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“ All this would lead us,” says Humboldt, “ at first sight to pronounce the Chinese tongue, that which departed most widely from the natural demands of language-the most imperfect of all. But this view will vanish on close inspection. The Chinese possesses, on the contrary, a high degree of excellence, and exerts a mighty, though partial influence on the mental faculties. In the first place, the consistency of its structure cannot be denied. All other inflexionless languages, even though they may put forth strenuous efforts in the direction of inflexion, stop short of the mark. The Chinese, entirely abandoning this method, carries out its own principle to the end. The very nature of the means which the Chinese employ for the designation of all that is formal, without the support of significant sounds, drove them to a more exact observation of the different formal relations, and a systematic arrangement of them.” The distinction between substantial meaning and formal relation becomes the more clear to the mind as the difference in their expression in language is one, not of degree, but of kind.*
After even so partial a survey as the above, of the various forms of human language, the question naturally rises to the mind-Can such a variety have proceeded from one common root? Our limits forbid us to enter into this subject; but we would gladly point out, in conclusion, how the researches of William von Humboldt seem to us to bear upon it. So far from deliberately entertaining the question, he appears to have carefully kept clear of it; and, at all events, it did not necessarily enter within the range of his Introduction. His object was to analyze and describe languages, not to trace their history. Believing, however, that the correct understanding and limitation of their differences, is the first step towards the perception of that unity which underlies them, we value this work very highly, because it develops a method by which we may estimate these differCommon Origin of Language.
apply it for marking a high degree of excellence. An A l bird's nest would mean & very prime one.
* We cannot help remarking, how entirely this coincides with what we know of the character of this singular people, in other ways. Unity, without distinction, marks their practical life as well as their language. “The general will," says Hegel, “ declares what the individual is to do, and he does it without reflection and without self.” A patriarchal emperor represents this general will, and so his law is the rule of action the very morality of the body. He is the highpriest of science and religion, as well as the head of the state, declaring what is, as well as what ought to be. The same character, too, which marks their language belongs to their art. The man who cuts with the simplest tools toys so artfully constructed, that we, with our turning-lathes, can hardly execute them, handles the materials of speech, words, with wonderful dexterity likewise, and adapts them to the most subtile purposes, shewing, in both cases, an equal mastery over matter, and contempt of means. But their art is, after all, mere ingenuity and dexterity, external trivial imitation, without any idea to elevate it. There is, indeed, in the nation little power of generalization or deduction, and therefore there is little or no progress.
ences, and trace them in some measure to their cause in the physical and mental constitution of man. If the varieties are at first sight startling to those who believe in the unity of the race and an original language, they become less so, when the numerous causes which combine to produce these particular effects are more deeply considered.
But Humboldt's researches in the last chapter of his work carry us further in the view they give of the original capacity of language to undergo change. They tend to prove that all languages bear evidence of having been at one period of their career monosyllabic, and must have been so. We may conclude a priori that the earliest languages were so. The unit of sound would correspond to the unit of conception. Now, a monosyllabic language would be more susceptible of change than another, fron additions reduplications, composition, &c., and syllables at one time the same might, in distinct courses of development, be so altered as to bear little trace of their original identity. The great merit of this part of the work is, that the author lays down some outlines of a method for detecting cognate roots, and reducing dissyllabic roots to monosyllabic in different languages; and it is in this line, as Bunsen has well shewn, that comparative linguists must proceed, if they are to establish scientifically more distant affinities than those between languages of the same stock, for which the consideration of their grammatical forms is the main thing.
On the point, whether there has been a gradual development of the higher languages from the lower, Humboldt is not explicit. The truth appears to be, that different languages have, so to speak, been petrified at different stages of development, because the national mind did not advance, and we thus have a consecutive system of formations, a history of human language, recorded in specimens belonging to many different stages. But it does not at all follow that the most highly developed was the latest in time, or that the connexion between every two steps should be demonstrable in the way of cause and effect. A connexion may be traced in some cases, but there are other changes which seem to be separated by an impassable chasm. It seems that, as great individuals are able, by the force of their genius, to give a new impulse to the human mind, and lift it above obstacles which have before impeded its course, so there are nations which are qualified to construct higher forms of language. Such a lift as that, from agglutination to inflexion, seems to us to require the rise of a new nation, or at least an entirely new form of national life. And, after all, great nations like great men, are not made, but born : we cannot reckon upon them, or predict their appearance, or explain it: they are the gifts of God to the world, the fulfillers of His purposes.
ART. VIII.—History of the War in Afghanistan. From the
Unpublished Letters and Journals of Political and Military Officers employed in Afghanistan, throughout the entire period of British Connexion with that Country. By John WILLIAM KAYE. 2 vols. London, 1851.
Amongst the features by which our Indian rule is specially distinguished, one of the most conspicuous is the peculiar difficulty to which we are exposed in the maintenance of the frontier. In order to preserve the territory we hold, it has been judged necessary to keep up alliances, to interpose between rival powers, or to plunge into costly wars upon the borders. British India cannot be marked out on the map, and governed like other countries by the ordinary machinery of a domestic system. In the close neighbourhood of numerous races who are at once divided against themselves by antagonistic interests, and united against us by a common faith, the government of India is as much a matter of intricate policy from without as of control and organization from within. To this curious position of an Empire won and sustained in the midst of jealous and hostile tribes, may be ascribed the fact of its rapid and still increasing extension. This extension is considered, in fact, an inevitable condition of its existence. It was necessary to advance our dominions farther and farther for the mere protection of what we already possessed. Feuds on the border must be subjugated as a safeguard against the infection of rebellion at home.
When protection was repaid by treachery or insult, the exaction of punishment or compensation was literally a measure of self-preservation. To have submitted to a wrong, or betrayed a fear, would have been to invite a danger, the remote issues of which might have perilled the fruits of a thousand victories. And thus, through a series of complicated transactions, in which we see the ally, with few exceptions, become transformed into the foe, and the mediator into the master, our Indian Empire presents the singular spectacle of a country deriving its internal safety from external agitation, and its strength and unity from the compulsory extension of its territories, elsewhere a source of weakness and disaster. Even the broad line of the Indus no longer limits our dominion, and the natural boundaries of empire have been swept away before the onward course of our standards. Of all the events that have arrested the attention of the world, in that history of progressive acquisitions, exhibiting in the most remarkable light the energy, skill, and courage of our countrymen in the East, that long train of baffled negocia
tions and harrowing carnage which is related in the volumes before us, may be considered, if not the most important, certainly the most profoundly interesting—especially at the present moment, when similar scenes appear to be in preparation on the same battle ground. That the interest of this narrative, however, and its direct influence upon the future, should be truly understood, it is necessary to trace back its springs to earlier incidents than the retreat from Caubul or the havoc of Jugdulluck.
Some fifty years ago, there was a vast region in India called the Douranee Empire, comprehending the whole country of Afghanistan, Cashmere, and the Derajat—a wild, haggard country, thinly populated by turbulent and barbarous races, and haunted by the goules and spectres of their superstitious imaginations. At that time this Empire was utterly unknown in England, and even the European residents in Hindostan knew little more of it than the fact of its existence. The best way of describing the mode of life of the people who wandered over the surface, or clustered in the solitary towns of imperial Douranee, will be by analogy with another form of animal economy. Whoever has seen a drop of New River water under the lens of a microscope, and observed the sanguinary activity and frightful contortions of the animalculæ there developed in a coil of eternal strife, may form some estimate of the domestic and social characteristics of the Douranee population. Fighting was not to say merely the ghastly trade of this people, it seems to have been their pastime. The Afghans, who appear to have been famous for their hospitality and their ballads, and who delighted in a little innocent gossip and gentle love-making at evening-tide in their villages, or the Fakir's gardens, were as fond of civil war, although not so ferocious in their dispositions, as the Rohillas. No vocation was exempt from this universal passion; even the pastoral classes were as belligerent as the trained soldiers. “ Their very shepherds," says Mr. Kaye, “ were men of strife. The predatory and the pastoral character were strangely blended ; and the tented cantonments of the sheep-drivers often bristled into camps of war.”
At the time we speak of, this remote kingdom was governed by a prince whose mind was possessed by one large misty idea —that of extending his possessions to the banks of the Ganges. This prodigious design so entirely engrossed him, that in the panoramic language of our author, he was a continually marching an army upon the frontier.” The phrase is a good one, and expresses with a peculiar descriptive force the uneasiness of the monarch. In India, however, it is not always safe for governors to be marching armies on their frontiers, for the moment they
go away out of their own territories, the chances are a hundred to one that some younger brother, or fifteenth cousin, or irritated minister, will take advantage of their absence, and start up in their place; so that when a sovereign makes a speculative excursion of this kind, he may consider himself the most fortunate of men if he do not find his throne occupied on his return.
It was under the operation of some apprehension of this kind that Zemaun Shah, the then monarch of the Douranee, kept “ continually" advancing upon the frontier, and as "continually" marching back again in a great fright to his Balla Hissar at Caubul." His movements were calculated to awaken curiosity and wonder, rather than to produce alarm, wherever the actual extent of his resources were known : but the people of British India were so ill-informed respecting him and his dominions, that when a rumour came floating into the Council Chamber of Calcutta, announcing the threatened descent of this fluctuating Sovereign upon Hindostan, we cannot be much surprised to find that it created a strong sensation, which penetrated even to the Governor-General himself. The danger was, of course, magnified by ignorance of the real poverty of a ruler, who, if he could have raised the enormous levies with which he was accredited by report; must have immediately disbanded them again from want of money to pay them. Had they been aware that his menaced invasion bore a close resemblance to the celebrated exploit of the French king and his numerous followers up and down a certain historical hill, they would have given themselves very little trouble at Calcutta about the flourishes of his chivalry.
But the fact of an invasion from that quarter was one of the most probable things in the world. It was the centre of a movement and a hope to which the aspirations of every tribe and race in the east were directed. The re-establishment of Islamism, and the rescue of Hindostan from the hands of the Franks, were objects for the accomplishment of which all eyes were turned to Canbul, and all hands were ready to lend their aid. “Every Mahomedan,” said Lord Wellesley, speaking of the threatened expedition, “even in the remotest regions of the Deccan, waited with anxious expectation for the advance of the champion of Islam.” The most sagacious statesmen of the day recognised the likelihood of such an attempt; and the reputed enthusiasm of Zemaun Shah, for the recovery of the ancient land of the faithful, gave a strong colouring of feasibility to the rumours which, day after day, supplied fresh speculations for the political circles of Calcutta. But his Majesty's phantom appearances and disappearances at various points, created so many groundless alarms that the English grew tired of the cry of “ wolf !” His name, and the vague terrors associated with it, were at last very nearly