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colours in a paint-box. When I write a book of travels, I shall describe nothing I ever saw in the whole course of my journey—I shall only tell my readers what I heard. And a very interesting and exciting book will my travels be!

The other omission in Cicero's letters is really quite unpardonable. In all those 800 letters it would be difficult to find one in which he says a word about the dress of the ladies of his time—it is disgraceful, but so it is. It proves him to be like other male creatures—unobservant, tasteless, dark, obtuse, and lacking in that higher sense and that gentler, truer, elevating refinement which the nobler sex is gifted with. This omission in Cicero's correspondence is all the more reprehensible because his correspondents were by no means exclusively gentlemen. There was one lady, Cærellia, who, we are told, had a very voluminous correspondence with him. It is most unfortunate that Carellia's letters are all lost. She must have told him how Fulvia and Terentia and Tullia and a host more were dressed, and how they looked. The result is that there are few subjects of which we know less than we do of ladies' dress at Rome in the later years of the Republic. We know that Cicero's own wife got him into great difficulties by her speculations on the Stock Exchange or something of the sort, and that Cærellia herself was an extremely fine lady of great wealth and of very great culture. We know that Cicero frequently writes about his lady friends, though he was not exactly what is known as a lady's man; but about their toilet--their jewels-their fashion of doing their hair—their shawls and their feathers and their ribbons, and the last new thing in caps or mantles—not a word! It is very sad! What a deplorable loss the world has experienced in the disappearance of the Lady Cærellia's letters! Is it not to be hoped that they may yet be discovered in some obscure library? How much happier we shall all be!

When Julius Cæsar was murdered at Rome there was a young man pursuing his university education at Athens, and his name was -well, it does not much matter what his name was, but we call him Horace. I don't know whether he was a great and voluminous letter-writer, but I do know that he left us two books of what he calls letters, which have this great recommendation, that they are written in verse. I know it is a received axiom that a poet is born, not made; but a poet is one thing, and a versifier is quite another. Anybody who has only average ability can write verse if he tries; it is the very easiest accomplishment that man or woman can acquire. But practice and care are needed for the manipulation of verse, and practice and care are not generally allowed to be essential to the production of letters worth reading. Therefore I do strongly recommend any young person afflicted with the dangerous gift of fluency in writing and liable to be run away with by a restless pen and an exuberant style—any one, i.e., who, being still in the teens, is in a

fair way to become intoxicated by the discovery of how much may be produced on paper under some circumstances and by some unfortunate people in twenty-four hours—I say, I do strongly recommend such persons to write, if it be only one or two long letters a week, in English verse. My gentle sisters of the nimble pens, my noble brothers who drive the goose-quill with such ready fingers, as a wholesome check upon excessive speed in the production of literature, do try writing your letters in verse. Did not Horace do so? Why should not you? Is it not a melancholy thought that all Horace's prose letters have perished? So may yours.

Yes! But a good many of his verse letters have survived. Why not emulate Horace?

There is one more Roman letter-writer that I have a word to say about-I mean that coxcombical and self-conceited prig commonly known as the younger Pliny. Yes! he was really the beau idéal of a prig. Very rich, very polite, very refined, very highly cultured, very choice in the society he mixed with, very punctilious, and very much impressed with the conviction that the world at large, and the Roman world in particular, had a great deal to be thankful for in the fact that he, Pliny, had been born when he was and been brought up as he had been.

He could not help being a prig. He was brought up a prig from his childhood. He wrote a Greek tragedy when he was fourteen. When he was a boy his uncle seriously expostulated with him once for taking a walk. It was such waste time. Once he writes to a friend that he had been out hunting-killed three boars too, and fine ones.

Who had ? That didn't matter! He, Caius Plinius Cæcilius Secundus—better give him his full name !-had sat by the nets—that was quite enough—sate with pen and notebook in hand, a wild boar or two grunting at him all the while and preparing for a charge on the earliest possible opportunity! Cool as a cucumber and improving the occasion, 'I thought about a subject, and made my notes about it,' says he—like a young curate sermonising, in fact.

Once, when he had been invited to a dinner, he stipulates that he will come, provided the conversation shall abound in Socratic discourses; and once, when half promising a friend that he intends to write him something worth reading, he checks himself with the horrible thought that he had no paper good enough, and there was a great doubt as to whether he could get any good enough to write on. Think of the nasty coarse spongy

stuff in these

says. • Why, my dear friend, I should actually be sending you smudgesdreadful!' The most sublime instance of Pliny's priggishness is to be found in his letter to Tacitus, describing his own lofty and superior demeanour during the great eruption of Vesuvius. The angry volcano was all aflame-the earth was heaving like a troubled sea—the air was dark with smoke and ashes—his own uncle had been suffocated by the sulphurous fumes, and his mother burst into the room where

parts,' he

this young puppy of seventeen was playing the stoic. Pliny says, * I called for a volume of Livy, and read it as though quite at my ease, and even made extracts from it as I had begun to do.' Making extracts from Livy in an earthquake! What sort of letters could you expect from such a man?

And yet Pliny has left us some very delightful and amusing letters. Among them is the famous ghost story, which is perhaps the best specimen of his power of simple narrative. Here it is :

There was a certain mansion at Athens, large and roomy, but of evil repute, and a plaguey sort of place. In the stillness of the night, lo! there used to sound the clank of iron, and as you listened there was a rattling of chains ; at first a long way off, then coming nearer and nearer, till it came quite close. Presently a spectre appeared. An old, old man, lean and wan, with a long beard and shaggy hair, with fetters on his legs and manacles on his arms, and wringing his hands. The inmates of the house were very miserable. They would not live there. The place became deserted and given up to the dreadful phantom. At last a certain philosopher came to Athens, Athenodorus by name. He saw the advertisement, inquired the terms, asked why it was so cheap, learnt the full particulars, and gladly hired the mansion. Towards evening he ordered a sofa to be set for himself in the front of the house, and provided himself with pen and paper and a light. He sent away all the servants and set to work writing. For a while there was only dead silence. By and by—hark !—there was the sound of iron grating against iron, then the chains clanking. The philosopher never looked up nor stopped his writing. He kept his mind clear and his ears open. The noise increased ; it drew nearer—it was at the threshold-it had come inside the door—it was unmistakable. He raised his eyes. There was the phantom he had heard of staring at him. The ghost stood still and beckoned to him with its finger. Athenodorus waved his hand as much as to say, 'I'm engaged; you'll have to wait,' and he went on with his writing. The ghost rattled his chains over his head as he wrote. He looked up again—the ghost was still staring at him. He took up the light and followed. The ghost went very slowly, as if it felt the weight of its chains.

It led the way to a back yard of the house, ihen vanished. Next day Athenodorus went to the magistrates and told them th must dig in the place where the ghost disappeared. There they found some human bones and fetters upon them. They were collected, buried at the public expense, and the house was rid of ghosts from that time forward !

* Very odd !' says Pliny. “My dear friend, what is your private opinion upon this story?'

I have ventured to give a translation of this letter, not only because it is the earliest detailed account of the appearance of a spectre with which I am acquainted, nor because it is a specimen of the kind of ghost story which is very commonly repeated when such stories are going the round, but because it is difficult to see how any such story could have been told except in a letter. There are some things for which familiar letters are peculiarly adapted. In what other branch of literature could a man sit down seriously to tell a ghost story? He could hardly venture to introduce such a narrative into history; science would deride him, philosophy would frown at his levity, poetry would refuse to lend herself to his tale. But in a letter you may be as playful as you please, and then you may adapt yourself to

1886

LETTERS AND LETTER-WRITERS.

223

your correspondent, who may be credulous or the reverse, but in any case you know he is not likely to take you au grand sérieux. In our letters we are not expected to write by rule and compasses. We are not afraid of too severe criticism. A letter is hardly expected to be a full-dress performance.

As far as I know, more than three hundred years had passed before any such collection of letters as that of Pliny was published, or at any rate attained to anything like very general popularity. At the close of the fourth century or beginning of the fifth, Q. Aurelius Symmachus thought proper to proclaim to the world that he considered himself the prince of letter-writers of his time, and the world-i.e. the Roman world--was in such a dilapidated condition that it took Symmachus at his own valuation. For, like Pliny, Symmachus was very rich, had a grand house at Rome, and several beautiful villas in various parts of the world. If I ever live to be rich I am not sure that I shall publish a volume of my letters, but I don't know. Somehow rich people seem at all times to have delighted in letting mankind read their letters. Any poor creature can get his children to read his letters, long or short, but to get a whole generation of men and women to pore over your correspondence and applaud it—that seems to be grand! So Symmachus thought, and so his son thought, when he edited his father's epistles in ten books, I suppose because Pliny had published his in ten books. It is a dreary collectionvapid as long decanted small beer,' as one says-yet noticeable for one feature that in our time has become extremely well known to us. Symmachus is the first who gives a specimen of the real genuine begging letter, and we have of this two examples. I am not going to translate them-partly because I am reluctant to facilitate matters for the begging impostors and give them a model from antiquity, partly because most of us have no need to go back to the past to find out the kind of epistles which the begging impostors send. This is a kind of literature familiarity with which has bred in most of us a certain measure of contempt. There is one letter which Symmachus wrote for a young friend of his, who very much wanted to make an offer of marriage to a young lady and wished to do so in the best possible manner. Symmachus was equal to the occasion, and gave his friend a model. As to the letters of introduction in this collection, they are legion, and the letters of condolence and the letters of congratulation. But, as I said before, they are a dreary lot, and perhaps the only really curious and valuable epistles are those which have to do with the writer's bargains in horseflesh and the purchases he made of strange animals for his menagerie! As for his style, it has one merit

and one only, it is fairly simple and fluent. If the man had written obscurely bis rubbish would never have reached a second edition. Note that if there is something in what a man says, the world will forgive a little awkwardness in the manner of saying it. But if there is nothing, then only that man's writings are read who can be understood at a glance. Miss—what was her name? -was wise in her generation. The lips that are always in the proper attitude for the pronunciation of potatoes, pruins, and prism' are sure to be practised in the enunciation of elegant phrases; and a letter that offends nobody, and does not require to be read three times before you can catch its meaning, is much more likely to be read by thirty times three readers with pleasure than the other is to be read three times by one.

Just a generation after Symmachus (almost the last of the dandified pagans) joined the majority, he actually found an imitator in the person of Sidonius Apollinaris. At any rate, they say that Symmachus was his model. He certainly did not copy his model very closely as far as style goes, for a more villanous style than that of Sidonius in his letters one would not wish to find. Sidonius started in life as a politician, and at one time it seemed on the cards that he might actually become Emperor of Rome some day, for he married the daughter of the Emperor Flavius Avitus. Avitus had a short reign of barely a year, and then Sidonius found himself effaced. By and by he rose to the surface again, was employed as an ambassador from the Arverni to the Emperor Anthemius, got into favour, and had a statue of himself set up in Rome. I dare say it is there now somewhere.

One day the Emperor said, “I'll make this man a bishop.' Sidonius protested vehemently, by no means liking the prospect. But there was no help for it. In those days when an emperor took a thing into his head it had to be done. Sidonius became a bishop accordingly-Bishop of Clermont, and a very good and conscientious and zealous bishop he was--so good a bishop, in fact, that when he died he was proclaimed a saint; and there stands his name sure enough, in the Roman Calendar on the 23rd of August as Saint Apollinaris.

I can hardly imagine a greater contrast than the letters of Symmachus and Sidonius. Symmachus's trashy epistles have been saved from absolute oblivion only by their flimsy transparent style, and the very .

triviality of their contents. The letters of Sidonius will always be read in spite of a style that is most repulsive, and at times appears studiously unintelligible. He is one of those objectionable writers whom a man reads because he can only get at his information by reading him; for really the matter in Sidonius is extremely valuable. Some paragraphs you can no more make out than you can crack a cocoanut with your teeth. These you must skip, and if you can find a translation happy are you. Nevertheless, some of Sidonius's letters are charming. Thus the careful portrait

? See Germain, Essai Littéraire et Historique sur Ap. Sid., 1840; Chaix, S. Sidonie Apoll, et son Siècle, 2 vols. 1867.

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