Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 11.djvu/269

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ii s. XL MAP, 27, i9io.] NOTES AND QUERIES.


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to us to have carried over Tacitus into English with surprisingly small loss. Reading him, one is much more certain that one is reading Tacitus than that one is reading English.

We are not sure that Dr. Ramsay need complain of us for saying this, nor we of him. That he could not compel his pen to write quite English English came, it is clear, from a thorough and, as it were, a living familiarity with his author. When you begin to read Tacitus, you take a keen pleasure in turning his phrases neatly into your own language ; the more you read him, the more you find that your cleverest ingenuity produces only a bungle, and that words are hard to call up. In the end, more tyrannously even than Horace, Tacitus dries up in you the very fount of your mother-tongue, and for the time being insists that there is no language but Latin, no scheme of thought but the Stoic's, and his own variety too of that. Such an author will never consent to be translated, and interferes heavily with any one who tries.

Dr. Ramsay chiefly by way of lively refutation makes considerable use of Mr. B. W. Henderson's

  • Civil War and Rebellion in the Roman Empire,'

a critical study of our historian which leaves him with hardly one of his traditional merits intact. It is not difficult for a scholar to repel general charges against Tacitus, which, indeed, seem to have in them as much revolt from received opinion as direct judgment of the author, though perhaps we ought to admit that an author who is possessed of the gnomic felicity of Tacitus, and studs his work itself severe and compact with phrases which so stand out in their brilliancy, is likely to be somewhat overrated by the literary. The case of Tertullian will, in this respect, occur to everybody. It is in the justification of the narratives of the Civil War and the war with Civilis that the de- fender of Tacitus is hardest put to it. There is, however, considerable absurdity, as Dr. Ramsay more than once points out, in criticizing Tacitus by the same principles as those one would apply to a modern historian. It is not merely unfair, because the sources of information, especially as regards distant campaigns, were so much more difficult of access ; it is also slightly inept, because it ignores the considerable difference of intention, and of the system of emphasis and omission, with which ancient historians worked as compared with moderns. The human element, and tnat in its simplest possible aspect, such as the wrath and tears of the legionaries, or the arguments which led to their least stable decisions, concern the ancient historian more deeply than the strategical considerations which, in our modern view of history, bulk so large. It would be more just to say that the ' Histories ' are unsatisfactory from a military point of view than to blame Tacitus, even lightly, for their being so.

The notes are abundant and good, and show a wise remembrance of the kind of general reader who does not know or want to know the whole text, but will appreciate the more famous and characteristic sayings in the original. The general reader is also condescended to in the matter of the Tacitean irony, the instances of which are studiously pointed out. This is well; it would have been still better if the translation itself had, in these places, received a more distinctly ironic touch. The illustration of ancient customs by like customs of our own, severely excluded from the


translation, is brought into the notes, often very happily sometimes, perhaps, over-ingeniously, as when we are told that the custom servare de ccelo " fulfilled in some measure the functions of a second hamber, by enforcing delay and consideration." The Introduction is not only good in itself, but also really well calculated for its purpose. That is to say, it gives necessary information, and therewith tunes up the reader's mind- to some adequate sense of the importance of that year A.D. 69. This is not, without definite effort, easy to conceive : partly because the crises of Roman and European history since that day have been SO" numerous, and many of them so much more striking to the imagination than this ; partly because the persons around whom the struggle raged are so meagre in character. Yet unless- the true importance of that stormy year has been realized, these books can only be half read.

The Library Journal : February. (New York,

A. R. Bowker Co., Is. Qd.)

AMONG the contents of special interest at the present time is Mr. Theodore W. Koch's continua- tion of the story of the Imperial Public Library at St. Petersburg. On its opening in 1814; Olenin became the first Librarian. Compara- tively few books were added during hi& administration no money being at his disposal. From 1814 to 1842 only 70,000 roubles were expended on books. In 1843 Buturlin succeeded Olenin. Buturlin had fought in the battle of Leipzig, and even now his works on military history, written almost exclusively in French, are not without value. In 1849 Korf was appointed to the directorship, with the addition: of the duties of the Chief Censor ; and in the following year the Emperor issued a ukase transferring the library from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of the Court. Korf set to work with great energy, and the growth of the Library was rapid. When he assumed charge it contained 640,000 volumes, 18,000 manuscripts, and 15,000 prints. In twelve years he increased it by more than, a third, and made it second only to the Bibliotheque Nationale. He devoted special attention to the Russian section, and also insti- tuted the Department of Incunabula. The books were all collected in a single room, which, with its heavy pillars and small mediaeval coloured glass windows, with furniture in keeping even to the inkbottles, made visitors feel they were in a fifteenth-century monastic library. The present Librarian, Kobeko, has endeavoured to make the Library useful to the average reader, without prejudicing the work of the serious investigator At the close of last year the books, pamphlets,, and manuscripts amounted to 3,016,635.

We have space to mention only one other interesting article, ' Some Reference Books of 1914,' by Mr. Isadore Mudge. Regret is expressed that there is no dictionary of English place-names corresponding to the great ' Dictionnaire Topo- graphique de la France,' now being published by the French Government, although partial substi- tutes may be found in the monographs published by the Oxford and Cambridge Presses and others. The illustrations include three of the St. Peters- burg Library : the ' Department of Russian Books/ ' The Round Room,' and * The Faust Room/ containing the collection of incunabula.