« PreviousContinue »
of texts, those poor pioneers of literature, who drag forward
A waggon-load of meanings for one word,
To the indefatigable researches of many a Dutch commentator, and German editor, are we indebted for that ease and facility with which we now are enabled to read. “I am persuaded," says BAYLE, “ that the ridiculous obstinacy of the first critics, who lavished so much of their time upon the question, whether we ought to say
* Many are the ridiculous stories told of the violent contests and quarrels of grammarians and commentators. PAILELPHUS, who married the daughter of EMANUEL CHRYSOLORAS, laid a wager of one hundred crowns with TIMOTHEUS, a Greek grammarian, about the termination of a tense ; which sum he staked against the long flowing beard of the grammarian; and gaining his wager, absolutely cut off the beard of TIMOTHEUS.
This CHRYSOLORAS ought not to be reckoned, as he commonly is, among the Greeks whom the taking of Constantinople forced into Italy ; since he died at the Council of Constance, in 1415, thirty-eight years before the Turks took that city; which was on the twenty-ninth of May, in 1453 : and more. over, Leonard of Arezzo, in p. 253 of his Hist. Rerum Ital. plainly says, that Chrysoloras was in Italy from the year 1398.
Virgilius or Vergilius, has been ultimately of great use; they thereby inspired men with an extreme veneration for antiquity; they disposed them to a sedulous enquiry into the conduct and character of the ancient Grecians and Romans, and that gave occasion to their improving by those great examples.” Dict. tom. v. p. 795. I have always been struck with the following words, of a commentator, * who was also a great philosopher; I mean Dr. CLARKE, who thùs finishes the preface to his incomparable edition of Homer.t
“ Levia quidem hæc, & parvi forte, si per se spectentur momenti. Sed ex elementis constant, ex principiis oriuntur, omnia : Et ex judicii con
* Mallet, to gratify Pope, by abusing Bentley, published, about this time, a very feeble and flimsy poem, on Verbal Criticism, stuffed with illiberal cant about pedantry, and collators of manuscripts. Real scholars will always speak with due regard of such names as the Scaligers, Salmasiuses, Heinsiuses, Burmans, Cronoviuses, Reiskiuses, Marklands, Gesners, and Heynes.
of Whenever Dr. Clarke, who was of a tranquil and sedate temper, spoke of Homer, he did it, as his friend Dr. Sykes informed me, with a vehernent and enthusiastic admiration, very unusual to him on other subjects.
suetudine in rebus minutis adhibitâ, pendet sæpissimè in maximis vera atque accurata scientia.”
16. Pretty! in amber to observe the forms
Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms !*
Very elegant imagery, happily applied ! Addison has made a beautiful use of a similar image to a contrary purpose, and to illustrate excellence. “ Shakespear” (says he, Spectator 398) born with all the seeds of poetry, and may be compared to the stone in Pyrrhus's ring, which, as Pliny tells us, had the figure of Apollo and the nine Muses in the veins of it, produced by the spontaneous hand of nature, without any help of art.”
*17. Did some more sober critic come abroad ;
If wrong, I smil'd; if right, I kiss'd the rod.t
Such he esteemed to be Mr. Spence's judicious Essay on his translation of the Odyssey; a work of the truest taste, and soundest criticism, and which POPE was so far from taking amiss, that it
* Ver. 169.
+ Ver. 157.
was the origin of a lasting friendship betwixt them. I have seen, by the kindness of the present Bishop of London, a copy of this work, with marginal observations written in Pope's own hand, * and generally acknowledging the justness of SPENC'E's observations, and in a few instances pleading, humorously enough, that some favourite lines might be spared. I am indebted to this learned and amiable man, on whose friendship I set the greatest value, for most of the anecdotes relating to POPE, mentioned in this work, which he gave me when I was making him a visit at Byfleet, in the year 1754.
18. The hard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown,
Who turns a Persian tale for half-a-crown.t
And in a line before,
Still to one Bishop Philips seems a wit.
*“ Which do you look upon (says Spence one day to Pope) as the best age of our Poetry)" " Why the last, I think; but now the old ones are all gone, and the young seem to have no emulation among them.”
+ Ver. 179.
PHILIPS, certainly not a very animated or first-rate writer, yet appears not to deserve quite so much contempt, if we look at his first and fifth Pastoral, his epistle from Copenhagen, his Ode on the Death of Earl Cowper, his translations * of the two first Olympic Odes of Pindar, the two Odes of Sappho; and, above all, his pleasing tragedy † of the Distrest Mother. $
How far Addison, as hath been insinuated, was concerned in altering and improving Philips's works, cannot now be ascertained. He was accused of reporting, that Mr. POPE was an enemy
* The secret grounds of Philips's malignity to Pope, are said to be the ridicule and laughter he met with from all the Hanover Club, of which he was secretary, for mistaking the incomparable ironical paper in the Guardian, No. 40, which was written by Pope, for a serious criticism on pastoral poetry. The learned Heyne also mistook this irony, as appears by p. 202. v. 1. of his Virgil.
+ Racine, in his remarks on his father's Andromaque, has censured this play of Philips, p. 207. t. i.
I have heard Mr. Garrick say, that Addison wrote the ce. lebrated epilogue to this tragedy, published in the name of Budgell: that this was a fact he received from some of the Tonsons. And Addison is said also to have largely corrected and improved Budgell's translation of Theophrastus.