Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

tiousness of Tacitus, and all who can, are decided admirers of the Roman historians and literature. In this manner the empire of the Latins is extended and perpetuated centuries after the national existence of these people is no "more. In addition to this, there is a certain majesty or loftiness in the structure of the language, a kind of military dignity, if we may so call it, which is not to be found in any living tongue, and which could not exist in a country where the nobles and the peasantry are equally accustomed to write in the same dialect. The style of those who command will always possess something characteristic; but when blended with that of those who obey, it must lose some of its imperious dignity, although it may not of its elegance and simplicity. Rome never attained that general civilization which now prevails over Europe ; and in transferring our admiration of the heroes and philosophers, whose works have survived the wreck of time, to the whole Roman people, we naturally forget the deplorable semi-barbarous state from which the great majority of the empire never emerged. The licentiousness which followed the age of philosophy, valour, and patriotism, was also accompanied by a consequent decadence in literature, which terminated in the total extinction of the language of Cicero, Cæsar, and Virgil.

Notwithstanding, however, the number of Roman histories, we know of no complete one, properly adapted for general use ; almost all are either too brief or too voluminous. From France, indeed, we shall not expect such a work. Frenchmen are too much accustomed to deał in fiction, ever to produce a history of Rome, or of any other country, which might be advantageously introduced into schools. To form a just idea of any country, it is necessary to have a faithful picture of its manners; this is beyond the abilities of a Frenchman; for whether he sketches the portrait of a Roman or a Chinese, still the manner, the genius, and the character, of his country obtrude themselves on the attention of the spectator. The histories of Rollin, although not altogether the best in their language, are perhaps the most generally admired in other countries; yet they should rather be accounted a series of pleasing historical tales, arranged in chronological order, than legitimate histories. To be agreeable is the sole object of French historians; and, with the utmost indifference about being instructive, they a lopt a manière effleuré, with a chronological table, as the perfection of history. There is, too, another disadvantage attending this flowery and high-coloured view of historical events and manners, that it invariably presents the reader with deceptive notions of the real state and nature of things, ex

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

alts frivolous actions, depresses noble ones, and blends virtue and vice into a common harmony of general amenity, very different from what really exists in the world. The same spirit pervades all their writings; their descriptions and narratives, whether of remote events, or of the recent battles of their country, are all equally delusive.

The author of the volumes before us has adopted the plan of Rollin, and has before furnished the world with histories of the Republic, the Emperors, and the Lower Empire. M. CorentinRoyou, in his preface, arranges his work, as usual, with his countrymen, very methodically, and expresses his opinion of the works of his predecessors in the same field. He divides the history of the Republic into four principal divisions, which furnish the subject of as many volumes. Commencing with Rome from its infancy, he exposes the fables respecting it, which are found even in the best authors; and with some industry shews the successive progress of the government, amidst the storms of liberty, and the obstacles of foreign war. He pursųes this subject, like a drama, till the moment when Rome, becoming mistress of Italy, after having expelled Pyrrhus, began to experience a change in her manners, as a presage of what she might afterwards expect. The first volume ends with the

year of Rome 486, or 268 before the Christian æra. The following is our author's view of the state of morals and civili, zation of Rome at that period.

" While the Republic extended its domination and its influence externally, the citizens of the interior signalized themselves by examples of courage and moderation. The conduct of Rutilius, who feared not to censure the whole Roman people, has justly excited admiration. Having been continued in the office of Censor, without being placed in the rank, he immediately convened the people, reproached them pointedly for having deviated from the prudence of their fathers, who, in consequence of the great authority of this magistracy, reduced its duration, and proposed and issued a law prohibiting it from being conferred twice on the same person, in future.

". The morals in general were good at this period; but exceptions could then be noticed. In 456 of the foundation of Rome, the Ædiles brought to justice a great number of the citizens, whom they accused of possessing more land than the laws allowed ; almost all were condemned. Three years afterwards some usurers and adultres. ses were fined. The time had not then arrived, when the immense number of guilty silenced the laws.”.

Such brief reflections are no doubt very pleasing ; but they want that compass, that comprehensive power and energy, which are indispensable to convey just, notions of the Roman

2 G 2

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

neatness of a Frenchmon's mind. The anecdote of Rutilius

people. Here we have a true picture of the littleness and the


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

discovers the basis of liberty, practical virtue in the individual

, and prudence to guard it inviolate. M. Royou admires the splendour of such an action, but never inquires into the personal virtue necessary to effect it. This shews the difference between honor and conscience; between those who are infuenced only by the popular approbation, and those who are actuated solely by principles of justice.

The author commences his second volume with the war between Rome and Carthage. Here the national glory of a

Frenchman, and his vulgar prejudices against maritime countries, naturally animates himn to express his sentinients with an energy somewhat more worthy of a Roman. The grand military operations, the hostile dispositions, violence, and agitation which every where predominate, furnish topics of pompous declarations, and even interesting incident. The intrigues and ambition of the commanders, although naturally cast iu the back ground, must still be very sensible objects. The errors, not to say crimes, of democracy, on which imperial Frenchmen are now more politely eloquent than republican ones were, lately, on its beauties, furnish a too-favourable occasion for declamatory sycophancy, not to be eagerly embraced by a sujet de sa majesté l'Empereur et Roi. The factions of the nobles, and the sanguinary civil wars, are no less capable of being applied to the past days of modern France. The subject, indeed, would be highly interesting in the hands of an impartial and philosophical historian, who would thence dratm lessons of wisdom for posterity; but when perverted-by groveling adulation, the whole scene is too degrading to rational man. There is, nevertheless, some analogy between the progress of the degeneracy of ancient Rome into absolute monarchy, and that

of modern France to the same state of political and moral degradation. The transit from a government of demagogues to the establishment of five despots, bears some similarity to the elevation of Sylla by his own faction; the cinque hommes, too, like the triumvirate, terminated their career by the powerful hand of a successful despot. The details of the violation of the constitutional laws, in the 666th year of Rome, and 88th before cur æra, conclude M. C. Royou's second volume.

“ The happy days of the Republic," observes the author, "are already passed; we still, indeed, see talents and virtues, traces of glory, a prodigious man, but not a moment of bappiness, repose. Every page of history is imbried in blood

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

or even

dctors on the scene.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]


M. Royou devotes his third volume to the relation of the events during the age of Sylla, Cato, Cæsar, Pompey, Cicero, &c. &c. to the illustrious names and remarkable incidents of this period, the subjugation of the Gauls, and of Asia, at the same time that Rome was a prey to factions; the rivality of Cæsar and Pompey; the fall of the latter, and the triumph of the conqueror of the Gauls; are all events which led to the destruction of the power of the senate, and, finally, to the establishment of the Roman empire. The history of this period is so well known, that it was not to be expected that the author could add much, either in manner or matter, to what has already been done. Those who have read St. Real's dissertations on different events during this momentous age, will not derive much pleasure from Mr. Royou's narrative ; still less will they be greatly instructed by the profundity of his philosophy,

The last volume contains the history of Rome from the year 1704 of its foundation, till Octavius, called Augustus, mounted the throne of the universe, about twenty-nine years before the Christian æra. The principal, if not only merit of M. Royou's events which dec de the fate of nations with that of the personal conduct, and, in some measure, private life of all the distinguished

Although the author discovers no peculiar talent for seizing the characteristic traits of great men, yet his miscellaneous combination of public facts, and private anecdotes, "renders his work more interesting to general readers, than a more political history would otherwise be. For this he has the example of the Greek and Roman historians, and, like them too, notwithstanding the copiousness of his facts, and the limited extent of his work, the love of perspicuousness has sometimes led him almost to diffusion. Yet M. Royou has studied to adopt his history to general use, and to avoid the dryness of abridgments, and the tedious diffuseness of more voluminous writers. Whatever relates to the government and customs of the Romans, indeed, he has tremad with considerable perspicuity

To this work are added, what are very rare in France, complete indexes to each volume, containing a summary of its contents, which must assist the memories and the judgments of young persons, by' enabling them both to remember and to comprehend what they have read. The indexes are also accompanied with a gazetteer of all the places mentioned in the work, with their ancient and modern names, and the whole is completed by, an account of the writers of Roman History. It must, indeed, be confessed, that M. Royou bas produced a

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


very useful history, notwithstanding its numerous defects. He is more indebted to Goldsmith than he has the candour to acknowledge.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors][merged small]

Corinne, ou l Italie.
Corinna, or Italy. By Madame de Stael Holstein. 2 vols. 8vo. Paris.

The extravagant praises which, this work has received'render it necessary to examine its contents,' appreciate its literary merit, and expose its dangerous tendency. Few publications have appeared in this century so well adapted to the purposes of seduction, so subversive of all chastity and rational virtue, or so artfully blending historical knowledge, taste, and factitious morality, with the most unbounded licentiousness. The hero and heroine of the piece are well drawn to insure the approbation of the Edinburgh critics, as Oswald, lord Nelvil, is a Scotchman, who travels in Italy; Corinna is the daughter of a Northumbrian by an Italian lady. The young and vir=; túous lord Nelvil visited France at the commencement of the Revolution, became acquainted with a count Raimond, who is represented as a paragon of goodness, but who had a sister, Madam d' Arbigny, a young widow, and a most artful coquette. This intriguing woman, whose character is sketched with great fidelity to nature, endeavoured to inveigle Oswald to marry her; and succeeded so far as to detain him a year in France, contrary to the wish of his father, who died of chagrin at his son's absence. Oswald, who was all filial affection, became melancholy in consequence of neglecting his father, whose spirit he imagined to be continually watching and reproaching him for his disobedience. · In this state he went to Italy, astonished the people of Ancona by his spirited and successful efforts to extinguish a fire, which the superstitious people thought was a judgment on their town, and proceeded incog to Rome, where he beheld Corinna as an improvisator, or speaker of extemporary verses. At one of those festivals of crowning with bays, not uncommon in Italy, Oswald first beheld Corinna in the capitol, where, after reciting some extemporary verses in praise of her country, and performing some pieces of music, she was decorated with a crown of laurel, and received the plaudits of numerous spectators. Her beauty and extraordinary talents, as well as her artful address to the particular feelings of Oswald, instantly inspired him with the most lively affection, which in return was met by the most ardent love. In this state of enthusiastic and mutual love they

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »