Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

CICERO.

[ocr errors]

In drawing attention to a great question of whatsoever nature connected with Cicero, there is no danger of missing our purpose through any want of reputed

interest in the subject. Nominally, it is not easy to assign a period more eventful, a revolution more important, or a personal career more dramatic, than that period — that revolution — that career, which, with almost equal right, we may describe as all essentially Ciceronian, by the quality of the interest which they excite. For the age, it was fruitful in great -men; but amongst them all, if we except the sublime ' Julian leader, none as regards splendor of endow. **ments stood upon the same level as Cicero. For the revolution, it was that unique event which brought ancient civilization into contact and commerce with modern : since if we figure the two worlds of Pagan. ism and Christianity under the idea of two great continents, it is through the isthmus of Rome imperialized that the one was virtually communicated with the other. Civil law and Christianity, the two central forces of modern civilization, were upon that isthmus of time ripened into potent establishments.

And VOL. II.

1

[ocr errors]

.

.

*

through those two establishments, combined with the
antique literature, as through so naviy organs : af.
metempsychosis, did the pagan world pass onwards,
whatever portion of its own life was fitted for surs:
viving, its own peculiar formis. Yet, in a revolution
thus unexampled for grandeur of results, the only me
great actor who stood upon the authority of his charz
acter was Cicero. All others, from Pompey, Curiai
Domitius, Cato, down to the final partisans at Actium,
moved by the authority of arms; "tantum auctoritate
valebant, . quantum milite :' and they could þava:
moved by no ather, Lastly, as regards, the personal
biography; although the same series of trials periksa.
and calamities, wauld have been:in.; "chse inter
esting for themselves, yet undeniably they derive:
separate power of affecting the mind Prom the pecu
liár. merits of the individual concerned: Cicero:15
one 'of the very few pagan statesmen who can be
described as a thoughtfully conscientious engan

It is not, therefore, any want of splendid attraction
in our subject from which we are likely to suffer
is of this very: splendor that we complain, as having
long ago defeated the simplicities of trut; arid: preto
occupied the minds of all readers with ideas politi:
cally: romantic. At tutors, schoolmasters, academia
authorities, together with the collective corps of edi
tors, critics, commentators, have a natural bias in
behalf of a" literary man who did so much honor to
literature, and who, in all the storms of this difficult :
life, manifested so much attachment to the pure lit:
èrary interest: Readers of sensibility acknowledge
the effect from any large influence of deep halcyon

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

repose, when relieving the agitations of history; as, for example, that which arises in our domestic annals from interposing between two bloody reigns, like those of Henry VIII. and his daughter Mary, the serene morning of a childlike king, destined to an early grave, yet in the mean time occupied with benign counsels for propagating religion or for protecting the poor. Such a repose, the same luxury of rest for the mind, is felt by all who traverse the great circumstantial records of those tumultuous Roman times, viz. the Ciceronian epistolary correspondence. Upon coming suddenly into deep lulls of angry passions — here, upon some scheme for the extension of literature by a domestic history, or by a comparison of Greek with Roman jurisprudence; there, again, upon same ancient problem from the quiet fields of philosophy — literary men are already prejudiced in favor of one who, in the midst of belligerent partisans, was the patron of intellectual interest. Christian nations this prejudice has struck deeper : Cicero was not merely a philosopher; he was one who cultivated ethics; he was himself the author of an ethical system, composed with the pious purpose of training to what he thought just moral views his only son. This system survives, is studied to this day, is honored perhaps extravagantly, and has repeatedly been pronounced the best practical theory to which pagan principles were equal. Were it only upon this impulse, it was natural that men should receive a clinamen, or silent bias, towards Cicero, as a moral authority amongst disputants whose arguments were legions. The author of a moral code

But amongst

« AnteriorContinuar »