ePub 版


To have classed this man as a mere metre—then indeed it would be a fabling annalist, or even if it should slight nominal honour to have been be said on better thoughts-no, not the Father of Prose. But this is igas a fabling annalist but as a great norance, though a pretty common scenical historian-is so monstrous an ignorance. To walk well, it is not oversight, so mere a neglect of the enough that a man abstains from proportions maintained amongst the dancing. Walking has rules of its topics treated by Herodotus, that we own, the more difficult to perceive or do not conceive any apology requi- to practise as they are less broadly site for revising, in this place or at prononcés. To forbear singing is not this time, the general estimate on a therefore to speak well or to read subject always interesting. What is well : each of which offices rests upon every body's business, the proverb a separate art of its own. Numerous instructs us to view as nobody's by laws of transition, connexion, prepaduty ; but under the same rule it is ration, are different for a writer in any body's by right; and what be- verse and a writer in prose.

Each longs to all hours alike, may for that mode of composition is a great art; reason belong without blame to Janu. well executed, is the highest and ary of the year 1842. Yet, if any must difficult of arts. And we are man obstinate in demanding for all satisfied that, one century before the acts a " sufficient reason" to speak age of Herodotus, the effort must have Leibniticé] demurs to our revision, as been greater to wean the feelings from having no special invitation at this a key of poetic composition to which immediate moment, then we all minds had long been attuned and happy to tell him that Mr Hermann prepared, than at present it would be Bobrik bas furnished us with such for any paragraphist in the newspapers an invitation by a recent review to make the inverse revolution by sudof Herodotus as a geographer," and denly renouncing the modesty of prose thus furnished even a technical plea for the impassioned forms of lyrical for calling up the great man before poetry. It was a great thing to be our bar.

the leader of prose composition ; great We have already said something even, as we all can see at other times, towards reconsidering the thoughtless to be absolutely first in any one subclassification of a writer whose works division of composition : how much do actually, in their major proportion, more in one whole bisection of literanot essentially concern that subject to ture! And, if it is objected that which, by their translated title, they Herodotus was not the eldest of prose are exclusively referred ; for even writers, doubtless in an absolute sense that part which is historical, often no man There must always moves by mere anecdotes or personal have been short public inscriptions sketches. And the uniform object of not admitting of metre, as where numthese is not the history, but the poli- bers – quantities - dimensions were tical condition, of the particular state concerned. It is enough that all or province. But we now feel dis- feeble tentative explorers of the art posed to press this rectification a little bad been too meagre in matter, too more keenly by asking—what was rude in manner, like Fabius Pictor the reason for this apparently wilful amongst the Romans, to captivate the. error? The reason is palpable: it ears of men, and thus to ensure their was the ignorance of irreflectiveness. own propagation. Without annoying

1. For with respect to the first the reader by the cheap erudition of oversight on the claim of Herodotus, parading defunct names before him, as an earliest archetype of composi- it is certain that Scylax, an author tion, so much is evident—that, if still surviving, was nearly contempoprose were simply the negation of rary with Herodotus ; and not very verse, were it the fact that prose had wide of him by bis subject. In his no separate laws of its own, but that case it is probable that the mere practo be a composer in prose meant only tical benefits of his book to the navihis privilege of being inartificial gators of the Mediterranean in that his dispensation from the restraints of early period, bad multiplied his book


• Geographie des Herodot - dargestellt von Hermann Bobrik. Koenigsberg, 1838.

[ocr errors]

so as eventually to preserve it. Yet, title-pages of Herodotus, we need as Major Rennell remarks, Geog. Syst. scarcely remind a Greek scholar that of Herod., p. 610,—"Scylax must be the verbiorogw, or the noun istogie, never regarded as a seaman or pilol, and the bears in this writer the latter sense of author of a coasting directory;" as a recording and memorializing. The mechanic artizan, ranking with Ha- substantive is a word frequently emmilton, Moore, or Gunter, not as a ployed by Herodotus: often in the great liberal artist-an intellectual plural number; and uniformly it potentate like Herodotus. Such now means enquiries or investigations, so upon the scale of intellectual claims as that the proper English version of the was this geographical rival by compa- title-page would be —" Of the rerison with Herodotus, such doubtless searches made by Herodotus, Nine were his rivals or predecessors in his. Books." And in reality that is the tory, in antiquities, and in the other very meaning, and the secret drift, provinces which he occupied. And the conservation running overhead generally the fragments of these au. through these nine sections to the thors, surviving in Pagan as well as nine muses. Had the work been deChristian collections, show that they signed as chiefly historical, it would were such. So that, in a high virtual have been placed under the patronage sense, Herodotus was to prose compo- of the one sole muse presiding over sition what Homer 600 years earlier History. But because the very openhad been to verse.

ing sentence tells us that it is not II. But whence arose the other chiefly historical, that it is so partially, mistake about Herodotus-the fancy that it rehearses the acts of men, [ that his great work was exclusively ys roulevæ,] together with the monumen(or even chiefly) a history? It arose tal structures of human labour, [5" simply from a mistranslation, which Egye-for the true sense of which subsists every where to this day. We word in this position sce the first sen. remember that Kant, in one of his tence in section thirty-five of Euterpe,] miscellaneous essays, finding a neces- and other things beside, [-a Tiarna,] sity for explaining the term Histoire, because in short not any limited an(why we cannot say, since the Ger- nals, because the mighty revelation of mans have the self-grown word Ge. the world to its scattered inhabitants, schichte for that idea,] deduces it of because course from the Greek to topic. This " Quicquid agunt homines, votum, brings him to an occasion for defining timor, ira, voluptas, the term. And how? It is laugh- Gaudia, discursus, nostri est farrago able to imagine the anxious reader libelli, bending his ear to catch the Kantean therefore it was that a running tiile or whisper, and finally, solemnly hearing superscription so extensive and so asthat 'loropice means-History. Really, piring had at some time been adopted. Professor Kant, we should almost Every muse, and not one only, is prehave guessed as much. But such de- sumed to be interested in the work ; rivations teach no more than the ample and, in simple truth, this legend of decircuit of Bardolph's definition—"ac- dication is but an expansion or variety commodatedthat whereby a man is, more impressively conveyed of what or may be thought to be"-what? had been already notified in the inauaccommodated.Kant was an ex- gural sentence; whilst both this sencellent Latin scholar, but an indiffer- tence and that dedication were deent Grecian. And spite of the old signed to meet the very misconception traditional « Historiarum Libri No. which has since notwithstanding prevem,” which stands upon all Latin vailed.*

* But—" How has it prevailed,” some will ask, " if an error ?

Have not great scholars sate upon Herodotus ?" Doubtless, many. There is none greater, for instance, merely as a verbal scholar, than Valckenaer. Whence we conclude that inevitably this error has been remarked somewhere. And as to the erroneous Latin version still keeping its ground, partly that may be due to the sort of superstition which every where protects old usages in formal situations like a title-page, partly to the fact that there is no happy Latin word to express Researches. But, however that may be, all the scholars in the world cannot get rid of the evidence involved in the general use of the word irtopiar by Herodotus.


These rectifications ought to have is evident that the whole character, some effect in elevating-first, the the very principle of movement, in rank of Herodotus ; secondly, his pre- many modern stories, depends upon sent attractions. Most certain we sentiments derived remotely from are that few readers are aware of the Christianity ; and others upon usages various amusement conveyed from all or manners peculiar to modern civili. sources then existing, by this most zation; so as in either case to involve splendid of travellers. Dr Johnson a moral anachronism if viewed as has expressed in print, (and not mere- Pagan. Not the colouring only of ly in the strife of conversation,) the the fable, but the very incidents, one following extravagant idea—that to and all, and the situations, and the Homer, as its original author, may be perplexities, are constantly the protraced back, at least in outline, every duct of something characteristically tale or complication of incidents now modern in the circumstances, somemoving in modern poems, romances, times for instance in the climate; or novels. Now, it is not necessary for the ancients had no experimental to denounce such an assertion as false, knowledge of severe climates. With because, upon two separate reasons, these double impossibilities before us, it shows itself to be impossible. In of any absolute fictions in a Pagan the first place, the motive to such an author that could be generally fitted to assertion was-to emblazon the inven- anticipate modern tales, we shall not tive faculty of Homer; but it hap- transfer to Herodotus the impracticpens that Homer could not inventable compliment paid by Dr Johnson any thing, small or great, under the to Homer, But it is certain that the very principles of Grecian art. To very best co.lection of stories furnishbe a fictio?, as to matters of action, ed by Pagan funds, lies dispersed (for in embellishments tlie rule might through his great work. One of the be otherwise,) was to be ridiculous best of the Arabian Nights, the very and unmeaning in Grecian eyes. We best as regards the structure of the may illustrate the Grecian feeling on plot-viz. the tale of Ali Baba and the this point (however little known to Forty Thieves-is evidently derived eritics) by our own dolorous disap- from an incident in that remarkpointment when we opened the Al able Egyptian legend, connected with hambra of Mr Washington Irving the treasure house of Rhampsinitus. We had supposed it to be some real This, except two of his Persian Spanish or Moorish legend connected legends, (Cyrus and Dariùs,) is the with that romantic edifice; and, be longest tale in Herodotus ; and by hold ! it was a mere Sadler's Wells much the best in an artist's sense ; intravesty, (we speak of its plan, not of deed, its own remarkable merit, as a its execution,) applied to some slender fable in which the incidents succesfragments from past days. Such, sively generate each other, caused it to bat far stronger, would have been the be transplanted by the Greeks to their disappointment to Grecian feelings, own country. Vossius, in his work on in finding any poetic (à fortiori, any the Greek bistorians, and a hundred prose) legend to be a fiction of the years later, Valckenaer, with many writer's-words cannot measure the other scholars, had pointed out the reaction of disgust. And thence it singular conformity of this memorable was that no tragic poet of Athens Egyptian story with several that ever took for his theme any tale or afterwarris circulated in Greece. The fable not already pre-existing in some eldest of these transfers was undoubtversion, though now and then it edly the Bæotian tale (but in days might be the least popular version. before the name Bæotia existed) of It was capital as an offence of the in- Agamedes and Trophonius, architects, tellect, it was lunatic to do otherwise. and sons to the King of Orchomenos, This is a most important characteris- who built a treasure-bouse at Hyria, tic of ancient taste ; and most (noticed by Homer in his ship catainteresting in its philosophic value for logue,) followed by tragical circumany comparative estimate of modern stances, the very same as those reart, as against ancient. In particular, corded by Herodotus. It is true that no just commentary can ever be write the latter incidents, according to the ten on the poetics of Aristotle, which Egyptian version—the monstrous deleaves it out of sight. Secondly, it vice of Rhampsinitus for discovering the robber at the price of his daugh- that his decision goes for little. And ter's honour, and the final reward of even he, had he read Herodotus, the robber for his petty ingenuity, would bave thought twice before he (which, after all, belonged chiefly to made up his mind. The truth is, that the deceased architect,) ruin the tale in such a case, suppose, for example, as a whole. But these latter incidents Robinson Crusoe empowered to imare obviously forgeries of another port one book and no more into his age ; "angeschlossen" fastened on by insular bermitage, the most powerful fraud, an den ersten aelteren theil," to of human books must be unavoidably the first and elder part, as Mueller excluded, and for the following rearightly observes, p. 97, of his Orcho- son: that in the direct ratio of its menos. And even here it is pleasing profundity will be the unity of any to notice the incredulity of Herodotus, fictitious interest; a Paradise Lost, who was not, like so many of his or a King Lear, could not agitate or Christian commentators, sceptical possess the mind as they do, if they upon previous system and by whole. were at leisure to “amuse" us. So sale, but equally prone to believe far from relying on its unity, the work wherever his heart (naturally reve. which should aim at the maximum of rential) suggested an interference of amusement, ought to rely on the superior natures, and to doubt maximum of variety. And in that wherever his excellent judgment de- view it is that we urge the paramount tected marks of incoherency. He pretensions of Herodotus ; since not records the entire series of incidents only are his topics separately of primas τα λεγομενα ακοη, reports of events ary interest, each for itself, but they which had reached him by hearsay, are collectively the most varied in the Ele or de ou firta--" but to me," he says quality of that interest, and they are pointedly, "not credible."

touched with the most flying and least In this view, as a thesaurus fabula- lingering pen; for, of all writers, rum, a great repository of anecdotes Herodotus is the most cautious not and legends, tragic or romantic, He- to trespass on his reader's patience : rodotus is so far beyond all Pagan his transitions are the most fluent competition, that we are thrown upon whilst they are the most endless, jusChristian literatures for any corres- tifying themselves to the understand. ponding form of merit. The case has ing as much as they recommend often been imagined playfully, that a themselves to the spirit of hurrying man were restricted to one book; curiosity; and his narrations or deand, supposing all books so solemn as scriptions are the most animated by those of a religious interest to be laid the generality of their abstractions, out of the question, many are the an- whilst they are the most faithfully inswers which have been pronounced, dividual by the felicity of their miaccording to the difference of men's nute circumstances. miods. Rousseau, as is well known, Once, and in a public situation, we on such an assumption made his elec- ourselves denominated Herodotus the tion for Plutarch. But shall we tell Froissart of antiquity. But we were the reader why? It was not alto. then speaking of him exclusively as gether bis taste, or his judicious choice, an historian; and even so, we did him which decided him; for choice there injustice. Thus far it is true the two can be none amongst elements unexa. men agree, that both are less political, mined--it was his limited reading. or reflecting, or moralizing, as histoExcept a few papers in the French rians, than they are scenical and Encyclopédie during his

his maturer splendidly picturesque. But Froisyears, and some dozen of works pre- sart is little else than an historian. sented to him by their authors, bis Whereas Herodotus is the counterown friends, Rousseau had read little part of some ideal Pandora, by the or nothing beyond Plutarch's Lives universality of bis accomplishments. in a bad French translation, and Mon- He is a traveller of discovery, like taigne. Though not a Frenchman, Captain Cooke or Park. He is a nahaving had an education (if such one turalist, the earliest that existed. He can call it) thoroughly French, he had is a mythologist, and a speculator on the usual puerile French craze about the origin, as well as value, of religious Roman virtue, and republican simpli- rites. He is a political economist by city, and Cato, and “all that." So instinct of genius, before the science of economy had a name or a conscious But take him as an exploratory trafunction; and by two great records, veller and as a naturalist, who had he has put us up to the level of all to break ground for the earliest en

that can excite our curiosity at that trenchments in these new functions · great era of moving civilization :- of knowledge; we do not scruple to

first, as respects Persia, by the ela- say that, mutatis mutandis, and conces. borate review of the various satra- sis concedendis, Herodotus has the sepies or great lieutenancies of the em- parate qualifications of the two men pire-that vast empire which had whom we would select by preference absorbed the Assyrian, Median, Ba- as the most distinguished amongst bylonian, Little Syrian, and Egyptian Christian traveller-naturalists; he has kingdoms, registering against each the universality of the Prussian Humseparate viceroyalty, from Algiers to boldt; and he has the picturesque Lahore beyond the Indus, what was fidelity to nature of the English Dam. the amount of its annual tribute to pier-of whom the last was a simple the gorgeous exchequer of Susa; and self-educated seaman, but strongsecondly, as respects Greece, by his minded by nature, austerely accurate review of the numerous little Grecian through his moral reverence for truth, states, and their several contingents and zealous in pursuit of knowledge, in ships, or in soldiers, or in both, to an excess which raises him to a (accordiog as their position happened level with the noble Greek. Dam. to be inland or maritime,) towards pier, when in the last stage of exhausthe universal armament against the tion from a malignant dysentery, un. second and greatest of the Persian in- able to stand upright, and surrounded vasions. Two such documents, such by perils in a land of infidel fanatics, archives of political economy, do not crawled on his hands and feet to veexist elsewhere in history. Egyptrify some fact of natural history, unhad now ceased, and we may say that der the blazing forenoon of the tro. (according to the Scriptural pro- pics; and Herodotus, having no mophecy) it had ceased for ever to be tive but his own inexhaustible thirst an independent realm. Persia had ot knowledge, embarked on a sepanow for seventy years had her foot rate voyage, fraught with hardships, upon the neck of this unhappy land; towards a chance of clearing up what and, in one century beyond the death seemed a difficulty of some importof Herodotus, the two-horned he- ance in deducing the religious mytho. goat of Macedon was destined to butt logy of his country. it down into hopeless prostration. But it is in those characters by which But so far as Egypt, from her vast he is best known to the world—viz. antiquity, or from her great resources, as an historian and a geographer-that was entitled to a more circumstantial Herodotus levies the heaviest tribute notice than any other satrapy of the on our reverence; and precisely in great empire, such a notice it has; those characters it is that he now and we do not scruple to say, though claims the amplest atonement, having it may seem a bold word, that, from formerly sustained the grossest outthe many scattered features of Egyp- rages of insult and slander on the petian habits or usages incidentally in- culiar merits attached to each of those dicated by Herodotus, a better por- characters.

Credulous he was sup. trait of Egyptian life, and a better posed to be, in a degree transcending abstract of Egyptian political eco- the privilege of old garrulous nurses; nomy, might even yet be gathered, hyperbolically extravagant beyond Sir than from all the writers of Greece John Mandeville ; and lastly, as if he for the cities of their native land. had been a Mendez Pinto or a Mun.

Two-horned,” in one view, as having no successor, Alexander was called the one-horned. But it is very singular that all Oriental nations, without knowing any thing of the Scriptural symbols under which Alexander is described by Daniel as the strong he-goat who butted against the ram of Persia, have always called him the " two-horned,” with a covert allusion to his European and his Asiatic kingdom. And it is equally singular, that unintentionally this symbol falls in with Alexander's own assumption of a descent from the Lybian Jupiter. Ammon, to whom the double horns were an indispensable and characteristic symbol.

« 上一頁繼續 »