Imágenes de páginas

Palgrave and Mackintosh.

203 Sir F. Palgrave has already made excellent use of the discoveries which preceded the date of his English Commonwealth, in the chapter where he describes the condition of the country às a Roman province. His account of the Roman buildings is very striking, and some of our readers may be surprised at their size and duration. The country was replete with "the monuments of Roman magnificencé. Malmsbury ap

peals to those stately ruins as testimonies of the favour which Britain had enjoyed; the towers, the temples, the "theatres, and the baths, which yet remained undestroyed, ex

cited the wonder and admiration of the chronicler and the 'traveller ; and even in the fourteenth century, the edifices

raised by the Romans were so numerous and costly, as almost to excel any others on this side of the Alps. Nor were these structures amongst the least influential means of establishing 'the Roman power. Architecture, as cultivated by the ancients, "was not merely presented to the eye; the art spake also to 'the mind. The walls, covered with the decrees of the legis• lature, engraved on bronze or sculptured in the marble; the • triumphal arches, crowned by the statues of the princes who governed the province from the distant quirinal; the tesselated Hoor, pictured with the mythology of the State, whose sovereign was its pontiff; all contributed to act upon the feelings of the

people, and to impress them with respect and submission; the * conquered shared in the fame, and were exalted by the splen. dour of the victors.' Sir F. Palgrave is equally confident in his political conclusions ; ' As the fragments of the capital and

the mutilated cornice, enable us to judge that the forum of « Aquæ Solis,” was surrounded by edifices, erected according to the rules which were exemplified at Treves or Arles ; so with an equal degree of moral certainty, we are enabled to

reconstruct the fabric of the State, from vestiges of institustions, which formed part of a consistent and uniform plan.'

Sir James Mackintosh, however, in a calmer tone, if with less appropriate knowledge, warns us not to draw too wide an inference from the character of the buildings of the Romans in Britain, any more than from that of their military roads. · The Roman remains' (he says) (seem rather to in"dicate the luxury of the military stations, than any desire to | adorn their province by civil architecture. ... Roman cul'tivation was extended to it in a less degree than Spain or

Gaul. The writers of the latter province were respectable. • Those of the former, the most famous of their age. Roman * Britain did not produce a single literary name.' "The notion that the causidici Britanni might have made sufficient progress

to be taking their standard of eloquence from Roman Gaul, was only food for satire in the age of Juvenal. What benefits our ancestors may have derived at a later day from either Norman lawyers or the institutions and laws of Rome is a distinct question. It is probably true, that we are tasting the fruits at this day, of the imperial care in providing for the government and privileges of towns. · Thirty-three towns, or rather town• ships, were established in this island from Winchester to In6 verness, with various constitutions and stages of dignity... 6 and it cannot be doubted that the remembrance and remains of them, contributed to the formation or preservation of those

elective governments in towns, which were the foundations of • liberty among modern nations. When we remember that most of the barbaric conquerors of the west entrusted the preparation of their codes of law to Roman lawyers; and are reminded also, that Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne, born A.D. 639, had studied Roman law at York, and that there is a description of the same school by Alcuin, in 804, we surely may conclude, – that a system so universally popular was more widely studied in England at this early period, and must have had a more positive influence upon early English law, than our legal antiquaries have as yet had the industry or candour to identify. A pro• vince in which Papinian presided, must have been familiar

with Roman law.'

ART. VIII. – History of Greece. By GEORGE GROTE, Esq.

Vols. VII. and VIII. 1850. 8vo. M R. GROTE has only advanced two volumes since we last

spoke with him: but most readers, we think, will feel that the progress he has really made is very considerable. It is not that he has despatched a larger portion of time within the come compass : on the contrary, the narrative lengthens perceptibly as it proceeds, and the eighth volume, originally proposed as the limit of the whole work, terminates at a point which stands but little more than half way in the story as treated by its last exponent, Bishop Thirlwall. But the interest of a history is not to be measured by space of time: and the writer who has to follow Thucydides * at the distance of two

* Mr. Cobden, not many months since, talked to his hearers at the Manchester Athenæum about the whole of the bistorical works of • Thucydides. As he professed to weigh this voluminous cargo, in respect of its practical utility to an Englishman of the present day,


The Peloponnesian War.


thousand years, may be excused if his own necessities, no less than those of his subject, induce him to indulge in expansion. Mr. Grote's last livraison concluded with the first stage of the Peloponnesian War: the present publication conducts us through the remaining, and much more eventful part of that mighty struggle, down to the death of the man whose name is, more than that of any other, identified with it. Grecian history had now at length begun to acquire that fulness of political significance which renders it, in the prophetic language of its great eye-witness, a possession for all time. Previously to the age of Pericles its embodiment was more or less romantic, its reality a matter for abstract discussion and critical deduction, its most faithful contemporary record the prose epic of Herodotus, its best modern exposition works of a Niebuhrian character, where the story-teller is constantly obliged to merge himself in the essayist. After that date it assumes a real and life-like concreteness, as tangible now as it was during the acting of it; while a philosophical narrative is made possible not only by the credibility, but by the intrinsic nature of the events related, which are felt at once to belong to times akin to these latter days of our own. We are anxious to call attention in limine to the deep interest of the period, not merely for its own sake, but because we are not likely to recur to it at any length. Mr. Grote's subject is the Peloponnesian War: ours is not the Peloponnesian War, but Mr. Grote's History.

At first sight it may appear that where a history thus as it were relates itself, the praise of the historian must necessarily be diminished. Such an inference, however, would be as unfair in the light of a general remark, as it would be obviously untrue in the particular instance of the present work. Because a story is able to force itself on the attention in spite of its narrator, it by no means follows that it can gain nothing from the manner in which it is conveyed : while, on the other band, there will always be something unreal and unsatisfactory in the employment of high talent to glorify an uninteresting or unworthy subject. Mr. Grote complains, feelingly, in his Preface of the * insufficiency of written materials,' not only as compelling him 'to leave much of his picture an absolute blank,' but as 'greatly * spoiling the execution of the remainder :' and we can scarcely doubt that literary ambition, no less than personal convenience, would lead him to prefer his present task, where he has events

Pelampu Hirst sight is, the preference, howevould

against a single copy of the "Times,' it may be well to remind him that Thucydides has left us but one work, of no extraordinary bulk, and generally regarded as a model of condensation.

of pith and moment to describe, and excellent authorities to rely on, to any successes which he may have achieved earlier in the day by scrutinizing the Messenian wars, or discussing the institutions of Solon. We do not mean to say that he has now developed any peculiar power which he had been previously prevented from displaying. Feeling as we do that no writer of our times can better afford to dispense with inappropriate compliments, we do not claim for him any marked narrative ability, or assert, in common critical parlance, that his style improves as he goes on. He recounts the issue of the battle of Arginusæ as he recounted the Hellenic legends, the difference being that the modern business-like language, half scientific, half colloquial, which serves to give a suitable notion of a great political crisis, is perceived to be out of place when applied to the fair humanities of classical mythology. The narrative itself is not that of an accomplished artist, but of a practical man. He speaks of the execution of the ten generals much as he might have spoken of it to the House of Commons, bringing out the facts in a straightforward way, and pointing his moral by weighty and impressive considerations, which a mere writer would probably have disposed of by some other means. It is this thoroughly practical character, indeed, which gives its charm to the whole book, considered as a literary work. The author is perceived to be full of his subject, and full too of all accessary knowledge which the history of other countries, and other times, as well as his own experience can supply. The mixture of disquisition with narrative, strictly so called, is a reflection of the process naturally going on in the mind of the reader, who feels that what is said appears as he himself might have said it, if he had enjoyed the requisite opportunities for such a labour. In this respect Mr. Grote is not unworthy of being compared with the original Thucydides, as the natural representative of the intelligence and education of his time, expressing his views in the readiest and most unaffected manner; though the contrast between the prolixity of the modern utilitarian, who has no time to make short cuts' to his object, and the compressedness of the ancient, always crowding upon him

self,' is sufficiently curious, and we may add, not uninstructive. Even the mere style of the book, the wording and turn of the sentences, obvious as it is on the surface to the plainest critical objections, is seen in the long run to have a felicity which greater brilliancy and gracefulness of composition might have failed to realise. No attempt bas been made to render it terser or purer than the tenour of ordinary conversation ; and for that very reason it forms a transparent medium for transmitting the

represing his contrast beter to make

always com

or pureo realise. No defracefulnessuno to


Mr. Grote's Style:


lower principle we cannot impression in the succ

et understoogmitest mphical insted with

desired character and colour at first hand, a mirror of the thoughtful wisdom and austere enthusiasm which inform and animate the writer. A picturesque style, as we had occasion to remind our readers in a former number, is apt to produce an untruthful effect, just as one of its principal ingredients, a well sustained metaphor, may deceive in proportion to the success with which it conveys a homogeneous impression in aliâ materiâ. On the same principle we cannot quarrel with Mr. Grote for giving a lower place to geographical illustration than is assigned to it by some recent writers, who maintain that historical events cannot be understood unless seen in relief against a background of natural scenery. The appreciation of history is, after all, a matter of faith rather than of sight, and a calm judgment will beware how it suffers sensation to encroach on the province of reflection. The temper of the English historian, we confess, is one with which the impulsive nature of a Greek would have had little sympathy, nor do we imagine that his work would have been adapted for recitation at the Olympic games. But the homage paid by the countryman of Bacon to the countrymen of Plato is not rendered less significant by the broad contrast of their respective national peculiarities; and the insight which can detect the fundamental identity of the two great methods of philosophical inquiry, may help us to discover a real harmony between the ardour which created the Athenian institutions, and the diligence and deliberation which delight in estimating their character and results.

It is no mere arbitrary connexion of thought which leads us to associate Mr. Grote's name with that of the great father of modern inductive philosophy. The conception of a scientific treatment of history is as yet so little understood, much less admitted, in England, that we almost seem to require an apology for venturing to characterise the present work as the first attempt which has been made within our knowledge, at least by an Englishman, to deal with history in the concrete as a portion of science. Mr. Grote, it is true, does not expressly speak of himself as desiring to regard his subject in this light; but it is sufficiently apparent that he recognises it both in theory and in practice. His general philosophy is evidently that of the positive school, as represented by M. Comte in France, and Mr.J. S. Mill among ourselves ---men, whose greatest triumph is that they have been able to imagine a science of society, and to indicate the conditions, whether practicable or not, under which its existence is conceivable. The chapter on Socrates, at the end of his last volume, places his sympathies beyond doubt: they were, however, abundantly clear at the very outset. In a

« AnteriorContinuar »