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the modest requirements of the fashionable yet be arrested? If the mischievous examwives of the present day. In the entertaining ple which a few empty-headed and frivolous scene in the comedy from which we have al- leaders of fashion are setting is to be extenready quoted, the heroine is represented as sively followed, it would be better at once to stating the conditions on which alone she will adopt the French system outright. Let us consent to marry. She is to wear what she have its good as well as its evil. Let our pleases, to have her own friends, to remain young ladies be kept in strict retirement, un“sole empress of her tea-table.” The Milla- til marriage gives the signal for quitting it mants of the present day would certainly go forever. At all events, a long period would on to stipulate, like a dissipated housemaid, thus be secured for improving the mind and for an unlimited number of " followers. cultivating the habit of occupation. At presSo much more strait-laced and decorus is the ent, we seem to be combining what is vicious age in which we live than that in which the in both the English and the French etiquette prudish Mr. Congreve wrote.
for women. With us, they emerge from the Is it too late to hope that the tendency to hands of the governess far too soon and turn relax the safeguards with which in England to the real duties and responsibilities of marmarried life has been hitherto environed, may ried life far too late.
It has now become rather a common custom | to take the trouble of verifying the extracts, to for publishers, in sending about to the press see that they did represent the cheese ? copies of popular new books, to send also separately-printed sheets of healed extracts or titbits from these books, fit for quotation. A newspaper, receiving such a printed sheet, may, The subjoined document, which we have transwithout taking the trouble to have the book it ted as literally as possible out of its original self real, or even dipped into, clip out one of Latin, was issued a few days ago by the academthe tit-bits so marked and labelled by the pub- ical authorities of Jena :-“We have, indeed, lisher, and reprint it in its columns. We ob-heard before that those cannibals who in lands serve that some of the most respectable magazines of barbarism hunt black men like voracious have recently adopted this custom-sending round beasts, in order to catch them and put them in extracts froin themselves of convenient size, duly chains of slavery, set bloodhounds upon the fleeheaded with titles, and quoted from the so and ing ones; yet never have we heard of this, far so magazine of such a month, so that editors and less have we seen it with our own eyes, that, in sub-editors, in search of padding, may be tempted zones of culture, a man with sound sense sets his to use them. Probably there is nothing really dog upon the people as upon wild animals. That wrong in such a custom. It is only a new devel- a sensible man devoted to learning should be caopment of the advertising system. A few bricks pable of such a dced, of this thou hast convinced are sent round as specimens of the new house. us, thou Ferdinand Kundert of Riga, student of It is virtually suid to the editor or sub-editor, economy ; for thou hast—one is ashamed to say “ We know you have no time to read the volume it-set suddenly, like a butcher, thy collossal dog itself, or to form an opinion of it ; but here are —and what a bull dog !-upon tender girls of the a few little bits from it ; if you find it convenient age of fourteen, and upon old shaky matrons to quote one of them, we shall be much obliged (Mutterchen), and this in the open place, in the to you ; and this will not commit you to any full light of the day! In just punishment for this opinion.” There is no harm in this, any more cruel barbarity we therefore rusticate thee beyond than in selling goods by gratis simples. We are the precincts of this city of Jena for the term of not sure, however, but it may interfere with criti- two full years.-G. Stickel, Prorector, pro tem.” cism. A critic who makes extracts ought to select what strikes himself in a book ; and even that low kind of criticism which consists in mere book-tasting my cease to be trustworthy book It was stated some time ago in The American tasting, if bits are provided for the critic, already Publishers' Circular that Mr. Spurgeon receives cut out for him. To be sure, this may be said in about one thousand pounds annually from Amerdefenoe-that, whether the critic uses the tasting- ica for the reprint of his sermons. Mr. Spurscoop himself, or has bits placed before him geon now contradicts this assertion, saying he without th it trouble, the bits are equally out of would feel “mightily obliged ” if said publishers the same cheese. But what if even this cer- would only send him a thousand pence per antainty were to cease, and the critic should have num.
From The Cornhill Magazine. skepticism, to history, has yet to be made ; it WAS NERO A MONSTER?
will be fruitful in results. Niebuhr changed IF, as is not improbable, the title of this the whole aspect of Roman history by simply essay should mislead readers into the notion discriminating its mythological elements. that a playful paradox is about to be pre- But Niebuhr, keen-sighted among texts, and sented, they are begged to discard that sug- familiar with mythology, was as obtuse as his gestion at once, and to believe that my pur- predecessors in all that related to psychology; pose is entirely serious. Indeed, one may and not being versed in science, was unable consider it a proof of the imperfect condition to detect fictions which any scientific skeptic of historical science that such a title should would at once expose. I say scientific skeptic, for a moment wear the aspect of a grim jest. because, as will presently appear, the mere At any rate, let me declare that nothing can possession of knowledge does not suffice to be further removed from the spirit of this es- shake off that lethargy of credulity which say than the playful irony which would paint oppresses the faculties of men whenever they the mansuetude of one on whose name rests pass beyond the laboratory into the wide universal execration, or than the dialectical spaces of history. They forget the lessons sophistry which wonld extenuate crimes un- they have so laboriously learned, and so sedtil they almost wore the air of virtues. That ulously practised ; they unhesitatingly accept Nero was an exemplary son, a loving husband, as evidence respecting a character or an event, a sagacions statesman, or a reputable empe- statements which, if offered respecting a pheror, I altogether disbelieve ; indeed one can- nomenon or a cause, would be subjected to a not resist the impression that he was a vain, rigid scrutiny and vigilant verification. dissolute, contemptible, and miserable man, There is nothing on which the generality not without good qualities, but with many of mankind, even the cultivated, need instrucvices, and placed in a situation where his tion more than on what constitutes evidence. vices must have been fearfully fostered. He In science we are forced to be vigilant. In may have been a monster little better than his jurisprudence the keen interests of contending fame. I do not know that he was ; I do not intellects fix attention upon every fact or semeven suspect that he was; but what I do blance of a fact. But in most other departknow—with all the certainty possible in such ments our supineness is wonderful ; and hisa case—is, that in support of the capital torians have been especially remarkable for charges against him, charges universally ac- throwing all their ingenuity into the concepted without question, there is not for a struction of inferences and the accumulation rational inquisitive mind any evidence what- of probabilities, instead of first carefully ascer
taining whether the “ facts” themselves were This is a paradox which challenges the at- not worthless. Positive statements exercise tention of all who interest themselves in a sort of fascination over the mind, coercing history ; a paradox the true, and not the its assent; and what is once positively aspopular sense of the word, namely, in the serted often takes place unchallenged as hissense of a statement which is at variance with torical fact. I have been made sensible of the dominant opinion, though not in itself at this lately by having, for a special purpose, variance with reason. There may be some to read the Roman historians. The picture thing, at first, to raise the rcader's misgiving they have painted of the empire is so remarkwhen he hears that a reputation so loaded able an example of the unreflecting credulity with iníamy as never yet to have found an with which history is mostly written, that I apologist, rests upon charges which not only have resolved to take the character of Nero ought to have awakened skepticism by their as an illustration of what would result if men very enormity and self-contradictions, but began seriously to investigate the evidence prove, on close inspection, to be utterly in on which the mass of traditional opinions is defiance of all credit, and without even a founded. semblance of warranty; yet the proof of such The evidence, and that alone, will claim assertions is by no means difficult.
attention here; nothing will be attempted in Many revolutions in our historical appre- the way of extenuation, or apology. The ciations have already taken place. The ap- admirers of Lord: Bacon explain his conduct plication of science, and above all of scientific towards Essex, and his corruption on the
bench, by adducing extenuating circumstances And why did not Seneca and Burrhus, when which may, or may not, mitigate the verdict condemned to death, avenge themselves on passed upon the acts; but no advocate denies Nero by revealing what they are supposed to the facts, however he may interpret them. have known so well? It is certain that Not thus will the character of Nero be dis- stories circulated at Rome respecting Nero, cussed. It is on the acts themselves, and not both in his lifetime and for years afterwards ; on their interpretation, that skepticism will but before we believe such stories we must rest. It is the crimes themselves which will demand that at least some authenticity better be shown as unworthy of a place among his than that of gossip be shown to belong to torical facts. Whether Nero were on a level them ; we must ask who vouches for their with the moral standard of his age, or miser- truth, and what were his means of knowing ably below that standard, is beside my pres- it. ent purpose ; I simply mean to show that Suetonius, Tacitus, and the Greek, Dion there is no evidence for the crimes of which Cassius, are the three historians cited as withe is accused.
nesses against Nero. What credit can they In order to keep this essay within the re- claim ? Suetonius, from whom the worst quisite limits, only the four chief crimes im- stories proceed, was not born till many years puted to him will be noticed. If it can be after Nero's death, and did not write until shown that the murder of Britannicus, the some forty years after the events. Tacitus murder of his mother, the burning of Rome, was six years old when Nero died, and wrote and the murder of his wife, the chief acts on many years after the events. Dion Cassius which rests the infamy of his name, are in all lived some hundred and fifty years later. Let respects unworthy of credence, the evidence us ask what would be the credibility of hisbeing sometimes even childish in its absurdity, torians writing about Cromwell long after there will be no need to investigate the minor the Protectorate had been destroyed, and charges. To show this, I shall require no with nothing but the rumors current in roycaptious subtlety ; nor will it be necessary to alist circles to furnish the facts ; in such nardemand from history the rigorous verification ratives what sort of figure would that heroic demanded in science. It will be enough to man present ? Fortunately for his fame be invoke the common sense of an ordinary jury. left a party. Grave and thoughtful men preI shall let the witnesses tell their own story, served traditions and records which rescued and shall merely request the jury to appreci- him from the vindictive accusations of his ate its probability.
enemies. Nero left no defenders. He died Let us first call the witnesses. They are after having estranged the Romans. Those three writers who lived long after the recorded whom he had thwarted, those whom he had events occurred, and who drew their contra- neglected, those whom he had outraged surdictory records from the gossip of Rome. For vived to slander him, and greedy gossip caught most public acts it is probable that they had up every story without fear of reproof. That authentic documents, but for the private Tacitus and Suetonius heard and believed acts of individuals, and the motives which ac- stories of the bad emperor, is no evidence to tuated these individuals, there were no docu- us that such stories were true; and when we ments whatever ; at any rate none which can pass from this general skepticism to particube authenticated. It is especially noticeable lar investigation, we find that even had the that no contemporary actor in these scenes historians been contemporaries and senators comes forward with his direct testimony; their evidence (in respect to the crimes we nor, indeed, is any one invoked by name as a shall consider) would be worthless. For, in witness. It is also noticeable that long after the first place, we find these writers self-conthe imputed crimes had been committed Nero demned as untrustworthy witnesses, unless was eminently popular both with people and when their statements admit of confirmation ; senate. Three
years after the imputed mat- and, in the second place, we find them testifyricide, the stern and virtuous Thraseas could ing to that which is preposterous, when not speak with praise of Nero and his Govern- flagrantly false, testifying to things which ment. Fear may have suppressed contempo- they could not have known, and things which rary accusations. But when the tyrant was could not have happened. dead why did not the accusers come forward ? | Although by reading of Tacitus and Sueto
nius has not impressed me with respect for torians imagine, make the truth of the charges
rian calls upon us to accept as grave facts. Britannicus died suddenly. This is a fact, This vice is so deeply rooted in all history that the notoriety of which removes it beyond skep- there is scarcely one writer who is conscious of ticism. That he was murdered, is an infer- writing pure fiction, when he explains an event ence, and one which we shall presently see by imagining who may have been its prime reason to discredit altogether. That his death movers, and what may have been their mowas suspected-nay, believed—to have been tives. In a court of law this would be held caused by poison, and that Nero was suspected as childish. In a private circle, when the of being the poisoner, are also notorious facts; character of a friend was involved, it would but these suspicions do not convert what is be instantly and indignantly repudiated. mere inference into fact--they do not as his- But the fiction which would not impose upon
* It is needless to cite cases ; some of them, in- a jury, or grain credence in private, is redeed, cannot be spoken of in English ; but any one ceived without hesitation whem palmed off as curious to measure the credulity of these writers may history. turn to Tacitus, Annales, lib. xiii. c. 13 and 17, and Suetonius, in Nerone, c. 28. The story of the soldier So much for the testimony of the historians whose hands fell from his arms and clung to the fag- in general. I now pass to the appreciation gots, owing to the intense cold. (Tacit. xiii. c. 35), of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dion Cassius when and various miracles and prodigies gravely narrated, belong to the general credulity of the age.
narrating the crimes of Nero; and my first
appeal shall be to science. Poisoning plays is doubly interesting. It is one of the most a great part in all ancient annals, and natu- • notorious" of murders ; and has, I berally we meet with it in the charges against lieve, never until this day found any one to Nero. The ignorance of ancient writers ex- question it since Tacitus and Suetonius first cube8 statements which in our days would be circumstantially related the details. Yet a inexcusable; 'but their credulity is no excuse verdict more flagrantly in defiance of comfor ours; what they believed, we ought to mon sense and science has seldom been given. have seen at once to be incredible. In the Nero, we are told, hated Britannicus because Middle Ages, when an epidemic raged, it was of his sweet voice, and feared him as a possiusually asserted that the Jews had poisoned ble pretender to the throne. Here are the the wells. When a king, or eminent person, motives imagined ; let us now see them in died suddenly without ostensible cause, a sug- operation. The tyrant, we are told, ungestion of poison naturally arose to explain able to bring any accusation against him the death. We are slower in making such (which in those days of conspiracy was surely accusations now; not because poisoning has strange), secretly resolved to murder him; become less frequent, but because the public and this secret resolve becomes known to the has become more enlightened. Yct-and the narrators, but how they gained the knowlremark is curious — our enlightenment is edge is not mentioned. It was confided to rarely brought to bear upon the past; and Julius Pollio, tribune of a prætorian cohort, we suffer statements respecting historical per- who at that moment held in prison, under song to pass unchallenged which if advanced sentence of death, Locusta, notorious for hor respecting contemporaries would excite con- crimes—multa scelerum fama. She was ortempt. No physiologist of the present day dered to prepare a poison; this poison was would listen without a smile to people who administered to Britannicus; but it was too assured him that Louis Napoleon preserved slow in its operation; and Nero, sending for himself by antidotes against attempts at poi- her, beat her, and vowed that she had supsoning; it would be as easy to believe in the plicd an antidote. Whereupon she prepared virtue of amulets. Yet even physiologists before his own eyes, and in his own room, a read statements of this nature in history deadly poison, the strength of which was eswith passive acquiescence, owing to that sayed on a pig, whose instant death satisfied lethargy of credulity which, as I have said, Nero that now he had got what he desired! comes over them when they are listening to The banquet was prepared. Britannicus narratives of the past. Thus, to cite but was seated at a separate table magnificently .one example, in an elaborate treatise on served, in presence of his relatives and sevpoisons,* by one of the first toxicologists of eral young nobles. A slave stood at his side our day, may be found repeated the non- | to taste of every dish and every beverage, as sense of Tacitus and Suetonius about Lo- a precaution against poison; and this slave custa (hereafter to be exhibited), without a it was necessary to spare, otherwise his death, hint of its being incredible, without a re- occurring at the same time, would betray the mark on its contradiction to all scientific murder. To avoid this betrayal the followknowledge. Had I sufficient leisure I would ing expedient was imagined. A beverage was collect together some of the most famous presented to Britannicus, after having been cases of poisoning recorded in history, and been tasted too hot to be drunk; to cool it, convict them of manifest falsehood from the a little cold water was poured in, and this very details circumstantially narrated ; just cold water contained the poison. No sooner as one may dissipate such fables as those of had the prince tasted it than he fell lifeless. Caligula and Cleopatra, who are said to have The guests were alarmed; some rose to fly; shown their reckless extravagance by dissolv- but those who clearly understood it all sat ing in their wine pearls of great price, by still their eyes fixed on Nero, who quietly assimply mentioning the fact that pearls are sured them that it was only an attack of the not soluble in wine.
epileptic fits to which Britannicus was subBut for the present we have only to deal ject, and that it would soon be over. • After with the poisoning of Britannicus. The case a while the gayety of the banquet was re
* Van Hasselt : Handbuch der Giftlehre, aus dem sumed : post breve silentium repetita convivä Hollandischen von J. B. Henke. 1862.
lætitia." Britannicus was hastily buried the