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Fiction connects it, and presents us with the fates and for tunes of persons, rewarded or punished according to merit.' “It is chiefly in the fictions of an age,
says Dunlop, that we can discover the modes of living, dress, and manners of the period;" and he goes on to say—“ But even if the utility which is derived from Fiction were less than it is, how much are we indebted to it for pleasure and enjoyment! It sweetens solitude and charms sorrow-it occupies the attention of the vacant, and unbends the mind of the philosopher. Like the enchanter, Fiction shows us, as it were in a mirror, the most agreeable objects; recalls from a distance the forms which are dear to us, and soothes our own grief by awakening our sympathy for others. By its means the recluse is placed in the midst of society ; and he who is harassed and agitated in the city is transported to rural tranquillity and repose. The rude are refined by an introduction, as it were, to the higher orders of mankind, and even the dissipated and selfish are, in some degree, corrected by those paintings of virtue and simple nature, which must ever be employed by the novelist, if he wish to awaken emotion or delight.
Huet, Bishop of Avranches, was the first who wrote a regular and systematic treatise on the origin of fictitious narrative—“De origine Fabularum Romanensium.”
He gives it as his opinion, that "not in Provence (Provincia Romanorum), nor yet in Spain, are we to look for the fatherland of those amusing compositions called Romances ; but that it is among the people of the East, the Arabs, the Egyptians, the Persians, and the Syrians, that the germ and origin is to be found, of this species of fictitious narrative, for which the peculiar genius and poetical temperament of these nations particularly adapt them, and in which they delight to a degree scarcely to be credited; for even their ordinary discourse is interspersed with figurative expressions, and their maxims of theology and philosophy, and above all, of morals and political science, are invariably couched under the guise of allegory or parable.” In confirmation of this opinion he remarks, that "nearly all those who in early times distinguished themselves as writers of what are now called Romances, were of Oriental birth or extraction;"—and he instances “ Clearchus, a pupil of Aristotle, who was a native of Soli, in Cilicia,—Iamblicus, a Syrian-Heliodorus and Lucian, natives, the one of Emessa, the other of Samosata-Achilles Tatius, of Alexandria."
This statement of Huet's is admitted to hold good, generally, by the author of a very interesting Article on the
Early Greek Romances,” in No. CCCXXXIII. of Blackwood's Magazine ; who however differs from the learned Bishop in some particulars.
“ While fully admitting,” he says, " that it is to the vivid fancy and picturesque imagination of the Orientals that we owe the origin of all those popular legends, which have penetrated under various changes of costume, into every corner of Europe, we still hold, that the invention of the Romance of ordinary life, on which the interest of the story depends upon occurrences in some measure within the bounds of probability, and in which the heroes and heroines are neither invested with superhuman qualities, nor extricated from their difficulties by supernatural means, must be ascribed to a more European state of society than that which produced those tales of wonder, which are commonly considered as characteristic of the climes of the East."
This difference of opinion he fortifies, by remarking that " the authors enumerated by the Bishop of Avranches himself were all denizens of Greek cities of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, and consequently, in all probability, Greeks by descent; and though the scene of their works is frequently laid in Asia, the costumes and characters introduced are almost invariably on the Greek model.'
He concludes this part of his subject by saying; "these writers, therefore, may fairly be considered as constituting a distinct class from those more strictly Oriental—not only in birth but in language and ideas; and as being in fact the legitimate forerunners of modern novelists."
The first to imbibe a love for fictitious narrative from the Eastern people among whom they dwelt, were the Milesians, a colony of Greeks, and from them this species of narrative derived the name of “ Sermo Milesius." * A
* In the opening of his celebrated novel, the “Golden Ass,” Apuleius says—“At ego tibi sermone isto Milesio varias fabulas conseram, &c
specimen of the Milesian tale may be seen in the Stories of Parthenius, which are chiefly of the amatory kind, and not over remarkable for their moral tendency. From the Greek inhabitants of Asia Minor, especially from the Milesians, it was natural that a fondness for Fiction should extend itself into Greece, and that pleasure should produce imitation. But it was not until the conquests of Alexander, that a greater intercourse between Greece and Asia became the means of conveying the stores of fiction from the one continent to the other.
The Romance writers, who flourished previous to Heliodorus, are known only from the summary of their compositions preserved to us by Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, in the ninth century. We subjoin their names and the titles of their works :
Antonius Diogenes wrote “The incredible things in Thule;" Iamblicus, the “Babylonica,” comprising the formidable number of sixteen books; in addition to which there is the “ Ass” of Lucian, founded chiefly upon the Metamorphoses of Lucius.”
The palm of merit, in every respect, especially.“ in the arrangement of his fable,” has been universally assigned to HELIODORUS, Bishop of Tricca in Thessaly, who flourished A.D. 400; "whose writing," says Huet, "the subsequent novelists of those ages constantly proposed to themselves as a model for imitation ; and as truly may they all be said to have drunk of the waters of this fountain, as all the Poets did of the Homeric spring.”
The writers of Romance, posterior to Heliodorus, who alone are worthy of note, are Achilles Tatius, who is allowed to come next to him in merit; Longus, who has given the first example of the “ Pastoral Romance;" and Xenophon, of Ephesus.
Having alluded to the various writers of fictitious narrative, our farther remarks may be confined to Heliodorus, Longus, and Achilles Tatius. With the work of the author of the Ethiopics” are connected some curious circumstances, which shall be given in the words of an Ecclesiastical Historian, quoted by the writer of the article in Blackwood.
Nicephorus, B. xii. c. 34, says—“This Heliodorus, Bishop of Tricca, had in his youth written certain love stories,
called 'Etbiopics,” which are highly popular, even at the present day, though they are now better known by the title of ‘Chariclea ;' and it was by reason thereof that he lost his
For inasmuch as many of the youths were drawn into peril of sin by the perusal of these amorous tales, it was determined by the Provincial Synod, that either these books, which kindled the fire of love, should themselves be consumed by fire, or that the author should be deposed from his episcopal functions; and this choice being propounded to him, he preferred resigning his bishoprick to suppressing his writings.-Heliodorus," continues the reviewer, "according to the same authority, was the first Thessalian Bishop who had insisted on the married clergy putting away their wives, which may probably have tended to make him unpopular; but the story of his deposition, it should be observed, rests solely on the statement of Nicephorus, and is discredited by Bayle and Huet, who argue that the silence of Socrates, (Eccles. Hist. B.v. c. 22), in the
chapter where he expressly assigns the authority of the 'Ethiopics' to the 'Bishop Heliodorus, more than counterbalances the unsupported assertion of Nicephorus ; _ 'an author,' says Huet, of more credulity than judgment.' If Heliodorus were, indeed, as has been generally supposed, the same to whom several of the Epistles of St. Jerome were addressed, this circumstance would supply an additional argument against the probability of his having incurred the censures of the Church; but whatever the testimony of Nicephorus may be worth on this point, his mention of the work affords undeniable proof of its long continued popularity, as his Ecclesiastical History was written about" A.D. 900, and Heliodorus lived under the reign of the sons of Theodosius, fully 500 years earlier.”
Of the popularity of his work in more recent times, the following instances may be given. "Tasso,” says Ghirardini, " became acquainted with this Romance when it was introduced at the Court of Charles the IXth of France, where it was read by the ladies and gentlemen in the translation made by Amiot. The poet promised the courtiers that they should soon see the work attired in the most splendid vestments of Italian poetry, and kept his promise, by transferring to the heroine Clorinda (in the tenth canto of the 'Gerusalemme') the circumstances attending the birth and early life of the Ethiopian maiden Chariclea.
“The proposed sacrifice and subsequent discovery of the birth of Chariclea have likewise,” observes Dunlop,“ been imitated in the Pastor Fido of Guarini, and through it, in the Astrea of D'Urfé."
“ Racine had at one time intended writing a drama on the subject of this Romance, a plan which has been accomplished by Dorat, in his Tragedy of Theagenes and Chariclea, acted at Paris in the year 1762. It also suggested the plot of an old English tragi-comedy, by an unknown author, entitled the 'Strange Discovery.'
Hardy, the French poet, wrote eight tragedies in verse on the same subject, without materially altering the ground-work of the Romance; "an instance of literary prodigalityremarks Dunlop truly—“ which is perhaps unexampled.”
Nor have authors only availed themselves of the work of Heliodorus. Artists likewise have sought from his pages subjects for their canvass.
Two of the most striking incidents have been finely delineated by Raphael in separate paintings, in which he was assisted by Julio Romano. In one he has seized the moment when Theagenes and Chariclea meet in the temple of Delphi, and Chariclea presents Theagenes with a torch to kindle the sacrifice. In the other be has chosen for his subject, the capture of the Tyrian ship, in which Calasiris was conducting Theagenes and Chariclea to the coast of Sicily. The vessel is supposed to have already struck to the Pirates, and Chariclea is exhibited, by the light of the moon, in a suppliant posture, imploring Trachinus that she might not be separated from her lover and Calasiris."
HELIODORUS, as has already been remarked, is allowed to be far superior to any of his predecessors in “the disposition of the fable ;" as also, " in the artful manner in which the tale is disclosed;" and Tasso praises him for the skill which he displays in keeping the mind of his reader in suspense, and in gradually clearing up what appeared confused and perplexed. His style is, in many parts, highly poetical, abounding in expressions and turns of thought borrowed from the Greek poets, to which, indeed, it is quite