Page images

beloved, though not so much admired as Cynthio. I must confess, says he, I find myself very much inclined to speak' against a fort of study that I know nothing of. I have however one strong prejudice in favour of it, that Philander has thought it worth his while to employ some time upon it. I am glad then, says Cynthio, that I have thrown him on a science of which I have long wished to hear the Usefulness. There, says Philander, you must excuse me.

At prefent you do not know but it may have its ufefulness. But fhould I endeavour to convince you of it, I might fail in my Attempt, and fo render my frience Atill more contemptible. On the contrary, says Cynthio, we are already fo persuaded of the unprofitableness of your science, that you can but leave us where


you, succeed you increase the number of your party. Well, says Philander, in hopes of making two such confiderable profelytes, I am very well content to talk away an Evening with you on the subject; but on this condition, that you will communicate your thoughts to me freely when you dissent from me, or have any difficulties that you think me capable of removing. To make use of the liberty you give us, says Eugenius, I must tell

you what I believe surprises all beginners as well as myself. We are apt to think your Medallists a little fantastical in the different prices they set upon their Coins, without any regard to the ancient value or the metal of which they are composed. A filver Medal, for example, shall be more esteemed than a golden one, and a piece of brass than either. To answer you, says Philander, in the language of a Medallist, you are


us, but if

not to look upon a cabinet of Medals as a trea.. sure of money, but of knowledge, nor must you fancy any charms in gold, but in the figures and inscriptions that adorn it. The intrinsic value of an old coin does not consist in its metal but its erudition. It is the Device that has raised the species, so that at present an As or an Obulus may carry a higher price than a Denarius, or a Drachma; and a piece of money that was not worth a penny fifteen hundred years ago, may be now rated at fifty crowns, or perhaps a hundred guineas. I find, says Cynthio, that to have a relish for ancient coins it is necessary to have a contempt of the modern.

But I am afraid you will never be able, with all your Medallic eloquence, to persuade Eugenius and myself that it is better to have a pocket full of Otho's and Gordians than of Jacobus's or Louis-d'ors. This however we shall be Judges of, when you have let us know the several uses of old coins.

The first and most obvious one, says Philander, is the shewing us the Faces of all the great persons of antiquity. A cabinet of Medals is a collection of pictures in miniature. Juvenal calls them very humorously,

Concisum argentum in titulos, faciesque minutas.

Sat. 5.

You here see the Alexanders, Cæfars, Pompeys, Trajans, and the whole catalogue of Heroes, who have many of them so distinguished themselves from the rest of mankind that we almost look upon them as another species. It is an agreeable amusement to compare in our own

thoughts thoughts the face of a great Man with the character that authors have given us of him, and to try if we can find out in his looks and features either the haughty, cruel, or merciful temper that discovers itself in the history of his actions. We find too on Medals the reprefentations of Ladies that have given occasion to whole volumes on the account only of a face. We have here the pleasure to examine their looks and drefles, and to survey at leisure those beautics that have sometimes been the happiness or misery of whole kingdoms: Nor do you only met the faces of such as are famous in history, but of several whose names are not to be found any where except on Medals. Some of the Emperors, for example, have had Wives, and some of them Children, that no authors have mentioned. We are therefore obliged to the study of coins for having made new discoveries to the learned, and given them infor mation of such persons as are to be met with on no other kind of records. You must give me leave, says Cynthio, to reject this last use of Medals. I do not think it worth while to trouble myself with a person's name or face that receives all his reputation from the mint, and would never have been known in the world had there not been such things as Medals. A man's memory finds sufficient employment on such as have really fignalized themselves by their great actions, without charging itfelf with the names of an insignificant people whose whole history is written on the edges of an old coin.

you are only for such persons as have made a noise in the world, says Philander, you have on Medals a long list of heathen Deities, diftin


[ocr errors]

guished from each other by their proper titles and
ornaments. You see the copies of several statues
that have had the politest nations of the world
fall down before them. You have here too seve-
ral persons of a more thin and shadowy nature,
as Hope, Constancy, Fidelity, Abundance, Ho-
nour, Virtue, Eternity, Justice, Moderation,
Happiness, and in short a whole creation of the
like imaginary fubitances. To these you may add
the Genies of nations, provinces, cities, high-
ways, and the like Allegorical Beings. In devices
of this nature one secs a pretty poetical invention,
and may often find as much thought on the re-
verfe of a Medal as in a Canto of Spenser. Not
to interrupt you, says Eugenius, I fancy it is this
use of Medals that has recommended them to fe-
veral history-painters, who perhaps without this
assistance would have found it very difficult to
have invented such an airy species of beings, when
they are obliged to put a moral virtue into co-
lours, or to find out a proper dress for a passion.
It is doubtless for this reason, says Philander, that
Painters have not a little contributed to bring the
study of Medals in vogue. For not to mention
several others, Caraccio is said to have assisted
Aretine by designs that he took from the Spintric
of Tiberius. Raphael had thoroughly studied the
figures on old Coins. Patin tells us that Le
Brun had done the same. And it is well known
that Rubens had a noble collection of Medals in
his own possession. But I must not quit this head
before I tell you,


see on Medals not only the names and persons of Emperors, Kings, Consuls, Pro-consuls, Prætors, and the like characters of importance, but of some of the Poets,


and of several who had won the prizes at the Olympic games. It was a noble time, says Cynthic, when Trips and Cornish hugs could make a Man immortal. How many Heroes would Moorfields have furnished out in the days of old ? A fellow that can now only win a hat or a belt, had he lived among the Greeks, might have had his face ftamped upon their Coins. But these were the wise ancients, who had more esteem for a Milo than a Homer, and heaped up greater Honours on Pindar's Jockies, than on the Poet himself. But by this time I suppofe you have drawn up all your medallic people, and indeed they make a much more formidable body than I could have imagined. You have shewn us all conditions, sexes and ages, emperors and empreffes, men and children, gods and wrestlers. Nay you have conjured up persons that exist no where else but on old Coins, and have made our Passions and Virtues and Vices visible. I could never have thought that a cabinet of Medals had been fo well peopled. But in the next place, says Philander, as we see on Coins the different Faces of persons, wę see on them too their different Habits and Dresses, according to the mode that prevailed in the several ages when the Medals were stampt. This is another use, says Cynthio, that in my opinion contributes rather to make a man learned than wise, and is neither capable of pleasing the understanding or imagination. I know there are several supercilious Critics that will treat an author with the greatest contempt imaginable, if he fancies the old Romans wore a girdle, and are amazed at a man's ignorance, who believes the Toga had any Sleeves to it till


« EelmineJätka »