dred volumes, among which are a pear to be, both of the means and few good editions of the classics. motives for mental cultivation, it The greater part of the library con- could scarcely be expected that sists of Icelandic and Danish works; instances should occur, where the beside which there are a consider- ardour of literary pursuit is still able number of volumes in the Ger- maintained, and the acquisitions man language, and a few in the of former study not only preserved, English and French. The number but even increased and improved, of manuscripts is very inconsider. The occurrence, however, and able, and they appear to be of little even the frequency of examples value. The private library of the of this kind, may render necessaLector Theologiæ, though small- ry some explanation of a fact so er, is more select, and contains extraordinary. Among the more the works of Mosheim, Heinsius, obvious of the causes which preReinhard, Lowth, Griesbach, sent themselves, is the long period Michaelis, and numerous other of leisure which the Icelanders authors of minor note, on ecclesi- enjoy, during the protracted astical history and doctrine. It is winters of their northern region. the best theological collection in This leisure, those who have acthe island.

quired in their youth the habits of Among the young men educat- literary pursuit, will naturally deed at this school, there are some vote to a continuance in occupawho afterwards go to Copenhagen, tions, which are so well adapted with the view of prosecuting their to relieve the weariness of the studies at the university there; passing time. Their means of this advantage being occasionally study are indeed very limited, and afforded to the children of those the enjoyments of participation who hold civil offices, or possess almost wholly denied; but these landed property, and to the sons of comparative disadvantages are in some of the wealthier among the some measure overcome by the clergy of the country. The number habits of perseverance, which neof students, however, who enjoy cessity crcates, and which are such opportunities is very limited; maintained from an experimental and the remainder, oppressed by sense of their value. Nor is the poverty and the necessities of great name of their ancestors withtheir situation, are generally com- out its influence


present pelled to take up their abode for generation of Icelanders. There life in solitary spots, where their are few amongst them who cannot intercourse, even with each other, refer back to the times, when is almost wholly suspended, and those born on the same soil with where any future progress in themselves, were raised to honours knowledge can only be effected by and renown in foreign lands: and their independent and unaided ex- never is this appeal made without ertions. This is the condition of an animated feeling of patriotic all the country priests in the island, pride and satisfaction. and of many of the more respect- Among the class of priests, anable of the proprietors and farm- other motive to mental cultivation ers. Deprived, as they thus ap- is the desire of maintaining in their



office an influence, which can not the community partake. With be derived from any difference of the exception of those who inhabit external circumstances. The pas- the coast, in the vicinity of the tor must undergo the same labours great fishing stations, it is a rare and hardships as the meanest of thing to meet with an Icelander his flock: he enjoys few additional who is unable to read and write, comforts or refinements of life ; or who does not possess considerand but for the superiority of his able intelligence on all subjects to intellectual attainments, would which his situation allows him speedily lose that station in so

The instruction of his ciety, which it is so necessary he children forms one of his stated should retain. It forms, too, an occupations; and, while the little important part of his duty to su. earthen hut which he inhabits is perintend the business of domestic almost buried by the snows of education in the families placed winter, and darkness and desolaunder his pastoral care. This of- tion are spread universally around, fice is not, indeed, strictly re- the light of an oil lamp illumines quired by the ecclesiastical sta- the page, from which he reads to tutes of the country; but it is his family the lessons of knowfounded upon usage, and ultimate- ledge, religion, and virtue. The ly upon a sense of the necessity importance of these domestic for such a superintendance, where habits has been well understood the public means of education are by the Icelanders themselves. In so greatly limited by the poverty the ecclesiastical code of the of the people, and the dispersion country, an article is extant, sinof their numbers. An interesting gular perhaps in its nature, but example of the attention with admirable in its design, which which this duty is sometimes exgives to the Bishop, or even the ercised has been given in the inferior clergy, the power of prejournal; and the instance of the venting any marriage where the parish priest of Saurbar is by no female is unable to read. This means singular among the minis- law, which provides so powerful a ters of religion in Iceland. Their pledge for the instruction of the poverty, indeed, rather increases rising generation, is still occasionthan lessens the influence of these ally acted upon, though probably exertions, by associating them not with so much strictness as in more intimately with their parish- former times. The books in the ioners, and promoting that free possession of the lower classes and unreserved communication, are chiefly of a religious nature ; which a more refined state of a great number of these works society has so much tendency to having been printed in Iceland preclude.

during the last two or three cenBy this superintendence of the turies and very generally circulapriests, and the long-established ted through the country. In habits of the people, a regular many parishes there is a small system of domestic education is collection of books belonging to maintained ; in the benefits of the church; from which, under which, even the lowest ranks of the superintendence of the priest,


each family in the district may de- Jated, with a view to the publicarive some little addition to its tion of those which were found means of instruction and improve- most remarkable or important; ment.

and it is principally through this The historical and poetical writ- channel that the earlier writings ings which the early literature of of the Icelanders are known to Iceland produced, are by nomeans the present inhabitants of the generally known among the Ice- country. The valuable editions of landers of the present time; such these writings printed at Copenstudies being principally confined hagen, have come into the possesto the priests, and to those of the sion of all who bear a literary higher classes. The calamities character among the Icelanders ; which oppressed the island during and a few editions of the works of the 15th century, and which en- this period, which have been tirely extinguished the celebrity, printed in the island, have given a and almost even the name of the further diffusion to this branch of people, interposeda sort of barrier knowledge among the people. It between the ancient Icelanders is, however, by no means general ; and their posterity. Learning was the tales and traditions which now restored under an altered form; prevail in the country relating for the works of former genius were the most part to more recent times, only partially revived ; and these and being in few instances derived circumstances, together with the from the Sagas and poems, in changes progressively taking which the events of antiquity are: place in the language of the coun- described. try, have removed from the pos- Among those individuals of the session of the present race of present day who have made the people all the more striking early literature of Iceland an obevidences of the ancient condition ject of study, the name of Finnur of their community. A great Magnuson may particularly be number of manuscripts are still to mentioned. This young man, who be found in the churches, and in holds the situation of public, the houses of the priests and prin. pleader in the courts of law at cipal inhabitants; but, with few Reikiavik, and is distinguished by exceptions, they are all of modern his classical acquirements, has date, and are merely the repre- bestowed very great attention sentatives of works which were upon the early writings, and esintended for publication, but pecially upon the ancient poetry which the poverty of their writers, of his country; and is considered or other circumstances, have un- to have a more intimate knowavoidably suppressed. The great- ledge of them than any other er proportion of the Icelandic person in the island. He has manuscripts which derive value likewise been enabled, from his from their antiquity, have been residence on the spot, and from gradually transferred to Copenha- his family connections with segen, and deposited in the public or veral eminent Icelanders, to colprivate libraries of that metropolis.lect some manuscripts of considerHere they have been carefully col. able value from their age and rarity. The industry and success of the principal works which disof Professor Thorkelin in the tinguish their literature, and essame pursuits are more generally pecially those of the historical known : but the long absence of kind, have been composed in this gentleman from Iceland has Latin. At the present time, this - lessened, in some degree, his con- language forms a part of the edunection with the modern litera- cation of the priests, and of all ture of the country.

the principal inhabitants of the In describing the state of know- island. It is still very frequently ledge among the present race of the vehicle of their writings; and Icelanders, their attainments in a great number of inedited Latin languages and in classical litera- books, both in poetry and prose, ture must particularly be noticed. may be found throughout the This is one of the first of those country, destined for ever to recircumstances which engage the main in the obscurity which gave attention and admiration of the them birth. Epigrams and short stranger, in visiting the island, descriptive poems in the same He sees men whose habitations language are exceedingly combespeak a condition little removed mon; and, through this medium, from the savage state ; who suffer the Icelanders often indulge that an almost entire privation of every tendency to personal satire, which comfort or refinement of life ; and it formerly required even the opewho, amid the storms of the sur- ration of the laws to restrain. rounding sea, seek, in their little The study of Greek, as might boats, the provision upon which be expected, is by no means alone their families can scarcely equally general; but there are depend. Among these very men, notwithstanding, several very exhe finds an intimate knowledge of cellent Grecian scholars, who now the classical writings of antiquity; do credit to the literature of the á taste formed upon the purest island. In the first place among models of Greece and Rome; and these is the present Bishop, Geir á susceptibility to all the beauties Vidalin; a man whose acquirewhich these models disclose. ments in every department of While traversing the country, he literary pursuit, would do honour is often attended by guides who to any country, or condition of can communicate with him in society. To classical studies he Latin; and, arriving at his place has devoted peculiar attention ; of nightly rest, he not unfre- and, in his colloquial Latin, he quently draws forth from the displays a facility and correctness labours of his little smithy, a man of style, and a richness and prowho addresses himin this language priety of quotation, which evince with the utmost fluency and ele- the most intimate acquaintance gance. This cultivation of the with the writers of the best ages ancient languages has been com- of Rome. In Grecian literature, mon among the Icelanders from his reading has been almost an early period in their history; equally extensive: and he is said and it will be seen from the Pre- to be a very excellent Hebrew liminary Dissertation, that many scholar. Among the other Ice

landers of the present time, who cultivated by a few individuals have distinguished themselves in with much success. All these classical literature, are, Steingrim languages, as is well known, origiJonson, of Bessestad ; the Rector nate from the same root; and the Hialmarson, who formerly con- resemblance still retained between ducted the school at Hoolum; and the Icelandic and Danish, or still Arnas Helgeson, the priest of more the Norwegian, is such, that Vatnsfiord, at the most northerly the natives of each country can, extremity of the island. Few without much difficulty, 'make translations from the classics have themeelves mutually understood. been published in the Icelandic Through these different channels, language, though it is probable the Icelanders have acquired conthat many manuscripts of this kind siderable information respecting exist in the country. The Trans- the modern literature of Europe, actions of the Icelandic Society, a particularly that of Germany and work afterwards to be mentioned, Denmark; and they possess not contain translations of the Idylls only the originals, but translations of Theocritus, which possess very of many of the works which have great merit; and, in the same acquired reputation in these counwork, there is a translation of Plu- tries in later times. Their knowtarch's Paidagogia, by the Assessor ledge of English literature is obEinarson. The Fables of Æsop, tained chiefly through the medium and many of the Odes of Horace, of the Danish and German ; in have likewise been given to the which languages the works of Icelanders in their native verse. Addison, Pope, Richardson, and

proper to notice here Young, are known and admired the great attention to the studies by many individuals in the island. of philology and criticism which They possess likewise a few transhas existed among the learned men lations of English works into their of Iceland during the last two cen- native language. Twenty or thirty turies. Many valuable works con

years ago, the whole of Milton's nected with this department of Paradise Lost was translated into literature, have been already pub- Icelandic verse by Jonas Thorlak. lished, either in the island or at son, a priest al Backa, in the Copenhagen ; and numerous writ- northern part of the island; of ings of the same kind are still to which translation two books were be found in manuscript, in differ- published in the Acts of the Iceent parts of Iceland.

landic Society; the remainder are In the study of the modern lan- yet in manuscript. The merits of guages, the proficiency of the Ice- the poetry in this translation are landers is as great as can be ex- spoken of in terms of high eulopected from their limited inter- gium by the Bishop, who is, howcourse with the continental na- ever, unacquainted with the origitions. With the Danish language nal. The same Jonas Thorlakson all the higher class of inhabitants has also translated Pope's Essay are perfectly familiar; the German on Man, of which a considerable is understood by many; and of edition was printed at Leira in late years the English has been 1798, in a duodecimo form. Vol. LIII.

2 F

It may


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