Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

I read and re-read the leading cases that bore upon the question to be argued. One case I so bethumbed, that the volume has opened at it ever since, as inevitably as the prayer-book of a lady's-maid proffers the service of matrimony. My brief related to an argument before the judges of the King's Bench, and the place of consultation was Ayles's Coffee-house, adjoining Westminster Hall. There was I, before the clock had finished striking the hour. My brief I knew by heart. I had raised an army of objections to the points for which we were to contend, and had logically slain every man of them. I went prepared to discuss the question thoroughly; and I generously determined to give my leaders the benefit of all my cogitations--though not without a slight struggle at the thought of how much reputation I should lose by my magnanimity. I had plenty of time to think of these things, for my leaders were engaged in court, and the attorney and I had the room to ourselves. After we had been waiting about an hour, the door flew open, and in strode one of my leaders, the second in command, less in haste (as it appeared to me) to meet his appointment than to escape from the atmosphere of clients in which he had been enveloped during his passage from the court-- just as the horseman pushes his steed into a gallop, to rid himself of the flies that are buzzing around him. Having shaken off his tormentors, Mr. walked up to the fire-said it was cold---nodded kindly to me—and had just asked what had been the last night's division in the house, when the powdered head of an usher was protruded through the half open door, to announce that " Jones and Williams was called on.”

Down went the poker, and away flew with streaming robes, leaving me to meditate on the loss which the case would sustain for want of his assistance at the expected discussion. Having waited some further space, I heard a rustling of silks, and the great

our commander in chief, sailed into the room. As he did not run foul of me, I think it possible I may not have been invisible to him; but he furnished me with no other evidence of the fact. He simply directed the attorney to provide certain additional affidavits, tacked about, and sailed away. And thus ended first consultation.

I consoled myself with the thought that I had at least all my materials for myself, and that, from having had so much more time for considering the subject than the others, I must infallibly make the best speech of the three.

At length, the fatal day came. I never shall forget the thrill with which I heard

open the case, and felt how soon it would be my turn to speak. Oh, how did I pray for a long speech! I lost all feeling of rivalry ; and would have VOL. I. PART II.

U

gladly given him every thing that I intended to use myself, only to defer the dreaded moment for one half hour. His speech was frightfully short, yet, short as it was, it made sad havoc with my stock of matter. The next speaker was even more concise, and yet, my little stock suffered again severely. I then found how experience will stand in the place of study; these men could not, from the multiplicity of their engagements, have spent a tithe of the time upon the case which I had done, and yet, they had seen much which had escaped all my research. At length, my turn came. I was sitting among the back rows in the old court of King's Bench. It was on the last day of Michaelmas Term and late in the evening. A sort of darkness visible had been produced by the aid of a few candles dispersed here and there. I arose, but I was not perceived by the judges who had turned together to consult, supposing the argument finished. B was the first to see me, and I received from him a nod of kindness and encouragement, which I hope I never shall forget. The court was crowded, for it was a question of some interest ; it was a dreadful moment; the ushers stilled the audience into an awful silence. I began, and at the sound of an unknown voice, every wig of the white inclined plane at the upper end of which I was standing suddenly turned round, and in an instant I had the eyes of seventy learned friends' looking me full in the face ! It is hardly to be conceived by those who have not gone through the ordeal how terrific is this mute attention to the object of it. How grateful should I have been for any thing which would have relieved me from its oppressive weight,-a buzz, a scraping of the shoes, or a fit of coughing would have put me under infinite obligation to the kind disturber. What I said I know not; I knew not then; it is the only part of the transaction of which I am ignorant; it was a phantasma or hideous dream.' They told me, however, to my great surprise, that I spoke in a loud voice, used violent gesture, and as I went along seemed to shake off my trepidation. Whether I made a long speech or a short one I cannot tell, for I had no power of measuring time. All I know is, that I should have made a much longer one if I had not felt my ideas, like Bob Acres' courage, oozing out of my fingers' ends. The court decided against us, erroneously as I of course thought, for the young advocate is always on the right side.

The next morning I got up early to look at the newspapers which I expected to see full of our case. In an obscure corner and in a small type, I found a few words given as the speeches of my leaders—and I also read, that “ Mr. - followed on the same side."

W. P.

ON THE PASTORAL ROMANCE OF LONGUS.

In the second number of The Liberal appeared some remarks upon the pastoral romance of Longus. Now, without bringing heavier charges against the writer, we may fairly say, that he has by no means precluded other critics from entering on the same subject. He has justly commended Longus, because, with the honesty of antiquity, having undertaken to write of Daphnis and Chloe, he has kept faith, and has ac. tually written of them, and of them only. But he has thought, apparently, that the same laws were not made for authors and reviewers; for he introduces his criticisms with remarks on. omens, rats literal, rats metaphorical, elections, and taxation; and at last arrives, through Greek, at the portrait of “a great Grecian;" which, if it be taken most charitably for what it professes to be, a general character, is full of silliness and prejudice and wilful misrepresentation : then, at intervals, we are presented with the struggle of the Greeks and Turks, flippant sneers at learned men, Mr. Jones's Grammar of the Greek Tongue on a New Plan, the misdemeanors of the Quarterly Review, the influence of periodical literature, the celibacy of the primitive Christians, Minucius Felix, and Lord Londonderry; with some abuse, first of bishops, then of those who are commonly called the great and good, and, finally, of protestant dissenters.

It is not surprising, therefore, if the critic at last leaves the reader without an adequate notion of the author about whom he has been talking. He indeed admires, as it deserves, the simplicity and natural manner of Longus; he has communicated in an entertaining way considerable information on the earlier editions of his Pastoral; and he has given a translation of one of the most beautiful passages of the work, which, though not perfectly correct, has in general the high excellence of being at once literal and elegant. But this passage unfortunately is an allegorical episode, and of the work itself we have no specimen. We trust, therefore, that our readers, whether learned or unlearned, will not blame us for offering to their notice some other portions of this classical romance. We have an additional inducement to make the attempt, because to a great part of our public, to those at least whom we most highly honour and are most studious to gratify, the book itself must, in all languages, remain a sealed volume. Dr. Heavyhit, if he has forgotten his Greek, may read, when he pleases, the English Longus of George Thornley, published in 1657; or that of Craggs in 1764, or that of Mr. Le Grice in the present century. Sir Geoffrey has a curious French library;

[ocr errors]

but even Lady Mary, though “ high she soars the blue profound," must not open Amyot's translation of 1559, nor that of Pierre de Marcassus in 1626; and Vyvyan Joyeuse must not think of lending her the Italian version of Gozi, though it stands so prettily bound upon his book-shelves, lettered with its date " Venezia, 1766," and emblazoned in all the pomp of gilding with the pastoral crook and syrinx.

In simple truth there are some passages of the work which we can scarcely undertake to defend, even against the severe animadversions of the Bishop of Avranches* : yet there are many parts so exquisitely beautiful, that we are anxious that all who have a relish for vivid description, and for grace and naïveté in the narration of incidents and conversation, should enjoy them uncontaminated by any impure admixture. In those who are familiar with the classical authors of antiquity, it would be a foolish affectation to pretend to shrink from the perusal of the not more licentious sophist; and to them, notwithstanding the Dissertation of Julius Nigronius, “ De lectione librorum amatoriorum junioribus maximè vitandâ,” we would recommend The Loves of Daphnis and Chloe, not only as imbued with all the mingled homeliness and sweetness of Theocritus, but as a specimen of the simplest and most ele. gant Greek that could be elaborated by learning and taste in the later ages of the Roman empire. Let not the zealots for the golden age of that most golden language be startled at this criticism ; for, even if it should be thought that Columbanius was influenced by a species of parental partiality, when, in the preface to the first edition of Longus, he spoke of the pleasure which himself and his friends (and amongst them Fulvius Ursinus) had received from his purity and elegance, Muretus and Scaliger are behind, who bear the highest testimony to the beauty of his stylef. Where the Dî Superi of learning have praised, “ego homuncio hoc non facerem ?" Surely here is authority enough for those who are determined by authority; and to those who judge by their own taste we may safely leave Longus to plead his own cause.

The work of Longus is a pastoral romance, the earliest example extant of that sort of writing; and all who have done the good work of reading the Arcadia, or tried to enjoy a laborious laugh over the Extravagant Shepherd, may hold themselves indebted to its author. A narrative of this kind is

* Il faut estre un peu Cynique pour le lire sans rougir.-Huet. Lettre sur l'Origine des Romans.

•4 Non solus autem politissimus Muretus Longi, quo ne Athenas quidem ipsas magis credo fuisse atticas, et cujus sermonem ipsæ Gratize videntur finxisse, reneres prædicavit ; sed etiam multi alii elegantissimi viri, peritissimi elegantire arbitri et æstimatores, in hoc consensere. Sic Politianus, &C.-Villoison, Prolegomena, p. 11.

perhaps the best shape in which the adventures and discourses of shepherds and shepherdesses can be conveyed.

Each separate scene, told in prose, admits of more detail and more variety, and, what is of more importance, of a closer adherence to nature, than in the poetic eclogue. Over the pastoral drama it has still clearer advantages. The conversation of shepherds may, for a short time, be rendered amusing or pathetic by its simplicity ; but in five acts it is very likely to become dull, or to decline into sentiment and philosophy. Nor are the adventures of shepherds in general better fitted for the drama. In the Aminta of Tasso almost all the incidents of the story occur behind the scenes, and are made known by narration. Such narration is essentially undramatic; and description of natural objects is in general still more alien from this form of composition : but the writer of an Arcadian romance may narrate or describe at his pleasure ; and his rustics may meet and talk for a few minutes as simple rustics, for he is not compelled to bestow upon us all the tediousness of an interminable dialogue.

The loves of Daphnis and Chloe are indeed among the earliest specimens of fictitious prose narrative of any sort. In this age and land of circulating libraries, when the Minerva Press is incessantly at work for their supply; when every young author is a reviewer or a novelist; when those, who three hundred years ago would have indited grave folios of history and antiquities, pour forth the exuberance of their knowledge around a hero and heroine in three volumes of post octavo ; when at the domesticevening table the urn is almost invariably succeeded by the Romance or the Tale; when no inconsiderable portion of the annual happiness of every reading individual is furnished by the fecundity of the Desdichado ; when to our children, all instruction, whether in morality or multiplication, is conveyed in the form of story; the first inventors and authors of these fascinating fictions ought to be regarded with peculiar reverence and affection. For the indulgence of this honest enthusiasm in our readers, and by no means from a selfish regard to our own gratification, we have perused several learned works, the Dissertation of Huet, Paulli Mariæ Paciaudi Proloquium de Libris Eroticis Antiquorum, and Mr. Dunlop's erudite History of Fiction; and what we have drawn from these sources we will lay before them in a short compass.

The universal passion of the oriental nations for fictitious narratives is well known ; and there is every reason to believe that it existed from the earliest ages of their literature. From them this style of composition appears to have travelled westward to the Ionian Greeks, and thence to have been adopted by Grecian and Latin writers, and transmitted to modern

« AnteriorContinuar »