Horatius, Quintus Flaccus

, an ancient Roman poet, and the. most popular of all the classical writers, flourished in the age of Augustus, and was born at Venusium, a town of Apulia, or of Lucania, Dec. 8, U. C; 68y, i.e. 65 B. C. His father, the son of a freedman, and a tax-gatherer, being a man of good sense, knew the necessity of instructing his son by setting before him the examples of all sorts of persons, and shewing him what behaviour. he should imitate, and what he should avoid spur? ring him on all the while to this imitation, by pointing out the good effects ofvirtue, and the ill effects of vice. With this view he removed him to Rome when about ten years of age, where he had the advantage of an education under the best masters and when, he was about eighteen, was sent to Athens, where he acquired all the accomplishments that polite learning and education could bestow.

Bmtus about this time going to Macedonia, as he passed through Athens, took several young gentlemen to the army with him; and Horace, now grown up, and qualified to set out into the world, among the rest. Brutus made hima tribune, but he did not distinguish himselffor courage, as at the battle of Philippi he left the field and fled, after he had shamefully flung away his shield. This memorable circumstance of his life he mentions himself, in an Ode to his friend Pompeius Varus, who was with him in the same battle of Philippi, and accompanied him in his flight: but though running away might possibly save his life, it could not secure his fortune, which he forfeited; and being thus reduced to want, he applied himself to poetry, in which he succeeded so well, that he soon made himself known to some of the greatest men in Rome. Virgil, as hei has told us, was the first that recommended him to Macenas and this celebrated patron of learning and learned men grew so fond of him, that he became a suitor for him to Augustus^ and succeeded in getting his estate restored. Augustus; highly pleased with his merit and address, admitted him to a close familiarity with him in his private hours, and afterwards made him no small offers of preferment, all | which the poet had the greatness of mind to refuse and the prince generosity enough not to be offended at his freedom. It is a sufficient proof of his indifference to the pride of a court, that he refused a place so honourable and advantageous as that of secretary to Augustus. But he had a strong partiality to- retirement and study, free from the noise of hurry and ambition, although his life does not appear to have been untainted by the follies of his youth and nation.

When Horace was about twenty-six years of age, Augustus found it necessary to make peace with Antony, that theypmight unite against Pompey, their common enemy; and for this end persons were sent to Brundusium as deputies, to conclude the treaty between them. Maecenas going on Caesar’s part, Horace, Virgil, and some others, accompanied him thither: and Horace has given a very entertaining description of the journey in the fifth Satire of his first book. This happened in Poilio’s consulship, who was about that time writing a history of the civil wars for the last twenty years; which occasioned Horace to address the first Ode of the second book to him, and to represent the many inconveniences to which such a work must necessafrily expose him, if impartial enough to assign the true causes of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, and their motives for beginning it. From the notes of Dacier and Bentley, who have successfully fixed the time of his writing some Odes and Epistles, it appears, that before he was thirty years of age, he had introduced himself to the acquaintance of the most considerable persons in Rome; of which this Ode to Pollio may furnish a proof: for his merit must have been well known, and his reputation wellestablished, before he could so familiarly address one of Pollio’s high character: and he was too great a master in the science of men and manners, to have taken such a liberty if it had been inconsistent with propriety.

His love for retirement seems to have increased with his age, and for some years he was only at Rome in the spring, passing the summer in the country, and the winter at Tarentum. He never could be prevailed on to undertake any great work, though he was strongly solicited to it; yet his gratitude to Augustus called upon him sometimes to sing his triumphs over Pompey and Antony, or the victorious exploits of Tiberius and Drusus. His “Carmen saeculare” be composed at the express command of Augustus; and to | oblige him, wrote also the first epistle of the second book. That prince had kindly reproached him with having said so little of him in his writings; and asked him in a letter written on this occasion, “whether he thought it would disgrace him with posterity, if he should seem to have been intimate with him r” upon which he addressed the epistle just mentioned to him.

Horace, although not a philosopher in the strictest sense, discovered an inclination for the Epicurean philosophy during the greatest part of his life; but at the latter end of it, seems to have leaned a little towards the Stoic. He was of a cheerful temper, fond of ease and liberty, and went pretty far into the gallantries of his times, until he advanced in years. Dacier has very justly said that he was a poet in his philosophy, and a philosopher in his poetry. He met with his greatest misfortune, when his beloved friend and patron Maecenas died; and this event is supposed to have touched him so sensibly, that he did not survive it long enough to lament him in an elegy. He died not many days after, aged fifty-seven, Nov. 17, in the year of Rome 746, about eight years B. C. He was buried near Maecenas’s tomb, and declared in his last words Augustus his heir; the violence of his distemper being such, that be was not able to sign his will. In his person he was very short and corpulent, as we learn from a fragment of a letter of Augustus to him, preserved in his life by Suetonius; where the emperor compares him to the book he sent him, which was a little short thick volume. He was grey-haired about forty; subject to sore eyes, which made him use but little exercise; and of a constitution probably not the best, by its being unable to support him to a more advanced age, though he seems to have managed it with very great care. Confident of immortal fame from his works, as all allow he very justly might be, he expressed his indifference to any magnificent funeral rites, or fruitless sorrows for his death.

Of an author so well known, and whose merits have been so often and so minutely canvassed by classical critics, it would be unnecessary to say much in this place. Yet we know not how to refrain from adding the sentiments of an eminent living scholar, which cannot easily be rivalled for acuteness and elegance. The writings of Horace, says this learned critic, are familiar to us from our earliest boyhood, They carry with them attractions which are felt in every period of life, and almost every rank of society, They | charm alike by the harmony of the numbers, and the pttrity of the fiction. They exhilarate the gay, and interest the serious, according to the different kinds of subjects upon which the poet is employed. Professing neither the precision of analysis, nor the copiousness of system, they have advantages, which, among the ordinary class of writers, analysis and system rarely attain. They exhibit human imperfections as they really are, and human excellence as it practically ought to be. They develope every principle of the virtuous in morals, and describe every modification of the decorous in manners. They please without the glare of ornament, and they instruct without the formality of precept. They are the produce of a mind enlightened by study, invigorated by observation; comprehensive, but not visionary; delicate, but not fastidious; too sagacious to be warped by prejudice, and too generous to be cramped by suspicion. They are distinguished by language adapted to the sentiment, and by effort proportioned to the occasion. They contain elegance without affectation, grandeur without bombast, satire without buffoonery, and philosophy without jargon. Hence it is that the writings of Horace are more extensively read, and more clearly understood, than those of almost any other classical author. The explanation of obscure passages, and the discussion of conjectural readings, form a part of the education which is given in our public schools. The merits of commentators, as well as of the poet himself, are the subjects of our conversation; and Horace, like our own countryman Shakspeare, has conferred celebrity upon many a scholar, who has been able to adjust his text, or to unfold his allusions. The works of some Roman and more Greek writers are involved in such obscurity, that no literary adventurer should presume to publish a variorum edition of them, unless he has explored the deepest recesses of criticism. But in respect to Horace, every man of letters knows where information is to be had, and every man of judgment will feel little difficulty in applying it to useful and even ornamental purposes.

The editions of Horace are numerous beyond those of anfy other poet. Dr. Douglas, an eminent physician in the last reign, collected four hundred and fifty. Among these are valuable editions by Baxter, Bentley, Bond, Cruquius, Dacier, Desprez (the Delphin), Gesner, Lambinus, Muretus, Pulman, JSanadon, Zeunius, &c. c. to | which may be added the more recent editions of Janus, Combe, Wakefield, Hunter, and Mitscberlichius. 1


Horatii Opera. Crusius’s Lives of the Poets. Life prefixed to Boscawen’s translation. Brit. Critic, vol. III. —Saxii Onomast.