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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, in every country and in every age, have been the triumphs of Athens. Wherever a few great minds have made a stand against violence and fraud, in the cause of liberty and reason, there has been her spirit in the midst of them; inspiring, encouraging, consoling;— by the lonely lamp of Erasmus; by the restless bed of Pascal; in the tribune of Mirabeau; in the cell of Galileo; on the scaffold of Sidney. But who shall estimate her influence on private happiness? Who shall say how many thousands have been made wiser, happier, and better, by those pursuits in which she has taught mankind to engage; to how many the studies which took their rise from her have been wealth in poverty,--liberty in bondage, health in sickness,-society in solitude. Her power is indeed manifested at the bar; in the senate; in the field of battle; in the schools of philosophy. But these are not her glory. Wherever literature consoles sorrow, or assuages pain,-wherever it brings gladness to eyes which fail with wakefulness and tears, and ache for the dark house and the long sleep, -there is exhibited, in its noblest form, the immortal influence of Athens.
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
no exaggeration to say, that no external advantage is to be compared with that purification of the intellectual eye, which gives us to contemplate the infinite wealth of the mental world; all the hoarded treasures of the pri meval dynasties, all the shapeless ore of its yet unexplored mines. This is the gift of Athens to man. Her freedom and her power have for more than twenty centuries been annihilated; her people have degenerated into timid slaves; her language into a barbarous jargon; her temples have been given up to the successive depredations of Romans,Turks, and Scotchmen; but her intellectual empire is imperishable. And, when those who have rivalled her greatness shall have shared her fate: when civilization and knowledge shall have fixed their abode in distant continents; when the sceptre shall have passed away from England; when, perhaps, travellers from distant regions shall in vain labour to decipher on some mouldering pedestal the name of our proudest chief; shall hear savage hymns chanted to some misshapen idol over the ruined dome of our proudest temple: and shall see a single naked fisherman wash his nets in the river of 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 derived their origin, and over which they exer| cise their control.
END OF VOL. IIL
ON THE ATHENIAN ORATORS.
To the famous orators repair,
Those ancient, whose resistless eloquence
Shook the arsenal, and thundered over Greece
To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne.
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 literaciated 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 the veneration with which they are regarded, that even the editors and commentators, who perform the lowest menial offices to their memory, are considered, like the equerries and With all his deficiencies Aristotle was the chamberlains of sovereign princes, as entitled most enlightened and profound critic of antito a high rank in the table of literary prece-quity. Dionysius was far from possessing the dence. It is, therefore, somewhat singular that their productions should so rarely have been examined on just and philosophical principles of criticism.
would be as unreasonable as the demand of Nebuchadnezzar, who expected his magicians first to tell him his dream, and then to interpret it.
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 oraand 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 instance; the doctrine which he established, that poetry is an imitative art, when justly understood is to the critic what the compass is to the navigator. With it he may venture upon the most extensive excursions. Without it he must creep cautiously along the coast, or lose himself in a trackless expanse, and trust, at best, to the guidance of an occasional star. It is a discovery which changes a caprice into a
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
with which his oratorical powers are made subservient to the purposes of poetry. Nor can I think Quintilian a great critic in his own province. Just as are many of his remarks, beautiful as are many of his illustrations, we can perpetually detect in his thoughts that flavour which the soil of despotism generally communicates to all the fruits of genius. Eloquence was, in his time, little more than a condiment which served to stimulate in a des 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 'han of 20
the direction and vigour of the thrust. It must ¡ French Anas a ludicrous instance of this. A 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.
scholar, doubtless of great learning, recommends 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. In our own country it has been discussed with great ability, and, I think, with very little success, by Burke and Dugald Stewart. Longinus dispenses himself from all investigations of this nature, by telling his friend Terentianus that he already knows every thing that can be said upon the question. It is to be regretted that Terentianus did not impart some of his knowledge to his instructor, for from Longinus we learn only that sublimity means height -or elevation. This name, so commodiously vague, is applied indifferently to the noble prayer of Ajax in the Iliad, and to a passage of Plato about the human body, as full of conceits as an ode of Cowley. Having no fixed standard, Longinus is right only by accident. He is rather a fancier than a critic.
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 sensibility of those who follow them with extreme assiduity. A powerful mind which has been long employed in such studies, may be compared to the gigantic spirit in the Arabian tale, who was persuaded to contract himself to small dimensions in order to enter within the enchanted vessel, and, when his prison had been closed upon him, found himself unable to escape from the narrow boundaries to the measure 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 λόγων εστι τα ύψη.
Of those scholars who have disdained tc confine themselves to verbal criticism, few have been successful. The ancient languages have, generally, a magical influence on their faculties. They were "fools called into a circle by Greek invocations." The Iliad and Eneid were to them not books, but curiosities, or rather relics. They no more admired those works for their merits, than a good Catholic venerates the house of the Virgin at Loretto for its architecture. Whatever was classical was good. Homer was a great poet, and so was Callimachus. The epistles of Cicero were fine, and so were those of Phalaris. Even with respect to questions of evidence, they fell into the same error. The authority of all narrations, written in Greek or Latin, was the same with 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 veracious historian than Polybius,-or that Plutarch could know less about the friends of Xenophon 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 persons who live in India are neighbours, and ask an inhabitant of Bombay about the health of an acquaintance at Calcutta. It is to be hoped that no barbarian deluge will ever again pass over Europe. But should such a calamity happen, it seems not improbable that some future Rollin or Gillies will compile a history of England from Miss Porter's Scottish Chiefs, Miss Lee's Recess, and Sir Nathaniel Wraxall's Memoirs.
It is surely time that aneient literature should be examined in a different manner, without pedantical prepossessions, but with a just allowance, at the same time, 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 remarks 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 sustebut 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 confounded their general nature with their particular circumstances. He knew London intimately. The sagacity of his remarks on its society is perfectly astonishing. But Fleet Street was the world to him. He saw that Londoners who did not read were profoundly ignorant, and he inferred that a Greek who had few or no books must have been as uninformed as one of Mr. Thrale's draymen.
many of his sons.* We enter the public place; there is a ring of youths, all leaning forward, with sparkling eyes, and gestures of expectation. Socrates is pitted against the famous Atheist, from Ionia, and has just brought him to a contradiction in terms. But we are interrupted. The herald is crying-" Room for the Prytanes." The general assembly is to meet. The people are swarming in on every 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.
Knowledge thus acquired, and opinions thus formed, were, indeed, likely to be, in some respects, defective. Propositions, which are advanced in discourse, generally result from a
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 upon whose voice might depend the fate of the wealthiest tributary state, of the most eminent public man. The lowest offices, both of agriculture and of trade, were in common per-partial view of the question, and cannot be formed by slaves. The commonwealth supplied its meanest members with the support of life, the opportunity of leisure, and the means of amusement. Books were, indeed, few, but they were excellent, and they were accurately known. It is not by turning over libraries, but by repeatedly perusing and intently contemplating a few great models, that the mind is best disciplined. A man of letters must now read much that he soon forgets, and much from which he learns nothing worthy to be remembered. The best works employ, in general, but a small portion of his time. Demosthenes is said to have transcribed, six times, the History of Thucydides. If he had been a young politician of the present age, he might in the same space of time have skimmed innumerable newspapers and pamphlets. I do not condemn that desultory mode of study which the state of things in our day renders a matter of necessity. But I may be allowed to doubt whether the changes on which the admirers of modern institutions delight to dwell
kept under examination long enough to be corrected. Men of great conversational powers almost universally practise a sort of lively sophistry and exaggeration, which deceives, for the moment, both themselves and their auditors. Thus we see doctrines, which cannot bear a close inspection, triumph perpetually in drawing-rooms, in debating societies, and even in legislative or judicial assemblies. To the conversational education of the Athenians, I am inclined to attribute the great looseness of reasoning, which is remarkable in most of their scientific writings. Even the most illogical of modern writers would stand perfectly aghast at the puerile fallacies which seem to have deluded some of the greatest men of antiquity. Sir Thomas Lethbridge would stare at the political economy of Xenophon and the author of Soirées de Petersbourg wouid be ashamed of some of the metaphysical argu
* και κυσε χειρας, δεινας, ανδροφόνους, οι οι πολεας κτανον μιας
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.
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.
Oratory is to be estimated on principles different from those which are applied to other productions. Truth is the object of philosophy and history. Truth is the object even of those works which are peculiarly called works of fiction, but which, in fact, bear the same relation to history which algebra bears to arithmetic. The merit of poetry, in its wildest forms, still consists in its truth,-truth conveyed to the understanding, not directly by the words, but circuitously by means of imaginative associations, which serve as its conductors. The object of oratory alone is not truth, but persuasion. The admiration of the multitude does not make Moore a greater poet than Coleridge, or Beattie a greater philosopher than Berkeley. But the criterion of eloquence is different. A speaker, who exhausts the whole philosophy of a question, who displays every grace of style, yet produces no effect on his audience, may be a great essayist, a great statesman, a great master of composition, but he is not an orator. If he miss the mark, it makes no difference whether he have taken aim too high or too low.
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
was immediate conviction and persuasion. He, therefore, who would justly appreciate the merit of the Grecian orators, should place himself, as nearly as possible, in the situation of their auditors: he should divest himself of his modern feelings and acquirements, and make the prejudices and interests of the Athenian citizens his own. He who studies their works in this spirit will find that many of those things which, to an English reader, appear to be blemishes,--the frequent violation of those excellent rules of evidence, by which our courts of law are regulated,-the introduction of extraneous matter,--the reference to considerations of political expediency in judicial investigations,--the assertions, without proof, --the passionate entreaties,--the furious invectives,--are really proofs of the prudence and address of the speakers. He must not dwell maliciously on arguments or phrases, but acquiesce in his first impressions. It requires repeated perusal and reflection to decide rightly on any other portion of literature. But with respect to works of which the merit depends on their instantaneous effect, the most hasty judgment is likely to be best.
The history of eloquence at Athens is remarkable. From a very early period great speakers had flourished there. Pisistratus and Themistocles are said to have owed much of their influence to their talents for debate. W learn, with more certainty, that Pericles wa distinguished by extraordinary oratorical pow ers. The substance of some of his speeches i transmitted to us by Thucydides, and that ex cellent writer has doubtless faithfully reported the general line of his arguments. But the manner, which in oratory is of at least as much consequence as the matter, was of ne importance to his narration. It is evident that he has not attempted to preserve it. Through out his work, every speech on every subject, whatever may have been the character or the dialect of the speaker, is in exactly the same form. The grave King of Sparta, the furious demagogue of Athens, the general encouraging his army, the captive supplicating for his life, all are represented as speakers in one unvaried style,-a style moreover wholly unfit for oratorical purposes. His mode of reasoning is singularly elliptical,-in reality most consecutive, yet in appearance often incoherent. His meaning, in itself is sufficiently perplexing, is compressed into the fewest possible words. His great fondness for antithetical expression has not a little conduced to this effect. Every one must have observed how much more the sense is condensed in the verses of Pope and his imitators, who never ventured to continue the same clause from couplet to couplet, than in those of poets who allow themselves that license. Every artificial division, which is strongly marked, and which frequently recurs, has the same tendency. The natural and perspicuous expression which spontaneously rises to the mind, will often refuse to accommodate itself to such a form. It is necessary either to expand it into weakness, or to compress it into almost impenetrable density. The latter is generally the choice of an able man, and was assuredly the choice of Thucydides.