ページの画像
PDF
ePub

Voilà quelques réflexions qui m'ont paru solides Conclusion. sur les différens usages des Belles-Lettres. Heureux si je pouvois en inspirer le goût! J'aurois trop bonne opinion de moi-même, si je ne sentois pas les défauts de cet essai; j'en aurois une trop mauraise, si je n'espérois pas que dans un age moins precoce et avec des connoissances plus étendues je pourrai me voir plus en état d'y suppléer. On pourra dire que ces réflexions sont vraies, mais usées, ou qu'elles sont nouvelles, mais paradoxales. Quel auteur aime les critiques ? Cependant la preLière me déplairoit le moins. L'avantage de l'art n'est plus cher que la gloire de l'artiste.

DIGRESSION ON THE CHARACTER OF

BRUTUS. The memory of Cæsar, celebrated as it is, has not been transmitted down to posterity with such uniform and increasing applause as that of his PATRIOT ASSASSIN. Marc Antony acknowledged the rectitude of his intentions. Augustus refused to violate his statues.* All the great writers of the succeeding age enlarged on his praises,and more than two hundred years after the establishment of the imperial government, the character of Brutus was studied as the perfect idea of Roman virtue. I In England as in France, in modern Italy as in ancient Rome, his name has always been mentioned with respect by the adherents of monarchy, and pronounced with enthusiasm by the

* Plutarch in Antonio, p. 925, in Brut. p. 1011. Among these were the statues, which the Athenians had erected to Brutus and Cassius, by the side of their own deliverers, Harmodius and Aristogiton.

+ Under the jealous tyranny of Tiberius, Cremutius Cordus was arraigned before the senate for the encomiums which he be. stowed in his history on Brutus and Cassius. He justified himself by the toleration of Augustus and the example of Asinius Pollio, Messala and Livy: nor was it within the tyrant's power to supo press his writings, or the gereral sense of mankind. Tacit. Annal. iv. 34, 35. * M. Antonin. de Rebus suis, L. i.

Velleius Paterculus, an elegant writer, but servilely devoted to the imperial family, and most probably one of the judges who condemned Cremutius, can only say of Brutus, Corrupto animo ejus in diem quæ illi omnes virtutes unius facti temeritate abstulit. ii. 72.

friends friends of freedom. It may seem rash and invi. dious to appeal from the sentence of ages; yet surely I may be permitted to inquire, in what consisted the divINE VIRTUE OF Brutus?

The few patriots who, by a bold and well-concerted enterprize, have delivered their country from foreign or domestic slavery, Timoleon, and the elder Brutus, Andrew Doria, and Gustavus Vasa, the three peasants of Switzerland, * and the four princes of Orange, excite the warmest sensations of esteem and gratitude in those breasts which feel for the interest of mankind. But the design of the younger Brutus was vast and perhaps impracticable, the execution feeble and unfortunate. Neither as a statesman nor as a general did Brutus ever approve himself equal to the arduous task he had so rashly undertaken, of restoring the commonwealth; instead of restoring it, the death of a mild and generous usurper produced only a series of civil wars, and the reign of three tyrants whose union and whose discord were alike fatal to the Roman people. .

The sagacious Tully often laments that he could be pleased with nothing in the ides of March, except the ides themselves; that the deed was executed with a manly courage, but supported by childish counsels; that the tyranny survived the tyrant; as the conspirators, satisfied with fame and

• Who in the year 1308 delivered their country from the Aus. trian yoke. See Simlerus de Republica Helvetica; Guillimannus de Rebus Helveticis, and the great Chronicle of Tschudi.

revenge, revenge, had neglected every measure that might have restored public liberty.* Whilst Brutus and Cassius contemplated their own heroism with the most happy complacency, Marc Antony, who had preserved his life, and the first magistracy of the state, by their injudicious clemency, seized the papers and treasure of the Dictator, inflamed the people and the veterans, and drove them out of Rome and Italy, without any other opposition than some grave remonstrances which the patriots vainly addressed to the Consul.t

The eloquence of Cicero, and the dangerous aid of young Cæsar, awakened in the senate a spirit of freedom and resistance. Brutus and Cassius had time to seize on Macedonia and Syria, whilst the forces of Antony were diverted and almost destroyed in the memorable siege of Modena. The legions stationed in those provinces acknowledged them as lawful proconsuls, the wealth of the east fell into their hands, and they had collected an army of one hundred thousand men, I before the triumvirs had cemented their union with the noblest blood of Rome, and were prepared to lead their veteran legions against the last defenders of the public liberty Cassius was of opinion, that

Was

* See the XIVth, XVth, and XVIth Books of the Epistles to Atticus.

+ See Epistol. ad Famil. xi. 2, 3. The spirit of these letters is finely tempered by the politeness with which Brutus and Cassius address the Consul. They respect the magistrate whilst they defy the tyrant. † Appian. L. iv. p. 640. VOL. IV.

they

« 前へ次へ »