Page images

Suppose a nation should take it from their phrenzy to common in their heads to condemn all old sense ; but nations will not always systems and all old books, because recover from their phrensies, and they contain old systems ; sup- in progress of time my fears may pose they should include the Bible be realized. France in its wild in the number ; suppose they deliriums has astonished the should prevent the reprinting of worid ; they may be outdone by all present learning, and insist some more outrageous fever, tbat nothing should be pubiished which may finally end in the exexcept their own new-fangled doc- tinction of light and life. Human trines, and that these doctrines nature, insolent and presuming in tended to unhinge all civilized so- its own strength, spurning the ciety. Reader, are my suspicions aids of divine revelation, and even wild ? know then, if you know it of ancient learning, may relapse not already, they were realized in after convulsions into lethargy, our own d:y; they were realized in and till the impossibility of such France within these five years* ; events be proved by some better they were realized by the tyrant argument than the invention of Robespierre ; by Robespierre printing, I shall ever, from data worse than Omar, for Omar act. afforded by the history of modern ed not from enmity to learning, times, believe their probability. but from friendship to Mahome. The age of pretended self suffitanism.

cient reason will become the age It has employed the whole vig- of absurdity ; irreligion will subour of the French nation to return vert all government, and anarchy

• Thesc sketches were published in 1998. lead to barbarism,


THE immense archives of an. it stopping a bungholę ; the world, cient learping in the famous libra- with insufferable credulity, and ry of Alexandria, since the publi- without troubling themselves to cation of the Latin version of the reason at all, have traced the parche Dynasties of Abulpharagius, have ments of the Alexandrian library generally been supposed to have till they found them distributed by been destroyed by the inconside, the command of an ignorant fana, rate, infuriate zeal of the Mahom, tick to the four thousand baths of etan Arabs, on their invasion of the city, and, such being their ing Alexandria under the command of credible number, that six months Omar, and “ every scholar, with were scarcely sufficient for the pious indignation, has deplored the consumption of this precious fuel. irreparable shipwreck of the learn, Many writers in different parts of ing, the arts, and the genius of Europe have lately denied the auantiquity.” If Hamlet, in the thenticity of the fact, which is inravings of his imagination, did so deed marvellous. In 1794 M. K, force his thoughts to his own con Reinhard published a dissertation ceit, as to reason himself into in the German language, in which a belief, that he could trace the no; he attempts to prove, that the li ble dust of Alexander, till he found. brary was demolished long before

the year 640, the time when Alex- the writings of their predecessors
andria was taken by the Saracens. nor can it fairly be presumed that
In the Spectateur du Nord, for any important truth, any useful
September 1798, I find an article discovery in art or nature, haş
on this celebrated library, written been snatched away from the cu:
by someone who signs himself riosity of modern ages.”
V*****, whom I presume to be Without entirely rejecting the
Volney, the celebrated traveller opinion of Gibbon on this subject,
into Egypt, and who confessedly we cannot however but believe,
avails himself of the materials of that our literary treasures would
M. K. Reinhard. Thinking that have been greater, if we still could
it might afford some amusement have recourse to the library of the
to the readers of the Anthology, I Serapion. By whatever means it
have made a translation from the was destroyed, by the woris or
French and now send it to you for by the flames, by neglect or fa-

naticism, it is very certain that it Whatever, was the ulteriour des- would have furnished us with the tination of the Alexandrian libra- works of Aristotle complete and ry, we may ask, Hare the learned 'correct; of Menander; all that is world much reason to regret its wanting of Æsclıylus ; of Euripi, destruction? Gibbon, in his his- des; the poems of Empidocies, tory of the decline and fall of the and of Stersichorus; a variety of Roman empire, [Amer. edit. vol. philosophical writings of Theo6, page 368] seenis to answer the phrastus, Epicurus, and many question in the negative. “I sin- others; and a multitude of histor, cerely regret, says he, the more ick facts, of which we are now valuable libraries which have been forever deprived. These losses involved in the ruin of the Roman ought certainly to occasion some empire ; but when I seriously regret to the friends of the sciencompute the lapse of ages, the ces and the muses. waste of ignorance, and the calam But I am willing to acknowlities of war, 'our treasures, rather edge, in deploring the loss of the than our losses, are the object of great library in the temple of Semy surprise. Many curious and rapis, we may view with indifferinteresting facts are buried in ob- ence the parchments burnt by ļivion ; the three great historians Amrou, if indeed he burnt any: of Rome have been transmitted It will be clearly demonstrated in to our hands in a mutilated state, the following dissertation, that, in and we are deprived of many his time, the collection of the pleasing compositions of the lyrick, Ptolemies could no longer have jambick, and dramatick poetry of existed ; and all the historians afthe Greeks. Yet we should grate firm, that, for the two or three fully remember, that the mischan- centuries preceding the arrival of ces of time and accident have the Musselmen, there had appearspared the classick works to ed an enormous quantity of polemwhich the suffrage of antiquity had ical writing, produced by the adjudged the first place of genius Gnostics, the Arians, the Mono-. and glory : the teachers of an- sophists, the Monotelites, &c. &c. cient knowledge, who are still ex- differents sects, which much agitant, had perused and compared tated the empire, and particularly

[ocr errors]

Alexandria. It is very probable, opinion, with Mr. Gibbon, that that the houses of the patriarchs they were ultimately devoted for and the churches were very full of the benefit of mankind. these writings ; and if they afford

PSICERAMUS. ed fuel to heat the baths, we are of



ALEXANDRIA, almost at the brary in the temple of Serapis, calcommencement of its foundation led the Serapion, situated at some by the conqueror of India, became distance from the Bruchion, in anoaffluent and powerful, and its pro- ther quarter of the city. These gress was still more rapid under two libraries were for a long time his royal successors. It was divi- called the mother and daughter. ded into many quarters, which Cæsar, during his war in Egypt, were like so many towns. One burnt the royal fleet in the great of these quarters, the Bruchion, bay of Alexandria, and the fire situated on the banks of the sea communicated to the Bruchion ; near the grand harbour, included the mother library was consumed, all the edifices attached to the and if any of the manuscripts were basilicum, or palace of the king, rescued from the flames, they the great college, and many oth were probably deposited in that of ers. The first of the Ptolemies, the Serapion, which in future can Lagus, did not confine his efforts be the only subject in dispute. to render Alexandria one of the Evergetes, and the other Ptolemost beautiful and commercial mies, successively augmented the cities, he wished that it might also library. Cleopatra there depositbecome the focus of the sciences ed two hundred thousand manuand philosophy. In conjunction scripts of the Pergamean library, with Demetrius of Phalaris, an with which she was presented by Athenian emigrant, this prince Mark Antony. established there a society of wise Let us now follow the traces of men, similar to the modern French the existence of the library. Auacademies and institutes. He lus Gellius and Ammianus Mar. built for their accommodation that cellinus seem to intimate, that the celebrated museum, which was an contents of the Alexandrian library additional ornament to the Bru. were burnt by the fire in the time chion; there was placed that of Cæsar. The first declares in ponderous library, which Titus his Noctes Atticæ, «that the numLivy styles, elegantiæ regum curæ ber of the books, collected in Ægypt que egregium opus.

by the Ptolemies, was immense, Philadelphus, successor of La- amounting even to seven hundred gus, seeing that the library of the thousand volumes, but they were all Bruchion contained four hundred burnt in the war which Julius Cæthousand volumes, either that the sar waged with the inhabitants of place could not contain a greater Alexandria, not with premeditated number, or that he was ambitious design, but by the soldiers who for a similar monument to eternise were perhaps auxiliaries." (Lib. his own name, founded a second lia 6. Cap. 17.].

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Ammianus Marcellinus, in the andria, and who declares, that he 22d book and 16th chapter of his saw there, in many temples, cases history, says, " The Serapion con- filled with books, the reliques of the tained an inestimable library of ancient libraries. It is worthy of seven hundred thousand volumes, remark, that this author, as well as collected by the industry of the Seneca in his treatise De TranquilPtolemies and burnt during the war itate Animi, relate, that the numof Alexandria, when that city was ber of volumes burnt by Cæsar destroyed by the dictator Czesar.” amounted to four hundred thou

But both of the historians have sand ; and as it appears that the erred on the same point. Ammi- total number of the books was but anus, in the course of his recital, seven hundred thousand, there reevidently confounds the Serapion mains, with what they were able and the Bruchion. It is clearly to save froin the library in the Bruproved, that Cæsar destroyed some chion, at most but three or four buildings of the latter only, and hundred thousand to compose the not the whole city.

one in the Serapion. Suetonius, in his life of Do. The veracious Orosius, in 415, mitian, relates that this emperour is the last witness we have, who sent copyists to Alexandria to testifies to the existence of the li. transcribe a great number of books, brary at Alexandria. The numewhich he wanted for his library. rous christian writers of the fifth The library must then have exist- and sixth centuries, who have ed a long time after Cæsar. Be- transmitted to us many useless sides, we know that the Serapion facts, do not say one word was not destroyed until the year this important subject. We of our Lord 391 by the orders of have then no more certain docuTheodosius.

ments, respecting the fate of the Without doubt the library suf- library, from 415 until 636, or, acfered considerably on the last oc- cording to some, not until 648, casion. But after this it still ex when Alexandria was taken by the isted, at least in part ; which we Arabs....a period of ignorance, of cannot doubt on the testimony of barbarism, of wars, of convulsions, Orosius, who, twenty-four years and of fruitless disputes between a afterwards, travelled into Alex• hundred different sects.


[ocr errors][merged small]

About the year of o’r Saviour time to the learned world, in a 640 the troops of the caliph Omar, latin translatioy, the oriental histounder the command of Amrou, ry of the physician Abulpharagius, took Alexandria. For more than from whom we make the following ten centuries no person in Europe extract...“ At that time lived among interested himself to know what the Musselmen John of Alexandria, became of this celebrated Įibrary. who was called the grammariun, At last, about the year 1660, a and who espoused the cause of the learned Oxonian, Edward Pococke, jacobite christians. He lived even who had collected in two journies at the time when Amrou-Ebno’l-As to the East many Arabian many took Alexandria. He attached scripts, made known for the first himself to the conqueror; and

Amrou, who knew the progress and wonder.”-When this recita! which John had made in the scien- was made known in Europe, its ces, treated him with great re- authenticity was admitted without spect, listening with much eager- contradiction. It there acquired ness to his philosophick discours- full credit, and in the opinion of es, which were altogether new to the vulgar it passed for certainty. the Arabians. Amrou was him After Pococke we had the self a man of much judgment and knowledge of another Arabian hispenetration. He retained this learn- torian, who was also a physician, ed man constantly near him. John and who gives nearly the same said to him one day : Thou hast recital. His name is Abdollatif, visited all the magazines of Alex- who wrote about the year 1200, andria, and hast set thy seal upon and of consequenc, a little before every thing which thou hast found Abulpharagius. We are indebted there. Of all that can serve thee for the publication to professor

I request nothing ; but thou canst Paulus, who made it after a man· reasonably leave us, what will be uscript in the Bodleian library.

useless to thee. What is it thou We here insert the passage in wishest? interrupted Amrou. The question. “I have seen also the philosophical books, replied John, Portico which, after Aristotle and which are found in the royal pal- his disciples, became the academace. I can dispose of nothing, said ick college, and also the college Amrou, without permission from which Alexander the Great built the chief of the faithful, Omar at the same time with the city, in Ebno’l-Chattab. He then wrote which was contained the superb to Omar what John had requested library which Amrou bin-El-A9 of him, to which Omar replied.... rendered a prey to the flames by As to the books thou mentionest, the orders of the great Omar, to if they accord with the book of whom God be merciful.” God, there is without them in that As this little narrative quadrates book all that is sufficient ; but if with the character for ferocity and there be any thing repugnant to barbarism, which the christian histhat book, we have no need of torians, particularly those in the them : order them therefore to times of the crusades, attributed to be all destroyed. Amrou upon the Saracens, no person for a long this gave orders, that they should time thought proper to call it in be dispersed through the baths of question. On this point we shall Alexandria, and burned in heating undertake to justify the caliph them. After this manner, in the Omar, and his lieutenant Amrou ; space of six months, they were all not from love of the Saracens, but consumed. Hear what was done from love of truth.

[To be continued.]

For the Monthly Anthology.


No. 5. I am a sincere believer in the verted in many instances by propsefulness of doctors and physick. er management ; and that the I believe that diseases may be proper management will more promitigated, and diseases may be a bably he discovered by men who

Vol. III. No. 1. B

« PreviousContinue »