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that vanity was systematically fed. We must look, not to the three or four place-hunting pieces of Lucian, but to the mass of his works, and their scope as a whole; the result will be satisfactory, absolvetque Deos.
To say that this multifarious collection of popular essays teems with proofs of the utter subjection into which the priestcraft of heathendom had reduced, and in which, in spite of all that the real philosophy of antiquity could do, it preserved the vulgar mind, would indeed be idle ; if that had not been the case,
it possible to imagine that a man of the tythe of Lucian's talents could have published a body of exquisitely polished writings, the main object of which, avowedly and obviously, is to cry down existing superstitions. But what we are satisfied even Gibbon had never properly adverted to is, the extraordinary picture which these works exhibit of the intensely superstitious feelings prevalent among the very highest classes of society-the Roman senators and the Greek philosophers alike. We have already alluded to the elaborate tract in, which Lucian tries to soothe a nobleman of consular rank, whose mind had been disturbed to its centre in consequence of his mistake in saluting him one morning with a úziaive instead of a Xaipe; a circumstance nearly equivalent to an accidental transposition of 'good evening and good morning' among mortal men-oñol vuv Bpotoi eloi. In the account of Alexander of Abonoteichos, we are informed distinctly that when the fame of the framer of the paper-headed serpent began to resound through Italy, all was bustle and hurry, the only strife being who should be first served with an oracle. Some went themselves, others sent their servants; but of all classes the most elevated were they that manifested the greatest eagerness in the pursuit ;' and he goes on to the history of a certain Rutilianus, a senator who had filled some of the first offices in the imperial government, and who now sent embassy after embassy from Rome to Paphlagonia, until at last he consulted the prophet of the foolscap dragon touching the choice of a second wife, had his due reward in a most pithy and sonorous hexameter, which bade him marry the daughter of Alexander and Selene,' (i.e. the Moon,)* and actually, in obedience to the holy voice, made the impostor's bastard his spouse, and celebrated the consummation in a style of splendour which attested his full sense of the dignity of a close alliance with the glory of earth and the queen of heaven the whole of which story, be it remembered, Lucian expressly introduces as a specimen. Nor can we regard, in any other light, that unequalled congeries of absurdities which he presents to us as the substance of a conversation held by a com
* Γήμος Αλεξάνδρε τι Σιλεναίης σε θύγατρα.
pany of the most eminent philosophers and physicians of the time at the bedside of an Athenian nobleman of illustrious rank, in his Philopseudes. His 'lie-lovers’ are gathered from among the salt of the earth'—assuredly the satirist had other ends in view than merely raising a laugh at the personal foibles of half a dozen odd, eccentric, hair-brained individuals. It is one of the most finished of his pieces; there is none in which the minute shades of character are more carefully preserved and delicately blended, or where the style varies in more delightful harmony with every variation of the topics.
The ingenious illustrator of the popular superstitions of Ireland will find here the prototypes of all his Phocas, Banshees, and Cluricaunes--stories told with the most consummate gravity by personages of the highest condition and accomplishment,-nay, attested, in many instances, with the most solemn appeals to personal character and trustworthiness—of ghosts, witches, Hyperborean and Libyan charms, brooms animated at the touch of a wand, assuming the likeness of clever lacqueys and abigails, performing the becoming functions during any space of time required, and, on its termination, forthwith re-broomed; bloody skeletons drawing men's curtains at the dead of night, and pointing the way to cellars in which their bones lay unblest and restless ; a serpentbitten vinedresser cured by the spell of a Babylonian, who tied around the wounded toe a bandage inclosing a chip of the tombstone of a recently buried virgin, a small bit of clay formed into a Cupid, told to tly to a distant damsel and deliver a tender message, and obeying; of astonishing results from the wearing of ' ring made out of the iron-work of a gibbet; of a statue of Pelichus, that used to come down every night from its pedestal in the mansion where the conversation is held, and walk about the house, and which appeared crowned with wreaths newly gilt in honour of a cure it had recently effected on the person of the proprietor; of an African groom in the narrator's service, who stole some oboli that had been deposited as offerings at the feet of this Pelichus, and who, after running, as he supposed, all night away from the scene of his felony, found himself at daybreak within a few yards thereof, re-entered the house, confessed his guilt, restored the oboli, was whipt regularly every night afterwards by an invisible scourge wielded by an invisible hand, and at last died of terror; of a bronze Hippocrates two spans high in the possession of another of the company, the family physician of the great man, who, whenever the oil in the lamp before him was burnt out, was sure to skip down from the shelf, jump all over the house, make a sad clatter among the dishes, and jumble the contents of the doctor's gallipots; of a tall female spectre, an ancestress, no question, of Major
Weir's sister, who came sailing out of a wood with her cap on a level with the highest trees; of another lady, who appeared to her husband some weeks after death, to tell him that she felt uncomfortable in the other world in consequence of his having omitted one slipper when he was burning her wearing apparel, and pointed out the place in which the slipper would be found, namely, behind her clothes-press ; of a pestle which being, after the mumbling of three syllables, desired to fetch water, immediately seized a pitcher and set to work—too diligently for the person who used the spell was unacquainted with the countercharm, and could not make the pestle stop again,—and how his taking an axe and cleaving the pestle in two only made matters worse, for then there were two pestles and two pitchers all employed with the like persistence of zeal, &c.
* Never,' says Wieland* " was the propensity to supernatural prodigies, and the avidity to accredit them, more vehement than in this otherwise very enlightened age. The priesteraft of the ancient Egyptians, the different branches of magic, all kinds of divination and oracles, the so-called occult sciences which associated mankind with a fabulous world of spirits, and pretended to give them the controul over the powers of nature, were almost universally respected; persons of all ranks and descriptions, great lords and ladies, statesmen, scholars, openly appointed and pensioned professors of the Pythagorean, the Platonic, the Stoic, even of the Aristotelian sect, thought on these topics exactly as did the simplest of the people. New oracles came into credit, to the prejudice of the old, and exceeded them in the number of their visiters: a firm belief was placed in miraculous images. The genius of the times, like the Emperor Hadrian, was made up of all imaginable incongruities; men believed everything, and nothing ; in company they laughed at objects, at which they trembled when alone or in the dark. The vanity of being considered as enlightened, could not, with a particular class of persons, who were frightened at the smallest exertion of intellect, be better gratified, than by that commodious middle state between scepticism and credulity, wherein everything is doubted that ought to be believed, and everything believed that ought to be doubted ; a disposition blind and deaf to the most important truths, when these can only be understood by patient and keen reflexion; to be deluded by the most absurd chimeras, whenever these present themselves in a mysterious garb, and promise short north-west passages to sublime all-comprising sciences and superhuman arts.
• Enthusiasm and superstition are not only compatible with every degree of mental and moral depravity, of which they are not unfrequently the effects, but again become, by the very nature of the case, abundant -sources and powerful means of promoting them. The
* We do not transcribe implicitly Mr. Tooke's version,
same imbecility which cannot resist the succussions of a crazy brain, and the visions of a distempered fancy, will be overpowered by every impulse of passion, every allurement of sense. Accordingly, the times wherein fanaticism has formed a principal feature, have always likewise been distinguished by a high degree of moral corruption : and that this is applicable to the period under consideration, is abundantly proved by the writings of Lucian.
• Such, then, was the state of affairs over the far greater part of the known world even under the Antonines, the mildest and most benevolent sovereigns that the Roman world ever knew; thus wild and giddy were the heads of the great majority of mankind—so greatly were even those that took upon them to be medical practitioners for the mind, in want of a physician for themselves—when Lucian conceived the resolution to encounter the reeling genius of his age with the only weapons of which that genius was afraid, and against which its enchanted armour could not protect it—the witty derision of cool common sense. Endowed with an upright mind, and a sincere love of truth and honesty in all things, the inveterate enemy of all affectation and false pretences, everything overstrained and unnatural, all imposition upon true-hearted simplicity, all usurpations, which either the cunning impostor by artfully disguised methods, or the enthusiastic self-deceiver, by shining natural talents and the contagious ardour of his intellectual fever, might have the art to establish amidst the dull mass of the poor and weak in spirit-he made it the business of his life and the principal aim of his writings to unmask, wherever he found them, falsehood, delusion, imposturefrom the theological fictions of the poet, to the tales of the ghostseer and necromancer—from the wiles and cajoleries of the wheedling sisterhood, a Lais, a Phryne and Glycera, to the infinitely more important tricks of the religious juggler and the oracle-coiner,—but
especially, and with the most inexorable severity, the specious wisdom and gravity, the ignorant word-learning, the hypocritical virtue, the mean tricks and vulgar manners of the trading philosophers of his time,-to represent all these several guilds of the great corporation of cheats in their real shape and nakedness, and thereby to serve his contemporaries, in the exact proportion in which he might safely count on the fervent hatred and persecution of the many-headed and thousand-handed party, whose craft and profit lay in the deception of the people. The very circumstance that, in order the more certainly to attain his serious purpose, he so frequently found himself compelled to conceal it under an appearance of frivolity, and seem to be merely amusing while he was doing his best endeavour to instruct, must, in the eyes of the sober and judicious, greatly enhance his merits; in the shallow judgment of the great mass, who are ever prone to be deluded by the surface of things, the very same circumstance has always, no question, produced the exactly contrary effect. Why should we, merely because he makes wit and humour the ve
hicle of his physic, refuse him either the design or the merit of healing? What right have we to turn an author, only because he speaks the truth jocosely and laughingly, into a scurra ? Ought we not, for the same reason, to pronounce a like verdict on Horace, Juvenal, Chaucer, Rabelais, Cervantes, Swift, Sterne, -in a word, on all comic and satirical poets? For, that the charge brought against Lucian of having shown no less indifference and aversion to truth than to lies, is a groundless calumny, I certainly have no need to prove to any impartial reader of Lucian's writings. . . . . Non omnia possumus omnes. Some are ordained to attack, others to defend, some to pull down, others to build up. Lucian unmasked the idols of erroneous opinion and deisidæmony, the false prophets and spurious philosophers, the Peregrines and the Alexanders: it was surely no trifing service he thus rendered to the world ; with what justice could we condemn him for not rendering more? We should scarcely complain of those who employ gifts such as his for the mere purposes of entertainment. Lucian did much more than that. He instructed, while he entertained,—he avenged truth and nature on their most dangerous enemies,-he tore up by the roots the weeds that prevented the growth of wholesome plants-he protected the docile understanding of the rising generation against the errors of their fathers,-he warned them of the snares, pitfalls, and dens of ambuscade that had proved fatal to those that went before them,-he directed them to the even paths of nature, whereon it is impossible to miss the universal object of sound common sense,--and we require of him still more?
• For counteracting successfully the moral diseases of those times, it was precisely a man of Lucian's temper and principles that was wanted.'
We have been mutilating a song but an admirable passage. We shall only add, that the story of Lucian's having, at any period of his life, been a Christian, is disproved, among a thousand circumstances, by the severity with which he comments on Peregrinus's connection with, and subsequent reviling of, the Christian community. That he had some knowledge of the contents of the Sacred Writings is certain; he alludes distinctly to the manna of the wilderness, and to the slow utterance of Moses, and we might multiply lesser instances ; but his knowledge was obviously obtained at second or rather at third hand, scanty of the scantiest, and, it is almost needless to say, utterly confused and inaccurate. If he had thought the novel sect of any importance, he would have bestowed, at least, one separate tract upon it; and, so far from meriting the bitter vituperation of Suidas on this head, he does perfect justice, in his account of Peregrinus, to the simple and innocent manners of the community on whom that half crazy rogue had for a season imposed.
The satirist of Samosata was a mighty instrument in a cause, of the merits of which he understood nothing; and indeed we can scarcely hesitate to acquiesce in Dr. Mayne's position, that, on the VOL. XXXVII. NO, LXXIII.