29 MAY 1869, Page 16



THE work of Dr. Curtius has one obvious advantage over those with which it is natural, for Englishmen at least, to compare it. The two volumes before us bring down the history to the eve of the Peloponnesian War. We travel through more than five of Mr. Grote's volumes, volumes nearly equal in magnitude to these, before we reach the same point. So great a difference must imply the loss of some interesting and even of some valuable matter ; but, on the whole, the advantage must be allowed to be on the side of the more compendious work. Dr. Curtius does not discuss the historical theories and explanation which he propounds. He sets forth his own views with sufficient fullness, but seldom cares to defend them. Possibly he carries this method to excess. It is quite the exception when he refers us to his authorities ; though this is a satisfaction which a reader has a right to demand, and which it would not have cost much additional space to give. And sometimes, too, another of his habits causes a regret. He treats with a rigorous severity the detail with which it is the habit of modern historians so copiously to illustrate their narratives. We miss, for instance, the picturesque and we suppose unquestionably authentic incidents of the reception of Thetnistocles at the Court of the Molossian Admetus, incidents for which room has hitherto been found in the most compendious histories. Dr. Curtius is not over-sceptical about such things ; on the contrary, ho is distinctly opposed to the detractive tendencies of some of his countrymen ; and he can catch points of detail, when they have a real historical importance, with as much acuteness as any man. Take, for instance, the fact which he mentions of Cimon, at the siege of Eion, blocking up the lower course of the Strymon, so that the water rose up along the walls, and the unbaked lime blocks began to dissolve. But details, however picturesque, of which the interest is mainly antiquarian or personal, he uses what is, on the whole, a wise discretion in discarding. To the use of this method he brings a learning which in this country it would not be easy to match, and which, one would think, must be rare even in Germany, and a faculty of connecting together and generalizing from facts which ho exercises with courage, we might fairly say with daring. The result is a picture of Greek political life, to an extraordinary degree clear, unencumbered, and impressive.

The reader's attention is immediately arrested by the opening chapter, entitled " Land and People." The writer begins by pointing out the artificial nature of the division, which, as far as the region to the south of the Euxine is concerned, separates Asia from Europe. The western coast of Asia Minor, as well as the eastern coast of Europe, Ionia as well as Hellas, is to be the theatre of Greek history. If a border line is to be drawn it must be one which would leave to the western division the coast lands of Asia Minor, which, as Dr. Curtius says, resemble " the border of a different material " woven on to a garment." He goes on :—

" In the East the sea has not been able to Hellenize more than the

border of the mainland ; it is far otherwise on the opposite side. Here also is massed a mainland projected into the sea in a southward direc

tion, between the Adriatic and the Pontns ; but this central body is not only, like Asia Minor, outwardly fashioned by the sea and dislocated on its coasts, but the very heart of the country continues to be broken up into peninsulas and islands."

And, therefore, it was here mainly that the great work which Greece had to do for the world was done. " At how early a date," says the historian, " would Greek history have come to an end had its only theatre been under the skies of India." The peculiarities that have made this fragment of land, so insignificant in size, of such supreme importance to the world are well pointed out :

" In Asia great complexes of countries possess a history common to them all. There one nation raises itself above a multitude of others, and in every case decrees of fate fall to which vast regions, with their millions of inhabitants, are uniformly subjected. Against a history of this kind every foot-breadth of Greek land rises in protest. There the ramification of the mountains has formed a series of cantons every one of which has received a natural call and a natural right to a separate existence. The villagers of wide plains quail at the thought of defending their laws and property against an overpowering force of arms ; they submit to what is the will of Heaven, and the survivor tranquilly builds himself a new but near the ruin of the old. But whore the laud which has been difficultly cultivated is belted by mountains with lofty ridges and narrow passes, which a little band is able to hold against a multitude, there men receive, together with their weapons of defence, the courage for using them."

We do not observe that he notices how another centre of human thought and action, Palestine, supplies in its apparent insignificance, in the variety of climate and soil which it comprises, and in not a few close resemblances of configuration, a remarkable parallel to the home of the Hellenic race. On the race itself, on its origin and relationships, Dr. Curtius has some well-considered remarks. The traditionary division into Pelasgi and Hellenes he in a sense accepts. These names do not describe different nationalities, but various developments of the same :—

m:1 n c ce. Accordingly

" The Pelasgian times lie in the background, a vast period of monotony ; impulse and motion are first communicated by Hellen and his ns;and with their arrival history co

interpret animated by special powers of action, issue forth from the mass of a great people, and extend themselves in it as warriors."

We can compare, if we may venture to lay so much stress on an obscure passage, what Tacitus says of the impulse given by the tribe of the Germani to the history of the nation on which they ultimately imposed their name. The people, as a whole, Dr. Curtius regards as an offshoot of the Phrygian race, whose language, he says, is closely related to the IIellenic, more closely perhaps than the Gothic to the Middle-High German. Our only doubt would be whether the Phrygian inscriptions on which this theory as to the relationship of the languages is chiefly founded are sufficiently numerous or of a sufficiently clear antiquity to support it. When we consider the character which the Phrygian people afterwards bore, especially the wild and barbarous forms of religion which distinguished them, and compare it with the grace and order of Hellenic thought, we shall see a most remarkable instance of the divergencies which may separate kindred peoples.

On the Spartan people, the first portion of the Hellenic nationality which presents to the historian the shape of a definite polity, we have here a specially valuable chapter. Lycurgus Dr. Curtius regards as a real personage, though surrounded with a growth of mythical circumstance. He infers, " from the breadth of his mental horizon, from his travels by sea, and wide-spreading connections, which among the rest especially included Ionia," that he did not belong to the Dorian race. Tradition uniformly represents him as having belonged to one of the royal houses, and these our author believes to have dated from a time anterior to the Dorian migration, being at the same time wholly distinct from each other. Of the part taken by Sparta in Greek history a view is taken which seems to us very moderate and just. It is no more than its due to say that its supremacy iu the earlier period, when it set itself against the tyrannies which were so easily developed in the communities of the rival Ionian race, was absolutely necessary for the preservation of the true life of the Greeks. Nothing could be more true than this :—

" Truly had this tendency [the tendency to strengthen dynastic power by barbarian alliances] proved victorious, the Persians, when they claimed the supreme sovereignty of Greece, would have met with no national resistance, but with an effeminate and demoralized people, headed by princes who, in order to obtain the recognition of their royal power, would have been equally ready to do formal homage to the great King as their supreme lord and protector. This we ought clearly to, perceive, if we wish to recognize the debt Greece owed to the Spartans:

Every one who reads Greek history must be conscious that it is difficult to do Sparta this justice, as difficult as it is for Protestants to acknowledge that the Papacy was once the protector of human freedom. The narrowness and selfishness.of Spartan policy, the extraordinary scarcity of individual genius among them,—great soldiers they had, but scarcely a capable statesman before Brasidas and Ageailaus,—incline oar sy mpathies i nev tably to the cause of their great rivals. The mention of this rivalry introduces a subject involved in great complications. Greek history has been written among ourselves, as was, perhaps, inevitable, with so close a reference to the great political questions which divide us, that we feel inclined to attach a special value to the conclusions reached by a philosophical observer, who takes, like Dr. Curtius, a point of view which we can hardly attain. Dr. Curtius has not reached, in his second volume, the period when the action of the Athenian democracy showed itself in its most peculiar and significant form ; but the sagacity and calmness with which he discusses the earlier political history, make us look forward with interest to what he will have to say on the most difficult of historical questions. The subject, however, is too large for us to enter upon, and we must content ourselves with noticing one or two points of particular interest in the general history. The difficulty is to choose. We would, however, direct special attention to the sketch of the rise and fall of Lydian monarchy. It is included within a few pages, but it strikes us as being singularly powerful and vivid ; as a very happy speci men of the power of historical construction which Dr. Curtius pos sesses. Every one will be struck by the way in which the successive monarchs of the line which ended with Crcesus, often mere names to the student, are made to assume a distinct personality. The account of Marathon is another striking passage. Dr. Curtius speculates on the remarkable absence of cavalry, the military arm on which the Persians most relied, and thus accounts for it :—

" These considerations [tho absence of cavalry and the easy embarkation of the Persians] incline one to think it probable that, before the expiration of the nine days, the Persians had relinquished the plan of forcing the coast-pus occupied and entrenched by Bliltiadea, and that on the tenth day the fleet was already manned, and the cavalry in particular already on board. Milliades accordingly ordered an attack, when the Persian forces were divided and their most dangerous arm removed from the field of battle ; and the troops which he charged were drawn up by the shore to cover the embarkation. This view will also explain why Miltiades carried out his attack at this precise point of time, instead of an earlier or later ; for why should he have waited for the tenth or the original day of his supreme command, after the rest of the generals had resigned their rights in his favour ?"

The influence of the Oracle at Delphi and of the priesthoods generally on the political and moral life of Greece is another of the topics which is treated with special success. Dr. Curtius per ceives in these institutions an element of worth which modern historians have not always fully recognized. Greek history, as much as any other, ought to modify the hasty judgment which in volves all priesthoods in one common condemnation. There was probably a period when Delphi was the source of a moral influence almost unmixedly good. The weak element in the institution was what may be said to be always the weak element in the office of a prophet,—the necessity, real or supposed, of exercising a function

of predicting. But it would be a mistake to take the degrading

ambiguities and subterfuges to which the Pythia had recourse to secure her reputation as a seer, as any measure of the insight into morality and policy which she often showed herself to possess. In his true function Apollo was, as our author says of Epimenides of Crete, "a prophet, not in the sense that he encouraged superstition by a soothsayer's tricks, but in this, that he inquired into the origin of moral and political evils, and pointed out remedies for them."

On the whole, we cannot express our opinion of Dr. Curtius's book better than by saying that it may be fitly ranked with Theodor Mommsen's great work. The translator seems thoroughly at home in his teak ; if the style is not particularly good, and the reader may have seen by the extracts that it is not, on the other hand, it is very seldom disagreeable or obscure. Sometimes we have had to find fault with it. The expression, for instance, (° the Persian fleet was nothing leas than annihilated," certainly requires the assistance of the context to make us understand the meaning intended, which is, to be brief rather than elegant, that the Persian fleet was nothing like annihilated. Sometimes the figurative language of the original is rendered too closely, as when we read of the application to present circumstances which JEschylus practised in his plays, that they were not the " result of impure and frosty secondary designs obscuring the pure effect of poetry." The arrangement of the book, at all events in the English dress, leaves something to be desired. No help is given to the reader in finding what he may want beyond marginal summaries. We may expect to have to wait for an index till the whole work is completed, but we, at least, ought to have a full table of contents. BISHOP ATTERBURY.•

Tuts life of an illustrious man, although written in a highly eulogistic strain, will not add to his reputation. Mr. Folkestone Williams has been anxious to do a service to the memory of Bishop Atterbury, but has singularly failed in the effort. There are many trifling blunders in the work, but the greatest blunder is the work itself. The author has spoilt a good subject by his method of treatment. He has written a very dull book, and dullness in authorship is a fault not to be forgiven. The position occupied by Atterbury, his vast ability, the friends with whom be associated, the work to which he vainly devoted a great portion of his life, point him out as one of the most prominent men of his age. He was the Chaplain of Queen Anne, and the Minister Plenipotentiary of the Pretender, a bishop of the Established Church, and a traitor to the established Government ; an eloquent preacher, a fine orator, and a persistent plotter ; he was a courtier and a revolutionist, a man of peace, yet one who would fain have plunged the country in civil war ; a sagacious Protestant bishop advocating the regal claims of a silly, pigheaded Romanist ! We entirely agree with Mr. Williams, when be says that the Bishop "ought not to be denied his claim to honourable fame because he chose to commit himself to Legitimacy, when that cause was embraced by an important section of the intelligence and wealth of the country," but he fails to prove his case when he asserts that Atterbury was forced into the service of the Pretender, and would never have been a Jacobite if he had been fairly treated. This statement, made in the preface, is entirely refuted in the body of the work. It was not bad treatment that made Atterbury a rebel, or if Mr. Williams prefers the term, a legitimist, for he was iu high favour at the Court of Queen Anne, and when that monarch died, he at once put himself into communication with the exiled family. There are grounds for believing that he was pledged to the Jacobite cause while the Queen lived, but as there is some uncertainty on this point, the Bishop should have the benefit of the doubt. This, however, is certain, that Atterbury was one of the earliest and most active plotters against a Government which Mr. Williams acknowledges was " well supported," and that when Atterbury defended himself against the charge of treason with an earnestness that looked like truth, and with solemn asseverations, there was " no doubt of the culpability of the accused." The truth is that the Bishop understood and was accustomed to practise what Arbuthnot calls "the noble and useful art of political lying," and this, it may be said, was forced upon him by the exigencies of his position. But if he deemed it lawful to defend himself in the House of Lords by protesting his innocence "in the most deliberate, serious, and solemn manner," and appealing to God for the truth of what he said, it was surely unnecessary that ho should tell a lie also to his best friend, Pope. Yet on parting from his friend, he said that he would allow him to call his sentence just, if he ever found that ho had any concerns with the exiled family.

The conduct of this "exemplary prelate," as Mr. Williams calls him, was never directed by a lofty Christian morality. He was a clergyman by an accident of fortune, he was a politician by instinct, and if ho deserves respect for adhering to a hopeless cause, the means he used to promote it were not always the moat scrupulous. In early life his father counselled him to put his trust in God and to marry a rich wife, and like an obedient son he obeyed his father to the letter. Even Mr. Williams allows that "he was not insensible to the advantages of improving his opportunities," and the courtly phraseology of his letters shows that he knew well how to turn a compliment and to flatter a friend. Atterbury's conduct shows the fairest in domestic life. Nothing can be more beautiful than the warm affection that existed between the exile and his only daughter, nothing more affecting than the story of the dying woman, eager to outstrip death and pressing through a thousand difficulties of travel that she might receive her father's blessing and die in her father's arms.

As a man of letters Atterbury has few claims upon our attention. Everybody knows how in his youth he entered the lists with Bentley, and was ignominiously defeated. Yet, as Lord Macaulay says, he deserves the praise, whatever the praise may be worth, of producing the best book ever written by any man on the wrong side of a question of both sides of which he was profoundly ignorant. For the rest, he published sermons, which for rhetorical effect are not without merit ; and so impressive was his eloquence,

that on the death of Prince George, he is said to have made the Queen feel the hoes of her husband ; he appreciated Shakespeare and Milton, and perceived that " Samson Agonistes " was written " is

the very spirit of the ancients," yet he deemed the poem capable of being improved, and begged Pope to " polish " it. Waller, whom he styles the parent of English verse, was apparently his favourite poet; but he admired Roscommon, and with more justice Prior, whose poem of " Solomon," according to Mr. Williams, is unquestionably the finest that poet produced, and contains passages that very few of his contemporaries could have equalled. Mr. Williams makes strange blunders, both in his criticisms and in his facts. Prior's fame rests upon his lyrics, and he would have been long ago forgotten if his poetical reputation had depended upon

• 1 Solomon" or upon " Henry and Emma."

By the way, how did Mr. Williams discover that Congreve, who was born in 1670, was the author of the Plain Dealer, which appeared in 1677; and bow is it that he speaks of Robinson Crusoe and the novels of Mrs. Manley as exciting the interest of the town when Congreve was pursuing his Temple studies? The author of the Mourning Bride was forty-nine years of age and within ten years of his death when Defoe published his wonderful fiction, and he must have been a very mature student indeed if he was preparing for the legal profession when Mrs. Manley published her first novel. Again, the biographer tells us upon one page that Bishop Trelawney died in 1721, and on another that Atterbury dedicated to him two volumes of sermons which were published in 1723. Moreover, we should like to ask him upon what grounds he asserts that Stella was " most probably" a natural child of Sir William Temple ; or that Steele was " assuredly treated illiberally" by Addison because he " took exclusive possession of Steele's original idea, the character of the immortal Sir Roger de Coverley." On the whole, we do not think the student of history or the lover of literature will gain any equivalent compensation for the toil of wading through these dreary volumes. They contain indeed many valuable facts, although not a great many which cannot readily be found elsewhere ; but the book is chaotic, bewildering, provoking, without symmetry, without arrangement, without any of the *harms of a well-written biography. If there be any order in the work, it is the order of confusion.