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- Lectures and Essays - 1/67 -


Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.

LECTURES AND ESSAYS

BY

GOLDWIN SMITH

PREFATORY NOTE.

These papers have been reprinted for friends who sometimes ask for the back numbers of periodicals in which they appeared. The great public is sick of reprints, and with good reason.

The volume might almost have been called Contributions to Canadian Literature, for of the papers not originally published in Canada several were reproduced in Canadian journals. Political subjects have been excluded both to keep a volume intended for friends free from anything of a party character and because the writer looks forward to putting the thoughts scattered over his political essays and reviews into a more connected form.

The papers on 'The Early Years of the Conqueror of Quebec,' 'A Wirepuller of Kings,' 'A True Captain of Industry' and 'Early Years of Abraham Lincoln' can hardly pretend to be more than accounts of books to which they relate, but they interested some of their readers at the time and there are probably not many copies of the books in Canada. All the papers have been revised, so that they do not appear here exactly as they were in the periodicals from which they are reprinted.

TORONTO, Feb. 16, 1881

CONTENTS.

THE GREATNESS OF THE ROMANS (_Contemporary Review_)

THE GREATNESS OF ENGLAND (_Contemporary Review._)

THE GREAT DUEL OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY (_Canadian Monthly_)

THE LAMPS OF FICTION (_A Speech on the Centenary of the Birth of Sir Walter Scott_)

AN ADDRESS TO THE OXFORD SCHOOL OF SCIENCE AND ART

THE ASCENT OF MAN (_Macmillan's Magazine._)

THE PROPOSED SUBSTITUTES FOR RELIGION (_Macmillan's Magazine._)

THE LABOUR MOVEMENT (_Canadian Monthly._)

WHAT IS CULPABLE LUXURY? (_Canadian Monthly._)

A TRUE CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRY (_Canadian Monthly._)

A WIREPULLER OF KINGS (_Canadian Monthly._)

THE EARLY YEARS OF THE CONQUEROR OF QUEBEC (_Toronto Nation._)

FALKLAND AND THE PURITANS (_Contemporary Review._)

THE EARLY YEARS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN (_Toronto Mail_)

ALFREDUS REX FUNDATOR (_Canadian Monthly_)

THE LAST REPUBLICANS OF ROME (_MacMillan's Magazine_)

AUSTEN LEIGH'S MEMOIR OF JANE AUSTEN (_New York Nation_)

PATTISON'S MILTON (_New York Nation_)

CLERIDGE'S LIFE OF KEBLE (_New York Nation_)

THE GREATNESS OF THE ROMANS

Rome was great in arms, in government, in law. This combination was the talisman of her august fortunes. But the three things, though blended in her, are distinct from each other, and the political analyst is called upon to give a separate account of each. By what agency was this State, out of all the States of Italy, out of all the States of the world, elected to a triple pre-eminence, and to the imperial supremacy of which, it was the foundation? By what agency was Rome chosen as the foundress of an empire which we regard almost as a necessary step in human development, and which formed the material, and to no small extent the political matrix of modern Europe, though the spiritual life of our civilization is derived from another source? We are not aware that this question has ever been distinctly answered, or even distinctly propounded. The writer once put it to a very eminent Roman antiquarian, and the answer was a quotation from Virgil--

"Hoc nemus, hunc, inquit, frondoso vertice clivum Quis deus incertum est, habitat Deus; Arcades ipsum Credunt se vidisae Jovem cum saepe nigrantem AEgida concuteret dextra nimbosque cieret."

This perhaps was the best answer that Roman patriotism, ancient or modern, could give; and it certainly was given in the best form. The political passages of Virgil, like some in Lucan and Juvenal, had a grandeur entirely Roman with which neither Homer nor any other Greek has anything to do. But historical criticism, without doing injustice to the poetical aspect of the mystery, is bound to seek a rational solution. Perhaps in seeking the solution we may in some measure supply, or at least suggest the mode of supplying, a deficiency which we venture to think is generally found in the first chapters of histories. A national history, as it seems to us, ought to commence with a survey of the country or locality, its geographical position, climate, productions, and other physical circumstances as they bear on the character of the people. We ought to be presented, in short, with a complete description of the scene of the historic drama, as well as with an account of the race to which the actors belong. In the early stages of his development, at all events, man is mainly the creature of physical circumstances; and by a systematic examination of physical circumstances we may to some extent cast the horoscope of the infant nation as it lies in the arms of Nature.

That the central position of Rome, in the long and narrow peninsula of Italy, was highly favourable to her Italian dominion, and that the situation of Italy was favourable to her dominion over the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, has been often pointed out. But we have yet to ask what launched Rome in her career of conquest, and still more, what rendered that career so different from those of ordinary conquerors? What caused the Empire of Rome to be so durable? What gives it so high an organization? What made it so tolerable, and even in some cases beneficent to her subjects? What enabled it to perform services so important in preparing the way for a higher civilization?

About the only answer that we get to these questions is _race_. The Romans, we are told, were by nature a peculiarly warlike race. "They were the wolves of Italy," says Mr. Merivale, who may be taken to represent fairly the state of opinion on this subject. We are presented in short with the old fable of the Twins suckled by the She-wolf in a slightly rationalized form. It was more likely to be true, if anything, in its original form, for in mythology nothing is so irrational as rationalization. That unfortunate She-wolf with her Twins has now been long discarded by criticism as a historical figure; but she still obtrudes herself as a symbolical legend into the first chapter of Roman history, and continues to affect the historian's imagination and to give him a wrong bias at the outset. Who knows whether the statue which we possess is a real counterpart of the original? Who knows what the meaning of the original statue was? If the group was of great antiquity, we may be pretty sure that it was not political or historic, but religious; for primaeval art is the handmaid of religion; historic representation and political portraiture belong generally to a later age. We cannot tell with certainty even that the original statue was Roman: it may have been brought to Rome among the spoils of some conquered city, in which case it would have no reference to Roman history at all. We must banish it entirely from our minds, with all the associations and impressions which cling to it, and we must do the same with regard to the whole of that circle of legends woven out of misinterpreted monuments or customs, with the embellishments of pure fancy, which grouped itself round the apocryphal statues of the seven kings in the Capitol, aptly compared by Arnold to the apocryphal portraits of the early kings of Scotland in Holyrood and those of the mediaeval founders of Oxford in the Bodleian. We must clear our minds altogether of these fictions; they are not even ancient: they came into existence at a time when the early history of Rome was viewed in the deceptive light of her later achievements; when, under the influence of altered circumstances, Roman sentiment had probably undergone a considerable change; and when, consequently, the national imagination no longer pointed true to anything primaeval.

Race, when tribal peculiarities are once formed, is a most important feature in history; those who deny this and who seek to resolve everything, even in advanced humanity, into the influence of external circumstances or of some particular external circumstance, such as food, are not less one-sided or less wide of the truth than those who employ race as the universal solution. Who can doubt that between the English and the French, between the Scotch and the Irish, there are differences of character which have profoundly affected and still affect the course of history? The case is still stronger if we take races more remote from each other, such as the English and the Hindoo. But the further we inquire, the more reason there appears to be for believing that peculiarities of race are themselves originally formed by the influence of external circumstances on the primitive tribe; that, however marked and ingrained they may be, they are not congenital and perhaps not indelible. Englishmen and Frenchmen are closely assimilated by education; and the weaknesses of character supposed to be inherent in the Irish gradually disappear under the more benign influences of the New World. Thus, by ascribing the achievements of the Romans to the special qualities of their race, we should not be solving the problem, but only stating it again in other terms.

But besides this, the wolf theory halts in a still more evident manner. The foster-children of the she-wolf, let them have never so much of their foster-mother's milk in them, do not do what the Romans did, and


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