BLTC Press Titles


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The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller


Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi


Origin of language and myths

by Morgan Peter Kavanagh

Excerpt:

1 Lect., vol. i. p. 3.

This statement I am not prepared to contradict, for the simple reason that I said the same thing myself as far back as the year 1856, that is to say, five long years before M. Max Miiller said it, since, according to the title of his work, he did not begin his lectures until 1861. These are my words: "We cannot for an instant suppose that speech was ever invented—that man ever said to himself, Let me find out a means of communicating thought by sounds instead of signs [man's first language]. This would be to place a human being almost on a level with God Himself; to raise his wisdom to an eminence immensely beyond his reach; and the more so as there was nothing either in nature or the ways of the world, while yet in its infancy, to suggest an idea at once so very original and extraordinary2."

The words in Italics in those two passages show how very close the resemblance between M. Max Miiller's sentiment and mine.

But does M. Max Miiller, I may be asked, acknowledge my sentiment in any way whatever? He does not; nor could he do so without allowing his readers to perceive that of the science of language he knows absolutely nothing. Were he to give a single etymology by the application of the principles that have grown out of the discovery to which I lay claim, he would be, as it were, committing suicide—be, as a philologist, no longer in existence. He alludes to almost all philologists, both living and dead, but he carefully avoids all allusion to the author of the "Origin of Myths." As we should, however, return good for evil, I do not mean to slight M. Max Miiller, but to draw attention to his great * Myths, vol. i. p. 12.

work, at least a few times perhaps many times: we shall see.

Now, if M. Max Miiller knows nothing of the science of language, as I shall have occasion to show, it is difficult to suppose that the scientific bodies over all parts of the world with which he claims connexion, can, in this respect, be any wiser than he is himself. Here are the names of all these learned bodies; I give them along with the title page of M. Max Miiller's work:—

"Lectures on the Science of Language, delivered at the Eoyal Institution of Great Britain, in April, May, and June, 1861, by Max Miiller, M.A., Foreign Associate of the Eoyal Sardinian Academy; Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the Eoyal Asiatic Society, of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, of the Eoyal Society of Literature, of the Anthropological Society of London, of the Ethnological Society of London, of the Ethnographic Society of France, of the Archaeological Society of Moscow, of the Literary Society of Leyden, of the German Institute of Frankfort; and of the American Philological Society; Foreign Member of the Eoyal Bavarian Academy; Corresponding Member of the French Institute, of the Eoyal Society of Gottingen, of the Eoyal Irish Academy, of the American Philosophical Society, of the Eoyal Academy of Berlin, and of the American Oriental Society; Member of the Asiatic Society of Paris; and of the German Oriental Society: Taylorian Professor of the University of Oxford; Fellow of All Souls' College," &c., &c, &c.

What a grand display is this of M. Max Miiller's scientific connexions! Surely there never was before, nor, in all probability, will there ever be again, so glorious a titlepage. Why it were enough to make the fortune of any book. Is there, in the whole world, a philological society of any note whatever to which M. Max Miiller may not be said to belong? How well he must know all that is known of both the past and present state of the science of language! And if of this science he knows, however, so very little as not to have it in his power to discover the etymology of the most common-place words, are we justified in supposing that there can be even one of those scientific bodies, with which M. Max Miiller seems to be so closely connected, a shade more enlightened in the science of language than he is himself? Certainly not. And as this great work of his has been often reviewed— not only throughout Great Britain, but over the Continent, and probably in America also—and as its faulty etymologies are allowed to remain uncorrected, even in the fifth edition, which has, we are assured, been "carefully revised;" does not this go to prove that the public press of those countries happens to know no more about the science of language than any of the learned bodies set down in M. Max Miiller's title-page? Hence the necessity—if what is here stated be found true—for our discovery of the origin of language, and the principles that have grown out of it; and hence, too, we may add, the proof that this discovery is no idle dream, but a very serious reality. And of this I am still further convinced on looking through M. Littre's fine dictionary of the French language, now in course of publication, for its enlightened author appears to be as far out as M. Max Miiller whenever he tries to trace a word to its original source. And the cause is still the same, his knowing nothing of the origin of human speech,


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