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CONTENTS OF THE OCTOBER NUMBER.
Art. I.-NAPOLEON III. and Augustus CÆSAR. 1. Napoleon III. sein Leben und Wirken nach authentischen
Quellen dargestellt. Von L. Wescue. 1854. 2. History of the Romans under the Empire. By Ch.
Merivale, B.D., late Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. Vol. III. London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longman. 1851.
Candour compels us to commence this article with the unusual declaration that we have not seen the work which is placed first in our rubric. It is not yet published, while we are writing these lines. It has only been announced as about to appear in Germany towards the close of January ; and, if it were necessary for our purpose to wait till its publication, a month or six weeks might elapse before it could reach our hands; and some time longer before we could appropriate and appreciate its contents. The favourable report which heralds its issue may render us anxious to see, and perhaps to notice it, at some future time; but, at present, we have sufficient materials for our contemplated purpose of instituting a loose comparison between the second Emperor of the house of Napoleon, who has actually occupied the French throne, and the second Imperial Cæsar. All the service that we require from M. Wesche's book is limited to the convenient use of its title.
VOL. X-NO. XIX.
We shall not avail ourselves to a much larger extent of Mr. Merivale's history, whose third volume, devoted to the earlier biography of Augustus, was published, by a happy coincidence, almost contemporaneously with Louis Napoleon's successful maneuvres to convert his presidency into an imperial crown. We are no great admirers of Mr. Merivale's labours ; they are the pains-taking, tedious and unsatisfactory production of an incompetent man; and it is greatly to be regretted that a magnificent subject should have been engrossed by one who had little conception of its magnitude, and less of the requirements essential to its proper treatment. His book may, therefore, stand at the portal to symbolize, but scarcely to aid or direct the investigation on which we propose to enter.
Historical parallels are never either exact or complete. In their application they require a large and liberal discernment, a careful appreciation of important differences, and a cautious elimination of purely accidental similarities, before any solid instruction can be derived from their use. The characteristic principle of Leibnitz, relative to the identity of indiscernibles, is much more appropriate to the problems of history, than to the recondite mysteries of physical and metaphysical research. There may be atoms and monads which have a separate existence, while their essence is undistinguishably the same; but it is highly probable, if not altogether certain, that no two periods of the world's progress—no two phases of humanity-exactly correspond in all respects; and that no two individuals have ever lived, who were the perfect counterfeits of each other in all their characteristics, physical, mental, moral and accidental. There may be Dromios so closely assimilated to each other in external appearance, as to deceive the eyes of those not accustomed, by daily intercourse, to discriminate between them. Of such we have five pair, at least, in the Comedy of Greece, Rome, France and England, though they seem to be merely the successive avatars of the same original twins. We have ourselves met with three pair of the kind in lise. But, even in such instances as these, the similars will invariably pre
sent to those most familiar with them some peculiarities of aspect, habit, expression, action, taste or disposition, by which they are capable of being completely distinguished, the one from the other. And this is still more true in regard to the recurrences of similar historical periods, or like historical characters. The parallelisms of history are only partial and imperfect. Startling, indeed, they frequently are, as when we read the story of the butchery of Rienzi's brother in Livy and Suetonius ;* or the prototype of the prophecy of an imperial crown to Josephine, in Procopius and Theophilus, with reference to the Empress of Justinian,t or the horrors of the Reign of Terror in Dion Cassius.I But, in all these and similar cases, the general resemblance is accompanied with marked diversities of circumstance and detail; and, if we would draw any accurate or useful conclusions from the obvious parallelism, we must not be negligent of the manifold divergences, their influence, or their significance. With such caution, however, we may profitably consult the analogies which link different ages together, and reveal the identity of the agencies and their modes of operation, by which the same common humanity has been similarly affected in the various operations of the by.gone time. Thus may we interpret one period of history by another; and gain a fuller and juster comprehension of the motives, the aims, the tendencies, and the careers of notable individuals, by comparing their actions with the cycle of like evolutions accomplished by others, under like contingencies in a previous era. It is to the dim perception of this truth that the lives of Plutarch owe an interest and value far transcending their claims to historical accuracy, or the merit of their execution. Yet, though they are rather the gaudy and meretricious productions of a professed rhetorician, in a declining age, than the acute analyses of a genuine historical philosopher;—though the contrasts are amplified by all the acts which ingenuity could suggest, and the
* Liv. lib. iii. c. xiii, 82, 3. Suetonii. Vit. Neronig. c. V.
+ Procopii. Hist. Arcana, c. xii, p. 82. Theophili. Vit. Justiniani, cit. Alemanni pot. ad loc.
1 Dion Cass. Frag. Peiresc, c. cxxxvii, $ 3.