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opposites. The scene shifts incessantly through almost all countries and ages ; numerous characters are brought upon the stage ; a world of varying interests, opinions, thoughts, feelings and passions are discussed, until the reader, amazed and dazzled by the rich and ever-progressing pageant, scarcely remembers where he is. He finds his attention solicited by too many topics. Too vast a call is made upon him for knowledge. He has to look about him, to inquire, to read, to reflect, before he finds himself in a condition to cope with Mr. Landor's interlocutors, and relish the grave or pleasant things which they so frequently
Had the dialogues been all supposed to pass between our contemporaries, the study of one would have facilitated the comprehension of the next, and rendered it more easy to appreciate all its delicacies. The questions discussed, however numerous, would have been all linked together by an intellectual synchronism. Character would have thrown light upon character, subject upon subject, till something like a system had been developed. This is one of the charms of Plato's dialogues. A long-lived man might have conversed with every one of his characters, and heard, and easily written out all that he has left us. The questions, too, were all of the day, and therefore, though sometimes exceedingly abstruse, sometimes trifling, sometimes even objectionable, they belonged essentially to the time which they now, therefore, serve to illustrate. Cicero, also, whom we would not, in other respects, compare with Plato, on this point resembles him, his interlocutors being all his countrymen, and belonging to his own day ; for which reason, though there be little that is really conversational in his dialogues, we sometimes persuade ourselves that they are but the shadows of things which once really were. Lucian is the father of the obviously imaginary dialogue, and his compositions, though neither profound nor philosophical, have still so unquestionable a touch of nature about them, so much wit, sportiveness, and vivacity, that we almost forget the scene and the speakers, and fancy ourselves dealing with realities.
Among the circumstances which tell in favour of Mr. Landor's plan is the variety of interest it has enabled him to excite. A certain number, for example, of the Conversations take place in Ancient Greece, and are designed to develope many of those sentiments and ideas which distinguished the inhabitants of that country. These address themselves to scholars, though not exclusively. Since we have known even ladies to peruse the
Greek dialogues with pleasure. But in these, as in all other productions of genius, there are, if we may so express ourselves, several strata of meaning, and, contrary to what takes place in the material world, it is the furthest from the surface that is sometimes most prolific of life and beauty. Mr. Landor has gone through Greek literature, not with a net at his heels to drag after him all that he could catch, but with an infinitely susceptible mind adapted to receive and give back the fragrance which rests habitually, like a cloud, on that department of human knowledge. He does not imitate, but thinks and speaks in a kindred spirit. To relish completely therefore this section of his works, it is necessary to possess much instruction, to be somewhat familiar with the relations of the ancient world, to have a love for the creations of art, and to have studied the earlier history of civilisation, not as a pedant, but as a gentleman. In most writers the characters of antiquity are mere abstractions—things which repel familiarity-cold, stately, and distant in sympathy as in times. This is especially the case with the works which undertake to initiate youth in this part of knowledge. There is often no more passion or life in them than in a collection of algebraic signs; and even in works of more pretension, in histories expected to be read by men, the same frigid erudition and antithesis of vitality are found. In the “Imaginary Conversations” the Greeks, on the contrary, are not only Greeks, but men and women invested with all the feelings belonging to them,-alive to all the influences around them,-gay, thoughtful, sportive, impetuous, calm and speculative by turns. Look at the dialogue between Epicurus and two ladies in his garden : it convinces us that Mr. Landor has felt, in reading Plato, the omission which we have often noticed, and elsewhere pointed out ; for the descriptions and pictures commonly wanting in the Platonic dialogues are here introduced with profusion, shall we say?-nay, not so, but with judicious liberality. From the first rapid view of their literature, it would almost seem as though the Greeks were indifferent to external nature. But were they? Socrates once said jocularly of himself that he went seldom into the country because he could learn nothing from fields and trees. Had we known him only from this speech, he would have appeared to us a sort of wise alderman, talking gloriously over hock and turtle, with a keen eye for his ledger, and a keener for political influence. But the old gentleman had a right to make free with himself, and to jest at his own expense. But was
NO. XX.VOL. IV,
he careless of rural beauty? Did he eschew Nature and Solitude ? If we watch sharply his whereabout we shall find, that like Isaac he loved to meditate in the fields at eventide, to stretch himself under a spreading tree, and there, with the chirp of the grasshoppers in his ears, and the wind whistling through the boughs above, to watch the waves of the Saronic Gulf, as they came in tumbling and flashing by the sharp, well-wooded, promontories of Salamis. In war, too, he was often found late at night strolling about the precincts of the camp, gazing at the surrounding woods, or watching the silent march of the constellations. Had he possessed the wealth of Epicurus he would have probably bought or planted as fine a garden, though, like him, he would have chosen for it a spot near the city, and been quite as careful to have moist patches in it, that he might enjoy the fragrance of those flowers, the favourites of the Athenian people, which our own great poet has described as
“ Sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes,
Or Cytherea's breath." We advert to this Platonic personage because throughout Mr. Landor's “Epicurus” there are silent references and allusions to the Phædrus. The very mythological fables which Socrates and his young friend tossed to and fro between them, are here touched upon also. Orithyia, the mistress of the north wind, meets us in both dialogues ; and the reader who is familiar with the environs of Athens might in fact, perhaps, have thought it an omission had her story been quite overlooked. But can we accept Mr. Landor's interpretation of Epicurus himself? Perhaps we may, though with some little reservation. He filled up ably the circle marked out for him by his principles : he was generally upright as an individual, excelled in all the arts and duties of friendship, and probably left behind him, when he died, more regrets and streaming eyes than any other philosopher. Yet Epicurus was a bad citizen. His philosophy was selfishness : it withdrew men from what is called the cares of ambition ; it nourished in them habits of mind incompatible with public life; it rendered them contemplative, retiring, and for the most part effeminate, and left the business of the state entirely to other hands. It was a sort of philosophical monachism in which the indulgence of sense and imagination and the speculative propensity was substituted for austere devotion. We love gardens ourselves, but we doubts whether in any other than that of Eden we could consent to pass our lives. Pleasant and sweet it no doubt is to listen to the splash of fountains, the songs of birds, to the breath of Spring among groves and thickets, and above all, to the murmur of sweet voices modulated by affection. But from this Sybarite's Paradise the heart would soon yearn to break away to enjoy the pleasure of conflict, and to be stirred by those powerful emotions which can be experienced nowhere but in the world. Solitude is a fine thing to retire to, but not to live in ; and few, very few minds indeed can bear long to consort with it. Mr. Landor himself has not been an anchorite, though he has relinquished all the prospects of public life, and made immense sacrifices, in order to devote his time to the working of the quarry of his own mind. This conduct, sometimes wise and praiseworthy in an individual, would be pernicious in a widely-spread sect, because it would betray into inactivity men only calculated to be useful in the ordinary bustle of life. There should, in fact, be no sects in philosophy, which is properly an art based on the idiosyncracies of an individual. That which can be transmitted is of little value, it being an ore which invariably takes the figure of the mould into which it happens to fall. The followers, therefore, of Epicurus were no more Epicureans than we are, since though they agreed with their acknowledged master on some points, they departed from him most widely in others, and made an appli. eation of his doctrine, against which, had he lived, he would have most earnestly protested.
There are many others among this class of Dialogues to which we could have wished to refer, but we forbear, and confine ourselves to the one, or we should rather say, perhaps, two—between Æsop and Rhodope. We know of few things more subtle or refined. It developes a peculiar phasis of the passion of love, when penetrating through the outward integuments which may be naturally uncouth, or battered by time it attaches itself to that inward essence called the soul, and values the husk and the shell for the precious kernel which they contain. Rhodope is a magnificent creation, nor is Æsop at all less remarkable. Had some Italian painter, equal to such conceptions, pourtrayed both on canvass, they would, by their truth and beauty, have excited admiration in thousands who at present know little or nothing of them. The painter works for the public, and leaves it nothing but the task of indolent enjoyment. The author invites it to
intellectual exertion, and compels it, if it would relish his creations, to assist in giving them colour and consistency. Our imagination must go out along with his imagination, and stand by while it breathes upon the dry bones and bids them live. But this, to a certain extent, is toil, and the idle refuse to undertake it. Hence, “ Æsop and Rhodope” have not yet found the place they deserve in the popular mind, though, being very pleasant persons, we think they will by degrees make their way to it.
When the works of a voluminous writer are collected and placed before us in a very condensed form, we are somewhat reminded of the dwarfing of the giant spirits in Pandemonium. That which filled whole shelves and showed as many gilded backs as the year does months, now comes to us modestly in a leash of volumes, challenging to themselves little space. But when we examine the characters, we perceive that the whole thing is there. Thus we find the substance of that charming volume, “The Pentameron,' compressed into comparatively few pages of the present edition. But literature and typography are two different things. What in the vocabulary of the latter would be called, and of course with much propriety, a very little work, the former would perhaps boast of as a great work, which ought consequently to fill a corresponding space in the world's estimation. And, with regard to the Pentameron, we adopt the creed of this latter personage, not by any means disputing with typography the truth of its proposition in its own sense: the Pentameron, as to bulk, is really a waistcoat pocket affair, and it would do some waistcoat pockets great service if found there. It is a remarkably good companion to take into the fields, to sit down with under an oak, or to turn over leisurely as, with one leg across the other, we support ourselves, half leaning half sitting, on a sunny rock, shelving down into the sea.
This we mentiou, because it is really a solecism to read the Pentameron by a sea-coal fire. It is not a winter book at all. Its characters and its descriptions, its criticisms and its poetical flights, each and all of them, carry us to Italy, with its balmy atmosphere, and scenery of unrivalled richness and variety. But the great fascination, after all, is in the light and sunshine which go glancing and playing over rocks, and waves, and forests, and human faces, till they seem almost transparent, and impart to nature and man an appearance of candour which neither of them always possesses in Italy. But the semblance is there, and we enjoy it as a picture, and they who have not actually seen it themselves máy get some