صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

THE

NEW YORK REVIEW.

No. X VII.

JULY, 1841.

ART. I.-1. Demosthenes als Staatsbürger, Redner und Schriff

steller. Von Albert GERARD BECKER, Pastor zu St. Aegidii in Quedlinburg. Erste Abtheilung Literatur des Demosthenes. Quedlinburg und Leipzig. 1830.

Zweite Abtheilung. Nachträge u: Fortsetzung der Literatur vom J. 1830 bis zum Schlusse des J. 1833. Quedlin

burg und Leipzig. 1834. 2. Quastionum Demosthenicarum Particula tertia. De Litibus

quas Demosthenes oravit ipse. _Scripsit ANTONIUS WESTERMANN, in Academiâ Lips. Prof. Ord. Accedit epimetrum de repetitis locis in orationibus Demosthenis. Lipsiae, MDCCCXXXIV.

3. A Dissertation on the Eloquence of the Ancients, with an Ap

pendix, by LORD BROUGHAM, in Lord Brougham's Speeches, vol. 4. Edinburgh ; 1838.

THE subject of popular eloquence, always an attractive one in free countries, has been invested for us with a more than ordinary interest by the events of the last year. A new era seems to have occurred in the development of our democratic institutions. There have been congresses of the sovereigns in proper person. We have seen multitudes, probably NO. XVII. VOL. IX.

1

These eager

greater than any addressed by the ancient masters, brought together, by means of the steam engine, from the most distant parts of our immense territory, to consult with one another upon the state of the nation, and to listen to the counsels of men distinguished among us for their influence or ability. We have seen the best speakers of the country called for from all parts of it, compelled to leave their homes however remote-some of them drawn forth even out of the shades of private life—to advise, to instruct, and to animate their fellowcitizens, exhausting all their resources of invention to supply topics, of strength to endure fatigue, of oratory to command attention, and even of voice to utter and articulate sound, in order to meet the almost incessant demands made upon

them by a people insatiable after political discussion. It was not one part of the country that was thus awakened and agitated, the commotion was universal ; yet nothing was more remarkable in these stirring scenes than the order, decorum and seriousness which in general distinguished them. throngs listened like men accustomed to inquire for themselves, and to weigh the grounds of their opinions. There was to us, we confess, something imposing and even majestic in such mighty exhibitions of the Democracy. But quiet and patient as these vast popular audiences certainly were, to a degree much beyond anything that could have been imagined beforehand, their attention was far from being uniform and undiscerning. They never once failed to listen to the best speech with the deepest silence, and to award the highest honors to the best speaker. We mean the best in the proper, critical sense of the word; for our previous opinions, founded upon the experience of other times, have been fully confirmed by our own, that it is impossible to speak too well to a vast and promiscuous assembly; and that it is by qualities which would insure success at any time under a popular government similarly circumstanced, that Demosthenes, the most exquisite of writers, was the delight, the guide and the glory of the Democracy of Athens.

Considering, as we do, the masterpieces of this great orator as the true and only models of popular eloquence beau idéal not Greek, not Attic, not ancient, not local or transitory or peculiar, as Lord Brougham vainly imagines them to be, but made like the Apollo or the Parthenon for all times and all nations, and worthy of study and imitation wherever genius shall be called to move masses of men by

as its

[ocr errors]

of this paper.

the power of the living word, we know not how we can do anything more profitable or more acceptable to our readers, than to fix their attention, for a few moments, upon the excellences which distinguish him beyond every other orator that has ever appeared in any period of the world's history. Nor let it be feared that we shall be found dealing in the stale trivialities of a subject long since worn out. It is true that the name of this Homer of orators,* and certain epithets which school-boys are taught to associate with it, are as familiar as household words. But it is also true, to an extent not to be conceived by any but scholars, that anything but a just idea – nay, that a very absurd idea of the Demosthenian style, is suggested by those same familiar phrases. We want no better proof of this than is furnished by the dissertation of Lord Brougham, the very latest thing that has appeared upon the subject, placed, with two other publications much more entitled to the attention of scholars, at the head

But of that by and by. The truth is, that in common with all the other departments of philology, the schools of Germany have, within the last twenty-five years, addressed to this, with signal success, their vast research and their matchless criticism. The work of Mr. Becker, mentioned in our rubric, contains sufficient evidence of this. It is entitled, as our readers will have seen, the “literature" of Demosthenes, that is, it is a succinct account in two Parts containing together but three hundred pages, of all that has been published in regard to the orator, to his life and character, editions and translations of his works, or essays and commentaries upon them; everything, in short, that can make us acquainted with the man or the speaker. It is quite remarkable how much more has been done in this way, within the short period just mentioned, than during the whole seventeenth and eighteenth centuries put together. This same author published in 1815–16 a work upon Demosthenes, which was one of the first contributions to a more critical knowledge of its interesting subject. That work (Demosthenes als Staatsmann und Redner) we have never been so fortunate as to meet with, having ordered it repeatedly in vain from Germany. Mr. Becker complains that living where he does, (at Quedlinburg, at the foot of the Hartz,) * Lucian Encom. 4, 5. + F. A. Wolf first awakened the true taste for the Attic orators, and with them for the whole subject of Greek Antiquities, says Becker, p. 109.

he has not the advantage of access to any of the great public libraries of Europe, and that he feels very sensibly the want of such an instrument.* What would he say if he shared our privations in that respect? Yet much as we regret the not having had an opportunity of reading a work, to which he often refers, and of which we have so often seen honorable mention made, we are the more reconciled to be without it by the reflection that this branch of knowledge has made great progress since it was published, and by the confession of the author that he feels the necessity of recasting it with a view to that progress. Indeed, the work before us is a preparation for the projected improvement in the first, and contains a collection of the materials out of which it is to be reformed and completed.

M. Becker is a devotee to his subject, if there ever was one. He assures us that since the year '91, when a dissertation of his to prove that the Oration on the Letter of Philip was spurious, was shown to F. A. Wolf, and honored with the approbation of that admirable critic, he has never lost sight of the orators. At the end of half a century his zeal seems nowise abated. He collects with a tender care and repeats with fond complacency whatever has been uttered in any time or tongue, of praise to his author, or in extenuation of faults which, until recently, none was found bold enough to deny. Some of these Testimonia auctorum are really very striking and eloquent, and did our space permit us, we would willingly translate one or two of them for the benefit of our readers. They show that M. Becker's enthusiasm for Demosthenes, not only as an orator, but as a man and a patriot, is the common feeling of most of his contemporaries in Germany. Dionysius of Halicarnassus himself, who sacrifices not only Isocrates, but even Plato and his favorite Lysias to the prince of the art, does not indulge in a more lively and rapturous strain of encomium, than is almost universal among these quiet students of climes so much nearer the pole than Greece. But it is not in these times only that Germany has confirmed the vote by which the Demus of Athens crowned the immortal champion of Ciesiplion. Among the bibliographical notices with which this volume of M. Becker is filled, are those of two scholars, scarcely known but to men devoted

* See Vorrede to Th. 2, s. vi.

+ Especially a portrait of Demosthenes by Zell, p. 276, and some remarks of Raumer, p. 141.

« السابقةمتابعة »