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REVIEW OF MEMOIRS
COURT OF AUGUSTUS.
By THOMAS BLACKWELL, J. U. D. Principal of Maribal-College in the University of Aberdeen.
HE firft Effect which this Book has upon the Reader is that of disgusting him with the Author's Vanity. He endeavours to perfuade the World, that here are fome new Treafures of Literature spread before his Eyes; that fomething is discovered, which to this happy Day had been concealed in Darkness; that by his Diligence Time had been robbed of fome valuable Monument which he was on the Point of devouring; and that Names and Facts doomed to Oblivion are now restored to Fame.
How muft the unlearned Reader be surprised, when he fhall be told that Mr. Blackwell has neither digged in the Ruins of any demolished City, nor found out the Way to the Library of Fez; nor had a fingle Book in his Hands, that has not been in the Poffeffion of every Man that was inclined to read it, for Years and Ages; and that his Book relates to a People who above all others have furVOL. III. B nifhed
nished Employment to the Studious, and Amufements to the Idle; who have scarcely left behind them a Coin or a Stone, which has not been examined and explained a thousand Times, and whofe Drefs, and Food, and Houfhold Stuff it has been the Pride of Learning to understand.
A Man need not fear to incur the Imputation of vitious Diffidence or affected Humility, who fhould have forborn to promife many Novelties, when he perceived fuch Multitudes of Writers poffeffed of the fame Materials, and intent upon the fame Purpofe. Mr. Blackwell knows well the Opinion of Horace, concerning thofe that open their Undertakings with magnificent Promifes; and he knows likewife the Dictates of common Senfe and common Honefty, Names of greater Authority than that of Horace, who direct that no Man fhould promise what he cannot perform.
I do not mean to declare that this Volume has nothing New, or that the Labours of those who have gone before our Author, have made his Performance an ufelefs Addition to the Burden of Literature. New Works may be constructed with old Materials, the Difpofition of the Parts may shew Contrivance, the Ornaments interfperfed may dif cover Elegance.
It is not always without good Effect that Men of proper Qualifications write in Succeffion on the fame Subject, even when the latter add nothing to the Information given by the former; for the fame Ideas may be delivered more intelligibly or more delightfully by one than by another, or with Attractions that may lure Minds of a different Form. No Writer pleases all, and every Writer may please fome.
But after all, to inherit is not to acquire; to decorate is not to make; and the Man who had nothing to do but to read the ancient Authors, who mention the Roman Affairs, and reduce them to Common
Common-places, ought not to boaft himself as a great Benefactor to the ftudious World.
After a Preface of Boaft, and a Letter of Flattery, in which he seems to imitate the Addrefs of Horace in his vile potabis modicis Sabinum-he opens his Book with telling us, that the Roman Republic, after the horrible Profcription, was no more at bleeding Rome. The regal Power of her Confuls, the Authority of her Senate, and the Majesty of her People, were now trampled under Foot; these [for thofe] divine Laws and hallowed Customs, that had been the Effence of her Constitution6 were fet at Nought, and her beft Friends were lying expofed in their Blood.'
These were furely very difmal Times to those who fuffered; but I know not why any one but a Schoolboy in his Declamation should whine over the Commonwealth of Rome, which grew great only by the Mifery of the reft of Mankind. The Romans, like others, as foon as they grew rich grew corrupt, and, in their Corruption, fold the Lives and Freedoms of themselves, and of one another.
About this Time Brutus had his Patience put to the highest Trial: He had been married to Clodia; but whether the Family did not please him, or whether he was diffatisfied with the Lady's Behaviour during his Abfence, he foon entertained Thoughts of a Separation. This raised a good Deal of Talk, and the Women of the Clodian Family inveighed bitterly against Brutus-but he married Portia, who was worthy of fuch a Father as M. Cato, and fuch a Husband as M. Brutus. She had a Soul capable of an exalted Paffion, and found a proper Object to raise and give it a Sanction; fhe did not only love but adored her Hufband; his Worth, his Truth, his every thining and ⚫ heroic Quality, made her gaze on him like a God, 'while the endearing Returns of Efteem and Ten• derness
⚫dernefs fhe met with, brought her Joy, her Pride, < her every Wish to center in her beloved Brutus.'
When the Reader has been awakened by this rapturous Preparation, he hears the whole Story of Portia in the fame luxuriant Stile, till fhe breathed out her laft, a little before the bloody Profcription, 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 Queftor was
Paymaster, Secretary at War, and Commissary General, and that the facred Difcipline of the Romans required the clofeft Connection, like that of Father and Son, to fubfift between the General of an Army and his Queftor. Cicero was General of the Cavalry, and the next General Officer was Flavius, 6 Mafter of the Artillery, the elder Lentulus was Admiral, and the younger rode in the Band of VolunC teers; under thefe the Tribunes, with many others
too tedious to name.' Lentulus, however, was but a fubordinate 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 unneceffary Zeal for Liberty, or rather for one Form of Government as preferable to another. This indeed might be fuffered, because political Inftitution is a Subject in which Men have always differed, and if they continue to obey their lawful Governors, and attempt not to make Innovations for the Sake of their favourite Schemes, they may differ for ever without any juft Reproach from one another. But who can bear the hardy Cham
pion who ventures nothing? Who in full Security undertakes the Defence of the Affaffination of Cæfar, and declares his Refolution to speak plain? Yet let not juft Sentiments be overlooked: He has juftly obferved, that the greater Part of Mankind will be naturally prejudiced against Brutus, for all feel the Benefits of private Friendship; but few can difcern the Advantages of a well conftituted Government.
We know not whether fome Apology may not be neceffary for the Distance between the firft Account of this Book and its Continuation. The Truth is, that this Work not being forced upon our Attention by much public Applause or Cenfure, was fometimes neglected, and fometimes forgotten; nor would it, perhaps, have been now resumed, but that we might avoid to difappoint our Readers by an abrupt Desertion of any Subject.
It is not our Design to criticise the Facts of this Hiftory, but the Style; not the Veracity, but the Addrefs of the Writer; for, an Account of the ancient Romans, as it cannot nearly interest any present Reader, and muft 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 fo as to be much affected with every Event, and to believe that he can affect others. Enthusiasm is indeed fufficiently 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 Cæfar, whom this Author probably ftabs every Day and Night in his fleeping or waking Dreams.
He is come too late into the World with his Fury for Freedom, with his Brutus and Caffius. We have all on this Side of the Tweed long fince fettled