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4th. For several days I have read Lucian in bed, early in the morning. No one who reads extracts only can know the merits of that admirable writer.
12th. As usual, suffering miserably, and remaining, to all appearances, stationary in point of life.
I have read Lucian's Treatise de Hist. Conscribenda; it is a very able piece of criticism. Two passages have particularly fixed my attention. One of these I might make my motto; he applies it to historians in general:
μόνη θυτίον τη αληθεία. The other is an illustration, of which he avails himself, to urge the writers of history to forget their contemporaries and look to posterity. He says that the architect of the Alexandrian Pharos covered a part of the building with stucco, on which he inscribed the name of the reigning sovereign. Under this coat of plaster, however, he engraved on the rock the following inscription:
Σώστρατος Δεξιφάνους Κνίδιος
υπέρ των πλωιζομένων. I think it most beautiful.
I am also reading the Vera Historia ; and feel convinced that Swift took from it the hint for his Gulliver's Travels. But how far superior is here the modern to the ancient! Romance of all kinds belongs to modern literature; the ancients had very little talent for it.
13th. I dreamed I was playing the violin. The impression remained upon my mind, and I have just now been putting a few strings on the violin and tenor, and playing a little on both,—with pain indeed, but it is surprising how little I have lost, except in strength.
Letter from Dr. Channing.
Sept. 18th, 1839. My dear Sir, It was a great pleasure to me to hear from you againto see your handwriting once more. Perhaps it may hardly seem a kindness to wish you to continue longer on earth, suffering as much as you do; but as long as the powers are spared, the great end of life may be answered, and much good done. I sometimes think of visiting England, now that steam has done so much towards placing the Continents side by side, and in that case how great should I feel my loss, were your voice of welcome to be wanting! How happy should I be to talk with you of your history, and to get your views (among other subjects) of the late popish explosion at Oxford ! Not that this is matter of surprise. I am prepared for such bursts of Romanism. This system could not have lasted so long, or spread so far, without some deep foundations in our nature. The Ideas, or names, of Church and Antiquity are potent spells. Men in their weakness, ignorance, and sloth, delight in the shelter they find in a vast and time-hallowed organization. How strong and bold we become, when backed by crowds, and great names, and the authority of ages! It is not wonderful that Romanism should revive at this moment, when a morbid dread of innovation is reacting against the spirit of reform, and driving men back on the past. This Oxford movement is the more likely to spread, because it seems not to be the work of policy or priestly ambition so much as a genuine fanaticism. England is more given to superstition than this country, and as little given to the study of moral and religious truth. Still there is no great danger. In an age when the people are studying and applying physical laws, and dealing earnestly with physical realities, and getting the shrewdness which arises from the spirit of trade and money-making, fanaticism must be hemmed within narrow limits. The great, especially the ultra-conservatives, are more exposed to the contagion than the multitude. How desirable, amidst all these corruptions, that a nobler form of Christianity should be preached and practised with an unaffected, all-sacrificing earnestness, zeal, force. It is not by assailing the low in practice or principle, but by manifesting the high, that the great work of reformation is to go on. Whence shall this force come? I would, that I could look to Unitarianism with more hope. But this system was, at its recent revival, a protest of the understanding against absurd dogmas rather than the work of deep religious principle, and was early paralyzed by the mixture of a material philosophy, and fell too much into the hands of scholars and political reformers ; and the consequence is, a want of vitality and force, which gives us little hope of its accomplishing much under its present auspices or in its present form. When I tell you, that no sect in this country has taken less interest in the slavery
question, or is more inclined to conservatism, than our body, you will judge what may be expected from it. Whence is salvation to come? This is the question which springs up in my mind continually—Is the world to receive new impulse from individual reformers, or from new organizations ? Or is the work to go on by a more silent, unorganized action of thought and great principles in the mass? Or are great convulsions, breaking up the present order of things, as in the fall of the Roman empire, needed to the introduction of a reform worthy of the name ? Sometimes I fear the last, so rooted seem the corruptions of the church and society; but I live in hope of milder processes.
I thank you for the kind things you have said of my letter on Slavery. I wish you sympathised with me more on the subject of War. I have no faith in the virtues which grow out of war. The courage of soldiers ranks little higher than brute force. It abounds among the lowest and most profligate men; and the sense of honour is almost synonymous with the want of moral independence. When I think of the spirit of duelling and war in the Christian world, and then of the superiority to the world and the unbounded love and forbearance which characterize our religion, I am struck with the little progress which Christianity has as yet made. Has not Mahometanism acted more powerfully, on the Mahometan mind? This slow progress of Christianity is to be explained by its uncompromising hostility to all the selfish and sensual principles, and by the grandeur of its moral purpose, and thus attests its divine origin.-I am sorry not to have written a more entertaining letter to an invalid, but all my associations with you lead me to grave subjects. Do not hold yourself bound to answer, or even to think of my remarks, if any thing more interesting offers itself. When you can write, your letters will be acceptable to none more than me. With sincere sympathy and respect, yours,
W. E. CHANNING.
September 15th, 1839. Describing the artifices of Alexander the Pseudomantis, Lucian observes that it was difficult to escape delusion. “The contrivance required a Democritus, or Epicurus himself, or some one with an adamantine intellect, to detect the fraud ; and if the manner of it could not be discovered, no less to maintain that it must be a Lie.”
Alexander hated the Epicureans more than the Christians. An unfortunate zealot against imposture had ventured in a fanatic crowd to charge Alexander with being the cause of the death of some unfortunate slaves who, having the care of their young master, at Alexandria, had lost him. Alexander's Oracle was consulted, and upon its answering that the slaves had killed the young man, they were put to death. The young scamp was found however to have sailed to India. His return to Alexandria convicted the Oracle of falsehood, but of course few would conclude against the God. The Epicurean in question could not bear the imposture, and declared his conviction in the temple itself. Upon this Alexander declared, that whoever did not stone him would be called an Epicurean. The multitude fell upon the unfortunate unbeliever, who was however saved by the generous effort of a stranger named Demostratus. Lucian having said that the Epicurean was in the greatest danger, adds: “And very justly; for what business had he to be rational among so many mad