Page images

not only the classical scholar rejoiced in unison with the connoisseur and the virtuoso, but every civilized nation anticipated instruction and improvement from so fortunate an event. Yet the hopes of the learned, at least, have been hitherto wholly disappointed, or, if this be too strong an expression, the gratification of those hopes has been lamentably retarded; and we are now compelled to extract any consolation that we can derive from an inquiry into the causes of so mortifying a delay. The preface to the present volume will furnish us with much information on the subject; and, since it is drawn up as concisely as the number of facts that were to be stated would admit, we shall make rather ample extracts from it.

We must, however, previously state that we learn from the Dedication of this work to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, that it proceeds from the joint labours of the Right Honourable William Drummond, (now Sir William D.) lately minister from the English Court to that of Palermo, and of Mr. Robert Walpole, a gentleman whose literary talents have been before made advantageously known to the public. The object of this dedication will appear from the passage which we shall first quote from the preface, and occasion will arise for farther reference to it.

Thirty nine years (says Sir W. D.) after the discovery of the ruins of Herculaneum, (which event happened in the year 1713) an excavation was made in a garden at Resina, and there, in the remaine of a house, supposed to have belonged to L. Pise, was found a great number of volumes of burnt papyrus. Many of these papyri, as they have since been generally termed, were destroyed by the workmen; but as soon as it was known that they were remnants of ancient manuscripts, their developement became an object of no common interest to the learned world. Father Piaggi invented the machine which is still employed for unrolling them, and which has been already described by several writers.

• When we reflect on the number of valuable works which have been lost since the period when Herculaneum was destroyed, we ought not to be surprised at the sanguine expectations which, upon the first discovery of the MSS., were entertained, of adding some important acquisitions to the treasures of ancient literature which we already possess. The lost books of Livy, and the Comedies of Menander, presented themselves to the imagination of almost every scholar. Each indeed anticipated, according to his taste, the mental pleasures, and the literary labours, which awaited him. Some con nected the broken series of historical details; some restored to the light those specimens of eloquence, which, perhaps, their authors believed incapable of being ever concealed from it; and others opened new springs, which should augment the fountains of Parnassus. Varius again took his seat by the side of Virgil; Simonides stood again with Sophocles and Pindar by the throne of Homer; and the lyse


lyre of the Theban was struck to themes and to measures, that are remembered no more.

These enthusiastic hopes were perhaps too suddenly repressed, as they had been too easily excited. When we walk among the remains of temples and palaces, we must not expect to meet only with fragments of sculpture, with the polished column, or the decorated capital. Where the ruin has been great, the rubbish is likely to be abundant. Since men have written books, many, it may be believed, have been produced in every age which were unworthy of being preserved to posterity. The first papyrus which was opened, contained a treatise upon music by Philodemus the Epicurean. It was in vain that Mazzochi and Rosini wrote their learned comments on this dull performance the sedative was too strong; and the curiosity which had been so hastily awakened, was as quickly lulled to repose. A few men of letters, indeed, lamented that no further search was made for some happier subject, on which learned industry might be employed; but the time, the difficulty, and the expense, which such an enterprize required, and the uncertainty of producing any thing valuable, had apparently discouraged and disgusted the Academicians of Portici,

Things were in this state, when his R. H. the Prince of Wales proposed to the Neapolitan Government to defray the expenses of unrolling, decyphering, and publishing the manuscripts. This offer was accepted by the Court of Naples; and it was consequently judged necessary by his R. H. to select a proper person to superintend the undertaking. The reputation of Mr. Hayter as a classical scholar justified his appointment to the place which the munificence of the Prince and his taste for literature had created. This gentleman arrived at Naples in the beginning of the year 1802, and was nominated one of the directors for the developement of the manuscripts.

During a period of several years the workmen continued to open a great number of the papyri. Many, indeed, of these frail substances were destroyed, and had crumbled into dust under the slightest touch of the operator.

When the French invaded the kingdom of Naples in the year 18c6, Mr. Hayter was compelled to retire to Sicily. It is certainly to be deeply regretted that all the papyri were left behind. Upon the causes of this singular neglect we do not wish to offer any opinion, the more especially as very opposite accounts have been given by the two parties to whom blame has been imputed. The writer of this preface only knows with certainty, that when he arrived at Palermo in 1806, on his second mission to his Sicilian Majesty, he found that all the papyri had been left at Naples, and that the copies of those which had been unrolled were in the possession of the Sicilian Government. How this happened, it would be now fruitless to enquire. The English Minister made several applications to the Court of Palermo to have the copies restored; but without success, until the month of August, 18c7. It was pretended, that according to the original agreement the MSS. should be published in the place where Lis Sicilian Majesty resided; that several Neapolitans had assisted in correcting.

[ocr errors]

correcting, supplying, and translating them; that his Sicilian Majesty had never resigned his right to the possession either of the originals, or of the copies; and that as a proof of this right being fully recognized, the copies had been deposited by Mr. Hayter himself in the Royal Museum at Palermo. It was, however, finally agreed, that the MSS should be given up pro tempore to Mr. Drummond, who immediately replaced them in the hands of Mr. Hayter. In the space of about a year, during which period they remained in the possession of the latter, a fac-simile of part of one of the copies was engraved, and some different forms of Greek characters, as found in these fragments, were printed under his direction.

From some circumstances, which took place in the summer of 1868, and to which we have no pleasure in alluding, a new arrange. ment became indispensable. Mr. Drummond proposed to the Sicilian Government, that the copies should be sent to London, where they might be published with advantages which could not be obtained at Palermo. His proposal was acceded to, and they have been accordingly transmitted to England. The manner, in which their publication will be conducted, will of course depend upon the determination of his R. H. the Prince of Wales, in whose hands they have been deposited; but it may be presumed that the republic of letters will not have to lament that these interesting fragments are to be brought to light under the auspices of a Prince, who has always shown himself to be the protector of learning and the arts. We venture not to assert, but we believe, that the MSS. will be submitted to the inspection of a select number of learned men, and will be edited under their care, and with their aunotations and translations..

With respect to the present volume, the authors have had no other view in giving it to the world, than to call the attention of the English public to some subjects, which the perusal of the MSS. and the ancient state and situation of Herculaneum suggested to thein as worthy of being investigated. His R. H. the Prince of Wales has graciously permitted them to insert in their work a copy of one of the MSS. as it has been amended by the Academicians of Portici '

It is with singular pleasure that we assist in recording the liberal and enlightened zeal of the Heir Apparent to the British crown, exerted in the recovery of any monuments of Grecian or Roman fame;--we participate most warmly in the applause bestowed on that zeal by the authors of this volume; - and. we are anxious to give our testimony to the justice of the 'sentiments expressed in their Dedication, which we trust will also find an echo in the bosom of every genuine Englishman. After having alluded to that barbarous imperial rescript, by which the professors at the National Institute of France were restrained in their classical instructions to the students, and by which it was decreed that none should attain a greater knowlege of Latin than would enable them to construe the commentaries


of Cæsar, nor more of Greek than would explain the terms of science, the writers proceed :

We shall not pretend to assign the reasons which may have dictated an edict, evidently intended to discourage for ever the study of the learned languages, and with it all taste for the works of those who wrote in them, and whose beauties are but faintly seen through the medium of translation, and especially of French translation. We cannot, however, help remarking, and not without a meaning here, that all the distinguished writers of antiquity, without exception, were the friends of civil order, of justice and of liberty. Mistaken they might be on religious and metaphysical questions; but their reasoning is always on the side of virtue, their talents were employed to defend it, and their genius was exerted to exalt it. They celebrated the actions of the great, and the deeds of the warlike; but they reprobated the cruelty of the oppressor, and the crimes of the tyrant. No man will learn from them to love political confusion, or military depotism, or barbarous pomp, or unbridled ferocity, or unjust aggression, nor yet the meaner arts of a boundless and unprinci pled ambition.

But whatever, Sir, may have been the views of the French governi ment in endeavouring to repress all taste for classical literature, we cannot but feel gratified in contrasting them with those of the Heir Apparent of the Crown of England. The Greeks and Romans have been our masters in all that can tend to polish and adorn the mind. If in science we have gone beyond them-if in genius we be their rivals, it must be confessed that in taste, in grace, and in elegance, we are not yet their equals. Your Royal Highness has shown, that you desire us not to forget our masters in literature, and you have done so, because you know, that among them are to be found the noblest models in poetry and eloquence; the best, because the most rational defenders of civil liberty; and the wisest instruc tors, and the safest guides in the conduct of human life.'

To these pleasing extracts, we add the notice of a fact commemorated in this Dedication, since we consider it as our duty to give all the additional publicity in our power to so gratifying an instance of concern for the interests of literature, in a quarter in which we should most deplore its absence; for well may we exclaim,

"Et spes, et ratio studiorum, in Casare tantùm !!"

It was not until large sums had been expended by your Royal Highness, and the success of the execution had justified the boldness of the plan, that pecuniary assistance was requested and obtained from Parliament. Attentive as the people of this country are, and ought to be, to the expenditure of public money, they must glory in having contributed with the Heir Apparent to the British Throne, in forwarding a work which does honour to the English name.' pages 3 and 4.

Q 3


If the spirit, indeed, manifested in this undertaking, proceed as it has begun, (whatever the results of its exertions in the present case may be,) we may join, perhaps, in the sanguine but agreeable anticipation of the authors, and conclude our remarks on this part of the subject in their language:

• From the ruins of Herculaneum we turn our anxious eyes to far distant scenes; and we desire to believe that long ages hence, wherever we shall have left the monuments of our power, the proofs and the records will also remain of our virtues, our knowlege, our generosity, and our beneficence.'

We do not propose to detain our readers with any account of the difficulties attendant on opening the rolls of papyrus, which had been reduced to a perfect carbo. After the laudable zeal which has been displayed, we trust that we shall not have to say (as has been wittily said already) "Fato invido Carbonem, ut aiunt, pro Thesauro invenimus!" but on this point we are about to hazard an opinion; and we shall now only subjoin to the foregoing account of the transactions relative to these MSS., an intimation that we are informed by those who have witnessed the process of unrolling the volumes, that much time and many hands were employed in carrying on the labour, and that the expence incurred was in course proportionate. When the MSS. were unrolled, it was necessary that persons competent to the task should decypher and transcribe them, separate the capital letters into the words to which they belonged, and supply those deficiencies in the text which but too frequently occurred. We may reasonably hope that the persons who may be selected for this delicate office, by the University of Oxford, (in whose possession the fac-similes, we understand, are now placed,) will discharge their duty in a manner that shall be creditable to the antient fame of that learned body.

We know not what censure we may incur from the minute philologer and indiscriminating antiquary of the day, when we declare that the fragment of the treatise before us concerning the Gods +, which has strongly attracted the notice of some who

*The MSS are all in capitals, which resemble the letters of the Codex Alexandrinus; with no accentual marks of any kind, nor spaces between the words.

Mr. Hayter, in a printed Letter to Sir William Drummond, seems to have satisfactorily shewn that the title (Ise Tax Oy), prefixed by him to the fragment is very defensible; and that the use of the word year, in the concluding sentence, implies an intention in the author, (whether Phædrus, the instructor of Cicero, or any other Epicurean philosopher,) to subjoin the opinions of Epicarus on the same subject.

« PreviousContinue »