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Now not to mention that this would have been scarcely possible without departing from the character of Socrates, it is evident that the defence we now have was not framed with this view. For how could such a speech have been followed by the address after the verdict, which implies an issue not more favonrable than the real one? The only supposition then that remains is, that this work was designed simply to exhibit and record in substance the real proceedings of the case, for those Athenians who were not able to be hearers, and for the other Greeks, and posterity. Now are we to believe that, in such a case and under such circumstances, Plato was unable to resist the temptation of fathering upon Socrates a work of his own art, which in all but the outline was perhaps entirely foreign to him, like a boy who has a theme set him to declaim on. This we cannot believe, but must presume that in this case, where nothing of his own was wanted, and he had entirely devoted himself to his friend, especially so short a time before or after the death of Socrates, as this work was undoubtedly composed, he considered his departing friend too sacred to be disguised even with the most beautiful of ornaments, and his whole form as so faultless and majestic, that it was not right to exhibit it in any dress, but, like the statue of a god, naked, and wrapt only in its own beauty. And so in fact we find he has done.
For a critic who should
undertake the task of mending this speech would find a great deal in it to alter. Thus the charge of misleading the young is not repelled with arguments by any means so cogent as it might have been, nor is sufficient stress by a great deal laid on the fact, that Socrates had done every thing in the service of Apollo, for defending him against the charge of disbelief of the ancient gods: and any one with his eyes only half open may discover other weak points of the like kind, which are not so well grounded in the character of Socrates that Plato should have been compelled to copy them.
Nothing therefore is more probable, than that in this speech we possess as faithful a transcript of Socrates' real defence, as Plato's practised memory enabled him to make, allowing for the necessary difference between a written speech and one carelessly spoken. But perhaps some one may say: If Plato, supposing him to be the author of this work, did nothing more than record what he had heard: what reason is there for insisting on this fact, or how can it be known, that it was he, and not some other among the friends of Socrates who were present at the trial? Such an objector, if he is familiar with the style of Plato, need only be referred to the whole aspect of the Apology, which distinctly shows that it can have proceeded from no pen but Plato's. For in it Socrates speaks exactly as Plato makes him speak, a manner in which, so far as we can judge from all we
have left, he was not made to speak by any of his other scholars. And this resemblance is so indisputable, that it may serve as a foundation for a remark of some importance. For it suggests the question: Whether certain peculiarities of the Platonic dialogue, particularly the imaginary questions and answers inserted in a sentence, and the accumulation of several sentences comprehended under one, and often expanded much too amply for this subordinate place, together with the interruption almost inevitably arising from this cause in the original structure of the period: whether these peculiarities, seeing that we find them so predominant here, ought not properly to be referred to Socrates? They occur in Plato most frequently where he is imitating Socrates closest; but nowhere so frequently, and so little clear of their accompanying negligences, as here and in the following dialogue (the Crito), which is probably of like origin. All this together renders it a very natural conjecture, that these forms of speech were originally copied from Socrates, and are therefore to be numbered among the specimens of the mimic art of Plato, who endeavoured in a certain degree to copy the style of the persons whom he introduces, if it had peculiarities which justified him in so doing. And any one who tries this observation by applying it to Plato's different works, especially in the order in which I have arranged them, will find it very strongly
confirmed by the trial. The cause why such an imitation was not attempted by other disciples of Socrates, was probably this: that, on the one hand, it really required no little art to bend these peculiarities of a careless colloquial style under the laws of written discourse, and to amalgamate them with the regular beauty of expression, and, on the other hand, it called for more courage to meet the censure of minute critics than Xenophon probably possessed. But this is not the place for entering further into this question.
One circumstance, however, must still be noticed, which might be alleged against the genuineness of this work, and with more plausibility, indeed, than any other: that it wants the dress of the dialogue, in which Plato presents all his other works, and which he has given even to the Menexenus, though in other respects, that, like this, consists of nothing more than a speech. Why therefore it may be asked, should the Apology, which so easily admitted of this ornament, be the only work of Plato that is destitute of it? Convincing as this sounds, the weight of the other arguments is too strong not to counter-balance this scruple, and we reply to the objection as follows. In the first place, it is possible that the dialogic form had not then become so indispensable with Plato as it afterwards was: which may serve as an answer for those who are inclined to set a great value on the dress of the Menexenus;
or Plato himself distinguished this work from his other writings too much to think of subjecting it to the same law. Besides, it would in general be very unworthy of Plato, to consider the dialogue, even in those works where it is not very inti mately blended with the main mass of the composition, as nothing more than an ornament arbitrarily appended to them: it always has its meaning, and contributes to the conformation and effect of the whole. Now if this would not have been the case in the present instance, why should Plato have brought it violently in? Especially as in all likelihood he wished to hasten the publication of this speech as much as possible, and might not think it advisable at that time to hazard a public declaration of his sentiments on the issue of the cause, which, if he had clothed the speech in the form of a dialogue, it would have been difficult to avoid, without rendering the form utterly empty and unmeaning.