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among the Scottish historians, does not very strikingly illustrate that familiar acquaintance, which they claim with the English and Scottish authors of this class, and of which we ourselves sawno evidence while we were in France.—It is a fact notorious to those who have any accurate knowledge of the state of literature, among the several nations of the continent, that the Germans of all others, are the most diligent students, and the best judges, of the good English writers.
This work professes to be merely a report on the progress of history and ancient literature since the year 1789. Its tenor, however, by no means corresponds to the title. It is equally, if not more conversant, about the French productions in those departments of knowledge, of a date anteriorto the epoch just mentioned. Whatever French industry and genius applied to history, ancient geography, the oriental languages, &c, has given to the world at any period, is ostentatiously paraded, and insidiously contrasted with foreign labours of the same purport;—of which a very loose and partial mention is at the same time made. It was indeed a matter of necessity for the class, in order to render their survey of the interval to which their researches is ostensibly confined, complete and intelligible, to ascend higher than 1789, and to notice incidentally and in the most general manner, the previous state of erudition throughout the world.—An attentive perusal of the Report must, however, satisfy the reader, that they have taken a most unjustifiable advantage of the limited privilege thus acquired, by publishing, under a delusive title, a set panegyric on their own national merits, and putting forth nearly their whole strength, derived from the efforts of their savans during the preceding centuries. This must have appeared an ingenious mode of supplying the evidence in their favour, and the food for the national vanity, which the records of their literature during the revolution, were far from being competent to afford; while, on another hand, it might entrap mankind drawn thus to the contemplation of their former excellence, into a belief of their present superiority. Their real proceeding wears a still more disgusting aspect, when compared with the pretensions which they advance to impartiality, and with such declarations as the following, of which the doctrine is no less reproachfully just, than the hypocrisy is detestable. "If the class of history and of literature believes their own glory to be primarily dependent upon the promotion of the interests of the national renown, they believe it also material for that renown that they should be just towards foreign nations, and it is by bearing, at all times, sincere testimony to their triumphs, that we acquire the right of recounting those which are obtained at home."
We shall now proceed to notice particularly, the several chapters or divisions of the Report, in the order in which they are given. We shall make extracts wherever we deem the subject matter of sufficient interest, or fitted to yield instruction to our readers. The first section treats of philology, and is written by M. Visconti, who enjoys a great share of reputation in Paris, as a scholar and an antiquarian. The writer restricts the signification of the term philology to" the study of the Greek and Latin writers," and dwells with much emphasis on its paramount utility. His observations on the importance of this study, fcre eminently just, and coincide fully with our own opinions. They deserve to be quoted at large, and we shall do this the more readily, on account of the erroneous notions which, we fear, are but too common throughout the United States on this subject.—Classical learning is but rarS among us, and much under rated, even in those institutions upon which we must almost exclusively rely, for its support and propagation. The Latin is for the most part but superficially and imperfectly taught, and as for the Greek, scarcely any thing more than the mere rudiments of it are any where acquired.
For very obvious reasons it could not be expected, that philology would be duly appreciated, or cultivated to any extent, by the American public in general. The state of society in this country, so admirable under many points of view, renders this impossible. We should not therefore be surprised or discouraged at a general ignorance of, and an almost universal indifference about the learned languages;—but this is not all.— The public feeling is not confined to mere apathy. It borders on positive hostility. Numbers are not wanting,— persons even of influence in the community,—who industriously proclaim, not simply the utter insignificance, but the pernicious tendency of classical learning;—and who would proscribe it as idle in itself, and as dangerous to republicanism. At the same time our progress in this pursuit, is far from being in a natural ratio with our advances in other respects.—Philology is in fact even worse than stationary among us, from what cause, whether from the influence of the extraordinary notions we have just mentioned, or from the absence of all external excitements, we will not now pretend to determine.— As we intend to return to this topic more earnestly hereafter, we shall at this time, be satisfied with stating the fact, and claiming the attention of our readers to the following remarks of the Institute.
"The experience of a great number of ages has uniformly demonstrated, that if the models of taste and perfection in letters, models which we owe to the Greeks and to the Romans, who as it were, identified themselves with the former,—were to disappear, the literature of modern nations would decline, and soon fall into a state of degeneracy, from which it might never emerge."
"Neither the knowledge of man, nor that of' the rules of grammar or of logic, nor the studies of nature, could compensate for so immense a loss. The art of writing well is not strictly a science, nor is it a mechanical art; the most certain rules are for the most part but negative, and the best writers not unfrequently violate them. What constitutes the great historian, the great orator, the great poet, is a sort of mystery; no idea can be formed on this point, but that which is derived from the examples of excellent works. The chefs-d'oeuvre of the modern language, all of them, or nearly all, produced by men deeply imbued with the writings and beauties of antiquity, could not supply the place of the latter. The noble and pure original invariably suffers deterioration in the copy, and its effulgent light loses necessarily a part of its lustre in the imitation? The modern chefs-d'oeuvre are indeed sometimes more regular, and more scrupulously exact in the details than the ancient, but they never bear the same stamp of excellence; and if they deserve in their turn to be cited as models, it is principally on account of the original manner, with which the writers have succeeded in assimilating them, more or less, to the great models of antiquity."
"It is a truth generally admitted, that the case of letters is the same with that of the fine arts, and all artists worthy of the name, concur in believing, that if the remains of Grecian sculpture and architecture were to be lost, if the great collections of ancient monuments were not unremittingly studied by those who devote themselves to the arts, if the casts from the antique were not found in every workshop, the immortal chefsd'oeuvre of the Raphaels, the Titiens, the Michael Angelos, the t'oussins and the Palladios, would not prevent the fine arts from falling into decay, or at least from descending to the level of the Flemish school.-—This school would indeed never have risen, to the inferior height to which it attained, but for the indirect influence of the ancient models, upon which the Italian masters formed themselves, and communicated by this means, to the Flemish, a less contracted and less imperfect idea of the arts of design."
"Philology, the name which we give to the study of the Greek and Latin writers, is not only valuable as it serves to preserve them in their purity, and to perpetuate a relish for them, but because it is, moreover, the corner stone of literature. Above all, it is indispensably necessary to history; for it is to philology, that we are indebted for criticism, the torch without which history would lose itself in fable or romance; which sheds light over all the moral sciences; and without which jurisprudence would quickly degenerate into chicane, and theology into ridiculous and absurd superstition."
"It is not necc- sary to search far into the annals of the world, to find a striking historical example, how necessary it is for a nation, always to connect with the study of the sciences, that of the true and ancient models of taste, and consequently of philology and criticism. The Arabians, far from impairing the inheritance of the sciences, which they received from Greece and Rome, had, in fact, improved it by fortunate discoveries; but being strangers to philology as well as to sound criticism, their history is but a jumble of puerile or ridiculous tales, full of gross anacronisms which would be scarcely pardonable in poets or novel writers. It was not long before they displayed in their study of the sciences, the same propensity to idle subtleties and to frivolous researches, which occasioned the decline of that study among them. Their literature, although cultivated by an immense number of minds of great fertility and genius, has never furnished a single model for civilized nations."
M. Visconti, after indulging in these remarks on the importance of philology, proceeds. to bewail the narrow sphere within which it is cultivated in France, and the total neglect with which it is threatened. His language is in unison with that held by M. Dacier on the same subject, in the Introductory discourse. We shall translate for our readers the precious and important confessions made by the secretary, as they will enable those who concur with Mr. Visconti in thinking philology the corner«stone of general literature, to judge, from unquestionable and conclusive testimony, of its actual condition and future prospects in France. "Your majesty," says Mr. Dacier, "will perceive that France, notwithstanding the political troubles by which she has been agitated, has not, until now, been behind-hand in any of the branches of literature; but it is with great pain that we feel ourselves compelled to remark to you, that several of them are menaced with a speedy, and almost total extinction. Philology, which is the basis of all good literature, and upon which the certitude of history and the knowledge of the past depend, is now scarcely undertaken by a single individual (ne trouve presque plus personne pour la cultiver). The Savans whose talents still fertilizent its domain, themselves, for the most part, the remnant of a generation which is about to disappear, see springing up around them, but too small a number of men to supply their place."
Mr. Visconti makes an enumeration of the hellenists of Paris, among whom there are some of unquestionable merit, but of the old school, and whose works for the greater part, have been merely re-printed since the year 1789. The reputation of most of them is founded upon translations, such as that of Herodotus by Larcher, of iEschylus by Mr. du Thiel, of Plutarch by the Abbe Ricard, and of Thucydides by Mr, Levesque. The versions of Homer by Bitaube, and Lebrun the late Arch-chancellor of the empire, are mentioned, although they by no means deserve this distinction.
Germany can boast of a multitude of hellenists,of whom Mr. Visconti cites a few of the most eminent, remarking at the same time with great justice, that it would be impossible to name all those, who cultivate philology with success, in that country, and in Holland. Some slight notice is taken of the labours of the Italians in this department, who are represented as almost wholly inattentive to Greek studies.—Mr. Visconti very properly extols the translations of Callimachus and Theocritus, by Pagnini, and that of TyrUeus by Lamberti. He speaks of the translation of Homer by Cesarotti in terms of contempt, to which all unprejudiced persons acquainted with the work must strongly object. It is unquestionably better than any French version of the same poet, of which we have any knowledge.
The list of French Latinists given by Mr. Visconti, is meager enough, and comprises no name of any celebrity abroad. He remarks at the conclusion, that " the small number of men who cultivate Latin philology with success in so great an empire as France, proves that this branch of literature languishes there, and that it requires the aid of a powerful hand to be made to flourish." He adds also, that the class to which he belongs, has particularly occupied itself with Latin inscriptions, *4 since they have been charged by the government with the composition of the series for the medallic history of his imperial majesty the emperor!" Among the Latinists mentioned, there is a Mr. Serra, a Genoese by birth, who is stated to have published in Paris, a Latin history of the two campaigns of