Page images

hereof affords some probability it was not used by the ancients, but will not conclude the non-existence thereof. For so may we annihilate many simples unknown to his enquiries, as senna, rhubarb, bezoa, ambergris, and divers others. Whereas indeed the reason of man hath not such restraint; concluding not only affirmatively, but negatively; not only affirming there is no magnitude beyond the last heavens, but also denying there is any vacuity within them. Although it be confessed, the affirmative hath the prerogative illation, and barbara engrosseth the powerful demonstration.

Lastly, the strange relations made by authors may sufficiently discourage our adherence unto authority, and which, if we believe, we must be apt to swallow any thing. Thus Basil will tell us, the serpent went erect like man, and that that beast could speak before the fall. Tostatus would make us believe that Nilus encreaseth every new moon.

Leonarda Fioravanti, an Italian physician, beside many other secrets, assumeth unto himself the discovery of one concerning pellitory of the wall; that is, that it never groweth in the sight of the North star,—(“dove si possa vedere la stella Tramontana ;') wherein how wide he is from truth is easily discoverable unto every one, who hath but astronomy enough to know that star. Franciscus Sanctius, in a laudable comment upon Alciat's emblems, affirmeth, and that from experience, a nightingale hath no tongue; (" avem Philomelam lingua carere pro certo affirmare possum, nisi me oculi fallunt ;) which if any man for a while shall believe


his experience, he may at his leisure refute it by his own. What fool almost would believe, at least, what wise man would rely upon, that antidote delivered by Pierius in his hieroglyphicks against the sting of a scorpion,—that is to sit upon an ass

9 barbara.] The affirmative proposition: see note ®, p. 18.

Thus Basil.] See Book v. chap. iv. Aud this is the only reason that holds the church of Rome in an obstinate maintenance of some ridiculous, some scandalous, some pernicious, some blasphemous doctrines : For feare that by the acknowledgement of them they shall. loose their credit and authoritye. And that the acknowledgement enforcing their renunciation and desertion of them, they shall withall loose the merit, profit, and gaine, which they reape from the numerous proselytes : whose consciences they have fettered and chained unto them, by these powerfull overawinge chaines, and (as they call them) pious fraudes.-Wr.

with one's face towards his tail, for so the pain leaveth the man, and passeth into the beast. It were, methinks, but an uncomfortable receipt for a quartane ague (and yet as good perhaps as many others used) to have recourse unto the receipt of Sammonicus; that is, to lay the fourth book of Homer's Iliad under one's head, according to the precept of that physician and poet, Moonia Iliados quartum suppone trementi: There are surely few that have belief to swallow, or hope enough to experiment the collyrium* of Albertus, which promiseth a strange effect, and such as thieves would count inestimable, that is, to make one see in the dark; yet thus much, according unto his receipt, will the right eye of an hedgehog boiled in oil, and preserved in a brazen vessel, effect. As strange it is, and unto vicious inclinations were worth a night's lodging with Lais,t what is delivered in Kiranides; that the left stone of a weasel, wrapt up the skin of a she-mule, is able to secure incontinency from conception.

These, with swarms of others, have men delivered in their writings, whose verities are only supported by their authorities; but being neither consonant unto reason, nor correspondent unto experiment, their affirmations are unto us no axioms. We esteem thereof as things unsaid, and account them but in the list of nothing. I wish herein the chymists had been more sparing; who, over-magnifying their preparations, inveigle the curiosity of many, and delude the security of most. For if experiments would answer their encomiums, the stone and quartane agues were not opprobrious unto physicians ;- we might contemn that first and most uncomfortable aphorism of Hippocrates, I for surely that art were soon attained, that hath so general remedies, and life could not be short, were there such to prolong it.


* An eye medicine.

+ Ten thousand drachms. # Ars longa, vita brevis.


? opprobrious unto physicians.] By being very difficult to cure.

CHAPTER VIII. Of Authors who have most promoted Popular Conceit. Now, forasmuch as we have discoursed of authority, and there is scarce any tradition or popular error but stands also delivered by some good author, we shall endeavour a short discovery of such as for the major part have given authority hereto ; who, though excellent and useful authors, yet either being transcriptive, or following common relations, their accounts are not to be swallowed at large, or entertained without all circumspection. In whom ipse dixit, although it be no powerful argument in any, is yet less authentic than in many other, because they deliver not their own experiences, but others' affirmations, and write from others, as we ourselves from them.

1. The first in order, as also in time, shall be Herodotus, of Halicarnassus, an excellent and very elegant historian;

3 Herodotus of Halicarnassus.] It will be useful to place in apposition with our author's statement, respecting the writings of this historian, the opinion of their authenticity and character, so far as they relate to the history of Egypt, formed by one of the most sagacious investigators of ancient history of the present age. Since the early history of Egypt claims a much higher antiquity than that of almost any other nation, and is consequently involved in obscurity more impenetrable, if the relations of any ancient writer respecting it are found to be substantially correct, we may conclude, a fortiori, that his account of other nations also deserves our confidence.

“The only original authorities,” observes Dr. Young, "on which we can depend for the early history of Egypt, are those of Herodotus, Manetho, Eratosthenes, Diodorus Siculus, and Strabo ; all of whom had been more or less in the country. Herodotus lived soon after the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses, when the names of the later monarchs could not easily have been forgotten. The earlier part of his history is of a much more apocryphal nature : he does not, however, continue the series of the kings further back than Sesostris and Moeris : so that almost all his names are sufficiently recent to be considered as completely within the province of legitimate history. stories of Herodotus, though told with an elegant simplicity, and with every appearance of good faith, are by no means free from a frequent mixture of fable; and, with respect to his Egyptian etymologies, he is almost universally mistaken; but his account of the ceremonies observed in the preparation of the mummies has many marks of authenticity, and he is perfectly correct in asserting, that the most splendid of the

* * * *

66 The


whose books of history were so well received in his own days, that, at their rehearsal in the Olympick games, they obtained the names of the nine muses; and continued in such coffins are formed in imitation of the figures of Osiris ; a circumstance which he could not easily have conjectured without direct and accurate information." Supp. Ency. Brit. art. EGYPT, p. 47, 52.

Of the above testimony to the fidelity of Herodotus, the writer of the present note is enabled to give a strong confirmation in one particular. Dr. Young, arguing from general grounds, observes, as above, that the account of the preparation of the mummies given by that historian “ has many marks of authenticity.” But the minute examination to which a very perfect mummy was subjected by Dr. Granville, a few years since, appeared to justify strong doubts of the correctness of the statements of Herodotus respecting the

Egyptian processes of embalming; the mummy in question having been prepared by a very different method. However, another mummy, in as perfect a condition as the former, has recently been described by Mr. Osburn, Secretary to the Philosophical and Literary Society of Leeds, which, as he has shown, must have been prepared, in every particular, by the process described by Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus as the most perfect mode of embalming practised by the Egyptians. The opinion antecedently expressed by Dr. Young, before any perfect mummies had been examined, is therefore fully confirmed, and the authority of Herodotus supported, on a subject of Egyptian history, on which, of almost all others, it must have been most difficult to acquire precise and correct knowledge. The weight which this train of circumstances imparts to the character of Herodotus, as a faithful historian, will readily be appreciated by the student of ancient history. Phil. Trans. 1825; Phil. Mag. and Annals, N. S. vol. v. p. 57, 1829. Some very remarkable and important points, in which even the minute accuracy of Herodotus has been established, are conected with his account (lib. i. 8. 74) of the eclipse stated to have been predicted by Thales, and which, owing to a very singular coincidence, put an end to a furious war that raged between Cyaxases King of Media, and Alyattes King of Lydia. The investigations by which his accuracy on these points has been determined cannot be detailed in this place, but a full account of them will be found in Brayley's Utility of the Knowledge of Nature considered ; with reference to the Introduction of Instruction in the Physical Sciences into the General Education of Youth.London, 1831, 8vo.

As the extreme accuracy which we have thus seen the statements of Herodotus to possess, with relation to subjects on which it must have been difficult to obtain correct information, and with respect also to others requiring very nice observation, unquestionably guarantee his general fidelity, we have entered into these remarks, for the purpose of showing that he is much more worthy of the title of Historiarum parens, than of that of Mendaciorum pater. With the exceptions arising from the facts we have detailed, and viewed agreeably to the general bearing of those facts, the character of Herodotus given by our author may be regarded as substantially corect.-Br.

esteem unto descending ages that Cicero termed him historiarum parens ; and Dionysius, his countryman, in an epistle to Pompey, after an express comparison, affords him the better of Thucydides. All which notwithstanding, he hath received from some the style of mendaciorum pater. His authority was much infringed by Plutarch, who, being offended with him, as Polybius had been with Philarchus, for speaking too coldly of his countrymen, hath left a particular tract, De malignitate Herodoti. But in this latter century Camerarius and Stephanus have stepped in, and, by their witty apologies, effectually endeavoured to frustrate the arguments of Plutarch or any other. Now, in this author, as may be observed in our ensuing discourse, and is better discernable in the perusal of himself, there are many things fabulously delivered, and not to be accepted as truths; whereby, nevertheless, if any man be deceived, the author is not so culpable as the believer. For he, indeed, imitating the father poet, whose life he hath also written, and as Thucydides observeth, as well intending the delight as benefit of his reader, hath besprinkled his work with many fabulosities; whereby if any man be led into error he mistaketh the intention of the author (who plainly confesseth he writeth many things by hearsay) and forgetteth a very considerable caution of his; that is, Ego que fando cognovi, exponere narratione mea debeo omnia : credere autem esse vera omnia, non debeo.

2. In the second place is Ctesias the Cnidian,4 physician

[ocr errors]

4 Ctesias the Cnidian.] The sum of our author's remarks on the authority of Ctesias is probably very near the truth ; but in this instance again the researches of modern science have in a great degree rescued from obloquy the statements of ancient history. The descriptions given by Ctesias of many animals, which, as he alleges, are found in Persia and India, and his relations concerning the uses to which many objects of nature are applied by the inhabitants of those countries, are now known either to be actually true, or at least to be founded in truth. In other cases it has been shown that he has correctly described certain objects as represented in paintings or sculptures, but

has erroneously attributed an actual existence to what were merely the offspring of the imagination of the artists or of the priests who instructed them.

The historical relations of Ctesias, like those of Manetho and others, which have until recently been deemed altogether apocryphal, have received confirmation in many points, from the researches into the early history of Asia and Egypt, which our own age has witnessed ; and it is impossible to say how many which yet appear untrue, may

« PreviousContinue »