27 JUNE 1896, Page 34


MR. MACAN'S "HERODOTUS." • This is a highly valuable contribution to the study of early history in general and to the criticism of Herodotns as an historical authority in particular. It has been customary to treat the latter of these two subjects too much en bloc. Mr. Macan's method is quite different. He writes (I. xxvii.) :- 4‘ The truth (as distinct from the honesty) of the Histories of Herodotus cannot be adequately measured from volume to volume, nor even from Book to Book ; every story, every sentence must be separately weighed." This method shows the possibility of reconciling very different views about the " Father of History." We shall be able to accept the criticisms of Professor Sayce when he finds frequent errors and even absurdities in the Herodotean description of Egypt, its history, its geography, and its social order, without having to reject the high estimate which other commentators, of whom Canon Rawlinson may be taken as a type, have formed of their author's credibility. But though this separate examination of each detail is necessary, it is nevertheless possible to see a gradation of authority in the successive portions of the work. For this purpose the division into nine books may be put aside. 0 Hardly any one now," says Mr. Macon, " supposes it to be primitive or made by the author himself." But the division 'into three portions, each comprising three of the so-called books, seems to be well established. There is a very decided break between the third and the fourth books, and again • Herodotus, Books Will Introduction, Note., Appendices, /Rape. By Reginald Walter Marian, M.A. 2 yob. London: Afacmit!an and Co. between the sixth and the seventh. And these portions have an inverse order of credibility. This is, of course, in exact accord with probability. Herodotus must have had personal knowledge of many persons who had been actors in the great war which is the main subject of Books VII.-IX., an advantage which did not extend, except to a very limited extent, to the earlier period. Book II., the story of Egypt, which is, by common consent, the least trustworthy part of the whole work, seems at first sight to be an exception. Here the historian writes about a country which he had actually visited, places which he had seen, and events which he had heard narrated by experts. We can only say that he must have been bewildered by the novelty and multiplicity of his experiences. He was overawed by the evidences that he saw about him of an elaborate civilisation of immense antiquity. The Greeks, as he tells us very plainly, seemed to him mere children by the side of a people immemorially powerful and wise. Now and then even his capacity of belief is surpassed, but generally he is ready to believe everything that he is told. This state of mind must, of course, have weakened his powers of observation. He might have written more intelligently about Egyptian things if he had never gone there. We are familiar nowadays with a very similar experience. No one is more mistaken about India than the man who spends a month in making observations which are not, at the best, more than half-true, and hearing statements which are a good deal more than half-false.

It is to the second of the three portions (Books IV.-VI.) that Mr. Macau has in these volumes confined his attention. The first volume contains an introduction and the text, with annotations ; the second is filled with a series of appendices, which are in fact monographs on various important subjects. In the introduction Mr. Macau makes an elaborate and highly ingenious analysis of the three Books. Such a pro- cess is, he says, "essential to any critical discovery of the sources, composition, and credibility of the many and various materials brought together, and more or less completely fused into an artistic whole by the genius of this prince of old Ionian researchers, greatest of the Logographers." The student will find this programme very carefully carried out. A more intelligent and painstaking scrutiny has never been applied to any classical historian. It is " scepticism " in the best sense of that much misapplied word, thorough inquiry without prepossession of any kind, and its result is something very different from the wholesale in- credulity which was the fashion some five-and-twenty years ago. A small but significant instance may be found in the exploit of the runner, Pheidippides, who reached Sparta from Athens afurtpaioc, within twenty-four hours (why must this mean, as Mr. Macau has it, " within the twenty-four hours " F) One modern historian discredits the statement, an incredulity which does not approve itself, it would seem, to Mr. Macau, who contents himself with giving the distance and referring the reader to the passage in which Solinus gives the "records" for swiftness of foot. (Pheidippides should be, we are told, Philippides, the editor acutely remarking that Aristophanes would not &have used the word as a comic name " if it had been consecrated in the Athenian traditions of Marathon." This disposes of the fanciful theory that the name is mythical, the swift runner being a "sparer of horses.") But it must be allowed that, as a general result of the examina- tion, a very serious discount has to be taken from Herodotus'a authority. He seems to have been largely influenced by two causes, which go far in perverting history,—personal motives, and the desire to moralise, or rather, if the word may be allowed, to theologise. A story that seemed to make for a divine interference in human affairs had an overpowering attraction for him.

Of the appendices the most important is that on Marathon, an essay extending to a hundred pages, and dealing in an exhaustive way with the whole question of the battle, with historical authorities, for Herodotas, though easily first, is not the solitary witness, and there may well be remains of other and not less trustworthy traditions in authors who were long posterior to him, with the topo- graphy as it affects the narrative, in short with every con- sideration that is entitled to come under review. The most startling result is to suggest a grave doubt as to the pre- dominant share in the victory with which Miltiades is commonly credited. The crucial difficulty in the account of a, crevice in the floor, and is attracted by the light of the little win' dow within the alcove of which the statuette is placed, and soon makes a very delicate tracery of green round the Madonna and child. And as neither the school- master of the neighbouring village nor any one else recognises the plant as one of any Irish habitat, it is gradually assumed that this is a sort of miracle to enshrine the statuette of mother and child with fitting honour. The consequence is that all the neighbourhood comes to gaze at it, and they all bring some little tribute to the poor widow who had been so lonely, till at last her loneliness becomes a mere tradition of the past, and her gratitude for the blessed interruption of her solitude which had been thus achieved becomes the main emotion of her heart


"Towards the beginning of June a fresh aevelopment of the marvel occurred, for then the creeper blossomed. Thickly clustered bunches of pale green buds broke swiftly into fantastic curven-throated bugles of a clear-glowing apricot colour, which made gleams as of beaded light in the dark places where they unsheathed themselves. Mrs. Martin said it looked like as if somebody was after tyin' knots in a ray of the sunshine.' Just at this crisis a Professor from one of the Queen's Colleges, chancing to be in the neighbourhood, was brought to pronounce upon the case. As behoved a learned man, be gave it an ugly name, which we may ignorantly forget, and he said that it belonged to a species of plants, rare even in its far off oriental habitat, but totally unexampled beneath these northern skies. However, aeon after he had gone, leaving no luminous wake behind him, the little old woman made a brilliant discovery. It was on that same evening, while she was drinking tea with a few of her good gossips, for whom she entertained as strong a regard as did Madam Noah in the ancient Morality. Naturally enough, the

quareness ' and general inscrutability of the strange creeper had been under discussion, when Mrs. Martin suddenly said: • Ah ! women, dear, what talk have we then at all, at all ? Sure now it's come clear in me own mind this instaint minute that what- ever it may be, 'twas the Virgin herself, Heaven bless her, set it growin' there wid itself, just of a purpose to be fetchin' me in sue company. For, signs on it, ne'er a day there is since folk heard tell of it, that there doesn't be some comin' and goin' about the place, and makin' it plisant and gay-like. And sorra a thing else is it brought them, except to be seein' the quare new plant ; aye, bedad, 'twas them twistin' boughs on it streeled the whole let along in here to me, same as if they were a manner of landin'- net. And sure wasn't I moidherin' her every night of me life to be sendin' me some company? 'Deed was I so, and be the same token ne'er a word of thanks have I thought of saying to her, after her takin' the throuble to conthrive it that-away, more shame for me, but I was that tuk up wid itall.'—'There for you, Mrs. Martin, ma'am,' said Mrs. Brennan ; •aiten bread's soon forgotten, as the saying ie. Howane'er there's nothin' liker than that that was the way of it as you say. What else 'ud be apt to make it go clamber all round the image of her, as if 'twas her belongin' ? And didn't the gintleman tell you 'twas nothin' that grows be rights next or nigh this counthry ? Ah, for sure 'tis from far enough it's come, if Imo the likes of Them sent it. And a kind thought it was too, glory be to God." (pp. 22-25.)

Nothing could possibly be told with happier touches of both human and devout fancy than this beautiful story. The widow Martin's confused narrative of what had happened, given in the letter which so much alarms the poor old priest with the idea that her mind had given way under the continued pressure of so much solitude, is as happy in its unconscious humour as her subsequent gratitude is happy in its devout- ness. The story is one to live in the imagination as a perfect representation of Irish humility, Irish liveliness, and Irish devoutness. We have seldom read a more exquisite /iish story.

But so far at least as humour goes the story which Miss Barlow calls ‘..A. Case of Conscience," is even more than its equal. In that story the widow Quinn, who has been asked to take care of a favourite cat by a young lady who cannot persuade her father to tolerate its presence, —she loves it for the same reason for which her father hates it, because it had been given her by a suitor whom he dis.likes,—is unfortunate enough to let the cat become the prey of

a ferocious dog in the neighbourhood, and is then tempted to substitute her own cat, which is very like it, that she may apt forego the allowance which is her compensation for its maintenance. The agonies of her conscience under this fraud ate admirably described and dilated on. Here is the beginning of the deception :—

" And then somehow the divilmint come all of a suddint into me head, and the first thing I knew I'd whipped the green ribbon off of poor ould Triptolemus, and clapped it on to Minnie there, and I'd got the fire-shovel to scrape out a buryin'-bole under the badge, and all the while I was sayin' to meself, same as if I was at me beads, • It's Minnie's kilt—it's Minnie's kilt—it's Minnie's 141t ' and ivory sowl that come along the road I'd let a bawl to to fiat Keogh's dog was after mnrdherin' me ould Minnie on ine. Begorrah, if I bawled the same big lie once that day, I bawled it twinty times ; but if I'd known rightly the tormint 'twould be to me, I'd niver ha' let it off me tongue. For ochone, your Honour, the way one thing grows out of another does be terrific. Sure the very next day I had to be gettin' Foxy Doran's lad to do a letter for me to poor Miss Una, tellin her Triptolemus was keepin' finely, and I wondherin' to meself that the ink didn't dhry into sut in his pen wid the inventions I was biddin' him write—and thankin' her kindly for the order I was as good as Amnia' off of her." (pp. 120 21.)

But the whole story, anti .ne manner in which it leads to the marriage of the lovers, is told with singular force and humour.

Another story quite as humorous is that of " A Provident Person," in which Miss Barlow gives us another peep of one of her favourite heroes, little Mao Barry, who patronises his grandfather, Lord Ballyduff, so magnificently, and tells him- self that he must " make 'lowances " for the very old who are apt to lose their good sense as age creeps on them. He has gathered from his grandfather that if his ricks were all burned down, the insurance office would have to pay him £500 for the loss, which strikes the child as suggesting a very easy way in which he could secure himself against ultimate poverty. He thinks that the £500 is a reward for any one who burns down hayricks, so he takes the precaution of burning down those in a neighbouring farm, that he may earn that provision against his old age, and is extremely indignant when he finds that the insurance money should go to the person who paid the premiums and not to him who com- passed the destruction of the ricks :— " Mac and his grandfather went back to their somewhat ont-at-elbows looking little ancient castle, but they proceeded severally and silently, for Mac's resentment led him to stalk on ahead and decline entering into conversation. He was already sitting on the steps at the end of the terrace when Lord Ballyduff arrived just as the luncheon bell rang. • Come along, Mac,' said Lord Ballyduff. But Mac replied without stirring : ' If I do be an old beggar-man, I can tell you l'll never say " Long life to your honour," and "Heaven he your bed," no matter how many pennies you give me.' The contemplation of this prospective re- venge so far soothed his feelings that they permitted him to follow his grandfather into the dining-room. Yet, in the middle of his sago-pudding he remarked to his neighbour, Frances, with little apparent relevance, but much scathing sarcasm : • Some people are so wonderful fine and clever that they can't believe anything a person tells them.' To which Frances, turning upon him wide and melancholy eyes, made answer : 'Maybe some day you won't know any better, Mae, yourself.' And Mac said reflec- tively, looking towards his grandfather's end of the table : 'I suppose they get all the sense used up that they had when they were rather youngish. Do you think your mamma's a hundred, Frances? A person must make 'lowances for them. But they may burn up their old ricks themselves next time. I intend to get my own living in another way.' " (pp. 109-70.) There is one story in this little book which deals with the preternatural, or at least with what used to be thought the preternatural, before " phantoms of the living " as well as phantoms of the dead became the subjects of so much in- vestigation and so little explanation. It is admirably told and, fortunately, without any attempt to analyse the mind into "subliminal" and "superliminal." selves,—an analysis which has not, as yet, we venture to say, been productive of any real elucidation.