« PreviousContinue »
colic happiness keep within the limits of what would be possible in every hamlet. She depends for her effect upon analysing and exhibiting the play of the more innocent emotions. The love of a girl for a neighbour's little child in La Mare au Diable, the mutual love of twins in La petite Fadette, and maternal affection in François le Champi, supply materials sufficiently piquant for the quiet pathos of an idyl. George Sand seems to get strength by touching the soil. Her tales of country life, and especially La Mare au Diable, are the most perfect, though not perhaps the most interesting, that she has written. They are free from all that provokes censure in her other writings-from theories, from declamation, from indelicacy. They move as with a quiet flow that is irresistibly fascinating, and are full of beauties of language to which it is impossible to do justice.
If we place side by side Lélia and La Mare au Diable, the novels most typical of her earlier and her later stages, and compare the audacity, the pruriency, the strong personal feeling manifested in the former with the sweet purity and artistic tranquillity of the latter, we may see that during the period which elapsed between the two the authoress must herself have greatly changed. The spring of impetuous passion passes away, and the autumn of matured power and chastened wishes arrives. But although the change may be great and indisputable, yet it would be quite untrue to speak of George Sand as appearing under two phases wholly distinct. There was always a mixture of purity with impurity, of sense with nonsense, of honest desire to be right with the most distorted conceptions of right and wrong, which was traceable throughout her earlier works; and the old fire of a mind struggling, suffering, doubting, hoping, loving, and hating, burns and shines through the quietude of her later tales. View her from whatever side we may, and judge of her by whatever of her novels we may chance to light on, we shall always leave her with mingled feelings of admiration and regret. But if we look at her works as a whole, and read several of them in succession, her character, we think, will rise in our estimation, although the works themselves lose interest by their prolixity, their want of plot, and their surfeiting fullness of vague theorising being thus forced on our notice. We catch through them glimpses of a woman with many faults,-haste, rashness, morbid sentimentalism, and a proneness to indulge in a secondhand philosophy often caught up from men inferior to herself,--but still in the main truthful; loving in a blind and capricious way what is good; touched to the heart by the misfortunes of others; indignant at the sophistries and the success of polished vice and conventional virtue. If in the midst of the display of her great intellectual gifts she sometimes startles us by moral errors, she
never shocks us by moral depravity. The more we try her by a foreign standard, and the better we appreciate the circumstances under which she wrote, and the influences to which she was exposed, the more gently and sparingly we shall censure her.
ART. III.-COLONEL MURE AND THE ATTIC HISTORIANS. A Critical History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece. By William Mure of Caldwell. Vol. V. London, 1857.
COLONEL MURE'S History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece may well be accepted as a companion piece to Mr. Grote's history of its political and military progress. There is a wide difference, amounting, indeed, to contrast, in the mode of treatment pursued by the two writers. The starting-point of each is widely different; what is primary with the one is secondary with the other; and the wide difference of opinions, tastes, and general turn of mind between the two authors leads to an infinite number of collisions on individual points. Yet, by the student of Hellenic antiquity, the two works must be considered as making up one whole. Each fills up a void left by the other in the general picture of the most wonderful nation which has ever appeared on earth. While each author continually treads upon the ground of the other, each has a ground which is indisputably his own. Within the limits of his own territory each is preeminently master; each has his own proper department in which his strength lies; whenever either displays weakness, it is commonly in the act of trespassing upon the dominions of the other. Mr. Grote and Colonel Mure are alike conspicuous for independence of thought and decision of expression; qualities which in both cases are pushed to the verge of a love of controversy and paradox. But the one is a political historian, the other is a literary critic. The great qualities of the one are depth and vigour; those of the other, elegance and acuteness. It is no wonder, then, that two such writers, each admirable in his own way, commonly meet only to differ when they get on the debatable ground which lies between them. Nor is it wonderful that either of them should occasionally stumble when he wanders too far into the territories of his neighbour. And as we may fairly regard Mr. Grote's scheme and purpose as, on the whole, a higher one than Colonel Mure's, it is not surprising if, on this debatable ground, Mr. Grote has, to our mind at least, commonly the advantage. In research, in conscientiousness, in love of their subject, the two writers are fairly on a par;
each has his own distinguishing excellences, appropriate to his own special subject. But if we are, like Zeus, to weigh in the balance two writers, to each of whom Hellenic learning is so deeply indebted, we can feel no surprise at finding the more massive and capacious intellect of Mr. Grote occupying the weightier scale.
Colonel Mure's great strength lies in the poets. The old Homeric controversy, over and over again as it has been debated, acquires a new life and interest in his hands. This part of his work is a triumph, not only of British learning, but of British common sense, over the vagaries which are too commonly in vogue among continental scholars. It is not too much to say, that both in Colonel Mure and in Mr. Grote birth and residence in a free country, familiarity with the public life of a free state, the possession of a seat in the British Parliament, have done much to foster the manly and practical turn of mind which, under different shapes, distinguishes them both. Colonel Mure is well versed in the literature of Germany, and, we believe, passed his own academic years in a German University. But it would be difficult to find any thing more thoroughly English, in the best sense, than his whole commentary on the Homeric poems. Mr. Grote did much to overthrow the extreme form of the Wolfian theory; Colonel Mure has, we think, pretty effectually destroyed it in all its parts. Points of controversy, fairly open to dispute, still remain between them. Do the Iliad and the Odyssey proceed from the same hand? Is the Iliad, as we have it, an expansion, whether by the original author or by some one else, of an earlier Achilleid? How early were the poems committed to writing? These, and various others, are important questions, on which Mr. Grote and Colonel Mure decide different ways. But they really become mere points of detail when contrasted with a theory which can see no epic unity of design in either of those immortal poems. The points on which they differ may well be discussed for some time to come; but we really trust that their combined judgment has for ever scattered to the winds the notion that the Iliad and Odyssey are mere baskets of fragments gathered up in comparatively recent times by the hands of Solon or Peisistratos.
It is, we think, in his treatment of the Homeric poems that Colonel Mure displays his greatest strength. But for freshness and originality, the portion of his work which stands out most conspicuous is that in which he deals with the poets, most of them unfortunately only fragmentary, who fill up the space between Homer and Pindar. Here he has the ground almost wholly to himself. No other scholar, certainly no other English scholar, has ever produced so full and vivid a picture of Archilochos, Alkaios, and Sappho. Colonel Mure's dealings with their precious fragments remind one of those of Professor Owen or Professor
Willis. As the one can reconstruct an extinct animal from a single bone, and the other a destroyed building from a fragment of architectural detail, so Colonel Mure can set before us the full proportions, intellectual and moral, of an extinct poet, out of a few lines which have hitherto afforded matter only for grammatical or philological inquiry. And in all three, alike in the zoologist, the antiquary, and the critic, we can admire the operation of combined tact, experience, and good sense. In all three cases the results are of a nature which few but their authors would have previously looked for, and which yet, when once stated, command immediate assent, and are never rejected as fanciful or untrustworthy. To these poets Colonel Mure has rendered every service but one. It is wonderful that, with his knowledge of the language, his fine taste and acuteness, his appreciation of the minutest characteristics of the several authors, he still remains altogether incapable or unwilling to translate a piece of Greek verse or prose into appropriate, or even into accurate English.*
We shall hereafter come across some examples of this strange deficiency as regards the authors with whom we are at present more immediately concerned. But lest our words should seem too strong, we cannot forbear quoting an instance from an earlier part of Colonel Mure's work. In vol. iii. p. 251, he quotes a lovely fragment of Stesichoros, to the beauty of which he yields all the admiration it deserves :
Αέλιος δ ̓ Ὑπεριονίδας δέπας ἐςκατέβαινε
ἀφίκοιθ ̓ ἱερᾶς ποτὶ βένθεα νυκτὸς ἐρεμνᾶς·
ποτὶ ματέρα, κουριδίαν τ ̓ ἄλοχον,
παιδάς τε φίλους· ὁ δ ̓ ἐς ἄλσος ἔβα
ποσσὶ πάϊς Διός.
This Colonel Mure renders:
Hyperion now his lofty car ascends,
And o'er the trackless wave of Ocean bends
Now, first of all, in this version the beautiful simplicity of the original is altogether lost. Stesichoros says nothing about "the trackless wave of Ocean," about radiant course," or about "heaven's light" being "absorbed" by "night's sacred shades." Moreover, the last line is entirely Colonel Mure's own composition. But these are comparatively light matters. First, Αέλιος Ὑπεριονίδας is no more to be translated "Hyperion," than Пnλnïadéw ’Axıλños is to be translated "Peleus." Then béras does not mean a "car," and ésκaтaßaiv∞ does not mean to "ascend;" nor is the matter mended by putting in a note that "the author, for the sake of his own verse, has taken the liberty of substituting car for cup." In fact, Stesichoros' "fantastic allegory relative to the sun's evening course in the heaven," entirely disappears in Colonel Mure's version. Then again, the last clause, which introduces a second character on the scene, vanishes under the translator's hands. Colonel Mure makes "Hyperion" go to the laurel glades in a "car." In Stesichoros the person who goes there goes neither in a cup nor in a car, but on foot (Tooo). Moreover, the person who goes in either fashion is neither Hyperion
In the present volume, which is devoted to the Attic historians, that is, mainly Thucydides and Xenophon, Colonel Mure necessarily invades Mr. Grote's domain more frequently and more extensively than in the earlier parts of his work. He is here considerably less in his element than when dealing with Homer or Archilochos. His own forte, as we have implied, lies in strictly literary criticism; hence, in dealing with the poets, where manner is at least as important as matter, he is thoroughly at home. But a criticism purely literary would be a very inadequate way of dealing with a great historian, above all with Thucydides, the great father of historical and political science. Colonel Mure is necessarily driven to deal at some length with political and historical matters, and though even on these points he gives us much that is valuable, we can discern a marked inferiority alike to Mr. Grote's treatment of the same themes, and to his own treatment of more congenial subjects. It is in his thorough grasp of all political matters that Mr. Grote's greatness is preeminent. In Colonel Mure there is a sort of looseness and carelessness of thought and expression upon such subjects, which shows itself in more ways than one.* Both Mr. Grote and Colonel Mure are most honourably distinguished for the combination of profound learning with the character of practical men of the world. But the immediate world of each of the two men is by no means the same. Mr. Grote's true sphere, the source of illustration to which his thoughts habitually turn, is political life in its various forms. Colonel Mure has studied life with no less acuteness, but not so much in its political as in its social aspect. From this latter source he has drawn
nor a son of Hyperion, but a son of Zeus (máïs Aiós), no other, in short, than Herakles himself. Colonel Mure has altogether eliminated not only the fiction of the golden cup in which the sun-god floated back from west to east after his day's toil, but also the fact that Herakles was introduced in the poem at all. See Keightley's Mythology, p. 54, who gives a version, less elegant doubtless, but considerably more accurate, than that of Colonel Mure:
Into the golden cup went down;
That, having through the Ocean passed,
He to the depths of sacred gloomy night might come,
Unto his mother and his wedded wife,
And his dear children: but the grove with laurel shaded
This is perfectly literal, except that Mr. Keightley also seems scandalised at a son of Zeus going "on foot." Herakles, even by his own pillars, was not a Spanish hidalgo.
A thoroughly accurate thinker on Greek politics would hardly, as Colonel Mure constantly does, apply the words "confederation," "federal," &c. to the state of things existing between the several Grecian cities; he would not repeatedly speak of the "council" at Athens, when he means, not the senate, but the public assembly: perhaps he would not forestall ideas of a later age by speaking of the Persian "emperor."