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powers. The English translators hitherto have never proceeded beyond one play, or two at the utmost :- like the chatter-boxes'* of the Ranæ, they have done no more than approach the Muse, or have retired exhausted by a single embrace. Mr Mitchell seems made of stouter stuff,--and we doubt not will maintain his promise of greater perseverance. We have yet only the foot of Hercules,- but if he will correct some parts of his design, and-under favour-attend to a few hints we shall feel it our office to administer, we believe that the remainder of his work will even improve upon the sample.The volume now put forth is made up of two distinct parts :versions of the Acharnians and the Knights,--which have never yet been rendered into English,--and a most interesting Preliminary Discourse, to which we shall beg leave first to call the attention of our readers.
With a few inaccuracies and inconsistencies of reasoning,-of which we have already pointed out some specimens ;--without any attempt to support his arguments by the aid of verbal criticism,—for indeed Mr Mitchell is too good a soldier in the cause of literature to make himself a mere pioneer, and has too just a potion of his own peculiar powers to devote himself to whatexcept in the hands of a Porson or an Elmsley-is worse than trifling ;-and with here and there a little needless episodic deviation from the straight path of his design, for the sake of displaying stores of information that are extremely copious ;-we consider this Preliminary Discourse to be one of the most amusing, and at the same time valuable treatises, we ever remember to have perused. It is amusing--as the work of a man who has thought much, and read perhaps still more; and whose command of a style at once so rich, so lively, and so dramatic, would of itself give interest to a much duller subject than he has chosen to discuss. It is valuable--not only as it is always an important matter that Truth should be clearly ascertained and placed in as conspicuous a light as possible,-but as it draws the curtain from a department of knowledge that has heretofore lain as a sort of terra incognita,-opens a new world upon the curious speculation, and guides the student to a greater familiarity than has usually been attained with topics very interesting in themselves, and essential towards a thorough comprehension of the Grecian classics. Seizing with particular felicity upon ground that has been strangely left unoccupied by preceding writers, he makes it a vehicle for conveying to his readers a great variety of collateral information on almost every poin
To sapernutate.Vide Ranas. v. 92.
connected with the ancient comic drama,—and though we cannot always coincide with his sentiments incidentally expressed, we cordially assent to the main object of his reasoning, and owe him all gratitude for the pains he seems to have bestowed upon his task, and the learning he has adduced in support of opinions with the general tenor of which we so heartily agree.
Cumberland-while he defended Aristophanes from the absurd charge of collusion with Anytus and Melitus in their prosecution of Socrates--a charge directly confuted by the stubborn argument of dates, if indeed the contemptuous language of the Apologia * did not evince it to be one that it is ridiculous to advance with any appearance of seriousness,--did not venture to justify the poet's motives for his celebrated attack upon that philosopher, but, barely claiming for them the character of being natural, gave up the point of their liberality and fairness.---The Messrs Schlegels—while they place the prince of Ancient Comedy on the lofty eminence he deserves to occupy as a poet and a patriot-can find no excuse for his repre
senting in so odious colours the most wise and the most vir"tuous of all his fellow-citizens,' the title they choose to apply to Socrates, but an almost inconceivable perplexity of intellect, by which they say he mingled and confounded in his own
mind, even without wishing it, this inestimable sage with his • enemies the Sophists, whose schools he frequented in his ma• turer years, solely with the view of making himself master of « that which he intended to refute and overthrow.'
Mr Mitchell makes a bolder stand for Aristophanes; and while he grapples so closely with his subject, and follows it up so minutely through all its bearings and windings, that no one can call his defence a piece of simple declamation or of partial sophistry, he contrives, partly by his ingenuity, partly by his forcible statements, but still more by his candour, and even tenderness towards the great Philosopher, so to turn the whole current of our schoolboy predilections, that the most prejudiced person, we think, must rise from the examination of his treatise convinced that the comic bard--so far from deserving blame for the course he pursued in consequence of what he saw and felt-is entitled • to the gratitude of posterity for the assumption and execution • of the task.' In order to make out this position, it is evident that the writer has only to identify the Aristophanic Socrates with what must be supposed the faithful, or rather the favourable character of that remarkable man, as it is detailed in the works of his affectionate disciples, Xenophon and Plato,--to
* Vide Platonis ' Apologiam Socratis,' $ 2. 3.
connect this character with that of the Sophists,--and by pointing out the evils and mischiefs inflicted on society by the misdirected ingenuity of that pestilential race, to set in its true light the spirit and the patriotism of him who was really their great antagonist, and who has left us in the Clouds so abhorrent a picture of the noxious reptiles he was endeavouring to crush. The first and the last of these propositions have been fully laboured by Mr Mitchell—and with a great deal of honesty as well as of eloquence :-on the second head, the actual similitude between the Socrates of Plato and the Sophists with whom that Socrates waged so incessant a warfare—he has not so much insisted, although it be a point necessary to be made out for the complete justification of Aristophanes. Without doing this, no one can be said to have done full justice to a man, whose mo• tives have been much mistaken, and whose character, in con
sequence, has been unduly depreciated.' But while Mr Mitchell contends that proofs have been displayed by him, ' that " the character of Socrates is a little more open to remark, than some admirers in their ignorance are aware of, and more
than some in their knowledge are willing to bring into notice,' -he seems, like the executioner of Marius, so struck with the dignity of his victim, so awed by the splendid powers of Socrates, and the sublimity of some of the doctrines he unfolds, that he has no heart to deal the final blow, or to press his assault so closely as he might have done. We confess that our own nerves are much more hardy. We have not that respect for the whole fabric of ancient philosophy—a fabric, within whose dark cells the poetic genius of VIRGİL * had so nearly been immured, to waste its radiance like the lamp in a sepulchre,-a philosophy, in Physics so wildly visionary, so indolently satisfied with unexperimental error,-in Ethics so perplexed, so fluctuating, so unsatisfactory,—which can make us tremble to approach its shrine with any thing short of the incense of adulation, or regret to see the hollowness and contradictions of the principles upon which it proceeded, exposed even in the speculations of him who went so much further in his advances towards truth than any other of his countrymen. We care not what reproaches we may incur in the exposition of truth,--and shall, therefore, in following Mr M. through his examination of this question, at least avoid the inconsistencies into which he has betrayed himself by his too great timidity:
Mr Mitchell begins his task with a slight and rapid sketch of
* Vide Georgic. Lib. ii. v. 495. See also Dryden’s Life of Virgil.
Grecian education, which is thus introduced : ' The first of • the dramatic pieces of Aristophanes seems to have been directed
against the state of private manners in Athens ; in his Acharnians • he endeavoured to moderate the insolence of national success, and
to infuse juster notions respecting a great public measure, which was putting the existence of the Athenians as a people at stake; while in the Knights, or, as it may more properly be termed, the
Demagogues, a mirror was held up to his fellow-citizens, where • the ruler and the ruled saw themselves reflected with equal fidelity, ' and by which posterity has gained a complete knowledge of the
greatest historical phenomenon that ever appeared, the Athenian Demus. It remained for the author to strike at the root of all these evils, private and public, domestic and political,-a mischievous and most pernicious system of Education. This was undoubtly the 'origin and object of the Clouds; and a brief outline of the
progress of knowledge among the Greeks, and more particularly • of that branch of it, which was comprehended under the name of “ Philosophy,” will at once tend to explain the aim of the author, • and throw some light upon the comedy itself.'-He accordinghy traces the Athenian Pupil through the hands of the Grammarian (recuejatisns) who taught him Homer, with all his own criticisms, commentaries, explanations, and interpolations, upon that great Text-book of his instructions, into those of the teacher of Music (rutagions), who continued to cultivate the imagination at the expense of the understanding of the master of the Gymnasium, where he was exposed to learn something worse than the mere exercises of the Palæstra, *_and lastly of the Sophist, whose sole object-besides the acquisition of fame and of money
seems to have been to fit his disciple for the ruin of his country, and the utter destruction of his own character. Mr Mitchell's strong and masterly delineation of these insidious pseudor philosophers is well worthy of a little attention.
Protagoras of Abdera, the great' Belial' of the Sophists, and the first person who acquired distinction in this profession, cưlled by the hand of Democritus from the obscurity of his original trade, and planted on a fatal elevation by the instructions of that philosopher, and the aid of his own talents, became the UPAS of society, which was to spread far and wide its deadly branches, and drop a mortal poison upon all that came beneath its shade. He was the first to announce, that with him might • be acquired, for a proper compensation, that species of know• ledge, which was able to confound right and wrong, and make
the worse appear the better cause. He and his followers in the same School openly inculcated, that not only what is whole
Vide Aristophanem in Pace. v. 762. in Vespis. v. 1025,
some and useful had no actual substance in themselves; but • that honour and virtue, being the beginning and aim of what • is useful, existed only in the opinions and habits of men : that
the first and best of all acquisitions was Eloquence, such as in • the senate, the ecclesia, the courts of law, and the common in
tercourse of society, could steal, like the songs by which ser• pents were charmed, upon the ears of their auditors, and sway « their minds at the will of the speaker: that, on all occasions, might makes right: that the property of the weak belongs to
the strong, and that, whatever the law might say to the con'trary, the voice of nature taught and justified the doctrine:
that luxury, intemperance, licentiousness, were alone virtue ' and happiness: that the greatest of blessings was the power of 'committing wrong with impunity, and the greatest of evils the • inability to revenge an injury received.' — Such were some
of the doctrines,' says Mr Mitchell, which, advanced with • all the powers of dialectic skill, and dropping upon a soil too • well fitted by an imperfect education for their reception, con• fused the intellects, and perverted the notions of the young • Athenians.' Their passion for disputation upon all subjects is described by Plato as something beyond the reach of decay or mortality. No sooner,' he says, does one of our young
men get a taste of it, than he feels delighted, as if he had dis• covered a treasure of wisdom. Carried away by a pleasure • that amounts to madness, he finds a subject of dispute in every • thing that occurs. At one time both sides of the subject are 6 considered and reduced to one. At another, the subject is • analyzed and split into parts: himself becomes the first and • principal victim of his own doubts and difficulties: his neigh« bour, whether junior, senior, or equal, no matter, is the next • sufferer; he spares not father nor mother, nor any one who « will give him the loan of his ears; scarcely animals escape • him, and much less his fellow-creatures; even the foreigner • has no security but the want of an interpreter at hand to go • between them.' + We may imagine how rejoiced youths of
* We remember the opening of a lawyer's speech upon the Cir. cuit, which may give an idea of the sophistical phraseology and mode of reasoning:— My Lord, if there ever was a case--in which one
case ought to be conjoined with another case, this case is that • case! :- Which case, Mr ***?'—was his Lordship’s gruff but humorous reply.
+ Philebus, p. 74.-Gil Blas, describing his own disputatious propensities, while a student at Oviedo, draws a similar picture : I
so much in love with dispute, that I stopped passengers, known, or