14 FEBRUARY 1835, Page 16


"THE present work," says the author " is intended to supply the want of a good History of Greece for schools. It claims, however, to be regarded as somewhat more than a mere school-book ;" ad- dressing itself also to that numerous class who desire historic know- ledge without the means of consulting original authorities or ela- borate works; whilst it even claims the merit of putting forth such " views of society, and of political measures and characters, as should not be disdained even by the statesman." The mate- rials for the narrative are derived directly from the old Greek authors; those for disquisition from the best modern German and English writers on the subject of Grecian antiquities and history. Without professing to be free from a bias in favour of "an open, ex- tensive, well-instructed aristocracy, under the influence and control of the people," the compiler claims, and we think rightly, the meed of impartiality in the judgments he passes upon actions and persons. To say that Mr. KE1GHTLEVS book is better than many histories of Greece, and as gool as the best, would not be conveying a very loft) praise. The elaborate work of MITFORD is disfigured by the acrimonicus prejudices of a fanatical Tory, whose bigotry, if it saves him from the charge of personal dishonesty, so obscured his acumen and powers of discrimination, as not only to vitiate his conclusions and the his narrative, but even, as Mr. KEIGHTLEY instances, to induce him to falsify authenticated facts. The common school-books are mere compilations, got up from the readiest accessible sources ; a charge from which Gonnsstrnes—the most charming and most readable of all Grecian histories—is not free. The works of SraNvoN and of GILLIES, IIIOU?11 more laborious, and of a higher class as regards scholarship, have little of dramatic or philosophic nistory. They read their authorities with too implicit a reverence ; they were of necessity unacqnainted with the light (and the darkness) which German research and scepticism have thrown upon ancientaffairs ; and they wanted that grasp of mind which, after conquering the minute and multifarious annals of so many little states, should combine them together, and present them in masses truly and clearly to the reader. This last-namsd deficiency is one great drawback of Mr. KEIGHTLEY'S History. Ile has not mastered his subject so com- pletely as to have reproduced a whole ; it is not so much the offspring of a single mind, as it seems to be the most available passages of many authors brought together ; and it wants, in consequence, the life, the continuous interest, and the unity of an original work. By following others, rather than transcribing them or extracting their essence, he has sometimes combined the defects of each node without the excellencies. His former studies, moreover, have not helped him to narrate the deeds and deaths of heroes, philosophers, and orators, in a kindred spirit. The homely and almost infantine plainness of style, which tells so happily in a fairy tale, mars the effect of the battle of Marathon or the death of Demosthenes.

It will be seen that we think a History of Greece has yet to be written. If composed in the usual style of histories, it may, how- ever, be questioned whether it would be read with pleasure. To us there seems to be but two modes of writing it with effect : either to make it disquisitional, letting the spirit of commentary everywhere be present, so as only to exhibit the social and intel- lectual mind of Greece, with the growth and character of its political constitutions, disregarding both events and persons save when they throw a light upon the main subject; or to make it a series of historical pictures, where—passing over the internal and interminable squabbles of rival cities, and telling only the scope and results of the most essential—the striking military exploits, the contentions and" achievements of orators and politicians, the splendid productions of her artists and poets, and the specula- tions, vagaries, and lives of her philosophers,* should be presented to the reader according to the interest they could be made to impart or the pleasure they would convey. One mind might produce both works; but the attempt to combine them in one would certainly be unsuccessful.