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HERE is an anecdote in Aulus Gellius (“ Noctes Atticæ,”
Lib. X. Cap. 6) which exhibits, we think, one of the
highest instances of what may be called polite blackguardism that we ever remember to have read. The fastidiousness, self-will, and infinite resentment against a multitude of one's fellow-creatures for presuming to come in contact with one's own importance, are truly edifying ; and, to complete the lesson, this extraordinary specimen of the effect of superfine breeding and blood is handed down to us in the person of a lady. Her words might be thought to have been a bad joke; and bad enough it would have been ; but the sense that was shown of them proves them to have been very gravely regarded.
Claudia, the daughter of Appius Cæcus, in coming away from a public spectacle, was much pressed and pushed about by the crowd ; upon which she thus vented her impatience :-“What should I have suffered now, and how much more should I have been squeezed and knocked about, if my brother Publius Claudius had not had his ships destroyed in battle, with all that heap of men ? I should have been absolutely jammed to death! Would to heaven my brother were alive again, and could go with another fleet to Sicily, and be the death of this host of people, who plague and pester one in this horrid manner !"*
*"Quid me nunc factum esset, quantoque arctius pressiusque conflictata essein,
For these words, “so wicked and so uncivic,” says good old Gellius (tam improba ac tam incivilia), the ædiles, Caius Fundanus and Tiberius Sempronius, got the lady fined in the sum of twenty-five thousand pounds brass. There is a long account in Livy of the speech which they made to the people, in reply to the noble families that interceded for her. It is very indignant. Claudia herself confessed her words, and does not appear to have joined in the intercession. They are not related at such length by Livy as by Aulus Gellius. He merely makes her wish that her brother were alive to take out another fleet. But he shows his own sense of the ebullition by calling it a dreadful imprecation ; and her rage was even more gratuitous according to his account, for he describes her as coming from the shows in a chariot.
Insolence and want of feeling appear to have been hereditary in this Appian family : which gives us also a strong sense of their want of capacity ; otherwise, a disgust at such manners must have been generated in some of the children. They were famous for opposing every popular law, and for having kept the commons as long as possible out of any share in public honours and government. The villain Appius Claudius, whose well-known story has lately been made still more familiar to the public by the tragedy of Mr Knowles, was among its ancestors. Appius Cæcus, or the Blind, the father of Claudia, though he constructed the celebrated Appian Way, and otherwise benefited the city, was a very unpopular man, wilful, haughty, and lawless. He retained possession of the Censorship beyond the limited period. It is an instance, perhaps, of his unpopularity, as well as of the superstition of the times, that, having made a change in one of the priestly offices, and become blind some years afterwards, the Romans attributed it to the vengeance of heaven; an
si P. Claudius frater meus navali prælio classem navium cum ingenti civium numero non perdidisset ? certè quidem majore nunc copiâ populi oppressa intercidissem. Sed utinam, inquit, reviviscat frater, aliamque classem in Siciliam ducat, atque istam multitudinem perditum eat, quæ me malè nunc miseram convexavit.”
opinion which Livy repeats with great devotion, calling it a warning against innovations in religion. It had no effect, however, upon Claudius the brother, whose rashness furnished the pious Romans with a similar example to point at. Before an engagement with the Carthaginians, the Sacred Chickens were consulted, and because they would not peck and furnish him with a good omen, he ordered them to be thrown into the sea. they won't eat,” said he, “ let 'em drink.” The engagement was one of the worst-planned and the worst-fought in the world ; but the men were avowedly dispirited by the Consul's irreverent behaviour to the chickens, and his impiety shared the disgrace with his folly. Livy represents him as an epitome of all that was bad in his family ; proud, stubborn, unmerciful, though full of faults himself, and wilful and precipitate to a degree of mad
'This was the battle of which his sister wished to see a repetition. It cost the Romans many ships sunk, ninety-three taken, and, according to the historian, the miraculous loss of eight thousand men killed, and twenty thousand taken prisoners, while the Carthaginians lost not a ship or a man.
MONG the first things which we remember noticing in
the manners of people, were two errors in the custom of
shaking hands. Some, we observed, grasped everybody's hand alike, with an equal fervour of grip. You would have thought that Jenkins was the best friend they had in the world; but on succeeding to the squeeze, though a slight acquaintance, you found it equally flattering to yourself; and on the appearance of somebody else (whose name, it turned out, the operator had forgotten), the crush was no less complimentary ; the face was as earnest and beaming, the “glad to see you" as syllabical and sincere, and the shake as close, as long, and as rejoicing, as if the semi-unknown was a friend come home from the Deserts.
On the other hand, there would be a gentleman now and then as coy of his hand as if he were a prude, or had a whitlow. It was in vain that your pretensions did not go beyond the “civil salute” of the ordinary shake; or that, being introduced to him in a friendly manner, and expected to shake hands with the rest of the company, you could not in decency omit his. His fingers, half coming out, and half retreating, seemed to think that you were going to do them a mischief; and when you got hold of them, the whole shake was on your side : the other hand did but proudly or pensively acquiesce,-there was no knowing which : you had to sustain it, as you might a lady's in handing her to a seat: and it was an equal perplexity to know how to
shake or to let it go. The one seemed a violence done to the patient; the other, an awkward responsibility brought upon yourself. You did not know, all the evening, whether you were not an object of dislike to the person ; till, on the party's breaking up, you saw him behave like an equally ill-used gentleman to all who practised the same unthinking civility.
Both these errors, we think, might as well be avoided ; but, of the two, we must say we prefer the former. If it does not look so much like particular sincerity, it looks more like general kindness; and if those two virtues are to be separated (which they assuredly need not be, if considered without spleen), the world can better afford to dispense with an unpleasant truth than a gratuitous humanity. Besides, it is more difficult to make sure of the one than to practise the other ; and kindness itself is the best of all truths. As long as we are sure of that, we are sure of something, and of something pleasant. It is always the best end, if not in every instance the most logical means.
This manual shyness is sometimes attributed to modesty, but never, we suspect, with justice, unless it be that sort of modesty whose fear of committing itself is grounded in pride. Want of address is a better reason, but this particular instance of it would be grounded in the same feeling. It always implies a habit either of pride or distrust. We have met with two really kind men who evinced this soreness of hand. Neither of them perhaps thought himself inferior to anybody about him, and both had good reason to think highly of themselves ; but both had been sanguine men contradicted in their early hopes. There was a plot to meet the hand of one of them with a fishslice, in order to show him the disadvantage to which he put his friends by that flat mode of salutation ; but the conspirator had not the courage to do it. Whether he heard of the intention, we know not; but shortly afterwards he took very kindly to a shake. The other was the only man of a warm set of politicians who remained true to his first love of mankind.