Royal Asiatic Society,
5, New Burlington Street,
21 May 1857.
I was as much surprised to learn the private opening as you were, and now that it is done, nothing seems likely to come of it. Dean Milman, Mr Grote, the historian, Dr Whewell, & Sir Gardiner Wilkinson <1> were present, and I was with them, to explain and advise. Dr Whewell could not stay long, but all the others went carefully through all the documents. Neither Oppert nor Dr Hincks sent the whole of the document, selections merely. Each person present took a version in his hand, and all was read paragraph by paragraph comparing as we went on. All the versions I may say were coincident except in those places where the writers had themselves put marks of doubt. Where differences occurred they were not greater than we find in translations of difficult parts of the Bible say of Job; in the Septuagint, Vulgate, and modern amateurs.
To me, and I may say, to Sir G. Wilkinson, the result was perfectly satisfactory as regarded the real basis of the decipherment; but the others wished to enter into the linguistic proof while admitting they were unacquainted with any Semitic language! They came to no joint conclusion, but promised to send in their opinions perhaps separately, as I suggested, in the course of a week or fortnight, so that nothing will come out in our report, except the part of general agreement of versions. - I shall read the papers to day to Professor Wilson <2> who is in Oxford, but will be in town on Saturday, in his place as President. His opinion will have great weight, and I am sure it will be favourable.
Your papers are not yet come in but of course I shall soon get them; they shall be presented on Saturday as you wish.
Please excuse this hurried scrawl, for I have a thousand matters on hand. I have marked it private because I do not think I am authorised to publish the doings of a private meeting.
I remain Dear Sir yours sincerely
1. Presiding as independant judges over the opening of the decipherments were, Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868), antiquary & Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, Rev William Whewell (1794-1866), Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, Professor and natural philosopher.
2. Prof Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860), Director of the Royal Asiatic Society.