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can he be sustained. If his mind has been deeply imbued with the true philosophy the philosophy of Christianity - he may remember that "God fulfils himself in many ways," and faith will illumine for him what, to the eye of reason alone, is thick darkness. θάρσει μοι θάρσει τέκνον,
, μέγας έτι εν ουρανο Ζεύς
ο τάδ' έφορα και κρατύνει. But we very much fear Chenier had not this consolation. His views, lofty and noble as they were, were still bounded by this world and the limits of human ability. And at that time it seemed as if no human ability could do anything for the French. The people from whom the gallows was a more acceptable gift than the right hand of friendship, * had triumphed, and he had long before made up his mind which alternative to choose.
Chenier was guillotined July 25th, 1794. His works were not collected till 1819, and complete editions of them did not appear till 1840.
RECENT ENGLISH HISTORIANS OF
ANCIENT GREECE. **
American Review, Feb. 1848.
THE study of Greek History is a very different affair now from what it was when Plutarch was accepted for a standard authority, and “Cecrops, who invented marriage,” of was deemed as historical a personage as Alexander of Macedon. Our readers may be presumed
* “S'ils triomphent, ce sont gens par qui il vaut mieux etre pendu que regarde comme ami.” Avis aux Français sur leurs veritables Ennemis.
** A History of Greece, by the Right Rev. CONNOP THIRLWALL. London: Longman & Co. 1835, 1844. A Hislory of Greece, by GEO. GROTE, Esq. London: John Murray. 1846-7.
Athenæus XIII, 555.
to be familiar with, or at least to have some general idea of the way in which Niebuhr and Arnold (not to mention the more fanciful speculations of Michelet) have taken to pieces and reconstructed the early Roman narrative; and the Greek legends are now subjected to a somewhat similar process by both English and Germans. It certainly does seem strange at first, that an Englishman or German in this nineteenth century should pretend to know more about those remote ages, than the people who lived so much nearer to them the Roman who flourished at the beginning of our era, and the Greek who wrote hundreds of years before it: but the apparent paradox vanishes when we consider the historical sense and habits of philosophical criticism acquired by the moderns. Etymological and philological studies alone have done much. When it has been clearly shown that Livy mistranslated Greek words, and confused old and new meanings of Latin words, and that Apollonius Rhodius misunderstood and misapplied Homeric expressions, we have less hesitation in questioning the accuracy of avowedly poetical narrative of the one and the more specious history of the other; and the detection of such illusory etymologies as those which gave rise to the traditions connected with the Apaturian festival at Athens, and the street Argiletum in Rome, encourages us to apply the same rule of interpretation to other etymologically founded stories.
It is not our intention to take any notice of Goldsmith and Gillies, and others of whom we have a dim recollection from our boyhood. But as Mitford, although pretty well laid on the shelf in his own country, still enjoy's on this side the Atlantic the reputation and position of a standard historian it would hardly be proper in an article on this subject to omit all mention of him. That his qualifications for the task he undertook surpassed those of his predecessors, and that his work was a great improvement on theirs, is freely admitted. But, to waive the consideration of other faults, there is one inherent defect in the book. It is the history of a people generally republican and partly democratic, written expressly to show up” democracy. Nay, more, it was written with the evident purpose of drawing a modern conservative British moral from the history of ancient
Greek republics. Now a man who sets out with a strong political bias in favor of the institutions of any country, is not likely to make a faithful historian; but much more unlikely is he who starts with a predetermination to see everything in the worst possible light, the facts of history being unfortunately for the most part bad enough in themselves, without any gratuitous blackening. Such a course is sufficiently delusive when only contemporaries are under investigation: it is still worse when we undertake to judge of the customs and actions of the men of one age by the standards of another; such inferences, however encouraged by the necessary licenses of the poet and the dramatist, make sad work with ethical and political speculations. We all see the absurdity of the thing when a young lady in a Magazine story, makes a modern lover of Pericles, or some other Greek worthy, and provides him with a heroine of the modern pattern. We are less quick to perceive the fallacy when a modern Platonist turns the Athenian philosopher into a High-Church divine. Still less prompt are we to disentangle ourselves when the political theorist argues from Rome to England, or from Athens to America, either with or without some such intermediate step as Venice, since so many of the important fundamental terms, Aristocracy, Democracy, &c., remain the same. But the error is none the less, because it is the less transparent. Whately has said that “wisdom consists in the ready and accurate perception of analogies;" * but surely a ready and accurate discrimination of differences deserves some place in the definition. “Human nature is the same in all ages,” we are told; and this text suggests appropriate comments against unnatural schemes, as when it is proposed to construct the bricks of the political edifice without straw, or to compose perfection by an aggregate of imperfections. But we must always make allowance, and great allowance, for the effect of habit and experience. If the republican Greeks had no idea of a king, but as a man who “subverts the customs of the country, violates women, and puts men to death without trial,"* their idea was in precise conformity with their experience of
* Rhetoric, pp. 104, 105.
the túpavvot; nor can we blame them for not having admitted that conception of constitutional government which it took centuries of subsequent experiment to realize.
Flattering to English ideas of government and conformable to old tory dogmas, possessing, too, the positive merits it did, Mitford's Greece might well occupy the position it so long enjoyed. But it does great credit to the good sense and judgment of the British public, that when a more liberal as well as more learned successor appeared – indeed, before he fairly had appeared
they were ready to receive and adopt him. It is curious to remark how in this respect monarchial England has taken the start of republican America. With us Mitford still speaks as one having authority, while over the water he is utterly dethroned hy Thirlwall, and only to be found in the libraries of secluded parsons and antique country gentlemen.
We should, however, be doing great injustice to the Bishop of St. David's were we to represent the vindication of the Greek democracies from Mitford's assault either as the sole object of the work or the main ground of its success, though it is incidentally connected with both. Since Mitford's time the study of Greek history had made rapid advances. The labors of C. O. Müller and other eminent Germans had thrown new light upon it. A Greek history was required which should at least embody the results of their researches, even if it added nothing to them. The spirit of the times demanded not merely a more genial political thinker, but a deeper and more finished scholar, than Mr. Mitford.
Thirlwall's history, then, is conceived in a liberal spirit, and displays an erudition which renders it a most valuable book for students. Still it is not in all respects satisfactory, nor is it exactly the kind of book to become universally popular. The author speaks in his preface of two classes of readers, * for the former of whom, undoubtedly by far the larger, the work is principally designed; but the execution of the work is such as to
"One consisting of persons who wish to acquire something more than a superficial acquaintance with Greek history, but who have neither leisure nor means to study it for themselves in its original sources; the other of such as have access to the ancient authors, but often feel the need of a guide and an interpreter.”
render it far more acceptable to the smaller class. As a book of reference, and what is technically called cram, it is unsurpassed. But the style, though clear and argumentative, is the very reverse of brilliant or graphic; and the general tone of the book is to a mere reader, what we cannot give a better idea of than by calling it Hallam's Middle-Ages-ish. Moreover, the reverend historian has, with an amiable but sometimes embarrassing modesty, been more solicitous to collate and condense the opinions of others than to arrive at decisons of his own, so that in many places the book is chiefly valuable as a synopsis of different views, and in some its very copiousness of information is bewildering. While, therefore, Thirlwall's Greece found an immediate place in the library of every student, it was felt that there was still room for another History of Greece, which should be attractive as well as critical, and give results as well as materials; and the announcement that Mr. George Grote was about to endeavor to supply this want excited a lively interest.
Mr. Grote is well known to the commercial world as a partner in one of the great London banking houses, and not unknown in the political. His principles are what is generally called philosophical radical, that is to say, encouraging the freest range of speculation and discussion, but not countenancing haste or violence in action. * When in Parliament, where he twice represented the city of London, he was chiefly distinguished for proposing and advocating Vote by Ballot. But this method of exercising the franchise, natural and proper as it appears to us, is highly repugnant to English usages and prejudices, Mr. Grote found little support from his own party, and the great clerical wit, usually foremost in the ranks of the reformers, signally contributed to laugh down the proposed reform. More recently Mr. Grote has studied and personally inspected the affairs of Switzerland, and has very lately published in the Spectator a series of letters containing a triumphant vindication of President Ochsenbein and the Diet. Amid all his
* And it may be added, much more practical and common sense than one would be led to infer from Sidney Smith's somewhat supercilious remark, that “if the world were a chess-board, he would be an important politician.”