« PreviousContinue »
ting rude and unpolished, and had no taste for elegant pleasures. The same kind of character is to be traced in every generation; and ages after the men we have been speaking of had crackled on their pyres, Martial saw their representatives flourishing in Rome. A rival of these parasites was the aretalogus, whom we know not how to match in our own days. He combined the diner-out and moral philosopher, and used to talk at suppers of the summum bonum, and the Good and the Beautiful for the amusement of those who thought the scurra and the parasite frivolous. The Emperor Augustus was particularly fond of these philosophical declaimers. They seem principally to have been Stoics or Cynics, and were remarkable for their loquacity, their love of eleemosynary provender, and their long beards. Between them and the comic writers there was deadly war.
'All clear and well defined'
Fond as the ancients were of conversation, it is not wonderful that they should have left books which may justly be included under the head of Table-Talk. At the head of these must be placed the 'Memorabilia' of Socrates by Xenophon, which, indeed, the ingenious Frenchman who has edited the Table-Talk' of Ménage was inclined to call Socratiana.' It is, no doubt, the prosaic aspect of Socrates which we have from Xenophon; but in the clear steelmirror of his lucid style, the face of the philosopher is reflected with a truth, of which nobody can lose the impression. We see the man as he appeared to his friends, to his wife, and are vell pleased to lose a little ideal beauty for the sake of the homely reality. We commonly,' says Pascal,
and who, as Casaubon observes, are not to be confounded. First comes the adoλsons or simple garrulus. He sits down,' Theophrastus tells us, by the side of a man whom he does not know, and begins to praise his own wife. Tells what he dreamed the night before, and what he had for dinner.' Have we not seen him in the flesh in our own day? The λáλos, again, was not only fond of talking, but was an inveterate chatterer, who interfered with every human pursuit-who haunted the schools and talked to the schoolmaster. Worse still was the Aoyororols, who dealt in rumours, and spread scandal-who was ever asking
picture Plato and Aristotle in stately robes, and as personages always grave and solemn. They were good fellows, who laugh
Is there nothing new ?" Often, says Theo-ed like others with their friends; and when phrastus, while gathering crowds round they composed their laws and treatises of them in the baths, these gossips have lost policy it was done smilingly and to divert their clothes. themselves. It was the least philosophic and serious part of their life. Their highest philosophy was to live simply and tranquilly.' Now, it is just the charm of the Memorabilia' that it gives us the daily existence of Socrates; his constant public activity; his incessant and irresistible dialectics in the agora, in the gymnasia, in the shop of the corslet-maker, in the studio of the statuary, at the table. All that beautiful scene of human life, with its temples, its trees, its soft sky, and the hum and colour of its lively population, floats in the air about. We are in the presence of Socrates, in his habit as he lived'--barefooted, plainly clad, invincibly reasonable and moral, and the incarnation of common sense.
which a book can but faintly reflect. Cicero appears to have thought that his own hilarity at the banquets of his political friends was really a public service at periods of public despondency: We cannot but profoundly regret that the Liber Jocularis,' or collection of his jokes made by Tiro, has not been preserved; for he was as thorough a table-talker as Socrates himself, and his mots preserved in Plutarch, Quintilian, and Macrobius, show that with Burke's eloquence he combined Canning's
The vivacity of the southern races was one great cause why this conversation had a tendency to degenerate into loquacity. The Greek to this day is pre-eminently a talker, and may be seen lolling outside his cafes, making a clatter as rapid and endless as that of the λáλos in Theophrastus from whom he descends. What babblers abounded in Athens in the period of its decay we know from the fact that Theophrastus gives us no less than three species of such cha
To this corrupted taste for an enjoyment very profitable in its healthy condition, the ancients owed a class of table-talkers whom it would be improper to pass over, more particularly as they are represented in considerable force in modern Europe,-a class of diners-out. The wag was well known in antiquity, from the simple yskurorológ or laughter-maker, who attended suppers professionally, up to the smart conversationist who paid for the good things which he ate by the good things which he said. Of this gentleman, for so we call him in these polite times, there are excellent specimens in Plautus. Sometimes when invitations ran slack, he complained that the age was get
Xenophon is so anxious to show him as a good citizen that he even makes him talk what we, in our modern conceit, fancy rather obvious morality. The kindly reverent disciple wants to show how excellent his master's intentions were; how obedient he was to the laws; how soundly conservative in fact. He could not foresee that it would ever be argued that the sage was justly executed by the populace as a bore!
If, then, we set down the Memorabilia' as the earliest and most important book of Table-Talk extant, we shall be beginning well. The ancients had other collections, but they have perished; and we must search for the scattered fragments in Athenæus, Macrobius, Plutarch, and Aulus Gellius. A passage which the latter quotes from Varro would alone establish the taste of the ancients in colloquial matters:'Guests should be neither loquacious nor silent; because eloquence is for the forum, and silence for the bed-chamber.' And he goes on to say that conversation at such times should not be about anxious nor difficult affairs, but pleasant, attractive, and useful.
'If I should enumerate divers of his speeches, as I did those of Alexander, they are truly such as Solomon noteth, when he saith, "The words of the wise are as goads;" whereof I will only recite three, not so delectable for elegancy, but admirable for vigour and efficacy. As, first, it is reason he be thought a master of words, that could with one word appease a mutiny in his army, which was thus:-The Romans, when their generals did speak to their army, did use the word "Milites," but when the magistrates spake to the people, they did use the word "Quirites." The soldiers were in tumult, and seditiously prayed to be cashiered; not that they so meant, but by expostulation thereof to being resolute not to give way, after some draw Cæsar to other conditions; wherein he silence, he began his speech,-"Ego, Quirites," which did admit them already cashiered; wherewith they were so surprised, crossed, and con
In these old store-houses we shall find more than one bon-mot, which now adorns the brazen front of the plagiary. There are few better sayings attributed to Foote than his reply to Lord Stormont, who was boasting the great age of the wine which,
in his parsimony, he had caused to be serv-fused, as they would not suffer him to go on in his speech, but relinquished their demands, and made it their suit to again called by the name Cæsar did extremely affect the name of king; of "Milites." The second speech was thus: and some were set on, as he passed by, in popular acclamation to salute him king: whereupon, finding the cry weak and poor, he put it off thus, in a kind of jest, as if they had mistaken his surname; "Non rex sum, sed Cæsar;" I am not King, but Cæsar;-a speech, that if it be searched, the life and fulness of it can scarce be expressed: for, first, it was a refusal of the name, but yet not serious. Again, it did signify an infinite confidence and magnanimity, as if he presumed Cæsar was the greater title, as by his worthiness it is come to pass till this day: but chiefly it was a speech of great allurement toward his own purpose; as if the state did strive with him but for a name, whereof mean families were vested; for Rex was a surname with the Romans, as well as King is with us. The last speech which I will mention was used to Metellus: when Cæsar, after war declared, did possess himself of the city of Rome, at which time entering into the inner treasury to take the money there accumulated, Metellus, being tribune, forbade him whereunto Cæsar said, "That if he did not desist, he would lay him dead in the place." And presently, taking himself up, he added, "Young man, it is harder for me to speak than to do it." A speech compounded of the
ed in extremely small glasses, It is very little of its age.' Yet this identical witticism is in Athenæus, where it is assigned to one Gnathæna, whose jokes were better than her character. Cicero relates that Nasica called upon Ennius, and was told by the servant that he was out. Shortly afterwards Ennius returned the visit, when Nasica exclaimed from within that he was not at home. What,' replied Ennius, 'do not I know your own voice? You are an impudent fellow,' retorted Nasica; when your servant told me that you were not at home, I believed her, but you will not believe me though I tell you so myself.' This, in modern jest-books, is said to have passed between Quin and Foote. Wit, like gold, is circulated sometimes with one head on it and sometimes with another, according to the potentates who rule its realm. Few situations are more trying than to sit at dinner and hear a raconteur telling the capital thing said by Louis XIV.' to so-andso, with a distinct recollection that the same thing was said by Augustus to a provincial. You cannot quote Macrobius without the imputation of pedantry, even if you were
greatest terror and greatest clemency that could proceed out of the mouth of man.'
Cæsar knew at once whether a Cicero was genuine, and dismissed a spurious one with the calm contempt of a connoisseur. Wit, as we have already intimated, was one of the great orator's chief endowments. Quintilian celebrates his urbanitas, the word by which the ancients expressed that peculiar elegance of humour which smacks of the cultivation of a capital; which distinguished high Roman society in the days of Cicero, as it did French society in the time of Ménage, and English society in that of Chesterfield; which arrived at its perfection in Talleyrand and Louis XVIII., and still survives like other traditions in the circles of Legitimacy. But Cicero's humour was very various; nor did he abstain from coarse facetiousness, and downright puns. When he at last, after infinite irresolution, joined Pompey, they told him, sneeringly, You come late.' 'How late? since I find nothing ready?' was his answer. This was urbanitas. When Pompey, who had married Cæsar's daughter, asked, on the same occasion, referring to Dolabella, who had joined Cæsar's party, 'Where is your son-in-law?' Cicero retorted, With your father-in-law.' This, too, was urbanitas. But he stooped to an 'arrant clench,' when, in allusion to the Oriental custom of boring the ears of slaves, he replied to the man of Eastern and servile descent, who complained he could not hear him, 'Yet you have holes in your ears.' This was NOT urbanitas. Such personalities, however, were addressed ad populum; and when political excitement harassed him, even Canning was coarse.
First in time of the modern Ana, first in rank, infinitely valuable and exquisitely curious, the Table-Talk of Luther naturally takes the place of honour. It was printed in the original German in 1566, and spread at once. A Latin selection quickly followed; an English translation appeared in 1652. It exhibits all the qualities of the class in the highest form: it admits us to his company with a letter of introduction. To the Table-Talk, more than to any other work, Europe owes the personal familiarity which it has with the Reformer, and nobody but a good man could have borne the test of this kind of revelation. Yet it is upon the reports of his conversation, according to Bayle, that most of the calumnies against Luther were originally founded. We cheerfully allow his enemies to make the most, as they have taken care to do, of his out-spoken heartiness, of his homely humour, of the peasant-like rusticity which accompanied his intense earnestness. Beyond all question, Dr. Martin was violent and coarse, and loved a glass of beer. But the more we get at his intimacy the more we like him, for he has the charm of nature. Of the most delicate wine a man is sometimes tired; but water is eternally fresh and new, as welcome the thousandth time as the first. His adversaries seem to have gone to work with something like system. If they found him in familiar discourse with three or four persons, they called them his 'pot-companions.' If he laughed, they called him a profane scoffer. If he neither talked nor laughed, a dumb-devil possessed him. It could not possibly be the case, in Father Garasse's opinion, that he was a man like other people, with human appetites and a human temper, and not a saint in a picture. But the struggles, the infirmities. of such heroes, are the most instructive studies possible; the more you dwell on them, the more you wonder at the mighty works they performed.
The interest of Luther's Table-Talk is that it is a perfect portrait of the human and material side of one of the greatest spiritual men that the world ever saw. Fancy, for that was one of his ways, Luther rebuking Satan in the style of Squire Western. It was his firm conviction that the Evil one may be driven away by jeering, because he is a haughty spirit and cannot bear contempt.' There are marvellous things in the chapter on 'the Devil and his Works.' For example:
Talk all wit would be as disagreeably monotonous as a dinner all champagne. When a man is always witty, it is a proof that he has no other quality equally conspicuous, and the person who is spoken of, as par excellence a wit,' is a second rate conversationist. He was so well drest,' said somebody to Brummell, that people would turn and look at him.' Then he was not well drest,' replied that great master of the art. We venture to apply the doctrine to Table-Talk. It should not want wit, but it should not exceed in it; the epigrams should be sprinkled over it with the natural grace of daisies on a meadow. If we regret that the Liber Jocularis' is lost, we regret still more that no regular Ciceroniana' exists, reflecting the daily conversation, grave as well as gay, of the orator; such a book as the Ménagiana, or Eckerman's Goethe, or the Table-Talk of Selden and Luther.
'Dr. Luther said he had heard from the
elector of Saxony, John Frederic, that a powerful family in Germany was descended from the
devil, the founder having been born of a emblem of the devil in its crawling walk, and
'Luther was one day being shaved, and having
'When I am assailed with heavy tribulations, I rush out among my pigs, rather than remain alone by myself. The human heart is like a millstone in a mill; when you put wheat under flour. If you put no wheat, it still grinds on; it, it turns and grinds and bruises the wheat to but then 'tis itself it grinds and wears away.'
"When I lay sucking at my mother's breasts, I
like a planet, but a bastard among planets. It
The men of that age lived in an element of reverent wonder, which sometimes took such shapes as this. In Luther's case, too, there was a liability to hypochondria, and he had spiritual and physical fits of depression which it is impossible to contemplate without awe. 'The sour sweat has drizzled from me,' he says. But what a light of faith and hope, strangely tinged, too, by his essential humour, shone through those clouds ! ""Thou art a great sinner," said he. I replied, "Canst thou not tell me something new, Satan?" "The devil often casts this into my breast: How if thy doctrine be false and erroneous? I gave him this answer: Avoid, Satan; address thyself to my God, and talk with him about it, for the doctrine is not mine, but his."
The domestic and social aspects of Luther, as the Table-Talk shows them, complete the picture, and we see him in the ruddy light of his fire a cheerful, solid, kindly humorous man. "The hair is the finest ornament wom en have. I like women to let their hair fall down their back; 'tis a most agreeable sight. What defects women I have we must check them for, in private, by word of mouth, for woman is a frail vessel." The Doctor then turned round and said, "Let us talk of something else!" With what reality the scene rises before us! Then we all know how he loved and valued music; society he valued equally. have myself found that I never fell into more sin than when I was alone.' He was fond of children's prattle, and his sorrow for the death of his little daughter Magdalen is most affecting. All these traits, no doubt, might have been narrated to us by a biographer; but what art could have made them so winning and so real as they appear in the Table-Talk?
We should show little regard for the dignity of the Reformer if we inquired what 'conversational talent' he possessed, or affected to lay stress upon the purely literary side of this book. He talked perfectly simply and openly, and even vehemently and passionately; he was intent on far higher objects than colloquial success; and we cannot, moreover, be sure of the perfect discretion and competency of the recorders. Nevertheless we venture to think that his Table-Talk gives a fair specimen of the force of his intellect, as it unquestionably represents the tone of his character. A picturesque power of illustration is one of its qualities:
These are, to borrow a figure from a well-known medieval art, illuminated thoughts. To call the faculty a mere talent for illustration, would be to speak coldly and inadequately. He coloured his conceptions with these various hues, because he had a heart which felt sympathy with all created beauty, and which indissolubly associated moral with human and physical truths.
Just about the time that Luther's TableTalk appeared, namely, in 1566, JOSEPH SCALIGER was in the prime of his youth, twenty-six years of age,,and, we suppose, uttering SCALIGERANA' every day. Joseph was on his travels then. We know that he was in Scotland soon after the slaughter of Rizzio, which happened on 9th March of that year; for he tells us so himself,*When I was there she was on bad terms with her husband on account of the death of this David,' and he adds, emphatically, 'She was a beautiful creature!' This is a distinct, historic, impartial testimony to Mary's beauty, and just one of those little facts the preservation of which is a valu able part of books of Table-Talk.
We should like to indulge in a reverie about Joseph Scaliger's stay at Edin
* Strange to say, this has escaped his elegant biographer, M. Nisard, who speaks of his travel'Luther, taking up a caterpillar, said, 'Tis an ling in Scotland as rumoured only.
burgh. No doubt, he and Buchanan enjoyed Attic nights, and talked old Roman Latin. No doubt, old days were recalled by the great George, old Bourdeaux days, when he and Muretus used to go over to Agen at the vintage time and stay with Joseph's father, the great Julius Cæsar Scaliger. No doubt, too, they drank a few glasses of claret, and discussed Turnebus, recently dead, and abused the Jesuits, and chatted of the marvellous memory of Muretus, and of the matchless style of Paulus Manutius, and the last edition of Terence, at Florence, for which Bembo's MS. had been collated. For these were days when men did not coarsely dismiss their work from their hours of leisure as savouring of the shop,' but loved it at all times, and felt that it was beautiful. But, besides that we are sadly deficient in authority for such visions, our subject is extensive and our space limited.
The Scaligerana' was the earliest book of Table-Talk which appeared under the famous appellation of Ana.' As even respectable authors have mis-stated the origin of the name, we may mention that it is simply the Latin neuter plural termination. Joseph Scaliger died in 1609. 1666 his conversation was published by Isaac Vossius, who had borrowed from Daillé the manuscript book in which it had been taken down by two young gentlemen named Vassan, who knew him at Leyden, where he spent the last sixteen years of his life. The work was a medley of Latin and French-as Scaliger happened to use either language-and contained his off hand remarks on men and things, delivered with the most entire freedom. In 1669 appeared a similar record, taken by one Vertunien, a physician of Poitiers, at a much earlier period, and this its compiler called the Prima Scaligerana.' Both compilations were amalgamated in the excellent edition of Scaligerana, Thuana, &c.,' by Desmaizeaux (Amsterdam, 1740). The Scaligerana,' says Mr. Hallam, and we agree with him, deserve perhaps the first place among those amusing miscellanies know by the name of Ana.'
Scaliger's place among scholars is simply royal. His pre-eminence is best understood from the memorandum made by Isaac Casaubon, in his Diary, on the occasion of the great man's death: 'Extincta est illa seculi nostri lampas, lumen literarum,
decus Galliæ, ornamentum unicum Europæ.' His enormous memory and his worldembracing erudition were the wonder of mankind. We owe it to the 'Scaligerana ' that we have a glimpse of his private character, one feature of which was a haughtiness on a par with his attainments. He was kindly, honest, and independent; but his pride was that of an oriental monarch. He looked on himself, in fact, as the monarch of letters, just as the ancients spoke of the Persian king-as The King. He had a combination of two kinds of pride, either of which is enough for a poor mortal. He was proud, because he thought himself the head of the great house of Scaliger of Verona; he was proud, because he felt himself intellectually among the leading minds of Europe. He had the haughtiness of a grandee blended with the haughtiness of a college 'Don,' a kind of mixture of the pride of Baron Bradwardine with the pride of Dr. Parr. Imagine such a character expressing himself with frank contemptuous egotism, and you have a notion of the Scaligerana.'
*The erudito Isaac himself sometimes said good things. When he visited the Sorbonne they showed him the hall, in which, as they proudly told him, disputations had been held for four hundred years. 'And what,' said he, have they decided?'
Here, for instance, we have him speaking of his father: There was neither king nor emperor that was so handsome as he. Look at me; I am exactly like him, and especially the aquiline nose! And of himself: There is no one in this city that is competent to judge of my book against Serarius.' Of others, with few exceptions, he spoke with profound contempt. He said Bellarmine was an atheist; he called Meursius a pedant and the son of a monk; he compared Scioppius to an ape; he sneered at Baronius; he even said, once, that St. Jerome was an ass. He expressed many of these opinions with pointed and brilliant sarcasm. Of Justus Lipsius he observes: 'I care as little for Lipsius' Latin as he does for Cicero's.' Of the Germans: The Germans are indifferent what wine they drink, so that it is wine, or what Latin they speak, so that it is Latin.' There is wit enough in the Scaligerana' to prove that it was decidedly one of his many gifts; and we must not forget, after all, that we have but crumbs from his table, and might probably have possessed better specimens had he possessed more judicious listeners.
The Scaligerana' contains many of those casual sayings which, put on record, preserve the manners, the social history, and the biographical curiosities of an age. A well annotated edition of it would be a
valuable work.* It is a strange medley,
It is with great pleasure that we see announced the Lives of the Scaligers, by the Rev. Mark Pat