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curtain falls amidst an unanimous roar of applause. The Whigs of the Kit Cat' embrace the author, and assure him that he has rendered an inestimable service to liberty. The Tory secretary of state presents a purse to the chief actor for defending the cause of liberty so well. The history of that night was, in miniature, the history of two generations.
We well know how much sophistry there was in the reasonings, and how much exaggeration in the declamations of both parties. But when we compare the state in which political science was at the close of the reign of George the Second, with the state in which it had been when James the Second came to the throne, it is impossible not to admit that a prodigious improvement had taken place. We are no admirers of the political doctrines laid down in Blackstone's Commentaries. But if we consider that those Commentaries were read with great applause in the very schools where, within the memory of some persons then living, books had been publicly burned by order of the University of Oxford, for containing the damnable doctrine,' that the English monarchy is limited and mixed, we cannot deny that a salutary change had taken place. The Jesuits,' says Pascal, in the last of his incomparable letters, have obtained a Papal decree, con'demning Galileo's doctrine about the motion of the earth. It is all in vain. If the world is really turning round, all mankind 'together will not be able to keep it from turning, or to keep themselves from turning with it.' The decrees of Oxford were as ineffectual to stay the great moral and political revolution, as those of the Vatican to stay the motion of our globe. That learned University found itself not only unable to keep the mass from moving, but unable to keep itself from moving along with the mass. Nor was the effect of the discussions and speculations of that period confined to our own country. While the Jacobite party was in the last dotage and weakness of its paralytic old age, the political philosophy of England began to produce a mighty effect on France, and, through France, on Europe.
Here another vast field opens itself before us. But we must resolutely turn away from it. We will conclude, by earnestly advising all our readers to study Sir James Mackintosh's invaluable Fragment; and by expressing the satisfaction we have received from learning, since this article was written, that the intelligent publishers of the volume before us have resolved to reprint the Fragment in a separate form, without those accompaniments which have hitherto impeded its circulation. The resolution is as creditable to them as the publication is sure to be acceptable to the lovers of English History.
ART. II.-The Acharnenses of Aristophanes, with Notes Critical and Explanatory, adapted to the Use of Schools and Universities. By T. MITCHELL, A.M. 8vo. London : 1835.
ARISTOPHANES is much obliged to Mr Mitchell. Until this
accomplished gentleman took up the cause of the old Greek Comedy, we believe that a majority even of literary persons amongst us were content to think of it according to the fashion of those egregious judges of antiquity-the French. Rapin abused Aristophanes for the sake of exalting his frequent imitator, Molière; Brumoy, followed by Rollin, undervalued him; Bayle, with no little ingenuity, contrived to give him the slip; so did Du Bos; and Madame Dacier misunderstood while she translated and praised him. Buffoonery and insolence were the softest terms applied to his character by Boileau; few, who began to read one of his plays, although with the advantage of a lady's version, could finish the task, said Perrault; he had all the vices of his audience in addition to his own, he was satirical from malevolence, obscene from corruption of manners, impious upon principle, and insane in his very gaiety, cried Batteux; Barthelemy halted between two opinions; and Voltaire, in the plenitude of his fearless ignorance, pronounced him to be a comic poet who was neither comical nor poetical. On our side of the Channel these signals were repeated-with equal injustice or equal inefficiency. Addison shut his eyes; Cumberland and Fielding made but a slight impression in favour of an author, who had been persecuted since the days of Plutarch; Johnson was content to give Brumoy in English; Beattie gravely condemned; Wakefield pronounced his comedies unreadable, and put Plato in the same category; Blair stumbled in the dark and hit at random. Porson himself, in 1783, though he speaks of Aristophanes with genial warmth, seems to look for no sympathy. He did not mend the fortunes of his favourite, who was still commonly rated as an indecent jester, the scribbler of certain monstrous farces, that had imposed upon Attic taste. At last, though some traces of this deplorable want of knowledge and discrimination linger in various quarters, the general estimate of his excellencies has risen immensely. Fifteen years ago the Examining Masters of Oxford stared at any ambitious youth who brought Aristophanes into the schools; now, we understand, his plays are not unfrequently introduced into the list submitted by a candidate for honours; and more than one edition of them has recently sweated beneath the press of that University. And, albeit it has been urged, on our own side of the Tweed, that
this poetscruples not to offend by gross obscenity, indelicate 'expressions, and even puns and quibbles,' we know that the tone of the critique, from which we quote this curious anticlimax, has not been universally adopted in our seats of learning.*
For much of the wholesome change of sentiment, here noticed, Aristophanes, we say again, must thank the rare ability and elegant scholarship lavished on his works by one who, it is pleasant to add, seems as fresh and zealous as ever in the service. În 1820, Mr Mitchell made his first appearance as a commentator and translator, and was welcomed by us not the less cordially and gratefully, because with some of his reasonings, and a main portion of his historic theory, we felt ourselves constrained to differ. The second part of his poetical version, published in 1822, bore testimony, in more than one way, to the spirit of reciprocal goodwill in which our remarks had been received. In the present volume, he assumes the new capacity of editor; but continues to exhibit the same energy, the same originality, the same large fund of available erudition, that formerly challenged applause, and that will now confine us, where it may be necessary to express dissent at all, within the courtesies of a sincerely amicable controversy.
If any modification of opinion has been wrought in us with respect to some points involved in the former discussion, the merit of the Ancient Comedy, and of its great master, is not one of them. An acquaintance with this department of Attic literature we still hold to be absolutely indispensable to all who desire to have a thorough knowledge of the Athenian Mind, or of the many-coloured dialect, in which that Mind was so faithfully imaged. And, as to Aristophanes himself, our appetite has only grown with what it fed on. His ever-shifting beauty and grace, his prodigal fancy, his exhaustless humour, his vigorous eloquence, become more delightful the oftener they are enjoyed; richly repaying the slight pains that are necessary to conquer the difficulties of his phraseology, and the more elaborate researches that must furnish a key to the meaning of his by-play and the infinite variety of his allusions.
In the perusal of this valuable and fascinating author, the student will derive material assistance from the completion of Mr Mitchell's present design. He has begun, chronologically, with the Acharnians, the comedy with which he before commenced his translation; and we rather regret to learn, from the announcement of the Wasps as the next to be looked for, that the chrono
*See, for example, the last note in Mr Mitchell's Addenda, p. 275.
logical order, which, from their intimate unbroken connexion with contemporaneous history, is as important for the full appreciation of these dramas, as for that of the speeches of Demosthenes, will not be preserved. We doubt whether any benefit, to be gained from an early elucidation of the judicial procedure of Athens, can counterbalance the loss of such a principle of arrangement; though, as far as the editor's chief purpose is concerned, the plays, taken in whatever succession he may think most convenient, will yield him abundant scope and means for its accomplishment.
That purpose is evidently' twofold. The introductions, and many of the notes to each volume, will be so framed as to support a particular system of opinions, which Mr Mitchell has long, and, we believe, most conscientiously cherished. In these, the aim will be to fit out and furbish up a pair of mental spectacles, through which the reader is invited to view the constitution, the literature, the philosophy, the morals, and the politics of that celebrated city, the capital of a district not exceeding 720 square miles-for such, and no more, was the extent of Attica-with a population of some 527,000 souls-for such was the total number at the census of Demetrius Phalereus,* and nearly four-fifths of that number were slaves-on whose counsels and conduct, twenty-three centuries ago, as far as we can fathom the great problems of history, the destinies of the civilized world have been caused to turn. While such is one object of the edition now begun and an object whose importance will be underrated by those alone who echo the flippant remark of Lord Byron, that of the ancient Greeks we already know more than enough'— the second purpose is, by a full measure of commentary, and a liberal supply of passages, in any manner connected with the text, to clear up every obscurity, and surround the graces of the Aristophanic style with a blaze of critical illustration. In the remarks which we intend to offer, the division of topics, naturally suggested by a consideration of this double design, shall be adhered to.
No one is no one that has penetrated beneath the mere surface of ancient records-can be blind to the follies, the vices, and the crimes of Athens. Much is there for the lover of his kind to mourn over-much for the moralist to reprobate-in the details. of both her domestic policy and her federal relations. Blessings of priceless worth, in the wantonness of prosperity, she flung away; opportunities of conferring incalculable benefits she foully
* B. C. 317.
abosed. The Indian warrior believes himself to become endowed with the qualities of a fallen enemy. Athens realized this dream of superstition. After all her immortal struggles against eppression, she became an oppressor. Lesser states beheld in her a copy-we will not say an exaggerated copy of the tyranny she had baffed. Nor was she more unjust to her dependents than to herself—more pernicious to their repose and happiness than to her own. The noblest of her citizens driven from her boundaries: the best of her institutions undermined; the humours et a giny populace: the influence of their miscreant leaders, such as in every age, have coined the misery and degradation of vàole communities into gold for their own coffers; these things are written over the Athenian annais in characters not hard to decipher. Mr Mitchell, and those with whom he sides, have a strong case against the illustrious republic. But do they not press their case a little too hard? do they not argue it occasionally with rather more skill than fairness? and do they not shut their eyes too obstinately against that brighter aspect, which, in some lights at least, the picture seems to wear? To hate Athens, and to make her look hateful, are easy enough. Only ring the changes upon democracy, demagogues, ostracism, sycophancy,* and the work is done. But more of wisdom, perhaps of the true wisdom of charity-would be shown in pointing out the many palations of her conduct, and the splendid results of her system for results of her system, in a great degree, they unquestionably were that rank as an eternal debt, never to be discharged by the latest posterity. There stands her imperishable literature; there linger the fragments of her inimitable art. Was there nothing good about a people, nothing precious in the working of a constitution, that could produce such fruits as these ?
Mr Mitchell can do ample justice when he pleases. In that glorious struggle,' says he, in his eloquent Introduction, which freed her for ever from the yoke of Persia, almost the whole ⚫ praise lies on the side of Athens. The courage which she displayed in that awful contest, forms but the least part of her credit. Whatever is wise in purpose, noble in execution, and ⚫ disinterested in sacrifice, rested with her. The page of history presents nothing so grand as that conference in which, previous to the invasion of their country by Mardonius, the Athenians ' explained to the King of Macedon on one side, and the Lace
In the classical sense of the term. Informers have been obnoxious at all times.