Jacob Bryant  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Jacob Bryant (1715–1804) was a British scholar and mythographer, who has been described as "the outstanding figure among the mythagogues who flourished in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries".

Life

Bryant was born at Plymouth. His father worked in the customs there, but was afterwards moved to Chatham. Bryant was first sent to a school near Rochester, and then to Eton College. In 1736 he was elected to a scholarship at King's College, Cambridge, where he took his degrees of B.A. (1740) and M.A. (1744), later being elected a fellow. He returned to Eton as private tutor to the Duke of Marlborough. In 1756 he accompanied the duke, who was master-general of ordnance and commander-in-chief of the forces in Germany, to the Continent as private secretary. He was rewarded by a lucrative appointment in the ordnance department, which allowed him time to indulge his literary tastes. He was twice offered the mastership of Charterhouse school, but turned it down.

Bryant died on the 14th of November 1804 at Cippenham near Windsor. He left his library to King's College, having previously made some valuable presents from it to the king and the Duke of Marlborough. He bequeathed £2000 to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and £1000 for the use of the retired collegers of Eton.

Works

His chief works were A New System or Analysis of Ancient Mythology (1774-76, and later editions), Observations on the Plain of Troy (1795), and Dissertation concerning the Wars of Troy (1796).

The New System attempted to link the mythologies of the world to the stories recorded in Genesis. Bryant argued that the descendents of Ham had been the most energetic, but also the most rebellious peoples of the world and had given rise to the great ancient and classical civilisations. He called these people "Amonians", because he believed that the Egyptian god Amon was a deified form of Ham. He argued that Ham had been identified with the sun, and that much of pagan European religion derived from Amonian sun worship.

In his books on Troy he endeavoured to show that the existence of Troy and the Greek expedition were purely mythological, with no basis in real history.

Though sceptical about Troy he was an implicit believer in the authenticity of Thomas Chatterton's fabrications. Chatterton had created poems written in mock Middle English and had attributed them to Thomas Rowley, an imaginary monk of the 15th century.

Bryant's theories are widely credited as an important influence on the mythological system of William Blake, who had worked in his capacity as an engraver on the illustrations to Bryant's New System. Bryant's theories also influenced the work of his friend Sir William Jones.

He also wrote on theological subjects.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jacob Bryant" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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