ANACHRONISM, a neglect or falsification, whether wilful or undesigned, of chronological relation. Its commonest use restricts it (agreeably to its etymology, ava, back, and xpOvos, time) 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 characterise 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 persona; 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 Quatorze down to the time of Voltaire ; and in our own country the contemporaries of Addison could behold, without any suspicion of burlesque, " Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacquer'd chair."
Considerable difference of opinion has been expressed regarding the legitimacy of anachronism, especially when it is introduced designedly into historical novels. The safe and the just course here appears to be to " regard the writer's end," and not to hold an author responsible for historical accuracy or verisimilitude who does not profess to write history.