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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Preface
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Pausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Preface Post by :nonliteral Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3163

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Pausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Preface


An Unfinished Historical Romance









* * * * *


Revised by your helpful hand, and corrected by your accurate scholarship, to whom may these pages be so fitly inscribed as to that one of their author's earliest and most honoured friends,(1) whose generous assistance has enabled me to place them before the public in their present form?

It is fully fifteen, if not twenty, years since my father commenced the composition of an historical romance on the subject of Pausanias, the Spartan Regent. Circumstances, which need not here be recorded, compelled him to lay aside the work thus begun. But the subject continued to haunt his imagination and occupy his thoughts. He detected in it singular opportunities for effective exercise of the gifts most peculiar to his genius; and repeatedly, in the intervals of other literary labour, he returned to the task which, though again and again interrupted, was never abandoned. To that rare combination of the imaginative and practical faculties which characterized my father's intellect, and received from his life such varied illustration, the story of Pausanias, indeed, briefly as it is told by Thucydides and Plutarch, addressed itself with singular force. The vast conspiracy of the Spartan Regent, had it been successful, would have changed the whole course of Grecian history. To any student of political phenomena, but more especially to one who, during the greater part of his life, had been personally engaged in active politics, the story of such a conspiracy could not fail to be attractive. To the student of human nature the character of Pausanias himself offers sources of the deepest interest; and, in the strange career and tragic fate of the great conspirator, an imagination fascinated by the supernatural must have recognized remarkable elements of awe and terror. A few months previous to his death, I asked my father whether he had abandoned all intention of finishing his romance of "Pausanias." He replied, "On the contrary, I am finishing it now," and entered, with great animation, into a discussion of the subject and its capabilities. This reply to my inquiry surprised and impressed me: for, as you are aware, my father was then engaged in the simultaneous composition of two other and very different works, "Kenelm Chillingly" and the "Parisians." It was the last time he ever spoke to me about Pausanias; but from what he then said of it I derived an impression that the book was all but completed, and needing only a few finishing touches to be ready for publication at no distant date.

This impression was confirmed, subsequent to my father's death, by a letter of instructions about his posthumous papers which accompanied his will. In that letter, dated 1856, special allusion is made to Pausanias as a work already far advanced towards its conclusion.

You, to whom, in your kind and careful revision of it, this unfinished work has suggested many questions which, alas, I cannot answer, as to the probable conduct and fate of its fictitious characters, will readily understand my reluctance to surrender an impression seemingly so well justified. I did not indeed cease to cherish it, until reiterated and exhaustive search had failed to recover from the "wallet" wherein Time "puts alms for oblivion," more than those few imperfect fragments which, by your valued help, are here arranged in such order as to carry on the narrative of Pausanias, with no solution of continuity, to the middle of the second volume.

There the manuscript breaks off. Was it ever continued further? I know not. Many circumstances induce me to believe that the conception had long been carefully completed in the mind of its author; but he has left behind him only a very meagre and imperfect indication of the course which, beyond the point where it is broken, his narrative was intended to follow. In presence of this fact I have had to choose between the total suppression of the fragment, and the publication of it in its present form. My choice has not been made without hesitation; but I trust that, from many points of view, the following pages will be found to justify it.

Judiciously (as I cannot but think) for the purposes of his fiction, my father has taken up the story of Pausanias at a period subsequent to the battle of Plataea; when the Spartan Regent, as Admiral of the United Greek Fleet in the waters of Byzantium, was at the summit of his power and reputation. Mr. Grote, in his great work, expresses the opinion (which certainly cannot be disputed by unbiassed readers of Thucydides) that the victory of Plataea was not attributable to any remarkable abilities on the part of Pausanias. But Mr. Grote fairly recognizes as quite exceptional the fame and authority accorded to Pausanias, after the battle, by all the Hellenic States; the influence which his name commanded, and the awe which his character inspired. Not to the mere fact of his birth as an Heracleid, not to the lucky accident (if such it were) of his success at Plataea, and certainly not to his undisputed (but surely by no means uncommon) physical courage, is it possible to attribute the peculiar position which this remarkable man so long occupied in the estimation of his contemporaries. For the little that we know about Pausanias we are mainly dependent upon Athenian writers, who must have been strongly prejudiced against him. Mr. Grote, adopting (as any modern historian needs must do) the narrative so handed down to him, never once pauses to question its estimate of the character of a man who was at one time the glory, and at another the terror, of all Greece. Yet in comparing the summary proceedings taken against Leotychides with the extreme, and seemingly pusillanimous, deference paid to Pausanias by the Ephors long after they possessed the most alarming proofs of his treason, Mr. Grote observes, without attempting to account for the fact, that Pausanias, though only Regent, was far more powerful than any Spartan King. Why so powerful? Obviously, because he possessed uncommon force of character; a force of character strikingly attested by every known incident of his career; and which, when concentrated upon the conception and execution of vast designs, (even if those designs be criminal), must be recognized as the special attribute of genius. Thucydides, Plutarch, Diodorus, Grote, all these writers ascribe solely to the administrative incapacity of Pausanias that offensive arrogance which characterized his command at Byzantium, and apparently cost Sparta the loss of her maritime hegemony. But here is precisely one of those problems in public policy and personal conduct which the historian bequeathes to the imaginative writer, and which needs, for its solution, a profound knowledge rather of human nature than of books. For dealing with such a problem, my father, in addition to the intuitive penetration of character and motive which is common to every great romance writer, certainly possessed two qualifications special to himself: the habit of dealing _practically with political questions, and experience in the active management of men. His explanation of the policy of Pausanias at Byzantium, if it be not (as I think it is) the right one, is at least the only one yet offered. I venture to think that, historically, it merits attention; as, from the imaginative point of view, it is undoubtedly felicitous. By elevating our estimate of Pausanias as a statesman, it increases our interest in him as a man.

The Author of "Pausanias" does not merely tell us that his hero, when in conference with the Spartan commissioners, displayed "great natural powers which, rightly trained, might have made him not less renowned in council than in war;" but he gives us, though briefly, the arguments used by Pausanias. He presents to us the image, always interesting, of a man who grasps firmly the clear conception of a definite but difficult policy, for success in which he is dependent on the conscious or involuntary cooperation of men impenetrable to that conception, and possessed of a collective authority even greater than his own. To retain Sparta temporarily at the head of Greece was an ambition quite consistent with the more criminal designs of Pausanias; and his whole conduct at Byzantium is rendered more intelligible than it appears in history, when he points out that "for Sparta to maintain her ascendancy two things are needful: first, to continue the war by land, secondly, to disgust the Ionians with their sojourn at Byzantium, to send them with their ships back to their own havens, and so leave Hellas under the sole guardianship of the Spartans and their Peloponnesian allies." And who has not learned, in a later school, the wisdom of the Spartan commissioners? Do not their utterances sound familiar to us? "Increase of dominion is waste of life and treasure. Sparta is content to hold her own. What care we, who leads the Greeks into blows? The fewer blows the better. Brave men fight if they must: wise men never fight if they can help it." Of this scene and some others in the first volume of the present fragment (notably the scene in which the Regent confronts the allied chiefs, and defends himself against the charge of connivance at the escape of the Persian prisoners), I should have been tempted to say that they could not have been written without personal experience of political life; if the interview between Wallenstein and the Swedish ambassadors in Schiller's great trilogy did not recur to my recollection as I write. The language of the ambassadors in that interview is a perfect manual of practical diplomacy; and yet in practical diplomacy Schiller had no personal experience. There are, indeed, no limits to the creative power of genius. But it is perhaps the practical politician who will be most interested by the chapters in which Pausanias explains his policy, or defends his position.

In publishing a romance which its author has left unfinished, I may perhaps be allowed to indicate briefly what I believe to have been the general scope of its design, and the probable progress of its narrative.

The "domestic interest" of that narrative is supplied by the story of Cleonice: a story which, briefly told by Plutarch, suggests one of the most tragic situations it is possible to conceive. The pathos and terror of this dark weird episode in a life which history herself invests with all the character of romance, long haunted the imagination of Byron; and elicited from Goethe one of the most whimsical illustrations of the astonishing absurdity into which criticism sometimes tumbles, when it "o'erleaps itself and falls o' the other---."

Writing of Manfred and its author, he says, "There are, properly speaking, two females whose phantoms for ever haunt him; and which, in this piece also, perform principal parts. One under the name of Astarte, the other without form or actual presence, and merely a voice. Of the horrid occurrence which took place with the former, the following is related:--When a bold and enterprising young man, he won the affections of a Florentine lady. Her husband discovered the amour, and murdered his wife. But the murderer was the same night found dead in the street, and there was no one to whom any suspicion could be attached. Lord Byron removed from Florence, and _these spirits haunted him all his life after_. This romantic incident is rendered highly probable by innumerable allusions to it in his poems. As, for instance, when turning his sad contemplations inwards, he applies to himself the fatal history of the King of Sparta. It is as follows: Pausanias, a Lacedaemonian General, acquires glory by the important victory at Plataea; but afterwards forfeits the confidence of his countrymen by his arrogance, obstinacy, and secret intrigues with the common enemy. This man draws upon himself the heavy guilt of innocent blood, which attends him to his end. For, while commanding the fleet of the allied Greeks in the Black Sea, he is inflamed with a violent passion for a Byzantine maiden. After long resistance, he at length obtains her from her parents; and she is to be delivered up to him at night. She modestly desires the servant to put out the lamp, and, while groping her way in the dark, she overturns it. Pausanias is awakened from his sleep; apprehensive of an attack from murderers he seizes his sword, and destroys his mistress. The horrid sight never leaves him. Her shade pursues him unceasingly; and in vain he implores aid of the gods and the exorcising priests. That poet must have a lacerated heart who selects such a scene from antiquity, appropriates it to himself, and burdens his tragic image with it."(2)

It is extremely characteristic of Byron, that, instead of resenting this charge of murder, he was so pleased by the criticism in which it occurs that he afterwards dedicated "The Deformed Transformed" to Goethe. Mr. Grote repeats the story above alluded to, with all the sanction of his grave authority, and even mentions the name of the young lady; apparently for the sake of adding a few black strokes to the character of Pausanias. But the supernatural part of the legend was, of course, beneath the notice of a nineteenth-century critic; and he passes it by. This part of the story is, however, essential to the psychological interest of it. For whether it be that Pausanias supposed himself, or that contemporary gossips supposed him, to be haunted by the phantom of the woman he had loved and slain, the fact, in either case, affords a lurid glimpse into the inner life of the man;--just as, although Goethe's murder-story about Byron is ludicrously untrue, yet the fact that such a story was circulated, and could be seriously repeated by such a man as Goethe without being resented by Byron himself, offers significant illustration both of what Byron was, and of what he appeared to his contemporaries. Grote also assigns the death of Cleonice to that period in the life of Pausanias when he was in the command of the allies at Byzantium; and refers to it as one of the numerous outrages whereby Pausanias abused and disgraced the authority confided to him. Plutarch, however, who tells the story in greater detail, distinctly fixes the date of its catastrophe subsequent to the return of the Regent to Byzantium, as a solitary volunteer, in the trireme of Hermione. The following is his account of the affair:

"It is related that Pausanias, when at Byzantium, sought, with criminal purpose, the love of a young lady of good family, named Cleonice. The parents yielding to fear, or necessity, suffered him to carry away their daughter. Before entering his chamber, she requested that the light might be extinguished; and in darkness and silence she approached the couch of Pausanias, who was already asleep. In so doing she accidentally upset the lamp. Pausanias, suddenly aroused from slumber, and supposing that some enemy was about to assassinate him, seized his sword, which lay by his bedside, and with it struck the maiden to the ground. She died of her wound; and from that moment repose was banished from the life of Pausanias. A spectre appeared to him every night in his sleep; and repeated to him in reproachful tones this hexameter verse,_Whither I wait thee march, and receive the doom thou deservest. Sooner or later, but ever, to man crime bringeth disaster.'

The allies, scandalized by this misdeed, concerted with Cimon, and besieged Pausanias in Byzantium. But he succeeded in escaping, Continually troubled by the phantom, he took refuge, it is said, at Heraclea, in that temple where the souls of the dead are evoked. He appealed to Cleonice and conjured her to mitigate his torment. She appeared to him, and told him that on his return to Sparta he would attain the end of his sufferings; indicating, as it would seem, by these enigmatic words, the death which there awaited him. "This" (adds Plutarch) "is a story told by most of the historians."(3)

I feel no doubt that this version of the story, or at least the general outline of it, would have been followed by the romance had my father lived to complete it. Some modification of its details would doubtless have been necessary for the purposes of fiction. But that the Cleonice of the novel is destined to die by the hand of her lover, is clearly indicated. To me it seems that considerable skill and judgment are shown in the pains taken, at the very opening of the book, to prepare the mind of the reader for an incident which would have been intolerably painful, and must have prematurely ended the whole narrative interest, had the character of Cleonice been drawn otherwise than as we find it in this first portion of the book. From the outset she appears before us under the shadow of a tragic fatality. Of that fatality she is herself intuitively conscious: and with it her whole being is in harmony. No sooner do we recognise her real character than we perceive that, for such a character, there can be no fit or satisfactory issue from the difficulties of her position, in any conceivable combination of earthly circumstances. But she is not of the earth earthly. Her thoughts already habitually hover on the dim frontier of some vague spiritual region in which her love seeks refuge from the hopeless realities of her life; and, recognising this betimes, we are prepared to see above the hand of her ill-fated lover, when it strikes her down in the dark, the merciful and releasing hand of her natural destiny.

But, assuming the author to have adopted Plutarch's chronology, and deferred the death of Cleonice till the return of Pausanias to Byzantium (the latest date to which he could possibly have deferred it), this catastrophe must still have occurred somewhere in the course, or at the close, of his second volume. There would, in that case, have still remained about nine years (and those the most eventful) of his hero's career to be narrated. The premature removal of the heroine from the narrative, so early in the course of it, would therefore, at first sight, appear to be a serious defect in the conception of this romance. Here it is, however, that the credulous gossip of the old biographer comes to the rescue of the modern artist. I apprehend that the Cleonice of the novel would, after her death, have been still sensibly present to the reader's imagination throughout the rest of the romance. She would then have moved through it like a fate, reappearing in the most solemn moments of the story, and at all times apparent, even when unseen, in her visible influence upon the fierce and passionate character, the sombre and turbulent career, of her guilty lover. In short, we may fairly suppose that, in all the closing scenes of the tragedy, Cleonice would have still figured and acted as one of those supernatural agencies which my father, following the example of his great predecessor, Scott, did not scruple to introduce into the composition of historical romance.(4)

Without the explanation here suggested, those metaphysical conversations between Cleonice, Alcman, and Pausanias, which occupy the opening chapters of Book II., might be deemed superfluous. But, in fact, they are essential to the preparation of the catastrophe; and that catastrophe, if reached, would undoubtedly have revealed to any reflective reader their important connection with the narrative which they now appear to retard somewhat unduly.

Quite apart from the unfinished manuscript of this story of Pausanias, and in another portion of my father's papers which have no reference to this story, I have discovered the following, undated, memorandum of the destined contents of the second and third volumes of the work.



Lysander--Sparta--Ephors--Decision to recall Pausanias.

Pausanias with Pharnabazes--On the point of success--Xerxes' daughter--Interview with Cleonice--Recalled.

Sparta--Alcman with his family.

Cleonice--Antagoras--Yields to suit of marriage.

Pausanias suddenly reappears, as a volunteer--Scenes.


Pausanias removes Cleonice, &c.--Conspiracy against him--Up to Cleonice's death.

His expulsion from Byzantium---His despair--His journey into Thrace--Scythians, &c.


His return--to Colonae.

Antagoras resolved on revenge--Communicates with Sparta.

The * * *--Conference with Alcman--Pausanias depends on Helots, and money.

His return--to death.

This is the only indication I can find of the intended conclusion of the story. Meagre though it be, however, it sufficiently suggests the manner in which the author of the romance intended to deal with the circumstances of Cleonice's death as related by Plutarch. With her forcible removal by Pausanias, or her willing flight with him from the house of her father, it would probably have been difficult to reconcile the general sentiment of the romance, in connection with any circumstances less conceivable than those which are indicated in the memorandum. But in such circumstances the step taken by Pausanias migh have had no worse motive than the rescue of the woman who loved him from forced union with another; and Cleonice's assent to that step might have been quite compatible with the purity and heroism of her character. In this manner, moreover, a strong motive is prepared for that sentiment of revenge on the part of Antagoras whereby the dramatic interest of the story might be greatly heightened in the subsequent chapters. The intended introduction of the supernatural element is also clearly indicated. But apart from this, fine opportunities for psychological analysis would doubtless have occurred in tracing the gradual deterio- ration of such a character as that of Pausanias when, deprived of the guardian influence of a hope passionate but not impure, its craving for fierce excitement must have been stimulated by remorseful memories and impotent despairs. Indeed, the imperfect manuscript now printed, contains only the exposition of a tragedy. All the most striking effects, all the strongest dramatic situations, have been reserved for the pages of the manuscript which, alas, are either lost or unwritten.

Who can doubt, for instance, how effectually in the closing scenes of this tragedy the grim image of Alithea might have assumed the place assigned to it by history? All that we now see is the preparation made for its effective presentation in the foreground of such later scenes, by the chapter in the second volume describing the meeting between Lysander and the stern mother of his Spartan chief. In Lysander himself, moreover, we have the germ of a singularly dramatic situation. How would Lysander act in the final struggle which his character and fate are already preparing for him, between patriotism and friendship, his fidelity to Pausanias, and his devotion to Sparta? Is Lysander's father intended for that Ephor, who, in the last moment, made the sign that warned Pausanias to take refuge in the temple which became his living tomb? Probably. Would Themistocles, who was so seriously compromised in the conspiracy of Pausanias, have appearedand played a part in those scenes on which the curtain must remain unlifted? Possibly. Is Alcman the helot who revealed, to the Ephors, the gigantic plots of his master just when those plots were on the eve of execution? There is much in the relations between Pausanias and the Mothon, as they are described in the opening chapters of the romance, which favours, and indeed renders almost irresistible, such a supposition. But then, on the other hand, what genius on the part of the author could reconcile us to the perpetration by his hero of a crime so mean, so cowardly, as that personal perfidy to which history ascribes the revelation of the Regent's far more excusable treasons, and their terrible punishment?

These questions must remain unanswered. The magician can wave his wand no more. The circle is broken, the spells are scattered, the secret lost. The images which he evoked, and which he alone could animate, remain before us incomplete, semi-articulate, unable to satisfy the curiosity they inspire. A group of fragments, in many places broken, you have helped me to restore. With what reverent and kindly care, with what disciplined judgment and felicitous suggestion, you have accomplished the difficult task so generously undertaken, let me here most gratefully attest. Beneath the sculptor's name, allow me to inscribe upon the pedestal your own; and accept this sincere assurance of the inherited esteem and personal regard with which I am,

My dear Dr. Kennedy,

Your obliged and faithful


GINTRA, _5 July, 1875_.


(1) The late Lord Lytton, in his unpublished autobiographical memoirs, describing his contemporaries at Cambridge, speaks of Dr. Kennedy as "a young giant of learning."--L.

(2) Moore's "Life and Letters of Lord Byron," p. 723.

(3) Plutarch, "Life of Cimon."

(4) "Harold."

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