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which has not been examined and explained a thoufand times, and whose dress, and food, and houshold ftuff, it has been the pride of learning to underftand.
A man need not fear to incur the imputation of vicious diffidence or affected humility, who fhould have forborn to promile many novelties, when he perceived fuch multitudes of writers poffeffed of the fame materials, and intent upon the fame purpofe. Mr. Blackwell knows well the opinion of Horace, concerning thofe that open their undertakings with magnificent promifes; and he knows likewise the dictates of common fenfe and common honesty, names of greater authority than that of Horace, who dire&t that no man should promise what he cannot perform.
I do not mean to declare that this volume has nothing new, or that the labours of thofe who have gone before our author, have made his performance an useless addition to the burden of literature. New works may be conftructed with old materials, the difpofition of the parts may fhew contrivance, the ornaments interfperfed may discover elegance.
It is not always without good effect that men of proper qualifications write in fucceffion on the fame fubject, even when the latter add nothing to the information given by the former; for the fame ideas may be delivered more intelligibly or more delightfully by one than by another, or with attractions that may lure minds of a different form. No writer pleases all, and every writer may please fome.
But after all, to inherit is not to acquire; to decorate is not to make; and the man who had no
thing to do but to read the ancient authors, who mention the Roman affairs, and reduce them to common-places, ought not to boaft himself as a great benefactor to the ftudious world.
After a preface of boaft, and a letter of flattery, in which he feems to imitate the addrefs of Horace in his vile potabis modicis Sabinum-he opens his book with telling us, that the "Roman republic, "after the horrible profcription, was no more at "bleeding Rome. The regal power of her confuls, "the authority of her fenate, and the majesty of "her people, were now trampled under foot; these [for thofe] divine laws and hallowed cuftoms, "that had been the effence of her constitution"were set at nought, and her best friends were lying expofed in their blood."
These were furely very difmal times to thofe whe fuffered; but I know not why any one but a schoolboy in his declamation fhould whine over the commonwealth of Rome, which grew great only by the mifery of the reft of mankind. The Romans, like others, as foon as they grew rich grew corrupt, and, in their corruption, fold the lives and freedoms of themselves, and of one another.
"About this time Brutus had his patience put "to the highest trial: he had been married to Clodia; "but whether the family did not please him, or "whether he was diffatisfied with the lady's be"haviour during his abfence, he foon entertained "thoughts of a feparation. This raised a good deal "of talk, and the women of the Clodian family inveighed bitterly against Brutus-but he married "Portia, who was worthy of such a father as M.
"Cato, and fuch a husband as M. Brutus. She had "a foul capable of an exalted paffion, and found a proper object to raife and give it a fanction; the "did not only love but adored her husband; his "worth, his truth, his every fhining and heroic "quality, made her gaze on him like a god, while "the endearing returns of efteem and tenderness she "met with, brought, her joy, her pride, her every "wish to center in her beloved Brutus."
When the reader has been awakened by this rapturous preparation, he hears the whole ftory of Portia in the fame luxuriant ftyle, till fhe breathed out her laft, a little before the bloody profcription, and "Brutus complained heavily of his friends at "Rome, as not having paid due attention to his "Lady in the declining ftate of her health."
He is a great lover of modern terms. His fenators and their wives are Gentlemen and Ladies. In this review of Brutus's army, who was under the command of gallant men, not braver officers, than true patriots, he tells us," that Sextus the Queftor was Paymaster, Secretary at War, and Commissary Ge"neral, and that the facred difcipline of the Romans required the clofeft connection, like that of father " and fon, to fubfift between the General of an army "and his Queftor. Cicero was General of the Cavalry, "and the next general officer was Flavius, Master of "the Artillery, the elder Lentulus was Admiral, and "the younger rode in the Band of Volunteers; under "these the tribunes, with many others too tedious to "name." Lentulus, however, was but a fubordinate officer; for we are informed afterwards, that the Romans had made Sextus Pompeius Lord High Admiral in all the feas of their dominions.
Among other affectations of this writer is a furious and unneceffary zeal for liberty, or rather for one form of government as preferable to another. This indeed might be fuffered, because political inftitution is a fubject in which men have always differed, and if they continue to obey their lawful governors, and attempt not to make innovations for the fake of their favourite fchemes, they may differ for ever without any juft reproach from one another. But who can bear the hardy champion who ventures nothing? Who in full fecurity undertakes the defence of the affaffination of Cafar, and declares his refolution to speak plain? Yet let not juft fentiments be overlooked: he has justly observed, that the greater part of mankind will be naturally prejudiced against Brutus, for all feel the benefits of private friendship; but few can difcern the advantages of a well-conftituted government.
We know not whether fome apology may not be neceffary for the distance between the firft account of this book and its continuation. The truth is, that this work not being forced upon our attention by much publick applaufe or cenfure, was fometimes neglected, and fometimes forgotten; nor would it, perhaps, have been now refumed, but that we might avoid to disappoint our readers by an abrupt desertion of any fubject.
It is not our defign to criticife the facts of this hiftory, but the ftyle; not the veracity, but the addrefs of the writer; for, an account of the ancient Romans, as it cannot nearly intereft any prefent reader, and muft be drawn from writings that have been long known, can owe its value only to the language
language in which it is delivered, and the reflections with which it is accompanied. Dr. Blackwell, however, feems to have heated his imagination fo as to be much affected with every event, and to believe that he can affect others. Enthufiafm is indeed fufficiently contagious; but I never found any of his readers much enamoured of the glorious Pompey, the patriot approv'd, or much incenfed against the lawless Cafar, whom this author probably ftabs every day and night in his fleeping or waking dreams.
He is come too late into the world with his fury for freedom, with his Brutus and Caffius. We have all on this fide of the Tweed long fince fettled our opinions: his zeal for Roman liberty and declamations against the violators of the republican conftitution, only stand now in the reader's way, who wishes to proceed in the narrative without the interruption of epithets and exclamations. It is not easy to forbear laughter at a man fo bold in fighting fhadows, fo bufy in a difpute two thousand years past, and so zealous for the honour of a people who while they were poor robbed mankind, and as foon as they became rich, robbed one another. Of these robberies our author feems to have no very quick fenfe, except when they are committed by Cafar's party, for every act is fanctified by the name of a patriot.
If this author's skill in ancient literature were lefs generally acknowledged, one might fometimes fuf-. pect that he had too frequently confulted the French writers. He tells us that Archelaus the Rhodian made a fpeech to Caffius, and in fo faying dropt fome