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as she teaches and personifies herself in man. But these marvellous poems so far transcend all former attempts in description in any literature, that it is not surprising they should be popularly reckoned as rather the first works in the modern manner than (what we certainly think them) the glorified idea of the older. If any think this classification arbitrary, we would allow, as before stated, that no line can be drawn here with severity, and that Milton may be rightly placed last of the ancients, or earliest of the moderns; as the goal of one age is often the starting-point of the succeeding. But, in illustration of our own view, we will direct our readers to one contrast more; choosing our modern specimen from the too scanty and imperfect works of one who, if from the promise we may infer the fulfilment, would have ranked, had life been permitted to him, with the greatest poets of England. The pleasures of Imagination, Keats has been saying, transcend at times the enjoyments of reality: summer passes, but the pictures drawn by the imaginative memory are a consolation, when
The sear faggot blazes bright,
When the soundless earth is muffled,
To banish even from her sky.
Distant harvest-carols clear;
Rustle of the reaped corn,
Now take the elder poet's work, not in the narrow spirit of rivalry with that of his youthful successor, but to note how, whilst in Keats the landscape consoles and absorbs the spectator (though deriving meanwhile its power from the subtle contrast between the variety of nature and the monotony of life), in Milton it is
the human element which gives its splendour to the grass, its glory to the flower;' how the later picture is more minutely and curiously true, the earlier the more equally balanced :-
"If I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew;' &c.
which, though so well known, we can hardly refrain from quoting at length.
That the curious phases of the human mind, reflected in the poetry which we have thus imperfectly and briefly surveyed, might be brought with more vividness before the reader, we have ventured on quotations often long and sometimes familiar. But we think their length will not be regretted by those to whom they are best known; and such—and we hope there will be many such-we regard as our fittest audience.
ART. VI.-Plutarch's Lives. The Translation called Dryden's, corrected from the Greek and revised by A. W. Clough, sometime Fellow and Tutor of Oriel College, Oxford, and late Professor of the English Language and Literature at University College, London. In 5 volumes. 1859.
HE appearance of a new version-as in some sort this is
is not only a literary event, but
one of no little historical importance. For Plutarch is not merely the first of biographers by right of having produced a great number of biographies of the first class, but he holds a position unique, peculiar, and entirely his own, in modern Europe. We have all naturalized' the old gentleman, and admitted him to the rights of citizenship, from the Baltic to the Pillars of Hercules. He was a Greek, to be sure, and a Greek no doubt he is still. But as when we think of a Devereux or a Stanley we call him an Englishman, and not a Norman, so, who among the reading public troubles himself to reflect that Plutarch wrote Attic prose of such or such a quality? Scholars know all about it to be sure, as they know that the turkeys of our farmyards came originally from Mexico. Plutarch, however, is not a scholar's author, but is popular everywhere, as if he were a native. It is as though the drachmas which he carried in his purse on his travels were still current coin in the public markets and Exchanges.
Now this, we repeat, is a unique phenomenon. There is no other case of an ancient writer-whether Greek or Latin-becoming as well known in translations as he was in the classical
world, or as great modern writers are in the modern one. Neither is there another case of the world's accepting-as it does with Plutarch's Lives-all translations with more or less thankfulness. Nor, again, will another instance be found of an ancient writer's forming so curious a link between his world of thought and those who care for nothing else but what he tells them about or in that world. It is, indeed, wonderful how little translators have yet achieved for the classical men; and this fact might well deserve serious consideration in our age. Pope's 'Homer' is, perhaps, our most popular translation. But is there any other version of an ancient much read? Some are read, no doubt, as aids to the study of the originals; and some-like our 'Horaces' -for the pleasure of seeing how far a delicate and difficult task has been overcome. We have plenty of 'cribs,' and we have a few works of art, of which last the Aristophanes of Mr. Frere is (as far as it goes) an unrivalled specimen. Where, however, is the mere stranger to look for translations which shall justify to him the tantalizing and provoking praise he hears on all hands of the antique men? They are not to be found.
We are told by the literary historians that Plutarch was translated into modern Greek in the fourteenth century; and a pious archbishop of Heleno-Pontus had, three centuries earlier, expressed a hope of his eternal salvation conjointly with Plato.* But we do not find him quoted by our own chroniclers, as the Latin poets and Cicero sometimes are. His real glory begins with the revival of letters, when Latin versions of his 'Lives' first appeared, and were followed by Greek editions (though not till early in the sixteenth century) both of the
Lives' and the Morals.' Plutarch, however, was destined to be famous through translations chiefly. The folios of Venice and Florence would get abroad, no doubt, and obtain their share of notice from the scholars who were now labouring like miners in the long-buried cities of antiquity. But the important day for Plutarch and the modern world was that on which the eyes of Jacques Amyot, a French churchman, first fell upon his text. Amyot was born at Melun, of humble parents, in 1513 (just four years before the appearance of the editio princeps of the 'Lives,' in Greek, at Florence), and studied at Melun, Paris, and Bourges. He held a chair in the last-named town-thanks to the kindness of Margaret, sister of Francis I.; and some early versions which he made from the 'Lives' induced that 'humane great monarch' to present him to the Abbaye of Bellozane. He went to Venice, attached to an ambassador, where he had no
*Fabricius, Bibl. Græc., ed. Harles, v. 156.
doubt access to important MSS. of his favourite author. He was for some time at the Council of Trent. He received something from each of several successive kings of France, and died a bishop, rich and renowned, in 1583. Such is a brief summary of the career of a man to whom Plutarch owes his modern fame, and to whom the modern world owes Plutarch. But Amyot's literary merits do not even stop here. He was one of the earliest writers of attractive French prose. He had an immense influence on Montaigne; and, what is still more important, our own countryman, Sir Thomas North, translated from Amyot's translation, and supplied Shakspeare with the groundwork of his 'Coriolanus,' 'Julius Cæsar,' and 'Antony and Cleopatra.' Very few men of letters have done so much for the world as Jacques Amyot, Bishop of Auxerre.
Amyot finished the 'Lives' before the 'Morals,' and published them in 1559. It was the year that Mary Stuart's first boyhusband died; and Montaigne was a young gentleman of twentysix. By-and-by the Morals' appeared, and made Montaigne an essayist-so at least he tells us himself; for Plutarch and Seneca, he says, formed him, and he preferred Plutarch of the two. 'I draw from them,' are his words, like the Danaides, filling and emptying, sans cesse.' He read no books so much as Plutarch's Lives' and 'Morals,' and especially admired the 'Comparisons' in the 'Lives,'' the fidelity and sincerity of which equal their profundity and weight.' And he further expressly tells us that he read them in Amyot, 'to whom I give the palm over all our French writers, not only for the naïveté and purity of his language, but for having had the wisdom to select so worthy a book.' Montaigne had, indeed, some personal acquaintance with Amyot; and it is a fact that he quotes Plutarch no less than two hundred times. As every essayist traces his pedigree to Montaigne, what a noble, flourishing tree must that be esteemed which rooted itself and spread its healthy green leaves in Chæronea in the first century!
Amyot's folios were popular-strange as popular folio sounds to us. The fact is, that this was the first time that the gentlemen of feudal Europe made the personal acquaintance of the gentlemen of classical Europe. Of course there had always been a vague traditionary knowledge of the Roman and Greek heroes. Niebuhr remarks that stories about them used to be read out of Valerius Maximus to the German knights as they sat at dinner; and the medieval chroniclers frequently garnish their descriptions with allusions to their mighty names. But all was dark and shadowy about them, and they wore always a quasi-feudal garb, just as the Virgin Mary was spoken of as a Princess of
coat-armour' by our countrywoman Dame Juliana Berners. In Shakspeare's Troilus and Cressida,' with its 'Lord Æneas,' we see the influence of the medieval view of the ancients; but when he writes from Plutarch, they become different men. It was Amyot that worked this change, by showing them in their real characters as described by an ancient in a civilised age.
We must not be surprised then to hear that Amyot's 'Plutarch' was the favourite reading of Henri Quatre, nor that De Retz found only among the men of Plutarch' parallels to the heroie Montrose.Homme de Plutarque became indeed a typical description in France, as we name plants after their discoverers and classifiers. Amyot might be superseded by Dacier, but Plutarch was still read by the generation of Rousseau, who himself sat up till sunrise over the old Boeotian's page. Later still, whatever varnish of classicality adorned the heads of the 'revolutionary heroes' seems to have come from the same inexhaustible source. We know that this has been urged against the Plutarchian influence. But the answer is, that without it the 'heroes' would have been still more brutal and vulgar than some of them were. The 'Gracchus' and 'Hampden' of our own Sunday papers are very unlike the children of Cornelia or the landholder of Bucks; they bear the names with much the same appropriateness that negroes do Cæsar and Pompey. It would, however, be too extravagant, we venture to think, to decline studying on that account the historians of the Roman Republic or the English Civil War.
Amyot's folios, we say, were popular; and in time it occurred to an Elizabethan knight, Sir Thomas North, to translate them. Sir Thomas was a collateral ancestor of the Guildford family, being a younger son of Edward, the first Lord North, and studied at Lincoln's Inn in the reign of Philip and Mary. But this is nearly all we know of his personal history. In a late edition of his Plutarch's Lives,' dedicating afresh to Queen Elizabeth, he speaks of the princely bounties of your blessed hand comforting and supporting my poor old decaying life—which looks as if he had not prospered in the world. He made no secret of the source of his translation of the 'Lives,' which he first published in 1579, for his title-page runs thus: "The Lives of the noble Grecians and Romains, compared together by that grave, learned philosopher and historiographer Plutarch of Charonea; translated out of Greeke into French by James Amiot, Abbot of Bellozane, Bishop of Auxerre; . . . and out of French into English by Sir Thomas North, Knight.' This was honest in Sir Thomas, and is also a sign how highly esteemed Amyot's work had become within twenty years from its publica