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criticism in correcting errors, misapprehensions, and falsehood. We confess we have no sympathy with those who prefer ancient error to new truth. We do not choose to err with Plato rather than think rightly with others. A prejudice is not so precious and venerable in our eyes, but that we can willingly resign it under the teachings of learning and philosophy. We regard the state of mind which leads a man to cling to the fabulous forms of past history, merely because he thinks them romantic and picturesque, as a pernicious sentimentality, as much at war with genuine art as with the cause of truth. The extent to which this author goes. in his mania for fiction may be seen in the following extract.
“ The truth is, — an important truth, which seems equally to have escaped the sarcastic minister and the learned German, and
very last to appreciate, — the chief value of history consists in its proper employment for the purposes of art! - consists in its proper employment, as so much raw material, in the erection of noble fabrics and lovely forms, to which the fire of genius imparts soul, and which the smile of taste informs with beauty ;and which, thus endowed and constituted, are so many temples of mind, so many shrines of purity, where the big, blind, strug. gling heart of the multitude may rush, in its vacancy, and be made to feel ; in its blindness, and be made to see ; in its fear, and find countenance ; in its weakness, and be rendered strong; in the humility of its conscious baseness, and be lifted into gradual excellence and hope! These are the offices of art for which she employs history, and it is these which make her not only the most lovely, but the most legitimate, daughter of heaven. It is through her that the past lives to the counselling and direction of the future ; and if she breathe not the breath of life into its nostrils, the wires of the resurrectionist would vainly link together the rickety skeleton which he disinters for posterity.
“ Considered with reference to its intrinsic uses, the bald his. tory of a nation, by itself, would be of very little importance to mankind. Of what use to know the simple fragmentary fact, that Troy - a city we no longer find upon the maps — fell, after a siege of years, the proud and polished city before the barbarian and piratical foe? Of what use, or whence the satisfaction, placed upon the summits of Taygetus, to hear the long catalogue of names — names of men and nations — which the historian may, with tolerable certainty, enumerate, and perhaps assign to each narrow spot within the range of his vision ; - or, astride some block which hopeless conjecture may assume to be the site
of the once mighty capital, to turn to our Lemprière and learn that here once dwelt a great people who were overthrown by a greater? We know this fact, without Lemprière. Ruins speak for themselves, and, to this extent, are their own historians. They equally denote the existence and the overthrow, the was and the is not, - and the dry, sapless history tells us nothing, which can tell us nothing more! But, musing alone along the plain of the Troad, or traversing the mountain barriers of Parnes, Ægaleus, and Hymettus ; looking down upon the sterile plains of Attica, sterile in soil, but, O! how fruitful in soul, — or sitting among the dismembered fragments which made the citadel in Carthage, each man becomes his own historian. Thought, taking the form of conjecture, ascends by natural stages into the obscure and the infinite. Reasoning of what should have been from what is before us, we gather the true from the probable. Dates and names, which, with the mere chronologist, are every thing, with us are nothing. For what matters it to us, while tracing hopes and fears, feelings and performances, the greatness which was, and the glories which exist no longer, to be arrested in our progress by some cold and impertinent querist, who, because we cannot tell him whether these things took place one, two, or three thousand years before Christ, — and because we cannot positively as.
sign the precise name to the hero, — accurately showing this or ✓ that combination of seven or more letters, — forbids our inquiry
as idle? The inquiry is not idle, — and history itself is only valuable when it provokes this inquiry, when it excites a just curiosity, awakens noble affections, elicits generous sentiments, and stimulates into becoming activity the intelligence which it informs!
“ Hence, it is the artist only who is the true historian. It is he who gives shape to the unhewn fact, who yields relation to the scattered fragments, who unites the parts in coherent depen. dency, and endows with life and action the otherwise motionless automata of history. It is by such artists, indeed, that nations live. It is the soul of art, alone, which binds periods and places together ; - that creative faculty, which, as it is the only quality distinguishing man from other animals, is the only one by which he holds a life-tenure through all time, — the power to make him. self known to man, to be sure of the possessions of the past, and to transmit, with the most happy confidence in fame, his own possessions to the future.” – Views and Reviews, pp. 23-25.
“ The chief value of history consists in its proper employment for the purposes of art.” The engineer, who declared the final cause of the creation of rivers to be the feeding of
canals, was moderate, in comparison with this extravagant asserter of the preëminence of art over history, of fiction over fact, of invention over truth. Are the lessons drawn from history nothing? Is the impressive spectacle of the great dealings of Providence, as seen in the vicissitudes of empires in the march of the ages, nothing ? “Ruins speak for themselves.” So they do ; but they speak only to the well informed mind ; the mind stored with facts and dates, — the more numerous the facts, and the more precise the dates, the better. What imaginative person, standing in the solitude of Pæstum, where rise those dateless structures which were solemn antiquities in the days of Cicero, does not long to break the spell of oblivion by the discovery of some single fact which shall serve as a clew to their origin? How vague and unsatisfactory are the unguided wanderings of the imagination, compared with the light which a record of but a single sentence would throw into the now impenetrable gloom of the past ! How eagerly do all men listen to the revelations of the bieroglyphics of Egypt, in the hope of clearing up the dark history of that mysterious land ! 'It is needless to press this point.
Nor can we agree with his views of the propriety of the writer of fiction perverting history for the imaginative purposes of art. His ideas are more amply developed in the passage upon Benedict Arnold. We refer our readers to the writer's own words, in order to show the ground he assumes, and to pass an emphatic condemnation upon the principle. His proposed mode of dealing with the character both of Arnold and of Washington is wholly reprehensible. It would be, in fact, to falsify one of the most precious pages in American bistory. It reminds us of the absurd lengths to which French novelists and playwrights go in perverting English history, and which have exposed them to the just anger and contempt of British criticism. The truth of history is quite as interesting, and often more picturesque, than any romance that can be substituted for it. Who would think of comparing The Last of the Aztecs, for graphic delineation or stirring incident, — fictitious, romantic, and artistic as the newspapers have pronounced it, — with the learned, accurate, and brilliant pages of Prescott's Conquest of Mexico ?
ART. VI. - 1. An Examination of the Testimony of the
Four Evangelists, by the Rules of Evidence administered in Courts of Justice. With an Account of the Trial of Jesus. By Simon GREENLEAF, LL. D., Royall Professor of Law in Harvard University. Boston : Little & Brown. 1846. 8vo. pp. 543. 2. The Life of Jesus, critically examined. By Dr. David FRIEDRICH STRAUSS. Translated from the Fourth German Edition. London : Chapman, Brothers. 1846. 3 vols. 8vo.
Of course, we place the titles of these two books together only by way of contrast. They relate, it is true, to the same general subject ; but it is hard to conceive of two works more unlike in their scope, character, and purpose. The object of the one is to prove, and of the other to disprove, the Christian religion. The one is the production of an able and profound lawyer, a man who has grown gray in the halls of justice and the schools of jurisprudence, - a writer of the highest authority on legal subjects, whose life has been spent in weighing testimony and sifting evidence, and whose published opinions on the rules of evidence are received as authoritative in all the English and American tribunals, — for fourteen years the highly respected colleague of the late Mr. Justice Story, and now the honored head of the most distinguished and prosperous school of English law in the world. The other is the work of a German professor and speculatist, also profoundly learned in his way, — an ingenious and daring framer of theories of the most striking character, almost unheard of till his brain either conceived them or gave them currency, though relating to topics with which men have been familiar for eighteen centuries, – a subtile controversialist, whose work, as he himself avows, is deeply tinged with the most strongly marked peculiarities of the philosophy and theology of his countrymen. We presume the most ardent admirer of Dr. Strauss will not object to our characterizing the two works as excellent specimens, the one of clear and shrewd English common sense, and the other of German erudition, laborious diligence, and fertility in original speculation. And if the subject of inquiry were one that involved his own temporal and immediate interests, and it were neces
sary to determine which of these two writers would give the wiser and safer counsel, or the more trustworthy opinion, we suppose the same person would agree with us in making the choice.
We do not wish to appeal to the authority of mere names in this matter; it would be but a poor mode of proving the truth of the gospel history, to say that it was believed by Professor Greenleaf, and denied by Dr. Strauss. But our object is to call attention to a point naturally suggested by the contrast between these two writers, to a view of the characters and previous pursuits of the persons by whom this great discussion hitherto has been conducted. The defence of Christianity, the exposition of its evidences, and the refutation of the arguments of infidels, have been committed almost exclusively to the hands of professed theologians and metaphysicians. This was very natural ; the work seemed properly to belong to them, as their tastes and studies had given them an interest in the subject, and made them familiar with the ground. We do not now remember a single work of any note upon the Evidences, which was not written by a person belonging to one or the other of these two classes. But some evil has resulted from this limitation of the number of the professed advocates of Christianity. Their works are all imbued with a professional hue, and sometimes seem as if addressed only to theologians and metaphysicians, as well as written by them. And the expression of their own belief carries with it no intrinsic weight. They appear like employed counsel, whose office and duty it is to defend the cause which is intrusted to them, and hence they do not always receive credit for perfect sincerity in the case. They plead the cause of the whole Christian family, but their argument is often encumbered with matter which has relation only to their particular studies, or it is biased by the special views and peculiarities of their vocation. Their works are colored by the atmosphere of the schools. The student of theology has his private views, or the doctrines of his sect, the philosopher has his theories, to defend ; and sometimes the chief point at issue is quite forgotten or obscured in the heat of these collateral discussions. They are sometimes taken by surprise, or at a disadvantage, when some reckless assailant makes a bold appeal to common prejudices or to popular ignorance, when a wily logician spins his cobweb theories