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قراءة كتاب The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 06 Reviews, Political Tracts, and Lives of Eminent Persons

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‏اللغة: English
The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 06
Reviews, Political Tracts, and Lives of Eminent Persons

The Works of Samuel Johnson, Volume 06 Reviews, Political Tracts, and Lives of Eminent Persons

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

she did not only love but adored her husband; his worth, his truth, his every shining and heroic quality, made her gaze on him like a god, while the endearing returns of esteem and tenderness she met with, brought her joy, her pride, her every wish to centre in her beloved Brutus."

When the reader has been awakened by this rapturous preparation, he hears the whole story of Portia in the same luxuriant style, till she breathed out her last, a little before the bloody proscription, and "Brutus complained heavily of his friends at Rome, as not having paid due attention to his lady in the declining state of her health."

He is a great lover of modern terms. His senators and their wives are gentlemen and ladies. In this review of Brutus's army, who was under the command of gallant men, not braver officers than true patriots, he tells us, "that Sextus, the questor, was paymaster, secretary at war, and commissary general; and that the sacred discipline of the Romans required the closest connexion, like that of father and son, to subsist between the general of an army and his questor. Cicero was general of the cavalry, and the next general officer was Flavius, master of Ihe artillery, the elder Lentulus was admiral, and the younger rode in the band of volunteers; under these the tribunes, with many others, too tedious to name." Lentulus, however, was but a subordinate officer; for we are informed afterwards, that the Romans had made Sextus Pompeius lord high admiral in all the seas of their dominions. Among other affectations of this writer, is a furious and unnecessary zeal for liberty; or rather, for one form of government as preferable to another. This, indeed, might be suffered, because political institution is a subject in which men have always differed, and, if they continue to obey their lawful governours, and attempt not to make innovations, for the sake of their favourite schemes, they may differ for ever, without any just reproach from one another. But who can bear the hardy champion, who ventures nothing? who, in full security, undertakes the defence of the assassination of Cassar, and declares his resolution to speak plain? Yet let not just sentiments be overlooked: he has justly observed, that the greater part of mankind will be naturally prejudiced against Brutus, for all feel the benefits of private friendship; but few can discern the advantages of a well-constituted government [3].

We know not whether some apology may not be necessary for the distance between the first account of this book and its continuation. The truth is, that this work, not being forced upon our attention by much publick applause or censure, was sometimes neglected, and sometimes forgotten; nor would it, perhaps, have been now resumed, but that we might avoid to disappoint our readers by an abrupt desertion of any subject.

It is not our design to criticise the facts of this history, but the style; not the veracity, but the address of the writer; for, an account of the ancient Romans, as it cannot nearly interest any present reader, and must be drawn from writings that have been long known, can owe its value only to the language in which it is delivered, and the reflections with which it is accompanied. Dr. Blackwell, however, seems to have heated his imagination, so as to be much affected with every event, and to believe that he can affect others. Enthusiasm is, indeed, sufficiently contagious; but I never found any of his readers much enamoured of the glorious Pompey, the patriot approv'd, or much incensed against the lawless Caesar, whom this author, probably, stabs every day and night in his sleeping or waking dreams.

He is come too late into the world with his fury for freedom, with his Brutus and Cassius. We have all, on this side of the Tweed, long since settled our opinions: his zeal for Roman liberty and declamations against the violators of the republican constitution, only stand now in the reader's way, who wishes to proceed in the narrative without the interruption of epithets and exclamations. It is not easy to forbear laughter at a man so bold in fighting shadows, so busy in a dispute two thousand years past, and so zealous for the honour of a people, who, while they were poor, robbed mankind, and, as soon as they became rich, robbed one another. Of these robberies our author seems to have no very quick sense, except when they are committed by Caesar's party, for every act is sanctified by the name of a patriot.

If this author's skill in ancient literature were less generally acknowledged, one might sometimes suspect, that he had too frequently consulted the French writers. He tells us, that Archelaus, the Rhodian, made a speech to Cassius, and, in so saying, dropt some tears; and that Cassius, after the reduction of Rhodes, was covered with glory.—Deiotarus was a keen and happy spirit—the ingrate Castor kept his court.

His great delight is to show his universal acquaintance with terms of art, with words that every other polite writer has avoided and despised. When Pompey conquered the pirates, he destroyed fifteen hundred ships of the line.—The Xanthian parapets were tore down.—Brutus, suspecting that his troops were plundering, commanded the trumpets to sound to their colours.—Most people understood the act of attainder passed by the senate.—The Numidian troopers were unlikely in their appearance.— The Numidians beat up one quarter after another.—Salvidienus resolved to pass his men over, in boats of leather, and he gave orders for equipping a sufficient number of that sort of small craft.—Pompey had light, agile frigates, and fought in a strait, where the current and caverns occasion swirls and a roll.—A sharp out-look was kept by the admiral.—It is a run of about fifty Roman miles.—Brutus broke Lipella in the sight of the army.—Mark Antony garbled the senate. He was a brave man, well qualified for a commodore.

In his choice of phrases he frequently uses words with great solemnity, which every other mouth and pen has appropriated to jocularity and levity! The Rhodians gave up the contest, and, in poor plight, fled back to Rhodes.—Boys and girls were easily kidnapped.—Deiotarus was a mighty believer of augury.—Deiotarus destroyed his ungracious progeny.—The regularity of the Romans was their mortal aversion.—They desired the consuls to curb such heinous doings.—He had such a shrewd invention, that no side of a question came amiss to him.—Brutus found his mistress a coquettish creature.

He sometimes, with most unlucky dexterity, mixes the grand and the burlesque together; the violation of faith, sir, says Cassius, lies at the door of the Rhodians by reite-rated acts of perfidy.—The iron grate fell down, crushed those under it to death, and catched the rest as in a trap.—When the Xanthians heard the military shout, and saw the flame mount, they concluded there would be no mercy. It was now about sunset, and they had been at hot work since noon.

He has, often, words, or phrases, with which our language has hitherto had no knowledge.—One was a heart-friend to the republic—A deed was expeded.—The Numidians begun to reel, and were in hazard of falling into confusion.—The tutor embraced his pupil close in his arms.—Four hundred women were taxed, who have, no doubt, been the wives of the best Roman citizens.—Men not born to action are inconsequential in government.—Collectitious troops.—The foot, by their violent attack, began the fatal break in the Pharsaliac field.—He and his brother, with a politic, common to other countries, had taken opposite sides.

His epithets are of the gaudy or hyperbolical kind. The glorious news—eager hopes and dismal fears—bleeding Rome—divine laws and hallowed customs—merciless war—intense