Quintilian, Marcus Farius

, an illustrious rhetorician and critic of antiquity, and a most excellent author, was born in the beginning of the reign of Claudius Caesar, about the year of Christ 42: Ausonius calls him Hispanum and Calagurritanum whence it has usually been supposed that he was a native of Calagurra, or Calahorra, in Spain. It is, however, certain that he was sent to Rome, even in his childhood, where he was educated, applying himself particularly to the cultivation of the art of oratory. In the year 61 Galba was sent by the emperor Nero into Spain, as governor of one of the provinces there; and Quintilian, being then nineteen years old, is supposed to have attended him, and to have taught rhetoric in the city of Calagurra while Galba continued in Spain. Hence it is, according to some, that he was called Calagurritanus, and not from his being born in that city; and they insist that he was born in Rome, all his kindred and connections belonging to that city, and his whole life from his infancy being spent there, except the seven years of Galba’s government in Spain but we are not of opinion that the memorable line of Martial, addressing him “Gloria Romanae, Quintiliane, togse,” greatly favours such a supposition.

In the year 68, upon the death of Nero, Galba returned to Rome, and took Quintilian with him who there taught rhetoric at the expence of the government, being allowed a salary out of the public treasury. His career was attended with the highest reputation, and he formed many excellent orators, who did him great honour; among whom was the younger Pliny, who continued in his school to the year 78. After teaching for twenty years he obtained leave of Domitian to retire, and applied himself to compose his admirable book called “Institutiones Oratorise.” This is the mpst complete work of its kind which antiquity has left us; and the design of it is to form a perfect orator, who is accordingly conducted through the whole process necessary to attain eminence in that art. Few books abound more with good sense, or discover a greater degree of just and accurate taste. Almost all the principles of good criticism are to be found in it. He has digested into excellent order all the ancient ideas concerning rhetoric, and is at the same time himself an eloquent writer. “Though some parts of his work,” says Blair, “contain too much of the technical and artificial system then in vogue, and for that reason may be thought dry aiui tedious, yet I would | not advise the omitting to read any part of his ‘ Institutions.’ To pleaders at the bar, even these technical parts may prove of some use. Seldom has any person of more sound and distinct judgment than Quintilian, applied himself to the study of the art of oratory.” The first entire copy of the “Institutiones Oratorio,” for the Quiutilian then in Italy was much mutilated and imperfect, was discovered by Poggius, as we have already noticed in his article, in the monastery of St. Gall, at the time of holding the council of Constance. The most useful editions of this work are those of Burman, 1720, 2 vols. 4to of Capperoperius, Paris, fol. 1725; of Gesner, Gottingen, 1738, 4to, beautifully reprinted in 1805, at Oxford, 2 vols. 8vo.

Quintilian not only laid down rules for just speaking, but exhibited also his eloquence at the bar. He pleaded, as he himself tells us, for queen Berenice in her presence, and grew into such high repute that his pleadings were written down in order to be frequently transcribed and circulated, but these were executed in a very erroneous manner. The “Declamationes,” which still go under his name, and have frequently been printed with the “Institutiones Gratorise,” are of doubtful authority. Burman tells us in his preface, that he subjoined them to his edition, not because they were worthy of any time and pains, but that nothing might seem wanting to the curious. He will not allow them to be Quintilian’s, but subscribes to the judgment of those critics, who suppose them to be the productions of different rhetoricians in different ages; since, though none of th,em can be thought excellent, some are rather more elegant than others.

The anonymous dialogue (t De Oratoribus, sive de causis, corrupts eloquentiaj,“has sometimes been printed with Quintilian’s works yet is generally ascribed to Tacitus, and is commonly printed with the works of that historian and the late Mr. Melmoth, in his” Fitzosborne’s Letters,“seems inclined to give it to the younger Pliny” because,“says he,” it exactly coincides with his age, is addressed to one of his particular friends and correspondents, and is marked with some similar expressions and sentiments. But as arguments of this kind are always more imposing than solid,“he wisely leaves it as” a piece, concerning the. author of which nothing satisfactory can be collected,“only” that it is evidently a composition of that period in which he flourished." It was. ascribed to Quintilianj because he | actually wrote a book upon the same subject, and with the same title, as he himself declares yet the critics are convinced by sufficient arguments, that the dialogue, or rather fragment of a dialogue, now extant, is not that of which Quintilian speaks.

Quintilian spent the latter part of his life with great dignity and honour. Some imagine that he was consul but the words of Ausonius, on which they ground their supposition, shew that he did not possess the consulship, but only the consular ornaments“honestamenta nominis potius quam insignia potestatis” and we may add, that no mention is made of his name in the “Fasti Consulares.” It is certain that he was preceptor to the grandsons of the emperor Domitian’s sister. Though Quintilian’s outward condition and circumstances were prosperous and flourishing, yet he laboured under many domestic afflictions. In his forty-first year he married a wife who was but twelve years old, and lost her when she was nineteen. He bestows the highest applauses on her, and was inconsolable for her loss. She left him two sons, one of whom died at five years old, and the other at ten, who was the eldest, and possessed extraordinary talents. He soon after, however, married a second wife, and by her he had a daughter, whom he lived to see married who also, at the time of her marriage, received a handsome dowry from the younger Pliny, who had been his scholar, in consideration, as we are told, that she was married to a person of superior rank, who of course required more with her than her father’s circumstances would admit. Quintilian lived to be fourscore years of age, or upwards, as is pretty certainly determined although the time of his death is not recorded. He appears, from his works, and from what we are able to collect of him, to have been a man of great innocence and integrity of life. His “Oratorial Institutions” contain a great number of excellent moral instructions; and it is a main principle inculcated in them, that “none but a good man can make a good orator.

One blemish, however, there lies upon Quintilian’s character, which cannot be passed over; and that is, his excessive flattery of Domitian, whom he calls a God, and says, that he ought to be invoked in the first place. He calls him also a most holy censor of manners, and says, that there is in him a certain supereminent splendour of virtues. This sort of panegyric must needs be highly offensive to all | who have read the history of that detestable emperor nor can any excuse be made for Quintilian, but the necessity he was under, for the sake of self-preservation, of offering this incense to a prince most greedy of flattery and who might probably expect it the more from one on whom he had conferred particular favours, as he certainly had on Quintilian. Martial, Statius, and Julius Frontinus, have flattered this emperor in the same manner.1