Elizabeth Hamilton.

Memoirs of the life of Agrippina, the wife of Germanicus (Volume 1) online

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Hiltory may be faid to embody Truth, and prove from Fads
"the Reafonablenefs of Opinion." Johnson.









PREFACE.— P. vii.


Preliminary Observations on the History and Charac-
ter of the Ancient Romans.


Octavius Cjesar, his Birth; Education; Marriage
*with Scribonia; Divorce ; Marriage ivith L i v i A .
— Education of Julia; her Marriage with Mar-
cellus; ivith Vipsanius Agrippa; ivith Tibe-


Agrippina's infant Charaeler; CareofAvGvsrvs

in her Education ; cont railed to G £ R M A n i c u s ; her

Mother's Profligacy and Wretchedness.



CHAPTER IV.— P. 105.

Conduct qflAViA to Agrippisa and her Brothers. —
Lucius Cesar sent from Rome. — -Caius Caesar
ynarried to L i v j l l a ; sent into Asia.—G ermanicus
assumes the ??zanly Goivn; married to Agrippina.

CHAPTER V.— P. 122.

Lucius Caesar, sent to Marseilles ; dies by Poison.—
Augustus made acquainted with Julia's guilty
Conduct ; his Grief. — Trial cf J u l i a ; her Banish-
ment. — Death cfCkivs Caesar. — Recall of Tmi-
rius; adopted by the Emperor. — Germanicu'
adopted by Tiberius.

CHAPTER VI.— P. 152.

Banishment of Ag r i p p a Post h u m u s . — Refection r

en the Conduct of Avcvstvs. ^Domestic Life of
Agr i p p i n a. — Domestic Economy of the Romans. —
Jsnportance attached to Education. — Slavery. — Ia-
terature. — Popularity {/Germasicus.


Marriage ofD R usus . — Public Amuseynents. — Death
of C a i u s . — T i b e r i v s and G e k m a n i c u s j .- >. : : .
quell the Revolt in Dalmatia. — Their Return. —
.Defeat of Varus. — Agrippina accompanies bei
Husband to Germany. — Returns to Rjfiz.-—Birl ! -



^"Caligula. — Second Expedition into Germany.
— Death of Augustus. — Murder of Agrippa


Fear s of Tiberius. — Loyalty of Germanicus. — ■
Agrippina accompanies him into Gaul. — Mutiny
if the Legions. — Heroism of Agrippina. — At the
Request of Germ amicus, she retires to Ubiorum

CHAPTER IX.— P. 256.

Ag r i p p i n A proceeds to the City of Ubii. — Manners of
the Ger?nans. — Entertainments. — Martial Dance.
— Gaming. — Res peel for their Female Relations. —
A German Wedding. — Thusnelda the wife of
A R m i n i u s . — Her Adventures.

a\*A*A%***^MMMffl££3£&.* 1 ?



TO point out the advantages which
are to be derived from paying
some attention to the nature of the
human mind in the education of youtji,
was the object of a former work; the
Author's aim in the present is to give
such an illustration of the principles
that were then unfolded, as may ren-
der them more extensively useful.

In the task of instructing others
many are indeed concerned ; but the
duties of self-instruction and self-
government are imposed on all. Who-

vol. J. a ever

[ viii ]

ever can lend assistance towards the
due performance of these important
duties, may be considered as the bene-
factor of the human race ; and from
the approbation with which her feeble
efforts have been hitherto honoured,
the Author is convinced, that even
those who briny; their single mite into
the treasury, shall in no wise fail of

Such a knowledge of the human
mind as is to be obtained from obser-
vation and experience, appears to be
placed within the reach of every one
capable of reflection, and this reflec-
tion it is the aim of every moralist to
excite, when he reasons upon the
consequences of vice and virtue: But
to those who wish to attain a know-
ledge of their own hearts, and are
anxiously solicitous for their improve-
ment, something more than general
observations are requisite.


C i* ]

In order to the government of the
passions, it is necessary to be acquaint-
ed with their origin and progress; a
species of knowledge, to be derived
not so much from a view of their con-
sequences, as from an accurate obser-
vation of their gradual developement.
In pursuing this enquiry, we ought
not to be discouraged at finding it
more complex than we at first view ap-
prehended. The metaphysician may
indeed separate the passions from each
other, as the experimental philoso-
pher separates the rays of light by
the prism, and represent each singly
to our view in one uniform colour.
But in human character it is not thus
that the passions are found to ap-
pear. Every passion, even that which
predominates, is there seen blend-
ed with those which gave it birth,
and with the passions and affeclions
to which it has affinity : audit is by


I x ]

observing these affinities, that we arc
enabled to pronounce on the good or
evil tendency of an}' particular passion.
If pride, for instance, be a virtue, it
will be found in connexion with, and
productive of, affections of the benevo-
lent class ; if on the contrary it should
appear allied to the malevolent and
vindictive, we need not hesitate to
pronounce it a dangerous inmate of
the human bosom.

Convinced of the importance of
throwing light upon a subject so uni-
versally interetsing, and fully aware
of the dislike which the young and
unreflecting arc apt to conceive again.)!;
whatever appears in a didactic form,
the Author formed the design of con-
veying the observations that had oc-
curred to her, through a more agree-
able medium.

She soon perceived that it was not
by fiction her purpose could be accom-
plished. A work

r *i i

A -work of imagination, in which
the characters are of the author's own
creation, and in which every event is
at his disposal, may he so managed,
as to he admirably calculated to pro-
mote the* reception of a favourite the-
ory, but can never be considered as a
confirmation of its truth. Nor will
the theory built upon such a basis be
of long duration; for though the bril-
liant illusions of fancy may affect the
sensibilities of the heart, and so far
captivate the understanding as to ren-
tier it unwilling to exert itself in de-
tecting the fallacy of arguments which
have spoken so powerfully to the feel-
ings, the charm will at length be bro-
ken, and then the system which had
been supported by its influence, will
inevitably sink into disgrace.

The characters in a work of imagi-
nation may, it is true, be drawn in
cxacl conformity to nature, and placed


C xii ]

jn such situations as to afford a striking
illustration of certain truths; but how
are those who are little accustomed' to
make observations on human life to
judge of the genuineness of the repre-
sentation? They cannot appeal to
experience, and if they refer to the
feelings, it is but too probable that the
decision will be erroneous. Should it
even be otherwise, there is still reason
to doubt whether the emotions pro-
duced by the narration of fictitious
events will awaken those reflections
upon the progress of the passions, for
which the work may have been prin-
cipally intended.

Where the effect produced upon the
feelings is powerful, all that is address-
ed to the judgment appears dull; nor
is it to be expected, that the young and
ardent mind will receive much im-
provement from lessons of wisdom,
perused at a moment,

«« When

[ xiii 1

"When hope and fear alternate fway thebreaft,
" Like light and {hade upon a waving fields
" Courfing each other."

If from an interesting novel so lit- 1
tie is to be expected, from a novel void
of interest we can hope for nothing;
since, however wise, however moral,
it would have few readers. \he same
sermon which a person of taste would
listen to with delight from the mouth
ofti the preacher, would, if delivered
from the stage, appear intolerably dull.
So necessary it is that the tone of mind
should be in unison with the object of
attention ! Hence arises the advan-
tage which the biographer possesses
over the novelist. Amusement is ex-
pected by the reader from both; but
in sitting down to peruse the memoirs
of a fellow-being, in whose past exist-
ence we have assurance, in whose
eternal existence we have hope, the
expeclation of amusement is chastened


[ xiv j

by the solemnity of the ideas attached
to truth. The emotions produced will,
on this account, be probably less vivid,
but the interest will be deeper; while
the impression made upon the mind,
by a belief in the reality of the scene
will give a peculiar force to whatever
is calculated to operate either as warn-
ing or example.

Such was the tenbur of the arguments
which determined th£ Author in fa-
four of biography. What subject to
make choice of, was the question that
next occurred; and it must be con-
fessed, that it was far from being easily

To give the memoirs of those who
have but lately departed from the
scene, and who still live in the hearts
of their friends and the memory of
the public, may at first view appear
an easy task. Concerning them there
seems to be no difficulty in obtaini»g


L" "v ]

information. All the events of tlrei*
lives, their peculiar habits and senti-
ments, their joys and sorrows, their
frailties and their virtues, may be col-
lected from the lips of living witnesses.
But even with all these sources of
information at his command, the bio-
grapher who wishes to convey instruc-
tion to the living from the grave of
the dead, will find himself encompas-
sed with many difficulties. The ob-
stacles by which he is opposed, are, in
some instances, such as sensibility will
never attempt to surmount; and in
others, of a nature which not even the
united powers of industry and genius
can overcome.

In the lives of persons who have fil-
led a private station, exercising their
talents and their virtues in the per-
formance of the relative and social
duties, there may be much to honour,
and much to applaud ; but there can-

[ xvi ]

aot, in the nature of things, be a suf-
ficient variety of incident to attract
attention. In the few instances where:
the memoirs of such persons have been
given to the world, we accordingly,
seldom find more than a general eulo-
gium on their characters; which, the/
it may leave an impression favourable
to virtue, is not calculated to add much
to our knowledge. Nor concerning*
those who have been placed in situa-
tions more conspicuous, who in their
lives were considered as the ornaments
of their country, and whose names are
universally known and venerated, is it
easy for the biographer to give such
particulars as can alone convey a full just idea of the character.

To trace the progress of an extra-
ordinary mind from the first dawn of
genius to maturity; to mark the cir-
cumstances from which it received its
peculiar bent ; to develope the sources


[ xvii ]

whence the understanding derived its
stores; and thus (if I may be allowed
the expression) to pourtray the cha-
racteristic features of the soul, though
a task that requires transcendent abi-
lities for its accomplishment, is but a
part of what the biographer is expected
to perform.

Every individual, however, high hi*
intellectual endowments, is impelled
by. passions, and influenced by affee-?
tions, . which essentially afTecl; his ch&>-
raCter and conduct Without a conv*
pleat display of these, the delineation}
will remain imperfect; and iyet com-,
pletely to delineate them, is not in
human power: for however possible it
may be to trace the progress of talents,
and to take the measure of the under-
standing, He who made the heart can
alone appreciate its frailties and its
virtues. Their record is on high, but
the memorial that remains is imper-

[ xviii ]

fecr, arid the manner of their growth
has eluded observation. To special
acts of benevolence many may indeed
give testimony; but the secret trials
of the heart, those exercises of patience,
forbearance, and fortitude, by which
it obtained a triumph over the selfish
affeclions, are not of a nature to be

In private life, the virtues are exer-
cised by the temper, dispositions, and
sentiments of those with whom one is
intimately connected. Wisdom is learn-
ed from experience; and this experi-
ence is in many instances derived from
the errors of the individual, or from
the errors and frailties of those most
dear to him. These are, these ought
to be, for ever veiled from vulgar eyes,
The heart must be without a spark of
delicacy or feeling, that would volun-
tarily drag them into notice.


[ six 1

If in tracing the virtues of the illus-
trious dead we find it so difficult to
arrive at truth, how shall we dare to
dip our pencil in the darker shades?
Is it from indifferent spectators, from
friends Or foes, that we shall take our
colouring? Upon whom, alas! can
we depend? Casual observers are lia-
ble to misapprehension ; where there
lias been enmity, there will be preju-
dice ; and ill would it suit the tender-
ness of friendship to point out the
blemishes which have been washed
with its tears, and to harrow up the
faults which time would soon have
buried in oblivion !

Nor is it from what passes in con-
versation, when the spirits are animated
beyond the usual tone, and the mind
is influenced by associations which
an intimate acquaintance with every
member of the company could alone
explain, that a just idea of the princi-

pies and sentiments of an individual
is to be obtained. The observations
which drop even from persons of deep
reflection, upon subjecls casually in-
troduced, are not always to be received
as conclusive testimony of their serious
opinions- far less ought tlie express-
ions drawn forth by opposition in the
warmth of colloquial debate to be re-
corded as certain indications of pee-
vishness or irascibility. The writer
who speaks from his own knowledge,
•may doubtless, in his statement, be
exceedingly correct; he may describe
with faithful accuracy the personal
defects, the incidental weaknesses of
a departed friend, and by his philoso-
phical impartiality entitle himself to
rank with the investigator of nature.

" One who could peep and botanize
" Upon his mother's grave !"

But with whatever avidity this species
of information may be received, we


I *** ]

naturally revolt from the hand that

offers it. It is also to be questioned.
whether all that could be learned from
such disclosures of the secret trans-
actions of private life, would in any
degree compensate for the moral evils
which would ensue, did such instan-
ces of breach of confidence become
common. Intimacy would then be
considered as a snare, and the compa-
nion of the social board dreaded as a
spy, who was to report to the world
the unguarded sallies of the moment.
Are we, then, it may be asked, to
make no enquiries concerning- the
characters of those who have gone be-
fore us to the silent house? Should
delicacy with regard to the feelings of
surviving friends be permitted to si-
lence the voice of truth? or respecl for
departed genius to cancel the remem-
brance of its follies, and to veil its
Grimes? ' On this general view of the


L xxii ]

question it becomes not the present
writer to decide. It is enough for her
to point out the difficulties which must
be encountered by a mind not desti-
tute of sensibility, in attempting to
give a genuine likeness of any well-
known character.

If uncertainty dwell upon the trans-
actions of a recent period, it may be
deemed fruitless to carry our researches
into times that are now remote : and
fruitless it must undoubtedly prove, if
we confine our enquiries to the lives
and characters of private citizens. Even
of those votaries of science, or favou-
rites of the muses, who have " built to
themselves a name, " how few are there
concerning whom we can now obtain
such information as would afford any
addition to our knowledge of the hu-
man mind? Of such however it cannot
be said, that " their memorial has
perished with them." In their wri-

[ xxiii ]

tings thcyhaveleft an evidence of their
talents, whose testimony cannot be
suborned ; but still they do not afford
sufficient data to the biographer, who
is required to give an account of the
aclions, as well as of the sentiments.
If he go to former ages in quest of
materials, he can only hope to find
them in the page of history; and the
transactions that are there recorded,
will, in the opinion of many, appear
too far removed from the occurrences
of common life, to convey instruction
to those who aspire not beyond the
sphere in which Providence has placed

To the writer of the following me-
moirs the objection above stated did
not appear so forcible as it has been
by others represented. In order to get
a clear insight into the nature of the
passions, and the consequences arising
from their indulgence, it is perhaps
c necessary

necessary that we extend our views
beyond the station in which Provi-
dence has placed ns. If human nature
be our obje6t, it is needless to confine
ourselves to rank, or sex, or period of
society, for we shall find it in every
climeand situation invariably the same.
The actions of a person of exalted
rank may not, it is true, afford us any
direct example, capable of application to
the transactions of our limited sphere;
but are we hence to infer, that an exa-
mination of the passions and opinions
in which those actions originated, is
without its use? To know how this
man rose to power, and that atchieved
greatness, may be a fruitless specula-
tion to the private citizen. But to
know how far the attainment of the
objectof ambition tended to happiness;
to ascertain the consequences of in-
dulging the love of wealth, or power,
or distinction, and all the passions with


[ xxv ]

which they arc connected; are object*
in which all have an equal degree of
interest. When the sphere of action
is circumscribed, the passions must of
necessity be subject to controul. It is
in the rank soil of unlimited power
that we are to look for these giant pro-
ductions of the active principle: but
let it be remembered, that though
situation may lop some of the most
luxuriant shoots, the root is still the
same; and that human pride operates
in the production of human misery as
certainly in the bosom of the peasant
as in that of the prince.

That the characters of those who
stand on the dangerous pinnacle of
greatness are peculiarly liable to mis-
representation, cannot be denied.
Their errors are marks at which ca-
lumny delights to throw her darts,
whilst flattery holds up her concave
mirror to their slightest virtues. But


[ avi ]

as time advances, malice and flattery
disappear ; and from actions which
have been scrutinized and canvassed
by friends and foes, and received and
acknowledged as facts by both parties,
truth then endeavours to extract the
evidence on which posterity is to pro-
nounce its verdict.

It is, indeed, the conquerors and
disturbers of the earth, to whose actions
the attention of succeeding ages has
been chiefly devoted; " for, 1 ' as it has
been well observed by a venerable his-
torian, "it has unfortunately happen-
ed, the Muse of History hath been so
much in love with Mars, that she hath
conversed but little with Minerva."*

The character of Agrippina must be
considered as an exception to the
above observation, By the masterly
hand of Tacitus it has been delineated

J Henry's Hiil. of Britain, vol. iv. p. 91.


' xxvii ]

with a force and spirit, which give?
the original to our eyes glowing with
life and animation. The features
are, indeed, so prominent, that the
most unskilful artist could not fail of
taking a likeness ; and it is this consi-
deration which has chiefly operated
as an encouragement to what has been
attempted in the following pages.
The age in which Agrippina lived is
likewise considered as a favourable
circumstance. With the names of her
contemporaries all are in some degree
conversant. The most remarkable
events of the period are so familiar
even to the unlearned, that imagina-
tion can without difficulty enter on
the scene, and be pleased to form an
intimacy with objects which had hi-
therto heen only indistinctly viewed,
as from a distance.

In singling out the grand-daughter
of Augustus as the subject of her first


£ xxviii

attempt at biographical sketching, the
author may perhaps have been influ-
enced by impressions made upon the
mind at that period of life when the
feelings are usually stronger than the
judgment: but though, on mature de-
liberation, she perceived that the choice
was not without objections, none oc-
curred that were of sufficient force to
induce her to relinquish the design.

In one whose range of information
is, even when compared with many of
her own sex, extremely limited, and
who in classical learning vies not with
a school-boy of the lowest form, an
attempt to approach so near to classic
ground, may have the appearance of
presumption: but as the most enlight-
ened are always the most liberal and
candid, she has little reason to fear
being thus interpreted.

In the memoirs of Agrippina, the
learned reader will not expect to find


£ xxix

any accession to his knowledge with
regard to facts ; though, when pre-
sented in a detached form, they may
possibly, in some instances, give rise to
reflections that did not before occur :
nor will he be displeased to re-peruse
even those more trifling anecdotes,
which, by delighting the youthful
fancy, had served to sweeten the labours
of his school-day hours. In a work
intended only for the learned, these
might with propriety have been omit-
ted ; but as there are many readers of
her own sex, who are only acquainted
with the outliue of Roman history,
every minute circumstance which ten-
ded to render the scene familiar to
the imagination, was essential to the
author's plan. In this respect, advan-
tage might undoubtedly have been
derived from the assistance of the art-
ist; but by the author who aspires
at having a book approved on other


[ XXV ]

grounds than the merits of its adven-
titious embellishments, such decora-
tions will be rejected, as, while they
do not essentially enhance the value
of the work, add materially to its price.

It now remains to give same account
of the materials that have been employ-
ed in the compilation of the following
Memoirs. These have been chiefly
taken from the records of antiquity;
for though it was only through the
medium of translation that these could
be consulted, it appeared more advise-
able thus to apply to the source, than
to seek for information from the com-
pilers of modern history.

Mr. Murphy's translation of the An-
nals of Tacitus, and the notes prefixed
to that valuable performance, have af-
forded almost the whole of the outline;
occasionally assisted by Suetonius, in
Mr. Thomson's translation. For what-
ever related to Agrippina in Dio Cas-

[ xxx i 1

sius, or in V. Paterculus, the Author
has been indebted to the kindness of
two learned friends, who obligingly
translated such extracts from each as
they thought would be in any wise use-
ful. In the description of manners
and customs she has been assisted by
the works of numerous writers, but
where accuracy was required, has
chiefly consulted the treatise of Mr.
Adams on Roman antiquities. To
avoid swelling the page with a parade
of quotations, authorities have never
been referred to, except where the
very words of the author are quoted ;
and it is believed that those who are
most intimately acquainted with the
original, will not be most forward to
tax the author with having; exao-ocra-
ted the features of the portrait, which,
with feeble hand, she has attempted
to delineate.


[ xxxii ]

In the life of Agrippina, she lias
never departed from lier authorities;
though where they were silent, she
has endeavoured to fill the chasm in
the manner that appeared most con-

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