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son and his son-in-law having absconded, “How can I come upon father and you abandoning not Sukie and Kitty and him with my child ? But what can I do, alone, but each his child to the care of Sukie?" cried Kitty, hoarsely. two forlorn middle-aged women and an “Say no more or you will break my old man wliose active days were long past, heart, Kitty; and father is right; it is and his business fast leaving him. God's will which must be done,” whis
Old Miles's pomposity and pedantry, pered Sukie, quietly. great though they were, were not proof against such a shock. They were dethroned for the occasion. Like the first man who gave the information to Sukie, old Miles was abashed in his very man
From The Fortnightly Review.
PLUTARCH'S ESSAYS. hood, and with his pride humbled into the dust before the women - his daugh The versatile and nimble-witted Greek ters, He spoke plainly enough in his readily found a home in the capital of first sentence.
his Roman conqueror. Rome with the Both men gone, and you girls left wealth and love of luxury, which followed with me, no longer able to provide for in the wake of her eastern conquests, you, and a couple of infants these naturally became a centre of attraction scoundrels' infants - - on your hands, and to every description of adventurer, one of the scoundrels my son! It is a Under the imperial rule the city swarmed base lie which some vile' slanderer has with Greeks, whose multifarious accompalmed off on you and your sister, Sukie. plishments enabled them to gratify every I thought you would have known better variety of taste to which a rich and idié than to have believed it. Get me my hat, society would be inclined. A man who and let me out to clear it all up." had to live by his wits could not possibly
Even when he had gone and come back, have desired to be surrounded by more and sat down helpless under the disgrace favourable conditions. For artists, phy. and calamity, and when strong habit had sicians, architects, teachers of grammar resumed its sway, and the old man either and rhetoric, there were easy and abunlapsed into gloomy silence or raised his dant openings, and into all of them the head with something of its old coi Greek stepped as a matter of course. and delivered an oracular utterance which Had journalism been a profession at sought piteously to cloak and veil the Rome, Greeks, we may be sure, would misfortune that had befallen him and his, have monopolized it. No event could and to find an excuse for his own man- have occurred, no subject in heaven or hood before the wronged women, there carth could have been propounded, on was something more dazed than profound which a Greek littérateur would not hare in his air, and there was a humble plain- written with an awful fluency. Readers tiveness in his conceit, as he said, of Juvenal will recall with a smile, the
“ Lads are vagarious and want to go passage in which the “Græculus esuout into the world to make their fortunes, riens," with his wonderfully various caif women will but wait and have patience, pabilities, is held up as an object from and let God's will be done.”
which honest simplicity ought to recoil “You and your dear little baby will with horror. We can well understand stay in your old quarters, Kitty,“ pro- that the average Roman, who was someposed Sukie at once, but speaking bro- what dull and matter-of-fact, would not kenly, and unable to make the smallest unnaturally half dislike, half despise Greek feint at cheerfulness, while she could not cleverness. He would have much the same keep from recalling how lately, and in feeling towards it, as the old-fashioned what triumph, Kitty had quitted her home country squire still has towards an artist of many peaceful years, and wondering or a man of letters. The Greek professor, if it would be her, Sukie's, part to give as a man who lived by his wits, would have up the River End lodging as she had been more or less of an abomination to given up Miles's lodging in the Forge him. This sort of feeling, however, which Lane, and settle with another landlady, though stupid had really something to and, oh! where should she find the say for itself, must have almost worn itmeans to do that, and provide for them self out soon after the establishment of all, and little Miles, who had nobody but the empire. Society frowned on it and her now — nobody! Yet she found voice condemned it as ignorant and unenlighito say reassuringly, “ There is room for ened. The highest aristocratic circles us all, Kitty."
had distinctly recognized the worth of
Greek culture, and set the tone in its fa- | have imposed only on the rich Roman
The Roman youth, who in former money-lender or contractor, there were days had learnt jurisprudence and elo- men of learning and culture answering quence under the care of some eminent to our best university professors. Such lawyer, now attended the lectures of a men would of course have too much delGreek professor, and in this manner icacy to attempt to force themselves into completed the higher part of his educa- great social prominence; but we may be tion. The change was in great measure tolerably sure that the more cultivated due to circumstances, over which parents circles at Rome felt and recognized their had no control. The eloquence of the stimulating and refining influence. It is bar had languished under imperialism, probable that Tacitus knew and respected and the law courts no longer supplied the many of these accomplished Greeks. intellectual training which they had for- The younger Pliny can hardly find lanmerly done. A substitute, necessarily a guage strong enough to express his admiformal and artificial one, was sought in ration of them. They are singled out in the classes presided over by eminent bis epistles as specially distinguished repGreek grammarians and rhetoricians. resentatives of the class, and are praised Here lads were carefully taught the va- as much for their moral as their intellecrious arts of style, and had to discuss tual qualities. Of their learning and acevery imaginable topic. The great ob- complishments he speaks with absolute ject of education seerned to be to turn rapture, and he adds that he finds them out clever speakers and talkers. It must the most guileless and estimable set of have produced a plentiful crop of conceit- men with whom he is acquainted. We ed smarterers, whose intolerable affecta- think it highly probable that Pliny's estion must have made them bores of the teem for them was by no means undefirst magnitude in Roman society. You served. Many of them, we can well supwould have had not infrequently to sit pose, were quite as much lovers of truth next a man at dinner, who would have in- and honesty as we usually find a great sisted on dragging you into some abstruse scholar or man of science to be in our question of mythology or archæology. own day. Imagine being expected to discuss why To this class belongs a writer whom the temple of Saturn had been used from most of us, I should think, look upon as time immemorial as a record office; or an old familiar friend. Probably, no claswhy the ancient coins had on one side sical author is better known to the averthe image of Janus, on the other the age modern reader than Plutarch. His stern of a ship. The discussion of ques- Lives, I suppose, have been oftener transtions which could merely give scope to lated than any other work of Greek or the exercise of intellectual ingenuity, ap- Roman antiquity. He is hardly known pears to have been sedulously encour- except as a biographer, and it is no doubt aged by the teachers of Roman youth. in this capacity that he chiefly deserves Among the Greek professors at Rome, we to be known. His age was one in which, can quite believe that there was a consid- for some reason or other, biography was erable sprinkling of ridiculous pedants, a particularly popular form of literature. and probably too, for the special benefit of Perhaps this was due to the extraordinary the rich parvenu class, of downright im- importance with which imperialism had postors, who thoroughly deserved the invested a single man. History, if not worst that Juvenal has said about them. identified with, was at least of necessity
There was, however, as we have good closely connected with the character and reason for knowing, real moral worth as habits of the reigning emperor. In the well as literary merit of a high order, in absence of the stirring associations of this Greek society. The Roman fash- political life, the reading public naturally ionable world was, we doubt not, on the felt a keen interest in all the various goswliole, decidedly a gainer by its presence. sip which centred round the Court and Here was at least an element which could its leading figures. Personal anecdotes do something to counteract the vulgarity were sure to be in great demand. The of wealth, and the excessive love of mate- taste may not have been a very elevated rial enjoyments. We wish we knew more one, but it was almost inevitable under of the inner life of the best of these Greek the circumstances of the time. Hence rhetoricians. We get, it is true, a few arose a crop of biographers, of whom Pluglimpses into it; and we see enough to tarch was unquestionably the worthiest. convince us that, in marked contrast with He sought, naturally enough, to amuse the disreputable adventurer who could his readers, and, to his honour, be it said,
he did his best to instruct and improve in the time of Domitian, and it appeirs, them. His Lives are thoroughly healthy from a little anecdote which he tells in reading — the idea of comparing eminent one of his essays, that Pliny's friend, Greeks with eminent Romans was in it- Arulenus Rusticus, was one of his hear. self a good one, and it was specially suit- ers. In all probability he was banished ed to a reflective self-conscious age which by the tyrant along with the other phiwas witnessing the fusion of two such losophers. He had been a considerable singularly contrasted worlds as the Ro- traveller, and had visited most parts of man and the Hellenic. It gave him an Greece, Italy, and also Egypt. The story opportunity of treating his subject from that he was tutor to the Emperor Trajan a cosmopolitan point of view, and of in- is, I believe, now generally rejected as ut. terweaving with it a number of thoughts terly groundless. How long he taught on the general course of human affairs. and lectured at Rome we cannot say. It All this Plutarch does in a pleasant and may be supposed that he made money by sensible fashion. He does not, however, his profession, as we find him in his dein the least come up to our modern con- clining years settled down at his native ception of a biographer. Of the relation place, Chæroneia, in Bæotia, to which he of the men whose lives he writes to their was warmly attached. Here he became age, of the social or political atmosphere a local magistrate and a priest of Apoilo. by which they were surrounded, he tells We may be pretty sure that he was in us nothing. What he does, and does well comfortable circumstances, and it is pleasand agreeably, is to illustrate in a variety ant to picture to ourselves the cheerful of ways the characters of his heroes and old man surrounded by his guests, and to dwell on the virtues by which they entertaining them with the recollections often rose superior to adverse circum- of his life at Rome and with his rich fund stances. Hence his deserved and endur- of anecdotes. ing popularity. We have heard it said We think we are right in saying that that he was the Boswell of antiquity. We Plutarch is known to English readers alhave seen his chatty gossiping style com- most exclusively as a biographer. This, pared to that of Pepys' Diary. His Lives no doubt, is the chief claim which he his were beyond a doubt well known to on our interest, but he has also another Shakespeare. Some one went so far as claim which distinctly deserves to be recto say that he would rather part with ognized. In reading his parallel lives, all the other remains of antiquity than one can hardly fail to notice those reflecwith the extant works of Plutarch. It is tive and moralizing tendencies out of at least certain that he has attractions for which essay-literature is naturally develan ordinary modern reader which are not oped. Hid he lived in the last century, possessed by ancient authors of far high- we may be sure he would have contriber genius. We cannot but feel that what. uted many a paper to the Spectator. Were ever may be his literary merits, he is to be with us now, he would, we believe, be us a link between the ancient and modern a rival of the charming author of Friends worlds.
in Council and Companions of my SoliIt is a disappointment to find that of tude. It is to Plutarch that the modern the man himself we know but very little. essayist owes his literary purentage. The younger Pliny, one would suppose, Montaigne was particularly fond of him, must have been acquainted with him, and and says that his own essays were en: we rather wonder there is no allusion to tirely made up of what he had borrowed him in his letters. Plutarch and Pliny from Seneca and Plutarch. A very conwould seem to have been in many re- siderable part of Plutarch's extant works, spects very much like each other. Both which scholars have generally agreed to were thoroughly bookish men ; both, we call the “ Moralia,” is in fact a series of imagine, had the same gentleness and essays, which touch on nearly every conamiability. Both, too, had a decided ceivable subject. · Some of them are on touch of pedantry. In Plutarch, this was curious antiquarian matters, which, as no doubt partly the result of his profes- may be supposed, often lead the writer sion, partly of his careful and reverential to the most singular and uncritical constudy of the past. He has told us a little clusions. Plutarch was certainly not the about himself, and this is nearly all we man to sift such subjects to much profit; know. It does not amount to much. It he was learned, painstaking, and very seems that he was contemporary with anxious to understand the general teachNero, and was studying philosophy dur- ings of history, but he had not the vigour ing his reign. He was lecturing at Rome ) and the originality of a Thucydides.
We must not expect very much light of popular essays. Before I speak of these the best sort from him when he handles writings more in detail, it is as well that such an obscure subject as the worship I should describe the general impression of Isis and Osiris or the Delphic god and 'derived from them as to the author's the oracle of the Pythia. Even here, philosophical position. He may have however, we get occasionally useful hints little merits as an original thinker, but and suitable remarks, and actual informa- he had views and opinions which, taken tion of some value. As a philosopher, in connection with the age in which he he was bound to discuss many other pro- lived, are worth consideration. found subjects for which he had Plutarch was neither a Stoic nor an special qualification. His essays on the Epicurean. He disliked the paradoxes genius of Socrates, on the Stoic and of Stoicism, and he thought the promises Epicurean philosophies, on fate, on for- of Epicureanism delusive. There was tune, on the cessation of the oracles, pre- in fact too much sound common sense in sent a strange and confused medley of Plutarch to let him rest satisfied in any speculations, which, for a modern reader, existing system of philosophy. His have little interest, and would be hardly opinions about the divine nature and intelligible. Even in these, however, about human morality were very much there are, as we intend to point out, those of an eighteenth century theolosome singular lines of thought which are gian. In his caution and moderation, at least worthy of notice.
and indeed in his general tone of thought It was, after all, as a practical teacher he was not at all unlike some of the digthat Plutarch must have been most es- nitaries of the English Church in that teemed. When he deals with the ordi- period. Had he lived then, he might nary matters of life, he always shows very possibly have been a bishop or a good sense, and often acuteness. His dean. In his moral essays we really find moral essays constantly remind us of our by anticipation some of Butler's and excellent 'friend Miss Edgeworth. A Paley's arguments. He believes in provipleasant and healthy tone pervades them. dence as something above and apart from We can well imagine how the rich and either fate or fortune. He had a concepcomfortable Roman gentleman, to whom tion of a divine plan running through the anything like subtle metaphysical specu- world and its history. He thought that lation would have been an intense bore, virtue on the whole' secured happiness, must have enjoyed and appreciated these and that it will be taught and imparted writings. Plutarch let it be clearly seen by good education. He was inclined to that he had a great admiration for the take a cheerful view of human nature, good side of the Roman character. He and to think that under judicious manoften falls into a gloomy and desponding agement it was perfectly capable of vast view of the world and its prospects, but improvement. On the other hand, he he more than once suggests that the strongly felt its frailty, and seems to greatness of Rome was really deserved, have thought that the world would aland that, on the whole, mankind were the ways present a considerable mixture of better for it. We think he had tried to good and evil. The utopianism which make up his mind that whatever is, is we so often find in connection with great right. To do him justice, this was some- genius, was not to his taste. In free-will thing more than a mere lazy acquiescence he was a decided believer. A future in the existing state of things; it was state of rewards and punishments was grounded on a belief that human affairs also a part of his creed. He had at the are not left to chance.
same time all the horror of superstition Plutarch’s essays range over as wide a and fanaticism which belongs to a healthy field as those of Montaigne or Hume. and well-regulated mind. In one of his The education of children, the study of essays he ridicules people who make the poets, advice to married people, prog- themselves miserable about religion. ress in virtue. the preservation of health, Thus far, he was really very much like superstition, the restraint of anger, tran- an Arminian divine. But the age in quillity of mind, brotherly love, the vir- which he lived, with its many strange tues of women, the avoiding of debt, imaginings, somewhat disturbed his infalse shame, the love of riches, talkative- tellectual equilibriums and drew him inness, meddlesomeness, love, music, con- to some curious speculations which only solation for the afflicted, these are a few a Greek mind would have ever enterspecimens of the many and various topics tained. The vague word Neoplatonism handled in what we may call his more conveniently describes some of the theo
ries at which he hints. In a few essays pressed on the young is that they are not attributed to him, we find physical and to think it a fine thing to be able to taik metaphysical lines of thought crossing glibly on any subject, and to covet exeach other in a singular manner. We cessively the éclat too often undeservediy may certainly say, that his conceptions won by the extempore speaker. To a and beliefs were distinctly tinged with wretched painter who showed Orientalism. This is amply accounted Apelles a picture, with the remark that for by the fact that be had been a great he had taken a very little time to paint it, traveller, that he was naturally fond of the great artist replied, “I only wonder comparing nation with nation, and that that in that space of time you did not the general idea of the unity of all races produce many more such pictures.” The was one which had to a certain extent stingy Philistine father who grudges worked itself into his mind. It is rather money for education is well rebuked by surprising that he never alludes to Chris- a pungent anecdote. What is your fee tianity, which, in his time, we know had for the education of my son,” said such attracted so much attention. It is per- a father to the pbilosopher Aristippus. fectly impossible that it could have es My fee is £50," was the reply. “Good caped him, and we confess we cannot in heavens,” exclaimed the parent, “ I could the least understand how it is that he buy a slave for £50!” “Do so, by all fails to notice it. We find him occa- means," rejoined the philosopher, “and sionally plunging into speculatious closely you will have a couple of slaves." In akin to the Eastern and Jewish beliefs some schools it would seem athleticism about angels, and there are more than was unduly cultivated. Athletic exercises, hints of something like the phenomena says Plutarch, are very good as laying of clairvoyance and mesmerism. Plu- the foundation of a vigorous old age, but tarch's study of Plato, whom he admired they may be turned into enemies both of and tried to imitate, along with the pecu- bodily and mental health. Corporal punliar influence of his age, may sufficiently ishment is, on the whole, unsuitable to explain these portions of his writings. free-born children, as tending to destroy With much good sense and much sobriety their self-respect and to discourage them of judgment, we meet occasionally with in the pursuit of learning, and its frequent a kind of vein of mysticism for which we use is an infallible sign of a clumsy were hardly prepared.
teacher. Of anything like cram Plutarch His morai essays cover a very wide has an intense horror. Education in his surface. In reading them, we seem to be view is to be a very careful and gradual prosurrounded with a sort of eighteenth cess, specially aiming at the formation of century atmosphere. It would be very certain moral and mental habits. Hence easy to draw a comparison between Plus parents are much to be blamed who leave tarch and Pope. There is hardly a senti- the whole matter to schoolmasters and ment in the Essay on Man to which a tutors. They ought themselves often to parallel might not be found in Plutarch. examine their children, and to see whether Many passages in his writings may strike they are really, the better for what they us as trite and commonplace, but how are taught, and then the master will do sensibly and judiciously he treats such a his duty with more heartiness. A parent subject as the education of children. with tact will not take note of every We' find several of our modern views single fault, or scold his son violently for surprisingly anticipated in this essay once in a way talking rather thick on his The evil consequences of a one-sided and return from a dinner party. When the of an over-indulgent education are ad- young people are old enough to marry, he mirably pointed out. The miserable should encourage them to look out for after-life of the youth who has been left partners in their own station of life, since to the tender mercies of vulgar and igno- those marriages are the happiest in which rant pretenders tð learning, and has never the parties first are matched before they acquired moral tone or intellectual culture marry. Plutarch's views on education is strikingly set before us. On the other are decidedly enlightened, and, perhaps hand, the man who, in his early years, it may be added, eminently practical. enjoyed the inestimable benefit of a good In one of his essays he tells us how we education, finds that his understanding are to distinguish a tatterer from a friend. only grows youthful by age, and that time, He begins with a bit of philosophy. which makes all oiher things decay, in- Truth, he says, is a particle of the divinity, creases the light and knowledge of our and is the origin of all good to man; declining years. One lesson to be im- hence, the flatterer is an enemy to the