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we yet trace - the catastrophe is among the most awful which the trage. dies of ancient history present to our survey.
From the ample materials before me, my endeavour has been to select those which would be most attractive to a modern reader ; — the customs and superstitions least unsamiliar to him — the shadows that, when reanimated, would present to him such images as, while they represented the past, might be least uninteresting to the speculations of the present. It did, indeed, require a greater self-control than the reader may at first imagine, to reject much that was most inviting in itself; but which, while it might have added attraction to parts of the work, would have been injurious to the symmetry of the whole. Thus, for instance, the date of my story is that of the short reign of Titus, when Rome was at its proudest and most gigantic eminence of unbridled luxury and unrivalled power. It was, therefore, a most inviting temptation to the author to conduct the characters of his tale, during the progress of its incidents, from Pompeii to Rome. What could afford such materials for description, or such field fer the vanity of display, as that gorgeous city of the world, whose grandeur could lend so bright an inspiration to fancy, so favourable and so solemn a dignity to research. But in choosing for my subject --my catastrophe, The Destruction of Pompeii, it required but little insight into the higher principles of art to perceive that to Pompeii the story should be rigidly confined.
Placed in contrast with the mighty pomp of Rome, the luxuries and gaud of the vivid Campanian city would have sunk into insignificance. Her awful fate would have seemed but a petty and isolated wreck in the vast seas of the imperial sway; and the auxiliary I should have summoned to the interest of my story, would only have destroyed and overpowered the cause it was invoked to support. I was therefore compelled to relinquish an episodical excursion so alluring in itself, and, confining my story strictly to Pompeii, to leave to others the honour of delineating the hollow but majestic civilization of Rome.
The city, whose fate supplied me with so superb and awful a catastrophe, supplied easily from the first survey of its remains the characters most suited to the subject and the scene; the half Grecian colony of Hercules, mingling with the manners of Italy so much of the costumes of Hellas, suggested of itself the characters of Glaucus and Ione! The worship of Isis, its existent fane, with its false oracles unveiled; the trade of Pompeii with Alexandria; the associations of the Sarnus with the Nile, called forth the Egyptian Arbaces — the base Calenus and the fervent Apæcides. The early struggles of Christianity with the heathen superstition suggested the creation of Olinthus; and the burnt fields of Campania, long celebrated for the spells of the Sorceress, naturally produced the Saga of Vesuvius. For the existence of the Blind Girl I am indebted to a casual conversation with a gentleman, well known among the English at Naples for his general knowledge of the many paths of life. Speaking of the utter darkness which accompanied the first recorded eruption of Vesuvius, and the additional obstacle it presented to the escape of the inhabitants, he observed, that the blind would be the most favoured in such a moment, and find the easiest deliverance. This remark originated the creation of Nydia.
The characters, therefore, are the natural offspring of the scene and time
the incidents of the tale are equally consonant, perhaps, to the then exjstent society; for it is not only the ordinary habits of life, the feasts and the forum, the baths and the amphitheatre, the commonplace routine of the classic luxury, which we recall the past to behold; equally important and more deeply interesting are the passions, the crimes, the misfortunes, and reverses that might have chanced to the shades we thus summon to life. We understand any epoch of the world but ill, if we do not examine its romance ; -- there is as much truth in the poetry of life as in its prose.
As the greatest difficulty in treating of an unfamiliar and distant period is to make the characters introduced, “ live and move” before the eye of the reader, so such should doubtless be the first object of a work of the present description : and all attempts at the display of learning should be considered but as means subservient to this, the main requisite of fiction. The first art of the poet (the creator) is to breathe the breath of life into his creatures - the next is to make their words and actions appropriate to the era in which they are to speak and act. This last art is perhaps the better effected by not bringing the art itself constantly before the reader — by not crowding the page with quotations, and the margin with notes. Perpetual references to learned authorities have, in fiction, something at once wearisome and arrogant. They appear like the author's eulogies on his own accuracy and his own learning - they do not serve to elucidate his meaning, but to parade his erudition. The intuitive spirit which infuses antiquity into ancient images is, perhaps, the true learning which a work of this nature requires — without it, pedantry is offensive ; with it, useless. No man who is thoroughly aware of what prose fiction has now become, of its dignity-of its influence of the manner in which it has gradually absorbed all similar departments of literature — of its power in teaching as well as amusing — can so far forget its connexion with history - with philosophy - with politics— its utter harmony with poetry, and obedience to truth, as to debase its nature to the level of scholastic frivolities: he raises scholarship to the creative, and does not bow the creative to the scholastic.
With respect to the language used by the characters introduced, I have studied carefully to avoid what has always seemed to me a fatal error in those who have attempted, in modern times, to introduce the beings of a classical age.* Authors have mostly given to them the stilted sentences - the cold and didactic solemnities of language which they find in the more admired of the classical writers; it is an error as absurd to make Romans in common life talk in the periods of Cicero, as it would be in a novelist to endow his English personages with the long-drawn sentences of Johnson or Burke. The fault is the greater, because, while it pretends to learning, it betrays in reality the ignorance of just criticism --it fatigues -it wearies - it revolts — and we have not the satisfaction in yawning to think that we yawn eruditely. To impart any thing like fidelity to the dialogues of classic actors, we must beware (to use a university phrase) how we“ cram” for the occasion ! — Nothing can give to a writer a more stiff
* What the strong common sense of Sir Walter Scott has expressed so well in his preface to Ivanhoe, (first edition,) appears to me, at least, as applicable to one, a writer who draws from classical,- as to one who borrows from feudal — antiquity. Let me avail myself of the words I refer to, and humbly and reverently appropriace them for the moment. “It is true, that I neither can, nor do pretend, to the observation (observe ance?) of complete accuracy even in matiers of outward costume, much less in the more important points of language and manners. But the same motive which prevents my writing the dialogue of the piece in Anglo-Saxon or in Norman French (in Latin of in Greek,) and which prohibits my sending forth this essay printed with the types of Caxton or Wynken de Worde (written with a reed upon five rolls of parchment fastened to a cylinder, and adorned with a boss,) prevents my attempting to confine myself within the limits of the period in which my story is laid. It is necessary for exciting interest of any kind, that the subject assumed should be, as it were, translated luto the manners as well as the language of the age we live in.”
" In point of justice, therefore, to the multitudes who will, I trust, devour this book with avidity (hem!), I have so far explained ancient manners in modern language, and So far det ailed the characters and sentiments of my persons, that the modern readep will not find himself, I should hope, much trammelled by the repulsive dryness of mero antiquity. In this, I respectfully contend, I have in no respect exceeded the fair license due to the author of a fictitious composition.”
“ It is true," proceeds my authority, " that this license is confined within legitimat bounds; the author must introduce nothing inconsistent with the manners of the age.” - Preface to Ivanhoe.
I can add nothing to these judicious and discriminating remarks – they form the true canons of criticism, by which all fiction that portrays the Past should be judged.
and uneasy gait than the sudden and hasty adoption of the toga. We must bring to our task the familiarized knowledge of many years — the allusions, the phraseology - the language generally must flow from a stream that has long been full; the flowers must be transplanted from a living soil, and not bought second-hand at the nearest market-place. This advantage, which is in fact only that of familiarity with our subject, is one derived rather from accident than merit,- and depends upon the degrees in which the classics have entered into the education of our youth and the studies of our maturity: Yet even did a writer possess the utmost advantage of this nature, which education and study can bestow, it might be scarcely possi. ble so entirely to transport himself to an age so different from that in which we live, but what some errors of inadvertence or forgetfulness would be incurred in his delineations-and, when in works upon the manners of the ancients — works even of the gravest and most elaborate character, com posed by the profoundest scholars, a critic superficially read can often detect such imperfections, – it would be far too presumptuous to hope that I have been more fortunate than men infinitely more learned, in a work in which learning is infinitely less required. It is for this reason that I venture to believe that scholars themselves will be the most lenient of my judges. It will be enough if this book, whatever be its imperfections, should be found a portrait unskilful indeed in colouring - faulty perhaps in drawing, but not altogether an unfaithful likeness of the features and the costumes of the age which I have attempted to paint:-may it be (what is far more important) a just representation of the human passions and the human heart, whose elements in all ages are the same. And lastly, let me be permitted to remind the reader, that if I have succeeded in giving some interest and vitality to a description of classic manners and to a tale of a classic age, I have sua ceeded where all hitherto have failed :*-a necessary corollary from the pro position, is one equally consolatory, though less triumphant, viz., if I have failed in the attempt, I fail where no one has succeeded. After this sentence, I can but conclude at once. Can I say any thing more effectually to prove that an author never shows half so much ingenuity as in making out the best possible case for his own performance ?
* I must be pardoned for not excepting Barthelemy. His Anacharsis is a work of wonderful ability, labour, elegance, and research. , But there is no life in it! It does not, to be sure, profess to be actually a romance, but even as a book of travels it is formal and tedious. The external erudition is abundant, but the inward spirit is want. ing. He has not been exhilarated by the wine of antiquity, but he has accumulated a prodigious quantity of labels. “Anacharsis,” says Schlegel, well and wittily, “views things in his travels, not as a young Scythian, but as an old Parisian !" Yes, and as a Parisian, who never gives you the notion that he has travelled at all – except in an arm chair!
LAST DAYS OF POMPEII.
Quid sit futurum cras, fuge quærere;
Hor. lib. I. Od. ix.
THE TWU GENTLEMEN UF PUMPEII.
“Hó, Diomed, well met — do you sup with Glaucus to-night ?" said a young man of small stature, who wore his tunic in those loose and effeminate folds which proved him to be a gentleman and a coxcomb.
“ Alac, no! dear Clodius; he has not invited me,” replied Diomed, a man of a portly frame and of middle age: "by Pollux, a scurvy trick ! for they say his suppers are the best in Pompeii."
Pretty well — though there is never enough of wine for me. It is not the old Greek blood that flows in his veins, for he pretends that wine makes bim dull the next morning."
“There may be another reason for that thrift,” said Diomed, raising his brows; “with all his conceit and extravagance, he is not so rich, I fancy, as he affects to be, and perhaps loves to save his amphoræ better than his wit."
“An additional reason for supping with him while the sesterces last. Next year, Diomed, we must find another Glaucus."
“He is fond of the dice too, I hear.”
“He is fond of every pleasure, and while he likes the pleasure of giving suppers, we are all fond of him.”
"Ha, ba, Clodius, that is well said. Have you ever seen my wine-cel lars, by-the-by ?"
"I think not, my good Diomed.”
“Well, you must sup with me some evening ; I have tolerable muræna in my reservoir, and I will ask Pansa the edile to meet you.”
Oh, no state with me! - Persicos odi apparatus, I am easily contented Well, the day wanes; I am for the baths — and you ?”
“To the questor — business of state - afterward to the temple of Isis. Vale !"
" An ostentatious, bustling, ill-bred fellow,” muttered Clodius to himself, as he sauntered slowly away. “He thinks with bis feasts and his wineeellars to make us forget that he is the son of a freedman; and so we will
when we do him the honour of winning his money: these rich plebeians are a harvest for us spendthrift nobles.”
Thus soliloquizing, Clodius arrived in the Via Domitiana, which was crowded with passengers and chariots, and exhibited all that gay and animated exuberance of life and motion which we find at this day in the streets of Naples.
The bells of the cars, as they rapidly glided by each other, jingled merrily on the ear, and Clodius with smiles or nods claimed familiar acquaintance with whatever equipage was most elegant or fantastic – in fact, no young man was better known about Pompeii.
"What, Clodius! and how have you slept on your good fortune ?” cried, in a pleasant and musical voice, a young man in a chariot of the most fas tidious and graceful fashion. Upon its surface of bronze were elaborately wrought, in the still exquisite workmanship of Greece, reliefs of the Olympian Games: the two horses that drew the car were of the rarest breed of Parthia ; their slender limbs seemed to disdain the ground and court the air, and yet at the slightest touch of the charioteer, who stood behind the young owner of the equipage, they paused motionless, as if suddenly transformed into stone, — lífeless, but lifelike, as one of the breathing wonders of Praxiteles. The owner himself was of that slender and beautiful symmetry from which the sculptors of Athens drew their models: his Grecian origin betrayed itself in his light but clustering locks, and the perfect harmony of his features. He wore no toga, which in the time of the emperors had indeed ceased to be the oneral distinction of the Romans, and was especially ridiculed by the pretenders to fashion; but his tunic glowed in the richiest hues of the Tyrian die, and the fibulæ, or buckles, by which is was fastened, sparkled with emeralds : around his neck he wore a chain of gold, which in the middle of his breast twisted itself into the form of a serpont' hoad, from tho mouth of wlucli huug pendant a large signet ring of elaborate and most exquisite workmanship; the sleeves of the tunic were loose, and fringed at the hand with gold; and across the waist a girdle wrought in arabesque designs, and of the same material as the fringe, served in lieu of pockets for the receptacle of the handkerchief and the purse, the stylus and the tablets.
My dear Glaucus !” said Clodius, “I rejoice to see that your losses have so little affected your mien. Why you seem as if you had been inspired by Apollo, and your face shines with happiness like a glory; any one might take you for the winner and me for the loser.”
“And what is there in the loss or gain of those dull pieces of metal that should change our spirit, my Clodius? Per Jove! while, yet young, we can cover our full locks with chaplets -- while yet the cithara sounds on unsated ears while yet the smile of Lydia or of Chloe flashes over our veins in which the blood runs so swiftly, so long shall we find delight in the sunny air, and make bald Time itself but the treasurer of our joys. You sup with me to-night, you know.”
Who ever forgets the invitation of Glaucus !
But which way go you now?" “Why I thought of visiting the baths, but it wants yet an hour of the usual time."
Well, I will dismiss my chariot, and go with you. So, so, my Phylias,". stroking the horse nearest to him, which by a low neigh and with backward ears playfully acknowledged the courtesy; "a holyday for you to-day. Is he nut handsome, Clodius?"
“Worthy of Phæbus," returned the noble parasite, -"or of Glaucus."