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Roman history, either in its early periods or in its constitutional development. We may return to this subject, and shew wherein consists the peculiarity of his views, chiefly with the view of examining how far subsequent research, conducted after his own fashion, has served to confirm or to reverse his decisions. One remark, in the meantime, we may be permitted to make. It is a common rule to judge of a man's skill, in matters which we do not know, from his power or discrimination in those with which we are acquainted. In the early history of Rome, an ordinary reader might be puzzled to decide on Niebuhr's success. But in the third volume of his History he reaches a period where every scholar of tolerable acquirements may judge for himself. And we think that it will be admitted by all competent judges, that it is impossible to read this portion of the History without feeling that Niebuhr is depicting real men and real events—unostentatiously grouping and painting marches and battles, as if he had been an eye-witness — and realizing to our imagination scenery with which he had become personally familiar, as, to be sure, he had. We may quote the opinion of Arnold on this point.
“It is since I saw you that I have been devouring with the most intense admiration the third volume of Niebuhr. The clearness and comprehensiveness of all his military details is a new feature in that wonderful mind, and how inimitably beautiful is that brief account of Terni.”—Life and Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 371.
Yet it cannot be denied that, especially in the earlier portion of the History, we have mainly dissertation instead of narrative. While the purely historical portion will always command attention, from his admirable power of weighty unadorned narrativeweighty from the feeling that what is told is not only true, but the matured conviction of a truthful genius—we must confess that we entertain a suspicion that the earlier portions will be reserved for the scholar to study-a quarry from which others, such as Arnold, will dig the materials wherewith to rear less complicated structures.
It is fortunate, in these circumstances, that Niebuhr's Lectures do not labour under this disadvantage. Their literary history is, briefly, as follows:
When Niebuhr, in 1823, returned from his Roman embassy, he found, after a short visit to Berlin, that a permanent residence there would be, for political reasons, an unpleasant one. He retired to Bonn, where he continued till his death in January 1831, with an interval of some six months, spent at Berlin in 1828, at the desire of the king himself. Being a “ Free Associate” of the recently-erected university of Bonn, he com
Literary History of his Lectures.
menced, in the summer session of 1825, to lecture on Greek history. Thereafter, till his death, with the exception of the time during which he was at Berlin, he discoursed regularly on various subjects, devoting the fees derived from the lectures to the maintenance of poor students, and the institution of university prizes. On Roman history he delivered two memorable courses :—the one, in the winter of 1826–7, embraced a philological inquiry into the sources of Roman history, and carried down the course till the time of Sylla ;—the other occupied the winter and summer sessions of 1828–9, and extended over the whole period of Roman history, down to the fall of the Western Empire. Dr. Leonhard Schmitz had been a student of Niebuhr's during the last course. He had an intense admiration of the great historian ; and having become a resident in London, he had, in co-operation with Dr. William Smith, the editor of two Dictionaries illustrative of ancient literature, which mark an era in the scholarship of this country, translated the third volume of the history. He was struck with the thought that Niebuhr's views were much more likely to become familiarly known through his Lectures than his History, and he suggested the idea to his family in Germany; but as Niebuhr did not write out his Lectures, their publication could only be effected from notes taken by the students. The friends of Niebuhr were afraid of sacrificing the great master's fame, and refused to stir in the matter. Fortunately for the world, Dr. Schmitz took heart of grace, and collected in Germany, for collation, and to ensure completeness, a number of notes of the last course of lectures. In 1844, England gave the learned world the first view of the German Niebuhr as a lecturer on history. A wretched translation of the work into German alarmed and roused the friends of Niebuhr, and they had recourse to the same plan as that first adopted by Schmitz—the collection of notes. The first volume appeared in 1846; but it is to be distinctly noted, that, with the exception of a portion, the German publication broke ground at a period different from that opened up by Dr. Schmitz. He had justly deemed that the English public would be most interested in those views of Niebuhr which his History had not embraced, and, accordingly, he gave only the Introductory Lectures on the sources of Roman history, and the later period of the history itself, from the First Punic War. Thus England had,-1. Niebuhr's views of the sources of Roman history in the Lectures ; 2. his History extended in three volumes to the First Punic War; 3. his views of the history from the First Punic War to the time of Constantine, were given in the remaining part of the Lectures. Matters might have rested here, but the German editor commenced regularly from the beginning; and as many readers might desire to have Niebuhr's views completed in the form of Lectures, Dr. Schmitz
translated that portion of the German work which he had previously left untouched ; and, besides, as we have ascertained from examination, he has added many important passages from the fuller manuscripts in his hands. Any one who is acquainted with the method in which students take notes, will understand how much one set may differ from another; and these differences were heightened, in the case of Niebuhr, from the peculiar qualities and characteristics of the man. With his high-pitched to speak profanely, his squeaking voice—his small person,
* and also with his enthusiastic, impetuous temperament, and his inexhaustible store of illustration-his perfect command of his subject and his consciousness of power, he poured forth such a torrent of narrative, comment, disquisition, personal anecdote, description, eulogy, vituperation, (for he was too often in extremes, his dramatis persona being devils or angels)—that he quite took the breath from the wondering Teutons. But what one set of notes lacked another supplied, and by full collaboration, a remarkably accurate report was supplied. Our confidence is confirmed by the following circumstance. Dr. Schmitz's publication, and that of Germany, so far as the Introductory Lectures are concerned, were derived from totally different sources. Indeed, in the portion of the Lectures first published in Germany, and re-produced by Dr. Schmitz, it is evident that the book, as we have it, is not a mere translation of the German, but partly derived from it, and partly from another set of notes altogether. And yet the agreement between them, in the main, places the faithfulness of the reporters beyond all question. In this we, in England, have the advantage. Wherever there was matter in the German notes, not to be found in those in this country, the deficiency could be easily supplied, by translating the additional matter. But wherever the German notes are deficient the case is altered. The German edition is bound to give not only what Niebuhr said, but how he said it; and to translate from English into the Niebuhrian dialect, would both be impossible, and, if possible, too dishonest to be thought of for a moment by his friends.f The three volumes
* A lively Picture of Niebuhr is given by Dr. Arnold.-Life and Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 388.
+ All Niebuhr's Lectures are, we are glad to learn, in the course of publication. Two volumes of Lectures on Ancient History, and on the history of 6 The Last Forty Years," — referring to the French Revolution-have already appeared in Germany. His family have with great good taste, and a proper regard to their father's fame, committed the translation, as a sacred charge, to Dr. Schmitz. This we learn from a notice at the end of the Vorträge, &c., vol. i., by the editor, Dr. Isler.
By the way, no notice whatever is taken of Dr. Schmitz's services in the new translation. Is this usual with literary men ?
Value of Dr. Schmitz's services.
containing the Lectures, thus partly originating with, and partly enlarged by Dr. Schmitz, are in a high degree refreshing, interesting, and impulsive to the highest methods of historical investigation and pursuit
. They place the lecturer, with all his powers and peculiarities, vividly before us. The style is clear, unaffected, and uninvolved. From Dr. Schmitz's remarkable command of our language and its idioms, from his scholarship and his intimate acquaintance with the subject, as evinced by his own History of Rome, he has been enabled to confer a signal service on the scholars of this country. He has done more. He it was who gave the Germans themselves the means of stamping perennially on their University history the very form and pressure of one of the largest minds that ever graced their annals.
We were therefore somewhat surprised when we saw a new translation announced. Not only had Dr. Schmitz earned the gratitude of the reading public—not only were his labours completely satisfactory, but it was evident that a new translation must be defective, for any new doers were precluded by the law of copyright from availing themselves of Dr. Schmitz's additional matter. And this is often the most interesting of the whole. Most of the students laid down the pen when Niebuhr digressed, as they thought, into literary gossip; the wiser portion perceived its value, and followed him
through all his reminiscences. These hints—these disjecta membra—are generally the most characteristic portions of the discourses in which they
But now that the new translation has actually reached us, we judge it to be doubly fortunate that we had Dr. Schmitz's first, as the chances are that with this alone in our hands we should have pronounced Niebuhr, when uttering vivâ voce his historic responses, to be infected with not only the dogmatism, but with the obscurity of the ancient oracles. Or, it might be true of Niebuhr, as of another great man, “ He wrote like an angel, but talk'd like poor
Poll.” We may amuse our readers and ourselves with a few specimens of the new translation.
“ His [Beaufort's] literary and personal imperfections caused him to root up the tares with the wheat.”—P. 3.
Original (p. 3): Das Kind mit dem Bade auszuschütten-a highly humorous idiom, literally, “to empty out the child with the bath.” Dr. Schmitz translates it, “ to reject the wheat with the chaff.” His followers seem to have thought it enough to use the same words, no matter in what order. How would they relish, Das Bad mit dem Kinde auszuschütten?
“ Some verses in it are taken from Claudius Sacerdos, who is still lying in manuscript in Vienna” (!)–P. 25.
“ Whenever Gaius stands upon his own legs, he has no substantiated historical statements.”—P. 35.
“ Wherefore at that time already,” (schon).-P. 321.
So passim in the use of schon, the force of which answering to the Latin jam tunc, is best rendered in English by such expressions as —
even as early as this." “ A fabulist is always an unlearned man, and even a learned one would have made here some mistake.”—P. 327.
What, a learned fabulist, when a fabulist is always unlearned ! Our friends must have studied in the land of bulls. Are they accurate interpreters? Then, Shades of Esop, Phaedrus, Fon
Grimm, "avenge yourselves alone on Niebuhr.” Yet, no; for what Niebuhr (p. 330) really says is, that a falsifier of history " is always deficient in erudition ; and even a learned man would have blundered here.”—Schmitz's Translation, p. 278.
In short, if our readers wish to enjoy Niebuhr in broken English, they have a rich treat in this volume. But we cannot promise them much edification. There are manifest traces of carelessness even in rendering their author in their own way. We shall give one instance.
“ Afterwards we once find these military tribunes instead of the consuls, and Dionysius on that occasion says that it was determined to satisfy the plebeians, by appointing military tribunes, three of whom were to be patricians, and three plebeians. But there were only three, and one of them was a plebeian.”-Schmitz's Translation, ibid.
On this last clause, which is in the original, depends wholly a charge of inaccuracy made by Niebuhr against Livy; but it is omitted in the new translation, and the whole passage is thereby rendered unintelligible.
As the translators evidently do not understand Niebuhr's peculiar views, they consequently cannot reproduce them. Thus, there is a well-known distinction between the connubium, the full legal marriage of Roman citizens, and other marriages, which, according to law, did not confer the full legal privileges and consequences of the connubium. It was by the Lex Canuleia that this connubium was permitted between the patricians and the plebeians, though Niebuhr argues that marriages between individuals of the two orders must have been quite common before that time. Whenever he speaks of the marriage sanctioned by law, he terms it connubium; other forms he calls by the German name, Ehe. Throughout the whole account of the Lex Canuleia, the new translators (p. 326) do not give a hint of any such distinction. They speak of “the repeal of the prohibition of inter