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For JANUARY, 1771.
ART. I. Plutarch's Lives. Translated from the original Greek;
with Notes critical and historical, and a new Life of Plu-:
of biography; and, in this walk of literature, there is no Author more eminent than Plutarch. While he excites in us an admiration of the superior qualities, and of the shining actions of those great men, whate history he has recorded, he describes minutely their private behaviour and manners; and his details exhibit very ample materials by which to judge of the principles an motives of human conduct. There is no work of conseque which furnishes, to the speculative reader, a more extensive of agreeable or profound reflection; and none that can be oftner read without disgust and fatigue.
The learned, accordingly, were very early disposed to pay an attention to his labours; and in 1558, a French translation of his lives was published. From this version, which was faulty and imperfect in many respects, they were rendered into Englih in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The next attempt of our countrymen to naturalize this illustrious Ancient, was made by Dryden, in conjunction with several other Translators ; but he appears to have prostituted his name, to give reputation to a work, full of errors, unequal, and often inconsistent. In the several editions which this translation has undergone, the defects of it have been partly increased, and partly remedied. It must be acknowledged, however, that in 1758 the revisal of it having been committed to a gentleman of erudition and capacity, a multitude of its imperfections were removed, and it received a more decent form. But it was not possible, by any Vol. XLIV.
amendments, to alter its general tenor, and to give it unity.
In the preface to the present work, the merits of the former
After their introduction or preface, our Translators present their Readers with an original life of Plutarch, which appears to include all the information that can be collected on this subject; and in which we must do them the justice to remark, there is a liberality of sentiment that could proceed only from men whose understandings have been amply cultivated.
From this part of their work we shall lay before our Readers the account which they have given of the philosophical principles of their Author.
• If Plutarch, say they, might properly be said to belong to any sect of philosophers, his education, the rationality of his principles, and the modesty of bis doctrines, would incline us to place him with the latter academy. At least, when he left his master Ammonius, and came inco, society, it is more than probable that he ranked particularly with that seet.
• His writings, however, furnish us with many reasons for thinking that he afterwards became a citizen of the philosophical wo:ld. He appears to have examined ctery sect with a calm and unprejudiced attention; to have selected what he found of use for the purposes of virtue and happiness; and to have left the rest for the portion of those, whose narrowness of mind could think either science or felicity confined to any denomination of men.
· From the academicians he took their modesty of opinion, and left them their original scepticism : he borrowed their rational theology, and gave up to them, in a great measure, their metaphysical refinements, together with their vain, though seductive enthusiasm.
• With the peripatetics he walked in search of natural science, and of logic; but, satisfied with whatever practical knowledge might be acquired, he left them to dream over the hypothetical part of the former, and to chase the shadows of reason through the mazes of the latter.
• To the stoics he was indebted for the belief of a particular providence; but he could not enter into their idea of future
rewards and punishments. He knew not how to reconcile the present agency of the Supreme Being with his judicial character hereafter ; though Theodoret tells us, that he had heard of the Christian religion, and inserted several of its myfteries in his works. From the stoics too he borrowed the doctrine of Fortitude ; but he rejected the unnatural foundation on which they erected that virtue. He went back to Socrates for principles whereon to rest it.
• With the epicureans he does not seem to have had much intercourse, though the accommodating philosophy of Aristippus entered frequently into his politics, and sometimes into the general economy of his life. In the little states of Greece that philosophy had not much to do; but had it been adopted in the more violent measures of the Roinan administration, our celebrated biographer would not have had such scenes of blood and ruin to describe for emulation, prejudice, and opposition, upon whatever principles they may plead their apology, first ftruck out the fire that laid the commonwealth in alhes. If Plutarch borrowed any thing more from Epicurus, it was his rational idea of enjoyment. That such was his idea, it is more than probable; for it is impossible to believe the tales that the Heathen bigots have told of him, or to suppose that the cultivated mind of a philosopher should pursue its happiness out of the temperate order of nature. His irreligious opinions he left to him, as he had left to the other sects their vanities and absurdities.
• But when we bring him to the school of Pythagoras, what idea thall we entertain of him? Shall we consider him any longer as an academician, or as a citizen of the philosophical world ? Naturally benevolent and humane, he finds a fyftem of divinity and philosophy perfectiy adapted to his natural sentiments. The whole animal creation he had originally looked upon with an instinctive tenderness; but when the amiable Pythagoras, the priest of Nature, in defence of the common privileges of her creatures, had called religion into their cause ; when he sought to foften the cruelty that man had exercised against them, by the honest art of insinuating the doctrine of transmigration, how could the humane and benevolent Plutarch refuse to serve under this priest of Nature? It was impoflible. He adopted the doctrine of the metempsychosis. He entered into the merciful scheme of Pythagoras, and, like him, diverted che cruelty of the human species, by appealing to the selfish qualities of their nature, by subduing their pride, and exciting their sympathy, while he Thewed them that their future existe ence might be the condition of a reptile.
* This spirit and disposition break strongly from him in his observations on the elder Cato. And as no.hing can exhibit a
niore lively picture of him than these paintings of his own, we hall not scruple to introduce them here : “ For my part, I cannot but charge his using his servants like fo many beasts of burthen, and turning them off, or selling them when they grow old, to the account of a mean and ungenerous spirit, which thinks that the sole tie between man and man is interest or neceffity. But goodness moves in a larger sphere than justice. The obligations of law and equity reach only to mankind, but kindness and beneficence should be extended to creatures of every species; and these still flow from the breast of a wellnatured man, as streams that issue from the living fountain. A good man will take care of his horses and dogs, not only while they are young, but when old and past service. Thus the people of Athens, when they had finished the temple called Hecatom pedon, set at liberty the beasts of burthen that had been chiefly employed in that work, suffering them to pasture at large, free from any other service. It is said, that one of these afterwards came of its own accord to work, and putting itself at the head of the labouring cattle, marched before them to the citadel. This pleased the people, and they made a decree, that it should be kept at the public charge so long as it lived. The graves of Cimon's mares, with which he thrice conquered at the olympic games, are still to be seen near his own tomb. Many have shewn particular marks of regard, in burying the dogs which they had cherished, and been fond of; and, amongst the rest, Xantippus of old, whose dog swam by the side of his galley to Salamis, when the Athenians were forced to abandon their city, and was afterwards buried by him upon a promontory, which to this day is called the Dog's Grave. We certainly ought not to treat living creatures like shoes or household goods, which, when worn out with use, we throw away; and were it only to learn benevolence to human kind, we thould be merciful to other creatures. For my own part, I would not sell even an old ox that had laboured for me; much less would I remove, for the sake of a little money, a man grown old in my service, from his usual lodgings and diet: for to him, poor man! it would be as bad as banishment, fince he could be of no more use to the buyer than he was to the seller. But Calo, as if he took a pride in these things, tells us, that when consul, he left his war-horse in Spain, to fave the public the charge of his conveyance. Whether such things as these are instances of greatness or littieness of foul, let the Reader judge for himself."
What an amiable idea of our benevolent philosopher ! How worthy the instructions of the priest of Nature! How honourable to that great maker of truth and universal science, whose
fentiments were decisive in every doubtful matter, and whose maxims were received with filent conviction !
• Wherefore should we wonder to find Plutarch more particularly attached to the opinions of this great man? Whether we consider the immensity of his erudition, or the benevolence of his' fyftem, the motives for that attachment were equally powerful. Pythagoras had collected all the stores of human learning, and had reduced them into one rational and useful body of science. Like our glorious Bacon, he led philosophy forth from the jargon of schools, and the fopperies of fects. He made her what she was originally designed to be, the handmaid of Nature; friendly to her creatures, and faithful to her laws. Whatever knowledge could be gained by human induftry, by the most extensive enquiry and observation, he had every means and opportunity to obtain. The priests of Egypt unfolded to him their mysteries and their learning: they led him through the records of the remoteft antiquity, and opened all those stores of science that had been amassing through a multitude of ages. The magi of Persia co-operated with the priests of Egypt in the instruction of this wonderful philoso. pher. They taught him those higher parts of science, by which they were themselves so much distinguished, astronomy, and the system of the universe. The laws of moral life, and the insti. tutions of civil societies, with their several excellencies and defects, he learned from the various states and establishments of Greece. Thus accomplished, when he came to dispute in the olympic contests, he was considered as a prodigy of wisdom and learning ; but when the choice of his title was left to him, he modestly declined the appellation of a wise man, and was contented only to be called a lover of wisdom.
• Shall not Plutarch then meet with all imaginable indul. gence, if, in his veneration for this great man, he not only adopted the nobler parts of his philosophy, tut (what he had avoided with regard to the other sects) followed him too in his errors ? Such, in particular, was his doctrine of dreams; to which our biographer, we must confess, has paid too much attention. Yet absolutely to condemn him for this, would, perhaps, be hazarding as much as totally to defend him. We muft acknowledge, with the elder Pliny, fi exemplis agitur, profeetà paria fiant; or, in the language of honest Sir Roger de Coverley, “ much may be said on both sides.” However, if Pliny, whose complaisance for the credit of the marvellous in particular was very great, could be doubtful about this matter, we of little faith may be allowed to be more so. Yet Plutarch, in his treatise on oracles, has maintained his doctrine by such powerful testimonies, that if any regard is to be paid to his veracity, fone attention should be given to his opinion. We ;