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258 Books of the Quarter suitable for Reading-Societies.
graphical. By Sir Emerson Tennent. Longmans.
[Intended less for the colonist than the English reader, but a good book
of its kind.]
Chapman and Hall.
[An interesting book, of a somewhat too numerous species.] Australian Facts and Prospects. By R. H. Horne. Smith and Elder.
[A book of useful caution against false conceptions of Australian life.
The short autobiography is very lively.] Rural Life in Bengal. Thacker.
[The illustrations convey the most faithful representation of rural life in
Bengal that it is possible to conceive, and are exquisitely engraved.
ful, though somewhat couleur de rose.]
“ Martin Chuzzlewit.” It is, however, unfortunately alloyed with the spasmodic sentiment and striving after effect his
later style.] The Minister's Wooing. By Mrs. H. B. Stowe. Sampson Low.
[A tale of great power, humour, and broad genius, though a little spoiled
with gushes of sentiment.] The Day of Small Things. By the Authoress of “Mary Powell.”
1 vol. Hall, Virtue, and Co. Against Wind and Tide. By Holme Lee. Smith and Elder.
[Not equal to “Sylvan Holt's Daughter" in ability or finish. It is
rather like steering " on a wind,” to read it.] A New Sentimental Journey. By Charles Allston Collins. Chapman
and Hall. Fables and Fairy Tales. By Henry Morley. Illustrated. Chapman
and Hall. The Nut-brown Maids; or, the first Hosier and his Hosen. A Family Chronicle of the Days of Queen Elizabeth. J. W. Parker. [Too antiquarian, and in the "gramercy" style, as it has been called;
but indicating some real artistic power stifled by these antiquities.] Tales from Molière's Plays. By Dacre Barrett Lennard. Chapman
THE NATIONAL REVIEW.
ART. I.-PLUTARCH'S LIVES: CLOUGH.
Plutarch's Lives. The Translation called Dryden's, corrected from the
Greek and revised by A. H. Clough. 5 vols. Sampson Low. 1859. Since first the growing accuracy of the classical historians of the nineteenth century began to "give with Greek truth the good old Greek the lie," the Lives of Plutarch may perhaps have lost something of popularity and general esteem. There is undeniably a wide distance between the unhesitating readiness to repose in every plausible statement of fact which characterised the classical studies of our less critical forefathers, and the dispassionately sceptical babit of mind into which the modern student of Greek and Roman history is trained by the example and influence of the unwearied searchers after truth whose labours he has the opportunity of weighing. But Mr. Clough's work of love for the old Chæronean biographer is not out of place. In reproducing the versions of Creech, Evelyn, Somers, Rycaut, and the other translators for Dryden's edition, revised in accordance with his own excellent taste and scholarship, he has done good service to the cause of literature. Few, even among firstrate classical scholars, are given to reading Plutarch's Lives in the language in which they were written, except for the purpose of verifying the exact meaning of a particular passage, or satisfying their minds as to the alleged rhetorical crabbedness of the general style. It is all the more important that, as long as the Lives are read at all, they should be readable in the best possible form at second-hand. Without wishing to depreciate
No. XX. APRIL 1860.
the actual merits of the generally known translation by Langhorne, we may certainly say that it is not the best possible. It is fluent, but dull; and destitute altogether of that idiomatic strength and closeness of language which sometimes enable the reader happily to forget that a translation is not an original. Mr. Clough has used a wise economy in republishing a corrected copy of the united labours of Dryden's eminent coadjutors, in preference to undertaking an entirely new version in the more expansive but less solidly sculptured English of the nineteenth century.
It needs no great boldness to assert that Plutarch's Lives will continue to be widely read, however much they may be depreciated as a substantive historical authority. It may even be prophesied that their real greatness will preserve them from oblivion all the more securely, in proportion to the growth of a more thoroughly discriminating and scientific appreciation of their value. The terms of the epigram of Agathias, which is paraphrased by Dryden for a peroration to his life of Plutarch, are none the less applicable now than when it was written in the reign of Justinian :
αλλά τεου βιότοιο παράλληλον βίον άλλον
ουδε συ γ' αν γράψαις" ου γάρ όμοιον έχεις. There is no parallel instance to him among writers of memoir or biography; no one who has concentrated in similar pictures the view taken of their own great men by those nations which up to his time had been the foremost of the world; no one who has modelled the heroic likeness in so many and so characteristic individual attitudes. The title to such an encomium is not damnified by the imputation, or even the proof, of inaccuracy as a narrator. It is possible that the Richard the Third of Shakespeare may not be a literally true portrait of the historical individual, nor the sequence and connection of the facts detailed in his dramas as belonging to the Wars of the Roses a faithful rendering of English history; yet if the personal and general inexactitude of these representations were sedulously demonstrated twenty times over, they would be none the less vivid and none the less immortal. The best measure of their greatness is the power needed to destroy them. The same may be said of those fictions by Defoe which counterfeit fact most truly, and of Plutarch's Lives. Such works bear a peculiar stamp on their face which has never been forged successfully, and which no lapse of time can obliterate. Plutarch's Lives may not be what they have been taken for—a thoroughly reliable source of history; and whenever this failure arises from mis-statement, and not from omission, they are not strictly what they profess to be
lives. But they will continue to represent, as they have represented for so many centuries already, the types of Greek and Roman character as understood by a careful, learned, imaginative, and philosophic surveyor of the time of Trajan. However widely the conclusions of modern inquiry may deviate from the received beliefs of simpler generations in modifying or contradicting particular impressions derived from Plutarch, they cannot neutralise or destroy the fact, that the idealised ancient Roman and Grecian of at least the three last centuries has
grown into shape more through Plutarch's teaching than through the lessons of any other single authority, if not of all other authorities put together. True portrait or not, that ideal image has undoubtedly had a peculiar and not inconsiderable influence on European history; and that influence is exactly what no imputation on the accuracy of the portrait can wash away. The individual citizen of the commonwealths of Greece or Rome may have been more like the ordinary bourgeois of modern Europe, or even more like the modern Greek or Roman, than our forefathers thought. We may learn from Grote or Merivale to view the particular actions and the general springs of action of leading statesmen in Rome or Athens by a different light, reflected upon the single figures through a more modern and realistic conception of the multitude behind them. We may form a new idea of some characters among the individual leaders. But the fact remains, that to Plutarch's Lives we still look for the general distinguishing outline of personal story and character which has made the great men whom he deals with famous among our fathers and ourselves, through a series reaching down from the half-mythical times of Theseus to the civilised and tragic epoch of Julius Cæsar and Mark Antony. “One of Plutarch's heroes” is still, and will long remain, a proverbial expression in most of the languages of Europe, in one shape or other.
The wide influence which these Lives have had in creating and maintaining modern respect for the heroes of antiquity is not direct only. For all readers of English literature, and for Englishmen especially, Plutarch is enshrined for ever in the royal dress put upon him by Shakespeare. Every body knows, or is likely to know, as a matter of fact, that Plutarch was Shakespeare's main authority in his greatest classical dramas, Coriolanus, Julius Cæsar, and Antony and Cleopatra. North’s translation of the French version of Plutarch's Lives by Amyot, published as a new book in Elizabeth's reign, has a peculiar value attached to it as having been the version accessible to Shakespeare, which the greater closeness, force, or accuracy of later translations into English at first hand can never take away. Under the doubt, which in common with many we must acknowledge, how much in Timon of Athens is the genuine work of Shakespeare, it is superfluous to refer to the contents of that drama critically as accumulating proofs of the obligations to Plutarch under which our greatest poet lies. Yet even with this doubt the identity (in all but one word) of North's translation of the two epitaphs quoted in the life of Mark Antony as by Callimachus and Timon himself with the four lines engraved upon Timon's tomb in the English drama gives a singular reality to the feeling that in reading North we are studying Timon's character through the same mediun with Shakespeare. But when we come to the Roman tragedies, the debt of the English dramatist to the Greek biographer is at once far deeper in kind, and far more undeniable in its manifestation. However generally admitted this may be as a fact, it is probable that only a small proportion of Shakespeare's readers are aware of the degree to which it is true. It is really curious to place the Coriolanus of North’s Plutarch and of Shakespeare side by side. Incident upon incident, personage after personage, and in some places, we may say, line after line and word upon word, are adopted without hesitation or scruple as to their appropriateness and truth. After passing through the crucible of Shakespeare's genius, they come out from their fusion into a dramatic and continuous form so little intrinsically altered, as still individually to recall the particular spot in the mine from which each of them has been taken. The very blunders of the Englishman's little learning are so many flowers plucked out of the Greek writer's cornucopia of allusiveness, and planted in the wrong places. When the Lartius of Shakespeare praises Coriolanus as a soldier,
“ even to Cato's wish, not fierce and terrible
Only in strokes,"the anachronism which every schoolboy pounces upon, of quoting the unborn Cato as an authority on military matters at the date of the Volscian wars, springs simply from a misconstruction of the words in Plutarch’s biography. The critical observation upon Cato's idea of a soldier, which Plutarch makes in his own person and from his own point of view, has been unfortunately put into the mouth of Titus Lartius. Some similar carelessness of adaptation may perhaps be responsible for Hector's cclebrated reference to Aristotle's philosophy in Troilus and Cressida. But if the one or two slips of Shakespeare are due to an unhesitating following of his classical authority, so are many of the beauties. The details of the honours paid on the field of battle by the Roman army to the taker of Corioli, the touches