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s now altogether unfounded. It may be con- | blished, at different prices, adapted to the rates eeded that in the former age, when the rich at which purchasers may be inclined to buy; and the affluent alone were the purchasers of just as the manager of a theatre understands books, and education had not opened the trea- that it is expedient not only to have the dresssures of knowledge to a larger circle, the price circle for the nobility and gentry, but the pit of books during the copyright were, in general, for the people of business, and the galleries for high, and that the prices were too often suited the humbler classes. No doubt can be enteronly to the higher class of readers. Nay, it tained that as the craving for intellectual enmay also be
dmitted, that some publishers joyment, to those who feel it the more insatiahave often, by the reprint of works of a stand- ble of any, spreads more generally through the ard nature, at a cheaper rate, the moment the middle classes, this effect will more extensively copyright expired, of late years materially ex- take place. No one imagines that, because the tended the circle of their readers, and thereby seats in the dress-circle are seven shillings, he conferred an important benefit on society. But will close the pit, which is three and sixpence, nothing can be plainer than that this circum- or the gallery, which is one shilling. In this stance has taken place solely from the recent age of growing wealth and intelligence in the introduction of the middle classes into the middle and humbler classes, there is no danger reading and book-purchasing public; and be- of their being forgotten, if they do not forget cause experience had not yet taught authors themselves. There is more to be got out of or publishers the immense profits to be some- the pit and the galleries than the dress-circle. times realized by adapting, during the con
Thus we have argued this great question of tinuance of the copyright, the varied classes of copyright upon its true ground-the national editions of popular works, to the different character, the national interests, the elevation classes of readers who have now risen into and improvement of all classes. We disdain activity. But their attention is now fully to argue it upon the footing of the interests of awakened to this subject. Every one now authors; we despise appeals to the humanity, sees that the greatest profit is to be realized even to the justice of the legislature. We during the copyright, for works of durable in- have not even mentioned the names of Mr. Serterest, by publishing editions adapted for all, geant Talfourd or Lord Mahon; who have so even the very humblest classes. The proof of this strenuously and eloquently advocated the inis decisive. Does not Mr. Campbell publish terest of authors in the point at issue. We annually a new edition of the Pleasures of Hope, have done so because we look to higher objects in every possible form, from the two guinea in connection with the question than any peredition for the duchess or countess, down to sonal or class advantage. We tell our legisthe shilling copy for the mechanic and the lators, that those who wield the powers of artisan? Have not Sir Walter Scott's Novels thought are fully aware of the strength of the been brought down, during the subsistence of lever which they hold in their hand; they the copyright, to an issue of the Waverley know that it governs the rulers of men; that Novels, at four shillings each novel, and lat- it brought on the Revolution of France, and terly to an issue at twopence a week, avowedly stopped the Revolution of England. The only for the working-classes? Moore's, Southey's, class of writers to whom the extension of the and Wordsworth's Poems, have all been pub- present copyright would be of any value, are lished by the authors or their assignees, in a actuated by higher motives to their exertions duodecimo form, originally at five, but which than any worldly considerations of honour or can now be had at four, or three shillings and profit; those who aspire to direct or bless man. sixpence a volume. James's Naval History has kind, are neither to be seduced by courts, nor already issued from the press in monthly num- to be won by gold. It is the national chabers, at five shillings; and the eighth edition racter which is really affected by the present of Hallam's Middle Ages is before the public in downward tendency of our literature; it is two volumes, at a price so moderate, that it the national interests which are really at stake; never can be made lower to those who do not it is the final fate of the empire which is at 'wish to put out their eyes by reading closely issue in the character of our literature. True, printed double columns by candle-light. In an extension of the copyright will not affect short, authors and booksellers now perfectly the interests of a thousandth part of the writers, understand that, as a reading and book-buying or a hundredth part of the readers in the prepublic has sprung up in all classes, it has sent or any future age; but what then-it is become not only necessary, but in the highest they who are to form the general opinion of degree profitable, to issue different editions mankind in the next; it is upon that thoueven simultaneously from the press, if the sandth and that hundredth that the fate of the eputation of a work has become fully esta- world depends.
It is a common and very just observation, the eighteen hundred years which have elapsed that modern historical works are not so inte- since the Augustan age of Roman literature resting as those which have been bequeathed the discovery of new nations, quarters of the to us by antiquity. Even at this distance of globe, and hemispheres, since Livy concluded, time, after two thousand years have elapsed in one hundred and forty books, the majestic since they were written, the great histories of annals of Roman victories—the close connecGreece and Rome still form the most attractive tion of nations among each other, which have subject of study to all ages. The young find interlaced their story like the limbs of ancient in their heart-stirring legends and romantic wrestlers the new sciences which have grown incidents, keen and intense. delight; the mid- up and come to bear upon human events, with dle-aged discover in their reflections and max- the growth of mankind and the expansion of ims the best guide in the ever-changing, but knowledge-and the prodigious perplexity of yet ever the same, course of human events : transactions, military, political, and moral, the aged récur to them with still greater plea- which require to be unravelled and brought in sure, as imbodying at once the visions of their a clear form before the mind of the reader, youth and the experience of their maturer years. have rendered the task of the historian now as It is not going too far to assert, that in their laborious, complicated, and confused, as in own style they are altogether inimitable, and former times it was simple, clear, and undithat, like the Greek statues, future ages, ever vided. Unity of effect that precious and imimitating, will never be able to rival them. portant object in all the Fine Arts has been
This remarkable and generally admitted rendered always difficult, sometimes impossiperfection is not to be ascribed, however, to any ble. The story is so complicated, the transsuperior genius in the ancient to the modern actions so various, the interests so diverse, that writers. History was a different art in Greece nothing but the most consummate skill, and inand Rome from what it now is. Antiquity cessant attention on the part of the historian had no romances--their histories, based in to the leading objects of his narrative, can early times on their ballads and traditions, prevent the mind of the reader from being lost supplied their place. Narrative with them in a boundless sea of detached occurrences. was simple in event, and single in interest. It is not the “ tale of Troy divine," nor the it related in general the progress of a single narrative of Roman heroism; nor the conquest city or commonwealth ; upon that the whole of Jerusalem, which requires to be recorded; light of the artist required to be thrown: the but the transactions of many different nations, remainder naturally was placed in shade, or as various and detached from each other as slightly illuminated only where it came in con- the adventures of the knights errant in Ariosto. tact with the favoured object. With the ex- For these reasons history cannot be written ception of Herodotus, who, though the oldest now on the plan of the ancients,—and if athistorian in existence, was led by the vigour tempted, it would fail of success. The family of his mind, his discursive habits, and exten- of nations has become too large to admit of sive travelling, to give, as it were, a picture interest being centred only on one member of of the whole world then known--these ancient it. It is in vain now to draw the picture of the histories are all the annals of individual towns groups of time, by throwing the whole light on or little republics. Xenophon, Thucydides, one figure, and all the rest in shade. Equally Sallust, Livy, Diodorus Siculus, Dionysius impossible is it to give a mere narrative of Halicarnassensis, are all more or less of this interesting events, and cast all the rest overcharacter. The mighty genius of Tacitus board. All the world would revolt at such an alone seems to have embraced the design of attempt, if made. The transactions of the one giving a picture of the vast empire of Rome; selected would be unintelligible, if those of the and even in his hands history was still dis- adjoining states were not given. One set of tinguished by its old character--the Forum readers would say, « Where are your statiswas still the object of reverential interest-the tics ?" Another, “ There is no military discusPalatine Mount embraced the theatre of almost sion-the author is evidently no soldier.” A all the revolutions which he has so admirably third would condemn the book as wanting portrayed; and his immortal work is less a diplomatic transactions; a fourth, as destitute picture of the Roman world under the Cæsars, of philosophic reflection. The statesman would than a delineation of the revolutions of the throw it aside as not containing the informapalace which shook their empire, and the con- tion he desired; the scholar, as affording no vulsive throes by which they were attended clue to contemporary and original authority; throughout its various provinces.
the man of the world, as a narrative not to be In modern times, a far more difficult task relied on, and to which it was hazardous to awaits the historian, and wholly different quali- trust without farther investigation. Women ties are required in him who undertakes to would reject it as less interesting than novels; perform it. The superior age of the world men, as not more authentic than a romance. * Histoire de France. Par M. Michelet. 6 vols. Paris,
Notwithstanding, however, this great and 1832–3. Foreign and Colonial Review, April, 1844. increasing difficulty of writing history in
modern times, from the vast addition to the to find a great epic than a great history; there subjects which it embraces and must embrace, were many poets in antiquity, but only one the fundamental principles of the art are still Tacitus. Homer himself is rather an annalist the same as they were in the days of Thucydi-than a poet: it is his inimitable traits of nades or Sallust. The figures in the picture are ture which constitute his principal charm : the greatly multiplied; many cross lights disturb Iliad is a history in verse. Modern Italy.can the unity of its effect; infinitely more learning boast of a cluster of immortal poets and paintis required in the drapery and still life; but ers; but the country of Raphael and Tasso has the object of the painter has undergone no not produced one really great history. The change. Unity of effect, singleness of emotion, laboured annals of Guicciardini or Davila canshould still be his great aim: the multiplication not bear the name; a work, the perusal of of objects from which it is to be produced, has which was deemed worse than the fate of a increased the difficulty, but not altered the galley-slave, cannot be admitted to take its principles of the art. And that this difficulty place with the master-pieces of Italian art.* is not insuperable, but may be overcome by Three historians only in Great Britain have the light of genius directing the hand of in- by common consent taken their station in the dustry, is decisively proved by the example of highest rank of historic excellence. Sismondi Gibbon's Rome, which, embracing the events alone, in France, has been assigned a place of fifteen centuries, and successive descriptions by the side of Gibbon, Hume, and Robertson. of all the nations which, during that long period, This extraordinary rarity of the highest exceltook a prominent part in the transactions of lence demonstrates the extraordinary difficulty the world, yet conveys a clear and distinct im- of the art, and justifies Mr. Fox's assertion, pression in every part to the mind of the reader; that it ranks next to poetry in the fine arts; and presents a series of pictures so vivid, and but it becomes the more extraordinary, when drawn with such force, that the work, more the immense number of works written on hispermanently than any romance, fascinates torical subjects is taken into consideration, every successive generation.
and the prodigious piles of books of history It is commonly said that accuracy and im- which are to be met with in every public partiality are the chief requisites in an histo- library. rian. That they are indispensable to his utility The greatest cause of this general failure or success, is indeed certain ; for if the im- of historical works to excite general attention, pression once be lost, that the author is to be or acquire lasting fame, is the want of power relied on, the value of his production, as a of generalization and classification in the record of past events, is at an end. No bril-writers. Immersed in a boundless sea of deliancy of description, no magic of eloquence, tails, of the relative importance of which they no power of narrative, can supply the want of were unable to form any just estimate, the authe one thing needful-trustworthiness. But thors of the vast majority of these works have fully admitting that truth and justice are the faithfully chronicled the events which fell unbases of history, there never was a greater mis- der their notice, but in so dry and uninteresttake than to imagine that of themselves they ing a manner that they produced no sort of will constitute an historian. They may make impression on mankind. Except as books of a valuable annalist—a good compiler of ma- antiquity or reference, they have long since terials; but very different qualities are re- been consigned to the vault of all the Caquired in the artist who is to construct the pulets. They were crushed under their own edifice. In him we expect the power of com- weight--they were drowned in the flood of bination, the inspiration of genius, the bril- their own facts. While they were straining liancy of conception, the generalization of effect. every nerve not to deceive their readers, the The workman who cuts the stones out of the whole class of those readers quietly slipped quarry, or fashions and dresses them into en- over to the other side. They, their merits and tablatures and columns, is a very different man their faults, were alike forgotten. It may safely from him who combines them into the temple, be affirmed, that ninety-nine out of a hundred the palace, or the cathedral. The one is a historical works are consigned to oblivion tradesman, the other an artist--the first a from this cause. quarrier, the last a Michael Angelo.
The quality, on the other hand, which disMr. Fox arranged the arts of composition tinguishes all the histories which have acquired mus:-1. Poetry; 2. History; 3. Oratory. That a great and lasting reputation among men, has very order indicated that the great orator had been the very reverse of this. It consists in a just conception of the nature of history, and the power of throwing into the shade the subpossessed many of the qualities requisite to ordinate and comparatively immaterial facts, excel in it, as he did in the flights of eloquence. and bringing into a prominent light those only It is, in truth, in its higher departments, one on which subsequent ages love to dwell, from of the fine arts; and it is the extraordinary the heroism of the actions recounted, the tragic difficulty of finding a person who combines the interest of the catastrophes portrayed, or the imagination and fervour requisite for emi- important consequences with which they have nence in their aerial visions, with the industry been attended on the future generations of and research which are indispensable for the men. It was thus that Herodotus painted with correct narrative of earthly events, which renders great historians so very rare, even in * It is reported in Italy, that a galley-slave was offerthe most
brilliant periods of human existence. ed a commutation of his sentence, if he would read Antiquity only produced six; modern times through Guicciardini's War of Florence with Pisa. After
labouring at it for some time, he petitioned to be sent can hardly boast of eight. It is much easier back to the oar-Si non è vero e bene trovato.
so much force the memorable events of the deep and sincere conviction, and which is ever Persian invasion of Greece; and Thucydides, found to be the only lasting passport to the huthe contest of aristocracy and democracy in man heart. After the first burst of popularity the Greek commonwealths; and Livy, the im- was over, it began to be discovered that these mortal strife of Hannibal and Scipio in Roman brilliant sketches were not real history, and story. No historian ever equalled Gibbon in could never supply its place. They left an imthis power of classification, and giving breadth mense deal untold, of equal or greater importof effect; for none ever had so vast and com- ance than what was told. They gave an plicated a series of events to recount, and none amusing, but deceptive, and therefore not per ever portrayed them with so graphic and lu- manently interesting, account of the periods they minous a pen. Observe his great pictures :-embraced. Men design something more in the condition of the Roman empire in the time reading the narrative of great and important of Augustus--the capture of Constantinople by events in past times, than an able sketch of the Latin crusaders—the rise of Mohammed their leading features and brilliant characters, , the habits and manners of the pastoral nations accompanied by perpetual sneers at priests, --the disasters of Julian—and the final decay eulogies on kings, or sarcasms on mankind. and ruin of the Eternal City. They stand out This was more particularly the case when the from the canvas with all the freshness and political contests of the 18th century increased animation of real life; and seizing powerfully in vehemence, and men, warmed with the pason the imagination of the reader, they make an sions of real life, turned back to the indifferent indelible impression, and compensate or cause coolness, the philosophic disdain, the ton dérito be forgotten all the insignificant details of soire, with which the most momentous or tragic revolutions in the palace of Constantinople, or events had been treated in these gifted but suin the decline of the Roman empire, which perficial writers. Madame de Staël has said, necessarily required to be introduced.
that when derision has become the prevailing Struck with the fate of so prodigious a host characteristic of the public mind, it is all over of historical writers, who had sunk into obli- with the generous affections or elevated sentivion from this cause, Voltaire, with his usual ments. She was right, but not for ever-only vigour and originality, struck out a new style till men are made to feel in their own persons in this department of literature. Discarding the sufferings they laugh at in others. It is at once the whole meager details, the long de- astonishing how soon that turns derision into scriptions of dress and ceremony, which filled sympathy. The “ aristocrats dérisoires" emerged the pages of the old chronicles or monkish from the prisons of Paris, on the fall of Robezannalists, he strove to bring history back to pierre, deeply affected with sympathy for huwhat he conceived, and with reason, was its man wo. true object-a striking delineation of the prin- The profound emotions, the dreadful suffercipal events which had occurred, with a picture ings, the heart-stirring interest of that eventful of the changes of manners, ideas, and principles era, speedily communicated themselves to the with which they were accompanied. This was style of historical writers; it at once sent the a great improvement on the jéjune narratives whole tribe of philosophic and derisory histoof former times; and proportionally great was rians overboard. The sketchy style, the philothe success with which, in the first instance at sophic contempt, the calm indifference, the least, it was attended. While the dry details of skeptical sneers of Voltaire and his followers, Guicciardini, the ponderous tomes of Villaret were felt as insupportable by those who had or Mezeray, and the trustworthy quartos of De known what real suffering was. There early Thou, slumbered in respectable obscurity on the appeared in the narratives of the French Revodusty shelves of the library, the “Siècle de Louis lution, accordingly, in the works of ToulonXIV.,” the Life of Peter the Great and Charles geon, Bertrand de Molleville, the Deux Amis XII., were on every table, and almost in every de la Liberté, and Lacretelle, a force of paintboudoir; and their popular author was elevated ing, a pathos of narrative, a vehemence of lanto the pinnacle of worldly fame, while his more guage, which for centuries had been unknown laborious and industrious predecessors were in modern Europe. This style speedily became nigh forgotten by a frivolous age. A host of general, and communicated itself to history in imitators, as usual with every original writer, all its branches. The passions on all sides were followed in this brilliant and lucrative path; of too strongly roused to permit of the calm narwhom, Raynal in France, Schiller in Germany, ratives of former philosophic writers being and Watson in England, were the most suc- tolerated; men had suffered too much to allow cessful.
them to speak or think with indifference of the But it was ere long discovered that this bril- sufferings of others. In painting with force liant and sketchy style of history was neither and energy, it was soon found that recourse satisfactory to the scholar nor permanently must be had to the original authorities, and, if popular with the public. It was amusing ra- possible, the eye-witnesses of the events; all ther than interesting, brilliant than profound. subsequent or imaginary narrative appeared Its ingenious authors sprung too suddenly to insipid and lifeless in comparison; it was like conclusions--they laid down positions which studying the mannerist trees of Perelle or the experience of the next age proved to be er- Vivares after the vigorous sketches from naroneous. It wanted that essential requisite in ture of Salvator or Claude. Thence has history, a knowledge of the human heart and a arisen the great school of modern French hispractical acquaintance with men. Above all, tory, of which Sismondi was the founder; and it had none of the earnestness of thought, the which has since been enriched by the works impassioned expression, which springs from of Guizot, Thierry, Barante, Thiers, Mignet,
Michaul, and Michelet: a cluster of writers, upon the whole, of an inferior kind. Gifted which, if none of them singly equal the master with a philosophic spirit, a just and equal pieces of English history, present, taken as a mind, an eloquent and impressive expression, whole, a greater mass of talent in that depart- he had not the profound sagacity, the penetratment than any other country can boast. ing intellect, which have rendered the obser
The poetical mind and pictorial eye of Gib- vation of Bacon, Hume, and Johnson as endurbon had made him anticipate, in the very midst ing as the English language. He had not of the philosophic school of Voltaire, Hume, enjoyed the practical acquaintance with man, and Robertson, this great change which mis- which Hume acquired by mingling in diplofortune and suffering impressed generally upon macy; and without a practical acquaintance the next generation. Thence his extraordinary with man, no writer, whatever his abilities excellence and acknowledged superiority as a may be, can rightly appreciate the motives, or delineator of events to any writer who has pre-probable result of human actions. It was this ceded or followed him. He united the philo- practical collision with public affairs which sophy and general views of one age to the has rendered the histories of Thucydides, Salbrilliant pictures and impassioned story of lust, and Tacitus so profoundly descriptive of another. He warmed with the narratives of the human heart. Living alternately in the the crusaders or the Saracens-he wandered seclusion of a Scotch manse, or at the head of with the Scythians--he wept with the Greeks a Scotch university, surrounded by books, re--he delineated with a painter's hand, and a spect, and ease, the reverend Principal took an poet's fire, the manners of the nations, the fea- agreeable and attractive, but often incorrect tures of the countries, the most striking events view of human affairs. In surveying the geof the periods which were passed under review; neral stream of human events, and drawing but at the same time he preserved inviolate just conclusions regarding the changes of the unity and general effect of his picture,centuries, he was truly admirable; and in his lights and shadows maintained their just those respects his first volume of “Charles V.” proportions, and were respectively cast on the may, if we except Guizot's “Civilisation Eu. proper objects. Philosophy threw a radiance ropéen,” be pronounced without a parallel in over the mighty maze; and the mind of the the whole annals of literature. The brilliant reader, after concluding his prodigious series picture, too, which he has left of the discovery of details, dwelt with complacency on its most of America, and the manner of the savage striking periods, skilfully brought out by the tribes which then inhabited that continent, consummate skill of the artist, as the recollection proves that he was not less capable of wield of a spectator does on any of the magic scenes ing the fascination of description and romance, in Switzerland, in which, amidst an infinity of But in narrating political events, and diving beautiful objects, the eye is fascinated by the into the mysteries of human motives, his want calm tranquillity of the lake, or the rosy hues of of practical acquaintance with man is at once the evening glow on the glacier. We speak of apparent. He described the human heart from Gibbon as a delineator of events; none can hearsay, not experience;-he was an historian feel more strongly or deplore more deeply the by reading, not observation. We look in vain fatal blindness-the curse of his age-which in his pages for a gallery of historical portraits, rendered him so perverted on the subject of to be placed beside the noble one which is to religion, and left so wide a chasm in his im- be found in Clarendon. As little can we find mortal work, which the profounder thought in them any profound remarks, like those of and wider experience of Guizot has done so Bacon, Hume, or Tacitus, the justice of which much to fill.
is perpetually brought home by experience to Considered as calm and philosophic narra- every successive generation of men. His retives, the histories of Hume and Robertson putation, accordingly, is sensibly declining; and will remain as standard models for every fu- though it will never become extinct, it is easy ture age. The just and profound reflections to foresee that it is not destined to maintain, of the former, the inimitable clearness and im- in future times, the colossal proportions which partiality with which he has summoned up it at first acquired. the arguments on both sides, on the most mo- Both Hume and Robertson, however, left mentous questions which have agitated Eng- untouched one fertile field of historic interest land, as well as the general simplicity, uniform which Herodotus and Gibbon had cultivated clearness and occasional pathos of his story, with such success. This is the geographicai must for ever command the admiration of field, the description of countries, as well as men mankind. In vain we are told that he is often and manners. It is surprising wha variety inaccurate, sometimes partial; in vain are and interest this gives to historical narrative; successive attacks published on detached parts how strongly it fixes places and regions in the of his narrative, by party zeal or antiquarian memory of the reader; and how much it augresearch; his reputation is undiminished;, ments the interest of the story, by filling up successive editions issuing from the press and clothing in the mind's eye the scenes in attest the continued sale of his work; and it in which it occurred. Doubtless this must not continues its majestic course through the sea be carried too far; unquestionably the narraof time, like a mighty three-decker, which tive of human transactions is the main object never even condescends to notice the javelins of history; and the one thing needful, as in fic. darted at its sides from the hostile canoestion, is to paint the human heart; but still there, which from time to time seek to impede its as elsewhere in the Fine Arts, variety and con. progress.
trast contribute powerfully to effect; and amidst Robertson's merits are of a different, and the incessant maze of villany and suffering