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lament that, from the frailty of human nature, a man who could perform so great an exploit could repent of it.

berty a plea for cutting off the favourites of the people. In almost all the little commonwealths of antiquity, liberty was used as a pretext for measures directed against every thing which The writings of these men, and of their mo makes liberty valuable, for measures which dern imitators, have produced effects which stiffed discussion, corrupted the administration deserve some notice. The English have been of justice, and discouraged the accumulation so long accustomed to political speculation, of property. The writers, whose works we and have enjoyed so large a measure of pracare considering, confounded the sound with the tical liberty, that such works have produced substance, and the means with the end. Their little effect on their minds. We have classical imaginations were inflamed by mystery. They associations and great names of our own, conceived of liberty as monks conceive of love, which we can confidently oppose to the most as Cockneys conceive of the happiness and in- splendid of ancient times. Senate has not to nocence of rural life, as novel-reading semp- our ears a sound so venerable as Parliament. stresses conceive of Almack's and Grosvenor We respect the Great Charter more than the Square, accomplished Marquesses and hand-laws of Solon. The Capitol and the Forum some Colonels of the Guards. In the relation impress us with less awe than our own Westof events, and the delineation of characters, minster Hall and Westminster Abbey, the they have paid little attention to facts, to the place where the great men of twenty generacostume of the times of which they pretend to tions have contended, the place where they treat, or to the general principles of human na-sleep together! The list of warriors and ture. They have been faithful only to their statesmen by whom our constitution was foundown puerile and extravagant doctrines. Gene-ed or preserved, from De Monfort down to Fox, rals and Statesmen are metamorphosed into may well stand a comparison with the Fasti magnanimous coxcombs, from whose fulsome of Rome. The dying thanksgiving of Sidney virtues we turn away with disgust. The fine is as noble as the libation which Thrasea sayings and exploits of their heroes reminds poured to Liberating Jove: and we think with us of the insufferable perfections of Sir Charles far less pleasure of Cato tearing out his entrails, Grandison, and affect us with a nausea similar than of Russel saying, as he turned away from to that which we feel when an actor, in one of his wife, that the bitterness of death was past. Morton's or Kotzebue's plays, lays his hand on -Even those parts of our history, over which, his heart, advances to the ground-lights, and on some accounts, we would gladly throw a months a moral sentence for the edification of veil, may be proudly opposed to those on which the gods. the moralists of antiquity loved most to dwell. These writers, men who knew not what it The enemy of English liberty was not murwas to have a country, men who had never en-dered by men whom he had pardoned and joyed political rights, brought into fashion an loaded with benefits. He was not stabbed in offensive cant about patriotism and zeal for the back by those who smiled and cringed freedom. What the English Puritans did for before his face. He was vanquished on fields the language of Christianity, what Scuderi did of stricken battle; he was arraigned, senfor the language of love, they did for the lan- tenced, and executed in the face of heaven guage of public spirit. By habitual exaggera- and earth. Our liberty is neither Greek nor tion they made it mean. By monotonous em- Roman; but essentially English. It has a phasis they made it feeble. They abused it character of its own-a character which has till it became scarcely possible to use it with taken a tinge from the sentiments of the chieffect. valrous ages, and which accords with the peculiarities of our manners and of our insu lar situation. It has a language, too, of its own, and a language singularly idiomatic, full of meaning to ourselves, scarcely intelligible to strangers.


Their ordinary rules of morality are deduced from extreme cases. The common regimen which they prescribe for society is made up of those desperate remedies, which only its most desperate distempers require. They look with peculiar complacency on actions, which even Here, therefore, the effect of books, such as those who approve them consider as excep- those which we have been considering, has tions to laws of almost universal application-been harmless. They have, indeed, given cur which bear so close an affinity to the most atro-rency to many very erroneous opinions with cious crimes, that even where it may be unjust respect to ancient history. They have heated to censure them, it is unsafe to praise them. It the imagination of boys. They have misled is not strange, therefore, that some flagitious the judgment, and corrupted the taste of some instances of perfidy and cruelty should have men of letters, such as Akenside and Sir Wilbeen passed unchallenged in such company, liam Jones. But on persons engaged in pub that grave moralists, with no personal interest lic affairs they have had very little influence. at stake, should have extolled, in the highest The foundations of our constitution were laid terms, deeds of which the atrocity appalled by men who knew nothing of the Greeks, but even the infuriated factions in whose cause that they denied the orthodox procession, and they were perpetrated. The part which Timo- cheated the Crusaders; and nothing of Rome, leon took in the assassination of his brother but that the Pope lived there. Those who fol shocked many of his own partisans. The re-lowed, contented themselves with improving collection of it preyed long on his own mind. on the original plan. They found n.dels at But it was reserved for historians who lived home; and therefore they did not look for them me centuries later to discover that his con- abroad. But when enlightened men on the duct was a glorious display of virtue, and to continent began to think about political re VOL I.-8


formation, having no patterns before their "is laid in moral paradoxes. All those ineyes in their domestic history, they naturally stances to be found in history, whether real or had recourse to those remains of antiquity, fabulous, of a doubtful public spirit, at which the study of which is considered throughout morality is perplexed, reason is staggered, and Europe as an important part of education. from which affrighted nature recoils, are their The historians of whom we have been speak- chosen and almost sole examples for the ining had been members of large communities, struction of their youth." This evil, we beand subjects of absolute sovereigns. Hence lieve, is to be directly ascribed to the influence it is, as we have already said, that they com- of the historians whom we have mentioned, mit such gross errors in speaking of the little and their modern imitators. republics of antiquity. Their works were now read in the spirit in which they had been written. They were read by men placed in circumstances closely resembling their own, unacquainted with the real nature of liberty, but inclined to believe every thing good which could be told respecting it. How powerfully these books impressed these speculative reformers, is well known to all who have paid any attention to the French literature of the last century. But, perhaps, the writer on whom they produced the greatest effect, was Vittorio Alfieri. In some of his plays, particularly in Virginia, Timoleon, and Brutus the Younger, he has even caricatured the extrava-is gance of his masters.

Livy had some faults in common with these writers. But on the whole he must be considered as forming a class by himself. No historian with whom we are acquainted has shown so complete an indifference to truth. He seems to have cared only about the picturesque effect of his book and the honour of his country. On the other hand, we do not know, in the whole range of literature, an instance of a bad thing so well done. The painting of the narrative is beyond description vivid and graceful. The abundance of interesting sentiments and splendid imagery in the speeches is almost miraculous. His mind is a soil which

never overteemed, a fountain which never seems to trickle. It pours forth prefusely; yet it gives no sign of exhaustion. It was proba bly to this exhaberance of thought and language, always fresh, always sweet, always pure, no sooner yielded than repaired, that the critics applied that expression which has been so much discussed, lactea ubertas.

It was not strange that the blind, thus led by the blind, should stumble. The transactions of the French Revolution, in some measure, took their character from these works. With out the assistance of these works, indeed, a revolution would have taken place-a revolution productive of much good and much evil, All the merits and all the defects of Livy tremendous, but short-lived evil, dearly pur-take a colouring from the character of his nachased, but durable good. But it would not tion. He was a writer peculiarly Roman; the have been exactly such a revolution. The proud citizen of a commonwealth which had style, the accessories, would have been in ma- indeed lost the reality of liberty, but which ny respects different. There would have been still sacredly preserved its forms-in fact the less of bombast in language, less of affectation subject of an arbitrary prince, but in his own in manner, less of solemn trifling and ostenta-estimation one of the masters of the world, tious simplicity. The acts of legislative as-with a hundred kings below him, and only the semblies, and the correspondence of diploma-gods above him. He, therefore, looked back tists, would not have been disgraced by rants on former times with feelings far different from worthy only of a college of declamation. The those which were naturally entertained by his government of a great and polished nation Greek contemporaries, and which at a later would not have rendered itself ridiculous by period became general among men of letters attempting to revive the usages of a world throughout the Roman Empire. He contemwhich had long passed away, or rather of a plated the past with interest and delight, not world which had never existed except in the because it furnished a contrast to the present, description of a fantastic school of writers. but because it had led to the present. He re These second-hand imitations resembled the curred to it, not to lose in proud recollections originals about as much as the classical feasts the sense of national degradation, but to trace with which the Doctor in Peregrine Pickle the progress of national glory. It is true that turned the stomachs of all his guests, resem- his veneration for antiquity produced on him bled one of the suppers of Lucullus in the some of the effects which it produced on those Hall of Apollo. who arrived at it by a very different road. He has something of their exaggeration, something of their cant, something of their fondness for anomalies and lusus nature in morality. Yet even here we perceive a difference. They talk rapturously of patriotism and liberty in the abstract. He does not seem to think any country but Rome deserving of love; nor is it for liberty, as liberty, but for liberty as a part of the Roman institutions, that he is zealous.

These were mere follies. But the spirit excited by these writers produced more serious effects. The greater part of the crimes which disgraced the revolution, sprung indeed from the relaxation of law, from popular ignorance, from the remembrance of past oppression, from the fear of foreign conquest, from rapacity, from ambition, from party spirit. But many atrocious proceedings must, doubtless, be ascribed to heated imagination, to perverted principle, to a distaste for what was vulgar in morals, and a passion for what was startling and dubicus. Mr. Burke has touched on this subject with great felicity of expression: The gradation of their republic," says he,

Of the concise and elegant accounts of the campaigns of Caesar little can be said. They are incomparable models for military despatches. But histories they are not, and de not pretend to be.

The ancient critics placed Sallust in the

same rank with Livy; and unquestionably the | speeches of Cicero sufficiently prove, that some small portion of his works which has come persons considered the shocking and atrocious down to us, is calculated to give a high opi-parts of the plot as mere inventions of the gonion of his talents. But his style is not very vernment, designed to excuse its unconstitu pleasant; and his most powerful work, the ac- tional measures. We must confess ourselves count of the Conspiracy of Catiline, has ra- to be of that opinion. There was, undoubtedly, ther the air of a clever party pamphlet than a strong party desirous to change the adminis that of a history. It abounds with strange in-tration. While Pompey held the command of consistencies, which, unexplained as they are, an army, they could not effect their purpose necessarily excite doubts as to the fairness of without preparing means for repelling force, the narrative. It is true, that many circum- if necessary, by force. In all this there is nostances now forgotten may have been familiar thing different from the ordinary practice of to his contemporaries, and may have rendered Roman factions. The other charges brought passages clear to them which to us appear du- against the conspirators are so inconsistent bions and perplexing. But a great historian and improbable, that we give no credit whatshould remember that he writes for distant ever to them. If our readers think this skepgenerations, for men who will perceive the ap- ticism unreasonable, let them turn to the conparent contradictions, and will possess no temporary account of the Popish plot. Let means of reconciling them. We can only vin- them look over the votes of Parliament, and dicate the fidelity of Sallust at the expense of the speeches of the king; the charges of his skill. But in fact all the information Scroggs, and the harangues of the managers which we have from contemporaries respect- employed against Strafford. A person, who ing this famous plot is liable to the same ob- should form his judgment from these pieces jection, and is read by discerning men with alone, would believe that London was set on the same incredulity. It is all on one side. fire by the Papists, and that Sir Edmondbury No answer has reached our times. Yet, on the Godfrey was murdered for his religion. Yet showing of the accusers, the accused seem en- these stories are now altogether exploded. titled to acquittal. Catiline, we are told, in- They have been abandoned by statesmen to trigued with a Vestal virgin, and murdered his aldermen, by aldermen to clergymen, by clerown son. His house was a den of gamblers gymen to old women, and by old women to and debauchees. No young man could cross Sir Harcourt Lees. his threshold without danger to his fortune and Of the Latin historians, Tacitus was cer reputation. Yet this is the man with whom tainly the greatest. His style indeed is not Cicero was willing to coalesce in a contest only faulty in itself, but is, in some respects, for the first magistracy of the republic; and peculiarly unfit for historical composition. He whom he described, long after the fatal termi-carries his love of effect far beyond the limits nation of the conspiracy, as an accomplished of moderation. He tells a fine story finely: hypocrite, by whom he had himself been de- but he cannot tell a plain story plainly. He ceived, and who had acted with consummate stimulates till all stimulants lose their power. skill the character of a good citizen and a good Thucydides, as we have already observed, refriend. We are told that the plot was the most lates ordinary transactions with the unprewicked and desperate ever known, and almost tending clearness and succinctness of the in the same breath, that the great body of the gazette. His great powers of painting he people, and many of the nobles favoured it: reserves for events, of which the slightest that the richest citizens of Rome were eager details are interesting. The simplicity of the for the spoliation of all property, and its high-setting gives additional lustre to the brilliants. est functionaries for the destruction of all or- There are passages in the narrative of Tacitus der; that Crassus, Cæsar, the prætor Lentulus, superior to the best which can be quoted from one of the consuls of the year, one of the con- Thucydides. But they are not enchased and suls elect, were proved or suspected to be en- relieved with the same skill. They are far gaged in a scheme for subverting institutions more striking when extracted from the body to which they owed the highest honours, and of the work to which they belong, than when introducing universal anarchy. We are told, they occur in their place, and are read in conthat a government which knew all this suffered nection with what precedes and follows. the conspirator, whose rank, talents, and courage rendered him most dangerous, to quit Rome without molestation. We are told, that bondmen and gladiators were to be armed against the citizens. Yet we find that Catiline rejected the slaves who crowded to enlist in his army, est, as Sallust himself expresses it, "he should seem to identify their cause with that of the eitizens." Finally, we are told that the magistrate, who was universally allowed to have saved all classes of his countrymen from conflagration and massacre, rendered himself so unpopular by his conduct, that a marked insult was offered to him at the expiration of his office, and a severe punishment inflicted on him shortly after.

In the delineation of character, Tacitus is unrivalled among historians, and has very few superiors among dramatists and novelists. By the delineation of character, we do not mean the practice of drawing up epigrammatic catalogues of good and bad qualities, and append ing them to the names of eminent men. No writer, indeed, has done this more skilfully than Tacitus; but this is not his peculiar glory. All the persons who occupy a large space in his works have an individuality of character which seems to pervade an their words and actions. We know them as if we had lived with them. Claudius, Nero, Otho, both the Agrippinas, are masterpieces. But Tiberius is a still higher miracle of art. The historian undertook to make us intimately ac

Sallust tells us, what, indeed, the letters and

quainted with a man singularly dark and library, to be tired with taking down books one inscrutable-with a man whose real disposi- after another for separate judgment, and feel tion long remained swathed up in intricate inclined to pass sentence on them in masses. folds of factitious virtues; and over whose We shall, therefore, instead of pointing out the actions the hypocrisy of his youth and the se- defects and merits of the different modern hisclusion of his old age threw a singular mys- torians, state generally in what particulars they tery. He was to exhibit the specious qualities have surpassed their predecessors, and in what of the tyrant in a light which might render we conceive them to have failed. them transparent, and enable us at once to perceive the covering and the vices which it concealed. He was to trace the gradations by which the first magistrate of a republic, a senator mingling freely in debate, a noble as sociating with his brother nobles, was transformed into an Asiatic sultan; he was to exhibit a character distinguished by courage, self-command, and profound policy, yet defiled by all

They have certainly been, in one sense, far more strict in their adherence to truth than most of the Greek and Roman writers. They do not think themselves entitled to render their narrative interesting by introducing descriptions, conversations, and harangues, which have no existence but in their own imagina tion. This improvement was gradually introduced. History commenced among the modern nations of Europe, as it had commenced among the Greeks, in romance. Froissart was our Herodotus. Italy was to Europe what Athens was to Greece. In Italy, therefore, a more ac

He was to mark the gradual effect of advanc-curate and manly mode of narration was early ing age and approaching death on this strange introduced. Machiavelli and Guicciardini, in compound of strength and weakness; to exhi- imitation of Livy and Thucydides, composed bit the old sovereign of the world sinking into speeches for their historical personages. But a dotage which, though it rendered his appe- as the classical enthusiasm which distinguishtites eccentric and his temper savage, never ed the age of Lorenzo and Leo gradually subimpaired the powers of his stern and penetrat-sided, this absurd practice was abandoned. In ing mind, conscious of failing strength, raging France, we fear, it still, in some degree, keeps with capricious sensuality, yet to the last the its ground. In our own country, a writer who keenest of observers, the most artful of dis- should venture on it would be laughed to semblers, and the most terrible of masters. scorn. Whether the historians of the last two The task was one of extreme difficulty. The centuries tell more truth than those of anti. execution is almost perfect. quity, may perhaps be doubted. But it is quite certain that they tell fewer falsehoods.

The talent which is required to write history thus, bears a considerable affinity to the talent of a great dramatist. There is one obvious distinction. The dramatist creates, the historian only disposes. The difference is not in the mode of execution, but in the mode of conception. Shakspeare is guided by a model which exists in his imagination; Tacitus, by a model furnished from without. Hamlet is to Tiberius what the Laocoon is to the Newton of Roubilliac.

In the philosophy of history, the moderns have very far surpassed the ancients. It is not, indeed, strange that the Greeks and Romans should not have carried the science of government, or any other experimental science, so far as it has been carried in our time; for the experimental sciences are generally in a state of progression. They were better understood in the seventeenth century than in the sixteenth, and in the eighteenth century than in the seventeenth. But this constant improve ment, this natural growth of knowledge, will not altogether account for the immense superiority of the modern writers. The difference is a difference, not in degree, but of kind. It is not merely that new principles have been discovered, but that new faculties seem to be ex-, erted. It is not that at one time the human intellect should have made but small progress, and at another time have advanced far; but that at one time it should have been stationary, and at another time constantly proceeding. In taste and imagination, in the graces of style, in the arts of persuasion, in the magnificence of public works, the ancients were at least our equals. They reasoned as justly as ourselves on subjects which required pure demonstration. But in the moral sciences they made scarcely any advance. During the long period which elapsed between the fifth century before the Christian era and the fifth century after it, little perceptible progress was made. All the metaphysical discoveries of all the philoso phers, from the time of Socrates to the northern invasion, are not to be compared in importance with those which have been made in England

"th' extravagancy And crazy ribaldry of fancy."

In this part of his art Tacitus certainly had neither equal nor second among the ancient historians. Herodotus, though he wrote in a dramatic form, had little of dramatic genius. The frequent dialogues which he introduces give vivacity and movement to the narrative; but are not strikingly characteristic. Xenophon is fond of telling his readers, at considerable length, what he thought of the persons whose adventures he relates. But he does not show them the men, and enable them to judge for themselves. The heroes of Livy are the most insipid of all beings, real or imaginary, the heroes of Plutarch always excepted. Indeed, the manner of Plutarch in this respect reminds us of the cookery of those continental inns, the horror of English travellers, in which a certain nondescript broth is kept constantly boiling, and copiously poured, without distinction, over every dish as it comes up to table. Thucydides, though at a wide interval, comes next to Tacitus. His Pericles, his Nicias, his Cleon, his Brasidas, are happily discriminated. The lines are few, the colouring faint; but the generai air and expression is caught.

We begin, like the priest in Don Quixote's

every fifty years since the time of Elizabeth. | those which Boileau may have formed about There is not the least reason to believe that the Shakspeare. Dionysius lived in the most principles of government, legislation, and po- splendid age of Latin poetry and eloquence. litical economy, were better understood in the He was a critic, and, after the manner of his time of Augustus Caesar than in the time of age, an able critic. He studied the language Pericles. In our own country, the sound doc- of Rome, associated with its learned men, and trines of trade and jurisprudence have been, compiled its history. Yet he seems to have within the lifetime of a single generation, dimly thought its literature valuable only for the purhinted, boldly propounded, defended, systema- pose of illustrating its antiquities. His readtized, adopted by all reflecting men of all ing appears to have been confined to its public parties, quoted in legislative assemblies, incor- records, and to a few old annalists. Once, and porated into laws and treaties. but once, if we remember rightly, he quotes Ennius, to solve a question of etymology. He has written much on the art of oratory; yet he has not mentioned the name of Cicero.

To what is this change to be attributed? Partly, no doubt, to the discovery of printing, -a discovery which has not only diffused knowledge widely, but, as we have already observed, has also introduced into reasoning a precision unknown in those ancient communities, in which information was, for the most part, conveyed orally. There was, we suspect, another cause less obvious, but still more powerful.

The Romans submitted to the pretensions of a race which they despised. Their epic poet, while he claimed for them pre-eminence in the arts of government and war, acknowledged their inferiority in taste, eloquence, and science. Men of letters affected to understand the Greek language better than their own. Pomponius preferred the honour of becoming an Athenian, by intellectual naturalization, to all the distinc tions which were to be acquired in the political contests of Rome. His great friend composed Greek poems and memoirs. It is well known that Petrarch considered that beautiful language in which his sonnets are written, as a barbarous jargon, and intrusted his fame to those wretched Latin hexameters, which, during the last four centuries, have scarcely found four readers. Many eminent Romans appear to have felt the same contempt for their native tongue as compared with the Greek. The prejudice continued to a very late period. Julian was as partial to the Greek language as Fre derick the Great to the French; and it seems that he could not express himself with elegance in the dialect of the state which he ruled.

The spirit of the two most famous nations of antiquity was remarkably exclusive. In the time of Homer, the Greeks had not begun to consider themselves as a distinct race. They still looked with something of childish wonder and awe on the riches and wisdom of Sidon and Egypt. From what causes, and by what gradations, their feelings underwent a change, it is not easy to determine. Their history, from the Trojan to the Persian war, is covered with an obscurity broken only by dim and scattered gleams of truth. But it is certain that a great alteration took place. They regarded themselves as a separate people. They had common religious rites, and common principles of public law, in which foreigners had no part. In all their political systems, monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical, there was a strong family likeness. After the retreat of Xerxes Even those Latin writers, who did not carry and the fall of Mardonius, national pride ren- this affectation so far, looked on Greece as the dered the separation between the Greeks and only fount of knowledge. From Greece they the Barbarians complete. The conquerors con- derive the measures of their poetry, and indeed, sidered themselves men of a superior breed, all of poetry that can be imported. From men who, in their intercourse with neighbour- Greece they borrowed the principles and the ing nations, were to teach, and not to learn. vocabulary of their philosophy. To the litera They looked for nothing out of themselves. ture of other nations they do not seem to have They borrowed nothing. They translated no-paid the slightest attention. The sacred books thing. We cannot call to mind a single ex- of the Hebrews, for example, books which, conpression of any Greek writer earlier than the sidered merely as human compositions, are inage of Augustus, indicating an opinion that valuable to the critic, the antiquary, and the any thing worth reading could be written in philosopher, seem to have been utterly unno. any language except his own. The feelings ticed by them. The peculiarities of Judaism, which sprung from national glory were not and the rapid growth of Christianity, attracted altogether extinguished by national degrada- their notice. They made war against the Jews. tion. They were fondly cherished through They made laws against the Christians. But ages of slavery and shame. The literature of they never opened the books of Moses. JuveRome herself was regarded with contempt by nal quotes the Pentateuch with censure. The those who had fled before her arms, and who author of the treatise on the "Sublime" quotes bowed beneath her fasces. Voltaire says, in it with praise: but both of them quote it erro one of his six thousand pamphlets, that he was neously. When we consider what sublime the first person who told the French that Eng- poetry, what curious history, what striking and land had produced eminent men besides the peculiar views of the divine nature, and of the Duke of Marlborough. Down to a very late social duties of men, are to be found in the period, the Greeks seem to have stood in need Jewish Scriptures; when we consider the two of similar information with respect to their sects on which the attention of the government masters. With Paulus Æmilius, Sylla, and was constantly fixed, appealed to those ScripCaesar, they were well acquainted. But the tures as the rule of their faith and practice, notions which they entertained respecting Ci- this indifference is astonishing. The fact cero and Virgil were, probably, not unlike seems to be, that the Greeks admired only themF

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