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portions; narratives always needing much to como plete, and continually something to correct them. The very arrangement, taking the subjects out of their natural places to set them in pairs, a Greek and Roman together, is unsuitable.
Plutarch however deserves to be restored to a place, at any rate, among books to be generally read. If he is not cotemporary, he conveys to us a great deal that was so. If he is not complete, his selection is good. He requires correcting, but after all the labours of late years, we have not far to go to find the corrections. His point of view is not political; but, for that very reason, he is truer to antiquity. If it were merely as an ancient writer, giving the ancient Greek and Roman aspect of Greek and Roman history, he might well claim the attention of those who cannot conveniently read the whole series of original authorities. It is wonderful how different these are from any modern account of them. They have been treated as materials, and worked up into something entirely new. The great mosaic figures have been taken to pieces, and the bits, carefully preserved, put together again upon another design. This may be saying too much. But certainly there is a great tradition of ancient history, which Plutarch very fairly represents, which we are in some danger of forgetting, and which it is essential to possess before proceeding to the commentary which explains, and the criticism which checks it. Criti
cism has indeed effected wonders; but no knowledge of ancient history is sound which knows more of the annotations than of the text, and which does not rest upon an acquaintance with the ancients as portrayed by themselves.
I have put the following selected lives in a chronological series from Themistocles to Alexander and Demosthenes. I cannot but think that they will form a sketch of Greek history more agreeable than a compendium; which may be usefully and with more interest read afterwards. (A compendium is for those who have some knowledge already.) And readers who proceed to Bishop Thirlwall or Mr. Grote, will find it pleasant to be familiar with one of the original writers, and one to whom they throughout their histories continually refer. This portion of history, moreover, is that with which Plutarch was himself best acquainted: for some parts of it he is really a principal authority. As works of skill or genius, no one of his lives in this selection can be said to be equal to those, for example, of Brutus and Antony. But his knowledge in Greek story is always more thorough than in Roman.
I should wish to add in a second volume a series parallel to the present, including Aristides, Cimon, Nicias, Agesilaus, Dion, and Phocion. It was not possible to admit here any one of these without introducing a repetition, as in Aristides, of what had been told in Themistocles, and in Nicias of parts of Alcibiades. Two such volumes might however be read, the one after the other, without any feeling of sameness.
The translations are taken, with permission, from the edition lately published in America by Messrs. Little and Brown, of Boston.* These are revised from the second English translation, made by various hands. Of the lives in the present volume, Themistocles was the work of a son of Sir Thomas Brown; Alexander that of a son of John Evelyn ; Alcibiades was done by Lord Somers, Pelopidas by Creech, the translator of Lucretius, and Lysander by Charles Boyle, the opponent of Bentley (impar congressus Achilli). The alterations however are very large.
I have said nothing of the interest which attaches to Plutarch's lives in connection with Plutarch himself, and the age in which he lived and wrote them. He lived under the Emperors Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian. He wrote in the time of Tacitus and the two Plinies, Juvena] and Martial, Epictetus and Arrian. An eventful period, opimum casibus, settling down after dangers and terrors, that shook the whole fabric of western civilisation, into the busy peace and prosperity of the last flourishing era of heathendom; marked, it would seem, moreover, by a sort
* Plutarch's Lives. A translation, revised by A. H. Clough. 5 vols. 8vo. Little and Brown, Boston; Sampson Low, Son, and Co. London. 1859.
of late revival of the mixture of fable and moral philosophy which made up the Greek and Roman religion. Plutarch, passing a happy, domestic, literary life in a little Boeotian town, whence he could go with ease to Delphi, Athens, and Corinth, and from which he travelled in his youth to Egypt, and went, probably more than once, on a long visit to Rome and Italy, is not the least interesting figure among those of the age, of whom a memorial has come down to us. And of him a very considerable record remains in his numerous and most miscellaneous Minor or Moral works. Those who bear it in mind, will not fail to discover in the lives also a good deal which is of interest in relation to their author.