29 JUNE 1912, Page 33

1300 KS.

PRONTO.* FRoNTo's reputation is a curious example of the vicissitudes which may attend literary fame. By his contemporaries and through the following centuries he was extolled as almost the greatest of Roman orators, as the most accomplished of rhetoricians, and the most finished master of Latin prose. "Pronto, Romanae eloquentiae non secundum Bed alteruna decus," wrote an admirer in the fourth century. Aulus Gellius quotes him as the master and model of prose writers. Sidoniva Apollinaris talks of the " sect " or school which regarded him as its founder. He was accepted as the supreme and final arbiter in style. The whole of his immortal works were supposed to have been lost in the ruin of civilization. Until 1815 he existed only in fragments and quotations which were preserved in other writers. He was an article of faith, beyond criticism or proof, and therefore his reputation was enormous. He had to be taken blindly, on the estimate of his disciples; but such reputations, as we know, are not always permanent. In that year Angelo Mai, eventually a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church and Librarian of the Vatican, but then an official in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, discovered part of the correspondence of Fronto obscured under a manuscript copy of the decrees signed by the Council of Chaleedon. The letters were deciphered with great difficulty and, we must add, with imperfect success. A few years later Mai found some missing portions in the Vatican, and he issued a larger edition in 1823. It is a pretty volume in clear type on thick paper, and it contains a charming portrait of the young Marcus Aurelius as well as the benign profile of Pius VII. in his old age. Immense expectations were raised by the discovery of these letters. At last scholars thought they would have specimens of the great stylist, and a most valuable com- mentary on the age of the Antonines. lfai's publication, however, resulted in bitter disappointment and in many recriminations which showed more temper than learning and less tact than either. It must be confessed that Mai's editing left very much to be desired and laid more than was justifi- able on the work of later scholars. He was careless, not over-scrupulous in dealing with his text, not scrupulous at all in appropriating other men's work without acknowledg- ment, and not skilful in handling and reconstructing his manuscripts. Officially he should have been an expert ; actually he was something of a bungler, and rather feeble at. that ; and so we may leave him.

His imperfect labours were taken over and improved by many Germans, to whose united patience we owe as much reconstruction as can be done. Some happy conjectures of Niebuhr were confirmed by the missing sheets which Mai added from the Vatican. Naber, utilizing these and other scholia, published a more satisfactory text ; and his editing has been supplemented by the Emendationes -of Klussmann and Stundemund in 1874. Professor Robinson Ellis has made some valuable contributions; and there is a delightful essay on Marcus Aurelius and Fronto by Gaston Boissier. Fronto's work and place in Roman literature have been dis- cussed with equal charm and sanity by Mr. Mackail. Above all, we have Paters learned criticism, brilliant rendering, and illuminating portraiture of Fronto in 21farius he Epicurean. There is also an admirable appendix on the correspondence of Marcus Aurelius and Fronto by Mr. Hastings Crossley in his edition of the fourth book of the Meditations, which unfortu- nately remains a fragment.

Such, then, were some of the labours in Frontouian scholar- ship which Miss Dorothy Brook inherited from her pre- decessors; and her own work is a very scholarly and sensible addition to the subject. Her long bibliography shows that she has read widely and with discrimination. Her own handling proves her a competent and scholarly critic. Strange as it may seem, Fronto's reputation fell, instead of rising, after the discovery and publication of his correspondence. The German critics thought his letters trivial and empty, because they added little or nothing to our antiquarian and historical knowledge. They regretted that the letters did not contain "a load of learned lumber"; and they went on to

Studies in Pronto and Ms Age. By M. Dorothy Brook, Cambridge: at the University Press. [4s. net.]

argue, with fallacious logic, that Fronto was an overrated person, that we had .lost nothing by the-disappearance of his rhetorical and literary works. Mr. Cruttwell decided that

" the letters give an excellent idea of his mind. They arc well stocked with words, and supply as little as possible of solid information." But, as Miss Brock points out, "it is not every one who appreciates 'solid information' in a letter from a friend, and, while posterity is rightly grateful to Pliny for his information about the topography and customs of Rome, it is open to doubt whether the recipients of Pliny's letters shared our gratitude."

A little feminine tact has gone nearer to the heart of the matter than Mr. Cruttwell's British density and the con- temptuous pedantry of the Germans. Pater talks about "the long-buried 'fragrance of this famous friendship of the old

,world" between Marcus Aurelius and Fronto; and certainly the correspondence gives us an aspect of the Emperor which is hardly brought out in his Meditations. We see him among his children, happy, affectionate, simple ; and what we are shown goes far to correct, if not to discredit entirely, the

popular notions of Faustina. The letters give a charming picture. If the Meditations show us, in Arnold's phrase, that life may be led well even in a palace, the letters assure us that domestic happiness may be found there too ; and we should not forget that the capacity for finding it was due in some measure to Fronto's teaching. "From Pronto I learned to observe what envy, and duplicity, and hypocrisy are in a tyrant, and that generally those among us who are called Patricians are rather deficient in paternal affection." From the letters and the Meditations Pater has reconstructed, with inimitable charm and skill, a portrait of Fronto in his "per- fectly beautiful old age."

"Tim wise old man, whose blue eyes and fair skin were so 'delicate, uncontaminate, and clear, would seem to have carefully and consciously replaced each natural trait of youth, as it departed from him, by an equivalent grace of culture ; and had the blithe- - nem the placid cheerfulness, as he had also the infirmity, the claim on stronger people, of a delightful child."

Perhaps this personal criticism is in some sense true of Fronto's place and work in literature. Marcus Cornelius Fronto was born, probably, between A.D. 100 and 110, at Cista

• in North Africa. He passed some time in Alexandria and Athens, but migrated to Rome, where he was a Senator under Hadrian, Consul in 143, and became Latin tutor to Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius. The date of his death is • questioned. It has been assigned to about 169, when Veins 'died; but great authorities think he lived until the death of Marcus in 180, and the later year seems more probable. He lived, we must own, in a declining period, when all the arts, and literature among them, were hastening to decay. The • Silvern Age was over, and the Spanish school of writers had • had their day. Pronto, it will have been noticed, was an African, as was Apuleius, as were Tertullian and Augustine later on. And much has been written about African Latin and the. supposed influence of blood -and climate on Roman style. Miss Brook discusses this question with knowledge and skill. She points out, with undeniable force and admirable sense, that we have not• sufficient material for a decisive judgment. It so happens that • various late authors were Africans, but it is possible, and indeed • probable, that their peculiarities were due not so much to the place of their origin as to the time in which they lived. The ferocity of Augustine and Tertullian may surely be attributed with more justice to theological heat than to the African sun.

• At any rate, neither Apuleius nor Fronto can be charged with • beat and violence.

Mies Brook's appeal' is certainly strengthened by what we know about Fronto's work. In the same sense that Words-. worth was a pre-Drydenite, Pronto aimed at being pro- - Ciceronian. Like the so-called Lake School, he tried to make a reformation by being reactionary. He had a passion for the old Roman authors, and he thought the Oiceronian and • Augustan Ages had made a fatal divorce between popular • speech and literary expression. He aimed at making litera- ture xnois real and simple, partly by making it more archaic.. No doubt such a process lends itself to ridicule, and in.

English it may be remembered hew Johnson parodied and laughed at it. Unfortunately there is no Roman Boswell of the Antonine period. But ridicule and excess apart, Pronto inaugurated a great work in spite of his intellectual barren- ness and his verbal trifling. No doubt he helped to save and restore a certain amount of genuine old Roman speech. In

the hands of Apuleius, who really had something to say, Latin became a lighter and far more pliant instrument than it had been to Cicero. In the .Pervigiliant Vcneris it showed new and unsuspected powers of flexibility and music. Through these artists it passed on to the melodieus and coloured prose of Jerome, and he transmitted much of his own skill to Gregory of Tours. These names take us to the beginnings of the modern, languages which grew out of Latin. And it is in view of this development that Fronto has a very real interest. Our modern speech, at any rate, owes him some tribute of gratitude and recognition ; and he may not be so dead as his German critics have tried to prove. Let us concede to them, however, that their own style owes nothing, as a rule, to the great tradition which we have out- lined, of which Fronto is the source.

Miss Brock has done a real service to good literature by her interesting volume, in which she describes this movement with so much skill and insight. We accept willingly and gratefully her apologia for Fronto. At the same time we abate nothing of our loyalty to the Latin of the Golden Age. The present writer, at any rate, holds that Ciesar's prose is more delicate than anything in Greek, and that the lyrical art of Horace is at least equal to anything that has come down to us from his models. Much as he admires Marcus Aurelius, lie never can help feeling that there is something better, because more natural and unaffected, in Antoninua Pius, the most perfect example of all that was soundest in Roman thought and life. As a proof of it we may point to his reign and to the wonderful portrait of him in the Meditations.