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Marius the epicurean %E2.., p.1

Marius the Epicurean — Volume 2, page 1

 part  #2 of  Marius the Epicurean Series


Marius the Epicurean — Volume 2

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Marius the Epicurean — Volume 2

  Produced by Alfred J. Drake. HTML version by Al Haines.



  London: 1910. (The Library Edition.)


  Notes: The 1910 Library Edition employs footnotes, a style inconvenientin an electronic edition. I have therefore placed an asteriskimmediately after each of Pater's footnotes and a + sign after my ownnotes, and have listed each chapter's notes at that chapter's end.

  Pagination and Paragraphing: To avoid an unwieldy electronic copy, Ihave transferred original pagination to brackets. A bracketed numeralsuch as [22] indicates that the material immediately following thenumber marks the beginning of the relevant page. I have preservedparagraph structure except for first-line indentation.

  Hyphenation: I have not preserved original hyphenation since an e-textdoes not require line-end or page-end hyphenation.

  Greek typeface: For this full-text edition, I have transliteratedPater's Greek quotations. If there is a need for the original Greek,it can be viewed at my site,, aVictorianist archive that contains the complete works of Walter Paterand many other nineteenth-century texts, mostly in first editions.



  Cheimerinos oneiros, hote mekistai hai vyktes.+

  +"A winter's dream, when nights are longest." Lucian, The Dream, Vol. 3.



  15. Stoicism at Court: 3-13 16. Second Thoughts: 14-28 17. Beata Urbs: 29-40 18. "The Ceremony of the Dart": 41-56 19. The Will as Vision: 57-72


  20. Two Curious Houses--1. Guests: 75-91 21. Two Curious Houses--2. The Church in Cecilia's House: 92-108 22. "The Minor Peace of the Church": 109-127 23. Divine Service: 128-140 24. A Conversation Not Imaginary: 141-171 25. Sunt Lacrimae Rerum: 172-185 26. The Martyrs: 186-196 27. The Triumph of Marcus Aurelius: 197-207 28. Anima Naturaliter Christiana: 208-224



  [3] THE very finest flower of the same company--Aurelius with thegilded fasces borne before him, a crowd of exquisites, the empressFaustina herself, and all the elegant blue-stockings of the day, whomaintained, people said, their private "sophists" to whisper philosophyinto their ears winsomely as they performed the duties of thetoilet--was assembled again a few months later, in a different placeand for a very different purpose. The temple of Peace, a "modernising"foundation of Hadrian, enlarged by a library and lecture-rooms, hadgrown into an institution like something between a college and aliterary club; and here Cornelius Fronto was to pronounce a discourseon the Nature of Morals. There were some, indeed, who had desired theemperor Aurelius himself to declare his whole mind on this matter.Rhetoric was become almost a function of the state: philosophy was uponthe throne; and had from time to time, by [4] request, delivered anofficial utterance with well-nigh divine authority. And it was as thedelegate of this authority, under the full sanction of the philosophicemperor--emperor and pontiff, that the aged Fronto purposed to-day toexpound some parts of the Stoic doctrine, with the view of recommendingmorals to that refined but perhaps prejudiced company, as being, ineffect, one mode of comeliness in things--as it were music, or a kindof artistic order, in life. And he did this earnestly, with an outlayof all his science of mind, and that eloquence of which he was known tobe a master. For Stoicism was no longer a rude and unkempt thing.Received at court, it had largely decorated itself: it was grownpersuasive and insinuating, and sought not only to convince men'sintelligence but to allure their souls. Associated with the beautifulold age of the great rhetorician, and his winning voice, it was almostEpicurean. And the old man was at his best on the occasion; the laston which he ever appeared in this way. To-day was his own birthday.Early in the morning the imperial letter of congratulation had reachedhim; and all the pleasant animation it had caused was in his face, whenassisted by his daughter Gratia he took his place on the ivory chair,as president of the Athenaeum of Rome, wearing with a wonderful gracethe philosophic pall,--in reality neither more nor less than the loosewoollen cloak of the common soldier, but fastened [5] on his rightshoulder with a magnificent clasp, the emperor's birthday gift.

  It was an age, as abundant evidence shows, whose delight in rhetoricwas but one result of a general susceptibility--an age not merelytaking pleasure in words, but experiencing a great moral power in them.Fronto's quaintly fashionable audience would have wept, and alsoassisted with their purses, had his present purpose been, as sometimeshappened, the recommendation of an object of charity. As it was,arranging themselves at their ease among the images and flowers, theseamateurs of exquisite language, with their tablets open for carefulrecord of felicitous word or phrase, were ready to give themselveswholly to the intellectual treat prepared for them, applauding, blowingloud kisses through the air sometimes, at the speaker's triumphant exitfrom one of his long, skilfully modulated sentences; while the youngerof them meant to imitate everything about him, down to the inflectionsof his voice and the very folds of his mantle. Certainly there wasrhetoric enough:--a wealth of imagery; illustrations from painting,music, mythology, the experiences of love; a management, by whichsubtle, unexpected meaning was brought out of familiar terms, likeflies from morsels of amber, to use Fronto's own figure. But with allits richness, the higher claim of his style was rightly understood tolie in gravity and self-command, and an especial care for the [6]purities of a vocabulary which rejected every expression unsanctionedby the authority of approved ancient models.

  And it happened with Marius, as it will sometimes happen, that thisgeneral discourse to a general audience had the effect of an utteranceadroitly designed for him. His conscience still vibrating painfullyunder the shock of that scene in the amphitheatre, and full of theethical charm of Cornelius, he was questioning himself with muchimpatience as to the possibility of an adjustment between his ownelaborately thought-out intellectual scheme and the "old morality." Inthat intellectual scheme indeed the old morality had so far beenallowed no place, as seeming to demand from him the admission ofcertain first principles such as might misdirect or retard him in hisefforts towards a complete, many-sided existence; or distort therevelations of the experience of life; or curtail his natural libertyof heart and mind. But now (his imagination being occupied for themoment with the noble and resolute air, the gallantry, so to call it,which composed the outward mien and presentment of his strange friend'sinflexible ethics) he felt already some nascent suspicion of hisphilosophic programme, in regard, precisely, to the question of goodtaste. There was the taint of a graceless "antinomianism" perceptiblein it, a dissidence, a revolt against accustomed modes, the actualimpression of which on other [7] men might rebound upon himself in someloss of that personal pride to which it was part of his theory of lifeto allow so much. And it was exactly a moral situation such as thisthat Fronto appeared to be contemplating. He seemed to have before hismind the case of one--Cyrenaic or Epicurean, as the courtier tends tobe, by habit and instinct, if not on principle--who yet experiences,actually, a strong tendency to moral assents, and a desire, with aslittle logical inconsistency as may be, to find a place for duty andrighteousness in his house of thought.

  And the Stoic professor found the key to this problem in the purelyaesthetic beauty of the old morality, as an element in things,fascinating to the imagination, to good taste in its most highlydeveloped form, through association--a system or order, as a matter offact, in possession, not only of the larger world, but of the rareminority of elite intelligences; from whic
h, therefore, least of allwould the sort of Epicurean he had in view endure to become, so tospeak, an outlaw. He supposed his hearer to be, with all sincerity, insearch after some principle of conduct (and it was here that he seemedto Marius to be speaking straight to him) which might give unity ofmotive to an actual rectitude, a cleanness and probity of life,determined partly by natural affection, partly by enlightenedself-interest or the feeling of honour, due in part even to the merefear of penalties; no element of which, [8] however, was distinctivelymoral in the agent himself as such, and providing him, therefore, nocommon ground with a really moral being like Cornelius, or even likethe philosophic emperor. Performing the same offices; actuallysatisfying, even as they, the external claims of others; rendering toall their dues--one thus circumstanced would be wanting, nevertheless,in the secret of inward adjustment to the moral agents around him. Howtenderly--more tenderly than many stricter souls--he might yieldhimself to kindly instinct! what fineness of charity in passingjudgment on others! what an exquisite conscience of other men'ssusceptibilities! He knows for how much the manner, because the heartitself, counts, in doing a kindness. He goes beyond most people in hiscare for all weakly creatures; judging, instinctively, that to be butsentient is to possess rights. He conceives a hundred duties, thoughhe may not call them by that name, of the existence of which purelyduteous souls may have no suspicion. He has a kind of pride in doingmore than they, in a way of his own. Sometimes, he may think thatthose men of line and rule do not really understand their own business.How narrow, inflexible, unintelligent! what poor guardians (he mayreason) of the inward spirit of righteousness, are some supposedcareful walkers according to its letter and form. And yet all thewhile he admits, as such, no moral world at all: no [9] theoreticequivalent to so large a proportion of the facts of life.

  But, over and above such practical rectitude, thus determined bynatural affection or self-love or fear, he may notice that there is aremnant of right conduct, what he does, still more what he abstainsfrom doing, not so much through his own free election, as from adeference, an "assent," entire, habitual, unconscious, to custom--tothe actual habit or fashion of others, from whom he could not endure tobreak away, any more than he would care to be out of agreement withthem on questions of mere manner, or, say, even, of dress. Yes! therewere the evils, the vices, which he avoided as, essentially, a failurein good taste. An assent, such as this, to the preferences of others,might seem to be the weakest of motives, and the rectitude it coulddetermine the least considerable element in a moral life. Yet here,according to Cornelius Fronto, was in truth the revealing example,albeit operating upon comparative trifles, of the general principlerequired. There was one great idea associated with which thatdetermination to conform to precedent was elevated into the clearest,the fullest, the weightiest principle of moral action; a principleunder which one might subsume men's most strenuous efforts afterrighteousness. And he proceeded to expound the idea of Humanity--of auniversal commonwealth of mind, which [10] becomes explicit, and as ifincarnate, in a select communion of just men made perfect.

  Ho kosmos hosanei polis estin+--the world is as it were a commonwealth,a city: and there are observances, customs, usages, actually current init, things our friends and companions will expect of us, as thecondition of our living there with them at all, as really their peersor fellow-citizens. Those observances were, indeed, the creation of avisible or invisible aristocracy in it, whose actual manners, whosepreferences from of old, become now a weighty tradition as to the wayin which things should or should not be done, are like a music, towhich the intercourse of life proceeds--such a music as no one who hadonce caught its harmonies would willingly jar. In this way, thebecoming, as in Greek--to prepon: or ta ethe+ mores, manners, as bothGreeks and Romans said, would indeed be a comprehensive term for duty.Righteousness would be, in the words of "Caesar" himself, of thephilosophic Aurelius, but a "following of the reasonable will of theoldest, the most venerable, of cities, of polities--of the royal, thelaw-giving element, therein--forasmuch as we are citizens also in thatsupreme city on high, of which all other cities beside are but assingle habitations." But as the old man spoke with animation of thissupreme city, this invisible society, whose conscience was becomeexplicit in its inner circle of inspired souls, of whose [11] commonspirit, the trusted leaders of human conscience had been but themouthpiece, of whose successive personal preferences in the conduct oflife, the "old morality" was the sum,--Marius felt that his ownthoughts were passing beyond the actual intention of the speaker; notin the direction of any clearer theoretic or abstract definition ofthat ideal commonwealth, but rather as if in search of its visiblelocality and abiding-place, the walls and towers of which, so to speak,he might really trace and tell, according to his own old, natural habitof mind. It would be the fabric, the outward fabric, of a systemreaching, certainly, far beyond the great city around him, even ifconceived in all the machinery of its visible and invisible influencesat their grandest--as Augustus or Trajan might have conceived ofthem--however well the visible Rome might pass for a figure of thatnew, unseen, Rome on high. At moments, Marius even asked himself withsurprise, whether it might be some vast secret society the speaker hadin view:--that august community, to be an outlaw from which, to beforeign to the manners of which, was a loss so much greater than to beexcluded, into the ends of the earth, from the sovereign Romancommonwealth. Humanity, a universal order, the great polity, itsaristocracy of elect spirits, the mastery of their example over theirsuccessors--these were the ideas, stimulating enough in their way, [12]by association with which the Stoic professor had attempted to elevate,to unite under a single principle, men's moral efforts, himself liftedup with so genuine an enthusiasm. But where might Marius search forall this, as more than an intellectual abstraction? Where were thoseelect souls in whom the claim of Humanity became so amiable, winning,persuasive--whose footsteps through the world were so beautiful in theactual order he saw--whose faces averted from him, would be more thanhe could bear? Where was that comely order, to which as a great fact ofexperience he must give its due; to which, as to all other beautiful"phenomena" in life, he must, for his own peace, adjust himself?

  Rome did well to be serious. The discourse ended somewhat abruptly, asthe noise of a great crowd in motion was heard below the walls;whereupon, the audience, following the humour of the younger element init, poured into the colonnade, from the steps of which the famousprocession, or transvectio, of the military knights was to be seenpassing over the Forum, from their trysting-place at the temple ofMars, to the temple of the Dioscuri. The ceremony took place thisyear, not on the day accustomed--anniversary of the victory of LakeRegillus, with its pair of celestial assistants--and amid the heat androses of a Roman July, but, by [13] anticipation, some months earlier,the almond-trees along the way being still in leafless flower. Throughthat light trellis-work, Marius watched the riders, arrayed in alltheir gleaming ornaments, and wearing wreaths of olive around theirhelmets, the faces below which, what with battle and the plague, werealmost all youthful. It was a flowery scene enough, but had to-day itsfulness of war-like meaning; the return of the army to the North, wherethe enemy was again upon the move, being now imminent. Cornelius hadridden along in his place, and, on the dismissal of the company, passedbelow the steps where Marius stood, with that new song he had heardonce before floating from his lips.


  10. +Transliteration: Ho kosmos hosanei polis estin. Translation: "Theworld is like a city."

  10. +Transliteration: to prepon ... ta ethe. Translation: "That whichis seemly ... mores."

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