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THE ATHENAEUM, 1876—1878.
The death of Mr. John Forster is recorded on 1876. the 5th of February, 1876. He was born in John ForsterNewcastle in 1812, the same year as his friend Charles Dickens. "Of the fifteen authors and artists whose names figure with his own in the playbills of the amateur performances on behalf of the Guild of Literature and Art, just twentyfive years ago, ten have already passed away; while of that illustrious band who assembled in certain chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in December, 1844, to hear a private reading of 'The Chimes,' Mr. Carlyle alone is now numbered among the living. In Maclise's outline Present at the
, , , . _ , reading of
picture of that gathering, Mr. Forster s features'The Chimes.' —somewhat stern and authoritative in expression even then—might easily be recognized by those acquainted with him, without the aid of the names, which the artist, in modest emulation of the practice of Dick Tinto, has affixed to each portrait." His first essays in biography, his 'Statesmen of the Commonwealth,' con
tributed to " Lardner's Cyclopaedia," "evidenced Gift for in a remarkable way his gift for biography. ography. y^ey underwent, in the later editions, great modifications; mere sketches becoming substantial memoirs, and all being improved by the light of later knowledge. But they had always the merit of being a conscientious effort to restore the portraits of certain English worthies which had long been defaced and hidden from the knowledge of their countrymen. A nobler task or a higher achievement in this field could hardly be conceived than that of absolutely rescuing out of the darkness of the past a life so brilliant, and of such high example to patriotism and virtue, as that of Sir John Eliot
The 'Life of Goldsmith' has taken its
rank as an English classic, and has, from the time of its first appearance, been deservedly popular. His ' Life of Landor' was necessarily
a less genial book; but it had the merit
of skilful portraiture. His biography of Dickens, though it has enjoyed a vast circle of readers, could hardly fail to be in great degree disappointing. Written so soon after the death of that great writer, it was necessarily penned under a sense of restraint.
His latest work, as our readers know,
was his 'Life of Swift,' though this had been for many years in preparation. Of the merits of this book, so far as they are exhibited in the first volume, which is the only portion yet published, we have but very lately spoken.
In taking account of Mr. Forster's hard
work, it must not be forgotten that, in addition
to his duties as editor of the Examiner, a post Editor of the
, , . . Examiner.
which he held for ten years, and his one years
editorship of the Daily News, he had been
connected with the Commission of Lunacy for
twenty years, first as Secretary and afterwards
as one of the Commissioners. Mr. Forster's
life had indeed been one of constant labour;
though it was not without a dash of romance
in his early attachment to Miss Letitia Landon,
the L. E. L. of the Bijous and Keepsakes of L. E. L.
forty years since. That, however, was not
among the marriages predestined in accordance
with the proverb. The lovers, in fact, parted
on some misunderstanding, and Miss Landon
became the wife of Governor Maclean, and met
with a tragic end at Cape Coast Castle. Mr.
. His marriage
Forster subsequently married Mrs. Colburn, the to
widow of the late publisher of that name." Mrs. CoIbum
The Temple of Belus, the "Basis of heaven The Temple of and earth," the " Glory of the city of Babylon," is on the 12th of February the subject of an article by Mr. George Smith. He had discovered a Babylonian text giving a remarkable account of the temple. "Additional interest
attaches to this inscription from the fact that
it is the first time any detailed description
of a temple has been found in the cuneiform
texts, it thus supplies the first information as
to the dimensions of the great temples, and
it is fortunate that the one described was the
most famous in the valley of the Euphrates."
Mr. George Mr. Smith died at Aleppo, on his third misSmith. rr
sion to the East, on the 19th of August. The
Athenceum of September 9th rendered this tribute to him: "The students of the Assyrian language and literature have lost their ruler, the Trustees of the British Museum have lost one of the most promising of their employes, the officials one of their most laborious and successful colleagues, in the unexpected decease of Mr. George Smith, the well-known Assyriologist and explorer. Mr. Smith began his life's work as a bank-note copper and steel plate engraver, Employed by in the employment of the firm of Bradbury BrEvan?& & Evans, and during his connexion with that house was an object of remark for the careful and systematic manner in which he performed the difficult work committed to his hands. In 1866, he contributed to the Athenceum his notice of the 'Tribute of Jehu,' which may be taken as his earliest work on Assyrian philology. In the year 1871, Mr. Smith made a discovery of equal or even greater importance, in our opinion, than all his Assyrian interpretations. It was that the Cypriote inscriptions The Cypriote
* inscriptions. were written in a syllabic character. Later
on, with the aid of Dr. Birch, he identified this language with the Greek, and these discoveries soon led to rapid progress in the study of the language by the late Dr. Brandis and other foreign linguists. In 1871, he published the Annals of Assurbanipal ; the Early History of Babylonia ; and on the 3rd December, 1872,
the celebrated Chaldean Account of the DelugeThe Chaldean
0 account of the
was detailed to the public at a meeting of the Deluge. Society of Biblical Archaeology, of which he was one of the most prominent members. Shortly afterwards the proprietors of the Daily j^jJ^J^ Telegraph organized an expedition to Mesopo- expedition, tamia to be conducted by Mr. Smith, who left England for the prosecution of Assyrian exploration on the 20th January, 1873, and reached Kouyunjik on the 2nd of March, paying a flying visit to Babylonia. The antiquities, cuneiform tablets, inscriptions, and miscellaneous proceeds of this journey were presented to the British Museum, and are exhibited at present in the galleries of the department to which they belong Mr. Smith's principal contributions to literature during 1875 were the discovery of the Creation Legends, 4th of T1,j'^nejstion March, and the 'History of Assyria,' in the