loose liver, and a great blusterer, who would sometimes threaten to decimate his own regiment: but is said to have forgotten the menace the next day. Hateful as such military men will always be, in the present instance Colonel Kirk has been shamefully calumniated by poets and historians, who suffer themselves to be duped by the forgeries of political parties !

While we are detecting a source of error into which the party feelings of modern historians may lead them, let us confess that they are far more, valuable than the ancient ; for to us, at least, the ancients have written history without producing authorities! Modern historians must furnish their readers with the truest means to become their critics, by providing them with their authorities; and it is only by judiciously appreciating these that we may confidently accept their discoveries. Unquestionably the ancients have often introduced into their histories many tales similar to the story of Kirk popular or party forgeries ! The mellifluous copiousness of Livy conceals many a tale of wonder; the graver of Tacitus etches many a fatal stroke ; and the secret history. of Suetonius

too often raises a suspicion of those whispers, Quid rex in aurem reginæ dicerit, quid Juno fabulata sit cum Jove. It is certain that Plutarch has often told, and varied too in the telling, the same story, which he has applied to different persons. A critic in the Ritsonian style has said of the grave Plutarch, Mendax ille Plutarchus qui vitas oratorum, dolis et erroribus consutas, olim conscribillavit *. “ That lying Plutarch, who formerly scribbled the lives of the orators, made up of falsities and blunders !” There is in Italian a scarce book, of a better design than execution, of the Abbate Lancellotti, Farfalloni degli antichi historici." Flim-flams of the ancients." Modern historians have to dispute their passage to immortality step by step; and however fervid be their eloquence, their real test as to value, must be brought to the humble references in their margin. Yet these must not terminate our inquiries ; for in tracing a story to its original source, we shall find that fictions have been sometimes grafted on truths or hearsays, and to separate them as they appeared in their first stage, is the pride and glory of learned criticism.

Taylor, Annot. ad Lysiam.



A PEOPLE denied the freedom of speech or of writing, have usually left some memorials of their feelings in that silent language which addresses itself to the eye. Many ingenious inventions have been contrived, to give vent to their suppressed indignation. The voluminous grievance which they could not trust to the voice or the pen, they have carved in wood, or sculptured on stone; and have sometimes even facetiously concealed their satire among the playful ornaments, designed to amuse those of whom they so fruitlessly complained ! Such monuments of the suppressed feelings of the multitude are not often inspected by the historian--their minuteness escapes all eyes but those of the philosophical antiquary; nor are these satirical appearances always considered as grave authorities, which unquestionably they will be found to be by a close observer of human nature. An entertaining history of the modes of thinking, or the discontents, of a people, drawn from such dispersed efforts in every æra, would cast a new light of secret history over many dark intervals.

Did we possess a secret history of the Saturnalia, it would doubtless have afforded some materials for the present article. In those revels of venerable radicalism, when the senate was closed, and the Pileus, or cap of liberty, was triumphantly worn, all things assumed an appearance contrary to what they were ; and human nature, as well as human laws, might be said to have been parodied. Among so many whimsical regulations in favour of the licentious rabble, there was one which forbad the circulation of money; if any one offered the coin of the state, it was to be condemned as an act of madness, and the man was brought to his senses by a penitential fast for that day. An ingenious French antiquary seems to have discovered a class of wretched medals, cast in lead or copper, which formed the circulating medium of these mob Lords, who, to ridicule the idea of money, used the basest metals, stamping them with grotesque figures, or odd devices,--such as a sow; a chimerical bird ; an imperator in his car, with a monkey behind him; or an old woman's head,

Acca Laurentia, either the traditional old nurse of Romulus, or an old courtesan of the same name, who bequeathed the fruits of her labours to the Roman people! As all things were done in mockery, this base metal is stamped with s. C., to ridicule the senatus consulto, which our antiquary happily explains *, in the true spirit of this government of mockery, Saturnalium consulto, agreeing with the legend of the reverse, inscribed in the midst of four tali, or bones, which they used as dice, Qui ludit arram det, quod satis sit—" Let them who play give a pledge, which will be sufficient.” This mock money served not only as an expression of the native irony of the radical gentry of Rome during their festival, but

* Baudelot de Dairval de l'Utilité des Voyages, II. 645. There is a work, by Ficoroni, on these lead coins or Tickets. They are found in the cabinets of the curious medallist. Pinkerton, referring to this entertaining work, regrets that ** Such curious remains have almost escaped the notice of medallists, and have not yet been arranged in one class, or named. A special work on them would be highly acceptable." The time has perhaps arrived when antiquaries may begin to be philosophers, and philosophers antiquaries! The unhappy separation of erudition from philosophy, and of philosophy from erudition, has hitherto thrown impediments in the progress of the human mind, and the history of man,

« VorigeDoorgaan »