1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anachronism

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ANACHRONISM (from ἀνά, back, and χρόνος, time), a neglect or falsification, whether wilful or undersigned, of chronological relation. Its commonest use restricts it to the ante-dating of events, circumstances or customs; in other words, to the introduction, especially in works of imagination that rest on a historical basis, of details borrowed from a later age. Anachronisms may be committed in many ways, originating, for instance, in disregard of the different modes of life and thought that characterize different periods, or in ignorance of the progress of the arts and sciences and the other ascertained facts of history, and may vary from glaring inconsistency to scarcely perceptible misrepresentation. Much of the thought entertained about the past is so deficient in historical perspective as to be little better than a continuous anachronism. It is only since the close of the 18th century that this kind of untruthfulness has jarred on the general intelligence. Anachronisms abound in the works of Raphael and Shakespeare, as well as in those of the meanest daubers and playwrights of earlier times. In particular, the artists, on the stage and on the canvas, in story and in song, assimilated their dramatis personae to their own nationality and their own time. The Virgin was represented here as an Italian contadina, and there as a Flemish frow; Alexander the Great appeared on the French stage in the full costume of Louis XIV. down to the time of Voltaire; and in England the contemporaries of Addison could behold, without any suspicion of burlesque,

“Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacquer'd chair.”

Modern realism, the progress of archaeological research, and the more scientific spirit of history, have made an anachronism an offence, where our ancestors saw none.