« PreviousContinue »
7. De Quincey. In drawing attention to a great sans at Actium, moved by the authoquestion of whatsoever nature con- rity of arms ; " tantum auctoritate nected with Cicero, there is no danger valebant, quantum milite:” and they of missing our purpose through any could have moved by no other. Lastwant of reputed interest in the sub- ly, as regards the personal biography, ject. Nominally, it is not easy to as- although the same series of trials, sign a period more eventful, a revolu- perils, and calamities, would have been tion more important, or a personal in any case interesting for themselves, career more dramatic, than that pe- yet undeniably they derive a separate riod—that revolution—that career, power of affecting the mind from the which, with almost equal right, we peculiar merits of the individual conmay describe as all essentially Cice- cerned. Cicero is one of the very few ronian, by the quality of the interest pagan statesmen who can be described which they excite.
For the age, it as a thoughtfully conscientious man. was fruitful in great men; but amongst It is not, therefore, any want of them all, if we except the sublime splendid attraction in our subject from Julian leader, none as regards splen- which we are likely to suffer. It is of dour of endowments stood upon the this very splendour that we complain, same level as Cicero. For the revo- as having long ago defeated the simlution, it was that unique event which plicities of truth, and preoccupied the brought ancient civilization into con. minds of all readers with ideas politi. tact and commerce with modern : Cally romantic. All tutors, schoolsince, if we figure the two worlds of masters, academic authorities, together Paganism and Christianity under the with the collective corps of editors, idea of two great continents, it is critics, commentators, have a natural through the isthmus of Rome impe- bias in behalf of a literary man who rialized that the one has virtually did so much honour to literature, and communicated with the other. Civil who, in all the storms of his difficult law and Christianity, the two central life, manifested so much attachment forces of modern civilization, were to the pure literary interest. Readers upon that isthmus of time ripened into of sensibility acknowledge the effect potent establishments. And through from any large influence of deep hal. those two establishments, combined cyon repose, when relieving the agitawith the antique literature, as through tions of history; as, for example, $0 many organs of metempsychosis, that which arises in our domestic did the pagan world pass onwards, anpals from interposing between two whatever portion of its own life was bloody reigos, like those of Henry fitted for surviving its own peculiar VIII. and his daughter Mary, the forms. Yet, in a revolution thus un. serene morning of a childlike king, exampled, for grandeur of results, the destined to an early grave, yet in the only great actor who stood upon the mean time occupied with benign counauthority of his character was Cicero, sels for propagating religion or for All others, from Pompey, Curio, Do- protecting the poor.
Such a repose, mitius, Cato, down to the final parti- the same luxury of rest for the mind,
VOL. LII. NO. CCCXXI.
is felt by all who traverse the great stones, not metaphorical, used as circumstantial record of those tumul- figures of speech by a Clodian mob, tuous Roman times, viz. the Cicero
British understand the little nian epistolary correspondence. Upon comprehension of that rough horsecoming suddenly into deep lulls of play proper to the hustings, which angry passions — here, upon some can yet be available for the rectificascheme for the extension of litera- tion of any continental judgment. ture by a domestic history, or by a “ Play, do you call it ?" says a Gercomparison of Greek with Roman man commentator ; " why, that brickjurisprudence ; there, again, upon bat might break a man's leg; and some ancient problem from the quiet this paving-stone would be sufficient fields of philosophy-literary men are to fracture a skull.” Too true: they already prejudiced in favour of one certainly might do so. But, for all who, in the midst of belligerent parti. that, our British experience of elecs sans, was the patron of intellectual tioneering “rough-and-tumbling" has interest. But amongst Christian na- long blunted the edge of our moral tions this prejudice has struck deeper: anger.
Contested elections are unCicero was not merely a philosophier; known to the continent-hitherto even he was one who cultivated ethics; he to those nations of the continent which was himself the author of an ethical boast of representative governments. system, composed with the pious pur- And with no experience of their inpose of training to what he thought conveniences, they have as yet none just moral views his only son. This of the popular forces in which such system survives, is studied to this day, contests originate. We, on the other is honoured perhaps extravagantly, hand, are familiar with such scenes. and has repeatedly been pronounced Whar Rome saw upon one sole hustthe best practical theory to which ings, we see repeated upon hundreds. pagan principles were equal. Were And we all know, that the bark of it only upon this impulse, it was natu- electioneering mobs is worse than ral that men should receive a clina. their bite. Their fury is without men, or silent bias, towards Cicero, as malice, and their insurrectionary vioa moral authority amongst disputants lence is without system. whose arguments were legions. The doubtedly the mobs and seditions of author of a moral code cannot be sup.
Clodius are entitled to the same bene. posed indifferent to the moral relations fits of construction.
And with reof his own party views. If he erred, gard to the graver charges against it could not be through want of medi- Catiline or Clodius, as men sunk irre. tation upon the grounds of judgment, deemably in sensual debaucheries, or want of interest in the results. So these are exaggerations which have far Cicero has an advantage. But he told only from want of attention to has more lively advantage in the com- Roman habits. Such charges were parison by which he benefits, at every the standing material, the stock in stage of his life, with antagonists trade, of every orator against every whom the reader is taught to believe antagonist. Cicero, with the same dissolute, incendiary, almost desperate levity as every other public speaker, citizens. Verres in the youth of Ci- tossed about such atrocious libels at cero, Catiline and Clodius in his middle random. And with little blame where age, Mark Antony his old age, havé there was really no discretion allowed, all been left to operate on the modern Not are they true? but will they tell? reader's feelings precisely through was the question. Insolvency and that masquerade of misrepresentation monstrous debauchery were the two which invariably accompanied the po- ordinary reproaches on the Roman litical eloquence of Rome. The mon- hustings. No man escaped them who strous caricatures from the forum, or was rich enough, or had expectations the senate, or the democratic rostrum, notorious enough, to win for such which were so confessealy distortions, charges any colourable plausibility. by original design, for attaining the Those only were upmolested in this ends of faction, have imposed upon way who stood in no man's path of scholars pretty generally as faithful ambition; or who had been obscure portraits. Recluse scholars are rarely (that is to say, poor) in youth ; politicians; and in the timid horror who, being splendid by birth or conof German literati at this day, when nexions, had been notoriously, occuthey read of real brickbats and paving- pied in distant campaigns.
ject in such calumnies was, to produce the jealousy of rivals.
We may posa momentary effect upon the populace; sibly find ourselves obliged to come and sometimes, as happened to Cæsar, back
upon this subject. And at this the merest falsehoods of a partisan puint, therefore, we will not further orator were adopted subsequently for pursue it than by remarking, that no truths by the simple-minded soldiery. one snare has proved so fatal to the But the misapprehension of these libels sound judgment of posterity upon in modern times originates in errone- public men in Rome, as this blind ous appreciation of Roman oratory. credulity towards the oratorical bilScandal was its proper element. Se- lingsgate of ancient forensic license, nate or law-tribunal, forum or mob or of mapenola electioneering. Libels, rostrum, made no difference in the whose very point and jest lay in their licentious practice of Ronnan eloquence. extravagance, have been received for And, unfortunately, the calúmnies historical truth with respect to many survive; whilst the state of things, amongst Cicero's enemies. And the which made it needless to notice them reaction upon Cicero’s own character in repły, bas entirely perished. Du- has been naturally to exaggerate that ring the transitional period between imputed purity of morals, which has the old Roman frugality and the lux- availed to raise him into what is called ury succeeding to foreign conquest, a
pattern man." reproach of this nature would have The injurious effect upon biographic stung with some severity; and it was
literature of all such wrenches to the not without danger to a candidate. truth, is diffused every where. Fénélon, But the age of growing voluptuous- or Howard the philanthropist, may ness weakened the effect of such im. serve to illustrate the effect we mean, portations: and this age may be taken when viewed in relation to the stern to have commenced in the youth of simplicity of truth. Both these men the Gracchi, about 100 years before bare long been treated with such uniPharsalia. The change in the direc- formity of dissimulation,“ petted” (s0 tion of men's sensibilities since then, to speak) with such honeyed falseWas as marked as the change in their hoods, as beings too bright and seraphic habits. Both changes had matured for human inquisition, that now their themselves in Cicero's days; and one real circumstantial merits, quite as natural result was, that few men of much as their human frailties, have sense valued such reproaches, (inca- faded away in this blaze of fabling pable, from their generality, of speci. idolatry, Sir Isaac Newton, again, tic refutation,) whether directed against for about one entire century since his friends or enemies. Cæsar, when as. death in 1727, was painted by all sailed for the thousandth time by the biographers as a man so saintly in old fable about Nicomedes the sove.
temper_$0 meek-so detached froma Telgu of Bithynia, no more troubled worldly interest, that, by mere strength himself to expose its falsehood in the of potent falsehood, the portrait had senate, than when previously dispersed ceased to be human, and a great over Rome through the libellous face- man's life furnished no interest to liæ of Catulius. "He knew that the posterity. At length came the odious object of such petty malice was simply truth, exhibiting Sir Isaac in a chato tease him; and for himself to lose racter painful to contemplate, as a any temper, or to manifest anxiety, fretful, peevish, and sometimes even by a labour so hopeless as any effort malicious, intriguer; traits, however, towards the refutation of an unlimited in Sir Isaac already traceable in the scandal, was childishly to collude with sort of chicanery atiending his subor. his enemies. He treated the story, nation of managers in the Leibnitz therefore, as if it had been true ; and controversy, and the publication of showed that, even under that assump
the Curnmercium Epistolicum. For the tion, it would not avail for the purpose present, the effect has been purely to before the house. Subsequently, Sue- shock and to perplex. As regards tonius, as an express collector of anec- moral instruction, the lesson comes dotage and
pointed personalities against too late : it is now defeated by its ingreat men, has revived many of these consistency with our previous training Scurrilous jests ; but his authority, at in steady theatrical delusion. the distance of two generations, can
We do not make it a reproach to add nothing to the credit of calumnies Cicero, that his reputation with posoriginally founded on plebeian envy, or terity has been affected by these or similar arts of falsification. Eventu- authority of the partizan. Had Ciccally this has been his misfortune. ro been absent, or had Cicero prac. Adhering to the truth, his indiscreet tised that neutrality to which he often eulogists would have presented to the inclined, the general verdict of posteworld a much more interesting pic. rity on the great Roman civil war ture; not so much the representation would have been essentially different of “vir bonus cum malâ fortunâ com- from that which we find in history, positus," which is, after all, an ordi- At present the error is an extreme Dary spectacle for so much of the one; and we call it such without he. conflict as can ever be made public; silation, because it has maintained but that of a man generally upright, itself by imperfect reading, even of matched as in single duel with a such documents as survive, and by too standing temptation to error, growing general an oblivion of the important out of his public position; often se- fact, that these surviving documents duced into false principles by the meaning the contemporary documents) necessities of ambition, or by the co- are pretty nearly all ex parte." ercion of self-consistency; and often, To judge of the general equity in as he himself admits, biassed finally the treatment of Cicero considered as in a public question by the partialities a political partisan, let us turn to the
a of friendship. The violence of that most current of the regular biogracrisis was overwhelming to'all moral phies. Amongst the infinity of slighter sensibilities: no sense, no organ, re- sketches, which naturally draw for mained true to the obligations of poli. their materials upon those which are tical justice: principles and feelings most elaborate, it would be useless to were alike darkened by the extremi. cunfer a special notice upon any. We ties of the political quarrel : the feel- will cite the two which at this moment ings obeyed the personal engagements: stand foremost in European literature and the principles indicated only the that of Conyers Middleton, now position of the individual-as between about one century old, as the memoir the senate struggling for interests most generally read; that of Bernhard and the democracy struggling for Abeken,t (amongst that limited class rights.
of memoirs which build upon any So far nothing has happened to Ci- political principles,) accidentally the cero which does not happen to all latest. men entangled in political feuds. Conyers Middleton is a name that There are few cases of large party cannot be mentioned without an exdispute which do pot admit of contra pression of disgust. We sit down in dictory delineations, as the mind is perfect charity, at the same table, with previously swayed to this extreme or sceptics in every degree. To us, simto that. But the peculiarity in the ply in his social character, and supcase of Cicero is-not that he has be. posing him sincere, a sceptic is as nefited by the mixed quality or the agreeable as another. Anyhow he doubtfulness of that cause which he is better than a craniologist, than a adopted, but that the very dubious punster, than a St Simonian, than a character of the cause has benefited by Jeremy. Bentham-cock, or an antihim. Usually it bappens, that the in- corn-law lecturer. What signifies a dividual partisan is sheltered under the name ? Free-thinker he calls himself ? authority of his cause. But here the Good-let him “ free think" as fast whole merits of the cause bave been as he can; but let him obey the ordi. predetermined and adjudged by the nary laws of good faith. No sneering,
• Even here there is a risk of being misunderstood. Some will read this term ec parte in the sense, that now there are no neutral statements surviving. But such statements there never were. The controversy moving for a whole century in Rome before Pharsalia, was not about facts, but about constitutional principles; and as to that question there could be no neutrality. From the nature of the case, the truth must have lain with one of the parties ; compromise, or intermediate temperament, was inapplicable. What we complain of as overlooked is, not that the surviving records of the quarrel are partisan records, (that being a mere necessity,) but in the forensic use of the term ex parte, that they are such without benefit of equilibrium or modification from the partizan statements in the opposite interest.
* Cicero in Seinen Briefen, Von BERNHARD Rudolf ABEKEN, Professor am Raths-Gymnas., Zu Osnabrüch, Hanover, 1835.