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alas! of Egyptian theology, and the philosophy of the Greeks. But the final dismission of the hero through the ivory gate, whence
Falsa ad cœlum mittunt insomnia manes,
seems to dissolve the whole enchantment, and leaves the reader in a state of cold and anxious scepticism.. This most lame and impotent conclusion has been variously imputed to the taste or irreligion of Virgil ; but, according to the more elaborate interpretation of bishop Warburton, the descent to hell is not a false but a mimic scene, which represents the initiation of Eneas, in the character of a law-giver, to the Eleusinian mysteries. This hypothesis, a singular chapter in the Divine Legation of Moses, had been admitted by many as true; it was praised by all as ingenious; nor had it been exposed, in a space of thirty years, to a fair and critical discussion. The learning and the abilities of the author had raised him to a just eminence; but he reigned the dictator and the tyrant of the world of literature. The real merit of Warburton was degraded by the pride and presumption with which he pronounced his infallible decrees; in his polemic writings he lashed his antagonists without mercy or moderation; and his servile flatterers (see the base and malignant essay on the "Delicacy of Friendship,")* exalting the assaulted master-critic far above Aristotle and Longinus, assaulted every modest dissenter who refused to consult the oracle, and to adore the idol. In a land of liberty such despotism must provoke a general opposition, and the zeal of opposition is seldom candid or impartial. A late professor of Oxford (Dr Louth) in a pointed and polished epistle (August 31, 1745) defended himself, and attacked the bishop; and, whatsoever might be the merits of an insignificant controversy, his victory was clearly established by the silent confusion of Warburton and his slaves. I too, without any private
* By Hurd, afterwards bishop of Worcester
offence, was ambitious of breaking a lance against the giant's shield; and in the beginning of the year 1770, my "Critical Observations on the Sixth Book of the Eneid" were sent, without my name, to the press. In this short essay, my first English publication, I aimed my strokes against the person and the hypothesis of bishop Warburton. I proved, at least to my own satisfaction, that the ancient law-givers did not invent the mysteries, and that Æneas was never invested with the office of lawgiver: that there is not any argument, any circumstance, which can melt a fable into allegory, or remove the scene from the lake Avernus to the Temple of Ceres: that such a wild supposition is equally injurious to the poet and the man that if Virgil was not initiated, he could not, if he were, he would not, reveal the secrets of the initiation that the anathema of Horace (vetabo qui Cereris sacrum vulgarit, &c.) at once attests his own ignorance and the innocence of his friend. As the bishop of Gloucester and his party maintained a discreet silence, my critical disquisition was soon lost among the pamphlets of the day; but the public coldness was overbalanced to my feelings by the weighty approbation of the last and best editor of Virgil, professor Heyne of Gottingen, who acquiesces in my confutation, and styles the unknown author, doctus -et elegantissimus Britannus. But I cannot resist the temptation of transcribing the favourable judgment of Mr Hayley, himself a poet and a scholar :- "An intricate hypothesis, twisted into a long and laboured chain of quotation and argument, the Dissertation on the Sixth Book of Virgil, remained some time unrefuted. At length, a superior, but anonymous, critic arose, who, in one of the most judicious and spirited essays that our nation has produced on a point of classical literature, completely overturned this illfounded edifice, and exposed the arrogance and futility of its assuming architect." He even condescends to justify an acrimony of style which had been gently
blamed by the more unbiassed German; acrius quam velis perstrinxit.”* But I cannot forgive myself the contemptuous treatment of a man who, with all his faults, was entitled to my esteem; † and I can less forgive, in a personal attack, the cowardly concealment of my name and character.
In the fifteen years between my Essay on the Study of Literature and the first volume of the Decline and Fall (1761-1776) this criticism on Warburton, and some articles in the Journal, were my sole publications. It is more especially incumbent on me to mark the employment or to confess the waste of time from my travels to my father's death, an interval in which I was not diverted by any professional duties from the labours and pleasures of a studious life. 1. As soon as I was released from the fruitless task of the Swiss revolutions (1768) I began gradually to advance from the wish to the hope, from the hope to the design, from the design to the execution, of my historical work, of whose limits and extent I had yet a very inadequate notion. The Classics, as low as Tacitus, the younger Pliny, and Juvenal, were my old and familiar companions. I insensibly plunged into the ocean of the Augustan history; and in the descending series I investigated, with my pen almost
The editor of the Warburtonian tracts, Dr Parr (p. 192) considers the allegorical interpretation as completely refuted in a most clear, elegant, and decisive work of criticism; which could not, indeed, derive authority from the greatest name, but to which the greatest name might with propriety have been affixed.”
+ The Divine Legation of Moses is a monument, already crumbling in the dust, of the vigour and weakness of the human mind. If Warburton's new argument proved anything, it would be a demonstration against the legislator who left his people without the knowledge of a future state. But some episodes of the work, on the Greek philosophy, the hieroglyphics of Egypt, &c. are entitled to the praise of earning, imagination, and discernment.
always in my hand, the original records, both Greek and Latin, from Dion Cassius to Ammianus Marcellinus, from the reign of Trajan to the last age of the Western Cæsars. The subsidiary rays of medals, and inscriptions of geography and chronology, were thrown on their proper objects; and I applied the collections of Tillemont, whose inimitable accuracy almost assumes the character of genius, to fix and arrange within my reach the loose and scattered atoms of historical information. Through the darkness of the middle ages I explored my way in the Annals and Antiquities of Italy of the learned Muratori, and diligently compared them with the parallel or transverse lines of Sigonius and Maffei, Baronius and Pagi, till I almost grasped the ruins of Rome in the fourteenth century, without suspecting that this final chapter must be attained by the labour of six quartos and twenty years. Among the books which I purchased, the Theodosian Code, with the commentary of James Godefroy, must be gratefully remembered. I used it (and much I used it) as a work of history rather than of jurisprudence: but in every light it may be considered as a full and capacious repository of the political state of the empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. As I believed, and as I still believe, that the propagation of the Gospel, and the triumph of the church, are inseparably connected with the decline of the Roman monarchy, I weighed the causes and effects of the revolution, and contrasted the narratives and apologies of the Christians themselves, with the glances of candour or enmity which the Pagans have cast on the rising sects. The Jewish and Heathen testimonies, as they are collected and illustrated by Dr Lardner, directed, without superseding, my search of the originals; and in an ample dissertation on the miraculous darkness of the Passion, I privately drew my conclusions from the silence of an unbelieving age. I have assembled the preparatory studies directly or indirectly relative to my history; but, in strict equity,
they must be spread beyond this period of my life, over the two summers (1771 and 1772) that elapsed between my father's death and my settlement in London. 2. In a free conversation with books and men it would be endless to enumerate the names and characters of all who are introduced to our acquaintance; but in this general acquaintance we may select the degrees of friendship and esteem. According to the wise maxim, Multum legere potius quam multu, I reviewed, again and again, the immortal works of the French and English, the Latin and Italian classics. My Greek studies (though less assiduous than I designed) maintained and extended my knowledge of that incomparable idiom. Homer and Xenophon were still my favourite authors; and I had almost prepared for the press an Essay on the Cyropodia, which, in my own judgment, is not unhappily laboured. After a certain age, the new publications of merit are the sole food of the many; and the most austere student will be often tempted to break the line, for the sake of indulging his own curiosity, and of providing the topics of fashionable currency. A more respectable motive may be assigned for the third perusal of Blackstone's Commentaries; and a copious and critical abstract of that English work was my first serious production in my native language. 3. My literary leisure was much less complete and independent than it might appear to the eye of a stranger. In the hurry of London I was destitute of books; in the solitude of Hampshire I was not master of my time. My quiet was gradually disturbed by our domestic anxiety; and I should be ashamed of my unfeeling philosophy, had I found much time or taste for study in the last fatal summer (1770) of my father's decay and dissolution.
The disembodying of the militia at the close of the war (1763) had restored the major (a new Cincinnatus) to a life of agriculture. His labours were useful, his pleasures innocent, his wishes moderate; and my