Imágenes de páginas

recently-adopted profession with so out in a spirit of most bitter and cutting much disgust, yet we are inclined to irony, and which in form Swift has think that its discipline had already imitated with such signal success in been of essential service to him. his “ Directions to Servants," he shows

No one of the writers of the iron age up the charlatanry of this class of approaches him in the skill with which literary functionaries with too much he seizes the weak point of an antago- naturalness and graphic power to be nist's argument, and presses it by fair far from the truth. “What therefore debate into every possible service which you must in the first place bring with can be available to his own case. He you are, ignorance and audacity, with seldom if ever states his antagonist's a good proportion of presumption and position unfairly for the sake of an argu- impudence; but you will do ment, though frequently to make it more leave decency, modesty, and bashfulridiculous; but once having seized his ness at home, as they are not only perpremises he never loses sight of them. fectly useless, but would even prove With a directness and a pertinacity prejudicial. Get, however, a good stenwhich almost awakens our sympathy torian pair of lungs, and a confident for his adversary, he forces him along declamatory tone, and a gait and gesuntil he has reduced both him and his ture like mine: these properties are inargument to the most hopeless absurd- dispensably necessary, but these alone ity; for with Lucian they both usually are not sufficient. You must strike have to expiate their errors together. the eye by the elegance of your dress. His “ Hermotimus" and his “ Con- Provide yourself, therefore, a habit of victed Jupiter" are masterly exhibi- the finest Tarentine stuff, white, and tions of dialectic sagacity and vigor. gaily embroidered, and have handsome The absence of all evidence that Lu- Attic slippers, such as the ladies wear, cian possessed either a philosophical or Sicyonian shoes, which suit admiraor an investigating mind, compels us bly with white stockings. Next you to think that his superior dexterity in must get by rote fifteen or at most debate was chiefly the result of his twenty Attic phrases of all descripeducation. He certainly had been ex- tions, and render them so fluent to you posed to no educational influences bet- that they shall regularly slip off your ter adapted to such ends than the tongue of themselves. With these gymnastics of the Roman bar.

bestrew all your speeches as with Having now abandoned the profes- sugar, and never mind if the rest of sion of an advocate, for which he en- your words suit well or ill with them, tertained so little sympathy, he devoted or what effect they have upon the senhimself chiefly to the profession of a tence in which you introduce them. rhetor, or sophist-travelled about in If the purple gown be extremely fine Greece, Italy, and Gaul, and, perhaps, and of a fine color, the rest may be of in Spain. In Gaul he established a ever so coarse a cloih. large school of rhetoric, and was so “In the next place, you must take successful as to secure for himself, especial care to employ a great pro while there, a pecuniary independence, fusion of unintelligible, upprecedented which enabled him to withdraw from words, seldom appearing in the anall professional avocations, and devote cients; for that gives you consequence himself exclusively to literature, an with the great mass-causes them to opportunity of which he was prompt regard you as a man of immense study, to avail himself. For the sophists he and learned above their comprehension. appears to have entertained far deeper You may perhaps occasionally venture contempt than for the lawyers, al. to surprise them with strange and though their professional education quite new words of your own in ven. and duties were of so kindred a nature. tion; and should it happen to you from

To him they appeared, as a class, a time to time to commit solecisms and set of vulgar, presuming, and ignorant barbarisms, you have an infallible recharlatans, who, if they had not been source in impudence, and may name dishonest enough to be sycophants, some poet or prose writer for your would have been ostracised for their authority though he never existed, who conceit.

was a profound scholar and an excelIn his “School for Orators,” which lent judge of language, and approved is a letter of advice conceived through- of this mode of expression. Should a case occur in which you are to speak was the form of expression, not the on a given subject upon the spur of the thought expressed, upon which the occasion, put aside the difficult propo- speakers relied for awakening the insitions with disdain as too easy and terest of their hearers. Hence a perschoolboyish, and then begin without petual demand for startling phrases, premeditation, and run with your dis- and forms of expression, for musically course, speaking whatever comes into balanced periods and expressions, withyour head, careless whether you pro- out any of that nervous energy which ceed from first to second, as the pedants springs only from a mind in earnest do, and so on to the third, severally in and anxious to convince. Hence, too, a their order; but what comes up is with fatiguing sameness both in the outline you the first, though the boot light on and the filling up of these exercises. the head and the helmet on the leg. They are usually wrought upon some Do you always rush on, make one model which has become the fashion. word strike upon another; so that none They are filled up like a law pleading, of them stick in the middle, all goes from precedents, and altogether destiwell. Suppose you are to speak at tute of that abandon on the part of the Athens about some robber or adulterer, artist which indicates earnestness, and do you speak of what is done in India which is the invariable accompaniment or Ecbatana, but above all forget not of true eloquence. Lucian ridicules the battle of Marathon and Cynæzius, this vice of the Sophists very happily without which nothing at all is to be in his Jupiter Tragedus. Jupiter is effected. Sail likewise round about about to open a public assembly, when Mount Athos, and cross the Hellespont he suddenly discovers that he has foron foot. Let the sun be darkened by gotten a very fine exordium which he the arrows of the Persians. Let Xerxes had prepared for his speech. In the be put iv flight, and Leonidas be the he extrémity of embarrassment, he asks ro. Let the letter be read which Ouiry- Mercury how it would do to rhapsodize rades wrote with his blood, and Salamis, to them the old Homeric Exordium: Artemisium, and Platæa, be bravely blazoned forth; the thicker these come “Mercury. Which? upon each other the better.” This is "Jupiter. “Hear me, all ye gods, and doubtless caricatured, but "a character, eke ye goddesses all.' even in the most distorted view taken

Mercury. Pshaw! you have so often of it by the most angry and prejudiced

chaunted that of old that we are surseited

of it. minds, generally retains something of its

But if you will take my advice,

let alone the jingling of syllables, and life. “No caricaturist ever represent

put together somewhat from one of the ed Mr. Pitt as a Falstaff, or Mr. Fox harangues of Demosthenes against Philip, as a skeleton."

with some slight alterations. It is the We have nothing in modern litera- common practice of most of our modern ture which will compare exactly with orators." the rhetorical exercises of the ancient Sophists. Our industrial classes in li- Jupiter approves of the advice, and terature, as in all other occupations, proceeds accordingly. aim at the advancement of some prac. This absence of all originality, this tical interest, to make out some point, sterile exuberance of words, could to which the skill of the artist is only only have been aggravated by the sinan auxiliary, otherwise they command gular insignificance of the topics which the attention of a very limited class. such a style was required to clothe and The Rhetors, on the other hand, wrote adorn; undiscriminating panegyric or and spoke, not to prove any case, nor abuse formed the burden of these dis"as they needed anything," but mere- courses. Lucian confesses himself tired ly to display the capabilities of their of " complaining in empty declamaart. Where the demand of society tions against tyrants and praising hewould sustain such a species of literary roes,Ӵ as if that were the chief occuindustry, we may readily conceive the pation of his craft. Probably Seneca character of the article produced. It would be as little inclined to trifle as

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

any of the rhetors of the empire; yet ever, we will dispose of the few rewe are continually encountering in his maining incidents in the life of Lucian 6 suasoriæ" and "controversia," ques. which history has preserved. tions in which he could never have We are told that he married, and taken other than a coquettish sort of had one son, and was made a Prefect in interest. For example. Ought Alex- Egypt, at an advanced period of his ander to have prosecuted his conquests life, by the Emperor Marcus Antoniby sea ? Ought the three hundred nus. About all we know of his occuGreeks to have fought when deserted pation while there, and during the reby their comrades? Should Cicero mainder of his life, we gather from his have begged his life of Antony ? own writings. “For if you please to Should Hannibal after the battle of inquire into it, you will find that not Cannæ have marched directly to Rome? the least considerable part of the gove &c., &c. What amount of refreshment ernment of Egypt is in my hands, as the audience might have derived from I am appointed to preside over and rediscussions of imaginary theses such gulate the several courts of judicature, as these, it is difficult for us at the and to provide that all the legal propresent day to estimate; but under ceedings are conducted in due orderany view of the matter, we cannot to register whatever is said or transthink otherwise than meanly of the acted, to arrange the speeches of the mental culture and aspirations of those lawyers, and, above all, to preserve who found in them permanent sources the rescripts of the Emperor in their of amusement and occupation-doubt- utmost exactitnde and perspicuity, with less fil audience, however, for such in the most sacred and inviolable fidelity, struction. Both parties richly deserved and deposit them in the public archives, the sarcasm which the philosopher for posterity to the end of time. MoreDemonax applied to a pair of dunces over, I receive my salary, not from a standing in a somewhat similar rela- private individual, but from the Empe tion to each other:"One of these ror himself; neither does it consist in honest men," said the philosopher, such and such a number of oboli and " appears to be milking a he-goat, drachmæ by the year, but amounts to while the other is holding a sieve for several talents. Besides, I have no him."

small hope, if things go on in a regular The success of Lucian as a rhetor channel, as they ought, to be elected was very distinguished. The best governor-general of the province, or to exercises of this kind which he has obtain some other post of equal proleft us, and which he seems to have mise." Probably things did not go on selected himself from a mass of similar as they ought, as this announcement is compositions most deserving preserva- the latest act of his life which history tion, are the Tyrannicide," the “Dis- has recorded. inherited Son," and the “ First and As near as we can judge Lucian was Second Phalaris.” They are not desti- about forty years of age when he retuie of the wit and fancy which dis- linquished the profession of a rhetoritinguish his other writings, while they cian, and devoted himself exclusively abound in those lesser graces of diction to the cultivation and indulgence of his and melody which gave this class of literary tastes. Hitherto he had made writing its chief attraction to the an- use of prevailing opinions and institucient Greeks.

tions as a means of support. HenceBut it is not Lucian the sophist, nor forth history commends him to our Lucian the lawyer, nor Lucian the sta- consideration as an innovator. To ar tuary, that we propose here to study preciate him properly in this new attiand interpret. It is the approaching tude, it is necessary to take a view of phase of his career, when, in the full the society which he was to move so maturity of his intellect and the pleni- powerfully, and select the point in tude of his experience, he boldly ad- that social system upon which this re dressed himself to the task of exposing former, sunlike, should have stationed the social absurdities and errors of his himself, at the time of which we speak, age, in defiance of the veneration and to radiate the agents of decomposition sanctity with which time and author- most effectually upon the errors and ity had invested them. Before enter- vices of the existing institutions. imre upon that part of his career, how- Every nation, while in a state of

formative or organizing civilisation, empire of the world at public auction
has its ideal. To realize this ideal is its to a wealthy and infatuated blockhead.
chiefend and purpose-the burden of its An equally fatal termination awaited
aspirations. In whatsoever nation this the favorite schools of philosophy,
ideal is not aspired to, we may con- which for so long a time had deluded
clude that its institutions are in a state with their absurdities the wisest phi-
of decomposition. Their purpose, losophers and statesmen of the repub-
the element of their vitality, is gone. lic. The military spirit expired when
Decay takes possession of a deceased no more unconquered nations could be
institution, with as little hesitation as found to gratify its insatiable appetite.
of a dead beast of the field. The Ro- A military spirit, like fruit, the day it
mans had found their ideal in war, re- ceases to grow, that day it begins to
ligion, and philosophy. The Roman corrupt. Even so the mission of the
law, probably their greatest national old philosophies had been fulfilled:
originality, and which constitutes one their work was accomplished, and nei-
of their most permanent claims to our ther the genius of Lucretius nor the
admiration, presented no ideal attrac- imperial encouragement of the Anto-
tions to the mass of the nation beyond nines could prolong their dominion.
the element of stoical philosophy, The reason, we think, may be readily
which was present at its birth, and shown.
which presided over its growth and At the time of which we speak the
invigorated its character. Their law, Epicurean and Stoic philosophies were
therefore, never formed an ideal to the by far the most popular and acceptable
Romans distinct frorn their philosophy. systems then known throughout the
It is hardly too much to say that at the civilized world. Almost all the power-
commencement of the reign of the Em- ful and influential men of the time
peror Adrian, the Roman people had who affected philosophy at all, had
achieved every result which was to ranged themselves under one of these
have been expected, with their mate- sects. And it may be added that the
rials, in war, in religion and philo- other systems, whose influence had ei-
sophy. The energies of all these ther expired or was for a time suspend-
three powers had been exhausted, ed, contained many of the elements of
as, we think, can be readily made to finality and dissolution which were

found incompatible with perpetuity in
For upwards of two centuries the ci- the two we have mentioned.
vilized world had enjoyed almost unin It is quite obvious that the first of
terrupted peace. The Roman was no these, the Epicurean philosophy, had
longer a conquering nation, except in no chance of maintaining a permanent
vindication of national dignity. The dominion over the minds of a people
Emperor Adrian not only declined to who were ready to appreciate the lof-
enlarge the territory of the empire, but tier ethics of the Christian dispensa-
perilled his reputation by voluntarily tion. The negation of a future life,
relinquishing many of the military ac- the absence of future accountability,
quisitions of his ambitious predecessors, and the grossest practical selfishness,
Foreigners, and even slaves, were fast can never maintain, as a scheme of
filling the ranks, and engrossing the life, even a speculative confidence for
faded honors which once attracted the any length of time. The selfishness
proudest and the bravest of the Roman of Epicurus was by no means the en-
nobility. That famous soldiery, then lightened self-interest of Bentham or
but recently so terrible among na- of Paley ; " sensibus ipsis judicari vo-
tions, had exchanged the profession luptates," was his creed.* He never
of the soldier for that of the dema- pretended that the observance of the
gogue; were dictating laws to a true interest of each would result in
Roman Senate; raising up and pulling the true interest of all. He contem-
down Emperors with as little ceremo. plated a collision of interests, and justi-
ny as they would change a guard; and fied it. The moment that point was
soon were to crown their mercenary assumed the existence of right and
career of insubordination by selling the wrong as entities was denied. The

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

• Cicero, de Fin. Lib. II.

conscience would be guided in different and to praise them when they are read, men by codes of law as different as but very far from being convinced by the circumstances by which they found them; therefore what is said of the Lathemselves respectively surrounded. cedemonians, lions at home, foxes at A practical adherence to the logical Ephesus,' may be applied to us, lions consequences of this theory would in the school, but foxes out of it,'"* effectually prevent the harmonizing of There are some afflictions to which the motives among men, and must inevits stoutest heart must yield, and so the ably result in the dissolution of all so Stoic found. The pain would someciety. We would not be understood times bear so hard that even the firmto intimate that the Epicureans were est mind could not maintain its indeall abandoned men. On the contrary, pendence. Then what was their rethat school has been illustrated by source ? Suicide, in itself a practical some of the wisest, purest, bravest men refutation of their philosophy: this was in history, not through, but rather the only refuge which Zeno, the great in spite of their philosophy. They doctor of their system, could find from were not all like Aristippus, but the pains of a broken thumb. He their principles were liable to make thought it wiser, and so taught his disthem even worse. We should no ciples, to destroy himself than 10 atmore judge of the practical operation tempt to mitigate the calamities of of the selfish philosophy by the per- life. “You may live now, if you sonal character of Epicurus, than of the please,” says Marcus Antoninus, as influence of absolute power on its pos- you would choose if you were near sessors from the behavior of Marcus dying. But suppose people will not Aurelius or Haroun al Raschid.

let you, why then give life the slip, The Stoic philosophy, though less but by no means make a misforoffensive to the moral sense, was tune of it. If the room smokes, equally incompetent to marshal with I leave it, and there is an end; success the varied and mysterious for- for why should one be concerned at ces of the human soul. Its obstinate the matter?" Seneca parades his estiantagonism to nature was alone fatal mation of the privilege of suicide, and to its perpetuity. Pain and pleasure nowhere does he display a more ade were but diseases of the mind, not to quate utterance of strong enthusiasm be prevented by removing the cause, than in describing the desperate act but to be endured. Epictetus sums up by which Cato terminated his career. their whole system in three words With equal perverseness did this phi« ave you kat are you” (bear and forbear). losophy refuse all sympathy for the Abstinence, resistance, patience, were sufferings of others, A Stoic detected their cardinal virtues, for the exercise indulging an emotion of pity would of which they avoided no opportunity, blush as quickly as if caught in the act not because by these virtues they were of stealing. Any kind of weakness was enabled to bear up with less pain a crime. Endurance was the law. against the necessary ills of life, but as But in this law where do we look for a process of educating their senses into the impulses to action and improvea perfect indifference to all pain or misa ment? Where are the motives to fortune, their ideal state of humanity. discover or invent methods of increasEpictetus, while yet a slave, permits ing the comforts of men, of assuaging his master, who was trifling with pain, of increasing our powers over the him one day, 10 twist his leg until physical universe, of improving our he broke it, rather than complain. heart or cultivating our understanding? But every one has not, like Epictetus, The leading Stoics were always enthe fortitude to endure the breaking of gaged, more or less, in public life, yet a limb with composure. Such an out- what have they done? What great rageous warfare upon the laws of na- instances of devotion to humanity have ture, beside that it is full of error, is they ever exhibited ? What great his perfectly intolerable, as Epictetus him- toric achievement have they ever acself substantially admits." " Alas! we complished ? What durable instituare able to read and write these things, tions have they ever established?

* Discourses of Epictetus, book iv.

« AnteriorContinuar »