Part 1 out of 4
This etext was prepared by Dr. Mike Alder and Sue Asscher
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THE MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS AND SPEECHES
Lord Macaulay always looked forward to a publication of his
miscellaneous works, either by himself or by those who should
represent him after his death. And latterly he expressly
reserved, whenever the arrangements as to copyright made it
necessary, the right of such publication.
The collection which is now published comprehends some of the
earliest and some of the latest works which he composed. He was
born on 25th October, 1800; commenced residence at Trinity
College, Cambridge, in October, 1818; was elected Craven
University Scholar in 1821; graduated as B.A. in 1822; was
elected fellow of the college in October, 1824; was called to the
bar in February, 1826, when he joined the Northern Circuit; and
was elected member for Calne in 1830. After this last event, he
did not long continue to practise at the bar. He went to India
in 1834, whence he returned in June, 1838. He was elected member
for Edinburgh, in 1839, and lost this seat in July, 1847; and
this (though he was afterwards again elected for that city in
July, 1852, without being a candidate) may be considered as the
last instance of his taking an active part in the contests of
public life. These few dates are mentioned for the purpose
of enabling the reader to assign the articles, now and previously
published, to the principal periods into which the author's life
may be divided.
The admirers of his later works will probably be interested by
watching the gradual formation of his style, and will notice in
his earlier productions, vigorous and clear as their language
always was, the occurrence of faults against which he afterwards
most anxiously guarded himself. A much greater interest will
undoubtedly be felt in tracing the date and development of his
The articles published in Knight's Quarterly Magazine were
composed during the author's residence at college, as B.A. It
may be remarked that the first two of these exhibit the
earnestness with which he already endeavoured to represent to
himself and to others the scenes and persons of past times as in
actual existence. Of the Dialogue between Milton and Cowley he
spoke, many years after its publication, as that one of his works
which he remembered with most satisfaction. The article on
Mitford's Greece he did not himself value so highly as others
thought it deserved. This article, at any rate, contains the
first distinct enunciation of his views, as to the office of an
historian, views afterwards more fully set forth in his Essay,
upon History, in the Edinburgh Review. From the protest, in the
last mentioned essay, against the conventional notions respecting
the majesty of history might perhaps have been anticipated
something like the third chapter of the History of England. It
may be amusing to notice that in the article on Mitford, appears
the first sketch of the New Zealander, afterwards filled up in a
passage in the review of Mrs Austin's translation of Ranke, a
passage which at one time was the subject of allusion, two or
three times a week, in speeches and leading articles. In this,
too, appear, perhaps for the first time, the author's views on
the representative system. These he retained to the very last;
they are brought forward repeatedly in the articles published in
this collection and elsewhere, and in his speeches in parliament;
and they coincide with the opinions expressed in the letter to an
American correspondent, which was so often cited in the late
debate on the Reform Bill.
Some explanation appears to be necessary as to the publication of
the three articles "Mill on Government," "Westminster Reviewer's
Defence of Mill" and "Utilitarian Theory of Government."
In 1828 Mr James Mill, the author of the History of British
India, reprinted some essays which he had contributed to the
Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica; and among these was
an Essay on Government. The method of inquiry and reasoning
adopted in this essay appeared to Macaulay to be essentially
wrong. He entertained a very strong conviction that the only
sound foundation for a theory of Government must be laid in
careful and copious historical induction; and he believed that Mr
Mill's work rested upon a vicious reasoning a priori. Upon this
point he felt the more earnestly, owing to his own passion for
historical research, and to his devout admiration of Bacon, whose
works he was at that time studying with intense attention. There
can, however, be little doubt that he was also provoked by the
pretensions of some members of a sect which then commonly went by
the name of Benthamites, or Utilitarians. This sect included
many of his contemporaries, who had quitted Cambridge at about
the same time with him. It had succeeded, in some measure, to
the sect of the Byronians, whom he has described in the review of
Moore's Life of Lord Byron, who discarded their neckcloths, and
fixed little models of skulls on the sand-glasses by which they
regulated the boiling of their eggs for breakfast. The members
of these sects, and of many others that have succeeded, have
probably long ago learned to smile at the temporary humours. But
Macaulay, himself a sincere admirer of Bentham, was irritated by
what he considered the unwarranted tone assumed by several of the
class of Utilitarians. "We apprehend," he said, "that many of
them are persons who, having read little or nothing, are
delighted to be rescued from the sense of their own inferiority
by some teacher who assures them that the studies which they have
neglected are of no value, puts five or six phrases into their
mouths, lends them an odd number of the Westminster Review, and
in a month transforms them into philosophers;" and he spoke of
them as "smatterers, whose attainments just suffice to elevate
them from the insignificance of dunces to the dignity of bores,
and to spread dismay among their pious aunts and grand mothers."
The sect, of course, like other sects, comprehended some
pretenders, and these the most arrogant and intolerant among its
members. He, however, went so far as to apply the following
language to the majority:--"As to the greater part of the sect,
it is, we apprehend, of little consequence what they study or
under whom. It would be more amusing, to be sure, and more
reputable, if they would take up the old republican cant and
declaim about Brutus and Timoleon, the duty of killing tyrants
and the blessedness of dying for liberty. But, on the whole,
they might have chosen worse. They may as well be Utilitarians
as jockeys or dandies. And, though quibbling about self-interest
and motives, and objects of desire, and the greatest happiness of
the greatest number, is but a poor employment for a grown man, it
certainly hurts the health less than hard drinking and the
fortune less than high play; it is not much more laughable than
phrenology, and is immeasurably more humane than cock-fighting."
Macaulay inserted in the Edinburgh Review of March, 1829, an
article upon Mr Mill's Essay. He attacked the method with much
vehemence; and, to the end of his life, he never saw any ground
for believing that in this he had gone too far. But before long
he felt that he had not spoken of the author of the Essay with
the respect due to so eminent a man. In 1833, he described Mr
mill, during the debate on the India Bill of that year, as a
"gentleman extremely well acquainted with the affairs of our
Eastern Empire, a most valuable servant of the Company, and the
author of a history of India, which, though certainly not free
from faults, is, I think, on the whole, the greatest historical
work which has appeared in our language since that of Gibbon."
Almost immediately upon the appearance of the article in the
Edinburgh Review, an answer was published in the Westminster
Review. It was untruly attributed, in the newspapers of the day,
to Mr Bentham himself. Macaulay's answer to this appeared in the
Edinburgh Review, June, 1829. He wrote the answer under the
belief that he was answering Mr Bentham, and was undeceived in
time only to add the postscript. The author of the article in
the Westminster Review had not perceived that the question raised
was not as to the truth or falsehood of the result at which Mr
Mill had arrived, but as to the soundness or unsoundness of the
method which he pursued; a misunderstanding at which Macaulay,
while he supposed the article to be the work of Mr Bentham,
expressed much surprise. The controversy soon became principally
a dispute as to the theory which was commonly known by the name
of The Greatest Happiness Principle. Another article in the
Westminster Review followed; and a surrejoinder by Macaulay in
the Edinburgh Review of October, 1829. Macaulay was irritated at
what he conceived to be either extreme dullness or gross
unfairness on the part of his unknown antagonist, and struck as
hard as he could; and he struck very hard indeed.
The ethical question thus raised was afterwards discussed by Sir
James Mackintosh, in the Dissertation contributed by him to the
seventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, page 284-313
(Whewell's Edition). Sir James Mackintosh notices the part taken
in the controversy by Macaulay, in the following words: "A
writer of consummate ability, who has failed in little but the
respect due to the abilities and character of his opponents, has
given too much countenance to the abuse and confusion of language
exemplified in the well-known verse of Pope,
'Modes of self-love the Passions we may call.'
'We know,' says he, 'no universal proposition respecting human
nature which is true but one--that men always act from self-
interest.'" "It is manifest from the sequel, that the writer is
not the dupe of the confusion; but many of his readers may be so.
If, indeed, the word "self-interest" could with propriety be used
for the gratification of every prevalent desire, he has clearly
shown that this change in the signification of terms would be of
no advantage to the doctrine which he controverts. It would make
as many sorts of self-interest as there are appetites, and it is
irreconcilably at variance with the system of association
proposed by Mr Mill." "The admirable writer whose language has
occasioned this illustration, who at an early age has mastered
every species of composition, will doubtless hold fast to
simplicity, which survives all the fashions of deviation from it,
and which a man of genius so fertile has few temptations to for
When Macaulay selected for publication certain articles of the
Edinburgh Review, he resolved not to publish any of the three
essays in question; for which he assigned the following reason:--
"The author has been strongly urged to insert three papers on the
Utilitarian Philosophy, which, when they first appeared,
attracted some notice, but which are not in the American
editions. He has however determined to omit these papers, not
because he is disposed to retract a single doctrine which they
contain, but because he is unwilling to offer what might be
regarded as an affront to the memory of one from whose opinions
he still widely dissents, but to whose talents and virtues he
admits that he formerly did not do justice. Serious as are the
faults of the Essay on Government, a critic, while noticing those
faults, should have abstained from using contemptuous language
respecting the historian of British India. It ought to be known
that Mr Mill had the generosity, not only to forgive, but to
forget the unbecoming acrimony with which he had been assailed,
and was, when his valuable life closed, on terms of cordial
friendship with his assailant."
Under these circumstances, considerable doubt has been felt as to
the propriety of republishing the three Essays in the present
collection. But it has been determined, not without much
hesitation, that they should appear. It is felt that no
disrespect is shown to the memory of Mr Mill, when the
publication is accompanied by so full an apology for the tone
adopted towards him; and Mr Mill himself would have been the last
to wish for the suppression of opinions on the ground that they
were in express antagonism to his own. The grave has now closed
upon the assailant as well as the assailed. On the other hand,
it cannot but be desirable that opinions which the author
retained to the last, on important questions in politics and
morals, should be before the public.
Some of the poems now collected have already appeared in print;
others are supplied by the recollection of friends. The first
two are published on account of their having been composed in the
author's childhood. In the poems, as well as in the prose works,
will be occasionally found thoughts and expressions which have
afterwards been adopted in later productions.
No alteration whatever has been made from the form in which the
author left the several articles, with the exception of some
changes in punctuation, and the correction of one or two obvious
London, June 1860.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO KNIGHT'S QUARTERLY MAGAZINE.
Fragments of a Roman Tale. (June 1823.)
On the Royal Society of Literature. (June 1823.)
Scenes from "Athenian Revels." (January 1824.)
Criticisms on the Principal Italian Writers. No. I. Dante.
Criticisms on the Principal Italian Writers. No. II. Petrarch.
Some account of the Great Lawsuit between the Parishes of St
Dennis and St George in the Water. (April 1824.)
A Conversation between Mr Abraham Cowley and Mr John Milton,
touching the Great Civil War. (August 1824.)
On the Athenian Orators. (August 1824.)
A Prophetic Account of a Grand National Epic Poem, to be entitled
"The Wellingtoniad," and to be Published A.D. 2824. (November
On Mitford's History of Greece. (November 1824.)
MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS OF LORD MACAULAY.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO KNIGHT'S QUARTERLY MAGAZINE.
FRAGMENTS OF A ROMAN TALE.
It was an hour after noon. Ligarius was returning from the
Campus Martius. He strolled through one of the streets which led
to the Forum, settling his gown, and calculating the odds on the
gladiators who were to fence at the approaching Saturnalia.
While thus occupied, he overtook Flaminius, who, with a heavy
step and a melancholy face, was sauntering in the same direction.
The light-hearted young man plucked him by the sleeve.
"Good-day, Flaminius. Are you to be of Catiline's party this
"Why so? Your little Tarentine girl will break her heart."
"No matter. Catiline has the best cooks and the finest wine in
Rome. There are charming women at his parties. But the twelve-
line board and the dice-box pay for all. The Gods confound me if
I did not lose two millions of sesterces last night. My villa at
Tibur, and all the statues that my father the praetor brought
from Ephesus, must go to the auctioneer. That is a high price,
you will acknowledge, even for Phoenicopters, Chian, and
"High indeed, by Pollux."
"And that is not the worst. I saw several of the leading
senators this morning. Strange things are whispered in the
higher political circles."
"The Gods confound the political circles. I have hated the name
of politician ever since Sylla's proscription, when I was within
a moment of having my throat cut by a politician, who took me for
another politician. While there is a cask of Falernian in
Campania, or a girl in the Suburra, I shall be too well employed
to think on the subject."
"You will do well," said Flaminius gravely, "to bestow some
little consideration upon it at present. Otherwise, I fear, you
will soon renew your acquaintance with politicians, in a manner
quite as unpleasant as that to which you allude."
"Averting Gods! what do you mean?"
"I will tell you. There are rumours of conspiracy. The order of
things established by Lucius Sylla has excited the disgust of the
people, and of a large party of the nobles. Some violent
convulsion is expected."
"What is that to me? I suppose that they will hardly proscribe
the vintners and gladiators, or pass a law compelling every
citizen to take a wife."
"You do not understand. Catiline is supposed to be the author of
the revolutionary schemes. You must have heard bold opinions at
his table repeatedly."
"I never listen to any opinions upon such subjects, bold or
"Look to it. Your name has been mentioned."
"Mine! good Gods! I call Heaven to witness that I never so much
as mentioned Senate, Consul, or Comitia, in Catiline's house."
"Nobody suspects you of any participation in the inmost counsels
of the party. But our great men surmise that you are among those
whom he has bribed so high with beauty, or entangled so deeply in
distress, that they are no longer their own masters. I shall
never set foot within his threshold again. I have been solemnly
warned by men who understand public affairs; and I advise you to
The friends had now turned into the Forum, which was thronged
with the gay and elegant youth of Rome. "I can tell you more,"
continued Flaminius; "somebody was remarking to the Consul
yesterday how loosely a certain acquaintance of ours tied his
girdle. 'Let him look to himself;' said Cicero, 'or the state
may find a tighter girdle for his neck.'"
"Good Gods! who is it? You cannot surely mean"--
"There he is."
Flaminius pointed to a man who was pacing up and down the Forum
at a little distance from them. He was in the prime of manhood.
His personal advantages were extremely striking, and were
displayed with an extravagant but not ungraceful foppery. His
gown waved in loose folds; his long dark curls were dressed with
exquisite art, and shone and steamed with odours; his step and
gesture exhibited an elegant and commanding figure in every
posture of polite languor. But his countenance formed a singular
contrast to the general appearance of his person. The high and
imperial brow, the keen aquiline features, the compressed mouth;
the penetrating eye, indicated the highest degree of ability and
decision. He seemed absorbed in intense meditation. With eyes
fixed on the ground, and lips working in thought, he sauntered
round the area, apparently unconscious how many of the young
gallants of Rome were envying the taste of his dress, and the
ease of his fashionable stagger.
"Good Heaven!" said Ligarius, "Caius Caesar is as unlikely to be
in a plot as I am."
"Not at all."
"He does nothing but game; feast, intrigue, read Greek, and write
"You know nothing of Caesar. Though he rarely addresses the
Senate, he is considered as the finest speaker there, after the
Consul. His influence with the multitude is immense. He will
serve his rivals in public life as he served me last night at
Catiline's. We were playing at the twelve lines. (Duodecim
scripta, a game of mixed chance and skill, which seems to have
been very fashionable in the higher circles of Rome. The famous
lawyer Mucius was renowned for his skill in it.--("Cic. Orat." i.
50.)--Immense stakes. He laughed all the time, chatted with
Valeria over his shoulder, kissed her hand between every two
moves, and scarcely looked at the board. I thought that I had
him. All at once I found my counters driven into the corner.
Not a piece to move, by Hercules. It cost me two millions of
sesterces. All the Gods and Goddesses confound him for it!"
"As to Valeria," said Ligarius, "I forgot to ask whether you have
heard the news."
"Not a word. What?"
"I was told at the baths to-day that Caesar escorted the lady
home. Unfortunately old Quintus Lutatius had come back from his
villa in Campania, in a whim of jealousy. He was not expected
for three days. There was a fine tumult. The old fool called
for his sword and his slaves, cursed his wife, and swore that he
would cut Caesar's throat."
"He laughed, quoted Anacreon, trussed his gown round his left
arm, closed with Quintus, flung him down, twisted his sword out
of his hand, burst through the attendants, ran a freed-man
through the shoulder, and was in the street in an instant."
"Well done! Here he comes. Good-day, Caius."
Caesar lifted his head at the salutation. His air of deep
abstraction vanished; and he extended a hand to each of the
"How are you after your last night's exploit?"
"As well as possible," said Caesar, laughing.
"In truth we should rather ask how Quintus Lutatius is."
"He, I understand, is as well as can be expected of a man with a
faithless spouse and a broken head. His freed-man is most
seriously hurt. Poor fellow! he shall have half of whatever I
win to-night. Flaminius, you shall have your revenge at
"You are very kind. I do not intend to be at Catiline's till I
wish to part with my town-house. My villa is gone already."
"Not at Catiline's, base spirit! You are not of his mind, my
gallant Ligarius. Dice, Chian, and the loveliest Greek singing
girl that was ever seen. Think of that, Ligarius. By Venus, she
almost made me adore her, by telling me that I talked Greek with
the most Attic accent that she had heard in Italy."
"I doubt she will not say the same of me," replied Ligarius. "I
am just as able to decipher an obelisk as to read a line of
"You barbarous Scythian, who had the care of your education?"
"An old fool,--a Greek pedant,--a Stoic. He told me that pain
was no evil, and flogged me as if he thought so. At last one
day, in the middle of a lecture, I set fire to his enormous
filthy beard, singed his face, and sent him roaring out of the
house. There ended my studies. From that time to this I have
had as little to do with Greece as the wine that your poor old
friend Lutatius calls his delicious Samian."
"Well done, Ligarius. I hate a Stoic. I wish Marcus Cato had a
beard that you might singe it for him. The fool talked his two
hours in the Senate yesterday, without changing a muscle of his
face. He looked as savage and as motionless as the mask in which
Roscius acted Alecto. I detest everything connected with him."
"Except his sister, Servilia."
"True. She is a lovely woman."
"They say that you have told her so, Caius"
"So I have."
"And that she was not angry."
"What woman is?"
"Aye--but they say"--
"No matter what they say. Common fame lies like a Greek
rhetorician. You might know so much, Ligarius, without reading
the philosophers. But come, I will introduce you to little dark-
"I tell you I can speak no Greek."
"More shame for you. It is high time that you should begin. You
will never have such a charming instructress. Of what was your
father thinking when he sent for an old Stoic with a long beard
to teach you? There is no language-mistress like a handsome
woman. When I was at Athens, I learnt more Greek from a pretty
flower-girl in the Peiraeus than from all the Portico and the
Academy. She was no Stoic, Heaven knows. But come along to Zoe.
I will be your interpreter. Woo her in honest Latin, and I will
turn it into elegant Greek between the throws of dice. I can
make love and mind my game at once, as Flaminius can
"Well, then, to be plain, Caesar, Flaminius has been talking to
me about plots, and suspicions, and politicians. I never plagued
myself with such things since Sylla's and Marius's days; and then
I never could see much difference between the parties. All that
I am sure of is, that those who meddle with such affairs are
generally stabbed or strangled. And, though I like Greek wine
and handsome women, I do not wish to risk my neck for them. Now,
tell me as a friend, Caius--is there no danger?"
"Danger!" repeated Caesar, with a short, fierce, disdainful
laugh: "what danger do you apprehend?"
"That you should best know," said Flaminius; "you are far more
intimate with Catiline than I. But I advise you to be cautious.
The leading men entertain strong suspicions."
Caesar drew up his figure from its ordinary state of graceful
relaxation into an attitude of commanding dignity, and replied in
a voice of which the deep and impassioned melody formed a strange
contrast to the humorous and affected tone of his ordinary
conversation. "Let them suspect. They suspect because they know
what they have deserved. What have they done for Rome?--What for
mankind? Ask the citizens--ask the provinces. Have they had any
other object than to perpetuate their own exclusive power, and to
keep us under the yoke of an oligarchical tyranny, which unites
in itself the worst evils of every other system, and combines
more than Athenian turbulence with more than Persian despotism?"
"Good Gods! Caesar. It is not safe for you to speak, or for us
to listen to, such things, at such a crisis."
"Judge for yourselves what you will hear. I will judge for
myself what I will speak. I was not twenty years old when I
defied Lucius Sylla, surrounded by the spears of legionaries and
the daggers of assassins. Do you suppose that I stand in awe of
his paltry successors, who have inherited a power which they
never could have acquired; who would imitate his proscriptions,
though they have never equalled his conquests?"
"Pompey is almost as little to be trifled with as Sylla. I heard
a consular senator say that, in consequence of the present
alarming state of affairs, he would probably be recalled from the
command assigned to him by the Manilian law."
"Let him come,--the pupil of Sylla's butcheries,--the gleaner of
Lucullus's trophies,--the thief-taker of the Senate."
"For Heaven's sake, Caius!--if you knew what the Consul said"--
"Something about himself, no doubt. Pity that such talents
should be coupled with such cowardice and coxcombry. He is the
finest speaker living,--infinitely superior to what Hortensius
was, in his best days;-- a charming companion, except when he
tells over for the twentieth time all the jokes that he made at
Verres's trial. But he is the despicable tool of a despicable
"Your language, Caius, convinces me that the reports which have
been circulated are not without foundation. I will venture to
prophesy that within a few months the republic will pass through
a whole Odyssey of strange adventures."
"I believe so; an Odyssey, of which Pompey will be the
Polyphemus, and Cicero the Siren. I would have the state imitate
Ulysses: show no mercy to the former; but contrive, if it can be
done, to listen to the enchanting voice of the other, without
being seduced by it to destruction."
"But whom can your party produce as rivals to these two famous
"Time will show. I would hope that there may arise a man, whose
genius to conquer, to conciliate, and to govern, may unite in one
cause an oppressed and divided people;--may do all that Sylla
should have done, and exhibit the magnificent spectacle of a
great nation directed by a great mind."
"And where is such a man to be found?"
"Perhaps where you would least expect to find him. Perhaps he
may be one whose powers have hitherto been concealed in domestic
or literary retirement. Perhaps he may be one, who, while
waiting for some adequate excitement, for some worthy
opportunity, squanders on trifles a genius before which may yet
be humbled the sword of Pompey and the gown of Cicero. Perhaps
he may now be disputing with a sophist; perhaps prattling with a
mistress; perhaps" and, as he spoke, he turned away, and resumed
his lounge, "strolling in the Forum."
It was almost midnight. The party had separated. Catiline and
Cethegus were still conferring in the supper-room, which was, as
usual, the highest apartment of the house. It formed a cupola,
from which windows opened on the flat roof that surrounded it.
To this terrace Zoe had retired. With eyes dimmed with fond and
melancholy tears, she leaned over the balustrade, to catch the
last glimpse of the departing form of Caesar, as it grew more and
more indistinct in the moonlight. Had he any thought of her?
Any love for her? He, the favourite of the high-born beauties of
Rome, the most splendid, the most graceful, the most eloquent of
its nobles? It could not be. His voice had, indeed, been
touchingly soft whenever he addressed her. There had been a
fascinating tenderness even in the vivacity of his look and
conversation. But such were always the manners of Caesar towards
women. He had wreathed a sprig of myrtle in her hair as she was
singing. She took it from her dark ringlets, and kissed it, and
wept over it, and thought of the sweet legends of her own dear
Greece,--of youths and girls, who, pining away in hopeless love,
had been transformed into flowers by the compassion of the Gods;
and she wished to become a flower, which Caesar might sometimes
touch, though he should touch it only to weave a crown for some
prouder and happier mistress.
She was roused from her musings by the loud step and voice of
Cethegus, who was pacing furiously up and down the supper-room.
"May all the Gods confound me, if Caesar be not the deepest
traitor, or the most miserable idiot, that ever intermeddled with
Zoe shuddered. She drew nearer to the window. She stood
concealed from observation by the curtain of fine network which
hung over the aperture, to exclude the annoying insects of the
"And you too!" continued Cethegus, turning fiercely on his
accomplice; "you to take his part against me!--you, who proposed
the scheme yourself!"
"My dear Caius Cethegus, you will not understand me. I proposed
the scheme; and I will join in executing it. But policy is as
necessary to our plans as boldness. I did not wish to startle
Caesar--to lose his co-operation--perhaps to send him off with an
information against us to Cicero and Catulus. He was so
indignant at your suggestion that all my dissimulation was
scarcely sufficient to prevent a total rupture."
"Indignant! The Gods confound him!--He prated about humanity,
and generosity, and moderation. By Hercules, I have not heard
such a lecture since I was with Xenochares at Rhodes."
"Caesar is made up of inconsistencies. He has boundless
ambition, unquestioned courage, admirable sagacity. Yet I have
frequently observed in him a womanish weakness at the sight of
pain. I remember that once one of his slaves was taken ill while
carrying his litter. He alighted, put the fellow in his place
and walked home in a fall of snow. I wonder that you could be so
ill-advised as to talk to him of massacre, and pillage, and
conflagration. You might have foreseen that such propositions
would disgust a man of his temper."
"I do not know. I have not your self-command, Lucius. I hate
such conspirators. What is the use of them? We must have blood
--blood,-- hacking and tearing work--bloody work!"
"Do not grind your teeth, my dear Caius; and lay down the
carving-knife. By Hercules, you have cut up all the stuffing of
"No matter; we shall have couches enough soon,--and down to stuff
them with,--and purple to cover them,--and pretty women to loll
on them,--unless this fool, and such as he, spoil our plans. I
had something else to say. The essenced fop wishes to seduce Zoe
"Impossible! You misconstrue the ordinary gallantries which he
is in the habit of paying to every handsome face."
"Curse on his ordinary gallantries, and his verses, and his
compliments, and his sprigs of myrtle! If Caesar should dare--by
Hercules, I will tear him to pieces in the middle of the Forum."
"Trust his destruction to me. We must use his talents and
influence--thrust him upon every danger--make him our instrument
while we are contending--our peace-offering to the Senate if we
fail--our first victim if we succeed."
"Hark! what noise was that?"
"Somebody in the terrace --lend me your dagger."
Catiline rushed to the window. Zoe was standing in the shade.
He stepped out. She darted into the room--passed like a flash of
lightning by the startled Cethegus--flew down the stairs--through
the court--through the vestibule--through the street. Steps,
voices, lights, came fast and confusedly behind her; but with the
speed of love and terror she gained upon her pursuers. She fled
through the wilderness of unknown and dusky streets, till she
found herself, breathless and exhausted, in the midst of a crowd
of gallants, who, with chaplets on their heads and torches in
their hands, were reeling from the portico of a stately mansion.
The foremost of the throng was a youth whose slender figure and
beautiful countenance seemed hardly consistent with his sex. But
the feminine delicacy of his features rendered more frightful the
mingled sensuality and ferocity of their expression. The
libertine audacity of his stare, and the grotesque foppery of his
apparel, seemed to indicate at least a partial insanity.
Flinging one arm round Zoe, and tearing away her veil with the
other, he disclosed to the gaze of his thronging companions the
regular features and large dark eyes which characterise Athenian
"Clodius has all the luck to-night," cried Ligarius.
"Not so, by Hercules," said Marcus Coelius; "the girl is fairly
our common prize: we will fling dice for her. The Venus (Venus
was the Roman term for the highest throw of the dice.) throw, as
it ought to do, shall decide."
"Let me go--let me go, for Heaven's sake," cried Zoe, struggling
"What a charming Greek accent she has! Come into the house, my
little Athenian nightingale."
"Oh! what will become of me? If you have mothers--if you have
"Clodius has a sister," muttered Ligarius, "or he is much
"By Heaven, she is weeping," said Clodius.
"If she were not evidently a Greek," said Coelius, "I should take
her for a vestal virgin."
"And if she were a vestal virgin," cried Clodius fiercely, "it
should not deter me. This way;--no struggling--no screaming."
"Struggling! screaming!" exclaimed a gay and commanding voice;
"You are making very ungentle love, Clodius."
The whole party started. Caesar had mingled with them
The sound of his voice thrilled through the very heart of Zoe.
With a convulsive effort she burst from the grasp of her insolent
admirer, flung herself at the feet of Caesar, and clasped his
knees. The moon shone full on her agitated and imploring face:
her lips moved; but she uttered no sound. He gazed at her for an
instant--raised her--clasped her to his bosom. "Fear nothing, my
sweet Zoe." Then, with folded arms, and a smile of placid
defiance, he placed himself between her and Clodius.
Clodius staggered forward, flushed with wine and rage, and
uttering alternately a curse and a hiccup.
"By Pollux, this passes a jest. Caesar, how dare you insult me
"A jest! I am as serious as a Jew on the Sabbath. Insult you;
for such a pair of eyes I would insult the whole consular bench,
or I should be as insensible as King Psammis's mummy."
"Good Gods, Caesar!" said Marcus Coelius, interposing; "you
cannot think it worth while to get into a brawl for a little
"Why not? The Greek girls have used me as well as those of Rome.
Besides, the whole reputation of my gallantry is at stake. Give
up such a lovely woman to that drunken boy! My character would
be gone for ever. No more perfumed tablets, full of vows and
raptures. No more toying with fingers at the circus. No more
evening walks along the Tiber. No more hiding in chests or
jumping from windows. I, the favoured suitor of half the white
stoles in Rome, could never again aspire above a freed-woman.
You a man of gallantry, and think of such a thing! For shame, my
dear Coelius! Do not let Clodia hear of it."
While Caesar spoke he had been engaged in keeping Clodius at
arm's-length. The rage of the frantic libertine increased as the
struggle continued. "Stand back, as you value your life," he
cried; "I will pass."
"Not this way, sweet Clodius. I have too much regard for you to
suffer you to make love at such disadvantage. You smell too much
of Falernian at present. Would you stifle your mistress? By
Hercules, you are fit to kiss nobody now, except old Piso, when
he is tumbling home in the morning from the vintners."
Clodius plunged his hand into his bosom and drew a little dagger,
the faithful companion of many desperate adventures.
"Oh, Gods! he will be murdered!" cried Zoe.
The whole throng of revellers was in agitation. The street
fluctuated with torches and lifted hands. It was but for a
moment. Caesar watched with a steady eye the descending hand of
Clodius, arrested the blow, seized his antagonist by the throat,
and flung him against one of the pillars of the portico with such
violence, that he rolled, stunned and senseless, on the ground.
"He is killed," cried several voices.
"Fair self-defence, by Hercules!" said Marcus Coelius. "Bear
witness, you all saw him draw his dagger."
He is not dead--he breathes," said Ligarius. " Carry him into
the house; he is dreadfully bruised."
The rest of the party retired with Clodius. Coelius turned to
"By all the Gods, Caius! you have won your lady fairly. A
splendid victory! You deserve a triumph."
"What a madman Clodius has become!"
"Intolerable. But come and sup with me on the Nones. You have
no objection to meet the Consul?"
Cicero? None at all. We need not talk politics. Our old dispute
about Plato and Epicurus will furnish us with plenty of
conversation. So reckon upon me, my dear Marcus, and farewell."
Caesar and Zoe turned away. As soon as they were beyond hearing,
she began in great agitation:--
"Caesar, you are in danger. I know all. I overheard Catiline
and Cethegus. You are engaged in a project which must lead to
"My beautiful Zoe, I live only for glory and pleasure. For these
I have never hesitated to hazard an existence which they alone
render valuable to me. In the present case, I can assure you
that our scheme presents the fairest hopes of success."
"So much the worse. You do not know--you do not understand me.
I speak not of open peril, but of secret treachery. Catiline
hates you;--Cethegus hates you;--your destruction is resolved.
If you survive the contest, you perish in the first hour of
victory. They detest you for your moderation; they are eager for
blood and plunder. I have risked my life to bring you this
warning; but that is of little moment. Farewell!--Be happy."
Caesar stopped her. "Do you fly from my thanks, dear Zoe?"
"I wish not for your thanks, but for your safety;--I desire not
to defraud Valeria or Servilia of one caress, extorted from
gratitude or pity. Be my feelings what they may, I have learnt
in a fearful school to endure and to suppress them. I have been
taught to abase a proud spirit to the claps and hisses of the
vulgar;--to smile on suitors who united the insults of a
despicable pride to the endearments of a loathsome fondness;-- to
affect sprightliness with an aching head, and eyes from which
tears were ready to gush;--to feign love with curses on my lips,
and madness in my brain. Who feels for me any esteem,--any
tenderness? Who will shed a tear over the nameless grave which
will soon shelter from cruelty and scorn the broken heart of the
poor Athenian girl? But you, who alone have addressed her in her
degradation with a voice of kindness and respect, farewell.
Sometimes think of me,--not with sorrow;--no; I could bear your
ingratitude, but not your distress. Yet, if it will not pain you
too much, in distant days, when your lofty hopes and destinies
are accomplished,--on the evening of some mighty victory,
--in the chariot of some magnificent triumph,--think on one who
loved you with that exceeding love which only the miserable can
feel. Think that, wherever her exhausted frame may have sunk
beneath the sensibilities of a tortured spirit,--in whatever
hovel or whatever vault she may have closed her eyes,--whatever
strange scenes of horror and pollution may have surrounded her
dying bed, your shape was the last that swam before her sight--
your voice the last sound that was ringing in her ears. Yet turn
your face to me, Caesar. Let me carry away one last look of
those features, and then "--He turned round. He looked at her.
He hid his face on her bosom, and burst into tears. With sobs
long and loud, and convulsive as those of a terrified child, he
poured forth on her bosom the tribute of impetuous and
uncontrollable emotion. He raised his head; but he in vain
struggled to restore composure to the brow which had confronted
the frown of Sylla, and the lips which had rivalled the eloquence
of Cicero. He several times attempted to speak, but in vain; and
his voice still faltered with tenderness, when, after a pause of
several minutes, he thus addressed her:
"My own dear Zoe, your love has been bestowed on one who, if he
cannot merit, can at least appreciate and adore you. Beings of
similar loveliness, and similar devotedness of affection,
mingled, in all my boyish dreams of greatness, with visions of
curule chairs and ivory cars, marshalled legions and laurelled
fasces. Such I have endeavoured to find in the world; and, in
their stead, I have met with selfishness, with vanity, with
frivolity, with falsehood. The life which you have preserved is
a boon less valuable than the affection "--
"Oh! Caesar," interrupted the blushing Zoe, "think only on your
own security at present. If you feel as you speak,--but you are
only mocking me,--or perhaps your compassion "--
"By Heaven!--by every oath that is binding "--
"Alas! alas! Caesar, were not all the same oaths sworn yesterday
to Valeria? But I will trust you, at least so far as to partake
your present dangers. Flight may he necessary:--form your plans.
Be they what they may, there is one who, in exile, in poverty, in
peril, asks only to wander, to beg, to die with you."
"My Zoe, I do not anticipate any such necessity. To renounce the
conspiracy without renouncing the principles on which it was
originally undertaken,--to elude the vengeance of the Senate
without losing the confidence of the people,--is, indeed, an
arduous, but not an impossible, task. I owe it to myself and to
my country to make the attempt. There is still ample time for
consideration. At present I am too happy in love to think of
ambition or danger."
They had reached the door of a stately palace. Caesar struck it.
It was instantly opened by a slave. Zoe found herself in a
magnificent hall, surrounded by pillars of green marble, between
which were ranged the statues of the long line of Julian nobles.
"Call Endymion," said Caesar.
The confidential freed-man made his appearance, not without a
slight smile, which his patron's good nature emboldened him to
hazard, at perceiving the beautiful Athenian.
"Arm my slaves, Endymion; there are reasons for precaution. Let
them relieve each other on guard during the night. Zoe, my love,
my preserver, why are your cheeks so pale? Let me kiss some
bloom into them. How you tremble! Endymion, a flask of Samian
and some fruit. Bring them to my apartments. This way, my sweet
ON THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE.
This is the age of societies. There is scarcely one Englishman
in ten who has not belonged to some association for distributing
books, or for prosecuting them; for sending invalids to the
hospital, or beggars to the treadmill; for giving plate to the
rich, or blankets to the poor. To be the most absurd institution
among so many institutions is no small distinction; it seems,
however, to belong indisputably to the Royal Society of
Literature. At the first establishment of that ridiculous
academy, every sensible man predicted that, in spite of regal
patronage and episcopal management, it would do nothing, or do
harm. And it will scarcely be denied that those expectations
have hitherto been fulfilled.
I do not attack the founders of the association. Their
characters are respectable; their motives, I am willing to
believe, were laudable. But I feel, and it is the duty of every
literary man to feel, a strong jealousy of their proceedings.
Their society can be innocent only while it continues to be
despicable. Should they ever possess the power to encourage
merit, they must also possess the power to depress it. Which
power will be more frequently exercised, let every one who has
studied literary history, let every one who has studied human
Envy and faction insinuate themselves into all communities. They
often disturb the peace, and pervert the decisions, of benevolent
and scientific associations. But it is in literary academies
that they exert the most extensive and pernicious influence. In
the first place, the principles of literary criticism, though
equally fixed with those on which the chemist and the surgeon
proceed, are by no means equally recognised. Men are rarely able
to assign a reason for their approbation or dislike on questions
of taste; and therefore they willingly submit to any guide who
boldly asserts his claim to superior discernment. It is more
difficult to ascertain and establish the merits of a poem than
the powers of a machine or the benefits of a new remedy. Hence
it is in literature, that quackery is most easily puffed, and
excellence most easily decried.
In some degree this argument applies to academies of the fine
arts; and it is fully confirmed by all that I have ever heard of
that institution which annually disfigures the walls of Somerset
House with an acre of spoiled canvas. But a literary tribunal is
incomparably more dangerous. Other societies, at least, have no
tendency to call forth any opinions on those subjects which most
agitate and inflame the minds of men. The sceptic and the
zealot, the revolutionist and the placeman, meet on common ground
in a gallery of paintings or a laboratory of science. They can
praise or censure without reference to the differences which
exist between them. In a literary body this can never be the
case. Literature is, and always must be, inseparably blended
with politics and theology; it is the great engine which moves
the feelings of a people on the most momentous questions. It is,
therefore, impossible that any society can be formed so impartial
as to consider the literary character of an individual abstracted
from the opinions which his writings inculcate. It is not to be
hoped, perhaps it is not to be wished, that the feelings of the
man should be so completely forgotten in the duties of the
academician. The consequences are evident. The honours and
censures of this Star Chamber of the Muses will be awarded
according to the prejudices of the particular sect or faction
which may at the time predominate. Whigs would canvass against a
Southey, Tories against a Byron. Those who might at first
protest against such conduct as unjust would soon adopt it on the
plea of retaliation; and the general good of literature, for
which the society was professedly instituted, would be forgotten
in the stronger claims of political and religious partiality.
Yet even this is not the worst. Should the institution ever
acquire any influence, it will afford most pernicious facilities
to every malignant coward who may desire to blast a reputation
which he envies. It will furnish a secure ambuscade, behind
which the Maroons of literature may take a certain and deadly
aim. The editorial WE has often been fatal to rising genius;
though all the world knows that it is only a form of speech, very
often employed by a single needy blockhead. The academic WE
would have a far greater and more ruinous influence. Numbers,
while they increase the effect, would diminish the shame, of
injustice. The advantages of an open and those of an anonymous
attack would be combined; and the authority of avowal would be
united to the security of concealment. The serpents in Virgil,
after they had destroyed Laocoon, found an asylum from the
vengeance of the enraged people behind the shield of the statue
of Minerva. And, in the same manner, everything that is
grovelling and venomous, everything that can hiss, and everything
that can sting, would take sanctuary in the recesses of this new
temple of wisdom.
The French academy was, of all such associations, the most widely
and the most justly celebrated. It was founded by the greatest
of ministers: it was patronised by successive kings; it numbered
in its lists most of the eminent French writers. Yet what
benefit has literature derived from its labours? What is its
history but an uninterrupted record of servile compliances--of
paltry artifices--of deadly quarrels--of perfidious friendships?
Whether governed by the Court, by the Sorbonne, or by the
Philosophers, it was always equally powerful for evil, and
equally impotent for good. I might speak of the attacks by which
it attempted to depress the rising fame of Corneille; I might
speak of the reluctance with which it gave its tardy confirmation
to the applauses which the whole civilised world had bestowed on
the genius of Voltaire. I might prove by overwhelming evidence
that, to the latest period of its existence, even under the
superintendence of the all-accomplished D'Alembert, it continued
to be a scene of the fiercest animosities and the basest
intrigues. I might cite Piron's epigrams, and Marmontel's
memoirs, and Montesquieu's letters. But I hasten on to another
One of the modes by which our Society proposes to encourage merit
is the distribution of prizes. The munificence of the king has
enabled it to offer an annual premium of a hundred guineas for
the best essay in prose, and another of fifty guineas for the
best poem, which may be transmitted to it. This is very
laughable. In the first place the judges may err. Those
imperfections of human intellect to which, as the articles of the
Church tell us, even general councils are subject, may possibly
be found even in the Royal Society of Literature. The French
academy, as I have already said, was the most illustrious
assembly of the kind, and numbered among its associates men much
more distinguished than ever will assemble at Mr Hatchard's to
rummage the box of the English Society. Yet this famous body
gave a poetical prize, for which Voltaire was a candidate, to a
fellow who wrote some verses about THE FROZEN AND THE BURNING
Yet, granting that the prizes were always awarded to the best
composition, that composition, I say without hesitation, will
always be bad. A prize poem is like a prize sheep. The object
of the competitor for the agricultural premium is to produce an
animal fit, not to be eaten, but to be weighed. Accordingly he
pampers his victim into morbid and unnatural fatness; and, when
it is in such a state that it would be sent away in disgust from
any table, he offers it to the judges. The object of the
poetical candidate, in like manner, is to produce, not a good
poem, but a poem of that exact degree of frigidity or bombast
which may appear to his censors to be correct or sublime.
Compositions thus constructed will always be worthless. The few
excellences which they may contain will have an exotic aspect and
flavour. In general, prize sheep are good for nothing but to
make tallow candles, and prize poems are good for nothing but to
The first subject proposed by the Society to the poets of England
was Dartmoor. I thought that they intended a covert sarcasm at
their own projects. Their institution was a literary Dartmoor
scheme;--a plan for forcing into cultivation the waste lands of
intellect,--for raising poetical produce, by means of bounties,
from soil too meagre to have yielded any returns in the natural
course of things. The plan for the cultivation of Dartmoor has,
I hear, been abandoned. I hope that this may be an omen of the
fate of the Society.
In truth, this seems by no means improbable. They have been
offering for several years the rewards which the king placed at
their disposal, and have not, as far as I can learn, been able to
find in their box one composition which they have deemed worthy
of publication. At least no publication has taken place. The
associates may perhaps be astonished at this. But I will attempt
to explain it, after the manner of ancient times, by means of an
About four hundred years after the Deluge, King Gomer Chephoraod
reigned in Babylon. He united all the characteristics of an
excellent sovereign. He made good laws, won great battles, and
white-washed long streets. He was, in consequence, idolised by
his people, and panegyrised by many poets and orators. A book
was then a sermons undertaking. Neither paper nor any similar
material had been invented. Authors were therefore under the
necessity of inscribing their compositions on massive bricks.
Some of these Babylonian records are still preserved in European
museums; but the language in which they are written has never
been deciphered. Gomer Chephoraod was so popular that the clay
of all the plains round the Euphrates could scarcely furnish
brick-kilns enough for his eulogists. It is recorded in
particular that Pharonezzar, the Assyrian Pindar, published a
bridge and four walls in his praise.
One day the king was going in state from his palace to the temple
of Belus. During this procession it was lawful for any
Babylonian to offer any petition or suggestion to his sovereign.
As the chariot passed before a vintner's shop, a large company,
apparently half-drunk, sallied forth into the street, and one of
them thus addressed the king:
"Gomer Chephoraod, live for ever! It appears to thy servants
that of all the productions of the earth good wine is the best,
and bad wine is the worst. Good wine makes the heart cheerful,
the eyes bright, the speech ready. Bad wine confuses the head,
disorders the stomach, makes us quarrelsome at night, and sick
the next morning. Now therefore let my lord the king take order
that thy servants may drink good wine.
"And how is this to be done?" said the good-natured prince.
"O King," said his monitor, "this is most easy. Let the king
make a decree, and seal it with his royal signet: and let it be
proclaimed that the king will give ten she-asses, and ten slaves,
and ten changes of raiment, every year, unto the man who shall
make ten measures of the best wine. And whosoever wishes for the
she-asses, and the slaves, and the raiment, let him send the ten
measures of wine to thy servants, and we will drink thereof and
judge. So shall there be much good wine in Assyria."
The project pleased Gomer Chephoraod. "Be it so," said he. The
people shouted. The petitioners prostrated themselves in
gratitude. The same night heralds were despatched to bear the
intelligence to the remotest districts of Assyria.
After a due interval the wines began to come in; and the
examiners assembled to adjudge the prize. The first vessel was
unsealed. Its odour was such that the judges, without tasting
it, pronounced unanimous condemnation. The next was opened: it
had a villainous taste of clay. The third was sour and vapid.
They proceeded from one cask of execrable liquor to another, till
at length, in absolute nausea, they gave up the investigation.
The next morning they all assembled at the gate of the king, with
pale faces and aching heads. They owned that they could not
recommend any competitor as worthy of the rewards. They swore
that the wine was little better than poison, and entreated
permission to resign the office of deciding between such
"In the name of Belus, how can this have happened?" said the
Merolchazzar, the high-priest, muttered something about the anger
of the Gods at the toleration shown to a sect of impious heretics
who ate pigeons broiled, "whereas," said he, "our religion
commands us to eat them roasted. Now therefore, O King,"
continued this respectable divine, "give command to thy men of
war, and let them smite the disobedient people with the sword,
them, and their wives, and their children, and let their houses,
and their flocks, and their herds, be given to thy servants the
priests. Then shall the land yield its increase, and the fruits
of the earth shall be no more blasted by the vengeance of
"Nay," said the king, "the ground lies under no general curse
from Heaven. The season has been singularly good. The wine
which thou didst thyself drink at the banquet a few nights ago, O
venerable Merolchazzar, was of this year's vintage. Dost thou
not remember how thou didst praise it? It was the same night
that thou wast inspired by Belus and didst reel to and fro, and
discourse sacred mysteries. These things are too hard for me. I
comprehend them not. The only wine which is bad is that which is
sent to my judges. Who can expound this to us?"
The king scratched his head. Upon which all the courtiers
scratched their heads.
He then ordered proclamation to be made that a purple robe and a
golden chain should be given to the man who could solve this
An old philosopher, who had been observed to smile rather
disdainfully when the prize had first been instituted, came
forward and spoke thus:--
"Gomer Chephoraod, live for ever! Marvel not at that which has
happened. It was no miracle, but a natural event. How could it
be otherwise? It is true that much good wine has been made this
year. But who would send it in for thy rewards? Thou knowest
Ascobaruch who hath the great vineyards in the north, and
Cohahiroth who sendeth wine every year from the south over the
Persian Golf. Their wines are so delicious that ten measures
thereof are sold for an hundred talents of silver. Thinkest thou
that they will exchange them for thy slaves and thine asses?
What would thy prize profit any who have vineyards in rich
"Who then," said one of the judges, "are the wretches who sent us
"Blame them not," said the sage, "seeing that you have been the
authors of the evil. They are men whose lands are poor, and have
never yielded them any returns equal to the prizes which the king
proposed. Wherefore, knowing that the lords of the fruitful
vineyards would not enter into competition with them they planted
vines, some on rocks, and some in light sandy soil, and some in
deep clay. Hence their wines are bad. For no culture or reward
will make barren land bear good vines. Know therefore,
assuredly, that your prizes have increased the quantity of bad
but not of good wine."
There was a long silence. At length the king spoke. "Give him
the purple robe and the chain of gold. Throw the wines into the
Euphrates; and proclaim that the Royal Society of Wines is
SCENES FROM "ATHENIAN REVELS."
SCENE--A Street in Athens.
Enter CALLIDEMUS and SPEUSIPPUS;
So, you young reprobate! You must be a man of wit, forsooth, and
a man of quality! You must spend as if you were as rich as
Nicias, and prate as if you were as wise as Pericles! You must
dangle after sophists and pretty women! And I must pay for all!
I must sup on thyme and onions, while you are swallowing thrushes
and hares! I must drink water, that you may play the cottabus
(This game consisted in projecting wine out of cups; it was a
diversion extremely fashionable at Athenian entertainments.) with
Chian wine! I must wander about as ragged as Pauson (Pauson was
an Athenian painter, whose name was synonymous with beggary. See
Aristophanes; Plutus, 602. From his poverty, I am inclined to
suppose that he painted historical pictures.), that you may be as
fine as Alcibiades! I must lie on bare boards, with a stone (See
Aristophanes; Plutus, 542.) for my pillow, and a rotten mat for
my coverlid, by the light of a wretched winking lamp, while you
are marching in state, with as many torches as one sees at the
feast of Ceres, to thunder with your hatchet (See Theocritus;
Idyll ii. 128.) at the doors of half the Ionian ladies in
Peiraeus. (This was the most disreputable part of Athens. See
Aristophanes: Pax, 165.)
Why, thou unreasonable old man! Thou most shameless of fathers!-
Ungrateful wretch; dare you talk so? Are you not afraid of the
thunders of Jupiter?
Jupiter thunder! nonsense! Anaxagoras says, that thunder is only
an explosion produced by--
He does! Would that it had fallen on his head for his pains!
Nay: talk rationally.
Rationally! You audacious young sophist! I will talk
rationally. Do you know that I am your father? What quibble can
you make upon that?
Do I know that you are my father? Let us take the question to
pieces, as Melesigenes would say. First, then, we must inquire
what is knowledge? Secondly, what is a father? Now, knowledge,
as Socrates said the other day to Theaetetus (See Plato's
Socrates! what! the ragged flat-nosed old dotard, who walks about
all day barefoot, and filches cloaks, and dissects gnats, and
shoes (See Aristophanes; Nubes, 150.) fleas with wax?
All fiction! All trumped up by Aristophanes!
By Pallas, if he is in the habit of putting shoes on his fleas,
he is kinder to them than to himself. But listen to me, boy; if
you go on in this way, you will be ruined. There is an argument
for you. Go to your Socrates and your Melesigenes, and tell them
to refute that. Ruined! Do you hear?
Ay, by Jupiter! Is such a show as you make to be supported on
nothing? During all the last war, I made not an obol from my
farm; the Peloponnesian locusts came almost as regularly as the
Pleiades;--corn burnt;--olives stripped;--fruit trees cut down;--
wells stopped up;--and, just when peace came, and I hoped that
all would turn out well, you must begin to spend as if you had
all the mines of Thasus at command.
Now, by Neptune, who delights in horses--
If Neptune delights in horses, he does not resemble me. You must
ride at the Panathenaea on a horse fit for the great king: four
acres of my best vines went for that folly. You must retrench,
or you will have nothing to eat. Does not Anaxagoras mention,
among his other discoveries, that when a man has nothing to eat
You are deceived. My friends--
Oh, yes! your friends will notice you, doubtless, when you are
squeezing through the crowd, on a winter's day, to warm yourself
at the fire of the baths;--or when you are fighting with beggars
and beggars' dogs for the scraps of a sacrifice;--or when you are
glad to earn three wretched obols (The stipend of an Athenian
juryman.) by listening all day to lying speeches and crying
There are other means of support.
What! I suppose you will wander from house to house, like that
wretched buffoon Philippus (Xenophon; Convivium.), and beg
everybody who has asked a supper-party to be so kind as to feed
you and laugh at you; or you will turn sycophant; you will get a
bunch of grapes, or a pair of shoes, now and then, by frightening
some rich coward with a mock prosecution. Well! that is a task
for which your studies under the sophists may have fitted you.
You are wide of the mark.
Then what, in the name of Juno, is your scheme? Do you intend to
join Orestes (A celebrated highwayman of Attica. See
Aristophanes; Aves, 711; and in several other passages.), and rob
on the highway? Take care; beware of the eleven (The police
officers of Athens.); beware of the hemlock. It may be very
pleasant to live at other people's expense; but not very
pleasant, I should think, to hear the pestle give its last bang
against the mortar, when the cold dose is ready. Pah!--
Hemlock? Orestes! folly!--I aim at nobler objects. What say you
to politics,--the general assembly?
You an orator!--oh no! no! Cleon was worth twenty such fools as
you. You have succeeded, I grant, to his impudence, for which,
if there be justice in Tartarus, he is now soaking up to the eyes
in his own tanpickle. But the Paphlagonian had parts.
And you mean to imply--
Not I. You are a Pericles in embryo, doubtless. Well: and when
are you to make your first speech? O Pallas!
I thought of speaking, the other day, on the Sicilian expedition;
but Nicias (See Thucydides, vi. 8.) got up before me.
Nicias, poor honest man, might just as well have sate still; his
speaking did but little good. The loss of your oration is,
doubtless, an irreparable public calamity.
Why, not so; I intend to introduce it at the next assembly; it
will suit any subject.
That is to say, it will suit none. But pray, if it be not too
presumptuous a request, indulge me with a specimen.
Well; suppose the agora crowded;--an important subject under
discussion;--an ambassador from Argos, or from the great king;--
the tributes from the islands;--an impeachment;--in short,
anything you please. The crier makes proclamation.--"Any citizen
above fifty years old may speak--any citizen not disqualified may
speak." Then I rise:--a great murmur of curiosity while I am
mounting the stand.
Of curiosity! yes, and of something else too. You will
infallibly be dragged down by main force, like poor Glaucon (See
Xenophon Memorabilia, iii.) last year.
Never fear. I shall begin in this style:
"When I consider, Athenians, the importance of our city;--when I
consider the extent of its power, the wisdom of its laws, the
elegance of its decorations;--when I consider by what names and
by what exploits its annals are adorned; when I think on
Harmodius and Aristogiton, on Themistocles and Miltiades, on
Cimon and Pericles;--when I contemplate our pre-eminence in arts
and letters;--when I observe so many flourishing states and
islands compelled to own the dominion, and purchase the
protection of the City of the Violet Crown" (A favourite epithet
of Athens. See Aristophanes; Acharn. 637.)--
I shall choke with rage. Oh, all ye gods and goddesses, what
sacrilege, what perjury have I ever committed, that I should be
singled out from among all the citizens of Athens to be the
father of this fool?
What now? By Bacchus, old man, I would not advise you to give
way to such fits of passion in the streets. If Aristophanes were
to see you, you would infallibly be in a comedy next spring.
You have more reason to fear Aristophanes than any fool living.
Oh, that he could but hear you trying to imitate the slang of
Straton (See Aristophanes; Equites, 1375.) and the lisp of
Alcibiades! (See Aristophanes; Vespae, 44.) You would be an
inexhaustible subject. You would console him for the loss of
No, no. I may perhaps figure at the dramatic representations
before long; but in a very different way.
What do you mean?
What say you to a tragedy?
A tragedy of yours?
Oh Hercules! Oh Bacchus! This is too much. Here is an
universal genius; sophist,--orator,--poet. To what a three-
headed monster have I given birth! a perfect Cerberus of
intellect! And pray what may your piece be about? Or will your
tragedy, like your speech, serve equally for any subject?
I thought of several plots;--Oedipus,--Eteocles and Polynices,--
the war of Troy,--the murder of Agamemnon.
And what have you chosen?
You know there is a law which permits any modern poet to retouch
a play of Aeschylus, and bring it forward as his own composition.
And, as there is an absurd prejudice, among the vulgar, in favour
of his extravagant pieces, I have selected one of them, and
Which of them?
Oh! that mass of barbarous absurdities, the Prometheus. But I
have framed it anew upon the model of Euripides. By Bacchus, I
shall make Sophocles and Agathon look about them. You would not
know the play again.
By Jupiter, I believe not.
I have omitted the whole of the absurd dialogue between Vulcan
and Strength, at the beginning.
That may be, on the whole, an improvement. The play will then
open with that grand soliloquy of Prometheus, when he is chained
to the rock.
"Oh! ye eternal heavens! ye rushing winds!
Ye fountains of great streams! Ye ocean waves,
That in ten thousand sparkling dimples wreathe
Your azure smiles! All-generating earth!
All-seeing sun! On you, on you, I call." (See Aeschylus;
Well, I allow that will be striking; I did not think you capable
of that idea. Why do you laugh?
Do you seriously suppose that one who has studied the plays of
that great man, Euripides, would ever begin a tragedy in such a
What, does not your play open with the speech of Prometheus?
Then what, in the name of Bacchus, do you make him say?
You shall hear; and, if it be not in the very style of Euripides,
call me a fool.
That is a liberty which I shall venture to take, whether it be or
no. But go on.
Prometheus begins thus:--
"Coelus begat Saturn and Briareus
Cottus and Creius and Iapetus,
Gyges and Hyperion, Phoebe, Tethys,
Thea and Rhea and Mnemosyne.
Then Saturn wedded Rhea, and begat
Pluto and Neptune, Jupiter and Juno."
Very beautiful, and very natural; and, as you say, very like
You are sneering. Really, father, you do not understand these
things. You had not those advantages in your youth--
Which I have been fool enough to let you have. No; in my early
days, lying had not been dignified into a science, nor politics
degraded into a trade. I wrestled, and read Homer's battles,
instead of dressing my hair, and reciting lectures in verse out
of Euripides. But I have some notion of what a play should be; I
have seen Phrynichus, and lived with Aeschylus. I saw the
representation of the Persians.
A wretched play; it may amuse the fools who row the triremes; but
it is utterly unworthy to be read by any man of taste.
If you had seen it acted;--the whole theatre frantic with joy,
stamping, shouting, laughing, crying. There was Cynaegeirus, the
brother of Aeschylus, who lost both his arms at Marathon, beating
the stumps against his sides with rapture. When the crowd
remarked him--But where are you going?
To sup with Alcibiades; he sails with the expedition for Sicily
in a few days; this is his farewell entertainment.
So much the better; I should say, so much the worse. That cursed
Sicilian expedition! And you were one of the young fools (See
Thucydides, vi. 13.) who stood clapping and shouting while he was
gulling the rabble, and who drowned poor Nicias's voice with your
uproar. Look to it; a day of reckoning will come. As to
What can you say against him? His enemies themselves acknowledge
They acknowledge that he is clever, and handsome, and that he was
crowned at the Olympic games. And what other merits do his
friends claim for him? A precious assembly you will meet at his
house, no doubt.
The first men in Athens, probably.
Whom do you mean by the first men in Athens?
Callicles. (Callicles plays a conspicuous part in the Gorgias of
A sacrilegious, impious, unfeeling ruffian!
A fool, who can talk of nothing but his travels through Persia
and Egypt. Go, go. The gods forbid that I should detain you
from such choice society!
SCENE--A Hall in the house of ALCIBIADES.
ALCIBIADES, SPEUSIPPUS, CALLICLES, HIPPOMACHUS, CHARICLEA,
and others, seated round a table feasting.
Bring larger cups. This shall be our gayest revel. It is
probably the last--for some of us at least.
At all events, it will be long before you taste such wine again,
Nay, there is excellent wine in Sicily. When I was there with
Eurymedon's squadron, I had many a long carouse. You never saw
finer grapes than those of Aetna.
The Greeks do not understand the art of making wine. Your
Persian is the man. So rich, so fragrant, so sparkling! I will
tell you what the Satrap of Caria said to me about that when I
supped with him.
Nay, sweet Hippomachus; not a word to-night about satraps, or the
great king, or the walls of Babylon, or the Pyramids, or the
mummies. Chariclea, why do you look so sad?
Can I be cheerful when you are going to leave me, Alcibiades?
My life, my sweet soul, it is but for a short time. In a year we
conquer Sicily. In another, we humble Carthage. (See
Thucydides, vi. 90.) I will bring back such robes, such
necklaces, elephants' teeth by thousands, ay, and the elephants
themselves, if you wish to see them. Nay, smile, my Chariclea,
or I shall talk nonsense to no purpose.
The largest elephant that I ever saw was in the grounds of
Teribazus, near Susa. I wish that I had measured him.
I wish that he had trod upon you. Come, come, Chariclea, we
shall soon return, and then--
Yes; then indeed.
Then for revels; then for dances,
Tender whispers, melting glances.
Peasants, pluck your richest fruits:
Minstrels, sound your sweetest flutes:
Come in laughing crowds to greet us,
Dark-eyed daughters of Miletus;
Bring the myrtles, bring the dice,
Floods of Chian, hills of spice.
Whose lines are those, Alcibiades?
My own. Think you, because I do not shut myself up to meditate,
and drink water, and eat herbs, that I cannot write verses? By
Apollo, if I did not spend my days in politics, and my nights in
revelry, I should have made Sophocles tremble. But now I never
go beyond a little song like this, and never invoke any Muse but
Chariclea. But come, Speusippus, sing. You are a professed
poet. Let us have some of your verses.
My verses! How can you talk so? I a professed poet!
Oh, content you, sweet Speusippus. We all know your designs upon
the tragic honours. Come, sing. A chorus of your new play.
When a guest who is asked to sing at a Persian banquet refuses--
In the name of Bacchus--
I am absolute. Sing.
Well, then, I will sing you a chorus, which, I think, is a
tolerable imitation of Euripides.
Of Euripides?--Not a word.
Why so, sweet Chariclea?
Would you have me betray my sex? Would you have me forget his
Phaedras and Sthenoboeas? No if I ever suffer any lines of that
woman-hater, or his imitators, to be sung in my presence, may I
sell herbs (The mother of Euripides was a herb-woman. This was a
favourite topic of Aristophanes.) like his mother, and wear rags
like his Telephus. (The hero of one of the lost plays of
Euripides, who appears to have been brought upon the stage in the
garb of a beggar. See Aristophanes; Acharn. 430; and in other
Then, sweet Chariclea, since you have silenced Speusippus, you
shall sing yourself.
What shall I sing?
Nay, choose for yourself.
Then I will sing an old Ionian hymn, which is chanted every
spring at the feast of Venus, near Miletus. I used to sing it in
my own country when I was a child; and--ah, Alcibiades!
Dear Chariclea, you shall sing something else. This distresses
No hand me the lyre:--no matter. You will hear the song to
disadvantage. But if it were sung as I have heard it sung:--if
this were a beautiful morning in spring, and if we were standing
on a woody promontory, with the sea, and the white sails, and the
blue Cyclades beneath us,--and the portico of a temple peeping
through the trees on a huge peak above our heads,--and thousands
of people, with myrtles in their hands, thronging up the winding
path, their gay dresses and garlands disappearing and emerging by
turns as they passed round the angles of the rock,--then perhaps-
Now, by Venus herself, sweet lady, where you are we shall lack
neither sun, nor flowers, nor spring, nor temple, nor goddess.
Let this sunny hour be given,
Venus, unto love and mirth:
Smiles like thine are in the heaven;
Bloom like thine is on the earth;
And the tinkling of the fountains,
And the murmurs of the sea,
And the echoes from the mountains,
Speak of youth, and hope, and thee.
By whate'er of soft expression
Thou hast taught to lovers' eyes,
Faint denial, slow confession,
Glowing cheeks and stifled sighs;
By the pleasure and the pain,
By the follies and the wiles,
Pouting fondness, sweet disdain,
Happy tears and mournful smiles;
Come with music floating o'er thee;
Come with violets springing round:
Let the Graces dance before thee,
All their golden zones unbound;
Now in sport their faces hiding,
Now, with slender fingers fair,
From their laughing eyes dividing
The long curls of rose-crowned hair.
Sweetly sung; but mournfully, Chariclea; for which I would chide
you, but that I am sad myself. More wine there. I wish to all
the gods that I had fairly sailed from Athens.
And from me, Alcibiades?
Yes, from you, dear lady. The days which immediately precede
separation are the most melancholy of our lives.
Except those which immediately follow it.
No; when I cease to see you, other objects may compel my
attention; but can I be near you without thinking how lovely you
are, and how soon I must leave you?
Ay; travelling soon puts such thoughts out of men's heads.
A battle is the best remedy for them.
A battle, I should think, might supply their place with others as
No. The preparations are rather disagreeable to a novice. But
as soon as the fighting begins, by Jupiter, it is a noble time;--
men trampling,--shields clashing,--spears breaking,--and the
poean roaring louder than all.
But what if you are killed?
What indeed? You must ask Speusippus that question. He is a
Yes, and the greatest of philosophers, if he can answer it.
Pythagoras is of opinion--
Pythagoras stole that and all his other opinions from Asia and
Egypt. The transmigration of the soul and the vegetable diet are
derived from India. I met a Brachman in Sogdiana--
What think you, Alcibiades?
I think that, if the doctrine be true, your spirit will be
transfused into one of the doves who carry (Homer's Odyssey, xii.
63.) ambrosia to the gods or verses to the mistresses of poets.
Do you remember Anacreon's lines? How should you like such an
If I were to be your dove, Alcibiades, and you would treat me as
Anacreon treated his, and let me nestle in your breast and drink
from your cup, I would submit even to carry your love-letters to
What, in the name of Jupiter, is the use of all these
speculations about death? Socrates once (See the close of
Plato's Gorgias.) lectured me upon it the best part of a day. I
have hated the sight of him ever since. Such things may suit an
old sophist when he is fasting; but in the midst of wine and
I differ from you. The enlightened Egyptians bring skeletons
into their banquets, in order to remind their guests to make the
most of their life while they have it.
I want neither skeleton nor sophist to teach me that lesson.
More wine, I pray you, and less wisdom. If you must believe
something which you never can know, why not be contented with the
long stories about the other world which are told us when we are
initiated at the Eleusinian mysteries? (The scene which follows
is founded upon history. Thucydides tells us, in his sixth book,
that about this time Alcibiades was suspected of having assisted
at a mock celebration of these famous mysteries. It was the
opinion of the vulgar among the Athenians that extraordinary
privileges were granted in the other world to alt who had been
And what are those stories?
Are not you initiated, Chariclea?
No; my mother was a Lydian, a barbarian; and therefore--
I understand. Now the curse of Venus on the fools who made so
hateful a law! Speusippus, does not your friend Euripides (The
right of Euripides to this line is somewhat disputable. See
Aristophanes; Plutus, 1152.) say
"The land where thou art prosperous is thy country?"
Surely we ought to say to every lady
"The land where thou art pretty is thy country."
Besides, to exclude foreign beauties from the chorus of the
initiated in the Elysian fields is less cruel to them than to
ourselves. Chariclea, you shall be initiated.
But there must be an interval of a year between the purification
and the initiation.
We will suppose all that.
And nine days of rigid mortification of the senses.
We will suppose that too. I am sure it was supposed, with as
little reason, when I was initiated.
But you are sworn to secrecy.
You a sophist, and talk of oaths! You a pupil of Euripides, and
forget his maxims!
"My lips have sworn it; but my mind is free." (See Euripides:
Hippolytus, 608. For the jesuitical morality of this line
Euripides is bitterly attacked by the comic poet.)
What! Are you afraid of Ceres and Proserpine?
No--but--but--I--that is I--but it is best to be safe--I mean--
Suppose there should be something in it.