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النشر الإلكتروني

No confsderable

Arts loft

and revi

ved again.



Writing from all Eternity.

Cred. I will agree with you, Sir, that several Arts in the World have been loft, and others after a Time again revived; but then these have been fuch Arts as have been more curious than ufeful, and have rather been ornamental than beneficial to Mankind; and there has been fome good Reafon to be given of their Difufe, either by their growing out of Fashion, or by fome more eafy and commodious Invention. Thus the Art of Glafs-painting was loft, about the Time of the Reformation, when the Images of Saints were not fo highly efteemed, and Churches began to be more gravely adorned. Thus the Ufe of Archers in an Army has been laid afide, fince the Invention of Pikes and Guns. But who can imagine, that the Art of the Smith and the Carpenter fhould ever be forgot after the firft Invention? unless we could fuppofe that Houfes and all Sorts of Utenfils and Conveniences should grow out of Fashion, and it should be the Mode for Men to live like Colts and wild Affes. Unless Men could be fuppofed, to forget the Ufe of Eating and Drinking, I am confident they could never forget the Art of Ploughing and Sowing, and Preffing the Grape.

But as for what you fay, that the late Invention of Letcould not, ters was the occafion of the Shortness of History, and the as the The little Account we have of your fuppofed infinite Time, I ifts pretend, have been defire you would be pleased to take this Anfwer. I look upon the Invention of Writing, or Letters, to be one of the most happy and noble Inventions which ever the World was bleffed with; and the Perfon, whoever he were, that first lighted upon this admirable Art, I look upon, to have been a Man of a peculiar Genius and Wit, and to have made more Obfervation than all that had gone before him in fome Ages. But then I look But then I look upon it next to impoffible, that Mankind fhould have continued from all Eternity without the Invention of Writing, be it ever fo happy, or if you please fo fortuitous an Invention: For if the World be eternal, all Things must be as they are now; I mean Mankind must have been as fagacious an -Animal as it is now, and as capable of finding out and improving Inventions; and if fo, there being in an Eter

nity of Time all Manner of poffible Combinations of Matter, and cafual Hits of Accidents, which are the Ground of all Inventions, no Art could poffibly be uninvented in all that Time. So that if the Art of Writing were ever fo cafual an Invention, there muft Millions of Millions of Hints be given for it, in all that time; but to fay Mankind, all that while, never took Notice of them, is to make them, instead of the most fagacious, to be the most ftupid Animals in the World. Which you will better affent to, when you confider that the Invention of Letters is not so much a fortuitous Hit, as a natural Deduction of good Reasoning. And, if you pleafe, I will enlarge upon this fomething more than ordinary; because I find your Theifts ufe to be mighty triumphant upon this Ar


in its in

I take Writing only to be a Species of Painting or Ima- The Progery; and the Greeks very well exprefs them both by the grefs in the word yea. For as Painting or Imagery is Art of Wri a Reprefen- ting, and tation of Shapes and Actions, fo Writing is a Reprefenta- the no Extion of Words. Now thefe Things are all that are naturally traordinary to be reprefented of Mankind, by outward Delineations, Difficulty and the latter ftill is more difficult than the former. The vention: firft Effay of Imagery was in all Probability the fimple Shapes of Men, Beafts, Flowers, &c. by a rude and imperfect Delineation, or Sculpture, either in a Plane, which the Greeks call Sciography, or a Solid, which we generally call Carving. The next Progress was to reprefent the Actions of the Body, as a Man running, ftriking, walking, kneeling; and of this, among the Greeks, Dadalus is reported to be the Author; for before him Statues were made with Hands falling down by the Sides, with Eyes fhut, with Legs and Feet joined in the Nature of Pillars rather than Statues. Hence came the Era fpirantia, and the Animare figuras, &c. in the Poet's Defcriptions of Dedalus. The next and most fublime Progrefs in the Graphical Art was to reprefent Words, which we call Writing. And this fort of Reprefentation was much more difficult than the reft. For this was a Reprefentation of an Image, or the Picture of another Representative; for E


as Letters are the Reprefentation of Words, fo Words are the Representation of Thoughts; and therefore it was a Matter of greater Difficulty, and required more Nicenefs and Exactnefs to carry on the Imagery upon the Reflection. But this was not all, Shapes and Actions were to be feen by the Eye, and therefore their Images being painted, were eafily difcerned by the fame Faculty: But Words were Things to be heard, and not to be feen; and therefore it was far more difficult to paint them. They therefore, that made the firft Effay to paint or write Words, muft needs find it a very difcouraging Task, to find Figures or Marks for fo many thoufand Words in a Language; that would be too hard for Invention, and too troublefome for Memory. The Ingenious therefore firft found out the Hieroglyphical Way of Writing, which did reprefent whole Sentences; as a crowned Lion did reprefent a bold, ftrong, victorious King, a Fox a cunning one; an Afs did denote Servitude, and a Sheep Folly. To thefe when there were added fome few Notes for common Terms of Acting, fuch as Giving, Taking, Buying, Selling, &c. this was the Sum and Acme of the Hieroglyphical Way of Writing. Now this was a Way of Writing very troublesome and uncertain; for the Figures and Marks must needs be very numerous, and yet not reprefent one Quarter of the Words in a Language, and therefore confequently very difficult to be unlocked. The only Way therefore to get rid of this Trouble, was to invent a few Marks which might represent all Manner of Words. And this was not very difficult to be attempted by thofe, who had made Óbfervation upon the Nature of Words. For fuch could eafily determine, that altho' Words were ever fo numerous, yet the elementary Parts which did compofe them were but few. They might foon perceive, that all Words were but four or five Sounds diverfly modulated by the Organs of the Mouth and Throat. The five Vowels are far cafier to be diftinguished than the Nores in Mufick; and the Confonants are not much more difficult. In the word A-mo, any one may perceive, the firft Syllable is only a clear plain Sound




of the Breath through the Mouth; and mo is only a hollow Sound modulated by the Lips. Amor is a Sound made by the fame Organs, with a Regurgitation of the laft vocal Sound to the Throat. From hence an ingenious Perfon may obferve, that by the Modulation of thefe Sounds fourteen or fifteen Ways, by the repeating or tranfpofing them all Manner of Words are made. And then he may very well conclude (when he has fufficiently diftinguifhed thefe Sounds and Modulations) that by applying particular Marks or Letters to each of thefe, may reprefent all Manner of Words, or write what he will with thófé few Characters., And I doubt not but this, or fomething very like, was the Reafoning of that admirable Perfon who first thought upon this noble Art. Indeed it is far easier to run along with this Thread of Thought after the Invention than before; but to fay that amongst fo many Millions of ingenious Men in Millions of Ages, no one should ever have reafoned after this Manner, or have profecuted this Hint fuccefsfully, is a Thing fo very incredible, that we Chriftians have not Faith to be lieve. And this is all I have to fay to you about the Eternity of the World; fo that now I am ready for your other Exceptions, if you have no more to reply upon this Head.

Phil. I think we have bandied this Subject about long enough, and I thank you kindly for your Arguments, which as you have urged them, have had that Force upon me, as to make me abandon my former Opinion of the World's Eternity, which indeed I never before thought fo abfurd as you have made it. But ftill, my dear Friend, I have fome Dregs of a Doubt behind, whether it may not be many Thousands of Years, or perhaps Ages. older than you look upon it to be, if you go upon the Mofai cal Account. For if we look into the ancient Compura

tions of other Nations befides the Jews, we shal find prodigious Accounts of Time. For Scaliger (in his Book de Emendat. Temp. fays *, that then (A. D. 1594.) the

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Chinefes reckoned the World to have been eight hundred eightscore thousand and feventy three Years old; and the * Bramins of Ganzrat faid, that in the Year 1639, there had paffed 326669 Ages. To this, if we add the exceffive Computations of the Egyptians and Chaldeans, and the Infcriptions of ancient Marbles in fome ancient Language which is now forgot, we cannot in any Probability allot the World fo late an Original as the Mofaical Account does.

Cred. The Argument I urged before from the Increase of Exceffive Mankind is as good against thefe exceffive Computations, Comparati as it is against the Eternity of the World; for granting ons no Ar- the World fo old as is here pretended, it would have been gument of the Eterni- over-peopled long before now, as much as it would have ty of the been in an Eternity. So that if you allow the Cogency of the Argument in one Cafe, you must likewife in the other. But befides, the pure Affertions of Nations as to their Antiquity, without good Hiftory to fupport them, have always been very little regarded; because it has been a conftant Vanity in all Nations, to appear as old as they could. Hence the Inhabitants of every Country endeavoured what they were able, to be efteemed 'Aulóx loves and Indigena, born out of their own Ground, or perpetual Inhabitants of it. And with how great a Zeal Nations have carried this Concern, we may make an Estimate of, by that pleafant Contention of the Scythians and Ægyptians in the fecond Book of Juftin. As for the Egypti ans, Diodorus Siculus, who lived among them, interprets their vaft Accounts of Time by Months or Lunary Years; and fo may the other be efteemed if there be any Truth in them at all. As for your old Infcriptions, fuch as that which they tell us is to be feen at Caxumo in Ethiopia; that is eafily to be accounted for, by the great Alteration of Kingdoms and Languages. For if the Romans after a few hundred Years could hardly read or understand their old Laws, what more can we expect from a few barbarous Africans, fhut up from the reft of the World?

Id. p. 182.


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