« AnteriorContinuar »
Scott-because it does not bring us into while he marches on sublimely insensible. contact with so agreeable a character. He does not remember the prices of the We instance Scott, here and above, for the commonest articles of purchase. But reason that every reader ought to know most of all he makes himself disagreeable and love him; many other names among in a book-store; he appears to consider our best novelists would equally suffice for the clerks who officiate there to be so the comparison. With Scott we feel in the many Admirable Crichtons, and opens his society of a gentleman, a man of courage recondite reading to them, while they stare and uprightness, a pleasant travelling com- at you grinningly, as who should say, “ Art panion; it is, in fact, a certain remedy for thou also green as he is ?” nervous depression to run through one of Moreover, this friend to whom the auhis familiar stories—improving to bodily thor of Wuthering Heights must be likenhealth as well as conducive to mental se- ed is continually "embroiling himself with renity. The effect of his letters is yet | women.” He dissects to you their charmore invigorating. He seems to have lived, acters and finds out motives for them with all his troubles, in a region of per- which they never dreamed of. He fancies petual sunrise, and, as we read him, there he understands them perfectly, all the breathes upon us the air of morning. while you are quite sure he is mistaken.
The author of Wuthering Heights is In his intercourse with them he sets out not so happily. compounded. He has a with a firm belief in his own infallibility, peculiar obtrusive conceit about him which and makes all after developments conform makes one nervous lest he commit some to that hypothesis. The consequence is, new gaucherie. So many of his fine pas- he has met with some rebuffs that have sages are marred by affectation that there soured his temper and thrown a shadow is an uncomfortable struggle in the mind over him; yet he has lost none of his oriwhether to yield a too easy confidence, orginal faith in himself. Why he should be altogether disgusted. Yet the strength have been so unsuccessful is a mystery, of his will prevails; though we would, we for his figure was well enough, and his cannot shake him off. He is like a friend conversation, though by no means that of who continually annoys you with a want of one accustomed to the best society, was tact, which is so obvious you are never yet fresh and fascinating. But he looks sure it is not pure affectation. If
upon women as a refined sort of men, and company this friend, for example, down they therefore are unable to give him their Broadway, he will be suddenly smitten confidence. with the beauty of some child, and will Suppose such an impracticable man of stop and enter into conversation with it, talent to give the world a novel; he would utterly regardless of the natural astonish- make one very much resembling in spirit ment of its mamma; thus forcing you to this which lies before us. We might conblush for him and drag him away. If you clude a review of such a novel, with heartwalk with him in the fields, on Staten ily thanking him for all that was good in Island, or elsewhere, he will find some huge it and expressing the hope that his next terrapin, or boaconstrictor, and insist on production might be less marred by serious bringing it home on his arm, leaving you faults and errors.
G. W. P. exposed to the jeers of the populace,
Early in the evening of the appointed passengers and chariots, moving in all the day, her auditors were assembled, when ways, we should have fancied ourselves Diotima entered the banquet room, follow- traversing an open region, and not within ed by Euripides the tragic poet, and Meton the walls of a city. For here the houses the parasite. Meton placed himself oppo- were not crowded together as in Athens, but site to Cymon on the left ; Socrates and stood each apart, in the midst of a park; Euripides on the right and left, in the and about them the huts of weavers and middle places ; and Lysis below Euripides, handicraftsmen were scattered numerously on the left. Thus it happened, that Soc- everywhere among the gardens. rates and Cymon were together on the “While we passed slowly over the roads right of Diotima, as on the former occa- and spaces of the city, wondering at the sions.
multitude of the people,—for if we had When the guests had fully answered counted them it must have been by thouthe first call of hunger and the wine was sands at once—I gathered many particubrought in, which they drank not raw, but lars from my master touching the history of diluted, and in moderate cups, the enter the city and of the builders of its walls. tainer, when a silence was made, continued Some say, and these are the Magi, that the her story, as follows:
first Babylonians came from Bactria, and “The city of Babylon lies on both sides began to build the great tower of Belus the Euphrates. The river, bending like a which rises like a ruinous hill in the southserpent, creeps under the mountainous west angle of the city. They wished to wall on the northern side, and escapes raise it in honor of the Sun and of their through it at the south. Within the in- ancestors. This was at a period in remote closures of the walls,— which are banks of antiquity, when the stars held not the sun-baked clay, piled to the height of the places they now hold, and the race of men Acropolis, and inclosing the region of Ba- were long-lived and of gigantic stature. . bylon like a belt of barren hills,-gardens When the first Babylonians came to the watered by canals, orchards bearing apples Euphrates, they found the land without of Persia, whose seed is like a stone, fields inhabitants ; but when they began to dig rich with the third harvest of the year, canals and plant gardens, and grew and a population, frugal, peaceable and wealthy, and their numbers increased, the full of ingenious industry, are at once barbarians of the north came down upon presented to your eyes; as if the scattered them, and robbed and spoiled them. Then villages of a well-governed kingdom had their prince made a decree, that a wall been swept together in a mass.
should be built about the whole region, “Our caravan entered the city through and that every man should contribute to a defile or breach in the wall
, defended by the work : and in a few years they finished gates of brass thirty cubits in height. the inner wall. But, as it happened in From the place of entrance to our cara- Egypt, the custom of building for their vanserai near the southern wall was a kings and princes once established in the day's journey; and had it not been for the memory of the Babylonians, care was taken regularity of the roads, the splendor and that it should not fall into desuetude. The frequency of the mansions of Persian outer wall, a work of four years of man's nobles, and the crowds of horsemen, foot | life, the hanging gardens of Semiramis,
* For the second Banquet, see number of this journal for November, 1846 ;—and for the first, see the number for February, of the present year.
and the great temples, beside a multitude he is neither a story-teller, a moralizer, nor of palaces, comparable only with those of an epigrammatist; a sophist nor a maker Egypt, for extent and magnificence, were of pathetic pictures. Much less is he a thus gradually builded in the course of dramatist, like Euripides, or a master of many centuries; but the true periods of social opinions, like Diotima. He may their beginning and completion, are known smack of all these, but the business of a only to the Magi who keep the records of historian, I think, is with events, and the the tower of Belus. When the Chaldeans, acts of cities, as they are moved by their a people of the north, descended upon common desires, fears and aspirations.” Mesopotamia and took Babylon, they “ You are over nice with distinctions, caused the outer wall to be restored and Socrates," replied the other ; " and here heightened; but since the Persians have seems to be one made without a difference: the empire, the princes oppress the people, nor did I ever hear you so positive about and neglect their walls.
a trifle. If I describe a city, why not as “ Imagine a nation of weavers and well the acts of the city: if the deeds of handicraftsmen employed in every species one man, why not the deeds of many of manufacture, living under a tyranny men ?” which forbids the possibility of honest
“ When you,
," replied Socrates, “excite riches, and you have pictured to yourselves our pity with the griefs of Alcestis, conthe population of Babylon. Their manu- signing herself to death for love's sake, factures are taken down the Euphrates and you move us with a private sorrow, and we carried by Phænician mariners to all parts are mingled in sympathy with the affection of the world. By caravans the stuffs and of a wife and husband; beyond this you look products of Babylon are distributed over for no effect. Homer also shows us AchilAsia, Bactria, and the north. By these les in his tent, mourning for Patroclus, or means a perpetual stream of every kind of pictures the tender parting of Hector with riches is poured back by commerce into his wife and child ; but these are only the the city, enriching the masters who gov- ornaments of the work, the foliage of the ern it, but not the multitude who are their column. The individuals are swept along slaves. In Babylon, as in Egypt, the in the torrent of destiny; one by one they people are slaves."
rise, triumph for an instant, and are lost When Diotima came to this point in her forever ; but still the action moves on and story, Euripides, who leaned upon his left the war is never at an end. But when side with his eyes declined, and listening Orestes enters upon the stage, it is Orestes attentively, looked up at the narrator with and not a nation, or a history, that intera smile, and made a movement to speak. ests us. Therefore, I argue, Diotima is not Diotima perceiving it, paused instantly, a historian by nature ; her descriptions and waited for what he would say. are of individuals, of passions, of enter
“I think,” said he, “you would write a tainments, and always of the quiet and the good history if you chose to undertake it.” easily representable; but to me Homer
“ I think so too," echoed Lysis : “Di- seems to be the inventor of history, because otima's narrative is very agreeable.” he first subordinated the persons to the
“I will venture to contradict you action. To describe the virtue of a hero, both,” said Socrates. “I do not think it or of an entire city contending and bearing lies in Diotima's power to make a good up against a common calamity, be it of history."
war, of the inroads of the ocean, or of pesEuripides, a polite man, and ambitious tilence, or violence from abroad, or of vice withal, who would rather flatter than of- and injury in the city,--in short, of all fend, though he knew Socrates well, could those sorrows which the gods inflict upon not conceal his surprise at the seeming nations and races of men,—this seems to rudeness of his remark. “Your reason, me history; and if it be done as Homer friend,” said he; “your profound reason,"
does it, from the heart, tempering all “She gives us pictures, descriptions, with love, with heroic courage, the interest conversations, and no history ; your histo- of the event, and the hope of fame, it is rian, to my understanding, is he who bears epical, as I think, and needs to be written you strongly along on a stream of events ; | in verse. For, as the whispers of lovers
are always musical if they be true, and the gether, and compose a history of the world curses of enemies harsh if they be meant ; that should be a true one. When I redescriptive imitation of them must be a plied that there would be no love or hate mixture of these, a melody."
in it, he said he had no fear of that, for What will you say then,” said Euri- that each nation would play its part like pides,“ of that eloquent narrative which we a hero in an epic, and that if the whole heard read by Herodotus at the games? were skillfully composed in a grand style, Was it a history, or was it not ?”
it would be the work of works. I told him “I did not hear it," replied Socrates ; I did not believe the time could ever come, but if you found yourself drawn by it or the writer be found for such a work. into a sympathy with the nations and the He replied that the time might come for persons which it describes ; and perceived it when all men were under one law and always, that no private loves and wills one religion ; and a writer should be found operated to move them, but certain moral who was a philanthropist or lover of men.” and universal causes, able to move whole “I beseech you, Diotima,” said Cymon, nations at once—such as a contest for a with an air of impatience, “ do not let these territory, an inherited feud, the glory of discursive gentlemen cheat us of our en. a race, the power of one over many, of tertainment. many over one; I say, if you found these Meton the jester, who had thus long in the books of Herodotus, and withal saw remained silent, rather from want of opporthem picture-like, his narrative might be tunity than inclination, observing Cymon's called a history. To prevent Diotima no impatience with a half sneer, remarked that longer, I will add but this word, that if Diotima did himself and his friend Cymon any one should relate a history of a war of a great injustice in allowing this discursive his own city against another, from the heart, talk, for it was a part of civility to adapt is it was carried on in anger and in honor, our conversation to the understandings of and should so depict for us the action by our guests, and not to insult them by holding up the chief actors to our view, as soaring above their abilities.” This remark to give a continuity and wholeness to it, occasioned a laugh, which was all that through the continuance of the anger that Meton looked for. began it, producing a series of actions, pur- “Come,” said he, “if Diotima leaves posed alike by that anger, he would have us much longer at the gate of the caragiven us an epical or Homerical history. vanserai, I shall dismount from my camel And now, Euripides, we owe a penalty for and go in by myself. There, now I am the breaking of our vow, to what power I dismounted, and now I am gone in ; poh! know not, unless to Diotima."
what a crowd is here—Greeks, Scythians, "Let us interrupt her no more," said Egyptians, Persians, black slaves-sitting, Euripides.
squatting, standing, eating, sleeping, fightPardon me, friends,” said she, “if I ing, swearing, hustling. You yellow rasadd a word to Socrates' definition of an cal in the blue mantle and tiara, ho, there, epical history, in favor of those who con- what woman have you under the veiltend that the essence of poetry is in pas- come, I will see her face. Do you jabber sion and not in meditation ; confirming-what, Greek! this wretch thinks he is Socrates' opinion against me, that I am no talking Greek—a woman slave, do you say? historian. 'I will give you Pythagoras's Well, i knew that—I am a buyer-I must opinion of the matter. When he had asked see her face. By Zeus! a handsome counme to write a history of the Egyptians, tenance! what do you call her name ? Dio, and I said I did not love or hate them what—0, Diotima, a very good name-I enough to do it, he replied that I had the will give six oboli for her, without the name. right idea of what a history ought to be, Here, you rascal-Kata, what-Zena—de but that none such had ever been written bya—a thousand pounds! It's more than excepting Homer's, and that his was a I am worth altogether. Carry her to the fiction : he said he would have true histo- chief of the Magi—she looks bookish. ries written by good patriots, who loved learned, is she? So I thought. Knows their country and hated its enemies ; that several languages; good, she's not for me : he would compare several of these to- one language is enough for any woman, I
trow." Meton discharged himself of his have their arts from Egypt; for I observed nonsense at a rate which put him out of that the houses of the Babylonians resembreath; and satisfied with the laugh which bled those of Ionia, of Jerusalem, of Phæfollowed, he remained quiet for a time, with nicia, and of Egypt; and many travellers only now and then a grimace. Diotima, have assured me that no nation on the taking advantage of the silence which fol- earth, except the Northern and Eastern lowed, went on with her story.
Scythians, are free of the traces of Egyp“We entered the outer gates about sun
tian art. rise, and arrived at night before the gate of * Need I describe to you, what I saw the caravanserai; but the merchant who had only at a distance, the gardens of Semirame in charge would not expose me to the mis,—an artificial mountain raised upon curiosity of the crowds of buyers and idlers arches of brick, and covered with forest who thronged at the gate, and turning trees of immense size ;—the tower of Belus, aside, conducted me instantly to the house the first built and the loftiest of human of a Greek merchant, one Strato of Co-works,-in which live the priests of a rerinth, a man of great wealth and virtue, in ligion, so undivine in its form, and so inwhose care I should be safe from the curi-effectual in its spirit, it should be named a osity of a class of persons who take upon delusion rather, and not a belief ? We themselves to provide for the happiness of found Strato at the door of his house, engrandees, by filling their houses with wo- gaged in conversation with an officer of the men of all kinds and qualities.
Royal Guards. My master lifted me from “Of all cities in the world Babylon is the the dromedary, and embracing Strato, exleast famous for the virtue of its people ; plained to him the purpose of his visit, and and I believe that a people naturally pure said something in my favor. After a moand educated to virtue, would be instantly ment's hesitation, he turned to the officer corrupted it by any chance they should and dismissed him in the most respectful occupy a city like Babylon. Being a manner imaginable ; then seizing Zadec centre for the commerce of the world, it is and myself by the hand, he hurried us into filled with slaves, traders and sharpers of the house, and turning to the door shut it all nations, from Gades to the extreme east. and bolted it. The mass of its people, living in extreme “. You are unlucky,' said he, 'to have poverty, because of the oppression of the come at this moment. The person whom rich, know of no enjoyment but in the you saw with me when you came up, is a worship of Adonai, who is the personi- provider of the palace, and he has orders fication of every vice. The Persian lords, to seize or purchase all the Greek women living idly, and secure within their walls, that are brought into Babylon. I wish a vie with each other only in debauchery better fate for my countrywoman than to and extravagance. Among the women be buried for life in the palace, especially purity is hated, and among the men sobri- if she be such a person as you represent ety suspected. In the luxury of their lives, her.' While Strato talked with my masthe effeminacy of their manners, and the ter, I followed them through the court into grossness of their worship, this wealthy an inner chamber, and being sufficiently people are without an equal among the terrified with what I heard him say, I connations. I dare not disgust you with a ceived a hope of as good favor with him recital of what I saw and heard, even in as I had found with Manes on a like octhe streets and at the doors of the temples, casion. Though I could not think to afwhere riches strove with vice, which should fect him with my face, from which forty be most conspicuous. Actions punishable years had taken the attraction of youth, I among ourselves with death, are here prac- nevertheless removed my veil, and emticed as religious rites. Bestialities are bracing his knees as a suppliant, I besought boasted and recommended, which would him with tears to yield me the protection here condemn the doer to infamy. of his house. Strato's countenance glowed
“For the modes of living in Babylon,— with satisfaction, when he saw me unveiled they resemble those of Egypt, and differ and addressing him in this fashion. 'I not greatly from our own. I am inclined will buy this woman of you, friend,' said to believe that all nations of the world | he to Zadec, 'whatever be her price. My