Page images
PDF
EPUB

fear or with weakness; a constant cheerfulness, and the good-will towards all men,' which is so deeply marked on his countenance, obliterates in a few moments the disappointment of a first impression. You feel attracted towards him more and more each instant; an unaccountable magic holds you in his circle, and you wish that you may never again be withdrawn from it. Do not be astonished, my friend, that I dwell so long on the physiognomy of Socrates, for I have made it my particular study during the six weeks I have been with him, and I am convinced that much of that extraordinary power and influence he possesses over everybody who comes near him, is in no small degree owing to it. During the time I have been with him, I have never seen him otherwise than cheerful and friendly; but Antisthenes assured me, it is impossible to conceive anything more terrible than the menacing countenance with which he drove back a troop who were about to seize the wounded Alcibiades before the walls of Potidea; and I assure you I can easily believe that, if he will, he can put on a look which would make a lion flee for fear. The reason of the very powerful impression which his good-natured countenance makes, no doubt lies in this, that we perceive the expression must be derived from the heart itself, and is not owing to any beauty of feature. The same may be said of that bantering expression, amounting almost to sarcasm, that lurks about the dolphinnostrils of his turned-up nose, for it is so softened by the friendliness of his eye, and the good-hearted smile of his thick lip, as to retain merely that peculiar bitter-sweet irony, which can neither be described nor imitated. In a word, that extraordinary compound of wisdom and simplicity, of seriousness and waggery, of equanimity and genial humour, pride and humility, good-heartedness and causticity, which make him Socrates, could not have been expressed in a regular physiognomy."

"His mode of disputation, although it may be called ironical, differs very much from that which is usually understood by

the term. Its essence consists in appearing extremely simple (and here his physiognomy is just suited to his purpose) with those who either think themselves superior to him, or are reckoned so by the public in general. Of such a class are the half-thinking rich members of the republic, and the Sophists. By this seeming naiveté you see, he easily gains a hearing, and at the same time annihilates all differences of rank, and fame, and condition. His antagonists are not

on their guard, consequently answer more quickly and less carefully than if they had perceived the toils with which he is entwining them. He developes new questions out of their answers, and at last fairly reduces them to the dilemma of either denying their own assertions, or of admitting the most palpable absurdities. You will easily see that these advantages could not last longer than they were unknown to the generality. In a town like Athens, where everything is carried on openly, the Sophists soon discovered that they had a cunning fellow to deal with,-one who was fully as well versed in all the subtleties of dialectics as they, and found, that if they still meant to retain their credit for profound and mysterious knowledge, they must appear ten times more simple than Socrates himself.

"All that Socrates has gained by this mode of disputation, is the acknowledged hate of this class of philosophers, and the reputation of being a sarcastic old fellow, who never gives his real opinion on any subject-a reputation which I fear cannot but lead to something dangerous sooner or later."

Our limits will not allow us to enter into all the detail of Aristippus' views regarding Socrates; for it is impossible to compress this portion of the work, without materially injuring the effect of the picture. The lights and shadows are arranged with so masterly a hand, that to attempt to offer anything less than the whole would neither be doing justice to the author nor to the character. We shall omit, therefore, the ingenious train of reasoning by which Aristippus attempts to show, that it was perfectly consistent with the Socratic mind to believe in the reality of the " Dæmon" who was his constant monitor. We shall pass over, but with great regret, the long conversations between the comic poet Aristophanes and our hero, in which the whole machinery of philosopher is treated with the acumen the enmity between the poet and the

and taste of one of the best writers and the profoundest scholars of his day, and shall introduce our readers to no less a personage than the beautiful Lais, whom Aristippus is invited to see by a friend, whose villa adjoined hers, in the island of Ægina.

"We found her in a capacious summerhouse, surrounded by a little circle of young men, with whom she was evidently engaged in a lively conversation. I could not dis

[blocks in formation]

my

"The dazzling splendour which surrounded her, together with the cold collected politeness with which she received me, increased my doubts. Although I felt almost sure that Lais and my Corinthian adventure were closely connected, I could not help stealing repeated looks, in order to confirm myself in so pleasant a truth; and a couple of glances, understood by me alone, at length destroyed the possibility of further doubt. I gave myself up with usual thoughtlessness, or cheerfulness, or what you will, to the enjoyment of the happiest evening of my life; and I will bet, that Tantalus at the table of Jupiter, was not half so happy as I in the saloon of this earthly goddess, who, not content with the ambrosia and nectar of her beauty and wit, had laid land and sea, and the powers of a Corinthian cook, under contribution, to produce a feast which might have satisfied the palate even of a Sybarite. Aspasia, in her bloom, must have yielded the golden apple to Lais. In strength of intellect, she might have been her superior; but in the brilliancy and variety of her powers, Lais is unique. The finest turns of light irony are as ready with her, as if she had been under the tuition of my old mentor.

66

Lais now steps forth as the heroine of the work. All the hints which antiquity has left us of her character, and of the intimacy which really existed between Aristippus and her, are made use of and woven into a narrative of intense interest. An admirable picture is drawn of the mode of life of that peculiar class of females to which Lais belonged. The passion, or passionate friendship, which exists between Aristippus and her, is painted with as much art, and as much delicacy, as the subject will admit. It might have been purer; but then it tures of Grecian society, in the age of would not have presented the real feaPericles and of Alcibiades. The counexion between Aristippus and Lais, is just such as we have reason to believe was the real one-" ixx Ande άλλ' ουκ εχομαι.” All the talent which she is supposed to possess, is placed in the most pleasing light; and the readof her wit, and the beauty of her er is always rapt with the brilliancy rounds her the circle of friends who charms. The magnificence which surconstantly attend her-men upon whom we now look with wonder and admiration-dazzle us so completely that the mind never recurs to the less pleasing realities of Lais's situation; and her tragical fate at length leaves no room for the caviller to point at the moral of a tale which is told with all that splendid glow of language and luxuriancy of imagination which always characterizes Wieland. Letters on the works of the great artists, on public affairs, and, in short, on a variety of the most interesting topics, are exchanged between Lais, our hero, and their mutual friends; and it is difficult to say, whether the depth of criticism, or the elegant ease with which it is conveyed, is most pleasing. Lais at length resolves to proceed to Athens, under the feigned name of Anaximandra, and as a supposed relation of Aristippus, Her object is to SEE and to converse with Socrates. We shall subjoin extracts from various letters written from Athens to our hero, illustrative of Athenian, man

ners.

"She loves to speak, and the happiest expression, and the just words, seemed ever on her lip."

I have been a fortnight at Athens, and not a single day has passed without my having seen, and spoken with, your Socrates. Wherever I have been, there he was also. You smile, Aristippus, at my simplicity, in supposing that I have

any influence in making Socrates do what he has been doing these forty years. He is to be found, you will say, wherever strangers resort. All very true, my good friend; but it is a very strange piece of chance, that, for a whole week, he and I should constantly meet, and that he should always single me out to speak with; that he should wear sandals to his feet, and his best mantle; and that he should descend into the bath daily. Has he done all this, too, for the last forty years? Take care, Aristippus, don't destroy these pleasing fantasies, or we shall not remain friends long.

"I wish you could see how well I play the hostess amid six or eight philosophers; the youngest of whom bears the load of sixty winters on his back. I assure you, you would be proud of your new relation, could you see her disputing with such antagonists about the highest good, the principles of justice, and on the most perfect republic; and remark with what art she contrives to keep these dialecticians in good order, and remove some of the dryness attendant on such speculations. But if she does so, it is when the principal person is present; he whose piercing intellect, happy wit, and genial humour, make him the soul of our society. The most ungrateful material becomes pliable under his touch; and the light sympotical mode with which he treats the most difficult points of philosophy and knowledge, rivets the attention of all about him, without a possibility of ennui.

"Give me joy, Aristippus. I have pass ed a whole morning with Socrates on the Acropolis, and alone; for I do not reckon the good-natured Simmias of Thebes, and the elegant Cretobulus, as anybody; be sides, they were polite enough to keep at a distance. We viewed all the wonders of that place, where the sublimest and the most beautiful works are collected, and so placed, that they appear to the astonished eye as parts of a magnificent whole. It seemed as if I had seen them for the first time, seeing them with Socrates.

6

6

6

"We whiled away two hours under the Propylæon, in viewing the works of Phidias, Alkamenes, Myron, and Menon. I asked him in which order he would place artists. Ask your own heart rather,' replied he. In that case, Phidias is the first.' Without doubt,' he said, in Phidias all the requisites of a great artist are to be found. He is a Homer who composed in marble instead of verse. The Gods whom he has sculptured, have manifested themselves to him alone. Alkamenes strove to elevate human forms to divine. Both these have only left the pre-eminence of grace to Myron. And Menon, perhaps the best of Phidias' pupils, in comparison with

C

6

these three, is but a pupil still.' A Diana of Myron caused me to express a wish to see the three Graces which Socrates himself had sculptured when a young man. They are not worth seeing,' he replied; I was never contented with them, and less now than ever, since I have seen your three graces.' Mine ?' said I, astonished, it is true, I have three lovely maidens.' I do not speak of your maidens, beautiful Anaximandra, but of your own graces, and, as a proof that I neither flatter nor jest, I will be more explicit. Since I saw you, I have remarked three things, which distinguish you from all the beauties I have yet seen. The first, a scarcely perceptible smile, that softly flows around your mouth, your eyes, and whole countenance, which never vanishes, whether in silence or in speaking, sorrow or in joy. The second is a lightness which pervades every motion and position of your body. In moving, you seem impelled without effort, and in repose you appear as if you were about to soar away into other regions: an elasticity of frame that never degenerates into lassitude, nor is to be confounded with activity, for it is only connected with the highest aspirations of a great soul.' A sudden blush overspread my countenance, as he said this with such seeming sincerity. Good,' cried he, here we have the third. That noble glow, the daughter of the tenderest feelings, takes away nothing from the clevated expression of your countenance, or from the consciousness of your own power, and is on that account essentially distinct from the blush of childish or rustic embarrassment.'

6

"And now, friend Aristippus, we sat down under the olive-tree near the temple of Athene Polias, and Socrates began a long conversation on beauty and love. He took for granted, that both without virtue could neither reach their fulness of perfection, nor be of any continuance. He proved, that beauty and goodness were the same; and virtue nothing more than a pure love for all that is good and beautiful; à love which, like the flame, is ever striving upwards, which never finds repose, till it has attained to the highest good. And what think you he meant by all this? No. thing less than to convince me, that Na ture herself had formed me to be a teacher, a sort of priestess, nay, to be virtue personified, and that my unremitting efforts should be devoted to reach this end. I can't detail the tenth part of the sublime things he said, but I remember his parting words-If virtue could be visible, what other form would she take than thine, to draw all hearts to herself? It rests with thyself to show the world that she is visible. Were Tyche to raise thee to reign over the earth, how little were that in comparison with the height to which thou

couldst elevate thyself by thine own power, by manifesting thy real self, in order to fulfil the end to which beauty, such as thine, is destined.'

"I think the three graces with which he had endowed me, came to my assistance at this moment. I laid my hand upon his, and said, with an earnest smile, as the blood mantled on my cheek- The place in which we are, and the visible presence of so many gods and heroes, have filled you with power, Socrates. You speak like a prophet-like a god. I am a weak mortal, and yet a high ideal hovers over me, which, perhaps, I shall never realize. I hope that this morning's conversation will remain engraven on my heart.'

"We went down into the city through the Propylæon, and I could not refrain from taking off my garland, and crowning the statue of that great man, whose king ly mind had raised Athens over all other cities in the world."

touched, unsusceptible of other feelings than those of friendship.

How is it possible to make such a mind destroy itself? Here our author has introduced an incident with con

summate art.

Aristippus and Lais are still at Ægina when Socrates is condemned to death. The author does not dilate on this part of the subject, but at once paints the effects of his death on the different personages whom he has brought in contact with the philosopher; and here no inconsiderable depth of critical ability is displayed. The enmity which we have reason to believe actually existed between Plato and Aristippus, affords an excellent opportunity for strictures on the philosophy and doctrine of the former. But here the personal feelings of the author himself are too apparent, and, however plausible his own views may be, we cannot say that his judgment is altogether impartial.

The remarks occur in a correspondence between Lais and Aristippus, during a period of many years. The same feelings with which they first met, are retained by each to the last. Lais herself runs through her career like one who is devoted from the first.

Possessing a depth of mind superior to the rest of her sex, with passion, and fortune under her own control, she scorns the lot which fate has ordained for females. Her extraordinary beauty and her talents secure her the homage of the young, the old, the rich, and the learned, and encourage a masculine strength and freedom of mind which generates a proportionate freedom of action. While the whole world are fired by her charms, her own heart remains un

Arasambes, a Satrap, related to the Persian monarch, rich beyond conception, and beautiful as a Mede, becomes her devoted admirer. Neither his person, however, nor his unlimited devotion, wins her heart. At length the eclat of the connexion induces Lais to accompany him to Sardis, and it is now we observe an evident alteration in the texture of her mind. The unboundtouches her heart only through the ed means and great love of the Persian medium of her vanity. Not a single wish is left ungratified: nay, the most absurd fancies are immediately realized. Removed from all the higher pleasures of the intellect, incapable of loving, her whole time is occupied in inventing new desires; and the energies of her nature are expended on the most worthless objects. The natural consequence is, that Lais becomes capricious. The irksomeness of incessantly seeking new objects of enjoyment in things which could not impart it, at length awakens earlier remembrances, and the memory of happier hours intrudes upon her. The summer-house at Ægina, the temple in which she had sworn eternal friendship with Aristippus, her feelings amounting almost to passionate love for Aristippus himself, at length induce her to leave Arasambes, and once more return to her own circle. This she effects easily. But she is no longer the Lais whose soul was formed to realize all that was noble and virtuous on earth. A sickly vanity has stolen upon her mind. Still, however, she retains the affection of Aristippus and her friends. The last blow which prepares us for the catastrophe is at length struck.—Aristippus marries and retires to Cyrene. The happiness which she sees enjoyed by her circle of friends, all of whom have now assumed the pleasurable cares of a family, bring her own desolate situation strongly to her heart. She now sees, that from the beginning she was wrong in the choice of the path which leads to contentment. She now feels that the highest object an amiable woman should have, is to form the happiness of one man. In addition to the corroding pangs of her own heart

the open language of her countrymen have decided to what class of females she now belongs. Her only resource is to retire from the public gaze, and to spend the remainder of her days with those friends who still retain their wonted affection for her. While she is staying in the strictest retirement, a slave-dealer offers her a young slave for sale. He speaks so enthusiastically of his accomplishments that Lais is induced to see him. Dorylas, the young slave, is presented, and nothing can exceed the impression which he makes on her. He does not appear more than twenty years old, with a form and countenance and sparkling eyes which would have served as a model for a Hermes. The bargain is immediately made, and the slave bought. From this moment, Lais, the cold, collected, beautiful Lais -she who like the Fire-spirits of Persian Mythology, had dwelt unharmed amid the flames which she herself had created, now gives up her whole soul to the most impassioned love. Dorylas gets possession of her fortune, and expends it in the commonest debaucheries. It appears that he is an adventurer, who, having heard of Lais's

wealth, coolly lays this plan for obtaining possession of her person and property. Sunk in the opinion of the world-immeasurably fallen in her own, she rejects all the affectionate entreaties of Aristippus and her friends to come and live with them. That passion which had slumbered in her bosom during so many years, only to gather up all its energies to overwhelm every other and better feeling of her soul, will not allow her to leave the man who is treating her with shameless ingratitude, and the grossest neglect; and the only answer to them is contained in these few words, "Farewell, Aristippus and Klionidas-my friends-farewell! Do not despise these two little myrtle sprigs which I send as a remembrance of poor Lais. They withered on her heart, and are consecrated by her tears.

"If I find rest on the shores of Peneus, you shall hear from me; if not, let me live in your memory."

She is traced into Thessaly, is heard of in several towns, but suddenly she disappears, and the strictest inquiries do not afford the slightest clue to her fate.

PADDY PUMPS OF CORK TO C. N. ESQ., AT EDINBURGH.
HONOURED SIR,

THIS goes with my compliments,
hoping you're in good health as I am
at this present writing, thank God
and St Patrick for it; and 'tis a wonder
I was not hindered from writing to
you at all at all.
"Arrah, man,"
says Tim Sheedy,-he's a publican
next door but one to my little shop in
Blarney Lane, "arrah, man, put it out
of your head,-you write to Kit North
indeed!"-" And why not?" says I;
"sure I writes to Kit Hutchinson our
member, and by the same token he
promised me a tide-waiter's place for
voting for him-sure did not I write to
Kitty Hutchinson?" says I;" and is
not he a bigger man than Kit North;
and does not he bother um in the
Parliment-house? and that's more
nor Kit North can say; and did not
he by the same token promise me to
take off the tax upon leather, that I
might have double profit on my
shoes?"-"Oh, but," says Tim, "he's
a Libral-he's one of the people him-
self, as I may say, and so fond of us,
when he wants to get our votes-now
VOL. XVII.

Kit North is a different kind of man;
'tis little he'll be after minding what
one of us could say to him."-"I don't
know that," says I; "sure is not Cap-
tain ODogherty, our countryman, one
of his favourites, and don't they drink
whisky-punch and cat oysters for all
the world like a jolly set of our own
merry boys: and is not Bill Dogherty
of Mill-street my tenth cousin? and
who knows but he may be the Captain's
cousin too; and is not that encourage-
ment? I tell you what it is," says I,
"Tim, and I have it from a very know-
ing gentleman that takes shoes from
me, people are beginning to be tired
of big words, and fine writing, that's
all smoke and palaver, and finds ten
times more sport, aye, and more
sense too, in Sawney's plain broad
Scotch, and Paddy's honest Irish
brogue, for we tells the naked truth
as it comes uppermost, without any
cloak or circumbendibus. They yawn
at others, but they laugh at us, and
faith I think they that have the laugh
at their side are the cleverest fellows.
Is not there the great Mr Nobody,
4 T

« PreviousContinue »