Myths and Myth-Makers: Old Tales and Superstitions Interpreted by Comparative Mythology, by John Fiske

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VI. Juventus Mundi.150

150 Juventus Mundi. The Gods and Men of the Heroic Age. By the Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. 1869.

TWELVE years ago, when, in concluding his “Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age,” Mr. Gladstone applied to himself the warning addressed by Agamemnon to the priest of Apollo,

“Let not Nemesis catch me by the swift ships.”

he would seem to have intended it as a last farewell to classical studies. Yet, whatever his intentions may have been, they have yielded to the sweet desire of revisiting familiar ground — a desire as strong in the breast of the classical scholar as was the yearning which led Odysseus to reject the proffered gift of immortality, so that he might but once more behold the wreathed smoke curling about the roofs of his native Ithaka. In this new treatise, on the “Youth of the World,” Mr. Gladstone discusses the same questions which were treated in his earlier work; and the main conclusions reached in the “Studies on Homer” are here so little modified with reference to the recent progress of archaeological inquiries, that the book can hardly be said to have had any other reason for appearing, save the desire of loitering by the ships of the Argives, and of returning thither as often as possible.

The title selected by Mr. Gladstone for his new work is either a very appropriate one or a strange misnomer, according to the point of view from which it is regarded. Such being the case, we might readily acquiesce in its use, and pass it by without comment, trusting that the author understood himself when he adopted it, were it not that by incidental references, and especially by his allusions to the legendary literature of the Jews, Mr. Gladstone shows that he means more by the title than it can fairly be made to express. An author who seeks to determine prehistoric events by references to Kadmos, and Danaos, and Abraham, is at once liable to the suspicion of holding very inadequate views as to the character of the epoch which may properly be termed the “youth of the world.” Often in reading Mr. Gladstone we are reminded of Renan’s strange suggestion that an exploration of the Hindu Kush territory, whence probably came the primitive Aryans, might throw some new light on the origin of language. Nothing could well be more futile. The primitive Aryan language has already been partly reconstructed for us; its grammatical forms and syntactic devices are becoming familiar to scholars; one great philologist has even composed a tale in it; yet in studying this long-buried dialect we are not much nearer the first beginnings of human speech than in studying the Greek of Homer, the Sanskrit of the Vedas, or the Umbrian of the Igovine Inscriptions. The Aryan mother-tongue had passed into the last of the three stages of linguistic growth long before the break-up of the tribal communities in Aryana-vaedjo, and at that early date presented a less primitive structure than is to be seen in the Chinese or the Mongolian of our own times. So the state of society depicted in the Homeric poems, and well illustrated by Mr. Gladstone, is many degrees less primitive than that which is revealed to us by the archaeological researches either of Pictet and Windischmann, or of Tylor, Lubbock, and M’Lennan. We shall gather evidences of this as we proceed. Meanwhile let us remember that at least eleven thousand years before the Homeric age men lived in communities, and manufactured pottery on the banks of the Nile; and let us not leave wholly out of sight that more distant period, perhaps a million years ago, when sparse tribes of savage men, contemporaneous with the mammoths of Siberia and the cave-tigers of Britain, struggled against the intense cold of the glacial winters.

Nevertheless, though the Homeric age appears to be a late one when considered with reference to the whole career of the human race, there is a point of view from which it may be justly regarded as the “youth of the world.” However long man may have existed upon the earth, he becomes thoroughly and distinctly human in the eyes of the historian only at the epoch at which he began to create for himself a literature. As far back as we can trace the progress of the human race continuously by means of the written word, so far do we feel a true historical interest in its fortunes, and pursue our studies with a sympathy which the mere lapse of time is powerless to impair. But the primeval man, whose history never has been and never will be written, whose career on the earth, dateless and chartless, can be dimly revealed to us only by palaeontology, excites in us a very different feeling. Though with the keenest interest we ransack every nook and corner of the earth’s surface for information about him, we are all the while aware that what we are studying is human zoology and not history. Our Neanderthal man is a specimen, not a character. We cannot ask him the Homeric question, what is his name, who were his parents, and how did he get where we found him. His language has died with him, and he can render no account of himself. We can only regard him specifically as Homo Anthropos, a creature of bigger brain than his congener Homo Pithekos, and of vastly greater promise. But this, we say, is physical science, and not history.

For the historian, therefore, who studies man in his various social relations, the youth of the world is the period at which literature begins. We regard the history of the western world as beginning about the tenth century before the Christian era, because at that date we find literature, in Greece and Palestine, beginning to throw direct light upon the social and intellectual condition of a portion of mankind. That great empires, rich in historical interest and in materials for sociological generalizations, had existed for centuries before that date, in Egypt and Assyria, we do not doubt, since they appear at the dawn of history with all the marks of great antiquity; but the only steady historical light thrown upon them shines from the pages of Greek and Hebrew authors, and these know them only in their latest period. For information concerning their early careers we must look, not to history, but to linguistic archaeology, a science which can help us to general results, but cannot enable us to fix dates, save in the crudest manner.

We mention the tenth century before Christ as the earliest period at which we can begin to study human society in general and Greek society in particular, through the medium of literature. But, strictly speaking, the epoch in question is one which cannot be fixed with accuracy. The earliest ascertainable date in Greek history is that of the Olympiad of Koroibos, B. C. 776. There is no doubt that the Homeric poems were written before this date, and that Homer is therefore strictly prehistoric. Had this fact been duly realized by those scholars who have not attempted to deny it, a vast amount of profitless discussion might have been avoided. Sooner or later, as Grote says, “the lesson must be learnt, hard and painful though it be, that no imaginable reach of critical acumen will of itself enable us to discriminate fancy from reality, in the absence of a tolerable stock of evidence.” We do not know who Homer was; we do not know where or when he lived; and in all probability we shall never know. The data for settling the question are not now accessible, and it is not likely that they will ever be discovered. Even in early antiquity the question was wrapped in an obscurity as deep as that which shrouds it to-day. The case between the seven or eight cities which claimed to be the birthplace of the poet, and which Welcker has so ably discussed, cannot be decided. The feebleness of the evidence brought into court may be judged from the fact that the claims of Chios and the story of the poet’s blindness rest alike upon a doubtful allusion in the Hymn to Apollo, which Thukydides (III. 104) accepted as authentic. The majority of modern critics have consoled themselves with the vague conclusion that, as between the two great divisions of the early Greek world, Homer at least belonged to the Asiatic. But Mr. Gladstone has shown good reasons for doubting this opinion. He has pointed out several instances in which the poems seem to betray a closer topographical acquaintance with European than with Asiatic Greece, and concludes that Athens and Argos have at least as good a claim to Homer as Chios or Smyrna.

It is far more desirable that we should form an approximate opinion as to the date of the Homeric poems, than that we should seek to determine the exact locality in which they originated. Yet the one question is hardly less obscure than the other. Different writers of antiquity assigned eight different epochs to Homer, of which the earliest is separated from the most recent by an interval of four hundred and sixty years — a period as long as that which separates the Black Prince from the Duke of Wellington, or the age of Perikles from the Christian era. While Theopompos quite preposterously brings him down as late as the twenty-third Olympiad, Krates removes him to the twelfth century B. C. The date ordinarily accepted by modern critics is the one assigned by Herodotos, 880 B. C. Yet Mr. Gladstone shows reasons, which appear to me convincing, for doubting or rejecting this date.

I refer to the much-abused legend of the Children of Herakles, which seems capable of yielding an item of trustworthy testimony, provided it be circumspectly dealt with. I differ from Mr. Gladstone in not regarding the legend as historical in its present shape. In my apprehension, Hyllos and Oxylos, as historical personages, have no value whatever; and I faithfully follow Mr. Grote, in refusing to accept any date earlier than the Olympiad of Koroibos. The tale of the “Return of the Herakleids” is undoubtedly as unworthy of credit as the legend of Hengst and Horsa; yet, like the latter, it doubtless embodies a historical occurrence. One cannot approve, as scholarlike or philosophical, the scepticism of Mr. Cox, who can see in the whole narrative nothing but a solar myth. There certainly was a time when the Dorian tribes — described in the legend as the allies of the Children of Herakles — conquered Peloponnesos; and that time was certainly subsequent to the composition of the Homeric poems. It is incredible that the Iliad and the Odyssey should ignore the existence of Dorians in Peloponnesos, if there were Dorians not only dwelling but ruling there at the time when the poems were written. The poems are very accurate and rigorously consistent in their use of ethnical appellatives; and their author, in speaking of Achaians and Argives, is as evidently alluding to peoples directly known to him, as is Shakespeare when he mentions Danes and Scotchmen. Now Homer knows Achaians, Argives, and Pelasgians dwelling in Peloponnesos; and he knows Dorians also, but only as a people inhabiting Crete. (Odyss. XIX. 175.) With Homer, moreover, the Hellenes are not the Greeks in general but only a people dwelling in the north, in Thessaly. When these poems were written, Greece was not known as Hellas, but as Achaia — the whole country taking its name from the Achaians, the dominant race in Peloponnesos. Now at the beginning of the truly historical period, in the eighth century B. C., all this is changed. The Greeks as a people are called Hellenes; the Dorians rule in Peloponnesos, while their lands are tilled by Argive Helots; and the Achaians appear only as an insignificant people occupying the southern shore of the Corinthian Gulf. How this change took place we cannot tell. The explanation of it can never be obtained from history, though some light may perhaps be thrown upon it by linguistic archaeology. But at all events it was a great change, and could not have taken place in a moment. It is fair to suppose that the Helleno-Dorian conquest must have begun at least a century before the first Olympiad; for otherwise the geographical limits of the various Greek races would not have been so completely established as we find them to have been at that date. The Greeks, indeed, supposed it to have begun at least three centuries earlier, but it is impossible to collect evidence which will either refute or establish that opinion. For our purposes it is enough to know that the conquest could not have taken place later than 900 B. C.; and if this be the case, the MINIMUM DATE for the composition of the Homeric poems must be the tenth century before Christ; which is, in fact, the date assigned by Aristotle. Thus far, and no farther, I believe it possible to go with safety. Whether the poems were composed in the tenth, eleventh, or twelfth century cannot be determined. We are justified only in placing them far enough back to allow the Helleno-Dorian conquest to intervene between their composition and the beginning of recorded history. The tenth century B. C. is the latest date which will account for all the phenomena involved in the case, and with this result we must be satisfied. Even on this showing, the Iliad and Odyssey appear as the oldest existing specimens of Aryan literature, save perhaps the hymns of the Rig-Veda and the sacred books of the Avesta.

The apparent difficulty of preserving such long poems for three or four centuries without the aid of writing may seem at first sight to justify the hypothesis of Wolf, that they are mere collections of ancient ballads, like those which make up the Mahabharata, preserved in the memories of a dozen or twenty bards, and first arranged under the orders of Peisistratos. But on a careful examination this hypothesis is seen to raise more difficulties than it solves. What was there in the position of Peisistratos, or of Athens itself in the sixth century B. C., so authoritative as to compel all Greeks to recognize the recension then and there made of their revered poet? Besides which the celebrated ordinance of Solon respecting the rhapsodes at the Panathenaia obliges us to infer the existence of written manuscripts of Homer previous to 550 B. C. As Mr. Grote well observes, the interference of Peisistratos “presupposes a certain foreknown and ancient aggregate, the main lineaments of which were familiar to the Grecian public, although many of the rhapsodes in their practice may have deviated from it both by omission and interpolation. In correcting the Athenian recitations conformably with such understood general type, Peisistratos might hope both to procure respect for Athens and to constitute a fashion for the rest of Greece. But this step of ‘collecting the torn body of sacred Homer’ is something generically different from the composition of a new Iliad out of pre-existing songs: the former is as easy, suitable, and promising as the latter is violent and gratuitous.”151

151 Hist. Greece, Vol. II. p. 208.

As for Wolf’s objection, that the Iliad and Odyssey are too long to have been preserved by memory, it may be met by a simple denial. It is a strange objection indeed, coming from a man of Wolf’s retentive memory. I do not see how the acquisition of the two poems can be regarded as such a very arduous task; and if literature were as scanty now as in Greek antiquity, there are doubtless many scholars who would long since have had them at their tongues’ end. Sir G. C. Lewis, with but little conscious effort, managed to carry in his head a very considerable portion of Greek and Latin classic literature; and Niebuhr (who once restored from recollection a book of accounts which had been accidentally destroyed) was in the habit of referring to book and chapter of an ancient author without consulting his notes. Nay, there is Professor Sophocles, of Harvard University, who, if you suddenly stop and interrogate him in the street, will tell you just how many times any given Greek word occurs in Thukydides, or in AEschylos, or in Plato, and will obligingly rehearse for you the context. If all extant copies of the Homeric poems were to be gathered together and burnt up to-day, like Don Quixote’s library, or like those Arabic manuscripts of which Cardinal Ximenes made a bonfire in the streets of Granada, the poems could very likely be reproduced and orally transmitted for several generations; and much easier must it have been for the Greeks to preserve these books, which their imagination invested with a quasi-sanctity, and which constituted the greater part of the literary furniture of their minds. In Xenophon’s time there were educated gentlemen at Athens who could repeat both Iliad and Odyssey verbatim. (Xenoph. Sympos., III. 5.) Besides this, we know that at Chios there was a company of bards, known as Homerids, whose business it was to recite these poems from memory; and from the edicts of Solon and the Sikyonian Kleisthenes (Herod., V. 67), we may infer that the case was the same in other parts of Greece. Passages from the Iliad used to be sung at the Pythian festivals, to the accompaniment of the harp (Athenaeus, XIV. 638), and in at least two of the Ionic islands of the AEgaean there were regular competitive exhibitions by trained young men, at which prizes were given to the best reciter. The difficulty of preserving the poems, under such circumstances, becomes very insignificant; and the Wolfian argument quite vanishes when we reflect that it would have been no easier to preserve a dozen or twenty short poems than two long ones. Nay, the coherent, orderly arrangement of the Iliad and Odyssey would make them even easier to remember than a group of short rhapsodies not consecutively arranged.

When we come to interrogate the poems themselves, we find in them quite convincing evidence that they were originally composed for the ear alone, and without reference to manuscript assistance. They abound in catchwords, and in verbal repetitions. The “Catalogue of Ships,” as Mr. Gladstone has acutely observed, is arranged in well-defined sections, in such a way that the end of each section suggests the beginning of the next one. It resembles the versus memoriales found in old-fashioned grammars. But the most convincing proof of all is to be found in the changes which Greek pronunciation went through between the ages of Homer and Peisistratos. “At the time when these poems were composed, the digamma (or w) was an effective consonant, and figured as such in the structure of the verse; at the time when they were committed to writing, it had ceased to be pronounced, and therefore never found a place in any of the manuscripts — insomuch that the Alexandrian critics, though they knew of its existence in the much later poems of Alkaios and Sappho, never recognized it in Homer. The hiatus, and the various perplexities of metre, occasioned by the loss of the digamma, were corrected by different grammatical stratagems. But the whole history of this lost letter is very curious, and is rendered intelligible only by the supposition that the Iliad and Odyssey belonged for a wide space of time to the memory, the voice, and the ear exclusively.”152

152 Grote, Hist. Greece, Vol. II. p. 198.

Many of these facts are of course fully recognized by the Wolfians; but the inference drawn from them, that the Homeric poems began to exist in a piecemeal condition, is, as we have seen, unnecessary. These poems may indeed be compared, in a certain sense, with the early sacred and epic literature of the Jews, Indians, and Teutons. But if we assign a plurality of composers to the Psalms and Pentateuch, the Mahabharata, the Vedas, and the Edda, we do so because of internal evidence furnished by the books themselves, and not because these books could not have been preserved by oral tradition. Is there, then, in the Homeric poems any such internal evidence of dual or plural origin as is furnished by the interlaced Elohistic and Jehovistic documents of the Pentateuch? A careful investigation will show that there is not. Any scholar who has given some attention to the subject can readily distinguish the Elohistic from the Jehovistic portions of the Pentateuch; and, save in the case of a few sporadic verses, most Biblical critics coincide in the separation which they make between the two. But the attempts which have been made to break up the Iliad and Odyssey have resulted in no such harmonious agreement. There are as many systems as there are critics, and naturally enough. For the Iliad and the Odyssey are as much alike as two peas, and the resemblance which holds between the two holds also between the different parts of each poem. From the appearance of the injured Chryses in the Grecian camp down to the intervention of Athene on the field of contest at Ithaka, we find in each book and in each paragraph the same style, the same peculiarities of expression, the same habits of thought, the same quite unique manifestations of the faculty of observation. Now if the style were commonplace, the observation slovenly, or the thought trivial, as is wont to be the case in ballad-literature, this argument from similarity might not carry with it much conviction. But when we reflect that throughout the whole course of human history no other works, save the best tragedies of Shakespeare, have ever been written which for combined keenness of observation, elevation of thought, and sublimity of style can compare with the Homeric poems, we must admit that the argument has very great weight indeed. Let us take, for example, the sixth and twenty-fourth books of the Iliad. According to the theory of Lachmann, the most eminent champion of the Wolfian hypothesis, these are by different authors. Human speech has perhaps never been brought so near to the limit of its capacity of expressing deep emotion as in the scene between Priam and Achilleus in the twenty-fourth book; while the interview between Hektor and Andromache in the sixth similarly wellnigh exhausts the power of language. Now, the literary critic has a right to ask whether it is probable that two such passages, agreeing perfectly in turn of expression, and alike exhibiting the same unapproachable degree of excellence, could have been produced by two different authors. And the physiologist — with some inward misgivings suggested by Mr. Galton’s theory that the Greeks surpassed us in genius even as we surpass the negroes — has a right to ask whether it is in the natural course of things for two such wonderful poets, strangely agreeing in their minutest psychological characteristics, to be produced at the same time. And the difficulty thus raised becomes overwhelming when we reflect that it is the coexistence of not two only, but at least twenty such geniuses which the Wolfian hypothesis requires us to account for. That theory worked very well as long as scholars thoughtlessly assumed that the Iliad and Odyssey were analogous to ballad poetry. But, except in the simplicity of the primitive diction, there is no such analogy. The power and beauty of the Iliad are never so hopelessly lost as when it is rendered into the style of a modern ballad. One might as well attempt to preserve the grandeur of the triumphant close of Milton’s Lycidas by turning it into the light Anacreontics of the ode to “Eros stung by a Bee.” The peculiarity of the Homeric poetry, which defies translation, is its union of the simplicity characteristic of an early age with a sustained elevation of style, which can be explained only as due to individual genius.

The same conclusion is forced upon us when we examine the artistic structure of these poems. With regard to the Odyssey in particular, Mr. Grote has elaborately shown that its structure is so thoroughly integral, that no considerable portion could be subtracted without converting the poem into a more or less admirable fragment. The Iliad stands in a somewhat different position. There are unmistakable peculiarities in its structure, which have led even Mr. Grote, who utterly rejects the Wolfian hypothesis, to regard it as made up of two poems; although he inclines to the belief that the later poem was grafted upon the earlier by its own author, by way of further elucidation and expansion; just as Goethe, in his old age, added a new part to “Faust.” According to Mr. Grote, the Iliad, as originally conceived, was properly an Achilleis; its design being, as indicated in the opening lines of the poem, to depict the wrath of Achilleus and the unutterable woes which it entailed upon the Greeks The plot of this primitive Achilleis is entirely contained in Books I., VIII., and XI.-XXII.; and, in Mr. Grote’s opinion, the remaining books injure the symmetry of this plot by unnecessarily prolonging the duration of the Wrath, while the embassy to Achilleus, in the ninth book, unduly anticipates the conduct of Agamemnon in the nineteenth, and is therefore, as a piece of bungling work, to be referred to the hands of an inferior interpolator. Mr. Grote thinks it probable that these books, with the exception of the ninth, were subsequently added by the poet, with a view to enlarging the original Achilleis into a real Iliad, describing the war of the Greeks against Troy. With reference to this hypothesis, I gladly admit that Mr. Grote is, of all men now living, the one best entitled to a reverential hearing on almost any point connected with Greek antiquity. Nevertheless it seems to me that his theory rests solely upon imagined difficulties which have no real existence. I doubt if any scholar, reading the Iliad ever so much, would ever be struck by these alleged inconsistencies of structure, unless they were suggested by some a priori theory. And I fear that the Wolfian theory, in spite of Mr. Grote’s emphatic rejection of it, is responsible for some of these over-refined criticisms. Even as it stands, the Iliad is not an account of the war against Troy. It begins in the tenth year of the siege, and it does not continue to the capture of the city. It is simply occupied with an episode in the war — with the wrath of Achilleus and its consequences, according to the plan marked out in the opening lines. The supposed additions, therefore, though they may have given to the poem a somewhat wider scope, have not at any rate changed its primitive character of an Achilleis. To my mind they seem even called for by the original conception of the consequences of the wrath. To have inserted the battle at the ships, in which Sarpedon breaks down the wall of the Greeks, immediately after the occurrences of the first book, would have been too abrupt altogether. Zeus, after his reluctant promise to Thetis, must not be expected so suddenly to exhibit such fell determination. And after the long series of books describing the valorous deeds of Aias, Diomedes, Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Menelaos, the powerful intervention of Achilleus appears in far grander proportions than would otherwise be possible. As for the embassy to Achilleus, in the ninth book, I am unable to see how the final reconciliation with Agamemnon would be complete without it. As Mr. Gladstone well observes, what Achilleus wants is not restitution, but apology; and Agamemnon offers no apology until the nineteenth book. In his answer to the ambassadors, Achilleus scornfully rejects the proposals which imply that the mere return of Briseis will satisfy his righteous resentment, unless it be accompanied with that public humiliation to which circumstances have not yet compelled the leader of the Greeks to subject himself. Achilleus is not to be bought or cajoled. Even the extreme distress of the Greeks in the thirteenth book does not prevail upon him; nor is there anything in the poem to show that he ever would have laid aside his wrath, had not the death of Patroklos supplied him with a new and wholly unforeseen motive. It seems to me that his entrance into the battle after the death of his friend would lose half its poetic effect, were it not preceded by some such scene as that in the ninth book, in which he is represented as deaf to all ordinary inducements. As for the two concluding books, which Mr. Grote is inclined to regard as a subsequent addition, not necessitated by the plan of the poem, I am at a loss to see how the poem can be considered complete without them. To leave the bodies of Patroklos and Hektor unburied would be in the highest degree shocking to Greek religious feelings. Remembering the sentence incurred, in far less superstitious times, by the generals at Arginusai, it is impossible to believe that any conclusion which left Patroklos’s manes unpropitiated, and the mutilated corpse of Hektor unransomed, could have satisfied either the poet or his hearers. For further particulars I must refer the reader to the excellent criticisms of Mr. Gladstone, and also to the article on “Greek History and Legend” in the second volume of Mr. Mill’s “Dissertations and Discussions.” A careful study of the arguments of these writers, and, above all, a thorough and independent examination of the Iliad itself, will, I believe, convince the student that this great poem is from beginning to end the consistent production of a single author.

The arguments of those who would attribute the Iliad and Odyssey, taken as wholes, to two different authors, rest chiefly upon some apparent discrepancies in the mythology of the two poems; but many of these difficulties have been completely solved by the recent progress of the science of comparative mythology. Thus, for example, the fact that, in the Iliad, Hephaistos is called the husband of Charis, while in the Odyssey he is called the husband of Aphrodite, has been cited even by Mr. Grote as evidence that the two poems are not by the same author. It seems to me that one such discrepancy, in the midst of complete general agreement, would be much better explained as Cervantes explained his own inconsistency with reference to the stealing of Sancho’s mule, in the twenty-second chapter of “Don Quixote.” But there is no discrepancy. Aphrodite, though originally the moon-goddess, like the German Horsel, had before Homer’s time acquired many of the attributes of the dawn-goddess Athene, while her lunar characteristics had been to a great extent transferred to Artemis and Persephone. In her renovated character, as goddess of the dawn, Aphrodite became identified with Charis, who appears in the Rig-Veda as dawn-goddess. In the post-Homeric mythology, the two were again separated, and Charis, becoming divided in personality, appears as the Charites, or Graces, who were supposed to be constant attendants of Aphrodite. But in the Homeric poems the two are still identical, and either Charis or Aphrodite may be called the wife of the fire-god, without inconsistency.

Thus to sum up, I believe that Mr. Gladstone is quite right in maintaining that both the Iliad and Odyssey are, from beginning to end, with the exception of a few insignificant interpolations, the work of a single author, whom we have no ground for calling by any other name than that of Homer. I believe, moreover, that this author lived before the beginning of authentic history, and that we can determine neither his age nor his country with precision. We can only decide that he was a Greek who lived at some time previous to the year 900 B.C.

Here, however, I must begin to part company with Mr. Gladstone, and shall henceforth unfortunately have frequent occasion to differ from him on points of fundamental importance. For Mr. Gladstone not only regards the Homeric age as strictly within the limits of authentic history, but he even goes much further than this. He would not only fix the date of Homer positively in the twelfth century B. C., but he regards the Trojan war as a purely historical event, of which Homer is the authentic historian and the probable eye-witness. Nay, he even takes the word of the poet as proof conclusive of the historical character of events happening several generations before the Troika, according to the legendary chronology. He not only regards Agamemnon, Achilleus, and Paris as actual personages, but he ascribes the same reality to characters like Danaos, Kadmos, and Perseus, and talks of the Pelopid and Aiolid dynasties, and the empire of Minos, with as much confidence as if he were dealing with Karlings or Capetians, or with the epoch of the Crusades.

It is disheartening, at the present day, and after so much has been finally settled by writers like Grote, Mommsen, and Sir G. C. Lewis, to come upon such views in the work of a man of scholarship and intelligence. One begins to wonder how many more times it will be necessary to prove that dates and events are of no historical value, unless attested by nearly contemporary evidence. Pausanias and Plutarch were able men no doubt, and Thukydides was a profound historian; but what these writers thought of the Herakleid invasion, the age of Homer, and the war of Troy, can have no great weight with the critical historian, since even in the time of Thukydides these events were as completely obscured by lapse of time as they are now. There is no literary Greek history before the age of Hekataios and Herodotos, three centuries subsequent to the first recorded Olympiad. A portion of this period is satisfactorily covered by inscriptions, but even these fail us before we get within a century of this earliest ascertainable date. Even the career of the lawgiver Lykourgos, which seems to belong to the commencement of the eighth century B. C., presents us, from lack of anything like contemporary records, with many insoluble problems. The Helleno-Dorian conquest, as we have seen, must have occurred at some time or other; but it evidently did not occur within two centuries of the earliest known inscription, and it is therefore folly to imagine that we can determine its date or ascertain the circumstances which attended it. Anterior to this event there is but one fact in Greek antiquity directly known to us — the existence of the Homeric poems. The belief that there was a Trojan war rests exclusively upon the contents of those poems: there is no other independent testimony to it whatever. But the Homeric poems are of no value as testimony to the truth of the statements contained in them, unless it can be proved that their author was either contemporary with the Troika, or else derived his information from contemporary witnesses. This can never be proved. To assume, as Mr. Gladstone does, that Homer lived within fifty years after the Troika, is to make a purely gratuitous assumption. For aught the wisest historian can tell, the interval may have been five hundred years, or a thousand. Indeed the Iliad itself expressly declares that it is dealing with an ancient state of things which no longer exists. It is difficult to see what else can be meant by the statement that the heroes of the Troika belong to an order of men no longer seen upon the earth. (Iliad, V. 304.) Most assuredly Achilleus the son of Thetis, and Sarpedon the son of Zeus, and Helena the daughter of Zeus, are no ordinary mortals, such as might have been seen and conversed with by the poet’s grandfather. They belong to an inferior order of gods, according to the peculiar anthropomorphism of the Greeks, in which deity and humanity are so closely mingled that it is difficult to tell where the one begins and the other ends. Diomedes, single-handed, vanquishes not only the gentle Aphrodite, but even the god of battles himself, the terrible Ares. Nestor quaffs lightly from a goblet which, we are told, not two men among the poet’s contemporaries could by their united exertions raise and place upon a table. Aias and Hektor and Aineias hurl enormous masses of rock as easily as an ordinary man would throw a pebble. All this shows that the poet, in his naive way, conceiving of these heroes as personages of a remote past, was endeavouring as far as possible to ascribe to them the attributes of superior beings. If all that were divine, marvellous, or superhuman were to be left out of the poems, the supposed historical residue would hardly be worth the trouble of saving. As Mr. Cox well observes, “It is of the very essence of the narrative that Paris, who has deserted Oinone, the child of the stream Kebren, and before whom Here, Athene, and Aphrodite had appeared as claimants for the golden apple, steals from Sparta the beautiful sister of the Dioskouroi; that the chiefs are summoned together for no other purpose than to avenge her woes and wrongs; that Achilleus, the son of the sea-nymph Thetis, the wielder of invincible weapons and the lord of undying horses, goes to fight in a quarrel which is not his own; that his wrath is roused because he is robbed of the maiden Briseis, and that henceforth he takes no part in the strife until his friend Patroklos has been slain; that then he puts on the new armour which Thetis brings to him from the anvil of Hephaistos, and goes forth to win the victory. The details are throughout of the same nature. Achilleus sees and converses with Athene; Aphrodite is wounded by Diomedes, and Sleep and Death bear away the lifeless Sarpedon on their noiseless wings to the far-off land of light.” In view of all this it is evident that Homer was not describing, like a salaried historiographer, the state of things which existed in the time of his father or grandfather. To his mind the occurrences which he described were those of a remote, a wonderful, a semi-divine past.

This conclusion, which I have thus far supported merely by reference to the Iliad itself, becomes irresistible as soon as we take into account the results obtained during the past thirty years by the science of comparative mythology. As long as our view was restricted to Greece, it was perhaps excusable that Achilleus and Paris should be taken for exaggerated copies of actual persons. Since the day when Grimm laid the foundations of the science of mythology, all this has been changed. It is now held that Achilleus and Paris and Helena are to be found, not only in the Iliad, but also in the Rig-Veda, and therefore, as mythical conceptions, date, not from Homer, but from a period preceding the dispersion of the Aryan nations. The tale of the Wrath of Achilleus, far from originating with Homer, far from being recorded by the author of the Iliad as by an eyewitness, must have been known in its essential features in Aryana-vaedjo, at that remote epoch when the Indian, the Greek, and the Teuton were as yet one and the same. For the story has been retained by the three races alike, in all its principal features; though the Veda has left it in the sky where it originally belonged, while the Iliad and the Nibelungenlied have brought it down to earth, the one locating it in Asia Minor, and the other in Northwestern Europe.153

153 For the precise extent to which I would indorse the theory that the Iliad-myth is an account of the victory of light over darkness, let me refer to what I have said above on p. 134. I do not suppose that the struggle between light and darkness was Homer’s subject in the Iliad any more than it was Shakespeare’s subject in “Hamlet.” Homer’s subject was the wrath of the Greek hero, as Shakespeare’s subject was the vengeance of the Danish prince. Nevertheless, the story of Hamlet, when traced back to its Norse original, is unmistakably the story of the quarrel between summer and winter; and the moody prince is as much a solar hero as Odin himself. See Simrock, Die Quellen des Shakespeare, I. 127-133. Of course Shakespeare knew nothing of this, as Homer knew nothing of the origin of his Achilleus. The two stories, therefore, are not to be taken as sun-myths in their present form. They are the offspring of other stories which were sun-myths; they are stories which conform to the sun-myth type after the manner above illustrated in the paper on Light and Darkness. [Hence there is nothing unintelligible in the inconsistency — which seems to puzzle Max Muller (Science of Language, 6th ed. Vol. II. p. 516, note 20)— of investing Paris with many of the characteristics of the children of light. Supposing, as we must, that the primitive sense of the Iliad-myth had as entirely disappeared in the Homeric age, as the primitive sense of the Hamlet-myth had disappeared in the times of Elizabeth, the fit ground for wonder is that such inconsistencies are not more numerous.] The physical theory of myths will be properly presented and comprehended, only when it is understood that we accept the physical derivation of such stories as the Iliad-myth in much the same way that we are bound to accept the physical etymologies of such words as soul, consider, truth, convince, deliberate, and the like. The late Dr. Gibbs of Yale College, in his “Philological Studies,”— a little book which I used to read with delight when a boy — describes such etymologies as “faded metaphors.” In similar wise, while refraining from characterizing the Iliad or the tragedy of Hamlet — any more than I would characterize Le Juif Errant by Sue, or La Maison Forestiere by Erckmann-Chatrian — as nature-myths, I would at the same time consider these poems well described as embodying “faded nature-myths.”

In the Rig-Veda the Panis are the genii of night and winter, corresponding to the Nibelungs, or “Children of the Mist,” in the Teutonic legend, and to the children of Nephele (cloud) in the Greek myth of the Golden Fleece. The Panis steal the cattle of the Sun (Indra, Helios, Herakles), and carry them by an unknown route to a dark cave eastward. Sarama, the creeping Dawn, is sent by Indra to find and recover them. The Panis then tamper with Sarama, and try their best to induce her to betray her solar lord. For a while she is prevailed upon to dally with them; yet she ultimately returns to give Indra the information needful in order that he might conquer the Panis, just as Helena, in the slightly altered version, ultimately returns to her western home, carrying with her the treasures (ktemata, Iliad, II. 285) of which Paris had robbed Menelaos. But, before the bright Indra and his solar heroes can reconquer their treasures they must take captive the offspring of Brisaya, the violet light of morning. Thus Achilleus, answering to the solar champion Aharyu, takes captive the daughter of Brises. But as the sun must always be parted from the morning-light, to return to it again just before setting, so Achilleus loses Briseis, and regains her only just before his final struggle. In similar wise Herakles is parted from Iole (“the violet one”), and Sigurd from Brynhild. In sullen wrath the hero retires from the conflict, and his Myrmidons are no longer seen on the battle-field, as the sun hides behind the dark cloud and his rays no longer appear about him. Yet toward the evening, as Briseis returns, he appears in his might, clothed in the dazzling armour wrought for him by the fire-god Hephaistos, and with his invincible spear slays the great storm-cloud, which during his absence had wellnigh prevailed over the champions of the daylight. But his triumph is short-lived; for having trampled on the clouds that had opposed him, while yet crimsoned with the fierce carnage, the sharp arrow of the night-demon Paris slays him at the Western Gates. We have not space to go into further details. In Mr. Cox’s “Mythology of the Aryan Nations,” and “Tales of Ancient Greece,” the reader will find the entire contents of the Iliad and Odyssey thus minutely illustrated by comparison with the Veda, the Edda, and the Lay of the Nibelungs.

Ancient as the Homeric poems undoubtedly are, they are modern in comparison with the tale of Achilleus and Helena, as here unfolded. The date of the entrance of the Greeks into Europe will perhaps never be determined; but I do not see how any competent scholar can well place it at less than eight hundred or a thousand years before the time of Homer. Between the two epochs the Greek, Latin, Umbrian, and Keltic lauguages had time to acquire distinct individualities. Far earlier, therefore, than the Homeric “juventus mundi” was that “youth of the world,” in which the Aryan forefathers, knowing no abstract terms, and possessing no philosophy but fetichism, deliberately spoke of the Sun, and the Dawn, and the Clouds, as persons or as animals. The Veda, though composed much later than this — perhaps as late as the Iliad — nevertheless preserves the record of the mental life of this period. The Vedic poet is still dimly aware that Sarama is the fickle twilight, and the Panis the night-demons who strive to coax her from her allegiance to the day-god. He keeps the scene of action in the sky. But the Homeric Greek had long since forgotten that Helena and Paris were anything more than semi-divine mortals, the daughter of Zeus and the son of the Zeus-descended Priam. The Hindu understood that Dyaus (“the bright one”) meant the sky, and Sarama (“the creeping one”) the dawn, and spoke significantly when he called the latter the daughter of the former. But the Greek could not know that Zeus was derived from a root div, “to shine,” or that Helena belonged to a root sar, “to creep.” Phonetic change thus helped him to rise from fetichism to polytheism. His nature-gods became thoroughly anthropomorphic; and he probably no more remembered that Achilleus originally signified the sun, than we remember that the word God, which we use to denote the most vast of conceptions, originally meant simply the Storm-wind. Indeed, when the fetichistic tendency led the Greek again to personify the powers of nature, he had recourse to new names formed from his own language. Thus, beside Apollo we have Helios; Selene beside Artemis and Persephone; Eos beside Athene; Gaia beside Demeter. As a further consequence of this decomposition and new development of the old Aryan mythology, we find, as might be expected, that the Homeric poems are not always consistent in their use of their mythic materials. Thus, Paris, the night-demon, is — to Max Muller’s perplexity — invested with many of the attributes of the bright solar heroes. “Like Perseus, Oidipous, Romulus, and Cyrus, he is doomed to bring ruin on his parents; like them he is exposed in his infancy on the hillside, and rescued by a shepherd.” All the solar heroes begin life in this way. Whether, like Apollo, born of the dark night (Leto), or like Oidipous, of the violet dawn (Iokaste), they are alike destined to bring destruction on their parents, as the night and the dawn are both destroyed by the sun. The exposure of the child in infancy represents the long rays of the morning-sun resting on the hillside. Then Paris forsakes Oinone (“the wine-coloured one”), but meets her again at the gloaming when she lays herself by his side amid the crimson flames of the funeral pyre. Sarpedon also, a solar hero, is made to fight on the side of the Niblungs or Trojans, attended by his friend Glaukos (“the brilliant one”). They command the Lykians, or “children of light”; and with them comes also Memnon, son of the Dawn, from the fiery land of the Aithiopes, the favourite haunt of Zeus and the gods of Olympos.

The Iliad-myth must therefore have been current many ages before the Greeks inhabited Greece, long before there was any Ilion to be conquered. Nevertheless, this does not forbid the supposition that the legend, as we have it, may have been formed by the crystallization of mythical conceptions about a nucleus of genuine tradition. In this view I am upheld by a most sagacious and accurate scholar, Mr. E. A. Freeman, who finds in Carlovingian romance an excellent illustration of the problem before us.

The Charlemagne of romance is a mythical personage. He is supposed to have been a Frenchman, at a time when neither the French nation nor the French language can properly be said to have existed; and he is represented as a doughty crusader, although crusading was not thought of until long after the Karolingian era. The legendary deeds of Charlemagne are not conformed to the ordinary rules of geography and chronology. He is a myth, and, what is more, he is a solar myth — an avatar, or at least a representative, of Odin in his solar capacity. If in his case legend were not controlled and rectified by history, he would be for us as unreal as Agamemnon.

History, however, tells us that there was an Emperor Karl, German in race, name, and language, who was one of the two or three greatest men of action that the world has ever seen, and who in the ninth century ruled over all Western Europe. To the historic Karl corresponds in many particulars the mythical Charlemagne. The legend has preserved the fact, which without the information supplied by history we might perhaps set down as a fiction, that there was a time when Germany, Gaul, Italy, and part of Spain formed a single empire. And, as Mr. Freeman has well observed, the mythical crusades of Charlemagne are good evidence that there were crusades, although the real Karl had nothing whatever to do with one.

Now the case of Agamemnon may be much like that of Charlemagne, except that we no longer have history to help us in rectifying the legend. The Iliad preserves the tradition of a time when a large portion of the islands and mainland of Greece were at least partially subject to a common suzerain; and, as Mr. Freeman has again shrewdly suggested, the assignment of a place like Mykenai, instead of Athens or Sparta or Argos, as the seat of the suzerainty, is strong evidence of the trustworthiness of the tradition. It appears to show that the legend was constrained by some remembered fact, instead of being guided by general probability. Charlemagne’s seat of government has been transferred in romance from Aachen to Paris; had it really been at Paris, says Mr. Freeman, no one would have thought of transferring it to Aachen. Moreover, the story of Agamemnon, though uncontrolled by historic records, is here at least supported by archaeologic remains, which prove Mykenai to have been at some time or other a place of great consequence. Then, as to the Trojan war, we know that the Greeks several times crossed the AEgaean and colonized a large part of the seacoast of Asia Minor. In order to do this it was necessary to oust from their homes many warlike communities of Lydians and Bithynians, and we may be sure that this was not done without prolonged fighting. There may very probably have been now and then a levy en masse in prehistoric Greece, as there was in mediaeval Europe; and whether the great suzerain at Mykenai ever attended one or not, legend would be sure to send him on such an expedition, as it afterwards sent Charlemagne on a crusade.

It is therefore quite possible that Agamemnon and Menelaos may represent dimly remembered sovereigns or heroes, with their characters and actions distorted to suit the exigencies of a narrative founded upon a solar myth. The character of the Nibelungenlied here well illustrates that of the Iliad. Siegfried and Brunhild, Hagen and Gunther, seem to be mere personifications of physical phenomena; but Etzel and Dietrich are none other than Attila and Theodoric surrounded with mythical attributes; and even the conception of Brunhild has been supposed to contain elements derived from the traditional recollection of the historical Brunehault. When, therefore, Achilleus is said, like a true sun-god, to have died by a wound from a sharp instrument in the only vulnerable part of his body, we may reply that the legendary Charlemagne conducts himself in many respects like a solar deity. If Odysseus detained by Kalypso represents the sun ensnared and held captive by the pale goddess of night, the legend of Frederic Barbarossa asleep in a Thuringian mountain embodies a portion of a kindred conception. We know that Charlemagne and Frederic have been substituted for Odin; we may suspect that with the mythical impersonations of Achilleus and Odysseus some traditional figures may be blended. We should remember that in early times the solar-myth was a sort of type after which all wonderful stories would be patterned, and that to such a type tradition also would be made to conform.

In suggesting this view, we are not opening the door to Euhemerism. If there is any one conclusion concerning the Homeric poems which the labours of a whole generation of scholars may be said to have satisfactorily established, it is this, that no trustworthy history can be obtained from either the Iliad or the Odyssey merely by sifting out the mythical element. Even if the poems contain the faint reminiscence of an actual event, that event is inextricably wrapped up in mythical phraseology, so that by no cunning of the scholar can it be construed into history. In view of this it is quite useless for Mr. Gladstone to attempt to base historical conclusions upon the fact that Helena is always called “Argive Helen,” or to draw ethnological inferences from the circumstances that Menelaos, Achilleus, and the rest of the Greek heroes, have yellow hair, while the Trojans are never so described. The Argos of the myth is not the city of Peloponnesos, though doubtless so construed even in Homer’s time. It is “the bright land” where Zeus resides, and the epithet is applied to his wife Here and his daughter Helena, as well as to the dog of Odysseus, who reappears with Sarameyas in the Veda. As for yellow hair, there is no evidence that Greeks have ever commonly possessed it; but no other colour would do for a solar hero, and it accordingly characterizes the entire company of them, wherever found, while for the Trojans, or children of night, it is not required.

A wider acquaintance with the results which have been obtained during the past thirty years by the comparative study of languages and mythologies would have led Mr. Gladstone to reconsider many of his views concerning the Homeric poems, and might perhaps have led him to cut out half or two thirds of his book as hopelessly antiquated. The chapter on the divinities of Olympos would certainly have had to be rewritten, and the ridiculous theory of a primeval revelation abandoned. One can hardly preserve one’s gravity when Mr. Gladstone derives Apollo from the Hebrew Messiah, and Athene from the Logos. To accredit Homer with an acquaintance with the doctrine of the Logos, which did not exist until the time of Philo, and did not receive its authorized Christian form until the middle of the second century after Christ, is certainly a strange proceeding. We shall next perhaps be invited to believe that the authors of the Volsunga Saga obtained the conception of Sigurd from the “Thirty-Nine Articles.” It is true that these deities, Athene and Apollo, are wiser, purer, and more dignified, on the whole, than any of the other divinities of the Homeric Olympos. They alone, as Mr. Gladstone truly observes, are never deceived or frustrated. For all Hellas, Apollo was the interpreter of futurity, and in the maid Athene we have perhaps the highest conception of deity to which the Greek mind had attained in the early times. In the Veda, Athene is nothing but the dawn; but in the Greek mythology, while the merely sensuous glories of daybreak are assigned to Eos, Athene becomes the impersonation of the illuminating and knowledge-giving light of the sky. As the dawn, she is daughter of Zeus, the sky, and in mythic language springs from his forehead; but, according to the Greek conception, this imagery signifies that she shares, more than any other deity, in the boundless wisdom of Zeus. The knowledge of Apollo, on the other hand, is the peculiar privilege of the sun, who, from his lofty position, sees everything that takes place upon the earth. Even the secondary divinity Helios possesses this prerogative to a certain extent.

Next to a Hebrew, Mr. Gladstone prefers a Phoenician ancestry for the Greek divinities. But the same lack of acquaintance with the old Aryan mythology vitiates all his conclusions. No doubt the Greek mythology is in some particulars tinged with Phoenician conceptions. Aphrodite was originally a purely Greek divinity, but in course of time she acquired some of the attributes of the Semitic Astarte, and was hardly improved by the change. Adonis is simply a Semitic divinity, imported into Greece. But the same cannot be proved of Poseidon;154 far less of Hermes, who is identical with the Vedic Sarameyas, the rising wind, the son of Sarama the dawn, the lying, tricksome wind-god, who invented music, and conducts the souls of dead men to the house of Hades, even as his counterpart the Norse Odin rushes over the tree-tops leading the host of the departed. When one sees Iris, the messenger of Zeus, referred to a Hebrew original, because of Jehovah’s promise to Noah, one is at a loss to understand the relationship between the two conceptions. Nothing could be more natural to the Greeks than to call the rainbow the messenger of the sky-god to earth-dwelling men; to call it a token set in the sky by Jehovah, as the Hebrews did, was a very different thing. We may admit the very close resemblance between the myth of Bellerophon and Anteia, and that of Joseph and Zuleikha; but the fact that the Greek story is explicable from Aryan antecedents, while the Hebrew story is isolated, might perhaps suggest the inference that the Hebrews were the borrowers, as they undoubtedly were in the case of the myth of Eden. Lastly, to conclude that Helios is an Eastern deity, because he reigns in the East over Thrinakia, is wholly unwarranted. Is not Helios pure Greek for the sun? and where should his sacred island be placed, if not in the East? As for his oxen, which wrought such dire destruction to the comrades of Odysseus, and which seem to Mr. Gladstone so anomalous, they are those very same unhappy cattle, the clouds, which were stolen by the storm-demon Cacus and the wind-deity Hermes, and which furnished endless material for legends to the poets of the Veda.

154 I have no opinion as to the nationality of the Earth-shaker, and, regarding the etymology of his name, I believe we can hardly do better than acknowledge, with Mr. Cox, that it is unknown. It may well be doubted, however, whether much good is likely to come of comparisons between Poseidon, Dagon, Oannes, and Noah, or of distinctions between the children of Shem and the children of Ham. See Brown’s Poseidon; a Link between Semite, Hamite, and Aryan, London, 1872 — a book which is open to several of the criticisms here directed against Mr. Gladstone’s manner of theorizing.

But the whole subject of comparative mythology seems to be terra incognita to Mr. Gladstone. He pursues the even tenour of his way in utter disregard of Grimm, and Kuhn, and Breal, and Dasent, and Burnouf. He takes no note of the Rig-Veda, nor does he seem to realize that there was ever a time when the ancestors of the Greeks and Hindus worshipped the same gods. Two or three times he cites Max Muller, but makes no use of the copious data which might be gathered from him. The only work which seems really to have attracted his attention is M. Jacolliot’s very discreditable performance called “The Bible in India.” Mr. Gladstone does not, indeed, unreservedly approve of this book; but neither does he appear to suspect that it is a disgraceful piece of charlatanry, written by a man ignorant of the very rudiments of the subject which he professes to handle.

Mr. Gladstone is equally out of his depth when he comes to treat purely philological questions. Of the science of philology, as based upon established laws of phonetic change, he seems to have no knowledge whatever. He seems to think that two words are sufficiently proved to be connected when they are seen to resemble each other in spelling or in sound. Thus he quotes approvingly a derivation of the name Themis from an assumed verb them, “to speak,” whereas it is notoriously derived from tiqhmi, as statute comes ultimately from stare. His reference of hieros, “a priest,” and geron, “an old man,” to the same root, is utterly baseless; the one is the Sanskrit ishiras, “a powerful man,” the other is the Sanskrit jaran, “an old man.” The lists of words on pages 96-100 are disfigured by many such errors; and indeed the whole purpose for which they are given shows how sadly Mr. Gladstone’s philology is in arrears. The theory of Niebuhr — that the words common to Greek and Latin, mostly descriptive of peaceful occupations, are Pelasgian — was serviceable enough in its day, but is now rendered wholly antiquated by the discovery that such words are Aryan, in the widest sense. The Pelasgian theory works very smoothly so long as we only compare the Greek with the Latin words — as, for instance, sugon with jugum; but when we add the English yoke and the Sanskrit yugam, it is evident that we have got far out of the range of the Pelasgoi. But what shall we say when we find Mr. Gladstone citing the Latin thalamus in support of this antiquated theory? Doubtless the word thalamus is, or should be, significative of peaceful occupations; but it is not a Latin word at all, except by adoption. One might as well cite the word ensemble to prove the original identity or kinship between English and French.

When Mr. Gladstone, leaving the dangerous ground of pure and applied philology, confines himself to illustrating the contents of the Homeric poems, he is always excellent. His chapter on the “Outer Geography” of the Odyssey is exceedingly interesting; showing as it does how much may be obtained from the patient and attentive study of even a single author. Mr. Gladstone’s knowledge of the SURFACE of the Iliad and Odyssey, so to speak, is extensive and accurate. It is when he attempts to penetrate beneath the surface and survey the treasures hidden in the bowels of the earth, that he shows himself unprovided with the talisman of the wise dervise, which alone can unlock those mysteries. But modern philology is an exacting science: to approach its higher problems requires an amount of preparation sufficient to terrify at the outset all but the boldest; and a man who has had to regulate taxation, and make out financial statements, and lead a political party in a great nation, may well be excused for ignorance of philology. It is difficult enough for those who have little else to do but to pore over treatises on phonetics, and thumb their lexicons, to keep fully abreast with the latest views in linguistics. In matters of detail one can hardly ever broach a new hypothesis without misgivings lest somebody, in some weekly journal published in Germany, may just have anticipated and refuted it. Yet while Mr. Gladstone may be excused for being unsound in philology, it is far less excusable that he should sit down to write a book about Homer, abounding in philological statements, without the slightest knowledge of what has been achieved in that science for several years past. In spite of all drawbacks, however, his book shows an abiding taste for scholarly pursuits, and therefore deserves a certain kind of praise. I hope — though just now the idea savours of the ludicrous — that the day may some time arrive when OUR Congressmen and Secretaries of the Treasury will spend their vacations in writing books about Greek antiquities, or in illustrating the meaning of Homeric phrases.

July, 1870.

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