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excellence of Shakspeare? All the triumphs | the hidden riches of the universe. Surely it is of truth and genius over prejudice and power, no exaggeration to say, that no external advan in every country and in every age, have been tage is to be compared with that purification the triumphs of Athens. Wherever a few of the intellectual eye, which gives us to congreat minds have made a stand against vio- template the infinite wealth of the mental lence and fraud, in the cause of liberty and world; all the hoarded treasures of the pri reason, there has been her spirit in the midst meval dynasties, all the shapeless ore of its of them; inspiring, encouraging, consoling; yet unexplored mines. This is the gift of by the lonely lamp of Erasmus; by the restless Athens to man. Her freedom and her power bed of Pascal; in the tribune of Mirabeau; in have for more than twenty centuries been anthe cell of Galileo; or the scaffold of Sidney. nihilated; her people have degenerated into But who shall estimate her influence on pri- timid slaves; her language into a barbarous vate happiness? Who shall say how many jargon; her temples have been given up to the thousands have been made wiser, happier, and successive depredations of Romans, Turks, and better, by those pursuits in which she has Scotchmen; but her intellectual empire is im taught mankind to engage; to how many the perishable. And, when those who have rivalstudies which took their rise from her have led her greatness shall have shared her fate: been wealth in poverty,--liberty in bondage, when civilization and knowledge shall have health in sickness,-society in solitude. Her fixed their abode in distant continents; when the power is indeed manifested at the bar; in the sceptre shall have passed away from England; senate; in the field of battle; in the schools of when, perhaps, travellers from distant regions philosophy. But these are not her glory. shall in vain labour to decipher on some Wherever literature consoles sorrow, or as- mouldering pedestal the name of our proudest suages pain, wherever it brings gladness to chief; shall hear savage hymns chanted to eyes which fail with wakefulness and tears, some misshapen idol over the ruined dome of and ache for the dark house and the long sleep, our proudest temple: and shall see a single -there is exhibited, in its noblest form, the naked fisherman wash his nets in the river of immortal influence of Athens. the ten thousand masts,-her influence and her glory will still survive,-fresh in eternal youth, exempt from mutability and decay, immortal as the intellectual principle from which they de rived their origin, and over which they exer [cise their control
The dervise, in the Arabian tale, did not hesitate to abandon to his comrade the camels with their load of jewels and gold, while he re tained the casket of that mysterious juice, which enabled him to behold at one glance all
END OF VOL. III
ON THE ATHENIAN ORATORS.
To the famous orators repair,
Those ancient, whose resistless eloquence
Shook the arsenal, and thundered over Greece
THE celebrity of the great classical writers | all that could be done by the resolving and is confined within no limits, except those combining powers of the understanding, seems which separate civilized from savage man. not to have possessed much of sensibility or Their works are the common property of every imagination. Partly, also, it may be attributed polished nation. They have furnished sub- to the deficiency of materials. The great works jects for the painter, and models for the poet. of genius which then existed were not either In the minds of the educated classes through- sufficiently numerous or sufficiently varied to out Europe, their names are indissolubly asso-enable any man to form a perfect code of litera ciated with the endearing recollections of ture. To require that a critic should conceive childhood, the old school-room,-the dog-classes of composition which had never exeared grammar,-the first prize,-the tears so isted, and then investigate their principles, often shed and so quickly dried. So great is would be as unreasonable as the demand of the veneration with which they are regarded, Nebuchadnezzar, who expected his magicians that even the editors and commentators, who first to tell him his dream, and then to interperform the lowest menial offices to their me- pret it. mory, are considered, like the equerries and chamberlains of sovereign princes, as entitled to a high rank in the table of literary prece-quity. dence. It is, therefore, somewhat singular that their productions should so rarely have been examined on just and philosophical principles of criticism.
With all his deficiencies Aristotle was the most enlightened and profound critic of antiDionysius was far from possessing the same exquisite subtlety, or the same vast comprehension. But he had access to a much greater number of specimens, and he had devoted himself, as it appears, more exclusively to the study of elegant literature. His parti cular judgments are of more value than his general principles. He is only the historian of literature. Aristotle is its philosopher.
The ancient writers themselves afford us but little assistance. When they particularize, they are commonly trivial: when they would generalize, they become indistinct. An exception must, indeed, be made in favour of Aris- Quintilian applied to general literature the totle. Both in analysis and in combination, same principles by which he had been accusthat great man was without a rival. No phi- tomed to judge of the declamations of his pulosopher has ever possessed, in an equal de- pils. He looks for nothing but rhetoric, and gree, the talent either of separating established rhetoric not of the highest order. He speaks systems into their primary elements, or of con- coldly of the incomparable works of Eschylus. necting detached phenomena in harmonious He admires, beyond expression, those inexsystems. He was the great fashioner of the haustible mines of commonplaces, the plays of intellectual chaos: he changed its darkness Euripides. He bestows a few vague words on into light, and its discord into order. He the poetical character of Homer. He then brought to literary researches the same vigour proceeds to consider him merely as an ora and amplitude of mind, to which both physical tor. An orator Homer doubtless was, and a and metaphysical science are so greatly in- great orator. But surely nothing is more redebted. His fundamental principles of criti-markable, in his admirable works, than an art cism are excellent. To cite only a single in- with which his oratorical powers are made stance; the doctrine which he established, subservient to the purposes of poetry. Nor that poetry is an imitative art, when justly un- can I think Quintilian a great critic in his own derstood is to the critic what the compass is to province. Just as are many of his remarks, the navigator. With it he may venture upon beautiful as are many of his illustrations, we the most extensive excursions. Without it he can perpetually detect in his thoughts that must creep cautiously along the coast, or lose flavour which the soil of despotism generally himself in a trackless expanse, and trust, at communicates to all the fruits of genius. Elobest, to the guidance of an occasional star. It quence was, in his time, little more than a is a discovery which changes a caprice into a condiment which served to stimulate in a des science. pot the jaded appetite for panegyric, an amuse ment for the travelled nobles and the blue stocking matrons of Rome. It is, therefore, with him, rather a sport than a war: it is a contest of foils, not of swords. He appears to think more of the grace of the attitude than of 20
The general propositions of Aristotle are valuable. But the merit of the superstructure bears no proportion to that of the foundation. This is partly to be ascribed to the character of the philosopher, who, though qualified to do VOL. IV.--55
be acknowledged, in justice to Quintilian, that this is an error to which Cicero has too often given the sanction, both of his precept and his example.
the direction and vigour of the thrust. It must ¡ French Anas a ludicrous instance of this. A scholar, doubtless of great learning, recom. mends the study of some long Latin treatise, of which I now forget the name, on the reli gion, manners, government, and language of the early Greeks. "For there," says he, "you will learn every thing of importance that is contained in the Iliad and Odyssey, without the trouble of reading two such tedious books." Alas! it had not occurred to the poor gentleman that all the knowledge to which he had attached so much value was useful only as it illustrated the great poems which he despised, and would be as worthless for any other purpose as the mythology of Caffraria or the vo
Longinus seems to have had great sensibility but little discrimination. He gives us eloquent sentences, but no principles. It was happily said that Montesquieu ought to have changed the name of his book from L'esprit des Lois to L'esprit sur les Lois. In the same manner the philosopher of Palmyra ought to have entitled his famous work, not “Longinus on the Sublime," but "The Sublimities of Longinus." The origin of the sublime is one of the most curious and interesting subjects of in-cabulary of Otaheite. quiry that can occupy the attention of a critic. Of those scholars who have disdained to In our own country it has been discussed with confine themselves to verbal criticism, few great ability, and, I think, with very little suc-have been successful. The ancient languages cess, by Burke and Dugald Stewart. Longinus have, generally, a magical influence on their dispenses himself from all investigations of faculties. They were "fools called into a cir this nature, by telling his friend Terentianus cle by Greek invocations." The Iliad and that he already knows every thing that can be Eneid were to them not books, but curiosities, said upon the question. It is to be regretted or rather relics. They no more admired those that Terentianus did not impart some of his works for their merits, than a good Catholic knowledge to his instructor, for from Longi-venerates the house of the Virgin at Loretto nus we learn only that sublimity means height for its architecture. Whatever was classical -or elevation.* This name, so commodiously was good. Homer was a great poet, and so was vague, is applied indifferently to the noble Callimachus. The epistles of Cicero were fine, prayer of Ajax in the Iliad, and to a passage and so were those of Phalaris. Even with reof Plato about the human body, as full of con- spect to questions of evidence, they fell into the ceits as an ode of Cowley. Having no fixed same error. The authority of all narrations, standard, Longinus is right only by accident. written in Greek or Latin, was the same with He is rather a fancier than a critic. them. It never crossed their minds that the lapse of five hundred years, or the distance of five hundred leagues, could affect the accuracy of a narration,-that Livy could be a less vera cious historian than Polybius, or that Plutarch could know less about the friends of Xe nophon than Xenophon himself. Deceived by the distance of time, they seem to consider all the classics as contemporaries; just as I have known people in England, deceived by the distance of place, take it for granted that all per
Modern writers have been prevented by many causes from supplying the deficiencies of their classical predecessors. At the time of the revival of literature no man could, without great and painful labour, acquire an accurate and elegant knowledge of the ancient languages. And, unfortunately, those grammatical and philological studies, without which it was impossible to understand the great works of Athenian and Roman genius, have a tendency to contract the views and deaden the sensibili-sons who live in India are neighbours, and ask ty of those who follow them with extreme as- an inhabitant of Bombay about the health of an siduity. A powerful mind which has been long acquaintance at Calcutta. It is to be hoped employed in such studies, may be compared that no barbarian deluge will ever again pass to the gigantic spirit in the Arabian tale, who over Europe. But should such a calamity hap was persuaded to contract himself to small pen, it seems not improbable that some future dimensions in order to enter within the en- Rollin or Gillies will compile a history of Engchanted vessel, and, when his prison had been land from Miss Porter's Scottish Chiefs, Miss closed upon him, found himself unable to es- Lee's Recess, and Sir Nathaniel Wraxall's Mecape from the narrow boundaries to the mea-moirs. sure of which he had reduced his stature. When the means have long been the objects of application, they are naturally substituted for the end. It was said by Eugene of Savoy, that the greatest generals have commonly been those who have been at once raised to command, and introduced to the great operations of war without being employed in the petty calculations and manoeuvres which employ the time of an inferior officer. In literature the principle is equally sound. The great tactics of criticism will, in general, be best understood by those who have not had much practice in drilling syllables and particles.
I remember to have observed among the
• 'Ακροτης και εξοχη τις λογων εστι τα υψη.
It is surely time that ancient literature should be examined in a different manner, without pedantical prepossessions, but with a just allowance, at the same ime, for the difference of circumstances and manners. I am far from pretending to the knowledge or ability which such a task would require. All that I mean to offer is a collection of desultory re marks upon a most interesting portion of Greek literature.
It may be doubted whether any compositions which have ever been produced in the world are equally perfect in their kind with the great Athenian orations. Genius is subject to the same laws which regulate the production of cotton and molasses. The supply adjusts itself to the demand. The quantity may be dimi
nished by restrictions and multiplied by boun- | have improved our condition as much in reality ties. The singular excellence to which elo- as in appearance. Rumford, it is said, proquence attained at Athens is to be mainly at-posed to the Elector of Bavaria a scheme for tributed to the influence which it exerted there. feeding his soldiers at a much cheaper rate In turbulent times, under a constitution purely than formerly. His plan was simply to comdemocratic, among a people educated exactly pel them to masticate their food thoroughly. to that point at which men are most suscepti- A small quantity thus eaten would, according ble of strong and sudden impressions, acute, to that famous projector, afford more suste but not sound reasoners, warm in their feel-nance than a large meal hastily devoured. I ings, unfixed in their principles, and passionate do not know how Rumford's proposition was admirers of fine composition, oratory received received; but to the mind, I believe, it will be such encouragement as it has never since ob- found more nutritious to digest a page than to tained. devour a volume.
The taste and knowledge of the Athenian Books, however, were the least part of the people was a favourite object of the contemptu- education of an Athenian citizen. Let us, for ous derision of Samuel Johnson; a man who a moment, transport ourselves, in thought, to knew nothing of Greek literature beyond the that glorious city. Let us imagine that we are common school-books, and who seems to have entering its gates, in the time of its power and brought to what he had read scarcely more glory. A crowd is assembled round a portico. than the discernment of a common schoolboy. All are gazing with delight at the entablature, He used to assert, with that arrogant absurdity for Phidias is putting up the frieze. We turn which, in spite of his great abilities and vir- into another street; a rhapsodist is reciting tues, renders him perhaps the most ridiculous there; men, women, children, are thronging character in literary history, that Demosthenes round him; the tears are running down their spoke to a people of brutes,-to a barbarous cheeks; their eyes are fixed; their very breath people,-that there could have been no civi- is still; for he is telling how Priam fell at the lization before the invention of printing. John-feet of Achilles, and kissed those hands,-the son was a keen but a very narrow-minded ob terrible,—the murderous,—which had slain so server of mankind. He perpetually confound- many of his sons.* We enter the public ed their general nature with their particular place; there is a ring of youths, all leaning forcircumstances. He knew London intimately. ward, with sparkling eyes, and gestures of exThe sagacity of his remarks on its society is pectation. Socrates is pitted against the faperfectly astonishing. But Fleet Street was mous Atheist, from Ionia, and has just brought the world to him. He saw that Londoners who him to a contradiction in terms. But we are did not read were profoundly ignorant, and he interrupted. The herald is crying-" Room inferred that a Greek who had few or no books for the Prytanes." The general assembly is must have been as uninformed as one of Mr. to meet. The people are swarming in on every Thrale's draymen. side. Proclamation is made-"Who wishes to speak." There is a shout, and a clapping of hands: Pericles is mounting the stand. Then for a play of Sophocles; and away to sup with Aspasia. I know of no modern university which has so excellent a system of education.
There seems to be, on the contrary, every reason to believe that in general intelligence the Athenian populace far surpassed the lower orders of any commnnity that has ever existed. It must be considered that to be a citizen was to be a legislator-a soldier-a judge-one up- Knowledge thus acquired, and opinions thus on whose voice might depend the fate of the formed, were, indeed, likely to be, in some rewealthiest tributary state, of the most eminent spects, defective. Propositions, which are public man. The lowest offices, both of agri- advanced in discourse, generally result from a culture and of trade, were in common per-partial view of the question, and cannot be formed by slaves. The commonwealth sup- kept under examination long enough to be plied its meanest members with the support corrected. Men of great conversational powof life, the opportunity of leisure, and the ers almost universally practise a sort of lively means of amusement. Books were, indeed, sophistry and exaggeration, which deceives, few, but they were excellent, and they were for the moment, both themselves and their accurately known. It is not by turning over auditors. Thus we see doctrines, which canlibraries, but by repeatedly perusing and in- not bear a close inspection, triumph perpetently contemplating a few great models, that tually in drawing-rooms, in debating societhe mind is best disciplined. A man of letters ties, and even in legislative or judicial assemmust now read much that he soon forgets, and blies. To the conversational education of the much trom which he learns nothing worthy to Athenians, I am inclined to attribute the great be remembered. The best works employ, in looseness of reasoning, which is remarkable in general, but a small portion of his time. De- most of their scientific writings. Even the mosthenes is said to have transcribed, six most illogical of modern writers would stand times, the History of Thucydides. If he had perfectly aghast at the puerile fallacies which been a young politician of the present age, he seem to have deluded some of the greatest men might in the same space of time have skimmed of antiquity. Sir Thomas Lethbridge would innumerable newspapers and pamphlets. I do stare at the political economy of Xenophon not condemn that desultory mode of study and the author of Soirées de Petersbourg wouid which the state of things in our day renders a be ashamed of some of the metaphysical argumatter of necessity. But I may be allowed to doubt whether the changes on which the admirers of modern institutions delight to dwell
» και κυσε χειράς,
δεινας, ανδροφόνους, αἱ οἱ πέλεας κτανον νιας
ments of Plato. But the very circumstances which retarded the growth of science, were peculiarly favourable to the cultivation of eloquence. From the early habit of taking a share in animated discussion, the intelligent student would derive that readiness of resource, that copiousness of language, and that knowledge of the temper and understanding of an audience, which are far more valuable to an orator than the greatest logical powers.
was immediate conviction and persuasion.
The history of eloquence at Athens is re-
Horace has prettily compared poems to those paintings of which the effect varies as the spectator changes his stand. The same remark applies with at least equal justice to speeches. They must be read with the temper of those to whom they were addressed, or they must necessarily appear to offend against the laws of taste and reason; as the finest picture, seen in a light different from that for which it was designed, will appear fit only for a sign. This is perpetually forgotten by those who criticise oratory. Because they are reading at leisure, pausing at every line, reconsidering every argument, they forget that the hearers were hurried from point to point too rapidly to detect the fallacies through which they were conducted; that they had no time to disentangle sophisms, or to notice slight inaccuracies of expression; that elaborate excellence, either of reasoning or of language, would have been absolutely thrown away. To recur to the analogy of the sister art, these connoisseurs examine a panorama through a microscope, and quarrel with a scene-painter because he does not give to his work the exquisite finish of Gérard Dow.
The effect of the great freedom of the press in England has been, in a great measure, to destroy this distinction, and to leave among us little of what I call Oratory Proper. Our lcgislators, our candidates, on great occasions even our advocates, address themselves less to the audience than to the reporters. They think less of the few hearers than of the innumerable readers. At Athens, the case was different there the only object of the speaker