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mankind; establishing this as the foundation whereon they are to build, that they can never be capable of performing their duty as they ought, unless they have formed themselves beforehand to their undertaking, by prudence, and long experience of affairs; without which endowments and advantages, if they attempt to write a history, they will fall into a various and endless labyrinth of errors.
When we hear this author speaking, we are ready to think ourselves engaged in a conversation with Cato the Censor, with Lælius, with Massinissa, and with the two Scipios; that is, with the greatest heroes and most prudent men of the greatest age in the Roman commonwealth. This sets me so on fire, when I am reading, either here, or in any ancient author, their lives and actions, that I cannot hold from breaking out with Montagne into this expression: "It is just," says he, "for every honest man to be content with the government and laws of his native country, without endeavour ing to alter or subvert them; but if I were to choose where I would have been born, it should have been in a commonwealth." He indeed names Venice, which, for many reasons, should not be my wish; but rather Rome, in such an age, if it were possible, as that wherein Polybius lived; or that of Sparta, whose constitution for a republic is by our author compared with Rome, to which he justly gives the pref
I will not undertake to compare Polybius and Tacitus; though, if I should attempt it upon the whole merits of the cause, I must allow to Polybius the greater comprehension, and the larger soul; to Tacitus the greater eloquence, and the more close connexion of his thoughts. The manner of Tacitus in writing is more like the force and gravity of Demosthenes; that of Polybius more like the copiousness and diffusive character of Cicero. Amongst historians,
Tacitus imitated Thucydides, and Polybius, Herodotus. Polybius foresaw the ruin of the Roman commonwealth, by luxury, lust, and cruelty; Tacitus foresaw in the causes those events which would destroy the monarchy. They are both of them, without dispute, the best historians in their several kinds. In this they are alike, that both of them suffered under the iniquity of the times in which they lived; both their histories are dismembered, the greater part of them lost, and they are interpolated in many places. Had their works been perfect, we might have had longer histories, but not better. Casaubon, according to his usual partiality, condemns Tacitus that he may raise Polybius; who needs not any sinister artifice to make him appear equal to the best. Tacitus described the times of tyranny; but he always writes with some kind of indignation against them. It is not his fault that Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian, were bad princes. He is accused of malevolence, and of taking actions in the worst sense; but we are still to remember, that those were the actions of tyrants. Had the rest of his history remained to us, we had certainly found a better account of Vespasian, Titus, Nerva, and Trajan, who were virtuous emperors; and he would have given the principles of their actions a contrary turn. But it is not my business to defend Tacitus ; neither dare 1 decide the preference betwixt him and our Polybius. They are equally profitable and instructive to the reader; but Tacitus more useful to those who are born under a monarchy, Polybius to those who live in a republic.
What may farther be added concerning the history of this author, I leave to be performed by the elegant translator of his work.*
* The elegant translator, however, gives us no information on that subject; his preface being principally a panegyric upon good discipline, which, without much risk of contradiction, he affirms to be the "substance and sum total of military science."
THE LIFE OF LUCIAN.
The Dialogues of Lucian were translated by Walter Moyle, Sir Henry Shere, Charles Blount, and others, and seem to have been intended for publication about 1696, when our author supplied the following prefatory life. The design was, however, for a time laid aside, and the work did not appear until 1711, several years after Dryden's death.
THE writing a life is at all times, and in all circumstances, the most difficult task of an historian; and, notwithstanding the numerous tribe of biographers, we can scarce find one, except Plutarch, who deserves our perusal, or can invite a second view. But if the difficulty be so great where the materials are plentiful, and the incidents extraordinary, what must it be when the person, that affords the subject, denies matter enough for a page? The learned seldom abound with action, and it is action only that furnishes the historian with things agreeable and instructive. It is true, that Diogenes Laertius, and our learned countryman, Mr. Stanley, have both written the "Lives of the Philosophers;" but we are more obliged to the various principles of their several sects, than to any thing remarkable that they did, for our entertainment.
But Lucian, as pleasing and useful as he was in his writings, in the opinion of the most candid judges, has left so little of his own affairs on record, that there is scarce sufficient to fill a page, from his birth to his death.
• Thomas Stanley's "History of Philosophy," &c. was published in folio, in detached parts, between 1655 and 1660; and reprinted entire in 1687.
Hence the preface wants those last corrections, which, I suspect, Dryden contented himself with bestowing upon the proof-sheets, as they came from press. I have followed several of Mr. Malone's judicious, and indeed indispensable, corrections of the printed copy.
* Gibbon thus narrates the catastrophe:-"The extreme parsimony of Rufinus left him only the reproach and envy of ill-gotten wealth. His depend. ants served him without attachments; the universal hatred of mankind was repressed only by the influence of servile fear. The fate of Lucian proclaimed to the East, that the prefect, whose industry was much abated in the despatch of ordinary business, was active and indefatigable in the pursuit of revenge. Lucian, (the son of the prefect Florentius, the oppressor of Gaul, and the enemy of Julian,) had employed a considerable part of his inheritance, the fruit of rapine and corruption, to purchase the friendship of Rufinus, and the high office of Count of the East. But the new magistrate imprudently departed from the maxims of the Court and of the times; disgraced his benefactor, by the contrast of a virtuous and temperate administration; and presumed to refuse an act of injustice, which might have tended to the profit of the emperor's uncle. Arcadius was easily persuaded to resent the supposed insult; and the prefect of the East resolved to execute in person the cruel vengeance which he meditated against this ungrateful delegate of his power. He performed, with incessant speed, the journey of seven or eight hundred miles, from Constantinople to Antioch, entered the capital of Syria at the dead of night, and spread universal consternation among a people ignorant of his design, but not ignorant of his character. The count of the fifteen provinces of the East was drag
There were many of the name of Lucian among the ancients, eminent in several ways, and whose names have reached posterity with honour and applause. Suidas mentions one, as a man of singular probity, who, having discharged the administration of the chief Prefect of the Oriental empire,† under Arcadius, with extraordinary justice and praise of the people, ged, like the vilest malefactor, before the arbitrary drew on himself the envy and hate of the courtiers, (the constant attendant of eminent virtue and merit,) and the anger of the emperor
tribunal of Rufinus. Notwithstanding the clearest evidence of his integrity, which was not impeached even by the voice of an accuser, Lucian was condemned, almost without a trial, to suffer a cruel and ignominious punishment. The ministers of the ty rant, by the order, and in the presence, of their mas ter, beat him on the neck with leather thongs, armed at the extremities with lead; and when he fainted under the violence of the pain, he was removed in a close litter, to conceal his dying agonies from the eyes of the indignant city. No sooner had Rufinus perpetrated this inhuman act, the sole object of his expedition, than he returned amidst the deep and
†A. D. 375. Rufinus was chief prefect of the East. The person here alluded to was only count of fifteen provinces. Dryden, writing from memory, confounded the offices of the murderer and murdered. See the next note.
himself; and was at last murdered by Rufinus.*
Among those who were eminent for their learning, were some divines and philosophers. Of the former, we find one in St. Cyprian, to whom the fourth and seventeenth epistles are inscribed. There was another priest of the church of Antioch, who, as Suidas assures us, reviewed, corrected, and restored to its primi
tive purity, the Hebrew Bible, and afterwards suffered martyrdom, at Nicomedia, under Maximinian.* A third was a priest of Jerusalem, who not only made a figure among the learned of his own age,† but, as Gesnerus observes, conveyed his reputation to posterity by the remains of his writings.
But none of this name has met with the general applause of so many ages, as Lucian the philosopher and eminent sophist, who was author of the following Dialogues, of whose birth, life, and death, I shall give you all I could collect of any certain and historical credit.
He had not the good fortune to be born of illustrious or wealthy parents, which give a man a very advantageous rise on his first appearance in the world; but the father of our Lucian laboured under so great a straitness of estate, that he was fain to put his son apprentice to a statuary, whose genius for the finer studies was so extraordinary and so rare; because he hoped from that business, not only a speedy supply to his own wants, but was secure that his education in that art would be much less expensive to him.
now a boy, of his own head, and without any instructor, make various figures in wax, he persuaded himself, that if he had a good master, he could not but arrive to an uncommon excellence in it.
But it happened, in the very beginning of his time, he broke a model, and was very severely called to account for it by his master. He, not liking this treatment, and having a soul and genius above any mechanic trade, ran away home.
After which, in his sleep, there appeared to him two young women, or rather the tutelar goddesses of the statuary art, and of the liberal sciences, hotly disputing of their preference to each other; and on a full hearing of both sides, he bids adieu to statuary, and entirely surrenders himself to the conduct of virtue and learning. And as his desires of improvement were great, and the instructions he had very good, the progress he made was as considerable, till, by the maturity of his age and his study, he made his appearance in the world..
Though it is not to be supposed, that there is any thing of reality in this dream, or vision, of Lucian, which he treats of in his works, yet this may be gathered from it,-that Lucian himself, having consulted his genius, and the nature of the study his father had allotted him, and that to which he found a propensity in himself, he quitted the former, and pursued the latter, choosing rather to form the minds of men than their
In his youth, he taught rhetoric in Gaul, and in several other places. He pleaded likewise at the bar in Antioch, the capital of Syria; but the noise of the bar disgusting, and his ill success in causes disheartening him, he quitted the practice of rhetoric and the law, and applied himself to writing.
He was forty years old, when he first took to philosophy. Having a mind to make himself known in Macedon, he took the opportunity of speaking in the public assembly of all that region. In his old age, he was received in the imperial family, and had the place of intendant of Egypt, after he had travelled through almost all the known countries of that age to improve his knowledge in men, mann ers, and arts; for some writers make this particular observation on his travel into Gaul, and residence in that country, that he gained there the greatest part of his knowledge in rhetoric, that region being in his age, and also before it, a nursery of eloothers, sufficiently witness.† quence and oratory, as Juvenal, Martial, and
* Procurator principis. Under Marcus Arelius. See Juv. Sat. i. 44; vii. 148; xv. 111. Quintil. lib. x. cap. 3.
The manner of his death is obscure to us, though it is most probable he died of the gout. Suidas alone tells a story of his being worried to death, and devoured by dogs, returning from a feast; which being so uncommon a death, so very improbable, and attested only by one author, has found little credit with posterity. If it be true, that he was once a Christian, and afterwards became a renegade to our belief, perhaps some zealots may have invented this tale of his death, as a just and signal punishment for his apostacy. All men are willing to have the miracle, or at least the wonderful providence, go on their side, and will be teaching God Almighty what he ought to do in this world, as well as in the next; as if they were proper judges of his decrees, and for what end he prospers some, or punishes others, in this life. Ablancourt, and our learned countryman Dr. Mayne, look on the story as a fiction: and, for my part, I can see no reason either to believe he ever professed Christianity, or, if he did, why he might not more probably die in his bed at so great an age as fourscore and ten, than be torn in pieces and devoured by dogs, when he was too feeble to defend himself. So early began the want of charity, the presumption of meddling with God's government, and the spirit of calumny, amongst the primitive believers.
Of his posterity we know nothing more, than that he left a son behind him, who was as much in favour with the Emperor Julian, as his father had been with Aurelius the philosopher. This son became in time a famous sophist; and among the works of Julian we find an epistle of that great person to him.
I find that I have mingled, before I was aware, some things which are doubtful with some which are certain; forced indeed by the narrowness of the subject, which affords very little of undisputed truth. Yet I find myself obliged to do right to Monsieur d'Ablancourt,§ who is not positively of opinion, that Suidas was the author of this fable; but rather that it descended to him by the tradition of former times, yet without any certain ground of truth. He concludes it, however, to be a calumny, perhaps a charitable kind of lie, to deter others from sati
Dr. Jasper Mayne, who published a translation of some select dialogues of Lucian, in folio, in 1664. + I follow Mr. Malone in reading might; the print
ed copy has must.
I This is a gross mistake, 180 years intervening between the death of Aurelius and the reign of Julian.
rizing the new dogmas of Christianity, by the judgment shown in Lucian. We find nothing in his writings, which gives any hint of his professing our belief; but being naturally curious, and living not only amongst Christians, but in the neighbourhood of Judea, he might reasonably be supposed to be knowing in our points of faith, without believing them. He ran a muck, and laid about him on all sides with more fury on the heathens, whose religion he professed; he s ruck at ours but casually, as it came in his way, rather than as he sought it; he contemned it too much to write in earnest against it.
§ Nicolas Perrot, Sieur d'Ablancourt, whose translation of the Dialogues of Lucian into French was first published at Paris in 1634. His continuation of the True History of Lucian is very much in the tone of the original.
We have indeed the highest probabilities for our revealed religion; arguments which will preponderate with a reasonable man, upon a long and careful disquisition; but I have always been of opinion, that we can demonstrate nothing, because the subject-matter is not capable of a demonstration. It is the particular grace of God, that any man believes the mysteries of faith; which I think a conclusive argument against the doctrine of persecution in any church. And though I am absolutely convinced, as I heartily thank God I am, not only of the general principles of Christianity, but of all truths necessary to salvation in the Roman church, yet I cannot but detest our inquisition, as it is practised in some foreign parts, particularly in Spain and in the Indies.
Those reasons, which are cogent to me, may not prevail with others, who bear the denomination of Christians; and those which are prevalent with all Christians, in regard of their birth and education, may find no force, when they are used against Mahometans or heathens. To instruct is a charitable duty; to compel, by threatenings and punishment, is the office of a hangman, and the principle of a tyrant.
But my zeal in a good cause, as I believe, has transported me beyond the limits of my subject. I was endeavouring to prove, that Lucian had never been a member of the Christian church; and methinks it makes for my opinion, that, in relating the death of Peregrinus, who, being born a Pagan, pretended afterwards to turn Christian, and turned himself publicly at the Olympic games, at his death professing himself a cynic philosopher, it seems, say, to me, that Lucian would not have so severely declaimed against this Proteus, (which was another of Peregrinus his names,) if he himself had been guilty of that apostacy.
I know not that this passage has been observed by any man before me ;* and yet in this
This observation had been made ny Gilbertas Cognatus, and by Thomas Hicks, in his life of Lucian, printed in 1634.-Malone.
very place it is, that this author has more severely handled our belief, and more at large, than in any other part of all his writings, excepting only the Dialogue of Triephon and Critias, wherein he lashes his own false gods with more severity than the true; and where the first Christians, with their cropped hair, their whining voices, melancholy faces, mournful discourses, and nasty habits, are described with a greater air of Calvinists or Quakers, than of Roman Catholics or Church-of-England mer.
After all, what if this discourse last mentioned, and the rest of the dialogues wherein the Christians are satirized, were none of Lucian's? The learned and ingenious Dr. Mayne, whom I have before cited, is of this opinion, and confirms it by the attestation of Philander, Obsobæus, Mycillus, and Cognatus, whom since I have not read, or two of them but very superficially, I refer you for the faith of his quotation to the authors themselves.†
The next supposition concerning Lucian's religion is, that he was of none at all. I doubt not but the same people, who broached the story of his being once a Christian, followed their blow upon him in this second accusation.
There are several sorts of Christians at this day reigning in the world, who will not allow any man to believe in the Son of God, whose other articles of faith are not in all things conformable to theirs. Some of these exercise this rigid and severe kind of charity, with a good intent of reducing several sects into one common church; but the spirit of others is evidently seen by their detraction, their malice, their spitting venom, their raising false reports of those who are not of their communion. I wish the ancientness of these censorious principles may be proved by better arguments, than by any near resemblance they have with the primitive believers. But till I am convinced that Lucian has been charged with atheism of old, I shall be apt to think that this accusation is very modern.
One of Lucian's translators pleads in his defence, that it was very improbable a man, who has laughed paganism out of doors, should believe no God; that he, who could point to the sepulchre of Jupiter in Crete, as well as our Tertullian, should be an atheist. But this argument, I confess, is of little weight to prove him a deist, only because he was no polytheist. He might as well believe in none as in many
Entitled "Philopatris." The Christian religion,
and its mysteries, are ridiculed in this piece with very little ceremony.
+ Gesner has written a long Latin essay upon this point, which is subjoined to the third volume of Lucian's works, in the quarto edition of Hemsterhucius.
gods: and on the other side, he might believe in many, as Julian did, and not in one. For my own part, I think it is not proved that either of them were apostates, though one of them, in hopes of an empire, might temporize, while Christianity was the mode at court. Neither is our author cleared any thing the more, because his writings have served, in the times of the heathens, to destroy that vain, unreasonable, and impious religion; that was an oblique service, which Lucian never intended us; for his business, like that of some modern polemics, was rather to pull down every thing, than to set up any thing. With what show of probability can I urge in his defence, that one of the greatest among the fathers has drawn whole homilies from our author's dialogues, since I know that Lucian made them not for that purpose? The occasional good which he has done, is not to be imputed to him. St. Chrysostom, St. Augustin, and many others, have applied his arguments on better motives than their author proposed to himself in framing them.
These reasons, therefore, as they make nothing against his being an atheist, so they prove nothing of his believing one God; but only leave him as they found him, and leave us in as great an obscurity concerning his religion as before. I may be as much mistaken in my opinion as these great men have been before me; and this is very probable, because I know less of him than they; yet I have read him over more than once, and therefore will presume to say, that I think him either one of the Electic school,* or else a Skeptic: I mean, that he either formed a body of philosophy for his own use, out of the opinions and dogmas of several heathen philosophers disagreeing amongst themselves, or that he doubted of every thing; weighed all opinions, and adhered to none of them; only used them as they served his occasion for the present dialogue, and perhaps rejected them in the next. And indeed this last opinion is the more probable of the two, if we consider the genius of the man, whose image we may clearly see in the glass which he holds before us of his writings, which reflects him to our sight.
Not to dwell on examples, with which his works are amply furnished, I will only mention two. In one, Socrates convinces his friend Cherephon of the power of the gods in transformations, and of a supreme Providence which accompanies that power in the administration of the world. In another, he confutes Jupiter, and pulls him down from heaven to earth, by his own Homerical chain; and makes him only a subser
* I follow Mr. Malone in reading electic for elective