HotFreeBooks.com
Tacitus and Bracciolini - The Annals Forged in the XVth Century
by John Wilson Ross
1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

TACITUS AND BRACCIOLINI.

THE ANNALS FORGED IN THE XVth CENTURY.

by JOHN WILSON ROSS (1818-1887)

Originally published anonymously in 1878.



Non ulli Tacitus patuit manifestius unquam. SOSSAGO. Epigrammata.

Excellentissimum Poggium, immortalem quidem virum, sed prope hac aetate sepultum, redivivium donaveris nobis. BICCIONI. Epistola Hyacintho de Lan inscripta.

Is ... reliquit, quae et facundiam, et mirificam ingenii facilitatem ostendunt. Tendebat toto animo, et quotidiano quodam usu ad EFFINGENDUM ... Sed habet hoc dilucida illa divini hominis in dicendo copia, ut estimanti se imitabilem praebeat, experienti spem imitationis eripiat. Eam igitur dicendi laudem POGGIUS si non facultate, at certe voluntate complectebatur. Scripsit ... Historiam ... magnuum munus. PAOLO CORTESE (Bishop of Urbino). De Hominibus Doctis.

Quaestio ... contra communem totius orbis traditionem ac fidem, contra tot historicocum ... nemine contradicente, consensum, demum agitari coepta est; et a nobis ... tam abunde ventilate, ut magis copia quam inopia laborare videamur. GISBERT VOET. Spicilegium ad Disceptationem Historicam de Papissa Johanna.



LONDON: 1878

I DEDICATE TO MY ESTEEMED AND ESTIMABLE BROTHER ROBERT DALRYMPLE ROSS

This Research into The Authorship of the Annals of Tacitus

AS A VERY SLIGHT TOKEN OF MY AFFECTION AND ALSO OF MY ADMIRATION FOR HIS RARE ASSEMBLAGE OF QUALITIES LOFTY MORAL RECTITUDE THE KINDLIEST FEELINGS OF THE HEART DEVOTION TO HIGH OCCUPATION APTITUDE FOR BOOKS AS FOR AFFAIRS

AND

A REFINED ENLIGHTENMENT TO APPRECIATE THE GENIUS OF TACITUS AND OF BRACCIOLINI

AND

FULLY TO APPREHEND AN INVESTIGATION UNDERTAKEN IN THE TRUE INTERESTS OF HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE.



PREFACE

The theory broached in this book involves a charge of the grossest fraud against a most distinguished man, who rose to high posts in public affairs and won imperishable fame in letters. There being blots on his moral character, it would be censurable to fasten upon his memory this new imputation of dishonesty, were it not substantiated by irresistible evidence.

The title of this book quite explains what its design is,—to contribute something towards settling the authorship of the Annals of Tacitus, which encomiastic admirers imagine to be the most extraordinary history ever penned, and the writer "but one degree removed from inspiration, if not inspired." This wondrous writer I assert to be the famous Florentine of the Renaissance, Poggio Bracciolini, in favour of which view I have tried to make out a case by bringing forward a variety of passages from the "History" and the "Annals" to show an extensive series of contradictions as to facts and characters, departures from truth about matters connected with ancient Roman life, laches in grammar and use of words that never could have proceeded from any patrician or plebian of the world-renowned old Commonwealth, with a number of other things that will readily strike the intelligent and sober mind as utterly inconsistent with the existing belief of the "Annals" being the production of Tacitus. All this is case in the shade for the fullest light to be thrown on the subject, when not wishing to make my theory a matter of speculation but founded in common sense, I give a detailed history of the forgery, from its conception to its completion, the sum that was paid for it, the abbey where it was transcribed, and other such convincing minutiae taken from a correspondence that Poggio carried on with a familiar friend who resided in Florence.

A reader of acumen and critical faculty following a writer in an inquiry of this nature places himself in the position of a lawyer who will not accept the interpretation of an Act of Parliament, or even a clause in it, as correct, except,—as his phrase goes,—it "runs upon all fours:" he knows that it is with a speculation in a literary matter as with a chapter of a statute: he struggles to raise only a single valid objection against what is advanced: if successful he at one destroys the whole of the theory, from thus exposing it to view as not "running upon all fours;" the fabric is, in fact, discovered to be reared on a false foundation; it must, therefore, fall as at the slightest breath a child's house built of cards; and the theory becomes one more added to the list of those that are apocryphal. If on examination it should be agreed that the theory in this book is without a flaw, I conceived that I shall have done not a small, but a considerable service to the cause of true history.

LONDON, April 3, 1878.



CONTENTS.

BOOK THE FIRST.

TACITUS.

CHAPTER I.

TACITUS COULD BARELY HAVE WRITTEN THE ANNALS.

I. From the chronological point of view. II. The silence preserved about that work by all writers till the fifteenth century. III. The age of the MSS. containing the Annals.

CHAPTER II.

A FEW REASONS FOR BELIEVING THE ANNALS TO BE A FORGERY.

I. The fifteenth century an age of imposture, shown in the invention of printing. II. The curious discovery of the first six books of the Annals. III. The blunders it has in common with all forged documents. IV. The Twelve Tables. V. The Speech of Claudius in the Eleventh Book of the Annals. VI. Brutus creating the second class of nobility. VII. Camillus and his grandson. VIII. The Marching of Germanicus. IX. Description of London in the time of Nero. X. Labeo Antistius and Capito Ateius; the number of people executed for their attachment to Sejanus; and the marriage of Drusus, the brother of Tiberius, to the Elder Antonia.

CHAPTER III.

SUSPICIOUS CHARACTER OF THE ANNALS FROM THE POINT OF TREATMENT.

I. Nature of the history. II. Arrangement of the narrative. III. Completeness in form. IV. Incongruities, contradictions and disagreements from the History of Tacitus. V. Craftiness of the writer. VI. Subordination of history to biography. VII. The author of the Annals and Tacitus differently illustrate Roman history. VIII. Characters and events corresponding to characters and events in the XVth century. IX. Greatness of the Author of the Annals.

CHAPTER IV.

HOW THE ANNALS DIFFERS FROM THE HISTORY.

I. In the qualities of the writers; and why that difference. II. In the narrative, and in what respect. III. In style and language. IV. The reputation Tacitus has of writing bad Latin due to the mistakes of his imitator.

CHAPTER V.

THE LATIN AND THE ALLITERATIONS IN THE ANNALS.

I. Errors in Latin, (a) on the part of the transcriber; (b) on the part of the writer. II. Diction and Alliterations: Wherein they differ from those of Tacitus.

BOOK THE SECOND.

BRACCIOLINI.

CHAPTER I.

BRACCIOLINI IN ROME.

I. His genius and the greatness of his age. II. His qualifications. III. His early career. IV. The character of Niccolo Niccoli, who abetted him in the forgery V. Bracciolini's descriptive writing of the Burning of Jerome of Prague compared with the descriptive writing of the sham sea fight in the Twelfth Book of the Annals.

CHAPTER II.

BRACCIOLINI IN LONDON.

I. Gaining insight into the darkest passions from associating with Cardinal Beaufort. II. His passage about London in the Fourteenth Book of the Annals examined. III. About the Parliament of England in the Fourth Book.

CHAPTER III.

BRACCIOLINI SETTING ABOUT THE FORGERY OF THE ANNALS

I. The Proposal made in February, 1422, by a Florentine, named Lamberteschi, and backed by Niccoli. II. Correspondence on the matter, and Mr. Shepherd's view that it referred to a Professorship refuted. III. Professional disappointments in England determine Bracciolini to persevere in his intention of forging the Annals. IV. He returns to the Papal Secretaryship, and begins the forgery in Rome in October, 1423.

CHAPTER IV.

BRACCIOLINI AS A BOOKFINDER

I. Doubts on the authenticity of the Latin, but not the Greek Classics. II. At the revival of letters Popes and Princes offered large rewards for the recovery of the ancient classics. III. The labours of Bracciolini as a bookfinder. IV. Belief put about by the professional bookfinders that MSS. were soonest found in obscure convents in barbarous lands. V. How this reasoning throws the door open to fraud and forgery. VI. The bands of bookfinders consisted of men of genius in every department of literature and science. VII. Bracciolini endeavours to escape from forging the Annals by forging the whole lost History of Livy. VIII. His Letter on the subject to Niccoli quoted, and examined. IX. Failure of his attempt, and he proceeds with the forgery of the Annals.

BOOK THE THIRD.

THE LAST SIX BOOKS OF THE ANNALS.

CHAPTER I.

THE CHARACTER OF BRACCIOLINI.

I. The audacity of the forgery accounted for by the mean opinion Bracciolini had of the intelligence of men. II. The character and tone of the last Six Books of the Annals exemplified by what is said of Sabina Poppaea, Sagitta, Pontia and Messalina. III. A few errors that must have proceeded from Bracciolini about the Colophonian Oracle of Apollo Clarius, the Household Gods of the Germans, Gotarzes, Bardanes and, above all, Nineveh. IV. The estimate taken of human nature by the writer of the Annals the same as that taken by Bracciolini. V. The general depravity of mankind as shown in the Annals insisted upon in Bracciolini's Dialogue "De Infelicitate Principum".

CHAPTER II.

THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.

I. The intellect and depravity of the age. II. Bracciolini as its exponent. III. Hunter's accurate description of him. IV. Bracciolini gave way to the impulses of his age. V. The Claudius, Nero and Tiberius of the Annals personifications of the Church of Rome in the fifteenth century. VI. Schildius and his doubts. VII. Bracciolini not covetous of martyrdom: communicates his fears to Niccoli. VIII. The princes and great men in the Annals the princes and great men of the XVth century, not of the opening period of the Christian aera. IX. Bracciolini, and not Tacitus, a disparager of persons in high places.

CHAPTER III.

FURTHER PROOFS OF FORGERY.

I. "Octavianus" as the name of Augustus Caesar. II. Cumanus and Felix as joint governors of Judaea. III. The blood relationship of Italians and Romans. IV. Fatal error in the oratio obliqua. V. Mistake made about "locus". VI. Objections of some critics to the language of Tacitus examined. VII. Some improprieties that occur in the Annals found also in Bracciolini's works. VIII. Instanced in (a) "nec—aut". (b) rhyming and the peculiar use of "pariter". IX. The harmony of Tacitus and the ruggedness of Bracciolini illustrated. X. Other peculiarities of Bracciolini's not shared by Tacitus: Two words terminating alike following two others with like terminations; prefixes that have no meaning; and playing on a single letter for alliterative purposes.

CHAPTER IV.

THE TERMINATION OF THE FORGERY.

I. The literary merit and avaricious humour of Bracciolini. II. He is aided in his scheme by a monk of the Abbey of Fulda. III. Expressions indicating forgery. IV. Efforts to obtain a very old copy of Tacitus. V. The forgery transcribed in the Abbey of Fulda. VI. First saw the light in the spring of 1429.

CHAPTER V.

THE FORGED MANUSCRIPT.

I. Recapitulation, showing the certainty of forgery. II. The Second Florence MS. the forged MS. III. Cosmo de' Medici the man imposed upon. IV. Digressions about Cosmo de' Medici's position, and fondness for books, especially Tacitus. V. The many suspicious marks of forgery about the Second Florence MS.; the Lombard characters; the attestation of Salustius. VI. The headings, and Tacitus being bound up with Apuleius, seem to connect Bracciolini with the forged MS. VII. The first authentic mention of the Annals. VIII. Nothing invalidates the theory in this book. IX. Brief recapitulation of the whole argument.

BOOK THE FOURTH.

THE FIRST SIX BOOKS OF THE ANNALS.

CHAPTER I.

REASONS FOR BELIEVING THAT BRACCIOLINI WROTE BOTH PARTS OF THE ANNALS.

I. Improvement in Bracciolini's means after the completion of the forgery of the last part of the Annals. II. Discovery of the first six books, and theory about their forgery. III. Internal evidence the only proof of their being forged. IV. Superiority of workmanship a strong proof. V. Further departure than in the last six books from Tacitus's method another proof. VI. The symmetry of the framework a third proof. VII. Fourth evidence, the close resemblance in the openings of the two parts. VIII. The same tone and colouring prove the same authorship. IX. False statements made about Sejanus and Antonius Natalis for the purpose of blackening Tiberius and Nero. X. This spirit of detraction runs through Bracciolini's works. XI. Other resemblances denoting the same author. XII. Policy given to every subject another cause to believe both parts composed by a single writer. XIII. An absence of the power to depict differences in persons and things.

CHAPTER II.

LANGUAGE, ALLITERATION, ACCENT AND WORDS.

I. The poetic diction of Tacitus, and its fabrication in the Annals. II. Florid passages in the Annals. III. Metrical composition of Bracciolini. IV. Figurative words: (a) "pessum dare" (b) "voluntas" V. The verb "foedare" and the Ciceronian use of "foedus". VI. The language of other Roman writers,—Livy, Quintus Curtius and Sallust. VII. The phrase "non modo—sed", and other anomalous expressions, not Tacitus's. VIII. Words not used by Tacitus, "distinctus" and "codicillus" IX. Peculiar alliterations in the Annals and works of Bracciolini. X. Monotonous repetition of accent on penultimate syllables. XI. Peculiar use of words: (a) "properus" (b) "annales" and "scriptura" (c) "totiens" XII. Words not used by Tacitus: (a) "addubitare" (b) "extitere" XIII. Polysyllabic words ending consecutive sentences. XIV. Omissions of prepositions: (a) in. (b) with names of nations.

CHAPTER III.

MISTAKES THAT PROVE FORGERY

I. The gift for the recovery of Livia. II. Julius Caesar and the Pomoerium. III. Julia, the wife of Tiberius. IV. The statement about her proved false by a coin. V. Value of coins in detecting historical errors. VI. Another coin shows an error about Cornatus. VII. Suspicion of spuriousness from mention of the Quinquennale Ludicrum. VIII. Account of cities destroyed by earthquake contradicted by a monument. IX. Bracciolini's hand shown by reference to the Plague. X. Fawning of Roman senators more like conduct of Italians in the fifteenth century. XI. Same exaggeration with respect to Pomponia Graecina. XII. Wrong statement of the images borne at the funeral of Drusus. XIII. Similar kind of error committed by Bracciolini in his "Varietate Fortunae". XIV. Errors about the Red Sea. XV. About the Caspian Sea. XVI. Accounted for. XVII. A passage clearly written by Bracciolini.

CHAPTER THE LAST.

FURTHER PROOFS OF BRACCIOLINI BEING THE AUTHOR OF THE FIRST SIX BOOKS OF THE ANNALS.

I. The descriptive powers of Bracciolini and Tacitus. II. The different mode of writing of both. III. Their different manners of digressing. IV. Two statements in the Fourth Book of the Annals that could not have been made by Tacitus. V. The spirit of the Renaissance shown in both parts of the Annals. VI. That both parts proceeded from the same hand shown in the writer pretending to know the feelings of the characters in the narrative. VII. The contradictions in the two parts of the Annals and in the works of Bracciolini. VIII. The Second Florence MS. a forgery. IX. Conclusion.



BOOK THE FIRST.

TACITUS.

"Allusiones saepe subobscurae ... mihi conjectandi aliquando, et aliquando exploratae veritatis fundamento innitendi materiam praebuere." DE TONELLIS. Praef. ad Poggii Epist.



TACITUS AND BRACCIOLINI.

CHAPTER I.

TACITUS COULD BARELY HAVE WRITTEN THE ANNALS.

I. From the chronological point of view.—II. The silence preserved about that work by all writers till the fifteenth century.—III. The age of the MSS. containing the Annals.

I. The Annals and the History of Tacitus are like two houses in ruins: dismantled of their original proportions they perpetuate the splendour of Roman historiography, as the crumbling remnants of the Coliseum preserve from oblivion the magnificence of Roman architecture. Some of the subtlest intellects, keen in criticism and expert in scholarship, have, for centuries, endeavoured with considerable pains, though not with success in every instance, to free the imperfect pieces from difficulties, as the priesthood of the Quindecimvirs, generation after generation, assiduously, yet vainly, strove to clear from perplexities the mutilated books of the Sibyls. I purpose to bring,—parodying a passage of the good Sieur Chanvallon,—not freestone and marble for their restoration, but a critical hammer to knock down the loose bricks that, for more than four centuries, have shown large holes in several places.

Tacitus is raised by his genius to a height, which lifts him above the reach of the critic. He shines in the firmament of letters like a sun before whose lustre all, Parsee-like, bow down in worship. Preceding generations have read him with reverence and admiration: as one of the greatest masters of history, he must continue to be so read. But though neither praise nor censure can exalt or impair his fame, truth and justice call for a passionless inquiry into the nature and character of works presenting such difference in structure, and such contradictions in a variety of matters as the History and the Annals.

The belief is general that Tacitus wrote Roman history in the retrograde order, in which Hume wrote the History of England. Why Hume pursued that method is obvious: eager to gain fame in letters,—seeing his opportunity by supplying a good History of England,—knowing how interest attaches to times near us while all but absence of sympathy accompanies those that are remote,—and meaning to exclude from his plan the incompleted dynasty under which he lived,—he commenced with the House of Stuart, continued with that of Tudor, and finished with the remaining portion from the Roman Invasion to the Accession of Henry VII. But why Tacitus should have decided in favour of the inverse of chronological order is by no means clear. He could not have been actuated by any of the motives which influenced Hume. Rome, with respect to her history, was not in the position that England was, with respect to hers, in the middle of the last century. All the remarkable occurrences during the 820 years from her Foundation to the office of Emperor ceasing as the inheritance of the Julian Family on the death of Nero, had been recorded by many writers that rendered needless the further labours of the historian. Tacitus states this at the commencement of his history, and as a reason why he began that work with the accession of Galba: "Initium mihi operis Servius Galba iterum, Titus Vinius consules erunt; nam post conditam urbem, octingentos et viginti prioris aevi annos multi auctores retulerunt." (Hist. I. 1.) After this admission, it is absolutely unaccountable that he should revert to the year since the building of the City 769, and continue writing to the year 819, going over ground that, according to his own account, had been gone over before most admirably, every one of the numerous historians having written in his view, "with an equal amount of forcible expression and independent opinion"—"pari eloquentia ac libertate." Thus, by his own showing, he performed a work which he knew to be superfluous in recounting events that occurred in the time of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero.

What authority have we that he did this? Certainly, not the authority of those who knew best—the ancients. They do not mention, in their meagre accounts of him, the names of his writings, the number of which we, perhaps, glean from casual remarks dropped by Pliny the Younger in his Epistles. He says (vii. 20), "I have read your book, and with the utmost care have made remarks upon such passages, as I think ought to be altered or expunged." "Librum tuum legi, et quam diligentissime potui, adnotavi, quae commutanda, quae eximenda arbitrarer." In a second letter (viii. 7) he alludes to another (or it might be the same) "book," which his friend had sent him "not as a master to a master, nor as a disciple to a disciple, but as a master to a disciple:" "neque ut magistro magister, neque ut discipulo discipulus ... sed ut discipulo magister ... librum misisti." That Tacitus was not the author of one work only is clear from Pliny in another of his letters (vi. 16) speaking in the plural of what his friend had written: "the immortality of your writings:"— "scriptorum tuorum aeternitas;" also of "my uncle both by his own, and your works:"—"avunculus meus et suis libris et tuis." In the letter already referred to (vii. 20), Tacitus is further spoken of as having written, at least, two historical works, the immortality of which Pliny predicted without fear of proving a false prophet: "auguror, nec me fallit augurium, historias tuas immortales futuras." From these passages it would seem that the works of Tacitus were, at the most, three.

If his works were only three in number, everything points in preference to the Books of History, of which we possess but five; the Treatise on the different manners of the various tribes that peopled Germany in his day; and the Life of his father-in-law, Agricola. Nobody but Fabius Planciades Fulgentius, Bishop of Carthage, supposes that he wrote a book of Facetiae or pleasant tales and anecdotes, as may be seen by reference to the episcopal writer's Treatise on Archaic or Obsolete Words, where explaining "Elogium" to mean "hereditary disease," he continues, "as Cornelius Tacitus says in his book of Facetiae; 'therefore pained in the cutting off of children who had hereditary disease left to them'": "Elogium est haereditas in malo; sicut Cornelius Tacitus ait in libro Facetiarum: 'caesis itaque motum elogio in filiis derelicto.'" (De Vocibus Antiquis. p. 151. Basle ed. 1549). Justus Lipsius doubts whether the Discourse on the Causes of the Corruption of Latin Eloquence proceeded from Tacitus, or the other Roman to whom many impute it, Quintilian, for he says in his Preface to that Dialogue: "What will it matter whether we attribute it to Tacitus, or, as I once thought, to Marcus Fabius Quinctilianus? ... Though the age of Quinctilianus seems to have been a little too old for this Discourse to be by that young man. Therefore, I have my doubts." "Incommodi quid erit, sive Tacito tribuamus; sive M. Fabio Quinctiliano, ut mihi olim visim? ... Aetas tamen Quinctiliani paullo grandior fuisse videtur, quam ut hic sermo illo juvene. Itaque ambigo." (p. 470. Antwerp ed. 1607.) Enough will be said in the course of this discussion to carry conviction to the minds of those who can be convinced by facts and arguments that Tacitus did not write the Annals.

Chronology, in the first place, prevents our regarding him as the author. Though we know as little of his life as of his writings— and though no ancient mentions the date or place of his birth, or the time of his death,—we can form a conjecture when he flourished by comparing his age with that of his friend, Pliny the Younger. Pliny died in the year 13 of the second century at the age of 52, so that Pliny was born A.D. 61. Tacitus was by several years his senior. Otherwise Pliny would not have spoken of himself as a disciple looking up to him with reverence as to "a master"; "the duty of submitting to his influence," and "a desire to obey his advice":—"tu magister, ego contra"—(Ep. viii. 7): "cedere auctoritati tuae debeam" (Ep. i. 20): "cupio praeceptis tuis parere" (Ep. ix. 10); nor would he describe himself as "a mere stripling when his friend was at the height of fame and in a proud position": "equidem adolescentulus, quum jam tu fama gloriaque floreres" (Ep. vii. 20); nor of their being, "all but contemporaries in age": "duos homines, aetate propemodum aequales" (Ep. vii. 20). From these remarks chiefly and a few other circumstances, the modern biographers of Tacitus suppose there was a difference of ten or eleven years between that ancient historian and Pliny, and fix the date of his birth about A.D. 52.

This is reconcilable with the belief of Tacitus being the author of the Annals; for when the boundaries of Rome are spoken of in that work as being extended to the Red Sea in terms as if it were a recent extension—"claustra ... Romani imperii, quod nunc Rubrum ad mare patescit" (ii. 61),—he would be 63, the extension having been effected as we learn from Xiphilinus, by Trajan A.D. 115. It is also reconcilable with Agricola when Consul offering to him his daughter in marriage, he being then "a young man": "Consul egregiae tum spei filiam juveni mihi despondit" (Agr. 9); for, according as Agricola was Consul A.D. 76 or 77, he would be 24 or 25. But it is by no means reconcilable with the time when he administered the several offices in the State. He tells us himself that he "began holding office under Vespasian, was promoted by Titus, and still further advanced by Domitian": "dignitatem nostram a Vespasiano inchoatam, a Tito auctam, a Domitiano longius provectam" (Hist. i. 1). To have "held office" under Vespasian he must have been quaestor; to have been "promoted" by Titus he must have been aedile; and as for his further advancement we know that he was praetor under Domitian. By the Lex Villia Annalis, passed by the Tribune Lucius Villius during the time of the Republic in 573 after the Building of the City, the years were fixed wherein the different offices were to be entered on—in the language of Livy; "eo anno rogatio primum lata est ab Lucio Villio tribuno plebis, quot annos nati quemque magistratum peterent caperentque" (xl. 44); and the custom was never departed from, in conformity with Ovid's statement in his Fasti with respect to the mature years of those who legislated for his countrymen, and the special enactment which strictly prescribed the age when Romans could be candidates for public offices:

"Jura dabat populo senior, finitaque certis Legibus est aetas, unde petatur honos." Fast. v. 65-6.

After the promulgation of his famous plebiscitum by the old Tribune of the People in the year 179 A.C., a Roman could not fill the office of quaestor till he was 31, nor aedile till he was 37,—as, guided by the antiquaries, Sigonius and Pighius, Doujat, the Delphin editor of Livy, states: "quaestores ante annum aetatis trigesimum primum non crearentur, nec aediles curules ante septimum ac trigesimum";—and the ages for the two offices were usually 32 and 38.

From Vespasian's rule extending to ten years we cannot arrive at the date when Tacitus was quaestor; but we can guess when he was aedile, as Titus was emperor only from the spring of 79 to the autumn of 81.

Had his appointment to the aedileship taken place on the last day of the reign of Titus, he would then be but 29 years old; and though in the time of the Emperors, after the year 9 of our aera, there might be a remission of one or more years by the Lex Julia or the Lex Pappia Poppaea, those laws enacted rewards and privileges to encourage marriage and the begetting of children; the remission could, therefore, be in favour only of married men, especially those who had children; so that any such indulgence in the competition for the place of honours could not have been granted to Tacitus, he not being, as will be immediately seen, yet married. In order, then, that he should have been aedile under Titus,—even admitting that he could boast, like Cicero, of having obtained all his honours in the prescribed years—"omnes honores anno suo"—and been aedile the moment he was qualified by age for the office,—he must have been born, at least, as far back as the year 44.

This will be reconcilable with all that Pliny says, as well as with his being married when "young"; for he would then be 32 or 33, and his bride 22 or 23; for the daughter of Agricola was born when her father was quaestor in Asia—"sors quaesturae provinciam Asiam dedit ... auctus est ibi filia." (Agr. 9). Nor let it be supposed that a Roman would not have used the epithet "young" to a man of 32 or 33, seeing that the Romans applied the term to men in their best years, from 20 to 40, or a little under or over. Hence Livy terms Alexander the Great at the time of his death, when he was 31, "a young man," "egregium ducem fuisse Alexandrum ... adolescens ... decessit" (ix. 17): so Cicero styles Lucius Crassus at the age of 34;—"talem vero exsistere eloquentiam qualis fuerit in Crasso et Antonio ... alter non multum (quod quidem exstaret), et id ipsum adolescens, alter nihil admodum scripti reliquisset". (De Orat. ii. 2): so also does Cornelius Nepos speak of Marcus Brutus, when the latter was praetor, Brutus being then 43 years of age:—"sic Marco Bruto usus est, ut nullo ille adolescens aequali familiarius" (Att. 8); to this passage of Nepos's, Nicholas Courtin, his Delphin editor, adds that the ancients called men "young" from the age of 17 to the age of 46; notwithstanding that Varro limited youth to 30 years:—"a 17 ad 46 annum, adolescentia antiquitus pertingebat, ut ab antiquis observatum est. Nihilominus Varro ad 30 tantum pertingere ait." But Tacitus being born in 44 is not reconcilable with his being the Author of the Annals, as thus:—

Some time in the nineteen years that Trajan was Emperor,—from 98 to ll7,—Tacitus, being then between the ages of 54 and 73, composed his History. He paused when he had carried it on to the reign of Domitian; the narrative had then extended to twenty-three years, and was comprised in "thirty books," if we are to believe St. Jerome in his Commentary on the Fourteenth Chapter of Zechariah:

"Cornelius Tacitus ... post Augustum usque ad mortem Domitiani vitas Caesarum triginta voluminibus exaravit." [Endnote 013] It was scarcely possible for Tacitus to have executed his History in a shorter compass;—indeed, it is surprising that the compass was so short, looking at the probability of his having observed the symmetry attended to by the ancients in their writings, and having continued his work on the plan he pursued at the commencement, the important fragment which we have of four books, and a part of the fifth, embracing but little more than one year. Whether he ever carried into execution the design he had reserved for his old age,—writing of Nerva and Trajan,—we have no record. But two things seem tolerably certain; that he would have gone on with that continuation to his History in preference to writing the Annals; and that he would not have written that continuation until after the death of the Emperor Trajan. He would then have been 73. Now, how long would he have been on that separate history? Then at what age could he have commenced the Annals? And how long would he have been engaged in its composition? We see that he must have been bordering on 80, if not 90: consequently with impaired faculties, and thus altogether disqualified for producing such a vigorous historical masterpiece; for though we have instances of poets writing successfully at a very advanced age, as Pindar composing one of his grandest lyrics at 84, and Sophocles his Oedipus Coloneus at 90, we have no instance of any great historian, except Livy, attempting to write at a very old age, and then Livy rambled into inordinate diffuseness.

II. The silence maintained with respect to the Annals by all writers till the first half of the fifteenth century is much more striking than chronology in raising the very strongest suspicion that Tacitus did not write that book. This is the more remarkable as after the first publication of the last portion of that work by Vindelinus of Spire at Venice in 1469 or 1470, all sorts and degrees of writers began referring to or quoting the Annals, and have continued doing so to the present day with a frequency which has given to its supposed writer as great a celebrity as any name in antiquity. Kings, princes, ministers and politicians have studied it with diligence and curiosity, while scholars, professors, authors and historians in Italy, Spain, France, England, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden have applied their minds to it with an enthusiasm, which has been like a kind of worship. Yet, after the most minute investigation, it cannot be discovered that a single reference was made to the Annals by any person from the time when Tacitus lived until shortly before the day when Vindelinus of Spire first ushered the last six books to the admiring world from the mediaeval Athens. When it appeared it was at once pronounced to be the brightest gem among histories; its author was greeted as a most wonderful man,—the "unique historian", for so went the phrase—"inter historicos unicus."

Now, are we to be asked quietly to believe that there never lived from the first quarter of the second century till after the second quarter of the fifteenth, a single individual possessed of sufficient capacity to discern such eminent and obvious excellence as is contained in the Annals? Are we to believe that that could have been so? in a slowly revolving cycle of 1,000 years and more? ay, upwards of 1,300! If that really was the case, it is enough to strike us dumb with stupor in contemplating such a miraculous instance of perpetuated inanity,—among the lettered, too!—the learned! the studious! the critical! If that was not the case, what a long neglect! Anyhow, the silence is inexplicable. It indicates one of two things,—duncelike stupidity or studious contempt. Both these surmises must be dismissed,—the first as too absurd, the second as too improbable. There can arise a third conjecture—Taste for intellectual achievements, and appreciation of literary merit, had vanished for awhile from the earth, to return after an absence of forty generations of mankind. Again, this supposed probability is too preposterously extravagant to be for an instant credited because it cannot for a moment be comprehended. In short, how marvellous it is! how utterly unaccountable! how inexpressibly mysterious!

Pliny does not say a word about the Annals. The earliest Latin father, Tertullian, quotes only the History (Apol. c. 16). St. Jerome, in his Commentary on Zechariah (iii. 14), cites the passage in the fifth book of the History about the origin of the Jews; he also notices what Tacitus says of another important event, the Fall of Jerusalem, which, having occurred in the reign of Vespasian, must have been narrated in the History. The "single book" treating of the Caesars, which Vopiscus says Tacitus wrote, must have been the "History," ten copies of which the Emperor Tacitus ordered to be placed every year in the public libraries among the national archives. (Tac. Imp. x.) Orosius, the Spanish ecclesiastic, who flourished at the commencement of the fifth century, has several references to Tacitus in his famous work, Hormesta. This great proficient in knowledge of the Scriptures and disciple of St. Augustin quotes the fifth book of the History thrice (Lib. V., cc. 5 and 10), and thrice alludes to facts recorded by Tacitus,—the Temple of Janus being open from the time of Augustus to Vespasian (vii. 3);—the number of the Jews who perished at the siege of Jerusalem (vii. 9); and the possibly large number of Romans who were killed in the wars with the Daci during the reign of Domitian (vii. 10):—all which passages must have been in the lost portions of the History.

In his Epistles and Poems, that man of wit and fancy, with an intellect and learning above the fifth century in which he lived, —Sidonius Apollinaris,—has one quotation from Tacitus and three references to him. The quotation, which occurs in the fourteenth chapter of the fourth book of his Epistles, is from the last section of the History, (that part of the speech of Civilis where the seditious Batavian touches on the friendship which existed between himself and Vespasian); and his three references are, first, to the "ancient mode of narrative," combined with the greatest "literary excellence" (iv. 22); secondly, to "genius for eloquence" (Carm. xxiii. 153-4); and thirdly, to "pomp of manner" (Carm. ii. 192); the not inelegant Christian writer enumerating qualities that specially commend themselves in the History. When Spartian praises Tacitus for "good faith," the eulogy is more appropriate to the writer of the History than the Annals, howbeit that so many moderns, including the famous philologist and polygrapher, Justus Lipsius; the Pomeranian scholar of the last century, Meierotto; Boetticher and Prutz all question the veracity of Tacitus; while for what he says of the Jews Tertullian vituperates him in language so outrageous as to be altogether unbecoming the capacious mind of the Patristic worthy, who calls him, "the most loquacious of liars,"—"mendaciorum loquacissimus;" —in which strain of calumny he was, from the same cause of religious fervour, followed centuries after,—in the seventeenth,—by two of the most renowned preachers and orators of their day, the famous Jesuit, Famianus Strada, and his less known contemporary, but most able Chamberlain of Urban VIII., Augustino Mascardi,—as if all these pious Christians found it quite impossible to pardon a heathen, blinded by the prejudices of paganism, for believing what he did of the Hebrews; and for recording which belief he ought to receive immediate forgiveness, seeing that Justin, Plutarch, Strabo and Democritus said as bad, if not worse things of that ancient people and their sacred books. [Endnote 019]

Cassiodorus, the Senator, is the only writer of the sixth century, who makes any allusion to Tacitus, and that but once, in the fifth book of his Epistles, to what the Roman says in his Germany of the origin of amber, about which naturalists are still divided, that it is a distillation from certain trees. Freculphus (otherwise written Radulphus), Bishop of Lisieux, who died in the middle of the ninth century (856), in the second volume of his Chronicles, —the sixth chapter of the second book,—quotes Tacitus as the author of the History, the passage being in reference to the Romans who fell in the Dacian war. We have no proof that the Annals was in existence in the twelfth century from what John of Salisbury says in his Polycraticon (viii. 18), that Tacitus is among the number of those historians, "qui tyrannorum atrocitates et exitus miseros plenius scribunt;" for in his completed History Tacitus must have expatiated pretty freely on the "atrocious tyranny" of Domitian, and the "unfortunate termination of the lives of tyrants."

From the time of John of Salisbury till shortly before the publication of the Annals, no further reference is made to Tacitus by any writer or historian, monkish or otherwise, not even of erudite Germany, beginning with Abbot Hermannus, who wrote in the twelfth century the history of his own monastery of St. Martin's at Dornick, and ending with Caspar Bruschius, who, in the sixteenth century, wrote an Epitome of the Archbishoprics and Bishoprics of Germany, and the Centuria Prima (as Daniel Nessel in the next century wrote the Centuria Secunda) of the German monasteries. And yet in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, all kinds of writers quote the Annals about as freely and frequently as they quote the History, and that not once or twice, but five or six, and even seven and eight times, in the same work. It would be impossible to mention them all, the writers being "as numerous as the leaves in Vallambrosa's vale";—a figure that can hardly be considered hyperbolic when the enormous number of these writers can be partially guessed from the following catalogue of those who delighted in antiquarian researches, whose productions cited are archaeological, and who made all their references to the Annals for the purpose of merely illustrating archaic matters; nevertheless, the number of such writers alone amounts to as many as a score; moreover, the whole twenty are to be found in one compilation comprised in but five volumes,—Polenus's New Supplement to the collections of Graevius and Gronovius, entitled "Utriusque Thesauri Antiquitatum Romanarum Graecarumque Nova Supplementa";—the Friesland scholar, Titus Popma in his "De Operis Servorum"; the Italian antiquary, Lorenzo Pignorio, Canon of Trevigo, in his treatise "De Servis"; the renowned critic, Salmasius, in his explanation of two ancient inscriptions found on a Temple in the island of Crete ("Notae ad Consecrationem Templi in Agro Herodis Attici Triopio"); Peter Burmann in his "De Vectigalibus"; Albertinus Barrisonus in his "De Archivis"; Merula, the jurist, historian and polygrapher, in his "De Legibus Romanorum"; Carolus Patinus in his Commentary "In Antiquum Monumentum Marcellinae"; Polletus in his "Historia Fori Romani"; Aegyptius in his "De Bacchanalibus Explicatio"; Gisbert Cuper in his "Monumenta Antiqua Inedita"; Octavius Ferrarius in his "Dissertatio de Gladiatoribus"; William a Loon in his "Eleutheria"; Schaeffer in his "De Re Vehiculari"; Johannes Jacobus Claudius in his "Diatribe de Nutricibus et Paedagogis"; Antonius Bombardinus in his "De Carcere Tractatus"; Gutherlethus in his work on the "Salii," or Priests of Mars; the learned Spaniard, Miniana, in his "De Theatro Saguntino Dialogus"; Gorius in his "Columbarium Libertorum et Servorum"; Spon in his "Miscellanea Erudita Antiquitatis" and Jaques Leroy in his "Achates Tiberianus." In fact, the Annals of Tacitus is noticed, or quoted, or referred to, or commented upon at length (as at the commencement of the sixteenth century by Scipione Ammirato), in an endless list of works, with or without the names of the authors, which by itself is all but conclusive that the Annals was not in existence till the fifteenth century, and not generally known till the sixteenth and seventeenth.

But to return for a moment to what was done by two writers, who lived before the fifteenth century,—Sulpicius Severus, who died A.D. 420; and Jornandez, who, in the time of Justinian, was Secretary to the Gothic kings in Italy. Now, it must not be withheld,—for it would be too uncandid,—that identical passages are found in the Annals ascribed to Tacitus and the Sacred History of Sulpicius Severus.

In order that the reader may see the identity of the passages, we place them in juxtaposition, italicising the words that are found in both works:—

Sulpicius (ii. 28). "Inditum imperatori flammeum, dos et genialis torus et faces nuptiales; cuncta denique, quae vel in feminis non sine verecundia conspiciuntur, spectata."

Annals (xv. 37). "Inditum imperatori flammeum, visi auspices, dos et genialis torus et faces nuptiales; cuncta denique spectata, quae etiam in femina nox operit."

Sulpicius (ii. 29). "Sed opinio omnium invidiam incendii in principem retorquebat, credebaturque imperator gloriam innovandae urbis quaesisse."

Annals (xv. 10). "Videbaturque Nero condendae urbis novae et cognomento suo adpellandae gloriam quaerere."

Sulpicius (v. 2). "Quin et novae mortes excogitatae, ut ferarum tergis contecti laniatu canum interirent. Multi crucibus affixi, aut flamma usti. Plerique in id reservati, ut, CUM defecisset dies, in usum nocturni luminis urerentur."

Annals (xv. 44). "Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis contecti, laniatu canum interirent, aut crucibus affixi, aut flammandi, atque, UBI defecisset dies, in usum nocturni luminis urerentur."

These passages, of course, have, till this moment, been regarded as taken by Sulpicius Severus from the Annals, on the unquestioned assumption that that work was the composition of Tacitus. The passages, however, were taken from the Historia Sacra: they bear traces of having been so appropriated, from Sulpicius Severus composing with a harmony almost equal to Tacitus, and a grammatical correctness on a par with the Roman, while the author of the Annals mars that harmony, here by the change of a word, and there by the reconstruction of a sentence; and the grammatical correctness by substituting for "cum," which strictly signifies "when," "ubi," which strictly signifies "where": hence, from resembling Tacitus less than Sulpicius Severus, he seems, of two writers convicted of plagiarism, to be the one who purloined the passages from the other; and if he introduced but trifling alterations, it was because the accomplished presbyter of the fifth century was the master of a neat Latin style, which will bear comparison with that of the best classical writers. Indeed, Sulpicius Severus is likened for style and eloquence to Sallust; he is known as the "Christian Sallust"; and Leclerc in the twentieth volume of his Bibliotheque Choisie, is loud in praise of his Latin, which is, certainly, purer than could have been imagined for his time. He was, nevertheless the very last authority that the author of the Annals ought to have followed for authentic particulars with respect to Nero; for as that emperor was the first persecutor of the Christians, there was nothing too bad that the church-building ecclesiastical writer did not think it right to state of him, as (in his own language) "the worst, not only of princes, but of all mankind, and even brute beasts"; he went, in fact, to the extreme length of believing, being a ridiculously credulous Chiliast, that Nero would live again as Anti-Christ in the millennian kingdom before the end of the world.

It is generally supposed that Jornandez,—whose works are so valuable for their history of the fifth and sixth centuries of our aera,—when speaking, in the second chapter of his History of the Goths, of one "Cornelius as the author of Annals," is speaking of Tacitus,—"Cornelius etiam Annalium scriptor." Camden in his Britannia questions whether Tacitus is meant by "Cornelius"; and, certainly the passage quoted, which is about Meneg in Cornwall, is nowhere to be found in any of the works written by the ancient Roman. But if Tacitus be meant, the passage is an interpolation, because the historical books ascribed to Tacitus bear in all the MSS. either the title "Augustae Historiae Libri," or "Ab Excessu divi Augusti Historiarum Libri," and so in all the first published editions—that of Vindelinus of Spire about 1470, of Puteolanus and Lanterius about 1475, of Beroaldus in 1515, and the early editions of Venice 1484, 1497 and 1512; of Rome in 1485; Milan 1517; Basle 1519, and Florence (the Juntine Edition) 1527—it not being till 1533, that Beatus Rhenanus first gave those books the name "Annals" (it being Justus Lipsius who, close at the commencement of the last quarter of that century,—in 1574,—first divided the books into two parts, to one of which he gave the name "Annals," and to the other, "Histories"). Then how could Jornandez, who lived in the sixth century, have known any writings of Tacitus by the name of "Annals," when that title was not given to them until the sixteenth century?

We may now, after close research, advance this with extreme caution, and certainty:—no support can be derived from citations or statements made by any writer till the fifteenth century that Tacitus wrote a number of books of the Annals. Should any one extensively read known authors, living between the second and the fifteenth century, besides those mentioned, who quote Tacitus, it will be found that their quotations are from the History, the Germany, or the Agricola; and this can be predicted with just as much confidence, as an astronomer predicts eclipses of the sun and the moon, and, for their verification, needs not wait to see the actual obscuration of those heavenly bodies.

III. In turning to the different MSS., we find that the age of all of them confirms in an equally corroborative manner the theory that Tacitus did not write the Annals. Here let it be noted that the age of a MS. can easily be discovered; and that, too, in a variety of ways:—by the formation of the characters, such as the roundness of the letters; or their largeness or smallness;—the writing of the final l's; the use of the Gothic s's and the Gothic j's; the dotting, or no dotting of the i's; the absence or presence of diphthongs; the length of the lines; the punctuation; the accentuation; the form or size; the parchment or the paper; the ink;—or some other mode of detection. Those MSS. need only be examined which contain either the whole or the concluding books of the Annals.

Of the seven MSS. in the Vatican, that numbered 1,864, (referred to by John Frederic Gronovius, and other editors of Tacitus as the "Farnesian," from its having been transferred from the Farnese Palace to the Vatican,) is supposed to be the oldest, for it is believed to be of the fourteenth century; but the vellum on which it is written is of the sixteenth; so is the vellum of No. 1,422. No. 1,863 was thought by Justus Lipsius to be almost as old as No. 1,864, to have been of the close of the fourteenth century; but it is written on vellum of the middle of the fifteenth century. Nothing can be ascertained, either from its form or the substance on which it is written, of No. 2,965, but the Bipontine editors declared its date to be 1449. No. 1,958, which Puteolanus used in 1475, for his edition (containing the concluding books of the Annals) was copied at Genoa in the year 1448. The two others, numbered 412 and 1,478, are both written on vellum of the fifteenth century.

The oldest Paris MS. is in the Bibliotheque Nationale, and is written on paper of the close of the fifteenth century. Nobody knows what has become of the MS., which is supposed to have been anterior to the editions at the end of the fifteenth century, and was in the library of the Congregation de l'Oratoire, to whom it was presented by Henri Harlai de Sancy, who brought it from Italy and died in the Oratory in 1667.

The MS. of Wolfenbuttel (Guelferbytana), used by Ernesti in his edition, was bought at Ferrara on the 28th of September, 1461; beyond that nothing is known of it. The MS. in the library of Jesus College, Oxford, is of the year 1458; the Bodleian, numbered 2,764, is of the century after, though the great Benedictine antiquary, Montfaucon, in that monument of labour and erudition, Bibliotheca Bibliothecarum MSS. Nova, is of opinion that it is as old as 1463; and that in the Harleian collection of MSS. in the British Museum, also numbered 2,764, stated to date back to 1412, can scarcely be older than 1440 or 1450, from the diphthongal writing, first introduced by Guarino of Verona, who died in 1460. The MS. of Grenoble, written on very fine vellum, and containing the whole of the Annals, is of the sixteenth century. The three Medicean, the Neapolitan and the other Italian MSS. are all of very modern writing. As to the MSS. of Wurzburg and Mirandola, the former is not to be found, and the latter was not in existence even in the time of Justus Lipsius.

The four most important MSS. are those known as the First and Second Florence, the Buda and that from which Vindelinus of Spire published the last six books. The two oldest are the "Second Florence" and the "Buda." It would seem that the "Second Florence", from the note at the end, dates back to the year 395, though the Benedictines in their Nouveau Traite de Diplomatique (vol. iii. pp. 278-9) thought they recognized in it a Lombard writing of the tenth or eleventh century; Ernesti modified that to the ninth; others again changed it to the seventh and even the sixth; but it will be shown to satisfaction in the course of this treatise that it belongs to the fifteenth century. So the Buda MS., believed by Justus Lipsius to be as ancient as the Second Florence (which he thought with the Benedictines was of the tenth or eleventh century) was considered by James Gronovius to be very modern; and very modern it is, being traceable to a little after the same period as the Second Florence, namely, the fifteenth century. The First Florence, which was stated to have been found in the Abbey of Corvey, and which furnished the opening six books of the Annals as first given to the world by Beroaldus, is of an age that has hitherto never been determined; but that age will be shown, towards the close of this work, to be the first quarter of the sixteenth century. The MS. from which Vindelinus of Spire published his edition, was in the Library of St Mark's, Venice, but,—according, to Croll and Exter,—it is no longer to be found.

The case, then, stands thus with respect to the MSS.;—no MS. of the works of Tacitus, whose existence can be traced back further than the sixteenth century, contains the whole of the Annals; and no MS. of the works of Tacitus, whose existence can be traced back further than the first half of the preceding century, has the closing books of the Annals.

Here let me briefly recapitulate;—it being very important for the reader to bear in mind that three things have now been shown:— first, that, from the chronological point of view, Tacitus could barely have written the Annals; secondly, that, from the silence preserved about that book by all writers for upwards of 1300 years from the death of Tacitus, there is cause for supposing it was not in existence from his time, that is, the second century to the fifteenth and sixteenth (the commencement of the fifteenth century being the time of the forgery of the last six books, and the commencement of the sixteenth the time of the publication of the forged first six books);—and thirdly, that there is nothing to contradict this theory of mine in the age of any of the known MSS. containing a part, or the whole of the Annals; but, on the contrary, to verify it, from the age of the oldest being limited to the fifteenth century; and that if there be, or ever have been others older, it is singular, and puzzling to account for, that one of two things should have occurred; either that they are lost, or else that their age cannot be determined,—both which latter things are actually the case with respect to the two MSS. from which the Annals was originally printed,—that which supplied the concluding books being lost, and that which contains the whole of it being of an age that nobody up till now has been able to determine.



CHAPTER II.

A FEW REASONS FOR BELIEVING THE ANNALS TO BE A FORGERY.

I. The fifteenth century an age of imposture, shown in the invention of printing.—II. The curious discovery of the first six books of the Annals.—III. The blunders it has in common with all forged documents.—IV. The Twelve Tables.—V. The Speech of Claudius in the Eleventh Book of the Annals.—VI. Brutus creating the second class of nobility.—VII. Camillus and his grandson.— VIII. The Marching of Germanicus.—IX. Description of London in the time of Nero.—X. Labeo Antistius and Capito Ateius; the number of people executed for their attachment to Sejanus; and the marriage of Drusus, the brother of Tiberius, to the Elder Antonia.

I. I have now so far cleared the way as to be in a fair position to enter with feasibleness into an investigation of the Annals, with the view of proving that it was not written by Tacitus.

In beginning the investigation, I shall proceed on the assumption that it is a modern forgery of the fifteenth century, having as grounds for this assumption that it was the age when the original MSS. containing the work were discovered; that the existence of those MSS. cannot be traced farther than that century; that (which is of vast consequence in an inquiry of this description) it was an age of imposture; of credulity so immoderate that people were easily imposed upon, believing, as they did, without sufficient evidence, or on slight evidence, or no evidence at all, whatever was foisted upon them; when, too, the love of lucre was such that for money men willingly forewent the reputation that is the accompaniment of the grandest achievements of the intellect. Take, for example, the noble art of printing; for inventing it any man of genius might reasonably be proud. His name, if known, would be emblazoned on the scroll of imperishable fame; be displayed for ever on the highest pyramid of mind; and his country would receive an additional beam of splendor to its previous blaze of renown. But who, for a certainty, knows the inventor of printing? or the country of its origin? Was it Holland in the person of Coster of Haarlem? Or Germany in the person of Mentel, the nobleman, of Strasburg? Or Guttenberg, the goldsmith, of Mayence? Was it neither of these countries? or none of these men? And why this uncertainty? Because a few men possessing the secret, which they kept cautiously to themselves, of printing by means of movable blocks of wood, preferred accumulating enormous sums, equivalent to fair fortunes, by receiving five, six and even between seven and eight hundred gold sequins from a King of France or a Pope of Rome, a Cardinal or an Archbishop, for a bible, which, printed, was passed off as written. We all know how the whole imposture exploded, by the King of France and the Archbishop of Paris comparing the bibles which they had bought of Faust during his stay at the Soleil d'Or in the Rue St. Jacques, Paris. Each thought his bible so superb that the whole world could not produce such another for beauty,—the books being fine vellum copies of what are now known as the Mazarin Bible;—and what was their amazement on discovering, after a very close comparison, that everything was exactly alike in the two copies,—the flower-pieces in gold, green and blue, with grouped and single birds amid tendrils and leaves, the illuminated letters at the beginning of books with variegated embellishments and brilliant hues of scarlet and azure, the crimson initials to each chapter and sentence, along with astonishing and incomprehensible conformity in letters, words, pagination and lines on every page.

II. The temptation was great to palm off literary forgeries, especially of the chief writers of antiquity, on account of the Popes, in their efforts to revive learning, giving money rewards and indulgences to those who should procure MS. copies of any of the ancient Greek or Roman authors. Manuscripts turned up, as if by magic, in every direction; from libraries of monasteries, obscure as well as famous; from the most out-of-the-way places,— the bottom of exhausted wells, besmeared by snails, as the History of Velleius Paterculus; or from garrets, where they had been contending with cobwebs and dust, as the Poems of Catullus. So long as the work had an appearance of high antiquity, it passed muster as an old classic; and no doubt could be entertained of its genuineness, if, in addition to its ancient look, it was brought in a fragmentary form. We have no history of the last six fragmentary books of the Annals—at least, up to this time; though I shall give it towards the end of this inquiry; but we are told all about the discovery of the fragmentary first six books by Meibomius, the Westphalian historian, and Professor of Poetry and History at Helmstaedt at the close of the sixteenth century in his Opuscula Historica Rerum Germianicarum, while telling the story of the life of Witikind, the monk of the Abbey of Corvey; by Justus Lipsius in note 34 to the second book of the Annals; by Brotier, and other editors of Tacitus.

John de Medici, that magnificent Pope, had been scarcely elected to the Pontifical chair by the title of Leo X. in the spring of 1513, when he caused it to be publicly made known that he would increase the price of rewards given by his predecessors to persons who procured new MS. copies of ancient Greek and Roman works. More than a year, nearly two years elapsed; then his own "Thesaurum Quaestor Pontificius"—"steward," "receiver," or "collector",— Angelo Arcomboldi, brought to him a new MS. of the works of Tacitus, with a most startling novelty—THE FIRST SIX (or, as then divided, FIVE) BOOKS OF THE ANNALS! Everybody was amazed; and everybody was extremely anxious to know where and how it had been obtained. The story of Arcomboldi was that he had found the stranger among the treasures on the well-stored shelves in the Library of the Benedictine monastery on the banks of the Weser, at Corvey, in Westphalia, long famed for the high culture of its learned inmates. The MS. was given out as being of great antiquity, traceable to, at the very least, the commencement of the ninth century; for it was said to have belonged to one of the most distinguished and accomplished scholars of the abbey, Anschaire, whom Gregory IV. in the year 835 appointed his Legate Apostolic in Denmark and Sweden, and who Christianized the whole northern parts of Europe. The MS. was conned with care: it was musty, discoloured and antique-looking; furthermore, it was of the usual orthodox nature of recovered ancient MSS.—it was fragmentary: the genius of Tacitus was believed to be detected in the newly found books: 500 gold sequins were counted out from the Papal Treasury to the greedy discoverer: at the expense of Leo, the scholastic Philippo Beroaldi the Younger, who was Professor of the learned languages in the University of Rome, and who wrote Latin lyric poetry (in the opinion of Paulus Jovius) with the elegance and correctness of Horace, superintended the text; the celebrated Stephen Guilleret came all the way from Lorraine to print it; and the "Historiarum Libri quinque nuper in Germania inventi" were ushered forth to the world in Rome literis rotundis on the first day of March, 1515. From that day to this the imposture has slumbered; the counterfeit coin has passed current, nobody having noticed the absence of the true ring of the genuine metal.

III. The books of the Annals must not merely be assumed to be forgeries; they must be proved to be so; for, if forgeries, they cannot be as invulnerable as walls of adamant. It is nothing that nobody has suspected they were forged;—nothing that the editors and commentators, who, for the most part possessed of remarkable perspicacity and discernment, have applied their minds to minute revision and close examination of these books, have, after such diligent attention never considered them to be spurious, but belonging to the domain of true history;—nothing that they have stood for close on four hundred years unchallenged, deceiving the wisest and the most learned as well as the best and the most experienced in matters of this description. The cause is obvious: the forger fabricated with the decided determination of defying detection. He did not rely upon his own sagacity alone: he called in the assistance of two of his cleverest friends: three of the astutest men in the most enlightened portion then of Europe,— Italy,—sat in conclave over the matter for nearly three years, deliberating in every possible way how to avoid suspicious management and faulty performance: consequently, the forgery is anything but plain and palpable; nay, it is wonderfully obscure and monstrously difficult: nevertheless, like all forged documents, it is bungled—ay, in spite of the pains taken to keep free from bad and blundering work, it is, occasionally (as will be seen in the present book, from this point until the close), clumsily, awkwardly, grossly, ridiculously bungled.

In the last generation there was a famous trial for forgery in Edinburgh. A number of documents, thirty-three, were impounded as forged to obtain for the forger the title of a Scotch Earl and domains covering many millions of acres,—a larger area of square miles than were included in the whole united territories of the now dethroned Dukes of Tuscany, Parma and Modena, or all the possessions put together of the German Electors, Margraves and Landgraves. In such a number of legal documents executed by one man, and that man, too, a civilian, it was almost next to an impossibility that there should not be a good deal of bungling. One of the blunders was the King of Scotland giving away lands and provinces that never belonged to Scotland, for they were lands and provinces in New England; another was the name of Archbishop Spottiswoode as witness to a document executed by King James I. at Whitehall on the 7th of December, 1639, whereas Archbishop Spottiswoode had been dead eleven days, his monument in Westminster Abbey bearing as the date of his death, the 26th of November in that year. So the author of the Annals, who, as will be hereafter shown, lived in the fifteenth century, could not possibly write many books of ancient Roman History without, every now and then doing or saying something that was attended with dreadful fatality to his fraud; for he could not write them without palpable blunders; and some are so clumsy as to surpass conception what bungling can do.

IV. He makes Tacitus commit an error about the contents of the Twelve Tables, which is really as monstrous as if we could fancy ourselves reading in the pages of a native historian of mark, Hume, Henry, or Lingard, some blunder, into which a schoolboy could not fall, about the contents of Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Rights, or any other well known English law, on which the constitution of the country is primarily founded. In a work given out as written by Tacitus we are told that the Twelve Tables first fixed interest for usury at an "uncia," or twelfth part of an as per hundred asses per month, or one per cent per annum:—"Primo Duodecim Tabulis sanctum 'ne quis unciario foenore amplius exerceret,' cum antea ex libidine locupletium agitaretur" (An. VI. 16). Into this error the Author of the Annals must surely have been seduced by some shocking mediaeval writer of ancient Roman history or antiquities, under whose guidance he again falls into another mistake when ascribing to tribunitian regulations the reduction of the interest to one-half per cent. per annum, or the sixth part of an as per hundred asses a month:—"dein rogatione tribuncia ad semuncias redacta" (L. c.). The truth is that, in the year of Rome 398, a hundred and four years after the Twelve Tables were composed,—the Tribunes Duillius and Moenius passed the original law of interest at one per cent: twelve years after,—in the year 410,—the interest was reduced to one half per cent. under the consulate of Lucius Manlius Torquatus and Caius Plautius;—as may be seen by referring to the seventh book (16, 27) of Livy,—or still better, the clear exposition of this error by Montesquieu in the 22nd chapter of the 22nd book of his "Esprit des Loix." The author of the Annals is then only right when stating that originally the interest was one per cent. per annum, and afterwards reduced to half that amount. In everything else he blunders to an extent that is inexplicable in an ancient Roman. Were any staunch upholder of the authenticity of the Annals to be here called upon compulsorily to give a reason, unprepared or premeditated, plausible or probable, why, after this exposure of such an error, he still believed it possible that the blunder could have been made by Tacitus, who achieved a brilliant reputation as an historian writing truthfully of his countrymen, as a lawyer practising successfully among them, as a statesman filling with ability exalted offices, and thus possessed such pledges for being admirably informed and exceedingly cautious, he would be reluctantly forced to take refuge in the quibbling of Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff: —"I would not tell you on compulsion. Give you a reason on compulsion! If reasons were as plenty as blackberries, I would give no man a reason on compulsion, I!"

The Twelve Tables are most fatal for the author of the Annals; they bring out his imposture so clearly to the broad glare of noonday. Tacitus is made to place on record for the enlightenment of posterity that, after those Tables were composed, his countrymen ceased making just and equal laws, only occasionally penal enactments; but more frequently, on account of the differences between the two orders, decrees for attaining illegitimate honours and for banishing distinguished citizens, along with other sinister legislation:—"Compositae Duodecim Tabulae, finis aequi juris; nam secutae leges, etsi aliquando in maleficos ex delicto, saepius tamen dissensione ordinum, et apiscendi illicitos honores, aut pellendi claros viros, aliaque ob prava, per vim latae sunt" (III. 27). The statement is about as contrary to fact as if an English historian were to assert that after Charles I. assented to the Petition of Rights, there was an end to all further enlargement in this country of the rights, liberties and privileges of the subject,—the only laws passed since then being for the repression of crime, the mitigation of the penal code, and the establishment of religious equality; because if we set aside all the laws that were passed by the Romans for the bettering of their State after the year 449 before our aera,—which is the date of the composition of the Twelve Tables,—and look only at those which extended social equality, we find enactments "aequi juris," such as the Lex Canuleia which allowed the intermarriage of patricians and plebeians, and the Leges Liciniae, which put both orders on a par in holding public offices. It is clear that these laws never came to the knowledge of the author of the Annals; and it is for the reader to decide for himself whether he thinks it likely that a lawyer and statesman of the stamp of Tacitus could have been ignorant of the removal of these weighty and vexatious class inconveniences.

V. Had Tacitus written the Annals, he would have known more of the speech which Claudius spake in the Senate (XI. 24), when the inhabitants of Transalpine Gaul petitioned to be rendered eligible to the highest offices of the State, than to direct the eloquence of the Emperor in favour of all the extra-provincial Gauls in general, and the Aedui in particular. From the way in which he wrote harangues—that of Galgacus in his Agricola, for instance, —he would have caught in his alembic the essence of the original, and sublimated it; but he would not have placed before us an offspring that does not reflect one feature of its parent. Yet that is what the author of the Annals did with the speech of Claudius: he fabricated that which bears not the faintest resemblance to the original. If the assumption be considered as true that he forged the Annals, he could not have done otherwise; for when he was engaged in the business of forgery, the speech was not in existence, it not being until 1528, more than a hundred years after the Eleventh Book of the Annals was written by him, and considerably over half a century after it was first printed in Venice, that a copy of the speech of the Emperor Claudius, which had long been lost, was found again buried within the earth at Lyons, and as so discovered is still preserved, engraved on two brass plates in the vestibule of the Town Hall of Lyons, a lasting memento of the modern fabrication of the Annals.

VI. The author of the Annals ascribes to Brutus the creation of the second class of nobility, which Brutus no more created than (as Famianus Strada observes,) "Pythagoras originated the idea of the transmigration of souls." The statement that "few were left of the families to which Romulus gave the title, the 'gentes majores,' or 'old clans,' and Lucius Brutus the 'gentes minores,' or 'young clans'":—"paucis jam reliquis familiarum, quas Romulus 'majorum,' et Lucius Brutus 'minorum gentium' adpellaverant" (XI.25):—could never have been written by a Roman; because, in the first place, it was not Romulus who created the whole patrician body known as the "majores gentes"; the only senators whom he created were the "decuriones," or heads of the various "gentes" of the united Romans and Sabines; to these Tullus Hostilius added the most distinguished citizens of the Albans, when they were removed to Rome in his reign;—and it was the united descendants of these two sets of patricians who were called by subsequent generations "patricii majorum gentium": in the second place, it was Tarquinius Priscus who enlarged the patrician body by creating the 100 representatives of the Luceres, or Etruscans, senators, and it was the descendants of these who were "called," by way of distinction from the others, "patricii minorum gentium." The new sort of nobility which originated with Brutus was a very different kind of thing: the new eminence or dignity conferred on the senators elected by Brutus was confined to themselves only, being strictly personal and purely titular: until then Roman senators had been styled simply "Patres," but from that time downwards they were denominated "Patres CONSCRIPTI." No Roman could have been ignorant of this; and if the author of the Annals did not know it, we ought not to be too severe upon him, when we shall see afterwards that he was a Florentine of the fifteenth century: then on account of his having lived so many centuries after the events of which he writes, it is quite excusable that he should fall into a state of confusion with respect to this rather out of the way matter, though into such a state of confusion no Roman could have fallen on account of his intimate acquaintance with the outlines of his constitution, the customs of his country, and the distinctions of rank in native society.

VII. The author of the Annals takes the grandson of the great dictator Camillus to have been his son, when he observes: "after the illustrious recoverer of the city" (meaning Rome) "and his son Camillus": "post illum reciperatorem urbis, filiumque ejus Camillum," (II. 52). In that case what becomes of the exclamation of Spartian in his Life of the Emperor Severus, when speaking of great Romans who had no illustrious children: "What of Camillus? For had he children like himself?" "Quid Camillus? Nam sui similes liberos habuit?" Why, certainly, "he had children like himself," if Marcus Furius had been his son, and not his grandson; for he was Consul and Dictator like the renowned and noble-minded Lucius Furius. The mistake is easily accounted for in a modern European writing Roman history from the famous Marcus Furius Camillus being Consul only eleven years after his grandfather, which makes it look as if it was the son who succeeded, and not the grandson. But it cannot be explained in a Roman, who must have taken so much pride in the second Romulus of his country as to have known all about his family relations. The error is only comparable to the extreme case of an Englishman being supposed to take such very little interest in Queen Victoria as to mistake her for a daughter of William IV.

VIII. To be called upon to believe that these blunders could have been committed by Tacitus, is to ask one to believe that he, who made no such mistakes in his History, ceased to write like a Roman when composing the Annals. It is truly writing, not like an ancient Roman, but a modern European, when in the first book of the Annals Germanicus is represented consulting whether he will take a short and well known road, or one untried and difficult, though the reason is, that by going the longer, he would go the unguarded way, and really do things quicker: "consultatque, ex duobus itineribus breve et solitum sequatur, an impeditius et intentatum, eoque hostibus incautum. Delecta longiore via, cetera adcelerantur" (I. 50). Were it not for this passage, one would have thought that, in the days of Tiberius, Germany was almost as bare of roads as the present interior of Arabia and Chinese Tartary; and that each tribe in that enormous wilderness of wood and morass was approached, as the present people of Dahomey, Ashantee and Timbucto, by a single path; and that it was only, after the lapse of centuries, when, in the due course of things, Germany had assumed a more civilised character, that there were two, three, or more roads; so that we can quite understand it being said of the Bavarian general, John de Werth, in the seventeenth century, that he did this,—march out of the direct way, which was watched, by another road, which was longer because it was unguarded: thus pouncing on the enemy by night, and taking them so by surprise that they fled in alarm, he gained a bloodless victory, without the drawing of a sword from its scabbard. Any advantage that a modern general would gain in this way was not open to an ancient general, particularly when invading the country of a people like the Germans, mere savages, who knew no more of such arts of warfare, as guarding roads and sending out scouts, than Red Indians, Maoris and Hottentots of the present time. Sir Garnet Wolseley, making his way to Coomassie, as a crow would fly, is just about the manner in which we may be sure that Germanicus made his way into Germany—as straight as he could go. But military history is not the forte of the author of the Annals. He knew it and avoided it as much as he could,—very unlike Tacitus, who, practically acquainted with military as well as civil affairs, writes with an obvious liking, of combats and civil wars, and, according to military authorities competent to pass an opinion, shows everywhere familiarity with battles, marches, management of armies and conduct of generals.

One cannot understand how Tacitus, whose youth was passed in a camp, should not have known the whole minutiae about the Roman army; and that he should, with respect to its ensigns, exhibit extraordinary ignorance. The fact stood thus:—the legions had "signa," or standards; the "socii," or allies, that is, the Latins, had "vexilla," or flags; so, perhaps, had the Romans when marching under arms to a new settlement, or "colony"; but, certainly, soldiers raised in the provinces had no ensigns at all, neither standards nor flags; yet in the first book of the Annals we hear of some "maniples," or "infantry companies" of the legions that had been raised in Pannonia, when the news reached them of the breaking out of a mutiny in the camp, tearing to pieces their flags: "manipuli ... postquam turbatum in castris accepere, vexilla convellunt" (I. 20). The mistake is similar to that which would be made if any one among ourselves were to give colours to our volunteers or standards to our yeomanry.

Here it may be noticed that the figures of speech of Tacitus are, like those of most ancient Romans, chiefly military. To be of the highest rank is, with him, "to lead the van,"—"primum pilum ducere" (Hist. IV. 3), or to set about a thing, "to be girt" (as with a sword),—"accingi" (Hist. IV. 79). The author of the Annals, though borrowing the latter phrase, goes anywhere but to the field of battle for his figures; he takes them mostly from the ways of ordinary civil life, selecting his metaphors, now from the trader's shop or the merchant's counting-house, as "ratio constat" (An. I. 6), used when the debtor and creditor sides of an account balance one another; now from seamen steering and tacking vessels, or coachmen driving horses, as "verbis moderans" (An. VI. 2), which Nipperdey says ought to be rendered, "touching-up and reining-in his words, and driving only at this."

IX. When Julius Caesar came to this country, he found the Britons, without an exception, thorough barbarians, the best of them living in places that were fortified woods. The author of the Annals, only a century after this wild state of things in the barbarism of the inhabitants and the rudeness of their abodes, speaks of London, in the reign of Nero, in the year 60, as if it were the chief residence of merchants and their principal mart of trade in the civilized world. If there be one thing certain, it is that centuries after,—in the middle of the fourth,—the people of London were only exporters of corn;—no certainty that they carried on any other kind of commerce, except it might be doing a little business in dogs, and slaves whom they captured from neighbouring barbarians,—their imports being polished bits of bone, toys and horse-collars. Progressing, rapidly under the Romans, Saxons, Danes, Normans, and in the time of the Plantagenets, they were in the fifteenth century a great and wealthy people, illustrious for their commercial transactions, dealing in every species of commodity, visited by merchants from every part of Europe, and envied by the most flourishing communities, such as the trading oligarchies of Italy. Any one living at that time,—especially in Italy (where many circumstances induce me to believe that the author or forger of the "Annals of Tacitus" lived),—and hearing a great deal of the wealth, greatness and immense antiquity of London, might easily fall into this mistake, grievous in its enormity as it is. But any one living about the time of Nero, as Tacitus did, could never have described London in this flourishing state of commercial greatness and prosperity. The chances are he never would have heard of London; for that would be supposing in a Roman at the close of the first or the commencement of the second century of our aera a geographical knowledge more minute than that of the President of the Royal Geographical Society, unless at the haphazard mention of any particular village in the newly annexed Fiji Islands, Sir Henry Rawlinson could enter into a correct account of its chief characteristic. But if we are to go to the extreme length of supposing that Tacitus had heard of London, he would know that it was a place of no repute, utterly insignificant, far inferior in importance to two now almost forgotten places in Essex and Hertfordshire,—Maldon and St. Alban's,—called then respectively Camelodunum and Verulamium,—the former being a "colonia," and the latter a "municipium,"—London being a mere "praefectura." It is then the height of absurdity to believe that if Tacitus wrote the Annals we should have heard in that work London spoken of as "remarkably celebrated for the multiplicity of its merchants and its commodities": "copia negotiatorum et commeatuum maxime celebre" (XIV. 33).

X. The author of the Annals pretends to know more about prominent individuals in Rome than was known to their distinguished contemporaneous countrymen. He writes of Labeo Antistius, as if that jurisconsult were an example to the age in which he lived of all the virtues and all goodness, and possessed, to a masterly extent, accomplishments and acquirements; for thus he speaks of him in conjunction with Capito Ateius: "Capito Ateius ... principem in civitate locum studiis adsecutus—Labeonem Antistium, iisdem artibus praecellentem ... namque illa aetas duo pacis decora simul tulit; sed Labeo incorrupta libertate ... celebratior" (An. III. 75). Horace, who was a contemporary of Labeo's, says that he was a maniac, or, at any rate—"considered very crazy in the company of the sane":—

"Labeone insanior inter Sanos dicatur." (Sat. I. III. 82.)

Hitherto Horace by the side of "Tacitus" has been no better than a clay pitcher by a porcelain vase; thus his disparaging, but, doubtless, quite correct estimate of Labeo has been till now altogether disregarded, in consequence of this passage in the Annals, from its author being credited with having exceeded what the ancient Romans had left us in the way of history.

So great is the repute of the Author of the Annals for supremacy in the historian's art that Justus Lipsius places no faith whatever in Suetonius when that, possibly, most veracious historian records in his Life of Tiberius (61) the number of the people who were executed for their attachment to Sejanus as amounting to twenty; the universally applauded, and, generally considered, most judicious Batavian critic of the sixteenth century, without a manuscript or edition for his authority, alters this number for One Thousand, because the author of the Annals speaks of a "countless" mass of slain of all ranks, ages, and both (he says "all") sexes, and further describes corpses as lying about singly or piled up in heaps: "jacuit immensa strages, omnis sexus, omnis aetas, illustres, ignobiles, dispersi aut aggerati" (VI. 19).

Hence, too, Dr. Nipperdey, in drawing up a table of the Augustan family, in order to guard the reader against being perplexed by the relationships of that house, treats the same Suetonius as of no account when he says,—and Suetonius twice says it (Cal. I., Ner. 5),—that Drusus, the brother of Tiberius, married "the younger Antonia." "In default of other evidence on the question of fact," says the learned professor, "we must follow the better author, Tacitus,"—the better author being the writer of the Annals, who, on two occasions (I. 42; XII. 64), makes the "elder Antonia" the wife of Drusus.

Examples of this description could be multiplied. But it is not necessary to pursue this line of argument farther,—at least, at present. What is required just now is not so much proof that the author of the Annals did not write like the Romans, but that he did not write like Tacitus, notwithstanding the strenuous efforts he made to imitate him, and be mistaken for him by contemporaries and posterity. To do this I must bring forward from the History and the Annals an accumulation of coincidences, seeing that the fabricator, being a most acute person, must have proceeded upon the same principle as a man who forges a cheque upon a banker, and who, in the prosecution of his design, endeavours to imitate, as closely as he can, the handwriting of his victim, and do everything carefully enough to escape immediate detection, whatever may afterwards ensue.



CHAPTER III.

SUSPICIOUS CHARACTER OF THE ANNALS FROM THE POINT OF TREATMENT.

I. Nature of the history.—II. Arrangement of the narrative.— III. Completeness in form.—IV. Incongruities, contradictions and disagreements from the History of Tacitus.—V. Craftiness of the writer.—VI. Subordination of history to biography.—VII. The author of the Annals and Tacitus differently illustrate Roman history.—VIII. Characters and events corresponding to characters and events of the XVth century.—IX. Greatness of the Author of the Annals.

I. Before proceeding to point out the imitations, and show where, in the efforts to write, and make history after the likeness of Tacitus, the author of the Annals fails; and, from the signal nature of his failures, his efforts are seen to be counterfeit, I may observe that a constant endeavour on his part to escape detection renders his imposture difficult to perceive and still more difficult to expose. A man of his penetration and power to enter far into subjects was, of course, deep enough to contrive every species of artifice to conceal his fraud; and as we have no record of his having been seen in the act of fabrication, or of his ever having been even suspected of so doing, I must prove the forgery by a detail of facts and circumstances. I can do this only by going through the Annals minutely,—examining the matter, manner, treatment, knowledge, views, sentiments, language, style, —in fact, a variety of circumstances,—everything that can be thought of;—for if it really be a forgery, it cannot be exactly like the History of Tacitus in any one thing, whatever that one thing be;—then I shall leave the reader to himself, to take into account the whole of the circumstances, and judge whether such a combination could have existed in a genuine work by Tacitus, and is compatible with such a production.

We are to look, first, what the nature of the history purports to be;—whether there is nothing peculiar as to its character.

It will be obvious to the least sagacious that the most paramount and absolutely necessary thing to be accomplished was a vast and comprehensive execution that should correspond to the vast and comprehensive execution of Tacitus. Here was something to be done seemingly insuperable; for how can any one hope to imitate the execution of another, with such marvellous nicety that no distinction can be discerned between the two on the minutest test of microscopic investigation? more especially if the execution to be imitated be that of a man of real genius, consequently unparalleled in its way, of a mighty nature, and, in addition to its mightiness, a thing of the purest individuality. Now, the History of Tacitus is an execution of this description; it is a work of real genius; therefore, it is a distinct essence,—a realization of all the special aptitude possessed by the master-spirit that penned it. But though this cannot be done, yet any one having genius,—and a powerful genius,—by following its bent directly, may expect to exhibit in the execution of a work an ability that shall be considered equal to the ability displayed in the execution of another, even though that other be a man of great genius; but it can only be upon this very sage precaution,—that he exercises his ability, which must necessarily be of a very different kind, in quite a different manner. The forger of the Annals had much too acute a discernment not to know this;—he was also well aware that he had a very strong forte. We know the department in which he excelled,—dealing with despotism, servility and bloodshed. But then, if he was to do this, he would do that, which would be a very strong proof that his work was a forgery; for if he was to do this, he could not take up the continuance of history as Tacitus intended to go on with it namely, with Nerva and Trajan;—that he could not do, because in dealing with those two rulers he would have to deal with men remarkable for mildness, generosity, leniency and good- heartedness;—thus he would have to deal with a subject which must be fatal to his attempt; for it would be opposed to the play of his peculiar gifts, which to be brought out properly required that he should write only of Emperors noted for cruel, unnatural, blood-thirsty tyranny. The plan of his undertaking, to be attended with success, therefore compelled him, whether he liked it or not, to go back to Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero.

II. This must have been greatly against his will as a forger, because this difficulty must have risen up before his mental vision in colossal magnitude—that nobody, on careful consideration, could admit that Tacitus would have written the narrative of the half-century from the death of Augustus to the accession of Galba, after what he says at the commencement of his History, that the subject next to engage his attention would be the events that happened in the reigns of Nerva and Trajan. This, I repeat, is a point that brings forcibly before us the certainty of the Annals being forged, unless any one can believe with Niebuhr that, if Tacitus completed his History before the death of Trajan, and could not write of that Emperor as long as that Emperor lived, but "feeling a void," and "desiring to produce another work," he resumed History with the rule of Tiberius; but nobody can believe this, because it gets us into this enormous, nay, inexplicable difficulty—Why the writer, who, in the History, had shown an epic construction, with an epic opening and an epic story, should observe in the Annals quite another arrangement, and distribute the narrative in a studiously annalistic form? when, too, the disjointed record of the journalist was to be combined with the distinct arrangement of the historian who took the continued transactions of a nation in their multiplicity of details as they occurred at the same time in different places, and related them in clear and due unity in the subject.

III. Out of this variance in the two works arises another tremendous difficulty which we have to look at:—The Annals and the History are intended, the one to be the complement to the other. Then two works, which are necessary to each other, ought to be, when separated, incomplete: if one man wrote them they would be incomplete when separated; but if two men wrote them, they would be complete in themselves. Now, are the History and the Annals incomplete, when separated? or complete in themselves? Everybody acknowledges that they are complete in themselves; each contains everything requisite for the full understanding and enjoyment of each; each has its peculiar force; each its distinct beauty; and for uniformity to exist in the two many passages in both must be destroyed; and the most ingenious can give no just or adequate cause for the destruction of the passages, even as he can give no just or adequate cause for their existence, except that which I am advancing that it was because two men wrote the two works.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse