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he would detect among such formless masses what these writers themselves never suspected-the principles which govern mankind— the passions which rise up at every new era-and the genius of the men who were their leaders.
The great historians still persevered in composing in Latin, notwithstanding the period was so modern and the interest so personal, which engaged their patriotic pens. The illustrious Camden surely partook largely of this reigning fatuity when he composed the chorography of England in the language of Rome; Camden too wrote the history of Elizabeth; Buchanan that of Scotland, and De Thou his great history, which includes that of the Reformation in France, in Latin. All these works addressed to the deepest sympathies of the people were not imparted to them.
There was a peculiar absurdity in composing modern history in the ancient language of a people, alike foreigners to the feelings as well as the nature of the transactions. The Latin had neither proper terms to describe modern customs, nor fitting appellatives for names and places. The fastidious delicacy of the writers of modern latinity could not endure to vitiate their classical purity by the gothic names of their heroes, and of the barbarous localities where memorable transactions had occurred. These great. authors in their despair actually preferred to shed an obscurity over their whole history rather than to disturb the collocation of their numerous diction. Buchanan and De Thou, by a ludicrous play on words translated the proper names of persons and of places. A Scottish worthy, Wiseheart, was dignified by Buchanan with a Greek denomination, Sophocardus; so that in a history of Scotland the name of a conspicuous hero does not appear, or must be sought for in a Greek Lexicon, which, after all, may require a punster for a reader.
The history of De Thou is frequently unintelligible, and two separate indexes of names and places, and the public offices which his personages held, did not always agree with the original family copy. The names of the persons are latinised according to their etymology, and all public offices are designated by those Roman ones which bore some fancied analogy. But the modern office was ill indicated by the ancient; the Constable of France, a military charge, differed from the Magister Equitum, and the Marshals of France from the Tribunus Equitum. His nomenclature seems a chaos, and his equivocal personages are not always recognized in the travesty of their Roman masquerade.
The predominant prejudice of writing in Latin was first checked in Germany, France, and England, by the leaders of that great revolution which opposed the dynasty of the tiara. It was one of the great results of the Reformation, that it taught the learned to address the people. The versions of the Scriptures seemed to consecrate the vernacular idiom of every nation in Europe. Calvin wrote his great work, "The Institute of the Christian Religion," at the same time in the Latin language and in the French; and thus these are both alike original. Calvin deemed, that to render the people intelligent, their instructor should be intelligible, and that if books are written for a great purpose, they were only excellent in the degree that they were multiplied. Calvin addressed not a few erudite recluses, but a whole nation.
IX. The reader may have already observed by our notices of Castiglione and La Casa, Macchiavelli and Guicciardini, that while the European nations alike continued to neglect the cultivation of their native idiom, the Italians however had set them a far different and noble example. It was indeed Italy, the mother and the nurse of literature, as the filial zeal of her sons have hailed her, which first opened to the nations of Europe the possibility of each creating a vernacular literature, reflecting the image, not of the Greeks and Romans, but of themselves.
Three memorable men of the finest and most contrasted genius appeared in one place and at one period. Petrarch indeed imagined that his Latin Epic would form the delight of posterity, and contemned his Italian "Rime" as "nugellas vulgares." With that contempt for the language of the people, in which the learned participated, Petrarch was even insensible to the inspiration of a mightier genius than his own, who with a parental affection had adopted the orphan idiom of his father-land-an orphan idiom which hitherto had been a wanderer, and had not yet found even a name; for it was then uncertain what was the true language of Italy. Dante, with a more daring genius, had anticipated the wants of future times, for with all his adoration of his master Virgil, he rejected the verse of Virgil, to secure his own immortality. A peculiar difficulty however occurred to the first former of the vernacular literature of Italy. In the state of this unsettled language, composed of fragments of the latinity of a former populace, with the corruptions and novelties introduced by its new masters; deformed by a great variety of dialects, submitted in the mouths of the people to their caprices, and unstamped by the hand of a master, it seemed hopeless to fix on any idiom which by its inherent nobleness should claim the distinguished honour of being deemed Italian. Dante refused this envied grace, to any of the rival principalities of his country. He, however, mysteriously asserted that the true Italian "volgare" might be discovered in every Italian city, but being common to all, it could not be appropriated by any single one. He dignified the "volgare illustre" which he had imagined by magnificent titles; it was illustrious, it was cardinal, it was aulic, it was courtly, it was the language of the most learned who had composed in the vulgar idiom, whether in Sicily, in Tuscany, in Puglia, even in Lombardy, or in the marches of Ancona! This fanciful description of the Italian language appeared enigmatical to the plain sense and the methodical investigations of the cold and cautious Tiraboschi. That grave critic submitted the interior feeling of the poet to the test of facts and dates. With more erudition than taste he marked the mechanical gradations of every language, from rudeness to refinement. The historical investigator could conceive no other style than what his chronology had discovered.* But the spirit of Dante had penetrated beyond the palpable substances of the explorer of facts. Dante, in his musings, had thrown a mystical veil over the Italian language. He seems presciently to have contemplated amidst the distraction of so many dialects, that an Italian style would arise which at some distant day would be deemed classical. Dante wrote, and Dante was the classic of his country!
Tiraboschi, VIII. Pref. xv.
The third great master in their first vernacular literature was Boccaccio, who threw out the fertility of his genius in the volgare of Nature herself. The Shakspeare of a hundred tales transformed himself into all the conditions of society; he touched all the passions of human beings; he penetrated into the thoughts of men ere he delineated their manners. "His most eloquent and most perfect prose" is the theme of the Italian critic's ecstasy.* Even two learned Greeks had acknowledged that the tale-teller of Certaldo, in his variegated pages, had displayed such force and diversity in his genius, that no Greek writer could be compared with his singular excellence. The "volgare eloquenza" was at once created, and this new glory has never been eclipsed by his successors.
Thus was the Italian language formed three centuries before the English, or the French, and indeed preceded all other modern languages. Whether from the more familiar intercourse which the Italian writers enjoyed with the fine remains of ancient literature, which insensibly enriched their own idiom, or from that native spirit which lingered under those lucid skies, and was still displayed in their manners and their genius, may be an inquiry of some curiosity. It is indeed remarkable that the other languages of Europe had the illfortune of falling into decrepitude; they were all too barbarous and inartificial to remain permanent. Puttenham, the critic of the reign of Elizabeth, complains that Piers Plowman, Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate, required glossaries, so did Ronsard, Baif, and Marot, inFrance. In prose, we had no single author till the close of the sixteenth century who had yet constructed a style; and in France Rabelais and Montaigne seemed to have contracted the rust and rudeness of antiquity, to the refinement of the following generation.
Custom and prejudice, however, predominated over the feelings of the learned even in Italy. Their epistolary correspondence was still carried on in Latin, and even the first dramas of Italy were in the language of ancient Rome. Angelo Politian appears to have been the earliest who composed a dramatic piece, his "Orfeo," in "stilo volgare," and for which he assigns a reason which might have occured to many of his predecessors, "perché degli Spettatori fusse meglio intesa," that he might be better understood by the audience! The vernacular idiom in Italy was still so little in repute that their youths were prohibited from reading Italian books. It is, however, evident that their native productions operated with a secret charm on their sympathies, for Varchi has told a curious anecdote of his father sending him to prison, where he was kept on bread and water, as a penance for his inveterate passion for reading works in the vernacular idiom.
X. Such were the difficulties and obstructions which occurred in the formation of that Native Literature, in whose prosperous state every European people now exults. Homogeneous with their habitual associations, moulded by their customs and manners, and every where stamped by the peculiar organization of each distinct race, we see the vernacular literature ever imbued with the qualities of the soil whence it springs, diversified, yet ever true to Nature; for the same eternal passions are alike eloquent in the literature of every nation. VARRO.
→ Botari Lezioni sopra il Decamerone, 1-14.
(Now first published.)
Ir is now some years since, that the anecdotic-mania broke out among us. A literary lounger was first infected with that agreeable disorder; and not inappropriately, it first appeared as "Drossiana" for a periodical work. Collected in volumes," Seward's Anecdotes" were a favourite with the Public. The form of the work, and the embellishments by Fuseli, gave an appearance of elegance to these volumes. They contained several inedited pieces, but the chief materials were extracted from books, and apparently often from recollection, for they are given in a loose and inaccurate manner. Another lounger, James Petit Andrews, puts forth his "Anecdotes Ancient and Modern," but these are trivial and betray the feeble mind of the collector. Other similar publications followed, some better and more as indifferent. It was on this occasion that the most elegant poet of our times, declared that it seemed as if we were all in "Our Anecdotage." This was the feathered arrow of the Wit. But "A Dissertation on Anecdotes," by a well-known writer, showed so many excellencies in Anecdotes, that it seemed as if the depreciating term had been misapplied.
Among those numerous literary Designs" which Dr. Johnson had projected in his studious days, there is one entitled “ Minutiæ Literariæ, Miscellaneous Reflections, Criticisms, Emendations, Notes." During the life of every man of letters every day furnishes a variety of curious information, often on important subjects, which is condemned to perish, from its isolated nature, and the improbability that such particles of information, or curiosity, can ever be introduced into elaborate works. It is evident that these matters are neither unimportant, nor uninteresting, otherwise they would not have exercised the pen of their recorder. They are not trite or trivial things, what we care not to know, but usually they are unknown, and often in the strict and original sense of the term Anecdotical, published for the first time.
Of such matters drawn from their manuscript state, and indeed we only profess to exercise a faithful Editorship in the present article, we propose opening a collection to be occasionally continued. In despair of embodying them in any other form than in the present unconnected ana, we must submit to accommodate ourselves to their heterogeneous nature, convinced that if they are not preserved in this inartificial manner they must be suffered to moulder away on the solitary leaf which retains them. We should then lose many things, agreeable to read, and which often convey information not elsewhere to be found.
The materials of these papers are not extracted from any ordinary sources of information, and they pretend to communicate original additions, or illustrations, to whatever we already possess on the subjects they touch on; they will not interfere with what already lies on our shelves. They will sometimes contribute small particulars of great men, which the reader has not before met; poignant anecdotes, morsels of criticism, and fragments of literature. These have been furnished from contemporary manuscripts, where the writers themselves
have given their views of the persons and events, which then busied their curiosity, and still interest our own. Histories of books and authors which were unknown to their critics, or life-writers, may yet be told. Many pieces of secret history too detached to enter into the general views of more formal history, may be preserved. Sometimes comparatively trivial, and sometimes important, sometimes concise and sometimes copious-an anecdote or a narrative-in their disjointed state, they will still be the scattered members of history. They may gratify the curious, they may delight the general reader, and even serve to embellish the page of the future writer who may sometimes bestow on them the happier grace of aptness and juxtaposition, in combining them with his own work. For the convenience of reference hereafter, the separate articles are numbered.
I am not aware that any writer, not excepting Lord King the recent biographer of Locke, has noticed one of the most curious particulars in the history of the studies of our philosopher. It appears, that his memorable discovery, or developement of that new system of the "Association of Ideas," was an after-thought. It never appeared in the first edition of the "Essay on the Human Understanding," and when he sent it forth to the world, Locke certainly was not aware of the surprising novelty which has immortalized his name. I learn this from a manuscript letter which accompanied the new edition on its presentation to Sir Hans Sloane.
"Oates, Dec. 2, 1699.
"I took the liberty to send you just before I left the town the last edition of my Essay. I do not intend you should have it gratis. There are two new Chapters in it; one of the Association of Ideas,' and another of Enthusiasm.' These two I expect you should read and give me your opinion frankly upon. Though I have made other large additions, yet it would be to make you pay too dear to expect you should be at the task to find them out, and read them. You will do very friendly by me if you forgive me the wasting your time on these two chapters."
Daniel De Foe said there was only this difference between the fates of Charles the First, and his son James the Second; that the former's was a wet martyrdom and the other's a dry one. When Sir Richard Steele was made a Member of the Commons it was expected from his ingenious writings that he would have been an admirable orator, but it not proving so, De Foe said "He had better have continued the Spectator than the Tatler."
The local designation of the following anecdote confirms its authenticity, which however required no other indication than the characteristic humour of Addison in his odd conception of old Montaigne.
When Mr. Addison lodged in Kensington Square, he read over some of "Montaigne's Essays," and finding little or no information in the chapters of what their titles promised, he closed the book more confused than satisfied.
"What think you of this famous French author?" said a gentleman present.
"Think!" said he smiling. "Why that a pair of manacles, or a