Imagens das páginas

to be repul respect of endles the selles on all ingelf, and at

fects, to very reatice readed mak

of readers, especially those in humble life ; and it seems to have also been thought, that many persons in all conditions are likely to be repulsed in their desire for scientific information, by the forbidding aspect of even the most elementary didactic work, that systematically handles the subject. To remedy these defects, to render the systematic treatises on all branches accessible to every reader who desires to instruct himself, and at the same time to entice readers who have only and chiefly the wish to amuse themselves, and make them learn something worth knowing, while they are chiefly bent on passing away their time with a book, it appears by the proceedings at the meeting, that arrangements have been made for adding to the Library of Useful Knowledge certain popular introductions to such of the scientific works as require them, and also for publishing the second Library, that of Entertaining Knowledge, to which we formerly alluded; that it will appear early in the ensuing winter; and that the greatest pains had been bestowed upon making it as attractive by the beauty and interest of the engravings, as by the amusement, combined with useful information, belonging to the subjects. It was also announced, that to accommodate all classes of readers, while the works composing this second Library are published in weekly numbers, at the price of sixpence, the publication of no one will be commenced until the whole eight numbers, forming the volume, are ready, so that those who can afford it may purchase the whole at once. These arrangements, and indeed the nature of the works already published, of which some are principally interesting to the upper classes, plainly show that the better education of this part of society is an object very constantly kept in view. To fill the country with cheap treatises on all useful subjects, for all descriptions of the people, and to present knowledge in every shape that can make it attractive to any body of our fellow-citizens, bearing in mind that what interests one description of men in respect both of substance and manner, may not bave the same charm for another, is the great duty of the Society, and of every institution which shall be formed upon the same principles.

We formerly adverted to the prospect held out in the first Report of the Committee, that the series of History and Biography, forming part of the first Library, would soon be commenced ; and that the doctrines illustrated in these treatises, carefully avoiding all party bias, would be found to be those of freedom, peace, and public virtue. “Stripping, on every occasion, suc

cessful crime of its outward splendour ; honestly holding up o vice to abhorrence in its native hideousness; above all, faith• fully showing mankind that all War, except for self-defence, • being a crime, all military glory is a national disgrace, save where “arms were piously, because of necessity wielded ;' and • plainly and impressively denouncing as disgusting, how bold,

or clever, or thriving soever, every resource of craft, and bigotry, 6 and intrigue.' The publication of these historical and biographical treatises has been for some time begun; and beside the five now before us, there are three biographies, Wolsey, Wren, and Caxton, the two last containing much curious, as well as useful information on architecture and the art of printing the former exhibiting a just and very lively picture of the life and times of the Cardinal. That in the historical department of these works our wishes have been wholly realized, and the tone of pow litical morality sustained throughout at the highest pitch, is perhaps more than can be asserted; for all history has been written hitherto with such a leaning towards the bad passions of mankind, that it is hardly possible for a writer to avoid falling into the accustomed error, and suffering himself to be dazzled by the many forms of successful crime which pass under the name of glory with the vulgar. But the treatises before us, if they still leave something to desiderate in the tone and keeping of the narrative, are free from the slightest taint of wilful praise bestowed on the scourges of mankind, and they abound in the most just and salutary reflections of an opposite description, for which we feel truly thankful. They are, as historical compositions, works of high merit; and may well be deemed original: For a general outline, free from the vices of an epitome, and bearing to the histories of each nation the same relation that a general map of the world does to the fuller maps of particular countries, has not before been given in a plain, narrative, and accurate shape; and a good history of Greece, indeed any history within a moderate compass untainted by party feeling, is a novelty in literature. Nor does this at all imply a disregard of the great talents and extreme learning brought to the task by some former historians of our own country.

The Outline of General History,' after explaining the different chronological eras, and stating the coincidence of the Mosaic accounts of the deluge, with the Greek traditions, and with recent discoveries in science, and referring to the various learning on this point, traces the history of the human race in the East, with great Biblical, as well as general research. It then pursues the annals of the nations of the Mediterranean, Greece, Carthage, Sicily, and Southern Italy; and those of the Eastern monarchies and of Egypt, along with the successors of Alexander. No extracts from a work of this kind, in which the arrangement, the learning, and the general execution are the chief merits, could do it justice. But we have much satisfaction in citing the concluding remarks upon Alexander, and his character and fame among men.


Such were the results of Alexander's conquests, and of his early death. There is some reason for believing that the prolongation of his life might have been productive of good. Undoubtedly he had discovered views of policy much more enlarged and liberal than those commonly entertained by ancient conquerors. At the time of his death he was strenuously endeavouring to do away with the prejudices of his countrymen, and to obtain for the inhabitants of the conquered districts a recognition of their rights, and a compliance with their national feelings, to a degree which had already shocked the arrogant and exclusive opinions of his Grecian followers. Such difficulties are the natural result of conquest; and it is highly improbable that they should ever have been entirely overcome. Yet, even as it was, the civilization of some countries of the East, and especially of Egypt, gained a considerable advance from Alexander's conquest. And the foundation of Alexandria produced advantages of which he had a distinct foresight, though their magnitude must have far exceeded any degree of success which he had contemplated from this measure. Here, however, his merits terminate ; and had these alone been known to historians, he never would have obtained from them the surname of Great, which he owed entirely to his military renown. Yet, if we confine our attention to his warlike career, we shall find him to have been, perhaps, the cause of more misery to mankind than any human being whose name makes a part of history. Other conquerors, it is true, have shed more blood; many have waged war on a much more cruel system ; and he exhibited some instances of forbearance which were rare and unexpected in those times, although in modern warfare a contrary conduct would have been more remarkable. But no one ever bestowed such fatal brilliancy upon the hateful lust of conquest. His extraordinary abili. ties, his daring spirit, and the unparalleled splendour of his successes, have been the more mischievous in their example, from the amiable qualities which he united to his military propensities. To the slaughter occasioned by his own wars, must be added the bloodshed and distraction of the turbulent times which ensued upon his death ; and this fearful account is to be increased by no small portion of all the suffering inflicted on mankind, by conquerors of whom Alexander has been the avowed model. No doubt it wonld be unjust to hold the individual morally responsible for all the mischief which he produced. A false sense of honour, a false patriotism, and a false religion, had blinded the eyes of mankind; and the effect has not yet passed away. As long as, not the spectators only, but the victims, of the crimes committed by conquerors, continue to bestow applause on the authors of their misery, it is hardly to be expected that these should be the first to discover the hollowness of such renown, and the real ignominy of such success.'

The History of Greece, like the Outline, is still unfinished; the fourth part, the latest published, only coming down to the time of Philip of Macedon. Reserving a more full criticism upon its peculiar merits for a future occasion, when it shall be entirely before us, we shall at present only give one or two passages,

in justification of the gratitude which we have already expressed towards the author of a guide to the public opinion, so truly pure and sound as breathes in these pages. Not only are the crimes of the Greek states, their fickleness, their cruelty, their base ingratitude, their unprincipled lust of conquest, their odious treachery, painted in strong colours, though with the candid allowance to be made for their want of a purer religion, and sound system of representative government, as well as jurisprudence; but the false glare is very generally taken away from the character of individuals, whom, even in Christian countries, it has become the practice to hold up as perfect, to the learner of the most tender years. Take the characters of Epaminondas and Timoleon for instances. .

Epaminondas bas been ranked by many as the first and parest of Grecian worthies. There is much in his character to support the praise ; but it must be taken with considerable abatement. He was a man of the most commanding genius; a devoted Theban patriot; and, as far as we can judge, singularly free from mere personal ambition, and its attendant vices of envy and ill will. His steady friend. ship with Pelopidas is alike honourable to both. But we cannot award him the rarer praise of love of peace, of extended regard to the welfare of Greece, of scrupulous political morality, or even of sound views of his country's true interests. Under his direction, the administration of Thebes was insatiably ambitious and overbearing. In some particular acts of tyranny, such as the expulsion of the Platæans and Thespians, and the massacre of the Orchomenians, it may be doubted whether Epaminondas was to blame; and the rather, as we have seen in the settlement of Achaia, an instance where his own measures were liberal and moderate, while his influence could not support them. But the best of his policy was to make Thebes, at whatever cost of blood or suffering, the mistress of Greece; and the last aggression on Arcadia, which was undoubtedly his measure, and might vie with the worst deeds of Sparta herself, shows that he was little scrupulous in the choice of means for effecting his purpose. The manner of his death has been the theme of general applause. Yet he was cut off in the perpetration of a great crime, by measures which, no doubt, displayed much talent, but were the certain cause of misery to unoffending thousands ; and those last words, which have been so famous, seem, if indeed they have been truly reported, to have proceeded less from an enlightened love of his country, than from a personal and patriotic vanity, altogether heedless of the cost mankind might have to pay for its gratification.'

Having everywhere established for Syracuse and for himself a superintending authority, which rested on the support of a prevailing party, like the control of Athens or Lacedæmon over their allies, Timoleon sought to restore good order, abundance, and population, to the long-afficted island. Syracuse was still very thinly peopled, and it was torn by mutual jealousy between the remnant of the ancient Syracusans, and the numerous mercenaries and foreign adventurers, who

had been rewarded for their services with lands and houses, and admission to all the rights of citizens. At one time the struggle ripened to a civil war, of which we know not the circumstances or the issue, but, probably, it was suppressed without the ruin of either party. At once to supply the void in the city, and to strengthen his government by a body of adherents who owed their all to him, Timoleon invited colonists from Greece, and settled at one time four thousand families on the Syracusan territory, and on a neighbouring plain of great ex. tent and fertility no less than ten thousand. Similar measures were adopted in many of the other cities under his control. He revised the ancient laws of Syracuse, and restored them, with amendments skilfully adapted to the altered state of the commonwealth. But to amalgamate into an united people so many bodies of men of various inte. rests, and mostly trained to war and violence, was a work only to be accomplished by the energy of one able man; and in accomplishing that work, Timoleon was both enabled and obliged by the lawless habits of his followers, to exercise an authority not less arbitrary than that of any tyrant he had overthrown. In one most important particular, he is superior, not only to those chiefs, to Gelon and Dionysius, and to all who ever held like power in Sicily, but perhaps, to all, with the single exception of Washington, who have ever risen to the highest power in times of tumult; for he appears to have directed his endeavours honestly and wisely to the object, not of establishing a dynasty of princes, but of so settling the government and training the people, that they should be able after his death to govern themselves without an arbitrary leader. He died highly honoured and generally beloved, and for many years after his death the whole of Sicily continued in unusual quiet and growing prosperity. Yet, in doing justice to the great qualities of Timoleon, and the sincerity of his zeal for the public good, we cannot but own, that he was unscrupulous in the choice of means, even beyond the ordinary laxity of political morality in Greece, and that his fame is tarnished by some acts of atrocious cruelty, and of gross injustice.'

We conclude with the following masterly sketch of the spe-, cific difference between Socrates, as represented by Plato and by Xenophon.

· The philosophy of Socrates was wholly promulgated in conversation, not in writing ; but his doctrines and character have been handed down to us by two of his most gifted pupils. Plato, the greater of them by far, possessed a mind almost unrivalled for its completeness at all points; and uniting the greatest acuteness, vigour, and comprehension of understanding, with a most glowing and poetical imagination, and matchless dignity, power, and beauty of style. But his genius was too original and peculiar to fit him for the mere reporter of another's opinions, and much of what he has written under the name of Socrates, must be considered as his own. The bias of his mind was to abstract speculation ; to the discovery of the principles of morality, rather than the application of its precepts to particular cases. In his fondness for lofty contemplations, he sometimes slides into mysticism and obscurity,--a tendency which is not observable in the discourses


« AnteriorContinuar »