24 JANUARY 1891, Page 21


THESE essays, though largely linguistic in their subjects and methods, have nothing to do with so-called Americanisms, as. the title their author has given himself might lead the reader on this side of the Atlantic to suppose. Nor does Dr. Brinton on the present occasion come forward as the advocate of the rights and glories of his country. He is Professor of American Archreology in the University of Pennsylvania, and has brought together in this volume a remarkable series of attempts—to use his own phrase—to throw light upon the ethnology, mythology, scripts, literatures, and languages of the various races of men who are resumed under the designation a American Indians, an expression that will for ever preserve the- memory of that longing for a short route to Eastern Asia which brought about the discovery of the great Western Continent.

Geologically, the New World is the older of the two, but there is some reason to think that it was not the earliest home. of man. Nevertheless, palasolithic man existed even before, the retrocession northwards of the great glacier-sheet that once covered all North America as far south as a line joining. New York and St. Louis. At this period, probably, the northern parts of America and Europe were connected, and the eastern shore of the Atlantic lay several hundred miles to the west of the existing Irish coast. How and where primi- tive man made the journey westwards by land that tens of thousands of years afterwards was repeated by sea, none can certainly say. But the history of human migration shows. the movement of races to have been almost wholly of a western character, and as the close similarities of form that mark the palreolithic implements of both worlds prove the common origin of their populations, it can hardly be doubted that the New was peopled. from the Old World. If so, the origin. of man must be thrown back to early pleistocene times, for the westward journey must have been accomplished long before the Northern ice-cap descended anywhere near to the Canadian boundary.

The immediate successors of the stone-men seem to have left no traces of their presence behind them, and a vast blank in American archasology has to be traversed before we reach the age of the mound-builders and the Central American

* Essops of an AsunIcanint. (1.) Ethnology, &o. (2) Mythology, &a. (3.) Graphic Systems and Literature. (4 ) Linguistic. By Daniel G. Brinton, d M.. M.D. Philadelphia Porter and Coates. civilisations far within the historic period of the Old World. To the mound-builders some inquirers have assigned an antiquity of two thousand years, others have traced a relation between them and the famous " Toltecs," while Dr. J. W. Foster connects them with a tribe "who in times far remote flourished in Brazil." But Dr, Brinton, in agreement with the well-known ethnologist, Major J. W. Powell, believes them to have been merely Indian tribes who occupied the country about the time of its discovery, and, in- deed, for some centuries later. Travellers such as De Vaca, La Vega, De Soto, and others, who visited portions of the Gulf States in the course of the sixteenth and following centuries, have left descriptions which hardly permit of a doubt that the mounds, serpentine, circular, or straight, are merely the -defensive earthworks or communal burying-places of the time. Of the Toltecs and their city, Tula, some forty miles north of Mexico, the legend, which M. Oh arnay so strenuously defended, is dismissed as a baseless myth. The story was, that Tula flourished for some five hundred years, until it had four millions of inhabitants ; that it was destroyed about the tenth -century ; and that with the fragments of its population were peopled Mexico, Central America, and the Mississippi Valley, Dr. Brinton's researches, archwological and linguistic, demon- strate clearly enough the unsoundness of the theory, despite the support lent it by the respectable names of Ixtlilxochitl and Prescott.' The essay is one of the most interesting in the volume, and affords a good example of the excellent method followed by " Americanists " in the investigation -of their difficult subject. It was in Central America that the most civilised among the races of the New World were found. Their root-language is known as Maya-Quiche, dialects of which are still spoken by some half-million of Yucatecan and Guatemalan Indians. The Nahuatl dialect was that of the Mexican Aztecs, but Maya, was the language of the people of Yucatan, whose civilisation attained a higher -point than was reached in Mexico. The vast monuments of Palenque sufficiently attest the superiority of the istlunie State, but another proof is furnished by the script of the Mayas. Like the Aztecs, they used a peculiar form of picture- writing, which Dr. Brinton terms ilconomatic. These picture- scharacters were not exactly hieroglyphs, nor were they ideographs. They represented an object, but did not designate it, but merely its sound, for the purpose of marking some other object, or even phonetically. -What are known in heraldry as "canting arms" sometimes afford a capital illus- tration of a script of this kind. Thus, to give an instance .adduced by Dr. Brinton, the family of Dobells carry a hart passant and three bells argent, thus expressing, rebus-wise, the name, doe-bells. So Montezuma was represented by a mouse-trap, in Nahuatl month (9non)—an eagle, guauhtli (quault)—pierced by a sort of lancet, so—and surmounted by a hand, maitl (ma),—mo-guauh-zoona, In ancient Japanese, a -similar device was common—thus, the Chinese character for wild duck, in Japanese Kamo, often ends poems in the Manyiishu, and is to be read Ka 2110,--Le., is it not so F' In Maya, the phoneticism was carried further, and a close approach made to a syllabic alphabet resembling the iroha of .Japan. A language thus written can only, of course, be read by one already well acquainted with it, just as a French rebus is intelligible only to those who have a good know- ledge of French. The Maya syllahary has been preservdd by Landa, the second of the Yucatan Bishops ; and a few native ikonomatic manuscripts have also come down to us, which, like the Mexican codices, are not likely ever to be deciphered. Fortunately, of the extensive Maya litera- ture which once existed, but which the Bishops, who saw in it merely a contrivance of the devil, as the Jesuits did in the complicated scripts of Japan, committed to the flames whenever they bad an opportunity, to the great grief -of the natives, as Lands himself states, some examples were transliterated into roman, and are still extant. They are known as books of the Ohilan Balm, apparently a priestly title signifying "expounder of the will of the gods," and treat -of astrology, prophecy, history, and mcdieine. Some of them -contain Christian teachings and Scripture stories. Dr. Brinton translates a prophecy taken from The Book of Chilan Balam of Chumayel, of which lie believes the original text to have been composed about 1480. In the appendix to Mr. Stephens's Travels in Yucatan, will be found a sketch of Mayan history and chronology based upon these books.

That uncivilised tribes should produce poetry both graceful and elevated in character, no longer excites the surprise of the ethnologist. But one hardly looks for it among the blubber- eating Eskimo. Their principal amusement, nevertheless, in the long evenings of an Arctic winter consists of poetical contests, and they are most particular in the matter of diction and accent. Dr. Brinton gives specimens of Eskimo song which show a keen appreciation of natural beauty and a singular capacity for the softer emotions. Of Pawnee and Aztec songs, translations are also given which fully demon- strate the poetic faculty of these races. Centuries ago an Aztec lover could emulate Herrick :— "On a certain mountainside, Where they pluck flowers, I saw a pretty maiden, 'Who plucked from me my heart.

Whither thou goost, There go I."

The last of these very interesting and extremely well-written essays, which deal for the most part with subjects little studied in this country since the publication. of Lord Kings- borough's enormous tomes, exposes a curious linguistic fraud, recalling the exploits of George Psalmanazar. Some ten years ago, two French seminarists, Jean Parisot and A. Dejouy, under the excitement caused by a perusal of

Chatea,ubriand, made up a grammar and vocabulary of what they termed the Tansa languagethe- name Tanga was taken from Chateaubriand's Voyage en Amerigue—and into

this language translated the Creed, an Algonquin hymn, and other pieces. The whole was published by Maisonneuve, and brought the authors, or at least Parisot, into communication with the well-known linguist, M. Lucien Adam. The forgers had meanwhile endowed the world with a number of songs in " Taensa," (Tama had been abandoned), which, they averred, had been obtained by a traveller in America in 1828 from the town of Ta,ensa, on the Alabama or Mississippi. The latter work— Cancionero Americano was its title—was furnished with an introduction in such ungrammatical Spanish, that it ought at least to have excited suspicion. The deception was exposed by Dr. Brinton, the absurdities, linguistic and other, com-

mitted by the forgers fully set forth,—and a very amusing account Dr. Brinton gives of them. Nevertheless, M. Adam was anything but convinced, and our Americanist had again to fight the battle of trath. Even this plea did not suffice, though the forgers made no attempt to support their work, and Taensa did not return to the vAant whence it sprang until 1886, when Professor Vinson finally condemned it, as a mysti- fication sans grande porUc, in the Revue do Linguistigue.