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ring the utmost caution; otherwise, if the supervisor be overhasty in the introduction of his Sol and Venus, (the reddest and fairest he can get,) dreadful heart-burnings and altercations ensue, and, instead of a tender consummation," they will break his pot and blow up
the cover.'* And thus have we brought our arduous task to its termination; and we “could weep,” would weeping do us good, to mark how dark and dubious is the line of demarcation between the sanities and follies of human life, and how far in the wilderness of error and absurdity the purest and best of men may occasionally wander. We have traced, in the preceding pages, the paths of some, who, starting with truth for their guide, left her to pursue the wildest phantom of imagination, deluded partly by hopes of gain; but, what is far more lamentable, partly too, it must be confessed, by an opinion that they were under spiritual guidance, on which account, notwithstanding their many failings, (exclusive of the benefit we live to reap from their experiments,) we cannot but look upon them as entitled to respect. Wha, indeed, can ridicule, without some sighs of compunction, the man who thus concludes his work on the ultimate separation and decompositions of bodies.
“ Lastly, in the end of all things shall be the last separation, the great day when God shall come in majesty and glory, before whom shall be carried not swords, garlands, diadems, sceptres, &c., and kingly jewels with which princes, kings, Cesars, &c. do pompously set forth themselves, but his cross, his crown of thorns, and nails thrust through his hands and feet, and spear with which his side was pierced, and sponge in which they gave him vinegar to drink, and the whips wherewith he was scourged and beaten. He comes not accompanied with troops of horse, and beating of drums, but four trumpets shall be sounded by the angels, towards the four parts of the world, killing all that are then alive with a horrible noise, in one moment, and then presently raising them again, together with them that are dead and buried. For the voice shall be heard, “Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment.' Then shall the twelve apostles sit down, their seats being prepared in the clouds, and shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel. In that place, the holy angels shall separate the bad from the good, the cursed from the blessed, the goats from the sheep. Then the cursed shall like stones and lead be thrown downward ; but the blessed shall like eagles fly on high.t
* “ Paracelsus," 118.
+ Ibid. lib. viii., p. 97.
ART. VI.-Opere di Lodovico Antonio Muratori. Arezzo, 1767.
8vo. 36 vols, in 4. Storia della Italiana Letteratura di Gerolamo Tiraboschi. – 1787-94. 16 rols. in 4.
There is a voluminous class of books, usually called books of reference, neither read by their possessors, nor consulted by any but the very few for whose peculiar benefit they are written, and who make them minister no less to their own reputation than to the public advantage. The writers of these volumes, considered as authors, are esteemed, at the best, industrious and judicious, but heavy compilers : regarded as men, they are universally supposed to be devoid of every spark of originality and vigour of mind. The highest merit ascribed to them is that of swelling volumes, useful to the few who know how to employ them to advantage, but impossible to be read without fatigue.
Tiresome as they are generally esteemed, their acknowledged utility is sufficient to justify any one in the attempt to make them better known, whether as a class of writers distinct from every other, or as individuals whose intellectual character, and whose habits, are marked by the most striking peculiarities. The deservedly popular histories of the Decline und Fall of the Roman Empire, of the Age of Lorenzo de Medici, and of the Republics of the Middle Ages, (we mention these as specimens of the works of the same class which have appeared during the last half-century,) are extremely dissimilar in some respects, but possess three characteristics in common,-genius for historical composition, more or less conspicuous in each, but innate in all,- philosophical observation and reflection,-and variety and abundance of facts. For their genius, they were indebted to nature ; for their philosophical spirit, to the age in which they lived, (of which we shall say more hereafter ;) but for their facts, almost exclusively to the authors of those ponderous volumes, some of which will form the subject of the present article, especially those which have furnished the most ample materials for the genius of Gibbon, Roscoe, and Sis mondi to work upon. Whatever be the political bias, or the literary ability, or the general principles which an author brings to an historical work, the only true and solid foundation for his labours is to be found in the authenticity, the order, and the importance of his facts. Without these, his genius would produce nothing but poetry, his eloquence would be mere declamation, and his philosophy would be the baseless and cloudy metaphysics of the North. The old registrars of diaries and chronicles, the collectors of anecdotes and letters, the publishers of secret memoirs, the discoverers of ancient documents and forgotten laws, would be of the greatest utility to the his
torian if his life were long enough to examine a tenth part of them. Fortunately for him there are dry compilers, and superstitious antiquarians, and writers of partial and suspected memoirs; an intermediate class of men, destined, as it were, by nature, to re-arrange the chaos of events, and to prepare them for the use of the historian. They have the patience to search for facts, wherever they are scattered; they have the courage to accumulate them in immense numbers, and the perseverance to verify them amid the multitude of popular errors; they have the sagacity to scent out and discover truth among intentional lies, invented ages ago, and persisted in, from generation to generation, for the purpose of bolstering up theological dogmas, or flattering national vanity.
The writers of this class have no merit on the score of elegance or eloquence; they can never be quoted as models of style, nor as depositaries of the treasures of a language. Their minds are not fitted for the task of generalizing, or of throwing light on many ideas and many facts at once; and they afford neither profit nor pleasure to readers of a philosophic turn of mind. They do not exhibit facts in a way to awaken wonder or interest; they never relate one without sifting its accuracy, and they disprove and destroy many romantic and delightful traditions; they are, therefore, never popular. Lastly, their works are always in many volumes, each volume of a thousand folio or quarto pages, at the very least. Who then can read them? Or who, if he could, would, unless he were compelled to have recourse to their assistance. From these volumes the most popular authors draw the immense wealth which has been hoarded by those who knew not how to turn it to account, and render it current and fit for the purposes of circulation. The great historians who have benefited so largely by this class of writers, have sometimes spoken of their benefactors as men of no genius, but in this they were mistaken. Literary genius is susceptible of classification into various orders. The genius of Galileo and of Newton could have produced nothing like the genius of Dante and of Shakspeare. The genius of Muratori would never have dictated a page of Montesquieu ; nor would Montesquieu have contemplated without dismay the task of verifying, as Muratori does, year by year, page by page, and line by line, the authenticity of musty parchments; and in spite of the traditions of ages, the concurrent testimony of innumerable writers, and the interests of powerful governments, convict them of falsehood from the time of Constantine downwards. Unquestionably, the writers of whom we are now treating are men of genius,-genius of an extremely slow and cold character; they are incapable of raising themselves to the celestial regions, or of unfolding the operations of nature; incapable of agitating or elevating the imagination; incapable of combining facts, philosophy, and eloquence, in such a manner as to render both the narrative, and the moral and political truths resulting from it, luminous and interesting. Yet, that very tardiness and coldness may fit them to execute what men of more lively genius could never accomplish, and lead them to embark in enterprises which could not be achieved, nor even imagined, without the impulse and native vigour of genius. They see, without discouragement, traditions, opinions, and errors collected together from all parts on the stream of ages, nations, and religions : they follow their course, and dive into them, to find the few truths which can be useful to mankind; and, what is more extraordinary, they give order and form to a countless mass of testimonies, dates, and incidents, which had heretofore corrupted and confounded each other.
The marginal references of the works of the three illustrious historians above-mentioned, and of many others, present us, continually with the names of Muratori and Tiraboschi. The latter began to appear as an author just about the time of the death of his great predecessor, who furnished the means, and smoothed the way for the composition of his work, called Storia della Italiana Litteratura ; but a more appropriate title for which would be Archivio ordinato e ragionato di materiali cronologie, documenti e disquisizioni per servire alla storia letteraria d'Italia :- An arranged Collection of Chronological Details, Documents, and Disquisitions, intended to serve as Materials for the literary History of Italy. Mr. Roscoe, in the preface to his pontificate of Leo X., mentions it as a work perfect in its kind, and unequalled in any age or country. Though we admit the utility of the book, we cannot concur in so lofty an eulogium upon it; on the contrary, we think, that, to be in any high degree useful, it must be resorted to with precautions which we shall, probably, point out in a future article, when we shall, also, take occasion to notice the use which Guinguéné, and others, have made of it in their works on the literature of Italy. At present, we shall only remark that Tiraboschi, having prescribed to himself, (and not without reason,) a law, that he would never introduce into his history any biographical details, nor any criticisms on the works, of authors who were either contemporary with bimself, or who had lived since the beginning of the eighteenth century, in which he wrote, the literary history of that period is still a desideratum. The interest and importance of such a work may be, in some degree, conceived, when we remember, that between the years 1700 and 1750, lived those giants of critical and antiquarian history, whose volumes have afforded food and encouragement to the genius of later historians, and filled the shelves of almost every library in Europe; but have rarely excited either the curiosity of posterity, or the gratitude of those who have consulted them.
The first English traveller wbo went into Italy with literary views, and, certainly, with all the natural and acquired faculties necessary to their fulfilment, was Addison. This illustrious writer met in Venice, Florence, Rome, and elsewhere, the greatest antiquarians which that country has ever produced. But, from some reason which we cannot explain, he does not mention one; and the reader of his Itinerary would conclude that the only literary merit Italy then possessed were orators and poets ; orators, whose sermons inculcated the belief of the miracle of fishes converted to the Christian religion by Saint Antony; and poets, whose works were operas, written to be warbled through the throats of eunuchs.
This omission of Addison's appears, at once, intentional and inexplicable, particularly as he professed to go to Italy in quest of antiquities. His knowledge of Roman history, and, above all, his assiduous study of medals, must have instantly excited his attention to the rivalry then existing among Italians on the subject of these studies, the perseverance with which they pursued them, and the ardour with which they engaged in them; an ardour compared by themselves to a crusade undertaken to rescue the treasures of antiquity from the grasp of time. They sacrificed their fortune, their labour, and, often, their personal safety, to the discovery not only of monumental remains, but of the truth of facts and principles which the barbarism of the middle ages and the superstition of the papal church had conspired to pervert and conceal.
The richest and most authentic collection of medals in Italy was that of Apostolo Zeno, whom fortune, in one of her capricious moods, had made a most profound antiquarian and critic by inclination, and a poet by necessity. He wrote musical rhymes to get money to buy books and antiquities. But, though he thus threw away half his time and talents against his own natural bias, in order that he might the more fully indulge it with the other half, his favourite studies completely consumed his patrimony, whilst, on the other hand, his poetry procured him a competency for his old age. Having been obliged to sell his collection of medals, which was purchased for the Imperial Museum of Vienna, he, at the same time, agreed to undertake the place of poet laureat to the Emperor, and to write operas for his theatre. Among his contemporaries, he was certainly the best in that walk; and he still enjoys the merit of having initiated Metastasio, his successor in the laureat-ship, in the art of making tragedies to be sung by Dido burning on her funeral pile, Hannibal swallowing the poison which was to deliver him out of the Roman power, and Cato killing himself to escape from Cæsar.
Now it happened, that at the time Addison was in Venice, meditating his "Cato," the plot of the most popular and