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together on paper, so we put sounds together
on our lips. It will be curious to show how
men, slowly and carefully, still felt their way
out of darkness, and by what slow stages we
travelled from the first necessity for a phonetic
scrap, down to our present system. The inquiry
is not foreign to our purpose, since our
purpose is to show how, generation after
generation, man has had to toil and struggle
onward to obtain that power which is to-day
exercised familiarly by the Miss Julia Mills,
who, living in London, sends the overflowings
of her heart, under half an ounce in weight,
to her most confidential friend at Newcastle.

We find our step to the extended use of a
phonetic system, when we pass from the
Chinese to the matured practice of the ancient
Egyptians. The Egyptian hieroglyphics contain
much that is phonetic in them. They
are written upon three systems at once.
Where an Egyptian, sculpturing some story,
had to express a word that signified a visible
object, easy to figure, there he simply figured
it, and put three dots thereafter, if it was a
plural. Then he used the earliest and simplest
formthe " figurative " writing. If the next
word represented an idea to which there was
attached a symbol (and there was a fixed
catalogue of such symbols to guide him), he
figured it accordingly, and so used the advanced
form of " symbolic " writing. If the next
word chanced to be a verb, or something that
could not be represented either absolutely or
by proxy, then he wrote it down, on a phonetic
system, and the phonetic system was carried
out in this manner. The sound of B was represented
by any one of about half-a-dozen
natural objects chosen for the purpose, whose
names began with B; for the letter C, a small
collection was set apart of animals, &c., whose
names were commenced with C; and so on.
The figures to be used were fixed; but for the
representation of each sound, an option was
given to the sculptor, among five or six objects,
in order that, when executing his work, he
might as much as possible avoid " tautology"
or tauto-figury,—too great a run upon the
sun or moon, too many crocodiles or ibises.
Just as when, in our own writing, the same
word occurs two or three times in a few lines,
we substitute for it, once at least, a synonyme,
if possible; so the Egyptian writer, if he saw
that he produced his crocodiles too fast, and
had a care of elegance, had in the phonetic
system a reserve of figures out of which he
was at liberty to pick the one which he found
least hackneyed as a substitute.

This Egyptian, system of phonetics has
brought us now to the borders of our A. B. C.
But our letters are not pictures of objects.
Although we tell our children that A stands
for Apple, and B for Bull, we have not now to
tell them (as the Egyptians had to teach) that
Apple stands for A, and Bull for B. Faint
traces of a pictorial alphabet we may detect,
as the hissing serpent, for example, in our S;
but they are very faint traces. How did the
pictures vanish? Here, again, Egypt serves
us for an illustration. We have talked of
hieroglyphics, and the hieroglyphic characters
were elaborate figures of objects carved upon
rocks and walls. But the Egyptians had
advanced beyond rock writing, and their
priests wrote upon portable material so constantly,
and so much at length, that it became
an object to avoid the tediousness and delay
attendant upon writing as the chisel wrote.
Thus, there arose the use of Hieratic characters,
which were simply the hieroglyphics, simplified
into a running hand. Where the hieroglyphic
was a lion, the hieratic version was a
simple outline of the haunches and hind legs,
as seen in the set form of the hieroglyph.
There was no option allowed in the mode of
drawing either the original or the abbreviation.
There was only one way of drawing a
lion, and only one way of abbreviating the
sketch. So with other things. The hieratic
characters retained no very great resemblance
to anything in nature, and when it is added
that a selection from these was committed to
the popular use as domestic characters, for
ordinary purposes, as for example, letter-writing,
it will be readily imagined that
Egyptian billets doux were put together in
characters nearly as far remote from picture-writing
as the letters which now travel
through St. Martin's-le-Grand.

This sketch is enough to indicate the path
by which mankind has arrived at that power
which enables each individual, who learns the
mystery, to seal up a selection from his
thoughts within a little parcel, and to transmit
it safely by hand, whithersoever he may
please, for its communication to a distant friend.
And now that we have seen how hardly mind
has had to battle for the art of writing, let
us see what difficulties have been overcome
before we could attain to such materials of
writing as we now possess; let us find our
way to the first letter-writers, and see how
they wrote, and what sort of things their
letters were.

We have seen that in the first infancy of
writing, in the Cradle of Letters, nothing was
wanted but a rock. Communities attained to
an imposing show of material power before the
notion of sending written messages was acted
upon with any vigour. A fragment of rock,
not too large to be carried, was then broken
off and used as a material. It was the first
and most natural idea; but as the arts of construction
supply a pressing material want, and
are advanced without much difficulty, it is
easy to perceive that in many nations, moderately
destitute of stone, brick-making would
be a discovered art before the time when
there would be felt any strong necessity for
sending letters. Letters coming afterwards
would, in such cases, take the form of inscriptions
upon brick and tile. We find this accordingly
to be the case. Among the curiosities
turned up at Nineveh, by Mr. Layard, are
some of the Assyrian documents inscribed on