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commanding position, to which his experience and his high character entitle him. He strengthens the wavering and spiritless senate, boldly opposes and triumphs over the partisans of Antony, and compels the senate to declare him a public enemy, by the thunders of his philippics. He directs the movements of the consuls ; confirms the weak faith of the provincial commanders, or, at least for a time, prevents their siding with the enemy; provides for all emergencies ; meets every want ; and exercises over the Roman empire, by the mere force of talent and character, a power more brilliant than that of Cæsar, in the plenitude of his dominion. The consuls are slain in the midst of success, and the armies of Rome are left under the command of the ambitious and unprincipled Octavius. Lepidus declares against the state, and joins his forces to the shattered troops of Antony. Still, Cicero does not despair. He keeps his post at Rome ; calls upon Brutus and Cassius in the most urgent manner to return from the provinces with their troops, to Italy ; and still believes that his country may be saved. But all to no purpose; the die was cast ; the decree had gone forth ; and Rome was to sink in slavery. The fatal coalition of Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus soon took place, and the state was left to their mercy. Cicero now felt that his end was drawing near. had been placed on the proscription list, by his implacable foe, and he knew that he was doomed to die. He scarcely yielded to the urgency of his attendants, who besought him to seek safety in flight, declaring frequently that he wished to die in his country. After a short voyage along the coast, he landed at his Formian villa, and lying down, slept profoundly, for some hours, notwithstanding the noise of numerous ravens, who flapped their wings against his windows, and seemed to warn him of approaching danger. His slaves were so much impressed with the omen, that they awoke him, and carried him in a litter toward the sea-shore. But the bloodhounds of Antony were in pursuit, and not far from him.
When they appeared in sight, Cicero commanded his slaves to set down the litter, and make no resistance, and thus calmly yielded to his fate.
We must conclude ; for we fear we have already been held too long by the magic spell of antiquity. The love of the past is perhaps a weakness; yet we can scarcely feel ashamed of sharing in what is common, by nature, to our whole
race. All men are, to a degree, born antiquarians. There is a pleasure in the mystery of by-gone times. There is a majesty in the very stones and walls, that bear on their weatherworn surface the record of ages. A halo of glory gathers round them, and invests them with a wondrous beauty ; and we love to linger among them, recalling their ancient splendors and conjuring up in imagination the days of their youth, their strength, their towering glory; the forms that crowded them, and the scenes they witnessed. But the past offers us richer treasures than these, in the gorgeous monuments of intellect which it contains ; the noble ideas, the exquisite imagery, the strength and intensity of passion, the whole mighty array of mind. And these, too, may be useless and obsolete, like the castles and towers that were piled for other ages and different states of society. The mind has reared its Pagan temples, of faultless proportion, and enshrined within them its inspired statues ; and these have crumbled away, and lie neglected and shattered as the Coliseum or the Parthenon. And yet we love to wander amidst these majestic ruins of thought, sure of finding here and there, amidst the fallen shafts and walls, some exquisite capital, or some statue whose beauty will live for ever.
There is, we fear, too great a disposition in the present age, to cut ourselves off from the past. The tranquillity and majestic repose of antiquity have not sufficient interest for the busy, excited, and tumultuous spirits of the day, and contrast too strongly with the absorbing questions which crowd upon
side. And yet we cannot neglect the past, without abandoning our richest heritage. All that we possess, or know of it, all that for us is tangible and real in it, is connected inseparably with human nature. The past, as we know it, is made by man; and if we would understand our own nature, we must read it in the teachings of by-gone times, not less than in the forms which the present offers. Our common nature, immortal and unchangeable, is the “golden, everlasting chain," which binds the ages together. It pervades all time; links the past and future together; and extends into eternity. And they who neglect the past would sever this immortal bond, which the hand of God has framed.
We have felt this in musing on the history of Cicero ; and we have labored to set forth his character as a peculiar manifestation of the capacities and tendencies of a pure, unaided
nature. We mourn over his sorrows; we feel the bitterness of his fate; we are ready to weep with him over the loss of his dearest friends, and the blight of his fondest hopes; and we deeply lament that the consolations of Christianity could not be offered to his poble spirit. But we still thank God for this bright example of the dignity, power, and glory of our nature ; for the virtues which sprang from no teaching ; for the far-reaching views, and the sublime aspirations, for the brightness which one noble mind, from its own fountain of light, was able to shed on the night of paganism.
Art. III. — The Letters of CHARLES LAMB, with a Sketch
of his Life. By Thomas Noon TALFOURD, One of his Executors. In Two Volumes. London ; Edward Moxon, Dover Street. 1837.
MR. TALFOURD will receive the thanks of all lovers of Charles Lamb's exquisite genius, for this timely contribution to our knowledge of his character and private life. Himself a poet of commanding fame; the most successful tragic writer of the age ; a brilliant orator, a great lawyer, a leading states-man ; he has gracefully stepped aside from his brilliant path of renown, to scatter a few fragrant flowers upon the
of his departed friend. Amidst the press of manifold and exacting avocations, he has found time to execute, with the warmth of heartfelt enthusiasm, the task which love and reverence of Lamb's rare intellectual endowments induced him to accept.
The thread of narrative, which runs through these volumes like a thread of gold in a tissue of embroidery, is all that the most fastidious taste can require. In the exquisite selection of words, in the melodious construction of sentences, in the ornamental work of a rich and gorgeous imagination, Mr. Talfourd's pure style is unsurpassed. The few and almost unimportant events of Lainb's life are delightfully told, and the occasional notices of bis friends and contemporaries are conceived and expressed in a spirit of cordial sympathy with all that is excellent and admirable in every variety of genius. This trait is carried almost to a faulty excess. Mr. Talfourd's praise is too indiscriminately lavished on all the members of
that coterie of poets, of which Coleridge and Wordsworth were the most distinguished ornaments. The genius and influence of these two celebrated men he has overrated ; their faults he has disguised under the drapery of most enchanting eulogy. He has also exaggerated, in inany respects, the literary abilities of Lamb. Led by a pardonable partiality for bis lamented friend, he has assigned him a higher rank among the great writers of his age than any, except a small circle of his contemporaries, have allowed, and certainly inuch higher than posterity will concede.
The truth is, Lamb was a singularly imperfect man. His peculiar genius was the strange product of a highly artificial state of society. He was made up of whims and humors, that could only be developed in the midst of a great capital. London was his paradise. The shops and streets, the lights and crowds of that vast metropolis, afforded perpetual excitement to his fantastic thoughts. With the beauties of rural nature he had little or no sympathy. Like Leigh Hunt, he felt that a great mountain was a great impostor. The snugness and comforts of city apartments were essential to his existence. In these respects he was a thorough cockney. He carried his metropolitan partialities to as absurd an extreme, as his friend Wordsworth his love of rustic simplicity. With such narrow and one-sided feelings, Charles Lamb was not the man to sympathize with the great philanthropic schemes of the age. He clung with invincible tenacity to every thing near him; he had no care to spend on objects or interests that had no bearing on his personal welfare. The vast political topics, which have agitated the minds of men for the last fifty years, passed over him like the idle wind, which he regarded not. But his indifference to them was not the growth of a sublime philosophy, in whose comprehensive view the fleeting interests of an age are reduced to their just proportions in the great picture of human affairs. He was incapable of travelling beyond the narrow sphere in which he lived, and moved, and had his being. He was in the habit of doing systematic and gross injustice to the charitable schemes of humane men to soften the ills of poverty, and bestow the blessings of religion on the benighted ; and yet he was personally the most amiable of men, and spared no pains or expense to relieve a miserable object, who had once attracted his regard.
The place which Lamb holds in English literature, is altogether unique and peculiar; but the sphere of his excellence is limited. In the first place, he was no poet. The pieces of verse published in his works, with one or two exceptions, are below mediocrity. His mind was too whimsical for sustained beauty, within the severe limitations of poetry. It was ever wandering into some fantastic train of thought; some out-ofthe-way analogy, unfit for the serious muse. He had but little dramatic talent ; his attempts in the theatrical way proved signal and disastrous failures. Indeed, it is plain enough, that to conceive and represent a character dramatically, requires a steadiness of intellect, a firmness of purpose, a power of changing places with imaginary personages, which never belonged to Charles Lamb. His imagination laid bold of oddities of character with wonderful readiness; and he described, not represented, them with truth and wit.
But he did not, and could not, bring a consistent being, with the attributes of humanity, before us, and exhibit it in all the varieties of action and passion. Even his farce of “Mr. H.” is the most undramatic and extravagant of farces. The joke is too hard pressed, and long drawn, to be thoroughly enjoyed even in the closet. His play of “ John Woodville” has a few fine poetical passages, and some happy imitations of old English dramatists ; but it shows little originality, and no talent for the stage.
But in his own walk he was unrivalled. The short, humorous essay he carried to a point of excellence never before attained. His style is ever happy and original ; his wit, of the rarest and most pungent description. The native peculiarities of his mind appear, fresh, racy, and delightful. The love of quaint conceits, which was a part of his nature, was increased by his enthusiastic study of the early English authors, who furnished his mind with its most genial sustenance ; and his easy flow of expression and pithy language received a certain antique coloring from the same source. His wit, clothed in this curious garb, comes upon the mind with the most irresistible effect. We regard it as something singular, something remote from every thing else within our knowledge, and yet wholly free from affectation. His mind sympathized so completely with his favorite writers, that he became almost their contemporary, and poured out his rich drollery in their quaint exVOL. XLVI. — NO. 98.