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ANCIENT AND MODERN LITERATURE,
CRITICISM, AND PHILOLOGY.
1. On the Acta Diurna of the Old Romans.
Sine ullis ornamentis monumenta solum temporum, hominum,
locorum, gestarumque rerum reliquerunt; dum intelligatur, quid dicant, unam dicendi laudem putant esse brevitatem non exornatores rerum, sed tantummodo narratores fuerunt.
Cic. de Orat. Lib. 2. C. 12. As
we are apt to look, either with an eye of contempt or surprize on the customs of other nations, which differ from our own, so we cannot help being pleased with any, which bear some degree of resemblance to those of our country. The pleasure seems to be stronger, the further we carry our views back into ancient times, and observe this analogy of fashions; whether the veneration usually paid to antiquity itself, heightens the satisfaction; or whether we regard it as the voice of nature pronouncing such a custom rational and useful by the consent of distant ages. To apply this general remark to a particular instance; every body must allow that our newspapers, and the other collections of intelligence periodically published, by the materials they afford for discourse and speculation, contribute very much to the emolument of society; their cheapness brings them into universal use; their variety adapts them to every one's taste: the scholar instructs himself with advice from the literary world; the soldier makes a campaign in safety, and censures the conduct of Generals without fear of being punished for mutiny; the politician, inspired by the fumes of the coffee-pot, unravels the knotty intrigues of ministers; the industrious merchant observes the course of trade and navigation; and the honest shopkeeper nods over the account of a robbery and the prices of goods till his pipe is out. One may easily imagine, that the use and amusement resulting from these diurnal histories render it a custom, not likely to be confined to one part of the globe, or one period of time. The relations of China mention a gazette published
there by authority, and the Roman historians sometimes quote the Acta Diurna, or Daily Advertisers of that empire. It will serve to illustrate the thought at the beginning, by shewing the analogy of customs, and besides furnish a good authority for the readers of newspapers, who may for the future appeal to the practice of the old Romans, if I enter into a little critical essay upon the nature of the writings last mentioned.
The Acta Diurna were * Journals of the common occurrences of Rome, as the trials, elections, punishments, buildings, deaths, sacrifices, prodigies, &c. composed under the direction of the magistrates, committed to their care, and laid
пр with the rest of their records in an edifice, called the Hall of Liberty: . They were, like all other public papers, easily gained access to. The historians t appear to have collected materials from them; nor is it improbable, that copies were frequently taken by particular persons, and dispersed about the city, or sent to their friends in the provinces, that no Roman might be ignorant even of the minutest event, which happened in the metropolis of the world. : We may find some ground for this supposition in the correspondence between Cicero and Cælius, whilst the former was governor of Cilicia. Cælius had promised to send him the news of Rome, and in order to discharge his conmission with exactness, and gratify the curiosity of his friend, incloses in his first letter a kind of journal of the occurrences of the city. Tully, it appears, would have made a bad figure in a modern coffee-house conversation, for he rallies Cælius about it very humourously in his answer; “ Do your think," says he, “ that I left it in charge with you to send an account of the matches of gladiators, the adjournments of the courts, and such like articles, which even when I am at Rome, nobody ventures to tell me? From you I expect a political sketch of the common-wealth, and not Chrestus's newspaper." Suetonius likewise mentions a little particularly with regard to these Acta Diurna, which may serve to confirm the notion of their bearing a pretty near resemblance to our newspapers. He says that || J. Cæsar in his consula ship ordered the diurnal acts of the senate and the people
* Vide Justi Lipsii Excursus in Tacitum Ed. Var. v. 1. p. 743. 4. Surt. in Cæs. c. 20. in vita Tib. c. 5. et alias. Tac. La 13. Suet. in Cal.C.o.
“ fient ista palam, cupiunt et in acta referi.” Juv. Sat. 2. 1. 156. L. 8. Ep. 1. L. 2. Ep. 8. Vit. Jul. Cæs.