John Toland.

A new edition of Toland's History of the druids : with an Abstract of his life and writings; and a copious appendix, containing notes critical, philological, and explanatory online

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Online LibraryJohn TolandA new edition of Toland's History of the druids : with an Abstract of his life and writings; and a copious appendix, containing notes critical, philological, and explanatory → online text (page 27 of 31)
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wrested the greater part of their territory from them, is on all
hands allowed. Still, even in Germany, as late as the time of
Cassar and Tacitus, the Celts were not extirpated. We find the
Tectosages, the Finni, the 3Lstyi, the Cimbri, and the Gothini^
indisputably Celtic nations, still in Germany. Now can it rea.
sonably be supposed that the Germans would rather emigrate
themselves, than drive out the Celts; or rather is it not self-evi.
dent that the Celts, the weaker party, were forced to yield to
the overwhelming pressure of the Germans, and to seek new set.
tlements for themselves in Britain. Hence the probability of a
Celtic origin for the Picts or Caledonians, must greatly prepon.
derate; and still more so, as there is not the slightest vestige of
authentic evidence in the world, that a German, or any one of
that race, ever set a foot on British or Irish ground before th«
middle of the fifth century. It would be presumption in me to
endeavour to establish the Celtic origin of the Picts or CaledoBi-
ans. In so doing, I could only repeat the arguments of men in>
finitely better qualified for the task. That the Picts or Caledow
nians were of Celtic origin, is established by the respectable
authorities of Camden, Lloyd, Junes, Whitaker, Guthrie, Gib.
bon, Hume, &c, &c. &c. I have to apologize to the reader for
this long digression. The truth is, that it formed the concluding
part of Note 65, and, by some unaccountable oversight, was
omitted in its proper place ; nor was the mistake discovered till
it was too late to rectify it. We shall next turn our attention
to the Celts. in Ireland.

Tlie anticiuity of the use of Utters in Ireland has been strenn.

NOTES. 383

ously maintained, antl as strenuously controverted. To do jus.
tice to this discussion, would require a volume. Pinkarton and
Jnnes have, above all others, strained every effort in the negative,
and adduced every argument to that eiFect which ingenuity could
invent, or prejudice suggest. By adverting to the arguments of
these gentlemen, I will, in some measure, be able to do justice
to the subject, and at the same time confine myself within the
bounds to which these notes must necessarily be limited. Both
these geotlemea owed Mr, Toland a grudge, though on very dif.
ferent grounds. Pinkarton was sensible his Gothic system could
never stand, till the Celts, and every thing Celtic, were com.
pletely annihilated, and hence his inveterate antipathy to To.
land, who was not only a Celt, but a strenuous assertor of the
antiquity, civilization, and early literature of the Celts. Innes,
on the other band, was a Popish clergyman, a staunch Jacobite,
and an inflexible advocate for the divine right of reigning. This
divine right of kings was, by Toland and the whigs, (for Toland
was a rigid whig) ironically denominated the divine right of doing
rerong. With men actuated by such discordant principles, 'where
a diversity of opinion was possible, no coincidence was to be

Mr. Pinkarton (v. 2. p. 18. & 19.) insists that the Irish have
no claim to letters before St. Patrick introduced them, along
with Christianity, about the year 440. Tet this same gentle,
man, wishing to fix the authentic history of his favourite Picfs
as early as possibly, dates it from the commencement of the reign.
ofDrust the Great, in 414, and assigns as a reason for this authen.
ticify, (v. l.p. 275.) ttjat, in 412, there were /mA clergymen who
settled in Pictland, and had the use of letters, and that tradition
was then exchanged for authentic history. If the Irish were un.
acquainted with letters till St. Patrick introduced them in 440,
or (as others say) in 432, it must follow that these Irish clergy
who settled in Pictland in 412, must also have been totally illi.
terate, r But Mr. Pinkarton, it may be presumed, would not
found the authenticity of the history of his red-haired friends on
a fictioDj and hence it is evident, from his own account of the

3c 2

584 NOTES.

matter, that the Irish were acquainted with letters at least
twenty years before the arrival of St. Patrick. The man who
can thus deliberately deny and assert one and the same thing, as
it thwarts or favours bis purpose, is certainly yery ill qualified
for a historian.

Mr. Innes, uiith all his foibles, is a modest and meritorious
writer. Though he sometimes colours hard, he nevet absolutely
violates truth. Willing to rate St. Patrick's merits as high as
possible, he makes him tbefather of Irish letters. The first ar.
gument he adduces (v. 2. p. 456.) is that the Gaelic (Irish)
words Liiir, a letter — Leabhar, a book — Leagham, to read —
Scriobham, to write, &c. are derived from the Roman Litera,
Liber, Lego, Scribo, &c. and hence infers that Letters, Books,
Heading and Writing, were borrowed from the Romans, and
introduced by St. Patrick. To give this argument its full
weight, I shall here add a short synopsis of the Sanscrit, Celtic,
and Roman languages.


Cultivated land
A mother
A brother
A prophet
A priest
A door
' A word, vowel
Wet, drunk
The knee
A month
A king
A ship
A calamity
A day
A station
A pen
The middle



















Ter, Tir














Vox, Vocalis















































A wheel

Fem, Femen



A woman

Fear, Fir



A man








A thing




The mind
















A place



A brow

Lubhd -

JJIll u













scrip. Holy writ










































I am sorry I haye been able to procure no other specimen of
the Sanscrit language than that contained in the Edinburgh Re.
view (1809) of Wilkins'' Sanscrit Grammar, which specimen was
selected by the reviewers with the exclusive view of contrasting
it with the Roman language. Even under all these disadvan.
tages it bears a stronger resemblance to the Celtic. The combi.
nations bh and dh, which so frequently occur in the Celtic, are
also characteristic features in the orthography of the Sanscrit.
The present infinltiTe of Sanscrit verbs ends generally in m. In
the Celtic the present indicative ends also in m. We can trace
the same mode of termination in the Latin verbs. Their first
supine (which is only another present infinitive) ends always in
m. That the Romans used antiently to terminate the present
indicative in m, is sufficiently evident from inquam and sum,
With all its compounds. If Mr. Innes will argue, from the affi.

386 ISfOTES,

nitjr of the Celtic language to the Roman, that the Celts derived
their letters, books, writing, reading, chronology, numbers, and
the art of calculating, from St. Patrick, it must follow from the
Tery same argument, that the Indian Bramins also derived the
art of writing, &c. from St. Patrick, which is impossible.

That the Celtic, Sanscrit, and Roman languages bear the
strongest marks of affinity, is self-evident. Mr. Innes (and he
has been too generally followed) endeavours to shew that the
Celtic has borrowed largely from the Latin. Were we even to
grant this postulatum, we are only involving ourselves in a new
difficulty, for the affinity of the Sanscrit to the Latin remains
still to be accounted for. I flatter myself the boldest speculator
will not even venture to insinuate that the Sanscrit has borrowed
from the Latin, or vice versa. These languages never came in
contact. The Celtic cannot, therefore, have derif^ed its affinity
to the Sanscrit through the medium of the Roman language. It
is, on all hands, allowed that the Sanscrit and Celtic are Asiatic
languages, or (in other words^ primary dialects of the aboriginal
language of Asia. The Roman language has no such early
claim. Fortunately for our present purpose, Rome reared its
head within the period of authentic history. The Romans were
not (like the Celts or Bramins) acolony direct from Asia. They
were a few Italian shepherds, and lawless banditti, and could
not possibly speak any other language than that of the country
which produced. them. That the Celtic was the aboriginal Ian.
guage of Europe, is a point unquestioned and unquestionable.
It is even sanctioned by Pinkarton himself. The Celtic or Um.
brian language was, therefore, the aboriginal language of Italy,
and consequently of Rome. The Greek colonies, which, from
time to time, settled in Italy prior to the Roman xra, do doubt
effected some alteration in the language of Italy ; and it is most
probable that the Doric dialect of the Greek, fotinded on the
Celtic, or (in other words) the Celtic Doricizcd, laid the founda.
lion of the Roman language. Hence the affinity of the Celtic,
Sanscrit, and Roman languages, can be satisfactorily accounted
for. The CeUic and Sanscrit were primary dialects of the abo.

NOTES. 387

riginal language of Asia, and the Roman language a secondary
dialect of the same, through the medium or iuterTention of the
Celtic. I am well aware that the Greek technical terms have,
through the medium of the Roman language, been spread aU
over Europe, and that a great number of Roman ecclesiastical
terms were every where introduced wiih Christianity. But these
are easily distinguished. The words which characterize the an«
tiquity, the identity, or the affinity of languages, are those which
mark the permanent objects of li&ture, or the primary wants
and relations of mankind, and which must have existed from the
very first dawn of social intercourse.

But least it should be imagined that I wish to evade a direct
reply to Mr. Innes' argument, I shall here admit, because the
words in the CeMic which signify a tetter, a book, &c. bear every
mark of identity with the Roman litera, liber, &c. that St. Pa-
trick introduced letters, books, &c. into Ireland, and then it
must follow that he introduced all things else, whose names bear
the same marks of identity. The identity of the following words,
(and a thousand more) is manifest. Ceal, heaven and Ccelum — '
Ter, land and Terra — Man, a hand and Manus — Capat, a head
and Caput — Mathair, a mother and Mater — Bhrathair, a bro-
ther and Frater — Femen, a woman and Fcemina — Fir, a man
and Vir — iSozi,, t,he sun and Sol — Luan, the moon and Luna, &c.
&c. &c. Hence it must follow, on Mr. Jnnes' own mode of
reasoning, that there was neither heaven nar earth, hand nor
head, mother nor brother, man nor vooman, sun nor moon, &c.
&c. &c. in Ireland, till St. Patrick introduced them.

Fully sensible that he was supporting a desperate and unten.
able position, he admits (v. 2. p.. 4510 that the Irish had the
partial use of letters prior to the arrival of St. Patrick. By the
partial use of letters he probably means (bat they were confined
to the Jiigber ranks, but this again agrees ill with his assertion
(v. 2. p, 466.) that the 300 volumes which St. Patrick burnt on
his arrival, were written in magical or hierogiyphical letters, and
intelligible only to the. Druids. If the lower ranks in Ireland
were wholly illiterate, the ordinary letters would have beea as

388 NOTES.

sufficient a disguise as any other ; and if these volumes were
unintelligible to all but the Druids, how could St. Patrick know
their obnoxious contents, or whence could arise the necessity of
Iraming them. 1 hare thus followed Pinkarton and Innes throogh
their different arguments; and it is not a little strange, that,
though both set out with the avowed intention of proving that
St. Patrick was the first who introduced letters into Ireland, yet
both have been obliged to recoil, and to subvert the very point
which they wished to establish.

But'though we might safely rest the use of letters in Ireland
prior to St. Patrick, on the reluctant evidence of these two
gentlemen, still there is not the slightest occasion for so gratui.
tons an alternative. The evidences on this head are numerous
and irresistible. Had St. Patrick really found the Irish totally
illiterate, why do none of his biographers' plainly tell us so ? All
that he did, was writing somewhat more than 365 alphabets. —
See Toland's quotation from Nennius, p. 96. That the sainj
introduced the Roman alphabet, as a preliminary step to the
introduction of the Roman language, no one will pretend to dis.
pute ; but we can no more hence infer that the Irish were, prior
to that period, destitute of letters, than that they were destitute
of language. Dudley Forbes, and Dr. Kennedy, (see Toland*
p. 105) testify that St. Patrick burnt from 180 to 300 volumes
of Irish records. The compilation of these volumes must have
been the work of many ages, and I hope no one will say that the
Irish could compile them without the use of letters. But, says
Mr. Innes, (vol. 2. p. 466) these volumes were written in hiero-
glyphical letters. This would be a phenomenon indeed.
Egypt the parent (as far as we know) of hieroglyphics, was
never possessed of one volume, and how can Ireland be supposed
to possess 300 ? This assertion of Mr. Innes is perfectly foolish
and gratuitous, when he had previously admitted, (v. 2. p. 451.)
that the Irish had the partial use of letters prior to the arrival of
St. Patrick. Had the saints' biographers considered him, or
indeed wished him to be considered, as the father of Irish let-
ters, they would never have acted so inconsistently as to tell ns,"

NOTES. 889

tiidt they, (the Irish) had 300 volumes flf redords before his

The Irish have always held St. Patrick in the highest venera-
tion. Their gratitude has been unbounded. They have even
superloaded him with honours. Had he really been the father
of Irish letters, what possible biotive could they have had, to
pluck this individual and solitary laurel from his brow. But
they, on the contrary, (see Toland, p. 85.) ascribe their letters to
Femus Farsaidh, i. e. " Phaenix the antient, ot the antient
Phcenician. Whether by Fenius Farsaidh, they meant the
Taaut of SanchoniathoH, or Cadmus who first introduced letters
into Greece, it is impossible to determine. All that we can
infer from it is, that the Irish derived their letters from the Phoe.
nicianSi The polite Greeks and Romans ascribe theirs to the
same source. Herodotus, (lib. 5.) owns that the Greeks received
their letters fr<An the Phcenicians. Diodorus Sieultts, (lib. 1.)
says, J%ese Phcenicians who did receive these letters from the-
MuseSf and afterwards communicated them to the Greeks, are
the same who came into Europe with Cadmus. Lucan, (Phart.
sal, lib, 3.) saySj

I'hcenices prinii, faaiae si credimus, ausi
Mansaram rudibus voceoi signare figaris.

i. e. " The Phoenicians, if We credit fame, were the first who
attempted to give stability to words, by marking them with rude
characters. Pliny, (lib.-&. Sf Cap. 12. also lib. 7. cap. 56.) is
very full to the same purpose. Having sufficiently established
that the Greeks and Romans,- as well as the Irish ascribe their
letters to the Phoenicians, it is in the next place necessary to
compare these alphabets.

The Phcenician, or (which isthe same thing) the Hebrew Or
Chaldaic letters are, Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, He, Vau,
Dsain, Cheih, Tetk, lod, Caph, Lamech, Mem, Nun, Samech,
^in, Pe, Tsade, Koph, Resh, Shin, Tan, in all twenty.two.
The Greek letters introduced by Cadmus are Alpha, Beta,
Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, lota. Kappa, Lambda, Mui, Nui,

3 D

390 ^OTKS.

Omikron, Pi, Ro, Sigma, Tau, Ypsilon, in all sixteen, lo
these Palaraedes, about the time of the Trojan war, added, A/,
Theta, Phi, Chi, and Simonides afterwards added Zeta, Eta,
Psi, Omega. From the correspandence of the names of the
Greek letters to those of the Hebrew, it is clear Ihe former were
derived from the latter. The Roman alphabet is, ^, b, c, d, e,
r, G, H, r, J, K, L, JB, If, o, p, o, R, s, T, V, r, X, T, z, in all
twenty-fi»e. The plenitude of the Roman alphabet, as well as
the name of the letters being omitted, and the form or figure
only retained, is a clear argument that it is much more iDodera
than either of the preceding. The Irish alphabet is, a, b, c, d,
i, F, G, I, L, M, y,o, p, R, s, T, V, in all seventeen. Though
jf has latterly cr«pt into the language, it was originally,^s amocg
the Greeks, an aspirate, and marked by a dot above the line.
It is initial in no Celtic word, and merely used as an Euphonic,
or, in combiDatton with some other letter, as a sflhstituteto sup-
ply the place of some letter wanting in the Irish alphabet. Tlu'
Irish alphabet contains many genuine marks of remote antiquity,
which deserve minute consideration.

Imo, Its nanie, viz. Beth.Luii.Nion an Oghuim^-u e. " tha
Alphabet of Ogum.—See Toland, p. 82, 83, 84, Sfc. This word
Is sometimes written Ogam and Ogma. Lncian (See Toland'*
Quotation, p. 81 Sf H%) gives a very particular account cf
Ogum or Ogma, which he la,tigjze$ Ogmius. This name is na
idle fictioQ or whim ^i the Bards or Sqnaifhies (as Pinkartoo
imagines) long after the arrival of St. ^trick> Litciaa, who
■wrote about three centuries ^fo;^ St. Patcick's arrival, calls it
phon? te epichorlo — i. e. a wor4 of the gountrj-^a Gaeht woTd.
Tlie autiquity of th^ wprd ^gum, and that it was CeUi«, is thus
established as early as the middle of the s«Qond ceu^ry. Xh«
title of the Irish alphabet is th^refcjre 09 ficiion ^ubsequtnt to the
arrival of St. Patri«;k.

2do, Its QTrangem^nt, viz. «, l, n, &.c. This is another
mark of its antiquity, for we all know that the arrangement of
the Roman alphabet is quite different. Wheo St. Patrick had
iuttoduwd th« RQman language aad Wii^n, the Roman arrange.


Sfient of the alphabet pretailedj and this was the only alteratioa
the Irish alphabet uiiderweDt.

8tIo, The names df the Irish lemrs^ tiz. Ailntj an Elm; Iklh,
a Bitch ; Coll^ a HatU; DuiTf aft Oak; Ettdha, ati Aipen.ttee f
Feantf an Aldet.tree; Gort^zxi Ity.tteer, Iodhd,9. YeiK.tfee;
Luis.) a Qideketi-tree ; Mttiii^ a. Vine; iVjtiw, an Ask; Oir, a
Sphtdle^tree ; Pieth.Bhog, licft translated by the Irish ^fatottfa.
riatis. Ruig, an Elder.tree ; Stilf not translated hy the Irfsh
gfammariails. Teine, not tratJslated; U, Heath jUtiih, (the
aspirate H) a tuAJ/e Thotn-tree. Of these l*tt^«, !?(?</«, Jodha,
Muin and ^ujn, bear a marked affltiity to the Hebrew Beth*
Jod.Mem and iV«», as*ell as to the Greek Beta,- Idtd, itfef, and
Nui. What is most remarkable in this atpthsibei, Is that it is con.
sidered as a icdod, and the letters as trees. This idea is so p6r-
fffctly origjual, that the Irish coofd not passiMy havef bffrrowed
it from any nation in the wotld. Another mark of atitiquitj^ is,
that the meaning of Pieth.'Bho^.Suil, and Teine^ are Hot knowa,
and they are coftsequeHtty left ttntranS'lated Ijiy the Irish gram-
rnarians. Had this airyhabe't been a modern fabrication, ibet6
could have been no diffictflty iniis^gttihg a signification to these,
as well as to the fest. It ^Iso possesses this peeatiairitj' in com-
mon With the Hebrew alphabet that the name of ev'ety fettet is
significant and expressive. ^

4to. Itsfgure or form. Thcf origlnai Irish letters, (of Which
the reader Will see a sipeciffleti in Schaw's analysts of the Gaelic
language, Major Valencia's gramMar, &c.) appear to be a com.
pound of the Greek and' Saxon, Taken in iofo, they can be
identified with no alp'habet now known. Mr. Piiikarton has the
modesty to tell us that the Irish alphabet is the' Sa.v&n. Can
this geuft^tnaii have forgot, that he allows the Irish the use of
letters as eariy as the arrival of St. Fatrick in 432', and that be
proves the Gei'mans, Scandinavians, Saxons', &i. totafly illite.
rale till the 91h century ? Though the Celts Ad not Hceive their
letters from the Romans or Saxons, still it is highly probably
that the Saxons recsived theirs from the' Celts', and this may ac.

392 f«OTES,

count for the faint similarity which can be traced in some letters

of their respective alphabets.

5to, Its identity with the alphabet of Cadmus. The Irish al-
phabet, as I have already stated, consists of 17 letters. With
the exception of the letter i^, the other 16 are toto corpore, the
identical 16 letters which Cadmus introduced into Greece.
This coincidence can neither have proceeded from accident nor
design, but from the original and absolute identity of the alpha,
bets themselves. If the Irish had culled or selected their alpha-
bet from the Roman one, as has been foolishly imagined, by
what miracle could they have hit on the identical letters of Cad.
rous, and rejected all the rest? Had they thrown 16 dice, 16
times, and turned up the same number every time, it would not
have been so marvellous as this. The identity of the Cadmean
and Irish alphabet is not therefore the effect of chance or acci-
dent. Neither is it the effect of design. Had the Irish framed
this alphabet with a design to make it coincide exactly with that
of Cadmus, they would, at least, have been possessed of as much
fommon sense, as to-leave out the letter F.

6to. The paucity of its letters. It St. Patrick introduced the
Roman alphabet, why were the letters J, k, e, r, jr, y, and z
omitted ? For Jf they had no occasion, their c being always pro-
nounced hard. J is expressed by d put before t or e, thus Dia
\s pronounced Jeecf. There are no such sounds in the Celtic
SIS those expressed by a, x, or z. The combinations bfi and nik
express r, dh and gh, express y. Though there was no occa-
sion for *, «, X, and z, still j, r, and r, were of primary neces.
sity, the Celts, or Irish, having no such lettprs, and being obliged
to express them by combinations or substitutions. Bat there
is betwi?^ every -written language and its alphabet a certain ap-
titude and affinity which peculiarly adapts them to each other.
The peculiar alphabet of a language is its most graceful and ap-
propriate dress. Every othpr alphabet, when applied to it is
pukward, forced, and unnatural. Were the English language
■written in Greek or Hebrew characters, it would well nigh gq
fhe length pf ruining its whole fortn and orthogr^.phy. The same

NOTES,. 393

tliiog would happen were the English characters applied to the
Greek or Hebrew languages. But where a language has not
been written, any alphabet will suit it, and they easily coalesce
and assimilate. Had the Irish (Celtic) language not been a writ,
ten one, and its orthography settled, before the arriral of St.
Patrick, there could have been no possible obstacle to the intro.
duction of the Roman alphabet in its fullest extent.. Indeed,
bad this not been the case, the introduction of the Homan alpha,
bet would have followed as a necessary and inevitable conse.
quence, though the Saint had been determined to prevent it.

7mo. Its antiquity. Many attempts have been made by Pin-
karton, and others, to get rid of the ancient Irish alphabet. They
have rendered it a sort of short hand writing^ invented about the
tenth or eleventh century, — the Notae Longobardicae-^Runic
characters — magical or hieroglyphical letters, &c. But their
grand argument is, that St. Patrick introduced the Roman letters
in 432. Were we to grant this, it is the greatest death blow
which these gentlemen could receive, for it must then follow,
that such manuscripts as are written in the ancient Irish charac.
ters, are older than the aera of St, Patrick. Bat (say they) these

Online LibraryJohn TolandA new edition of Toland's History of the druids : with an Abstract of his life and writings; and a copious appendix, containing notes critical, philological, and explanatory → online text (page 27 of 31)