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December 05 , 2008

Rule of the Monk Or, Rome in the Nineteenth Century


The renowned writer of Caesar's "Commentaries" did not think it necessary to furnish a preface for those notable compositions, and nobody has ever yet attempted to supply the deficiency—if it be one. In truth, the custom is altogether of modern times. The ancient heroes who became authors and wrote a book, left their work to speak for itself—"to sink or swim," we had almost said, but that is not exactly the case. Cæsar carried his "Commentaries" between his teeth when he swam ashore from the sinking galley at Alexandria, but it never occurred to him to supply posterity with a prefatory flourish. He begins those famous chapters with a soldierly abruptness and brevity—"Omnia Gallia in très partes" etc. The world has been contented to begin there also for the last two thousand years; and the fact is a great argument against prefaces—especially since, as a rule, no one ever reads them till the book itself has been perused. The great soldier who has here turned author, entering the literary arena as a novelist, has also given his English translators no preface. But our custom demands one, and the nature of the present work requires that a few words should be written explanatory of the original purpose and character of the Italian MS. from which the subjoined pages are transcribed.
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