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Art. XII. -Lectures on the Ancient Greeks. By the late
Andrew Dalzel, A.M. F.R.S. E., Professor of Greek in the
University of Edinburgh. 2 vols. 1821. N O author, says a naineless bard, ought to be judged for postt humous works published by friends; and if any publication has a full claim to the benefit of this privilege, it is that before us. The author has now been dead many years ; the Lectures themselves were not intended for publication; they never received the writer's final corrections, and they were originally composed under circumstances which ought not merely to cover deficiencies, but which, in some points of view, convert into merits, what might otherwise be considered as failures.
"At the period during which my father filled the Greek chair in the University of Edinburgh,' says Mr. Dalzel's son and editor, 'there was little instruction given to the boys at many of the public schools, but the dry and repulsive communication of the Latin language. This they were forced to learn by means of severe corporal discipline; and hardly any attempt was made to lead the youthful mind to a gradual perception of the beauty of classic diction and sentiment. The boy, when released from the restraint of school, was consequently too often induced to throw aside in disgust, what was associated in his mind only with the idea of suffering. At school there was either no instruction given in the Greek at all, or the rudiments only of it were very imperfectly taught: so that the duty of a Professor of Greek was one of no small labour; he had to communicate the language from its very elements; he had to do away the repugnance acquired at school to classical study, and had to instil into the ininds of the youth, the delight, as well as the improvement to be derived from the rational contemplation and study of the ancients.'-pref. p. x.
This was surely no very attractive state of things; and the task of reforming it could not readily, we think, have been committed to more able hands than Mr. Dalzel's. Deep learning he did not possess ; but he had kindness of temper, urbanity of manners, and a warm solicitude for the improvement of his pupils; while all those high and honourable feelings, which are generally found co-existent with a love of classic lore, and which Mr. Dalzel presses upon his auditors as the most valuable fruits of its cultivation, display themselves very conspicuously in every page of his writings. Of the language, which it was his more inmediate duty to teach, he bad evidently formed a just and accurate conception; and with a susceptible niind and an ardent relish of the beauties of ancient literature, it would have been hard if the lecturer had not transfused into the bosoms of his auditors some portion of that delight which he evidently felt himself, and on which, as being the most agreeable feature in his performance, one or two remarks niay not be misplaced. 92
.. That the stores of classic knowledge should have peculiar charms
for those whose pursuits have embraced somewhat inore than the · ordinary course of literature, can be a matter of no surprize : litile
as human nature differs in her general features, there is something indescribably delightful in gazing upon them at the fountainhead of science; and when the poet, who has made the undress of the Epic Muse so engaging, throw's open the *sources of the fertilizing Nile, he offers not a more attractive image to the bodily eye, than the intellectual eye experiences in the contemplation of those early writers, whose productions have floated on the bosom of time, carrying riches and delight wherever they flow. But this is not the only advantage which, considering the pursuit of letters as an elegant enjoyment, a deep acquaintance with classic lore possesses over modern authorship. That literature, which has stood the test of so many ages, and which, under all varieties of soil and climate, customs and manners, is found to contain something satisfactory and analagous to the best feelings of the mind, seems to have attained a sort of moral certainty in its truth and taste, which leaves no room for doubt and speculation. Hence, to the cultivators of ancient literature there appears to belong somewhat of that conscious sense of security and certainty in their enjoyments, which Adam Smith assumes to be peculiar to the cultivators of the exact sciences, the algebraist and geometrician. Of this sober certainty of waking bliss, Mr. Dalzel has his full portion. Satisfied with his own range of intellectual pleasures, he rarely attempts to disturb those of others: with the highest admiration of ancient literature, he never shows the least disposition to depreciate modern knowledge; on the contrary, some of the most successful portions of his labours seem to derive their success froin his extensive acquaintance with the stores of modern learning, and from his ingenuity in bringing this knowledge to bear upon his illustrations of antiquity. If, in so doing, he rather overstepped the limits of his province, it must be remembered that he had an audience, whose attention was to be gained and preserved by something more than the ordinary methods.
Into the minor defects, which accompany these solid and substantial merits, we do not feel ourselves called to inquire very minutely. Profundity or novelty is not to be expected from these Lectures; and it must be some extraordinary felicity of style, which can tempt the readers of Mitford into an analysis of Grecian history, or encourage those who have studied the Constitution of England in the writings of Blackstone and De Lolme, to add to their reading an essay of Mr. Dalzel on the same subject,
* Araucana, Parte II., Canto xxvii.
addressed addressed to an audience of boys. That this felicity of style is not always to be found in Mr. Dalzel, might be proved without much difficulty; and, somewhat perversely, the lecturer's manner grows most faulty as his matter becomes most interesting. The revival of Greek learning in Italy was attended with so many curious and important accompaniments, that the ordinary attractions of composition would have made the Professor's lec, tures on this subject palatable even to those who had studied it in the larger treatises of Roscoe, Hodius, and Tiraboschi. But where did he learn to construct such a sentence (and we have many of them) as the following ? " About the year 1450, Gaza was invited from Ferrara to Rome, by Pope Nicholas V., to assist, in conjunction with other Greeks, at translating into Latin the works of the ancient authors.'- vol. ii. p. 402. Those who feel the charms of language as a mere vehicle of thought, experience a delight in the ancient tongues which no modern language can give, because, from their inflexion and compactness, the images rise at once to the mind, unweakened by any circumstances of juxta-position. Was it to illustrate this beauty of the Greek language, that Mr. Dalzel thus crowded into a single sentence half the particles and prepositions of his own? Again, why must he clog his sentences with unnecessary appendages, (380) mix his metaphors, (387) and congregate passive participles and preterites, (404, 5) till the eye is absolutely satiated with similarity of termination A Greek composition must have been of unusual length, in which the same metaphor would have occurred twice: but Mr. Dalzel has so laboured the most common-place trope, which an inquiry into the revival of learning could suggest, that the reader begins to be reminded by the mere mention of the meridian sun, of the young lady who, after a love-letter filled with an unusual profusion of flames, declared that, she should be ashamed to look into a fire for another fortnight.
It may further be suggested, that it would have been no detriment to these volumes, if some of the chapters in them had been less ambitiously headed, Voltaire's assurance, who analyses the entire works of Aristotle in fourteen pages, of which three have little to do with his subject, is sufficiently amusing; but a single lecture headed • Of Taste Of Criticism~Aristotle-Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Horace -- Longinus — Vida Scaliger--Vossius-BoileauPope'; and the whole discussed in twenty-two pages ! Surely such a dispatch of business has never been equalled since the days of Dean Swift's curate. To all this may be added that the Professor is given to repeat himself, that he deals woefully in truisms, and that his eloquence does not always steer quite clear of the bathoş. As for his discussions, such as that prefixed to his Lecture on His
tory, they can only be considered as the effusions of a grave man, who pats a little urchin on the head, bids him mind his book, and then prophesies his future elevation to the episcopal bench or the woolsack. All these defects should be removed from a second edition of the work; they add nothing to the Professor's own reputation by standing where they are, and they may lead to a suspicion that, in the opinion of the Professor's son, his countrymen are still the same babes in classic literature which his father found them; and that the same slight nutriment will do for the present race of Scotch scholars as served their ancestors; an imputation which ought not to belong, and which we are very confident does not belong to the country of Buchanan, of John of Ayr, and that *accomplished friend of Erasmus, who died too young for his honours as a scholar, but old enough to command his country's tears as a patriot and a hero! - But while the quotation at the head of our pages fairly exempts us from pursuing this part of our duty, we know nothing but our own dulness which should prevent us from canvassing pretty freely some general principles advocated in these volumes, and on which Mr. Dalzel being, as we think, very slenderly informed himself, may be apt to mislead his readers. As the cold doctrines which 'we shall oppose to them will show to great disadvantage, when compared with the warmer and apparently more liberal opinions of Mr. Dalzel, we shall be careful not to be sparing in our quotations from original authors, that what we seem to want in feeling, we may be thought to make up in truth: a honely consolation; but which will not be without its advantage, if, by teaching us not to indulge in false notions about the governments of other countries, it instructs us to be tolerably well satisfied, upon the whole, with the institutions of our own. - When we find a writer indulging hiniself with romantic and extravagant notions about Grecian virtue, Grecian freedom, and Grecian liberty, (and Mr. Dalzel travels through Greece as through a sort of fairy-land, upon these points,) we always lay our account with expecting to find him more versed in the tragic than in the comic writers of that country, and more conversant with her epic, lyric, and elegiac poetry than with her orators and philosophers. And this is precisely the case with Mr. Dalzel. The merits of Homer, Sophocles, and Pindar, he discusses with taste, warmth, and feeling, and that his ardour is tempered with discretion, it will be sufficient to observe, that in comparing the merits of the Orphan and the (Edipus Tyrannus, and using Franklin's translation for the purpose, he has the prudence to leave the question of su
* Alexander Stuart, natural son of James IV.
periority periority undecided. This was magnanimity and good sense into the bargain. Criticism, indeed, has taken a turn since the Lecturer's time, not quite favourable to this more ambitious part of his labours. But when the Professor comes to those writers, from whom are to be derived not merely the luxuries of sentiment and diction, but a real and practical knowledge of the state of ancient Greece, he exhibits just that deficiency which we were prepared to expect, and draws upon his imagination for facts which he ought to have founded upon his knowledge. Of the philosophy of Greece, nothing, accordingly, appears in these volumes but a quotation from Plato, and a trite exposition of the more familiar doctrines of the Socratic school. The great comic dramatist of Athens, in whose writings her very face and form are so graphi- .' cally depictured, Mr. Dalzel treats, as the author of the Republic treats Homer : he calls him into his presence, throws a little incense on his head, and then dismisses him very abruptly. Whether this treatment arose from unacquaintance with the dramatist's writings, or an unwillingness to disturb the muscles of his audience, it is not for us to decide : we should have been satisfied with either case, had the Professor collected from graver sources that knowledge, which the poet always communicates with a laughing face. But if Mr. Dalzeľs acquaintance with Plato and Aristophanes (two congenial souls in more respects than one) be doubtful, he has left us no uncertainty that his knowledge of the Grecian orators and pleaders was of the most superficial kind. His Thirty-second Lecture is devoted to the consideration of Grecian eloquence; and what does it contain ? Some common place accounts of the two great masters in Grecian eloquence, Deinosthenes and Æschines; a few references to their best-known speeches, and a short life of their great predecessor, Lysias. That this meagreness is not wholly to be ascribed to the ages and qualifications of Mr. Dalzel's audience, a mere slip of the pen would have been sufficient to convince us,'had we not the power of bringing still stronger proof, that in thus contracting bis views, the Professor.consulted his own strength, as well as that of his audience. . : : ; · In his short biography of Demosthenes, Mr. Dalzel is betrayed, almost at the commencement, into the following paragraph:• His tutors, (guardians) instead of sending him to the school of Isocrates, who was the most celebrated instructor of his age, put him under the care of one Isæus, a man of lille reputation, and consequently whose demands for teaching were low.'-page 332.