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I is scarcely necessary to say that such speeches could never have been delivered. They are perhaps among the most difficult passages in the Greek language, and would probably have been scarcely more intelligible to an Athenian auditor than to a modern reader. Their obscurity was acknowledged by Cicero, who was as intimate with the literature and language of Greece as the most accomplished of its natives, and who seems to have held a respectable rank among the Greek authors. The difficulty to a modern reader lies, not in the words, but in the reasoning. A dictionary is of far less use in studying them, than a clear head and a close attention to the context. They are valuable to the scholar, as displaying, beyond almost any other compositions, the powers of the finest languages:-they are valuable to the philosopher, as illustrating the morals and manners of a most interesting age;- -they abound in just thought and energetic expression. But they do not enable us to form any accurate opinion on the merits of the early Greek orators.
the stadium, yet enjoyed far greater genera. vigour and health than either. It is the same with the mind. The superiority in technical skill is often more than compensated by the inferiority in general intelligence. And this is peculiarly the case in politics. States have always been best governed by men who have taken a wide view of public affairs, and who have rather a general acquaintance with many sciences than a perfect mastery of one. The union of the political and military departments in Greece contributed not a little to the splendour of its early history. After their separation more skilful generals and greater speakers appeared;-but the breed of statesmen dwindled and became almost extinct. Themistocles or Pericles would have been no match for Demosthenes in the assembly, or Iphicrates in the field. But surely they were incomparably better fitted than either for the supreme direction of affairs.
There is indeed a remarkable coincidence between the progress of the art of war, and that of the art of oratory, among the Greeks. They both advanced to perfection by contemporaneous steps, and from similar causes. The early speakers, like the early warriors of Greece, were merely a militia. It was found, that in both employments, practice and discipline gave superiority. Each pursuit, therefore, became
Though it cannot be doubted, that, before the Persian wars, Athens had produced eminent speakers, yet the period during which eloquence most flourished among her citizens was by no means that of her greatest power and glory. It commenced at the close of the Peloponnesian war. In fact, the steps by which first an art, and then a trade. In proportion as Athenian oratory approached to its finished the professors of each became more expert in excellence, seem to have been almost contem-their particular craft, they became less respect poraneous with those by which the Athenian able in their general character. Their skill character and the Athenian empire sunk to de- had been obtained at too great expense to be gradation. At the time when the little com- employed only from disinterested views. Thus, monwealth achieved those victories which the soldiers forgot that they were citizens, and twenty-five eventual centuries have left un- the orators that they were statesmen. I know equalled, eloquence was in its infancy. The not to what Demosthenes and his famous condeliverers of Greece became its plunderers and ten.poraries can be so justly compared as to oppressors. Unmeasured exaction, atrocious those mercenary troops, who, in their time, vengeance, the madness of the multitude, the overran Greece; or those who, from similar tyranny of the great, filled the Cyclades with causes, were some centuries ago the scourge tears, and blood, and mourning. The sword of the Italian republics,-perfectly acquainted unpeopled whole islands in a day. The plough with every part of their profession, irresistible passed over the ruins of famous cities. The in the field, powerful to defend or to destroy, imperial republic sent forth her children by but defending without love, and destroying thousands to pine in the quarries of Syracuse, without hatred. We may despise the characor to feed the vultures of Egospotami. She was at length reduced by famine and slaughter to humble herself before her enemies, and to purchase existence by the sacrifice of her empire and her laws. During these disastrous and gloomy years, oratory was advancing towards its highest excellence. And it was when the moral, the political, the military character of the people was most utterly degraded; it was when the viceroy of a Macedonian sovereign gave law to Greece, that the courts of Athens witnessed the most splendid contest of eloquence that the world has ever known.
The causes of this phenomenon it is not, I think, difficult to assign. The division of labour operates on the productions of the orator as it does on those of the mechanic. It wa. remarked by the ancients, that the Pentathlete, who divided his attention between several exercises, though he could not vie with a boxer in the use of a cestus, or with one who had confined his attention to running in the contest of
It has often occurred to me, that to the circumstances mentioned in the text, is to be referred one of
the most remarkable events in Grecian history. I mean the silent but rapid downfall of the Lacedæmonian power. Soon after the termination of the Peloponnesian war, the strength of Lacedæmon began to decline. Its military discipline, its social institutions were the same. Agesilaus, during whose reign the change took place, was the ablest of its kings. Yet the Spartan armies were frequently defeated in pitched battles, -an occurrence considered impossible in the earlier ages of Greece. They are allowed to have fought most bravely, yet they were no longer attended by the success to which they had formerly been accustomed. No solution of these circumstances is offered, as far as I know, by any ancient author. The real cause, I conceive, was this. The Lacedæmonians, alone among the Greeks, formed a permanent standing army. While the citizens of other commonwealths were engaged in agriculture and trade, they had no employment whatever but the study of military discipline Hence, during the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, they had that advantage over their neighbours which regular troops always Lossess over militia. This advantage they lost when other states began, at a later period, to employ mercenary forces, who were probably as superior to them in the art of was as they had hitherto been to their antagonists.
He may ramble as far as he is inclined, and stop as soon as he is tired. No one takes the trouble to recollect his contradictory opinions I had intended to proceed to this examination, or his unredeemed pledges. He may be as and to consider separately the remains of Ly- superficial, as inconsistent, and as careless as sias, of Eschines, of Demosthenes, and of Iso- he chooses. Magazines resemble those little crates, who though, strictly speaking, he was angels, who, according to the pretty Rabinical rather a pamphleteer than an orator, deserves, tradition, are generated every morning by the on many accounts, a place in such a disquisi- brook which rolls over the flowers of Paradise, tion. The length of my prolegomena and di--whose life is a song,-who warbie till sunset, gressions compels me to postpone this part of and then sink back without regret into nothing. the subject to another occasion. A magazine ness. Such spirits have nothing to do with the is certainly a delightful invention for a very detecting spear of Ithuriel or the victorious idle or a very busy man. He is not compelled sword of Michael. It is enough for them to to complete his plan or to adhere to his subject. please and be forgotten.
ters of these political Condottieri, but it is impossible to examine the system of their tactics without being amazed at its perfection.
COMIC DRAMATISTS OF THE RESTORATION.*
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, JANUARY, 1841.]
We have a kindness for Mr. Leigh Hunt. | and which illustrates the character of an imWe form our judgment of him, indeed, only portant epoch in letters, politics, and morals, from events of universal notoriety-from his should disappear from the world. If we err in own works, and from the works of other wri- this matter, we err with the gravest men and ters, who have generally abused him in the bodies of men in the empire, and especially most rancorous manner. But, unless we are with the Church of England, and with the greatly mistaken, he is a very clever, a very great schools of learning which are connected honest, and a very good-natured man. with her. The whole liberal education of our can clearly discern, together with many merits, countrymen is conducted on the principle, that many serious faults, both in his writings and no book which is valuable, either by reason of in his conduct. But we really think that there the excellence of its style, or by reason of the is hardly a man living whose merits have light which it throws on the history, polity, been so grudgingly allowed, and whose faults and manners of nations, should be withheld have been so cruelly expiated. from the student on account of its impurity. The Athenian Comedies, in which there are scarcely a hundred lines together without some passage of which Rochester would have been ashamed, have been reprinted at the Pitt Press and the Clarendon Press, under the direction of syndics and delegates appointed by the Universities; and have been illustrated with notes by reverend, very reverend, and right reverend commentators.
Every year the most distinguished young men in the kingdom are examined by bishops and professors of divinity in the Lysistrata of Aristophanes and the Sixth Satire of Juvenal. There is certainly something a little ludicrous in the idea of a conclave of venerable fathers of the church rewarding a lad for his intimate acquaintance with writings, compared with which the loosest tale in Prior is modest. But for our own part we have no doubt that the great societies which direct the education of the English gentry have herein judged wisely. It is unquestionable that an extensive acquaintance with ancient literature enlarges and enriches the mind. It is unquestionable that a man whose mind has been thus en
In some respects, Mr. Leigh Hunt is excellently qualified for the task which he has now undertaken. His style, in spite of its mannerism-nay, partly by reason of its mannerism -is well suited for light, garrulous, desultory ana, half critical, half biographical. We do not always agree with his literary judgments; but we find in him what is very rare in our time-the power of justly appreciating and heartily enjoying good things of very different kinds. He can adore Shakspeare and Spenser without denying poetical genius to the author of "Alexander's Feast;" or fine observation, rich fancy, and exquisite humour to him who imagined" Will Honeycomb" and "Sir Roger de Coverley." He has paid particular attention to the history of the English drama, from the age of Elizabeth down to our own time, and has every right to be heard with respect on that subject.
The plays to which he now acts as introducer are, with few exceptions, such as, in the opinion of many very respectable people, ought not to be reprinted. In this opinion we can by no means concur. We cannot wish that any work or class of works which has ex-larged and enriched, is ikely to be far more ercised a great influence on the human mind,
useful to the state and to the church, than one who is unskilled, or little skilled in classical learning. On the other hand, we find it diffi cult to believe that, in a world so full of tempta tion as this, any gentleman, whose life would
* The Dramatic_Works of WYCHERLEY, CONGREVE, VANBRUGH, and FARQUHAR. With Biographical and Critical Notices. BY LEIGH HUNT. 8vo. London. 1840.
have been virtuous if he had not read Aristophanes and Juvenal, will be made vicious by reading them. A man who, exposed to all the influences of such a state of society as that in which we live, is yet afraid of exposing himself to the influences of a few Greek or Latin verses, acts, we think, much like the felon who begged the sheriff's to let him have an umbrella held over his head from the door of Newgate to the gallows, because it was a drizzling morning, and he was apt to take cold.
various periods been fashionable.
We have said that we think the present publication perfectly justifiable. But we can by no means agree with Mr. Leigh Hunt, who seems to hold that there is little or no ground for the charge of immorality so often brought against the literature of the Restoration. We do not blame him for not bringing to the judg ment-seat the merciless rigour of Lord Angelo; but we really think that such flagitious and impudent offenders as those who are now at the bar, deserved at least the gentle rebuke of Escalus. Mr. Leigh Hunt treats the whole matter a little too much in the easy style of Lucio, and perhaps his exceeding lenity disposes us to be somewhat too severe.
The virtue which the world wants is a healthful virtue, not a valetudinarian virtuea virtue which can expose itself to the risks inseparable from all spirited exertion-not a virtue which keeps out of the common air for fear of infection, and eschews the common food as too stimulating. It would be indeed absurd to attempt to keep men from acquiring those qualifications which fit them to play their part in life with honour to themselves and advantage to their country, for the sake of preserving a delicacy which cannot be preserved-a delicacy which a walk from Westminster to the Temple is sufficient to destroy.
But we should be justly chargeable with gross inconsistency, if, while we defend the policy which invites the youth of our country to study such writers as Theocritus and Catullus, we were to set up a cry against a new edition of the "Country Wife," or the "Way of the World." The immoral English writers of the seventeenth century are indeed much less excusable than those of Greece and Rome. But the worst English writings of the seventeenth century are decent, compared with much that has been bequeathed to us by Greece and Rome. Plato, we have little doubt, was a much better man than Sir George Etherege. But Plato has written things at which Sir George Etherege would have shuddered. Buckhurst and Sedley, even in those wild orgies at the Cock in Bow Street, for which they were pelted by the rabble and fined by the Court of King's Bench, would never have dared to hold such discourse as passed between Socrates and Phædrus on that fine summer day, under the plane-tree, while the fountain warbled at their feet, and the cicadas chirped overhead. If it be, as we think it is, desirable that an English gentlemaan should be well informed touching the government and the manners of little commonwealths, which both in place and time are far removed from us-whose independence has been more than two thousand years extinguished, whose language has not been spoken for ages, and whose ancient magnificence is attested only by a few broken columns and friezesmuch more must it be desirable that he should be intimately acquainted with the history of the public mind of his own country; and with the causes, the nature, and the extent of those revolutions of opinion and feeling, which, during the last two centuries, have alternately raised and depressed the standard of our national morality. And knowledge of this sort is * Mr. Moxon, its publisher, is well entitled to com to be very sparingly gleaned from parliament-mendation and support for having, by a series of corres pouding Reprints, (comprising the works of the elder
ary debates, from state papers, and from the works of grave historians. It must either not be acquired at all, or it must be acquired by the perusal of the light literature which has at
Dramatists,)-executed in a compendious but very coniely form, and accompanied with useful prolegomena-put tion to procure, at a comparatively small cost, the noit in the power of any one desirous of such an acquisiblest Dramatic Library in the world
And yet it is not easy to be too severe. For, in truth, this part of our literature is a disgrace to our language and our national character. It is clever, indeed, and very entertaining; but it is, in the most emphatic sense of the words, "earthly, sensual, devilish." Its indecency, though perpetually such as is condemned, not less by the rules of good taste than by those of morality, is not, in our opinion, so disgraceful a fault as its singularly inhuman spirit. We have here Belial, not as when he inspired Ovid and Ariosto, "graceful and humane," but with the iron eye and cruel sneer of Mephistopheles. We find ourselves in a world, in which the ladies are like very profligate, impudent and unfeeling men, and in which the men are too bad for any place but Pandemonium or Norfolk Island. We are surrounded by foreheads of bronze, hearts like the nether millstone, and tongues set on fire of hell.
Dryden defended or excused his own offences, and those of his contemporaries, by pleading the example of the earlier English dramatists: and Mr. Leigh Hunt seems to think that there is force in the plea. We al together differ from this opinion. The crime charged is not mere coarseness of expression. The terms which are delicate in one age become gross in the next. The diction of the English version of the Pentateuch, is sometimes such as Addison would not have ventured to imitate; and Addison, the standard of purity in his own age, used many phrases which are now proscribed. Whether a thing shall be designated by a plain noun-substan tive, or by a circumlocution, is mere matter of fashion. Morality is not at all interested in the question. But morality is deeply interested in this-that what is immoral shall not be presented to the imagination of the young and susceptible in constant connection with what is attractive. For every person who nas observed the operation of the law of association
an his own mind, and in the minds of others,' Careless with Sir Paul Plyant, or Scandal with Foresight. In all these cases, and in many more which might be named, the dramatist evidently does his best to make the person who commits the injury graceful, sensible and spirited; and the person who suffers it a fool or a tyrant, or both.
Mr. Charles Lamb, indeed, attempted to set up a defence for this way of writing. The dramatists of the latter part of the seventeenth century are not, according to him, to be tried by the standard of morality which exists, and ought to exist in real life. Their world is a conventional world. Their heroes and heroines belong, not to England, not to Christendom, but to an Utopia of gallantry, to a Fairy
knows, that whatever is constantly presented to the imagination in connection with what is attractive, will commonly itself become attractive. There is undoubtedly a great deal of indelicate writing in Fletcher and Massinger; and more than might be wished even in Ben Jonson and Shakspeare, who are comparatively pure. But it is impossible to trace in their plays any systematic attempt to associate vie with those things which men value most and desire most, and virtue with every thing ridiculous and degrading. And such a systematic attempt we find in the whole dramatic literature of the generation which followed the return of Charles the Second. We will take, as an instance of what we mean, a single sub-land, where the Bible and Burns's Justice are unknown-where a prank, which on this earth would be rewarded with the pillory, is merely matter for a peal of elfish laughter. A real Horner, a real Careless would, it is admitted, be exceedingly bad men. But to predicate morality or immorality of the Horner of Wy cherly, and the Careless of Congreve, is as absurd as it would be to arraign a sleeper for his dreams. They belong "to the regions of pure comedy, where no cold moral reignswhen we are amongst them we are amongst a chaotic people. We are not to judge them by our usages. No reverend institutions are insulted by their proceedings, for they have none among them. No peace of families is violated, for no family ties exist among them. There is neither right or wrong-gratitude or its op posite-claim or duty-paternity or sonship."
ject of the highest importance to the happiness of mankind-conjugal fidelity. We can at present hardly call to mind a single English play, written before the Civil War, in which the character of a seducer of married women is represented in a favourable light. We remember many plays in which such persons are baffled, exposed, covered with derision, and insulted by triumphant husbands. Such is the fate of Falstaff, with all his wit and knowledge of the world. Such is the fate of Brisac in Fletcher's "Elder Brother"-and of Ricardo and Ubaldo, in Massinger's "Picture." Sometimes, as in the "Fatal Dowry," and "Love's Cruelty," the outraged honour of families is repaired by a bloody revenge. If now and then the lover is represented as an accomplished man, and the husband as a person of weak or odious character, this only makes the triumph of female virtue the more signal; as in Jonson's Celia and Mrs. Fitzdottrel, and in Fletcher's Maria. In general we will ven-mire his genius; we love the kind nature which appears in all his writings: and we cherish his memory as much as if we had known him personally. But we must plainly say that his argument, though ingenious, is altogether sophistical.
This is, we believe, a fair summary of Mr.. Lamb's doctrine. We are sure that we do not wish to represent him unfairly. For we ad
ture to say, that the dramatists of the age of Elizabeth and James the First, either treat the breach of the marriage-vcw as a serious crime -or, if they treat it as a matter for laughter, turn the laugh against the gallant.
On the contrary, during the forty years Of course we perfectly understand that it is which followed the Restoration, the whole body possible for a writer to create a conventional of the dramatists invariably represent adultery world in which things forbidden by the Deca-we do not say as a peccadillo-we do not logue and the Statute Book shall be lawful, say as an error which the violence of passion and yet that the exhibition may be harmless, or may excuse-but as the calling of a fine gen- even edifying. For example, we suppose that tleman-as a grace without which his cha- the most austere critics would not accuse Feracter would be imperfect. It is as essential nelon of impiety and immorality, on account to his breeding and to his place in society that of his Telemachus and his Dialogues of the he should make love to the wives of his neigh- Dead. In Telemachus and the Dialogues of bours, as that he should know French, or that the Dead, we have a false religion, and conse. he should have a sword at his side. In all this quently a morality which is in some points there is no passion, and scarcely any thing incorrect. We have a right and a wrong, that can be called preference. The hero in- differing from the right and the wrong of real trigues, just as he wears a wig; because, if life. It is represented as the first duty of men he did not, he would be a queer fellow, a city to pay honour to Jove and Minerva. Philo prig, perhaps a Puritan. All the agreeable cles, who employes his leisure in making qualities are always given to the gallant. All graven images of these deities, is extolled for the contempt and aversion are the portion of his piety in a way which contrasts singularly the unfortunate husband. Take Dryden for with the expressions of Isaiah on the same example; and compare Woodall with Brain-subject. The dead are judged by Minos, and sick, or Lorenzo with Gomez. Take Wycher- rewarded with lasting happiness for actions ley, and compare Horner with Pinchwife. which Fenelon would have been the first to Take Vanbrugh, and compare Constant with pronounce splendid sins. The same may be Sir John Brute. Take Farquhar, and com- said of Mr. Southey's Mohammedan and Hin pare Archer with Squire Sullen. Take Con- doo heroes and heroines. In Thalaba, to speak greve, and compare Belmour with Fondle wife, in derogation of the Arabian Imposter is blas
phemy-to drink wine is a crime-to perform | derided, associated with every thing mean and ablutions, and to pay honour to the holy cities, hateful; the unsound morality to be set off to are works of merit. In the Curse of Kehama, every advantage, and inculcated by all me Kailyal is commended for her devotion to the thods direct and indirect. It is not the fact, statue of Mariataly, the goddess of the poor. that none of the inhabitants of this convenBut certainly no person will accuse Mr. Southey | tional world feel reverence for sacred instituof having promoted or intended to promote tions, and family ties. Fondlewife, Pinch wife, either Islamism or Brahminism. every person in short of narrow understanding and disgusting manners, expresses that reverence strongly. The heroes and heroines too, have a moral code of their own, an exceedingly bad one; but not, as Mr. Charles Lamb seems to think, a code existing only in the imagination of dramatists. It is, on the contrary, a code actually received, and obeyed by great numbers of people We need not go to Utopia or Fairiland to find them. They are near at hand. Every night some of them play at the "hells" in the Quadrant, and others pace the piazza in Covent-garden. Without flying to Nephelococcygia, or to the Court of Queen Mab, we can meet with sharpers, bullies, hardhearted impudent debauchees, and women worthy of such paramours. The morality of the "Country Wife" and the "Old Bachelor," is the morality, not, as Mr. Charles Lamb maintains, of an unreal world, but of a world which is a great deal too real. It is the morality, not of a chaotic people, but of low town-rakes, and of those ladies whom the newspapers call "dashing Cyprians." And the question is simply, whether a man of genius, who constantly and systematically endeavours to make this sort of character attrac tive, by uniting it with beauty, grace, dignity, spirit, a high social position, popularity, literature, wit, taste, knowledge of the world, brilliant success in every undertaking, does or does not make an ill use of his powers. We own that we are unable to understand how this question can be answered in any way but one.
It must, indeed, be acknowledged, in justice to the writers of whom we have spoken thus severely, that they were, to a great extent, the creatures of their age. And if it be asked why that age encouraged immorality which no other age would have tolerated, we have no hesitation in answering that this great depraIvation of the national taste was the effect of the prevalence of Puritanism under the Ccmmonwealth.
It is easy to see why the conventional worlds of Fenelon and Mr. Southey are unobjectionable. In the first place, they are utterly unlike the real world in which we live. The state of society, the laws even of the physical world, are so different from those with which we are familiar, that we cannot be shocked at finding the morality also very different. But in truth, the morality of these conventional worlds differs from the morality of the real world, only in points where there is no danger that the real worlds will ever go wrong. The generosity and docility of Telemachus, the fortitude, the modesty, the filial tenderness of Kailyal, are virtues of all ages and nations. And there was very little danger that the Dauphin would worship Minerva, or that an English damsel would dance with a bucket on her head before the statue of Mariataly.
The case is widely different with what Mr. Charles Lamb calls the conventional world of Wycherley and Congreve. Here the costume, and manners, the topics of conversation, are those of the real town, and of the passing day. The hero is in all superficial accomplishments exactly the fine gentleman, whom every youth in the pit would gladly resemble. The heroine is the fine lady, whom every youth in the pit would gladly marry. The scene is laid in some place which is as well known to the audience as their own houses, in St. James's Park, or Hyde Park, or Westminster Hall. The lawyer bustles about with his bag, between the Common Pleas and the Exchequer. The Peer calls for his carriage to go to the House of Lords on a private bill. A hundred little touches are employed to make the fictitious world appear like the actual world. And the immorality is of a sort which never can be out of date, and which all the force of religion, law, and public opinion united can but imperfectly restrain.
In the name of art, as well as in the name of virtue, we protest against the principle that the world of pure comedy is one into which no To punish public outrages on morals and moral enters. If comedy be an imitation, un-religion is unquestionably within the compe der whatever conventions, of real life, how is tence of rulers. But when a government, not it possible that it can have no reference to the content with requiring decency, requires sancgreat rule which directs life, and to feelings tity, it oversteps the bounds which mark its which are called forth by every incident of functions. And it may be laid down as a unilife? If what Mr. Charles Lamb says were versal rule, that a government which attempts correct, the inference would be, that these dra- more than it ought will perform less. A law. matists did not in the least understand the very giver who, in order to protect distressed borfirst principles of their craft. Pure landscape rowers, limits the rate of interest, either makes painting into which no light or shade enters, it impossible for the objects of his care to borpure portrait fainting into which no expres- row at all, or places them at the mercy of the sion enters, are phrases less at variance with worst class of usurers. A lawgiver who, sound criticism than pure comedy into which from tenderness for labouring men, fixes the no moral enters. hours of their work and the amount of their wages, is certain to make them far more wretched than he found them. And so a go vernment which, not content with repressing
But it is not the fact, that the world of these dramatists is a world into which no moral enters. Morality constantly enters into that world, a sound morality, and an unsound scandalous excesses, demands from its submorality; the sound inorality to be insulted,jects fervent and austere piety, will soon dis VOL. IV.-50