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a scene, must have been of a cold and skeptical nature ; and few such critics were there. As was the historian, such were the auditors, - inquisitive, credulous, easily moved by religious awe or patriotic enthusiasm. They were the very men to hear with delight of strange beasts, and birds, and trees; of dwarfs, and giants, and cannibals ; of gods, whose very names it was impiety to utter; of ancient dynasties, which had left behind them monuments surpassing all the works of later times; of towns like provinces ; of rivers like seas; of stupendous walls, and temples, and pyra. mids ; of the rites which the Magi performed at daybreak on the tops of the mountains ; of the secrets inscribed on the eternal obelisks of Memphis. With equal delight they would have listened to the graceful romances of their own country. They now heard of the exact accomplishment of obscure predictions ; of the punishment of crimes over which the justice of heaven had seemed to slumber; of dreams, omens, warnings from the dead ; of princesses, for whom
l noble suitors contended in every generous exercise of strength and skill; of infants, strangely preserved from the dagger of the assassin, to fulfil high destinies.
As the narrative approached their own times, the interest became still more absorbing. The chronicler had now to tell the story of that great conflict, from which Europe dates its intellectual and political supremacy, - a story which, even at this distance of time, is the most marvellous and the most touching in the annals of the human race, story, abounding with all that is wild and wonderful, with all that is pathetic and animating ; with the gigantic caprices of infinite wealth and despotic power ; with the mightier miracles of wisdom, of virtue, and of courage. He told them of rivers dried up in a day, of provinces famished for a meal, of a passage for ships hewn through the mountains, of a road for armies spread upon the waves,
of monarchies and commonwealths swept away, of anxiety, of terror, of confusion, of despair !-- and then of proud and stubborn hearts tried in that extremity of evil, and not found wanting, of resistance long maintained against desperate odds, of lives dearly sold, when resistance could be maintained no more, of signal deliverance, and of unsparing revenge. Whatever gave a stronger air of reality to a narrative so well calculated to inflame the passions, and to flatter national pride, was certain to be favor. ably received.
Between the time at which Herodotus is said to have composed his history, and the close of the Peloponnesian war, about forty years elapsed, — forty years, crowded with great military and political events. The circumstances of that period produced a great effect on the Grecian character; and nowhere was this effect so remarkable as in the illustrious democracy of Athens. An Athenian, indeed, even in the time of Herodotus, would scarcely have written a book so romantic and garrulous as that of Herodotus. As civilization advanced, the citizens of that famous republic became still less visionary, and still less simple-hearted. They aspired to know, where their ancestors had been content to doubt; they began to doubt, where their ancestors had thought it their duty to believe. Aristophanes is fond of alluding to this change in the temper of his countrymen. The father and son, in the Clouds, are evidently representatives of the generations to which they respectively belong. ed. Nothing more clearly illustrates the nature of this moral revolution, than the change which passed upon tragedy. The wild sublimity of Æschylus becarne the scoff of every young Phidippides. Lectures on abstruse points of philosophy, the fine distinctions of casuistry, and the dazzling fence of rhetoric, were substituted for poetry. The language lost something of that infantine sweetness which had characterized it. It became less like the ancient Tuscan, and more like the modern French.
The fashionable logic of the Greeks was, indeed, far from strict. Logic never can be strict where books are scarce, and where information is conveyed orally. We are all aware how frequently fallacies, which, when set down on paper, are at once detected, pass for unanswerable
argu. ments, when dexterously and volubly urged in Parliament, at the bar, or in private conversation. The reason is evident. We cannot inspect them closely enough to perceive their inaccuracy. We cannot readily compare them with each other. We lose sight of one part of the subject, before another, which ought to be received in connexion with it, comes before us ; and as there is no immutable record of what has been admitted, and of what has been denied, direct contradictions pass muster with little difficulty. Almost all the education of a Greek consisted in talking and listening. His opinions on government were picked up in the debates of the assembly. If he wished to study metaphysics, instead of shutting himself up with a book, he walked down to the market-place to look for a sophist. So completely were men formed to these habits, that even writing acquired a conversational air. The philosophers adopted the form of dialogue, as the most natural mode of communicating knowledge. Their reasonings have the merits and the defects which belong to that species of composition; and are characterized rather by quickness and subtilty, than by depth and precision. Truth is exhibited in parts, and by glimpses. Innumerable clever hints are given; but no sound and durable system is erected. The argumentum ad hominem, a kind of argument most efficacious in debate, but uiterly useless for the investigation of general principles, is among their favorite resources. Hence, though nothing can be more admirable than the skill which Socrates displays in the con
versations which Plato has reported or invented, his victories, for the most part, seem to us unprofitable. A trophy is set up ; but no new province is added to the dominions of the human mind,
Still, where thousands of keen and ready intellects were constantly employed in speculating on the qualities of actions, and on the principles of government, it was impossible that history should retain its old character. It became less gossiping and less picturesque ; but much more accurate, and somewhat more scientific.
The history of Thucydides differs from that of Herodotus as a portrait differs from the representation of an imaginary scene ; as the Burke or Fox of Reynolds differs from his Ugolino or his Beaufort. In the former case, the archetype is given : in the latter, it is created. The faculties which are required for the latter purpose are of a higher and rarer order, than those which suffice for the former, and indeed necessarily comprise them. He who is able to paint what he sees with the eye of the mind, will surely be able to paint what he sees with the eye of the body. He who can invent a story, and tell it well, will also be able to tell, in an interesting manner, a story which he has not invented. If, in practice, some of the best writers of fiction have been among the worst writers of history, it has been because one of their talents had merged in another so completely, that it could not be severed; because, having long been habituated to invent and narrate at the same time, they found it impossible to narrate without inventing.
Some capricious and discontended artists have affected to consider portrait-painting as unworthy of a man of genius. Some critics have spoken in the same contemptuous manner of history. Johnson puts the case thus : The historian tells either what is false or what is true. In the former case he is no historian. In the latter, he has no opportunity for dis
playing his abilities. For truth is one: and all who tell the truth must tell it alike.
It is not difficult to elude both the horns of this dilemma. We will recur to the analogous art of portrait-painting. Any man with eyes and hands may be taught to take a likeness. The process, up to a certain point, is merely mechanical. If this were all, a man of talents might justly despise the occupation. But we could mention portraits which are resemblances, but not mere resemblances; faithful, but much more than faithful ; portraits which condense into one point of time, and exhibit, at a single glance, the whole history of turbid and eventful lives, - in which the eye seems to scrutinize us, and the mouth to command us, - in which the brow menaces, and the lip almost quivers with scorn, in which every wrinkle is a comment on some important transaction. The account which Thucydides has given of the retreat from Syracuse is, among narratives, what Vandyck's Lord Strafford is among paintings.
Diversity, it is said, implies error : truth is one, and admits of no degrees. We answer, that this principle holds good only in abstract reasonings. When we talk of the truth of imitation in the fine arts, we mean an imperfect and a graduated truth. No picture is exactly like the original : nor is a picture good in proportion as it is like the original. When Sir Thomas Lawrence paints a handsome peeress, he does not contemplate her through a powerful microscope, and transfer to the canvass the pores of the skin, the bloodvessels of the eye, and all the other beauties which Gulliver discovered in the Brobdignaggian maids of honor. If he were to do this, the effect would not merely be unpleasant, but unless the scale of the picture were proportionably enlarged, would be absolutely false. And, after all, a microscope of greater power, than that which he had employed, would convict him of innumerable omissions. The same