The Favat of &florins. In two volumes Longman and Co.
The Dispatches and Letters of VIcc-AdmIral Lord Viscount Nelson ; with Notes by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, G.C.M.G. Volume VII. August to October 1805.
COSMOGONY, Colleens. Thoughts on some Important Points relating to the System of the World. By J. P. Nichol, LL.D., Professor of Astronomy in the University of Glasgow. Simpkin and Marshall; Tait, Edinburgh.
THE FAWN OF SEETOEIL1S.
THE exploits and character of Sertorius are one of the episodes of Roman history over which a good deal of obscurity hangs, both from the absence of all contemporary or authoritative accounts of his story, and from a probable dash of mysticism or imposture in the man himself. An officer of Marius, though a humane one, Sertorius was proscribed by Sylla, and fled for safety into Spain with a very scanty force. There he displayed such powers of persuasion, or of intrigue, that a considerable portion ot the inhabitants were won over to his cause : his administrative talents were sufficient to set up a government in imitation of the Roman, to establish schools for the natives, and to give an air of civilization to the country under his rule: his military abilities were so great as to hold in check both Metellus and Pompey. With a questionable kind of artifice, he played upon the superstition of the people ; being followed by a white hind which he had tamed, and by means of which he pretended to hold communication with the gods. Measured by his success, his reputation would seem to be overrated. He could harass the Roman armies, and sometimes defeat them ; but he could not bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion. The example of Napoleon's Spanish invasion shows how much may be done in Spain to retard conquest without any thing beyond guerrilla abilities ; and though the testimony of antiquity is in favour of the high military merit of Sertorius, it is possible that a main source of his success was a skilful use of the nature of the country, as contained in the celebrated dictum of Henri Quatre, "In Spain a small army must be beaten and a large one starved." According to the accounts preserved of him, (but after his murder it was convenient to party to blacken his character,) his mind would seem to have been ill balanced ; for he is said to have latterly become luxurious, oppressive, and crueL Whether from jealousy, disgust, or a political conspiracy hatched at Rome, Perpenna, one of his officers, conspired against, and with his brother traitors mur- dered Sertorius, at a banquet, 73 years before Christ. If Perpenna was really employed by a party in the Senate, he was ill cared for : he fell into the hands of Pompey, and the great opponent of Sertorius put the assassin to death.
Such is an outline of the subject of The Fawn of Sertorius; and the author has treated it with a freedom allowable if not judicious, where the recorded facts may be true so far as they go, but the student sus- pends his judgment for want of fuller knowledge. In an introductory chapter of great literary merit, the author professes to tell the story of the work; and represents it as having been compiled by an Italian anti- quary, Giraldo Cornaccbini, from the lost "Life of Quintus Sertorius, by Caius Oppius," a contemporary. The manuscript was discovered by Giraldo in a library : being conscientious after his own fashion, he would not appropriate it, or even copy it; but having ambition, he framed out of it this work, part history, part romance, part antiquarian and philosophical disquisition. Giraldo's manuscript was intrusted to a friend for safety and revision: on its publication the locality of the newly-discovered "Life of Sertorius" by the friend of CLesar was to have been pointed out ; but the antiquarian died suddenly, carrying his secret with him; and the world probably will never learn more of its contents than they may gain from The Fawn of Sertorius. This introductory chapter is neither encumbering nor out of place ; but it was scarcely needed. The historical deviations of the author are rather those of view than of fact. Not seeing the circumstances that might explain the successes above alluded to, and allowing the enthusiast's admiration of his hero to run away with him, the writer elevates the cha- racter of Sertorius too high, placing him on a level with Hannibal and Julius Crew, if not above them : he also throws the gorgeous hues of a rhetorical imagination over the condition of Spain and the prospects of Sertorius : but beyond this there are no alterations save those allowable in fiction. The character of Perpenna stands out more conspicuously- than in history, but chiefly for his peculiar individuality. He is drawn a sort of malignant Wharton—as a private and public profligate, with the wit, the accomplishments, the readiness, but the want of industry and power of work, which defeat the efforts of such men when steadily op- posed, if indeed their flashy character does not cause their abilities to be overrated by mankind, and certainly by writers of romance. The other chief historical conspirator, Manlius, is assumed to be insti- gated by public umbrage and private jealousy. Manlius has protected Vergilia, the daughter of a Spanish King; an attachment springs up be- tween them ; which, chilled by the Roman haughtiness and patrician insolence of Manlius, is transferred to Sertorins as reverently as if he were a superior being. Orcilis, the King of Osca, and his daughter Myrtilis, also secretly loving Sertorius, are skilful though peculiar crea- tions, but obviously pertaining to fiction. The introduction of the Fawn as a real messenger of Destiny is still more belonging to romance. The atheistical and treacherous Pontifex Maximus Ahala, who in con- junction with Perpenna strives to poison Sertorius, but poisons his own children and then himself, also forms a striking episode ; but one whose effect, like that of the whole book, is quite independent of any historical authority. Many and great faults, as well as merits, may be found in The Fawn of Sertorius. The mould in which the writer casts his entire work is highly artificial, not to say unnatural; you always perceive the workman. The style is too brilliantly rhetorical for a good taste; and though the author's vigour of composition keeps him from the stilted, he frequently seems striving to "be tall by walking on tiptoe." There is throughout a too visible straining after effect ; truth is ever sacrificed to point when they come in opposition ; and you frequently detect that theatrical spirit in the manner of presenting things which vitiates the whole works of Bulwer. In spite of all this, The Fawn of Serterius is a remarkable book ; distinguished by great vigour of conception, and alternate force and delicacy of execution. The view of the historical episode of Sertorius we believe to be exaggerated, and the same remark may be applied to the embodiment : but the author has a considerable knowledge of Roman his- tory and Roman antiquities, as well in their spirit as in their forms. Elevation, thought, satire, and philosophy, (of the French school,) abound in the various disquisitional conversations which are scattered through the volumes ; and pointed but not hard or bitter sarcasm exists in the sketches of character,—especially of Setubal, the just man, who never harasses a tenant or creditor—who has nothing left. The introduc- tion and character of the Fawn (for she has an individuality) are also conceived and executed with felicity and delicacy ; and the various pictures and incidents connected with her—as the natural temple of Des- tiny—the wild landscape by which it is approached—the fortunes of Spann& the peasant, who finds the Fawn, when rushing desperately into the presence of the dread goddess of Destiny, and conveys her to Sertorius —the different appearances and conduct of the Fawn herself, as well as several incidents connected with her appearances—all either relieve or elevate the historical and philosophical tones of the work.
The peculiar character of the book renders partial extracts an indifferent way of exhibiting its quality. We will, however, take a few passages that may bear separate display. Here is the death of the Fawn, at the banquet where Sertorius is subsequently assassinated ; the warning arrival of the animal interrupting the preparations for his own death.
"Loud as were these brawlers, they became sometimes silent. In such inter- vals, Sertorius heard the whispers of Perpenna impatiently questioning his slaves With such words as these= Are they gone? Who remains? Try to send them away.' In the position which he occupied, gestures of approval or suppression among the guests, and eager glances transmitted from face to face, could be ob- served but imperfectly by him. To Versius his secretary, they are apparent, but unintelligible. He sees that, except the flushed and swollen countenance of An- tonius, every other has continued to grow paler, unless the lamps above it have gown brighter. Nor can their white effulgence, reflected from so much burnished Silver and polished marble, account for such restless looks of expectation, or un- steady voices. "At last, after a moment's pause, as if to collect breath and resolution, Per- penna raised from the table, by its two handles, a large cup already full, exclaim- ing. with hurried and unusual loudness, I make this libation to the manes of Cams Marius!' The words were hardly ended, and the wine remained yet un- spilt, when still louder cries resounded from the vestibule= Strike her! Stop her! Stand from her Let her pass!' At the same instant the guests arose, the drinking-vessels were scattered about the table, and the Fawn, precipitating herself among the lights, fell into her master's arms. The same rush carried with it a short javelin, which had pierced her flank and sprinkled blood among the wine. Sertorius pressed the gentle creature to his breast, and, by sustaining the dart, tried to diminish its agonies. They lasted but fora moment. His gift from Destiny crept closer and still closer into his bosom; then shuddering and sobbing convulsively once or twice, closed its eyes and expired. Alai; gentleness and fidelity ! Love prescient of death ! A sacrifice to the cruel made in vain The javelin fell from its wound, and was grasped by the right hand of Sertorius. He raised furiously that voice which had been heard so often above the tumult of battle, commanding his attendants to seize the murderer. A crowd of slaves, guards, lictors, torch-bearers, and other dependants, had followed the Fawn, and filled the banqueting-room."
The anger of one part of the army, the confusion of the other, and the incapacity of the conspirators to control the tempest they had raised, are painted with historical power ; but they require too much space. We will take instead the funeral rites of Sertorius.
"The banqueting-hall was found by the centurion much as it had been left ten or eleven hears before. Nothing was new excepting that ghastly and irrecon- cileable mixture of daylight and lamplight which is more hateful than darkness. Some few lamps were unextinguished still. Vessels half full—drinking-cups overthrown—daggers encrusted with gore, both blade and hilt--chaplets broken, withered, and trampled upon, were scattered about the pavement. Though they were together, the wine still liquid and the blood congealed could not unite. Ter- penna's slaves, familiar with sights of cruelty and debauchery, had nevertheless fled the place. Two or three senatorian robes, lying upon the couches showed that others beside these had not dared to look at a countenance again, the distant remembrance of which was feared in Rome by the proudest and the bravest there. No more than one attendant remained to watch its composure, and still fancy that there was a smile upon its lips. The old lictor kept his place. "Perpenna committed one more error in retaining his colleague's body so long. Bewildered as he was by a hundred cares, this should have been despatched the first. Again did he suffer through the absence of Manlius, whose greater circum- spection would have evaded such a disclosure before the sun, as those bloody wounds,. and torn garments, and uprooted hairs. The thirst for revenge grew in- extinguishable, as the bier was carried out, and passed slowly through both camps. From that hour, not one follower was added to the fortunes of Perpenna. Be mounted his horse' and overtook his legions; but the execrations from many thousand lips pursued him—the contemptuous abhorrence of all future ages— and closer behind than these, the wrath of Destiny.
"Many of the oldest soldiers who had followed their general cheerfully and hopefully during the last nine years, never knew till now how greatly they had loved him. Eyes familiar with slaughter, at the sight of his shed tears; and cheeks which had hitherto glowed brightly in his presence, and blushed proudly at his praises, were now ghastly as his own. That no tumult might disturb the sanctity of its repose, the body was deposited in the augurale. There, too, where Torquatus and Aquileius had expired, on the highest step, at the feet of Diana's
statue, lay his Fawn. • "A funeral pile was erected in the principia, requiring so much of the sacred space that many other beside the nearest tents were swept away. Its founda- tions consisted of huge beams crossing each other, their ends carefully concealed and decorated by lattice-work. As the building ascended stage by stage, still lighter materials, placed in the same manner though further apart, gave space for air, as well as for innumerable vessels filled with oil, gum, resin, and fragrant kinds of bark. The pile consisted of three stories, narrowing like three gigantic steps, and the highest was surmounted by an altar in size proportionable to them. A platform, extending round all four fronts, and sufficient for the standing-room of many hundred persons, was afforded on each stage by the retrocession or dimi- nution in the one above. That on which the conch or altar rested was adorned with arms disposed as trophies, crimson banners suspended from spears, and all these other ornaments which soldiers value the most. Under these were accumu- lated nard, stades cassia, myrrh, and incense, hitherto provided only for the gods. " What had not been designed or foreseen was added by the soldiers. Four whole legions, collecting their spears, thrust them as fuel beneath the last resting- place which their general would occupy; and then, fiercely demanding that the eagles and other standards of especial sanctity should be produced, they planted them in the same order upon the pile as formerly upon the tribunal. This strange sign was an intimation that neither would their ensigns be surrendered to Metal- Ins nor their arms be employed under the authority of any new commander. 'We devote them.' said they, unconquered, to the gods.' " The sun was approaching the horizon- the preparations were complete; the senators and subordinate generals were standing on that high stage of the pile nearest to its summit, the legates, ambassadors, tribunes, priests, and Oscan nobles, on the next. The lowest and largest platform was crowded by freedmen, now without a patron, clients, commissioners, personal attendants, the civil ser- vants and followers of this great war. The soldiers and subordinate officers of both nations covered the ground, from which every tent or other obstruction had been dismissed. High officers, nearest the general, whether in dignity or confi- dence, claimed the right to carry his bier and place it above the pile. This was a distinction which hundreds there would have purchased gladly with their lives. Those to whom it was assigned had spared neither cost nor care in augmenting its magnificence. Sertorius lay upon a conch, now pressed by him for the first time, which had been sent, among other similar presents, from Mitluidates. Round the body, to retain its ashes was that customary garment of asbestos which could not be consumed. The external covering was his own paludamentum, a gorgeously embroidered robe of crimson, purple, and gold. Above his head shone twelve legionary eagles, grasping thunderbolts in their talons. And, white as ever, though every limb was stiffened by death, luminously white still, on her old
resting-place, on her niaster's bosom, lay the Fawn. .
"As the sun sets, clarions, reserved for no other use than the ceremony of death, utter their shrill and mournful wail; the senators, lieutenants, legates, and other subordinate officers, are the last who reach the ground; the oldest and most distinguished soldiers, selected from every legion, march three times round the pile; and at the louder repetition of that piercing blast, a hundred torches are ap- plied; every man near enough throws some offering toward the dead, and the flames ascend."
The punishment of the murder is so managed as to follow immediately upon its heels. Pompey advances ; the troops refuse to fight, or they join the Proconsular army; Osca is occupied ; and the conspirators are all arrested, except Manlius, who has been seized and chained by order of the Princess Myrtilis. Pompey has ascended the tribunal, and sent for the assassins.
"When Perpenna passed, accompanied by five of his associates, there was hardly an imprecation or a murmur; for public abhorrence extended beyond the criminals to the judge. Robed as senators, they walked with four of the pro- consular lictors before them, and four behind. These officials seemed to have an- ticipated the sentence, by turning the edge of their axes the way they went and came. All night had the centurion Rhsecius, in the fulfilment of his vow to Myrtilis, watched fasting near Perpenna's prsetorium. He walks now by his side as if he had been sent to conduct him. A slave is also there, who curries the scrinium—the cylindrical coffer or casket, which Versins should have burnt.
"Perpenna retained greater composure than most of his confederates, by re- membering his birth and forgetting his offences. There was hope yet. The last of those crimes had accomplished for the welfare of Pompeius more than all his skill and all his legions. Maecenas was pale and sick. Torquitius and Fabius Iliepaniensis whispered angrily to each other, as if accusing and retorting. An- ton= was by turns fierce, contemptuous, turbulent, and jocular. He struck a lictor for having trodden not on but too near his foot; and he recommended that Fabius and Torquitius should suspend their dispute till supper-time. Death had been studied by Aufidius as an epicurean, imitated as a tragedian, inflicted as an assassin, and yet now he appears not less amazed at its proximity than if the Yery name were new. His terrors were so contemptible as to provoke mirth. "Pompeii's was younger than any one of the five senators who stood before him. Yet the marble image of Justice would have betrayed as much emotion. With a loud, not an elevated voice, he arraigned Perpenna and his associates as enemies of the Republic who had appeared in arms against her authority so late as yester- day. When Perpenna replied, his calmness gave some dignity even to falsehood. I have released Rome and her Senate,' said he, from the threats of worse than Carthaginian vengeance, Pompeiu.s and Metellus from the most dangerous of their enemies. Italy is now safe. The Republic and those who exercise her authority, sparing a too scrupulus inquisition either into the motives or the instruments, should rest content. If it be desirable to distinguish between friends and enemies, to repress mischievous ambition once more, and to punish criminals before they strike, I can render other services greater even than the last.' He then commanded his slave to raise the scrininm which he had carried, and place it at the Pro- consul's feet. 'It contains epistles from many of those allies whom Rome ha most trusted; from many of those prmtors and proconsuls on whose fidelity she has confided the richest of her provinces; and half the noblest houses of the Republic have contributed to the correspondence with Sertorius. He who retains this chest will find himself stronger than the Senate. With so many proofs of treason in his hands, he may punish or silence whom he will.'
" Pompeius started, his face was flushed. After a moment's hesitation, he asked, How shall I Ascertain the truth of what I hear? By whom have these epistles been read?' Perpenna replied, that the few hours during which they had been in his possession afforded no sufficient leisure for much research ; that he and his secretary, Maesenas, bad been able to examine little else beside some signs tures and superscriptions; and that the scrinium had been forcibly taken trom Versius the secretary of Sertorius by the qumstor Manlius. Versius confirmed that part of the narrative which related to himself. It was a correspondence conducted by Sertorius without his assistance. He had no knowledge of any thing farther than that, if sufficient time had been allowed him, it was his duty to have destroyed the chest.'
"As soon as Pompeius had ascertained that even the signatures were unknown to every other person beside Perpenna and Maecenas, he resumed his composure, and with two words, percussio secure, condemned them both to death. Perpenna started incredulously at their abruptness. Antonius laughed: We may be as short with our creditors,' said he. The pouffes mammas promised that he would be responsible for us to Jupiter. But why should Miscenas go before a senator? he seems to be in no great haste.' "'Take the second place' then,' said Pompeius; and, by a slight movement of impatience, signified to the lictors that they must despatch. They conducted the condemned to that part of the principia, a little farther back than the tribunal, where Ahala had uttered his imprecations and Perpenna had confirmed them— not because it was most remote from their master's sight, but because it was least likely to distract his attention. "When the Praetor's consciousness had returned, he found himself upon the ashes of his colleague's funeraIpile. Close in front stood that desecrated altar at which he and Ahala mingled poison with perjury. The six lictors of Sertorius sat upon its steps, and were employed in unbuiding their fasces that they might break them rod by rod. To the proconsular ministers of Justice there was something awful, if not impious, in striking at one whose office was so majestic as Perpennies.
More than this dissolving army had been commanded by him; be too had been preceded by his lictors. Fearing to lay their hands on a printer, the duty would have been gladly resigned by each of them to his fellows. They werepleased and relieved, therefore, when one of the Sertorian lictors claimed this privilege from them, rather as a right than a favour. He was the oldest, he said, by twenty years.
"Perpenna's eyes were upon the altar. One of the spectators exclaimed, that 'As the pewter and the quostor had succeeded to the estates left them by Ser- torins, they too should appoint their heirs.' This insult was resented by the cen- turion Rhtecitts. He waited there till his promise had been accomplished, but he demanded from Justice no more than death. The offender was stricken by him to the dust. Antonius seized and shook the centurion's hand. Bid these slaves begin with me,' said he: perhaps Perpenna will follow, like a shy horse into a ferry-boat, if another goes first' A half-burnt beam was dragged to the altar- steps. The axe glittered in the air, and a head rolled among the ashes. While rerpeima struggled and exclaimed,' Somewhere else! in any other place!' he was forced upon his knees. bliecenas, who had not uttered one word, submitted either patiently or unconsciously. I closed my master's eyes, and I watched his body in their banqueting-hall,' exclaimed the lictor, but now my recompense conies earlier than I had hoped.'"