« ForrigeFortsæt »
Latin, and of his Greek conversation Cardinal Du Perron said that ' when Casaubon spoke French he talked like a peasant, • but when he spoke Greek he spoke it as his mother tongue.' Mr. Pattison does not accept this without some reservation. He is of opinion that Casaubon thought in Greek' words and • phrases,' but not in Greek 'sentences ; ' that his memory supplied him with a full vocabulary, but that he had not cultivated either the logic or the rhythm of the Greek sentence (p. 513). It is hardly worth while, we think, to discuss the distinction. We may be satisfied with the judgment of Scaliger, who confessed that Casaubon knew more Greek than himself, and acknowledges him to be memoria avorum et nostri sæculi 'græcè doctissimum,' and the still more discriminating verdict of Ruhnken, who assigns to him in this particular the very first place among modern scholars, with the sole exception of Hemsterhuis,
But little space remains for an examination of the religious opinions of Casaubon and of the position which he held in relation to the conflicting parties of his time. We have already seen that he was popularly regarded as a 'waverer, and that, as such, he occasionally incurred the suspicion, if not the ill-will, of both sides of the great religious controversy. Probably no better word could be devised to describe his condition of religious thought during the greater part of his residence in France. He himself
tells Tilenus that, in the course of his investigations, he had compared the writings of • the Reformers and those of their opponents with the doctrine
of the ancient Church. Among the rest he had read Bellar‘mine, and he was prepared to demonstrate the falsity of · Bellarmine's positions on certain heads, such as Scripture, * tradition, the pope's power, images, and indulgences. But * as to the chapter on the Sacraments, although there too he
finds things which can be refuted, it is no less clear to him " that the whole of antiquity with one consent is on the side of * Rome, and that the writers of the Reformed party who have
attempted to show that the fathers are in their favour, have egregiously wasted their time' (p. 254). It appears to us that this brief statement contains the key to the whole history of Casaubon's career, as well in France as in England. It is by no means improbable that he permitted himself to coquet with the Catholic propagandists in Paris, so far, at least, as to give them hopes of his ultimate conversion; but we think that Mr. Pattison fairly appreciates his actual dogmatic position in the following summary review :
• Up to the middle of his Paris period, he had remained, what he had been brought up, a pure Genevan Calvinist. This old Huguenot
party, thorough believers in their own creed as exclusively true, were for no compromise with the Papal anti-Christ. About 1605 and thenceforward, his exclusiveness began to give way. Commerce with the world of a capital, conflict with rational Catholics, and an assiduous study of antiquity, could not fail to enlarge his ideas, and necessitate a change of position. It is highly probable that while this change of front was being effected, he wavered," and thought of transferring himself to the Catholic Church, of becoming simply and purely a convert. But after a short period of irresolution, during which he was feeling his way, mentally and morally, he settled down in the attitude which we may call fusionist. This was the position of many of the best and well-informed Protestants of that period—Grotius, Calixtus, Jean Hotman, Bongars. Unable to acquiesce in the narrow dogmatism of the Calvinists, or to surrender the world to the domination of the clergy, these men proposed a middle term, a re-union of Christendom on the basis of a comprehension. They regarded the Reformation, not as a new religion, but as a return to primitive Christianity. They desired to promote, not Protestantism, but a religious revival, in which all Christians should participate without quitting the communion of the Church universal. The politicians, like Hotman and Bongars, aimed at bringing this about by diplomatic means. They wanted a general council. The more learned, like Casaubon, sought the same end by popularising a knowledge of antiquity. All parties understood that the Edict of Nantes was no settlement, that it was but a truce, which was being worked for the benefit of the stronger party, by the system of gradual encroachment.' (Pp. 503-4.)
Such was Isaac Casaubon-the very type of a devoted, and 50 far as regards scholarship, a successful student. Such was his life a life of hardship, in circumstances humble—almost 'sordid ; short of want, but pinched by poverty.'
It is painful to acknowledge that the results of such a life are now almost entirely forgotten. Which of us, except with a special purpose, has ever thought of recurring to the works of this great scholar? It is true that this is in part due to the nature of the work to which life was devoted. Mr. Pattison truly says that philological literature, profound as it commonly appears, is of its own nature ephemeral. The science of philology, and still more that of exegetics, is naturally progressive, and its text-books are in a constant state of super* session.' The work of a poet, of an orator, even of an historian, is read for its own sake, and possesses a substantive character, with an independent hold upon existence. But books of philology and exegesis are but artificial instruments of learning-successive records in which to register
· All knowledge that the sons of flesh
Shall gather in the cycled times--' tools for the acquisition of further knowledge; and, as in the mechanical arts one invention is displaced or has its value utilised and incorporated in another, so the philological labours of one generation of scholars are appropriated by the next, and of the elder men little remains beyond the memory of their fame among their own contemporaries.
Nevertheless the life of Casaubon, with its many painful and disheartening accessories, contains a great and ennobling lesson. Let his books be put aside ever so persistently by the caprice of modern literary fashion, it is true, notwithstanding, that their fruit endures, and that even if unacknowledged, it has been appropriated and embodied in the progressive stock of human knowledge. And although the many thousand pages which • he wrote may be all merged in the undistinguished mass of
classical commentary, there yet remains to us, as a cherished * inheritance, the record of a life devoted to learning.'
ART. VIII.-1. Ultima Thule, or a Summer in Iceland. By
RICHARD F. BURTON, with Historical Introduction, Maps,
and Illustrations. Two volumes, 8vo. London: 1875. 2. Unpublished Journals of two Journeys in Iceland in the
Summers of 1861 and 1862. FOR or the last hundred years it may be roughly said Iceland
has been an object of interest to English travellers. Nearly a century has elapsed since Sir John Stanley first visited the Geysirs, followed in 1809 and 1810 by Sir William Hooker and Sir Henry Holland, who may well have been called by the Icelanders · Henry the far traveller,' for the zeal and perseverance with which he visited distant countries almost to the very day of his death. Those earlier expeditions were, as might be expected from the pursuits of those who embarked in them, prompted by a love of natural science. They were succeeded by a traveller of a far different stamp. In 1818 Dr. Ebenezer Henderson published two volumes on Iceland after a residence in the island of two years, 1814 and 1815. If it be asked why he stayed so long in an inclement clime, the answer is easy. He was employed by the Bible Society to distribute copies of a new translation of the Bible throughout the island, and in furtherance of this duty he traversed Iceland in a series of journeys, and so saw more of it as a whole than other travellers have been able to accomplish in a summer sojourn of a few weeks. For this alone, but also for other reasons, Henderson's Iceland,' is still the best book written on the island. Even Captain Burton, who sneers at his credulity and simplicity and narrowmindedness, admits that he has an exceptional * eye for the country,' that his powers of observation are remarkable, and that the clergy from whom he drew most of his information were more powerful, and let us add more learned and capable of affording information, than they now are. One great advantage he had, of which it is impossible to over-rate the importance. He travelled in Iceland while it was still unsophisticated, when a generous hospitality was the rule and not the exception, and when the native modesty and honesty of the simple peasantry had not been debased by flocks of English tourists, who have sown their dollars broadcast on the land, and in consequence have reaped a crop of extortion and sharpdealing. Fifteen years ago, to judge by the unpublished journals of two tours on two successive summers, much of the old simplicity of the Icelanders still remained. Since 1862 a rush of vulgar Englishmen, alike ignorant of the language and the manners of the race, has invaded the island. These are the class who believe that everything and even civility has its price in Iceland; the result being that, not obtaining what they bargained for, they have spoilt the character of the people, and bid fair to turn it into as mercenary a race as exists upon the face of the earth.
It is not, however, for the mere sake of pointing out, or of dwelling on, this inevitable deterioration in the character of the people, that we devote our space to the consideration of Captain Burton's book. With all its faults Iceland is a spot which must ever be interesting to the natural philosopher, to the philologer, and to the student of literature. In that isle, 50 seamed with lava and so scarred with volcanic fire, amidst those icy solitudes and enormous glaciers, an asylum was afforded for the whole mythology of the Teutonic race, which had perished down to a few wretched fragments and patches, were it not that it was rescued for posterity by the happy accident which drove many thousand colonists from the three Scandinavian kingdoms while they were still heathen. The sturdy freemen and chiefs, the very bone, muscle, and marrow of the land, who preferred freedom in the new-found island to becoming the thanes and thralls of that over-bearing tyrant Harold Fairhair, in Norway, bore with them to their second home across the western main the venerabie songs and traditions of their race, as we find them afterwards preserved in the two Eddas. Nor was this all: the same free spirit, and the same love for tradition and family history, burst out afterwards in a great crop of Sagas or stories, whether of the
thical heroes of the Scandinavian race, of the kings of Norway and their tributary earls in Orkney and elsewhere, and though last not least, of the lives and adventures of famous Icelanders at home, which surpass in truth and poetic feeling all the other literary productions of the race put together. It has been well said long ago, and it is now almost universally admitted, that the vernacular literature of Iceland is not only earlier, but far fresher, livelier, and more interesting, than that of any Western race. The reason is obvious : while in other nations, taking Spain as an instance, the ballads alone have sprung from the people itself, the rest of their literature being dry monkish chronicles, the whole body of Sagas in Iceland bloomed forth out of the hearts and mouths of her sons; and to that fact alone they are indebted for their lifelike spirit and perfect form. Njala, the greatest of them all, that consummate work of natural truth and power, the real Epic of the Icelandic race, we may be sure took its present shape in the hearts and on the lips of her children long before it was taken down at the period when books began to be written, and oral tradition waxed faint. Nor will it be out of our purpose to repeat what has already been insisted on in our pages, that besides these great literary treasures to which the Icelandic language is the key, that tongue possesses in itself, quite apart from the artistic merit of its writings, a paramount interest for Englishmen as the source whence numberless words and idioms, not to speak of grammatical forms and inflexions, have been derived. The days are happily long passed when it could be asked in competitive examinations whether the theory were true of a Scandinavian infusion in the English language. It is now matter of history that the Danes and other Northmen, who established kingdoms and principalities in this island during the Anglo-Saxon times, have left behind them among their descendants the language which they had brought with them from their old homes. Just at the period when the languages of the two races were dominant in the Anglo-Saxon and Danish portions of England, the Norman Conquest happened, bringing with it a new language which for a while assumed the supremacy and degraded the two competing tongues into dialects spoken by the common people. Thence ensued a struggle for the mastery between those two forms of Teutonic speech, resulting in partial victories on either side. All this occurred in what may be called the Dark Ages of the English language. Centuries after, when the people asserted its birthright to speak its own language, and the Norman element dwindled, the curtain rises on a new English in which the three elements are represented,