250px-Musée_Picardie_Archéo_24grammata.comRICHARD PAYNE KNIGHT AND THOMAS WRIGHT

foto: Original – Bronze statuette of the Roman fertility god Priapus, made in two parts (shown here in assembled and disassembled forms). This statuette has been dated to the late 1st century C.E. It was found in Rivery, in Picardy, France in 1771 and is the oldest Gallo-Roman object in the collection of the Museum of Picardy. This figurine represents the deity clothed in a “cuculus”, a Gallic coat with hood. This upper section is detachable and conceals a phallus.

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RICHARD PAYNE KNIGHT, one of the moſt diſtinguiſhed patrons of art and learning in England during his time, a ſcholar of great attainments, an eminent antiquarian, member of the Radical party in Parliament, and a writer of great ability, was born at Wormeſley Grange, in Herefordſhire, in 1750. From an early age he devoted himſelf to the ſtudy of ancient literature, antiquities, and mythology. A large portion of his inherited fortune was expended in the collection of antiquities, eſpecially, ancient coins, models, and bronzes. His collection, which was continued until his death in 1820, was bequeathed to the Britiſh Muſeum, and accepted for that inſtitution by a ſpecial act of Parliament. Its value was eſtimated at £50,000.
Among his works are an Inquiry into the Priniples of Taſte;
Analytical Eſſay on the Greek Alphabet; The Symbolical
Language of Ancient Art; and three poems, The Landſcape, the
Progreſs of Civil Society, and The Romance of Alfred.
The Worſhip of Priapus was printed in 1786, for diſtribution
by the Dilettanti Society, with which body the author was
actively identified. This ſociety embraced in its memberſhip
ſome of the moſt diſtinguiſhed ſcholars in England, among others
the Duke of Norfolk, Sir Joſeph Banks, Sir William Hamilton,
Sir George Beaumont, the Marquis of Abercorn, Lord Charlemont,
Lord Dundas, Horace Walpole, and men of equal prominence.
The bold utterances of Mr. Knight on a ſubject which until
that time had been entirely tabooed, or had been treated in a
way to hide rather than to diſcover the truth, ſhocked the ſenſibilities
of the higher claſſes of Engliſh ſociety, and the miniſters
and members of the various denominations of the Chriſtian
world. Rather than endure the ſtorm of criticiſm, arouſed by the
publication, he ſuppreſſed during his lifetime all the copies of
the book he could recall, conſequently it became very ſcarce, and
continued ſo for nearly a hundred years.
In 1865 the work was reprinted, with an eſſay added, carrying
the inveſtigation further, ſhowing the prevalence during the middle
ages of beliefs and practices ſimilar to thoſe deſcribed in
Knight’s eſſay, only modified by the changed conditions of ſociety.
The ſupplementary eſſay is now generally conceded to have been
the work of the eminent author and antiquarian, Thomas Wright;1
aſſiſted by John Camden Hotten, the publiſher of the 1865
edition. In their work they had the benefit of the real additions
made during this century to the literature of the ſubject, and of
1 Perhaps no Engliſhmen of modern times, or of any time, has intelligently
treated ſo many different departments of literary reſearch : Archæology, Art,
Bibliography, Chriſtianity, Cuſtoms, Heraldry, Literary Hiſtory, Philology,
Topography, and Travels, are among the topics illuſtrated by the learning, zeal and
induſtry of Mr. Thomas Wright.—S. AUSTEN ALLIBONE.
the diſcoveries of objects of antiquity at Herculaneum and Pompeii,
alſo in France, Germany, Belguim, England, Ireland, and
in fact in nearly every country in Europe, illuſtrating the ſubject
they were conſidering.
The numerous illuſtrations are engraved from antique coins,
medals, ſtone carvings, etc., preſerved in the Payne Knight collection
in the Britiſh Muſeum, and from other objects diſcovered
in England and on the continent, ſince the firſt eſſay was written.
Theſe are only to be found in muſeums and private collections
ſcattered over Europe, and are practically inacceſſible to the ſtudent;
they are here engraved and fully deſcribed.
The edition of 1865 was of a limited number of copies, and
was ſoon exhauſted. When a copy occaſionally appears in the
auction room, or in the hands of a bookſeller, it brings a large
advance on the original high publiſhed price. The preſent
edition, an exact reproduction of that of 1865, but correcting ſome
manifeſt miſprints, is publiſhed in the intereſts of ſcience and
ſcholarſhip. At a time when ſo many learned inveſtigators are
endeavoring to trace back religious beliefs and practices to their
origin, it would ſeem that this is a branch of the ſubject which
ſhould not be ignored. The hiſtory of religions has been ſtudied
with more zeal and ſucceſs during the nineteenth century, than
in all the ages which preceded it, and this book has now an
intereſt fifty fold greater than when originally publiſhed.
October, 1894.