Page images
PDF
EPUB

.

character of events from those whose business it is to know and direct them. Sentiment and policy are inseparable; and according as the sentiment is pure and just, or vicious and unsound, is the policy, under tolerably equal conditions of general intelligence, likely to be wise or foolish.

Emotional and impulsive statesmanship is often contrasted with the self-possession and solidity which should belong to a politician ; and instances are sometimes sought in the head of the late Government and in one of the leading members of Lord Beaconsfield's Cabinet. Professor Bain, without of course any personal application, has found an analogy to these contrasted dispositions in the animal world. “There is a class,” he says, “ of especially excitable temperaments, like the horse; and a class that resist excitement, after the fashion of the other animal named." The animal Professor Bain has named in a previous sentence is, we cannot blink it, the ass. “One

“ explanation of the difference is the degree of development of the sensitive and emotional regions of the mind; the higher modes laying the person open to the full force of influence from without, the lower transmitting the influence in an abated form.” According to some authorities, the quadruped which Mr. Bain contrasts with the horse is the type of political wisdom. They prefer the surefooted, if it be slow-paced, statesmanship of Lord Derby, especially in passing along the mountain tracks and by the precipices of a difficult foreign policy, to the keener impulses and quicker movements of Mr. Gladstone. Along a beaten path, and under good guidance, the preference may perhaps be justifiable ; but when the way

is lost and the rein has to be thrown on the neck of the animal, and speed is needed, the higher intelligence and keener impulse are perhaps desirable. The notion that a sensitive temperament, that is to say, a temperament keenly and delicately apprehensive, is dangerous, is a complaint against promptitude, fineness, and exactitude of perception. The more delicate and precise the instrument, the less, it seems, is it to be trusted. There is, perhaps, a sense in which a well-known doctrine of the late Sir William Hamilton in regard to external perception is true of purely intellectual and moral discernment. He lays it down as a law that though sensation is necessary to perception, yet above a certain point the stronger the sensation the weaker the perception. “If,” to use his own words, “ the affection be too strong, the pain or pleasure too intense, the light blinds by its very splendour, and the perception is lost in the sensation.” Of course, however, all this is relative; and the light which might blind the weaker organs of a bat or an owl, simply gives the proper stimulus to the vision of creatures that live in daylight; to say nothing of the eagle, which fronts the sun with open eye. The emotional susceptibility which would be excessive in a weak nature, which would disturb a feeble

a

[blocks in formation]

intelligence, and dissolve a languid temperament in indolent selfindulgence of its own feelings, may yet be held in its proper subjection by an active temperament, a strong will, and a persistent purpose. Burke was, if you choose to call him so, a sentimental politician; that is to say, he was a statesman capable of the strongest emotions and of urgent impulses. He was sensitive, and some of his declamation was what colder-blooded men might call hysterical. But his magnificent intellect, his indomitable energies, and his steady and persistent force of will, made docile servants of the gifts which, in a weaker nature, would have been capricious masters. To take a more recent instance which will be in everybody's thoughts, when Mr. Gladstone is described as a sensitive, emotional, impulsive statesman, it is necessary to ask whether these epithets are meant to imply want of physical and moral energy, of persistent purpose, of

,

, mental power ?

Is it meant that the emotions overcome in him the intellect and the will? that he is not pre-eminently, among the statesmen of the last half century, the man of business and affairs ? If this is not meant—and it is not meant, though it may sometimes be said—the criticism of his policy and career which is based upon it falls to the ground. If it is meant, his whole public life and all the details of his more private pursuits which creep into publicity contradict it. Mr. Gladstone is really one of the most remarkable types, not of the emotional but of the energetic temperament, in which the forces of a strong physical and moral nature are put into action which might be dangerous, unless it were directed by an intellect of corresponding power to ends which recommend themselves to generous emotions and right moral feeling. Life depends on combustion, the physiologists tell us. With Mr. Gladstone the whole nature is on fire; fervet opus. In Lord Derby's case, the want of this element of impulse and emotion deprives his judgment of the materials necessary to a sound estimate of any question into which the passions and aspirations of mankind enter. Lord Beaconsfield's career has been marked, not only by persistency of purpose, but by a certain impulsiveness and sensitiveness at any rate of imagination. The misfortune has been that in him an active and resolute nature has not been swayed by deeply-seated moral convictions to worthy ends. Lord Derby, unemotional and steady, has plodded on in the road marked by the imprint of a long train of predecessors. Lord Beaconsfield's impulses, unswayed by large and humane sentiment, and uncontrolled by a pervading moral purpose, have often spent themselves in ludicrous and fantastic gambols and tricks, which remind the beholder of that arboreal animal in which the Darwinian philosophy sees the origin of man.

FRANK H. Hill.

.

CICERO AS A MAN OF LETTERS.

[ocr errors]

That pre-eminence of glory which Cicero hardly achieved as a statesman and a patriot,--hardly achieved though he had fully deserved it,—he amply enjoys as a man of letters. He has been a model to all who have come after him, not only in style, but in thought,—and, as in the arrangement of words, so also in the arrangement of ideas. He has taught all men of letters how the weight of serious subjects may be lightened by the beauty of language, and how dignity may be lent even to our pleasantries by the choice of phrases in expressing them. His ear was so perfect that he may be said to have created euphony in prose for all time to come; and his industry was so exacting that he has laid down for the use of others the laws by which he obtained his success.

All this was as manifest to those who came soon after him as it is to us. Livy said, that to write Latin well one must write like Cicero; and Quintilian, the greatest of Latin critics, repeated to us what Livy had asserted." As in the former paper which appeared in these pages I endeavoured to vindicate Cicero's character as a patriot and a statesman, so shall I endeavour here to point out the nature of the merits on which his literary triumph has been founded.

We must divide Cicero's literature into that which was spoken and heard, and that which was written that it might be read. Though much of his work has been lost in the darkness of intermediate centuries, very much has been preserved both of the one kind and the other. We cannot now hear his tones, which we know to have been powerful, musical, and capable of all inflexions ;—but we can read his speeches with something of the feeling of the eloquence with which they were delivered. They produce on our ears the ring of a clear manly voice, which our imagination creates for itself out of the harmony of the words as they follow each other. We become indignant as he was indignant, suppliant as he was suppliant, rising as he rose to heights of patriotism, or even sinking as he would sink to arguments which we know to have been unjust, but which we feel to have been convincing

That which he wrote that it might be read has to be divided under various heads. He began with poetry, as to which I need not say much, but will venture to say something. His treatises on Rhetoric are I think always printed first in his collected works, because two

(1) Quintilian, Lib. II. C. v. Cicero, ut mihi quidem videtur, et jucundus incipientibus quoque, et apertus est satis, nec prodesse tantum, sed etium amari potest ; tum, quemadmodum Livius præcipet, ut quisque erit Ciceroni simillimus.

of them are the earliest in date of the prose writings ascribed to him. His speeches are published next, of which a portion were not spoken or intended to be spoken ; but were written only that they might be read. Such was the case with the five latter Verrine orations, and with the second Philippic. Portions also of other speeches as they have come down to us were not spoken. Those which we have extend over a period of thirty-eight years,—from the twenty-sixth of his age, B.C. 81, to the sixty-fourth of his age, B.C. 43, which was the year of his death. Then come his letters, divided generally into two parts, those to Atticus, and those to his “ familiar friends,"-50called. But, as of all his friends Atticus was the dearest and most intimate, the name perhaps might lead to error. Though generally separated, they have also been published chronologically, the one set mixed with the other; and they may be read with most advantage in this manner.

Of Cicero's prose works, a fourth division is entitled his Philosophy ;—so that there are four, his Rhetoric, his Speeches, his Letters, and his Philosophy. But under this last name are combined treatises with which the word Philosophy, either in its old Greek sense, or in that which we now generally give to it, has little or no connection. These treatises do, indeed, deal at great length with the old philosophy of the various Greek schools, but they also treat of moral conduct, of politics, ---meaning the government of states, of laws, and of religious observances. Were we to call Lord Chesterfield's letters to his son a work on Philosophy, the misnomer would hardly be more thorough than that we make in giving the name to Cicero's De Officiis. This essay is doubtless “philosophical” in the highest degree,—if we choose to go back to what may be the truest sense of the word. It contains much wisdom;-but that is not the idea which the word Philosophy conveys to us.

I will take our author's speeches first, travelling in this way somewhat out of the established order, because, as I have said, they belong to a different mode of expression from the works which were written for the closet, and because among the various badges of merit which he has received, that which has come to him as an orator is the brightest, or at any rate the best known. Something as to these I have already said when pleading for Cicero's patriotism. not possible to tell anything of the story either of Verres, or of Catiline, or of Antony, without alluding to the Verrine, Catiline, and Philippic orations. But there is a whole world of interest in

. these speeches, independent of the heart-breaking politics of the time. The manners, customs, laws, and awful wickedness of the Romans are laid bare, more openly than even in his letters or his essays. But it is to be remembered always that these Orations were made with the object of persuading rather than of teaching. In Cicero's mind was implanted, as the root of an oak beneath the soil, that duty

It was

of an advocate,-which some of our own great lawyers have supposed to override all other duties, the duty of making his case the better case, with reason and truth if the case permitted; against reason and truth, if the case could only be so handled. There were moments in which the orator's power was so great that he seems to have overwhelmed all obstacles as with a torrent, whether speaking in the Courts as an advocate, in the Senate as a legislator, or out before the people as a demagogue. He made it impossible for Hortensius even to defend his friend Verres. He drove Catiline out of Rome as with flaming swords. He persuaded the populace to abandon the quest of those lands which their darling Tribunes had offered to them. But it is in the Philippics that he best shows his courage as an orator. The first is comparatively mild. The second, which is noted for its vehemence, was never intended to be spoken, and cannot therefore be quoted as an example of his eloquence; but with the third and fourth, which were spoken on the same day, the one in the Senate and the other to the people, the torrent and the thunder commenced. They were so powerful that they almost restored life to an effete Senate, and roused the populace to the vehemence of their last passionate cries for liberty and country. We are told that Cicero was never a successful politician but for a moment or two. I do not know whether great efforts almost achieving divine results,-failing, but just failing, to reach the impossible,—are not more attractive than assured success with its loud blasts of triumphant discord. Cicero had become old and miserable. He had seen all that was admirable to him in his country sink gradually beneath the violence of would-be tyrants. He had, for a time, almost lost his public influence. His daughter was dead, his old wife had been divorced, his property had been dissipated, his brother and his brother's son had turned against him, in the last year or two he had striven to fill his mind and to divert his thoughts from the coming ruin by literary efforts which he made as difficult to himself as possible, in order that the diversion might be the more thorough. He was waiting for death among his books. Then Cæsar was slain, and there seemed again to be room for hope,—not for himself, but for his country. We hear of a light expiring in the socket with a last effort to illuminate. There never was such a last effort as these fourteen Philippics. He thundered at Antony, who was the foe of the moment, who was then the one enemy whom he and Rome had to dread, till he himself believed that success was coming, till he makes the reader, who, of course, now knows the sad result, almost believe that success must have come.

And in much he was successful. He could not fight himself, but he did instigate his Romans to fight. He forced the two Consuls of the day to do battle against the man whom he hated with all his heart,

« EelmineJätka »