ideas of human nature are not very liberal. 'If we were forced,' he says, 'to make our choice between the first shoemaker and Seneca, the author of the books on Anger, we should pronounce for the shoemaker. It may be worse to be angry than to be wet. But shoes have kept millions from being wet; and we doubt whether Seneca ever kept anybody from being angry.' I should not select Seneca as the representative of theoretical philosophy, still less take those for my allies whom Mr. Macaulay prefers to Seneca, in order to defeat theoretical philosophers. Brennus threw his sword into the scale in order to make it more weighty. Mr. Macaulay prefers the awl. But whatever he may think about Seneca, there is another philosopher more profound than Seneca, but in Mr. Macaulay's eyes likewise an unpractical thinker. And yet in him the power of theory was greater than the powers of nature and the most common wants of man. His meditations alone gave Socrates his serenity when he drank the fatal poison. Is there, among all evils, one greater than the dread of death? And the remedy against this, the worst of all physical evils, is it not practical in the best sense of the word? True, some people might here say, that it would have been more practical if Socrates had fled from his prison, as Criton suggested, and had died an old and decrepit man in Boeotia. But to Socrates it seemed more practical to remain in prison, and to die as the first witness and martyr of the liberty of conscience, and to rise from the sublime height of his theory to the seats of the immortals. Thus it is the want of the individual which decides on the practical value of an act or of a thought, and this want depends on the nature of the human soul. There is a difference between individuals in different ages, and there is a difference in their wants.... As long as the desire after knowledge lives in our hearts, we must, with the purely practical view of satisfying this want, strive after knowledge in all things, even in those which do not contribute towards external comfort, and have no use except that they purify and invigorate the mind.... What is theory in the eyes of Bacon? 'A temple in the human mind, according to the model of the world.' What is it in the eyes of Mr. Macaulay? A snug dwelling, according to the wants of practical life. The latter is satisfied if knowledge is carried far enough to enable us to keep ourselves dry. The magnificence of the structure, and its completeness according to the model of the world, is to him useless by-work, superfluous and even dangerous luxury. This is the view of a respectable rate-payer, not of a Bacon. Mr. Macaulay reduces Bacon to his own dimensions, while he endeavors at the same time to exalt him above all other people.... Bacon's own philosophy was, like all philosophy, a theory; it was the theory of the inventive mind. Bacon has not made any great discoveries himself. He was less inventive than Leibnitz, the German metaphysician. If to make discoveries be practical philosophy, Bacon was a mere theorist, and his philosophy nothing but the theory of practical philosophy.... How far the spirit of theory reached in Bacon may be seen in his own works. He did not want to fetter theory, but to renew and to extend it to the very ends of the universe. His practical standard was not the comfort of the individual, but human happiness, which involves theoretical knowledge.... That Bacon is not the Bacon of Mr. Macaulay. What Bacon wanted was new, and it will be eternal. What Mr. Macaulay and many people at the present day want, in the name of Bacon, is not new, but novel. New is what opposes the old, and serves as a model for the future. Novel is what flatters our times, gains sympathies, and dies away.... And history has pronounced her final verdict. It is the last negative instance which we oppose to Mr. Macaulay's assertion. Bacon's philosophy has not been the end of all theories, but the beginning of new theories,—theories which flowed necessarily from Bacon's philosophy, and not one of which was practical in Mr. Macaulay's sense. Hobbes was the pupil of Bacon. His ideal of a State is opposed to that of Plato on all points. But one point it shares in common,—it is as unpractical a theory as that of Plato. Mr. Macaulay, however, calls Hobbes the most acute and vigorous spirit. If, then, Hobbes was a practical philosopher, what becomes of Macaulay's politics? And if Hobbes was not a practical philosopher, what becomes of Mr. Macaulay's philosophy, which does homage to the theories of Hobbes?"
We have somewhat abridged M. Fischer's argument, for, though he writes well and intelligibly, he wants condensation; and we do not think that his argument has been weakened by being shortened. What he has extended into a volume of nearly five hundred pages, might have been reduced to a pithy essay of one or two hundred, without sacrificing one essential fact, or injuring the strength of any one of his arguments. The art of writing in our times is the art of condensing; and those who cannot condense write only for readers who have more time at their disposal than they know what to do with.
Let us ask one question in conclusion. Why do all German writers change the thoroughly Teutonic name of Bacon into Baco? It is bad enough that we should speak of Plato; but this cannot be helped. But unless we protest against Baco, gen. Baconis, we shall soon be treated to Newto, Newtonis, or even to Kans, Kantis.
XII. A GERMAN TRAVELLER IN ENGLAND.(36)
A. D. 1598.
Lessing, when he was Librarian at Wolfenbuettel, proposed to start a review which should only notice forgotten books,—books written before reviewing was invented, published in the small towns of Germany, never read, perhaps, except by the author and his friends, then buried on the shelves of a library, properly labeled and catalogued, and never opened again, except by an inquisitive inmate of these literary mausoleums. The number of those forgotten books is great, and as in former times few authors wrote more than one or two works during the whole of their lives, the information which they contain is generally of a much more substantial and solid kind than our literary palates are now accustomed to. If a man now travels to the unexplored regions of Central Africa, his book is written and out in a year. It remains on the drawing-room table for a season; it is pleasant to read, easy to digest, and still easier to review and to forget. Two or three hundred years ago this was very different. Travelling was a far more serious business, and a man who had spent some years in seeing foreign countries, could do nothing better than employ the rest of his life in writing a book of travels, either in his own language, or, still better, in Latin. After his death his book continued to be quoted for a time in works on history and geography, till a new traveller went over the same ground, published an equally learned book, and thus consigned his predecessor to oblivion. Here is a case in point: Paul Hentzner, a German, who, of course, calls himself Paulus Hentznerus, travelled in Germany, France, England, and Italy; and after his return to his native place in Silesia, he duly published his travels in a portly volume, written in Latin. There is a long title-page, with dedications, introductions, a preface for the Lector benevolus, Latin verses, and a table showing what people ought to observe in travelling. Travelling, according to our friend, is the source of all wisdom; and he quotes Moses and the Prophets in support of his theory. We ought all to travel, he says,—"vita nostra peregrinatio est;" and those who stay at home like snails (cochlearum instar) will remain "inhumani, insolentes, superbi," etc.
It would take a long time to follow Paulus Hentznerus through all his peregrinations; but let us see what he saw in England. He arrived here in the year 1598. He took ship with his friends at Depa, vulgo Dieppe, and after a boisterous voyage, they landed at Rye. On their arrival they were conducted to a Notarius, who asked their names, and inquired for what object they came to England. After they had satisfied his official inquiries, they were conducted to a Diversorium, and treated to a good dinner, pro regionis more, according to the custom of the country. From Rye they rode to London, passing Flimwolt, Tumbridge, and Chepsted on their way. Then follows a long description of London, its origin and history, its bridges, churches, monuments, and palaces, with extracts from earlier writers, such as Paulus Jovius, Polydorus Vergilius, etc. All inscriptions are copied faithfully, not only from tombs and pictures, but also from books which the travellers saw in the public libraries. Whitehall seems to have contained a royal library at that time, and in it Hentzner saw, besides Greek and Latin MSS., a book written in French by Queen Elizabeth, with the following dedication to Henry VIII.:—
"A Tres haut et Tres puissant et Redoubte Prince Henry VIII. de ce nom, Roy d'Angleterre, de France, et d'Irlande, defenseur de la foy, Elizabeth, sa Tres humble fille, rend salut et obedience."
After the travellers had seen St. Paul's, Westminster, the House of Parliament, Whitehall, Guildhall, the Tower, and the Royal Exchange, commonly called Bursa,—all of which are minutely described,—they went to the theatres and to places Ursorum et Taurorum venationibus destinata, where bears and bulls, tied fast behind, were baited by bull-dogs. In these places, and everywhere, in fact, as our traveller says, where you meet with Englishmen, they use herba nicotiana, which they call by an American name Tobaca or Paetum. The description deserves to be quoted in the original:—
"Fistulae in hunc finem ex argilla factae orificio posteriori dictam herbam probe exiccatam, ita ut in pulverem facile redigi possit, immittunt, et igne admoto accendunt, unde fumus ab anteriori parte ore attrahitur, qui per nares rursum, tamquam per infurnibulum exit, et phlegma ac capitis defluxiones magna copia secum educit."
After they had seen everything in London—not omitting the ship in which Francis Drake, nobilissimus pyrata, was said to have circumnavigated the world,—they went to Greenwich. Here they were introduced into the presence-chamber, and saw the Queen. The walls of the room were covered with precious tapestry, the floor strewed with hay. The Queen had to pass through on going to chapel. It was a Sunday, when all the nobility came to pay their respects. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London were present. When divine service began, the Queen appeared, preceded and followed by the court. Before her walked two barons, carrying the sceptre and the sword, and between them the Great Chancellor of England with the seal. The Queen is thus minutely described:—
"She was said (rumor erat) to be fifty-five years old. Her face was rather long, white, and a little wrinkled. Her eyes small, black, and gracious; her nose somewhat bent; her lips compressed, her teeth black (from eating too much sugar). She had ear-rings of pearls; red hair, but artificial, and wore a small crown. Her breast was uncovered (as is the case with all unmarried ladies in England), and round her neck was a chain with precious gems. Her hands were graceful, her fingers long. She was of middle stature, but stepped on majestically. She was gracious and kind in her address. The dress she wore was of white silk, with pearls as large as beans. Her cloak was of black silk with silver lace, and a long train was carried by a marchioness. As she walked along she spoke most kindly with many people, some of them ambassadors. She spoke English, French, and Italian; but she knows also Greek and Latin, and understands Spanish, Scotch, and Dutch. Those whom she addressed bent their knees, and some she lifted up with her hand. To a Bohemian nobleman of the name of Slawata, who had brought some letters to the Queen, she gave her right hand after taking off her glove, and he kissed it. Wherever she turned her eyes, people fell on their knees."
There was probably nobody present who ventured to scrutinize the poor Queen so impertinently as Paulus Hentznerus. He goes on to describe the ladies who followed the Queen, and how they were escorted by fifty knights. When she came to the door of the chapel, books were handed to her, and the people called out, "God save the Queen Elizabeth!" whereupon the Queen answered, "I thanke you myn good peuple." Prayers did not last more than half an hour, and the music was excellent. During the time that the Queen was in chapel, dinner was laid, and this again is described in full detail.
But we cannot afford to tarry with our German observer, nor can we follow him to Grantbridge (Cambridge) or Oxenford, where he describes the colleges and halls (each of them having a library), and the life of the students. From Oxford he went to Woodstock, then back to Oxford, and from thence to Henley and Madenhood to Windsor. Eton also was visited, and here, he says, sixty boys were educated gratuitously, and afterwards sent to Cambridge. After visiting Hampton Court and the royal palace of Nonesuch, our travellers returned to London.
We shall finish our extracts with some remarks of Hentzner on the manners and customs of the English:—
"The English are grave, like the Germans, magnificent at home and abroad. They carry with them a large train of followers and servants. These have silver shields on their left arm, and a pig-tail. The English excel in dancing and music. They are swift and lively, though stouter than the French. They shave the middle portion of the face, but leave the hair untouched on each side. They are good sailors and famous pirates; clever, perfidious, and thievish. About three hundred are hanged in London every year. At table they are more civil than the French. They eat less bread, but more meat, and they dress it well. They throw much sugar into their wine. They suffer frequently from leprosy, commonly called the white leprosy, which is said to have come to England in the time of the Normans. They are brave in battle, and always conquer their enemies. At home they brook no manner of servitude. They are very fond of noises that fill the ears, such as explosions of guns, trumpets, and bells. In London, persons who have got drunk are wont to mount a church tower, for the sake of exercise, and to ring the bells for several hours. If they see a foreigner who is handsome and strong, they are sorry that he is not an Anglicus,—vulgo Englishman."
On his return to France, Hentzner paid a visit to Canterbury, and, after seeing some ghosts on his journey, arrived safely at Dover. Before he was allowed to go on board, he had again to undergo an examination, to give his name, to explain what he had done in England, and where he was going; and, lastly, his luggage was searched most carefully, in order to see whether he carried with him any English money, for nobody was allowed to carry away more than ten pounds of English money: all the rest was taken away and handed to the royal treasury. And thus farewell, Carissime Hentzneri! and slumber on your shelf until the eye of some other benevolent reader, glancing at the rows of forgotten books, is caught by the quaint lettering on your back, "Hentzneri Itin."
XIII. CORNISH ANTIQUITIES.(37)
It is impossible to spend even a few weeks in Cornwall without being impressed with the air of antiquity which pervades that county, and seems, like a morning mist, half to conceal and half to light up every one of its hills and valleys. It is impossible to look at any pile of stones, at any wall, or pillar, or gate-post, without asking one's self the question, Is this old, or is this new? Is it the work of Saxon, or of Roman, or of Celt? Nay, one feels sometimes tempted to ask, Is this the work of Nature or of man?
"Among these rocks and stones, methinks I see More than the heedless impress that belongs To lonely Nature's casual work: they bear A semblance strange of power intelligent, And of design not wholly worn away."—Excursion.
The late King of Prussia's remark about Oxford, that in it everything old seemed new, and everything new seemed old, applies with even greater truth to Cornwall. There is a continuity between the present and the past of that curious peninsula, such as we seldom find in any other place. A spring bubbling up in a natural granite basin, now a meeting-place for Baptists or Methodists, was but a few centuries ago a holy well, attended by busy friars, and visited by pilgrims, who came there "nearly lame," and left the shrine "almost able to walk." Still further back the same spring was a centre of attraction for the Celtic inhabitants, and the rocks piled up around it stand there as witnesses of a civilization and architecture certainly more primitive than the civilization and architecture of Roman, Saxon, or Norman settlers. We need not look beyond. How long that granite buttress of England has stood there, defying the fury of the Atlantic, the geologist alone, who is not awed by ages, would dare to tell us. But the historian is satisfied with antiquities of a more humble and homely character; and in bespeaking the interest, and, it may be, the active support of our readers, in favor of the few relics of the most ancient civilization of Britain, we promise to keep within strictly historical limits, if by historical we understand, with the late Sir G. C. Lewis, that only which can be authenticated by contemporaneous monuments.
But even thus, how wide a gulf seems to separate us from the first civilizers of the West of England, from the people who gave names to every headland, bay, and hill of Cornwall, and who first planned those lanes that now, like throbbing veins, run in every direction across that heath-covered peninsula! No doubt it is well known that the original inhabitants of Cornwall were Celts, and that Cornish is a Celtic language; and that, if we divide the Celtic languages into two classes, Welsh with Cornish and Breton forms one class, the Cymric; while the Irish with its varieties, as developed in Scotland and the Isle of Man, forms another class, which is called the Gaelic or Gadhelic. It may also be more or less generally known that Celtic, with all its dialects, is an Aryan or Indo-European language, closely allied to Latin, Greek, German, Slavonic, and Sanskrit, and that the Celts, therefore, were not mere barbarians, or people to be classed together with Finns and Lapps, but heralds of true civilization wherever they settled in their worldwide migrations, the equals of Saxons and Romans and Greeks, whether in physical beauty or in intellectual vigor. And yet there is a strange want of historical reality in the current conceptions about the Celtic inhabitants of the British Isles; and while the heroes and statesmen and poets of Greece and Rome, though belonging to a much earlier age, stand out in bold and sharp relief on the table of a boy's memory, his notions of the ancient Britons may generally be summed up "in houses made of wicker-work, Druids with long white beards, white linen robes, and golden sickles, and warriors painted blue." Nay, strange to say, we can hardly blame a boy for banishing the ancient bards and Druids from the scene of real history, and assigning to them that dark and shadowy corner where the gods and heroes of Greece live peacefully together with the ghosts and fairies from the dreamland of our own Saxon forefathers. For even the little that is told in "Little Arthur's History of England" about the ancient Britons and the Druids is extremely doubtful. Druids are never mentioned before Caesar. Few writers, if any, before him were able to distinguish between Celts and Germans, but spoke of the barbarians of Gaul and Germany as the Greeks spoke of Scythians, or as we ourselves speak of the negroes of Africa, without distinguishing between races so different from each other as Hottentots and Kaffirs. Caesar was one of the first writers who knew of an ethnological distinction between Celtic and Teutonic barbarians, and we may therefore trust him when he says that the Celts had Druids, and the Germans had none. But his further statements about these Celtic priests and sages are hardly more trustworthy than the account which an ordinary Indian officer at the present day might give us of the Buddhist priests and the Buddhist religion of Ceylon. Caesar's statement that the Druids worshipped Mercury, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva, is of the same base metal as the statements of more modern writers that the Buddhists worship the Trinity, and that they take Buddha for the Son of God. Caesar most likely never conversed with a Druid, nor was he able to control, if he was able to understand, the statements made to him about the ancient priesthood, the religion and literature of Gaul. Besides, Caesar himself tells us very little about the priests of Gaul and Britain; and the thrilling accounts of the white robes and the golden sickles belong to Pliny's "Natural History," by no means a safe authority in such matters.(38)
We must be satisfied, indeed, to know very little about the mode of life, the forms of worship, the religious doctrines, or the mysterious wisdom of the Druids and their flocks. But for this very reason it is most essential that our minds should be impressed strongly with the historical reality that belongs to the Celtic inhabitants, and to the work which they performed in rendering these islands for the first time fit for the habitation of man. That historical lesson, and a very important lesson it is, is certainly learned more quickly, and yet more effectually, by a visit to Cornwall or Wales, than by any amount of reading. We may doubt many things that Celtic enthusiasts tell us; but where every village and field, every cottage and hill, bear names that are neither English, nor Norman, nor Latin, it is difficult not to feel that the Celtic element has been something real and permanent in the history of the British Isles. The Cornish language is no doubt extinct, if by extinct we mean that it is no longer spoken by the people. But in the names of towns, castles, rivers, mountains, fields, manors, and families, and in a few of the technical terms of mining, husbandry, and fishing, Cornish lives on, and probably will live on, for many ages to come. There is a well-known verse:—
"By Tre, Ros, Pol, Lan, Caer, and Pen, You may know most Cornish men."(39)
But it will hardly be believed that a Cornish antiquarian, Dr. Bannister, who is collecting materials for a glossary of Cornish proper names, has amassed no less than 2,400 names with Tre, 500 with Fen, 400 with Ros, 300 with Lan, 200 with Pol, and 200 with Caer.
A language does not die all at once, nor is it always possible to fix the exact date when it breathed its last. Thus, in the case of Cornish, it is by no means easy to reconcile the conflicting statements of various writers as to the exact time when it ceased to be the language of the people, unless we bear in mind that what was true with regard to the higher classes was not so with regard to the lower, and likewise that in some parts of Cornwall the vitality of the language might continue, while in others its heart had ceased to beat. As late as the time of Henry VIII., the famous physician Andrew Borde tells us that English was not understood by many men and women in Cornwall. "In Cornwal is two speeches," he writes; "the one is naughty Englyshe, and the other the Cornyshe speche. And there be many men and women the which cannot speake one worde of Englyshe, but all Cornyshe." During the same King's reign, when an attempt was made to introduce a new church service composed in English, a protest was signed by the Devonshire and Cornish men utterly refusing this new English:—
"We will not receive the new Service, because it is but like a Christmas game; but we will have our old Service of Matins, Mass, Evensong, and Procession, in Latin as it was before. And so we the Cornish men (whereof certain of us understand no English) utterly refuse this new English."(40)
Yet in the reign of Elizabeth, when the liturgy was appointed by authority to take the place of the mass, the Cornish, it is said,(41) desired that it should be in the English language. About the same time we are told that Dr. John Moreman(42) taught his parishioners the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, in the English tongue. From the time of the Reformation onward, Cornish seems constantly to have lost ground against English, particularly in places near Devonshire. Thus Norden, whose description of Cornwall was probably written about 1584, though not published till 1728, gives a very full and interesting account of the struggle between the two languages:—
"Of late," he says (p. 26), "the Cornishe men have muche conformed themselves to the use of the Englishe tounge, and their Englishe is equall to the beste, espetially in the easterne partes; even from Truro eastwarde it is in manner wholly Englishe. In the weste parte of the countrye, as in the hundreds of Penwith and Kerrier, the Cornishe tounge is moste in use amongste the inhabitantes, and yet (whiche is to be marveyled), though the husband and wife, parentes and children, master and servantes, doe mutually communicate in their native language, yet ther is none of them in manner but is able to convers with a straunger in the Englishe tounge, unless it be some obscure people, that seldome conferr with the better sorte: But it seemeth that in few yeares the Cornishe language will be by litle and litle abandoned."
Carew, who wrote about the same time, goes so far as to say that most of the inhabitants "can no word of Cornish, but very few are ignorant of the English, though they sometimes affect to be." This may have been true with regard to the upper classes, particularly in the west of Cornwall, but it is nevertheless a fact that, as late as 1640, Mr. William Jackman, the vicar of Feock,(43) was forced to administer the sacrament in Cornish, because the aged people did not understand English; nay, the rector of Landewednak preached his sermons in Cornish as late as 1678. Mr. Scawen, too, who wrote about that time, speaks of some old folks who spoke Cornish only, and would not understand a word of English; but he tells us at the same time that Sir Francis North, the Lord Chief Justice, afterwards Lord Keeper, when holding the assizes at Lanceston in 1678, expressed his concern at the loss and decay of the Cornish language. The poor people, in fact, could speak, or at least understand, Cornish, but he says, "They were laughed at by the rich, who understood it not, which is their own fault in not endeavoring after it." About the beginning of the last century, Mr. Ed. Lhuyd (died 1709), the keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, was still able to collect from the mouths of the people a grammar of the Cornish language, which was published in 1707. He says that at this time Cornish was only retained in five or six villages towards the Land's End; and in his "Archaeologia Britannica" he adds, that although it was spoken in most of the western districts from the Land's End to the Lizard, "a great many of the inhabitants, especially the gentry, do not understand it, there being no necessity thereof in regard there's no Cornish man but speaks good English." It is generally supposed that the last person who spoke Cornish was Dolly Pentreath, who died in 1778, and to whose memory Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte has lately erected a monument in the churchyard at Paul. The inscription is:—
"Here lieth interred Dorothy Pentreath, who died in 1778, said to have been the last person who conversed in the ancient Cornish, the peculiar language of this country from the earliest records till it expired in this parish of St. Paul. This stone is erected by the Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, in union with the Rev. John Garret, vicar of St. Paul, June, 1860."
It seems hardly right to deprive the old lady of her fair name; but there are many people in Cornwall who maintain that when travellers and grandees came to see her, she would talk anything that came into her head, while those who listened to her were pleased to think that they had heard the dying echoes of a primeval tongue.(44) There is a letter extant, written in Cornish by a poor fisherman of the name of William Bodener. It is dated July 3, 1776, that is, two years before the death of Dolly Pentreath; and the writer says of himself in Cornish:—
"My age is threescore and five. I am a poor fisherman. I learnt Cornish when I was a boy. I have been to sea with my father and five other men in the boat, and have not heard one word of English spoke in the boat for a week together. I never saw a Cornish book. I learned Cornish going to sea with old men. There is not more than four or five in our town can talk Cornish now,—old people fourscore years old. Cornish is all forgot with young people."(45)
It would seem, therefore, that Cornish died with the last century, and no one now living can boast to have heard its sound when actually spoken for the sake of conversation. It seems to have been a melodious and yet by no means an effeminate language, and Scawen places it in this respect above most of the other Celtic dialects:—
"Cornish," he says, "is not to be gutturally pronounced, as the Welsh for the most part is, nor mutteringly, as the Armorick, nor whiningly as the Irish (which two latter qualities seem to have been contracted from their servitude), but must be lively and manly spoken, like other primitive tongues."
Although Cornish must now be classed with the extinct languages, it has certainly shown a marvelous vitality. More than four hundred years of Roman occupation, more than six hundred years of Saxon and Danish sway, a Norman conquest, a Saxon Reformation, and civil wars, have all passed over the land; but, like a tree that may bend before a storm but is not to be rooted up, the language of the Celts of Cornwall has lived on in an unbroken continuity for at least two thousand years. What does this mean? It means that through the whole of English history to the accession of the House of Hanover, the inhabitants of Cornwall and the western portion of Devonshire, in spite of intermarriages with Romans, Saxons, and Normans, were Celts, and remained Celts. People speak indeed of blood, and intermingling of blood, as determining the nationality of a people; but what is meant by blood? It is one of those scientific idols, that crumble to dust as soon as we try to define or grasp them; it is a vague, hollow, treacherous term, which, for the present at least, ought to be banished from the dictionary of every true man of science. We can give a scientific definition of a Celtic language; but no one has yet given a definition of Celtic blood, or a Celtic skull. It is quite possible that hereafter chemical differences may be discovered in the blood of those who speak a Celtic, and of those who speak a Teutonic language. It is possible, also, that patient measurements, like those lately published by Professor Huxley, in the "Journal of Anatomy and Physiology," may lead in time to a really scientific classification of skulls, and that physiologists may succeed in the end in carrying out a classification of the human race, according to tangible and unvarying physiological criteria. But their definitions and their classifications will hardly ever square with the definitions or classifications of the student of language, and the use of common terms can only be a source of constant misunderstandings. We know what we mean by a Celtic language, and in the grammar of each language we are able to produce a most perfect scientific definition of its real character. If, therefore, we transfer the term Celtic to people, we can, if we use our words accurately, mean nothing but people who speak a Celtic language, the true exponent, aye, the very life of Celtic nationality. Whatever people, whether Romans, or Saxons, or Normans, or, as some think, even Phoenicians and Jews, settled in Cornwall, if they ceased to speak their own language and exchanged it for Cornish, they are, before the tribunal of the science of language, Celts, and nothing but Celts; while, whenever Cornishmen, like Sir Humphrey Davy or Bishop Colenso, have ceased to speak Cornish, and speak nothing but English, they are no longer Celts, but true Teutons or Saxons, in the only scientifically legitimate sense of that word. Strange stories, indeed, would be revealed, if blood could cry out and tell of its repeated mixtures since the beginning of the world. If we think of the early migrations of mankind; of the battles fought before there were hieroglyphics to record them; of conquests, leadings into captivity, piracy, slavery, and colonization, all without a sacred poet to hand them down to posterity,—we shall hesitate, indeed, to speak of pure races, or unmixed blood, even at the very dawn of real history. Little as we know of the early history of Greece, we know enough to warn us against looking upon the Greeks of Asia or Europe as an unmixed race. AEgyptus, with his Arabian, Ethiopian, and Tyrian wives; Cadmus, the son of Libya; Phoenix, the father of Europa,—all point to an intercourse of Greece with foreign countries, whatever else their mythological meaning may be. As soon as we know anything of the history of the world, we know of wars and alliances between Greeks and Lydians and Persians, of Phoenician settlements all over the world, of Carthaginians trading in Spain and encamped in Italy, of Romans conquering and colonizing Gaul, Spain, Britain, the Danubian Principalities and Greece, Western Asia and Northern Africa. Then again, at a later time, follow the great ethnic convulsions of Eastern Europe, and the devastation and re-population of the ancient seats of civilization by Goths, and Lombards, and Vandals, and Saxons; while at the same time, and for many centuries to come, the few strongholds of civilization in the East were again and again overwhelmed by the irresistible waves of Hunnish, Mongolic, and Tartaric invaders. And, with all this, people at the latter end of the nineteenth century venture to speak, for instance, of pure Norman blood as something definite or definable, forgetting how the ancient Norsemen carried their wives away from the coasts of Germany or Russia, from Sicily or from the very Piraeus; while others married whatever wives they could find in the North of France, whether of Gallic, Roman, or German extraction, and then settled in England, where they again contracted marriages with Teutonic, Celtic, or Roman damsels. In our own days, if we see the daughter of an English officer and an Indian Ranee married to the son of a Russian nobleman, how are we to class the offspring of that marriage? The Indian Ranee may have had Mongol blood, so may the Russian nobleman; but there are other possible ingredients of pure Hindu and pure Slavonic, of Norman, German, and Roman blood,—and who is the chemist bold enough to disengage them all? There is, perhaps, no nation which has been exposed to more frequent admixture of foreign blood, during the Middle Ages, than the Greeks. Professor Fallmerayer maintained that the Hellenic population was entirely exterminated, and that the people who at the present day call themselves Greeks are really Slavonians. It would be difficult to refute him by arguments drawn either from the physical or the moral characteristics of the modern Greeks as compared with the many varieties of the Slavonic stock. But the following extract from "Felton's Lectures on Greece, Ancient and Modern," contains the only answer that can be given to such charges, without point or purpose: "In one of the courses of lectures," he says, "which I attended in the University of Athens, the Professor of History, a very eloquent man as well as a somewhat fiery Greek, took this subject up. His audience consisted of about two hundred young men from every part of Greece. His indignant comments on the learned German, that notorious Μισέλλην or Greek-hater, as he stigmatized him, were received by his hearers with a profound sensation. They sat with expanded nostrils and flashing eyes—a splendid illustration of the old Hellenic spirit, roused to fury by the charge of barbarian descent. 'It is true,' said the eloquent professor, 'that the tide of barbaric invaders poured down like a deluge upon Hellas, filling with its surging floods our beautiful plains, our fertile valleys. The Greeks fled to their walled towns and mountain fastnesses. By and by the water subsided and the soil of Hellas reappeared. The former inhabitants descended from the mountains as the tide receded, resumed their ancient lands and rebuilt their ruined habitations, and, the reign of the barbarians over, Hellas was herself again.' Three or four rounds of applause followed the close of the lectures of Professor Manouses, in which I heartily joined. I could not help thinking afterwards what a singular comment on the German anti-Hellenic theory was presented by this scene,—a Greek professor in a Greek university, lecturing to two hundred Greeks in the Greek language, to prove that the Greeks were Greeks, and not Slavonians."(46)
And yet we hear the same arguments used over and over again, not only with regard to the Greeks, but with regard to many other modern nations; and even men whose minds have been trained in the school of exact science, use the term "bloods," in this vague and thoughtless manner. The adjective Greek may connote many things, but what it denotes is language. People who speak Greek as their mother tongue are Greeks, and if a Turkish-speaking inhabitant of Constantinople could trace his pedigree straight to Pericles, he would still be a Turk, whatever his name, his faith, his hair, features, and stature—whatever his blood might be. We can classify languages, and as languages presuppose people that speak them, we can so far classify mankind, according to their grammars and dictionaries; while all who possess scientific honesty must confess and will confess that, as yet, it has been impossible to devise any truly scientific classification of skulls, to say nothing of blood, or bones, or hair. The label on one of the skulls in the Munich Collection, "Etruscan-Tyrol, or Inca-Peruvian," characterizes not too unfairly the present state of ethnological craniology. Let those who imagine that the great outlines, at least, of a classification of skulls have been firmly established, consult Mr. Brace's useful manual of "The Races of the World," where he has collected the opinions of some of the best judges on the subject. We quote a few passages:(47)—
"Dr. Bachmann concludes, from the measurements of Dr. Tiedemann and Dr. Morton, that the negro skull, though less than the European, is within one inch as large as the Persian and the Armenian, and three square inches larger than the Hindu and Egyptian. The scale is thus given by Dr. Morton: European skull, 87 cubic inches; Malay, 85; Negro 83; Mongol, 82; Ancient Egyptian, 80; American, 79. The ancient Peruvians and Mexicans, who constructed so elaborate a civilization, show a capacity only of from 75 to 79 inches.... Other observations by Huschke make the average capacity of the skull of Europeans 40.88 oz.; of Americans, 39.13; of Mongols, 38.39; of Negroes, 37.57; of Malays, 36.41."
"Of the shape of the skull, as distinctive of different origin, Professor M. J. Weber has said there is no proper mark of a definite race from the cranium so firmly attached that it may not be found in some other race. Tiedemann has met with Germans whose skulls bore all the characters of the negro race; and an inhabitant of Nukahiwa, according to Silesius and Blumenbach, agreed exactly in his proportions with the Apollo Belvedere."
Professor Huxley, in his "Observations on the Human Skulls of Engis and Neanderthal," printed in Sir Charles Lyell's "Antiquity of Man," p. 81, remarks that "the most capacious European skull yet measured had a capacity of 114 cubic inches, the smallest (as estimated by weight of brain) about 55 cubic inches; while, according to Professor Schaaffhausen, some Hindu skulls have as small a capacity as 46 cubic inches (27 oz. of water);" and he sums up by stating that "cranial measurements alone afford no safe indication of race."
And even if a scientific classification of skulls were to be carried out, if, instead of merely being able to guess that this may be an Australian and this a Malay skull, we were able positively to place each individual skull under its own definite category, what should we gain in the classification of mankind? Where is the bridge from skull to man in the full sense of that word? Where is the connecting link between the cranial proportions and only one other of man's characteristic properties, such as language? And what applies to skulls applies to color and all the rest. Even a black skin and curly hair are mere outward accidents as compared with language. We do not classify parrots and magpies by the color of their plumage, still less by the cages in which they live; and what is the black skin or the white skin but the mere outward covering, not to say the mere cage, in which that being which we call man lives, moves, and has his being? A man like Bishop Crowther, though a negro in blood, is, in thought and speech, an Aryan. He speaks English, he thinks English, he acts English; and, unless we take English in a purely historical, and not in its truly scientific, i.e. linguistic sense, he is English. No doubt there are many influences at work—old proverbs, old songs and traditions, religious convictions, social institutions, political prejudices, besides the soil, the food, and the air of a country—that may keep up, even among people who have lost their national language, that kind of vague similarity which is spoken of as national character.(48) This is a subject on which many volumes have been written, and yet the result has only been to supply newspapers with materials for international insults or international courtesies, as the case may be. Nothing sound or definite has been gained by such speculations, and in an age that prides itself on the careful observance of the rules of inductive reasoning, nothing is more surprising than the sweeping assertions with regard to national character, and the reckless way in which casual observations that may be true of one, two, three, or it may be ten or even a hundred individuals, are extended to millions. However, if there is one safe exponent of national character, it is language. Take away the language of a people, and you destroy at once that powerful chain of tradition in thought and sentiment which holds all the generations of the same race together, if we may use an unpleasant simile, like the chain of a gang of galley-slaves. These slaves, we are told, very soon fall into the same pace, without being aware that their movements depend altogether on the movements of those who walk before them. It is nearly the same with us. We imagine we are altogether free in our thoughts, original and independent, and we are not aware that our thoughts are manacled and fettered by language, and that, without knowing and without perceiving it, we have to keep pace with those who walked before us thousands and thousands of years ago. Language alone binds people together, and keeps them distinct from others who speak different tongues. In ancient times particularly, "languages and nations" meant the same thing; and even with us our real ancestors are those whose language we speak, the fathers of our thoughts, the mothers of our hopes and fears. Blood, bones, hair, and color, are mere accidents, utterly unfit to serve as principles of scientific classification for that great family of living beings, the essential characteristics of which are thought and speech, not fibrine, serum, coloring matter, or whatever else enters into the composition of blood.
If this be true, the inhabitants of Cornwall, whatever the number of Roman, Saxon, Danish, or Norman settlers within the boundaries of that county may have been, continued to be Celts as long as they spoke Cornish. They ceased to be Celts when they ceased to speak the language of their forefathers. Those who can appreciate the charms of genuine antiquity will not, therefore, find fault with the enthusiasm of Daines Barrington or Sir Joseph Banks in listening to the strange utterances of Dolly Pentreath; for her language, if genuine, carried them back and brought them, as it were, into immediate contact with people who, long before the Christian era, acted an important part on the stage of history, supplying the world with two of the most precious metals, more precious then than gold or silver, with copper and tin, the very materials, it may be, of the finest works of art in Greece, aye, of the armor wrought for the heroes of the Trojan War, as described so minutely by the poets of the "Iliad." There is a continuity in language which nothing equals, and there is an historical genuineness in ancient words, if but rightly interpreted, which cannot be rivaled by manuscripts, or coins, or monumental inscriptions.
But though it is right to be enthusiastic about what is really ancient in Cornwall,—and there is nothing so ancient as language,—it is equally right to be discriminating. The fresh breezes of antiquity have intoxicated many an antiquarian. Words, purely Latin or English, though somewhat changed after being admitted into the Cornish dictionary, have been quoted as the originals from which the Roman or English were in turn derived. The Latin liber, book, was supposed to be derived from the Welsh llyvyr; litera, letter, from Welsh llythyr; persona, person, from Welsh person, and many more of the same kind. Walls built within the memory of men have been admitted as relics of British architecture; nay, Latin inscriptions of the simplest character have but lately been interpreted by means of Cornish, as containing strains of a mysterious wisdom. Here, too, a study of the language gives some useful hints as to the proper method of disentangling the truly ancient from the more modern elements. Whatever in the Cornish dictionary cannot be traced back to any other source, whether Latin, Saxon, Norman, or German, may safely be considered as Cornish, and therefore as ancient Celtic. Whatever in the antiquities of Cornwall cannot be claimed by Romans, Saxons, Danes, or Normans, may fairly be considered as genuine remains of the earliest civilization of this island, as the work of the Celtic discoverers of Britain.
The Cornish language is by no means a pure or unmixed language,—at least we do not know it in its pure state. It is, in fact, a mere accident that any literary remains have been preserved, and three or four small volumes would contain all that is left to us of Cornish literature. "There is a poem," to quote Mr. Norris, "which we may by courtesy call epic, entitled 'Mount Calvary.' " It contains 259 stanzas of eight lines each, in heptasyllabic metre, with alternate rhyme. It is ascribed to the fifteenth century, and was published for the first time by Mr. Davies Gilbert in 1826.(49) There is, besides, a series of dramas, or mystery-plays, first published by Mr. Norris for the University Press of Oxford, in 1858. The first is called "The Beginning of the World," the second "The Passion of our Lord," the third "The Resurrection." The last is interrupted by another play, "The Death of Pilate." The oldest MS. in the Bodleian Library belongs to the fifteenth century, and Mr. Norris is not inclined to refer the composition of these plays to a much earlier date. Another MS., likewise in the Bodleian Library, contains both the text and a translation by Keigwyn (1695). Lastly, there is another sacred drama, called "The Creation of the World, with Noah's Flood." It is in many places copied from the dramas, and, according to the MS., it was written by William Jordan in 1611. The oldest MS. belongs again to the Bodleian Library, which likewise possesses a MS. of the translation by Keigwyn in 1691.(50)
These mystery-plays, as we may learn from a passage in Carew's "Survey of Cornwall" (p. 71), were still performed in Cornish in his time, i.e. at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He says:—
"Pastimes to delight the minde, the Cornish men have Guary miracles and three mens songs; and, for the exercise of the body, hunting, hawking, shooting, wrastling, hurling, and such other games.
"The Guary miracle—in English, a miracle-play—is a kind of enterlude, compiled in Cornish out of some Scripture history, with that grossenes which accompanied the Romanes vetus Comedia. For representing it, they raise an earthen amphitheatre in some open field, having the diameter of his enclosed playne some forty or fifty foot. The country people flock from all sides, many miles off, to heare and see it, for they have therein devils and devices, to delight as well the eye as the eare; the players conne not their parts without booke, but are prompted by one called the Ordinary, who followeth at their back with the booke in his hand, and telleth them softly what they must pronounce aloud. Which manner once gave occasion to a pleasant conceyted gentleman, of practising a mery pranke; for he undertaking (perhaps of set purpose) an actor's roome, was accordingly lessoned (beforehand) by the Ordinary, that he must say after him. His turn came. Quoth the Ordinary, Goe forth man and shew thy selfe. The gentleman steps out upon the stage, and like a bad Clarke in Scripture matters, cleaving more to the letter than the sense, pronounced those words aloud. Oh! (sayes the fellowe softly in his eare) you marre all the play. And with this his passion the actor makes the audience in like sort acquainted. Hereon the prompter falls to flat rayling and cursing in the bitterest termes he could devise: which the gentleman, with a set gesture and countenance, still soberly related, untill the Ordinary, driven at last into a madde rage, was faine to give all over. Which trousse, though it brake off the enterlude, yet defrauded not the beholders, but dismissed them with a great deale more sport and laughter than such Guaries could have afforded."(51)
Scawen, at the end of the seventeenth century, speaks of these miracle-plays, and considers the suppression of the Guirrimears,(52) or Great Plays or Speeches,(53) as one of the chief causes of the decay of the Cornish language.
"These Guirrimears," he says, "which were used at the great conventions of the people, at which they had famous interludes celebrated with great preparations, and not without shows of devotion in them, solemnized in great and spacious downs of great capacity, encompassed about with earthen banks, and some in part stone-work, of largeness to contain thousands, the shapes of which remain in many places at this day, though the use of them long since gone.... This was a great means to keep in use the tongue with delight and admiration. They had recitations in them, poetical and divine, one of which I may suppose this small relique of antiquity to be, in which the passion of our Saviour, and his resurrection, is described."
If to these mystery-plays and poems we add some versions of the Lord's Prayer, the Commandments, and the Creed, a protestation of the bishops in Britain to Augustine the monk, the Pope's legate, in the year 600 after Christ (MS. Gough, 4), the first chapter of Genesis, and some songs, proverbs, riddles, a tale and a glossary, we have an almost complete catalogue of what a Cornish library would be at the present day.
Now if we examine the language as preserved to us in these fragments, we find that it is full of Norman, Saxon, and Latin words. No one can doubt, for instance, that the following Cornish words are all taken from Latin, that is, from the Latin of the Church:—
Abat, an abbot; Lat. abbas. Alter, altar; Lat. altare. Apostol, apostle; Lat. apostolus. Clauster, cloister; Lat. claustrum. Colom, dove; Lat. columba. Gwespar, vespers; Lat. vesper. Cantuil, candle; Lat. candela. Cantuilbren, candlestick; Lat. candelabrum. Ail, angel; Lat. angelus. Archail, archangel; Lat. archangelus.
Other words, though not immediately connected with the service and the doctrine of the Church, may nevertheless have passed from Latin into Cornish, either directly from the daily conversation of monks, priests, and schoolmasters, or indirectly from English or Norman, in both of which the same Latin words had naturally been adopted, though slightly modified according to the phonetic peculiarities of each. Thus:—
Ancar, anchor; the Latin, ancora. This might have come indirectly through English or Norman-French.
Aradar, plough; the Latin, aratrum. This must have come direct from Latin, as it does not exist in Norman or English.
Arghans, silver; argentum.
Keghin, kitchen; coquina. This is taken from the same Latin word from which the Romance languages formed cuisine, cucina; not from the classical Latin, culina.
Liver, book; liber, originally the bark of trees on which books were written.
Dinair, coin; denarius. Seth, arrow; sagitta. Caus, cheese; caseus. Caul, cabbage; caulis.
These words are certainly foreign words in Cornish and the other Celtic languages in which they occur, and to attempt to supply for some of them a purely Celtic etymology shows a complete want of appreciation both of the history of words and of the phonetic laws that govern each family of the Indo-European languages. Sometimes, no doubt, the Latin words have been considerably changed and modified, according to the phonetic peculiarities of the dialects into which they were received. Thus, gwespar for vesper, seth for sagitta, caus for caseus, hardly look like Latin words. Yet no real Celtic scholar would claim them as Celtic; and the Rev. Robert Williams, the author of the "Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum," in speaking of a list of words borrowed from Latin by the Welsh during the stay of the Romans in Britain, is no doubt right in stating "that it will be found much more extensive than is generally imagined."
Latin words which have reached the Cornish after they had assumed a French or Norman disguise, are, for instance,—
Emperur, instead of Latin imperator (Welsh, ymherawdwr).
Laian, the French loyal, but not the Latin legalis. Likewise, dislaian, disloyal.
Fruit, fruit; Lat. fructus; French, fruit.
Funten, fountain, commonly pronounced fenton; Lat. fontana; French, fontaine.
Gromersy, i.e. grand mercy, thanks.
Hoyz, hoyz, hoyz! hear, hear! The Norman-French, Oyez.
The town-crier of Aberconwy may still be heard prefacing his notices with the shout of "Hoyz, hoyz, hoyz!" which in other places has been corrupted to "O yes."
The following words, adopted into Cornish and other Celtic dialects, clearly show their Saxon origin:—
Cafor, a chafer; Germ, kaefer. Craft, art, craft. Redior, a reader. Storc, a stork. Let, hindrance, let; preserved in the German, verletzen.(54)
Considering that Cornish and other Celtic dialects are members of the same family to which Latin and German belong, it is sometimes difficult to tell at once whether a Celtic word was really borrowed, or whether it belongs to that ancient stock of words which all the Aryan languages share in common. This is a point which can be determined by scholars only, and by means of phonetic tests. Thus the Cornish huir, or hoer, is clearly the same word as the Latin soror, sister. But the change of s into h would not have taken place if the word had been simply borrowed from Latin, while many words beginning with s in Sanskrit, Latin, and German, change the s into h in Cornish as well as in Greek and Persian. The Cornish hoer, sister, is indeed curiously like the Persian khaher, the regular representative of the Sanskrit svasar, the Latin soror. The same applies to braud, brother, dedh, day, dri, three, and many more words which form the primitive stock of Cornish, and were common to all the Aryan languages before their earliest dispersion.
What applies to the language of Cornwall, applies with equal force to the other relics of antiquity of that curious county. It has been truly said that Cornwall is poor in antiquities, but it is equally true that it is rich in antiquity. The difficulty is to discriminate, and to distinguish what is really Cornish or Celtic from what may be later additions, of Roman, Saxon, Danish, and Norman origin. Now here, as we said before, the safest rule is clearly the same as that which we followed in our analysis of language. Let everything be claimed for English, Norman, Danish, and Roman sources that can clearly be proved to come from thence; but let what remains unclaimed be considered as Cornish or Celtic. Thus, if we do not find in countries exclusively inhabited by Romans or Saxons anything like a cromlech, surely we have a right to look upon these strange structures as remnants of Celtic times. It makes no difference if it can be shown that below these cromlechs coins have occasionally been found of the Roman Emperors. This only proves that even during the days of Roman supremacy the Cornish style of public monuments, whether sepulchral or otherwise, remained. Nay, why should not even a Roman settled in Cornwall have adopted the monumental style of his adopted country? Roman and Saxon hands may have helped to erect some of the cromlechs which are still to be seen in Cornwall, but the original idea of such monuments, and hence their name, is purely Celtic.
Cromleh in Cornish, or cromlech in Welsh, means a bent slab, from the Cornish crom, bent, curved, rounded, and leh, a slab. Though many of these cromlechs have been destroyed, Cornwall still possesses some fine specimens of these ancient stone tripods. Most of them are large granite slabs, supported by three stones fixed in the ground. These supporters are likewise huge flat stones, but the capstone is always the largest, and its weight inclining towards one point, imparts strength to the whole structure. At Lanyon, however, where the top-stone of a cromlech was thrown down in 1816 by a violent storm, the supporters remained standing, and the capstone was replaced in 1824, though not, it would seem, at its original height. Dr. Borlase relates that in his time the monument was high enough for a man to sit on horseback under it. At present such a feat would be impossible, the cover-stone being only about five feet from the ground. These cromlechs, though very surprising when seen for the first time, represent in reality one of the simplest achievements of primitive architecture. It is far easier to balance a heavy weight on three uneven props than to rest it level on two or four even supporters. There are, however, cromlechs resting on four or more stones, these stones forming a kind of chamber, or a kist-vaen, which is supposed to have served originally as a sepulchre. These structures presuppose a larger amount of architectural skill; still more so the gigantic portals of Stonehenge, which are formed by two pillars of equal height, joined by a superincumbent stone. Here weight alone was no longer considered sufficient for imparting strength and safety, but holes were worked in the upper stones, and the pointed tops of the pillars were fitted into them. In the slabs that form the cromlechs we find no such traces of careful workmanship; and this, as well as other considerations, would support the opinion, that in Stonehenge we have one of the latest specimens of Celtic architecture. Marvelous as are the remains of that primitive style of architectural art, the only real problem they offer is, how such large stones could have been brought together from a distance, and how such enormous weights could have been lifted up. The first question is answered by ropes and rollers; and the mural sculptures of Nineveh show us what can be done by such simple machinery. We there see the whole picture of how these colossal blocks of stone were moved from the quarry on to the place where they were wanted. Given plenty of time, and plenty of men and oxen, and there is no block that could not be brought to its right place by means of ropes and rollers. And that our forefathers did not stint themselves either in time, or in men, or other cattle, when engaged in erecting such monuments, we know even from comparatively modern times. Under Harold Harfagr, two kings spent three whole years in erecting one single tumulus; and Harold Blatand is said to have employed the whole of his army and a vast number of oxen in transporting a large stone which he wished to place on his mother's tomb. As to the second question, we can readily understand how, after the supporters had once been fixed in the ground, an artificial mound might be raised, which, when the heavy slab had been rolled up on an inclined plane, might be removed again, and thus leave the heavy stone poised in its startling elevation.
As skeletons have been found under some of the cromlechs, there can be little doubt that the chambers inclosed by them, the so-called kist-vaens, were intended to receive the remains of the dead, and to perpetuate their memory. And as these sepulchral monuments are most frequent in those parts of the British Isles which from the earliest to the latest times were inhabited by Celtic people, they may be considered as representative of the Celtic style of public sepulture. Kist-vaen, or cist-vaen, means a stone-chamber, from cista, a chest, and vaen, the modified form of maen or men, stone. Their size is, with few exceptions, not less than the size of a human body. But although these monuments were originally sepulchral, we may well understand that the burying-places of great men, of kings, or priests, or generals, were likewise used for the celebration of other religious rites. Thus we read in the Book of Lecan, "that Amhalgaith built a cairn, for the purpose of holding a meeting of the Hy-Amhalgaith every year, and to view his ships and fleet going and coming, and as a place of interment for himself."(55) Nor does it follow, as some antiquarians maintain, that every structure in the style of a cromlech, even in England, is exclusively Celtic. We imitate pyramids and obelisks: why should not the Saxons have built the Kitts Cotty House, which is found in a thoroughly Saxon neighborhood, after Celtic models and with the aid of Celtic captives? This cromlech stands in Kent, on the brow of a hill about a mile and a half from Aylesford, to the right of the great road from Rochester to Maidstone. Near it, across the Medway, are the stone circles of Addington. The stone on the south side is 8 ft. high by 7-1/2 broad, and 2 ft. thick; weight, about 8 tons. That on the north is 8 ft. by 8, and 2 thick; weight, 8 tons 10 cwt. The end stone, 5 ft. 6 in. high by 5 ft. broad; thickness, 14 in.; weight, 2 tons 8-1/4 cwt. The impost is 11 ft. long by 8 ft. broad, and 2 ft. thick; weight, 10 tons 7 cwt. It is higher, therefore, than the Cornish cromlechs, but in other respects it is a true specimen of that class of Celtic monuments. The cover-stone of the cromlech at Molfra is 9 ft. 8 in. by 14 ft. 3 in.; its supporters are 5 ft. high. The cover-stone of the Chun cromlech measures 12-1/2 ft. in length and 11 ft. in width. The largest slab is that at Lanyon, which measures 18-1/2 ft. in length and 9 ft. at the broadest part.
The cromlechs are no doubt the most characteristic and most striking among the monuments of Cornwall. Though historians have differed as to their exact purpose, not even the most careless traveller could pass them by without seeing that they do not stand there without a purpose. They speak for themselves, and they certainly speak in a language that is neither Roman, Saxon, Danish, nor Norman. Hence in England they may, by a kind of exhaustive process of reasoning, be claimed as relics of Celtic civilization. The same argument applies to the cromlechs and stone avenues of Carnac, in Brittany. Here, too, language and history attest the former presence of Celtic people; nor could any other race, that influenced the historical destinies of the North of Gaul, claim such structures as their own. Even in still more distant places, in the South of France, in Scandinavia, or Germany, where similar monuments have been discovered, they may, though more hesitatingly, be classed as Celtic, particularly if they are found near the natural high roads on which we know that the Celts in their westward migrations preceded the Teutonic and Slavonic Aryans. But the case is totally different when we hear of cromlechs, cairns, and kist-vaens in the North of Africa, in Upper Egypt, on the Lebanon, near the Jordan, in Circassia, or in the South of India. Here, and more particularly in the South of India, we have no indications whatever of Celtic Aryans; on the contrary, if that name is taken in its strict scientific meaning, it would be impossible to account for the presence of Celtic Aryans in those southern latitudes at any time after the original dispersion of the Aryan family. It is very natural that English officers living in India should be surprised at monuments which cannot but remind them of what they had seen at home, whether in Cornwall, Ireland, or Scotland. A description of some of these monuments, the so-called Pandoo Coolies in Malabar, was given by Mr. J. Babington, in 1820, and published in the third volume of the "Transactions of the Literary Society of Bombay," in 1823. Captain Congreve called attention to what he considered Scythic Druidical remains in the Nilghiri hills, in a paper published in 1847, in the "Madras Journal of Literature and Science," and the same subject was treated in the same journal by the Rev. W. Taylor. A most careful and interesting description of similar monuments has lately been published in the "Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy," by Captain Meadows Taylor, under the title of "Description of Cairns, Cromlechs, Kist-vaens, and other Celtic, Druidical, or Scythian Monuments in the Dekhan." Captain Taylor found these monuments near the village of Rajunkolloor, in the principality of Shorapoor, an independent native state, situated between the Bheema and Krishna rivers, immediately above their junction. Others were discovered near Huggeritgi, others on the hill of Yemmee Gooda, others again near Shapoor, Hyderabad, and other places. All these monuments in the South of India are no doubt extremely interesting; but to call them Celtic, Druidical, or Scythic, is unscientific, or, at all events, exceedingly premature. There is in all architectural monuments a natural or rational, and a conventional, or, it may be, irrational element. A striking agreement in purely conventional features may justify the assumption that monuments so far distant from each others as the cromlechs of Anglesea and the "Mori-Munni" of Shorapoor owe their origin to the same architects, or to the same races. But an agreement in purely natural contrivances goes for nothing, or, at least, for very little. Now there is very little that can be called conventional in a mere stone pillar, or in a cairn, that is, an artificial heap of stones. Even the erection of a cromlech can hardly be claimed as a separate style of architecture. Children, all over the world, if building houses with cards, will build cromlechs; and people, all over the world, if the neighborhood supplies large slabs of stone, will put three stones together to keep out the sun or the wind, and put a fourth stone on the top to keep out the rain. Before monuments like those described by Captain Meadows Taylor can be classed as Celtic or Druidical, a possibility, at all events, must be shown that Celts, in the true sense of the word, could ever have inhabited the Dekhan. Till that is done, it is better to leave them anonymous, or to call them by their native names, than to give to them a name which is apt to mislead the public at large, and to encourage theories which exceed the limits of legitimate speculation.
Returning to Cornwall, we find there, besides the cromlechs, pillars, holed stones, and stone circles, all of which may be classed as public monuments. They all bear witness to a kind of public spirit, and to a certain advance in social and political life, at the time of their erection. They were meant for people living at the time, who understood their meaning, if not as messages to posterity, and, if so, as truly historical monuments; for history begins when the living begin to care about a good opinion of those who come after them. Some of the single Cornish pillars tell us little indeed; nothing, in reality, beyond the fact that they were erected by human skill, and with some human purpose. Some of these monoliths seem to have been of a considerable size. In a village called Men Perhen, in Constantine parish, there stood, "about five years ago,"—so Dr. Borlase relates in the year 1769,—a large pyramidal stone, twenty feet above the ground, and four feet in the ground; it made above twenty stone posts for gates when it was clove up by the farmer who gave the account to the Doctor.(56) Other stones, like the Men Scrifa, have inscriptions, but these inscriptions are Roman, and of comparatively late date. There are some pillars, like the Pipers at Bolleit, which are clearly connected with the stone circles close by, remnants, it may be, of old stone avenues, or beacons, from which signals might be sent to other distant settlements. The holed stones, too, are generally found in close proximity to other large stone monuments. They are called men-an-tol, hole-stones, in Cornwall; and the name of tol-men, or dol-men, which is somewhat promiscuously used by Celtic antiquarians, should be restricted to monuments of this class, toll being the Cornish word for hole, men for stone, and an the article. French antiquarians, taking dol or tol as a corruption of tabula, use dolman in the sense of table-stones, and as synonymous with cromlech, while they frequently use cromlech in the sense of stone circles. This can hardly be justified, and leads at all events to much confusion.
The stone circles, whether used for religious or judicial purposes,—and there was in ancient times very little difference between the two,—were clearly intended for solemn meetings. There is a very perfect circle at Boscawen-un, which consisted originally of nineteen stones. Dr. Borlase, whose work on the Antiquities of the County of Cornwall contains the most trustworthy information as to the state of Cornish antiquities about a hundred years ago, mentions three other circles which had the same number of stones, while others vary from twelve to seventy-two.
"The figure of these monuments," he says, "is either simple, or compounded. Of the first kind are exact circles; elliptical or semicircular. The construction of these is not always the same, some having their circumference marked with large separate stones only; others having ridges of small stones intermixed, and sometimes walls and seats, serving to render the inclosure more complete. Other circular monuments have their figure more complex and varied, consisting, not only of a circle, but of some other distinguishing properties. In or near the centre of some stands a stone taller than the rest, as at Boscawen-un; in the middle of others, a kist-vaen. A cromleh distinguishes the centre of some circles, and one remarkable rock that of others; some have only one line of stones in their circumference, and some have two; some circles are adjacent, some contiguous, and some include, and some intersect each other. Sometimes urns are found in or near them. Some are curiously erected on geometrical plans, the chief entrance facing the cardinal points of the heavens; some have avenues leading to them, placed exactly north and south, with detached stones, sometimes in straight lines to the east and west, sometimes triangular. These monuments are found in many foreign countries, in Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, as well as in all the isles dependent upon Britain (the Orkneys, Western Isles, Jersey, Ireland, and the Isle of Man), and in most parts of Britain itself."
Modern traditions have everywhere clustered round these curious stone circles. Being placed in a circular order, so as to make an area for dancing, they were naturally called Dawns-men, i.e. dancing stones. This name was soon corrupted into dancemen, and a legend sprang up at once to account for the name, namely, that these men had danced on a Sunday and been changed into stones. Another corruption of the same name into Danis-men led to the tradition that these circles were built by the Danes. A still more curious name for these circles is that of "Nine Maidens," which occurs at Boscawen-un, and in several other places in Cornwall. Now the Boscawen-un circle consists of nineteen stones, and there are very few "Nine Maidens" that consist of nine stones only. Yet the name prevails, and is likewise supported by local legends of nine maidens having been changed into stones for dancing on a Sunday, or some other misdeed. One part of the legend may perhaps be explained by the fact that medn would be a common corruption in modern Cornish for men, stone, as pen becomes pedn, and gwyn, gwydn, etc., and that the Saxons mistook Cornish medn for their own maiden. But even without this, legends of a similar character would spring up wherever the popular mind is startled by strange monuments, the history and purpose of which has been forgotten. Thus Captain Meadows Taylor tells us that at Vibat-Hullie the people told him "that the stones were men who, as they stood marking out the places for the elephants of the king of the dwarfs, were turned into stone by him, because they would not keep quiet." And M. de Cambry, as quoted by him, says in regard to Carnac, "that the rocks were believed to be an army turned into stone, or the work of the Croins,—men or demons, two or three feet high, who carried these rocks in their hands, and placed them there."
A second class of Cornish antiquities comprises private buildings, whether castles or huts or caves. What are called castles in Cornwall are simple intrenchments, consisting of large and small stones piled up about ten or twelve feet high, and held together by their own weight, without any cement. There are everywhere traces of a ditch, then of a wall; sometimes, as at Chun Castle, of another ditch and another wall; and there is generally some contrivance for protecting the principal entrance by walls overlapping the ditches. Near these castles barrows are found, and in several cases there are clear traces of a communication between them and some ancient Celtic villages and caves, which seem to have been placed under the protection of these primitive strongholds. Many of the cliffs in Cornwall are fortified towards the land by walls and ditches, thus cutting off these extreme promontories from communication with the land, as they are by nature inaccessible from the sea. Some antiquarians ascribed these castles to the Danes, the very last people, one would think, to shut themselves up in such hopeless retreats. Here, too, as in other cases, a popular etymology may have taken the place of an historical authority, and the Cornish word for castle being Dinas as in Castle-an-Dinas, Pendennis, etc., the later Saxon-speaking population may have been reminded by Dinas of the Danes, and on the strength of this vague similarity have ascribed to these pirates the erection of the Cornish castles.